Archive for the ‘Middle East’ Category

Cohen Head

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

Today’s Washington Post had an op-ed piece by the inestimable Richard Cohen tagged Reading Into Bush’s Book List. Cohen riffs off of a recent piece by Karl Rove in the Wall Street Journal. In the WSJ piece, Rove provides insight into Bush’s reading habits and describes the book-reading competition that the two have waged each year for the past three years. The competition is simple. The winner is the one that reads the greater number of books. Rove won the 2006 competition by a final score of 110 to 95. According to Rove

Bush’s 2006 reading list shows his literary tastes. The nonfiction ran from biographies of Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain, Babe Ruth, King Leopold, William Jennings Bryan, Huey Long, LBJ and Genghis Khan to Andrew Roberts’s “A History of the English Speaking Peoples Since 1900,” James L. Swanson’s “Manhunt,” and Nathaniel Philbrick’s “Mayflower.” Besides eight Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald, Mr. Bush tackled Michael Crichton’s “Next,” Vince Flynn’s “Executive Power,” Stephen Hunter’s “Point of Impact,” and Albert Camus’s “The Stranger,” among others.

Fifty-eight of the books he read that year were nonfiction. Nearly half of his 2006 reading was history and biography, with another eight volumes on current events (mostly the Mideast) and six on sports.

In 2007, Rove prevailed 76 to 51. Again, according to Rove

His list was particularly wide-ranging that year, from history (“The Great Upheaval” and “Khrushchev’s Cold War”), biographical (Dean Acheson and Andrew Mellon), and current affairs (including “Rogue Regime” and “The Shia Revival”). He read one book meant for young adults, his daughter Jenna’s excellent “Ana’s Story.”

In 2008, as of the date of the article, Rove was ahead 64 to 40. According to Rove

His reading this year included a heavy dose of history — including David Halberstam’s “The Coldest Winter,” Rick Atkinson’s “Day of Battle,” Hugh Thomas’s “Spanish Civil War,” Stephen W. Sears’s “Gettysburg” and David King’s “Vienna 1814.” There’s also plenty of biography — including U.S. Grant’s “Personal Memoirs”; Jon Meacham’s “American Lion”; James M. McPherson’s “Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief” and Jacobo Timerman’s “Prisoner Without a Name, Cell Without a Number.”

Each year, the president also read the Bible from cover to cover, along with a daily devotional.

Cohen’s piece is a classic drive-by, meant for consumption by the simple-minded. Here is Cohen

Rove always won, but Bush had the ready excuse that he was, as he put it, busy being “Leader of the Free World.”

And here is Rove

At year’s end, I defeated the president, 110 books to 95. My trophy looks suspiciously like those given out at junior bowling finals. The president lamely insisted he’d lost because he’d been busy as Leader of the Free World.

Hmm. I detect a difference in tone.

Here is Cohen

…most of Bush’s books have been biographies and histories. Biographies are usually about great men who often did the unpopular thing and were later vindicated. As for histories, they are replete with cautionary tales.

You can see where Cohen is going with this reasoning, right? Here is Rove

Nearly half of his 2006 reading was history and biography, with another eight volumes on current events (mostly the Mideast) and six on sports…in 2007…[h]is list was particularly wide-ranging…from history…, biographical…, and current affairs….in 2008…[h]is reading…included a heavy dose of history.

You see, Cohen wants to imply that Bush has been reading about similarly flawed historical figures. But Cohen, whose intellectual honesty couldn’t stand up to a nematode, can’t bring himself to actually name names.

What Cohen does name is a bevy of books, the absence from Bush’s reading list which causes him no small amount of pique. These books include

Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s “Imperial Life in the Emerald City,” Tom Ricks’s “Fiasco,” George Packer’s “The Assassins’ Gate” or, on a related topic, Jane Mayer’s “The Dark Side” about “extraordinary rendition” and other riffs on the Constitution. Absent too is Barton Gellman’s “Angler,” about Dick Cheney, the waterboarder in chief.

[Nice dig there on Cheney, Mr. Cohen. Do you mind if I call you Dick?]

I’m sure the authors listed above are fair and balanced and have no particular axe to grind.

