Sunday, September 30, 2001
by Bjørn Stærk
Robert Kaplan on the strange bedfellows of war.
Musharraf is a Turkophile. He spent part of his youth in Turkey. He idolizes the founder of secular modern Turkey, Kemal Ataturk, and has a dream of turning Pakistan into a South Asian version of Ataturk's republic. But he is probably too late. Pakistan today is a poverty-wracked Yugoslavia-in-the making--with the added complication of nuclear capability.
Of course, it's easy to see why Bill Maher and Susan Sontag have such a hard time reconciling cowardice with self-immolation: they have great lives.
by Bjørn Stærk
Saturday, September 29, 2001
Unless this was just the biggest stock-manipulation scam in history, the goal, presumably, was to leave the United States either paralyzed, or blindly lashing out in ways that would isolate the West from the Islamic world and perhaps pave the way for fundamentalist extremists to take over one or more Arab governments. (Saudi Arabia and Egypt are the most likely candidates; Algeria is another possibility). Instead, the Taliban government, the most reliably extremist government in the Islamic world, is in serious trouble, and Western governments that have sheltered, or at least ignored, radical Islamists are rounding them up, Arab governments are using this as an excuse to crack down on fundamentalists they don't like a lot anyway, and -- this is a point made by Barney Frank -- the United States is now over this whole third-world guilt thing.
Others have also been thinking along these lines, that Bin Laden counted on Americas decadence and stupidity to serve his own purposes in the moslem world, but what instead has emerged is its resilience and intelligence. Bush has not carpet-bombed Afghanistan, and is unlikely to do so. The Vast, Right-Wing Conspiracy has not begun executing bearded immigrants. The west has risen above the stereotypes held by marxist reactionaries and religious puritans, accurately identifying our enemy as a significant, but not dominant fascist subculture of Islam, not foreigners, not Islam itself, and not our own political principles.
Of course, world war 3 may break out yet. And no matter the outcome, Al-Qaeda dead or alive, we will lose some of our freedom. More about that to follow, I'm sure.
WARNING! Comedy = Tragedy + Time. If you tell jokes about the recent tragedies, you will be hurled into the distant future.
And -- everyone's linked to this already but while we're on the subject -- The Onions Holy Fucking Shit: Attack On America issue.
According to the New York Observer, (via Alain Breillatt), Debka is written by two israeli journalists who claim to have friends in high places. I have no way to verify Debka's trustworthiness or good intentions. I have no way to verify the news I hear on CNN or BBC World either. The only thing we can know for sure is that journalists all over the world are just as dumb, biased and likely to run in flock today, as they were three weeks ago. This is war, and even those who do not lie intentionally may be stupid enough to repeat the lies they're told. That includes CNN, Debka - and us warbloggers.
One thing I have learned from Matt Drudge, (who used to publish mostly accurate scoops from american politics, but now is just a good weblogger), is that a well-connected loner with a website can outrace media dinosaurs to the truth. Debka may or may not be that story all over again. I link, you decide.
While not all saw combat, some 5,000 Saudis, 3,000 Yemenis, 2,800 Algerians, 2,000 Egyptians, 400 Tunisians, 350 Iraqis, 200 Libyans and dozens of Jordanians served alongside the Afghani mujahideen in the war. Between 1,000 and 1,500 of them returned to Algeria and formed the backbone of the Islamic radicals who are continuing to fight against the government in what has been a nine-year civil war that has claimed more than 100,000 lives.
Friday, September 28, 2001
The United States has two goals: One, to topple the Taliban; the other, destroying al-Qa'ida and killing bin Laden. If these goals are treated sequentially rather than in parallel, interesting possibilities emerge. To be more precise, if the focus was on disrupting and defeating the Taliban, bin Laden's position in Afghanistan would become untenable. Apart from his personal fate, the ability to base training and other facilities in Afghanistan would decline or disappear. Therefore, the heart of the matter is to defeat the Taliban. The resources available are special forces and other light but effective units. There is a unique match between the means needed to defeat the Taliban and the forces that can be made available.
There is evidence he is planning high-impact attacks in the world and we have got to make sure he doesn't do it again.
American intervention in the Afghan war didn't create Osama bin Laden. In fact, if the United States bears any blame for bin Laden's terrorist network today, it's because in the 1980s and '90s, we didn't intervene in Afghanistan aggressively enough.
