Saturday, August 26, 2006

Islam and Jihadism - Part 5

Why Islam Is Not The Enemy, and The New Mid-East

We do not war against Islam, nor should we. Let’s begin with the practical side. As I said early on, almost a billion and a half people call themselves Muslim. Stop right now and think about that number. If even one percent of Islam took up arms against the West, it would create an army number 14 million strong. Islam counts in its numbers a great many brilliant minds, including scientists in medicine, mathematics, engineering and chemistry. That is, a corps capable of creating WMD and their delivery systems in very short order. If such an army were formed and competently led, the resulting war would be more destructive and precipitous than anything history could show in our past. Spread around the globe as Muslims are, they would also be capable of launching coordinated raids in literally every first-world country, so that the conventional notion of battlefields and fronts would become meaningless. Such operational capability, as it happens, is exactly what the Jihadists have hoped to create. Yet, for all their planning and efforts, it has not turned out that way at all. One of the ironies of the Jihdists is that their very aggressiveness comes from a deep-seated cowardice, a fear that they are already losing. I exchanged emails this week with some Muslim colleagues, who explained that the angry protests against the Danish cartoons of Mohammed rise from a feeling of helplessness. “There is a belief, and it is popular, that the United States is attacking Islam by taking away one Muslim country at a time” he wrote. I explained that we are fighting a war against Terror rather than Islam, and emphasized the protection given to Mosques and Muslim clerics, but the Jihadists, as you might expect, continue to paint themselves as victims of Infidel aggression, and as defenders of Islam, instead of acknowledging the brutality and evil of their doctrine. But it is also telling, that the removal of the Taliban and the regime of Saddam Hussein are creating such disquiet and worry among the Jihadists. Because the Jihadists know, and fear, the power of personal freedom and the identity which is crated by the exercise of open discussion. This is why they fear ‘freedom’, to the point that editorial cartoons must be shut down and entire governments threatened for the offense of letting people make up their own mind. I have read the Quran, many times, and there is little in it that can be claimed to justify murdering children, as the Jihadists have done so often for more than a generation. Certainly nothing in the context it presents. Small wonder so many of the protestors hide their faces. They fear Allah might see them as they are, hiding behind the pretense of the faith.

I am not saying that I believe in Islam. As it happens, I am a Protestant Christian, so my faith and mind both convince me that the way of Islam is not true. Yet I am also a believer in freedom of choice, and I am an individualist. I recall that although Jesus was an observant Jew, when He chose to praise a man for faith, he praised not a fellow Rabbi or priest, but a Roman Centurion. His example of the loving neighbor who pleases God, was a Samaritan. Even if your belief is false, your heart can be true, and your faith pleasing to God through the character of your soul. It is the doctrines which we have problems accepting, not the faith. As readers have noted, anyone who personally knows Muslim believers, finds that many of them are quite humble and peaceable, unlikely to raise their voice, much less act in anger. Some readers have observed that this is most common in parts of the world where Muslims are a small minority, but it is also true that we do not see such violence in Maylasia, where Muslims are the majority, or in most parts of Pakistan, or in Egypt, or in Jordan, and so on. The many images we see all tend to come from urban centers of large cities, and they are supported or sponsored by radical groups. It occurs to me that another reason these mobs hide their faces, is because so many of them might be like American protesters, unemployed except to show up at “spontaneous” rallies and feign outrage at the West. The doctrines do not come from the Quran, but are Sharia, which is to say they are the conventional wisdom of the Imams in a given place and condition, and those interpretations some times reflect the prejudice of the men who deliver them. It is, therefore, these doctrines which need correction, not to Western values, but in reflection of Islam’s better ideals. Anwar Sadat was a Muslim, and a man of peace. The ink-stained women who voted in Iraq are Muslims, and women of courage. The students in Iran who have demanded reform from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ‘s regime are Muslim, and men of valor. Ahmadinedjad speaks for Islam in the same way Tookie Williams spoke for Dr. Martin Luther King; falsely.

So, if they are basically good people, why haven’t Muslims risen up against Jihadism, why has there not been a wave of outrage against this manipulation of their faith for such malice? Well, in a word: History.

Take Slavery, for instance. Nowadays we take for granted that owning another person is morally abhorrent and should be illegal with very harsh penalties in any country, period. Yet for literally thousands of years Slavery was a common and legal practice, present in every country fortunate enough to enjoy a measure of wealth and power. It was a status symbol. It was so prevalent, that Christ Himself did not waste His time decrying it, except to warn slave owners to be accountable, and slaves to be obedient. The few people who challenged the practice were largely ignored, or when inconvenient put down.

Take the Reformation of Christianity. I’m not saying, at all, that Christianity is morally the same as Islam, yet I am all to well aware that the catholic Church in Europe was guilty of some very nasty excesses, what with prohibition against lay people reading the Bible on their own, and against personal ownership of Bibles. I recall reading of arrests and trials and tortures of innocent people, for the purpose of advancing the fortunes of favored individuals and punishing their enemies. I recall the histories of indulgences granted by the Church, manipulation of governments and heavy tax burdens levied on the people with no choice but to endure it. These injustices lasted for centuries with very few dissenters, and small wonder – the Church hired men to devise means of torture, to literally wrack confessions from malcontents and so suppress any thought of revolt. Few men indeed had the courage to speak up during those years.

Or what of America’s history? Before Martin Luther King, there were a few other black activists, but few indeed spoke up for their legitimate rights between 1865 and 1964. And few white men indeed, ever rose to shout down the evils of the Ku Klux Klan. How many protested for the equal rights of women to vote and to hold equal jobs prior to the 1920s? How many people put their ideals to the test, and stood for justice when it was unpopular, or was perceived to be? Should we decry all that George Washington did, or Benjamin Franklin, because they allowed Slavery to endure? Shall we condemn Teddy Roosevelt, even though he fought for the rights of the Black man, because he opposed the rights of Asians and against women? Shall we deride FDR, because his attention to the Depression and the Fascists took his attention away from Civil Rights and equal pay? If we give these honored men their due for the good they did, then should we not also be willing to consider the difficulty and stakes which the Muslim faces?

The Muslim perspective is greatly different from the Western one, but it should be understood. Al-Jazeera, for example, is a joke by reasonable standards for journalism, but they represent the Arab world reporting actual events. Even when they hide the motive and character of events, the fact that actual events are being reported is a step forward. We should not call this a finished product, but we should understand where the medium used to be. Muslim politics is an even weirder brew, with religious imprecations applied to otherwise –secular issues, in order for leaders to be seen as humble yet in control. This is not very different from the practices used by the Sultans and Sheiks in the past. As for Sharia, it really comes down to a consistent and static code of law – the horrid decisions we used to see from the Taliban, and the most recent excrement coming from Iran this week, are the common reaction from thugs. Far more reflective of Islam’s traditional teachings are the verdicts coming down in Iraq and Afghanistan, which generally punish only intent to harm, and the only death sentence is a suicide decision made by pointing a rifle at a Marine. It is important as we move forward, to differentiate between the Muslim faith and the Jihadist’s plans. There is no need to point a rifle at a man because he points his prayer rug to Mecca; but there is no reason to hesitate shooting a terrorist because he claims he speaks for Mohammed. In time, more and more Muslims will support the right course, but the historical model is for Muslims to wait and see who wins.

