Wednesday, October 31, 2001
by Bjørn Stærk
(If you don't have time to read a long essay, this Zen story says the same thing. Sorry for being cryptic, I'll return to the usual death, war and pestilence tomorrow.)
When "Politically Incorrect" host Bill Maher was criticized for calling long-range U.S. bombing "cowardly," syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington accused ABC sponsors and executives of "using the Taliban's trademark weapon -- the stifling of dissent." After left-wing scholar Noam Chomsky compared Sept. 11 to the U.S. bombing of Sudan in 1998, right-wing columnist David Horowitz called him the "pathological ayatollah of anti-American hate."
Tuesday, October 30, 2001
More than 2,000 Iranians were arrested over the weekend in connection with unrest throughout the country. In addition, Iranian authorities have moved to stop the relay of information from opposition groups to the Islamic republic. Iranian authorities have confiscated more than 1,000 satellite dishes as part of an effort to stop access to television channels used by the opposition. The channels are based in the United States. The state-owned Iran daily said about 150,000 satellite dishes are expected to be confiscated. The operation would be the first time authorities have enforced a 1995 ban on satellite dishes.
Most of the arrests were in Tehran, where the rioters attacked banks, ticket kiosks, public telephones, and traffic signs, as well as police and public vehicles. Police claimed that they seized 5 kilograms of explosives. An eyewitness told RFE/RL's Persian Service that people of all ages fought against the Basij, using bricks, rocks, and whatever else came to hand. The rioters were chanting anti-government slogans, most of which are too offensive for a family publication. The tamer slogans included "Freedom, Freedom," "Death to the Basij," and "Only Reza Pahlavi."
Twenty-two years ago, a catastrophe descended upon my homeland and reversed decades of progress.
Meanwhile, the Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani has proposed an alliance with bin Laden, Taliban and Iraq against the United States, Ayatollah Khamenei claims free speech in the US is an illusion, and President Khatami wants to unite the muslim world against the Zionist threat.
Monday, October 29, 2001
by Bjørn Stærk
The bombing of Afghanistan has lasted almost three weeks. More and more civilians are killed, the refugee stream is increasing, but Osama bin Laden and his collaborators have gotten away. It is propably time to reevaluate the strategy against Taliban and bin Laden. If the military operation is to continue, bombs are insufficient. What happened to the ground forces that were intented for special operations? The one quick visit they've made so far, appeared to outsiders as a publicity stunt.
A country and a people can be bombed, but are one to hurt, and preferable arrest, named persons and groups, one can not achieve this with planes and missiles. Only careful intelligence gathering, and well targeted ground operations, will do that. But then generals must be willing to add own losses to the calculation, and not be content registering afghan civilian losses as "collateral damage". If they fail to do this, a broad opinion will say that "enough is enough", and demand an end to the war. Taliban will celebrate this as a great victory.
After three weeks of bombing, and three days of ground operations, there is no indication that the military operation will lead to the capture of the ones responsible for the terrorist attacks on the american east coast, September 11th. No wonder people are becoming skeptical. No wonder opposition to a military campaign is increasing, as time passes, and it becomes increasingly apparent that the bombs do not hit only military targets, but civilians as well.
The war against hyper-terrorism fought with diplomacy, education and economic warfare, is worthy of support. The war of bombs, primarily a response to the demands of the american public, isn't. [...] The prime minister of Israel, or rathers its military, tsahal, systematically commits murder, oppression and harassment on civilian palestinians with economic sanctions, and have violated UN resolutions for decades. How does the world community define this? State terrorism? Not at all. The fight against terrorism is selective, subservient to the interests of the dominating super power.
Dagens Nyheter, Sweden:
What purpose is served by bombing Afghanistan? This is a question that bothers more and more people, convincing many to demand a stop or a halt in air assaults. According to the official answer, we bomb to remove the terror network of al-Qaida, and the Taliban regime that supports it. Dead children and ruined Red Cross warehouses are then a necessary sacrifice? This is hard to accept.
Childish impatience and sheltered naivety is inappropriate of a great civilization. We fight or we don't, but either way there are consequences. Diplomatic-minded scandinavians can not have it both ways, both security and pretty pictures on TV.
Perhaps what recent interest in international affairs has shown us is that it doesn't really matter that media organizations have pared their foreign operations. Nor might the question of the moment circling in media circles -- whether American media outlets should conceal information that threatens American security interests -- matter as much either. Expanding news borders may already have provoked the interested to find their information elsewhere.
Something has changed, fundamentally and permanently, when americans surf to a norwegian website to read Saudi editorials about a war in Afghanistan.
