Sunday, December 31, 2006

Hamid Taqvaee on the right to nuclear weapons

Maryam Namazie interviews Hamid Tagvaee of the
Worker-communist Party of Iran in this post titled: There is no ‘right’ to nuclear weapons.

Here's an interesting quote from Tagvaee on the West's cultural relativsim when it comes to non-Europeans.
Maryam Namazie: When it comes to the ‘third world’, you often see the people living there being given the same opinion as the government of that country whereas that wouldn’t be the case in the west. For example, if the British government has nuclear weapons, it doesn’t automatically mean that it has a right to them or that the British people agree with its having such weapons. Why does that happen, especially when it comes to political Islamic groups or the Islamic Republic of Iran?

Hamid Taqvaee: The problem is that public opinion in western countries or to be exact the media and the government in western countries, categorise people in the ‘Third World’ in this way. They want to make people believe that whatever happens there and whatever the regimes do there are what people there want. And automatically this implies that governments in the Middle East or in Third World countries are representing their own people. Add to this cultural relativism and you can see what is going on. As a result, they say that Iran is an Islamic country; whatever the Islamic Republic says is what people think and so automatically they conclude that the people of Iran support the Islamic Republic’s securing of nuclear weapons. But the real situation in this case and almost every political issue is the exact opposite. The people of Iran automatically oppose what the Islamic regime says and wants because the people of Iran despise this government. Their position on the nuclear issue is opposite of what the government says.

Stonnings cancelled in Iran

A follow up to this post maybe proving signing these petitions does count for something. The latest from Maryam Namazie: The Islamic Republic of Iran does not dare stone anyone else!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

FDR's meaning of Christmas

From Jon Meacham in today's WaPo,
Sixty-five Christmas Eves ago, on the South Portico in 1941, with Churchill at his side, FDR declared: "Our strongest weapon in this war is that conviction of the dignity and brotherhood of man which Christmas Day signifies . . . Against enemies who preach the principles of hate and practice them, we set our faith in human love and in God's care for us and all men everywhere."

For a nation at war, whatever our politics or our religion, it remains an ageless message.

Stephen Schwartz: Wahhabis or "Salafis"?

Stephen Schwartz writing in the Weekly Standard,
The Sunni terrorists in Iraq have worked even more linguistic magic on Western media, who have assigned them the title of "insurgents." But too much blood has been shed for Westerners to continue flattering Muslim extremists in this manner.

The Sunni murderers in Iraq are terrorists, not insurgents.

And they are Wahhabis, backed by Saudi Arabia, not pious "Salafis."

As George Orwell knew, the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their real names.
Also just finished Fouad Ajami's The Foreigner's Gift: The Americans, the Arabs, and the Iraqis in Iraq . It hammered home for me that there was indeed a plan for Iraq after the war and we picked the wrong one: The State Dept and CIA's CPA instead of DoD's backing for Chalabi. Congress needs to read Ajami and call Bremer to some hearings.

Sen Durbin should send these troops a card

Excerpts from a letter from Col. Wade F. Dennis, JTF GTMO, APO AE 09360 posted at Democracy Project via Ratzinger Fan Club,
Instead of bullets and IEDs, troopers here duck noxious "cocktails" of the fab five: feces, urine, spit, semen, and vomit tossed into their faces. They don't receive Purple Hearts when an enemy detainee requests a comfort item then grabs the hand of the kind guard passing it to him and breaks the trooper's arm or wrist.

Do you want to guess who receives the Christmas and Holiday greetings here in Guantanamo? The terrorist detainees who are confined here to keep them from killing you and your families! Last year alone Guantanamo detainees received more than 14,000 cards, the vast majority from muddle-headed well-wishers and sympathizers. This year local authorities estimate the number may exceed 16,000! Some are addressed to the detainees by name or by their detainee number, available on the Pentagon website. Most are simply addressed to "Any Detainee at Guantanamo."

Like the other 40,000 or so pieces of detainee mail that transit the post office on the base the cards are distributed into the cells. The cards are passed out to the detainees by troopers who may themselves not have received any sort of greeting from home in a long time. Some of the troops here are wary about the way they are perceived by their friends and families at home. One officer said that "nobody in my family was in the military. None of my friends have the slightest clue of what we do here. They think I'm some kind of brutal jailor or something."

It's hard to blame the American public for being ignorant about real conditions here considering that their opinions are shaped in large part by politicians eager to score points against the president by trashing the soldiers at Guantanamo, or by a compliant media ready to believe and promulgate the worse without the trouble of fact-checking or balancing the story.

