Saturday, September 09, 2006

By 10 O'Clock There Had Been 5 Bombings

A father comforts his son who was wounded by a bomb attack on an American patrol in Baghdad today
The child seen here being comforted by his father in hospital is one of five civilians wounded in a car bomb attack on an American patrol in Baghdad today Saturday September 9th 2006 two civilians died in the attack. This attack was one of 5 car bombings carried out in Baghdad by 10 A.M. local time.


Europe to suffer from CIA secret prisons

It's nice to know that there are still some patriotic European politicians left who recognise that our interests as civilised countries who want to remain so are diverging increasingly sharply from those of the USA. Note to American readers expect more stories like this. Expect to see European governments and politicians frantically trying to dissociate themselves from their links to the US over the next few years. Particularly expect a wave of Anti-Americanism if, as I confidently expect to happen:

  • Attacks by Israeli forces cause deaths of European UN peacekeepers in Lebanon.
  • There are sharply increased deaths amongst European NATO troops in Afghanistan.

- mfi

Europe to suffer from CIA secret prisons

Bush's revelation of secret CIA prisons, whose locations remain unknown, could have grave consequences for Europe once the willing hosts are uncovered.

By Jen Alic for ISN Security Watch (08/09/06)

Following US President George W Bush's revelation on Wednesday that the CIA had detained terror suspects in secret prisons outside the US after long-standing allegations to that effect, the European Parliament is urging European governments who willingly hosted the covert operations to admit their involvement and face the consequences.


European parliamentarian Sarah Ludford, a figure long at the center of the investigation into CIA secret prisons and rendition flights on EU territory, said those European governments involved would no longer be able to maintain their silence.

"I think what has happened with this statement by George Bush, I think it's rather pulled the rug out from under the wall of silence by European governments and it makes them look either fools or liars really," the BBC quoted her as saying on Thursday.

European politicians are also demanding that Washington reveal the locations of the secret prisons on EU territory, saying Bush's announcement left out some vital information that the EU had a right to know.


Human Rights Watch last year identified Poland and Romania as possible hosts - claims both countries have firmly denied. On Thursday, the two countries issued fresh denials.

In Warsaw, Polish President Lech Kaczynski repeated that he had no knowledge of secret CIA prisons in his country.

"If the issue continues to come up and if there is international pressure, the president will ask appropriate services to investigate the issue once again," Kaczynski's foreign policy adviser, Andrzej Krawczyk, told Reuters.

Romania, likewise, repeated its denial, with government spokeswoman Oana Marinescu telling Reuters: "Romania's position on the matter of CIA prisons remains unchanged."
Grave consequences for Europe

Analyst Victor Mauer, deputy director of the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, says Bush's announcement will have grave consequences that will reverberate throughout Europe and across the Atlantic.

"The costs [related to Bush's public announcement] are most certainly higher than any possible benefit the secret prisons might have rendered. If there is anything that we have learnt over the past five years, it is that the fight against Islamic terrorism has to be perceived by the world public as legitimate and just. The [US] president's announcement does just the opposite," Mauer told ISN Security Watch on Friday.

The revelations of secret CIA prisons on European soil "further undermine the administration's credibility; and with it the credibility of those European governments who assisted the US government in their unlawful undertakings," Mauer said.

"[Swiss Senator] Dick Marty's report to the Council of Europe of earlier this year named no less than 14 European countries, including former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's Germany. If proven right, this would, above all, severely undermine the moral high ground European governments, and in particular the German government under Schröder, have claimed for themselves," the analyst said.

"Some might simply have joined forces with the US in the hope they would, at worst, get away with it, and, at best, be rewarded by the US administration. Instead, they get neither."

According to Mauer, the consequences will be severe. Among other things, he said, "EU aspirant countries, if found guilty of collaborating with the US government on secret CIA prisons, might encounter a serious setback of their ambition to join the EU at the earliest possible."

He also said the EU as a whole would "have to answer for the violations of international conventions by individual member states."

"For many years now, the EU has included in its treaties with third parties human rights clauses as a condition sine qua non for the establishment of closer ties with the Union. If individual member states violated this principle themselves, they will have done the Union as a whole a major disservice."