Friday, October 26, 2001
The American people are not allowed to hear or see what is happening around the world. They cannot see the pain their proxies are causing or hear the cries of victims for help and understanding. It is a total blackout. There is no TV station showing anything about the world outside the US. The massacres of Palestinian women and children or the demolition of their homes are not shown on any American TV, or printed in newspapers. It is a total censorship so far as the news of the Middle East, Asia or even Europe is concerned. There is no world outside the US. The US media impose full restrictions, curtailment and full censorship on all the news coming into the US.
RAWA is an organization working for democracy and womens rights in Afghanistan. Oddly, they object to the american attack on their common enemy, in favor of a national uprising. It seems to me Afghanistan is unable to find democracy on its own, and the deeper the americans get involved, the better for RAWA. When you're working for democracy in the worlds greatest tyranny, you must accept civilian deaths.
In my experience, the most common comment I have ever heard from soldiers or veterans about military-media relations is not that the media is treasonous -- or even biased. But rather, that they're ignorant. You would never be allowed to report on a football game without knowing something about football, but the news media seems to have a fetish about refusing to develop or train journalists who know what the hell they are talking about whenever a war breaks out.
There are two - only two - subjects I consider myself qualified to make authoritative statements about: One is computer technology, which is my job, and the other is protestantism, which I grew up with but later discarded. Take this from a semi-professional: Everything you'll ever hear about these subjects in the mainstream news media will range from slightly inaccurate to completely false. I'm not qualified to know for sure, but I suspect this is true for all other subjects as well. The lesson? Skepticism when reading, and humility when writing. (Well, it's something to aim for, anyway.)
I don't think Islam is any more violent than any other religions, and I suspect if you added it all up, more people have been slaughtered by Christians over the centuries than by Muslims. But the key factor is the demographic factor. Generally speaking, the people who go out and kill other people are males between the ages of 16 and 30.
Thursday, October 25, 2001
Its worst example was when some church leaders who were fighting the Red Indians in America took blankets from smallpox-infected dead bodies in Europe and distributed them as charity in America. The blankets were soaked with smallpox puss and entire tribes were wiped out.
(More about smallpox blankets.)
We were the first ones to offer our assistance to the Americans as also our air bases, and may be other things, when America was attacked in New York. The Americans didn't ask for our help. They didn't even inform us about what had happened in New York. But chamchagiri is in our blood and within hours of the incident, we had pledged our facilities to them including possibly military help. No wonder, we are being ignored and treated with disdain.Somehow we believed that now that the US itself had felt the heat of terror first hand, they would appreciate our help and President Bush would come all the way from Washington to express his gratitude. India has suffered more from terrorists than almost any other country in the world, and that too continuously for the last fifty years, but the Americans are not interested in this kind of history.
Wednesday, October 24, 2001
by Bjørn Stærk
The afghan Taliban regime is repressive and totalitarian. But so is Osama bin Ladens motherland, Saudi-Arabia, where people are stoned to death for adultery, and theft is punished with amputation. The country is enlisted as an ally of the west against terrorism, but Saudi-Arabia is part of the problem, not the solution.
Saudi-Arabia is part of the problem, but what is Ballo going to do about it? The bet you didn't know argument relies on your opponent to be dumbfounded by the revelation that our side has done evil and has evil allies, and, unable to answer, won't force you to make your point. Well, I know our side has done evil. I read Noam Chomsky a few years ago, more than is healthy, and what's worse, I think he's propably right about many things. Some countries might be better off today without american intervention in the Cold War. Wars never treat the battlefield well, and not all soldiers fight for the same ideals. But on the whole, the Cold War was fought for the right reasons, and it was good that our side won.
For the likes of Ballo, the argument ends with "bet you didn't know Saudi Arabia is evil too!" That obvious statement should be where the argument begins. What follows is the difficult part: What do we do about it? How do we avoid repeating past mistakes? Every country needs a Chomsky to keep a detailed record of its sins, but no country needs a Ballo to turn it into ideology.
The bombardment of Afghanistan has already killed several civilians, millions are on the run, and in the coming winter thousands of people may freeze or starve to death, as a direct consequence of the war. And for every bomb, new terrorists are recruited to holy war.
Perhaps they are, but for every bomb, they have one less place to stage their attacks from. Terrorists will always be with us, but that's no reason to allow them safe zones in afghan mountains. And yes, civilians have died and will die. Fewer will die if we destroy Al-Qaeda than if we don't, but it is very sad, all the same.
How to characterize USA's bombardment can be discussed. But the same despair and frustration should follow the loss of innocent afghan lives as the revolting and cowardly actions in New York, Washington and Pittsburgh. The same reasoning condemns the terrorist attacks against USA and the bombing of Afghanistan. Enough lives have been lost. Stop the violence!
Tell that to the terrorists.
(For norwegian readers, a good article in Dagbladet on the problems the muslim world have with democracy. Hard facts and no easy answers.)