These troops have been called terrible names by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin and by Ted Kennedy and John Kerry from Massachusetts. On the House side Nancy Pelosi and Jack Murtha act as if the troops are the problem and not the terrorists. No wonder some reservists who have returned from tours in Guantanamo to the States are reluctant to tell their friends where they served.
xp Illinoiz

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Jesus, Mahdi both coming, says Iran's Ahmadinejad

Ahmadinejad on WWJD via Regime Change Iran,
"I wish all the Christians a very happy new year and I wish to ask them a question as well," said Ahmadinejad, according to an Iranian Student News Agency report cited by YnetNews.com.

"My one question from the Christians is: What would Jesus do if he were present in the world today? What would he do before some of the oppressive powers of the world who are in fact residing in Christian countries? Which powers would he revive and which of them would he destroy?" asked the Iranian leader.
"The Zionist regime will be wiped out soon the same way the Soviet Union was, and humanity will achieve freedom." he said.
"I have traveled to all the continents except for one, and I know what is going on out there. Everybody is eager to hear the Iranian people's message," the Aftab-Yazd newspaper quoted the president as saying, according to Agence France-Presse. "The world is rapidly becoming Ahmadinejadized."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Illinois, the Ukraine, stem cells, and the left

Cross posted from Illinoiz.

Suprized Jill hasn't hit us with this yet. Let me. And let me refer you back to some British Communists writing in the British Medical Journal.
Although most of the ethical debate has focused on the status of the embryo, this is to define ethics with no reference to global or gender justice. There has been little or no debate about possible exploitation of women, particularly of ovum donors from the South. Countries of the South without national ethics committees or guidelines may be particularly vulnerable: although there is increasing awareness of the susceptibility of poorer countries to abuses in research ethics, very little has been written about how they might be affected by the enormously profitable new technologies exploiting human tissue. Even in the UK, although the new Medical Research Council guidelines make a good deal of the 'gift relationship', what they are actually about is commodification. If donors believe they are demonstrating altruism, but biotechnology firms and researchers use the discourse of commodity and profit, we have not 'incomplete commodification' but complete commodification with a plausibly human face.[my emphaisis]
It's not just an issue of the Christian right. The potential is there for the most appalling kind of exploitation of the most helpless people.

I hope Leader Cross knows what he's bringing with this issue.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Khaled Kasab Mahameed

From The Forward: Iran Denies Visa to an Arab Shoah Scholar
Khaled Kasab Mahameed waited until the very last moment, hoping that his visa would come through. A Muslim lawyer from the Israeli Arab city of Nazareth, he had reserved a seat on an afternoon flight December 10 from Amman to Tehran, expecting to address Iran’s international conference on the Holocaust. His bag was packed. His wife and two children were ready to take him at 9:00 a.m. to the Jordanian border crossing.

But at 9:00 a.m., his hopes were dashed. In a phone call to the Iranian Embassy in Amman, a clerk informed him that there was no visa waiting for him. “I was so disappointed,” he said. “I sat depressed, and I waited an hour and called again. Then another hour and called again. In the end, they said Israelis don’t get visas.”
[***]
Unlike Western leaders who spoke out against dignifying the conference by attending, Mahameed saw an opportunity. He believes that if Arabs and Muslims don’t study the Holocaust, if they continue to deny it, then they will not be able to deal with the conflicts they face.

“It’s very important that they begin to study the significance of the Holocaust,” Mahameed said. “It affects relations between East and West, and it dictates policy regarding the Palestinians in particular.”
[***]
The secret to peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis, according to Mahameed, depends on the Arabs and Muslims learning about the Holocaust — the subject of his lecture — and the Jews, in turn, getting over their fear.

“When you don’t understand the Holocaust, it hinders the peace process,” he said. “I wanted to go tell the Iranians that when you play down the Holocaust or deny it, you are directly hurting the Palestinian refugees who are in camps. By denying it, they are making the Jewish people feel persecuted — which doesn’t allow options for peace to develop.”
[***]
Like all messengers, Mahameed has not had an easy time. He stood at Kalandia checkpoint near Jerusalem on Auschwitz Remembrance Day last January, and at a conference held by controversial Arab Israeli lawmaker Azmi Bishara at which he distributed pamphlets about the Holocaust that he printed with his own money.

