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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Iranian Dissidents' Courage, Obama's Cowardice

In an editorial entitled "Iran’s War on Its People", The New York Times condemns the brutality of the Tehran regime and once again finds a way to commend President Obama:

"President Obama is right to remain open to dialogue with Iran and to continue looking for a peaceful resolution to the dispute over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. He is also right to condemn the violence against Iranian civilians and to place the United States on their side, as he did in his speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize and in comments on Monday."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/29/opinion/29tue1.html?hp

Sorry, but Obama's behavior pertaining to the Iranian dissidents has been disgraceful. For many months Obama has all but ignored them, and it is no wonder that the dissidents on the streets of Tehran chant:

"Obama, are you with them or with us?"

My comment in response to The Times editorial, if they decide it is "not abusive" and "on-topic" and agree to post it - The Times remains extremely protective of Obama:

It is gratifying at long last to see an editorial from The New York Times, which acknowledges the brutality of the ruling regime in Tehran.

It is disappointing, however, to observe that this editorial is incapable of observing the refusal of President Obama to offer, at a minimum, moral support to the dissidents and to bring this matter before the UN Security Council.

It is disappointing that The New York Times has been reluctant to permit contrary opinion to that of Roger ("Iran is not totalitarian") Cohen, who most recently issued a call for "inertia" with respect to U.S. policy pertaining to Iran.

It is disappointing that The New York Times has been reluctant to permit contrary opinion to that of the Leveretts, who in 2009 wrote two op-eds in The New York Times calling for "rapprochement" with Iran.

Finally, it is disappointing that The New York Times has not provided space on its op-ed page for a discussion of Iran's horrifying oppression of its Baha'i minority (Cohen over the course of many months of Iran-related op-eds only mentioned the Baha'is once.)

[The above comment was censored by The New York Times. "Abusive"? Not "on-topic"? Too critical of Obama? Or too critical of The New York Times?]

Friday, December 25, 2009

Jimmy Carter's "New Anti-Semitism" and The New York Times

"New anti-Semitism" is a new form of racism that has emerged in recent decades from the Left, Right, and radical Islam, usually disguised in denunciations of Zionism and Israel.

What has this "new anti-Semitism" to do with The New York Times?

During much of 2009, The New York Times posted savage anti-Semitic online comments to its op-eds, notwithstanding its purported policy of refusing "abusive" comments, and notwithstanding my entreaties to the Office of the Public Editor of The Times to put an end to this racist abuse. See:

http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/06/clark-hoyt-responds-has-new-york-times.html

This practice of disseminating the vilest imaginable expressions of anti-Semitism ended only after my correspondence with a very senior New York Times editor, who asked to remain anonymous.

End of story? No.

On November 5, The New York Times published an op-ed, written by Jimmy Carter, entitled "Goldstone and Gaza". Among Carter's various allegations:

- "In January 2009 rudimentary rockets had been launched from Gaza toward nearby Jewish communities".

- "it was difficult to understand or explain the destruction of hospitals, schools, prisons, United Nations facilities, small factories and repair shops, agricultural processing plants and almost 40,000 homes."

- "The Goldstone committee examined closely the cause of deaths of the 1,387 Palestinians who perished".

- "Hamas leaders have announced that their investigation is under way, but Israel has rejected Judge Goldstone’s request."

- "Several hundred thousand homeless people suffered through last winter in a few tents, under plastic sheets, or huddled in caves dug into the debris of their former homes."

- "I was informed recently by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia that he has pledged $1 billion, and other Arab leaders have added an additional $300 million for this purpose [housing for Gazans]."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/06/opinion/06iht-edcarter.html

My response:

- More than 10,000 rockets, missiles and mortars have been fired from Gaza into Israeli population centers since 2001, which have killed and maimed Israeli civilians. There was nothing "rudimentary" about the Grads fired by Hamas at Israeli cities.

- No hospitals were "destroyed", and Hamas itself booby-trapped a school. Al Mazen Center for Human Rights, a pro-Palestinian NGO, recently issued a report called "Cast Lead Offensive in Numbers" in which it found that 2,632 houses were destroyed beyond repair and 8,522 were assessed as repairable, i.e. numbers that do not approach Carter's "almost 40,000".

- Carter cited Hamas casualty figures without observing the death of Hamas combatants, which, according to Israel Defense Force intelligence, amounted to 709 out of a total of 1,166 dead Gazans.

- You are really going to place trust in an investigation by Hamas, the same "people" who claimed that Israel is distributing aphrodisiac chewing gum to Gazan youth to correct their morals? Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces has conducted its own investigation, but why believe an American ally?

- A January 21-27, 2009 report by the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, issued soon after the Gaza fighting found that "Tens of thousands of Gazans remain homeless, with most staying with relatives or other host families." A January 16-20, 2009 report, also by OCHA, stated: "As of late 20 January, 18,035 people remained in 30 shelters, down from 29,421 people on 19 January." In short, the UN's figures for displaced persons last winter were one-tenth or less of the number posited by Carter.

- Carter has Abdullah's ear? Why doesn't he ask Abdullah why women who are gang raped in Saudi Arabia are sentenced to prison and whipped?

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America ("CAMERA") confronted The New York Times with some of the above inaccuracies, but according to CAMERA:

"NYT editors would not take responsibility for the content, suggesting that because the material originated with the [International Herald] Tribune, it is up to that newspaper to run corrections."

Jimmy Carter is a a coward (he didn't dare debate Alan Dershowitz) and a liar, but he is also a former U.S. president, and I understand the desire of The Times to publish his op-ed. However, I think The New York Times also has a responsibility to publish a rebuttal.

As for Jimmy, whose time on this earth is slowly winding down with the passing of years despite his attempts to cling to relevancy, I suggest he listen to the words from "When I Die" by Blood Sweat & Tears:

"I can swear there ain't no heaven, but I pray there ain't no hell."

Pray hard, Jimmy.

[Although Jimmy Carter asked the Jewish community for forgiveness "for any stigma he may have caused Israel" in a December 21 letter to the JTA (http://jta.org/news/article/2009/12/21/1009832/carter-offers-jewish-community-al-het), Carter repeated many of his lies concerning Gaza in a December 19 op-ed published in The Guardian (http://cartercenter.org/news/editorials_speeches/gaza-121909.html). Carter is clearly a narcissist who knows no shame.]

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Compugen: A Memorable Day

Yesterday was a remarkable day for Compugen.

The significance of Compugen's agreement with Pfizer? Answer: Name another company that can "design" for Pfizer peptide therapeutic candidates for specified targets within mere months? It is no accident that Pfizer has chosen to work with Compugen.

Moreover, Compugen is not a "one trick pony". One need only review its recent press releases to understand the broad applicability of its science and discovery platforms, which extends far beyond this agreement with Pfizer.

Compugen's science is the product of a lonely 10-year journey, building an understanding of biological phenomena on the molecular level. There were no shortcuts. Critical mass is now resulting in remarkable early stage product candidates meant to validate their discovery platforms. More important, the discovery platforms are intended for "discovery on demand", i.e. to provide the pharma industry with a bountiful crop of new product candidates to meet their very specific needs at a time when Big Pharma's pipelines are going dry.

Compugen, although increasingly known to the pharma industry, has gone ignored by the financial community. Perhaps this changed yesterday, when more than 25 million Compugen shares were traded.

The arrival yesterday of the day traders? I would wager that few of them took the time to read about Compugen's predictive science. They arrived in an instant and will depart just as quickly, but when members of their families become ill with life threatening diseases - an unfortunate reality that inevitably affects all of us - I hope they will remember the day when they rushed in and out of the shares of this little company, whose mission is to be the world leader in the discovery of therapeutic and diagnostic product candidates.

Long after the day traders are gone, Compugen will continue its business of striving to bring significant therapeutics, diagnostics and hope to persons suffering from cancer, life threatening cardiovascular ailments and crippling inflammatory disease.

For many, this is a time of year for self-reflection and spiritual renewal, and I wish all those who read my blog happy holidays.

[As noted in prior blog entries, I am a Compugen shareholder, this blog entry is not a recommendation to buy or sell Compugen shares, and in mid-September 2009 I began work as a part-time external consultant to Compugen. The opinions expressed herein are mine and are based on publicly available information. This blog entry has not been authorized or approved by Compugen.]

Pfizer Inks Deal with Compugen

Today Compugen announced that it has entered into a collaboration agreement with Pfizer for the predictive discovery by Compugen of therapeutic peptide product candidates for three drug targets of interest to Pfizer.

The significance of the deal:

1. The deal is with none other than Pfizer and provides important validation of Compugen's predictive discovery platforms, including at least one platform that has yet to be disclosed.

2. This is a "discovery on demand" agreement, pursuant to which Compugen is to provide Pfizer with peptides required for specific targets of interest within a mere matter of months.

3. Pfizer is paying Compugen for its R&D, and if successful, the peptide therapeutic candidates could result in substantial milestone and royalty payments to Compugen. (Pursuant to the agreement, Compugen is not permitted to disclose additional financial details.)

4. The deal focuses on a Compugen "sweet spot", i.e. therapeutic peptides, an area where Compugen possesses appreciable knowledge and capabilities.

5. The announcement is in keeping with Compugen's previously announced business model of entering into R&D arrangements with leading pharma and diagnostic companies.

[As noted in prior blog entries, I am a Compugen shareholder, this blog entry is not a recommendation to buy or sell Compugen shares, and in mid-September 2009 I began work as a part-time external consultant to Compugen. The opinions expressed herein are mine and are based on publicly available information. This blog entry has not been authorized or approved by Compugen.]

Monday, December 21, 2009

Iran: Probing Obama's Weakness

As known to all, Obama began his presidency by reaching out to Iran; recall his March Nowruz (Iranian new year) message. Although some, e.g., Roger ("Iran is not totalitarian") Cohen, would have us believe that this move "unsettled" Ahmadinejad, quite the contrary is true. The Middle East is a region of savage cruelty, and nowhere is this more apparent than Iran, where homosexuals are hanged, "adulterers" are stoned to death, Baha'is are persecuted, Kurds are oppressed, Sunni Muslims are abused, and women are demeaned. Kindness in Tehran is often construed as weakness.

