Saturday, January 28, 2006

A Wake Up Call For Whom?

The reaction of Western Media to Hamas' electoral victory ranging from outrage to expressions of shocked disbelief have been both instructive and darkly amusing. Surprisingly perhaps one of the few people who came close to a realistic reaction was President George W. Bush:

"I like people who have to go out and say, 'Vote for me, and here's what I'm going to do.' There's something healthy about a system that does that. And so the elections yesterday were very interesting." (Source: Office of the Press Secretary January 26, 2006)

He went on to acknowledge that Fatah's Hamas' reputation for efficiently providing essential and reliable public services and their reputation for honest governance is in stark contrast to the corruption and unreliabability that many assoiate with Fatah's leadership.
"When you give people the vote, you give people a chance to express themselves at the polls," Mr. Bush said. "If they're unhappy with the status quo, they'll let you know."

The president said the election was "a wake-up call to the leadership" of Palestinians and that it is clear they want good government services, education and health care and an end to corruption. "And so the elections should open the eyes of the old guard there in the Palestinian territories," he said. (Source: Office of the Press Secretary January 26, 2006)

That Bush drew a correct if simplistic conclusion is undeniable– would that the answers to all such momentous issues were so clear and definite. For this result is not a wake-up call for the Palestinians rather it is a a wake-up call for the West and its unremitting and uncomprehending hostility to all Islamic activism. What exactly were the Palestinians voting for? Efficent and clean government? Assuredly. But they were voting for rather more than that. The Palestinians were saying very clearly that they wanted an end to Israeli colonies, to incursions and road blocks, to being denied clean drinking water, to assasinations, to collective punishments, to being treated as helots. Their aspirations are those of human beings everywhere to freedom, human dignity, and respect. The Western habit of ignoring those fundamental aspirations is at best blind and at worst wilfully ignorant.

When in 2000 the Israeli electorate voted the Likud party into power few observers thought that that was an expression of frustration with Labour's handling of the Israeli economy most commentators said (correctly) that it was a backlash against a Labour party whom Likud characterised as both “soft” on terrorism and overly committed to a “failed” Oslo/Camp David peace process.

However let me return Bush's comments, Bush went on to note that:

"On the other hand, I don't see how you can be a partner in peace if you advocate the destruction of a country as part of your platform. And I know you can't be a partner in peace if you have a -- if your party has got an armed wing. The elections just took place. We will watch very carefully about the formation of the government. But I will continue to remind people about what I just said, that if your platform is the destruction of Israel, it means you're not a partner in peace. And we're interested in peace."

These statements are more than somewhat disingenuous and are sure to come as a considerable surprise to the Shia and Kurdish coalitions who between them won more than two thirds of the vote in the last Iraqi election. The Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) who have a mutually sustaining relationship with the Badr Brigade - a fully armed and trained militia . Moqtada Sadr’s group has its own militia, the Mahdi Army, while the Kurdish Alliance (see 2nd page of article) who are less than sanguine at the thought of Iraq breaking up have their own fighters, the Pesh Merga - All of these groups are outside of the US tax payer funded "Light and Friendly" central Iraqi army's control. To say nothing of the various Sunni Militias. It's easy enough to agree with the president’s statement, so long as one ignores what is happening in Iraq under US supervision.

It is entirely correct for to insist Bush that Hamas accept Israel's right to exist peacefully alongside a Palestinian state. He and most Westerners should stop deluding themselves that the current climate automatically means that forstering democracy in Arab countries will lead to peace with Israel. That is a comforting Western illusion produced by the same lack of understanding of Arab popular sentiments, the real grievances of the Arab populace, and the disastrous results for the majority of the Middle East's inhabitants of Western interventions and policies in the area.

Democracy is a worthy system of government when it works well certainly it is the "least bad" of the competing alternatives. But like all human activity it carries its own risks, rewards, burdens and consequences. It is not a panancea - it is however an essential part of the cure for the West's terrible track record of consistently acting for short-term gain in the Middle East without regard for the consequences.

Juan Cole has a guest editorial by Gilbert Achar up on this topic here's a sample.