“People get angry and say, ‘No, I don’t want it,’” he said. He sometimes gets ugly comments on his Arabic-language Holocaust Web site. Once, he said, a Hamas activist threatened his life. Mahameed managed to convince him to give up firing Qassam rockets.

Mahameed remains optimistic. “Just give me two months, and I can make peace here,” he said. “You laugh. I’m serious.”

Friday, December 15, 2006

Hillary Clinton's "religiousity"

Respublica finds some looking at it. Clinton can't win sometimes (except for elections) with some folks.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

For the optimists

Powerline on Ahmadinejad, don't doubt or underestimate this threat.
As president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has regularly denied the Holocaust, called for the elimination of Israel and publicly supported Iran's nuclear weapons program. He has intimated that the program is on track to culminate in March. His repeated attack on Israel's legitimacy -- its right to exist -- seems to be the predicate for the physical destruction of Israel and its people.

The city of Jerusalem is apparently not so holy that it is worth preserving if Jews govern it. So long as Israel can be destroyed, so the thinking goes, the Arab and Muslim citizens of Israel are equally expendable, as are the Arab and Muslim people in Israel's immediate vicinity.

It is striking to me how unseriously Ahmadinejad's and Iran's words, actions, plans, pronouncements are taken. Yet Ahmadinehad's threats are not limited to Israel. He has explicitly threatened Europe and forged an anti-American alliance with Hugh Chavez. Something wicked this way comes.

For the pessimists: The Global Poor Are Getting Richer, Faster

...and it's not God's work. It's our own and mostly attributed to free trade and globalization. from TCS Daily
In a report out today, The World Bank looks both at current economic growth rates and projections for the next 25 years. The report, Global Economics Prospects 2007 says "developing economies are projected to grow by 7.0 percent in 2006,more than twice as fast as high-income countries (3.1 percent), with all developing regions growing by about 5 percent or more." While these nations have only 22 percent of global GDP they accounted for 38 percent of the increase in global output. And they are expected to increase their share of global output by about 50 percent by 2030.
[***]
The net result is that the income of developing countries "will continue to converge with those of wealthy countries. This would imply that countries as diverse as China, Mexico and Turkey would have average living standards roughly comparable to Spain today."

As good as this is the Bank says things could be even better. They believe their projections "are fairly impervious to all but the most severe and sustained shocks" but they also admit that "the possibility exists that the world will be even better than envisioned... thanks possibly to unanticipated technological improvements, more innovation in business processes that allow for an acceleration of globalization and widespread adoptions of good policies within countries."

Their "optimistic" scenario would lead to incomes 45 percent higher than today and a decline of absolute poverty from 20 percent of the world's population to 4 percent. So many people seem to intentionally look for bad news or invent it. It's a nice change of pace to find a report from a world body which says that the future is either bright or very bright.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Shia Revival

Finished Vali Nasr's The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future and found it an excellent short read on the differences between Shia and Sunni variants of Islam. An Amazon reviewer writes,
By creating the first Shiite-led state in the Arab world since the rise of Islam, we have ignited hopes among the region's 150 million Shiites. Yet, our policy still operates under the old assumptions of Sunni dominance.

It never fails that actions often lead to unintended consequences. In this case, however, Nasr clearly lays out a case that there will be no quick fixes.
I don't think igniting the hopes such a bad thing. I did reinforce my feeling that much of what we Americans know of Islam and the Arab world is shaped by a Sunni prejudice fostered by Saudi Arabia and Aramco going well back into the 1950s.

Also, The Belmont Club on al-Zarqawi's feelings about the Shia Revival,
An interview with al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, shortly before he was killed by a US bomb, shows he hated Iraqi Shi'ites more than Americans. Hated them so much he was willing to start a war with the Shi'ites in the hope that the resulting conflagration would burn the Americans out. "
xp Bill Baar's West Side

Advent Vespers at Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva, Illinois

Attended Vespers last night and found them a very welcome respite from winter's cold and all sorts of family and work concerns. I suspect it's the idea of our new Associate Minister and I hope he keeps the ideas coming.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

President Bush Meets with His Eminence Abdul-Aziz Al-Hakim, Leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq

I tire of folks who tell me the United States is waging war against Muslims, instead waging a war as allies of Muslims; who also do a good deal of the dying.

Bush met in the White House Tuesday with Abdul-Aziz Al-Hakim, Leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

Here's the press release (HT CENTCOM) and some quotes on how the revolutionists sees the revolution going,
The Iraqi situation has been subjected to a great deal of defamation, and the true picture is not being presented in order to show a dark side of what's happening in Iraq. We see the attempts to defame and distort the situation in Iraq not taking into consideration the democratic steps that that country has taken, writing the constitution and establishing a state that depends heavily on the constitution, that it is unified and that it is strong. There are attempts to show the sectarian strife in an attempt to weaken the position in Iraq.