According to Cohen

The list Rove provides is long, but it is narrow. It lacks whole shelves of books on how and why the Iraq war was a mistake, one that metastasized into a debacle.

and this

They are not the reading of a widely read man, but instead the books of a man who seeks — and sees — vindication in every page. Bush has always been the captive of fixed ideas. His books just support that.

I find the use of the words “metastasized” and “debacle” particularly interesting. “Metastasized”, as in just about the worst news a seriously ill patient could hear. And “debacle”. Mr. Cohen wouldn’t recognize a debacle if it came up and bit him. A debacle, Dick, is what we would have had if Bush had listened to the small-minds and withdrew from Iraq back in 2007. Do you recall what the prognosis was for Iraq and the Middle East, for that matter, if the US had withdrawn to leave Iraq to a Civil War? Go back and do some reading. The small-minded were willing to throw the entire region into turmoil to score political points. Thank God that Bush was “captive of fixed ideas”, such as the fixed idea that we were going to get it right, that we were going to win. We have paid a very heavy price, no doubt. And speaking of captives of fixed ideas, Dick, is that anything like Obama’s refusal to admit that the surge worked?

You Can Call Him Dick

You Can Call Me Dick

Peaceful Solutions Are In Contradiction To The Principles

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

Israel continues to carry out its tactical plans against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. These particular operations were occasioned by sustained rocket attacks, launched from Gaza, coincident with the end of a six month temporary cease fire, brokered by Egypt in June.



The total deaths in three days of bombings is approaching 300. The United States refuses to condemn the operations and Barack Obama has only slightly moderated his rather tough talk from earlier this year. The usual suspects have called for an immediate cessation of hostilities. And brave Hamas leaders who are living in luxury outside of Gaza have called for what amounts to the third intifada. If an intifada does materialize – and maybe even if it doesn’t – look for Israel to inflict significant punishment in the few weeks remaining prior to Obama’s inauguration. News stories suggest that Israel would not want to be engaged in hostile action at the time of the Inauguration, though this seems like small potatoes compared to the other challenges that Obama will face.

Hamas is an open book. Here is the Hamas Covenant of 1988. There are a total of 36 articles.

Here is Article 8 of the Covenant, also known as “The Slogan of the Hamas”

Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes.

Here is Article 13 of the Covenant

Initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. Abusing any part of Palestine is abuse directed against part of religion. Nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its religion. Its members have been fed on that. For the sake of hoisting the banner of Allah over their homeland they fight. “Allah will be prominent, but most people do not know.”

Now and then the call goes out for the convening of an international conference to look for ways of solving the (Palestinian) question. Some accept, others reject the idea, for this or other reason, with one stipulation or more for consent to convening the conference and participating in it. Knowing the parties constituting the conference, their past and present attitudes towards Moslem problems, the Islamic Resistance Movement does not consider these conferences capable of realising the demands, restoring the rights or doing justice to the oppressed. These conferences are only ways of setting the infidels in the land of the Moslems as arbitraters. When did the infidels do justice to the believers?

“But the Jews will not be pleased with thee, neither the Christians, until thou follow their religion; say, The direction of Allah is the true direction. And verily if thou follow their desires, after the knowledge which hath been given thee, thou shalt find no patron or protector against Allah.” (The Cow – verse 120).

There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors. The Palestinian people know better than to consent to having their future, rights and fate toyed with. As is said in the honourable Hadith:

“The people of Syria are Allah’s lash in His land. He wreaks His vengeance through them against whomsoever He wishes among His slaves It is unthinkable that those who are double-faced among them should prosper over the faithful. They will certainly die out of grief and desperation.”

I remember when Hamas was the surprise victor in the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections (winning 76 seats to Fatah’s 43). There were many that viewed the election as a major setback to the Bush administration’s push for democracy. Here is one example from the Council on Foreign Relations. I never saw it quite that way. I saw the convincing victory of Hamas as, foremost, the Palestinian electorate’s endorsement of terrorism. I actually thought this was a good thing, because we know where the electorate stood. The “cost” for terrorism shall be borne by the electorate in this case, as it should. There can be no pussy-footing or hand-wringing in these matters.