This view of the fledgling American president's infirmity was recently reinforced by Obama's decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan while announcing a timetable for troop withdrawal. This could only amuse Iran, which, at a cost of 800,000 casualties, fought Iraq over the course of eight years to a standoff, and which is infamous for sending children, holding plastic keys guaranteeing their entry into heaven, to clear Iraqi minefields.

A few free words of advice to the president:

Sunni/Shiite equilibrium in the region was destroyed when the Saddam regime fell, and Iran is feeling its oats and probing for infirmity.

The 2006 clash between Israel and Iranian proxy, Hezbollah, was an attempt to determine if Israel's civilian population could weather prolonged rocket attacks, and the 2009 clash between Israel and Iranian proxy, Hamas, amounted to more of the same. However, these indirect conflagrations with Israel were just undercards with the added benefit of exhibiting Iran's leadership and prowess to the Muslim masses.

The main event remains a Sunni/Shiite affair, and if you don't believe me, just ask the Saudis and the Gulf states whom they fear more, Iran or Israel.

Iran continues to probe Saudi weakness via its Houthi proxies in the northwest Saada province of Yemen.

The seizure of the oil well on the Iraqi border is also a probe. Is Obama able to cope with two wars and the possibility of a third conflict?

The name of the game is Middle East hegemony, and thus far Iran dominates the arena. Time for Obama to voice support for the Iranian dissidents, which, apart from being the moral thing to do, will also demonstrate to Tehran that he is not toothless. Obama still needs to learn when to hold them (constraining Iran), and when to fold them (departing Afghanistan).

Friday, December 18, 2009

Catherine Ashton, the Hideous Baroness of Upholland

When I label Catherine Ashton "hideous", I am not referring to her appearance; beauty, or the lack thereof, is in the eyes of the beholder. Rather, in my opinion Ashton is "hideous" insofar as she is shocking to the moral sense.

The obscure Ashton was appointed first High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union (EU) on 19 November 2009. Ashton’s position as high representative for foreign affairs was created under the Lisbon treaty, which was intended to improve the mechanisms of the EU. Ashton will begin with a staff of 5,000 in 130 countries and command an annual salary of £270,000. The morning after her EU appointment, the modest Ashton told BBC Radio 4's Today program:

"Over the next few months and years I aim to show that I am the best person for the job."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/nov/20/cathy-ashton-eu-foreign-job

Ashton's qualifications? She is almost entirely lacking in foreign affairs experience. A former chairwoman of the Health Authority in Hertfordshire, she has never held elected office. Ashton has a BSc degree in sociology and has a life-sized Dalek (a fictional race of extraterrestrial mutants from the British science fiction television series "Doctor Who") in her sitting room.

Quite apart from what decorates her sitting room, what might be hiding in her closet? Questions have arisen over her role as national treasurer in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (no mention of this position in her EU profile), which is suspected of having received funding from the Soviet Union. It has also been reported:

"Britain's new EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton enjoyed a relationship with a hard-line communist who boasted close links to some of Britain’s most militant union leaders."

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1233545/Baroness-Ashton-communist-lover-riddle-Moscow-gold.html

Needless to say, her selection to head EU security policy is most peculiar.

Response from the UK? From The Sunday Times:

"The plotting and bungles that led to an obscure British bureaucrat heading the EU’s foreign service were even greater than first thought."

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article6927033.ece

From Nile Gardiner writing for The Telegraph:

"I’m sure you could find 22-year old interns in the House of Commons who are far more knowledgeable on foreign policy than Baroness Ashton. She has a grand total of one year working in the international arena, as European Commissioner in Trade. Nor has she ever held elected office and is massively unqualified. . . . Ashton’s meteoric rise to power in Brussels is a damning indictment of the fundamentally undemocratic political process within the EU, and its utter contempt for public opinion.

. . . .

This may well be the most ridiculous appointment in EU history, but it will fortunately help set back European ambitions to be a major actor on the world stage."

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/nilegardiner/100017357/baroness-ashton-as-eu-foreign-minister-%e2%80%93-is-this-the-most-ridiculous-appointment-in-the-history-of-the-european-union/

This past week, in her maiden speech as EU Foreign Minister, Ashton did not "disappoint". Notwithstanding all the hotspots in the world, all the places, e.g., Darfur, where genocide is occurring, all the brutal human rights violations, e.g., "honor killings" against women, throughout the Muslim world, Ashton chose to lambaste Israel. She decried Israeli "occupation", demanded that Israel immediately lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip, and censured the West Bank separation fence.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1135787.html

A pity that Ashton did not visit Israel first before opening her crooked mouth. I favor a two-state solution, I believe in returning the West Bank to the Palestinians with land swaps, but I'm also aware of the danger of allowing Hamas, Iran's proxy, to bring more accurate missiles with greater range into Gaza and of the need for the separation fence, which has proven invaluable in preventing suicide bombings in Israel.

Suicide bombings? I still remember hearing the explosions and seeing the burned out frames of passenger buses in Tel Aviv. I still remember the attacks less than five miles away in any direction from my home and worrying if my children had been harmed. I still remember the sight of a suicide bombing at the entrance to a shopping center in nearby Netanya, whose horror is better left undescribed.

The security fence? Take a drive on Highway 6 and you will see it: only 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the Mediterannean coast. Who is being fenced in?

Although Ashton may have irreparably damaged the EU's relationship with tiny Israel, I am certain that fanatic Muslims, extreme leftists and neo-Nazis throughout Europe rejoiced at her words.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"Experts Crack Cancer 'Gene Code'", But Do Secrets Remain in the Vault?

In an article entitled "Scientists crack 'entire genetic code' of cancer", the BBC News reports:

"Scientists have unlocked the entire genetic code of two of the most common cancers - skin and lung - a move they say could revolutionise cancer care. Not only will the cancer maps pave the way for blood tests to spot tumours far earlier, they will also yield new drug targets, says the Wellcome Trust team.

. . . .

The International Cancer Genome Consortium scientists from the 10 countries involved say it will take them at least five years and many hundreds of thousands of dollars to complete this mammoth task. But once they have done this, patients will reap the benefits.

Professor Michael Stratton, who is the UK lead, said: "These catalogues are going to change the way we think about individual cancers. By identifying all the cancer genes we will be able to develop new drugs that target the specific mutated genes and work out which patients will benefit from these novel treatments."

. . . .

The lung cancer DNA code had more than 23,000 errors largely triggered by cigarette smoke exposure. From this, the experts estimate a typical smoker acquires one new mutation for every 15 cigarettes they smoke. Although many of these mutations will be harmless, some will trigger cancer.

. . . .

By studying the cancer catalogues in detail, the scientists say it should be possible to find exactly which lifestyle and environmental factors trigger different tumours.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/health/8414124.stm

Although the announcement has been lauded by cancer researchers, will this technique improve the ability to prevent, treat and cure cancer?

The announcement is indeed significant and surely a beginning.

However, I would mention that mapping of the human genome was completed several years ago, and notwithstanding the early excitement and piles of data that were accumulated, insufficient resultant progress has been made in curing disease. The Human Genome Project was only a first step, and similarly, mapping of a "cancer gene code" is a remarkable feat, but "someone" still needs to collate and make sense of this overwhelming amount of new information.

By identifying all "cancer genes" will we be able to develop new drugs that target specific mutated genes? Let me begin by asking who is "we"? Over the past year, several Big Pharma companies have acknowledged that their R&D has failed and that they will be increasingly relying on universities and smaller biotechs to feed their dwindling pipelines.

Moreover, this study demonstrates how diseases are even more complex and multi-parametric than previously imagined, and although the resultant data is valuable, it shows the hurdles facing future drug development. How does one know which of 23,000 mutations are causing 90% of the damage? To answer that question, you need to understand the "how" and "why", and we are fast learning that there are no shortcuts in biology.

The information generated by this project will prove a windfall for those organizations able to synthesize it by way of advanced mathematics and computational skills, but they are few. As you well know by now, I believe that Compugen has the platforms to integrate this data after more than a decade of computerized modeling of important biological phenomena on the molecular level. This small company has demonstrated over recent months its ability to use such data to generate promising new therapeutic and diagnostic candidates, and I believe it is going to be a significant player in this field.

[As noted in prior blog entries, I am a Compugen shareholder, this blog entry is not a recommendation to buy or sell Compugen shares, and in mid-September 2009 I began work as a part-time external consultant to Compugen. The opinions expressed herein are mine and not necessarily those of Compugen.]

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Obama's Human Rights Policy: No Change

In his New York Times op-ed of today's date entitled "www.jihad.com", Thomas Friedman takes the position that "a troop surge won’t work in Afghanistan unless there is a parallel surge against those who promote jihadism online." Friedman writes:

"What is really scary is that this violent, jihadist minority seems to enjoy the most 'legitimacy' in the Muslim world today. Few political and religious leaders dare to speak out against them in public. Secular Arab leaders wink at these groups, telling them: 'We’ll arrest if you do it to us, but if you leave us alone and do it elsewhere, no problem.'”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/opinion/16friedman.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1260968425-EuyyGvYxtgVcMlHEVn92Ig

Friedman also criticizes Obama for not expressing "public outrage" at the acts of the "jihadists", but is it only the "jihadists" whose abominations Obama should be denouncing, or should he also be conducting earnest conversations with American "friends" and those countries with which he has been seeking rapprochement? My response to Friedman's op-ed, should The Times agree to post it:

Tom, you observe that last week "five explosions set off by suicide bombers hit ministries, a university and Baghdad’s Institute of Fine Arts, killing at least 127 people and wounding more than 400, many of them kids" and state:

"President Obama expressed no public outrage. It is time he did."

It is time he express outrage only about the bombings? Obama this year bowed to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, a country where in 2009 a young woman was gang-raped and consequently given one year in prison plus 100 lashes:

"A 23-year-old unmarried woman was awarded one-year prison term and 100 lashes for committing adultery and trying to abort the resultant fetus.