Mauer also predicted that Bush's revelations would create a "climate of mistrust" and a "policy of shaming" among the EU's 25 member states, and as such "result in an overall weakening of the EU."

Finally, though by no means least significantly, he said "trans-Atlantic ties will most certainly be weakened further."

"Any government, initially hoping to get away with such a policy, will feel betrayed by the US government and will in future think twice before entering bilateral secret deals of an unlawful nature," Mauer said.

Mauer said that one issue that seemed to have gone relatively unnoticed in Bush's announcement that the 14 secret detainees had been transferred, was its indication that the Guantanamo Bay facility "will not be closed for the foreseeable future."

"This comes as a blow for those European governments - friendly to the US - which have urged Washington to close this symbol of malignant US power," he said.
Europe's differing views

Though Europe is clearly of two minds on the issue, more often than not, European leaders criticized the secret prison operation.

"The fight against terrorism can only be done through democracy and respect for the law. It is not compatible with the existence of secret prisons," Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said in a statement.

[snip - nobody in their right mind gives a damn what Kofi Annan says, does, or thinks.]

In interviews with The Associated Press and other news agencies, Swiss Senator Dick Marty, head of the Council of Europe's investigating committee in the case and the author of an earlier report that had accused the US of operating secret prisons and rendition flights in Europe, said he was certainly not surprised at the revelation.

"I have always been certain that these prisons existed, so I am not surprised," AP quoted him as saying on Thursday.

Marty speculated, as have many others, including US conservatives, that Bush's revelation was timed right before crucial elections in the US that the Republicans were expected to suffer losses. The revelation that the remaining 14 key terror suspects, some of them believed to have been connected to the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US, had been transferred to Guantanamo backs the Democrats into a corner by refocusing on national security issues, which favor the Republicans, and likely reducing pressure on Bush to close down the Cuba-based military prison camp.

"[Bush's announcement] probably has to do with the fact that the elections are coming up in the United States," Marty was quoted as saying.

[Snip - no civilised human being gives a damn about what the current Australian foreign minister thinks, or says either.]

"A great deal has been achieved through these kinds of programs," news agencies quoted him as saying.


The Tiger at Bay: Scary Times Ahead

Emmanuel Wallerstein's new commentary "The Tiger at Bay: Scary Times Ahead" is out. Full text below:

Commentary No. 192, Sept. 1, 2006

"The Tiger at Bay: Scary Times Ahead"

When many years ago, some of us said that the decline of United States hegemony in the world-system was inevitable, unstoppable, and already occurring, we were told by most people that we ignored the obvious overwhelming military and economic strength of the United States. And there were some critics who said that our analyses were harmful because they served as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Then the neo-cons came to power in the Bush presidency, and they implemented their policy of unilateral macho militarism, designed (they said) to restore unquestioned United States hegemony by frightening U.S. enemies and intimidating U.S. friends into unquestioned obedience to U.S. policies in the world arena. The neo-cons had their chance and their wars and have spectacularly failed either to frighten those regarded as enemies or to intimidate erstwhile allies into unquestioned obedience. The U.S. position in the world-system is far weaker today than it was in 2000, the result precisely of the very misguided neo-con policies adopted during the Bush presidency. Today, quite a few people are ready to talk openly about U.S. decline.

So what happens now? There are two places to look: inside the United States, and in the rest of the world. In the rest of the world, governments of all stripes are paying less and less attention to anything the United States says and wants. Madeleine Albright, when she was Secretary of State, said that the United States was "the indispensable nation." This may have been true once, but it is certainly not true now. Now, it's a tiger at bay.

It's not yet fully the "paper tiger" of which Mao Zedong spoke, but it's certainly on its way to being exposed as a tiger crouching in self-defense.

How do other nations treat a tiger at bay? With a great deal of prudence, it must be said. If the United States is no longer capable of getting its way almost anywhere, it is still capable of doing a great deal of damage if it decides to lash out. Iran may defy the United States with aplomb, but it tries to be careful not to humiliate it. China may be feeling its oats and sure that it will get still stronger in the decades to come, but it handles the United States with kid gloves. Hugo Chavez may openly tweak the tiger's nose, but older and wiser Fidel Castro speaks less provocatively. And Italy's new Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, holds Condoleezza Rice's hands while pursuing a foreign policy clearly aimed at strengthening a world role for Europe independent of the United States.