This brings us back to the case model of Afghanistan and Iraq. Franky, Ahmadinejad is very upset at the US-led invasion of Iraq because he had hoped that Iran could invade Iraq and lay the foundation for an Arab Superstate. Instead, he has the worst of threats at his very doorstep – a nation of free-thinking Muslims, with fresh experience from a tyrant in their memory and dreams of their ideals in their heads and hearts. This is very similar to what the Nazis must have felt when they realized the US Third Armored Division had freed France (yes, I know the British helped, but for some reason no British general was feared by the Germans the way they dreaded Patton), or if France had suddenly acquired the spine and mind of Churchill. Worse, the resolve shown by President Bush in spite of complete cowardice on the part of the Democrats, and quisling complicity by the MainSquirm Media, is showing results in Middle East elections and in opinion about the mission. So why can’t we predict exactly when the war will be won, or pinpoint a scoreboard of where we are? Michael Yon said it best:

“This may not be the war some folks had in mind a few years ago. But once the shooting starts, a plan is just a guess in a party dress.”

Michael Yon has also explained the Bush Doctrine in succinct fashion, though I know he was talking about a specific incident.

“three more shots through the front hood, the universal sign for “stop.”

I’d like to see us start taking that tactic as a diplomatic measure in a certain number of situations. Just to avoid, hmm, possible future misunderstanding of our intent and resolve?

It boils down to this. There are a lot of ways we could screw this up. All it takes is a Clinton or a Kerry in the White House, and we will pull out of the Middle East rather than consolidate what has been paid for in such bloody cost. All it takes is a sufficient number of RINOs to put their silk-suited interests ahead of the nation’s future. All it takes is a nation which trusts the lies of the MSM instead of getting the straight facts. Scary, that. But the trend is promising. Americans are proud of our nation, who we are, what we stand for. And they trust the men who fight for our nation far more than the elitists who sneer at a code of “Duty, Honor, Country”. And more and more they vote for a party that, however imperfectly, stands for more than getting by and playing by someone else’s rules, for an ideal that we make a difference, and that there is a purpose to our identity which requires strength and diligence, on a road to bettering the world as a whole.

The Middle East is, some say, impossible to change. That is a malicious lie. The Middle East has been in constant change for well over a half century, and the only question is choosing its direction. Millions of people with dreams and hopes deserve the chance only America can offer, and that includes people whose voice cannot be heard while madmen steal the stage and pretend that a merciful God demands blood and horror. There will be a new Middle East, and it depends on the will of the American people, executed through the President and the Congress and the American military, to ensure that the fleeting but substantial promise we see shall not be lost. With a stable Iraq and Afghanistan, the proof of democracy in the Arab world will be irrevocably established, and the opportunity for an alliance of moderate and democratic republics will be well underway. Under such conditions, a Jordan/Iraq/Afghanistan/Lebanon/Kuwait alliance is distinctly foreseeable, with benevolent relations with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the Emirates. The governments which now support the Jihadists will be as much the pragmatic outcasts as they are the moral minority, and the futility of violence will be clear to them to such a degree that only the most insane could deny it.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Dean Wormer Returns?

I had some fun earlier this week with a rhetorical comparison between Harry Truman and George W. Bush. The connections are obvious between these two men, arguably the most under-rated Democrat and Republican Presidents in History, and in my opinion, both were exactly the men our nation needed most when they served as President.

But not everyone can handle such a comparison, even to rebut it. A (presumably) leftist blogger who posts under the name ‘Dean Wormer’ – if he ever saw ‘Animal House’, I wonder if he understands the irony – could not manage to address the point, or even come up with something to counter it, but has instead delivered a disappointingly puerile screed against me.

The link is right there for those inclined to visit, but essentially here are the points he presents, and my opinion:

“It's difficult to come up with a word that succinctly describes this silly bit of wingnut dead-ender logic.”

It seems pro forma for leftists these days to always begin with an insult, doesn’t it?

“He's basically taken the original opinion piece by Joan Vennochi and inserted Harry Truman's name wherever George Bush appeared in the original. Hey, nobody ever accused conservatives of originality.”

Hmm, this from a fellow who could not even come up with something of his own to counter? Besides, I included Harry Truman’s own words, which was a big part of the message. Maybe Dean Wormer missed that part?

” It's one thing to formulate an analogy only to have it collapse under the weight of it's own internal logic. It's quite another thing entirely to stick with that analogy after said collapse.”

Straight from the Al-Gore/John-Kerry school of argument, Wormer claims victory without once actually doing anything to support his contention. Wormer begins with the presumption that the analogy is invalid, so he never bothers to refute it on its merits.

Wormer does display the signals of the 9/10 mind, of course, saying ” the current conflict against fundamentalist extremists is nowhere near the scale, nor poses nowhere near the threat, as the conflict against global tyranny that was the Second World War.” Again, note that Wormer does not bother to present any sort of argument to support that claim, except to say that ” Our enemy has no standing army. No navy. No air force.”. Well, since Al Qaeda had none of those things, yet pulled off the 9/11 attacks, I’d have to say Wormer has missed the character of the threat. Further, since Islamofascism has led to the radical change and threatening doctrines in a number of Middle East and Muslim nations – Afghanistan and Iran, for example – and proxy support for terrorist operations created a financial and political infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, Syria, and in Saddam’s Iraq, that the threat to U.S. interests and directly to Americans’ safety is obvious. 9/11 was hardly an isolated incident, nor one brought about by American culture or policies. It was, instead, a climax of a series of attacks which included embassy bombings, hostage and kidnapping situations, blackmail and extortion of elected governments in the Middle East, and a continuing campaign to eradicate all Western influence and interests from the region by force and the threat of atrocities deliberately perpetrated using much the same tactics as Hitler used during the mid-to-late 1930s. Those who fail to comprehend this fact should start their remedial studies here.

Unable to present support for his contention, Wormer settled for personal attacks against me. Wormer, although he types his opinion in very much the same conditions as I do, derides me for presenting my argument ” from the safety of a keyboard a half a world away”. Wormer feels that I have no right to speak on this issue unless I am ” in uniform patrolling the streets of Baghdad”. Since Wormer clearly appears to not be following this course of action himself, it seems to me a bit disingenuous to demand it of his opponent in this issue.

