Saturday, March 01, 2003
Here are my ratings for the four areas we skied this vacation:
Heavenly = 8
Kirkwood = 10
Homewood = 8
If anyone skis with kids and wants my impressions of the ski schools and family friendliness for 4 & 5 year old novice skiers, check out rsn.com at the forums for the respective resorts sometime next week, under the pseudonym of shesquall.
My ratings are heavily weighted towards my experiences both in and out of ski school with both girls. The exception is Homewood where I took a friend of John's, Mark, to try snowboarding while my oldest, Jordan, and I checked out the green and blue runs there, sans ski school. Homewood and Kirkwood were surprise favorites, Homewood because if its wonderful lake views, and Kirkwood because of the family-friendly mix of easy and challenging terrain and lack of lines.
John, of course, scores a perfect 5 stars in the husband category for supporting my habit and allowing me to begin the process of turning our daughters into my ski companions, while he hung out and cooked for us at the ski house. What a guy!
(via Dean's World)
"IN Europe, anti-Semitism has been called the socialism of fools, which is confusing because socialism is the socialism of fools."
In a city that had a handful of shopworn eating places two years ago, a new Chinese or Italian or American hamburger restaurant opens almost weekly, as well as kebab shops by the score. Small hotels have sprung up, and a $40 million Hyatt is on the way. The food bazaars are bustling and there are downtown blocks filled almost entirely with bridal shops. Rebuilt homes are rising from the ruins, and every little storefront seems to be stuffed with bathtubs or fans or with men building and carving things to be sold.
While much of the money being invested today is coming from Afghans here and abroad, U.S. and international military and aid programs are surely making the expansion possible. More than 4,000 foreign troops are now in Kabul and another 9,000 U.S. and allied troops are stationed in Afghanistan, many at the Bagram air base 35 miles north of the capital. Without them, the relative peace in Kabul would not likely last long.
Several thousand diplomats, aid workers and other foreigners also live in Kabul, and the most visible part of the new business caters to their needs. It remains an open question whether the new Kabul can sustain itself when some of those relief workers go home.
But the Afghan government, along with some embassies, is working to keep and expand the international presence. The first big wave of foreigners to arrive after the Taliban fled were journalists, who often paid top dollar for homes and services. Most are now gone, but more permanent businessmen are taking up the slack. According to Commerce Minister Seyyed Mustafa Kazemi, the number of foreign firms setting up shop in Afghanistan is growing fast.
He said that in the past six months, his ministry has approved 2,600 business licenses, compared with 2,045 in the 45 years before. Many were given to foreign firms, he said, or those headed by Afghans living abroad who want to return to their homeland. These licensed businesses are the large ones that will pay all taxes and other government fees; most Afghan businesses still open without registration and beyond the reach of central government tax collectors.
The Iraqis had come with placards reading "Freedom for Iraq" and "American rule, a hundred thousand times better than Takriti tyranny!"
But the tough guys who supervised the march would have none of that. Only official placards, manufactured in thousands and distributed among the "spontaneous" marchers, were allowed. These read "Bush and Blair, baby-killers," " Not in my name," "Freedom for Palestine," and "Indict Bush and Sharon."
Not one placard demanded that Saddam should disarm to avoid war.
The goons also confiscated photographs showing the tragedy of Halabja, the Kurdish town where Saddam's forces gassed 5,000 people to death in 1988.
Ismail Qaderi, a former Baathist official but now a dissident, wanted to tell the marchers how Saddam systematically destroyed even his own party, starting by murdering all but one of its 16 original leaders.
"Those who see Saddam as a symbol of socialism, progress, and secularism in the Arab world must be mad," he said.
Khalid Kishtaini, Iraq's most famous satirical writer, added his complaint.
"Don't these marchers know that the only march possible in Iraq under Saddam Hussein is from the prison to the firing-squad?" he asked. "The Western marchers behave as if the US wanted to invade Switzerland, not Iraq under Saddam Hussein."
