"It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor."
- Tyrion Lannister

"Lannister. Baratheon. Stark. Tyrell. They're all just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that's ones on top and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground. I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel."

- Daenerys Targaryen

"The Lord of Light wants his enemies burned. The Drowned God wants them drowned. Why are all the gods such vicious cunts? Where's the God of Tits and Wine?"

- Tyrion Lannister

"The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are."

- Jorah Mormont

"These bad people are what I'm good at. Out talking them. Out thinking them."

- Tyrion Lannister

"What happened? I think fundamentals were trumped by mechanics and, to a lesser extent, by demographics."

- Michael Barone

"If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to."
- Dorothy Parker

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Superhuman agents of Evil
(or the Ubermensch)

It's amazing that Ahmad Chalabi, tough as he is, could have bested George "Slam Dunk" Tenet and his $400 Billion per year CIA in the recent Great Games in the Middle East. Sure he had friends in high places, but still. Chalabi and the neocons have superhuman powers according to the fevered imaginations of some conspiracy theorists.

Lyndon LaRouche and his cult followers have done nothing but given me more sympathy for Israel's cause. Osama bin Laden and his serial beheaders have had a similar effect.

This is why the New York Times's recent coverage of the final 911 Commission hearings and a Michiko Kakutani review gave me pause. The Wall Street Journal made no mention of the following, which filled me with unease:
In Afghanistan, Mr. Atta quickly achieved high status, pledging "bayat" or allegiance to Mr. bin Laden, who made him the operation's leader. The two men discussed targets for the attack. One commission report, based on the interrogation of Mr. bin al-Shibh, said the two men identified "the World Trade Center, which represented the U.S. economy; the Pentagon, a symbol of the U.S. military and the U.S. Capitol, the perceived source of U.S. policy in support of Israel."
For instance, Mr. bin Laden, Al Qaeda's top leader, initially pushed for a date of May 12, 2001, exactly seven months after terrorists attacked the American destroyer Cole in Yemen. Then, when he learned that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel would visit the White House in June or July, Mr. bin Laden pressed to amend the timetable.
And Kakutani writes:
What he does focus on is the role that Israel has played in shaping American policy. Mr. Bamford contends that "the blueprint for the new Bush policy" on the Middle East "had actually been drawn up five years earlier by three of his top national security advisers" (Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser) for the Israeli prime minister at the time, Benjamin Netanyahu (who rejected the plan), and that when they entered office in January 2001, all these hawks needed was "a pretext" for war against Iraq. Citing a report from the British newspaper The Guardian, Mr. Bamford adds that the Office of Special Plans, a Pentagon unit set up by Mr. Feith, "forged close ties to a parallel, ad hoc intelligence unit within Ariel Sharon's office in Israel," which "was designed to go around the country's own intelligence organization, Mossad."
Why did Netanyahu, a leader of the Greater Israel movement, reject the plan I wonder?
Realists (i.e. "Pragmatists" or running dogs
of the Status Quo) versus Dreamers (i.e. "agents of
change" or troublemakers)
or the Years of Living Dangerously

In our evolving post-Cold War world, where that mixed bag of Capitalism and globalization appears beyond challenge, oppressive regimes often face women leaders as perpetual thorns in their sides. Myanmar (Burma) is still contending with Aung San Suu Kyi. Turkey finally bent to international pressure last week and released Kurdish leader Leyla Zana from prison.

Iran's Shirin Ebadi recently gained international stature by winning the 2003 Noble Peace Prize. For years she was known as one of the "Three Musketeers." Her two other female comrades were Mehrangiz Kar, a more secular human rights and family lawyer, and Shahla Lahidji, an outspoken publisher specializing in books about women. (The Iranian regime managed to intimidate Lahidji into silence and Kar into immigrating to the US.)

Ebadi just did a tour of North America and granted an interview to a friend of mine. Along with University of Ottawa professor Amir Attaran, she penned an Op-Ed for the New York Times. The gist of their argument is that the World Bank should take loans away from antidemocratic countries and give them to democratic countries.
Thus the bank's "pragmatic" justification to lend money to oppressive governments is absurd. It amounts to giving secretive, frequently kleptocratic dictatorships priority — before the democracies have their fill. This handicaps both the citizens and leaders who together shoulder the hard work of sustaining democracies.

Instead, the bank should devise a kind of human rights scorecard. At a minimum, it should include the civil freedoms (of expression, of the press, of women) and the social and economic freedoms (access to health, education and property). The bank should monitor these freedoms and refuse to aid any country that violates them.
The kleptocratic dictatorship of Indonesia's Suharto finally gave way when the US withdrew its support during the Asian financial crisis. Currently, the former opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri is President.

Sukarnoputri recently reverted to Suharto-like tactics by expelling Sidney Jones, an American expert on Jemaah Islamiyah, Indonesia's chief terrorist group. During the 1980s Jones was an Amnesty International activist and worked for Human Right Watch for 14 years subsequently. She developed numerous contacts with the radical Islamic opposition which was being hounded into submission by Suharto at the time.

Just goes to show, pace the hard Chomkyean left, that the successors to Cold War-era, anti-communist, Western-backed regimes aren't necessarily American puppet states. In a some ways blindly naive column critical of candidate Kerry's foreign policy "realism," David Brooks writes about Cuba dissident Oswaldo PayĆ”:
Then in the mid-1990's, he and other dissidents exploited a loophole in the Cuban Constitution that allows ordinary citizens to propose legislation if they can gather 10,000 signatures on a petition. They began a petition drive to call for a national plebiscite on five basic human rights: free speech, free elections, freedom to worship, freedom to start businesses, and the freeing of political prisoners.

This drive, the Varela Project, quickly amassed the 10,000 signatures, and more. Jimmy Carter lauded the project on Cuban television. The European Union gave PayĆ” its Sakharov Prize for human rights.
Brooks writes that Kerry said he believed the Varela Project was "counterproductive" and a provocation.
The Worse, the Better ... the Worse

Sean Rocha writes about Isarel's impending withdrawal from Gaza:

More than that, the Palestinian left fears chaos in Gaza. Where the Israelis look to Lebanon for their precedents, the Palestinians look to South Africa: To them, the Israeli policy of laying siege to the PA, on the one hand, and assassinating Hamas leaders, on the other, seems designed to ensure that no effective Palestinian administration of any type can emerge, much as the South African apartheid government covertly fuelled civil wars in Mozambique and Angola and then told scared South African whites that that was the brutal chaos they would get if they opted for black rule.