Friday, June 25, 2004

Iraqi fighters play Peter 

FALLUJA, Iraq (Reuters) - Iraqi fighters from Falluja, their faces hidden behind checkered cloths, denied in a taped message Friday that suspected al Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was holed up in Iraq's most rebellious city.

"The American invader forces claim that Zarqawi, and with him a group of Arab fighters, are in our city," a masked man read from a piece of paper.

"We know that this talk about Zarqawi and the fighters is a game the American invader forces are playing to strike Islam and Muslims in the city of mosques, steadfast Falluja."
What, are they afraid of what will happen if they admit their association with Zarqawi? Are they afraid of the military response if Zarqawi is found to be in Fallujah? These terrorists are very publicly disassociating themselves from Zarqawi. If you considered a video with their faces covered to be "public."

And what's with the hidden faces? I thought these guys were the brave warriors of God. Are they ashamed? Afraid? What gives?
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Thursday, June 24, 2004

Powell going to Darfur (to see "indications" of genocide) 

Secretary of State Colin Powell will visit Sudan next week on his way to a meeting with ASEAN leaders in Jakarta. He will visit the capital of Khartoum and the western Darfur region, scene of an increasingly dire humanitarian crisis.

A spokesman for Mr Powell said: "The secretary's visit to Sudan is intended to continue to call attention to the dire humanitarian situation in Darfur, to do whatever we can to stop the violence there and to make sure that the needy people of that region are receiving ... supplies."

Mr Powell will also "make clear that we believe that much of the hardship is being caused by the violence perpetrated by the militias, that we know the militias are being supported by the government and that the government needs to bring those militias under control," he said.
The United Nations and State Department representatives have consistently referred to the crisis as one of "ethnic cleansing." However, the G word is creeping into the discourse lately, and just today organizations ranging from Physicians for Human Rights to the Holocaust Museum to the Congressional Black Caucus called the situation "genocide" and called for action to stop it.

The House Africa subcommittee held a hearing on Darfur today, and chairman Ed Royce said,

I am going to ask the Administration today to begin compiling the names of those in the Khartoum government complicit in this. An international criminal tribunal should follow. I support backing a U.N. peacekeeping force for Darfur to protect civilians and humanitarian aid deliveries.
Two Republican lawmakers are leaving for Darfur on Friday to assess the situation:

Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS) today announced they are leaving Washington on Friday night for Darfur, the war-ravaged region of western Sudan.

The two are heading to the region to assess what some are calling the most pressing humanitarian crisis in the world.
All of the attention might pay off, as the government is considering applying the "genocide" label to the crisis.

"I can tell you that we see indicators of genocide and there is evidence that points in that direction," said Pierre Prosper, the US ambassador-at-large for war crimes.

"At this moment, we are not in a position to confirm," Prosper added in testimony before the House International Relations Committee. "In order to do so, Darfur needs to be opened up."
Use of the G word, so carefully avoided during the Bosnian and Rwandan campaigns of genocide, is generally held to obligate action under international law. Ambassador Prosper's tiptoeing around the word--"indications of genocide," and "evidence that points in that direction"--is very similar to State's language in 1994 as Rwanda spiraled into an orchestrated campaign of ethnic slaughter. State's standard usage at the time was "acts of genocide."

Ambassador Prosper did say that a legal determination of genocide is "under active review," so perhaps we'll have a clearer stand soon.

That stand needs to be "this is genocide and we will not allow it to continue." Nothing short of that will do. We can't solve every problem or stop violence everywhere. But we certainly have an obligation to our fellow human beings when they are being murdered, raped, starved, and displaced by the millions. (And psst... UN, feel free to join in. Maybe boot Sudan off the Human Rights Commission while you're at it.)
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Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Make it easier to come to, and stay in, Maine 

Portland Press Herald editorial writer Nikki Kallio laments the immense hassle she went through as a newcomer trying to register her car in Maine:

On Saturday, the governor hosted a great event at the University of Maine that gathered young adults from around the state to brainstorm ideas on how to get more of them to move here.

Here's one of my own suggestions: Don't require nine documents to get new license plates.

That's right - nine. I exaggerate not.

Never mind the fact that any car owner who moves here has to go to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to get a driver's license, then go to city hall and pay an excise tax, then go back to the BMV for new license plates. A hassle? Yes. But, for the sake of this column, we're just going to focus on the last part.
I faced a similar ordeal not too long ago after I got off active duty. I had registered my car in two other states prior to returning to Maine, and Maine's process was far and away the most difficult and time consuming. In Florida and California, it took me all of maybe 10 minutes (at one location!) to accomplish what ended up taking half a day in Maine. Getting a license was easier, although in contrast with the other states where you walk out of the DMV with a license in your hand, in Maine it was mailed to me two weeks later.