Undoubtedly, we will see reports of many “innocent” people among the victims of Israel’s actions. But when a government is chosen for a specific purpose such as jihad (see the Covenant…”Jihad” appears 11 times), and when a government is chosen to carry out terrorism, I have difficultly in applying the term “innocent”. Unfortunately, some victims are truly innocent – the children. Full blame for the death of innocent children rests squarely on Hamas and the Palestinian electorate.

First Shoes, Now Christmas

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

Putting spin on the incident occasioned by Muntadhar al-Zaida’s carelessness with his shoes, one might say that it is a sign of progress – of freedom of expression – that was completely missing in Sadam Hussein’s Iraq. Now comes word of Christmas celebration in Baghdad. According to the piece

Welcome to the first-ever public Christmas celebration in Baghdad, held Saturday and sponsored by the Iraqi Interior Ministry. Once thought to be infiltrated by death squads, the Ministry now is trying to root out sectarian violence — as well as improve its P.R. image.

But it is a little bit different celebration than we are used to here

The event takes place in a public park in eastern Baghdad, ringed with security checkpoints. Interior Ministry forces deployed on surrounding rooftops peer down at the scene: a Christmas tree decorated with ornaments and tinsel; a red-costumed Santa Claus waving to the crowd, an Iraqi flag draped over his shoulders; a red-and-black-uniformed military band playing stirring martial music, not Christmas carols.

An Interior Ministry spokesman says that sectarian and ethnic violence killed thousands of Iraqis. He stated further

Now that we have crossed that hurdle and destroyed the incubators of terrorism,and the security situation is good, we have to go back and strengthen community ties.

The story quotes Father Saad Sirop Hanna, a Chaldean Christian priest. Hanna was kidnapped by militants in 2006 and held for 28 days. According to Father Hanna

We are just attesting that things are changing in Baghdad, slowly, but we hope that this change actually is real. We will wait for the future to tell us the truth about this.

The people quoted in the story about this small, guarded celebration, appear to be pragmatic and cautious about the future. Here’s to hoping that our future policies continue to make possible these kinds of significant events during the maturation and mending of Iraq.

Christmas Candles

Christmas Candles

Christmas Banner

Christmas Banner

Iraqi Children Dressed As Santa

Iraqi Children Dressed As Santa

The Good, The Bad, and the Code Pink

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

In today’s Washington Post, there was an article about a bunch of anti-war pansies that decided to hurl their shoes at a big-headed effigy of Bush. The anti-war “activists” assembled yesterday on Pennsylvania Avenue. According to the article,

They assembled a pile of clogs, boots, flip-flops, slippers and pumps, and, in celebration of the journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush in a news conference Sunday in Iraq, they tossed the footwear at a man wearing a papier-mâché Bush mask and a prison uniform.

I think these sufferers of BDS were getting an early start on Festivus. Even the election of Barack Obama could not mask the crowd’s apoplexy

“Here’s my goodbye kiss, George!” shouted Medea Benjamin, coordinator of the Code Pink activist group, as she hurled a shoe, missing her target.

“See if you can dodge this, you draft dodger!” contributed veteran Jim Goodnow, launching a pair of boots toward the Bush character’s head.

What would public spectacle be without Code Pink and Medea Benjamin. I am surprised that Benjamin was able to free up time to come to Washington DC. She usually spends her time carrying the water of Hugo Chavez. She’s pink for a reason.  Jim Goodnow complains that Bush is a draft dodger. I guess that Jim worships at the altar of Dan Rather and the proportional font IBM Selectric Composer of the early 1970’s. Wake up Jim! The government is not after you, and you can remove your hat now.

Earth to Jim, Come In Jim

Earth to Jim, Come In Jim

And this later from Benjamin

“Take this one, George, on behalf of peace-loving Americans!” Benjamin shouted, missing the Bush character.

“Try again, little missy,” Bush taunted.

Benjamin missed again. “Sorry, bad aim,” she explained.

With each toss of a shoe, another accusation flew: “Torturing human beings! Aggressive war! One point two million dead! PTSD! Stem cell research!”

