Friday, September 24, 2010

Okay, Just One More: Introducing Our Comrade, Lauryn Oates.

I am supposed to have gone all lacunar by now but I see the magazine essay I wrote about Lauryn is on the shelves and online, so what the hell.. It starts like this:

It’s not every life story that swings from being a guest of Uzbekistan’s dictator Islam Karimov to surviving a near-fatal motorcycle accident in northern Uganda to getting tossed into a Syrian prison. Or that has both funny, pedestrian episodes—like losing luggage for the umpteenth time in Dubai—and darker ones: say, taking calls in the middle of the night from BBC reporters in the chaotic aftermath of September 11, and patiently explaining, also for the umpteenth time, the nature of Islamist barbarism in Afghanistan. But then, not everyone is Lauryn Oates, the 28-year-old firefighter’s kid from the North Shore.

You can do the math. When those airliners plunged into the World Trade Center towers and the world suddenly needed people to explain what the Taliban was, she was barely 19. She’d already been an anti-Taliban activist for five years. That’s the thing: the first thing you have to do is get over her youth. . .

You can read it all here.

Petite Annonce: A Hiatus (It's Quiet Out There. Too Quiet).

Over a 90-day period this summer, 365 key Taliban commanders were either killed or captured in a total of 3,000 night raids carried out by British and American special forces units, operating predominantly in southern Afghanistan. Another 1,031 "rank and file" fighters were killed, and 1,355 taken into custody.

On that cheerful note, a lacuna in posts begins this morning. Much to attend to over the next couple of weeks.

Lacuna: A lexical gap in language. An extended silence in a piece of music. Lacunar amnesia is the absence of memory of a particular event, and a Petrovksy lacuna is the space where the fundamental solution of a differential equation disappears. I'm not quite sure what that last bit means. But you get the point.

Lacuna. I like that word. Here's a song.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Free Hossein Derakhshan": A Responsory Chant To Murmur While Kneeling.

Imprisoned for the past two years in Tehran, Hossein Derakshan, a Canadian citizen, is now said to be facing execution. The self-described "Iranian blogfather" was arrested in November, 2008 on charges of collaborating with enemy states, insulting the Khomeinist religion, and making propaganda against the regime and for "anti-revolutionary" groups. The CBC reports that the death penalty is now what the prosecutor in Derakhshan's case has recommended.

The CBC might have at least placed the term "anti-revolutionary" in parentheses, because to fail to do so is to accept the Khomeinist inversion of reality - the Tehran regime is in fact counter-revolutionary; it culminates the betrayal and sabotage of the 1979 Iranian revolution - and what it calls "anti-revolutionary" includes a whole range of activity that is revolutionary and reformist, and can include the most modest forms of dissent, laughing at the government, and listening to rock and roll music. This is not a mere detail.

More pertinent is a fact unreported by the CBC, to which the Montreal Gazette account only alludes in the most opaque way. The Gazette notes that Iranian bloggers who have come to Derakhshan's defence concede that he has "been a source of contention" and his conduct has "forced many in the blogosphere to distance themselves from him." The Iranian bloggers nonetheless allow that this should make no difference to the cause of free speech upon which they rest their just demands for Derakshan's release. And quite right, too.

It is also quite right that PEN Canada and Canadian Journalists For Free Expression have taken up Derakshan's case. I suppose you could even go so far as to take heart that Canada's Foreign Affairs Department is at least engaging in the usual rituals of "contact with Iranian authorities" and composing diplomatic notes and proposing "high-level meetings" and seeking "consular access" and continuing with its pro-forma utterings that urge Iran to discharge its human rights obligations and so on.

But one has to wonder why these ceremonies of outrage proceed in these ways. As they unfold, nobody notices that Canada and the United States continue to criminalize the Iranian revolutionary movement while at the same time we allow the agents of Khomeinist counter-revolutionary terror to remain at large. It makes me wonder, anyway, and my own hunch is that this upside-down state of affairs might have has something to do with the elisions and occlusions of "mere detail" of the sort I noticed in the CBC account of Derakhshan's latest predicament.

Another mere detail: It wasn't that long ago that Samira Mohyeddin wondered aloud about why agents of the Khomeinist regime were honoured guests at a University of Toronto event, and it was none other than Hossein Derekhshan who turned to her and asked: "Do you have to make this political?"