This is an ugly point in a war; when one side starts using civilians as human shields it is always ugly. A lot of those civilians are going to die needlessly. The real question that has to be asked is who has responsibility for their deaths. In my opinion, the Taliban do. If they truly care about civilian casualties, then they will clear their combatants out of the cities. If they hide among civilians and as a result of that civilians are hurt or killed, it is their responsibility. We are not actively targeting civilians, but we must attack military targets even when they are surrounded by civilians. To do otherwise would be to risk losing the war -- and that is much more important than the risk of inflicting civilian casualties.
YOU CAN NOT STOP US.
Yeah, whatever. Matt Welch: "Something about seeing their handwriting and hopeless grade-school defiance (�Death to Israel,� etc.) makes me want to drink a bunch of coffee and get on an airplane."
Tuesday, October 23, 2001
It's remarkable how, for all the surface flim-flam about Afghanistan, Israel, Iraq, Palestine and Pakistan, everything specific about this crisis circles back to Saudi Arabia: Most of the suicide bombers were Saudi, their boss is Saudi, his funds are topped up by Saudis, his protectors in Afghanistan were trained in Islamic seminaries in Pakistan funded by the Saudis, his main beef is the U.S. military stationed near the Muslim holy sites to protect the Saudis. Saudi, Saudi, Saudi. American defense of Saudi Arabia gave Osama bin Laden his cause, American investment in Saudi Arabia gave him the money to bankroll it.
As a Western diplomat put it, there is essentially no left left. The peace camp is demoralized or vanished because of Yasser Arafat's focus on the right of return - the demand that all Palestinian refugees from the 1948 War, their families and descendants be allowed to return to Israel - a proposal to, in effect, end the Jewish state.
by Bjørn Stærk
Today, the route outlined by the Mitchell and Tenet reports is seen not as an interim station along the road to a successful culmination of the peace process, but rather as the final destination. Israel is using the two reports as a defensive wall to "protect" itself from making any progress in the diplomatic process, while the Palestinians are using them as a source for raising arguments against Israel. At most, each side is checking which side is complying more fully with the Mitchell recommendations - that is, which side is behaving more properly. This examination is being conducted not for the purpose of advancing any particular substantive issue, but is, at best, being used for each side's public relations campaign.
The Mitchell report is here. It is a vision of a perfect future, where the israelies and palestinians does everything right. One of the writers is former foreign minister of Norway, Torbjørn Jagland. He's the kind of politician who will see a peace process, a democratic process, or a human rights dialogue where the rest of us see war, tyranny and torture.
Gerald Steinberg: Oslo is dead, time to move on.
The first moves in this direction were taken recently with the creation of a closed buffer zone between Israeli and Palestinian populations in the area from Netanya to Kfar Saba.� This concept, based on fences, patrol roads, and surveillance equipment, needs to be extended across the map, including in the Jerusalem region.� While such separation measures are not going to provide total insurance, if properly implemented, an 80% reduction in Palestinian infiltration would be a major improvement. �������
Monday, October 22, 2001
Many Empires, beginning perhaps with Sumer and continuing with Egypt, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, Spain, the UK and USSR, have come and gone. Interestingly, however, life transcends revolutions and collapse and continues on - by design - run by a set of unchangeable, inviolable principles and some immutable rules that govern the Universe. There are no exceptions and those who have kicked and fought, attempting to create their own set of principles have failed and been destroyed. Enter now the Empire of the United States of American - a perfect global dictatorship in full operation.
Like a cancerous growth, we are seeing Christians gain a foothold in the lands of the believers. The first time these crusading forces came with swords and suits of armor, this time they arrive with credit cards and million-dollar aid cheques. Employing Faustian machinations, these human shayateen are converting many Muslims to their false religion and serving to inject a virulent poison into the stream of the Ummah. The Muslim world is under attack.
Thursday, October 18, 2001
by Bjørn Stærk
The "Big Media Makes Us Stupid" argument does not interest me, perhaps because I never found it difficult to learn whatever I wanted to learn on the net. I've been online since 1996 - if I am still ignorant, I have only myself to blame.
Update: Steven Den Beste doubtful. "Combat is a very confusing thing, and terrified men see things that aren't there."
Now Israel has no choice but to destroy the PFLP, the Palestinian terrorists who claimed responsibility for his assassination. Just as the Taliban was given an ultimatum to cough up Osama bin Laden or be destroyed, Yasser Arafat's regime must crush the terrorism in its midst or be destroyed as well. Israel has no choice, because the assassination of an Israeli minister, if followed by the flurry of threats and limited measures that came after previous atrocities, will signal that Israel has lost the will to defend itself.