So why are they all so prudent? To answer that, we must look at what is going on in the United States. The de facto chief executive, Dick Cheney, knows what needs to be done from the point of view of the macho militarists, whose leader he is. The United States must "stay the course" and indeed escalate the violence. The alternative is to admit defeat, and Cheney is not someone to do that.

Cheney does however have an acute political problem at home. He and his policies are clearly losing support, massively, within the United States. The scare speeches about terrorists and the accusations of treason launched at his critics no longer seem to be as effective as they once were. The recent victory of war critic Ned Lamont over war defender Joe Lieberman in the Democratic senatorial primary in Connecticut has rattled the U.S. political establishment of both parties. Within days, a very large number of politicians seemed to move some distance in the direction of closing down the Iraq operation.

If, as seems quite possible now, the Democrats win control of both houses of Congress in the November 2006 elections, there risks being a stampede to withdraw, despite the hesitancy of the Democratic congressional leadership. This will be all the more sure if, in various local elections, prominent antiwar candidates win.

What will the Cheney camp do then? One can't expect that they will gracefully acknowledge the coming of a Democratic president in the 2008 elections. They will know that they have probably only two years left to create situations from which it would be almost impossible for the United States to retreat. And since they would not, with a Democratic congress, be able to get any important legislation passed, they will concentrate (even more than now) on trying to use the executive powers of the presidency, under the docile front man, George W. Bush, to stir up military havoc around the world and to reduce radically the sphere of civil liberties within the United States.

The Cheney cabal will however be resisted, on many fronts. The most important locus of resistance will no doubt be the leadership of the U.S. armed forces (with the exception of the Air Force), who clearly think that the current military adventures have greatly overextended U.S. military capacity and are very worried that they will be the ones held for blame later by U.S. public opinion when Rumsfeld and Cheney have disappeared from the newspaper headlines. The Cheney cabal will be resisted as well by big business who see the current policies as having very negative consequences for the U.S. economy.

And of course they will be resisted by the left and center-left within the United States who are feeling reinvigorated, angry, and anxious about the course of U.S. policy. There is a slow but clear radicalization of the left and even the center-left.

When that happens, the militarist right will retaliate very aggressively. When Lamont won the primary, a reader of the Wall Street Journal wrote a letter saying that "we have reached a tipping point in this country - if we allow the left to govern as the majority our country is finished." He calls Republican leaders "inept." He, and many others, will be looking for fiercer leaders.

Everyone worries about civil war in Iraq. How about in the United States? Scary times ahead!

By Immanuel Wallerstein

[Copyright by Immanuel Wallerstein, distributed by Agence Global. For rights and permissions, including translations and posting to non-commercial sites, and contact:, 1.336.686.9002 or 1.336.286.6606. Permission is granted to download, forward electronically, or e-mail to others, provided the essay remains intact and the copyright note is displayed. To contact author, write:

These commentaries, published twice monthly, are intended to be reflections on the contemporary world scene, as seen from the perspective not of the immediate headlines but of the long term.]


Update - Deleted "Email this Commentary to a colleague" link in quoted original as the script was picking up "gorilla's guides" and not the page on Binghamton University's server.


My thanks to reader Jesper for alerting me. - mfi

Establishing a free trade zone between Iraq and Iran

There's a report from Basra in Al-Sabah Al-Jadeed that discusses the opening of a cross-border free trade zone under a convention agreed between the city authorities and the Iranian government. As part of the agreement the Iranians will cover the costs of rehabilitating: Side Notes:

A few recent postings giving examples of the green zone government's increasing isolation and irrelevance are:
Dire Straits - Part 1
Dire Straits - Part 2
"Diwaniya update:" on 'For Once I Believe General Casey'

- markfromireland

  • The Karmah bridge on the Shatt al-Arab.
  • The road running from the Shalamjah area to the center Basra.