Aggressive war? I hope that every war we undertake is aggressive. What kind of moron complains about war being aggressive? Torturing human beings? Does this refer to waterboarding a couple of pieces of human debris such as  Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaida? That’s not torture in my book. One point two million dead? This refers to the Opinion Research Business survey, in which about 1720 adults were surveyed. I have said many times that I think that pathological lying is a way of life in the Middle East, and I have a hard time believing anything that they say. On the flip side, there is the Iraq Body Count Project, which used the following sources to develop counts.

  • 8,913 Mortuaries
  • 4,846 Medics
  • 4,376 Iraqi officials
  • 3,794 Eyewitnesses
  • 3,588 Police
  • 2,780 Relatives
  • 2,423 US-Coalition
  • 1,976 Journalists
  • 732 NGOs
  • 596 Friends/Associates
  • 196 Other

I don’t know. It seems like the IBC maybe has a slightly more diverse and more authoritative base of data with which to work. The IBC suggests a number of between 83,000 and 91,000 total deaths so far. I’m not celebrating innocent casualties, but 91,000 is much better than the 1.2 million figure that Benjamin professes. To provide some additional insight into the insanity, the ORB survey suggests that approximately 120,000 people – 30,000 more than the total of the IBCP – died as a result of our air strikes alone. So much for the quality of our precision guided munitions.

Stem cell research? I thought this was put to rest long ago. Adult stem cells have been shown to generate embryonic-like stem cell lines using a single-cell biopsy technique.  Make no mistake, the stem cell research debate is a proxy for reproductive rights and the abortion debate. It is not really about advancing medicine per se. Private research was never banned. Bush was right on this one.

Something tells me that we are going to see more and more crackpots as we lead up to the Inauguration. It is pretty hard to see what these people are going to do once Obama gets in office. They say that they will stop at nothing short of a war crimes tribunal. I suspect that most of these twits are awfully close to a diagnosis of Dissocial Personality Disorder. A quick look at the ICD-10 of the World Health Organization fits these people like a glove. Interestingly, people with dissocial personality disorder are never treated by mental health professionals. Apparently they are considered untreatable, and no interventions have proven effective. Untreatable? Now that I believe.

Duck, Shoes

Monday, December 15th, 2008

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Dec. 15 – George W. Bush displayed quick reflexes for a man of his age as he ducked footwear chin music from Muntadhar al-Zaida. Zaida, a  journalist of a Cairo-based pro-Sunni TV station, is unhappy with the United States occupation. Sorry Muntadhar, no more mass murder for you.

Ball 1

Ball 1

The high and tight tossing of hightops, we are told, is absolutely, unequivocally the greatest insult that the Iraqi culture (and I use the term loosely) can bestow.  That, and being called a dog. Which happens at every hip hop concert, I am told. This explains why Bush nearly cracked up during the incident. I know it is not polite to smirk while being shown a balmoral brush back. No doubt, Bush will take some, uh, heat over this one. He should have had greater respect for Zaida’s plain-toed purpose pitch. But what was Zaida thinking? Bush loves baseball.

When Zaida climbed the ladder again, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki nearly committed fan interference as he reached for the blucher beanball. Had Bush been hit, he could have received treatment from a medical professional, such as Dr. Scholl.

Nearly Fan Interference

Nearly Fan Interference

Bush worked Zaida to a hitter friendly 2-0 count. But Zaida got the hook when he ran out of shoes, and was escorted from the mound.

When asked about his right shoe, Zaida had this to say in clear but accented English

It is a [expletive deleted] valuable thing. You don’t just throw it away for nothing.

When asked about his left shoe, Zaida had this to say

I’ve got this thing and its [expletive deleted] golden, and, uh, uh, I’m just not giving it up for [expletive deleted] nothing.

When asked about a possible pitching contract with the Daytona Cubs, the Chicago Cubs’ Advanced A minor league affiliate, Zaida had this to say

Hold up that [expletive] Cubs [expletive]. [Expletive] them.

Future In the Minors?

Future In the Minors?

When asked how his fellow Iraqis felt about his flame throwing, Zaida had this to say

They’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [expletive deleted] them.

Actually, that’s not true, of course. Zaida is being hailed as a hero across the Arab world. I’m sure that newborn boys in Iraq and elsewhere will be given the name Muntadhar. To Zaida and his adoring mob, I have something for you to to enter on your scorecard

[expletive deleted] you and the shoes you wore in