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Friday July 30, 2004

While we've all been attentive to the serious goings-on at the Fleet Center (heroic tales of hamster CPR notwithstanding) tragedy is slowly, predictably unfolding in the Sudan:

The humanitarian situation in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region is not improving despite an increase in the number of relief groups working in the area, according to the international medical charity agency Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF).

MSF head Dr. Rowan Gillies, who spent a month working in the clinics and camps in Darfur, said there was widespread suffering, inadequate relief efforts and continuing violence.

...The U.N. estimates that 50,000 people have died from armed attacks, malnutrition and diseases since the conflict between African rebels and government-backed Arab militias began early last year.

In Washington, U.S. Agency for International Development representative Roger Winter said it was projected that "by the end of the year, in the neighborhood of 300,000 to 350,000 excess deaths will occur."

This is reminiscent of the tragedy ten years ago in Rwanda:

In just three months in 1994 an estimated 800,000 people were slaughtered when Rwandan Hutu extremists began a systematic liquidation of minority ethnic Tutsis, with the UN realising the scale of the disaster too late.

And this from the Globe and Mail:

The Sudanese government has carried out a murderous campaign in its Darfur region through deliberate bombing of civilian targets and through support of Arab militias known as janjaweed raping and killing on the ground. Khartoum cannot be trusted to end the killing, though it may see some temporary gain in slowing or pausing it.

Yet current international measures seem to depend on the Sudanese government as a partner. The United States has proposed a draft UN Security Council resolution calling on Khartoum to stop the violence in Darfur, to impose an arms embargo on the janjaweed and to arrest janjaweed leaders.

...In the past 12 to 18 months, the UN and major powers have avoided dealing decisively with the Darfur conflict because they did not want to disturb peace talks to end the civil war between the government and rebels in the south of the country. But there has to be some recognition -- based on the Darfur events -- that the Sudanese government may not be a reliable partner in that longer-standing negotiation process. It is now open to serious question whether that peace process can be saved in the absence of a political process across Sudan as a whole, in which all rebel groups and marginalized communities can participate.

It has taken a long time for the international community to act despite being aware of Khartoum's murderous campaign against non-Arab tribes in Darfur, at least as early as September of 2003. The international community must act without delay. The Security Council cannot allow more time to see whether Sudan will fulfill its pledges because this only provides more time for more atrocities to be committed or for Khartoum to manipulate ceasefires for its own murderous purposes.

A spokesman for an aid agency in the region had these choice quotes:

“The international community are stepping up their rhetoric but their action and promise of action remains pathetic. The international community is on the verge of total failure in Darfur.”

“The Sudanese government made a series of commitments in their July 3 communique. They have now had a month and many of these commitments haven’t been met. There is no excuse for Sudanese inaction.”

“There must be tough international action immediately. There should be no more delays and no additional deadlines. This is a crisis that could rapidly deteriorate.”

Well, the UN is once again striving for "collective security" and working hard to resolve the crisis. While people are being killed in the thousands, the bureaucrats in the UN are dithering over whether to impose "measures" or "sanctions" on Sudan:

The UN Security Council Friday, July 30, adopted a US-drafted resolution threatening Sudan with 'measures' unless it reigned in militias responsible for atrocities in Darfur, as Arabs expressed fear the move could lead to American-led invasion of yet another country in their region.

The 13-0 vote, with abstentions from China and Pakistan, came after the United States, facing considerable opposition, deleted the word "sanctions" and substituted a reference to a section of the U.N. Charter permitting punitive measures.

...The resolution also places an immediate weapons embargo on all armed groups in Darfur, where government forces and Arab militia (Janjaweed) have been battling a rebellion from some African tribes. But Sudan security forces, accused of protecting the Janjaweed as they rape and kill, are excluded.

The despots of Sudan clearly feel like they have won this round

But Sudanese Foreign Minister Mustafa Ismail had apparently had another interpretation in mind, as he hailed what he called a "weaker text" of the draft resolution.

"We expect an attenuated resolution to be issued by the Security Council today," Ismail told the independent Khartoum daily Akhbar Al-Youm Friday.

He said his ministry had set out a two-pronged plan to counter the draft resolution - "either to block its adoption altogether or to strive, in cooperation with our friends, to remove from it such references as genocide, ethnic cleansing and other extreme points and apparently this is what we have so far succeeded in achieving just hours before the vote."

If it weren't so tragic, the UN actions would be a farce.