The District Court in Jeddah pronounced the verdict on Saturday after the girl confessed that she had a forced sexual intercourse with a man who had offered her a ride. The man, the girl confessed, took her to a rest house, east of Jeddah, where he and four of friends assaulted her all night long.

The girl claimed that she became pregnant soon after and went to King Fahd Hospital for Armed Forces in an attempt to carry out an abortion. She was eight weeks’ pregnant then, the hospital confirmed."

http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?contentID=2009020828735&method=home.regcon

Throughout 2009, Obama has consistently ignored the dissidents of Iran and has made continuing overtures to Ahmadinejad. All this has occurred while Iran continues to hang homosexuals, stone to death adulterers, oppress women, and persecute Baha'is, Sunni Muslims, Christians and Jews.

Do an Internet search and you will find Obama shaking the hand of Qaddafi, the person responsible for Lockerbie.

You want the Muslim communities around the world to campaign against terror? First you might be better off addressing a letter to your friend, Barack Obama, who has spent the past year winking at human rights abuses.

[The New York Times refused to post this comment. Not on-topic? Abusive? You decide.]

Monday, December 14, 2009

Does Antitrust Law Still Exist?

Does antitrust law still exist? If so, does the U.S. Federal Trade Commission do anything whatsoever to enforce it?

In recent months we have seen a wave of giant mergers and acquisitions in the pharma industry: Pfizer merged with Wyeth, Merck merged with Schering-Plough, Roche merged with Genentech.

Although these mega-mergers might have been wonderful for the financial industry, did they benefit consumers? Will they be conducive to competition, which will result in new lifesaving drugs and diagnostics?

Or, were these mergers corporate palliatives intended to remedy many failed years of R&D by combining dwindling pipelines and cutting costs, without remedying failed R&D?

You know the answers to all of these questions, and let me predict that in a few short years, several once great pharma companies will devolve into little more than pill marketers. Sad.

And while the Federal Trade Commission permits pharma companies to abandon drug and diagnostic discovery and mutate into pill marketers, it is also allowing the big banks to deviate from their core business of lending money to worthy companies and individuals.

An editorial in today's New York Times , "Even Bigger Than Too Big to Fail", takes the position that "banks that are too big to fail pose too much of a risk to the economy" and that "any serious effort to reform the financial system must ensure that no such institutions exist". I agree with The Times and favor some very strong medicine. My comment, if The Times agrees to post it:

"'If we have learned anything over the last couple of years, it is that banks that are too big to fail pose too much of a risk to the economy. Any serious effort to reform the financial system must ensure that no such banks exist.'

Some banks will always fail, but why allow them to become 'too big' with the attendant risk to the economy? Why enable giant financial institutions to control U.S. economic policy and deviate from their core business of lending money to worthy companies and individuals? Why enable them to pursue quick profit without risk to executive bonuses?

More to the point, was it wise to allow Bank of America to acquire Merrill Lynch? Should Wells Fargo have been permitted to acquire Wachovia? And should JPMorgan Chase have taken over Bear Stearns?

Is there still a Federal Trade Commission? Does antitrust law still exist?

Perhaps it is time to look at the possibility of divestment and fostering financial institutions that serve the interests of small businesses and not the inflated egos of bank management.

Or stated otherwise, perhaps it is again time for many smaller banks that are little enough to fail if they abuse financial norms without significant damage to the economy."

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ahmadinejad Declares His Support for Hamas As Tehran University Is Surrounded

Today Iranian President Ahmadinejad declared his support for visiting Hamas leader, Khaled Mashaal, who is based in Damascus. Ahmadinejad stated that Palestine symbolizes the global front of freedom-seekers and declared:

“The government and the people of Iran will always stand by the Palestinian resistance and the Palestinian people.”

http://www.trt-world.com/trtinternational/en/newsDetail.aspx?HaberKodu=7f0564fa-8c66-4a4e-8730-846fb7fc831a

Meanwhile, Iranian police have surrounded protesting students in Tehran University, and it remains to be seen how many of these students will be imprisoned, murdered, tortured and raped.

Where are the outraged voices of the left? Let's see if Roger ("Iran is not totalitarian") Cohen wishes to comment on this siege.

And where is Obama, who has refused to offer even moral support to Iran's dissidents and who continues to draw lines in the sand, daring the Iranians not to pursue their nuclear armament ambitions? Although Tehran has long claimed that its intentions involving nuclear development solely involve future energy requirements, The Times (U.K.) now reports:

"Confidential intelligence documents obtained by The Times show that Iran is working on testing a key final component of a nuclear bomb.

The notes, from Iran’s most sensitive military nuclear project, describe a four-year plan to test a neutron initiator, the component of a nuclear bomb that triggers an explosion. Foreign intelligence agencies date them to early 2007, four years after Iran was thought to have suspended its weapons programme.

. . . .

The technical document describes the use of a neutron source, uranium deuteride, which independent experts confirm has no possible civilian or military use other than in a nuclear weapon. Uranium deuteride is the material used in Pakistan’s bomb, from where Iran obtained its blueprint."

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article6955351.ece

The Declining Fortunes of The New York Times

In his New York Times op-ed of today's date entitled "Hollywood’s Brilliant Coda to America’s Dark Year", Frank Rich, inter alia, bewails the declining fortunes of his employer:

"Meanwhile, at the company where I work, as at many others, the latest round of layoffs will be completed by Christmas. Even for the survivors it feels a little like serial deaths in the family. And who believes we’re near the end of this story?"
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/13/opinion/13rich.html

The New York Times may or may not be "near the end of this story", but given that we are fast approaching the end of 2009, perhaps it is befitting that Rich and the rest of The Times' staff reflect on how it reached this quandary. Indeed, not all U.S. news organizations are faced with such bleak prospects. Is it possible that The Times has grown out of touch with its readership? Were there instances in 2009 where The Times forgot its basic journalistic standards? Did many of The Times' op-ed writers and members of its editorial board identify so strongly with the president's election campaign that they subsequently lost their independence and objectivity?

During much of 2009, The Times tolerated the most vile expressions of anti-Semitism posted in online comments. The Public Editor's office ignored my complaints, until a very senior editor, who asked to remain anonymous, verified my accusations and acted to put an end to this phenomenon.

During much of 2009, The Times provided Roger Cohen with a platform to promote the preposterous proposition that "Iran is not totalitarian" (in keeping with then prevalent Obama administration sentiment) and provided Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett with space for two op-eds demanding "rapprochement" with Iran. Apart from one fleeting sentence, these op-eds never made mention of persecution against Iran's Baha'is and entirely ignored oppression directed against Sunni Muslims, Christians and Kurds. Personally, I will never forgive or forget Cohen's attempt to whitewash Iran's treatment of its tiny Jewish community. Did The Times permit contrary opinion to that of Cohen and the Leveretts? No.

During 2009, The Times provided Qaddafi with an op-ed, which, on its face, appeared to promote conciliation between Arabs and Jews. However, The Times failed to observe that the prior day Qaddafi had recommended a conciliatory dialogue between Obama and bin Laden and to move Jews, who did not accept his one-state solution, to Hawaii, Alaska or an island in the Pacific, where "they could live peacefully in an isolated setting." My comment in response to this op-ed, which noted the foregoing, was censored by The Times.

During 2009, The Times provided Obama with space for an op-ed promoting his health care plan, soon after The Times editorial board lauded his foreign policy following a derisive editorial in the Washington Post. The Times defended Obama's Nobel Peace Prize, while the rest of the nation snickered, and rallied behind his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan.

Is this a new variety of liberalism, blind subservience or a lack of objectivity? Bottom line: the misfortunes of The New York Times stem not only from a declining economy and reduced demand for its print edition, but also from alienation of its readership. Perhaps The Times has grown too opinionated to listen. It is an important news gathering organization, and it would be a pity if it were to fail.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Obama: Troop Withdrawal in 2011; Karzai: We'll Be Ready in 2024

U.S. Defense Secretary Gates, visiting Afghanistan and Iraq, found himself slapped in the face with reality:

"The trip’s snags played out through the week and across both theaters of war. Mr. Gates found himself grounded by weather in Kabul, stood up by the prime minister in Baghdad and startled by President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, who blurted out at a palace news conference that the Afghans would not be able to pay for their own security forces until 2024."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/13/world/13pentagon.html?hp

Curious. Obama told us in his long anticipated speech last week that American troops would depart the Afghan arena in mid-2011. However, Afghan Ambassador to the U.S. Said Tayab Jawad then declared that the Afghan Army would not be ready to tackle the Taliban for at least five years. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Gates attempted damage control by stating that in July 2011 100,000 American troops would still be in Afghanistan, and “some handful, or some small number, or whatever the conditions permit, will begin to withdraw at that time.” Now, Karzai is telling us that the Afghan Army will not be ready to take on the Taliban until 2024.

I'm glad to see that given the many months taken by Obama to reach a decision, he truly mastered the facts on the ground.

In today's New York Times, Maureen Dowd has harsh criticism of American involvement with the corrupt Afghani, Iraqi and Pakistani regimes, but refrains from criticizing Obama (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/13/opinion/13dowd.html).

My online response to Dowd's op-ed (if posted by The Times):

"It seems late to realize this, but Gates told reporters he had only recently learned the 'eye-opener' that the Taliban were able to attract so many fighters because they paid more. Generals in Afghanistan said the Taliban dole out $250 to $300 a month, while the Afghan Army paid about $120. So Gates has made sure that recruits get a raise to $240."

Although I oppose Obama's inane decision to expand the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan, Gates should not be stunned by the fact that the Taliban is paying its forces more than twice the amount paid to Afghan government soldiers. Rather, he should be asking who is funding the Taliban (Gates is apt to be even more shocked by this answer) and how this money is being transferred to the Taliban and from there to its troops. Eliminate the channels for funding the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and you cripple both organizations.

Is Gen. Jones Growing Wise to Iranian Doublespeak?

According to U.S. national security advisor, General James Jones:

"The goal very simply is to give Iran a chance, without sanctions or with sanctions, to give a clear statement of policy with regard to their future ambitions concerning the development of nuclear weapons and the delivery means to go with them. As long as there's an open question on both of those issues, then Iran is just asking the world to trust them. And Iran hasn't reached that status in the world where people will just trust them."

