Saturday, January 14, 2006

21 of the best for Siun

Recently Siun whom Du and I have got know via FDL emailed me asking me to recommend some books on how we got into this God awful mess vis a vis the Middle East and Islam. I replied suggesting two books by Robert Fisk.

  1. The Great War for Civilisation : The Conquest of the Middle East

  2. Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon.

Both of which are available from Amazon. USA Europe/UK To which I'll add Anthony Shadid's book "Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War" Amazon US Amazon Europe/UK Shadid is Washington Post correspondent. Shadid's of Lebanese extraction and his ability to speak Arabic meant that he was able to interview people in Iraq for without an interpreter getting in the way. He shows the misery inflicted upon the most vulnerable of the population in a hard clear light without being maudlin. There are also innummerable blogs. I especially recommend:

  1. Riverbend

  2. Aunt Najma's A Star from Mosul about whom I blogged here.

  3. And the indispensable Today in Iraq

What had slipped my mind at the time that I replied to Siun was that MESC recently conducted an email survey of 200 lecturers MES professors and experts and asking them for (PDF):
"provocative books [that] set me to thinking, books that either inspired me in one way or another or that I have found to be especially useful,books that I find interesting or think they are very important in the history of the field. These books sometimes forced us to rethink our approach to the field, and at other times were just the ten books I enjoy most."

Due to time constraints only 50 experts replied. From which the MESC group compiled a list entitled: The 21 “Best” Books in Middle East Studies (PDF) They plan on updating ths list regularly I'll keep you posted.

(And before anybody blasts me for mentioning a list that includes Bernard Lewis' "The Emergence of Modern Turkey" USA Europe/UK his book on Modern Turkey is excellent. As is his "The Muslim Discovery of Europe" US Europe/UK If Lewis would stick to Turkish history and refrain from pontificating on Islam his legacy and that of his neocon devotees wouldn't be the blood soaked mess that it is.)

Colin Powell Sings*

In the winter, I’m a Buddhist
In the summer, I’m a nudist
In Jerusalem Talmudist
In Hell-Fire Club the crudest

Chameleon, chameleon

When Democrats are winning
Liberalities I’m spinning
When Republicans are panting
Racist slogans I am chanting

Chameleon, chameleon

With the Proles digging ditches
With the brokers plotting riches
& with God was quite religious
Here in Hell sunk where hot pitch is

Chameleon, chameleon … …

* My sincere thanks to Bob in the comments at this posting for Friday January 13th 2006 on Today in Iraq for the lyrics. The Graphic at the start of this post and the one below are both from the Jakarta July 2004 ASEAN Regional Forum conference at the end of which Powell and 5 senior US officials dressed up as the 1970s disco group beloved of closet queens everywhere "Village People" and pranced around singing the 1970s disco bunny hit "YMCA." If you go to ARF's photogallery site you'll notice that these photos are conspicuous by their absence.

Friday, January 13, 2006

British Brass Express Unease

Brigadier Nigel Aylwin-Foster1, has written a report, published in an American military magazine, that blasts the U.S. Army's performance in Iraq.
American officers in Iraq displayed such "cultural insensitivity" that it "arguably amounted to institutional racism" and may have spurred the growth of the insurgency.
Aylwin's report is available from here (PDF)*.
In related matters readers should note that it's not only in the US that some rather experienced people are worried about the strain being put upon their armed forces reserves. This from Hansard:

Lord Bramall2
"My Lords, does the Minister agree, or at least concede, that this serious situation has come about because of the over-reliance that has been put on our Reserve Forces in operational areas to compensate for the wholly inappropriate cuts in the numbers and units of our regular forces? The volunteers and reserves have responded splendidly to the challenges of Afghanistan and Iraq, but surely the Minister must realise that they are being asked to do too much and to do it too often."
… … …

Lord Garden 3:

My Lords, the Minister may reassure us that things are not as bad as everybody says, but the fact is that on 1 November 2005 the strength of the TA was 36,940 against an establishment of 41,610. There is a rebalancing exercise going on. When is the Minister going to make an announcement about it? Most importantly, can he give us an assurance that this is not just going to be another cuts exercise in order to cover political embarrassment over poor retention and recruiting?The full exchange is reported in Hansard


*"Military Review" is a publication of the Combined Arms Center. Based in Fort Leavenworth the CAC is the "US Army's intellectual center". The (English language) start to Military Review's site is here.