Friday, February 28, 2003
Human Shield: "Mustapha, what do I do if my government actually attacks this target?"
Iraqi: "You die."
Human Shield: "Oh. Can't we just tell everyone I was here and instead Ill be all safe in the bunker?"
Iraqi: "No, we need your burned out heep of a corpse to show the western video cameras."
Human Shield: "Honestly, I really only did this to impress this girl I was dating at Reed college. I figured, I'd come here, do a little protest, the crisis would be resolved and I would go home a hero. This is not what I had in mind at all. I don't think she'll date a corpse. Can't we just forget the whole thing?"
Iraqi: "No, if I let you go, then I'll become a corpse. I signed for you. The rule is, one American human shield, one American corpse. Those are the rules, sorry my friend."
Human Shield: "I'm such a dumbass."
Thursday, February 27, 2003
Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda, bin Laden, Hezbollah, and others — they all talk in apocalyptic tones about Western decadence, the inability of Americans to take casualties, the need to destroy Israel, and the moral superiority of Islam. They all sprinkle here and there crazy references to crusaders, colonists, infidels, and jihad. They have all fought and killed Americans in the past, and brag that they will do so in the future — whether referring to cooked-up "victories" at "the mother of all battles" or the trenches and caves of Tora Bora.
Their real gripe is that the world is passing them all by — whether we speak in noble terms of the benefactions of globalization such as high-tech medicine and the respect that freedom conveys to the individual, or more the crass schlock of Michael Jackson's globally broadcasted sins and the addiction of video games. The millions of the Islamic world are at last trying to taste some of this far faster than their mullahs and dictators can stop them. So in the warped minds of terrorists and strongmen it is either to blow up a skyscraper or to blackmail the West with germs — or to see the slow strangulation of Islamic fundamentalism and Arab tyrannies through the advent of globalized freedom.
On a non-classical note, I also quite enjoyed listening the Paul McCartney's "Back in the U.S." album, which is a live performance collection from his 2002 tour of old Beatle and Wing songs.
The other day the Independent’s Joan Smith wrote a column headlined ‘It’s About Time the US Got Over 9/11’. That presupposes 9/11 is itself over — that it was just a one-off, a freak, like a bad tornado or the record-breaking snowstorms that hit New York and Washington this week. The storm has passed and normal life resumes. That’s more or less what happened after the first attempt to take out the World Trade Center in 1993: America got over it, very quickly. So they bombed it again.
Ms Smith mocks the way the 9/11 obsessives are quivering in an ‘advanced state of paranoia’. Funnily enough, this was the way her side chose to live during the Cold War, when CND were expecting the mushroom cloud any minute and Raymond Briggs made a fortune with his post-nuclear droner When the Wind Blows. In those days, only five guys had their fingers on the nuclear button — Britain, America, France, China and the Soviet Union — but because two of those fingers belonged to Ron and Maggie the Left was convinced the apocalypse was just around the corner. Now we’re at the dawn of the freelance nuke era, and the Left is positively insouciant about it.
Wednesday, February 26, 2003
How evil are you?
One of France's most celebrated chefs has apparently committed suicide after his flagship restaurant was downgraded in a top restaurant guide.
Bernard Loiseau was found dead at his country home, a hunting rifle by his side.
His death came a week after the renowned GaultMillau restaurant guide cut its rating for his Cote d'Or restaurant in Burgundy.
How evil are you?
We are a strong nation. We’d damn well better be, because we carry the genes and mythologies of the most confident individuals on the planet, people unwilling to endure repression, persecution and enslavement by taking a chance on a place unknown to them, except perhaps in their dreams. We have come from every country in the world, from the free and prosperous, to the hellish and horrific. Each individual immigration, from the native Indians crossing the Bering Straight, through Plymouth Rock, Ellis Island and LAX – each one an act of optimism and hope for something better.