I could not resist the urge to respond to Wormer’s taunts. I answered as follows:

"A few comments, to clarify:

1. Yes, I am technically a "grad student". But I am also 46 years old, and in far from the physical condition necessary to engage in combat operations. I happen to be, however, in regular contact with people who have fought and are fighting this war, and much of my perspective has been shaped by the men who have carried out the orders. That said, it is a classic and ludicrous fallacy to suggest that someone cannot understand war without direct and personal participation in it. I suspect that you supported President Clinton in his various directions to the military, as I did. If so, your claim here would prove you an hypocrite, while I respected his election as his qualification to issue such orders. And the United States has long emphasized the supremacy of civilian command, or have you forgotten why it is, that President Truman fired General MacArthur?

2. I further note that your rebuttal completely missed any attempt to address the historical similarities between the post-WW2 occupations of Germany and Japan and the present conflict. It seems perhaps to be beyond your grasp to address the underlying forces at work in both instances, or to accept a valid comparison even if you disagree with the opinion.

3. Sneering derision and personal insults from your homepage hardly advance the debate. Is this the limit of your intellectual prowess?

You could have approached this from any number of avenues. You could have emailed me about my perspective, asking on what basis it was formed and to what degree. You could have elevated the discussion by examining the similarities and differences between Europe 1946 and the Middle East 2006, with thoughts on the various strategies and agreements fashioned to shape the growth and development of the respective nations concerned. You could have begun a reasoned debate as has occurred throughout History on numerous issues of the moment, presenting your arguments and supporting them with evidence and allowing for a measured and civil response. Yet you chose this fashion and character of response.

Unfortunate, that. As a courtesy, I will note that just in case you decide – as happens so often these days in leftist blogs – to simply delete my comment rather than face it, I am cross-posting this over at my personal blog, Stolen Thunder. You are quite welcome to post your comments there, though I warn you in advance that my readers do not countenance childish tantrums; they will expect something more substantial. But a mature debate on this issue would be worthwhile, should you prove equal to the challenge. I await your response."

I wonder what, if any, Wormer’s answer will be?

UPDATE: Well, I have my answer. Less than 10 minutes after posting my comment and challenge to a debate on the facts, Wormer has deleted the comment. Running away rather than debate the substance, how like a DEMOCRAT, isn't it?

UPDATE II 8/29/06: Shame works! Two days after deleting my comment, Dean Wormer has relented and posted it after all. No response on the level of a cogent comment or substantive debate, but one cannot ask too much, I suppose. After all, there are no Democrats in Washington pressing for a debate on the facts, now are there?

School Tips

Well, today is the fifth day of the fall semester at the University of Houston at Victoria, and I am moving along in my studies. I can’t help but wonder how I am doing; although I am following all the actions specified in the syllabus for each class, I remind myself that reading and homework are one thing, how I will do on tests is something else. Partially because I want to be helpful, and partially because this is where my mind is focused anyway, this article is about how to get through college courses, especially online. Who knows, maybe it will be worth reading.

To start, I recognize that by now, if you are a student in school you have already registered for classes and are either about to begin them or, like me, you have already begun the semester. This is part of my intent here; I am not trying to present too broad of an overview about what school you should attend or what calluses to take, but instead share from my own undergrad and present graduate experience, to try to help fellow students make the most of their opportunity.

First, the obvious starting point which so many students fail to address:

Read your class syllabus and know it!

Wouldn’t you like to roll through each semester, comfortable that you will not be surprised by the assignments, tests, and challenges which wait for you? Well, if your professor is at all reasonable, you will receive or have access to a syllabus, which will tell you critical dates and strategies. For instance, from my three class syllabi I have checked, I know the following weights for grades:

Class Discussion – 10% of the total grade
Textbook Quizzes – 20% of the total grade
Case Assignments – 20% of the total grade
Mid-Term Exam – 30% of the total grade
Group Project – 20% of the total grade

Class Discussions – 25% of the total grade
Case Assignments – 15% of the total grade
Mid-Term Exam – 30% of the total grade
Final Exam – 30% of the total grade

Class Discussions – 10% of the total grade
Homework – 5% of the total grade
Textbook Quizzes – 10% of the total grade
Industry Analysis – 15% of the total grade
Mid-Term Exam – 30% of the total grade
Final Exam – 30% of the total grade

From this I can observe, that while I need to do my homework for all three classes, it counts directly towards my overall grade in Economics. Also, while I need to participate in Class Discussions in all three classes, those discussions count more in my Business class than Accounting and Economics put together. All three classes count heavily on the Mid-Term examination, but the Accounting class does not have a Final Exam; instead the group project weighs heavily.

The syllabus is also a great place to make sure you have all your textbooks, especially checking the correct edition. And the professor usually lays out what he/she expects in an ‘A’ student, which is a very important piece of information.

Why mention this? Well, take my Business class as an example. I checked the ‘Getting To Know You’ list, and we have 30 students enrolled. Two Discussion Boards have been opened this week, and for those two, one topic has 61 messages from 13 students, and of those 6 have only one or two messages. 17 students have not yet left any messages on that topic. For the other topic, there are 22 messages from 10 students, and of those I am the only student to have left more than two messages. 20 students have not yet left a message on that topic.

What that means, is that for the two topics we are to discuss this week, only six students out of thirty have so far done what our professor says is expected. Twelve students have not yet left even a single message on either topic. Sure, they could come in before the topics close next Monday and leave a message, but the clock is running, and the longer they wait, the harder it will be to leave a message that meets the requirement of moving the discussion forward. Since the Discussion Boards count for one-fourth of our total grade in this class, that’s an early warning bell for these guys. It also matters that the professor is getting first impressions about her students; it’s much, much better to be seen as eager and quick, rather than slow or unmotivated.

And yes, I am keeping track of these folks. Why? Well, I mentioned already that I have a group project in Accounting, and my project group was actually the first to form up. In later classes, these group projects will continue, and I want to know about the kinds of people I might be considering as team mates. The ones who jump in quick and get a discussion going, are also the most likely to jump in and do their duty on a group project. And down the road, every MBA student will take part in the Case Competition. Knowing the aces as soon as possible will help me know who to recruit for my best results.

Another hint, if you do not already know it, is to do as much reading as possible as soon as possible. Sure, reading textbooks and study guides is not much fun, but it’s a whole lot better than being surprised by something you didn’t expect. Reading ahead helps you see the tricky parts before you get graded on them, and it also helps you build a comprehension that will help you manage your course focus throughout the semester.

And finally, do your homework! I mentioned in this article that only one of my professors is assigning a course weight to homework, but anyone who does not do the exercises will get burned in the quizzes and exams. Count on that.

Good luck to all my fellow students, and remember to thank everyone who is making it possible for you to earn your degree. If you are like me and are paying your own tuition, that still means thanking the people whose support in other ways makes such a difference. My wife Mikki has committed to my study just as I have, and this has made my schedule much easier and stable than it otherwise might be, and even my daughter is being good when Daddy is studying or doing his homework.

Again, good luck!