The last time we heard from Derakhshan, he was writing polemics in defence of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and slagging off international human-rights NGOs for coming to the aid of imprisoned Iranian trade unionists and intellectuals. This was after he'd made a spectacle of himself by traducing the Canadian philosopher Ramin Jahanbegloo, who was himself imprisoned by the Khomeinist regime. I realize it's difficult to keep track of all this. I highly recommend Danny Postel's handy guide to that rumpus, in which Postel usefully invokes Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

The last time I personally heard from Derakhshan, he was upset with me for noticing that he appeared to have been employing his computer hacking skills to divulge to the Khomeinists the identity of the Iranian-Canadian free-speech fighter Arash Abadpour (who until then went by the name Arash Kamangir), thus putting Abadpour and his family at great risk, all in the cause of assisting some of the most reactionary ayatollahs in the Iranian parliament. Once exposed, Derakhshan then resorted to that same technical savvy to cover his tracks by a method that Abadpour showed to be a pretty lame effort, at that.

Derakhshan's current calamity is probably more sensibly understood as a case of an eccentric and self-regarding denizen of Iran's ruling class who has fallen victim to its vicious and byzantine internicine struggles. By his blog-post interventions, Derakhshan had already fallen afoul of the clique of Ayatollah Rafsanjani, which has recently gone so far as to secure an edict forbidding the Iranian press from even mentioning the names of its rival clique's leaders. It is in that clique which has lately fallen into such official disfavour that Derakhshan is more accurately placed, rather than in the broad class of Iranian prisoners of conscience, which is where we are now called to situate him.

But fair play to Hossein Derakhshan, because he is no less entitled to freedom than you are. And fair play to Arash Abadpour, whose name appears first on the petition by Iranian dissidents protesting Derakshshan's initial arrest (that should tell you something about the sturdiness of Abadpour's character).

And thus it is right and just that the approved responsory chant in your hymnals is "Free Hossein Derakhshan." I might also point out that in today's readings we are also called to turn our thoughts to Iranian reporters Shiva Nazar Ahari and Emadeddin Baghi, who were each sentenced earlier this week to six years in prison, joining at least 37 journalists in Iranian dungeons.

"Do you have to make this political?" Yes, actually, because otherwise we just allow the ritual catharsis of protest to unfold without harm to tyrants, and we remain on our knees when we should be standing up and asking aloud: When are we going to start getting serious about Iran?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Tolerating Ahmadinejad By "Protest" In New York: Not Nearly Good Enough.

To protest is to recognize the futility of dialogue with Ahmadinejad, a man who, when it comes to lying, enviably blends classical totalitarianism with postmodern spin. As an interview subject, he should be left to the sort of useful idiot who thinks that a show on Ahmadinejad's mouthpiece, Press TV, is a mark of celebrity - serious journalists need not, and should not, follow there. They would be better off investigating why a regime media outlet like Press TV is widely, and preposterously, regarded as a legitimate broadcaster. . . But my patience has run out. I don't want to know what Ahmadinejad had for breakfast this morning. I want to know why governments which have banned terror broadcasters like Al Manar and Al Aqsa continue to tolerate the presence of Press TV on the airwaves. And I want to know when they are going to shut it down.

That's from a fine essay by Ben Cohen. I'm with him on this. Press TV should be driven out of every democracy on earth. It is a scab organization of the worst kind. Its correspondents and celebrity presenters should be hounded and harried wherever they show their faces, and plaintive appeals to the primacy of free speech won't cut it this time. Free speech does not oblige us to provide any privilege to the propaganda arm of a tyranny that shutters newspapers, murders journalists, executes trade unionists and imprisons citizens who dare to speak their minds on charges of enmity against God.

I'm with our former Justice Minister Irwin Cotler, too. There's any number of robust alternatives to the catharsis of anti-Khomeinist protest, and Cotler sets out several reasons to protest our own governments' inaction here. Not least: Our governments' failure to crack down on companies that facilitate the regime's domestic repression and their failure to take proceedings against the regime under the Genocide Convention for its unlawful incitements to genocide by repeated calls for "the annihiliation of the Jewish state."

There is also the matter of the genocidaire's terror that the Khomeinists visit upon Iran's Baha'i people. This is a regime that abducted and "disappeared" the nine-member national Baha’i governing council, then executed the eight Baha'i leaders who were elected to replace them, and has executed or otherwise "disappeared" more than 200 Iranians for the crime of being Baha'i. Thousands of Baha'is have been wrongfully imprisoned, fired from government posts, barred from pursuing higher education, or have had their property confiscated or destroyed by the state.

