Archive for October 2001

Music – Yet Another Reason Why the Taliban Sucks

Imagine for a moment the chorale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the “Ode To Joy”. Almost two years ago, this piece welcomed the new Millennium as it was played in cities around the world. Twenty three years before that event it – along with 10,000 voices and songs from around the world – was included in a disk of music attached to the sides of Voyager in the hope that an alien civilization would find this artifact and use it to learn about us.


Whether your taste is more Back Street Boys than Bach, there are few on this planet who cannot appreciate the spirit of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. The music grabs you by the shoulders, and lifts your spirits high, as if showing you a promised land that lays just over the horizon. It’s sentimental in the typical German style of the time – meaning that it isn’t the most subtle of pieces. The Ode is about power and transformation, not about surprise or artifice.


Music defines who we are. In broad strokes it tells us what culture we are from and what are values are. It defines subcultures within cultures, so that a Goth who listens to Marilyn Manson shares little (it is hoped) in common with the kid down the street who wears cowboy boots and thinks Garth Brooks’ is cool.


Most cultures use music to celebrate joyous times, and to solemnize sad ones. Imagine a wedding without music, silence taking the place of sappy guitar or poorly played organ music. How about a funeral without Mozart’s Requiem? Has any piece of music ever captured sadness in a more powerful way?


Music is a worldwide phenomenon. Wait for a stoplight in LA and one will hear at least half a dozen different types of music being played on car stereos. Walk the streets of Nairobi and it’s hard to escape the sounds of American rap music, Congolese soukous or reggae.


Music unites across cultures. During the Cold War, smuggled Beatles albums gave Soviet citizens a taste of freedom, uniting the Slavs with the frantically screaming boppers in the audience of the Ed Sullivan Show in New York 1964. Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel can talk just as much about 1960s folk music as he can  on fighting oppression or managing a nation in its transition into a market economy. Or what do white kids from wealthy suburban families have in common with black kids from the projects besides Snoop Doggy Dog, Doctor Dre and Busta Rhymes?


Music is a weapon. Just ask General Noriega who was holed up in the Papal Nuncio in Panama City in 1989. US Forces used AC/DC, Ted Nugent, Van Halen, Ratt, Poison and several other 70’s and 80’s favorites to convince him to surrender. For a look at their playlist, click here.


Finally, music has been ever present. It is found in every culture going back to the dawn of the written record. Small lutes have been found dating back thousands of years before that. It is ever present in the Bible, Torah, Upanishads, and Koran.


As yet science has been unable to explain what music is and why we perceive it the way we do. But what is clear is that it is a potent force which may be bottled up for awhile but cannot be suppressed forever.  When the Taliban left Kabul a few weeks ago, the streets erupted with the sound of music as old tapes and boom boxes were carted out from their hiding places.


Music brings joy to the listener. It makes memories sweeter and more vivid. And any regime that dares stand in its way risks getting as swept away by its force as the Baptist preachers who tried banning Elvis in the 1950s.


So dig out Beethoven’s Ninth. With luck Bin-Laden and Mullah Omar will hear it on their way to Hell.

Twisted History

People are forgetful. What is worse is that people’s memories of events change over time, taking on biases, being colored by other later events, and in general completely muddling the past beyond recognition. This is why we make lists and invented post-it notes, and also why we have written records and history.


There is a war on, and the past is being twisted to justify heinous deeds. With that in mind, let’s look at the recent justifications for Osama Bin-Laden’s terror campaign and America’s involvement in the Middle East.


Kissing the Kaaba: US Forces in Saudi Arabia

This is Osama’s number one justification for blowing things up. So why are we there aside from the obvious ($1.50/gallon gas).