Wednesday July 28, 2004

Heather Wilhem has done some research on the band of Syrians aboard flight 327. Turns out they are, in fact, a Syrian band. But this:

Mr. Mehana has a nice little song on his recent CD, by the way. It's called "Um El Shaheed." In English, that's "Mother of a Martyr."

I noticed "Um El Shaheed" on Nour Mehana's web site. "Shaheed," I knew, meant "martyr," but that was as far as my Arabic could go. Since martyrdom seemed an odd topic for a casino crooner, I called the Middle East Media Research Institute. I spoke with Aluma Dankowtiz, who is fluent in Arabic, to find out exactly what Mr. Mehana has to say.

"Mother of a Martyr" glorifies the death of a young Palestinian. Mehana sings to a grieving mother that she should not be sad, because her son, who died as a martyr, is a hero. She should be happy that her son is gone, Mehana croons, because freeing Palestine and the Golan Heights are heroic goals. The song, which starts slow and solemn, ends with a triumphant chorus, celebrating the martyr's glorious death: "Allahu Akbar...Allahu Akbar...Allahu Akbar!"

Go read the whole thing.

They destroyed Iraq's Ossirak reactor in 1981, but will they attack Iran's Busher reactor before it goes warm?

One Israeli analyst talking to G2B said: "Such decisions are made in a very lonely environment with no friends to share the burden." He also used a western metaphor by comparing Gary Cooper cleaning up a town with no support coming from those who were affected by a dangerous hoodlum. He summarized his assessment by saying: "For Israel the decision will come at 'high noon' with no partners and no support other than her own resources and risk taking."

Perhaps the Israelis are also considering this from December 2001:

One of Iran’s most influential ruling cleric called Friday on the Muslim states to use nuclear weapon against Israel, assuring them that while such an attack would annihilate Israel, it would cost them "damages only".

"If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world", Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani told the crowd at the traditional Friday prayers in Tehran.

Walter Williams on the evils of socialism:

Attacks on private property include, but are not limited to, confiscating the rightful property of one person and giving it to another to whom it doesn't belong. When this is done privately, we call it theft. When it's done collectively, we use euphemisms: income transfers or redistribution. It's not just left-wingers and Democrats who call for and admire socialism, but right-wingers and Republicans as well.

Republicans and right-wingers support taking the earnings of one American and giving them to farmers, banks, airlines and other failing businesses. Democrats and left-wingers support taking the earnings of one American and giving them to poor people, cities and artists. Both agree on taking one American's earnings to give to another; they simply differ on the recipients. This kind of congressional activity constitutes at least two-thirds of the federal budget.

Regardless of the purpose, such behavior is immoral. It's a reduced form of slavery. After all, what is the essence of slavery? It's the forceful use of one person to serve the purposes of another person. When Congress, through the tax code, takes the earnings of one person and turns around to give it to another person in the forms of prescription drugs, Social Security, food stamps, farm subsidies or airline bailouts, it is forcibly using one person to serve the purposes of another.

Lt. Col Cucullu writes on classified documents:

Regardless, the classification is what it is and must be respected. As are the rules for dealing with such material. Each agency has its own variation of the rules and regulations for safeguarding classified material. While these may vary slightly in detail they are uniform in intent: protection of classified material is of paramount importance to national security. As we have learned in the past, loose lips do indeed sink ships. Nations lose critical advantage when intelligence is compromised. People die because of carelessly handled classified information.

...Casually dismissing mishandling of classified documents in order to get someone who may have erred off the hook is totally unacceptable. Excuses such as absent-mindedness, sloppiness, pre-occupation or volume of material dealt with are fatuous, irrelevant and do great harm. Ask anyone in government and they can cite cases of careers ruined or personnel dismissed for mishandling classified material. Leaving a safe open in the Pentagon or walking out of a desk full of top secret documents in the State Department can bring a reprimand or worse. Carelessness with or manipulation of classified material is not to be taken lightly. Like any staff officer Sandy Berger must be held accountable for his actions.

Haven't heard too much of this story in the last few days, have we? Much has been said from the Democrats regarding the timing of the leak and I think they may have a point. One, the leak came well before the elections so that the impact of the disclosure would be of minimal effect. Two, the leak came the week before the Democratic National Convention so it would be quickly overshadowed by the events at the Fleet Center. Perhaps the Dems have a point.

Perhaps, it was Lanny Davis since he hasn't denied it (scroll down) when asked by Linda Chavez:

Q: Did you leak this?