Israel prime minister Ariel Sharon has decided Israel would emulate America�s tactics against the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden in its responses to the assassination by Palestinian terrorists of Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi in the Hyatt Hotel, Jerusalem early Wednesday.� [..] In other words, Israel will be free to take military action against the Palestinian Authority as long as it refuses to hand over the terrorists in its midst, including the heads of the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Despite all this, the plots of torturers and servants of the Sultan and their hopes are doomed to failure. It is through trial and through sufferance that God's victory comes about and His Powers are displayed. It is in these times that the sublime Sakinah and tranquility despite adversity comes. It is through this that we get assurance that God's Promise will be fulfilled and His Will shall come to pass as decreed. I never heard anyone regret one day he spent in Jihad, or consider Jihad as being the source of the hurt they were subject to at the hands of those who do not fear Allah. Some have displayed the best of examples of resistance and strength. Hassan al-Srihi was the talk of everyone: how under torture he kept on reading Qur'an and making Zikr. He stayed in such a state until the torture ended.
by Bjørn Stærk
Americans, though hurt, do not want war, bombings, or strong military action against innocent people. They do not like the accusations nor the tactics the FBI is using in detaining and harassing innocent people. They are fearful of new laws being passed. What will happen six months from now if they speak up against the injustices going on? Will their names appear on terrorist lists because they have relatives in Saudi Arabia? Will their bank accounts be frozen because their beliefs are different? The American public is getting a quick education in world current events and both FBI and CIA procedures.
by Bjørn Stærk
Wednesday, October 17, 2001
Having spent a substantial part of my career parodying religious figures from my own Christian background, I am aghast at the notion that it could, in effect, be made illegal to imply ridicule of a religion or to lampoon religious figures.Government spokesman defends the law:
"I think we are able to tell the difference between comic sketches and comedy and people who are trying to whip up and incite religious hatred."
I think not. Atkinson mentions Life of Brian as an example of threatened comedy - a movie that was in fact temporarily banned in Norway for blasphemy. Times change, and then they often change back again in a different disguise. Life of Brian would never be banned today, even under a religious hate speech law. The muslim version might - not to mention dark post-wtc web humor.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has famously labeled Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat as "our bin Laden." Actually, this is an exaggeration. Arafat is our Taliban. Though Arafat and the Taliban are obviously not cut from the same Muslim fundamentalist cloth, their relationship to terrorism is similar. The United States and Britain decided to start bombing the Taliban regime, because it was difficult for them to tell who controlled whom: Bin Laden or the Taliban.
Tuesday, October 16, 2001
by Bjørn Stærk
In particular Bush has embraced Forte's argument that Al Qaeda are theological heretics. They practice, Forte contends, an esoteric strain of Islam that traces to a seventh-century sect. "[The terrorists] are not religious," Forte told the Post. "They are a new form of fascist tyranny."
For bin Laden, the dar al-Islam is no longer the realm of Islam, or as is sometimes translated, the realm of peace. In common with many Islamic radicals, bin Laden believes that the Islamic world has fallen into perfidy and apostasy. He makes civil war on Islam as much as he makes international conflict with the United States. He targets moderate Islamic leaders like Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, former Pakistani President Benizir Bhutto, and Jordan King (then Prince) Abdullah. He has no respect for the Saudi government because it permits the stationing of Western troops, contrary to his view of the ancient Shari'a's prohibition of non-Muslims living on the holy soil of Arabia.
I think it is wise of western leaders to adopt Fortes views in public. Islam clearly has great potential for evil, and we may be seeing the islamic world at its worst right now, whiny, narrow-minded and undemocratic. It also has great potential for good, and that potential can be encouraged. That is not achieved by sending mixed messages about who our enemies are.
One had hoped that after September 11 America would ask �why�, not �how�, this had happened. But they still wonder �how� their intelligence could fail and their impregnability raped. The truth is that until they get to the �why� they will never get to the genesis of terrorism and nothing will be solved. The most powerful country in the world looks truly pathetic attacking the weakest, the richest bombing the poorest? Isn�t it indecent when an over-muscled bully goes on a righteous rampage in a morgue in the name of �self defense�?
Strained efforts have been made by world leaders including Chief Executive of Pakistan to establish that there is no relationship between Islam and terrorism and that Islam is against it and in no way endorses terrorist acts. But BBC and CNN have behaved in a way that indicates their bias against Islam and Muslims. To talk of crusades and Christian-Muslim divide is illogical and indicates narrow mindedness and prejudice.
Americans can be rightfully proud of their immense achievements. Their clothes, movies and music have universal appeal and following. Even without their nukes and tomahawks they are the leaders. The statistical proof of this is the number of people that apply for visas from around the world. They do not have to bomb the world to subservience. The people are already their slaves.
