November 2007


I found this while searching for an iguana stew recipe. Curacao and peppery food – what could be better?

Via Wired – an article about how we’re winning the hearts and minds of the community by protecting them from crime, putting the ‘cops’ out on the street, refusing to back down when confronted with bullshit excuses.

Sounds like what Giuliani did for New York City…

In Iraq, the Critical Networks Are Social — Not Electronic

His name is Joe Colabuno, and he’s a sergeant who works in psychological operations — psyops, in military-speak. His job is to win the hearts-and-minds battle, and his tools are almost comically simple: posters drawn in Photoshop, loudspeaker and radio broadcasts pasted together with SonicStage and saved to MiniDiscs, the occasional newspaper article, and, above all, his own big mouth. Arab culture lives by its oral traditions; talk is often the most important weapon. “I find the right people to shape, and they shape the rest,” Colabuno says.

Just as in Tarmiyah, troops in Fallujah are looking to recruit locals to keep tabs on their neighborhoods. Yesterday, on the west side of town, an alligator [alligators are watchmen who've come to be known in other towns as "alligators" for their light-blue Izod shirts] helped catch one of the Americans’ top insurgent targets in Fallujah. After seeing a photograph, the watchman ID’d the guy as a neighbor, living just a few houses down the street.

But an alligator-recruiting drive yesterday in the Askeri district, in the northeastern corner of town, didn’t go so well. The marines got less than half of the 125 they were looking for. So Colabuno hops into a Humvee to find out why.

We pull up to a narrow, unpaved street alongside the Askeri recruiting station. A group of seven men sit on the gravel, beneath a set of drying sheets. In the middle of the crowd, leaning on a cane, fingering prayer beads and dressed in white, is a rotund, bearded man. He’s clearly the ringleader. Colabuno and his wire-thin interpreter, Leo, approach him. In every other district, they’ve recruited plenty of alligators. “Why not in Askeri?” Colabuno asks the ringleader.

The money’s not good enough, he answers. An alligator makes only $50 a month; day laborers get $8 a day — when there’s work, that is.

“That’s the weakest argument ever,” Colabuno says. The men looked stunned; Americans don’t normally speak this directly — they’re usually deferential to the point of looking weak, or just condescending.

“Do you remember Sheikh Hamsa?” Colabuno asks. Sure, sure, the men nod. The popular imam was killed more than a year ago by insurgents, but they’re a bit surprised that Colabuno knows who he is. Most of the US troops here have been in town for just a few months. “Well, Sheikh Hamsa told me that weak faith protects only so much.’” The ringleader stares down at the ground and fingers his beads. Colabuno has hit a nerve. “You know, I looked in the Koran. I didn’t see anything about Mohammed demanding a better salary before he’d do God’s work,” Colabuno says, jamming his forefinger into his palm…

A skinny man at the back of the pack speaks up, telling Colabuno that the Americans are just here to take Iraq’s oil. “Yeah, you’re right. We want your oil,” Colabuno answers. Again eyes grow big with surprise. “We want to buy it. So you can pay for jobs, for water, for electricity. Make you rich.” The men chuckle. Everyone shakes hands. Askeri’s alligator quota is filled by the next morning.

Compare Colabuno’s hearts and minds efforts to Karen Hughes’ pathetic efforts..

…Or our State Department’s simply pathetic existence

As Father Samir Khalil Al-Yasou’i said*:

There’s no doubt that among the countries that violate human rights the most, one finds China and Saudi Arabia. This is well known. But this constitutes cowardice on the part of the Western world. They dare not say a word to Saudi Arabia, because they need the Saudi oil and money. So they keep quiet. This is cowardice.

From what I’ve seen, In the Arab world, displays of cowardice are treated with contempt. There’s a real ‘I dare you’ culture over there, I guess because it is a boy’s club (no girlz allowed). If you chicken out, they don’t respect you.

That was one of many things they got right in “Lawrence of Arabia” The Arab fighters respected Lawrence, not just because he was an Arabist and a decent tactician. They also admired him because he was fearless, verging on reckless.

When Arab leaders and/or ‘radicals’ push us, we appease, we cajole and negotiate. “Deferential to the point of looking weak, or just condescending” has been the basis of our foreign policy in the Middle East for decades. No wonder they have so little respect for us.

Our diplomats are like the joggers in LA who get eaten by mountain lions. Yes, the West is at the top of the food chain, but we don’t act the part. Instead of standing our ground, we run, acting like prey. Therefore, we’re treated like prey.

Our military and men like Colabuno are doing their best to undo the damage that the idiots in the State Department have done for years.

Guess who gets paid more. As ‘the people’ who control what our government does and who pay their salaries, shouldn’t we do something about that?