By all means, if you're in New York, turn yourself out at one of the demonstrations. Word of the protests will get back to the Iranian people and it will put a spring in their step. If you can't make it to New York, then call Hilton Hotels and demand to know what the hell they were thinking giving rooms to Ahmadinejad and his entourage. Call Louis Llach, the General Manager of the Hilton Manhattan East, at 212-986-8800. Call Ellen Gonda, Hilton Worldwide's Executive Bigshot for Global Communications, at 310-854-2186.

Stand with the people.

"Who do you think you're kidding, Mr. Ratzinger?"

"Even in our own lifetimes we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live."

That would be a sophomoric resort to argument by way of deception, historical revisionism and outright falsification coming from any old geezer, but what makes that assertion astonishing is that those words were spoken by no less than Old Red Socks himself, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, otherwise known as His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, on the occasion of his widely-protested visit to Britain.

From the mouth of no less an authority on Nazi ideology than Adolph Schicklgruber, otherwise known as Adolph Hitler, Führer of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, came this assertion, one of many words and deeds to amply prove that rather than a wish "to eradicate God from society" the Nazis harboured precisely the opposite intent: "We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out."

We owe this corrective to our comrade Johnny Guitar, an Armagh lad lately of Belfast, whose patience with all the Popemania was broken by Ratzinger's outrageous statement, which he uttered in the course of a creepy attempt at some kind of ecumenical appeal to fellow-feeling with the decidedly non-Catholic, mainly pagan and Protestant British people.

The ex-Catholic Martin has a go at all this and presents the kind of thing he wishes the pope had said, specifically to British Christians, instead: "I have heard some of you talk of persecution and of your faith being banished from the public square. Frankly, I am astonished - 'gobsmacked' is I believe the appropriate word in your language - when I hear such talk. Here I am, in a country where the upper chamber of your parliament includes Christian bishops as of right, where your church schools are partly funded by the taxes of unbelievers, where your services and sermons have guaranteed slots on television and radio, and where your politicians make regular obeisance to 'faith communities' and 'faith leaders'. How Christians in some other lands - Iran, Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea - might wish for such 'persecution'!"

I tend to approach these media eruptions in more or less the same way as Paul Evans ("agnostic in religious terms" but culturally Catholic). Paulie found himself bored and irritated by the papal-visit rumpus, but highly amused by this assessment from a brilliant wag who goes by the handle Flying Rodent: "To me, Catholicism is primarily objectionable horseshit because it's a vehicle for a lot of ultra-conservative closet-cases to expand their influence over a substantial chunk of humanity with mumbo-jumbo and threats."

I especially liked this part: "The idea that Catholicism is going to utterly reconstitute itself into a pseudo-spiritual, virtually God-free feelgood pantomime called Hey Man, So Long As You Don't Hurt Anyoneism is insane. That's what Protestantism is for."

Indeed it is. Looking back on my own reflection on growing up in a Catholic minority among those poor, sweet, suffering, condom-having, Mary-ignoring, earnest Protestant bastards, I think Rodent's got it closer to the mark, and he's funnier besides.

Last word to Anne Applebaum: "And thus did Benedict's visit to Britain turn into an advertisement for religious freedom -- the freedom to abhor religion and the freedom to practice it."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Esther Hyneman: Telling The Truth About Aisha.

Esther Hyneman is tough, warm and wise, and the probably the finest and most effective ex-pat NGO worker I ever met in Afghanistan. After she retired from teaching women's studies in New York (Esther's got one of those sweet working-class New York accents - Brooklyn? I forget) she headed off to work with Afghan women on the front lines of their struggle for emancipation. She's dug in for the long haul. What she says about Afghanistan always matters, but what she says about the Bibi Aisha "controversy" matters particularly because it was the women's shelter where Esther works in Kabul that cared for Aisha, and Esther saw Aisha almost every day for five months, and it was Esther and her sisters who arranged for Aisha's reconstructive surgery in America.

Aisha herself was very clear about her reasons for allowing her beautiful face to appear on the cover of Time magazine: "They are the people that did this to me. How can we reconcile with them?"