"Any attempt by the U.S. and the European Union to starve the Palestinians into submission by interrupting the economic aid that they grant them would be disastrous for both humanitarian and political reasons and should be opposed most vigorously.

The catastrophic management of U.S. policy in the Middle East by the Bush administration, on top of decades of clumsy and shortsighted U.S. imperial policies in this part of the world, has not yet born all its bitter fruit."

update: fixed linkrot in some clusty links. Fixed typo.

What we did yesterday

There is a lot of snow here which "Maman" likes because she has never seen a forest in snow. This is one of the places where we took her yesterday.

And this is another. But we spent most of the day in the forest because it was so beautiful. She has never seen a forest in snow! It is strange how you can know somebody from when you were a very small child and not realise something very ordinary to you is very exotic to them.


Friday, January 27, 2006

Meet the tor-m1

At the request of reader Gert I've republished this page and included some links below for those interested in further research on this system:

The Russian TOR-M1 surface-to-air missile system is an integrated air defense system that has autonomous radar capabalities. It functions at at altitudes from very low to medium. And fires missiles capable of destroying:

  • Fixed wing aircraft.
  • Rotary wing aircraft.
  • UAVs.
  • Guided missiles.
  • Precision missiles.

Amongst its other capabilities the tor-m1 can function in an intensive aerial jamming environment. Unlike many such systems it does not need to be stationary to operate - it can track up to 48 targets simultaneously and acquire and fire upon up two of them while on the move.

Russia and Iran signed an agreement late in 2005 for Iran to take delivery of 30 such systems.



American federation scientists

Tor M-1 9M330 defense update.

article from sino explaining significance of autonomy good explanation of specs

mobility lets it protect against aircraft but also UAV's and guided missiles. (Remember also that it works in an intensive aerial jamming environment

Tor-M1 built specifically as a result of the Russians observing the 1999 war in Serbia (where aircraft thrashed ground defenses)

The NATO designation is SA-15 Gauntlet link preceding is to wiki page

Don't forget that Iran (reportedly) has thousands of Strela
missiles (both versions), which are fired by individual troops. They're not the most accurate in the world but they don't have to be.

Republished as a new posting here courtesy of blogger bluggerations.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Not Newsworhy

"Nagham Abou Zahra, a presenter on the Iraqi TV station Al Sharkiya, meanwhile jumped out of a second-floor window of her apartment building to escape a group of masked gunmen trying to kidnap her after breaking into her home. She survived the fall with many fractures."

Source: RSF

No Child Left Behind Part 1

Iraqi children looking for food in the garabage dump.

"And soon, the Iraqi people will see the great compassion of not only the United States, but other nations around the world who care deeply about the human condition inside that country."

President George W. Bush March 25th 2003

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

If a government has to resort to gangster tactics - I say 'no

CIA flights likened to the work of gangsters

The United States was accused of "gangster tactics" yesterday, and European governments were accused of turning a blind eye to the "outsourcing of torture", as a human rights watchdog concluded that the CIA conducted illegal anti-terror activities in Europe.

Full article here

My briefing on Senator Marty is here.

Senator Marty's interim report is available in HTML here and can be downloaded as a PDF from here.

Islam, Islamism And Islamic Activism - Sneak Preview - Part 2

The Salafiyya
The Salafiyya was founded in the last quarter of the nineteenth century by two Muslim thinkers Jamal al-Din al-Afghani (1838-1897) a Persian Shiite, and his follower Mohammed Abduh (1849-1905) an Egyptian Sunni. Al-Afghani and Abduh were alarmed by:

  1. The impact of Western power upon Muslim societies.

  2. The results of forced partial westernisation resulting from Western colonial policies upon Muslim societies.

They saw that the conservatism inherent in the thought and institutions of agrarian polities were leading to the failure of Muslim polities to rise to the challenge of the Western colonialism. They feared for the survival of the Muslim world. Both were convinced that Islam as revealed religion had within it the wherewithal to promote a modernist renewal of Islamic civilisation. To this end they put forward reforms that could not be stigmatised as either deviating from Islamic belief or as being heretical. Such Islamic reforms would overcome the intellectual conservatism inherent within an agrarian society and would bring a modernist Islamic renaissance to pass.