The UN High Comissioner for Refugees and afghan sources confirm that reports of a mass escape from Afghanistan have been exaggerated. While world media has painted the picture of 1.5 million afghans leaving for neighbouring countries, only a few thousand have actually arrived at the borders in the last couple of weeks.
Thursday, September 27, 2001
In having practiced sexism, racism, and imperialism, the West was merely following the common practice of mankind through the millennia of recorded history. Where it is distinct from all other civilizations is in having recognized, named, and tried, not entirely without success, to remedy these historic diseases. And that is surely a matter for congratulation, not condemnation.
Second, a 1998 article in Foreign Affairs Magazine, where he translates and explains Bin Ladens Declaration of Jihad.
And from today, 27/09/01, in Wall Street Journal: The difference between Jihad and Crusade.
Wednesday, September 26, 2001
Patriotism has, then, many faces. Those who would reject it entirely do not seem to have considered what will certainly step - has already begun to step - into its place. For a long time yet, or perhaps forever, nations will live in danger. Rulers must somehow nerve their subjects to defend them or at least to prepare for their defense. Where the sentiment of patriotism has been destroyed this can be done only by presenting every international conflict in a purely ethical light. If people will spend neither sweat nor blood for "their country" they must be made to feel that they are spending them for justice, or civilization, or humanity. This is a step down, not up. Patriotic sentiment did not of course need to disregard ethics. Good men needed to be convinced that their country's cause was just; but it was still their country's cause, not the cause of justice as such. The difference seems to me important. I may without self-righteousness or hypocrisy think it just to defend my house by force against a burglar; but if I start pretending that I blacked his eye purely on moral grounds - wholly indifferent to the fact that the house in question is mine - I become insufferable....If our country's cause is the cause of God, wars must be wars of annihilation.
by Bjørn Stærk
(But it would be in good spirit with what the Nobel Peace Prize has become.)
In fact, a lot of people quote Orwell these days. Want to know why?
by Bjørn Stærk
Tuesday, September 25, 2001
The first casualty of war is truth.
We won't lie - honest!
by Bjørn Stærk
Russia, in fact, would actually be apprehensive if the Americans established too strong a presence in the region. And maybe they would be telling the Northern Alliance to, of course, cooperate with the United States, but maybe not cooperate that much -- especially not helping the Americans establish a base there.
What I'd like to know is: Who are the Northern Alliance? The enemy of ones enemy isn't always a coke-drinking freedom fighter from MacGyver, as this whole mess is a big reminder of. What Afghanistan needs is a push towards democracy and prosperity, not another dictator who's too smart to kick superpowers in the balls, (or even worse, another civil war.)
by Bjørn Stærk
Worries about the side-effects of war were also dominant, and this is a better argument than the race card. Nobody wants to send millions of poor civilians on the run, or raise a new generation of terrorists on the graveyard of afghan martyrs, if it can be helped. It can't. Enemies of civilization all over the world has seen what the al-Qaida could achieve with only will, plastic knives, and religious fervor - ingredients that many places are easier to find than food and freedom. Many will follow, unless they are convinced that the risks are too high. It is too late to wait for Afghanistan to solve their problems on their own.
One speaker was an afghan womens rights activist, who almost seemed apologetic towards Taliban when she pleaded on behalf of the many women who may become victims of a US attack. Aren't they already victims? Taliban is one of the strictest patriarchal countries in the world, where women have absolutely no rights at all. USA is one of the freest. Isn't any chance to overthrow the puritans better than status quo? The first obligation of a prisoner is to escape, and the first obligation of an oppressed people is to revolt.
All in all, Sheik Ilderim in Ben Hur says it best: Balthasar is a good man. But until all men are like him, we must keep our swords bright! Amnesty and Save the Children are fine organizations, doing important work for people I may not even have heard of. But until all people are like them, we must keep our swords bright, (and our intentions true, as Judah Ben Hur finishes it.)