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126049205433686663.html

A "clear statement of policy"? Matters don't work that way in the Middle East. Iran's indirect response as reported by the Tehran Times:

"Expediency Council Chairman Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani says Iran is seeking 'serious and transparent' talks with the West about its nuclear program in order to build mutual confidence. But threatening to impose sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear program is the wrong course of action for the West to take, the former Iranian president told Lebanon’s Al-Manar television in an interview aired on Thursday.

In pursuing a policy of threats toward Iran, the West is making a mistake, he asserted. The Islamic Republic does not seek nuclear weapons, 'but it will never give up its efforts to gain access to nuclear energy meant for peaceful purposes,' he added."

http://www.tehrantimes.com/index_View.asp?code=209640

Meanwhile, at a regional security conference in Bahrain, Iranian Foreign Minister Manochehr Mottaki added:

"Iran is ready to exchange the bulk of its stockpile of enriched uranium for nuclear fuel rods — as proposed by the U.N. — but according to its own mechanisms and timetable."

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091212/ap_on_re_mi_ea/iran_nuclear

Will Iran's doublespeak continue to bewilder Obama and Jones? Let's watch and see if the U.S., preoccupied with Aghanistan, agrees to a new line in the sand, all in accordance with Tehran's game plan.

Egypt Denies Underground Anti-Smuggling Wall

Egypt is denying reports that it is constructing an underground metal wall to prevent smuggling into Gaza. According to Al-Jazeera:

"Egypt has denied it is constructing an underground steel barrier along its strip with the Gaza border in an attempt to seal off smuggling tunnels built by Palestinians.

Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper, reported that Egypt was installing a metal wall up to 30 metres deep along the strip used by Palestinians to break the Israeli blockade of the territory.

The paper reported that the wall would be nearly 10km long as 'impossible to cut or melt'.

But Egyptian sources told Al Jazeera that bulldozers and construction workers in the area are carrying out routine maintenance work, dismissing the Israeli report as 'baseless.'"

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middleeast/2009/12/20091210112044134627.html

Your usual maintenance work along the Gaza border? Yeah, right. According to sources quoted by the Jerusalem Post, holes are drilled during the day, and metal is sunk into the sand at night. The Jerusalem Post report states:

"A US Embassy official in Cairo denied there was American involvement in any barrier project on the border."

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1260447419286&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

If the reports are true, the new barrier would put an end to this Gazan cottage industry of underground smuggling, one of the most lucrative businesses in the Strip. It would also defy conventional leftist wisdom that only Israel is responsible for the blockade of Gaza (which is why the steel plates are sunk into the ground during the hours of darkness). Finally, and most importantly, it would effectively prevent Hamas from obtaining additional advanced weaponry from Iran and participating in any war against Israel involving Tehran and its proxies.

So You Want to Be in the Movies?

So you want to be in the movies? Or on a television show? Or at least in a commercial? How many times, while watching TV, have you said to yourself: "Hey, I can do that! How much is that clown getting paid to do nothing?"

Well, that's exactly what I thought, and although I've appeared on the news often enough in disparate places throughout Europe, I had never before been paid to act. At least not until Thursday.

The first phone call came on Tuesday: "A talent scout likes your face and wants you for a pizza commercial. If you're selected, can you come to wardrobe on Wednesday?" My first thought was that one of my friends was playing games with me, but after a few pointed questions which annoyed the agent, I realized this was the real thing: God was finally smiling on me!

"Yes, sure, I'll come to wardrobe on Wednesday."

I was certain that this was going to be a piece of cake, or at least a slice of pizza. I like pizza (almost as much as I like ice cream), and here someone would tell me what to do. No need to joust with nasty reporters. No need to come up with the right answer in seconds. No need to look constantly into the camera. And if you get it wrong, the scene can always be shot again. Surely I had arrived in heaven.

Wardrobe on Wednesday afternoon was great. "Try this on." "Or perhaps you look better in this?" "We don't want to make you look too old." So much flattery and attention.

And then came Thursday. I arrived a few minutes late and was hurried downstairs to be dressed. I met the three accomplished actors who would be working with me. I admitted to everyone that I had never before acted. "That's okay. You've got no lines. You're being paid to eat."

Next, I was sent to make-up. My interviews on television have always been in battle zones, and no one ever thought to dab powder on my sweaty face. I sank into the comfortable chair and allowed the charming young woman to work over my wrinkles and said to myself: "I can get used to this."

Time to shoot the commercial. I was hungry. They positioned me at the head of the table and told me, "Jeffrey, no need to do anything. Just keep eating." It was 5 p.m. when they handed me that first plate of piping hot pizza, and the camera started to roll. The pizza was delicious, and I wolfed it down. I couldn't understand why the veteran actors positioned on my left and right at the table, barely took more than a bite.

"Jeffrey finished his pizza. Give him another." And that second slice was just as fine as the first. The scene was shot again and again, each time with a slight variation, sometimes at a different angle. "Jeffrey, keep eating."

Occasionally, I would sneak a glance at my watch: it was 6 p.m. and soon 7 p.m. I had lost track of how many slices of pizza I had eaten. I was certainly into my second or third pie when they said they would need to take close-ups. This is when the hard work began:

"Take a big bite and smile."

"Excuse me, how do I smile with a mouthful of pizza?"

Silence. I suppose they figured they were paying me, and I would have to come up with my own answer, and so I did: I swallowed and grinned.

It was getting close to 9 p.m., and I had lost count of the number of pies that I had eaten. Some joker positioned an empty bucket under the table beside my legs. Obviously, this film crew had no idea how tough I am. Thirty years ago I used to take bets on how much ice cream I could eat in the space of 10 minutes.

The filming ended. Hugs, kisses. My acting career? I can put a check mark in that box and am now waiting to see my face wedged between scenes of a reality show. Will someone recognize me? I've already instructed my children to inform anyone who asks that it's not me . . . just some unfortunate look alike.

[One of my kind readers asked that I write something less depressing than my usual Iranian/WMD/Hamas/Hezbollah fare. Hope you enjoy. Next time we meet, it's not going to be over pizza.]

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Israel Continues to Brace for a Two or Three-Front War

Israel continues to brace for war with Iranian surrogates Hamas in the south (Gaza) and Hezbollah in the north (Lebanon). Should a conflict involving Iranian nuclear ambitions arise, Hamas and Hezbollah have instructions to let their missiles fly.

In the south, this report from an article by Yaakov Katz of the Jerusalem Post, entitled "Hamas preparing advanced rockets and 'offensive' tunnels" , concerning additions to Hamas arsenals since Operation Cast Lead less than a year ago:

"Hamas is believed to have a significant number of shoulder-launched anti-tank missiles and 9M113 Konkurs, which have a range of four kilometers and are capable of penetrating heavy armor.

In addition, Hamas is believed to have today a few thousand rockets, including several hundred with a range of 40 kilometers and several dozen with a range of between 60 and 80 km. . . .

Iran already supplies Hamas with 122mm Katyusha rockets that are smuggled into Gaza in several pieces and then assembled by Hamas engineers.

. . . .

Hamas has also increased its use of civilian infrastructure, particularly mosques, which the terror group already used quite extensively for storage and launching rockets during the operation. Hamas is believed to have taken control of almost 80 percent of the mosques in Gaza, using them to store weapons and set up command-and-control centers.

Hamas, is 'padding' itself as well by setting up its command centers in large apartment buildings. This way, it believes, the IDF will not attack them by air, and will need to send ground forces deep into the population centers, where it will lose its technological advantage."

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1260181035814&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

All of this is in addition to the 40,000 missiles shipped by Iran to Hezbollah and capable of hitting all of Israel.

Meanwhile, where is Richard Goldstone? Or is it his job to reproach Israel only after the bellicosities?

New York Times: Obama Should Bribe Pakistan to Act Against Osama

In a December 8 editorial entitled "Pakistan and the War", The New York Times editorial board writes:

"[T]here is no chance of defeating the Taliban and Al Qaeda unless Pakistan’s leaders stop temporizing (and in some cases collaborating) and get fully into the fight.

. . . .

Drones won’t be enough. Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders must finally be persuaded that this is not just America’s war, it is central to their survival. In recent months, the Pakistan Army has gone after Taliban fighters in the Swat Valley and Waziristan. Yet the Army leadership is refusing to strike at the heart of the Taliban command in Baluchistan Province.

In part, they are hesitating because of legitimate fears of retaliation. But there are also many Pakistani officials — and not just in the intelligence services — that continue to see the Taliban as an ally and long-term proxy to limit India’s influence in Afghanistan."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/08/opinion/08tue1.html

The Times acknowledges Obama's "private promise" to Pakistan of “unlimited potential” pursuant to which "Washington would consider any proposal Islamabad puts on the table." The Times also asks Obama to "press Congress to pass long-stalled legislation to establish special trade preference zones in Pakistan."

In short, The Times is asking Obama to bribe Pakistan's military and civilian leaders into acting against Osama. Sorry, it isn't going to work. The Pakistanis will, however, accept American money while continuing to play one side against the other.

First, an ugly unspoken truth: If Pakistan wanted bin Laden's head, he would have died long ago. I'm not saying that Pakistan's labyrinthine intelligence knows the whereabouts of bin Laden every hour and every day, but they know where to reach him, and for now, he better serves their interests alive and kicking. No bin Laden, no American money or U.S. counterbalance in Pakistan's ongoing conflict with India.

Moreover, bin Laden is not unpopular in Pakistan. His poll numbers go up and down (depending on the polling organization and the timing of the poll, i.e. whether the statistics were gathered after a particularly gruesome suicide bombing), but some U.S. presidents would be delighted to maintain his core backing.

Also, bin Laden makes a point of reminding the authorities in Pakistan not to prosecute their "war" against the Taliban beyond prescribed bounds. Observe yesterday's bombing:

"MULTAN: Two suicide attackers launched a gun-and-bomb assault on the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) building here on Tuesday and killed at least eight people and injured over 45. The attackers also died.

Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has claimed responsibility for the attacks. The assailants, armed with rocket-propelled guns and hand grenades and riding a single-cabin vehicle, first fired on policemen at a checkpoint near the ISI regional headquarters.

. . . .

Talking to Dawn on phone from an unspecified place, TTP spokesman Azam Tariq said their men had carried out the attacks in Multan. ‘Our people will not spare security personnel and government officials if the army continues operation in Malakand, Waziristan, Orakzai and Kurram agencies,’ he said, warning that the Taliban would carry out more such attacks across the country."

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/news/pakistan/provinces/07-bomb-explosion-in-multan-cantonment-ha-10

Bottom line: Action taken by Pakistan against the Taliban will be just enough to keep U.S. dollars flowing without tipping what for them is a strategic balance.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cohen on Obama's West Point Speech: Inane, Adroit

In his latest New York Times op-ed, "Afghanistan on Main Street" Roger Cohen writes:

"As military strategy for winning a war the speech made little sense. You don’t need to be von Clausewitz to know that the commitment of 30,000 troops combined with the establishment of proximate date for the start of their withdrawal is not going to break the will of an enemy or destroy its center of gravity."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/08/opinion/08iht-edcohen.html

Ever loyal to Obama, Cohen would still have us believe that this speech was "adroit", i.e. it will pressure Karzai while leaving U.S. options open.

Afghanistan's Pashtuns, however, are not interested in "adroit". As observed by Scott Shane in a December 5 New York Times article entitled "The War in Pashtunistan":

"But even the prospect of an exit has hazards for the United States. The long Pashtun experience with war has taught them to favor those who look like winners, which is why the Taliban’s successes in the last few years have lured fighters to their side."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/06/weekinreview/06shane.html?pagewanted=1&ref=weekinreview

The Pashtuns are sure to sense Obama's indecision, and Cohen's rambling op-ed makes little more sense than Obama's temporary intention to slug it out on the ground with the Taliban.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A "Minaret Moment" or Europe at a Crossroads?

In an op-ed in today's New York Times entitled "Europe’s Minaret Moment", Ross Douthat takes the position with respect to Europe's swelling Muslim population:

"The most likely scenario for Europe isn’t dhimmitude; it’s a long period of tension, punctuated by spasms of violence, that makes the Continent a more unpleasant place without fundamentally transforming it."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/07/opinion/07douthat.html

A mere "period of tension"? I would remind Mr. Douthat of the details of Theo Van Gogh's murder in Amsterdam in November 2004. Van Gogh, while bicycling to work, was shot eight times by Mohammed Bouyeri. Boyeri then slit Van Gogh's throat, nearly decapitating him. Two knives were thrust into Van Gogh's chest, one attaching a note to his body, threatening Western governments and Jews.

No "fundamental" transformation? This is not what Muammar al-Qaddafi, dictator of Libya, has in mind. In January 2009, The New York Times granted Qaddafi a pulpit on its op-ed page to espouse a seemingly newly discovered moderation in his essay, "The One-State Solution", in which, following Israel's Cast Lead Operation in Gaza, he claimed:

"It is vital not just to break this cycle of destruction and injustice, but also to deny the religious extremists in the region who feed on the conflict an excuse to advance their own causes."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/22/opinion/22qaddafi.html

The comment that I submitted at that time in response to Qaddafi's op-ed was censored by The Times; however, in my opinion, it retains its relevance:

"The author of Lockerbie is provided an op-ed pulpit by The New York Times to proselytize his newly discovered moderation. A New York Times scoop? Not.

As already reported by Reuters, Muammar Qaddafi spoke yesterday via satellite with Georgetown University students, and in addition to recommending a conciliatory dialogue between President Obama and Osama bin Laden, Qaddafi called for the establishment of a single state to be called 'Isratine' to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. What does not appear in the NYT op-ed, however, is Qaddafi's recommendation to the students of Georgetown that if the Jews did not accept a one-state solution, they should move to Hawaii, Alaska or an island in the Pacific, where 'they could live peacefully in an isolated setting.'

What does Mr. Qaddafi have in mind? Much can be learned from his speech broadcast by Al Jazeera on April 10, 2006:

'Some people believe that Muhammad is the prophet of the Arabs or the Muslims alone. This is a mistake. Muhammad is the Prophet of all people. He superseded all previous religions. If Jesus were alive when Muhammad was sent, he would have followed him. All people must be Muslims. . . . We have 50 million Muslims in Europe. There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe - without swords, without guns, without conquests. The 50 million Muslims of Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades. . . Allah mobilizes the Muslim nation of Turkey and adds it to the European Union. That's another 50 million Muslims. There will be 100 million Muslims in Europe. Albania, which is a Muslim country, has already entered the EU. Fifty percent of its citizens are Muslims.'

In his January 14 op-ed, 'Magic and Realism', Roger Cohen wrote: "The world view shaped in the Middle East by Al Jazeera is not amenable to Western logic." My guess is that Mr. Cohen does not speak Arabic, but what is reported above by Al Jazeera is amenable to almost any one's logic, Eastern or Western, and leaves little question as to the future Qaddafi foresees for Europe and 'Isratine'."

"Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe - without swords, without guns, without conquests"? Given my age and the number of decades required to achieve Qadaffi's goal, I'll probably not be around to see it. Meanwhile, however, I will witness how far into his presidency it takes Obama to realize that "making nice" to Ahmadinejad, Qadaffi and their ilk only breeds contempt and whets their appetites.

Obama on Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal: Whoops, I Made a Mistake

After announcing troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in July 2011 at West Point last week, Obama is tacitly acknowledging the idiocy of informing both friend and foe of his predetermined exit strategy. On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Obama had Defense Secretary Robert Gates attempt damage control by stating that in July 2011 100,000 American troops would still be in Afghanistan, and:

“some handful, or some small number, or whatever the conditions permit, will begin to withdraw at that time.”

Or, translation of this doublespeak:

"When Obama told you about July 2011 withdrawal, he had his fingers crossed."

Afghanistan has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world, and more than 11 million Afghans (total population of almost 30 million) over the age of 15 cannot read or write. If Obama is hoping that Afghans haven't read any of this, I have news for him: Afghans may be illiterate, but they're not stupid when it comes to picking sides and choosing life or death.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Will Sanctions Against Iran Increase the Price of Oil?

The Obama administration is examining - again - sanctions against Iran in January for Tehran's refusal to curtail what is plainly nuclear armaments development. American determination to implement these sanctions is counterbalanced by their effect on the price of oil and, as a consequence, prospects for economic recovery.

The Iranians are well aware of this dilemma. As stated in an article entitled "Iran sanctions 'will increase oil prices'" in Iranian PressTV:

"Iran has warned Western powers against sanctions on the Islamic Republic, saying any stop in Tehran's crude exports could lead to price hikes.

'Iran is one of the world's major oil producers and any cut in Iran's supply of crude will, undoubtedly, cause prices to surge,' Mehr news agency quoted Oil Minister Masoud Mirkazemi as saying on Tuesday.

. . . .

Mirkazemi said that imposing an embargo on Iran — the world's fifth largest crude producer — would not harm the country's oil industry.

Iran has the world's second and third largest gas and oil reserves respectively.

He also called on members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) not to increase their oil output during their December 22 meeting."

http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=112665§ionid=351020103

Answer:

This is the time to reach agreement with Saudi Arabia, battling with Iranian-backed Shiite rebels in Yemen, to increase oil production in the event that Iran curtails production. Agreement need be publicized to avoid market upheaval as the result of speculation.

Motivation to Fight: Present in Iraq, Absent in Afghanistan

In "Afghanistan's Army", The New York Times editorial board today observes:

"Afghan soldiers get about $100 a month, a third of what some local warlords pay fighters, a major reason for desertion.

. . . .

Afghans won’t dare to turn against the Taliban until they know that they can trust their government to protect them rather than abuse them."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/05/opinion/05sat1.html?hp

Indeed, this is a very cogent argument why Obama's "surge" is destined for failure. In essence, the editorial board is acknowledging that in Afghanistan, fealty at least temporarily can be purchased by the highest bidder, and Afghans have no motivation to fight. Simply ensure that Afghans receive their paychecks and all will be well? Surely The Times editorial board jests. Israeli soldiers are paid little more than the amount paid to Afghan government forces, but they don't desert.

A pity that The Times editorial board is not taking the time to read their lead online item: "Similarities to Iraq Surge Plan Mask Risks in Afghanistan", written by David E. Sanger. According to this article:

"The Iraq surge worked in large part because there was powerful support in Anbar Province from the so-called Awakening, the movement by local Sunni tribes who rose up against extremists who were killing people, forcibly marrying local women and cutting off the hands of men who smoked in public. In Iraq, American officials believed that most leaders of a vigorous opposition, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, were foreigners.

The United States remains hopeful that it can capitalize on Afghan militias that have taken up arms against the Taliban in local areas, but a series of intelligence reports supplied to Mr. Obama since September found no evidence in Afghanistan of anything on the scale of the Iraqi Awakening movement. What’s more, in Afghanistan the extremists, the Taliban, are natives.

'They are part of the furniture in Afghanistan; they have always been there,' one of Mr. Obama’s counterterrorism experts said, explaining why Mr. Obama’s goal is simply to degrade the Taliban’s power, not to defeat the group. In Iraq, the aim was to defeat the insurgents, a goal that has been largely achieved."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/05/world/05policy.html?hp

Come again? Am I actually reading in The Times that Bush succeeded in Iraq and that Obama, who opposed Bush's Iraqi surge while a U.S. senator, is mimicking the strategy?

But more to the point, the problem in Afghanistan boils down to motivation. Whereas Iraq's Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds reject outside oppression and interference, Afghans see little difference between the Taliban and the country's various warlords, all home grown. The only foreigners, i.e. infidels, in Afghanistan today are the U.S. and NATO forces.