From Michael Yon’s “Men of Valor”:

To interpret events in al Basra, context is critical. When we invited the British to join us in this war in 2003, the U.S., with the bulk of troops and assets, was the senior partner. In essence, we were the driver of a bus filled with several dozen partners: Poland, Australia, Japan, Georgia, Korea, Albania and so on. Although several key countries had opted to stay home, no nation stepped up to the task like Great Britain, taking responsibility for southern Iraq. But they could not have not planned for the seemingly precipitous and arbitrary decisions made by the mostly American bus drivers in Washington and Baghdad, who took many turns without consulting an accurate map. Egos and strained competencies only magnified and compounded errors. Nobody paid more for these mistakes than Iraqis and Americans, but the Brits and others have also paid tolls for their seats.

Counterinsurgency experts cautioned Coalition members from the outset that military forces would have a limited shelf-life. There can be a finite expiration period during which popular perceptions shift, and liberators become viewed as occupiers, and eventually as malignant beings that must be expurgated. While the American shelf-life in some regions was measured in weeks and months, tolerance for the British was measured in years. But when American stewards made early and notable missteps that extended the war, the British outlived their welcome in the southern provinces…

….By 2007, when the U.S. military had made a rapid metamorphosis and was meeting the insurgency head-on, despite that the transformation was stunning in both speed and outcome, it came too late for the British, whose expiration date in Basra had passed. Increasing tensions in Basra between rival political factions were beginning to undermine an otherwise successful mission in that region. With fewer forces on hand at a time when the British might have been planning final withdrawals, Basra’s many feuding factions galvanized hostilities around a central target: the British.

..and

But for the most part, the work of British soldiers in southern Iraq went largely unnoticed by the media and unappreciated by anyone else. On both trips with the British, I made a point of asking British soldiers how they were treated back in the United Kingdom. They said they are mostly ignored; occasionally expressing a muted desire to get the treatment they imagine American soldiers get. British soldiers seem to imagine our soldiers get big parades and so forth, and hugs from strangers at the airport. And to be sure, many do, especially in Texas, they say.

American soldiers get care packages from people they do not even know, and those packages are morale boosters. American soldiers get cards from kindergartens from sea to sea, and the soldiers paste the cards all over the walls of their headquarters and hospitals. I don’t know what it is about those homemade cards, with their squiggly letters, stick figures and smiley-faced suns, but whenever I am in hospitals in Iraq, those cards from the kids greatly lift my spirits. I’ve seen the British get cards and packages like this, but nothing like the quantity, variety and frequency of what American soldiers get. And, of course, not everyone was indifferent to British efforts in Iraq. As for the British fighting, the enemy was always present in the background, but it was not until Telics 9 and 10 that the enemy truly came alive…

…more

Men of Valor I

Men of Valor II

Men of Valor III

We sit outside and argue all night long
About a god we’ve never seen
But never fails to side with me

- Primitive Radio Gods

Rosemary Esmay on Faith or Proof

You don’t want to believe in a higher being? Fine don’t. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that you don’t because you require proof. You don’t require proof, you don’t want proof. You choose not to believe out of fear. It’s easier to live your life however you please, if you don’t have to answer for it in the end. Cowardice is what that is, not higher critical thinking.

Willow has A Question for Atheists

Or former atheists, or anyone who has an answer they like. Every so often I like to see how far one of my fundamental beliefs can be stretched by intelligent opposition. Today I want you to try to convince me there is no God, WITHOUT referencing “the problem of evil.” …Nothing you say will offend me, except perhaps artistically, unless you flat out call me or any other theist retarded.

I believe in God, but since I define God as life, death and universal existence, I don’t need any proof that God exists. However, I have some “faith” that there is a possibility that a God, as defined by various and maybe all religions, could also exist. Myths are often based on some being or fact-of-existence that still remains undiscovered by current technology.

Hobbits/elves/brownies/little people could be based on this recently discovered humanoid species.

So, there could be a ‘God’ as defined by Christianity, or Islam or Judaism. There could be a Vishnu, a Great Spirit and a Sky Woman. Stories of dragons are told by many cultures – like fairies, aliens and monotheism, there is probably a factual basis for a belief in their existence.

As Arnold Harris says:

As for “universe”, I’m finding serious discussions that there are likely to be multiple universes. Maybe each one would have its own little god. Sort of a caporegime or sub-boss, the way the Five Families of New York had things organized.

According to some theories, our known universe could be less than 4% of what’s out there. If we can’t define the universe or the exact nature of time, particles, etc., it doesn’t make sense to spend good time and effort searching in our own heads for a definition of God. It makes more sense to spend that intellectual energy learning more about all that unknown stuff out there.

