Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Devil's Game

And the Devil is us.

' I wrote Devil’s Game to fill in a gap amid the millions of words that have been written about political Islam and U.S. policy since September 11, 2001.

In the 1950s, the United States had an opportunity to side with the nationalists (like Nasser and Mossadeq), and indeed many U.S. policymakers did suggest exactly that, as my book explains. But in the end, nationalists in the Third World were seen as wild cards who couldn’t be counted on to join the global alliance against the USSR. Instead, by the end of the 1950s, rather than allying itself with the secular forces of progress in the Middle East and the Arab world, the United States found itself in league with Saudi Arabia’s Islamist legions.

Choosing Saudi Arabia over Nasser’s Egypt was probably the single biggest mistake the United States has ever made in the Middle East.

A second big mistake that emerges in Devil’s Game occurred in the 1970s, when, at the height of the Cold War and the struggle for control of the Middle East, the United States either supported or acquiesced in the rapid growth of Islamic right in countries from Egypt to Afghanistan. In Egypt, Anwar Sadat brought the Muslim Brotherhood back to Egypt. In Syria, the United States, Israel, and Jordan supported the Muslim Brotherhood in a civil war against Syria. And, as described in a groundbreaking chapter in Devil’s Game, Israel quietly backed Ahmed Yassin and the Muslim Brotherhood in the West Bank and Gaza, leading to the establishment of Hamas.

Still another major mistake was the fantasy that Islam would penetrate the USSR and unravel the Soviet Union in Asia. It led to America’s support for the jihadists in Afghanistan. But as Devil’s Game shows, America’s alliance with the Afghan Islamists long predated the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and had its roots in CIA activity in Afghanistan in the 1960s and in the early and mid-1970s. The Afghan jihad spawned civil war in Afghanistan in the late 1980s, gave rise to the Taliban, and got Osama bin Laden started on building Al Qaeda.'

(Note: Mark Curtis also makes clear the influence the British had in the creation of Hezbollah. Other note: I should have made clear in earlier in earlier versions of this post that the Hezbollah I was referring to was not the Lebanese Hezbollah, but the Turkish Hezbollah. And the British help was via Turkey. But the basic point remains.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Churchillian Rhetoric.

'On March 6, 1947, ... Winston Churchill rose to speak in the House of Commons, to denounce plans to leave India as a 'cut-and-run' philosophy he called "Operation Scuttle." "How can one suppose that the thousand-year gulf which yawns between Muslim and Hindu will be bridged[...]?... How can we walk out of India [...] and leave behind us a war between 90 million Muslims and 200 million caste Hindus? ... Let us not add--by shameful flight, by a premature, hurried scuttle--to the pangs of sorrow many of us feel, the taint and smear of shame." '

(Note: slight change in wording to make passage clearer: also, emphasis added).

Monday, January 29, 2007

The tyranny of the subeditor.

'The problem is that Israel defines itself as a "Jewish and democratic state" -- but has not reconciled the apparent contradiction in being both "Jewish" and "democratic." In reality, Israeli Arabs are in many ways seen and treated as second-class citizens. And now, there are signs that a long-simmering tension between Israeli Arabs and Jews may be rising to a boiling point. In December, a broad coalition of Israeli Arab leaders and intellectuals published a document titled "The Future Vision of Palestinian Arabs in Israel," which called for cultural autonomy and the right to veto government decisions concerning Israeli Arabs. It also declared a vision of Israel not as a Jewish state granting them full civil rights, but as a "state of all its citizens." Unsurprisingly, the document was denounced as dangerous and treacherous by many Israeli Jews.'

Note, incidentally (as Medialens have pointed out) how the subeditor 'frames' the piece (which is actually quite good), giving it the headline 'Israel's Arab problem hits home'. Note again ' Israel's Arab Problem.'

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The gospel according to Condi

On one hand, the forces of darkness: Syria, the quasi democracy of Iran, and the political parties of Hamas and Hizbollah. On the other hand, the forces of light, human rights, feminism and democracy: Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.