In their search to identify its essence al-Afghani and Abduh evoked Islam's founding fathers, the Prophet Mohammed and his immediate successors the first four "rightly-guided" Caliphs - al-Rashidun. By identifying those essential principles, which had been embodied in the earliest Muslim community of seventh century Arabia, they hoped to reinvigorate the Muslim world with the vitality of the early Muslims. The name "Salafiyya" reflects this invocation of the "venerable ancestors" (al-Salaf al-Salih). It is important to understand that while al-Afghani and Abduh saw the rediscovery of these principles as a worthy objective in and of itself it was not their primary purpose. Their primary goals were twofold:
  1. They wanted an indisputably Islamic criterion for judicious technological, academic, and political, borrowing from Western the West.

  2. They wanted an unassailably Islamic criterion for abolishing doctrines, rituals, and institutions promulgated by the official 'ulama (religious authorities) in response to specific historical circumstances in particular those of the Ottoman state.
It will be clear that Al-Afghani and Abduh's reformism was highly selective it combined:
  1. A selective "back to basics" fundamentalism in behaviour and.

  2. A selective modernism that accepted Western science and some Western political ideas most notably liberal democracy and constitutional government.
Following their deaths in 1897 and 1905 respectively Al-Afghani and Abduh's selectivist approach however was abandoned by their successors - most notably by Abdu's disciple Rashid Rida (1865-1935). Under Rida's guidance the Salafiyya movement developed a pronounced anti-Western and conservative focus, several factors are to blame for this:
  1. The political upheavals in the Middle East following the destruction of the Ottoman Empire by the allies after the World War I.

  2. The abolition of the Caliphate.

  3. The establishment of British and French protectorates (in reality colonies) in:

    • Iraq,

    • Palestine,

    • Syria,

    • Transjordan.

  4. The increasing British grip upon and exploitation of Egypt.

  5. The expansion of Jewish settlements in Palestine.
Moreover from the late 1920s onwards Rida championed an unequivocal rapprochement between the Salafiyya and the Wahhabi doctrines promoted by the newly resurgent Al-Saud dynasty in Arabia. This was entirely understandable given that the Al-Saud's triumphant reunification of most of Arabia under their rule and their establishment in 1932 (with significant British help) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was the sole example then to hand of a successful exercise of Muslim military and political power.

That Western governments failed to see that the assertion of Western military, economic, and political, hegemonic power in the Arabic heartlands first during 1990-1991 Iraq war, followed by the years of sanctions, and culminating in the "catastrophically successful" invasion and brutally inept occupation of Iraq in 2003 would make the logic of this alarming confluence freshly relevant today is one of the more savagely ironic developments in modern history.

It is this context also which shaped the Muslim Brothers' conception of Islam as an organic whole. A conception summed up in the slogan; "religion, world and state" - "din wa dunya wa dawla" - and in their characterisation of Islamic political thought as sufficient unto itself and in no need of extraneous outside influences. Not for nothing did they coin the slogan: "al-Qur'ân dusturna" ("the Qur'an is our constitution"). Nor, given the context in which they found themselves is it surprising that they only relatively recently have re-evaluated the original modernist aspects of the Salafiyya, incorporated them into their political standpoint, and dissociated themselves both from what the Salafiyya has now become and from the violent overthrow of the state advocated by followers of Sayyid Qutb.

The Evolution Of Salafist Anti-Western Conservativism And Its influence upon The Muslim Brotherhood

Al-Afghani and Abduh's selective borrowing from the West in order to reform and renew Islamic civilisation as it sought to continue to exist under the impact of expanding Western power only made sense while most of the Dar al-Islam remained under Muslim rule and Muslim societies retained the freedom to exercise the political powers of decision and choice. After World War I the demise of the Ottoman Empire, the subsequent relentless Kemalist assault upon the Turkish ulama, and the establishment of British and French regimes in the heartlands of the Dar al-Islam, meant that the priority inevitably shifted from renewal to resistance. The reestablishment of the Islamic polity became the sine qua non for everything else. The changed situation dictated a profound alteration of priorities and this shift is unambiguously seen in Rashid Rida's work. Whereas his mentor Abduh had been immersed in the project to modernise of Islamic jurisprudence, Rida's project was Caliphal restoration.

