September 15, 2005

Elections in Germany

Sept. 15 - Peaktalk reports that EU Commissioner Nelie Kroes has endorsed Angela Merkel and discusses some of the implications of the results of the German elections for the EU.

I don't keep abreast of politics in Europe as much as I would wish, but it does seem that now that widespread activism against U.S. intervention in Iraq has died down and the EU Constitution has been rejected by the Netherlands and France that there is renewed focus by European nations on their issues and much talk of necessary economic reforms. I really can't make any predictions or informed comments but I tend to always think it a good thing when we survey our own backyards rather than those of our neighbours.

By the way, if you missed yesterday's Instapundit link to Pieter's German Election Primer be sure and read it. Very, very informative.

Posted by Debbye at 07:51 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 15, 2005

Italians consider dumping the Euro

June 15 - Italians consider trashing euro, returning to lira:

Roberto Castelli, the silver-haired Italian justice minister from the Northern League, a major coalition partner in the government of Silvio Berlusconi, said his party will present concrete proposals this week for calling a referendum on ditching the euro.

"Does [the British pound] sterling have no economic foundation because it is outside the euro?" he asked. "Is Denmark living in absolute poverty because it is outside the euro? Are Swedes poor because they are outside the euro?"

[...]

Nevertheless, government economists say privately Italy could gain short-term economic benefits from leaving the euro.

By devaluing its currency, Italy could immediately boost exports, jobs and manufacturing investment. The real value of Italy's massive public debt, equivalent to some 105 percent of gross domestic product, could be slashed by devaluation.

EU leaders are furious about rebellious Italian dissatisfaction with the single currency. "It is just inconceivable that a country could envisage dropping out of the euro," said Jean-Claude Juncker, the prime minister of postage-stamp-sized Luxembourg, which is currently the revolving European Union president.

Posted by Debbye at 01:53 PM | Comments (17)

June 07, 2005

New EU Constitution

June 7 - The Daily Telegraph proposes A healthy Constitution which sounds somewhat familiar on first read.

I especially like this part:

VIII Any uncertainty arising from ambiguities in this Treaty shall be resolved in favour of the individual citizen rather than the state, and of national governments rather than European institutions.
(Via Peaktalk.)

Posted by Debbye at 07:15 AM | Comments (5)

June 03, 2005

That EU Referendum

June 3 - Pieter has an insightful post analyzing the results in the referendum on the EU Constitution in Holland. The diversity of opposition revealed a very basic flaw and how it could be addressed:

What is required in all member states is, rather than throwing pre-cooked and complicated documents in front of the voters, a debate about what Europe should look like first.
Essence precedes existence? Or in Yogi Berra's language, It's awfully important to know where you're going or you might not get there.

There's also a look at the vote in France and he also has some links to others' reactions, and a rather gloomy prediction:

Hitler or Mussolini references seem over the top but they do not come out of thin air. They reflect genuine fears on this side of the ocean that once more Americans will be called upon to help sort out another major European mess (from that perspective Bosnia was a telling precursor). As it is, there's very little appetite for a third major effort - in whatever form - on the old continent.
Sadly, the final sentence is all too accurate.

Posted by Debbye at 12:45 PM | Comments (2)

May 17, 2005

Europeans dislike the French (too)?

May 17 - At first I thought this was a joke: Europe unites in hatred of French.

Pollsters asked Europeans to list five words that describe the French and the answers were not very complimentary:

Why the French are the worst company on the planet, a wry take on France by two of its citizens, dredges up all the usual evidence against them. They are crazy drivers, strangers to customer service, obsessed by sex and food and devoid of a sense of humour.

But it doesn't stop there, boasting a breakdown, nation by nation, of what in the French irritates them.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Britons described them as "chauvinists, stubborn, nannied and humourless". ..

For the Germans, the French are "pretentious, offhand and frivolous". The Dutch describe them as "agitated, talkative and shallow." The Spanish see them as "cold, distant, vain and impolite" and the Portuguese as "preaching". In Italy they comes across as "snobs, arrogant, flesh-loving, righteous and self-obsessed" and the Greeks find them "not very with it, egocentric bons vivants".

Interestingly, the Swedes consider them "disobedient, immoral, disorganised, neo-colonialist and dirty".

This probably reflects mostly that other nationalities are not really that fond of other nationalities in Europe, but it begs the question as to why are they trying to submerge the sovereignty of each nation by ratifying the EU Constitution. The minimum requirement ought to be mutual respect and trust, no?

The French were also asked about other people:

Another section of the study deals with how the French see the rest of Europe.

"Believe it or not, the English and the French use almost exactly the same adjectives to describe each other - bar the word 'insular'," Mr Coldong said. "So the feelings are mutual."

12:48 Looks like Warwick got to the story first. Nice shots (heh.)

Posted by Debbye at 12:04 PM | Comments (3)

May 14, 2005

"The dark underside of the Oil-for-Food Program"

May 14 - (retro-posting) It was worth waiting for:

A longtime ally of French President Jacques Chirac and a leading British critic of the Iraq war received huge contracts to resell Iraqi oil from Saddam Hussein under the U.N. oil-for-food program, Senate investigators have found.

In findings being released today, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs permanent subcommittee on investigations charges that former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua and British Member of Parliament George Galloway each received the right to market more than 10 million barrels of cut-rate oil from dictator Saddam's Oil Ministry between 1999 and 2003.

Senate investigators, who will air their findings in a hearing next week, based the new report on internal Iraqi documents, Oil Ministry correspondence and interviews with top Saddam-era officials such as detained Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan.

Subcommittee Chairman Norm Coleman, Minnesota Republican, said the findings "paint a disturbing picture of the dark underside of the oil-for-food program." (Emphasis added)

According to FoxNews,
The allegations against Pasqua and Galloway, both outspoken opponents of U.N. sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s, have been made before, including in a report last October by U.S. arms inspector Charles Duelfer.

But Coleman's report provided several new details. It also included information from interviews with former high-ranking officials now in U.S. custody, including former Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan.

Among the claims: New evidence suggests that a children's leukemia charity founded by Galloway was in fact used to conceal oil payments.

[...]

The report includes what Coleman said was a copy of a contract from Iraq's State Oil Marketing Organization that mentions Mariam's Appeal, a fund Galloway established in 1998 to help a 4-year-old Iraqi girl suffering from leukemia, Mariam Hamze.

It says the fund may have been used to conceal the transfer of 3 million barrels of oil.

Please note that this is a different set of documents than the forged ones the for which Galloway successfully sued the Daily Telegraph and Christian Science Monitor.

By the way, the Washington Times incorrectly states that Galloway quit the Labour Party; Fox correctly reports that he was expelled.

The transfer of oil to Charles Pasqua was handled by his aide, Bernard Guillet, and there was some wrangling over which bank should deliver the oil allocations.

Guillet has troubles of his own; he is under investigation for influence-peddling and receiving misappropriated funds.

Galloway denies the allegations and last month, the Daily Telegraph was granted permission to to appeal (it's unclear whether they are appealing the ruling or the amount awarded to Galloway, although I believe it is the former.)

The Bethnal Green and Bow MP, who was re-elected to parliament last week running for his own Respect party, described the Senate committee as a "lickspittle Republican committee, acting on the wishes of George Bush".

He said: "Let me repeat. I have never traded in a barrel of oil, or any vouchers for it. I have never seen a barrel of oil apart from the one the Sun newspaper deposited in my front garden.

"And no one has acted on my behalf, trading in oil - Middle Eastern, olive, patchouli or any other - or in vouchers, whatever they are.

"Isn't it strange and contrary to natural justice you might think that I have written and emailed repeatedly asking for the opportunity to appear before the committee to provide evidence and rebut their assumptions and they have yet to respond, while apparently making a judgement."

The Sun is carefully choosing it's words, strictly sticking to the basics of the report (if you've ever read the Sun, you'd know why that is news!)

(This is actually from May 12 - I'm doing some retro-posting to catch up.)

Posted by Debbye at 07:25 AM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2005

Remembering Pim Fortuyn

May 7 - Pim Fortuyn was killed 3 years ago Friday, and Peaktalk remembers.

Posted by Debbye at 03:27 PM | Comments (1)

May 05, 2005

Canadian vets return to Holland

May 5 - Today marks the 60th anniversary of Liberation Day in Holland, a proud day for the Canadians who freed that country from Nazi rule.

The Canadian vets among military parade to mark Dutch liberation from Nazis were cheered by thousands of spectators:

Some onlookers hung out of windows, cheering loudly, snapping photos and shooting guns of red, white and blue confetti.

Marike Bakker, a 35-year-old homemaker, secured her curb-side position a full eight hours early.

"I feel very emotional," said Bakker, a camera draped around her neck. "I think these veterans are going to die soon, so we as younger people must understand what happened in the Second World War."

Those who believe that war never solved anything might want to ask the Dutch, but I wouldn't recommend doing so today.

Posted by Debbye at 05:45 PM | Comments (1)

April 14, 2005

David Brooks, meet Wretchard

Aprl. 14 - David Brooks has a straight-forward style that I really love. He uses words like "squishier" and phrases like "arcane fudges" that cut across the blather of nuance - which is basically the art of saying nothing but to say it well - and makes his points squarely and unequivocally.

Today's column is a gem (Loudly, With a Big Stick.) In the course of explaining why John Bolton will make a terrific Ambassador to the U.N., (he's there to represent the U.S.A., remember?) he explains why Americans will never accept some lofty world government and, at the risk of breaking a great many trans-nationalist hearts, exposes the primary reasons why people who love liberty and self-rule would never accept it either.

We'll never accept it, first, because it is undemocratic. It is impossible to set up legitimate global authorities because there is no global democracy, no sense of common peoplehood and trust. So multilateral organizations can never look like legislatures, with open debate, up or down votes and the losers accepting majority decisions.

Instead, they look like meetings of unelected elites, of technocrats who make decisions in secret and who rely upon intentionally impenetrable language, who settle differences through arcane fudges. Americans, like most peoples, will never surrender even a bit of their national democracy for the sake of multilateral technocracy.

Second, we will never accept global governance because it inevitably devolves into corruption. The panoply of U.N. scandals flows from a single source: the lack of democratic accountability. These supranational organizations exist in their own insular, self-indulgent aerie.

We will never accept global governance, third, because we love our Constitution and will never grant any other law supremacy over it. Like most peoples (Europeans are the exception), we will never allow transnational organizations to overrule our own laws, regulations and precedents. We think our Constitution is superior to the sloppy authority granted to, say, the International Criminal Court.

Fourth, we understand that these mushy international organizations liberate the barbaric and handcuff the civilized. Bodies like the U.N. can toss hapless resolutions at the Milosevics, the Saddams or the butchers of Darfur, but they can do nothing to restrain them. Meanwhile, the forces of decency can be paralyzed as they wait for "the international community."

Fifth, we know that when push comes to shove, all the grand talk about international norms is often just a cover for opposing the global elite's bętes noires of the moment - usually the U.S. or Israel. We will never grant legitimacy to forums that are so often manipulated for partisan ends.

The last paragraph is direct:
Sometimes it takes sharp elbows to assert independence. But this is certain: We will never be so seduced by vapid pieties about global cooperation that we'll join a system that is both unworkable and undemocratic.
"Vapid pieties!" Alas, I know them well. I've encountered most of them living in a member of the Axis of Weasels and Adscam Country.

With a terrific sense of contrast, Wrethard examines the French disenchantment with the EU Constitution taking a Guardian article as his base line and expands it into a post that parallels the Brooks column which, although they pursue different paths, come to similar conclusions about the sense of what it is to be a "nationality."

He calls passage of the EU Constitution a "Faustian bargain"

{French] People are beginning to understand the document before them but the political salesmen are determined to offer any combination of rebates, coupons, special offers and financing to get the final signature on the contract of sale. Stephen Benet's "The Devil and Daniel Webster" speaks of the belated remorse that so often follows Faustian bargains, though like as not there will be no reprieve from the consequences of this deal.
There is no Plan "B" to ratifying the Constituion, so "the field [is] open to the first European leader able to articulate a viable and alternative trajectory for the nations of the old continent."

Although Wretchard explains a great many economic and political reasons why the French might reject the EU Constitution, I believe the answer may be far more basic: they don't want to stop being that indefinable thing that makes them unique which would happen were they to relinquish self-rule.

I think the French (as are the British, Dutch, and most especially the Eastern European countries who are unwilling to trade Soviet dominance for French dominance) are actually expressing a yearning they dare not admit to because it would make them just like us Yanks: love of country, love of those intrinsic matters that define them as unique, and love of being (don't laugh) French.

[Note the final paragraph in the Guardian article! They feel they need to cheat to win, which is most definitely not a sign of confidence.]

Posted by Debbye at 07:23 AM | Comments (2)

March 29, 2005

He's ba-a-a-ck

Mar. 29 - I'm referring to the King of Snark, Paul, who has some new posts up. My favourite (because I love it when Paul gets nasty satirical) is This Week in Revisionist History in which Paul notes a number of measures that seem to defraud history, much as air-brushing the cigarette from Satre's lips has done. For example, he wonders about the sudden urge to remove a statue of Franco in Spain:

Don't get me wrong, I can understand when statues are toppled by people during revolutions, and I'm all for that, but when the people can't be bothered to go out and destroy the bloody thing themselves, I find these arbitrary governmental decisions peculiar, especially when, like in this case, it's so long after the man's death, and calling the statue a "symbol of division" seems like a rather flimsy excuse (not to mention that, considering Zapatero's core beliefs, it seems like nothing but a settling of scores with someone who can't fight back; if Franco was alive, I suppose that Zapatero would have gone with his usual drop pants, pass the KY solution).
That's Paul in his Take-No-Prisoners Mode. Read the other posts while you're there - you won't be disappointed.

Posted by Debbye at 02:14 PM | Comments (1)

March 11, 2005

March 11 Honoured

Mar. 11 - March 2004 was a bad month. There were a horrific series of terrorist attacks in Iraq and Pakistan targeting Shi'ia observances of Ashura, the Madrid train bombings, terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan and the Phillippines, and, closer to home, a plague of anti-Jewish graffiti in Toronto. Four contractors were murdered and their bodies mutilated and strung up on a bridge outside Fallujah, and Canadian Andy Bradsell was killed in Iraq protecting a convoy of people trying to restore electrical service in Mosul.

Each of those memories are searing and produced responses both good and bad, but I really didn't see this coming: Muslim clerics in the Islamic Commission of Spain have issued a fatwa on Osama bin Laden and declared terrorist acts totally banned:

The commission's secretary general, Mansur Escudero, said the group had consulted with Muslim leaders in other countries, such as Morocco -- home to most of the jailed suspects in the bombings -- Algeria and Libya, and had their support.

"They agree," Escudero said, referring to the Muslim leaders in the three North African countries. "What I want is that they say so publicly."

(More at Bin Laden fatwa as Spain remembers - Mar 11, 2005.)

My initial reaction was to feel how very, very difficult this was for them. Muslims have felt under intense scrutiny since Sept. 11, and although I could never entirely condemn the natural inclincation of many to close ranks thinking to protect themselves, I was frustrated by the "Yes, but" defense as attacks in Iraq targeting Muslims mounted.

There was too common an assumption that the war on terrorism was some kind of codename for a war on Islamic fundamentalists, somehow assuming that terrorism was the unique province of Muslim fanatics and totally overlooking places like N. Ireland, Columbia and Spain.

There were even numerous arguments these past 4 years over the usefulness of labelling this a "war on terror," but its appropriateness has become more and more evident culminating, for me, with the anti-terror demonstrations last year in Columbia after a night spot there was bombed. They got it, even if some of us were slow to do so.

I suspect that it is due to Spain's internal problems with terrorism perpetrated by Basque separatists in the ETA that put the Islamic Commission of Spain in the unique position of being able to credibly denounce terrorism, including that espoused by bin Laden, and the additional fact that they contacted and communicated with those in countries from which the March 11 attackers originated makes this appear to be more than a local fatwa.

I don't know if this will be the first of many fatwas from different countries or if it will dangle indefinitely as a lone example, but it's a good beginning.

Posted by Debbye at 07:51 PM | Comments (2)

February 20, 2005

Mark Steyn speaks

Feb. 20 - Mark Steyn's regular column in The Western Standard was on Canada's least-known person, Paul Desmarais:

... there has indeed been a Canadian making a difference in the world-and if The National wanted to do a 133-part special report on him, for once they’d have enough material. Most of us know Paul Desmarais as the . . . [those ellipses in original] well, let’s hold it there: most Canadians don’t know Paul Desmarais at all. You could stop the first thousand people walking down Yonge Street and I’ll bet no one would know who he is. But the few who do know him know him as the kingmaker behind Trudeau, Mulroney, Chrétien and Martin. Jean Chrétien’s daughter is married to Paul Desmarais’s son. Paul Martin was an employee of M. Desmarais’s Power Corp., and his Canada Steamship Lines was originally a subsidiary of Power Corp. that M. Desmarais put Mr. Martin in charge of. In other words, Paul Martin’s public identity--successful self-made businessman, not just a career pol, knows how to meet payroll, etc.--is entirely derived from the patronage of M. Desmarais.

Imagine if Jenna Bush married the chairman of Halliburton’s son, and then George W. Bush was succeeded by a president who’d been an employee of Halliburton: Michael Moore’s next documentary would be buried under wall-to-wall Oscars and Palmes d’Or. But M. Desmarais has managed to turn Ottawa into a company town without anyone being aware of the company. .. Power Corp.’s other alumni range from Quebec premiers to Canada’s most prominent international diplomat, Maurice Strong. In fairness, you don’t have to work for M. Desmarais to reach the top of the greasy pole-Kim Campbell managed it, for about a week and a half.

And down to the heart of it:
we’re in the middle of the UN Oil-for-Fraud investigation, the all-time biggest scam, bigger than Enron and Worldcom and all the rest added together. And whaddaya know? The bank that handled all the money from the program turns out to be BNP Paribas, which tends to get designated by Associated Press and co. as a “French bank” but is, as it happens, controlled by one of M. Desmarais’s holding companies. That alone should cause even the droopiest bloodhound to pick up a scent: the UN’s banker for its Iraqi “humanitarian” program turns out to be (to all intents) Saddam’s favourite oilman.
Read the whole thing.

On a (relatively) lighter note, as the President begins his European tour, Mark Steyn asks and answers the burning question of the day: What's US policy on Europe? No giggling.

What does all this mean? Nothing. In victory, magnanimity – and right now Bush can afford to be magnanimous, even if Europe isn't yet ready to acknowledge his victory. On Thursday, in a discussion of "the greater Middle East", the President remarked that Syria was "out of step". And, amazingly, he's right. Not so long ago, Syria was perfectly in step with the Middle East – it was the archetypal squalid stable Arab dictatorship. Two years on, Syria hasn't changed, but Iraq has, and, to varying degrees, the momentum in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon (where the Syrians have overplayed their hand) is also in the Bush direction. Boy Assad finds himself in the position of the unfortunate soldier in Irving Berlin's First World War marching song, "They Were All Out Of Step But Jim".

The EU isn't the Arab League, though for much of the past three years it's been hard to tell the difference. But it, too, is out of step. The question is whether the Europeans are smart enough, like the savvier Sunnis in Iraq, to realise it. The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt compared the President's inaugural speech with Gerhard Schröder's keynote address to the Munich Conference on Security Policy last week and observed that, while both men talked about the Middle East, terrorism and 21st-century security threats, Mr Bush used the word "freedom" 27 times while Herr Schröder uttered it not once; he preferred to emphasise, as if it were still March 2003 and he were Arab League Secretary-General, "stability" – the old realpolitik fetish the Administration has explicitly disavowed. It's not just that the two sides aren't speaking the same language, but that the key phrases of Mr Bush's vocabulary don't seem to exist in Chirac's or Schröder's.

By the Way, SteynOnline is off it's brief (?!) hiatus and open for your one-stop Steyn reading spot.

Feb. 23 - Austin Bay disagrees with Mark Steyn on the death of the West:

Steyn’s “bleakest last sentence” (to quote Roger Simon) is way too fin d’siecle. Steyn writes: “This week we’re toasting the end of an idea: the death of “the West".” Try and tell that to Ukraine and Poland– and for that matter, Denmark. Post- Theo van Gogh Holland may also object.
Valid point. I too have to remind myself to distinguish between "Old" and "New" Europes.

Feb. 28 - Mark Steyn responds to Austin Bay here (scroll down.) Very worthwhile read.

Posted by Debbye at 03:00 PM | Comments (10)

December 01, 2004

Ukraine elections V

Dec. 1 - 10 days!

KIEV, Ukraine - Ukraine's parliament brought down the government of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich on Wednesday, approving a no-confidence motion as international mediators gathered in the capital to try to bring the spiraling political crisis to a peaceful resolution.

The dramatic vote came only days after the Election Commission certified Yanukovich as winner of Ukraine's disputed presidential run-off, though opposition leader Victor Yushchenko has said the vote was fraudulent, an allegation backed by Western governments and tens of thousands of opposition supporters.

A caretaker government must be approved in accordance with the Ukraine constitution and then ... what?

President Kuchma, who was to step down after the election, "announced he supported holding an entirely new presidential election, not just a revote of the disputed second round."

The Washington Post is speculating that Kuchma is trying to "buy time" and end the mass demonstrations and vigils that have blocked government buildings. That seems about right; they hope to gain some breathing room to try to figure out what should be done next.

16:46 - Captain's Quarters reports on a rumoured compromise and a Reuters story which disputes that story although it allows that some grounds have been reached for agreement between the two contending parties.

Posted by Debbye at 08:56 AM | Comments (0)

November 30, 2004

Ukraine elections IV

Nov. 30 - Nine days! Ukrainians continue to remain vigilant in an awesome display of idealism and determination. The massive numbers of people who continue to block government buildings in frigid weather is humbling and one has to ask oneself would I be out there given the discomfort much less the risks if we lose? Naturally I say Yes! but I'm not actually there and, accustomed as I am to the leniency of North America when it comes to tolerating demonstrations, confronting tanks on the streets of my hometown is just not really an expectation.

[The more time goes by, the more I doubt such will happen in Kiev mostly because the whole world is watching, but it was certainly in the back of my mind in the early days after the election and it is unlikely that those who gathered outside the government buildings were unaware of the danger.]

Latest news is that the opposition has cancelled talks and, I'm surmising, have wisely chosen to place their confidence in the hands of those who have vowed to not stop blocking the buildings until their demands are met.

According to CNN, these demands are:

The government must admit that the election results were falsified.

Yanukovych's government and the Central Election Commission must step down.

Some action must be taken against three regional governors who threatened to take steps toward autonomy in the wake of the dispute.

Interior Minister Nikolai Bilokon, who they believe was part of the effort to manipulate the election, must be fired.

John O'Sullivan makes some interesting points in his Chicago Sun-Times column More than presidency at stake in Ukraine (link via Instapundit) in which he looks at the divided nature of Ukraine and the surprisingly clumsy role played by Russian President Putin as well as something I hadn't even considered: the losing role of French President Chirac and others.
A third loser is French President Jacques Chirac and those European leaders who want the European Union to be an anti-American counterweight to America. International crises involving Russia tend to remind Europeans that the United States remains a very valuable ally in a dangerous and unpredictable world. Fantasies of a superpower Europe seem insubstantial delusions by comparison with this tested alliance.
I'm not sure about that, and I certainly haven't noticed such in Toronto (although East European immigrants here are often sympathetic to the US.) I've been pretty focused on what this upsurge means to the people of Ukraine without consideration of the role their struggle plays in a wider geopolitical struggle for power so leave such matters to real pundits.

I don't expect everyone to take our path but merely support their right to chose their own paths, and it appears that such is exactly what they are doing; that is the defintion of freedom.

Posted by Debbye at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

November 26, 2004

Ukraine Elections III

Nov. 26 - Opposition steps up Kiev protest:

In the center of Kiev, protesters stood linked armes and stood five deep in the freezing cold to encircle the Cabinet building, The Associated Press reported. The building holds the offices of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, the official winner of Sunday's election.
The decision of the Ukraine Supreme Court to hear the challenge filed by Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko and their order to withhold election results pending review has had an electrifying effect on the hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians there and around the world as well as on freedom-lovers everywhere.

Foreignnotes, a blog run by an American in Kiev, is atop events there (via The Corner.)

The Command Post Global Recon Page has been on top of the situation as well and updating the news as it comes in.

A Fistful of Euros continues to have round-ups of both news items and information posted by Ukrainian bloggers (via Instapundit.)