Monday, September 24, 2001
by Bjørn Stærk
We incite our Muslim brothers in Pakistan to give everything they own and are capable of to push the American crusade forces from invading Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Prophet, Peace Be Upon Him, said: Whoever didn't fight, or prepare a fighter, or take good care of a fighter's family, Allah will strike him with a catastrophe before Judgment Day.
by Bjørn Stærk
The al-Rashid Trust and some Arab NGOs operating from Peshawar are already active in providing humanitarian assistance to the needy Afghans in Kandahar and Kabul. The trust, serving as an umbrella organisation for the Muslim charity groups from Pakistan and abroad, is busy in providing food free of charge to as many as 25,000 widows and orphans in Kandahar and Kabul.
Sunday, September 23, 2001
by Bjørn Stærk
This paragraph surprised me, though, hinting at a scandinavian connection with the destruction of the Buddha statues:
I asked them, why are they going to blow the statues, and I talked to the head of the council of scholars of people, who had actually decided this, he told me that UNESCO and NGO from Sweden, or from one of these Scandinavian countries Norway, Sweden, one of these they had actually come, with a project of rebuilding the face of these statues, which have worn by rain. So the council of people had told them to spend that money in saving the lives of these children, instead of spending that money to [restore these] statues. And these guys said that, No, this money is only for the statues. And the people were really pissed off. They said that, If you don t care about our children, we are going to blow those statues.
More about living conditions under Taliban.
Also, more information is emerging about how this war may be fought:
Military sources say no final battle plan has been approved. But the ongoing deployments signal the Pentagon plans to infiltrate Afghanistan with special-operations soldiers. Working in small teams and armed with the latest intelligence, the commandos would try to take down the Taliban militia of about 30,000 � one fighter at a time. Backed by air strikes, the U.S. soldiers would also seek and destroy bin Laden encampments, with the hope of encountering the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks that killed over 6,500 people, most of them civilians. �����
Bin Laden conspirators may have been planning - or may still be planning - to disperse biological or chemical agents from a cropdusting plane normally used for agricultural purposes.
For someone who lives in a country without TV, the Al-Qaida certainly watch a lot of american movies.
One way or another, this is not over. There are two ways to watch the events of 11/9: As a temporary dent in the normal fabric of reality, or as a permanent change of direction. It is tempting to believe the first, necessary to accept the second.
The Taleban have not become thieves. Thieves have become Taleban.
So much for peace and order as an excuse for puritanism. The question is: How much can the US do for the Afghans after the Taleban has fallen?
Saturday, September 22, 2001
We're all americans now. At least I am, if not by citizenship, then by culture and spirit.
I'm also norwegian. And a netizen. Some times I even feel slightly european, (just keep the EU technocrats on the continent where they belong.)
I am an american just as much as anyone who lives up north in Kirkenes is a norwegian. There are certain geographical differences, but modern technology makes them irrelevant. There are certain cultural differences as well, but I have just as much and little in common with an average american as I have with my nearest neighbour.
In times of crisis, we humans ignore our minor differences and stand together. New York and the Manhattan skyline, (which now decorates the wall next to me), was a symbol for me too. The heroic firemen at the WTC, and the passengers of flight 93, destination White House, inspire me as it inspires americans. Their anger is my anger.
The only things I don't share with the american people right now is pain and fear. Except for a confused attempt at Middle East peace named after the city I live in, and despite the chilling claim of a 1996 hijacker that he was supposed to crash the plane in central Oslo, Norway is propably not a target for Al-Qaida right now. This may change. If it does, I'll reevaluate my formal status as a conscientious objector, (thanks to a brief flirting with pacifism a few years ago.)
What matters now is to pick a side. I'm sorry if that seems harsh, but it is true. We all see plenty of things that are wrong with USA, just as things are wrong with Norway, or whatever country you're living in. The point is, when american soldiers start dying to protect your freedom in a couple of days or weeks, will you primarily mourn with their families, or their targets? My choice isn't easy, but it has been made, and I will stand by it until proven wrong.
Al-Qa'ida's goal, in Bin Ladin's words, is to "unite all Muslims and establish a government which follows the rule of the Caliphs." Bin Ladin has stated that the only way to establish the Caliphat is by force. Al-Qa'ida's goal, therefore, is to overthrow nearly all Muslim governments, which Bin Ladin views as "corrupt", to drive Western influence from those countries, and eventually to abolish state boundaries.
Just so we know what we're dealing with here, a wannabe-despot and ethnic cleanser. True evil survives even post-modernism.
All of life can be divided into moments of transition, or moments of revelation. This had the feeling of both.