A: I wrote a chapter in my book about one of the great reporters who covered the White House, John Solomon for the Associated Press. . . . But I'm afraid if I asked John Solomon, "Who leaked this to you?" he would give you the same answer that he's always given me when I asked that question, which is, "None of your business."

Q: OK, Lanny. But (the caller) was asking you . . . did you leak this information to John Solomon in order to get the bad news out of the way?

A: Oh, did I? Well, let me put it this way. Had I been asked last October by my old friend Sandy Berger - who is a great man, an honest man and has done something that he sincerely regrets - I would have suggested to Sandy that we call John Solomon and that he sit down with John Solomon and tell him the whole story and get the story out last October. Because as sure as the sun rises in the East, Linda, there were enough people who knew about this that this particular week out of 52 weeks in 2004 is not surprising as the week that somebody chose to leak the story.

UPDATE: Lanny now denies it.

This is good news:

A new survey of Iraq conducted by Oxford Research International shows that 61 percent of Iraqi adults had watched the new US-funded Arabic language TV channel Alhurra (Arabic for "The Free One") in the previous week. Since it launched on February 14, 2004, Alhurra has quickly established itself as an important resource for Iraqis to get their news - 19 percent of those surveyed cited Alhurra as one of their top three sources of information.

But what was the delay? I think the lack of information flowing into Iraq immediately after "major combat operations" was a grave mistake. Al-Jazeera had a near monopoly on the broadcasts in Iraq and it worked decidedly to our detriment.

Monday July 26, 2004

Yes, more on Terror in the Skies. What can I say, I'm interested. Eric Leonard, from KFI radio, writes that, according to Air Marshals on board, Annie Jacobsen overreacted and the Air Marshals were concerned that their cover would be blown:

Undercover federal air marshals on board a June 29 Northwest airlines flight from Detroit to LAX identified themselves after a passenger, “overreacted,” to a group of middle-eastern men on board, federal officials and sources have told KFI NEWS. The passenger, later identified as Annie Jacobsen, was in danger of panicking other passengers and creating a larger problem on the plane, according to a source close to the secretive federal protective service.

This doesn't pass the smell test for a few reasons. What, exactly, was the overreaction? According to the article, it was this:

Jacobsen and her husband had a number of conversations with the flight attendants and gestured towards the men several times, the source said.

Egads, the woman is mad. Conversations? Gestures? Seems perfectly sensible given the circumstances. It also compares favorably with Annie Jacobsens version of events. Ms. Jacobsen also wrote that the flight attendants and the pilots were already aware of the situation. No matter how certain individuals wish to portray the nature of the incident, the activities of the 14 Syrians caused apprehension amongst a number of both passengers and flight crew. In fact, Annie reports that at least one passenger was reduced to tears.

Another concern of the Air Marshals was that their cover would be blown.

The source said the air marshals on the flight were partially concerned Jacobsen’s actions could have been an effort by terrorists or attackers to create a disturbance on the plane to force the agents to identify themselves. Air marshals’ only tactical advantage on a flight is their anonymity, the source said, and Jacobsen could have put the entire flight in danger.

Laughable. Upon close inspection, this concern is belied within the article:

Jacobsen’s husband Kevin told KFI NEWS he approached a man he thought was an air marshal after the flight had landed. “You made me nervous,” Kevin said the air marshal told him.

So Annie Jacobsen's husband, Kevin, was able to ID the Air Marshal even though they had kept their cover. You may think that ol' Kevin was just amazingly preceptive. Not exactly.

Chief among the concerns, air marshals say, is a dress code that makes them so obvious that they're spotted by 12-year-olds, chatted up by congressmen and ridiculed by flight attendants.

There's more. The Dallas Morning News has confirmed that 13 of the Syrians had expired visas:

Although immigration officials believe the musicians are legitimate artists who pose "absolutely no national security threat," spokesman Dean Boyd said checks on the status of the visas should have been conducted at the time. "An ICE agent should've been included in the questioning," Mr. Boyd said. "We are absolutely taking steps to make sure that doesn't occur again." ...

...Fourteen Syrian musicians aboard the plane were run through criminal and terrorism watch lists before officials determined they were legitimate musicians and allowed them to leave the airport. Later information indicated that 13 of the musicians entered the country on P-3 artist visas that expired June 10, more than two weeks before their June 29 flight. The 14th man was a legal U.S. resident, Mr. Boyd said. All have since left the country, he said.