Islam and Jihadism - Part 4

Jihadist Blunders and the Renewed America

To err is human. And the more important people become, the more spectacular are their resulting fumbles. It is a fact of human history, that sometimes Good prevails because Evil overlooks an important element. Historians have noted that if he had not put so many resources into the ‘Final Solution’, Hitler could have committed enough troops and supplies to defeat the Soviet Union by 1943, and so changed the course of World War 2. If Japan had listened to Admiral Yamamoto’s warnings about American politics, the attack on Pearl Harbor would have been prevented, and with it the likelihood of direct conflict between Roosevelt and Tojo. If Caesar had listened to his wife and stayed home, Rome might have remained a viable Republic. But it is not in the nature of tyrants to listen to any inconvenient counsel, nor for proud men to accept questions concerning their decisions. And so it is, that Jihadism pursues the same course as previous tyrannies, and makes disastrous mistakes allowing for effective opposition by the forces of reason and representative government.

Before going into the blunders of the Jihadists, however, I must note some of the worse stumbles of the West. Because we need to clean up those mistakes, in order to take advantage of our opportunities and deny the same to the Jihadists:

[] Target selection – the media is no help, but President Bush’s distinction about our enemies must be said again and again and again: We are not at war against Islam, but against terrorists who want to destabilize the world and advance a bloody doctrine.

[] The Democrats – There is one way in which the current war is very much like Vietnam; the Democrats have no stomach to keep our commitments or back our troops in a war which will decide a region of the world’s future for the next generation at least. If a Democrat takes a stand for the troops and the truth, as Joe Lieberman did, he must be supported and applauded. But whenever a Democrat attacks U.S. policy in a manner which endangers the troops or the war, they must be relentlessly attacked for their reckless words. If they want to whine about their hurt feelings, too bad. Explain the stakes, and be clear about our objectives, and don’t worry about the American people – they know the difference between courage and cowardice, between priorities and political games, between the demands of war and the bleating of a liberal. The War is to be Issue #1, in every election and at every level. Stress where they stand versus where we stand, and let the voters choose.

[] Prosecute! – When the New York Times feels the need to mock the President, let them – but when they put operations and Americans in danger by revealing classified material, send in federal marshals and shut them down. Period.

[] Don’t Hide 9/11 – We were “suddenly and deliberately attacked” on September 11th, just as we were on December 7th. The images of Pearl Harbor reminded people what we were doing, even when the enemy was Italy or Germany, who had no direct connection to Pearl Harbor. So it is fitting that we remember and recall the dastardly attack which started this conflict, as well as all the other acts of cowardice against freedom. If the media is too complicit with the Jihadists to be pro-American, then shut down their U.S. headquarters and let CNN and its like relocate to Damascus, but push to have American values trumpeted, long and loud, to get the message out every single day.

The good news is, we already have good people working on every one of those problems, and there is progress. Now on to the Jihadists’ minefield:

[] The Jihadists are losing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda lost it’s bases in Afghanistan in 2002, and despite the casualties the Iraqi people, including many who once protested, even fought against the Coalition forces, now support their nation’s independence. Sunni and Shia are cooperating, however grudgingly, in a coalition government, which translates to the loss of two battlefronts for the Jihadists. And it will be much harder for Jihadists to take control in Iraq the way they did in Iran, or for Jihadists to reinstall groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan.

[] The young are protesting in Iran, against the repression by the “Jurists”. Considering that this is where the Mullahs need to pull their recruits for any war, and considering how harshly the regime has already been against criticism and revolt, to discover that thousands of university students have protested and continue to protest the government means that critical pressure against the regime is beginning to show. Even the old Soviet republics did not see this level of public protest when they began to lose their grip, warning that an internal battle for Iran and Saudi Arabia, one not controlled in any way by the Jihadists, may be building.

[] The Internet – the buys in the KGB were horrified to discover that they had no effective tool to stop communication and coordination of groups armed with only fax machines and cell phones. The Jihadists are discovering that try as they might, they cannot stop the Internet. Blogs by Iranians, for example, are the fastest growing demographic, and the Mullahs cannot stop them. And Al-Jazeerah is already feeling the heat.

[] Blenders – Jihadism, like all conquest plans, depends on effective scouting of the enemy. As Muslims leave for the West, they generally believe they are entering lands of intolerance and bigotry. When they discover instead that the West, especially the United States, is quite the opposite, more than a few lose interest. What’s more, some Muslim communities see the United States as their natural ally and the Jihadists as their enemy. In Dearborn, for example, when terrorist cells entered the United States and expected the local mosque to hide them and local Muslims to protect their intentions, Muslims instead notified the FBI. There is no clear number known, of sleeper cells which entered the United States and chose not to continue the Jihad, but it is known that the effect has been happening. And at the higher level of planning, this interferes with Jihadist strategy, as no can be certain whether the response to a call for a terrorist attack will be obeyed.

[] Osama bin Laden – In their original plans, the 9/11 attacks were intended to demoralize the United States and cow us against involvement in the Middle East. Instead, the attacks established a level of provocation which could no longer be ignored or blamed on American “imperialism”. And every ‘message’ from bin Laden helps renew focus on the need for vigilance and security.

And finally, the Jihadists badly misjudged the character and leadership of the United States. It is difficult to properly gauge what response the USA would have delivered, had Al Gore or Bill Clinton been President when those planes were flown into the towers, but there is no question that George W. Bush knew what to do. Invade the countries where the Taliban has bases, invade the country which last tried to take on the United States in a war, and replace tyrants in both places. Not a bad start.

George W. Bush followed the lead of Ronald W. Reagan in his foreign policy doctrine, though the Jihadists did not understand Reagan. Bush simply replaced Reagan’s laser-keen focus on the USSR, with an equally sharp sight on the Jihadists, and just as Reagan understood the fundamental internal contradictions which would bring down the Soviet regime, Bush understands the basic internal contradictions which will kill the Jihadists’ campaign. He has a less concentrated target to attack than Reagan had, and internal enemies within the United States working against him in desperation, but Bush has already changed the landscape, by reawakening the basic American sense of justice and rights. Provided the Congress listens to the President and the People, and provided the next President understands the conflict in context, we will win this war.

NEXT - Part 5, Why Islam Is Not The Enemy, and The New Mid-East

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Defending the Weird Guy : Why I Support Tom Cruise

I do not like Tom Cruise. Frankly, like many Hollywood types he gets on my nerves, with his better-than-you attitude and flaunting his wealth and success. I also think Scientology is a crock religion, and people like Cruise are selling folks on a false faith. Having said that, I support Cruise in the clash with Viacom, and contend that his rights have been abused.

Here’s the short story: For the last couple years or so, Cruise has been acting like the mascot for Froot Loops, jumping on sofas, attacking ‘South Park’ for having some fun – Tom, get a grip, it’s a CARTOON - and generally saying things which bring up concerns for Tom’s mental balance. On that basis, Viacom Fuhrer – er, Chairman Summer Redstone cut ties between his company, which owns Paramount Pictures, and Tom Cruise.
Said Redstone of Cruise; "His recent conduct has not been acceptable to Paramount."