This is the context in which the convergence of the hitherto modernist Salafiyya with Saudi fundamentalist Wahhabism can be understood. From Rida and his followers' standpoint the Dar al-Islam had fallen to Christian outsiders and the House of Saud were the sole exemplars of a militarily and politically successful Muslim polity.

It is this context also which shaped the Muslim Brothers' conception of Islam as an organic whole. A conception summed up in the slogan; "religion, world and state" - "din wa dunya wa dawla" - and in their characterisation of Islamic political thought as sufficient unto itself and in no need of extraneous outside influences. Not for nothing did they coin the slogan: "al-Qur'ân dusturna" ("the Qur'an is our constitution"). Nor, given the context in which they found themselves is it surprising that they only relatively recently have re-evaluated the original modernist aspects of the Salafiyya, incorporated them into their political standpoint, and dissociated themselves both from what the Salafiyya has now become and from the violent overthrow of the state advocated by followers of Sayyid Qutb.

Afterword: I am publishing this here rather than on my main site somewhat earlier than planned in response to several emails asking for information on the evolution of Salafist thought and how it is relevant today.


This is the Civil War that America has wrought - Diar

Diar was 4 years old when she was struck by a stray bullet during a gunfight between unidentified persons. They weren't even aiming at her, it was a stray bullet, an accident, "collateral damage."

  • If you support what the American government has done in Iraq this child's blood is on your hands too - don't bother putting in a comment telling me how "hurt" you are for her family.
  • If you support what the American government is doing in Iraq this child's blood is on your hands too -don't bother putting in a comment telling me how tragic it is but that it will be worth it in the end.
  • If you voted for a government that joined in the Bush administration's illegal, racist, and immoral war - YES this child's blood is on your hands too.
  • If you find this picture disturbing why aren't you campaigning against what Bush is cronies are doing?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

News search for "Howell"

So the Washington Post is having a spot of bother because it's ombudsman Howell ot caught shilling and won't admit that she was wrong. And now people are fighting back. This is a screen shot of a google news search I did a few minutes ago. Feel free to click the graphic to see it in all its glory.

Gee who'd a thunked it :-)))) Jane - Yessssssssssssssss!

Monday, January 23, 2006

For Deb "steal all you like" - Part 1

  • "Steal the code" click into the form.
  • Right click
  • "Select all"
  • "Copy"
  • You know what to do after that :-)

Using a span either as a class or an ID saves you messing around with pseudoclasses which IMO are more trouble than they're worth. If I remember correctly Stu has something similar. You might want to toddle along and search his site. This is just one of a heap of methods that I use. Let me know if you want me to post the others.

By virtue of synchronicity I'm working on a "magazine cover page" layout. For a site of my own. I'm doing this in what I laughingly refer to as my "spare time." I'll let you know when it's ready.

NB: Not to be linked to from OF I've got enough spamming problems already.

TiddlyWiki a reusable non-linear personal web notebook

How intriguing, has anyone used this piece of software? There's a tutorial for it here.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Les Kurdes sont les vrais maîtres de Kirkouk

Nur al-Cubicle has a superb translation of a Le Monde article "Les Kurdes sont les vrais maîtres de Kirkouk" up on her site. Here's the concluding paragraph:

"A majority on the elected council, the Kurdish parties are the true masters behind the curtain of the Kurds who are members of the armed forces and local police. The peshmergas, wearing Iraqi military uniforms, are often accused of kidnapping Arabs and Turkmen and placing them in secret prisons in Kurdistan or evening murdering them. The Americans, who have military bases in the region, let them get away with it as part of war on terror, without, apparently, taking a position on the future status of Kirkuk. Perhaps this is in the hope for which there is no guarantee— of seeing the financial transactions, like that of Tayyeb Zorab, triumph over breakaway by arms and blood?"

Nur's full translation can be read here highly recommended.

You are in a maze of twisty little ....

I'm showing my age, because I found this from Defective Yeti be absolutely hilarious. If you scroll down to the next post you'll see that Defective Yeti has been around for quite a while - go play.