1 Aylwin is a widely and highly respected experienced officer whose experience includes a "busy" tour of command in Northern Ireland during a non-ceasefire period, command of the British Army Training Unit Suffield OPFOR, 2 years (reporting direct to UK Chiefs of Staff) in the MoD in the Directorate of Operational Capability and most recently DCG of the Coalition Military Assistance and Training Team (CMATT) Iraq.

2 Former Chief of Staff Field Marshall Bramall is one of Britain's most distinguished and decorated soldiers. He sits as a cross bencher (independent) in the House of Lords. Prior to the invasion of Iraq he warned that British participation in the Iraq invasion was likely to be as damaging to Britain as the Suez adventure.

3 Air Marshall Lord Garden was Assistant Chief of the UK Defence Staff. He is now Director of the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and is Visiting Professor at the Centre for Defence Studies at King's College London. He is an acknowledged authority on NATO, European defence, conflict prevention and counter-terrorism. He sits in the Lords as a Liberal Democrat peer.

See also "This Old Brit 1" and "This Old Brit 2" for an intelligent lay man's take on the subject.

You don’t bring me flowers

Thursday, January 12, 2006

I refuse

Point blank to say anything here.

Which is which?

'Cos there're times when I don't trust myself …

Home and Abroad: "Can You Say 'Illegal?' "

"Let's see, hawks on the left and right are appalled by the Preznit's power grab. Senators are pissed. Constitutional scholars are outraged. The only people backing up Bushie on this are the ones on his payroll -- well, and Yoo, who is on the hook for coming up with the idiotic idea in the first place, but let's just call that CYA support, shall we?

So much for the "everybody does it" defense. Can you say "illegal?" Thought you could."*
and in by no means unrelated news there's this from the Washington Post:

"Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, a central figure in the U.S. detainee-abuse scandal, this week invoked his right not to incriminate himself in court-martial proceedings against two soldiers accused of using dogs to intimidate captives at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, according to lawyers involved in the case.

The move by Miller -- who once supervised the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and helped set up operations at Abu Ghraib -- is the first time the general has given an indication that he might have information that could implicate him in wrongdoing, according to military lawyers."

Read full WAPO article here.

To use the argument so beloved of the Bush Administration. "If he has nothing to hide why won't he testify?" Funny how that one works isn't it?

* Reddhedd is a former prosecutor and is one of Firedoglake's dynamic duo in her own words:
About Me Mom, attorney, writer, and fighter of the fights that need fighting. "A time comes when silence is betrayal." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Nur al-Cubicle: Biography of Ariel Sharon

Nur al-Cubicle: Biography of Ariel Sharon

As the indispensable Nur herself says:

"If you never read anything else on this site, please take the the time read Sylvain Cypel's excellent portrait of Ariel Sharon and his analysis of Sharon's motivations. This is a translation of the Le Monde article."

Update: From reader grania in the comments to this post:
The next phase of Sharonism might have defeated Sharon himself

The Guardian's special reports archive "Israel and the Middle East" can be found here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006


Click the Graphic to see full size. Google gottta love it.

Guide To The Perplexed

Maimonides has long been one of my favourite Theologians. He used allegorical interpretations on the antropomorph expressions on God, to refute (and provoke) those who read the Bible literally.

WHEN the chief of philosophers [Aristotle] was about to inquire into some very profound subjects, and to establish his theory by proofs, he commenced his treatise with an apology, and requested the reader to attribute the author's inquiries not to presumption, vanity, egotism, or arrogance, as though he were interfering with things of which he had no knowledge, but rather to his zeal and his desire to discover and establish true doctrines, as far as lay in human power. We take the same position, and think that a man, when he commences to speculate, ought not to embark at once on a subject so vast and important; he should previously adapt Himself to the study of the several branches of science and knowledge, should most thoroughly refine his moral character and subdue his passions and desires, the offspring of his imagination; when, in addition, he has obtained a knowledge of the true fundamental propositions, a comprehension of the several methods of inference and proof, and the capacity of guarding against fallacies, then he may approach the investigation of this subject. He must, however, not decide any question by the first idea that suggests itself to his mind, or at once direct his thoughts and force them to obtain a knowledge of the Creator, but he must wait modestly and patiently, and advance step by step.

[Moses Maimonides, The Guide for the Perplexed, trans. M. Friedländer, 2nd Rev. ed. (New York: Dover Publications, 1956) 18.]

Don't anybody tell Pat Robertson who has other things such as the loss of yet another opportunity to shill shekels from the perpetually perplexed.

Notes: An abridged version of "The Guide" can be bought here a free e-text is avalable here.

