July 2007


Via the AP: Rice, Gates show support for Arab allies

Rice and Gates were making a rare joint show of diplomatic force during two days of meetings with Arab allies — part of an 11th-hour effort to rally diplomatic and practical help for the U.S.-backed Shiite-led government in Baghdad. The tour also opens talks on a proposed U.S. arms package for Arab states worth more than $20 billion.

Arab money and diplomatic support has lagged behind Europe’s, and some of Iraq’s neighbors quietly tolerate, or may secretly support, attacks inside Iraq. Some of the violence targets U.S. forces and some of it Shiite militias and neighborhoods.

Just a simple question. If we’re willing to acknowledge that Iraq’s Sunni neighbors, like Saudi Arabia, quietly tolerate and/or support, attacks against Shiites and US forces in Iraq, why are we calling them allies? If they’re targeting our soldiers during a time of war, they are, in every legal and diplomatic sense, our enemies.

So, why are we giving them billions of dollars and military hardware? Some of our actions can be blamed on Saudi bribes, but this time, we’re giving them the money! We’re begging and bribing our enemies and expecting absolutely nothing in return from them.

This is a stupidity that is so immensely profound, words and even expletives can’t begin to describe it – our foreign policy is a black hole of idiocy, a dense, weighty, mindless force of nature through which no light or reason will ever pass.

..and that is why this war will be going on for many years.

Michael Totten reports from Baghdad

BAGHDAD – “We want to use you as bait,” Sergeant Eduardo Ojeda from Los Angeles, California, told me before I embedded with his unit on what was shaping up to be a night raid.

“Excellent,” I said. “That’s why I’m here.”

This is what passes for black Army humor in Baghdad.

“Our TST [time-sensitive target] blew up a vehicle and killed four soldiers and an interpreter in the next AO [area of operations],” he said. “He’s somewhere in our AO now.”

He could tell by the frozen and dubious look on my face that I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on the mission.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “These guys hardly ever fight back when we nail them. And they always lose when they do. Come on. Let’s go f*ck ‘em up.”

I donned my body armor and helmet, strapped my Nikon around my neck, and jumped in the back of one of the Humvees…

Extraordinary stuff.

More here – and don’t forget to pay for this report – or subscribe, like I did.

From Jihad the Musical, soon to appear at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – I Wanna Be Like Osama

A description of the plot:

JIHAD THE MUSICAL tells the story of a young Afghan peasant, Sayid…Sayid finds himself caught between the terrorists on one hand and the media on the other, driven to share in their enthusiasm for the impending terrorist spectacular. Fortunately help is on the way in the form of his no-nonsense sister, who teams up with a surrender-prone Frenchman to come to the rescue…

From what I’ve seen the foreign policy analysis here is so stunningly accurate, it already puts the State Department to shame.

* link thanks to LGF

According to the FAA, the “pilot in command” has the right to refuse to transport any passenger whose presence is likely to disrupt the flight.

Even royalty -

MILAN (Reuters) – A Qatar sheikh held up a British Airways flight at Milan’s Linate airport for nearly three hours after discovering three of his female relatives had been seated next to men they did not know.

When none of the other business class passengers agreed to swap seats, the sheikh, a member of Qatar’s ruling family, went to the pilot, who had already started the engine, to complain, an airport official said.

But the pilot ordered him and his traveling companions, the three women, two men, a cook and a servant, off the plane.

It’s interesting that the other passengers refused to swap seats. Outside of the halls of government and the state department, a sheik will get the respect he deserves.

According to the FAA, the “pilot in command” has the right to refuse to transport any passenger whose presence is likely to disrupt the flight.

Even royalty -

MILAN (Reuters) – A Qatar sheikh held up a British Airways flight at Milan’s Linate airport for nearly three hours after discovering three of his female relatives had been seated next to men they did not know.

When none of the other business class passengers agreed to swap seats, the sheikh, a member of Qatar’s ruling family, went to the pilot, who had already started the engine, to complain, an airport official said.

But the pilot ordered him and his traveling companions, the three women, two men, a cook and a servant, off the plane.

It’s interesting that the other passengers refused to swap seats. Outside of the halls of government and the state department, a sheik will get the respect he deserves.

Via Harry’s Place:

Five men, four of whom were students at Bradford where 7/7 bomber Shehzad Tanweer was from, have been sentenced to a total of more than 13 years in jail after being found guilty of possessing large amounts of extremist material to help them prepare for training camps overseas and to carry out terrorist acts.

Martyrdom and suicide bombings were a recurring theme in the material, designed to encourage people to die in the process of destroying the chosen targets of the authors.