If we were really serious about terrorist don't you think we would have taken these steps in the three years since 9/11? Especially considering that this is a similar scenario as the actual 9/11 event. No need to have an imagnination for crying out loud. Also, there was an alert issued by the DoHS for these very airports on this very date.

Lots of good comments over on Michelle Malkin's blog.

It's happening again. Right under our noses. And we haven't developed the outrage to stop it. Pray that we do:

When it learned of the obscenities of the Holocaust, the world said, "Never again." It lied. Ten years ago, 800,000 people died in Rwanda while the world looked the other way. Oh, the after-the-bloody-fact posturing and the offering of new resolve. All of it, again, lies. History is repeating itself, this time with Khartoum-backed Arab militias butchering and raping black Sudanese.

By conservative estimates, 10,000 to 30,000 have already died. The projected death toll is 300,000 to 1 million. Already 2 million are suffering from starvation and sickness. What the government-backed militias began, microbes may finish. The situation is indescribable.

The U.S. has stepped up aid, and the Senate and House unanimously passed resolutions Thursday urging the President to call what's happening in Sudan "by its rightful name - genocide." Officially applying such a label is anathema to the UN Security Council because doing so would require taking action.

Of course the NYT is a liberal newspaper. This from the paper's ombudsman Public Editor, Daniel Okrent. We already knew that, but at least it's refreshing to see an actual admitted liberal acknowledge this publicly. But what does this say of the supposed "Newspaper of Record"? Richard Baehr at The American Thinker writes this:

One might think that knowing that the role of the Times as a source for other news services might add a burden of journalistic responsibility. But one would be wrong. It is the power itself that is there to be used to advance the cause -- advocacy journalism. The Times clearly sees its role as helping make the news that others can repeat.

Dry run?

They're saying it's a good thing no one was around when it went off, because this was a big bomb. Investigators are still looking for pieces of the bomb, which are scattered all over the place. The bomb was in a trashcan there. Investigators say, this was no ordinary pipe bomb. Investigators are still looking for pieces of the bomb and the roof of a picnic area (see photo), which are scattered all over the place. "This is not a chemical bomb that some kids did. This is a major explosion," an investigator told Channel 9.

John Fund has a good (and mostly correct) story on blogging.

It will always be possible for someone to point to many of the millions of amateur bloggers and dismiss them as nerdy faddists and their work as largely trivial. Most bloggers will burn out and move on to something else. But a handful are slowly building a shadow media infrastructure that will become a significant component of the media in the 21st century. There might not be much news at this year's Democratic convention, but a real story can be found in the bloggers who are making their debut this week at a major national political conclave.


The eloquence challenged Theresa Heinz Kerry responds to a question by the (very leading) Chris Matthews on world reaction to our Iraq campaign:

I tried to see how I could explain that in human terms, and I said, "Well imagine you had three or four kids and one kid is really a star, just things come naturally, whatever it is. And then they do something very foolish, that hurts them, hurts their chances, whatever it is, and you’re especially mad and especially disappointed with that child whereas if another child did that thing you’d have a talk and figure it out, right? Well it’s like that." For a lot of people in the third world, and for a lot of people who’ve never had, in the other countries, not just the third world, who’ve never had liberty, who’ve had members of the family who have died for the sake of freedom, the sake of votes... who don’t have enough health, schooling, etc— for those people, the idea of America of this possibility of America that you will never reach. The idea of it is very, very important— it’s a beacon, it’s a potential. And when you see that besmeared, when you see that diminished, far away as if may be, then you hurt, and you get mad, it’s the child you really get mad at. "How dare you do something like this when you have so much going for you and we need you to be this beacon of hope?" So I understand how people who’ve always thought of America as hope in the world and as hope as an example, how disappointed and scared they must be, scared for us, scared for us. What’s happening in our country. So I understand that.

Got it?

Christopher Byron writes of our failure to prosecute white collar crime and our willingness to let CEO's play the dunce card:

Bottom line: When it comes to restoring public confidence in the courts and Wall Street, all the guilty pleas on earth won't amount to much if their purpose is to gain evidence against CEOs who nonetheless wind up tap-dancing their way to freedom on a smile and a handshake and the assurance that they're really, really stupid.

When you run a red light, or assault your spouse, or shoplift something from The Gap, the cops don't look at you and ask, "OK, now tell us, what were you really intending to do?" Quite the contrary, they charge you with what you did plain-and-simple, because what you did was obvious, and why you did it was irrelevant.

If you're into astrophysics, you'll find this interesting.