There were no fund-raising telethons for the millions of Afghan refugees from the 1980s, the orphans of the Cold War. I am not pointing a finger; the figures speak for themselves. Amnesty International, the UNHCR, other human rights bodies will verify this. The numbers go well into the tens of thousands. To many people who are aware of this, this attack is just a small gesture to close the gap between �us� and �them�.
Editorial, October 13th, on censoring Bin Laden:
The excuse given by the Bush Administration for its request is also specious, that Osama might be issuing coded commands. None of his broadcasts occurred before the September 11 attacks, of which he is accused, so broadcasting is not his mode of communication. This seems merely an excuse for censorship. It ill behoves the USA to set an example which might be quoted in future by governments of societies with a less well-established tradition of Press freedom. We have tasted censorship, and we did not like it. The Pakistani Press has struggled hard for its freedom, and will support the struggle of other news organisations to obtain or retain theirs.
I haven't ignored the pro-american columns - there aren't any.
Sunday, October 14, 2001
Quite a bit of criticism these last four weeks has been filled with oxymoronic arguments that damn the U.S. if it does or doesn't. Feminist Robin Morgan preaches nonviolence, yet laments "the world averting its attention from Rwanda's screams" (as if those screams could have been avoided nonviolently); Michael Moore opposes all Bush-sponsored wars, yet criticizes Poppy for failing to topple Saddam Hussein. Several commentators fault the U.S. both for getting involved in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and abandoning it in the '90s. We can't have it all, and when our criticism reflects such naivet� it often gets ignored.
by Bjørn Stærk
Khilifa means "representation". Man, according to Islam, is the representative of Allah on earth, His vice-regent; that is to say, by virtue of the powers delegated to him by Allah, and within the limits prescribed, he is required to exercise Divine authority.
On the freedom/duty of expression:
Islam gives the right of freedom of thought and expression to all citizens of an Islamic State on condition that it is used for propagating virtue and not for spreading [evil]. This Islamic concept of freedom of expression is far superior to that of the West. Indeed, the right to freedom of expression to propagate virtue and righteousness is not only a right, but an obligation. Anyone who tries to deny this right to his people is openly at war with Allah, the All-Powerful. It is equally a right of and an obligation on an individual to attempt to stop evil, whether this evil is perpetrated by an individual or by a group of people or the government of one's own country or the government of some other country. Over and above this, he should openly condemn the evil and point to the morally correct course which would be adopted.
The writer is not ignorant of western thinking, but his trust in dictatorships to carry out Gods will is inexcusably naive. Obviously, since God does not exist (or at least hasn't made any press releases for 1400 years), a dictatorship under God means a dictatorship under Gods current interpreter. Most western christians have learned that this does not work, that the holy interpreter becomes a secular dictator. When, with their stronger concept of personal submission, will Islam?
More: We are at war with the West.
by Bjørn Stærk
So when the US was brutally attacked, we asked the UK for help, which they freely provided. The UK stepped up and acted like an ally should; it didn't criticize the US, rather it said "We're on your side in this. We care about this and we're going to put our asses on the line with you because that's what friends do, and we're your friends." The continental European nations, on the other hand, dithered and wrung their hands, and talked about "measured response" and tried to point out historical US foreign policy mistakes -- and basically made it clear that they were not in favor of a major military response.
I can't speak for european nations with bigger military egos, but norwegians are rather relieved than embarassed that we haven't been asked to help. Even if we had anything significant to contribute, it would be controversial. Our attitude to foreign policy is diplomatic: 1. Don't rush anything! 2. Let's think about this some more. 3. Send in the diplomats. 4. Send in some more diplomats to protest the beheading of the previous group of diplomats. Support for the war is below 50%, and distrust of motives common.
USA is a terrorist nation. No other country has caused more suffering in the world after World War 2.
Saturday, October 13, 2001
by Bjørn Stærk
So just how representative were those dancing radicals of palestinians as a whole? According to an poll conducted by the Birzeit university before the counter-attack,
Estimates place the total size of the royal family at 5000-plus princes, each one of whom is given $500,000 as a sort of start-up fee at birth. The family propagates at the alarming rate of between 35 and 40 princes each month.
I have a theory why this morbid Tourist Guy aka Waldo is so funny, but I'm not going to tell you. (Instead, I made one.)
This picture is just sad.
Friday, October 12, 2001
Still plenty of terrorism to be concerned about. Now they're attacking our media?!
While clearly underlining the U.N.'s traditional responsibility for peace and security, he has also emphasized its obligations with regard to human rights. He has risen to such new challenges as HIV/AIDS and international terrorism, and brought about more efficient utilization of the U.N.'s modest resources.
Norwegian newspapers applaud Annan as an obvious choice, but to me it's news that he should even be nominated. His resume paints the picture of a bureaucrat and diplomat who has risen up the UN hierarchy through perhaps competent but conventional handling of minor conflicts and diplomatic incidents.