During the Summer of 1990 Iraq complained bitterly that Kuwait was flooding the market with oil in contravention of an OPEC agreement to limit production to boost prices. In July 1990, Iraq began a buildup of forces north of Kuwait and ordered Kuwait to stop drilling into an underground oil deposit shared by both nations. On the morning of August 2, 1990 Iraqi forces entered Kuwait. The following day Iraqi forces pursued escaping Kuwaiti forces into the neutral zone separating Saudi Arabia from its northern neighbors. During the first days after the invasion, it became clear that a military invasion of the desert kingdom was imminent. It was prevented after Saudi Arabia appealed to the USA for immediate help, which the US provided. Repeated requests for the nature of the invasion and warning against invading Saudi Arabia were issued by the US government to Iraq. Iraq responded saying that the invasion into Kuwait was temporary and its forces would be leaving within days. As US forces poured into bases in Saudi Arabia, the Iraqi regime clarified that it had no intention on invading that desert kingdom.


Iraqi forces did not leave Iraq until the following February when they were driven out by the American-lead invasion of Kuwait. It was later learned during the questioning of Iraqi commanders that Iraqi forces were intent on taking Saudi Arabia, and had expected no US interference until after the nation had been secured by Iraqi forces. Without the forward bases in Saudi Arabia, the US would not have been able to field a large force to dislodge Saddam from the captured territories, and Iraq would have had control over most of the world’s oil supply. This had been prevented by the unexpected swift response by US forces in the region.


For those of you with active imaginations, feel free to ponder what a Saudi Arabia ruled by Saddam Hussein would be like. It kind of puts a new spin on Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal’s recent remarks about the attacks – since he would have been one of the first forced into exile at the front of an advancing Iraqi tank column.


The 80’s: AIDS in USA, Vx gas in Northern Iraq

While we’re talking about Iraq, let’s recall one of the greatest instances where Muslims have shown they don’t need to kill Jews or other infidels. They do a pretty good job of killing each other.


Saddam Hussein invaded Iran on September 22, 1980 on the pretext of a territorial dispute over the Shatt al Arab, a waterway that empties into the Persian Gulf and forms the boundary between Iran and Iraq. Iranian resistance eventually kicked Iraqi forces out of Iran in 1982, but the Ayatollah Khomeini vowed to continue fighting until Saddam’s regime was toppled. The Iranian offensive was strong enough to force the Iraqis to use poison gas.


US and European participation in the war began in 1987 when Iran began attacking shipping in the Persian Gulf, damaging Iran’s reputation and making it harder to purchase arms.


Estimates of dead range upwards to 1.5 million but are generally figured to be around 500,000 the majority of which were Iranian. Contrast this with the casualties suffered during the invasion, occupation, and liberation of Kuwait:









Iraq – military mozuse-text-color windowtext windowtext; border-width: medium 0.5pt 0.5pt; padding: 0in 5.4pt; width: 85.5pt” valign=”top” width=”114”>Iraq – civilian mozuse-text-color windowtext windowtext; border-width: medium 0.5pt 0.5pt; padding: 0in 5.4pt; width: 85.5pt” valign=”top” width=”114”>Allied – military mozuse-text-color windowtext windowtext; border-width: medium 0.5pt 0.5pt; padding: 0in 5.4pt; width: 85.5pt” valign=”top” width=”114”>

Allied – civilian


?



Sides in the dispute:


source: http://www.encyclopedia.com/articlesnew/06453.html







 

Iraq



Iran



Osama: Defender of Innocent Children

Osama claims that America’s suffering is nothing compared to the suffering of the Iraqi children. While his sentiment may appear noble to some, it makes others wonder why a man with $300 million of his own personal wealth, as well as access to billions of dollars of others hasn’t done more to alleviate this suffering in more direct ways, say by building hospitals instead of filling them by blowing up people. After all, his own personal wealth would give the families of the half-million children UNICEF estimates died between 1991 – 1998 $600 – a huge sum in a desperately poor nation.


However there is little doubt that the sanctions meant to cage Iraq have backfired by providing a propaganda victory to Saddam and Osama. “(UNICEF Executive Director Carol) Bellamy noted that if the substantial reduction in child mortality throughout Iraq during the 1980s had continued through the 1990s, there would have been half a million fewer deaths of children under-five in the country as a whole during the eight year period 1991 to 1998.” Source: UNICEF 1999 Press Release


The Economist magazine notes that sanctions are not completely to blame: “The true cause of those deaths is Saddam. Although sanctions contribute to his country’s impoverishment, it is he who has chosen to restrict the distribution of food and medicine that is permitted by them, and facilitated by an “oil-for-food” programme, both directly and by siphoning off some of the resources for himself.”( The Economist, October 4, 2001, “The Propaganda War”) Such resources include “Italian marble, videos, perfume, leather jackets,” (Source: then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright on 60 Minutes via Slate.com: “Are One Million Children Dying In Iraq?”, October 9, 2001) .