Something spectacular has happened: A Fistful of Euros reports that

The showdown may have begun. Victor Katolyk reports that, following a “declaration of truth” by several hundred Ukrainian television employees, several tv stations have begun broadcasting “real” news. While several hundred Policemen appear to have pledged allegiance to the people, and former Deputy Prime Minister Julia Tymoshenko apparently declared the beginning of a seige of Presidential Administration, Cabinet of Ministers, and the Parliament, there are also reports of pressure on Supreme Courst judges and their families to rule in favor of Mr Yanukovich.
Classic revolutionist strategy calls for gaining control over the communications sector and the army. The post also reports that Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende has also rejected the election results.

I had heard there was to be another vigil last night at the Ukrainian Consulate here in Toronto and although I haven't seen anything on the news to confirm it I would be extremely surprised if there wasn't one. It has been inspiring to behold the surge of determination and pride by ex-pat Ukrainians and, at the risk of being very cliched, we do take so very much for granted here that are elusive dreams for others elsewhere.

May freedom ring!

Posted by Debbye at 07:18 AM | Comments (0)

November 25, 2004

Invisible ink used in Ukraine elections

Nov. 25 - 'Invisible ink' used in election fraud according to British MP Bruce George:

THE senior British MP in charge of monitoring last Sunday's polls in Ukraine has revealed how the election was undermined by intimidation, fraud and invisible ink.

Bruce George, chairman of the Commons Defence Committee and head of the international Short-Term Observation Commission in Ukraine, told The Times one of the election monitors handed him a suspicious pen from a polling station.

Mr George, a veteran Labour MP who helped to oversee the election in Georgia last year, found that anything written with the pen vanished in 15 minutes. "I saw a pen that had ink that disappeared when it dried," he said.

"People were issued with pens to cast their votes, but their votes would have disappeared after they dropped the paper into the ballot box."

There's more, including reports of the dead voting.

Posted by Debbye at 08:54 PM | Comments (0)

Ukraine elections II

Nov. 25 - There has been a call for a general strike in Ukraine and Opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko has filed a complaint to Ukraine's Supreme Court regarding the actions of the Central Election Commission after an election that has been denounced by most Western leaders: Deputy PM Anne McClellan of Canada, U.S. Sec. of State Colin Powell, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Australia.

Dep. PM McClellan also threatened sanctions if there isn't a full and open review of the electoral process.

Lech Walesa addressed a crowd in Kiev and expressed his solidarity and admiration for them.

For a second night, a protest was held in front of the Ukrainian consul in Toronto and today's editorial in the Toronto Sun (one day link) also condemns the fraudulent election:

BRAVO! Canada did the right thing yesterday in refusing to recognize the disputed Ukrainian election result.

In light of widespread reports of voting fraud -- some from Canadian MPs who were there as observers -- this country cannot endorse the purported election of Viktor Yanukovych, the Kremlin-backed former prime minister.

Sun columnist Bob MacDonald writes Ukraine pays price of freedom, elaborating that The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

The leader in the Telegraph (UK) notes the chance of a re-run of the election Ukraine has chance to fulfil its democratic pledge:

Viktor Yanukovich, the prime minister, said he was not interested in a "fictitious" victory and that "no position of authority, no matter how important, is worth a single human life". Leonid Kuchma, the outgoing president, ruled out the use of force. From outside, President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland said he had been asked to mediate, while Vladimir Putin and Gerhard Schröder, having spoken by telephone, urged that the crisis be solved by legal means.

The receding prospect of violent confrontation is welcome news in a country whose eastern and western regions have been deeply split electorally over the past decade. Add to this growing secessionist tendencies in Crimea, which was given to Ukraine by Khrushchev in 1954, and you have the potential for national disintegration.

Meanwhile, the Russian Duma has affirmed their support for Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich .

9:54: Via David Frum's Diary, be sure to read Anne Applebaum's column The New Iron Curtain in the Washington Post which takes a critical look at Russia's motives in interfering in Ukrainian politics.

19:56: The Telegraph's Julius Strauss also looks at why the Russians are so determined to install Yanukovych as Ukraine's president:

Mr Putin's immediate aim is to create a single economic zone in the region. Echoing Comecon, the Soviet-era trading bloc, the plan is to form a common market on the territories of Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.

The Kremlin's hope is that this will be a milestone on the road to raising Russia to the status of the controlling regional power and perhaps eventually regaining its superpower status.

Winning Ukraine is the chief pillar of the Kremlin's ambitions. The 48 million-strong country is the largest in Europe, rich in agriculture and a key transit route for Russian gas to the EU.

It's not all about the oil. For many of us, events in Ukraine are not simply about wanting to stop Russia from regaining superpower status but something far more basic: memories of the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the chance to keep history from recording a repetition of that shame.

Aside: Has Kofi Annan said anything yet about the Ukraine elections?

Posted by Debbye at 06:42 AM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2004

Ukranian elections

Nov. 24 - The official announcement of the results of Ukraine's national election is pending so I have CNN on. (Sleep? as if ...) CNN's website headlines Ukraine poll tensions mount which is one massive understatement.

There are probably hundreds of millions of people in North America who aren't having an on the edge of history moment but I'm not one of them.

A co-worker is from Ukraine. I asked her last night if she was okay, and she took a breath, nodded, and pumped her fist. "So long as the people ..." and I sensed a very familiar feeling, the kind I remembered from 1968 Prague and 1989 Tiananmen Square, and again in Georgia earlier this year which was followed by gratified astonishment ... and I also sensed the one you get when faith in your countrymen and women fills you from head to toe and floods you with resolve, solidarity and strength.

I am worried - very worried - that there may be bloodshed this day. But I also know that there are times when you simply must make your stand because you've come to the Now or Never point and there's just no backing down from that one.

Today's post at Belmont Club is cryptically titled The Ukraine and sums up the situation in typical Belmont Club form (and quotes from a letter from Vaclav Havel supporting Viktor Yuschenko.) Wretchard reports something I hadn't yet heard, namely that Russian special forces were dispatched to Ukraine and were wearing Ukrainian Special forces uniforms (the link is to observer Bob Schaffer's reports. Begin reading from the bottom entry - it's well worth the time to read the entire thing.) Wretchard reports that American, Canadian and European diplomats "all expressed concern at the Kremlin's actions, creating remarkable psychological solidarity which is in stark contrast towards the wrangling over Iraq."

The Washington Times describes the crowds supporting both sides maintaining vigils despite freezing temperatures and there was a demonstration of over 1,000 last night in front of the Ukrainian Consulate in Toronto in solidarity with Yushchenko's supporters in Ukraine. (More here.) Update: Many, many demonstrations worldwide by Ukrainian ex-pats.

The Toronto Star has a story about the illness that has plagued Yushchenko and speculations that he was poisoned.

International reaction to the election has been fairly consistent and centers on the electoral process. There could be unspecified "consequences" if there is not a "complete review of the electoral process," according to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

I haven't located a link to the entirety of Canadian PM Paul Martin's statement (he's in Brazil) but he too expressed dismay over the electoral process.

A statement from the White House expresses President Bush's concerns about "extensive and credible indications of fraud committed in the Ukrainian presidential election. We strongly support efforts to review the conduct of the election and urge Ukrainian authorities not to certify results until investigations of organized fraud are resolved. We call on the Government of Ukraine to respect the will of the Ukrainian people, ... " and urges that violence be avoided.

On the other side, Russian President Putin has "criticized Western assessments of the vote as flawed, stressing the results were not yet official. On a state visit to Portugal, he called for calm and respect for the law in this former Soviet republic."

Bob Schaeffer notes that Putin seems to have backtracked somewhat (see entry at 1:40 MST) from an earlier statement.

10:41 and still waiting. CNN is having continuous coverage of ... travel and weather updates. I know it's Thanksgiving tomorrow, but still.

11:14: Arthur Chrenkoff has the response of Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski to the Ukraine election.

11:34: (Doh! I'd forgotten I had BBC. Much better coverage than CNN.) The Election Commission announced the results of the election declaring Yanukovych the winner. It appears the prospect of holding the election again is slim.

Posted by Debbye at 09:08 AM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2004

Canada and Holland

Nov. 7 - The murder of Theo van Gogh in Holland was somewhat eclipsed by the US presidential campaign and downplayed by most of the MSM but I realised I wasn't overreacting when 8 others were held in his murder. But the same question dominates which was asked after the Madrid train bombings: what conclusions will the Dutch and Europeans draw from this latest murder? (I'm not suggesting that there are any conclusions to be drawn yet, only that this latest killing will have an effect.)

In case you haven't been reading Peaktalk, his coverage of the Theo van Gogh murder has been outstanding. His post A War of Courage highlights the essence of this struggle for Muslims:

It requires guts to line up for a police job in Baghdad and you equally have to be willing to risk your life to walk into an Amsterdam mosque and explain the principles of freedom of expression. Without these courageous Muslims this war can never ever be won. Let’s help them, let’s enlist them, they are the most important ingredient in this struggle for freedom and democracy.
Bang on!

Pieter has a great many posts of the murder of Theo van Gogh from when it was first reported here to an examination of the existence of a Fifth Column here, the reaction of Ayaan Hirsi Ali here, a less than optimistic outlook for Holland here, a translation of the letter pinned to van Gogh here, a more hopeful outlook here, a re-assertion of political correctness in Holland here followed by a re-assertion of Dutch pride here to the most optimistic post I first cited. Read them all, especially as there is a direct correlation of some events in Canada as the public here tries to digest what has happened, tries to make sense of it, and might recognize an implicit threat and hope.

11:59: This post at Belmont Club points to the way political correctness still constrains a meaningful response to the crisis. I would have run additional showings of the movie Submission and commissioned many more murals as my response to attacks on freedom of speech. When possible responses are assertion or appeasement one would like to think the answer was obvious.

There had been an undercurrent of speculation in Canada over the possibility of a Fifth column here which peaked when the notorious Khadrs (We-are-a-terrorist-family) returned to obtain medical treatment for the youngest (who had been wounded, captured and released by US forces) but three recent events (which also were eclipsed by the US elections) occurred which should have re-introduced discussions about the need to find some tangible means of encouraging tolerance in Canada which do not unintentionally breed intolerance.

On October 8, the Toronto Star carried a report that a Canadian had been killed by the Russians in Chechnya. After the usual expressions of disbelief and doubt as to the accuracy of the Russian claims came a report about the leader of the mosque attended by the dead Canadian, Sheik Younus Kathrada, on which Jay Currie reported here and then on October 19 Dr. Mohamad Elmasry, leader of the Canadian Islamic Congress, was a guest on Michael Coren's TV show and said that all Israelis - including seniors and babies - were fair targets for Palestinian terrorists.

Colby Cosh has a column with the National Post that points out the good news and the bad news. The good news is that as early as August, 2002, 20 B.C. Muslims had published an open letter which called upon Kathadra "to recant his teachings and apologize for them" but the bad news is that he didn't feel compelled to re-examine his views in this multicultural, diverse and tolerant country.

It is becoming more usual to read posts that sarcastically ask where the moderate Muslims are when a Nick Berg is beheaded or the head of CARE is kidnapped in Baghdad, and the fact that letters as the one Colby cites are not reported in the mainstream media does more a disservice to Muslims than would an exposure of a debate which may be quietly taking place within Muslim communities.

Dutch Muslims are responding to van Gogh's murder by recognizing they have a problem and if they don't provide strong leadership now the problem will only worsen.

Back in Canada, three forceful body blows struck the Canadian myth of super-tolerance, and much of the Canadian media responded by (what else?) lamenting the stupidity of the American voter. Do not expect strong leadership here so long as the public's attention can be diverted from issues which actually do impact on the average Canadian (and yet they call us stupid? It boggles the mind.)

Nov. 8 20:30: Some Dutch citizens have taken matters into their own hands, I'm sorry to report. An elementary school, for heaven's sake?

Posted by Debbye at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

November 06, 2004

The Second Axis of Weasels

Nov. 6 - EU 'triple axis' gangs up on Blair:

France, Spain and Germany launched a "triple axis" yesterday aimed at taking charge of EU foreign policy and limiting Tony Blair's influence in Europe.

Jacques Chirac, the French president and a harsh critic of the war in Iraq, brushed aside appeals for better transatlantic ties after George W Bush's re-election triumph and instead called for a stronger EU to confront Washington.

Posted by Debbye at 04:10 PM | Comments (8)

October 25, 2004

Kosovo update (depressing)

Oct. 25 - This report on the Kosovo elections is sharply critical of the failure of the U.N. and the recent elections (Kosovo poll reveals failure of UN rule) which were notable for their apathy and the boycott by Serbs:

Early results from the weekend's general election showed that five years of UN rule had only deepened ethnic divisions as Kosovo's voters signalled their despair with the Balkan province's administrators.

Barely more than half of Kosovo's 1.4 million voters went to the ballot box. While the province's majority ethnic Albanians were struck by apathy, its 130,000-strong Serb minority was seized by anger and completely boycotted the poll.

Only a handful of Serbs voted, following calls from Vojislav Kostunica, the Serbian Prime Minister, and the Serbian Orthodox Church to stay away. Mr Kostunica described the election as a "failure".

[...]

A victory for the moderate Albanian LDK party of current President Ibrahim Rugova was indicated by early results but it has once again fallen short of an outright majority and will have to form a coalition.

Once formed, the local government will have a slim portfolio of responsibilities, while all meaningful power remains with the UN.

The provisional result equates to a maintenance of the political status quo by default, as both Kosovo's bitterly opposed ethnic Albanians and Serbs signalled their dissatisfaction with foreign rule.

[...]

At the moment, though run by the UN, Kosovo is still officially part of Serbia and a land which Serbs have cherished for centuries.

Long happy to do nothing, Kosovo's international administrators were stung by riots in March that made clear that maintaining the stand-off was counterproductive. Now Kosovo appears deadlocked.

Not the most postitive outlook.

Posted by Debbye at 12:24 PM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2004

No Protection for EU Whistleblowers

Oct. 18 - The proper definition of whisleblower, as I understand it (and keeping in mind the I am not a lawyer disclaimer) is someone who goes to the press with information on matters of legal and/or ethical wrongdoing.

Many of us were surprised to learn that there is no whistleblower protection for UN workers, and a recent ruling by the European Court means that there is also none for EU workers (EU judges end human rights law for press) because it seems that Washington D.C. Brussels is above considerations like press freedoms and human rights:

The European Court has quietly brushed aside 50 years of international case law in a landmark judgment on press freedom, ruling that Brussels does not have to comply with European human rights codes.

In a judgment with profound implications for civil liberties, Euro-judges backed efforts by the European Commission to obtain the computers, address books, telephone records and 1,000 pages of notes seized by Belgian police - on EU instructions - from Hans-Martin Tillack, the former Brussels correspondent of Germany's Stern magazine.

It is a test case of whether the European Court will adhere to the democratic freedoms and liberal principles upheld for the last half-century by Europe's top rights watchdog, the non-EU Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, or whether it will pursue a more authoritarian line as it grows in power.

Maybe they still miss the point that power corrupts.
Mr Tillack had written a series of hard-hitting exposes of EU fraud and skulduggery, relying on inside sources. By obtaining his archive of investigative files amassed over five years, the commission can identify key sources and "burn" a generation of EU whistleblowers.
That's one way to handle corruption: fire the whistleblowers and block future exposes. There are other ways, which include rooting out and firing the corrupt officials, but that's doesn't seem to be an option.

He was arrested by the Belgian police in March and held incommunicado for 10 hours for allegedly bribing an official to obtain internal EU documents.

The action was requested "urgently" by the EU's anti-fraud office, which claimed Mr Tillack was about leave for America. In fact, he was moving back to Hamburg.

Leaked anti-fraud office documents have since shown that the allegation was concocted over dinner between two commission spokesmen.

But everyone knows that fascism is descending on the USA! That's where civil liberties are under attack!
Raymond Kendall, the former Interpol chief and now head of anti-fraud office oversight board, testified to the Lords in May that officials had acted improperly "purely on the basis of hearsay" and were "obviously" in collusion with Belgian police to identify Mr Tillack's sources.

Claiming that the anti-fraud office head had more power to launch raids and seize documents than any other police chief in the world, he said the body was a danger to civil liberties. "They can do whatever they want to do. There is absolutely no control whatsoever," he said.

No, no! Stop reading this and rail against the Patriot Act! That's what Europeans must focus on! The evil neo-cons, and stupid, gun-toting Americans who'd fight to protect their liberties ... Halliburton! Roswell! Uh, Cowboys! Yeah!
Mr Tillack filed a lawsuit at the European Court with the backing of the International Federation of Journalists to block commission access to his records.

The federation pleaded that the EU's attempt to identify a journalist's sources in that fashion was a "flagrant violation" of press protection established over decades in European Convention law.

If the commission is allowed to sift through his records, it would render investigative journalism "virtually impossible" in Brussels. (Bolding added.)

Which, of course, is precisely the point. The courts will, by exposing the whistleblowers, avert a bigger evil, which is to expose the wrong-doers.
Mr Tillack's lawyers cited extensive case law, including the case of "Goodwin v UK" in 1996, ruling that the protection of sources was the cornerstone of a free press and "genuine democracy".

The human rights court ruled against Luxembourg last year that identifying a source of leaks did not constitute a "pressing social need" that could justify a breach of Article 10 on press freedom.

But the EU's Court of First Instance ruled against Mr Tillack last week on the grounds that the case was a strictly Belgian matter.

Euro-judges accepted commission claims that it played no role in the arrest of Mr Tillack, even though leaked anti-fraud office documents show it orchestrated the raid from the beginning.

Another pesky leak! When will it all end?
It is not the first time the European Court has appeared to ignore established human rights law.

It ruled in "Connolly v Commission" in 2001 that the EU could curtail civil rights to defend the "general interest of the communities" where necessary, despite human rights case law clearly and repeatedly banning recourse to such sweeping powers.

In theory, the European Court is obliged to defer to the court of human rights as the higher authority in all areas of rights protection. The Tillack and Connolly rulings offer the first evidence that Euro-judges may create their own very different brand of civil rights law.

Add this to the list of Why we would be stupid to go within a thousand miles of the International Criminal Court. We believe in the rule of law, and this ruling by the European Court indicates an adherence to the rule of expediency and protecting the privileged.

Posted by Debbye at 01:28 AM | Comments (0)

October 17, 2004

Madrid train bombings update

Oct. 17 - Police identify mystery ringleader of Madrid bombings, Allekema Lamari, as one of the men who blew themselves up in an apartment after a shoot-out with police shortly after the March 11 bombing.

A special operations policer officer was killed and several other policemen were wounded in that explosion.

The other suspected terrorists killed in the April suicide blast were identified as: Tunisian Serhane Ben Abdelmajid, Moroccans Jamal Ahmidan, Asri Rifaat, Abdennabi Kounjaa, and Rachid and Oulad Akcha, brothers who were also from Morocco.

Officials say several of the seven were ringleaders of the attack.

Another suspect, an Egyptian called Rabei Osman Ahmed who is currently in Italian custody awaiting extradition to Spain, is also suspected of helping mastermind the Madrid train bombings.

The response of the Spanish electorate to the bombings has been analyzed elsewhere, but what is notable is that, appeasers or no, those countries that did not participate in Operation Iraqi Freedom are nonetheless engaged in the larger war on terror by tracking down terrorists in their midst and that is something that should not be discounted.

Americans who counterpose police action vs. military action are missing the point: successfully combating terrorism will require any and all tools available. Neither course need be sacrificed to bolster the other and to argue issues on that merit either indicates a lack of understanding or lack of committment to combatting terrorism.

Posted by Debbye at 06:54 AM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2004

Terror Watch in Turkey

June 24 - A bomb exploded on a bus in Istanbul and police suspect it detonated prematurely while being transported to another location (Turkey bus explosion kills four.) A smaller blast earlier in Ankara wounded two.

A NATO summit will be held in Istanbul early next week.

Posted by Debbye at 06:57 PM | Comments (0)

June 19, 2004

EU matters (updated)

June 19 - Hidden in the middle of this article, Leaders accept EU constitution, is confirmation that not all the media is ignoring the real message behind last week's votes in Europe:

Leaders had hoped for a deal Friday to boost the EU's credibility in the eyes of a skeptical public, a week after an electoral drubbing and six months after their last attempt collapsed in acrimony over voting rules and other issues.
Although I didn't link it earlier, I want to make up for that omission by citing an excellent post on those elections at Dodgblogium and another one at Chicago Boyz (the latter via Steven Den Beste.)

11:44 There is a post at Expat Yank that is absolutely priceless: Chirac wrecks relations with someone else.

15:30: John reports on the elections in Spain: the Socialists won 25 seats with 43% of the votes and the Partido Popular won 23 seats with 41% of the votes. Voter turnout was 46%. Read the post - it has some pretty solid analysis of the voting patterns.

Posted by Debbye at 07:35 AM | Comments (1)

June 12, 2004

The feckless UN in Iraq, Serbia and Iran

June 12 - From the Daily Telegraph (UK) comes a report on Danish UN aid worker Michael Soussan who, in his testimony before a US Congressional probe into UNSCAM, blasted the UN's 'shameful silence' over the evils of Saddam:

To Mr Soussan's dismay, the most vocal critics worked alongside him at the UN. The genocide charge was levelled by an assistant secretary general in charge of humanitarian work in Iraq.

His colleagues blamed the Security Council - especially the United States and Britain - for the suffering of Iraqis, ignoring evidence that Saddam was stealing food from his own people's mouths.

They could hardly ignore the wickedness of Saddam's regime. Foreign UN staff could sense the terror in Iraqis they met, and saw for themselves the gilded excesses of the Ba'athist elite.

But somehow that wickedness was taken as a given, then promptly smothered in a warm soup of moral relativism.

"We have a notion of sovereignty at the UN that doesn't distinguish between governments that deserve sovereignty and those that do not. And that really skews our moral compass," Mr Soussan told The Telegraph.

"[My colleagues] devoted most of their moral outrage towards the United States and the UK," he said. (Emphasis added)

Can we say "easy targets?" Of course we can. And anyone who defends the USA will be accused of being brainwashed, bought-off, racist, or, worst of all, defying the international community. Small wonder these bureaucrats took the easy road even if they knew it was a lie. But that's not moral equivalence, that's just plain immoral.
Mr Soussan does not deny the pain caused by sanctions from the first Gulf war in 1991 to 1996, before oil-for-food sales began. A quarter of a million children died, by conservative estimates.

But during those five years, it was Saddam who refused offers to sell his oil and import humanitarian goods under UN supervision. "[He was] banking that images of dying babies would eventually force the international community to lift the sanctions altogether," Mr Soussan told Congress.

By 2000, there was no limit on the amount of oil Saddam was allowed to sell, and few limits on the civilian goods he was allowed to buy.

Iraq was under sanctions only "to the extent that they couldn't import military goods", he said.

Yet still Saddam claimed sanctions were killing 5,000 infants a month, parading tiny coffins in the streets to ram the point home. "The UN did not stand up to this propaganda. It cowered in the face of this notion that the sanctions were killing Iraqi babies," Mr Soussan said. (Emphasis added)

One of Osama bin Laden's justifications for declaring jihad on the USA was that we were responsible for the murder of Iraqi babies, something that has yet to be properly refuted in the international, and, more importantly, the Arab press.

The failure of the U.N. to take responsiblilty and tell the truth is responsible for much of the hatred of the world towards the USA, but we are supposed to "take it" for the good of an international community which has no values, no morals, but does have some dandy committees.

Iraqi babies no longer die due to malnutrition, watered-down drugs, expired pharmaceuticals and lack of equipment in medical facilities, but that fact has nothing to do with the U.N. and everything to do with action that was condemned by the U.N.

UN staff did not speak out when Saddam refused to buy high protein foods recommended by UN experts, or spent oil-for-food millions on sports stadiums, or broadcasting equipment for his propaganda machine.

The UN turned a blind eye to signs that Saddam was bribing cronies at home and abroad with black market oil vouchers, and was skimming billions from funds meant for food and medicine, demanding secret, 10 per cent "kickbacks" on humanitarian contracts.

The UN recently claimed it "learned of the 10 per cent kickback scheme only after the end of major combat operations" in 2003.

A lie, said Mr Soussan, recalling the hapless Swedish company that called in 2000, seeking UN help after being asked to pay kickbacks. The Swedes' plea was quickly lost in red tape and inter-office turf wars. After a "Kafka-esque" flurry of internal memos, the Swedes were told to complain to their own government.

So much for that which some call international law which is used as a club to beat upon democratic countries like the USA but not Ghana, Sudan or Congo.
Now top UN officials are under investigation. Mr Soussan hopes the shock will force a major debate on how to deal with rogue regimes.

"The oil-for-food programme was a deal with the devil. The problem is, that we didn't act as if this was the devil, we acted as if this was a legitimate regime," he said.

Again, that's not moral equivalence, that's outright immorality. At long last, the USA, Great Britain and other members of the coalition didn't deal with the devil, we removed him from power. Isn't that what moral people do when they confront evil?
If such major questions have to wait, a little more transparency would help, for starters.