The zone, (which on the Iraqi side is centered on Shalamjah,) is part of the development cooperation plan agreed between governorate authorities and the Iranians aims at boosting regional cross-border trade to more than three billion dollars annually.The agreement covers the export from Iran of:

  • Agricultural Appliances
  • Clothing
  • Electrical Goods
  • Foodstuffs
  • Household Appliances
  • Oil Products

The (limited) export from Iraq of:

  • Dates
  • Leather


Friday, September 08, 2006

We're Paying Them Ransom Over There So They Don't Kidnap Us Over Here

You just can't make this sort of clusterfuckery up. Truly, I kid you not, things are so bad in Iraq that the Americans now have an "Office of Hostage Affairs" in their bunker bolt hole embassy in Baghdad. No wonder their fat-arsed deathsquad liaison officers "diplomats" don't dare leave the green zone. The Cheney Bush administration's capacity to turn everything they touch to brown smelly biowaste has risen sunk to new heights depths. Don't believe me? Here:

State Dept. Daily Press Briefing September 7, 2006
Friday, 8 September 2006, 10:51 am
Press Release: US State Department

Daily Press Briefing
Sean McCormack, Spokesman
Washington, DC
September 7, 2006

"QUESTION: Yes. The White House today published a statement mentioning an Office of Hostage Affairs in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Does it mean that the State Department has a hand in the U.S. Hostage Affairs in Baghdad? And --

president Cheneychimpanzee walking on this hind legs for the photographer in the US embassy Baghdad June 2006MR. MCCORMACK: Can we participate? There's an office there.

QUESTION: What is it exactly?

MR. MCCORMACK: You know, I think I would rather let the embassy talk a little bit about what it is that that office does. Certainly they're there. We want to see anybody who in Iraq is taken captive released. We obviously do everything that we can to see that our citizens are released unharmed and in a rapid fashion and there are also other states who unfortunately have their citizens taken hostage. And whenever something like that happens, if there is a state that wants to talk to us about it, seek our assistance, we are always ready there, ready there to help. But I'm going to let the Embassy talk in more detail if they choose to about that particular office and their efforts.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you ask also if there are other such offices in other embassies around the world?


QUESTION: Is it the only embassy in the world you have such an office?

MR. MCCORMACK: I'll check.

QUESTION: Thank you."

PS: The number of body bag occupants American troops hostages lucrative investment opportunities for enterprising Iraqis has now risen to 145,000.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Brief Hiatus

There will be no postings here for the remainder of the week.


Guest Posting on The Hijab - Maryam

Introduction: This is the first of an occasional series of guest postings by friends who comment on my main site. The purpose of the postings is to explore aspects of Islamic culture often misunderstood or treated with hostility and contempt in the West. To my mind one of the most telling parts of her posting is where she says:

I was treated with great hostility by self-described feminists who saw only the hijab and not the woman wearing it. It seemed that in their eyes I could not be a properly "civilised," or "emancipated," woman unless I was prepared to accept their definition of what it was to be "modern," "civilised," and "emancipated." I rejected then and reject now the idea that anybody can be "liberated" on somebody else's terms.

Maryam sometimes comments here and participates vigorously in other fora. I first met her more than thirty years ago when I was an Irish schoolboy living in Vancouver for a year. During my third (and final!) attempt to learn ice skating I skated over a tooth left on the ice by some other eedjit's accident, went flying, and crashed head first and at high speed into the barrier. Maryam's fiancé skated over, helped me to my feet and drove me to hospital where I was attended to by an exhausted and overworked intern - Maryam. She patched me up, assured me that I would be no more brainless as a result of my mishap than I had been before it, and dragooned Hussein into driving me home. Hussein was surprised that I asked him how one said "thank you" in Arabic and sufficiently curious about Ireland that he invited me to join them the next weekend for a picnic. The three of us have been firm friends ever since.


Hijab: The Enchancer of Modesty - Maryam

In the Name of God, the All-Merciful, the All-Compassionate.

My friend markfromireland the follower of the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) has asked me to write some brief notes on the Hijab.

The word "Hijab" itself comes from the Arabic word "hajaba" which has the meaning "to hide from view or to conceal" and its context is the modest clothing of Muslims - women and men alike.

The Hijab has many aspects, but the one which I am going to explore is that of modesty and, as I am a woman, I am going to concentrate upon the Hijab for women. For a Muslim woman the Hijab is meant to help her preserve her modesty and thus protect her God given dignity as a woman and as a human being. This naturally leads to the following questions:

  • What is modesty?
  • How does the hijab help preserve it?