And we are a confident nation. Indeed, the quality, more than any other, that is admired by friend and foe alike is our optimism, our sense of hope for the future. We may be condemned overseas for our many flaws, but it’s hard to argue with an optimist who is willing to roll up his sleeves. And when we, as a nation, decide to do something…it gets done. We sometimes fail. We pay the price, fix the failures, and go on. Footsteps on the moon.
Optimism and confidence colors everything we touch, from our movies and music to our skyscrapers and Space Telescopes. How else to explain the universal appeal of The American Dream, for that dream is indeed universal: freedom, safety, prosperity – and scores of other adjectives that can be summed up in that jaunty phrase, unheard of in a political document: the Pursuit of Happiness.
A rich lady from California, who was a tree hugger and a vociferous anti-hunter, purchased a piece of timber land in Oregon.
There was a large tree on one of the highest points in the tract. She wanted to get a good view of her land so she started to climb the big tree.
As she neared the top, she encountered a spotted owl that attacked her.
In her haste to escape, the lady slid down the tree to the ground and got many splinters in her private parts. In considerable pain, she hurried to the nearest country doctor. Being a hunter himself, the doctor listened to her story with great patience and then told her to go into the examining room and he would see if he could help her.
She sat and waited for three hours before the doctor reappeared. The angry lady demanded, "What took you so long?"
He smiled and then told her, "Well, I had to get permits from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Forest Service, and the Bureau of Land Management before I could remove old-growth timber from a recreational area and I'm sorry, they all turned me down."
I am for the war against Iraq because it was taught to me in high school that, if France had stopped Hitler in 1936 from remilitarizing the Rhineland, there would not have been a Second World War.
I am for the war against Iraq because I was also taught that Edouard Daladier, returning from Paris, where he had humiliated France in signing the peace agreement which sacrificed Czechoslovakia and seeing the praise showered upon him by the Parisian press, having whispered to the Secretary-General of the Quai d'Orsay (French Foreign Ministry): "What idiots!"
I am for the war against Iraq because, if Sadaam Hussein laid out the nuclear arms which he is using all his means to acquire, he would send them at once onto Tel Aviv in order to destroy the State of Israel and would give them to terrorists to explode in New York.
Follow the link and read the rest.
Step 4: Take a college level economics class
A Socialist is defined as someone who's never taken an economics class. Most Socialists have a hard time balancing their checkbooks, let alone explaining the simple concept of supply-and-demand. It's time to flush your complete ignorance of basic economics down the toilet and understand how the world actually functions. This concept will be very important for the next steps that involve communism, facts about corporations, and the inefficiencies of government.
Step 6: Corporations are not evil
If you're reading this article online or in an email, it's thanks to corporations. If you get some kind of paycheck, you can thank corporations. If you work for a non-profit or the government, you still have to thank corporations. The non-profit sector and the government wouldn't have any money to pay you without corporations. It is also important that you understand that making a profit doesn't equate to "greed" or exploitation. Capitalism has created the greatest society in our world's history. Even communist countries need corporations to survive, so enjoy a nice, hot cup of reality.
Step 7: The government is inefficient
If you are one of those liberals who believe the government should tax us more in order to take care of society, you need to pay special attention to this step. You need to realize that government bureaucracy will waste most of your tax dollars, while the private sector will put your money to much better use. Even most Democrat politicians understand this to some degree, which is why Hillary's socialist healthcare proposal was voted down by a majority of both Democrats and Republicans. Go to your local post office or call the IRS to ask a tax question if you need a reminder about government inefficiency.
Go read the whole thing at Aarons site.
IN THE COURSE of our adult lives, we all learn lessons about humanity that disappoint us, but, for me, this one has been stunning.
I swear, I cannot fathom the people who insist that Saddam Hussein is not going to merrily kill us and everyone he can reach as soon as he is able. What is it about some people that makes them live in this suicidal denial? I could normally shrug it off, except that now it's not just suicidal. They're going to get us all killed, and that makes it homicidal as well.
They have their mantras:
"Peace is good; war is bad."
I don't even know what this means. Which peace? Which war? Did the people of Europe have peace after being conquered by Hitler? Should we have dealt with him in "peace" in the interest of "stability?"