"If the UN had just stood up once, held a high-level press conference, and said, 'We think the Iraqi government is cheating its people', then the UN would not be in the mess it is now," he said. "It would then be an accuser, rather than the accused." (Emphasis added)

The U.N. just can't catch a break this week, as it's failure in Serbia has been pushed back to the fore with the admission by Serbian officials that the Srebrenica massacre was carried out by Serbian security officials which in turn stimulated the memory of the failure of Dutch U.N. peacekeepers to protect those who appealed to them for help at the U.N. compound, a failure for which the Dutch government at the time apologized and then resigned.

Iran is piling on: they have rejected any further restrictions on their weapon programs and demands to be recognized as a nuclear power:

Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi accused France, Britain and Germany -- who have drawn up a tough new document that accuses Iran of not cooperating with the International Atomic Energy Agency -- of bowing to pressure from the United States.
See what I mean? Iran, which is known for its violation of human rights and a known sponsor of terror, need only pull the anti-US card and millions of progressive, peaceloving people will line up to defend Iran's right to terrorize the world - and Israel - with a nuclear holocaust.

Some of those nuts live in the United States. One of those nuts in running for president: Senator John Kerry, who actually believes that we can pursue detente with North Korea and Iran as we attempted with the Soviet Union.

President Reagan's final gift to the USA may have been the timing of his death which not only coincided with D-Day, a major military offensive in the fight against fascism, but also led to the recollection that he defeated communism by his firm resolve to stand up to the Soviet Union and match them missile for missile rather than meekly pretending they were anything less than evil.

Detente failed. Unyielding principles won, and we were dealing with comparatively sane people in the Soviet Union. Would anyone dare to make the same claims about the North Korean or Iranian governments?

Canadians who are pretending to be terrified of social conservatives coming to power in Canada would, if they were honest, be lying prostrate on the floor in a cold faint at the mere thought of Iranian social conservatives but they aren't because it's all about the propaganda, not the reality.

Posted by Debbye at 05:39 PM | Comments (4)

June 09, 2004

Bomb explodes in Cologne

June 9 - "Thousands of nails" on the sidewalks after an explosion in Cologne (Blast injures 16 in Cologne) has caused police to consider a bomb to be the source of the blast.

16 people were injured, including 4 seriously and 1 critically.

Posted by Debbye at 07:08 PM | Comments (0)

June 08, 2004

No plans yet to remove US troops from Germany

June 8 - Someday (if I'm really, really, bored and have run out of excuses to avoid vacuuming) I'll try to figure out why a country like Germany which declares itself more pacifist than a lamb would be outraged when we try to withdraw troops from there. What enemy do they fear? I thought their polls indicated that they consider us to be the biggest danger to peace ... akin to Hitler and all bad and nasty things in this world. So why would they want us to stay?

Surely it couldn't have anything to do with all those US dollars that bases in Germany add to the German economy, could it? Surely such enlightened people would be willing to take a little hardship just to get rid of those dreadful Yankees! Wankers.

Anyway, the uproar is premature, as this DoD announcement makes clear (Myers: No Final Decision Yet on U.S. Posture in Germany.)

Of course, if we don't pull out, I'll be outraged. Poland is a friend and staunch ally, and I look forward to building stronger ties with her.

Posted by Debbye at 05:56 PM | Comments (2)

European nations cooperate to capture March 11 suspect (updated)

June 8 - This is interesting: 'Key Figure' Among Madrid Bombing Arrests:

ROME — In coordinated sweeps, Italian and Belgian police arrested at least 17 suspected Islamic extremists, including an Egyptian who was alleged to have a key role in the March 11 bombings (search) in Madrid, authorities said Tuesday.

Officials at Spain's National Court said Rabei Osman Ahmed (search), a 33-year-old Egyptian, was detained in Milan late Monday and said to be planning further attacks.

A senior Spanish law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described him as a "key figure" in the Madrid commuter train bombings that killed 191 people.

Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu (search) said Osman Ahmed was "probably among the principal authors" of the Madrid bombings, and that he "was preparing other attacks."

Osman Ahmed was arrested on a warrant issued Monday by Judge Juan del Olmo, the magistrate leading the investigation into the bombings, said the officials at Spain's National Court. They said they would request his extradition on multiple counts of murder and attempted murder.

Osman Ahmed was identified by people living near a decrepit rural cottage where the bombs used in the attack were assembled, the Spanish court officials said. Fingerprints of several key suspects were found in the cottage.

One other suspect was arrested in Italy, while 15 were apprehended in Belgium — including Palestinians, Egyptians, Jordanians and Moroccans, officials said. One other person was held for questioning in Italy, authorities said.

The suspects arrested in Belgium apparently were not involved in the Madrid bombings, but the investigations in Italy and Belgium were closely linked, said Daniel Bernard, a Belgian federal prosecutor.

He said Belgian investigators were tipped off by Italian authorities.

A current member of the Coalition of the Willing teams up with a former member and a non-member. Result: 17 terrorists are captured.

That sound you hear is air escaping from the faulty balloon the Democrats and assorted pundits sent up which claimed that the war in Iraq divided allies and diverted attention from the war on terror.

European countries will coordinate and cooperate on stopping terrorists because it is in their best interests to do so. No nuance or subtley is required, but may be so freaking obvious that only an elitist or an intellectual could miss it.

June 9 - 18:15: Six more have been arrested in northern Spain in connection with the March 11 train bombings in Madrid.

Posted by Debbye at 05:07 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2004

Failure of the U.N. Mission in Chad (updated: and Kosovo and Eritrea)

May 15 - If the prisoner abuse was a "body blow" to US efforts in Iraq, what is the following to U.N. efforts in Chad, and, by extension, to anything they might undertake in Iraq?

Chad's poor left to help each other:

In the past year, Tine's population has more than doubled as refugees have poured out of the Darfur region of western Sudan, fleeing Arab militiamen mounted on horses and camels who are waging a campaign of ethnic cleansing against their black Muslim neighbours.

Many could only watch as members of their families were executed by the Janjaweed, as the militiamen are known. Most lost their possessions when their houses were burned down. All were exhausted after walking for days through the desert.

Sudan, by the way, is the new chair for the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

The United Nations has described the war in Darfur as the world's worst humanitarian crisis at the moment.

It is running an emergency relief programme for Darfur refugees but will not operate on the border, saying it is too dangerous.

Families have been waiting for up to two months, their lives at risk from shelling, cross-border militia raids and water shortages, to transfer to UN camps 20 miles into Chad.

Aid workers from other agencies have accused the UN of inefficiency and perhaps worse.

"What is going on here is very dark," said one western aid worker at a non-UN agency.

"Money seems to have disappeared. Who knows whether it has been stolen or whether it has just disappeared in the UN machine. The inefficiency is astounding."

Refugees cannot walk into the half-empty camps. Regulations demand that they must be turned away if they do.

It would seem that the United Nations has run out of money. Lorries supposed to transport refugees to the camps lie stranded as there is not enough for fuel. Drivers have been on strike because they have not been paid for a month.

Do you suppose that the murky doings and theft that accompanied the Oil for Food scandal was just business as usual at the U.N.?

Don't look for any NY Times editorials demanding that Kofi Annan resign, though, or for Sen. John Kerry to denounce the U.N. for its failure in leadership. It's been a four-year long election year, after all, and the U.N. represents that International Community which holds The High Moral Ground.

May 17 - 18:02: Looks like the missions in Kosovo, Serbia and Eritrea have produced a booming sex trade in those regions.

Posted by Debbye at 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2004

EU fraud cases double

May 7 - Who regulates the regulators? EU fraud cases double to Ł700m, says report

Posted by Debbye at 04:01 PM | Comments (0)

May 03, 2004

France expels radical imams

May 3 - France targets radical imams in bid to keep terrorism at bay.

Posted by Debbye at 09:06 PM | Comments (0)

April 29, 2004

Italians march for hostages

Apr. 29 - I've been trying to come up with an honest take about the response in Italy to the Green Brigade demand that there be anti-war demonstrations or the hostages held in Iraq will die.

It's very hard. There are situations for which I'd like to think I would stand strong, but if my kid's life was on the line, can I honestly say I know what I'd do? And since I'm not now nor have ever been in that situation, how can I honestly pass judgement on those who are?

I'm just going to link the articles from CNN, Yahoo and the BBC.

Posted by Debbye at 04:50 PM | Comments (2)

EU Constitution

Apr. 29 - The Daily Telegraph doesn't approve of the EU Constitution ('Euro-justice' is death knell for State and follows this story online with Spendthrift Germany is failing us, say states of 'New Europe':

Three days before their countries join the union, the finance ministers of Hungary, Slovakia and Estonia criticised Germany's decision to continue flouting the EU's stability pact, which is designed to protect the integrity of the euro.
As Orwell noted, all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Posted by Debbye at 12:55 PM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2004

Odd ransom demand for Italian hostages

Apr. 27 - This is strange even for the kind of barbarism we've seen from the "insurgents" in Iraq - Kidnappers Threaten to Kill Italians in Video:

In the video, the apparent kidnappers vow to kill the hostages in five days unless the Italian people protest against their military presence in Iraq.
As a cynical note, the demand implies that the anti-war demonstrations are staged events anyway, undertaken without underlying ideals or beliefs, and therefore it shouldn't be hard to hold another one.

One of the odder parts is that it puts the Italian anti-war movement on the spot rather than the Italian government. What is their game? What does this Green Brigade hope to achieve?

But I'm also wondering if a bit of Italian history might figure in to this: an Italian group of ultra-leftists back in the 60's and 70's was called the Red Brigade. They kidnapped Aldo Moro on March 16, 1978, and executed him on on May 9, 1978. (The Moro link makes some assertions about Moro's influence on Italian politics. I'm not familiar enough to agree or disagree, but it is interesting.)

Posted by Debbye at 07:07 PM | Comments (0)

April 21, 2004

Iraq (updated)

Apr. 21 - Basra bombs kill at least 68 Iraqis

One car exploded in Az Zubayr and then, 30 minutes later as people gathered at the scene, a second suicide car bomb went off in the same location, police officer Hassan Kahlaf said. He said that the first bomber was dressed as a policeman.
18 children on their way to school are among the dead.

The rage such atrocities arouses is too immense for words. May the bullets of our soldiers find and target the bastards that plan these murders.

20:49 Alaa has a pointed response to the coverage by the Arabiya reporter on the scene. Read it. (End update)

A Dane who disappeared in Iraq April 11 has been found dead.

No information has been released about the man's identity or nature of his death. Did he, like Fabrizio Quattrocchi, show too much courage for his captors?

Another Canadian has been taken hostage. From the Canadian Office of Foreign Affairs:

A spokesperson for the department said Rifat Mohammed Rifat (sic) has been missing since April 8. Ottawa confirmed on Tuesday he is Canadian and has been kidnapped.

He is alive, the spokesperson said, but Ottawa doesn't know who kidnapped him or where he's being held.

Rifat, 41, was last seen leaving work at a prison west of Baghdad, where he was working for a Saudi company doing repairs.

His brother, Ali Rifat, reported him missing.

It's not clear his captors know he is Canadian.

Thanks to Nik for sending me the link. Nik comments in the email
"It's not clear his captors know he is Canadian." But it's pretty DAMNED CLEAR they don't give a f***. (Lightly edited by me.)

Posted by Debbye at 05:11 PM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2004

Spain Updated III

Apr. 19 - Bush Disappointed by Spanish PM's Decision on Iraq:

WASHINGTON — President Bush scolded Spain's new prime minister Monday for his swift withdrawal of troops from Iraq and told him to avoid actions that give "false comfort to terrorists or enemies of freedom in Iraq."
(CNN coverage here.) If I'm reading between the lines correctly, the Bush administration too reads the hastiness of the withdrawal as accepting bin Laden's offer of a truce.

John at Ibernian Notes thinks that Spain is #2 on the shit list.

Paul has news of the desecration of the grave of Francisco Javier Torrenteras, the Spanish agent in the National Police's Special Operations Group who was killed in the house explosion while trying to apprehend suspects in the March 11 terrorist attack in Madrid.

Posted by Debbye at 03:25 PM | Comments (5)

Australian PM slams Spanish retreat

Apr. 19 - Australian PM John Howard slams Spanish troops home

Prime Minister John Howard has attacked Spain's decision to withdraw its troops from Iraq and brushed aside suggestions Australian troops might be sent to fill the gap.

Mr Howard told reporters at Traralgon in eastern Victoria that Spain had made a mistake.

"Spain's decision will give heart to those people who are trying to delay the emergence of a free and democratic Iraq," he said.

"Every time a country appears to be retreating from a difficult situation encouragement is given to those people who have created the difficulty."peMr Howard poured cold water on suggestions Australians might replace Spanish troops.

"We have had no request to do so," he said.

[...]

"I am going to repeat the principle: we are not cutting and running, we are going to finish the job, we are going to do what Australians always do and that is to see things through."

Australia has 850 personnel in the Middle East with about 300 inside Iraq, providing security, air traffic control at Baghdad airport and training Iraqi military personnel.

Australia has been a true friend and staunch coalition partner.

Posted by Debbye at 02:41 AM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2004

Speedy Spain withdrawal from Iraq

Apr. 18 - Looks like Zapatero is taking bin Laden up on his offer of a truce (Spain plans quick pull out of Iraq.)

I don't know if he'll go all the way and withdraw from Afghanistan, though. Does bin Laden do compromise?

Posted by Debbye at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2004

Spain Updated II

Apr. 14 - Paul reports on a tape that was recovered when the 5 terrorists blew themselves up late March rather than face justice and which the Spanish authorities have rebuilt in Madrid Update. No surprise it threatens further bloodshed until Spain withdraws troops from all Muslim bases, but their colourful language and defiant assertion that civilians are legitimate targets is breathtaking.

I wonder if they include Andalusia as a Muslim base? Bin Laden certainly does.

By the way, the last line in Paul's post should have a drink warning.

Posted by Debbye at 04:16 AM | Comments (2)

April 13, 2004

Update on Mahboob Khawaja

Apr. 13 - Canuck blames RCMP

AN OTTAWA man being detained in Saudi Arabia has told his family Saudi authorities plan to keep him in custody until he can be interviewed by an RCMP investigator, CBC News reported last night. Mahboob Khawaja managed to call his son Qasim yesterday afternoon, CBC News reported from Ottawa.
The CBC story is here.

Intial reports on Mahboob Khawaja's arrest from unnamed Saudi sources claimed that he had been arrested at the request of Canadian authorities. Last week, RCMP spokesman Staff Sgt. Paul Marsh said that the force had not been in touch with Saudi authorities over Mahboob or his son Mohammad Momin Khawaja, who was arrested in Canada March 29 in the same sweep that included the arrest of 8 men in Britain.

Apr. 14 The son, Mohammad Momin Khawaja was indited in a British court as a co-conspirator with the men and teenager arrested in Britain. (Yahoo! News - British teen in court on explosives charges linked to arrest of Ottawa man.)

Posted by Debbye at 10:16 PM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2004

March 11 terrorists called the UK

Apr. 11 - According to Spanish investigators, the terrorists who blew themselves up (also killing a Spanish policeman) in Madrid telephoned a radical Islamic leader in the UK shortly before they died (Madrid rail bombers 'made call to Britain.)

Spanish investigators believe that the man they called is a fundamentalist imam and a member of the al-Qa'eda network.

The newspaper also reported that international arrest warrants were expected to be issued against several new suspects within days.

[...]

British links to two of the suspects have already been uncovered. Police raided an address in east London which is connected to two Moroccan men, Kohamed Oulad Akcha and his brother Rachid, who are suspected of being involved in the rail attacks.

Note that the two arrested men are not those who were telephoned from Madrid.

Posted by Debbye at 10:03 PM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2004

France and the war on terror

Apr. 5 - The counter intelligence units in France have shown why they have so excellent a reputation: 13 people were arrested Monday morning on suspicion of being members of the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group and in connection with the terrorist bombings in Casablanca last year, and an ETA arms factory and a large supply of weapons was found near the Spanish border in the village of San Michel (in the Basque region of the Pyrenees.) They had arrested 3 members of the ETA on Friday.

Posted by Debbye at 10:16 PM | Comments (3)

British, Canadian Terror Link II (Updated)

Apr. 5 - According to the Sunday Times (UK) a communication between al Qaeda forces in Pakistan and the UK which appeared to give instructions for an attack on British soil was intercepted by the NSA in the USA. They alerted British authorities (CNEWS - World: Report: U.S. eavesdropping led to arrests) who arrested the 9 people they already had under surveillance and seized half a ton of ammonium nitrate fertilizer.

According to the Times, Canadian Momin Khawaja played a "pivotal role" in the plot.

The sweep in the UK was called Operation Crevice, and its counterpart in Canada was called Project Awaken.

The operational instructions appeared to come from someone familiar to Americans, Iraqis and Spaniards:

The sender was apparently in the circle around Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, believed to be the mastermind of attacks in Baghdad and Karbala last month in Iraq that killed 280 people during a Muslim religious festival.

The link to Pakistan is also seen as significant because it disproves a view that al-Qaida's command structure had been broken up and scattered by the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan and arrests made around the world in the last 2 1/2 years of the war on terror, The Sunday Times said.

"We all thought there were cells operating in isolation and had been told that the al-Qaida network had been destroyed from the top when suddenly we find a chain of command leading back to Pakistan," a senior Scotland Yard source is quoted as saying.

The assertion that al-Zarqawi masterminded two major attacks on two different continents only last month followed by an assertion that senior level officials thought al Qaeda had been destroyed from the top is either simplistic in the extreme or bad editing.

Have al Qaeda activities been disrupted? Yes. Are they still dangerous? Yes. Should we give up? No.

Is the terrorist counter-offensive finished? Maybe, or at least partially. The rapid deployment of an additional 650 British troops to Kosovo stopped further ethnic cleansing there, and the effectual disruption in Spain of further attacks (with a major assist from the French) in addition the arrests in the UK means that the line in Europe held.

(CNews links via Neale News.)

22:41: Via Jack's Newswatch, this report that Abdul Aziz al-Muqrin, the new leader of the terror network in Saudi Arabia, has issued a threat: one of al-Qaeda’s top officials has ordered the killing of Muslim leaders if they co-operate with intelligence services and the police to thwart terrorist attacks.

The ultimate goal of the Islamists is to force all Muslims to accept their version of Islam. We know this because they've said it repeatedly, and this latest pronouncement is part of their on-going attempts to terrorize other Muslims.

Apr. 6 - 01:50: From Winds of Change, Italy has detained 106 people, mostly Moroccan, on suspicions of having links with terrorists. Italy has been in a state of alert since the March 11 train bombings in Madrid.

Posted by Debbye at 08:57 PM | Comments (2)

German train tracks sabotaged

Apr. 5 - Six metal slabs bolted to train railes in Germany nearly caused a high speed train to derail. The driver saw the slabs and was able to slow the train before it hit the slabs.

22:03: More here. A train that passed the area 18 minutes earlier hadn't seen the slabs, so the time frame during which the obstruction was assembled has been established.

No one has taken responsibility for the incident.

(Newsday link via Jack's Newswatch.)

Posted by Debbye at 07:56 PM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2004

Kosovo

Apr. 4 - Britain's troops must stay, demands president of Kosovo. Ibrahim Rugova, the president of Kosovo, thanked Britain for her swift deployment of troops last month but asks they stay to longer.

The Telegraph has learned that four corpses of leading rioters killed by the security forces have yet to be claimed by families, suggesting that they were from outside Kosovo.

[...]

"This violence happened because, more than five years after the Nato intervention, power has still not been transferred to local institutions," he said. "This prevents proper economic development, and means we cannot improve security ourselves."

His uncompromising message goes against the grain: since the violence, many Western officials have been reassessing the prospects for Kosovan independence, fearing for the security of the estimated 10 per cent Serb minority. Meanwhile, Serbian calls for the division of Kosovo into ethnic cantons are being taken more seriously.

Mr Rugova is resolute, however. "We can build security for all communities if we have the power to do so," he said. He said that two of the provisional government's 10 ministers were Serbs, and the Serb grouping was the third largest in Kosovo's parliament. He was less keen to dwell on events on the ground, however, where many Serbs are living in fear for their lives in shrinking enclaves, many of which had seen their churches, schools and hospitals destroyed. Without Kosovan independence, he said, extremists would gain more power. The shadowy Albanian National Army was implicated by some in the violence.

"This group stands for the unification of all Albanian lands," he said. "If we see recognition of Kosovan independence, they will lose ground. If not, they will gain ground among the people."

Posted by Debbye at 12:26 AM | Comments (5)

April 03, 2004

British Muslims confront terrorism

Apr. 3 - As noted here, the Muslim Council of Britain called on imams in British mosques to denounce terrorism with mixed results. Despite the lead in the Telegraph story, Union flag burnt as extremists cheer bin Laden, which is about a small group of people, the heart of the issue is further down in the body of the article:

Abdul Qayum, the imam of the East London Mosque in Tower Hamlets, said in his sermon that true adherents of Islam "could not conceive" of killing people unlawfully.

But he warned the international community against confusing this with the "freedom movements by the oppressed people of Palestine, Kashmir and Chechnya against the occupation forces".

That might be seen as defending terrorism as a tactic.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by Debbye at 10:30 AM | Comments (2)

Spain Updated

Apr. 3 - Updating the meagre details of this story from yesterday, the Daily Telegraph (UK) has an extremely coherent account of the latest discovery of the letter bombs and foiled plot to blow up Madrid express.

A warning has been issued in the US to be on guard against potential bombing of transport systems there. (In American English, that means being alert to abandoned back-packs and such.)

20:01: 1 policeman killed, 11 injured when 3 terrorists blew themselves up as policement entered premises to search for suspects in Mar. 11 train bombings. Paul has more (and probably better) information from La Vanguardia.

23:55: Daily Telegraph report here. Jamal Ahmida, "The Chinaman," (perhaps earlier named as Jamal Ahmidan?) is believed to be have been killed by the bomb. The explosive device was attached to the door of the apartment.

Apr. 4 - 07:44 Sarhane Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, the Tunisian believed to be the organizer of the March 11 attack, was among the dead. Spanish officials believe the organization behind the attack was Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM).

Apr. 5 - 17:03: John Ibbitson reports here and here that five suspects in the March 11 Madrid train bombing self-detonted. The identifies of four, three of whom had international warrants for their arrests, have been confirmed:

"The Tunisian", Sarhane Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, ringleader;
Jamal Ahmidan, who rented the premises where the bombs were made;
Abdennabi Kounjaa, who procured the explosives;
Asri Rifaat Anouar, only identified as a Morrocan;
A fifth who has not been identified.

Five others suspected of being involved in the plot to bomb the trains are in jail: Zougam, Chaoui, Bekkali, Zbakh and Ghayoun.

Apr. 7 - 15:00: The number of terrorists who died in that house has risen to seven.

Posted by Debbye at 10:18 AM | Comments (2)

April 02, 2004

Bomb found under Spanish train tracks

Apr. 2 - I guess you can't appease everyone: a bomb was found on the Spanish rail line that runs between Madrid and Seville. 10-24 kg of dynamite were connected to a detonator by a 131 m (430 ft.) cable. The bomb was defused by the Civil Guard. [Note in update that Ángel Acebes, the Minister of the Interior, says there was no detonator.]

Media reports have not been confirmed by officials. There may been a telephone call warning of the bomb, and a contractor hired to build new tracks may have found the bomb.

14 people are being held in connection with the Mar. 11 terror attack on Madrid trains. A Spanish judge released two Syrians without charges and a Moroccan was released but ordered to report daily by the judge.

There are international warrants for six others - one Tunisian and five Morrocans. Tunisian Sarhane Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet is thought to be the leader. Morrocan Jamal Ahmidan rented the premises where the bomb was built and Mohamed Oulad Akcha, his brother Rachid Oulad Akcha, and Abdennabi Kounjaa procured the explosives and made the bombs. Said Berraj is believed to be the link to al Qaeda.

15:11: Paul has information from La Vanguardia account on some of the details, including the fact that the bomb was minus a detonator.

18:15: Iberian Notes reports that the timer wasn't set. Official consensus seems to be that whoever was planting the bomb was interrupted. He says: "La Vangua ran a story saying that they suspect there are 300 Moroccan Islamist Combatent Group affiliates in Spain, which means there are plenty more where Jamal Zougam and Abderraman Balkh came from."

18:30: Tim Blair's update is from Franco Alemán of Hispa Libertas who says that there was no telephone warning and it had been raining all night (which is why the dryness of the bomb was important.)

Apr. 3 - 08:58: AP confirms that the bomb material matches that used Mar. 11. This report says the bomb failed to detonate because it wasn't properly connected, and CNN is confirms that no initiator was found.