At last we have Esther's account of Aisha's story, and Esther's take on Aisha's "troops out" detractors and their morally squalid appeals for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban:

The glass is definitely half full--with women in Parliament, facing obstructions to be sure but still there, with thousands of women and girls saved from unimaginable horror by women's organizations, with the slow but steady reach of services into the countryside, with a decided increase of women's access to justice, with the marriage registration requirement in place to stop underage marriages, with millions of girls in school and parents in barely accessible rural areas begging us to open schools for their daughters. This extraordinary progress, which has been achieved by local Afghan and international men and women risking their lives, tells us what is possible in Afghanistan. But it will swirl down the drain into the Taliban sewer if troops withdraw. The momentum will be reversed and we will never see it again in our lifetimes.

In a similar vein, read this essay by Lauryn Oates, of Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan, writing in The Propagandist. Also earlier, in the National Post: Telling Lies About Aisha.

Support Women for Afghan Women. Support CW4WA.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"Participating In Election Is Treason With Islam And Afghanistan."

Although the "west" has all but given up on Afghan democracy - the agreed-upon euphemism for this betrayal appears to be "working to lower expectations" - it would seem that a few million Afghans have voted in today's elections anyway, braving Taliban threats of dismemberment and death.

"But Afghanistan is not Switzerland," we keep hearing, over and over. Thomas Ruttig conducts an archeological investigation of this pathetic excuse for cynicism and abandonment and notes in passing a friend's observation: "Afghanistan is also not Switzerland because it doesn't ban minarets." One might add that Afghans are further unlike the Swiss in the way so many of them are prepared to actually fight for democracy.

Here's Ruttig: "Just look at the result of this neglect: independent election institutions only in the name; no usable voters‘ register; 17 million voter cards in circulation with only 12.6 million voters – i.e. almost five million ghost voters used for ballot stuffing -; changed regulations for the ECC and the IEC that decrease transparency (the IEC is even not obliged anymore to store all election documents 'permanently‘) – a blatant invitation for new fraud; abysmally bad outreach and voter education. Even a partial implementation of some of these recommendations would not have created a second Switzerland but improved the 2010 election’s quality considerably."

Yet Afghans voted in droves today, regardless.

As Lauryn Oates observes: "This is the frontline of the battle for enlightenment, and these Afghan voters are the bulwarks of civilization. I hope, dearly, that the significance of their actions is not lost on those of us privileged enough to have never had to fight for the most basic political right: to vote."

Here's the sort of threat these Afghans have defied:

"You know during the last nine years our dear country Afghanistan was seized or occupied by Jews, and our Muslims and mujahedeen started jihad against them, and the Jews' army started a Jirga and election process to put pressure on our attempts at jihad. . . participating in election is treason with Islam and Afghanistan. - Regards, Haji Said Ahmad, General responsible for assassinations, Kandahar province, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."

Before sunrise on Saturday, Satururahman, 40, went to his mosque to pray, before casting his ballot. The Taliban had left leaflets at the mosque, threatening people to stay away from the polls."These letters will not scare us," he said.

Meanwhile, Eric Walberg writes in the "left-wing" journal, Dissident Voice (yes, that Eric Walberg): "The Taliban are not the ogre they are made out to be by the Western media." Okay then, let's turn to Al Jazeera, which covered the last Afghan elections by serving as the stunt manager, broadcaster and stenographer for a group of Talban gangsters who kidnapped a group of Afghan civilians (Al Jazeera left their fate unreported) for the crime of having voted. Note the Talib commander's warning: "You should know that you are standing in line with the Jews, and your fingers prove this. You are the ones who are strengthening the Jews."

If any of this surprises you, then you really need to do something about your paradigm.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Amrullah Saleh: If We Do Not Rise Today. . ."

Amrullah Saleh is the brilliant former intelligence chief for the Afghan revolutionary Ahmed Shah Massoud. He's a veteran Taliban-fighter. This past summer, immediately after Afghan president Hamid Karzai convened his "peace jirga" to secure a patina of political legitimacy for his plans to reinegrate the Taliban into the circles of power in Kabul, Saleh was ousted from his post as head of Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security.

Saleh has now joined with Afghan's Massoudists and Opposition leader Dr. Abdullah in a growing force of Afghan democrats, secularists, women's rights leaders, ethnic leaders and reformers who are now girding themselves for the worst (see: A Warning To The War-Weary: See What Your Peace Will Bring and also "An Afghan Revolution in The Making").