"Efficient utilization of the U.N.'s limited resources" -- is that how you describe a man of Peace? His latest contribution to world peace has been to denounce both terrorism and the war on it, which may be a necessary action when your employers are on all three sides of the conflict, but not worth any more than respect for his diplomatic skills.
At least he's not violently unqualified, like the three middle east warriors who received the prize in 1994. There was a time when I believed in the Peace Prize, (it's popular with norwegians because it's the only time of year we have any voice in global politics), and supporters of it still seem to believe that a free dinner and concert in Oslo can convince sworn enemies to bury their Kalashnikovs. The remote possibility may justify the attempt, but the prize loses its value in the process.
If skilled diplomats and peace process magicians ("now you see it, now you don't") don't deserve the Peace Prize, then who does? The global army of stubborn idealists who dedicate their lives to improving the lives of others. Medicians, educators, aid distributors, missionaries. Some of them work for the U.N., but most don't. Many of them are fools, but I don't respect them for their intelligence. Every time they rescue and enlighten a human, this world becomes a better place.
We need do-gooders and soldiers, there's no contradiction, they can both serve the same philosophy. Knowing when to follow Gandhi and when to follow Churchill, that is the challenge.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven;
Thursday, October 11, 2001
by Bjørn Stærk
Over two centuries ago, Johann Gottfried Herder remarked that encounters between cultures excite self-awareness in those cultures. Today, collisions between cultures infect weaker cultures with self-doubt (loud assertions of superiority are the symptom indicating that the disease has entered a critical phase). We live in a world where the success stories are increasingly evident to all, while the fear of failure haunts the majority of the world's population. That fear may manifest itself as rabid pride and spur aggression, but we must not mistake the terrorist's or tyrant's desperation for anything other than what it is: fundamental, inarticulate terror. Spite, hatred, and fitful violence are hallmarks of decline. They are the responses of frightened men who cannot bear the image in the mirror held up by the globalization of information. They imagine, as do children, that they have a choice in their fate, that they can refuse to see what they cannot endure. But the choices confronting information-resistant societies are not really choices at all.
Also by Peters, a 1993 Parameters article on fundamentalists and nationalists.
Wednesday, October 10, 2001
Most of the factions in the Northern Alliance have fought against one another as often as they have fought side by side. The combat has generally been merciless, and it will be nigh impossible to forge trust between these factions in a future government. All factions look first and foremost to self-preservation and will be unwilling to risk disarming.
The goal of this war is to prevent another September 11th, not introduce Afghanistan to peace and democracy. If civil war is the result, that is unfortunate, but a puritan tyranny is worse. Some people think it's not. These are the ones who have defended Taliban in the name of compassion with civilians over the last weeks. That is no compassion I'd want, if I were afghani, living under a government that despises every redeeming quality we humans have.
I hope things turn out well for the people of Afghanistan - the amount of suffering concentrated in that one place is overwhelming. But right now, peace is another word for surrender, for them just as much as it is for us.
There's no longer any such thing as a "civilian". This idea is actually a quite modern one, and it is now obsolete. It was born out of a historical accident, lived for about 300 years because of a temporary technological situation, and then died about sixty years ago as the technology of war advanced further. It survives in people's minds because of wishful thinking, the idea that war is a horrible thing but all the horrors and pain of it ought to be suffered by the officially designated victims (that we call "soldiers" and "sailors") and that if everyone would just play by the rules then all we "civilians" could miss out on the bad part and keep living our lives. Students of military theory know better.Den Beste runs a good war blog as well.
Tuesday, October 09, 2001
In short, we're selling out Chechnya. And tactically we probably don't have any choice. The people who killed 6,000 Americans must be punished. To punish them, we need Russia's military bases and Russia's military intelligence. And unless the Bushies hold their tongues about the most brutal war on the European continent, they won't get it. It's that simple.
Many prominent Taliban officials are reported to be defecting or trying to escape the country. Afghan sources in Quetta, Pakistan, say that the mayor of Kandahar, an Islamic judge and several senior officials of the religious police have fled Kandahar, where the Taliban is based, and arrived in Quetta with their families. Several Taliban ministers have sent their families to Peshawar.
The anthrax outbreak in Florida appears to have been caused by a deliberate but �inept� release into a newspaper office building, according to one of America�s leading military experts on biological weapons. �I do not believe it was accidental,� Colonel (retd) Dick Spertzel, who spent 28 years as a US Army biological weapons expert before becoming the chief biological inspector in the United Nations drive to disarm Iraq, told The Times yesterday. �I cannot conceive of any way that it could be natural. What it does suggest is a somewhat inept person may have released it intentionally into the building and had a mixed bag of small and large particles and did not know what he was doing,� he said.