While I was preparing to write this I looked in several English language dictionaries. All of them defined "modesty" in generic terms that gave no indication as to the word's significance and expressed "modesty" in terms of the clothes worn and of lacking vanity. The kindest thing I can say of such unspecific statements is that they are sufficiently vague and fluid to mould well to changing mores. For me as a Muslim however modesty is far more inclusive and profound than it appears to be for Westerners, moreover it does not change as time goes by. It is both a way of dressing and a code of conduct.


Hijab sets itself up a a preserver of modesty. In broad terms clothes for women may not emphasise the shape, be see-through, or excessively short. The essential idea is that the beauty that we as women possess naturally by the grace of God - Subhana wa Ta'ala - is not there to be used as latitude for exploitation.

Men are subject to similar commands but because God did not create men in such an beautiful shape as he did women they do not have to cover as much. :-)


Hijab is also a code of behaviour and one that is binding upon men and women alike. Both sexes are required to act in such a way as to enchance the dignity and respect of both parties. Naturally this means that behaviour such as flirtation, and philandering are strictly forbidden. This is not to be a "kill joy" - to use the English expression it is to protect us from being treated as the source of illicit (haram) pleasures.

It is for example forbidden to flirt with a woman because the object of such flirtation is to treat her as a sexual object and a sexual object only. When I deal with a man either in my professional capacity as a doctor or in my "lay" capacity I expect him to treat me with respect. In short I expect him to defer to my knowledge of my field and to treat me personally in such a way that I feel at ease and unthreatened while doing business with him.

Hijab has other benefits first as an aid to Taqwa (piety,) and secondly as a way of asserting one's identity.

The Hijab As An Aid to Taqwa (Piety)

Can a Muslim woman be pious without observing hijab? Of course she can and many are! It is not for me or anyone else to try to perceive what is in somebody's heart from how they dress. The Holy Qur'an states:

"…And God knows what is in your hearts…" (Surah 33: 51)

Only God Subhaana wa ta 'ala knows who has faith and who does not, and only God knows the extent of any one person's belief. I wear the Hijab, my mother does not, each of us is quite comfortable with her decision, each of us is a Muslim. I wear the Hijab because I find it helps me on my path. It is not that those such as myself who wear hijab are better than those who do not. It is, as I have often heard our host say, that there are as many individual paths to God as there are human beings and that my path (and that of many of my sisters) involves wearing the Hijab.

The Hijab As Assertion Of Identity

I also wear the Hijab to assert my identity first as a Muslim and then as an Iraqi. I spent many years in the West after I first qualified as a doctor following my dream of becoming the best pediatric oncologist that I possibly could be. Often during those years I was treated with great hostility by self-described feminists who saw only the hijab and not the woman wearing it. It seemed that in their eyes I could not be a properly "civilised," or "emancipated," woman unless I was prepared to accept their definition of what it was to be "modern," "civilised," and "emancipated." I rejected then and reject now the idea that anybody can be "liberated" on somebody else's terms.

For me both as a Muslim and as an Iraqi the hijab is an honour and a duty for me personally. I wear it for its comfort. I wear it as an envoy of peace. I wear it as a symbol of my joy that I am a Muslim and an Iraqi. Most importantly I wear it as an invitation to my Muslim sisters to join me in a life that moves in only one direction - towards God. It gladdens my heart that more and more women have accepted this invitation.


Monday, September 04, 2006

American Mercenary Firm Laughs All The Way To The Bank- British Soldiers "make do" (and die) - part 2

"Cruel irony and "not good good enough for 'our boys' " is an understatement. I have no idea why any British reporter would put the word scandal in inverted comments as Brian Brady has done in today's story. A scandal is exactly what it is. It is scandalous that both ordinary soldiers and bomb disposal specialists should be exposed to yet further danger while a pack of dirty mercenaries should be laughing all the way to the bank. "
The body of one of two British soldiers killed in a roadside bomb attack near Basra September 4, 2006 being carried by two Danish soldiers"Reuters - Mon Sep 4, 9:49 AM ET Danish soldiers carry the body of one of two British soldiers killed in a roadside bomb attack near Basra in southern Iraq, September 4, 2006. REUTERS/Atef Hassan"
Iraq roadside bomb kills two British soldiers

James Sturcke and agencies
Monday September 4, 2006
Guardian Unlimited

Two British soldiers were killed and a third was seriously wounded in Iraq today, the army said.