The Washingtn Times carries a report from AP which refers to a claim in the Spanish paper El Mundo reporting that the Spanish Embassy in Egypt received a letter from the Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri threatening to attack again unless Spain withdraws troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Posted by Debbye at 10:37 AM | Comments (2)

April 01, 2004

54 arrested in 6 countries

Apr. 1 - In a sweep that included 6 countries, 54 people were arrested in connection to homicide bombings in Turkey.

The people arrested were suspected members of a Turkish Marxist organization called the Revolutionary People's Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C).

38 suspects were arrested in Turkey, and another 16 were taken into custody in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece and Italy.

15:27: The Australian news report is far more detailed, and credits the cooperation of security forces in the lead up to the Olympics and notes that such cooperation had already been increasing due to the war on terror. Also, one of those killed in DHKP-C attacks in Turkey was an Australian woman.

Apr. 2 - 18:04: 10 more arrests in Turkey bring the total to 63. (Yes, I know there's a discrepancy with the numbers, but the original CNN report still says 54; this may be due to the fact that a German man was arrested in Greece and charged with being linked to the group but his arrest wasn't part of the wider operation.)

Posted by Debbye at 03:03 PM | Comments (2)

March 30, 2004

March 11 Update (s)

Mar. 30 - This Inside Europe: Iberian Notes post has some interesting information about one of the suspects in the March 11 train bombing in Spain and an earlier post here makes some pretty sharp comments about the implications of the attack having Moroccan connections.

And it was only three weeks ago, on March 13 and 14, that everyone was screaming that the government had lied and they wanted the facts. Well, here's the facts, Jack: this was an Al Qaeda hit, the Moroccan Combatents Group is an Al Qaeda franchise, and Al Qaeda would have hit Spain whether it had sent troops to Iraq or not.
And on the troop rotation out of Iraq
The exchange of the Spanish troops in Iraq for new soldiers began yesterday; 160 left Zaragoza last night. Aznar demanded that Zap and the PSOE put their consent in writing; Zap did so grudgingly. Zap can't oppose the rotation of troops because the army guys there deserve to go back home; they've done the spell they were told they were going to do and now they must come home. But he's going to look like a real moron when he pulls the new troops out just a week after they all got there.
Would it be out of line if I started referring to PM Zapatero as Zap? It would? Oh well.

Iberian Notes recommends (and I concur) this by Michael Ledeen, which connects al-Zarqawi to the Madrid bombing, Tehran, and points to a potential for a terrorist attack in Italy.

Apr 1 12:44: Tunisian Sarhane Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet named as ringleader.

Posted by Debbye at 09:11 PM | Comments (0)

NATO alliance grows

Mar. 30 - Seven countries officially joined NATO yesterday and Toronto Sun columnist Peter Worthington marks the historic occasion in a memorable column.

The seven countries are Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Estonia has a special significance for me. When I was young, we lived near a family that were from Estonia, and they were tireless in their efforts and faith to see Estonia become a free nation again.

I don't know if they are still alive, but I do know that they would be very proud to see their dream live.

Apr. 2 - 12:20: The flag raising ceremony at NATO headquarters marked the expansion of NATO to 26 countries, and increased measures and co-operation in fighting terrorism were announced.

Posted by Debbye at 08:59 PM | Comments (0)

Canada vs. Denmark (Update)

Mar. 30 - Cooler heads are trying to prevail: Danes summon envoy over Arctic fight:

Canada's top remaining diplomat in Denmark was called before the Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday to discuss the disputed territory of Hans Island, a barren rock in the high Arctic.
The Danes have said they will take exception if Canadian soldiers step ashore at Hans Island.

If it comes to war, the proud but cash-strapped Canadian military will come up against the better armed Danish army and navy and, if the Danes get really nasty, them.

(Post link via Jack's Newswatch, second link from Tuning Spork.)

Apr. 1 11:37: There is no dispute, there is no crisis according to a spokesman for the Danish Navy. Cuts to Canada's military means that there is no spokesman available for a response from the Canadian Navy.

Posted by Debbye at 05:06 PM | Comments (6)

March 29, 2004

Spain to increase Afghan force

Mar. 29 - Incoming Spanish government to double Afghanistan contingent.

After the increase, the total Spanish force in Afghanistan will be 250.

Posted by Debbye at 11:02 AM | Comments (0)

March 28, 2004

Kosovo

Mar. 28 - Albanians posed as Serbs to stoke ethnic fires in Kosovo:

The murder of a United Nations policeman in Kosovo last week was committed by ethnic Albanians who posed as Serbs in an effort to cast their bitter rivals as villains, the Telegraph has learned.
And then there's this:
The violence flared when three Albanian children drowned after allegedly being chased into a river by Serbs. Unrest quickly spread and, according to one UN official, the "subsequent disturbances all over Kosovo, and their prolonged nature, point to widespread orchestration".

Doubts have also been cast over how the children came to drown as suspicions grew that the blame had been wrongly placed on Serbs. Allegations that they were involved were made by a fourth child who survived, yet during the violence a spokesman for the UN mission, Derek Chapple, said that police had no conclusive evidence. Last Wednesday, Mr Chapple was "moved to other duties" on the orders of senior UN mission officials, who are believed to think he had been too frank.

Posted by Debbye at 10:23 AM | Comments (0)

Al Qaeda planned on attacking Heathrow

Mar. 28 - Remember the BA flights to Saudi Arabia that were cancelled in early winter? Maybe this is why: Al-Qaeda planned London attack.

Al Qaeda operatives in the UK were supposed to organize a strike on Heathrow Airport shortly after Sept. 11, according to a British newspaper that claims to have seen transcripts of the interrogation of Khalid Sheik Mohammed (everyone's favourite poster boy for undershirts) but, according to him, it didn't happen because he was sloppy:

Mohammed, 37, who was seized in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, in March last year, stated that he met bin Laden in the Afghan capital Kabul several days after the September 11 attacks.

"It was at this time we discussed the Heathrow operation," he was quoted as saying in the transcript.

"Osama declared (British Prime Minister Tony) Blair our principal enemy and London our target," he said.

The Sunday Times said Mohammed arranged for operatives to be sent from Pakistan and Afghanistan to the British capital where they began surveillance of Heathrow and surrounding areas. But the operation never got beyond the planning stages, he reportedly told his interrogators.

"There was a lot of confusion," he said. "I would say that my performance at that time was sloppy."

Or maybe arrogant and smug? As in mere mortals?

As we continue to probe our weaknesses and failures, never forget that the enemy too is prone to weaknesses and failures.

Our biggest problem is facing the threat amid official recalcitrance:

David Blunkett has rebuked Sir John Stevens, Britain's most senior police officer, for warning that a terrorist attack on London was "inevitable" following the Madrid bombings.

In an interview with The Telegraph, the Home Secretary made clear it was wrong for the Metropolitan Police Commissioner to describe an attack on the capital as "inevitable" because the word would would make people "jumpy without good effect".

That strikes me as ironic given the current status of the Sept. 11 commission here. It seems you really can't make everyone happy.

UPDATE: I understand that some British media are depicting this as some kind of payback for PM Blair's support of the US after the attacks. Unbelievable.

Posted by Debbye at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

March 27, 2004

War on terror update - Israel, Spain and Canada

Mar. 27 - Hamas planed and attempted to execute an Attack from sea:

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Armed Palestinians in wetsuits and flippers emerged from the Mediterranean and fired toward a beachfront Israeli settlement in the Gaza Strip, the army said yesterday. Two attackers were killed, and a third was wounded and fled. The Islamic militant group Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack on the Tel Katifa settlement in Gaza. Hamas has threatened to carry out attacks on Israelis to avenge the assassination of its founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

There was an incident in Bethlehem yesterday:

In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian in a brief clash with about a dozen youths hurling stones near the Rachel's tomb holy site, according to hospital officials and witnesses.
And there was another attempt which was thwarted when the bomb exploded prematurely:
In the nearby [to Nablus] Balata refugee camp, a Palestinian militant was killed when a car he was driving exploded. Palestinian security officials said explosives in the car apparently blew up prematurely. The blast killed Ahmed al-Abed of the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades.
Interesting news about the Mar. 11 bombing in Spain:
MADRID, Spain -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian linked to al-Qaida and suspected of heading a terrorist network in Iraq, is now believed to have been the brains behind the deadly Madrid railway attacks, a French investigator said yesterday. Investigator Jean-Charles Brisard said Spanish officials told him some suspects held in the March 11 attacks were in contact with al-Zarqawi as recently as a month or two before the bombings, which killed 190 people and wounded more than 1,800.

"They believe today he was the mastermind," Brisard, who is probing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, said in a phone interview from Geneva.

The Spanish interior ministry declined to comment. "The investigation is at a critical stage," a ministry official said.

Brisard's comments came as the probe spread to Germany, a key staging ground for the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

German police raided an apartment in Darmstadt, where a Moroccan suspect arrested on Wednesday in the Madrid train bombings stayed briefly last year. The 28-year-old man is suspected of membership in a foreign terrorist organization, a prosecutor said.

German officials said they had no evidence the Madrid attacks were planned or prepared in Germany.

A total of 19 people have been placed in custody in Spain.

Successes by the Canadian military in Afghanistan could result in terrorist attacks in Canada:

MONTREAL -- Raids by Canadian troops in Afghanistan could lead to retaliatory attacks at home, a top federal official said yesterday. "If our very brave soldiers are successful in having a major incursion against al-Qaida, we'll be back on a list (of targets)," Robert Wright, national security adviser to Prime Minister Paul Martin, told those attending a security conference.

[...]

He told a Senate committee last month Canada has received warnings about terror threats to planes. He refused to give details.

Wright noted Canada fell off al-Qaida's list of targets when the federal government decided not to join the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

But a suicide attack that killed Canadian Forces Cpl. Jamie Murphy in Kabul two months ago drove home the reality that Canadians aren't safe from terrorism. The attack followed a raid by Canadian troops in which suspected terrorists and alleged drug lords were captured.

Wright noted Canada has spent $8 billion on security since Sept. 11, 2001.

Posted by Debbye at 10:07 AM | Comments (2)

March 25, 2004

Kosovo

Mar. 25 - Getting results:

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, told Kosovo Albanians yesterday that intelligence officials had a 'Clear picture' of who led last week's violence.

"When we start arresting those responsible, do not clamour for their release," he was quoted as saying after talks with the province's president, Ibrahim Rugova; the prime minister, Bajram Rexhepi, and other ethnic-Albanian leaders.

Nato nations have blamed Albanian extremists for the arson, rioting and expulsion of Serbs.

On Tuesday night a Ghanaian United Nations police officer and his Albanian partner were shot dead in their patrol vehicle outside the capital, Pristina.

(That's all the article says!)

Posted by Debbye at 07:32 PM | Comments (0)

French-based bombers seek self-improvement

Mar. 25 - This is the follow-up story to the discovery of an explosive device on train tracks in France:

PARIS (AP) - A mysterious group that claimed to have planted bombs on the French railway network announced Thursday that it is suspending its terror threats while it improves its ability to carry them out.
C'mon, you knew it was wrong to burst out laughing, right?

Posted by Debbye at 08:47 AM | Comments (3)

March 24, 2004

French Foreign Policy

Mar. 24 - Winds of Change takes a look at French foreign policy and their triangulation policies in the Mid-East and Africa in France - Pas Comme Les Autres.

The extent to which statism creates an ability to carry out whatever foreign policy the government chooses with little interest from the people is something I had never before considered.

UPDATE: 17:41: Ambient Irony links to some other pieces here and here.

And too, the discovery of a bomb on a French train track is suggestive, but was it an attempt at extortion or terrorism?

Posted by Debbye at 03:53 PM | Comments (2)

March 20, 2004

Kosovo

Mar. 20 - Two reports in the Daily Telegraph about the arrival of troops from Europe and a quite sobering one about the coordinated attacks on Serbs and the destruction of their homes and farms after they fled - ethnic cleansing, anyone?

There is also a piece in the NRO by Damjan de Krnjevic-Miskovic Kristallnacht in Kosovo. It isn't an objective commentary, but does reinforce something that struck me when the violence first broke out: the accusation that Serbs caused the drowning deaths of the children (one account claimed that Serbs dared the children to swim the river!) was painfully reminiscent of stories like The Prioress's Tale from The Canterbury Tales and the variety of accounts of how Serbs were said to have been responsible for the drownings confirmed my suspicions.Can we all say Incite to Riot? This is so out of the KKK Hand-book (but without the "first liquor the mob up" part.)

CNN reports one version of the drowning story from a UN official (although not as a version!) and also that Putin denounced the attacks and that

Russia's parliament passed a resolution condemning the failure of international organizations to stem the violence in Kosovo and said military forces from Serbia-Montenegro's government should be allowed to help defend the province's Serb population, AP reported.
This poses the question if NATO and UN forces are up to the job. The UK responded quickly and firmly and probably stopped the violence from continuing but that's scant comfort for those who watched their churches and home burning.

Yet those who believe there is an international community really think involving the UN in Iraq would be an improvement there?

UPDATE: Mar. 21 09:35: A report from the other point of view in today's Telegraph here. This article too is pessimistic about the prospect of building Kosovo as a multi-ethic society.

Posted by Debbye at 09:18 AM | Comments (4)

March 19, 2004

Nexus of Terrorism

Mar. 19 - I fell asleep on the couch shortly after No. 1 Son left last night. I wonder why? The real question: am I looking too closely, or are there signs that al Qaeda and other terrorists have started a major counter-offensive? Events in Syria and Iran indicate that the forces for freedom are also on the move.

Mar. 2 - Multiple attacks on Shiite commemoration of Ashura in Iraq.

Mar. 4 - Abdul Raouf Naseeb captured in Yemen.

Mar. 4 - Abdurahaman Khadr admits family closely connected to al Qaeda

Mar. 4 - Sunni and Shiite clerics march together in Iraq to protest terrorism.

Mar. 4 - Insurrection in Iran.

Mar. 4 - Abdurahman Khadr says he was a CIA agent in Bosnia.

Mar. 5 - Palestinian civil war begins?

Mar. 8 - Interim Iraq Constitution signed

Mar. 8 - Int'l Women's Day march in Iran attacked by security forces

Mar. 9 - North Korea issues rhetoric, withdraws from meaningful talks

Mar. 9 - Abu Abbas dies

Mar. 11 - Terrorist attack in Spain.

Mar. 12 - Millions of Spaniards demonstrate against terrorism

Mar. 13 - Uprisings in Iran

Mar. 14 - Elections in Spain, appeasers voted in.

Mar. 14 - Two terrorist attacks in Ashod, Israel, kills 10

Mar. 15 - Israel retaliates

Mar. 15 - New Spanish government announces they will withdraw from Iraq.

Mar. 15 - Polish government says Fine, we'll carry on without Spain

Mar. 15 - Uprisings in Syria, Iran.

Mar. 15 - Vandals in north Toronto target homes of Jewish citizens with anti-Semitic graffiti.

Mar. 16 - Abu Hazim al-Sha'ir (aka Kahlid Ali Hajj, "The Poet") killed in Saudi Arabia

Mar. 16 - Group with possible Chechen links threaten French over head-scarf ban

Mar. 17 - Mount Lebanon Hotel in Baghdad hit by car bomb

Mar. 17 - Renewal of violence in Kosovo.

**Mar. 17 - Spain goverment received communique dated Mar. 15 claiming to be from al Qaeda which declared a cease-fire with Spain.

Mar. 18 - Pakistan troops heavily engaged in battle in north, may have surrounded al Zawahiri.

Mar. 18 - Additional troops go into Kosovo in response to renewed violence.

Mar. 18 - British announce additional 650 (+-) British troops to be deployed to Kosovo which will be augmented by US and Italian forces.

**Mar. 18 - Second communique claming to be from al Qaeda threatens further attacks in retaliation for death of Khaled Ali Hajj (aka Abu Hazim al-Sha'ir, The Poet) in Saudia Arabia.

**Mar. 18 - Attempted assassination of Jose Murat, Governor of the State of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Mar. 19 - President and Vice-President of Taiwan shot by would-be assassins and a FARC plot to assassinate the president of Columbia has been thwarted.

Mar. 19 - First of British troops land in Kosovo; an additional 600 German troops are also to be deployed.

Mar. 19 - French restaurant in Bahrain stormed by Islamists angered by alcohol served. Cars of restaurant patrons hit with Molotov cocktails.

**Mar. 19 - Car bomb in Basra kills 3 people, angry residents catch bomber and kill him:

A man who left the vehicle shortly before the blast was caught by passers-by and stabbed to death, said police Lt.-Col. Ali Kazem. Two others spotted getting out of the vehicle were caught by members of the public and later arrested.
Three Iraqi journalists killed, nine wounded in by drive-by shooting, three US soldiers killed by mortar fire.

Mar. 19 - Plans for the Pakistan-India cricket match remain firm. (I see a major political message in this sports event.)

I left some things out, including the letter purporting to be from al Qaeda declaring a cease-fire in Spain and today's bomb threat targeting DC schools.

Do you suppose the seeming simultaneity is what Sec. of State Colin Powell meant when he used the expression a nexus of terrorism to describe the link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein during his UN presentation last year?

These events may be linked on purpose or they may have inspired one another, but anyone who understands that we are at war might also believe that terrorists are being flushed out into the open.

Others will doubtless say that the events are a direct result of US intervention in Iraq, but there were so many events which preceeded that war that I don't think it an adequate explanation.

**late additions to list

Posted by Debbye at 11:29 AM | Comments (2)

Important stories from Thursday

Lots more on Adscam, but Andrew Coyne is doing such a terrific job I'm going to let him carry this ball.

According to the Chinese ambassador, Canada's lot lies with EU

The Chinese Ambassador in Brussels said the other day, in that big-picture Chinese way, that the creation and success of the European Union is one of those transforming human events that happens every 300 or 400 years.
The article notes that the EU has successfully avoided war. It doesn't note that one of the wars it avoided was the ongoing one in Kosovo.

More anti-Semitism in Toronto:

Police had to be called to York University on Tuesday after a dramatization of an Israeli border crossing by pro-Palestinian students led to a rival demonstration at the politically charged campus.
Is there a connection with what happened yesterday? As Margaret Wente points out, We Can't Afford to Look Away noting that the West is looking away from blatant anti-Semitism in the Arab world.

The insurrection in Syria went into it's fifth day. The death toll is reported to be at least 30. A timely reminder:

Kurds comprise almost two million of Syria's 17 million population although about 200,000 of them are not recognised as citizens of the country as a punishment for seeking to establish an autonomous homeland.
Australia and Japan were mentioned as possible targets on the Al-Quds al-Arabi webiste but both governments said they wouldn't be intimidated. The website also reassured the Spanish government that they needn't worry:
In its statement, Abu Hafs al-Masri said it was calling a truce in Spain to give the socialist government that was elected Sunday, three days after the train attacks, time to carry out its pledge to withdraw troops from Iraq.
How humiliating it must be for the Spanish to be told that the group which has claimed responsibility for killing 202 people in the attack last week is pleased with their election results.
The group appeared to boast it had the power to change governments. The socialists, who have long opposed Spain's military involvement in Iraq, were running second in Spanish opinion polls until Thursday's bombings.

"We change and destroy countries," the statement said. "We even influence the international economy, and this is God's blessing to us. We won't accept to be an object in this world, but a player, a strong player - with God's will."

The statement tells American voters that Abu Hafs al-Masri supports the re-election campaign of U.S. President George W. Bush: "We are very keen that Bush does not lose the upcoming elections."

The statement goes on to boast that it is anxious to have the Arab world see how dreadful the US really is. Sounds a lot like the Maoist rhetoric I heard back in the 60's.

Many thanks for the links to these stories which were available because I receive Jack's Newswatch by email daily.

Posted by Debbye at 10:45 AM | Comments (4)

Important stories from Wednesday

Mar. 19 - These are some important stories I missed Wednesday:

There was an ugly incident of anti-Semitism here: T.O. police probing anti-Semitic hate crimes in north Toronto.

Part of the rise in anti-Semitism last year is being blamed on the war in Iraq, which produced a spike in hate crimes. The ongoing tensions and violence in Israel is apparently giving licence to hate mongers.
The Canadian media, always ready to Blame America.

More news from Syria about Syria uprisings and Syrian officials blame US for the Kurdiah uprising because US flags were spotted in crowd. I'll own up to such that blame inspiration gladly and gratefully.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda yesterday accused France of direct responsibility for the 1994 genocide of at least 800,000 people in the central African country.

M Kagame claimed that the French government supplied weapons, logistical support and even senior military planners to the regime of militant ethnic Hutus responsible for the slaughter of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus. (UPDATE: Mar. 24 - See this for seeming verification of the charge.)

France's growing closeness to the Chinese leadership was signalled yesterday when the two countries held joint naval exercises and the European Union said it wanted to scrap its post-Tiananmen Square arms embargo. Hmm, Chretien was visiting China when Adscam broke out.

SAN'A, Yemen (AP) - Nine suspects in the 2000 bombing of the destroyer USS Cole have been arrested, the government of Yemen said Tuesday, including eight who escaped from jail last year.

These and other stories were on my daily email from Jack's Newswatch which I can keep and use the links to refer back to important stories as they develop.

Jack changes the page daily, so bookmark it for your first stop visit to catch Canadian and international news stories.

Incidently, Jack is a veteran, and pays special attention to Canadian troops troops and to the history of the regiments in Canada. In a country that all but ignores it's military unless it makes for a good sound-bite, Jack is a lone voice of support.

You can sign up to be on his mailing list with an email to Jack Davies (contact address at the site.)

Posted by Debbye at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

Bush calls it appeasement

Mar. 19 - Appeasement will not halt terror, Bush tells Spain. Germany foreign minister Joschka Fischer says it's not fair to call it appeasement, but Thomas Friedman in a NY Times op-ed doesn't care; he says there is an Axis of Appeasement (but he also thinks sending more troops to Iraq to pave the way for the UN is the solution. Right. Guess he doesn't read Safire

Posted by Debbye at 08:04 AM | Comments (3)

750 UK Troops Dispatched To Kosovo

Mar. 18 - Can't fight on more than one front? Renewed violence in Kosovo is being met with determination: 750 British troops are being deployed to Kosovo in response to a NATO request after violence broke out Wdnesday. 8 people were killed, and a Serbian Orthodox Church was torched. French troops fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the Albanian mob.

Three companies of NATO peacekeeprs, approx. 350 soldiers, have already been sent into the area and hundreds more are on standby.

The USA will send one company from Bosia as will Italy. A third will come from the Nato-run peacekeeping force's strategic reserve.

Recent events are described as being the worse since 1999. There have been uprisings in every major city in Kosovo, and at least a dozen soldiers in the NATO forces have been injured and a French soldier killed.

See this for 600 Brit troops and more troops from the US and Italy to go in.

The death toll in Kosovo now stands at 31.

Albanian crowds trying to enter a church through hand grenades at Finnish soldiers guarding it and they fired back.

This CNN report states that 150 US and 80 Italian troops arrived in Kosovo Thursday and 750 British troops will arrive Friday.

UPDATE: Mar. 19 0800 The first 100 have landed in Kosovo.

Posted by Debbye at 07:50 AM | Comments (4)

Analysis of Spanish Elections

Mar. 19 - There's an excellent, well-linked analysis at the Winds of Change of the attack in Spain, the Spanish elections and their aftermath which Dan Darling characterizes as "a definite victory" for al Qaeda" (Winds of Change.NET: Special Analysis: An Al-Qaeda Victory.)

The analysis of the terrorist attack in Spain points to precedent in Israel and Russia (excellent point) and gives some perspective, particularly on Moroccan and Tunisian terrorists who may have fled to Spain to escape the crackdown following the attacks in those countries.

Posted by Debbye at 07:36 AM | Comments (0)

March 17, 2004

France Under Threat

Mar. 17 - More detail about the threatening letter sent to France.

Updated with further references to the new al Qaeda counter-offensive.

The letter, from a previously unknown group calling itself the "Servants of Allah the Mighty and the Wise," said it planned to take action after Muslim girls were banned from wearing headscarves in schools.

The bill was passed last month by the National Assembly.

"You have let loose on yourself a river of hate and ignorance, not only toward Muslims but toward Islam itself," the letter, addressed to Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said.

"We will plunge France into terror and remorse, and we will make blood run to your borders."

Describing France as a country of "wine, pigs, loose morals and nudity," the group said it planned to use attack techniques imported from Gaza and Chechnya that "have never been used in the West until now."

The letter, postmarked from Paris and sent to the chief editor of "Le Parisien," urged Muslims to stay out of crowded areas.

"Europe is a new war zone for the Jihad," it says. "Know that our fight has only just begun."