Current lines of investigation: A sudanese intern, who "left you all a little present", and a strangely worded letter "that contained a soapy, powdery substance in the shape of a Star of David".
Monday, October 08, 2001
In a certain sense, Norway too is now at war with the Taliban regime of Afghanistan. It's important for governments and individuals to realize this doesn't mean we're at war with the world of Islam. We find reason to remind of this, in light of police actions that occured this weekend.
It remains to be seen whether this campaign can be seen through without inflicting more suffering on the afghan civilian population. That central Kabul has been targeted, may cause understandable fear and panic. What has now begun must not appear as a war against muslims or islam, but a fight exclusively against terrorism.Aftenposten:
Yesterdays American-british attack will be met with understanding by most of the world, not only USA's traditional friends. After the macabre terror attack on september 11th, USA has been met with sympathy, participation and understanding. An understanding which has grown deeper because the country has not turned to symbolic revenge attacks, but has proven the patience needed to build an alliance capable of fighting terrorism financially, with intelligence, politics and the military. It is not a coincidence that patience was one of the words Bush used most in yesterdays speech.Klassekampen, (Class Struggle):
China 1945-46; Korea 1950-53; China 1950-53; Guatemala 1954; Indonesia 1958; Cuba 1959-60; Guatemala 1960; Kongo 1964; Peru 1965; Laos 1964-73; Vietnam 1961-73; Kambodsja 1969-70; Guatemala 1967-69; Grenada 1983; Libanon 1984, Libya 1986; El Salvador 1980's; Nicaragua 1980's; Panama 1989, Iraq 1999-2000; Sudan 1998; Afghanistan 1998; Jugoslavia 1999 and now, Afghanistan 2001.
The front page of a large newspaper in Norway today read: "Bin Laden survived the bombs!" Of course he did, that's why american leaders have been warning about a long, painful war, not another fire-and-forget quick solution. Bombing a poor, almost stone age country with the most advanced fighter planes in the world - that is easy. Now comes the hard part.
Fitting a religious fanatic, they are as different as the gospels of the New Testament. (The Guardian deviates so much from the other translations, I don't think they watched the same tape.)
by Bjørn Stærk
Somebody has been listening to their public & holy relations officer. Now it's Iraq and Palestine Al Qaeda is fighting for, and Saudi Arabia is barely mentioned at all. He even pretends sympathy with the dead of Hiroshima! Some parts sound as if stolen from the op-ed columns of western peacemongers, only with the pronouns inverted:
You American people - can you ask yourselves why [there is] all this hate against America and Israel? The answer is clear and very simple, that America has committed so many crimes against the nations of Muslims. America is the head of criminals by creating Israel - this continuous crime for 50 years.
Sunday, October 07, 2001
by Bjørn Stærk
This is what I, and most of you reading this, have been waiting for. And yet, the hairs on the back of my neck are standing up. God bless whoever's down there fighting for our freedom, and lets hope we're not making the first big mistake of the 21th century.
I won't bother with up-to-date breaking news today, that's not what I do well. Go to Drudge, and turn on CNN.
Me, I think perhaps I'll watch that Wayne movie after all.
DEBKAfile�s counter-intelligence and intelligence sources report exclusively that Russian and Israeli investigators alike have ruled the missile option out in favor of the terrorist theory. They are coming to believe that an explosive charge attached to a handheld radio was planted in the ceiling of the passengers cabin before it left Nosibirsk for Tel Aviv. Palestinian terrorists have made frequent use of cell phones in the same way for detonating booby-trapped cars.
Rest of the media still siding with the missile theory.
Officials in the Justice Department and intelligence services believe that the bin Laden network, still operative in cells across the globe, would implode if he were beheaded. Investigators laid out two scenarios: 'There's a notion that if you behead the snake, another two crawl out of the swamp,' said one official. 'This situation is the opposite: cut off the snake's head and the body shrivels up. The important thing is to get the man.'
Does anyone but me feel upbeat, and guilty about it? I feel upbeat because the country seems to be a better place than it was a month ago. I feel guilty about it because I should be feeling pain and horror and anger about the recent events. But there's so much to cheer one up.
by Bjørn Stærk
by Bjørn Stærk
From their website, (which also contains photographic evidence of Taliban oppression):
Before the Moscow-directed coup d��tat of April 1978 in Afghanistan, RAWA�s activities were confined to agitation for women�s rights and democracy, but after the coup and particularly after the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in December 1979, RAWA became directly involved in the war of resistance. In contradistinction to the absolute majority of the vaunted Islamic fundamentalist "freedom fighters" of the anti-Soviet war of resistance, RAWA from the outset advocated democracy and secularism.