I see. Well, that drunk driving incident with the accompanying anti-Semitic slurs certainly was damaging. Wait, sorry, that was Mel Gibson. Cruise has never been arrested for driving drunk, in fact I’m not sure he even drinks anymore.

OK, well that throw-the-phone-at-the-hotel-employee was pretty classless. Except that Russell Crowe did that, not Cruise.

Hmm. Maybe the time the costume “malfunctioned” on national television – no, that was Janet Jackson.

What’s interesting is that while they faced some controversy, those three celebrities I just mentioned all got on with their lives and careers. Not one studio has even hinted at kicking them out. So what’s different with Cruise? His religion.

I already said I think Scientology is a quack-fest, but everyone has a right to their personal beliefs. Scientology has never, so far as I know, started a war, which puts it morally ahead of certain Christian, Muslim, and even Buddhist sects. I tend to think of Scientologists much the same way as I do Mormons – Brigham Young and Joseph Smith, after all, were no saints, but many Mormons are fine people whose good works and character are worthy of admiration and imitation.

But I said at the start that I think Redstone is abusing Tom Cruise’s rights. What I mean is, Hollywood definitely sells a perspective. They don’t mind in the least if an actor or actress acts in a way which most people would consider lewd or promiscuous. They don’t mind if an actor or actress attacks mainstream values, so long as they express the appropriate liberal alternative. They do not have any beef with someone who is hedonistic and vain, especially if it increases box office sales. But god help the actor, so to speak, who dares to express religious thoughts and opinions in public. The First Amendment never reached the West Coast, it seems. Tom Cruise may be a self-obsessed actor with a poor grasp of tact and poor tolerance for satire, but he still has rights. Even in Hollywood.

Islam and Jihadism - Part 3

Policies of the Terror State

Some people may be aware that the Ayatollah Khomeini, while exiled from Iran by Reza Shah Pahlavi during 1978-9 lived and taught in France. This apparently extraneous detail is important, as a study in tolerance as a strategic blunder and also as a lesson in cultural influence. Because Khomeini had studied European History, and was quite familiar with the Revolution of 1789 in France, along with the period known to historians simply as “The Terrors”, when the Jacobins arrested and massacred countless political and personal enemies, and established a thoroughly despotic regime. Bloody though it was, Khomeini noted that it effectively wiped out the monarchy, which was his own goal.

As I noted in the first two parts of this study, Islam has patterned itself after Christianity as the Imams perceive it. That is, because the Christian Church held broad temporal power by the 7th Century, the Mullahs pursued control of nations as well as spiritual conversion. Because Christian nations and Pagan nations had armies, Muslim leaders considered warfare an appropriate means for expanding their numbers, and coercion a valid spiritual tool. Because the Jewish and Christian and Buddhist practices were culturally established, the new Muslim faith’s leaders believed it was necessary to restrict such religions in territory they controlled, as if to quarantine debate and competition. As a result, whatever Mohammed intended for Islam during his years as its Prophet, the course following his death was distinctly militant, intolerant, and isolated. In total therefore, the sum effect of Islam has driven it towards Jihad – forcing all to choose between Islam or their own identity.

Ruhollah Khomeini was also a product of his environment. An old man by the time he came to power (he was born in 1902), Khomeini had learned the ways of the British, the French, the Germans, and to a limited extent he had impressions of the Soviets and the Americans. All of those ideas worked within his mind, along with the means he planned to employ to forward his vision of Islam. In many respects, Khomeini was strangely evocative of Adolf Hitler. Like Hitler, Khomeini’s father died while he was a child. Like Hitler, Khomeini started as a bit of an aesthetic, preferring philosophy in his early years in much the same way that Hitler tried to pursue art. Like Hitler, Khomeini found his fame as a rabble rouser, and a hater of Jews. And like Hitler, Khomeini rose to power through usurpation of the existing regime. In Hitler’s case the dissolution of political dissent after the Reichstag fire; in Khomeini’s case the strident cry for armed revolt against the Shah.

Khomeini also found the lure of ‘Mahdi’ irresistible, though the man was canny enough to avoid actually claiming the title. A devotee of ‘Irfan, which blended elements of mysticism into practices and study of the Koran, Khomeini took this largely Sufi practice and applied it to politics, essentially declaring that Allah had pronounced the “Rule of the Jurist”, or national rule through the Imams, firmly tying legitimacy of government to Sharia and control by the Mullahs. As their head, Khomeini pronounced himself the supreme ruler of Iran, and as such directed the revolution against the Shah. Declaring the Shah’s dictates to have “no value”, Khomeini further polarized the conflict, constantly decrying the corruption in the Shah’s government and the brutality of the SAVAK (ironic, compared to the sort of tactics Khomeini’s own regime later sponsored), and casting the conflict as a ‘Shah or Allah’ choice.

There are basically four ways for a leader to rule a nation:

• Many tribes and monarchies relied on the rule of love for the leader. This is also more accurately called the ‘cult of personality’;
• Leaders often rule by directing hatred towards a selected target, often a minority group within the country as a scapegoat for government failures, or a neighboring country to blame or attack for various economic or cultural troubles;
• Representatives democracies and republics use the rule of law to establish a consistent standard of expectations and accountability. Respect for the rule of law is the principle condition for this method;
• Governments which cannot justify their actions any other way will rule through fear, often by excessively harsh penalties for noncompliance.

Khomeini chose a blend of methods two and four, casting Iran as the sole defender of the faith against an Infidel world, and by creating a maze of government bodies based on his personal interpretations of Sharia, so that he maintained control of the military, police, and media. Further, he directed the funding, supply and moral support for dozens of terrorist groups to destabilize regional governments, including connections to the Jihadists who murdered Egyptian President Sadat in 1981. It speaks to the state of the Middle East that the assassination of their President did not result in a major war between Egypt and Iran. The Jihadists grew bold. After the American retreat from Lebanon following a terrorist attack on their barracks in 1983, the Jihadists grew bolder still, believing that they had found a way to take consolidate control of the Middle East, and establish the long-awaited Caliphate, secured by the military strength of terrorist attacks and paid for with oil.

The West answered, though not fully. Various dictators received comeuppance from both the United States and the Soviet Union, who cooperated in a secret and thoroughly unofficial manner in such events during the 1980s as the Osirak raid in Iraq, a number of rescue operations in Lebanon and Egypt, and in tanker protection for Kuwaiti oil during the Iran-Iraq war. There is even reason to believe that someone played a hand in the 1987 humiliation of Libya by Chad, though intelligence sources in both the U.S. and the former U.S.S.R. only smile and deny any personal participation in the matter. The problem was not only the continuing, if diminishing, Cold War between East and West, but also the problem of addressing a threat which purportedly had no connection to a formal state. Iran, like Saudi Arabia, got around the appearance of sponsorship by funneling money and supplies through prominent families and religious groups.