Saleh has just granted an interview to National Public Radio at his heavily-guarded home in the Panjshir Valley. He made several portentious observations about Karzai's overtures to the Taliban, and he noted that Karzai has quietly released 400 Taliban operatives in recent weeks. Several of Saleh's comments should be noticed:

"We are very clear, very articulate in our messaging. We do not want the Taliban to come and cut the noses off our women. We do not want the Taliban to destroy what is left of our historic heritage. We don't want them to dominate the scene, so a compromise with the Taliban from a position of weakness and not taking into consideration the massive interests of the Afghan people is what I warn the people about."

"The type of sympathy systematically growing for the Taliban within the Afghan system is extremely dangerous."

"We think that if we do not rise today, our rights, our very basic rights in a deal with the Taliban, will be violated fundamentally."

"We are telling our people the danger is real."

"Calling [the Taliban] our 'disgruntled brothers' or whatever is completely unacceptable for the people of Afghanistan. . . if we continue with this policy we will be giving [Afghanistan] back to the Taliban."

"Why are we continuously calling the Taliban our brothers? They are our killers. They put IEDs (improvised explosive devices), they facilitiate suicide atttacks, they burn schools, they throw acid at the faces of women, they have banned education. I don't need that type of brother."

"I am anti-Talibanization of Afghanistan. We were fighting the Taliban before NATO and if we see our history, our life, our principles, are compromised in a deal with the Taliban, we will fight again."

Meanwhile, the Opposition gains momentum: "Every day, dozens of sympathisers approach Saleh. Those who share his vision are growing fast and I'm part of this process."

Update: The focus of the United Nations in Afghanistan should be the reconstruction of a democratic state answerable to the Afghan people though fully free and fair elections. But Tolonews reports: The United Nations has sent away about a third of its international employees from Afghanistan amid fears of violence during this week's parliamentary elections. Around 300 UN staff are expected to remain out of the country for a week, and those who stay behind will be under strong security restrictions.

"It is always the elites and the strongmen who profit."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Matthew Hoh's Plan for Af'stan: 'A unicorn to make everyone into happy rainbows.'

Joshua Foust has composed a splendidly refreshing 3,600-word philippic, An Exercise In Determined Ignorance, in response to the preposterous "New Way Forward" report recently released by the so-called Afghanistan Study Group under the lead authorship of the celebrity ex-Marine Matthew Hoh. I've compiled an overview of the affair with some necessary background in an essay for The Propagandist: A New Benchmark In 'Afghanistan Strategy' Idiocy. It only scratches the surface.

It is testimony to the sheer volume of Nixonian gibberish and Stoppist non-expertise contained in the report that the revulsion it has provoked has gotten more attention than the otherwise forgettable contents of the report itself. It's also a tribute to Joshua's candour and healthy disregard for dainty in-crowd decorum that even the most gullible of journalists will not likely swoon much the next time big ideas about Afghanistan start emanating from Hoh and his entourage.

Joshua is a serious Central Asia scholar, a military analyst and an often severe critic of American "strategy" (or rather the lack of it) in Afghanistan. His work appears regularly in the Columbia Journalism Review, Current Intelligence magazine and other such venues. He's got a great sense of humour and he's known for his occasional crustiness. The report's release was an occasion that called for serious crustiness, and Joshua did not let us down.

I see the delightfully pugnacious conservative military historian Max Boot has also had a go at Hoh and company, noting that even from the accommodationist and paleolithically narrow "America First" approach the report's authors counsel, their proposed "strategy" would be calamitous: "It would only make the war bigger and more deadly, with the likely result being a Taliban triumph — just as in the 1990s."

Predictably, Hoh and his companions and some Cato Institute whiners have responded to all this like snakes slithering out of a canvas bag, but that only served to allow Joshua to go after them with greater vim and vigour in his latest, Responding to Critics.

I have had occasion to conclude that Joshua is wrong about some things, as though that counts for anything. But what matters is if you want to mess around with big ideas about Afghanistan and Joshua happens to come around, you better be armed.

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Why Do They Hate Us?"

1. The two conducted what Old called a 'peaceful demonstration' with little fanfare as eight journalists looked on.

2. A group of eminent American public policy practitioners, former officials and academics, have urged the Obama administration to accelerate the military withdrawal and focus on a more political resolution to the protracted Afghan conflict.

3. “In Logar, there is a mixture of Taliban motivating people to do this demonstration and people not being happy with the current administration. This regime is based on bribery. You cannot do anything unless you pay a bribe to the government. People are jobless. People are fed up with the current government. Needy people cannot get anything at all, so that is why people are resorting to demonstrations to show their anger in any way possible.”