Support for the Palestinians

As the Economist notes, “In Osama bin Laden’s 1998 fatwa against America, Israel ranks last—after America’s “occupation” of Saudi Arabia during the Gulf war and its continuing attacks on Iraq—among the three causes he gives for his war against America. His first big atrocity, the bombing in 1998 of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, coincided with a time of unusual optimism in the Israel-Palestine peace process, well before the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada. He has shown scant interest in the Palestinians; and they, to their credit, have so far shown scant interest in him.”(The Economist, October 4, 2001, “The Unblessed Peacemaker”)


Much has been made by the Arab regimes and Western Leftists over American support for Israel. For a detailed look, visit this link. Little has been made about the fact that the Middle East isn’t a very nice place. There are no Canada’s, Great Britain’s, or even Mexico’s there which are steadfast, reliable allies. Most states within the region have checkered pasts or problems of one sort or another. Nevertheless America has to deal with the regimes which are friendly towards it, and try to minimize the danger presented by those regimes that aren’t. Israel is the closest thing to a normal democracy in the entire region, and it’s only natural that the world’s largest democracy would take an interest in one of the world’s smallest – regardless of the power wielded by the domestic Jewish constituency.


Conclusion:

To protest American troops on Saudi sand, Osama blows up two embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing scores of impoverished Africans. In support of the dying Iraqi children he explodes planes carrying children into buildings where the parents of children are working. To help net the Palestinians a state he blows up a ship in Oman.


Doesn’t it seem that the real reason behind the attacks is that Osama likes to blow things up?


America and its allies must work quickly to “drain the swamp” that breeds terrorists and allows fundamentalists to hijack Islam. To do this it must back in its own history to see what has worked in the past. The current state of affairs resembles Weimar Germany in 1933. At that time America was completely disengaged from world affairs, and the globe was firmly on the path to war. The specter of fascism was rising but had not yet consolidated its hold on the imaginations of those it claimed to empower.


If America and its later allies had acted quickly to neutralize Hitler and the Nazi party before Germany had rearmed, and most importantly, before the Nazi Party had tightened its grip on the German mindset, the ensuing war could have been avoided. If this assassination of Hitler had been followed by The Marshall Plan to rebuild the world economy and rebuild the foundation of German democracy and identity, a prosperous Germany in the 1930s would have been the best bulwark against fascism and later, Communism in Europe.


Such is the case today. While destroying Osama and the Taliban we must rebuild a more prosperous Middle East. September 11 has shown America the results of the “benign neglect” it has practiced in the entire region, and there is no safe escape from a region P.J. O’Rourke has called “God’s monkey-house”. The only solution is to militarily obliterate our foes while employing the dreaded “nation-building” on a scale never seen before. We must begin by winning the war in the air, the war on the ground, and the war for the hearts and minds of those in the region.


 


Related Links:


MSNBC “No Holy War Here: Refuting Osama’s big lie with evidence of America’s restraint” – Michael Moran

US Relations with Israel: Slanted?

The following article is based upon the article “Unblessed Peacemaker” which appeared in the October 4, 2001 issue of the British news magazine, the Economist. For completeness I have added information in order to enhance the timeline and show the evolution of America’s relationship with Israel.


Until the 1967 War, Israel’s main ally was France and the USA was merely a friend. This friendship did not begin well. There were many voices against American recognition of the state of Israel in 1948 by those in the Truman Administration who feared that it would antagonize friendly Arab regimes in the region. In 1957 Eisenhower forced the Israelis out of the Sinai Peninsula which they had gained as part of the Anglo-French Suez incident. No American president visited Israel until Richard Nixon.