Since I don’t really have a dog in this fight, what I really don’t get is – people who believe in God (usually a God defined by religion) usually like to accuse the other side (atheists) of being ‘cowards’. Atheists usually accuse the religiously faithful of not being logical or reasonable, ‘retarded’. Why are these slurs used, and why are both sides so offended by them? Anyone who has ever met atheists or believers in real life knows that these generalizations don’t apply.

Via My Fox NY:*

A single-engine plane with landing gear problems touched down safely Thursday at Morristown Municipal Airport.

The pilot report problems with his landing gear around 11:30 a.m.; the plane landed shortly after noon.

There’s a video – great landing!

* Link thanks to Bruce

Michael Totten reports from Fallujah:

Fallujah is so close to Baghdad it is almost a suburb, though technically it belongs to Anbar Province. Even so, I have heard almost nothing about the Anbar Awakening here. I’ve always thought of Fallujah as a place unto itself. The locals and the Marines think of it that way, as well. Ramadi is the real city of Anbar. Fallujah is Fallujah.

Whatever else you might say about Fallujah, it’s an original. For decades it has been the infamous bad boy city in Iraq.

Author Bing West describes the place this way in No True Glory: A Frontline Account of the Battle for Fallujah. “Ask Iraqis about Fallujah, and they roll their eyes: Fallujah is strange, sullen, wild-eyed, badass, and just plain mean. Fallujans don’t like strangers, which includes anyone not homebred. Wear lipstick or Western-style long hair, sip a beer or listen to an American CD, and you risk the whip or a beating.”

“Saddam rewarded Fallujah with money and recruited his secret police and fedayeen from here,” Lieutenant Edwards said. “Now it is powerless.” It was also the backbone of the insurgency before it slagged off. Ramadi was the capital of Al Qaeda’s so-called “Islamic State in Iraq. But Fallujah was, as the lieutenant put it, Al Qaeda’s first club house.

It isn’t nearly as dangerous anymore. I would be foolish to say it is safe. You would not want to come here on vacation even if the Iraqi Police would let you inside its walls – and they won’t if you don’t live here and have the proper ID…

“My number one concern remains security” Colonel Dowling told me. “My number two concern is education. I want the schools to be filled with kids. I want the schoolhouse teaching good information.”

“Is anybody monitoring the content of their education?” I said.

“No,” he said..

…”I make sure that my chaplain is out talking to the imams,” he continued. “He goes out once a week and sits and talks to them about religion, values, orphanges, things like that. They see a different perspective from him than they do from the typical Marine. They see that we’re very quick to help the poor, and that we’ll readily give the shirt off our backs, particularly the Marines. And we back it up. I go to a school once a week just to see what’s going on, and I’ve never heard any anti-coalition messages or anything like that. My Marines have never heard anything bad coming from the loudspeakers of the mosques. They either say coaltition forces are helpful, or a proverb, a direction on how to lead your life, or Thank God for the Iraqi Police. I prefer to hear a proverb and just erase or eliminate discussing anything about coalition forces, either good or bad.”

Aid for mosques is dependent on imams pitching jihad over the side, but the Marines don’t force a point of view on the Iraqis. Still, the colonel’s preference for no pro-coalition messages was counter-intuitive.

“Why would you not want the imams saying something good?” I said.

“They can do it inside the mosque,”” he said, “but I don’t need them to announce it. I would rather have normalcy added back to their lives, so they can go back to the way they were 20 years ago or 40 years ago. That’s what I’d like to see…”

In contrast, this post by Dan Hardie, titled Letting Them Die shows one result of the British mission in Basra:

I’ve had emails from three people who claim to be – and who almost certainly are- Iraqi former employees of the British Government. All three say that they and their former colleagues are still at risk of death for their ‘collaboration’.

We’ll call the first man Employee One. He worked for the British for three years: ‘I started in the beginning of the war with Commandos (in 30 of March 2003) then continued with 23 Pioneer Regt, and in 08 / 07 / 2003 I have joined the Labour Support Unit (LSU)’. His British friends knew him as Chris.

The British Government has announced that he can apply for help if he can transport himself to the British base outside Basra, or to the Embassies in Syria or Jordan. It doesn’t seem to occur to anyone that there might be problems with this.

I can email and telephone this man: so can any Foreign Office official. It should not be impossible to verify his story and then send him the funds he needs to get to a less unsafe Arab country. But that is not happening.

Here’s an email exchange we had the other day. My questions are in italics.

1) Are you still in Iraq? ‘Yes, I’m still hidden in somewhere in the hell of Basra.’