The U.S. interests, the Iraqi interests, the regional interests, they are all linked. Therefore, it is very important when we deal with this issue, we look at the interests of the Iraqi people. If we don't, this whole issue could backfire and could harm the interests of the region, the United States, and Iraq, as well.

Therefore, we believe that the Iraqi issue should be solved by the Iraqis with the help of friends everywhere. But we reject any attempts to have a regional or international role in solving the Iraqi issue. We cannot bypass the political process. Iraq should be in a position to solve Iraqi problems. We welcome any effort that could enhance the democratic reality in Iraq and protect the constitutional role of that state.

We have gone a long way to establish a democratic and pluralistic society in Iraq. We have given a great deal of sacrifice to achieving the objective. We cherish all the sacrifices that took place for the liberation and the freedom of Iraq, sacrifices by the Iraqi people, as well as friendly nations, and on top of that list, sacrifices by the Americans. We have now an elected government in Iraq, a government that is so determined to combat both violence and terror, a government that it is -- strongly believes in the unity of that government and of that country and the society, a government that deals and will deal with all the sources of terrorism regardless where they come from.

We will work very hard and seek all forms of cooperation at the international level and the regional level in order to defeat terrorism that it is trying to use Iraq as a base in order to sabotage the future of that nation.

Thank you very much, Mr. President, for allowing me this opportunity to meet with you. I would like to take this opportunity also to thank the American people and their sympathy toward Iraq, those who helped Iraq to get rid of a brutal dictatorship and to enjoy freedom and liberties. [Baar's emphasis]

Sewell quotes Kerry

She doesn't allow comments but posts on the Iraq Study Group and quotes Kerry,
"Who would want to ask someone to be the last soldier to die in a war that should never have been fought?" (or something to that effect)
Get a copy of Frank Snepps Decent Interval and check the index for Bill Guy and Jim Brown. They were with the Defense Audit Service in Saigon, and were some of the last Americans to leave.

I worked with Brown in the Pentagon in the early 80s, and a third guy; who I'll call CA. CA worked for Brown and left on a baby flight just before the one that crashed killing about 150.

CA told me he never thought the United States would abandon the Vietnamese. Right up until the end he thought the B52s would come in like the calvary and save the day.

We've allied ourselves in Iraq with Arab and Kurd, Shia and Sunni, Muslims, Christians, and Secularists. They die every day in a fight that is just as much ours: a fight for the chance for a liberal and just society in the middle east.

Raïd Fahmi is an Iraqi Communist and Iraq's Minister for Science and Culture. The French Communist daily l’Humanité interviewed Fahmi and he spoke these words to the Peace Movement.
What we need, is for those who support the independence of Iraq, and this country’s development, wherever they may be in the world, to express their solidarity for those who are fighting for these objectives. Unfortunately, stances have been taken by some of these forces which play in favor of political currents which are opposed to democracy. On the one hand, they talk about democracy and secularism, but in fact, they take positions which weaken, rather than reinforce the democratic and progressive trends in the country.
Sewell's words weaken democracy and progressive thought in Iraq. Realism her words may be, but lets not dress them up otherwise. If one can't express solidarity with some noble Comrades, just say so.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Rt. Hon Ann Clwyd MP: Bring back Saddam" ...? Human Rights in Iraq and Beyond

Concluding comments to a speech that should be read in full. Via Labour Friends of Iraq.

Speech by the Rt. Hon Ann Clwyd MP on the occasion of the
Carolyn A. Wilson Lecture 2006

"Bring back Saddam" ...? Human Rights in Iraq and Beyond'
Wellesley College
15 November 2006
So, where do we go from here?

We have acted in the Balkans, in Sierra Leone, in East Timor, in the Congo . . . . and in Iraq.

Many of you are probably wondering, however, whether, knowing what I do today, with Iraq blighted by sectarian division and continued bloodshed, I would have still supported military action in Iraq.

Was life under Saddam, better than it is now in Iraq now, and better than it will be in future?

The post-liberation phase did not exactly turn out as we hoped. There were many mistakes made. I regret particularly that the promotion of human rights was not more central to our strategy.

But too much criticism is levied at those of us who supported the action in Iraq.