Ali Fadhil - update

Dr. Ali Fadhil the Iraqi anti-corruption journalist who was detained by American soldiers who burst into his home two days ago claiming that they were looking for an insurgent has prepared an audio report of his family's ordeal which the Guardian have made available here:

"How US troops destroyed my family home"
My original posting about this can be read here.

Note to US forces in Iraq: This sort of thing is not how you go about creating peace and stability in a country you're occupying.

Update Jan 16th: I have now learnt that the Dr. Fadhil to who this posting refers is NOT the same person as the Dr. Fadhil of "A free Iraqi."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Eid al-Adha

Eid mubarak to all my Muslim friends, colleagues, and readers.
May it bring you peace, joy, and fortitude.


A Star from Mosul

Aunt Najma describes herself thus:

Name: Aunt Najma
Location: Mosul, Iraq

"I was born in Baghdad in 1988, April, 23rd but I'm originally from Mosul*. still a student in the magnet-school, dreaming of the university... I started to write a blog to fill my time, and it really worked. I can't find anything else to talk about but praising myself, so I'll stop instead."

* Links to Encyclopaedia of the Orient entry on Mosul added by me.

Here's a sample of her writing:

"It's been a busy week, on Monday, I had a Grammar competition with Al-Zohoor secondary school for girls, although our students are superior than them, but they had that one very good girl who was answering all the questions, I know her 'cause she was with me in the Arabic private lessons. There was a cameraman and they videotaped the whole thing for Al-Iraqia Nineva TV.. I was supposed to see it on TV today, but we didn't have electricity!!

Anyway, we didn't win, we were even.."

This second sample is from the same posting:
"Oil prices are going UP fast, Gasoline raised from 50 dinnars to 1000, multiplied by 20 times! Dad is now paying more than half of his salary on fuelling the cars.. Students at the universities are on strike now because they can not affrod paying for the gasoline. And because we have no good public transportation (I've never been in a public bus, it's complete chaos, too dangerous for a girl), it is quite reasonable the students are not going to the university.

On another note, after the demonstrations I mentioned in my last post, the head of the Iraqi Youth and Students Union got kidnapped with his friend and was found dead after two days."
You can go read her here - spend a few hours you'll be glad you did.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Strip Search Sammy

Poll here you know what to do.

Iraqi anti-corruption journalist arrested by Americans

Dr. Ali Fadhil (photographed here with Musatafa Kamil) the prize winning journalist currently working with Britiain's The Guardian newspaper and Channel 4 Films the film making subsidiary to Britain's Channel 4 television station was arrested in his home by US troops who burst into his home and arrested him in the presence of his wife, 3 year old daughter Sarah, and 7 month old son. The troops forced their way in to the house at night while the family were sleeping.

"They fired into the bedroom where we were sleeping, then three soldiers came in. They rolled me on to the floor and tied my hands. When I tried to ask them what they were looking for they just told me to shut up,"

Dr. Fadhil is perhaps best known for his documentary film on the aftermath of the Falluja Massacres (film available here) (transcripts here and here ) was working with Callum Macrae and Guardian Films for Channel 4's "Dispatches" documentary programmed collecting evidence that tens of millions of dollars of Iraqi funds have been misused or misappropriated by American and British officials.

The US troops took the films made by Dr. Fadhil during the course of his investigation and have so far not returned although Dr. Fadhil has himself been released. The timing of the raid as is its purported reason is suspect — the tro0ps claimed they were looking for an insurgent — however as Macrae pointed out to The Guardian:

"The timing and nature of this raid is extremely disturbing. It is only a few days since we first approached the US authorities and told them Ali was doing this investigation, and asked them then to grant him an interview about our findings.

"We need a convincing assurance from the American authorities that this terrifying experience was not harassment and a crude attempt to discourage Ali's investigation."

No doubt my readers are as shocked, shocked I tell you, as I am to learn that anybody could for even a moment contemplate the idea that troops who serve one of the most notoriously corrupt administrations in US history. Occupying a country foreign country solely by force of arms the said occupation having been characterised from the outset by incompetence, racism, brutality, and corruption, could possibly be trying to intimidate one of the "sand niggers" that they are putatively protecting.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Grumpy Greying Gaelic Gorilla Gives Greetings

At present this blog is a placeholder and overflow for my main site. In the unlikely event that you're interested I'm currently working on:

  • A guide to Islamic Activism.
  • A brief guide to Islam for westerners.
  • A "how-to" series on CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).
  • A "how-to" series on (X)Html.

All of which will be published on my primary site.