Repackage Karzai's image in less than a year and a half? Absolutely. Send David Axelrod and Anita Dunn to Kabul with the message of "Change"; I am certain the Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Turkmen and Qizilbash - particularly the Qizilbash - will be extremely receptive.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Karzai Has Zero Faith in Obama's "Surge"

Speaking at the Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies on Friday, Afghan Ambassador to the U.S. Said Tayab Jawad provided a "true" picture of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's perception of the Obama "surge". When I say "true", one must of course translate the doublespeak.

As reported by Pakistan's The News:

"'In five years, according to our plans, we should be able to take care of security throughout the country,' said Ambassador Said Tayab Jawad, speaking days after President Barack Obama announced US troops would begin to pull out by July 2011.

Jawad said plans were already underway for Afghans to take control of areas in the relatively stable north and center of the country within three years, and nationwide within five years -- the end of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's second term.

. . . .

He added that there were 'many regional factors that will impact... the drawdown of the US forces,' but that Obama's plan was 'realistic.'"

http://thenews.jang.com.pk/updates.asp?id=92776

Obama's "plan is realistic"? Obama is saying that U.S. forces will be withdrawn in July 2011, i.e. in another year and a half, whereas Karzai is saying that Afghan forces might be ready in another five years.

What happens in the intervening three and a half years? Please feel free to correct my math.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Obama, Afghanistan and Hypocrisy at The New York Times

Notwithstanding the doubts being voiced by op-ed writers Herbert, Friedman and Kristof, the editorial board of The New York Times, in yesterday's editorial "The Afghanistan Speech", was quick to paint Obama's decision to expand U.S. involvement in Afghanistan in rosy colors. The Times praised Obama's "political courage", labeled his strategy "ambitious", and "found the president’s military arguments persuasive".

Concerning his exit strategy, the editorial board wrote:

"We are eager to see American troops come home. We don’t know whether Mr. Obama will be able to meet his July 2011 deadline to start drawing down forces.

For that to happen, there will have to be a lot more success at training Afghan forces and improving the government’s effectiveness.

Still, setting a deadline — so long as it is not set in stone — is a sound idea. Mr. Karzai and his aides need to know that America’s commitment is not open-ended. Mr. Obama’s generals and diplomats also need to know that their work will be closely monitored and reviewed."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/02/opinion/02wed1.html

"Not set in stone"? What does this mean? Is this a tacit acknowledgment that to go to war with a time limit known to allies and enemies alike is sheer idiocy? Or is the ground already being prepared via Obama's favorite newspaper to extend this war indefinitely?

Noting the price tag for escalation of this war, i.e. $30 billion, the editorial board again sought to justify Obama's actions:

"At this late date, we don’t know if even 100,000 American troops plus 40,000 from NATO will be enough to turn the war around. But we are sure that continuing President Bush’s strategy of fighting on the cheap (in January 2008, the start of Mr. Bush’s last year in office and more than six years after the war began, there were only 27,000 American troops in Afghanistan) is a guarantee of defeat."

The editorial board, quick to pin the blame on Bush, "doesn't know" if these higher troop levels can "turn the war around"? If so, $30 billion is one helluva gamble.

My questions:

How many of the added American troops will actually end up on patrol in one of Afghanistan's hotspots, e.g., the Helmand Province?

If for every infantryman on patrol there are seven support soldiers, does this mean that of the 30,000 additional troops, less than 4,000 are going to be deployed in combat?

In a country with a total area of 652,230 square kilometers and a population of some 30 million, can less than 4,000 additional combat troops make a difference?

Why this subservience from The New York Times editorial board? Actually, it should come as no surprise. The Times was quick to laud the ridiculous award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama. In addition, on August 15 The Times published an op-ed, entitled "Why We Need Health Care Reform", written by or for President Obama, soon after The Times editorial staff sought to bolster Obama following a derisive editorial in the Washington Post concerning his failed foreign policy.

How long will this "partnership" between a near bankrupt newspaper and a novice president, which it helped to elect, continue? When the body bags begin to appear more regularly on the nightly news, we will have our answer.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dissension in the Ranks: The NYT's Friedman and Dowd Take Issue with Obama

Long in lockstep with Obama, several of The New York Times mandarin op-ed writers are growing increasingly uncomfortable with the current administration. In an op-ed published in today's New York Times, entitled "This I Believe", Thomas Friedman states:

"Let me start with the bottom line and then tell you how I got there: I can’t agree with President Obama’s decision to escalate in Afghanistan. I’d prefer a minimalist approach, working with tribal leaders the way we did to overthrow the Taliban regime in the first place. Given our need for nation-building at home right now, I am ready to live with a little less security and a little-less-perfect Afghanistan."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/02/opinion/02friedman.html

This is a cost/benefit analysis with which I agree. My online response:

I was not at the Tuesday lunch for opinion writers; however, the president's determination to opt "for a surge now to help Afghans rebuild their army and state into something decent — to win the allegiance of the Afghan people" is patently absurd. A swelling population, a history of tribal warfare, and an economy dependent upon opium and hashish production, all destine Obama's "surge" to failure. Win the "allegiance" of the Afghan people? To whom? To what? Meanwhile, the billions that will be wasted in Afghanistan are needed more than ever for nation-building back home in the U.S.

Anyone familiar with Afghanistan knows that the "allegiance" of the "Afghan people" is to family and clan, and this is not going to change for another thousand years. Or stated otherwise: I am deeply concerned that Obama is again smoking the stuff he inhaled in his youth.

Maureen Dowd, in an op-ed entitled "Who's Sari Now?", also today takes the president to task:

"Even before the Salahis swept in preening, the Obama staffers were there preening, standing around celebrating themselves. And of course, savoring the wonder of the Obama brand."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/02/opinion/02dowd.html

My response:

The Obama staffers "savoring the wonder of the Obama brand"? This will not continue much longer. Following Obama's decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan, many of his subjects are whispering that the emperor has no clothes.

Interesting to note that The Times is now permitting my online responses. I even managed to have a comment posted in response to Roger Cohen's op-ed of yesterday's date, "A Jew in London".

The Times they are a-changin'.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Afghanistan: What is Winning?

We await President Obama's speech on Tuesday, which will delineate future plans for expanded American involvement in Afghanistan. In this regard, I recently read Mr. Max Boot's article, "How We Can Win in Afghanistan", in the November 2009 issue of Commentary (http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/how-we-can-win-in-afghanistan-15257), and came out on the other side of the COIN (short for "counterinsurgency" - excuse the dreadful pun).

As noted by Mr. Boot:

"In recent polling, only 4 percent of Afghans express a desire to see the Taliban return to power. Sixty-two percent have a positive impression of the United States, and 82 percent have a favorable view of our chief on-the-ground ally—the Afghan National Army."

If so, given the goal of expanding the Afghan "army from 92,000 to 240,000, and the national police from 84,000 to 160,000", why have American commanders "said it could be years before Afghan units can take the lead in the fighting in the most hotly-contested areas like Helmand"? Motivation is obviously lacking among America's Afghan allies.

Mr. Boot writes:

"NATO’s war effort [in Afghanistan] has in fact been under-resourced for years, 'operating in a culture of poverty,' as McChrystal puts it. That has made it impossible to carry out classic counterinsurgency operations, because those typically require a ratio of roughly 1 counterinsurgent per 50 civilians. Given Afghanistan’s population of 30 million, 600,000 counterinsurgents would be necessary. At the moment, the total is roughly 270,000 (170,000 Afghans, 64,000 Americans, 35,000 from other nations). Actual force planning, however, is too intricate to be reduced to such back-of-the-envelope calculations. Unique local characteristics have to be taken into account, such as the fact that the insurgency is largely confined to the Pashtun, an ethnic group that comprises 42 percent of the population."

Query: What is the minimum amount these troop numbers are going to cost? Stated otherwise, what is the point of temporarily attempting to win over Afghani hearts and minds, if this is going to impoverish or even bankrupt American democracy?

Mr. Boot writes:

"What we have tried is the other strategy, the counterterrorism strategy, and it has been found wanting. This should not come as a surprise, because it is hard to point to any place where pure CT has defeated a determined terrorist or guerrilla group. This is the strategy that Israel has used against Hamas and Hezbollah. The result is that Hamas controls Gaza, and Hezbollah controls southern Lebanon."

My response: Israel is never going to win over the hearts and minds of Lebanon's Shiites or Gaza's Palestinians. Viewed differently, Israel is engaged in a 60-year-old war of independence, and although it has won several battles, the war is still being fought. The final outcome of this conflict will only be determined by my continued willingness and that of my children to don our uniforms and make the ultimate sacrifice.

Wars are no longer won and lost as in the past, and the Taliban is not going to sign surrender documents aboard the Battleship Missouri. The U.S. needs to weigh its objectives and pick its fights in accordance with tactical strength and strategic necessity. Notwithstanding Mr. Boot's scholarly piece, I remain a headhunter at heart. No need to bring McDonald's to Kabul. Instead, let's chase bin Laden to the ends of the earth and put some lead beween his eyebrows.

[Although I disagree with his conclusions in this particular article in Commentary, I strongly recommend Mr. Boot's book, "War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today".]

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Hedva Wirtheim, of Blessed Memory

My mother-in-law died on Saturday morning after a prolonged illness. I will never forget this brave woman, who never once cried or uttered a complaint.

She came to Palestine from Austria at the time of the Anschluss. Her mother and sister were unable to escape Europe and died in Nazi concentration camps.

Hedva helped found Kibbutz Neot Mordechai in the north of Israel, where she contracted malaria while draining the swamps. I remember a picture of her from this period: a slim young woman, hauling a concrete building block.

During World War II, she married Zeev, who was given a two-hour leave from the British army for their wedding ceremony. She waited more than two years until his return from the fighting in Europe.

After the establishment of the State of Israel, Neot Mordechai was under constant shell fire from Syrian positions in the Golan Heights. The shell fire continued until the Six Day War put an end to this horror; however, the subsequent War of Atonement saw Syrian tanks come within a few miles of the kibbutz, which was never evacuated.

Hedva taught mathematics to the children who grew up on the surrounding agricultural communities. Although she had three children of her own, every Friday she took the time to bake a cake for a young man who suffered from cerebral palsy and to clean his room.