The soldiers died when their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb north of Basra, Major Charlie Burbridge said. The soldiers were travelling in an armoured Land Rover, commonly known as a "snatch vehicle".

"It appears a roadside bomb was used to attack the convoy," Maj Burbridge said. "They were in a snatch vehicle. They have been designed to protect the crew against a certain threat and on occasion they have been defeated."

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said two more were injured - one seriously - in the incident near the town of Ad Dayr. Both were taken by helicopter for emergency medical care at a British field hospital at Shaibah logistics base.

A spokesman for British forces in Basra said the attack happened at about 1pm (1000 BST).

The deaths mean that 117 British armed forces personnel have died serving in Iraq since the start of the campaign in March 2003. The deaths come amid increasing concern about the army's overseas deployments. One British soldier was killed by a suicide bomb in Afghanistan today, following the deaths of 14 service personnel there at the weekend when their RAF Nimrod crashed close to Kandahar.

Twenty service personnel have been killed while on patrol in snatch vehicles in Iraq. Many experts have questioned whether the Land Rovers provide adequate protection from the weapons used by Iraqi insurgents.

Maj Burbridge told Sky News that the attack happened in an area where the threat had been "relatively low". He said snatch vehicles were "equipped for the job" and soldiers knew they were "at risk".

"The equipment we have is the best that was available at the time of going on the operation," he said. "We have a very complicated operation out here. The equipment is adequate for the task and we have to get on with it."

The identities of the dead soldiers were not being released until their families had been informed.

Before today's deaths, 18 soldiers had been killed in snatch vehicles in southern Iraq during the past 16 months. Of the 115 British deaths in Iraq before today, 86 were classed as killed in action, including those which resulted from hostile action; the other 29 had died either as a result of illness, non-combat injuries or accidents, or had not yet been officially assigned a cause of death, pending the outcome of an investigation.

Last month, a Commons report criticised the use of the Land Rovers.

Yes indeed they did this is what they said please note that the emphasis is in the original - mfi

Armoured vehicles

51. At its Basra Palace base, we met the UK's 20 Armoured Brigade. We were shown the equipment used on patrol, particularly the Snatch Land Rover. We heard that Snatch were very good vehicles, but they were old and could often break down. Many had previously been used in Northern Ireland. They were fast and manoeuvrable but not well armoured and were particularly vulnerable to Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attack. Similar concerns were voiced by UK troops at the Shaibah Logistics Base.

59. We are concerned at the increasingly sophisticated nature of the threat and the consequent vulnerability of UK Forces travelling in Snatch Land Rovers. We welcome the Secretary of State's review of the use of Snatch vehicles in Iraq and believe it is essential that this review be completed as quickly as possible. In the long-term, FRES may offer a solution to the difficulties associated with the Snatch, but its introduction is too far off to offer an answer to current operational needs in Iraq. The MoD should consider an "off the shelf" purchase as an immediate and interim replacement for Snatch, even if it does not fulfil the long-term capability requirement. It is unsatisfactory that the lack of capability was not addressed with greater urgency much earlier.

Des Brown, the defence secretary, announced in July that the army would get about 300 new, tougher armoured vehicles, mainly German-designed Pinzgauers and US Cougars, for use in Iraq and Afghanistan. But they would not be available until the end of the year. Soldiers have been bolting makeshift panels on to the side doors of Land Rovers and the front of trucks to try to protect them from roadside bombs and rocket-propelled grenades.[emphasis mine - mfi]


Most Americans Believe Bush Administration Is Muslim (Washington Post)

There's a depressing but utterly unsurprising survey in The Washington Post go read the whole thing. Here's the first few paragraphs of their coverage to whet your appetite:

"Negative Perception Of Islam Increasing
Poll Numbers in U.S. Higher Than in 2001

By Claudia Deane and Darryl Fears
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, March 9, 2006; Page A01

As the war in Iraq grinds into its fourth year, a growing proportion of Americans are expressing unfavorable views of Islam, and a majority now say that Muslims are disproportionately prone to violence, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The poll found that nearly half of Americans -- 46 percent -- have a negative view of Islam, seven percentage points higher than in the tense months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, when Muslims were often targeted for violence.