[...]

The letter urges the National Assembly to reverse the headscarf bill or face the consequences.

"This law is like a declaration of war directed at the Muslim world. If you don't retract that law immediately, we will respond strongly and severely with amazing intensity in your country."

The letter says they are awaiting three signs: the vote on the headscarf ban, a "clear and explicit" signal from Ayman al-Zawahiri, and a third which they did not reveal.

Mar. 28 12:08 Two posts from Belmont Club:

The attacks in Spain may have succeeded due to Morocco's pissiness: from this:

Flash! The Guardian reports that Spain's hesitance to concede the disputed of island of Perejil may have prevented Morocco from sharing information with Spanish authorities that could have thwarted terrorist attacks.
and this:
They are not the only terrorists who have fled to Europe looking for easier pickings. The group which has been threatening France with mayhem if it does not rescind the law banning Muslim headscarves in schools is thought to be either Chechen in origin or a false-flag operation by the Russian FSB, the descendant of the dread KGB. Either way, it represents a migration of an ongoing struggle onto more congenial grounds. An attack on the defenseless. Europe has long been the preferred base for the political arms of terror organizations. The Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade which initially claimed responsibility for the Madrid attacks is thought by Dan Darling to be a public relations front for a variety of Jihadist groups based in London.

Militant Islamists, perhaps embolded by a perception of European weakness, are challenging it to its face. In Mitrovica, 400 miles from the Austrian border, Albanian Muslims were purging themselves of the last infidel Serbs, reasonably certain that Europe cannot nerve itself to stop ethnic cleansing, at least not when the cleansees are Orthodox Christians. As Serbia's nominal overlords, the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) appealed for calm, churches burned.

Also, note the this from AP and this Reuters report about renewed ethnic clashes in Kosovo. [Note: I'm sure that people who are prepared to set off bombs are worried about rubber bullets and teargas! Back in the day, we used to scoff at teargas because however effective it may be within an enclosed area, it has only temporary effects out in the open where people can run and regroup.]

The UN continues to destroy the credibility the left would confer on it.

Daily there are signs of the wisdom of the president's warning: You are either with us or with the terrorists.

Don't get me wrong; I know that the left is not "with" the terrorists in terms of supporting their goals or methods, but certainly they hoped that, with time, the terrorists would become enlightened, soothed, and cease their murderous attacks.

Very idealistic, and very doomed. The left, by continuing to see this as a war which the West began, are analyzing events and attacks more irrationally as terrorist attacks escalate.

When Islamofascists spoke, the left failed to heed it's own rule: To really listen.

Posted by Debbye at 08:46 PM | Comments (3)

Spanish Elections and the EU

Mar. 17 - Post at Iberian Notes about the responses of the US and Polish presidents to the withdrawal of Spanish troops from Iraq and how the new Spanish government will likely affect deliberations over the proposed EU Constitution
here.

Posted by Debbye at 08:37 PM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2004

All About the (French Lust for) Oil

Mar. 16 - The automatic assumption that anything the US does is eeevil allows for quick and satisfactory explanations for each and every one of the world's ills and problems. The problem with that is that everything else goes entirely under the radar and lets other, not so very philanthropic people and corporations operate without detection.

One of the lesser known aspects of Iraq under Hussein was the efforts he made to get the sanctions lifted through a contract between the him and the oil giant TotalFinaElf (formerly Total SA and Elf Aquitane and renamed when they merged.)

From the NY Post, The French War for Oil:

The first of two massive deals was announced in June 1994 by then-Iraqi Oil Minister Safa al-Habobi - a well-known figure whose name had surfaced in numerous procurement schemes in the 1980s in association with the Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization, which supervised Saddam's chemical, biological, missile and nuclear-weapons programs.

Speaking in Vienna, al-Habobi confirmed that his government was awarding Total SA rights to the future production of the Nahr Umar oil field in southern Iraq, and that Elf was well-placed to be awarded similar terms in the Majnoon oil fields on the border with Iran.

Those two deals, which I detail in "The French Betrayal of America," would have been worth an estimated $100 billion over a seven-year period - but were conditioned on the lifting of U.N. sanctions on Iraq. Simply put, analyst Gerald Hillman told me, the French were saying: "We will help you get the sanctions lifted, and when we do that, you give us this."

It gets better.
The Total contract, a copy of which I obtained, was "very one-sided," says Hillman. (Hillman, a political economist and a managing partner at Trireme Investments in New York, did a detailed analysis of the contract.) An ordinary production agreement typically grants the foreign partner a maximum of 50 percent of the gross proceeds of the oil produced at the field they develop. But this deal gave Total 75 percent of the total production. "This is highly unusual," he said. Indeed, it was extortion.

But Saddam willingly agreed: He saw the Total deal, and a similar one with Elf, as the price he had to pay to secure French political support at the United Nations.

Most Canadians still don't realize the close connection between the Chretien and Demarais families and TotalFinaElf through the Montreal corporation Power Corp. The question is, do they care? They've had recent revelations of how very corrupt the government was under Chretien, but are they willing to face the entire truth?

France tried to keep Saddam in power with every trick and device in the book. We know what they did under the pretense of seeking peaceful solutions, but the real reason Chirac went to such lengths remains unexplored even though journalists have access to the same information as we do.

Chretien stood on high moral ground and officially, Canada did not offer even symbolic support to the US or even wish us good luck.

TotalFinaElf. Jacques Chirac. Jean Chretien. Paul Desmarais.

It's all about the oil. Really.

Links: From last September, a link to an interesting rundown of Paul Desmarais, this from a post by Kate at Anything Prose. A portion of the Francis column is here and Winds of Change also has a post that stemmed from the Francis column on Chretien's connection to TotalFinaElf here as well as another as well as two Instapundit links about another corruption scandel in France which involved TotalFinaElf (the case involved Elf Aquitaine, a parent company of TotalFinaElf and Mitterand, and there were convictions and fines levied.)

There are Belgium ties to TotalFinaElf too: follow the links provided here (I'll tidy this up a bit tomorrow.)

A final note: former PM Chretien awarded the Order of Canada to Andre Desmarais (his son-in-law) last August.

Another final note, this from Dow Jones Newswires from January, 2003, Inc's Cosy Deal with Iraq at Risk as War Looms.

Posted by Debbye at 07:51 PM | Comments (5)

Chechen link to French threat

Mar. 16 - What to think of this? A group calling itself the "Servants of Allah the Mighty and the Wise" has sent a letter to the French government which threatened the French people which has a Chechen link : it was signed by "Commando Movsar Barayev," an apparent reference to the Chechen leader who took over a theatre in Moscow in October, 2002. Barayev was killed when Russian forces pumped anesthesia into the theatre and re-took the building.

According to the Ministry of Justice, the letter contained "menacing threats for the entire nation..."

The threat was revealed as French President Jacques Chirac pledged to step up the fight against terrorism to protect citizens and institutions.

"Europe must always fight terrorism with all its strength," Chirac told reporters.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, appearing with Chirac after bilateral talks in Paris, said he agreed with that assessment.

The leaders were meeting in the French capital nearly a week after bombs exploded on commuter trains in Madrid, killing 201 people.

Both leaders expressed solidarity with Spain in the wake of the terrorism, and vowed better cooperation among European nations to collect intelligence on various attacks.

Military force is not the only solution, Schroeder said. "One needs to look at the roots of it," including lack of development in the developing world.

Still looking, are we? And after you've looked, what do you propose to do?

UPDATE: 23:06: ABC News has more details about the letter:

The letter, sent to several newspapers, threatened "to plunge France into terror and remorse and spill blood outside its frontiers," Jacques Esperandieu, deputy editor of the daily Le Parisien which received a copy, quoted it as saying.

The ministry confirmed earlier Justice Ministry reports that the threat, which it said was sent "on behalf of the servants of Allah, the powerful and wise," mentioned possible attacks in France and against French interests abroad.

The ABC article differs in some details from the CNN report, and cites the ban on headscarves recently passed by the French legislature as well as the French efforts against terrorism in France as well as Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.

Posted by Debbye at 05:53 PM | Comments (3)

March 15, 2004

French Allies in Afghanistan

Mar. 15 - Sometimes we forget that the French are our allies, despite their actions in the UN Security Council over Iraq which infuriated so many of us. This article (France: Bin Laden Nearly Caught in Afghanistan) is interesting for, among other things, an understanding of what Bin Laden and al Qaeda represent:

[France's chief of defense staff] Gen. Henri Bentegeat said about 200 French troops were operating with U.S. forces in southeastern Afghanistan against the Taliban and bin Laden's al Qaeda.

[...]


The general said it was essential that bin Laden be caught.

"He symbolizes September 11 and is certainly not completely innocent in what happened in Madrid," he said, making a link between the 2001 attacks in New York and Washington and the Spanish train bombings last Thursday.

But he added that arresting bin Laden "would not change things directly. (Al Qaeda) is a hydra with many heads. If we catch one head, there will be others."

Bentegeat said the minute preparations needed for the Madrid bombings were "the clearest indication" that al Qaeda was probably behind them.

He said the threat of Islamic radicalism was spreading beyond the Middle East. "It's a phenomenon we're seeing step by step in Africa," he said, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

"Then there are countries that are adrift, that we are trying to help to not sink, such as Ivory Coast or the Central African Republic," he added.

The hard part is how to help those countries that are in danger to succumbing to Islamic radicalism and are adrift. The easy answer would be to support whatever governments stand up against the radicals, but that would be to employ Cold War tactics in a war that is hot.

(Hat tip to Nik for the link.)

Posted by Debbye at 02:34 PM | Comments (0)

The Triumph of Euro Isolationism

Mar. 15 - This opinion piece in the Daily Telegraph (UK) (Euro isolationism is triumphant) confirms what Paul and Alina have said:

... It also appears that elements in the Spanish security forces were angered by what they considered to be their government's opportunism in initially blaming the more obviously unpopular target of Eta (rather than al-Qa'eda) and went over the heads of the Interior Ministry to speak to the opposition Socialists and to the press. They seem to have based their reasoning upon the need to alert Europe as a whole to the Islamist threat, but the effect appears to have been to hand victory for the Socialists who have taken a far less robust view of the war on terror.
UPDATE: 17:32: Robert punctures the "government lied to us" excuse pretty severely and is backed up by the redoubtable Allah.

The DT opinion piece also hits on a major problem in how poorly the war on terror has been explained:

Above all, the Americans and sympathetic European governments have not managed to convey the idea that there is no policy shift which they might undertake that would appreciably alter Islamist behaviour.
No argument there.

As rational people, it defies our understanding that someone wants to kill us because of who and what we are as opposed to who and what we've done. We should know better: the Holocaust demonstrated that the willingness to commit genocide exists in some recess of the human mind, as did the massacres in Rwanda, Congo, and the Balkans. Yet despite recent history, we are still trying to find reasons and thus be able to resolve problems rather than accept the unthinkable even when our enemy spells it out for us: they want us dead.

I've been trying to remember the salient points of bin Laden's first taped message after Sept. 11, and I have managed to remember that he accused the US of killing Iraqi babies and spoke to what he considered the sacrilege of US service personnel stationed in Saudi Arabia.

Check. Situations rectified. But it made no difference.

Why did al Qaeda strike at vacationers, primarily Australians, in Bali? To retaliate for Australian intervention in East Timor. The people there had voted for independence and were being killed because of it, and al Qaeda sought to punish those who stopped the punishers.

Why did al Qaeda strike at the Spanish? The latest tape (which has not yet been shown to actually be from al Qaeda) claimed it was in retaliation for Spanish support of the coaltion in Iraq. So the Spanish, by being part of a coalition that stopped the deaths of Iraqi babies and freed the Iraqi people from the single worst killer of Muslims, are to be condemned because they saved the lives of Muslims and Iraqi babies.

It strikes me now that, by staging an attack on the eve of the elections, the situation in East Timor may be more relevant to what happened in Spain than I had previously considered. One was a punishment after election results were in, and the other was a warning before an election occurred.

Having said that, I suspect that most previously uncommitted voters voted as they did for a large number of reasons, but that al Qaeda is likely to interpret the results one way and one way only. They have utilized a new weapon, and our belief in the strength of the electoral system is likely to become severely tested.

The president has often stated that we are hated because we love freedom, and however much that may be true, such an argument is far too broad and unspecific to advance without concrete examples to back it up.

I think that after two and a half years of al Qaeda actions, we have enough recent, concrete examples to support that position, and people who look at recent events and try to justify al Qaeda's actions continue to do so in defiance of al Qaeda's stated positions.

But al Qaeda does not chose to debate with us! Their actions and words are interpreted (and thus discounted) by far too many people and that is the biggest problem in trying to make people understand, as the Telegraph put it, that there is no policy shift which they might undertake that would appreciably alter Islamist behaviour.

Nobody wants to believe that there is nothing we can do to appease, alter or persuade them to end this war. There must be something we can say or do, intelligent and rational minds insist.

The reason there is no opening by which we can deal with them is simple: the conflict is deeply rooted in their hatred of our concept of free will. The hallmark of western civilization has been institutions of consensual government which are not supposed to infringe on personal rights except to protect those rights. The hallmark of militant Islamism, judging by the strict rule of the Taliban, is to infringe on everyone's personal rights in the pursuit of some higher good.

Free will is what allows men and women to seek to educate themselves and work where they chose. Free will is what allows people to celebrate the end of the football season in Bali. Free will is what allows Shiite Muslims to observe Ashura. Free will is what allows a man to grow a beard to whatever length he choses - or not at all - and a woman to be educated, dress as she choses, and go outside without being accompanies by a male. We even allow women and homosexuals to hold positions of authority over heterosexual men.

Free will also is what allows people to vote on who will form their government for the next interval. The Madrid attack struck at a basic tenet by which consensual government is chosen: that rational people cast their votes after due consideration of the issues and in the cold light of reason. If we frown on those who get voters drunk and then drive them to the polls, what should we think of those who kill hundreds and injure thousands?

The targets of Islamic terrorists are growing, yet some still hope to wait out the attackers. This goes beyond all reason, once we accept the simplicity of the reasons for Islamic terrorism. But we can't do that unless we listen to what they are saying and look at what they are doing instead of how those things are interpreted.

Free will allows us the independence of mind to make rational determinations, and we'd better start using our minds on the basis of evidence, not wishful thinking.

(Link via Jack's Newswatch.)

Posted by Debbye at 12:57 PM | Comments (0)

Colby Cosh on Spain and Canada

Mar. 15 - I don't know how long this will be available without a paid subscription to the online National Post but Colby really outdoes himself in his observations about the terrorist attack in Madrid (it was written before the final election tally in Spain) and it's implications for Canada and, I think, every nation including the USA in Spain was the victim, Canada the audience:

... I can't help noticing that, as "tense" as things sometimes get between us and the southern neighbour, compressed dynamite in a backpack never enters into it. Spain was the victim on Thursday, but the intended audience was Canada -- Canada and every other country that is wavering in its determination to support a Pax Americana. To do so carries moral risks, but to acquiesce in the taking of the free world as a hostage is immorality on a much larger scale.


In Spain, opponents of conservative Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar are calling him a "war criminal" and unashamedly endowing him with responsibility for the attacks, because he stood alongside George W. Bush and Tony Blair on the issue of the Second Gulf War. The disarmamentarians and crypto-communists will argue that they don't mean to take away the guilt from those who built the bombs, even as they do just that. It's a recipe for Spain to be rendered invertebrate once again -- as spineless and feeble as Canada. (My bolding)

I think that this tactic by terrorists will, sadly, be effective in Canada (see next post. Canadians have oh so generously given Americans an out by deciding that the president knowingly lied - President Bush, that is, not Clinton or Chirac or any of the other world leaders who too said Iraq had WMD.)

Read the whole thing, and if it has disappeared from cyberspace, check at Colby Cosh's website where he usually posts his columns about a week after they're published in the Post.

(Link via Jack's Newswatch.)

Posted by Debbye at 11:29 AM | Comments (0)

Spanish Troops to be Withdrawn

Mar. 15 - No surprise here: Spain PM-elect: Troops out of Iraq on June 30 (why did CNN state it would be "by" June 30?) unless there is a UN resolution but

Later Warsaw's Ambassador to NATO, Jerzy M. Nowak, told Reuters that Poland was willing to stay in command of the stabilisation force in central-south Iraq if Spain withdrew.

Spain had been due to take charge of the division on July 1.

After 83% of the vote counted, the Socialist Party looks as though they have won 164 seats (still less than a majority) and the Popular Party won 148 seats out of 350 seats.

Zapatero, leader of the Socialist Party, has pledged to continue to fight terrorism but also talks about taking steps to achieve peace. He's going to have to do some careful balancing, and if he appears to appease terrorists I think the Spanish people could turn on him.

It is so hard for people to grasp that they are still safer confronting and fighting terrorism even after an attack such as we saw last Thursday. All many can comprehend in moments of grief and horror is that they were attacked, and it is difficult to recognize that living under the threat of terrorism is also an ongoing attack.

They now live with a new danger: weighing every decision and public stand with What would al Qaeda think? in the backs of their minds. That is not the signature of a free people.

Paul provides some much needed perspective in a brief description of all the parties that ran in the elections and his analysis and pay special note to the shift in seats - most down - in fringe parties.

Posted by Debbye at 08:27 AM | Comments (1)

March 14, 2004

The Spanish Vote

Mar. 14 - The vote is in and the result is what most of us suspected it would be: a repudiation of the Popular Party, formerly led by Jose Maria Aznar, and victory for the socialists.

I had commented earlier that the fact that the vote was taking place at all was one victory against terrorism. I don't know what domestic issues dominated the elections, but on this side of the Atlantic we have only been focused on three issues: their participation in Iraq, their war on terror, and their foreign relations. That's not fair, but it is reality.


The main reason I feel the fact that the elections went forward constitute one form of victory over the terrorists is because I remember a different Spain, one ruled by Franco. A blood civil war in that country was seen by many as an opening salvo by fascism to extend its grip beyond Germany, and many men and women went to Spain to fight for the loyalists. They were defeated, and some years later another battle between fascism and the forces of democracy was replayed with all of Europe as the battleground.

The success I was looking at - with an admittedly glass half full perspective - was that the elections were not postponed or even cancelled, that the country was not placed under martial law, and that the governing party probably knew they were going to lose yet adhered to the Spanish constitution and the elections went as scheduled.

Those who remember Franco's Spain know what Franco would have done because we remember what he did.

A lot of things about this election weren't fair. It wasn't fair that a people who struggled against fascism and succeeded in restoring their Republic and constitutional monarchy were targeted for death by a group that doesn't believe in adhering to Constitutions.

It wasn't fair to thrust the Spanish people into the international spotlight and have their election be held under world scrutiny so soon after a terrorist attack that killed 200 men, women and children and left over 1500 wounded.

It wasn't fair that we hoped they could see beyond the attack and recognize that they were being manipulated by either al Qaeda, ETA or an as yet unknown group.

It wasn't fair that they had no chance to recover their equilibirium before casting their votes.

It wasn't fair. But, to repeat, it is reality.

The Prime Minister elect, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, does not have a majority government, The Socialist Party apparently having won 148 of the 350 seats in Parliament and 42.07% of the popular vote compared to the the Popular Party's 37.6% (although the CNN story does not mention how many seats they or other parties won.)

One thing I do know is that the new Prime Minister and the Socialist Party will find, as others before them have found, that being in Opposition and sniping from the sidelines is easy, but things look a lot different when you actually have control over and, more importantly, responsibility for the country.

No one can be sure of how future electorates in Western countries will react if (or, more likely, when) placed in a similar position. They will have one advantage over the Spanish, though, because of what happened in Spain - 20/20 hindsight.

And, tangentially, this event proves another axiom: that those who have been deprived of freedom value it the more fiercely. Despite the terrorist attacks in Iraq March 2, the interim constitution was signed.

Will future electorates mirror the Iraqis or the Spanish?

Interesting times.

UPDATES: Mar. 15 07:18: Paul analyzes the elections results and reports a conversation with Alina (yes, she is fine!) and her perspective on why people blame the Partido Popular.

07:46: Tim Blair has a round-up of bloggers' reactions and Andrew Sullivan made an exceptionally apt point.

Posted by Debbye at 08:52 PM | Comments (0)

Spanish Elections

Mar. 14 - [Note: bumped to top]

01:23: Tape claims al Qaeda responsible for terror attack and Spanish National Police have arrested 5 people, 3 Moroccans and 2 Indians, in connection with Thursday's terrorist attack in Madrid. Another article on yesterday's events here contains this:

The bag that provided the police with vital clues is believed to have been taken from the devastated train during the rescue effort and piled up with abandoned luggage after the blasts.

Station attendants were alerted when a mobile phone alarm went off in the bag. It had been set for 7.39pm, rather than 7.39am as the bombers intended. The 10 bombs that did go off were all detonated by mobile phone timers.

It is believed the mobile in the bag has been linked to another telephone found in a stolen Renault van parked in Alcala, from where the doomed trains left for Madrid. The police were suspicious because the van contained detonators and a tape of Koranic verses.

In some ways, I wish the above details hadn't been released, but maybe it's heartening to remember that even with terrorists, mistakes lead to arrests. In the first WTC attack, one of the conspirators was apprehended when he tried to collect his deposit from the rental company from which he obtained a van.


UPDATE: 08:29: Paul has translated articles from La Vanguardia on the election and investigations into the Madrid attack here, here, here, and here. (They are consecutive posts, so you could link on the first and then click on subsequent posts.)

Better option: Paul has posts organized by categories, so you can read ongoing commentary at Spain which includes tributes to the killing of Spanish intelligence officals in Iraq.

UPDATE: 09:26: Article in today's Sun about the purported al Qaeda tape and documents found on an Arabic language website discovered by Norwegian defence department researchers which discusses attacking Spain right before the elections. One of the documents notes:

"We must make maximum use of the proximity to the elections in Spain in March next year. Spain can stand a maximum of two or three attacks before they will withdraw from Iraq," Norway's VG newspaper reported the documents as saying.

"The fact that they specifically mention the election in Spain makes us have to see this in the light of the action in Madrid, three days before the election," researcher Thomas Hegghammer said.

The documents do not refer to Thursday's attacks in Madrid but outline a strategy to put pressure on Spain, described as the weakest link in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, to stop co-operating with the United States.

Damian makes some very solid comments on the challenges this poses to the Spanish electorate and, in fact, the world.

Interesting op-ed in the today's Daily Telegraph (UK) Spanish Proudly Defiant in the face of terror:

The scenes on the streets of Madrid last night were profoundly impressive. It is a pity that Britain, unlike Italy and France, was not represented by its Prime Minister. The Castilians, like the British, are not given to self-indulgent expressions of emotion; perhaps even the murderers who planned Thursday's outrage will have been taken aback by the white-hot anger they have provoked.

[...]

For the Basque extremists also hate Mr Aznar, and for much the same reason as their Islamist counterparts: his unswerving opposition to terrorism, which - unlike that of certain European politicians - is not confined to the realm of rhetoric.

In its dealings with the Basques over the past eight years, Spain's conservative government has achieved something that has eluded Tony Blair in Northern Ireland: it has driven a wedge between the apologists for terror and their natural constituency.

(The DT supports the Conservative Party.) The main point of the editorial is one that more newspapers seem to be recognizing:
Mr Aznar announced yesterday that people from 11 nationalities - mercifully including no Britons - perished in the bombings. That fact, in itself, underlines the wisdom of his belief that, in terms of the threat it poses to the world, terrorism is indivisible.

Eta or al-Qa'eda, alone or together: the identity of the murderers matters less than our ferocious determination not to make the political changes that the murders are intended to effect. Mr Aznar possesses such determination in spades.

Mark Steyn makes a similar argument here and here but with Steynesque prose.

Tim Blair has a post indicating that some others in Europe, notably Norway and France, are finally seeing the light.

Iberian Notes has some observations about the arrests and elections here, here and here.

UPDATE: 0919: More updates from Iberlian Notes here and here. Quoting from the second post: The death toll in the Madrid bombings has reached 200, and the wounded count is at 1511. 266 people are still hospitalized, with 17 in critical condition, 41 in very serious condition, 138 in serious condition, 42 in good condition, and 28 in an undisclosed condition.

UPDATE: 10:00: I found the link I couldn't find at 1 am to the Le Monde editorial that may indicate a shift in the French government over at Gary's website. (Yes, I know I could have just remembered Andrew Sullivan first spotted and translated it. It was at 1 a.m., though.)

Posted by Debbye at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

Spanish Elections

Mar. 14 - [Note: bumped to top]

01:23: Tape claims al Qaeda responsible for terror attack and Spanish National Police have arrested 5 people, 3 Moroccans and 2 Indians, in connection with Thursday's terrorist attack in Madrid. Another article on yesterday's events here contains this:

The bag that provided the police with vital clues is believed to have been taken from the devastated train during the rescue effort and piled up with abandoned luggage after the blasts.