Do the people of Iraq have peace? Surely not the ones who find themselves led into a basement to find their children hooked up to electrodes. Surely not the Kurds. Surely not anyone who doesn't work for the government. Who, then? The generals on the file footage who bounce up to The Great Uncle with frozen smiles for a kiss and a chat? The soldiers of the so-called elite Republican Guard? What horrors have they all committed to earn their privileges? What does a man have to do over there to be called "elite?" One shudders to imagine. I can't help but think of the old restaurant motto from years past: "Where The Elite Meet To Eat." I wonder where they meet in Iraq. Now there's a nightspot where the waiters don't want to screw up an order. (One thing you've got to hand the Iraqi General Staff: They all have terrific moustaches. Not as well sculpted as the Saudi princes, but who has that kind of time?)
"This is just about oil."
I know facts don't matter to people whose favorite hobby is shouting, but has no one noticed that if we wanted Iraq's oil so much, all we'd have to do is make a deal with Saddam tomorrow? Oil companies aren't running policy, because if they were, that would be it: Sign a deal with the man. So why don't we? Saddam would be happy (or, at least, as happy as a guy like him gets), the left would be happy, and Old Europe would be happy. (Shouldn't we be spelling that Olde Europe?) Yes, everyone would be happy. Ah, but then we'd all have to pretend we don't know he's building a giant scimitar out of radium. Aye, there's the rub.
Update: This is also the 12th anniversary of the end of the Gulf War.
Beyond the fact that the article's assertions insult my country and the men and women with a military and humanitarian vocation, I am surprised that a newspaper of this quality is prostituting itself to this level.
Prostituting itself? Because it wrote an article on the Belgian army?
Your unfair treatment of a long-term ally of the United States is sufficient to suffocate the most fervent defender of the freedom of the press. Deriding the concept of objectivity with such violence must alarm any citizen (American, European and Belgian).
But you aren't an ally of the Wall Street Journal are you? It's not like it's a state run paper. And are you saying that you no longer believe in freedom of the press because of one measly article? What a fascist. I bet his family collaborated with the Nazis (take that!).
Yes, our personnel may call in their union, because this is part of our commitment to democratic principles of active listening and well-being for our employees.
Okay, I think you just made the point of the article. Members of an army are not supposed to be employees. They are supposed to be soldiers!
Yes, the primary mission of our armed forces is to maintain the peace and to help the civilian population (Belgian or foreign), without being belligerent or being convinced of having been elected by a higher authority to keep watch over the world order.
We should ask the civilians of Congo (formerly Belgian Congo) if they want any more Belgian help. And I like the dig against the US for no reason.
Your article says that the Belgian Armed Forces have hundreds of hairdressers, musicians and other non-combatant personnel at their disposal. Musicians, however, cannot be fairly categorized as non-combatant soldiers because bands have especially been maintained for their important value in terms of public relations of the Armed Forces.
So what do you consider a combatant then? And note no argument that there are hundreds of hairdressers and musicians at the disposal of the armed forces.
Belgium has enough tactical transport aircraft in the armed forces. But we have lacked transport capability for nonstandard equipment. The A400 European program (which the Americans do not like very much because they do not have anything similar) is going to remedy this problem. The 180 aircraft that have been planned -- among them not less than seven for Belgium -- are going to endow Europe with an important capability.
Another dig at the US for no reason. Isn't your beef with the Journal?
Americans may spend 22% on equipment, but they have a global strategy and must support a large nuclear strategic posture (that is oversized for the defense of their territory but undersized to control the entire planet) which has repercussions on working and investment expenses and consequently reduces proportionally the part of personnel expenses.
Now he is implying that the US is trying to control the planet?
What argument can be used to be against the fact that somebody is relaxing at the weekend (Corporal Christiaens has a "pop singing act")? Compare this with the thousands of American soldiers who are confined in the gigantic barracks "in the middle of nowhere" for months (for instance: Fort Hood, Texas, more than 30,000 people).