The hassles don't stop there, though. Before I had my Maine license, I experienced a lot of trouble trying to buy beer. Never mind that I'm nearly 30, and Maine law states that merchants must check the ID of anyone who looks younger than 27. Okay, I have a young face. Whatever. It happened while trying to buy lottery tickets once too, and I certainly don't look younger than 18. Again, whatever. The problem was that cashiers would simply not accept my Florida license and had to call a manager from elsewhere in the store to authorize the purchase. Never mind that Florida's license has several anti-counterfeit measures beyond what Maine's has. The only way to easily make a purchase with identification is to have a Maine driver's license. After this happened a couple of times, I brought along my passport and military identification card for good measure. I was told that they don't accept those, either. Period.

Now, one of them gets me across international borders and the other gets me into restricted military facilities. But they couldn't get me a 6-pack of beer in Maine. I was actually told by one cashier that they have been instructed that military IDs are easy to fake. Oh, really? I suppose everyone has stocks of bar-coded, magnetic-stripped, hologram-covered and computer-chipped cards sitting around, ready to churn out military IDs. But whatever... I couldn't help but wonder, on one hot summer day, what sort of gyrations Maine's nine million visitors per year go through when they just want a cold beer.

And don't even get me started on the taxes. Those are a barrier to employers, a barrier to people moving to Maine, and a barrier to Maine's young, educated people who want to stay.

It doesn't need to be this hard...
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British sailors are latest pawns in Iranian politics 

The Christian Science Monitor digs below the surface of the capture and apparent release of eight British sailors.

The incident threatened to devolve into a new chapter in the longstanding internal battle between hard-liners and reformers, when Iranian television showed blind-folded sailors on Tuesday, and said they would be prosecuted. Neither side in the past has hesitated to use diplomatic incidents to embarrass the other, and let the internal tug of war spill over onto the international stage.

By press time, even with explicit promises of release by both Iranian and British officials, broadcasts in English and Farsi appeared to contradict each other over whether the release would in fact take place.

One veteran political analyst in Tehran suggests that the arrest was an act by hard-liners, which then became a problem for the less conservative government of President Mohamad Khatami. Similar incidents in the past were easily solved, and never flared to such a political issue.

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Pangloss Al Saud 

Yeah, this will work...

Saudi Arabia today called on Islamic militants to surrender to authorities within a month under a new amnesty program or face the government's "unmitigated power and unhesitating will."
So now they'll all surrender and the problem will be over, right? And if they don't surrender, the Saudis will do more than they've already been doing to fight them? Does that mean they aren't doing all they can now?

I eagerly await the rapid end of the Al Qaeda threat in Saudi Arabia after this unprecedented display of magnanimity.
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Americans urged to leave New York 

U.S. warns of more attacks in New York
Americans urged to leave in face of likely violence

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Soon after a passenger was shot dead in a Manhattan subway train, a senior administration official warned that further attacks are likely and urged Americans to leave the city.

"These are vicious killers intent on meeting their objectives," the official said. "And it is going to happen again."

Nelson Stanford, who police said had an extensive criminal record, was shot by two men who fled the scene.

It was the third shooting in the subway in the last month.

Earlier this month, model-actress Monica Meadows was shot in the shoulder on a subway train in Times Square.

David Hart, a business school chief executive, was shot in late May as he walked through a subway turnstile in Queens.

The official said the United States is acting to "batten down the hatches" and avoid giving criminals an "easy target."

"We want Americans to leave. We want the people who are there to take appropriate precautions," the official said.

Original articles here and here.
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Moon god 

Holy... something:

More than a dozen lawmakers attended a congressional reception this year honoring the Rev. Sun Myung Moon in which Moon declared himself the Messiah and said his teachings have helped Hitler and Stalin be "reborn as new persons."

At the March 23 ceremony in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) wore white gloves and carried a pillow holding an ornate crown that was placed on Moon's head. The Korean-born businessman and religious leader then delivered a long speech saying he was "sent to Earth . . . to save the world's six billion people. . . . Emperors, kings and presidents . . . have declared to all Heaven and Earth that Reverend Sun Myung Moon is none other than humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent..."