Station attendants were alerted when a mobile phone alarm went off in the bag. It had been set for 7.39pm, rather than 7.39am as the bombers intended. The 10 bombs that did go off were all detonated by mobile phone timers.

It is believed the mobile in the bag has been linked to another telephone found in a stolen Renault van parked in Alcala, from where the doomed trains left for Madrid. The police were suspicious because the van contained detonators and a tape of Koranic verses.

In some ways, I wish the above details hadn't been released, but maybe it's heartening to remember that even with terrorists, mistakes lead to arrests. In the first WTC attack, one of the conspirators was apprehended when he tried to collect his deposit from the rental company from which he obtained a van.


UPDATE: 08:29: Paul has translated articles from La Vanguardia on the election and investigations into the Madrid attack here, here, here, and here. (They are consecutive posts, so you could link on the first and then click on subsequent posts.)

Better option: Paul has posts organized by categories, so you can read ongoing commentary at Spain which includes tributes to the killing of Spanish intelligence officals in Iraq.

UPDATE: 09:26: Article in today's Sun about the purported al Qaeda tape and documents found on an Arabic language website discovered by Norwegian defence department researchers which discusses attacking Spain right before the elections. One of the documents notes:

"We must make maximum use of the proximity to the elections in Spain in March next year. Spain can stand a maximum of two or three attacks before they will withdraw from Iraq," Norway's VG newspaper reported the documents as saying.

"The fact that they specifically mention the election in Spain makes us have to see this in the light of the action in Madrid, three days before the election," researcher Thomas Hegghammer said.

The documents do not refer to Thursday's attacks in Madrid but outline a strategy to put pressure on Spain, described as the weakest link in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, to stop co-operating with the United States.

Damian makes some very solid comments on the challenges this poses to the Spanish electorate and, in fact, the world.

Interesting op-ed in the today's Daily Telegraph (UK) Spanish Proudly Defiant in the face of terror:

The scenes on the streets of Madrid last night were profoundly impressive. It is a pity that Britain, unlike Italy and France, was not represented by its Prime Minister. The Castilians, like the British, are not given to self-indulgent expressions of emotion; perhaps even the murderers who planned Thursday's outrage will have been taken aback by the white-hot anger they have provoked.

[...]

For the Basque extremists also hate Mr Aznar, and for much the same reason as their Islamist counterparts: his unswerving opposition to terrorism, which - unlike that of certain European politicians - is not confined to the realm of rhetoric.

In its dealings with the Basques over the past eight years, Spain's conservative government has achieved something that has eluded Tony Blair in Northern Ireland: it has driven a wedge between the apologists for terror and their natural constituency.

(The DT supports the Conservative Party.) The main point of the editorial is one that more newspapers seem to be recognizing:
Mr Aznar announced yesterday that people from 11 nationalities - mercifully including no Britons - perished in the bombings. That fact, in itself, underlines the wisdom of his belief that, in terms of the threat it poses to the world, terrorism is indivisible.

Eta or al-Qa'eda, alone or together: the identity of the murderers matters less than our ferocious determination not to make the political changes that the murders are intended to effect. Mr Aznar possesses such determination in spades.

Mark Steyn makes a similar argument here and here but with Steynesque prose.

Tim Blair has a post indicating that some others in Europe, notably Norway and France, are finally seeing the light.

Iberian Notes has some observations about the arrests and elections here, here and here.

UPDATE: 0919: More updates from Iberlian Notes here and here. Quoting from the second post: The death toll in the Madrid bombings has reached 200, and the wounded count is at 1511. 266 people are still hospitalized, with 17 in critical condition, 41 in very serious condition, 138 in serious condition, 42 in good condition, and 28 in an undisclosed condition.

UPDATE: 10:00: I found the link I couldn't find at 1 am to the Le Monde editorial that may indicate a shift in the French government over at Gary's website. (Yes, I know I could have just remembered Andrew Sullivan first spotted and translated it. It was at 1 a.m., though.)

Posted by Debbye at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2004

Spain Defiant

Mar. 13 - Front page of the dead-tree Toronto Sun reads SPAIN DEFIANT - Millions pour into streets to protest terrorist attacks that killed 199.

I know it's a tabloid and tends to be sensationalist, but when it comes to the important issues, the Sun gets it right. And their permalinks last longer than 2 weeks.

The story, Millions rally in Spain, includes the estimate that over 11 million people demonstrated across Spain yesterday.


More Sun coverage about Spain: trains still running, the upcoming election, the the recent reference to Spain in a Bin Laden (?) tape, the Greek request for assistance from NATO to provide security for the Olympics and comparing the numbers of casualties between Sept. 11 and Mar. 11.

Paul lays to rest some misunderstandings about ETA which I wish CNN, the BBC, and the lot of them would freaking read and take to heart.

Iberian Notes posts about the reaction of the Spanish press to the bombings (just keep scrolling and read all the posts) and reports that La Vanguardia is planning to run obituaries for all the victims:

Part of the tragedy here is that the people killed were all solid citizens, among the best and the brightest, family people, people on the train before 8 AM to get to work or school. These were people with prospects, responsible and dedicated people, people who made a difference in the lives of those around them.
Back Seat Drivers also has continuous commentary and makes some pertinent observations on those who used the event to score political shots.

Coverage of the demonstrations yesterday and a summation of who did it in Bombs were Spanish-made explosives and here's something I nearly overlooked when first reading it late last night:

Authorities said they found and safely detonated three more bombs, apparently set on timers to explode later, when rescuers and security forces were on the scene.
Robert continues his excellent coverage of the British press and the necessity to place our lives in the hands of strangers when we use mass transportation systems.

Posted by Debbye at 10:12 AM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2004

Attack in Spain

Mar. 12 - Solidarity with our friends in Spain:

UPDATE: 20:00: Don Sensing has some screen shots of today's demonstrations in Madrid. CNN reported earlier than between 7-10 million people turned out in cities across Spain.

UPDATE 18:13: Is the media still failing to understand still that all terrorists are terrorists? That answers itself if you've watched or read the news at all today.

Tim Blair has posted A Sad Postcard From Spain which need to be read, absorbed, and re-read.

Robert echoes their sentiments with a simple suggestion:

Simply go after both ETA and Islamist terrorists.

And, as was said in a different context, "Let God sort them out."

Problem solved.

UPDATE: 15:29: Estimates place those who turned out in Madrid at 2,000,000. There were also affirmations of strength in other Spanish cities including Valencia, Barcelona, and Bilbao, which is the largest city in the Basque region.

And there is this:

Among those attending the rallies in Madrid were Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, European Union President Romano Prodi and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer.
It. Takes. Time to build a coalition, and there will be challenges other than Iraq as the effort to end terrorism continues.

It was long ago, Sept. 21, 2001, when President Bush spoke these words before the Joint Houses of Congress:

This is not, however, just America's fight. And what is at stake is not just America's freedom. This is the world's fight. This is civilization's fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom.

We ask every nation to join us. We will ask, and we will need, the help of police forces, intelligence services, and banking systems around the world. The United States is grateful that many nations and many international organizations have already responded -- with sympathy and with support. Nations from Latin America, to Asia, to Africa, to Europe, to the Islamic world. Perhaps the NATO Charter reflects best the attitude of the world: An attack on one is an attack on all.

The civilized world is rallying to America's side. They understand that if this terror goes unpunished, their own cities, their own citizens may be next. Terror, unanswered, can not only bring down buildings, it can threaten the stability of legitimate governments. And you know what -- we're not going to allow it.
I was reminded of these words when I read Gerard Vanderluen's words here:
Terrorists will succeed. Terrorists have succeeded. Terrorists and Terror will continue to thrive and to live ...until... until there is a stark moment of decision that comes to all the people of the Earth that wish to live lives free from terror.

At that moment, we will cease hearing from the current crop of bland pap peddlers such as John Kerry and his ilk about the need to “understand.”

At that moment, we will no longer credit the pundits and columnists who whine and report on the “oppression” and “despair” from which all this springs.

At that moment, we will begin to see very real and immediate demonstrations, on the home soil of every government on Earth that supports these insects, that there will be a heavy at-home price to pay for indulging or promoting the sick mindset of terrorism.

At that moment, there will be an abrupt end to this dilly-dallying discussion of “Who did what to whom when and why and with what,” as if the whole problem were just a night-out at a Clue Party.

At that moment, the war against terrorism will move out its retail phase and go wholesale.

We will win this fight if we remember that right now, our survival renders the intermittent hic-cups in the economy irrelevant. We will win if we remember to keep the aims of this war at the forefront. There have been many distractions (and maybe French-bashing is one of them) but each atrocity serves to remind us that disunity is the friend of our enemy.

What American did not find themselves thrown back to Sept. 11 yesterday as if in a time-loop?

The media tried so hard to keep us on track - the Kerry blooper into a live mike, Tdod Bertzuzi (google avoidance alert), the saga of Matrha Stewatr, employment figures - and they failed. 'Fess up: I'm not the only person who sent furious emails to CNN and demanded they cover the demonstrations today in Spain. This morning and into the afternoon they've been covering the real story, the one over there, and it doesn't make up for their lapse when Bali was bombed but it's a start.

We are at war. The people of the world who live by constitutions and laws and consensual government are at war against those who would impose their rule on us either by fear or conquest and we will not surrender.

13:40: The scenes on TV of the Madrid demonstrations of solidarity with the victims of yesterday's attacks are at once beautiful and sombre. I found myself repeating my pattern of 2-l/1 years ago: turning on CNN every hour (or less) just in case.

As this guest op-ed by Javier Marias (Another Silent Noon in Madrid) demonstrates, though, the Spanish have always made a unified response in the aftermath of terrorist attacks:

The terrorist attacks almost always happen in the early morning. Whether it turns out that yesterday's train-station bombings were the work of the usual suspects — the Basque terrorist group ETA — or of Al Qaeda or another group altogether, the murderers stuck to the usual timetable.

Spain has developed a customary response to these morning attacks. At noon, the local officials in every Spanish city stand outside the doors of their buildings, in heat, cold or rain, for a minute or two of silence. They're joined by anyone who wants to join them, whoever happens to be nearby. It makes a strong impression, this silence of mourning and condemnation, a collective hush maintained by people who interrupt their tasks or their errands to stand wordlessly in the middle of the street. Any curse or outcry against the murderers is usually quieted, because at those moments true condemnation consists of saying nothing. And no matter how many times the tradition has been repeated over the course of far too many years, it loses none of its force.

Unlike the terrorists, I get up late. From my balcony I can see the Ayuntamiento, or city hall, which stands at the heart of the capital. If I'm absorbed in writing, a sudden silence lets me know an attack has happened. Who could it have been? I wonder. Who was it this time? Some poor town councilman who was also a carpenter or the owner of a candy store? A journalist? A soldier? A policeman? A judge? A mother and her children who just happened to be going by when the bomb went off? Perhaps this time it was some firefighters who were helping the first round of victims when a second, delayed bomb mowed them down during their rescue work.

Yesterday, from inside my house, I noticed that strange silence. I went to the balcony and saw the mayor and the entire city council, those from the mayor's party and the opposition, standing in front of the Ayuntamiento in silence. There were many more ordinary people than usual, just standing there. The flags were at half-staff.

"It's happened again," I thought, and wondered who it could have been this time. But yesterday that question had no answer, because for the moment there were only anonymous corpses, more than 190 of them as I write these lines. There were at least 10 bombs altogether, at three Madrid train stations, just when the commuter trains were full of people on their way to work, students on their way to class, sleepy people who had just gotten out of bed.

It is the bloodiest terrorist attack in Spain's history, and it took place only a couple of days before the general elections, the elections we never fail to vote in — at least those of us who lived under Gen. Francisco Franco and yearned to be able to vote at least once in our lives — however little we like the political parties currently on offer.

Eventually we will find out which group was behind this atrocity. But even if the ETA isn't responsible for yesterday's bombings, the attack serves as a reminder that Spain has switched from one dictatorship to another. Indeed, it's quite evident that the ETA misses the Franco era. Back then, it could at least appear to be a "resistance" group. These days, set as it is in a democracy, it cannot.

Moving affirmation that the Spanish hold their democratic ideals dearly.

Posted by Debbye at 04:10 PM | Comments (0)

America Stands with Spain

Mar. 12 - Pictures and story at Instapundit of today's expression of mourning and solidarity with Spain at their embassy in D.C.

Posted by Debbye at 02:20 PM | Comments (0)

Terrorist Attack in Spain

Mar. 12 - The email address for the Canadian Spanish Embassy is embespca@mail.mae.es (thanks to Damian.)

The addresses for the Consulate General of Spain in Toronto are 200 Front Street West and 55 Bloor St. West. and their email address is cgspain.toronto@mail.mae.es (thanks Bob.)

Glenn Reynolds has posted on how and where to send flowers and condolences to the Spanish Embassy in DC and here is a list of Spanish consulates in the US from a transplanted Canadian living in the SF Bay Area.

The death toll is now at 198. I marvel that I am now two people: one who can type that sentence with detachment and another who took several minutes to get past that sentence. We've been through this before - Sept. 11, Oct. 12, March 2 - and it hasn't gotten any the easier.

No. We won't learn to shrug and be worldly, sophisticated or nuanced about arocities. We will be horrified, grieved and furious each and every time. The Spanish people were stunned yesterday; today they will mourn and defy the terrorists; Sunday they will vote. Because that is what we do. We stare down the terrorists by re-affirming who and what we are. We stand up and shout "NO!"

James Lileks in today's Bleat hit on the substance:

When I heard the Spanish PM's address to his nation, I was struck by a repeated mention of "The Constitution." Spain has one. So does Iraq. Spain was a fascist nation. So was Iraq.

The appeal to a document is more than a nod to flowery words on expensive paper; it's an appeal to a shared idea, a concept of justice that resides in natural law, a notion of civil society that derives its legitimacy from the assent of the governed, not the dictates of generals.

Read the whole thing, and follow the link to PM Aznar's speech yesterday. An excerpt:
We're on the Constitution's side. It's the pact of almost all Spaniards that guarantees the liberties and rights of all. It's also the great accord over our political regime, and it's the expression of our united and plural Spain. We won't change our regime neither because they kill nor for them to stop killing.

That's why I tell all Spaniards that we shouldn't aspire to anything else less than the complete defeat of terrorism, its complete and total defeat, its unconditional surrender.

He called upon the Spanish to demonstrate against terrorism under the slogan "With the victims, with the Constitution, for the defeat of terrorism."

The elections will happen on Sunday. The city elections happened after a brief delay in New York. The constitution in Iraq was signed after a brief delay. Rule by Constitution will remain the benchmark of civilization, and those who would disrupt that will fail.

Those who don't see the connection between the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism don't understand the moral underpinnings of rule by constitutions as opposed to rule by caprice.

Those who don't understand why countries which were under fascists heels - Italy and Spain - were forthright in their support of the war in Iraq cannot hope to understand the rightness of the ongoing struggle against fascism.

Both CNN and CBC Newsworld are again treating the terrorist attacks in Madrid as their top story early this morning (as opposed to the fluff they served up last night.)

Christianne Amanpour reported having similar feelings as she had Sept. 11 upon seeing the outpouring of sorrow - the spontaneous shrines that have sprung up with candles, flowers and verses. She's still behind the curve: had she read any blogs yesterday she and CNN might have caught up sooner.

As many others have posted: Now we are all Spanish. It's not the first time that we have felt this solidarity with Spain as we remember the terrorist attacks their forces suffered in Iraq. We have also felt solidarity with Australia, Poland, Italy, the UK, Bulgaria, and the other countries that have stood with us there and around the world.

How odd that, whereas the transnationalists talk about it, we feel it. We feel this solidarity that allows us to cry when we see the images of train cars twisted and bent out of recognizable shape or the frantic digging in a mass grave in Iraq or the horror on faces in Israel after a bomb destroys a pizza parlour. And we feel it all the more strongly because we understand the nationalism within ourselves, not in the chauvinist sense but in the unifying sense that pride, love and affection for one's country and fellow citizens may be accompanied with a wry smile but becomes fierce when attacked.

Enough of my thoughts.

The timeline demonstrates that the 10 bombs went off within a 13 minute period.

Expat Yank has the latest news reports and analysis from the UK and a sleepless Paul is translating news reports from Spain into English.

This BBC report finally addresses the scenario that I think has been playing in the back of most of our minds:

The BBC's security correspondent, Frank Gardner, says the nightmare scenario for Spain would be a collaboration between Islamic and Basque groups.

He says recent events in Iraq have shown how different groups can work together in a common cause.

IRA collaboration with Palestinian and Columbian terrorist groups preceeds Iraq and that fact had probably led intelligence services to examine the possbility long before yesterday's events.

Bin Laden previously made the 15th century expulsion of the Moors from Spain his cause and called upon his followers to seek to reclaim the country. The blasts in Morrocco last year were by a Spanish restaurant. Do we need to help the memories of the media? It's probably useless anyway.

The Spanish government has asked the Israeli's to assist in the investigation, which increased my respect for them even more. There was a nice sub-textual message in that request.

We are all in this together.

Posted by Debbye at 09:37 AM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2004

Terrorist Attack in Spain

Mar. 11 - I'll keep adding links as I locate them and updating in reverse order so the latest will be on top. I'll also change the time on the post to keep it on top.

UPDATE: 20:29: The Dissident Frogman has captured my thoughts and, I suspect, that of many others in his post Terror? No:

It's a determined combination of burning rage and cold fury.

My first thoughts for Spain, at the end of this bloody day, are strictly identical to those I had for the USA in the evening of 9/11.

At least 190 dead now.
Bury and mourn them.

At least 1240 wounded now.
Dress their wounds.

And then, hunt the enemy down, whoever and wherever they are. Hunt them down relentlessly. Never give up. Not now, not in ten years, never. Hunt them and terminate them. All of them.

You can't give up, and you have at least 1430 good reasons for that now. (Bold and italics in original.)

UPDATE: 19:47: I'm too tired to do precision math, but Burnside says it' been 911 days since 911 and that seems about right. This update from CNN is somewhat inconclusive as to who is to blame for this morning's horror in Madrid.

UPDATE: 17:00: The death toll is over 192. Paul is finally online, and consider it required reading. Send you best thoughts and wishes to him as he tries to track down a good friend in Madrid, and Nick has extremely relevant memories and thoughts.

Robert of Expat Yank is tracking the news as it appears in the British media and has heard more details from the communication to the London newspaper than I've seen thus far.

This is so grievious, and so full of anger and horror. If those bastards think they are going to scare people into submission they picked the wrong human race.

UPDATE: 16:37: According to this from Australia, London's Arabic-language daily Al Quds Al-Arabi has received a letter purporting to be from al Qaeda in which they take responsibility for the Madrid bombing.

The group, calling itself The Brigade of Abu Hafs Al-Masri, said it was acting in the name of al-Qaeda in a letter to London's Arabic-language daily Al Quds Al-Arabi.

It said one of its "death squads" had penetrated "one of the pillars of the crusade alliance, Spain".

UPDATE: 15:07: The possibility of an al Qaeda link isn't so remote. My eldest just reminded me that Zawahiri mentioned Spain in the latest tape, and there's been a discovery of detonators and a tape in Arabic. Fox link here.

UPDATE 10:39: The death toll has gone over 180. I found Inside Europe: Ibernian Notes and Back Seat Drivers through Instapundit. They seem to be updating and tracking the developments in a very timely fashion. It must be hard, and I doubt I'm the only one having flashbacks to events 2-1/2 years ago.

Iberian Notes makes the point that those news media which identify the ETA as a "separatist group" are inaccurate as there are many people who agitate for separation but do not support terrorism. Seems another instance wherein trying appear balanced and even-handed means spreading misinformation.

09:50: Some early links here and here. CNN TV is doing a fairly credible job of reporting this terrorist attack as is the CBC (they even broadcasted a statement by PM Aznar.)

ETA is denying responsibility for the attack and says it was done by "Arab resistance," and I can't help thinking of recent reports that France was inspecting every inch of their railroad tracks due to threats from an unknown group.

Spain is a coalition partner in Iraq and has had numerous arrests and prosecution of of al Qaeda suspects there.

Today's March 11.

I can't justify the feeling I have but I think there is something here that requires more open-minded investigation.

Posted by Debbye at 03:07 PM | Comments (1)

March 05, 2004

Russian aid to Saddam

Mar. 5 - Article in the NY Times today Russian Engineers Reportedly Gave Missile Aid to Iraq:

Because some of the Russian experts were said to have formerly worked for one of Russia's aerospace design centers, which remains closely associated with the state, their work for Iraq has raised questions in Washington about whether Russian government officials knew of their involvement in forbidden missile programs. "Did the Russians really not know what they were doing?" asked one person familiar with the United States intelligence reports.

A spokesman for the Russian Embassy in Washington denied any knowledge of the allegations of recent Russian technical support for Iraq's missile effort.

"The U.S. has not presented any evidence of Russian involvement," said Yevgeny Khorishko, a spokesman for the Russian Embassy.

That in part echoes some of my frustrations with getting at the truth about the UN Oil for Food program as well as an event during the Iraq War - the attack on a Russian covoy heading for the Syrian border, Condi Rice's weekend trip to Moscow, and the Russians not saying a peep in protest of the attack after her visit (it's my standard fretting over what was in her briefcase and will it be revealed in my lifetime? issue!)

The article doesn't say much we didn't suspect, but does draw some inferences between Saddam's attempt to purchase missiles from North Korea and some of the findings of the October Kay report and looks at why the President isn't forcing exposure of Russian complicity in violating UN sanctions which are highly speculative and fail to take the multilateral talks over North Korea's nuclear program into account.

I've been chewing over this, which looks at some criticisms of the restricted nature of Dr. Kay's hunt, and the accompanying links for a couple of days. IIRC, Dr. Kay said one of the reasons he was ending the search was because the Administration wasn't allowing enough funds or personnel to do the job adequately although I suspect that the actual hunt may be taking place under another agency and possibly in another country, but that too is highly speculative.

UPDATE: Wretchard also examines the Douglas Hanson article in The American Thinker and points to another possibility:

Saddam would have looked at a nuke or bioweapon not simply as a lethal device but as an investment. Dr. David Kay's findings may not mean that Saddam destroyed or hid his weapons before the war. It may merely mean that he sold them.

Posted by Debbye at 11:29 AM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2004

What Goes Round . . .

Mar. 2 - Marybeth notes that the the French don't seem to grasp that What Goes Around...

Posted by Debbye at 11:46 PM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2004

Russia Military Maneuvers

Feb. 18 - Here's something I never expected: Sweden calls for common U.S.-EU stance against Russia.

Mr. Powell offered muted criticism of Russian domestic and foreign policy during a January meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, and Mrs. Freivalds said EU leaders are trying to formulate a new strategy for dealing with Russia.

"The United States and the European Union have to work hard to cooperate on Russia," Mrs. Freivalds said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "We share some values, and we are not sure that Russia today shares those values."

When Washington and Brussels present the same message, she added, "it is much more likely to be heeded."

Her remarks came as Mr. Putin and top Russian defense officials gathered in the Barents Sea to observe what are being billed as the country's largest military exercises in more than two decades.
Read it while I go into the bedroom just to see if I'm still there sleeping. If I'm not there, I'm checking the British press.

(Sorry if the flippancy seems irreverent, but I am shocked, and I don't mean in the Claude Rains sense.)

Also, be sure to read Paul's newswatch compilation of the, er, evolving story about Putin's participation in the military exercises in the Arctic seas. It's significance sure changed after I read the Washington Times piece.

UPDATE: Nothing in the Telegraph (UK) but they are somewhat gleeful about the miltary exercise spectable Putin's nuclear show blows up in his face:

Russia's biggest military exercise since the collapse of communism flopped yesterday, ruining an attempt to project Vladimir Putin as a global leader and reaffirm the country's status as a nuclear superpower.

With Mr Putin and a host of military officials watching from the nuclear submarine Arkhangelsk, two intercontinental ballistic missiles went wrong during a firing from a submarine believed to be the Novomoskovsk. They were aimed at Kamchatka on the Pacific coast. A malfunctioning satellite was blamed.

I'm not so sanguine as the Telegraph; maybe it's my Inner Nervous Nellie popping up after years of dormancy or I've seen Dr. Strangelove a few times too many, but what if one of those missiles had gone astray into, say Alaska? (see the map I've so thoughtfully provided.)