I wonder why he picked Texas to make fun of? Maybe the soldiers are in the middle of nowhere because they are busy being soldiers. You know, training and shooting? Oh yeah, that's right, guns are too belligerent for the Belgian army these days. You prefer whistles.
Tuesday, February 25, 2003
He sits alone in his bare room, waiting, and hoping that something will happen to change things.
“I am surprised to hear of all the anti-war demonstrations in the West,” he said. “I wish that the demonstrators could spend just 24 hours in the place I have come from and see the reality of Iraq.
“Fourteen lost years of my life. Nothing but bread for food — darkness, filth, beatings, torture, killings, bitterness and humiliation. I wish they could experience it for just 24 hours.” (via Too Much to Dream)
Update: These Iraqis living in Detroit agree with Mr. Muhammad.
Update: I'm a little behind at reading our own blog. I see Max has already posted something about this.
I am still on vacation which is why some of the posts may be a few days behind. The weather in Lake Tahoe has been great. Except for a little snow yesterday it has been mostly sunny with temperatures hovering around 50 degrees last week and around 42 degrees this week. My wife has had a very good time skiing and our two girls have really taken to it. Barbara thinks that our older daughter (5 1/2 years old) may have a real talent for it as she has taken to going down hills fast and fearlessly. I have mostly been relaxing, reading, blogging. There's a hot tub at the house we rented so we've spent some time in there. I went for my required couple of hours of gambling yesterday and came out ahead a couple hundred dollars. We will have some pictures of the view from our house (which is spectacular) but it will have to wait until we return since we forgot to bring the cable that connects the camera to the laptop.
He has been anything but circumspect about his aspirations: He has stated that he wants to turn Iraq into a "superpower" that will dominate the Middle East, to liberate Jerusalem and to drive the United States out of the region. He has said he believes the only way he can achieve his goals is through the use of force. Indeed, his half-brother and former chief of intelligence, Barzan al-Tikriti, was reported to say that Iraq needs nuclear weapons because it wants "a strong hand in order to redraw the map of the Middle East."
Finally, we cannot forget that all evidence has shown Saddam Hussein to be an incorrigible optimist who willfully ignores signs of danger. Consider that on at least five occasions over the last three decades, he has embarked on foreign policy adventures that nearly destroyed him: his attack on Iraq's Kurds in 1974 (which might have ended in an Iranian assault on Baghdad if the shah of Iran had not unexpectedly decided to double-cross the Kurds instead); his invasion of Iran in 1980; his invasion of Kuwait in 1990; his assassination attempt against former President Bush in 1993; and his threatened attack on Kuwait in 1994. In each case, he took a course of action that we know even his closest advisers considered extremely dangerous.
This is the problem with Saddam Hussein. The assertion that he is not intentionally suicidal may be true, but it is irrelevant. In the end, he has frequently proven inadvertently suicidal.
There is no "accountability" of journalists in any meaningful sense. There is no equivalent of a bar exam for journalists. There is no licensing procedure for journalists. There is no minimum education level required, nor any particular special kind of training at all. Fill out an employment application, get hired at minimum wage or better, and presto, you're a journalist. Or just take a pad and pencil, call some folks on the phone and do some interviews, and you're a journalist, too. Think not? Read on.
To redress their pedagogical grievances, these ethnomathematicians want math curriculums that place greater emphasis on the systems of previous civilizations and certain traditional cultures. Studies of state civilizations might focus on Chinese or Arabic math concepts. One study, for example, has shown how the Chinese Chu Shih-chieh triangle anticipated by more than three centuries the highly similar arrangement of numerals by Pascal that holds sway in many Western teachings of probability theory.