Moon has claimed to have spoken in "the spirit world" with all deceased U.S. presidents, Jesus, Moses, Mohammed and others. At the March 23 event, he said: "The founders of five great religions and many other leaders in the spirit world, including even Communist leaders such as Marx and Lenin . . . and dictators such as Hitler and Stalin, have found strength in my teachings, mended their ways and been reborn as new persons."
Um... yeah.
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Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The Surly Bonds of Earth 

We are living in very exciting times. Just yesterday, SpaceShipOne carried Mike Melvill into the record books as the first civilian space pilot. Soon, the team from Scaled Composites will make its official attempt at the X Prize. $10 million goes to the winner.

Now, NASA might pony up some cash prizes of its own, for reaching other milestones.

This is just the kind of boost needed by the budding civilian space industry. Cash prizes drove the rapid advances of aviation's "golden age." Today, we might be witnessing the beginning of a second golden age, the golden age of space exploration.

That prospect excites me like few things can. There's no telling what kind of innovation will spring forth as teams compete for the cash, and more importantly, the prestige of winning one of these prizes. The winners of the prizes, as the first to successfully prove their technology, will become industry leaders, so the incentive to engage in some bold and radical engineering is huge. Hold on... this could get interesting.
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Darfur spills over 

Sudanese Arab militias, aided by the government in Khartoum, are now taking their ethnic cleansing campaign across the border to Chad.

It's now an international problem, and it needs to stop, now. We can't let this get out of control. The world doesn't need another Rwanda. Or, if you're the less alarmist type, another Bosnia.

The time to act is upon us.
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Did I say savages? No, "savages" implies a debased kind of humanity. They are not human. They are vermin. They are a pestilence. And they must be exterminated as if they were vermin. One by one if necessary.

If they're so proud of doing God's work, why don't they take off their masks and face their fate like men? Because they're not men. They are below the lowest animal. Calling them cockroaches would be an insult to cockroaches.

Kill every last one of them.

And when is the press going to stop dignifying terrorist vermin by calling them "militants?"

UPDATE: I disagree with Moe Lane's characterization of the terrorists, but the second half of his post is dead on. Moe says that "humanity would rather build than destroy." The Arab and Muslim world is full of people who are just as horrified by the terrorists' barbarity as we are in the West (and now, sadly, the Far East). It is to those decent people that we must appeal--offering them progress toward the realization of their hopes and dreams, and the possibility of better lives. We must do this, while also violently squashing terrorism by whatever means we need to get the job done.
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Monday, June 21, 2004

Biggest. Strawman. 

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Iran takes British boats, holds crews hostage 

I liked my comment to LT Smash's post on this story so I decided to repost it here. Smash is right that "they probably have no clue as to the nasty can of worms they have just opened."

On to my comment:

The IRGCN (Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy--read Smash for details) has been sporadically confrontational since Coalition maritime forces first showed up in the Shatt al Arab. This was bound to happen eventually.

But it's about the dumbest thing the Iranians could have done. They should be bending over backwards to avoid confrontation with the US and UK. Instead, they do this.

Iran will release the crews, and maybe the boats, and then they'll be in a greatly weakened position internationally. Unless, of course, they apologize profusely and publicly. This being the Islamic Republic, I wouldn't count on that outcome.

They just ratcheted up tensions, and they don't want the added attention right now, on top of what they're already getting because of their nuclear development and their ambiguous position in the war on terrorism. Perhaps the Coalition presence next door is making the Iranian mullahs nervous and this is the only way they have to try to look tough?

On a side note, what kind of Rules of Engagement were these Brits operating under? Details are scarce, but it doesn't sound like any shots were fired. I can understand the pressure of being the on-scene commander in a rapidly-developing international incident... but you don't just let yourself be taken.

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CNN: Military makes laws 

CNN.com is running an article about the impact of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy about homosexuals serving in the military. But it isn't entirely clear about the policy itself:

The exodus of soldiers like Muller continues even as concerns grow about military troop strength, according to a new study. Some 770 people were discharged for homosexuality last year under the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
(Emphasis added.)

So it's the military's policy? That's funny. I always figured that Congress wrote laws while the President signed them, and that the military was obligated to follow those laws. I also thought that in this particular case, the President at the time was the one who proposed the law. But CNN says right there that it's the military's policy. I guess I was mistaken.

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Sunday, June 20, 2004

Clinton's worst day 

Predictably, Bill Clinton's worst day in office, like everything else in the man's life, was all about himself:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bill Clinton's worst day in office came when he admitted to his wife the affair with a White House intern that would threaten his marriage and his presidency, the former president said in a television interview promoting his memoirs on Sunday.
So I guess days like this one or this one or maybe this one weren't so bad?

Nope, his worst day was not one of the days on which terrorists killed his countrymen. It was the day he was banished to the couch. It's all about Bill Clinton. Always was.
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