Knowledge and freedom, the building bricks of Civilization. Will any living RAWA-member ever see an Afghanistan based on these ideals?
by Bjørn Stærk
In the last couple of weeks we've been fooled to think we're americans. Are we? Did we work in Pentagon and WTC, the most spectacular symbols of western power and wealth, but to much of the world symbols of oppression?
Nygårdshaug then calls attention to a novel he wrote in the 80's, where brave Amazonas indians, victims of american imperialism, blows up an american skyscraper. This, apparently, is an obvious parallell to the struggle of Osama bin Laden, to him an avatar of 3rd world frustration.
Where others react with emotions of sorrow, fear, anger or compassion, Nygårdshaug has only room for a sneering Ha-ha, I told you so! Words fail me.
Saturday, October 06, 2001
by Bjørn Stærk
The Koran itself, of course, which is the foundation, and the Prophet Mohammed himself made it quite clear how we should behave in times of war, in a war situation, how we should treat the enemy, how we should treat women and children. And there is no dispute among Muslim scholars concerning these points. The Prophet said that no women or children must be killed, [as well as] do not kill prisoners, [even] do not kill the animals of the enemy.
That was Abdul Malik Eagle, from the Al-Khoei Foundation in London. How many middle east theologians share this interpretation?
What have we learned since September 11th? We've learned that poverty breeds despair, despair breeds instability, instability breeds resentment and resentment breeds extremism.
It is on the face of it nonsensical and insulting to the memory of those who died on Sept. 11 to declare that this unprecedented attack did not rise to the level of a historical event. But the way in which I used the word history, or rather History, was different: It referred to the progress of mankind over the centuries toward modernity, characterized by institutions like liberal democracy and capitalism.
Jonah Goldberg agrees.
Friday, October 05, 2001
"It is absurd to impose on an individual or a society rights that are alien to its beliefs or principles."Saudi-Arabia have made a wiser choice of friends than the Taliban, but they're still one of the most oppressive countries in the world. (Via Bushwacker.)
Thursday, October 04, 2001
Americans blame misfired ukranian missile.
Ukrania denies accident. All their rockets have "self-destruction mechanisms in case they deviated from their course".
Wednesday, October 03, 2001
DEBKAfile�s military sources reveal that the Tadjikistan based Russian 201st Motorized Rifle Division was beefed up Tuesday with staff commando units, Pashtun speakers and interpreters. Its members also received American-made anti-terrorist equipment and weapons flown in especially. DEBKAfile adds: The anti-terror alliance has split its task into two parts. The Americans and Russians will go for Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda force in the Pamir Mountains, while the UK and Western allies will take on the Taliban in south Afghanistan.�
For instance, I only found out recently that the Pashtun dominate areas of Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan. This is where the most passionate anti-American demonstrations have taken place. But I have no idea what the dominant Punjabi population think of the Pashtuns, either in Pakistan or Afghanistan. No one seems to be reporting from Lahore, the largest Punjabi city. If the majority population is ethnically distinct from the Taliban radicals, then Pakistan may be a more stable US ally than the television pictures would suggest.
From small mosque schools across Pakistan's remote tribal areas thousands of young students are pouring into Afghanistan to prepare for war against US forces. Although equipped with little more than copies of the Koran, many have trained in guerrilla warfare fighting the Indian army in Kashmir and the anti-Taliban opposition forces in Afghanistan. [...] "I have 450 students in my madrassah and last week I sent all except the youngest to fight the jihad in Afghanistan. It is their Islamic duty to go and safeguard the innocent," Maulana Zia-ul Haq, the madrassah cleric, said.
Monday, October 01, 2001
All the warning signs are there: new and unproven security measures, no real threat analysis, unsubstantiated security claims. The ban on cutting instruments is a perfect example. It's a knee-jerk reaction: the terrorists used small knives and box cutters, so we must ban them. And nail clippers, nail files, cigarette lighters, scissors (even small ones), tweezers, etc. But why isn't anyone asking the real questions: what is the threat, and how does turning an airplane into a kindergarten classroom reduce the threat? If the threat is hijacking, then the countermeasure doesn't protect against all the myriad of ways people can subdue the pilot and crew. Hasn't anyone heard of karate? Or broken bottles? Think about hiding small blades inside luggage. Or composite knives that don't show up on metal detectors.
On face-recognition software in airports:
Suppose this magically effective face-recognition software is 99.99 percent accurate. That is, if someone is a terrorist, there is a 99.99 percent chance that the software indicates "terrorist," and if someone is not a terrorist, there is a 99.99 percent chance that the software indicates "non-terrorist." Assume that one in ten million flyers, on average, is a terrorist. Is the software any good? No. The software will generate 1000 false alarms for every one real terrorist.
Also: The inevitable cryptography debate, and an argument that security and liberty can coexist.