"They're broken men, so don't let them take us to a new war"


So the hawks in the West will begin the slow drumbeat for a first strike. Indeed, it has already started. For some weeks, the Daily Telegraph has been running a series of what, in my opinion, are extremely dubious stories all attributed to mysterious 'European defence officials' and 'senior Western military sources'. A front-page story last week suggested that North Korea has offered to help Iran with a nuclear test within the year. Apart from these shadowy spokesmen, it could offer no evidence, which is why the story was only seriously picked up in Israel.

In Israel, it is believed that the Iranians may be able to launch a nuclear warhead into its territory within three, not five, years. Former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has asked who will defend the Jews from a genocidal government in Iran if they do not themselves.'

(Note: the fact that most nuclear weapons are genocidal in intent is only sayable when the nuclear weapons in question belong to 'them'. Our nuclear weapons only kill bad guys, sparing women and children).

Incidentally here is a amazing quote from that Renaissance man Benny Morris. As well as being a renowned historian Morris has also managed to teach himself the mystical art of precognition. . 'One bright morning in five to 10 years, perhaps a regional crisis, a day or a year or five years after Iran's acquisition of the bomb, the mullahs in Qom will convene in secret session... and give President Ahmadinejad the go-ahead.'

(Note that Morris is also under the impression that Ahmadinejad will still be in power in, and I quote, ten years time. Perhaps George Bush, who will, presumably, also still be in power in 10 years time, will have to take action against him?).

Iran's efforts to produce highly enriched uranium are in chao

'Iran's efforts to produce highly enriched uranium, the material used to make nuclear bombs, are in chaos and the country is still years from mastering the required technology.Iran's uranium enrichment programme has been plagued by constant technical problems, lack of access to outside technology and knowhow, and a failure to master the complex production-engineering processes involved. The country denies developing weapons, saying its pursuit of uranium enrichment is for energy purposes.....Despite Iran being presented as an urgent threat to nuclear non-proliferation and regional and world peace - in particular by an increasingly bellicose Israel and its closest ally, the US - a number of Western diplomats and technical experts close to the Iranian programme have told The Observer it is archaic, prone to breakdown and lacks the materials for industrial-scale production.'

But the sub editor makes clear: 'Boasts of a nuclear programme are just propaganda, say insiders, but the PR could be enough to provoke Israel into war.' Note the 'provoke' as though nuking a state with no nuclear weapons (and which has no technical ability to make any anytime soon) is a reasonable response.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The endgame in Iraq that can't succeed

'There was not a chink of light between the British and American positions in Iraq, said a White House spokesman on Wednesday night. No, indeed. What there is is growing darkness. The US President has announced a "new strategy" to send 20,000 more US troops to Iraq. No one knows whether the Senate will grant the money, what the extra troops are actually for and how long they'll be there, or whether the British are part of it or embarked on a withdrawal all of our own.

So confused is the discussion that there is now a whole new theory that the additional American forces are not there to bring security to Iraq at all. They're there to face off Iran for the moment when Washington, or more likely Jerusalem, decides to launch the bombers.'

And the winner is.....

First, the obvious. The Iraq war is over and Iran won.


The Washington Post tells us two things about Iran today, one that we knew and one that we didn't. First, the obvious: "Tehran's Influence Grows as Iraqis See Advantages." Second, the secret: "Troops Authorize to Kill Iranian Operatives in Iraq." It appears, startlingly, that the US raid of an Iranian consulate and the arrest of six Iranians in northern Iraq a few weeks back was no exception. Indeed, since last summer the Administration has adopted what the Post, in a matter of understatement, called a "more confrontational approach."

On CNN on Wednesday, Wolf Blitzer asked Dick Cheney: "How worried are you of this nightmare scenario -- that the US is building up this Shiite-dominated Iraqi government with an enormous amount of military equipment, sophisticated training, and then, in the end, they're going to turn against the United States?"

Cheney replied, "Wolf, that's not going to happen."

But CNN correspondent Brian Todd reported a day later, "Several military and political analysts say it very well could." He then added: "Still, one former American military adviser says if US forces don't train the Iraqis, someone else will, namely, Iran."

Either the new Iraqi army, dominated by Shia and Kurds, aligns with Iran. Or the new Iraqi army is trained by Iran. Whichever way you look at it, Iran wins.'

It is in this context that one should interpret Bush's new plans.