The 1967 War energized the Jewish constituency in the US and lead to the formation of AIPAC. American politicians took notice of Israel as a possible ally against the Soviet supported Arab states of Syria and Egypt. However US has never accepted the legality of the lands captured by Israel during this war, supporting UN Resolution 242.


During this time, the neighboring Arab states as well as the Palestinians refused to recognize the right of Israel to exist within any borders until the Egyptians broke ranks in 1979 (a policy change which resulted in the assassination of President Anwar Sadat two years later by Al – Jihad). In that year, the Arab League met and declared that there could never be any negotiation, recognition or peace with Israel. This attitude made it much easier for Israel to build settlements in the Occupied Territories (justified on strategic grounds). Arab sentiments didn’t change until 1988 when the PLO finally renounced terrorism and recognized Israel’s right to exist.


Nixon tried to play peacemaker by pushing for a broader peace after the disengagement agreements ended the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Jimmy Carter worked tirelessly to turn Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem into a broader Arab-Israeli peace. As a reward, Egypt receives $2 Billion a year in aid ($1 Billion less than Israel).


Reagan bitterly opposed Menachem Begin’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and sent US Marines to help evacuate the PLO from Beirut (243 of which were rewarded for this act with death by a Hezballah truck bomb). After the 1987 Intifada started, US Secretary of State George Schulz offered to start talks with the PLO if Yassir Arafat renounced terrorism. Once he did, the US under George Bush senior ignored the protestations by Israel’s PM Yitzhak Shamir and began a “substantive dialog” with the PLO. In 1991 after the Gulf War, President Bush pressured Shamir to attend a peace summit in Madrid.


Myth of AIPAC

AIPAC tried to prevent Reagan from selling AWACs to Saudi Arabia. The deal went through. In 1989 Secretary of State James Baker attended an AIPAC meeting and lambasted Shamir’s belief in a Greater Israel. In 1991 the same administration ignored AIPAC’s protests when it threatened to withhold loan guarantees if Israel continued settlement expansion.


Last 10 Years

President Clinton admired Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin and spent both of his terms actively involved in the search for peace. He brought Rabin and Arafat together on the White House lawn. He presided over a peace agreement between Israel and Jordan. He thrilled the Palestinians when he visited the Gaza Strip in 1998. And last year he almost concluded a broad reaching and comprehensive peace agreement between PM Barak and Arafat.


President Clinton also drew up a Palestinian state that would be created out of Gaza and 95% of the West Bank. Settlement areas would be swapped for Israeli land. It’s capital would be in East Jerusalem, with divided sovereignty over the Temple Mount. Tens of thousands of Palestinian refugees would be settled in the new state, other nations or within Israel proper.


Was the US favoring Israel? Not by the reaction of the Israeli Right when Clinton’s ideas were published. Nor did the Israeli Right support American policy moves. It must be remembered that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin wasn’t shot by an Arab but by a disgruntled member of the Israeli extreme Right who is still viewed as a hero by Israelis opposed to the Land for Peace formula enshrined in UN Resolution 242.

Rorschach Test for the Left

My first blog post. Ever.

Currently there is a strain of logic that is appearing on college campuses and salons of the Left as America goes to war. This logic is what is called the “rape victim asked for it” defense of the indefensible. This logic which has been repeated in the letters to the editor of this and other papers states that the terrorists are not at fault for the attack on the Pentagon and WTC – we Americans are. The terrorists were merely reacting to American policies abroad such as the support of Israel and continued sanctions on Iraq and are therefore ultimately not responsible for the 7,000 dead. The American government is – and since the government represents the will of our people, we Americans are to blame for the death and destruction of September 11, 2001. All that remains is for a call for reparations to the families of the dead hijackers.

As several commentators on both sides of the political spectrum have pointed out, this logic is flawed for a variety of reasons. First, it de-humanizes the terrorists by making them into thoughtless automatons, lacking the human quality of “free-will”. However, we know that these terrorists had the free-will to call off their mission by walking away, refusing to do it, or by contacting authorities. Instead they exercised their free-will by choosing to kill as many people as they possibly could.