Now this may all be well and good in a "History of Mathematics" course, but I fail to see what advantage HS and JHS students of mathematics will gain from learning about "quipu, bundles of cotton cord knotted by Incans according to a sophisticated base-10 numeration system". Firstly, the basic premise that math "is absolutely integrated with Western civilization, which conquered and dominated the entire world" is incorrect. A good part of the foundation for modern algebra, number theory etc came to Europe from India and the Arabs. And while "African kinship numerics or Peruvian bead counting" may be interesting historical studies they will not help students learn how to solve Diophantine equations or master the mathematics, such as calculus or statistics or algebra, required for any study of modern science. As David Klein is quoted in the article:
''But mathematics is a worldwide monoculture. Look at the chalkboards in math departments at universities all around the world -- in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America. You will see the same symbols everywhere you go on this planet, except perhaps in colleges of education where fads reign supreme.'' Klein says he does spend some class time discussing the math of Mayans, Egyptians and other early civilizations. ''But ancient techniques and early discoveries in math will not take students very far who want to do something in the modern world with mathematics,'' he says.
There is nothing like (self-) righteous indignation to give the Left the warm glow of a Ready Brek breakfast. And nothing gives them that feeling more completely than the idea that the only reason the United States wants a war with Iraq is oil. But like all the household gods that the Left cherishes, this too has feet of clay and a head full of nonsense.
The accusation is wrong because there are several more important reasons why we might go to war: upholding the authority of the UN; the duty to protect Iraq’s neighbour; and liberating the Iraqi people from tyranny.
But the war for oil charge is not just factually wrong, it is also humbug. A war to defend open access to the Middle East’s oil reserves would be a just war – and a war fought primarily to defend the world’s poor. [more]
I keep hearing the anti-war protesters chant, "No blood for oil! No blood for oil!" But what they never seem to say is exactly how much oil we're talking about. Don't you think that's pertinent information? Are we talking a gallon of oil for every 10 gallons of blood? Or is it more like 30 gallons of oil for every pint of blood? Because if it's the latter, maybe a blood-oil exchange would be a good idea.
In the first Gulf War, roughly 300 brave Americans lost their lives. Assuming that each of these soldiers shed an average of eight pints of blood, that works out to roughly a pint of American blood shed per 60 million barrels of Kuwaiti crude saved from the clutches of Saddam. If you ask me, that's a pretty darn good deal. If we can manage to swing a similar trade this time around, then I say, "Bombs away." (from the Onion).
Imagine a world not too much different from what we live in today...
Let's say you have this neighbour who's never grown up from his teen-age bully days. You know he beats his wife; you can hear the screaming at night and you see the bruises during the day. But she's to terrorized by the guy to do anything about it.
But it gets worse: This guy has a bad habit of trying to move his fence over on to his neighbour's property. You don't live right next door, so he's never bothered you. But once he tried to move the fence over your friend's tomato garden. That fellow has quite a green thumb and you buy all the tomatoes you can from him at every harvest.
But further, this guys a gun-lovin' irresponsible bastard, in fact, before you really got to know the guy, you went with him to a couple of gun shows and taught him how to reload. But he has this penchant for going out in yard every now and then and randomly blowing off a few rounds. Not a direct threat to you; you're a few houses down the block, unless you go out on the street.
If the antiwar movement dissuades the United States and its allies from going to war with Iraq, it will have contributed to the peace of the dead. Saddam Hussein will emerge victorious and ever more defiant. What has been accomplished so far will unravel. Containment is doomed to fail. We cannot forget that despots protected by their own elaborate security apparatus are still able to make decisions.
Saddam Hussein has dragged his people into at least two wars. He has used chemical weapons on them. He has killed hundreds of thousands of people and tortured and oppressed countless others. So why, in all of these demonstrations, did I not see one single banner or hear one speech calling for the end of human rights abuses in Iraq, the removal of the dictator and freedom for the Iraqis and the Kurdish people? If we are going to demonstrate and exert pressure, shouldn't it be focused on the real villain, with the goal of getting him to surrender his weapons of mass destruction and resign from power? To neglect this reality, in favor of simplistic and irrational anti-Americanism, is obfuscating the true debate on war and peace.