Because by acting, we were to a large extent, enforcing up to 20 UN Security Council Resolutions, that had been broken over many, many years.

The world had to show that such abuse will not be tolerated.

I cannot emphasise too strongly the depravity of this regime.

And let us not forget the mistakes of those who refused to get involved. Those who were blinded by short-term economic and political interests. Those who were in Saddam’s pocket.

So yes, I remain thankful for Saddam’s downfall.

And Iraq won’t always be the way it is now. It will get better.

Nation-building is always a long-term exercise, a continuing and evolving process. Look at Kosovo, Afghanistan and East Timor – or further back in history, the reconstruction of Germany and Japan after the Second World War.

So I believe that the recovery from the legacy of Saddam will take time, but it will happen.

For much of my political life, I have gone against the grain.

Deciding whether, when, and how to act, entails making some hard and sometimes very uncomfortable choices.

Sometimes to end violence, force has to be used.

Sometimes to protect the sanctity of human life, lives are lost.

And, if the mistakes made in Iraq, lead to the international community ignoring the need for humanitarian intervention in the future, great suffering will result. The world will become a more dangerous place for all of us.

We cannot duck these issues.

As Winston Churchill said:

“You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

I appeal to you to remember these words throughout your lives. Don’t be frightened to take a stand.

Believe me, it is the true measure of our humanity.

The Independent: Disembowelled, then torn apart: The price of daring to teach girls

The Independent via Power Line, Gay Patriot, and Blackfive
The gunmen came at night to drag Mohammed Halim away from his home, in front of his crying children and his wife begging for mercy.

The 46-year-old schoolteacher tried to reassure his family that he would return safely. But his life was over, he was part-disembowelled and then torn apart with his arms and legs tied to motorbikes, the remains put on display as a warning to others against defying Taliban orders to stop educating girls.

Mr Halim was one of four teachers killed in rapid succession by the Islamists at Ghazni, a strategic point on the routes from Kabul to the south and east which has become the scene of fierce clashes between the Taliban and US and Afghan forces.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

For all the UU's who thought Dick Cheney was the war profiteer

Here's what the chief fund raiser for Illinois's Gov Blagojevich was up too in Iraq. From the Chicago Sun Times,
Federal authorities are investigating an Iraqi power plant deal involving Antoin "Tony" Rezko, a former top fund-raiser for Gov. Blagojevich charged with defrauding Illinois taxpayers.
Investigators want to talk to Iraq's jailed former electricity minister, Aiham Alsammarae, about how Rezko landed the potentially lucrative contract, a source familiar with the probe told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Alsammarae, who holds dual U.S.-Iraqi citizenship and has a house in Oak Brook, helped Rezko get the deal, another source said.

Rezko and others in the venture were to own the plant and sell electricity back to the Iraqis, but the Iraqi government still was to pay a substantial portion of construction costs, that source added.

Maryam Namazie: 7 women at risk of stoning

Namazie's link is to AI's petition.
Maryam Namazie: 7 women at risk of stoning: "7 women are at risk of imminent execution by stoning in Iran. Sign the petition against it by clicking here.

This outrage has to be stopped now!"

B16: ...the inalienable rights of the human person, especially freedom.

Neuhaus writing on Bendict XVI's visit to Turkey.
During his days in Turkey, all the diplomatic niceties were observed, but Benedict did not back away even 1 inch from the challenge he raised at Regensburg. On the contrary, he repeatedly asserted that religion must repudiate violence, and underscored the duty of states to protect religious freedom.

The last point is a very touchy issue in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey, where Christians are less than one half of 1% of the population. Despite all the attention to Christian-Muslim relations, the chief purpose of the Pope's trip was to express solidarity with Bartholomew I, the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople and the symbolic leader of the world's 300 million Eastern Orthodox Christians. Confined by the Turkish government to a small area of Istanbul called the Phanar, the ecumenical patriarchate is under siege and denied the most elementary rights to own property or conduct its own ministries.

Contrary to some media reports, notably in The New York Times, the Pope did not bless Turkey's admission to the European Union. Rather, he and Bartholomew issued a joint statement that such admission must be conditioned upon respect for "the inalienable rights of the human person, especially freedom. In every step toward unification, minorities must be respected, with their cultural traditions and the distinguishing features of their religion."

So was the visit to Turkey a success? If success is measured by clarifying the challenge of radical Islam and expressing solidarity with religious minorities under Islamic rule, the answer is certainly Yes.
xp Bill Baar's West Side