So, the Ayatollah Khomeini came to signal a paradigm shift, from Islam as a personal practice led by a few theological Imams, to Jihadism and the expectation of public displays of piety and Political Correctness on a level only dreamed about in California. The Jihadists demonstrated whom they feared by repressing them harshly, from women who might vote, to media which might report both sides of an issue, to young Muslims choosing leadership based on their personal needs and aspirations. Sharia was used to keep women under male control, to control the flow of information and propaganda, and to prevent young men from holding major offices, unless they had proven their services in the revolution. It is no coincidence that Iran’s new President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was directly involved in the 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran, and a strict Jurist in the Khomeini mold. Nor should it surprise anyone, that the Imams have been working to insure the “political reliability” of anyone in power in the Middle East; leaders have been advised, sometimes in distinctly unsubtle ways, that their political survival, perhaps their literal survival, depends on support for Jihad. Muslims around the world have been told that Jihad is no more or less than a battle for the survival of Islam, and that any strike against Jihadists must be considered an attack on all Islam. Lacking an effective leader, Islam has not yet responded to correct this lie.

The Jihadists’ game plan operated on four levels. The primary level was to shove all foreign influence out of the Middle East, which is to say all non-Islamist governments, including Israel of course, but also Turkey and several of the aristocracies inclined to secular rule, such as Jordan and Kuwait. The second level was to push out the Soviets, which was effectively accomplished with the retreat from Afghanistan, which further fed the Jihadists’ confidence. The new second front is to deal with Asia, which is to say principally address relations with China – the Middle East has found that the People’s Republic is amenable to anything which insures the flow of oil, though the growing Jihadist threat along China’s Southwest flank gives its Army concern, as well it should. The third front is Europe – the Jihadists have found little to fear from Europe, seeing the flaccid response not only to the Bosnian Wars but also the Chechnyan and Balkan insurrections. Small wonder the matter has spread to incited violence in Holland, Germany, France, and England.

The fourth front, and the most difficult to predict, is the American front. The Jihadists learned American politics from Jimmy Carter. Claim to be the victim and hey, that’s what you are! The Jihadists misread Reagan, taking his focus on the Soviets for disinterest in the Middle East, but they read Bill Clinton right. Like the Chinese, Clinton seemed to judge successful relations in the Middle East in terms of oil production, trade agreements, and meaningless promises. The Jihadists noted the lack of attention to Hussein, the disinterest in North Korea’s nuclear buildup, and the mercenary character or Clinton’s political campaigns, and decided that money and stealth would suit their purpose in the course of actions. Ironically, one of their own uncovered their plans before they could come to fruition.

NEXT - Part 4, Jihadist Blunders and the Renewed America

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Truman clings to a lost cause in Japan

( To understand the context of this article, please check Joan Vennochi’s incredibly insulting attack on the effort in Iraq. That Vennochi does not understand the cause or progress of the war is not so surprising, but the continuing attempt by Vennochi and similar cowards to sway the public to accept defeat is appalling and shameful )

Harry S Truman sounds increasingly like one of those young punks you hear about more and more often. The punk won't obey his parents, and Truman won’t quit Japan. The president's latest news conference was another installment of rebel with a cause that a shrinking number of Americans believe in. "We're not leaving so long as I'm president", promised - or threatened - Truman.

Acknowledging that public support for the war continues to wane, the president said, "America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and unbeatable determination to do the job at hand." But as Senator Lyndon B. Johnson correctly pointed out, "If one little old general in shirt sleeves can take Saigon, think about 200 million Chinese comin' down those trails. No sir, I don't want to fight them."

Truman, the stubborn, won't leave Japan. And even worse, he won't admit mistakes relative to getting us there in the first place, or military miscues since, when it comes to carrying out the mission, he dooms us to travel the same misguided path as long as he remains in the White House.

Asked why he would spend so much on a war we don’t need to fight, Truman answered, "It's a lot better to have a strong national defense than a balanced budget."

What's a nation to do? Ground the commander in chief for the rest of his term and take away his car keys? Truman - or rather James Forrestal - wants Japan to be the defining debate in upcoming elections. He and Truman’s men are making no effort at all to cooperate with their enemies. Said President Truman when asked why he won’t seek a bipartisan effort; "I don't like bipartisans. Whenever a fellow tells me he's bipartisan, I know that he's going to vote against me."

The presidential rationale for staying in Japan is the same old, same old. People know it and are weary of it. Japan just is not ready for Democracy, they’ve never had one and now is not the time to hope we can sell it on them, or to believe that Japan will become an ally or even a stable country because of what we are doing there.

And, we see the faces of young soldiers cropping up much too frequently in our newspapers and on our TV screens. The lucky ones are maimed, but alive; the unlucky ones are dead, never again to defy their parents by leaving piles of dirty laundry on their bedroom floor.

Taken cumulatively, the images make it hard to imagine politicians of either party anxious to embrace Truman's approach in Japan. US Senator Arthur Vandenberg was right to oppose the war before the Pearl Harbor attack, even though he later agreed that the U.S. had to fight. Vandenberg’s insistence that the United States should seek international solutions and not “go it alone” has put him at odds with President Truman, who is determined that the United States will pursue its goals whatever other nations think.

When it comes to Japan, Truman, the rebel with a lost cause, continues to defy one thing above all: logic.

[ NOTE - the Truman quotes in this article are all real quotes by Harry Truman ]

Islam and Jihadism - Part 2

Nationalism and Industry

It is commonly said that one reason Islam and the West cannot see eye to eye, is that the West has separation of Church and State, while Islam mixes the two beyond visible distinction. There is something to that at one level, but on another, the problem for Islam devolves from an even sharper separation of Mosque and State than in the West. This is nowhere more obvious than in the National histories of the modern Arab states, and the industries which feed them.

For many years, the Middle East was fairly amorphous in terms of borders. This was partly due to the nomadic nature of tribes in the region, as well as Islam’s reluctance to accept boundaries to its territory; it is as if the Imams hoped to renew the push to regain lost territory, and to claim new lands for the Prophet. Certainly, Islam developed a largely theoretical existence, as Mullahs were forced to accept the rulings of Sheikhs and Emirs in legal judgments, ostensibly based on Sharia but far more often just the whim of the ruler. This was especially the case in those territories held by the Ottomans, who preferred to rule “loosely” and let the locals handle smaller issues. Then the Germans came out to play. And the Ottomans backed the wrong horse, which cost them their empire.

“War for Oil” is a modern-sounding slogan, but it is far from accurate in the present conflict. It is, however, an apt description of the Middle East’s value in World War One. Germany grabbed the Industrial Revolution in a big way, and this helped establish its independence as a European power, so long restrained by the old Continental powers. But Germany was a hungry nation, and the Kaiser knew that German Industry needed oil. And the most convenient place for readily-processed petroleum was the Middle East. Some historians have even speculated that the unrest in the Balkans was a German/Austrian pretext to move South. Certainly all of Europe saw the Middle East as a prize which they had to hold. For all the romance of Lawrence of Arabia, people too often forget that the British sent him in there to keep the Germans from gaining the upper hand in the region.