Irfan Raja, aged 19, from Ilford; Aitzaz Zafar, 19, from Rochdale; Usman Malik, 20, from Wolverhampton; and Akber Butt, 20, from Southall, London, were convicted at the Old Bailey on 24/7/07 of possessing articles for terrorist purposes. The jury returned its guilty verdict on Awaab Iqbal, 20, from Rochdale, yesterday (25/7/07)…

David T adds

I was thinking about the appropriate sentence in a case like this, on the way into work.

The closest parallel I can think of is the possession of child pornography with the intent to distribute it. The tariff for that offence is about three years.

There are reasonable differences of opinion on whether child pornography distributers should be punished harshly or at all. The consensus is that they should be.

The reasons for punishing people who distribute child pornography are:

– To signal society’s disgust at paedophilia.

– Because child pornography is likely to play a role in increasing the frequency of child abuse: both by creating the dangerous impression that sexually abusing children is both commonplace and acceptable, and by stimulating an interest in the rape of children.

– Because children are raped and abused in order to create child pornography.

All these arguments seem to me to apply equally well to the distribution of, for example, beheading videos promulgated for the purpose of encouraging men to join jihadist organisation.

It is proper for these men to be punished as if they were aspiring paedophiles who were exchanging pictures of children being raped, while planning to take a trip overseas to rape children for themselves.

To me, and to most of commenters on the thread, that seems to be an appropriate comparison.

Petra, the ancient city carved out of rock, whose previous claim to fame was being featured in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” – is famous again. It has just been named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.*

When I was there in May, the Jordanians were actively campaigning to be elected to the top 7. Congratulations Petra!

marypetra

Me in Petra

At the site, tourists are warned to stay away from unauthorized tour guides, but that didn’t stop said “guides” from bugging us as we walked through the site.

We were greeted by many ‘guides’ offering rides on horseback. Since I didn’t think I could ride a horse for more than an hour without falling off, I didn’t take the tour, but Judith did. In her opinion, it wasn’t as much fun as it should have been. Those warnings were right.

petracarriage

They also offered horse and buggy rides, but since most of the tourists riding in them were grimacing and hanging on for dear life, I guessed that the rides were a little bumpy.

petrachasm

The sunny & hot entrance to the site led towards a narrow (and much more temperate) shadowy gorge called the Siq.

petratreasury

At the end of the narrow gorge is the the Treasury, carved directly out of the sandstone cliff.

Some wiki facts about the Nabataeans who built the place:

The Nabataeans worshipped the Arab gods and goddesses of the pre-Islamic times as well as few of their deified kings. The most famous of these was Obodas I who was deified after his death. Dushara was the main male god accompanied by his female trinity: Uzza, Allat and Manah. Many statues carved in the rock depict these gods and goddesses…

…Christianity found its way into Petra in the 4th century AD, nearly 500 years after the establishment of Petra as a trade center…At least one of the tombs (the “tomb with the urn”?) was used as a church. An inscription in red paint records its consecration “in the time of the most holy bishop Jason” . The Christianity of Petra, as of north Arabia, was swept away by the Islamic conquest of 629–632…

…the ability of the Nabataeans to control the water supply… led to the rise of the desert city, in effect creating an artificial oasis. The area is visited by flash floods and archaeological evidence demonstrates the Nabataeans controlled these floods by the use of dams, cisterns and water conduits. Thus, stored water could be employed even during prolonged periods of drought, and the city prospered from its sale..

Petra’s decline came rapidly under Roman rule, in large part due to the revision of sea-based trade routes. In 363 an earthquake destroyed buildings and crippled the vital water management system.[7] The ruins of Petra were an object of curiosity in the Middle Ages and were visited by the Sultan Baibars of Egypt towards the close of the 13th century. The first European to describe them was Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812.

petradamage

Other structures may have been just as elaborate as the treasury, but they may have been damaged by earthquakes.

insideview

The buidings that weren’t damaged by earthquakes show amazing resilience. Here’s an inside view of an ancient room, carved out of rock, still standing and intact after very little maintenance.

The road through the city was long and hot, so we took a camel ride back to the Treasury. That was where we found the 8th New Wonder of the world, the Coke-eating Camel.

petracamel

After we rode back to the center of ‘town’, in front of the treasury, the camel wrangler asked us if we could buy his camel a coke. He said the camel loved Coke, and he’d drink the whole can down. (No Pepsi, just Coke).

camelcoke1

The camel drank all of the coke…

camelcoke2

…then he swallowed the can.

The camel wrangler also asked for a cigarette as a tip. I had some cigarettes, and yes, they were Camels.

* Link thanks to Judith at Kesher Talk

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