For some reason, ever since Tuesday 11th, I've heard and seen echoes of Babylon 5 all around me in the world events that has followed. There's nothing specific, no "that's just like that episode where ...", only a phrase, a feeling, an echo. Deja vu. A true work of art is not just a quick thrill or laugh, but a companion through all the unexpected turns of life, a mirror that returns more than you put in it, and Babylon 5 is proving to be the only such companion I need from the 1990's, (which ended this month).
by Bjørn Stærk
This is simply too big for TV. There's too many people with a story to tell, too many amateur photographers gathering evidence, too many political implications for everyone of them to be covered adequately even on 24h news channels. Only the web can scale to cover the death of 6000 americans in gruesome detail, and only the web feels the pulse of an entire culture changing.
And now I'm adding my own voice to the choir. A bit late - but I doubt anything I could have written on the 11th had been even remotely coherent. Hell, I spent 48 hours just digesting the CNN footage, and I'm not american. (Well, actually I am, we all are now, except Jan Guillou. But more about that later, (and earlier).)
Jan Guillou, a swedish thriller writer and columnist, in aftonbladet.se: Vi blev tv�ngs- kommenderade att bli amerikaner. ('We were forced to become americans', referring to the european minute of silence last friday.)
Some translated excerpts:
Our mourning, commandeered to manifest itself collectively, was ordered to be greater than for any other incidence since World War 2.
USA is the greatest mass murderer of our time. The war against Vietnam and its south-Asian neighbours cost 4 million lives. Without a single minute of silence in Sweden.
The flag wavers want us to join the war along the americans. It's the white rich world against the moslems.
We are not americans, we're europeans. It's obvious why terrorists of the tortured and mass-murdered moslem world attacked USA and not Europe. It's not, as a columnist suggested yesterday, because they envy american standards of living. It's revenge, for millions of deads.
Luckily, most of us didn't need orders to mourn. Like most american embassies in Europe, the one in Oslo spontaneously received countless flowers, candles and poems, decorating the far side of Drammensveien for more than 50 meters, within two days of the attack. I was there. Another scene I shall never forget.
And, for a "war against moslems", it's pretty curious of G.W. Bush to spend so much time pointing out that it is not.
George W. Bush often takes the word God in his mouth in his political speeches. But Jesus never advised anyone to repay evil with evil.
I don't know which major branch of christianity Brock-Utne and Garbo belongs to, that would actually turn the other cheek to mass-murder. They propably don't, which makes it all the more inappropriate for them to drag religion into their far-left pacifist argument.
With all due respect for the values USA represents, vi mustn't forget that we're dealing with the super power which more often than any other country in the world neglects human rights, and use military power to force their way.
Unlike the nazis and communists, who were defeated / held back by american military power? Unlike those friendly dictators in the middle-east? There is a time for criticizing the minor shortcomings of ones friends. It is not right after they've been brutally raped.
Convicting and punishing the men behind this won't stop terrorism. New terrorists will just follow in their tracks. We won't get any further unless we try to solve the conditions that produce these violent revolts in the first place. One major step on the way would be for USA and us other rich people - we who take 80% of what the earth produces, and who dominate the world with our military power - to actually promote international conditions that poor people also perceive as just.
Bin Ladens newly acquired humanitarianism is news to me, and poverty and oppression alone does not great philosopher make.
by Bjørn Stærk
I still believe that.
I was just about to sign a treaty of non-agression with reality, ("you stay out of my business, and i'll stay out of yours"), when the rules changed, and being irrelevant was no longer a morally acceptable option. If I stay silent now, at the dawn of a strange, unpredictable future, then my beliefs are hollow, and all those years I spent figuring it all out were wasted.
Something changed on September 11th, 2001. At first I thought it was the world. Now I realize that the world is what it has always been, with a few brief exceptions, chaotic and bloody. Neither has my political philosophy seen any reason to update its principles. A few more buckets in an ocean of blood won't sink the product of 10 000 years of human history.
It is, mostly, I who have changed, and the way I apply my beliefs to the world. How much, I don't know, but I am curious to find out.
This new blog is dedicated to the new world. At a time of war, even one my country is not directly involved in, voices of intellectual honesty and clarity are needed more than ever, and it is my goal to find those voices on the web, and perhaps be one of them.