Britain made a number of promises to various groups, sometimes in conflict with other promises, the most famous of which is known as the Balfour Declaration. In short order the agreements were intended to grant a measure of independence to the Middle East, while insuring good relations with Great Britain. To that end, Britain drew up borders for Iran, Iraq, and Egypt, while France gained control of ‘Syria’, which originally included present-day Lebanon, and is part of Syria’s claim to control of that region. Germany, having lost the war, was shut out of controlling any Middle East country, while the Emirates largely mistrusted Europe and made deals directly with large American firms, especially Standard Oil. As a result, even before the beginning of World War Two, Oil was a strategic commodity, the Arabs were well aware of its potential as a bargaining chip, and there was intense competition for trade and cooperation with the people who held control of the oil fields. In the Middle East then, there were essentially three power blocs as of 1935:

• The monarchies set up by Britain and France to keep order, usually with loose cooperation between Sultan and Imam;
• The families who represented the various countries in possession of the oil fields; and
• Political opposition groups who saw an opportunity for revolution and change in power, usually backed by a nation on the outside of the Oil deals, such as Germany, the USSR, or Italy.

Note that in that earlier time, the power structure of Islam generally lined up behind the thrones of the Middle East, the various Sultans, Emirs, and Sheikhs who held title. This was largely in the model of Ibn Saud, whose claim to Arabia changed it to Saudi Arabia, and whose policies blended secular rule with the imprimatur of Islam, by including appointments and favors to Wahhabist Imams.

After World War Two, this all changed. Partly because the Soviets took a rather direct approach to meeting their oil supply needs. They simply grabbed Iran, and it took the threat of nuclear force by President Truman in 1947 to get them to back off, But even then Moscow made deals with Baghdad and Damascus, and a bipolar structure took hold, essentially stopping all growth towards true independence for a time.

That changed, in an ironic fashion, in 1974. When the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) seized the conference of the Oil Production and Exporting Countries (OPEC), it changed the course of government control of terrorist groups, and also showed the weak infrastructure to Middle Eastern governments. Arabs already enraged by the scale of losses taken in the 1967 War with Israel, and the unsatisfactory conclusion to the Yom Kippur War which followed it, believed that only a radical Islamic State could hope to alter the demise of the Middle East into either a Soviet or American puppet. This spurred the creation of dozens of fragmentary groups, sponsored no longer by governments but by families and individuals, often in the Saudi and Iraqi governments. Oil money was funneled into slush funds, and the terrorist groups became significantly more sophisticated and aggressive. Many Americans are unaware of the large number of kidnappings and murders of foreigners during the 1970s and 1980s, including operations in Europe. Many Americans are unaware of Arab connections to such groups as the Red Brigade in Italy, and several Muslim groups in Croatia during the late 1980s. The regional infrastructure permanently changed, and for the worse, when the Ayatollah Khomeini took power in Iran in 1979. Within months, Islamic groups began to desert support for the traditional kingdoms, in favor of revolutionary Jihad, and so began the new wave of Jihad in earnest. Political leaders found themselves choosing to either suppress the rebellion, or pronounce it the will of Allah. With both the Carter Administration and Breshnev regimes oddly timid on the matter, most royals became loyal supporters of the Revolution, which is to say Jihad. By so doing, they hoped to ride out the wave of anger which was palpable in the Middle East. But by so doing, they committed the region to a bloody future. Jihad became the de facto policy of the major powers in the region.

NEXT - Part 3, Policies of the Terror State

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Obvious

Health is better than Disease.

Honor is more desirable than Treachery.

Mercy trumps Cruelty.

God has blessed America.

George W. Bush is doing his job well and with great fortitude.

Islam and Jihadism - Part 1 (repeated from February 2006)

There is an old dictum, so hoary that many people forget the reason for its original emphasis: Know Your Enemy. While many people correctly understand this to mean guarding against being surprised by an enemy, it also warns against creating problems by attacking a non-belligerent, and so increasing your foes. The United States is walking a narrow and winding road in the Middle East, precisely because of that caution. A great many people incorrectly believe the War On Terror is against Islam, when in fact there is the potential to make Islam an ally against one of the great abominations of our day.

Islam counts more than a billion people as believers across the globe. They can be found in every major nation and city, and the emphatic public displays of their belief can lead people to consider Muslims rigid and intolerant. But it is not valid to label Islam an automatically violent faith, anymore than it would be to blame all of Christianity for the violence of the Irish Republican Army or Abortion Clinic bombers. While Islam must wrestle with its obligation to speak out against the evil in its midst, it must also be accorded the respect it deserves as a major religion. The extremists of Islam must be understood as the outcasts of their religion.

People do not generally understand Islam. That was fine when Islam was an exotic religion practiced by few people close to your home, and which was unlikely to ever impact your life directly. But in these days of a nuclear threat from Iran, uprisings in regions of Europe and Asia, as well as the threat of a prolonged conflict, both military and cultural, with Islamic nations around the globe, it becomes critical to learn the basics of both Islam and of Jihadism, and why they are not the same, but one must inevitably supplant the other.

Islam is a major religion, with over a billion adherents. Islam is growing faster than Christianity, and so poses the possible position of majority support within the entury, presuming present growth continues. Yet Islam is not monolithic, nor is it a unified faith as it is so often protrayed. A simple example is to look at the violence done in the name of Islam; if even one percent of all Muslims took up arms, the resulting army would be one of the largest in the world. With significant mathematical and scientific resources, Muslims could also quickly modernize a military force; certainly WMD are no obstacle. Indeed, most experts agree that Muslim countries likely all have CW stockpiles, with research in BW also likely since the 1980s, a nasty legacy of Saddam’s policies, which in turn spurred the creation and development of counter-weapons. Iran has well over a hundred missiles capable of reaching Israel right now, so the only questions are what they will put in the warheads, and what will stop them from launching. More on the Muslim-Israeli standoff in a little bit. For here, it is important to understand a bit of what drives the Muslim political machine, especially in the Middle East. The politics of Islam began with Mohammed himself, and developed through victory and defeat over more than a thousand years.