2) Is there any reason you cannot travel to the British Army base at Basra Airbase to ask for asylum? ‘Of course, we cannot travel to BIA (Basra International Airbase) due to the militia keep watched all the ways to BIA and they got their own fake check points there although, we claimed for asylum through the internet (we sent our application to the claim office at BIA) . But we afraid that the British are going to take a long time to process our claims also we are very worried if they will offer just some money instead of asylum, please sir inform all the British people that we looking for asylum and just the asylum will save our lives, also we can’t travel to Syria anymore to claim for asylum there as the Syrian government issued new conditions for Iraqis who want to travel to their country.’

British Major General Graham Binns has proudly declared that said that since the UK disengaged in Basra, attacks on UK forces are down 90%.

Steve Schippert at Threat Watch says:

Applying this logic, attacks on British forces would be down an amazing 100% if they withdrew from Iraq entirely. Achieving a zero-attack level on forces is not the mission – in Basra or elsewhere.

Obviously, Mr. Schippert doesn’t understand the British mission…

From the TIME Magazine interview with Saudi Foreign minister Saud al-Faisal the questions they left out*:

What if Ehud Olmert disguises himself as a Mexican and tries to shake hands with you?
The hair-weave and mustache may fool me, but the hook-nose and tourist-quality sombrero would be a dead giveaway.

According to some medical journals, Israeli researchers have perfected limb-grafting and transplantation. What if Ehud Olmert grafted an Arab hand to his wrist and offered to shake hands with you?
I would demand the return of the stolen Arab hand and for Olmert to return to the 1967 borders…

What if Ehud Olmert refuses to shake hands with you?
What?

What if he reaches out to you in a crowd, sticks his hand out, you reach for it, and he pulls it back and yells GOTCHA! or something?
I refused to shake hands with him first! Arabs refused to shake first long before Jews refused to shake first!

Maybe he sticks his arm through the arm of someone else and…
No, really. Cut it out. Do you want me to raise the price of oil, Infidel?

How do you respond to the accusation that you’re not acting as negotiators when you make a proposal and then refuse to discuss its terms with the party it is being offered to?
That’s as absurd as the accusation that 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi Muslim Arabs. Everybody knows that Saudis never do an honest day’s work in their life. That’s what foreign workers are for…

more

* Link thanks to Ron at Likelihood of Success

At the end of this article [link thanks to Boker Tov Boulder] about the British schoolteacher who was arrested in Sudan for letting her pupils name a teddy bear Muhammad, the Beeb specifically requests responses from the Rage Boy crowd, asking:

“Are you in Sudan? Do you feel offended by what the teacher did? Should she be punished? Send us your views using the form below”

Why that request, and why from those people? Given that it’s the BBC, I’d guess their motives are either stupid or malign. *

The Beeb hallucinates a Wall St meltdown [Link thanks to Irwin]:

The history of Newsnight’s nightly markets update has not always been a happy one. On Thursday we reported that in New York the “Dow Jones was substantially down amidst more credit crunch fears”. That’s odd, many of you told us, as – being Thanksgiving – Wall Street’s finest were on a day-off. Our economics editor Stephanie Flanders was mortified – “unforgivable and embarrassing” was her verdict.

This is, I am ashamed to say, not the first time we have made such a mistake…

Quite…

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

* UPDATE: Well, this is weird. The Beeb has now removed their request for input from the Sudan from their webpage. (However, just to prove that I’m not making stuff up, here’s a screen clip of the cached request via Google)

bbcteacher_sudan

They took down the request, then they posted “Reader responses”, with this statement at the top of the page:

BBC News website readers, as well as readers of BBCArabic.com, have been sending their reaction to this story.

They didn’t mention that they specifically asked for responses from the Sudan, and that they specified “Do you feel offended by what the teacher did? and Should she be punished?

Why was the Beeb trolling for outraged Muslims?

Via CNN:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) — Soldiers manning a checkpoint near Baghdad stopped a wedding convoy to find that the purported bride and groom were wanted terror suspects, an Iraqi Defense Ministry official said Monday.

…the people in the car seemed nervous and the groom refused to lift his bride’s veil when soldiers asked him to, according to the official.

weddingparty

Soldiers ordered everyone out of the car, the official said.

Upon inspecting the convoy, soldiers found a stubbly-faced man, Haider al-Bahadli, decked out in a white bride’s dress and veil.

Bahadli was wanted on terror-related charges, as was his groom, Abbas al-Dobbi, the official said.

..I finally tried poutine, a local delicacy made from french fries, gravy and cheddar cheese curds. I liked it, but I also like cheese fries. If you’re in a carbo-loading mood, give it a try.

I do wish that it was a little spicier, though. Diners in the states usually have tabasco sauce or red pepper flakes that you can add on. Those are hard to find north of the border.

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