I agree that the Bush administration must give more time to the weapons inspectors to fulfill their mandate. The United States is an unchallenged world power and will survive its enemies. It can afford to be a little more patient. Kofi Annan, the secretary general of the United Nations, has proved himself to be a strong mediator and no friend of dictators. He and a group of world leaders should use this time to persuade Saddam Hussein to resign and go into exile. In turn, Saddam Hussein could be credited with preventing another war and sparing his people. But even this approach will not work without the continued threat of force.
Abandoning such a threat would be perilous. Yes, the antiwar movement would be able to claim its own victory in preventing a war. But it would have to accept that it also helped keep a ruthless dictator in power and explain itself to the tens of thousands of his victims.
History has shown that the use of force is often the necessary price of liberation. A respected Kosovar intellectual once told me how he felt when the world finally interceded in his country: "I am a pacifist. But I was happy, I felt liberated, when I saw NATO bombs falling."
Thank God for Ike. If the hawks had been running the show then, we might still have troops in Egypt.
Hey Mcfly? We do have troops in Egypt. They are part of the UN force in the Sinai. And we are also sending billions in aid every year to Egypt as payment for signing the Camp David accords. Oh and check this part out where he defends the comparison between Nasser and Saddam:
Oh, the hawks will protest: Nasser didn't have weapons of mass destruction. Actually he did. Nasser's troops used mustard gas in Yemen.
Uh, hello. I don't have nightmares about Saddam using World War I era chemical weapons on New York. What people are scared of are the really nasty bioweapons which Nasser never even dreamed of.
Update: Deb at Insomnomaniac has some choice words for the Kristof column also. - JH
Update: Stephen Green also gives Kristof a history lesson. - JH
Rafat Abdulmajeed Muhammad is a slightly built man of 45 with a distant stare and a scarred body. He lives alone in Sulaimaniyah, northern Iraq, and owns nothing but the clothes he stands in. He spends his days trying to forget the past 14 years, which he spent in the darkness of Saddam Hussein’s most infamous political prison.
Mr Muhammad’s only crime was to sell a British journalist a roll of film, but his treatment bears ample testimony to the nature of Saddam’s regime.
Mr Muhammad was an Egyptian photography graduate who moved to Iraq in 1985 and opened a small photographic shop, Rafat’s Photography, in Baghdad. In August 1989 a foreigner visited his shop and bought a roll of film. Mr Muhammad gave him his business card and forgot about him.
The next month he encountered the man again, this time in very different circumstances. Mr Muhammad, who had been arrested the previous day and charged with espionage, was sitting blindfolded in a chair in Room 18 of the headquarters of the Iraqi secret police, the Mukhabarat.
“They pulled the blindfold up so that I could see the spy I was accused of aiding,” he said. “There, standing in silence, was the man to whom I had sold a roll of film. His name was Farzad Bazoft. The Mukhabarat had found my business card in his belongings.”
Mr Muhammad never saw Mr Bazoft again. The Iranian-born journalist, who was working for The Observer, was executed for spying the following March.
The Mukhabarat never extracted a verbal confession from Mr Muhammad during the four months he was held in a tiny cell in the headquarters. He said that he was interrogated by a Mukhabarat officer named Basim twice a day, each time being whipped with cables while suspended from the ceiling, his hands tied behind his back. He had his jaw, ribs and hands broken. Sometimes he was taken to the basement, strapped into an electric chair and given shock treatment.
“I had nothing to confess to,” he said. “They said I worked for Mossad (the Israeli intelligence agency) but my only mistake was that I sold Bazoft a roll of film.”
He spent the next three years in solitary confinement. He was taken out of his cell twice a week for beatings. He said that in the prison basement were deep pits, each a metre wide. Up to ten prisoners deemed guilty of disciplinary offences would be dropped into these pits and kept there for a week at a time. “Many died in those pits,” he said.
Last summer Mr Muhammad had the top joint of the second finger of his left hand smashed off with an iron bar for insulting Saddam, an offence for which five years were added to his sentence.