In later life, Hedva worked as a volunteer at a botanical garden and as a volunteer teacher to the blind.

I remember when traveling with her on a train how she shared the food she had brought for the journey with total strangers.

If only the "me-first" world of today could learn from this remarkable woman's modesty, altruism, courage and generosity.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Michaele Salahi and Obama: Impostor Meets Impostor

The photograph is now famous: Michaele Salahi in a red sari shaking hands with Obama in the Blue Room, as her husband, Tareq, in a tux, watches from the side. Michaele's fingernails are impeccably manicured. Smiles are plastered on the faces of all three persons.

I am revolted by this picture, but what has me troubled? No, it is not the failure of the Secret Service; they will learn from their mistake.

Rather, I am disturbed by the hypocrisy, the insincerity and the deception: Reality TV hopefuls greeting a president who lacks the experience and leadership qualities needed to guide the U.S. and the world through troubled times. Reality TV? Obama? All part and parcel of an era which grows more alien to me with every passing day.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Roger Cohen's Op-Ed "Iranians in Exile": Comment Censored by The New York Times

In his New York Times op-ed of today's date, Roger Cohen takes the position that President Obama has been too weak on human rights abuses in Iran. Peculiar that Cohen dares take this position, after writing about Iran throughout 2009 and only once mentioning persecution of Iran's Baha'is.

Be this as it may, I again tested the waters and submitted an online comment that was censored by The Times. On-topic and not abusive? Too critical of Obama? Judge for yourselves:

Cohen writes: "President Barack Obama has been too weak on human rights abuses in Iran."

And in China.

And in Darfur.

In simpler terms: "President Barack Obama has been too weak," and this is known to all. I find myself asking whether Obama's decision to expand the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan is based upon narcissistic image repair or sound policy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Obama Wants 10,000 More Troops From Allies for Afghan War

According to the lead New York Times online story today:

"The United States is scrambling to coax NATO allies to send 10,000 additional troops to Afghanistan as part of President Obama’s strategy for the region. . . .

NATO members and other foreign allies have expressed reluctance to send more soldiers because of the Afghan war’s growing unpopularity in their countries and increasing concerns over corruption in President Hamid Karzai’s government.

The Obama administration views a substantial contribution from its allies as a way to keep the American troop increase lower and blunt domestic political criticism of the Afghan war."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/26/world/asia/26troops.html?hp

Worth observing:

1. Obama is unable to act regarding Afghanistan or Iran without "allies".

2. 10,000 additional allied troops probably translate into 1,000 additional field soldiers, who, in a country the size of Afghanistan, make little tactical or strategic difference.

3. What we're really seeing is an attempt to cajole U.S. allies to partake in the tomfoolery of expanding the American footprint in Afghanistan. In another year or two, Obama will explain to the U.S. electorate:

"I wasn't the only dim-wit. The entire class failed the exam."

Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison: Abdullah Is a "Visionary Leader"

Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, the only Muslim in the U.S. House of Representatives, is famous for labeling the whipmaster, King Abullah of Saudi Arabia, a "visionary leader". Surely Ellison is aware of the 2009 story of a young woman who was gang-raped and consequently awarded one year in prison plus 100 lashes:

"A 23-year-old unmarried woman was awarded one-year prison term and 100 lashes for committing adultery and trying to abort the resultant fetus.

The District Court in Jeddah pronounced the verdict on Saturday after the girl confessed that she had a forced sexual intercourse with a man who had offered her a ride. The man, the girl confessed, took her to a rest house, east of Jeddah, where he and four of friends assaulted her all night long.

The girl claimed that she became pregnant soon after and went to King Fahd Hospital for Armed Forces in an attempt to carry out an abortion. She was eight weeks’ pregnant then, the hospital confirmed."

http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?contentID=2009020828735&method=home.regcon

If that's not "visionary" enough to make you agree with Ellison, have a look at this more recent news item:

"Saudi has convicted several people in the kingdom over the past few years for practicing witchcraft or sorcery. On November 9, Ali Sabat was sentenced to death by a Medina court for witchcraft. The sentence was based on advice and predictions that Sibat gave on Lebanese television. The Saudi religious police arrested at least two other people on counts of witchcraft in the past month, according to local media reports.

. . . .

Mustafa Ibrahim, an Egyptian pharmacist working in Saudi Arabia, was executed in November 2007 for sorcery in Riyadh. He was found guilty for trying to separate a married couple 'through sorcery,' the Ministry of Interior said.

. . . .

Saudi citizen Fawza Falih was sentenced to death for witchcraft in 2006 after a 'discretionary' conviction."

http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1259010981557&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

Let's keep those evil witches and wizards in check! To hell with Harry Potter! Keith Ellison, you're the man!

[Keith Ellison on the 9/11 attacks: "It's almost like, you know, the Reichstag fire, kind of reminds me of that. . . . After the Reichstag was burned, they blamed the Communists for it, and it put the leader [Hitler] of that country in a position where he could basically have authority to do whatever he wanted.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsjw_51Lfw4&feature=related]

Iran: The New York Times Wakes Up to Reality

After blithely fostering the views of Roger Cohen ("Iran is not totalitarian") and Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett (the U.S. must seek "rapprochement" with Iran) on its op-ed page for many months, The New York Times editorial board appears to have experienced an epiphany. In an editorial today entitled "Iran Punishes Its People", the editorial board writes:

"Iran’s fraudulently elected president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will clearly stop at nothing to stifle legitimate dissent and hold on to his illegitimate power. The most recent horror is the sharp rise in executions since the June presidential elections.

. . . .

Washington has condemned this assault on all traces of reform-minded opposition and free expression. It has sensibly done so in measured tones, not wanting to give Mr. Ahmadinejad another excuse to claim that his opponents are agents of the West, and specifically the United States. Predictably, he has done so anyway.

. . . .

We believe that the Obama administration was right to reach out to Iran in an effort to curb its nuclear ambitions. But we also believe that there have to be limits to that forthcomingness, and time is running out.

After initially agreeing to send much of its current stockpile of low-enriched uranium abroad for conversion into nuclear reactor fuel, Tehran is now backing away. As long as the centrifuges are spinning, Iran can be expected to drag this on. Mr. Obama has set a deadline of the end of this year for diplomatic progress on the nuclear issue. He should keep to that."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/26/opinion/26thur2.html

The failure of The New York Times to provide coverage of the Holocaust is well known. This delay in acknowledging the severity of human rights outrages in Iran while concurrently providing an unchallenged forum for the views of Roger Cohen and the Leveretts is horrifying. Note that The New York Times does not once mention in this editorial oppression of Iran's Baha'is.

The New York Times would have us believe that Washington "sensibly" has "condemned this assault on all traces of reform-minded opposition and free expression" in "measured tones". Horsefeathers! Obama has personally ignored the brutal oppression of Iran's dissidents, as best evidenced by the dissidents' chants on Tehran's streets: "Obama, either with them or with us!"

The New York Times is again careful to condone Obama: "the Obama administration was right to reach out to Iran". Note the similarity between this sentence and the words appearing in a recent editorial concerning Obama's failed Far East trip:

"President Obama was elected in part because he promised a more cooperative and pragmatic leadership in world affairs. We support that."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/21/opinion/21sat1.html?_r=1&hp

The excuses for Obama's failures by The New York Times, long in lockstep with the current administration, have become predictable and tiresome.

The New York Times observes that Obama "set a deadline of the end of this year for diplomatic progress on the nuclear issue" and "should keep to that." The Times "forgets" that Obama has already drawn several such lines in the sand, but has consistently shied away from any action, observing the need to consult with American partners. Obama's timidity plainly has The Times editorial board worried.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Obama: Losing Sight of the Mission in Afghanistan

Go to the Internet and do a search for counterterror "experts". You'll discover hundreds of them and thousands of op-eds and articles in newspapers and journals written by them.

Query: How many of these experts have ever fired an M16? How many have ever gone out on patrol in the cold of night or waited for hours in silent ambush? How many have ever looked a terrorist in the eyes or witnessed the bloody aftermath of a terror incident? You can probably count these "more experienced" experts on your fingers and toes, provided you're not missing any digits as the result of a terror attack.

Let's call the counterterror experts, whose knowledge is academic and whose resumes are at best adorned with a visit or two to Afghanistan or Iraq, "theoretical experts". I wonder how many theoretical experts are advising Obama and whether these are the persons behind Obama's decision to expand the American footprint in Afghanistan.

As reported yesterday in The New York Times:

"President Obama said Tuesday that he was determined to 'finish the job' in Afghanistan, and his aides signaled to allies that he would send as many as 25,000 to 30,000 additional American troops there even as they cautioned that the final number remained in flux.

. . . .

At a news conference in the East Room . . . Mr. Obama suggested that . . . the goals would be to keep Al Qaeda from using the region to launch more attacks against the United States and to bring more stability to Afghanistan.

. . . .

One administration official involved in Afghanistan policy said the president and his top advisers were thinking in terms of 'exit strategies' and not necessarily 'exit timetables.' . . . .

As Afghan security forces are trained and deployed, the official said, American officials and commanders would watch closely to determine when operational control of a given area could be turned over to them."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/25/us/politics/25policy.html?hp

Remind you of U.S. strategy in Vietnam? It should: The U.S. is going to turn the job over the locals and declare victory. Good luck.

You can only turn the struggle against Al Qaeda and the Taliban over to the Afghans if you change the way that Afghans live and think, and this is not going to happen. The tribal and Sunni/Shiite conflicts which have persisted for centuries, will continue for many years to come. The U.S. mission cannot and should not be to "pacify" Afghanistan or to enlighten Afghanis as to the merits of democracy.

Moreover, a "surge" type operation is not destined to succeed for any meaningful duration of time. Al Qaeda can go dormant as long as it takes and move to more hospitable climes until a better time for them arises. This is the slippery nature of terror organizations, which makes them so difficult to locate and combat.

What then need be the objective? Simple: Kill Osama bin Laden. No need for a costly footprint that will bleed America dry. You do require ongoing intelligence and the readiness to strike lightning blows when opportunities arise.

Also, continue to go after bin Laden's financing; there can be no terrorist infrastructure or operations without funds.