… … … [emphasis added - mfi] "

Hmmmm … Now let's see, launching a (failed) war in Afghanistan, launching a (failed) war in Iraq, launching a (failed) war in Lebanon, currently busily engaged in trying to launch a (destined for failure) war in Syria, currently busily engaged in trying to launch a (destined for failure) war in Iran … … …

Ergo most Americans believe the Bush Administration are Muslims. Who'da thunked it?


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Book Recommendations - Statistics

This posting arises from a recommendation I made for a "second voice" statistics text to an engineering student last week. Survey Methods in Social Investigation by Sir Claus Moser and Graham Kalton (Both links in this posting are to Amazon UK) is deservedly a classic text irrespective of which discipline you are in Moser and Kalton's book is well worth having on your bookshelf. If you're new to statistics or a bit shakey on the basics another classic is Darrell Huff's "How to Lie With Statistics" How to Lie with Statistics (Penguin Business) by Darrell Huff - both highly recommended.


PS: When searching for books I always start at - mfi

Dead Man Walking

I think we've been all been expecting, and dreading, this. I've written about it repeatedly recently:

Back on July 27th I wrote about the Statement issued by Grand Ayatollah Najafi covered in this article in Al-Zaman [Arabic]:

"the situation in the south of the country is coming very badly unstuck for the green zone government. In particular this statement by Grand Ayatollah Bashir al-Najafi is ominous:

"We fear the coming of a day when we cannot restrain a revolution of the people, with all its unsavory consequences."

Al-Najafi is often thought to be second most important of the four Grand Ayatollahs living in Najaf with Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani being "primus inter pares" (the fifth Grand Ayatollah Kazem al-Hairi lives in Iran.) Al-Najafi's office would not under any circumstances have issued that statement unless the Grand Ayatollahs (who act collegially) were of the opinion that their ability to restrain their followers was slipping. … … … ."

On August 10th I wrote this:

"It remains to be seen whether the Grand Ayatollahs already deeply concerned that their ability to restrain their followers is slipping will succeed in holding them back one more time. Should they fail the bloodbath created by the American occupation's policies in Iraq will pale into insignificance."

The Grand Ayatollahs have been desperately concerned about the situation in Iraq. They've been growing increasingly frustrated with the abject inability of the green zone government either to get a grip on the situation or to stand up to the Americans. In addition to that they've been desperately concerned that their authority amongst their followers - particularly the young, is slipping. Since the Samarra Bombing there have been repeated attacks on Shi'ite religious ceremonies, shrines, and pilgrims to say nothing of attacks such the al-Ula market bombing, the Jameelah market bombing and other market bombings or the American attack on Sadr City . All of these attacks have undermined the Grand Ayatollah's authority.

The funeral of the Pakistani and Indian pilgrims in Karbal Sept 2nd 2006 The funeral of the Indian and Pakistani pilgrims in Karbala. Note the size of the crowd. Juan Cole's posting today makes several very important points about today's news including on the significance of being buried at Karbala to the Shia devotees. As I was writing this posting news came in that Sheikh Hassan Mohammed Mahdi al-Jawadi al-Sistani's representative in Amara had been murdered by gunmen today. - mfi

Yesterday's meeting with the isolated and ineffective al-Maliki, and the attacks on Indian and Pakistani pilgrims in which eleven Pakistani and three Indian Shia pilgrims were murdered have been widely reported throughout the world particularly in Pakistani and Indian newspapers seem to have been the last straw. Grand Ayatollah Sistani has issued a statement in which he roundly rebukes the green zone government [Arabic language]:

"The government's failure to fulfill its missions and duties in ensuring security and order and protecting the lives of the citizenry creates an opportunity for unofficial forces to arise to fulfill that mission."

What al-Sistani is saying here is theologically impeccable - if the government fails in it's duty to protect the community then others will step into to do that task, implicit in this is that the government has lost its legitimacy.

But al-Sistani is saying other things as well and one of them is that he no longer believes his followers will obey further calls from him to hold back. This report in today's edition of the UK Sunday Telegraph makes grim reading. I suggest you save a copy of it for future reference.

"The most influential moderate Shia leader in Iraq has abandoned attempts to restrain his followers, admitting that there is nothing he can do to prevent the country sliding towards civil war.