(It is also the context in which the increasingly deranged ramblings of George Bush's best bitches, Olmert and Blair, should be considered).

Remember, the rules down on Animal Farm: Cowardice consists of standing up to the US. Bravery consists of getting down on your knees and taking what George has to give you.

News from Nowhere

'Six Saudis have reportedly been jailed in connection with an attack on actors taking part in a play critical of hardline religious attitudes.

Reports from Riyadh say one person was sentenced to two months in jail, while five others received shorter sentences.

A number of others were acquitted, according to the reports, which have not been officially confirmed.

The play, in a cultural festival last November, had to be abandoned after Islamists stormed the theatre.'

Where is Tony Blair when you need him to explain that Saudi Arabia is a friend of the civilised world and that 'they have their culture, their way of life'?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Love Me I'm a Liberal

Benny Morris: 'There is a deep problem in Islam. It's a world whose values are different. Human life doesn't have the same value as it does in the West. They are barbarians ... something like a cage has to be built for them. I know that sounds terrible. It is really cruel. But there is no choice. There is a wild animal there that has to be locked up.'

Martin Amis: 'The Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.” What sort of suffering? Not letting them travel. Deportation—further down the road. Curtailing of freedoms. Strip-searching people who look like they’re from the Middle East or from Pakistan. . . . Discriminatory stuff, until it hurts the whole community.'

Christopher Hitchens: 'This is not to deny (Mark) Steyn’s salient point that demography and cultural masochism, especially in combination, are handing a bloodless victory to the forces of Islamization. His gift for the illustrative anecdote and the revealing quotation is evident, and if more people have woken up to the Islamist menace since he began writing about it, then the credit is partly his. Muslims in one part of England demand the demolition of an ancient statue of a wild boar, and in another part of England make plots to blow up airports, buses, and subway trains. The two threats are not identical. But they are connected, and Steyn attempts to tease out the filiations with the saving tactic of wit.'

Fascinating Fact.

Vladimir Putin is the most popular leader on Earth.

'On the evidence of comparative opinion polls, Putin is the most popular national leader alive today. Since he came to power six years ago, he has enjoyed the continuous support of over 70 per cent of his people, a record no other contemporary politician begins to approach. For comparison, Chirac now has an approval rating of 38 per cent, Bush of 36 per cent, Blair of 30 per cent.'

Monday, January 22, 2007

Now I have hopefully got the comments sorted (I had the settings wrong...apologies for anyone who couldn't post) time for more news from hell....

But oh gosh and oh golly where to begin? With the stunning insight that Bush's 'surge' will make things worse? (Gee d'you think?) With increasing rumours of war with Iran? With the ongoing disintegration of the democracy of Lebanon? With the return of 'extremists' to power in Serbia? (Note: 'extremist nationalists' are only ever voted in to power in countries 'we' don't like. Did anyone ever describe extremist nationalist George Bush as an extremist nationalist?). Or should we highlight the news that our loyal ally Pakistan is perhaps aiding the Afghanistan insurgency? (Never forget that in the eyes of the clever white boys at the Guardian, every single one of these insurgents is a card carrying member of the Taliban. None of them have girlfriends, and they all hate gays. How do they know this and you do not? Well because they are obviously whiter and cleverer than you).

But no. I think I should greet the new year with the news that 'the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff thanked Colombia's leaders here yesterday for using their country's long experience in its counter-drug effort to help the Afghan government fight a similar battle.... Pace said Colombia has set a model for countering drug trafficking and narcoterrorism that could work for Afghanistan, too.

Under that model, Colombia's armed forces have cleared specific areas of terrorists, and the government has followed in those areas with projects that have brought electricity, water and jobs to the people, Pace said.

Well what more do you want to know? Obviously 'we' will defeat 'Islamism' in the same way 'we' defeated drugs. Remember when people used to take drugs? Back before 'we' won the war on drugs?

Or perhaps we could use as a model Bush's war on evolution by natural selection? And when Bush won that then everything stopped evolving. Any colds or viruses you might think you have suffered from since then are nothing but a figment of your Communo-Islamist imagination. This will be the model that takes us to victory. Onwards and downwards. Semper fi. Thank you and goodnight.