A thorough study of Islam would take a long time, so right here I will admit that this is a montage of snap shot concepts, and even then a brief one. Islam, of course,starts out with Mohammed, whose name is spelled a number of ways in the West because Arabic uses a different alphabet. That alone sets the stage for confusion, as it is not always posible to get a direct translation from Arabic to English; a certain amount of nuance is always there, and often gets lost. Imagine the literal translation of “What’s Up?” to someone unfamiliar with American idioms, and then apply it to a complex social issue. Even when language is not the issue, culture also throws up obstacles. Winston Churchill once quipped that America and England are two countries separated by a common language. So we should be very careful about assuming we understand the mindset of a land far different from our own in distance, history, perspective, and opportunity. And we should realize that it is very difficult for the Muslim world to understand the American ideal, even when they want to make the attempt. But one key issue, to start, is the founder. Jesus Christ was known for His gentle forgiveness and message of peace. Contrast that with Mohammed, who led a number of bloody fights to establish Islam, and then to give it control of key territory. But it would be unfair to leave it at that. Mohammed, after all, also wanted peace and stability, which was a prime reason for the establishment of Sharia - a common law to which all men would be subject. So it is also important to understand that Mohammed learned from the Christian Church. By his day, he had seen the power of the Church in Rome, how kings kneeled to the Pope, and how armies went where the Church commanded. Small wonder Mohammed took the trouble to copy that same strategy. Tie the Church and State together, and with Allah on your side you cannot lose. And that has not changed in the Muslim worldview.

OK, fast forward to the Renaissance. That happened in large part because the Church underwent a Reformation, but that was hardly a fast or peaceful process. No one denies Islam needs a similar Reformation, but no one wants a Muslim version of the Inquisition or a repeat of the Crusades, which began incidentally with the Muslim invasion of Europe. The Muslims basically lost the Crusades, and the Middle East was relegated to inconsequence, until oil became important to industry and economy. Oil became a factor by the latter half of the 19th Century, setting the stage for more than a century of greed, fervor, and fury. This is where we must begin to tie the threads of the religion, the politics, the regional culture, and economy of the Middle East.

Essentially, the Middle East of 1900 was not much different from the Middle East of 1500; the Muslims lacked the economic strength to support extensive military campaigns, and European trade with China had provided not only mercantile success, but improvements in metallurgy, artillery, and cavalry tactics. Ironically, Europe had learned from its wars with the Hun, its member states, and of course, also from the Crusades. The Muslim world held a cultural disdain for failure, so losses were not carefully analyzed for corrections, and in any case the unity of Islam was never quite what Mohammed or Ali, or even Salazar, had hoped to create.

Many people are vaguely aware of the ‘Schism’ between Catholics and Protestants which was brought about by the Reformation, but few pay much attention to the much earlier split between the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. In much the same way, early Muslims split on questions of leadership and proper doctrine between the Shia and Sunni sects.These also fractured and fragmented sheikdoms and sultanates, both in time of defeat and in times of victory. So it was that Islam could not agree on a number of key points, and each ruler approved the version of Sharia which suited his mind. Thus the popular legend of the Mahdi - that mythical Imam who would bring all Islam together once again. Ask historians about that name - Muslims rebelled in British-held Sudan in the 1880s, because a yahoo there declared himself the Mahdi. The original ‘Mahdi’, Tarikh-e Imamat, the first Fatimid Caliph who named his son al-Qaim to be the ‘12th Imam’ and 2nd Fatimid Caliph before his own death, would hardly have approved of Muhammad Ahmad, whose woeful logistics and tactical mistakes doomed his revolt, though not before thousands of errant Muslims and British troops died over a war that lasted eighteen years. Other ‘Mahdis’ rose from the crowd, usually in hopes of reforming Islam and establish a measure of Islamist influence in the state. Long before Ahmad, a 15th-Century Sultan named Mehmed II was distinctly open to European scholarship and faith and who codified Sharia during the creation of the Ottoman Empire, and also combined conquest (he invaded Bosnia and Constantinople) with treaties to avoid major escalation of his wars. Significantly, this Sultan was far more amenable to Christian leaders than he was of secular government; Mehmed put to death the entire ruling family of Karamania, because they were both secular and Turks. Mehmed II is popular known in Islamic history classes as “Mohammed II”. So Jihad, reform of Islam and Middle East governments, the ‘Mahdi’ myth, and the dream of conquering the world for Mohammed is a periodic, if inconstant, pursuit.

NEXT - Part 2, Nationalism and Industry

Monday, August 21, 2006

Blogging From the Dark Side

Credit card bill with the tuition, fees, and textbooks arrived Saturday. Classes started today. Working right now to keep Professors Vader and Palpatine happy.

Unless you want a comparison between the marketing strategies of Reliant Energy and COSTCO, this is not likely to be a big blogging day.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

What We Owe The Ramseys

I admit it; I was one of those people who read the news reports leaked by police about the Ramsey family’s actions after the murder of JonBenet and found the family unsatisfactory in their behavior. While I never jumped to the conclusion that the Ramsey family was complicit in the murder of their daughter, I bought into the media hype at the time that the family ‘should have done more’. I am sorry for that, as many of us should be.

By now many people have heard about the arrest in Thailand of John Mark Karr, who confessed to ‘being with JonBenet when she died’. Further information indicates Karr knew details not available to the general public, but it remains to be confirmed whether Karr’s confession proves he was the killer. After so much hysteria and unfounded assumption, we should be wary of assuming that appearances are accurate.

But one thing which has become clear, should be shouted loudly and often; as a federal judge said in dismissing a 2003 civil case against the parents of JonBenet, "the weight of the evidence is more consistent with a theory that an intruder murdered JonBenét than it is with a theory that Mrs. Ramsey did it." In fact, a substantial amount of evidence pointed away from the parents, including the DNA samples from the murder scene. Putting it bluntly, the DNA evidence cleared the Ramseys, but almost no one ever heard about that, because the media had targeted the parents.

Just two months ago, Patsy Ramsey died of Ovarian Cancer. She’d fought it off before, but it came back and killed her.

It’s sentimental perhaps, to think that the stress of first losing her daughter then being persecuted as if she had something to do with it for a decade could have led to the return of her cancer, but clearly the last decade of Patsy Ramsey’s life was a tragedy that was made worse by the media and the police. Perhaps in the coming weeks, we will see a proper apology from the worst of the Ramsey’s venomous antagonists, but somehow I doubt that.

We bloggers have a responsibility in this sort of affair, as well. There were no real bloggers on the job in 1996, but there have been a lot of websites started in the past decade, and more than a few devoted to the murder of JonBenet Ramsey. Most of them took the media at face value, and focused almost solely on the family as complicit, like this forum.

Imagine what the father went through. The daughter murdered, from the start the media is ruthless and hungry for a high-profile target, like the mom or dad. You try to get through the burial and to protect your family by having an agent hired to deal with the press, for which you are even further vilified. Along the course of a decade, you are personally accused, even sued, for the death of your own daughter, your wife is also accused on no evidence, then your son – nine years old when his sister was murdered – is blamed in the press. You finally get a taste of vindication for the crime, but not until your wife dies, in all likelihood never knowing for sure who murdered her daughter. It is hard to imagine a more heinous injustice for a family to suffer than the Ramseys endured. It’s even harder to imagine what can be done to properly apologize for the conduct of the police and the press. For my part, I mean to keep this whole incident in mind as an especially painful and gruesome reminder to make sure of facts, and to avoid wholesale and salacious condemnation. I can’t but wonder who else would have the honesty to make the same commitment.