Secondly, they excuse the attack by blaming American policy abroad. American support of Israel is mentioned as a possible reason for the attack. This logic seeks to ignore the fact that Israel is the only democracy in the region, and that for every atrocity blamed on the Israelis there is another one perpetrated against them. It also ignores the fact that the Israelis have never committed a terrorist act against the United States, unlike other groups within the region. Nor does it take into account the thirty years America has worked to build a lasting peace within the region, and the fact that the US is hated almost as much by the Israeli Right as the Islamic Right as a result.

Islamic fundamentalists have universally condemned the Camp David Accords negotiated by President Carter and signed by Egypt and Israel, an agreement which President Anwar Sadat of Egypt paid for with his life – assassinated by members of the Islamic Fundamentalist movement. These groups do not want peace between Israel and the Palestinians. What they seek is what Arab commentators have euphemistically called  “finishing what the Germans started”, namely, the slaughter of all Jews present within Israel. This claim was reiterated this week by Osama Bin-Laden’s fatwa calling for the “killing of Americans and Jews wherever they might be”.

The motives of the attackers are still unclear – a problem which allows the imaginations to run wild on the Left, blaming the attack for American aggression against North Vietnam (a state currently seeking better ties with the USA), North Korea (a Stalinist regime known for its rattling of sabers while food bowls go empty), and the all-encompassing term, “American Imperialism”.

Such attempts at ascribing motives to the attackers simply show that the attackers didn’t have any. The attacks become a kind of Rohrschach Test for those bearing a grudge against the US government in which they see the motive they want to see. Such attempts have everything to do with the mindset of the explainer and nothing whatsoever to do with the true motives of the attackers.

In a sense this is an attempt by minds to make sense of the nonsensical. By providing motive to the attack, people feel better. They can take comfort in people having been killed for a reason, that the attack was some kind of message which we now must heed. This attempt at understanding is the Left’s attempt at gaining control of the situation. However it is the kind of control exercised by a battered wife who seeks to take command of the violent outbursts and attacks of her husband by making him happy and avoiding the actions which set him off. However, to an outside party it is evident who is in control in this situation: the husband is. And the only solution to the problem is to remove the woman from the situation or jail her husband. In our situation there is no “jail” that will hold Bin-Laden, nor is there anywhere that we can run. Imagine a scenario where a group attempts to free him by holding a city hostage to a small nuclear device. Our only solution is to hunt him down and kill him before he kills us.

This anti-American government logic also ignores the positive things America has done in the Muslim world. America has fought two wars against a Christian nation, Serbia, to halt atrocities the Serbs were committing against Muslims in Kosovo and Bosnia. It has been the primary aid donor to Afghanistan. It intervened in Somalia in an attempt at bringing peace to the collapsing nation and attempted to feed its starving population while bandits robbed aid agencies and UN forces and Muslim militants shot and killed American soldiers. America’s experience in Somalia prevented its intervention in Rwanda a year later. 800,000 people were murdered in an orgy of violence which the US and UN forces could have easily prevented. Since Osama Bin-Laden has been implicated in the actions in Somalia against US forces, by the logic of the Left he would also be responsible for the resultant slaughter in Rwanda.

Finally, it ignores the failures of Islamic fundamentalism in the region. What has Osama Bin-Laden and the Taliban done for Muslims except starved and killed them? Bin-Laden killed more Muslims in the WTC and embassy attacks in Africa than the Israelis have in years of bloody fighting in the West Bank and Gaza. He is wealthy, yet how many hospitals has he built? How many clinics? How many Muslim children has he put through school?

Bin-Laden and his organization are nothing new – contrary to what you may be reading. We have seen his type before: Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The Hutu Militias which like to explain their atrocities using political terms. Slobodan Milosovic and his fanatical followers of thugs, murderers and rapists which also resorted to religious imagery – albeit of a later time (13th Century vs the 12th Century espoused by the Taliban). Idi Amin in Uganda. And of course, Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich.

All of these men have stood up against the USA and been exposed as murderous charlatans. Bin-Laden and his Taliban supporters will as well – if not abetted in their conquest by the well-intentioned Left.