To paraphrase from Vern Partlow's Talking Atom blues, You know, Sweden said there were scared, And if they're scared, I'm scared. Actually, I'm not, but I am working slightly harder at being my usual calm, cheerful self. /mendacity

Posted by Debbye at 12:26 PM | Comments (0)

February 03, 2004

Journalistic fascism

Feb. 3 - Interesting column by Martin Kettle of the Guardian (UK) about some of the lessons and reactions to the Hutton Inquiry The threat to the media is real. It comes from within:

[Former BBC Today producer Rod] Liddle's article in the current Spectator exemplifies this approach, and incarnates a great deal of what is wrong with modern journalism. Liddle's article is wrong on the facts (Lord Franks, chairman of the inquiry into the Falklands war, was not a judge, much less a law lord), sneering (Lord Hutton's Ulster brogue is mocked, and he is described as anachronistic and hopelessly naive), and unapologetic (the best Liddle can manage is that Gilligan's famous 6.07am report went "a shade too far"). Above all, Liddle's piece is arrogant, embodied in his remarkable final sentence: "I think, as a country, we've had enough of law lords."

Think about the implications of that. To Liddle's fellow practitioners of punk journalism, it can be excused as sparky, or justified on the grounds that it is what a lot of other people are saying. To criticise it is to be condemned as boring or, like Hutton, hopelessly naive. To me, though, it smacks of something bordering on journalistic fascism, in which all elected politicians are contemptible, all judges are disreputable and only journalists are capable of telling the truth, even though what passes for truth is sometimes little more than prejudice unsupported by facts.

Posted by Debbye at 03:49 PM | Comments (0)

Germany seeks new partners

Feb. 3 - Germany has signaled it is disengaging from some of its closeness to France and seeks closer ties with Britain, the U.S., and perhaps Poland:

They said the row with Washington over Iraq had been "catastrophic" for Berlin and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder had become "a prisoner" of President Jacques Chirac's campaign to oppose the war to topple Saddam Hussein last year. (Link included)

"We were more dependent on the French in that situation. But this will not be a permanent situation," said one authoritative source.

Another official explained: "We have to be careful that we are not identified with every word that the French president utters. We must have our own identity and be a little more clever."

[...]

Germany has no intention of abandoning the close partnership with France, a central plank of its foreign policy. Any change, if it comes, is likely to be gradual.

But Berlin apparently wants to redesign the once all-powerful "Franco-German motor" to include Britain and perhaps Poland.

"German-French understanding is a necessary condition to move Europe forward, but it is not sufficient," said one senior official. "The European project cannot move without Britain and Poland. This is not always understood in France."

Foreign Affairs Minister Jack Straw noted action such as the pressure put on Iran to be honest about their nuclear weapons programme by Britain, France and Germany thorugh the EU, but the article counters by citing the surprise move by Libya to voluntarily disarm, an action in which Britain proceeded without involving the EU.

Sources say that Germany will not oppose sending NATO peacekeeping forces into Iraq (although not German troops) and may also offer limited help in Iraq (presumably in reconstruction projects.)

UPDATE: Tim Blair notes that they should be embarrassed to admit they were pushed around by the French.

Posted by Debbye at 01:07 PM | Comments (0)

The Corruption of Chirac

Feb. 3 - I followed a link at Mischa's to an article in Prospect Magazine about a French magistrate, Eva Joly, who investigates corruption, and the harrassment she receives. The allegations in the article were shocking, and I found it hard to believe until recent events provided confirmation.

The Daily Telegraph (UK) reports that Chirac has seized control over the investigation of Alain Juppe, France's former prime minister, and 21 of Chirac's former aides and business partners, on illegal party funding during the 80's and 90's.

The magistrate who ruled in the investigation has, like M Joly, been subject to harrassment, says her office and computers have been broken into, her phone tapped and that she received a death threat before passing sentence on Juppe.

Now Chirac has stepped in:

M Chirac seized charge of an inquiry into alleged telephone taps, break-ins and violent threats against judges investigating Alain Juppe, the former prime minister and his heir apparent, convicted on Friday of organising illegal party funding.

The extraordinary intervention came the day after the justice ministry announced it would investigate the allegations.

His gazumping of his own ministry indicates the seriousness with which he is taking the insinuation that he or his allies tried to pressure the judges in the Juppe case.

[...]

The allegations lend a murky aura to a long legal process which has bedevilled M Chirac and his entourage. They are also consistent with complaints by other judges who have threatened the highest levels of the establishment.

Eric Halphen, a magistrate who spent seven years investigating alleged kickbacks paid to M Chirac's staff for building contracts while he was mayor of Paris, left the legal profession in 2002 and wrote a book describing what he endured. He said threatening notes were left on his windscreen and his telephone was tapped.

M Halphen summoned the president as a witness in the case, but after months of delay M Chirac succeeded in having the law on presidential immunity changed to protect him from legal suits while in office.

Several other cases against M Chirac remain in legal limbo because of his immunity. These include charges that he fiddled his grocery bill at the Paris town hall.

The leader (editorial) in the Telegraph notes that Chirac was seen as a "decent" man compared to Mitterand and this prediction:
A Gallic shrug may greet this latest evidence of venality and harassment of those who seek to uncover and punish it. But do not be surprised if voters react in disgust by voting for Jean-Marie Le Pen's far-Right Front National, which offers itself as a clean alternative to the mainstream parties, in forthcoming elections for regional councils and the European Parliament.
The Telegraph is more optimistic than I. What good is a charge of corruption if they can't connect Vice-President Dick Cheney and Halliburton? What good is wiretapping and illegal fund raising if they can't connect it to Watergate?

Posted by Debbye at 10:57 AM | Comments (0)

February 01, 2004

Andrew Gilligan

Feb. 1 - Andrew Gilligan, the BBC reporter who claimed the Blair government had "sexed up" the weapons's dossier, was facing disciplinary action prior to his resignation last Friday. BBC chiefs vent anger on 'devious' Gilligan saying that his assurances that his claims were correct and refusing to admit he had been speculating when the government first challenged his assertions led to Dr. David Kelly's death, the Hutton Inquiry and the crisis at the BBC.

Gilligan for months insisted to BBC executives that his reporting had been a fair and accurate account of what Dr Kelly told him during their fateful meeting in May 2003.

One said: "When Richard Sambrook [the head of news] investigated and saw that his notes of the meeting were inadequate, Gilligan said, 'You know what notes are ... they are only partial'. He then gave his word that all his reports were accurate."

BBC executives learned that was incorrect only when Gilligan appeared before the Hutton inquiry on September 17, 2003, and made an unambiguous apology for his infamous 6.07am Today broadcast on May 29, 2003. In this report, he accused the Government of inserting intelligence into the Iraq dossier which it "probably knew" to be wrong.

One executive said yesterday: "He should have been more forthcoming about the weaknesses in his story. He left that far too late. He was also wrong to 'out' David Kelly as a source for another report on weapons of mass destruction.

"The disciplinary procedure could have resulted in him being sacked. At the very least he would have been seriously reprimanded for his shortcomings."

Gilligan will not receive severance pay because he failed to give an undertaking not to discuss the corporation's affairs in public. He had a negotiated an agreement to sell his story to another publication prior to his last meeting BBC executives, and even announced his resignation through the Press Association rather than the BBC.

Short version: the BBC stuck its neck out for him, he continued lying to them, then betrayed them, and is now selling his story to the highest bidder.

A defiant Gilligan insisted that he could not be held responsible for the downfall of Mr Dyke. He told the Telegraph: "Ninety per cent of my original story was right. I have admitted that the 6.07 broadcast was a bad idea.

"No one has ever told me about disciplinary action. That is not the reason why I left the BBC. I had my own reasons for going and I wanted to go quickly.

"By Friday morning I could not see myself having a useful role at the BBC. I knew I had to go and the only question was whether I should resign with dignity or try clinging on. I did not want to stay and be regarded as the man who brought down Greg Dyke. Greg Dyke brought down Greg Dyke."

What a guy!

AP reports that the entire BBC board is considering quitting. They still fail to understand where they went wrong; it isn't about protecting whistleblowers, it's about fabricating a statement from someone who was not a whistleblower. It's about the lying and the assumption that they are entitled to lie. Astonishing.

UPDATE: Jay analyzes the accusation of Hutton Whitewash:

In a sense this argument is really about whether or not it is possible to come up with facts of the matter when ideas like truth are seen as the products of given agendas.

Posted by Debbye at 10:22 AM | Comments (0)

January 31, 2004

Dutch: Multiculturalism a 30-year failure

Jan. 31 - The publication of the Dutch report which concluded their race policy 'a 30-year failure' dates back to Jan. 20, but although I knew it was an important report, I also found it incredibly depressing so held onto the link until I could find some meaning in it.

I haven't found a bit of meaning, to tell the truth.

The events related in Peaktalk's post on the recent Dutch experience with a Columbine-like incident and it's startling aftermath in Deliberate and Distasteful Disrespect adds a layer if not meaning. Furthermore, his conclusion is definitely intriguing:

In a week where one of the main political parties acknowledged that integration policies had failed miserably, the murder of a teacher and the distasteful disrespect shown thereafter, illustrates that simple integration models don't work and that a complete pan-European effort is required to stem the tide of economic misery and senseless violence.
I can't help feeling he's right. Looking at the tabled EU Report on anti-Semitism and various problems with assimilation of Muslim immigrants one sees in different news online publications (and let's not overlook Chechnya) a pan-European approach may well be the best approach.

Posted by Debbye at 08:43 PM | Comments (1)

January 29, 2004

French headscarf ban

Jan. 29 - A post from EuroPundits on the ban of headscarves in France which is well-worth reading. (Note: if you get a blank screen, refresh a few times. Servers seem to be cranky today.)

Posted by Debbye at 02:23 PM | Comments (0)

BBC's Greg Dyke apologizes

Jan. 29 - BBC's director-general, Greg Dyke, apologizes (actually, in reading the aritcle, the aplogy seems to be followed by challenges to the findings of the Hutton Inuiry) and, according to the scrolling news on the DT's webiste, he has also resigned from the BBC. (The BBC confirms the resignation here.)

Posted by Debbye at 12:50 PM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2004

The Hutton Inquiry Findings

Jan. 28 - From the Daily Telegraph (UK) Blair 'cleared' by Hutton which links directly to the website for the Hutton Inquiry where the report is posted. The report is said to be a .pdf file ( didn't check) but the Summary of Conclusions appears in standard text.

The Summary itself is fairly straightforward and well-worth reading. Section 2.i. notes that

Therefore the allegations reported by Mr Gilligan that the Government probably knew that the 45 minutes claim was wrong or questionable and that it was not inserted in the first draft of the dossier because it only came from one source and the intelligence agencies did not really believe it was necessarily true, were unfounded.
The Report also criticizes the BBC management for not recognizing that Gilligans's own notes did not support his accusations about the dossier and, although it recognizes that the BBC Board of Governors properly recognized that they had the obligation to protect the independence of the BBC, it notes that they failed to distinguish between defending that independence and addressing the specific government complaints about the May 29 broadcast that alleged the government had deliberately inserted doubtful information and therefore should have made their own investigations.

On the question of whether the government or government officials behaved dishonourably by allowing Dr. Kelly's name to be know, the inquiry acknowledges (Section 4.A) that keeping Dr. Kelly's name secret was not "a practical possibility" given the media scrutiny, so confirmation after a reporter put his name forward was the only reasonable response. It does criticize the government's failure to inform Dr. Kelly that they would confirm his identity as the source (4.B.) and for not setting up a procedure by which Dr. Kelly would have been informed immediately once his name was released to the press but also noting that there were individual attempts by MoD officials to be supportive and helpful.

As noted by Expat Yank (if blogspotted, Ctrl+F "What is needed is an investigation"), the response from the Conservative Party has been to call for an inquiry. That's right, an inquiry into the inquiry.

UPDATE: BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies resigns in the wake of the Hutton Inquiry's finding that the BBC had "defective" editorial controls.

Does anyone else remember the Washington Post retraction of their erroneous stories about Jessica Lynch capture or how the NY Times handled the Jayson Blair firing? It's sad to see the BBC fail to remember their primary responsibility to the public like this.

Posted by Debbye at 11:42 AM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2004

Hutton Inquiry Findings, Mugabe, Cheney on Iran, EU coruption

Jan. 25 - Hutton will clear Blair over Kelly death which is to say Blair will not be personally criticized, but Alistair Campbell and Andrew Gilligan are among those who will be. So a BBC reporter can misrepresent Dr. Kelly's statements (who should never have been speaking to the BBC to begin with) and thus violate every ethical standard of journalism to put forward his own point of view and Blair was put on the defensive? And Campbell did wrong . . . how? By standing up for the truth. No chastisement can be harsh enough for that crime.

And journalists complain that people don't watch the news or read the papers. Maybe because they don't trust big media? Hmm?

Mugabe flown to South Africa because he collapsed. Money quote:

"We were ordered not to give any details of the president's illness in case it brought people out on to the streets," a senior member of the 'Green Bombers', the notorious youth brigade created by Mr Mugabe, told The Telegraph.
Paul claims he's trying to resolve issues with his video card (or something like that) but I say he's been sacrificing chickens again. Good work! Today Mugabe, tomorrow . . . oh, kind of a big field there. I vote for Arafat, but I'll let Paul decide.

Dick Cheney is taking a hard line on Iran's Council of Guardians.

"Democracies do not breed the anger and the radicalism that drag down whole societies or export violence," he said. "Terrorists do not find fertile recruiting grounds in societies where young people have the right to guide their own destinies and to choose their own leaders."
Ineptitude in the EU?:
The report, by the parliament's budgetary control committee, notes that "no Commissioner has so far accepted political responsibility" for the fiasco at Eurostat, from which at least ÂŁ3.5 million disappeared in slush funds and fictitious contracts, although some have admitted mistakes. Much of the fraud took place before the current commission took office in late 1999, but MEPs are furious that dubious contracts ran on, unchecked, until at least 2002.
Ever wonder where the UN learned its bookkeeping methodology? And these poor commissioners might receive a vote of censure! Oh, the humanity!

Posted by Debbye at 12:49 PM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2004

German soldiers display solidarity

Jan. 23 - This is the second link I've seen on some outstanding acts of solidarity by German soldiers and civilians at Ramstein Air Base (German salute to U.S. warriors) which, combined with the at sea dress uniform rendition of full honours accorded by FGS Lutjens to the USS Winston Churchill on 9/14/01 (come on, surely you remember receiving that photo and email! I received at least 4 of them) is why we need to remember that politicians talk - too much - but they don't always represent the total will of their people.

UPDATE: homicidalManiak has a story of her own about the respect displayed by German soldiers. Sheesh, I didn't know HS was a medic in Germany. My respect, ma'am.

(Via Rantburg in comments section of lgf.)

Posted by Debbye at 09:10 PM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2004

France bans religious beards

Jan. 21 - I felt the need to find a confirmation link to believe this story: France adds beards to list of banned conspicuous religious objects (and found one at the Globe and Mail here.)

Beards which are worn for religious reasons would be banned. The article said that Sikhs might be allowed to wear "discreet turbans."

Bandannas would also be banned if young girls present it as a religious sign.

(Please note that the bans being discussed are for schools and public places, not in public or in homes.)

David Warren has some thoughts on the ban in general here.

UPDATE: Stormy Dragon addresses the problem on how to determine if the beard is religious.

Posted by Debbye at 03:42 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2004

Euro-terror news

Jan. 14 - Instapundit has a partial round-up of "Euro-terror news" and some links to terror activity in Thailand which seems to be of an Islamist nature.

Little Green Footballs links to a piece in The Observer Terror cells regroup - and now their target is Europe which has a summary of some key arrests in Europe, the emergence of groups in Eastern Europe, and provides a useful table:

The targets, the death toll and the suspects

Istanbul November 2003, 62 dead
Target: British consulate and bank, synagogues
Suspect: Local Islamic group thought to be linked to al-Qaeda or Abu Musab Zarqawi

Baghdad August-October 2003, 50 dead
Target: Al-Rasheed hotel, UN and Red Cross headquarters.
Suspect: European suicide bombers believed to have been recruited by Mullah Fouad in Syria.

Casablanca May 2003, 41 dead
Target: Jewish community centre and Spanish social club
Suspect: Local Islamic group. The authorities want to interview a Moroccan cleric, Mohammed al-Garbuzi, who is believed to be in Britain.

Riyadh May 2003, 34 dead
Target: Luxury compounds in Saudi capital
Suspect: Swiss arrest an eight-strong 'logistics cell'.

Mombasa November 2002, 16 dead
Target: Israeli tourists at Paradise hotel
Suspect: Kenyan Islamic cell. Some funds allegedly provided by a Somali-born militant living in London, arrested in Milan and 'a part of Zarqawi's cell'.

Little Green Footballs also has information about the Cleveland arrest of Imam Fawaz Mohammed Damrah.

Posted by Debbye at 01:01 PM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2004

Veiled Threat in France

Jan. 12 - The Weekly Standard has an interesting piece by Christopher Caldwell (Veiled Threat) that explores the proposed ban on headscarves and the wearing of other religious symbols in French schools, hospitals and other public places.

He tells us that which has been well documented, i.e., that Muslim (predominantly Arab) immigrants have not been assimilated into French society and the workplace:

France is now about 10 percent Muslim. Some set the Muslim population (almost all of it Arab) at 5 million, others at 8 million. But all agree that the Muslims are disproportionately (even unconscionably) poor, clustered in housing projects surrounding France's biggest cities, victimized by discrimination, and ravaged by unemployment and increasingly crime. Young men of Arab descent (beurs, as they're called) have been responsible for a lot of that crime, including the vast majority of the hundreds of attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions in France over the last three years, and for much of an epidemic unruliness in France's schools.
Part of that description is one Americans can relate to as it mirrors the experience of black Americans who migrated north after WWII: ghettoes, substandard schools, and job insecurity or widespread under- and unemployment. In other words, Jim Crow legislated segregation was replaced by de facto segregation, which, though not given the status of a legal code, was nonetheless real.

That is probably why there is widespread skepticism that banning conspicuous religious symbols will somehow solve a problem that is rooted in poverty and bigotry - bigotry towards them and their bigotry towards Jews.

The point of departure with the black experience in America is in fact the hundreds of attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions, and even though there was derision when the EU tabled its own report on anti-Semitism, it's been argued that banning the wearing of obvious religious symbols was how the French government planned to address active anti-Semitism. Back to the schools:

In "The Lost Territories of the Republic," the sociologist Emmanuel Brenner made an inventory of such classroom incidents [unruliness in France's schools] --kids guffawing through lectures on the Holocaust, teachers subjected to ethnic taunts, humiliation of girls--that is reported to have shocked Jacques Chirac profoundly. So the veil is to the French imagination what graffiti were to the American imagination in the late 1970s: harmless per se, yet a marking of territory, sparking fear that those willing to do harm are in the neighborhood.
Education isn't the answer to resolve bigory, evidently, and the comparison to inner-city gangs is not far off, according to Theodore Dalrymple's The Barbarians at the Gates of Paris, but as his article also looks at what befalls Muslim girls who do not wear the headscarves, there is indeed an unpleasant connection between headscarves and gang colours. But again, how is banning an article of female clothing going to resolve anti-Semitism as well as the unemployment and poverty of those neighbourhoods?

Actually, there is a logic behind the ban which is rooted in French history.

Although cultural relativism has come under intense fire these past two years, it does have its value. It is hard for Americans to understand the French insistence on secularism for the very simple reason that the establishment of the Church of England under Henry VIII provided the US with two degrees of seperation from the Catholic Church and the founding of the American colonies provided one degree of seperation from the Church of England.

Although religion plays an important part in American life, no one religion, denomination or sect dominates to the exclusion of any other. We have our bigots, and we even have outspoken members of what is called the religious right, but we label them for what they are and certainly, as in the case of the Iraq War, they do not sway US foreign policy. (I think it's fair to say that this also true in Canada.) Our political leaders may proclaim their faith, but would never attempt to impose their faith on others. The experience in France has been far different, and secularism needed to be promoted in response to a very specific problem:

In 1905, the [Catholic] church was reactionary; it possessed enormous state power through its control of the schools; and enormous power to influence elections through its assets and its authority to excommunicate and preach. These factors had come together to permit the church to play a central role--as both propagandist and backroom string-puller--in denying justice to Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish career officer framed on charges of spying for Germany and sentenced to exile.
So there is the connection: institutionalized secularism was successfully used to defuse Catholic church-led anti-Semitism, so institutionalized secularism is to be used to defuse Islamic-led anti-Semitism.

It still seems a bit fanciful until Caldwell brings up a real example, the French Muslims' party (PMF) is the organizer of an upcoming demonstration against the headscarf ban January 17. Religious parties are not allowed under French secularism, but the PMF is what Caldwell refers to as an ad-hoc exception and notes that it is not a religious party but a party of which much of the platform is based on anti-Semitism.

[PMF founder Mohammed Ennacer] Latreche was the subject of a telling profile in early January by the journalists Blandine Grosjean and Olivier Vogel of Liberation, in which it was noted that he has taken to referring to France's Socialist party as the Zionist party, and now associates with one of France's notorious Holocaust deniers. He coedited a work called "The Judeo-Nazi Manifesto of Ariel Sharon" and took several Parisian youths to Baghdad to serve as human shields before the invasion of Iraq. "Fear is going to have to change sides," Liberation quoted Latreche as saying. "It's going to have to pass from the side of veiled women to the side of those politicians who are going to vote for this law."

In a sense, this is exactly what France has bargained for in transforming a serious religious problem into a serious political problem. And it is a good bargain, too, making it possible to refer Latreche-style outrages to the police, arresting the violent, and leaving in peace those who practice their religion inoffensively. But none of this is as easy as it sounds.

So I can begin to see their logic (although I don't quite understand why the police could not be called in earlier given France's hate crime laws) which is to lay down a challenge to determine which is supreme: requirements of religion, or requirements of the state.

In an interesting turn of events, Sheikh Mohammed Sayyed Tantawi, the Grand Mufti of the al-Azhar mosque in Cairo and the foremost authority in Sunni Islam, supported France's right to ban conspicuous religious symbols, and said that although Muslim women were required to wear headscarves, that obligation only applied to those living in Muslim countries.

Caldwell then addresses something that has been nibbling at the edges these past two years:

PERHAPS WE ASSUME too much in asserting that the open democratic republics of the West are compatible with "religion." We know empirically only that they are compatible with Protestantism, Judaism, and Catholicism. It is no insult to Islam to say that it may not be as assimilable into a regime of lacite as Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism were--because there is little historical evidence that Islam can be effectively or sincerely practiced only in private.
My long-time response remains the same: Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism worked at being compatible, and, in many cases, are still working on it, and there is no reason Islam cannot do the same if it choses to work at it and that includes actively rooting out anti-Semitism.

Caldwell asks:

WHAT LESSONS has America drawn from this episode? None. It has decided to gloat instead. ..

... One can prefer the American means of dealing with religious diversity and still question the smug assumption that America's constitutional order could easily cope with the facts on the ground that exist in France--i.e., the equivalent of, in this country, some 30 million rapidly radicalizing Muslims, concentrated in a handful of pivotal cities.

Mea culpa. My initial reaction was astonishment, although I did try to find the logic behind the ban. Moreover, what do we really have to gloat about? There have been skirmishes in the US over the veil, in particular in the question of whether to remove the veil for identification photographs or upon request by the police or security personnel, so that particular issue has already come up and the veil lost.

Interesting times.

(Weekly Standard link via Jack's Newswatch.)

Posted by Debbye at 02:06 PM | Comments (1)

January 06, 2004

Red Sea air crash has Canadian connection

Jan. 6 - There appears to be a Canadian connection to the Red Sea airplace crash: Crash pilot's children here.

SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt -- Two young Brampton women grieved yesterday for their father, who was the pilot of the Boeing 737 jetliner that crashed into the Red Sea Saturday, killing all 148 people aboard. Ekram Hamid, of Montreal, identified the pilot as his estranged son, Ashraf Hamid.

"It's a sad day, it's unfortunate," Ekram, 70, told the Montreal Gazette. "His passion was flying. He loved to fly. I just wish he had chosen another career."

Ekram said a Canadian Foreign Affairs official called him Sunday morning to tell him his son had died.

The article also states that, according to a French embassy official, searchers have picked up a signal that could be from the black box of the Boeing 737.

According to this, a hitherto unknown terrorist group has claimed they attacked the jetliner:

A caller saying he represented a radical Islamist group in Yemen, Ansar el-Haq (Apostles of Truth) telephoned Agence France-Presse in Cairo to say the aircraft had been downed in an "attack."

The caller warned of future attacks against Air France flights unless the French government rescinded a law that bans Muslim students from wearing headscarves in public schools.

[...]

The 10-year-old Boeing 737 aircraft, leased by Egyptian charter company Flash Airlines, had made a planned left turn before suddenly -- and with no warning -- turning to the right and then diving into the sea.