Finally, the moment you mention "exit strategies", you're finished. You're advertising to friends and enemies your lack of commitment. The bottom line must always be: We're going to put a bullet between Osama bin Laden's eyebrows no matter how long it takes.

Roger Cohen Wrong Again: Does He Read The New York Times?

In his op-ed entitled "Obama in His Labyrinth", which appears today online in The New York Times, Roger Cohen asserts:

"The president’s groundbreaking outreach to Iran, which I applaud, has unsettled a regime that does not know how to respond."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/24/opinion/24iht-edcohen.html?hp

Horsefeathers! Iran knows exactly how to respond. Ahmadinejad has figuratively spat in the face of a president, viewed as feeble and wavering following his refusal to back Iran's dissidents, and ignored each of Obama's successive warnings of "potential steps" (whatever that means) pertaining to Iran's nuclear ambitions. Iran continues to develop nuclear weapons, undeterred by Obama.

If Cohen were to read today's New York Times, he would learn how Iran's government is further responding to Obama's overtures:

"It is implanting 6,000 Basij militia centers in elementary schools across Iran to promote the ideals of the Islamic Revolution, and it has created a new police unit to sweep the Internet for dissident voices. A company affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards acquired a majority share in the nation’s telecommunications monopoly this year, giving the Guards de facto control of Iran’s land lines, Internet providers and two cellphone companies. And in the spring, the Revolutionary Guards plan to open a news agency with print, photo and television elements."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/24/world/middleeast/24iran.html?hp

Congratulations to both Obama and Roger ("Iran is not totalitarian") Cohen.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Open Letter to Congresswoman Betty McCollum, Who Prides Herself on Her "Common Sense"

Betty McCollum from Minnesota's Fourth District was one of 36 members of Congress, all but three Democrats, who recently voted against the House resolution condemning the Goldstone report. According to her website, "Congresswoman McCollum brings a common sense, Minnesota perspective to her work".

On January 9 of this year, when Operation Cast Lead was underway, McCollum, in a speech before the House of Representatives, stated:

"Despite the fact too many Israeli citizens are under great stress from Hamas rockets, these weapons do not represent an existential threat to Israel. Rather than a serious military challenge, these rockets are like a drug gang that uses drive by shootings as a tactic to terrify a neighborhood. When is the solution to this type of terror for authorities to lay waste to the neighborhood?"

http://minnesotaindependent.com/22670/mccollum-votes-present-on-house-israel-resolution

McCollum claimed in her speech that "after 13 days of warfare it is reported by officials in Gaza that more than 750 people are dead, of which 40 percent are women and children." The Israeli Defense Forces at the end of the operation stated that of 1,166 Gazans who died in the operation, 709 were Palestinian combatants, 295 were male non-combatants, 49 were women and 89 were children.

My open letter to McCollum, who is shown in her website snuggling with Obama after Obama was awarded his "richly deserved" Nobel Peace Prize, appears below:

Betty,

When voting against the House resolution condemning the Goldstone report, you declared: "American-made white phosphorus shells were used by Israel in civilian areas causing horrible burns to Palestinian children, yet this resolution refuses to seek the truth?"

You want the truth? I also want the truth? Where were you when more than 10,000 mortar shells, rockets and missiles were fired from "civilian areas" in Gaza at civilians in southern Israel from 2001-2009? Did you ever visit the Israeli children who lost limbs from these attacks? Would you and your family be willing to live almost a decade under such fire? Think about it: Israeli children wet their beds rather than venture out of their safe rooms, because they had only 30 seconds from the sound of an alarm to return to safety.

Did you bother to read the entirety of the Goldstone Report? You obviously did not. Apparently it doesn't bother you that the members of this commission had already declared their enmity to Israel before the "investigation" had begun.

Does it bother you that the allegations of Hamas were accepted by the Goldstone commission without validation or verification? It was also alleged by Hamas that Israel is distributing aphrodisiac chewing gum in Gaza to subvert the morality of Gaza's youth. Shall we also seek the truth of this allegation?

Does it bother you that the charter of Hamas calls for the indiscriminate murder of all Jews?

Does it bother you that members of the rival movement of Hamas, Fatah, were murdered by Hamas before and during Operation Cast Lead? Some were thrown to their deaths from the tops of buildings.

Did you ever examine the casualty reports validated by Israel, or perhaps you don't believe the figures provided by American allies? Yes, civilians died - war is a terrible thing - but they were a fraction of the number of civilians who died in Iraq, Afghanistan and Serbia, owing to the measures taken by Israel to safeguard human lives.

Have you ever witnessed the aftermath of an "honor killing" in Gaza? Recently a Gaza man bludgeoned his daughter with an iron chain, because his daughter - a 27-year-old divorced mother of five - owned a cell phone and spoke to a man outside the family. Such murders go vitually unpunished by the authorities in Gaza, i.e. Hamas. These are the same authorities in whom Goldstone placed his trust.

You pride yourself on your "common sense"? You should be ashamed of yourself.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Response to Robert Wright's NYT Op-Ed, "Who Created Major Hasan"

Below is an e-mail that I sent to Mr. Robert Wright in response to his op-ed entitled "Who Created Major Hasan", which appears in today's New York Times:


Dear Mr. Wright,

I was the CEO of a company that specialized, inter alia, in anti-terrorist strategies. Today, I am the CEO of a boutique business advisory firm.

I read your op-ed, "Who Created Major Hasan", in today's New York Times and would like to share my thoughts.

I opposed the Iraq War. Although I questioned the existence of weapons of mass destruction, I was more concerned by the creation of imbalance between the aggressive torchbearers of Sunni (Iraq) and Shiite (Iran) Islam.

There can be no understanding of the Middle East without taking into consideration this ongoing Sunni/Shiite struggle. The latest battleground is in Yemen along the Saudi border: the armies of Saudi Arabia and Yemen are fighting Yemenite Shiites backed by Iran. Although this struggle has resulted in almost 200,000 refugees, the war itself is largely being ignored by the Western news media.

Hezbollah and Hamas, both proxies of Iran, need also be regarded from this perspective, i.e. an Iranian effort to achieve regional hegemony. Iran's war is not with Israel, although Iran benefits on the Arab street from this perception, and it is no wonder that Israel received tacit backing from both Saudi Arabia and Egypt during Operation Cast Lead and the 2006 war with Hezbollah. Note Egypt's arrest of Hezbollah operatives monitoring Suez Canal traffic several months ago.

I also oppose continued U.S. involvement in Afghanistan, because I believe it is ineffective and a waste of resources. As you observe in your op-ed, headquarters for terrorist activity can be shifted from country to country, but within limitations dictated by Sunni/Shiite enmity and shifting alliances. For example, Iran has supported the Sudanese government's war with the country's black Africans, i.e. the War in Darfur, and it is dubious whether Sudan would now be hospitable to Al Qaeda.

What does any of the above have to do with Major Hasan and the Fort Hood massacre?

If I understand your argument correctly, you are saying that the Afghanistan and Iraq wars may not have reduced the number of anti-American terrorists abroad, but have certainly inspired homegrown terrorism, which could tear the U.S. apart along religious and ethnic lines. We agree and disagree.

First, as you yourself acknowledge, your conclusions are premised upon only two incidents: 1. Hasan and the Fort Hood massacre; and 2. the murder, six months earlier, of a soldier in Little Rock. On the basis of two isolated incidents in the eight years following the September 11 attacks, I think it is a mistake to engage in far-flung extrapolation.

Rather, I think you should be asking why there have been only two such terrorist attacks. Is it possible that given the economic and educational opportunities that present themselves in the U.S., American Muslims lack motivation to engage in terrorism? Is it possible that Muslim immigrants came to the U.S. seeking economic opportunity and for the most part would do nothing that might jeopardize this freedom and potential?

In the same vein, why is terrorism rarely perpetrated by Israeli Arabs? Is it because that notwithstanding the prejudice they sometimes face in their daily lives, they also enjoy political rights and economic opportunities unavailable in the Arab world? Note that birth rates of Israeli Arabs are significantly lower than those in Arab nations. Is it possible that they have adapted to and seen advantages inherent in Western culture?

You argue that the more Americans denigrate Islam and view Muslims with suspicion, the more likely we will see "homegrown terror". I have a different perception of Americans: a people of benevolence and understanding, and although Americans might be temporarily outraged by a terrorist attack, their "homegrown tolerance" ultimately prevails and enables them to see that "one bad apple" does not spoil the barrel.

In addition, I do not view terrorism as conduct that "infects people with low resistance" per se. Rather, I view terrorism as conduct that prevails among young persons without the means to support themselves. In Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan, thousands of young Muslim men have engaged in suicide bombings, not only because they have been saturated with anti-Western hatred, but also because their families have been promised housing and other material benefits following their "heroic" deaths.

You write: "Sept. 11, 2001, though a success for Osama bin Laden, was in the scheme of things only a small tactical triumph". There was nothing "small" about 9/11: Osama bin Laden temporarily paralyzed America's financial and transportation systems, and permanently affected the way Americans live, as anyone standing on line at a U.S. airport can attest.

All that having been said, how do we fight terror more effectively and also eliminate much of the violent imagery over the Internet, which you believe inflames Muslims and has the potential to tear the U.S. apart along religious and ethnic lines?

First, the prerequisites for terrorism must be acknowledged. Although it is easy enough for an individual would-be terrorist to purchase a rifle and open fire wherever he chooses, Al Qaeda is a sophisticated organization built upon recruitment, training, armament, logistics and funding. The September 11 attacks were not the product of an "apartment-based conspiracy".

Now suppose more effective measures are taken to curtail terrorist funding: recruitment, training, armament and logistics are all constricted and constrained. Moreover, measures taken against terrorist funding are generally non-lethal and consequently do not contribute to inflammatory imagery.

Continue the war against bid Laden? Absolutely. He should not be granted a moment's respite. However, the U.S. battle against terrorism must be grounded upon American technological strength and pinpoint strikes, which do not deprive the U.S. of its will to oppose terror and tyranny.

Yours sincerely,

Jeffrey