Aides say Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is angry and disappointed that Shias are ignoring his calls for calm and are switching their allegiance in their thousands to more militant groups which promise protection from Sunni violence and revenge for attacks.


It is a devastating blow to the remaining hopes for a peaceful solution in Iraq and spells trouble for British forces, who are based in and around the Shia stronghold of Basra.

The cleric is regarded as the most important Shia religious leader in Iraq and has been a moderating influence since the invasion of 2003. He ended the fighting in Najaf between Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army and American forces in 2004 and was instrumental in persuading the Shia factions to fight the 2005 elections under the single banner of the United Alliance.

However, the extent to which he has become marginalised was demonstrated last week when fighting broke out in Diwaniya between Iraqi soldiers and al-Sadr's Mehdi army. With dozens dead, al-Sistani's appeals for calm were ignored. Instead, the provincial governor had to travel to Najaf to see al-Sadr, who ended the fighting with one telephone call.


Hundreds of thousands of people have turned away from al-Sistani to the far more aggressive al-Sadr. Sabah Ali, 22, an engineering student at Baghdad University, said that he had switched allegiance after the murder of his brother by Sunni gunmen. "I went to Sistani asking for revenge for my brother," he said. "They said go to the police, they couldn't do anything.

"But even if the police arrest them, they will release them for money, because the police are bad people. So I went to the al-Sadr office. I told them about the terrorists' family. They said, 'Don't worry, we'll get revenge for your brother'. Two days later, Sadr's people had killed nine of the terrorists, so I felt I had revenge for my brother. I believe Sadr is the only one protecting the Shia against the terrorists."

According to al-Sadr's aides, he owes his success to keeping in touch with the people. "He meets his representatives every week or every day. Sistani only meets his representatives every month," said his spokesman, Sheik Hussein al-Aboudi.

"Muqtada al-Sadr asks them what the situation is on the street, are there any fights against the Shia, he is asking all the time. So the people become close to al-Sadr because he is closer to them than Sistani. Sistani is the ayatollah, he is very expert in Islam, but not as a politician."

Even the Iraqi army seems to have accepted that things have changed. First Lieut Jaffar al-Mayahi, an Iraqi National Guard officer, said many soldiers accepted that al-Sadr's Mehdi army was protecting Shias. "When they go to checkpoints and their vehicles are searched, they say they are Mehdi army and they are allowed through. But if we stop Sistani's people we sometimes arrest them and take away their weapons."

[snip] "

As I went through the Arabic language press today there was report [Asharq Al Awsat] after report [Aswataliraq] after report [Dar Al Hayat] after report [Al-Sabah Al-Jadeed ] of Maliki putting a brave face on things. I doubt if he believes it his own statements however. I don't expect him to last much longer, I doubt if he does either.


American Mercenary Firm Laughs All The Way To The Bank- British Soldiers "make do" (and die)

"Yankee Poodle Tony's Government The British The Blair Government has sold off 4½ million pounds worth of armoured personnel carriers for £44,000 including four to American mercenary firm Blackwater. British Ministers claimed that adaptations made to the Mamba Mine Protected Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), which if you follow the chain of ownership is manufactured by a BAE (British Aerospace) subsidiary, made it unsuitable for its use in Iraq which included the transportation of bomb disposal teams, and too difficult to maintain. The ministers appear to be being more than somewhat "economical with the actualité." The American mercenary firm that bought them for the princely sum of £2,933.33 apiece describes them as "the armoured personnel carrier of choice for Blackwater ops in Iraq" and clearly don't have any problem maintaining them as they're in daily use on Route Irish - "the most dangerous road in the world." The British newspaper Scotland on Sunday first broke the story last Sunday and has an even more damning follow-up today.

[snip … snip … snip … ]

Cruel irony and "not good good enough for 'our boys' " is an understatement. I have no idea why any British reporter would put the word scandal in inverted comments as Brian Brady has done in today's story. A scandal is exactly what it is. It is scandalous that both ordinary soldiers and bomb disposal specialists should be exposed to yet further danger while a pack of dirty mercenaries should be laughing all the way to the bank. "

The full scandalous story of callous human and financial incompetence by the British Ministry of Defense can found on the "markfromireland" front page or by following this direct link.