The crew did not contact air-traffic control, apparently having no time to do so. The high-speed impact shattered the aircraft and its passengers. So far the recovery effort has found nothing to point to the cause of the crash.

The article notes that none of the wreckage or human remains recovered thus far indicate signs of an explosion, and also chronicles a brief history of problems with the rudder on other Boeing 737s flying at low altitudes.

(Globe and Mail link via Jack's Newswatch.)

UPDATE: Two black boxes have been recovered (Jan. 18-04)

Posted by Debbye at 09:03 PM | Comments (0)

January 03, 2004

Germany: Hijab controversy

Jan. 3 - Hijab causes major row in Germany or more specifically, the wearing of the hijab by public servants, teachers and students.

[German President Johannes] Rau's appeal that Islamic headscarves receive equal treatment with symbols of other faiths such as Christianity or Judaism has led to furious reactions from Roman Catholic politicians and clerics.
Glad to see those enlightened Europeans are still so far ahead of us American rubes on the tolerance curve.

(Via Jack's Newswatch.)

Posted by Debbye at 09:07 AM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2003

Vatican terror target?

Dec. 29 - Not suprisingly Cardinal says Pope unafraid of Vatican terror threat revealed by Berlusconi.

It also confirms that special precautions have been taken around the Vatican.

This is the second mention I've seen of the story that Berlusconi told a reporter that the Vatican was targeted for attack so I'm going on record as believing the initial report. Heh.

Berlusconi shocked many in Italy by his comments to the conservative daily Libero, which ran a three-page spread on the new Vatican threat.

Berlusconi distanced himself from the remarks but didn't directly deny the contents. His office specified that the premier hadn't granted an official interview to Libero. "One cannot confuse a quick exchange of Christmas greetings with political declarations," it said.

Italy's opposition has cried foul over Berlusconi's latest remarks, saying they were irresponsible and needlessly heightened fears. Rome's provincial president, who attended midnight mass inside St. Peter's Basilica on Christmas Eve, also expressed surprise that he knew nothing of the alleged threat.

Posted by Debbye at 07:06 PM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2003

Christmas terror threat at Vatican

Dec. 27 - Berlusconi: Christmas Terror Threat at Vatican:

Berlusconi told Milan's Libero newspaper of a "precise and verified news of an attack on Rome on Christmas Day."

"A hijacked plane into the Vatican," Berlusconi is quoted as saying. "An attack from the sky, is that clear? The threat of terrorism is very high in this instant. I passed Christmas Eve in Rome to deal with the situation. Now I feel calm. It will pass."

He added, "It isn't fatalism, but the knowledge of having our guard up. If they organized this, they will not pull it off."

I admit I was somewhat skeptical when Berlusconi previously said a leader of an Arab nation (later identified as Khadaffi of Libya) had appealed to him for help in healing the breach with the West, so although I still retain skepticism at any unverified report, I don't find it so easy to brush this one off.

UPDATE: Instapundit links to this from Reuters in which Berlusconi denies telling Libero newspaper there was a terrorist threat to the Vatican.

Meanwhile, media reports about the elevation of the US terror threat to orange and the cancellation of Air France flights into LAX are pretty speculative including this report that US officials want to talk to "no shows" for the cancelled flights as well because, according to this, unnamed French sources say that all 13 were on terror watch lists.

Posted by Debbye at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

December 21, 2003

Silvio Berlusconi, Liberty and Khaddafi

Dec. 20 - Many thanks to Richard who sent the url for this interview which appeared Sept. 6, 2003, in the Spectator with Berlusconi which includes a reference to a telephone call which reportedly came from Libya's Gaddafi The new imperial vision of Silvio Berlusconi and includes this:

I tell you the truth: if I lived in a country where there was no day appointed for elections, I would become a revolutionary, if not a terrorist. And that is because I love liberty too much; without liberty a man is not a man. He has no dignity. And so today we are now able, with Russia and America together, to look at all the states of the world, and assess the dignity of all the people in the world, and we can give them democracy and liberty. Yes! By force if necessary! Because that is the only way to show it is not a joke. We said to Saddam, "Do it, or we come, and we came and we did it. I cannot say which country he was from, but someone telephoned me the other day and said, "I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid." [Mr Berlusconi's spokesman indicated that the leader in question was Col. Gaddafi.] (Emphasis added.)
Read the whole article. Berlusconi is something of an enigma, but his depiction of political life in Italy, the slant of the media and the activist judiciary has a familiar ring.

What I found fascinating are his reasons for joining the coalition (and remember he is saying all this back in September) and the recognition that he was willing to take an enormous gamble and go on faith.

One ironclad rule of war is that War Is Uncertain. No matter the odds, anything can happen. Although a military victory seemed assured, there were worries about the use of WMD (which would have been far more devastating for the unprotected Iraqi civilians than the troops,) possible terrorist retailiations in the US and the biggest unknown was (and is) the chances for a political victory.

It was a gamble. It was one backed with facts, strategy, and a helluva lot of hope and probably we haven't talked about it because once the die was cast it was too late to take it back but despite the setbacks we will undoubtably see, we did succeed in disturbing the status quo in the Mid-East and that's a good thing.

Is it too early for self-congratulations? I think we are entitled to some, at least, and to stand up straighter because we took an enormous chance and saw it through.

My work schedule never sucked more than this weekend when I'd rather be opining, surfing and citing all the fantastic posts that have come out of the Libyan decision, but I have a blogroll full of insightful people who are examining this move.

If I don't find the Canadian response to this latest I'll be logging off and getting myself to work. (If it's a "yes, but ..." I'll be going to work and fuming, but that's another story.)

Be careful, and remember that who we are and why we do these things is, to paraphrase Berlusconi, for sweet liberty: our love for her is what makes all men and women stand tall and gives us courage to dare that which others say is impossible.

UPDATE: This gives a hint as to the months of behind-the-scenes work that went into Friday's announcement.

Posted by Debbye at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2003

German Financial Reforms

Dec. 20 - The wording is interesting: Jobless have benefits cut as Schroeder wins reforms

Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder yesterday pushed through the German parliament a package of reforms which he hopes will pave the way for the revival of the "sick man of Europe".
The original "sick old man of Europe" was pre-WWI Ottoman Empire. Interesting analogy.
Tax cuts, labour-market reform and wide-ranging reductions in subsidies which formed the key elements of Mr Schroeder's array of reforms, known as Agenda 2010, secured the support of the vast majority of the Bundestag's 603 representatives.

The plans, on which Mr Schroeder had staked his future, amounted to the biggest overhaul of the welfare state since it was introduced by Otto von Bismarck in the 19th century.

But Mr Schroeder was in the uncomfortable position of relying on the opposition conservatives who dominate the upper house of parliament, the majority of whose representatives voted in favour of the reforms.

So the only point of using anti-war and anti-American sentiment to win over the conservatives was simply to get power, not because he really had differences in social planning. What a huge honking surprise.

It gets more interesting:

Under the reforms, income tax is to be cut by Ł9 billion from Jan 1 in an attempt to encourage spending. A couple with joint earnings of Ł25,000 will be Ł425 a year better off. The top and bottom tax brackets are to be adjusted from 48.5 to 45 per cent and from 19.9 to 16 per cent.
Cutting taxes? Why, I never heard of such a thing - oh wait, yes I have. Not up here much lately, although we used to hear about that sort of thing in Ontario before the recent election.

Read the whole thing. Can we play Spot the Irony? Dang, I have to go. My income taxes haven't been cut, but I'm counting on property taxes going up . . .

Have a good day, and be safe.

Posted by Debbye at 01:29 PM | Comments (0)

Aznar visits troops in Iraq

Dec. 20 - Good on him: Spanish PM makes surprise Iraq visit to the 1300 Spanish troops there. Earlier it had been announced that the Spanish will remain in Iraq until June, 2004, an additional 6 months than their initial committment.

The Fox coverage also has more information on the visit and mentions the 1,000 Japanese troops going to Iraq for humanitarian purposes

Also, the Pentagon has listed the number of US soldiers killed by hostile fire since the president declared an end to major combat operations at 200.

Posted by Debbye at 01:08 PM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2003

Reconstruction contracts

Dec. 16 - I am really, really confused. Americans are depicted as as grasping, greedy and downright unscrupulous business types who are utterly bankrupt morally and only out for a fast buck, but when it comes to blatant opportunism, it turns out that Martin names his price:

In his first conversation with Bush since being sworn in as PM, Martin protested U.S. policy that bans non-coalition countries from bidding on reconstruction contracts. He reminded the U.S. president that Canada is a "major participant" in the war on terror, dispatching 2,000 troops to Afghanistan while contributing $300 million along with policing and judicial experts to assist the fledgling democracy.
So he admits that the war in Iraq was part of the war on terror! Then why didn't he support the war in Iraq?
"I believe that Canadian companies can and should qualify. I obviously made that point to the president and we agreed that we would ask our officials to look at it and that we would discuss it further in Monterrey," he said.

Bush's call yesterday was to congratulate Martin on becoming PM and to confirm a face-to-face meeting in Monterrey, Mexico, in mid-January.

The president calls to congratulate Martin, and Martin's first response is to say that he believes that American taxpayers should finance Canadian businesses.

Has it even occured to those Canadians protesting the US decision to wonder who will get the reconstruction contracts from the Canadian funds - footed by Canadian taxpayer dollars - pledged to Iraq and Afghanistan?

In other news, the French and Germans figured it out themselves. They've chosen to discuss the best way to appear magnanimous with their eyes firmly on the prized reconstruction contracts.

And to think how much they sneered at the "Coalition of the Billing" when allies were signing up to support us in Iraq.

UPDATE: It seems I'm a bit behind the times. The correct phrase now seems to be Coalition of the Pissy. What name are we supposed to give to individual members? (Don't answer that! My mother read this sometimes.)

Posted by Debbye at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2003

Steyn Speaks

Dec. 15 - New Mark Steyn column in today's Daily Telegraph (UK) Payback time for the axis of weasels and spells it out:

On Iraq, France, is on the other side - Saddam was their man, to the end. Germany is in a state of semi-derangement - a third of Germans under 30 believe that America organised the 9/11 attacks, a statistic only a polling point or two behind the excitable young men of Pakistan's North-West Frontier.

Canada thinks that it can enjoy north American prosperity without contributing to north American defence. And Russia is already undermining the next American goal - under cover of the anodyne EU/IAEA position on Iran, it is continuing to assist the mullahs' nuclear programme.

So it's not (just) payback, it's also about the next round of problems. One can think of several terms for folks who behave in these various ways, but "allies" isn't one of them - unless "allies" is now a synonym for, respectively, saboteurs, poseurs, nutters and enemies.

Posted by Debbye at 05:11 PM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2003

Germany

Dec. 13 - Americans had decided long before Condi Rice gave voice to it that we would "Punish France", but I haven't been comfortable with her advice to "Ignore Germany" and I'm glad to see Right Wing News is keeping an eye on them.

The world may be shocked and awed by the recent mobilization of police and wholesale arrests in Germany but that was for the sake of their own security more than ours, but what to make of this: The German "Peace Movement" Wants To See American Soldiers Die. That's not hyperbole; they are actually organizing and fund-raising to that end. He provides lots of links to other sources that advocate that end.

I've seen little evidence that the German public is as divided as the Canadian public over their relationship with the US, and although I'd be glad for that news, it does seem ominous that the German government isn't looking into this effort to support the Ba'athists and terrorists in Iraq more, given their "pacifist" stance. Of course, they're a bit busy these days trying to conquer Europe with paperwork.

Posted by Debbye at 01:54 PM | Comments (0)

EU Constitution

Dec. 13 - Some quick hits on the ongoing discussions over the proposed EU Constitution:

Blair cast as summit peacemaker.

A leader (editorial) in the Telegraph: Don't mention Superstate.

European Union factfile.

British protesters at the conference were arrested in what the Sun (UK) calls an Assault on Free Speech in and, yes it does sound somewhat trumped up.

The Sun Says Liberty? Pah!.

What I've resented most were the attempts to compare it to the US Constitution, a document which restricted centralized power instead of greedily hoarding it, but it does look as though closer scrutiny has alarmed enough people to sink this power grab.

UPDATE: Expat Yank has come more links on the EU Constitutution and also wonders how us simpletons in the USA can write an enduring document at 9 pages but the more sophisticated Europeans need 256 pages.

Posted by Debbye at 01:07 PM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2003

Bush to Europe: Forgive Iraq Debt

Dec. 12 - Bush sends debt-relief message to Europe:

President Bush yesterday said forgiving Iraqi debt would be "a significant contribution" to postwar reconstruction efforts and suggested that such a move by France, Germany and Russia might be enough to permit those countries' companies to compete for prime contracts to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure.
Heh. Will they blink?

Posted by Debbye at 09:38 AM | Comments (0)

December 04, 2003

EU Constitution

Dec. 4 - Good op-ed in the Washington Times about those expressing concerns about the EU Constitution (Sovereignty alive in Europe).

The money quote is from Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic:

"We could see the scaffolding of a nation-state that would retain a president and similar institutions, but with virtually zero influence ... That's my forecast. And it's not a reassuring vision of the future ... The enemies of free societies today are those who want to burden us down again with layer upon layer of regulations ... We had that in communist times. But now if you look at all the new rules and regulations of EU membership, layered bureaucracy is staging a comeback."
And what happens when unaccountable bureaucrats run the show?
The EU administrative record has been so dismal that calls for sovereignty have grown more urgent. As Mr. de Borchgrave noted in his article, EU auditors recently released a report that found "systematic problems, over-estimations, faulty transactions, significant errors and other shortcomings" in the EU budget. The auditors could vouch for only 10 percent of the $120 billion that the bloc spent in 2002.
No, this isn't about the Liberal Party rule in Canada. Honest.

Posted by Debbye at 12:45 PM | Comments (0)

November 30, 2003

Abdel Qadir Mamour

Nov. 30 - There's some background on a Senegalese cleric, Abdel Qadir Mamour, who was deported from Itay in mid-November Deported cleric 'met bin Laden' including his relationship with Osama bin Laden:

A SEBEGALESE (sic) Muslim cleric deported from Italy as a danger to state security was quoted today as telling a pan-Arab newspaper that he had met three times with Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

The cleric, Abdel Qadir Mamour, told the London-based Asharq Al-Awsat in an interview by telephone from Dakar, Senegal, that he had the meetings with bin Laden in Sudan from 1993 to 1996.

Mamour said bin Laden had provided money to finance his trading in diamonds between Africa and Belgium, but did not say how much money was involved or if bin Laden was involved in the business. (Emphasis added)

[...]

Mamour angered Italian authorities by saying in an earlier interview that Italian soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq would be attacked, as well as Italian diplomats, because Italy was aiding the US-led military presence. His statement followed the November 12 car bomb at the Italian barracks in Nasiriyah, Iraq, that killed 19 Italians.

In his interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Mamour said Italian authorities deported him because they found at his home some CD-ROMs contained the wills of four suicide attackers in a bombing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in May.

Mamour was quoted as saying he got the tapes from a fundamentalist Muslim in London so they could be distributed in Europe, but did not name the man who sent the tapes.

Mamour claims his Italian wife and five children saved him from being sent to Guantanamo, and he was interrogated for four days by Senegalese authorities.

There has been speculation about a bin Laden connection with the diamond trade, and Belguim is right at the center of it.

No blood for diamonds will undoubtably be the next slogan pushed by the anti-war groups.

Posted by Debbye at 09:43 AM | Comments (0)

November 23, 2003

Turkey

Nov. 23 - Toronto Sun columnist Bob MacDonald notes that the terrorist attacks in Iraq and Turkey have angered Muslims and are forcing the issue of terrorism for many moderate Muslims.

Although it's tempting to claim Muslims don't mind so long as Jews, Israelis and Westerners are killed, that is a bit simplistic. Let's face it: once somethings ends up in your backyard, it is no longer possible to pretend it has nothing to do with you. Over there becomes right here and a new dynamic emerges. Citizens of Muslim countries don't differ from citizens of any country in that regard.

Look at how long it took we Americans to finally, officially recognize that terrorism threatens everyone, including our own inherently isolationist country. When Turkey decided that coalition forces could not use Turkish soil to launch a northern front in Iraq, the US government shrugged and adapted. (Some of us seethed, but followed the Pentagon's lead.)

Yet that decision did not spare Turkey from terrorist attacks, and they have more to worry about now than nationalist aspirations of the Kurds in Turkey. Have other Axis of Weasel countries taken proper note?

As for how Turkey might respond, Jack has a fascinating post: The Infidel Turk which argues that al Qaeda may have awoken yet another sleeping giant.

Jack (and David Warren) make some very valid points, and factor in both geography and the Turkish army. The Turkish army considers itself to be the guardian of modern Turkey and is the most powerful army in the Mid-East.

In a Washington Times commentary, Claude Salhani, senior editor with UPI, gives a brief run down on how Turkey has dealt with terrorism in the past, and says the al Qaeda attacks in Turkey guarantee that the gloves will come off.

According to an AP dispatch, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to Israeli PM Sharon by phone and the two have pledged cooperation in fighting terrorism:

Erdogan spoke on Saturday with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by telephone, agreeing to cooperate in the fight on terrorism. The chief of Israel's Mossad secret service agency reportedly traveled to Turkey this week following the attacks in an apparent expansion of coordination between the allies.

Turkey and Israel have built up strong military and trade ties. Now Turkey is seeking Israel's expertise from more than 100 suicide bombings since September 2000 and knowledge on how to track Islamic militants.

Neither Syria nor Iran have been hit by al Qaeda, and implications are easy to draw yet hard to prove. I don't know if actual war could erupt, but Turkey is reviewing its list of terror cells, and a demonstration yesterday indicates the Turkish people are not going to allow terrorists to intimidate them or deter them from maintaining a secular government.

Another complication for the EU is that Syria is wining and dining officials in EU countries in an effort to side-step the Syrian Accountability Act recently enacted by the US legislature:

Syrian President Bashar Assad is receiving an increasing number of European Union delegations while Farouk Sharaa, his foreign minister, is giving elaborate dinners for European ambassadors accredited to Damascus, according to diplomatic reports.

In December Mr. Assad will travel on an official visit to Belgium, where he will address the European Parliament. At the beginning of next year, he plans visits to Greece and Austria.
If the connection between Syria and the attacks in Turkey can be established, the EU will (again) be stuck in the middle.

Turkey is a member of NATO, and its application to join the EU has been consistently blocked by France and Germany. I'd be pleased to grant them membership in what Chirac calls the Anglosphere and what I'll call the Coalition of the Undeterred (until some better wag than I comes up with a better name.)

Posted by Debbye at 09:38 AM | Comments (1)

September 13, 2003

UK Muslims call for crack-down

Sept. 13 --- British Muslims condemn radicals and call upon the Blair government to crackdown on militants living in the UK:

Mohammed Nasim, chairman of the moderate Central Mosque in Birmingham - previously named the Saddam Hussein Mosque in honor of its sponsor - accused the British authorities of "letting ordinary Muslims down by not taking a stronger stance."

Both men want to see arrests and prosecutions of radical Muslims, especially when they publicly spout hatred and make threats.

The government has to do its part and intervene when people cause racial hatred, Mr. Nasim said.

"This group is giving Islam a bad name and the Home Office is letting all Muslims down by refusing to act when it openly incites violence."

Especially when we consider how much of that violence is directed against Muslims who disagree with the militants. Ask the Muslims in Indonesia, India, Algeria, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan . . .

(Via On the Third Hand)

UPDATE: Here is an interview with the leader of the Muslim Salafi al-Muhajiroun Movement, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammad, who explains why it would be permissible to assassinate PM Tony Blair should he be in a Muslim country.

Posted by Debbye at 02:25 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2003

Gallop Poll on UN, French on Libya

Sept. 10 -- According to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll, U.S. view of U.N. largely negative. Of course, the only thing the UN will be interested in is this:

The dissatisfaction has not led most Americans to want to cut congressional support for the institution: 37% said U.N. funding should be decreased, 50% said it should stay the same and 11% said it should be increased.
But they might want to remember that figure was obtained after the Canal Hotel attack (which would have stimulated sympathy and even hopes that the UN might begin to realize that they too are hated) but before State Secy. Powell sought a new UN resolution and the President's address Sunday evening which restated the challenge to the UN to become more relevant.

There is a solution: the US can refuse to pay for the renovations of the UN building, have NYC condemn the building, and evict the UN.

In other news at the UN front, France is still threatening to veto a proposal to life sanctions on Libya unless they get more money. They are unwilling to accept the consequences of accepting a separate agreement with Libya.

Before the delay was announced, Britain had dared the French to do their worst by promising to put the resolution to a vote. A French veto would scupper a carefully worked out ÂŁ1.7 billion compensation package for the relatives of 270 people, including 55 Britons, who died when Libyan agents bombed Pan Am Flight 103 over the Scottish town of Lockerbie in 1988.

The stalemate risked escalating into one of the most damaging disputes to plague UN diplomacy in months.

Angry relatives of those killed in the Lockerbie bombing later denounced France's tactics, complaining after a meeting with Jean-Marc de la Sabliere, the French ambassador, that they were being exploited as "hostages".

"We are being used by the French as a lever to extort more money out of the Libyans," said Bob Monetti, who lost his 20-year-old son, Rick, on the Pan Am flight.

There is probably a lofty, transnationalist principle involved, but the French haven't articulated it yet. Or maybe it's just greed.

(USA Today article via Neale News.)

Posted by Debbye at 09:49 AM | Comments (0)

Islamists in Britain

Sept. 10 -- In the UK, Rallies will highlight 'Magnificent 19' of Sept 11. Excerpts:

The extremist Islamic group al-Muhajiroun is organising four rallies across Britain this week to commemorate what it calls "The Magnificent 19" hijackers who carried out the September 11 atrocities.

Posters and stickers advertising the events have appeared in inner-city areas with large Muslim populations. They carry pictures of the 19 hijackers around a backdrop of the World Trade Centre in flames and a smiling Osama bin Laden. The posters state: "The Magnificent 19 that divided the world on September 11th."

The London rally will be held tomorrow, the second anniversary of the attacks, with the other conferences following over the weekend. Al-Muhajiroun plans 19 speakers, each telling the life story of one of the hijackers.

Abu Omar, the name used by a spokesman for the group, told the BBC this week that the actions of the hijackers were "completely justified" and "quite splendid" and that any Muslim who thought otherwise was an "apostate".

Al-Muhajiroun is viewed with some disdain by many hardline Islamists, but its ability to inflame Muslim youth is a matter for concern for the authorities. Omar Khan Sharif and Asif Hanif, the British suicide bombers who died in Israel in May, both had links with al-Muhajiroun.

The Muslim Council of Britain said it viewed this week's events with "immense dismay" and said they could spark anti-Muslim violence.

"Al-Muhajiroun used to be viewed as harmless clowns but since September 11 they have become much more sinister," said Inayat Bunglawala, an MCB spokesman.

"There have been attacks on our communities, on mosques, on cemeteries. It seems it is almost part of al-Muhajiroun's agenda to promote division and turn people against each other.

"There are 1.6 million Muslims in the UK and more than 1,000 mosques. Al-Muhajiroun is minuscule and has no standing whatsoever in our community."

I don't suppose MCB is planning to hold their own rally denouncing the extremists or some other tangible action that tries to fight those who are "hijacking" their religion? Hard as it may be to do so (and it is hard), moderate Muslims must defend their religion from real attacks from within instead of worrying about possible attacks from without.

Posted by Debbye at 09:27 AM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2003

Blair vs. the BBC

July 10 - In The Daily Telegraph (UK) Why No 10's war with the BBC is far from over: is the latest in the fight between the BBC and 10 Downing St (the Prime Minister's residence).

I haven't been commenting much on the situation between the BBC and the Tony Blair because it hits a little too close to home. I have a very bad opinion of the CBC and would like to see it die a slow, painful death. (No, that's not true; I would like to see an instant death, but you know what I mean.)

But I can't resists this example of BBC arrogance:

"Certainly, BBC insiders admit they are at a loss as to Downing Street's gameplan. 'It has descended into farce,' said an executive. Another said Mr Campbell had 'hated Gilligan for a long time' and was determined to smear him."
Gilligan is the reporter who went with an uncollaborated report and accused the government of "sexing up" the intelligence dossier on Iraq. Mr. Campbell is the one who is accused of doing that "sexingup ". Who smeared who? Mr. Campbell fought back and has successfully disproved the allegations because he hated the reporter? Right; had he, you know, liked him he would have watched his career and reputation go down the drain.

(One of the nice things about the Daily Telegraph (UK) is that they provide refer-back links to stories from earlier issues giving both context and a history of what is happening. Check it out. )

Posted by Debbye at 09:07 AM | Comments (0)