“I am surprised to hear of all the anti-war demonstrations in the West,” he said. “I wish that the demonstrators could spend just 24 hours in the place I have come from and see the reality of Iraq.
“Fourteen lost years of my life. Nothing but bread for food — darkness, filth, beatings, torture, killings, bitterness and humiliation. I wish they could experience it for just 24 hours.”
Monday, February 24, 2003
2. I don't know what your problem is, but I'll bet it's hard to pronounce.
6. I'll try being nicer if you'll try being smarter.
32. Too many freaks, not enough circuses.
To be sure, conservative radio talk show hosts have a built-in audience unavailable to liberals: People driving cars to some sort of job.
1. Demolition. Responding to the eight-plus-10 European states that have sided with the United States, President Jacques Chirac sealed an alliance for peace with President Vladimir Putin of Russia on Feb. 10. In so doing, he revived in Central Europe the harsh memory of three centuries spent in the shadow - or under the heel - of the Russian big brother.
With the European community divided and NATO splintering, the Franco-German duo calls itself Europe and says it speaks for 25 nations, but represents only three (thanks to Belgium). The old European couple criticizes American arrogance and unilateralism, compliments that can easily be turned back on them. Is there a more insane way to saw off the branch you're sitting on? Is there a less productive path to European unity?
Sunday, February 23, 2003
Personal bodyguards for every government employee with enough clout and a spiffy new health and fitness center for Senators which was built for an undisclosed cost. Just give me a copy of the budget (with a large truck to transport it in) and big red pen and a few weeks and I can balance the budget and cut taxes by 30%.
In 1974 the Parliamentary Association for Euro-Arab Cooperation was founded to strengthen the political, economic and cultural co-operation between Europe and the Arab world. The Association had about 600 members in 18 national Parliaments of the countries of the enlarged European Union (EU), as well as in the European Parliament – and all the major trends in European politics were represented. This Association organized regular meetings with Arab leaders and politicians and served as a channel between them and the European governments, the Presidency of the European Council of Ministers, and the Commission of the European Communities. In other words, it was a most powerful Arab lobby functioning through European functionaries, built into the European institutions to influence European policy at its summit.
In the following years, this body was reinforced by a political, economical and cultural structure, named the Euro-Arab Dialogue, which united at the highest level the EC – later to become the European Union – and the countries of the Arab League. The Europeans tried to maintain the Dialogue on a base of economic relations, while the Arab countries tied the oil and business markets to the European alignment on their anti-Israeli policies. Even though some countries were reluctant to follow this path, the joint proclamations of the EU concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict endorsed the anti-Israeli points established previously by the Second Islamic Conference in Lahore, Pakistan.
We have made similar arguments here in the past, it is one of the great propaganda wins of the century to have the Left point to Hitler as the alternative to their policies when almost all of his policies were in perfect agreement with the Left. (Seeing antiwar demonstrations the one major difference which the Left seems to be coming around to is the virulent anti-semitism). As I've said before the Left-Right dichotomy is largely meaningless. The real split is between those who value individuals and those who value the state. Hitler like Stalin (and Lenin before them) and all of their Socialist descendents value the state over the individual in almost every circumstance.
Do bases in the post-Cold War really offer strategic flexibility and serve as tripwires to cement alliances — or do they multiply political and military liabilities, as both hosts and adversaries use their presence to dictate and curb American military options? Military theorists once deprecated aircraft carriers as obsolete sitting ducks; but they amount to quick-moving runways of American sovereignty, not subject to worries over rent, blackmail, compromise, and terrorism.
True, carrier war is dangerous and expensive — but then so is bunking overnight in Saudi Arabia, basing thousands on the DMZ, being told by the Germans that we are "allowed" to use airspace actually already guaranteed under NATO protocols, and forgiving billions in debt to the likes of Pakistan. Personally, I'd rather spend $20 billion to have American workers build an additional 10 to 15 acres of aggregate floating American runways than pour billions annually into countries that either do not like us, resent both the protection and the rent, or are themselves inherently unstable.