4. Most of the 250,000 government employees in Afghanistan receive their salaries via electronic transfer to Kabul Bank, the country's largest private bank, which is reported to be on the verge of collapse. Blame has been cast on the biggest borrower – a man named Abdul Hasin, who was given $100m for a variety of projects which he has not repaid. Hasin happens to be the half-brother of the vice president of the country, Mohammed Qasim Fahim.

5. "The current approach is not tenable. What will we get out of it? We'll arrest a few mid-level Afghans, but we'll lose our ability to operate there and achieve our principal goals."

6. United States President Barack Obama has pledged to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in July 2011, and as a part of the initial outlines of this exit strategy the Taliban are for the first time in serious negotiations with the US.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Shuja: An Afghan Patriot.

If you let him, Shuja will show you the Kabul you never hear about, the dirt-poor, beautiful back street city, seething with millions of hopeful, helpful, warm and welcoming people.

On an errand one day, Shuja came upon an old Hazara man. His fruit cart had toppled so Shuja pulled out of traffic to help him pull his cart home. The man was desperately ill and the breadwinner in a large family. Shuja now gives the family $25 a month from his own meagre earnings.

Shuja sneers at the nervous, high-powered foreigners with their phalanxes of armed guards. Ask him if a particular errand is safe, or about the security in a particular place, and his answer is always the same: "Everywhere is dangerous. Everywhere is safe. This is Afghanistan."

- from my latest report, in the series. Another patriot: Robina Jalali. Read about these heroes and martyrs, then try and say that "we" in the "west" believe in democracy, but "they" don't. Go ahead. I dare you.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"The People Must Defend Themselves": Adeyzai Must Not Fall.

Farhat Taj: The Adeyzai lashkar was organised in 2008 in the face of a complete collapse of the state writ in the village due to Taliban incursion from Darra Adam Khel. The police could not come out of the police station. People, including policemen, were publicly killed and kidnapped. Girls’ schools were bombed. Fear of the Taliban had engulfed village life.

Disappointed in the state, the people of Adeyzai decided to combat the Taliban on their own and formed the anti-Taliban lashkar consisting of local volunteers. The lashkar has successfully countered the Taliban. Law and order was restored and girls’ schools started functioning again. But to do so, the lashkar people had to render many sacrifices, including the assassination of its leaders Haji Malik and Israr Khan, and many other lashkar volunteers. “Without the Adeyzai lashkars, the Taliban would have been controlling Peshawar,” the assassinated lashkar leader, Haji Malik once told me. . .

This day in history: "The people must defend themselves." - Chilean president Salvador Allende, Santiago de Chile, September 11, 1973. He killed himself shortly afterwards, as soldiers were pouring into the presidential palace in an American-orchestrated coup that ushered in a reign of terror, slaughter and tyranny that lasted 17 years.

September 11, 1942: Stalingrad must not fall. On this day, Lt. Gen. Vasiliy Chuikov is given command of the newly-formed 62nd Army. Its mission is to defend Stalingrad at all costs.


1.Directly related to the anniversary of the slaughter of September 11, 2001, Melissa Roddy's Correcting the Record on Bibi Ayesha is a must: "Many so-called peace activists have distorted the facts of her story and pretzeled out of shape her straightforward message. Whether or not they realize it, opponents of the NATO military mission in Afghanistan are promoting a holocaust agenda for Afghans." See also Melissa's earlier essay in MS Magazine: The Face We Can't Ignore: Women in Afghanistan.

2. The latest savage escapades in Afghanistan, touched off by a certain vulgar and illiterate Quran-burning Floridian hillbilly, are put in some proper context by Imam Afroz Ali in an important essay on the history of libricide that revolves around the 14th-century Sarajevo Haggadah, a treasure Bosnian Muslims saved from Nazi book-burners.

I was particularly struck by the imam's passing mention of the great scholar Ibn Sina and his unsuccessful attempt to save manuscripts from the burning library of the Islamic Samanids, put to the torch by the Turks in the 11th century. Ibn Sina, who has been called the father of modern medicine, established a critique of Aristotelean metaphysics that provided a key influence on Thomas Aquinas, the great Catholic philosopher. Ibn Sina came from an Ismaili family, from Balkh, Afghanistan.

A page from the Sarajevo Haggadah, showing Moses receiving the law on Mount Sinai:

Friday, September 10, 2010

If There's A Hell, It Would Be Attending This Conference, For Eternity.

Our Lives After 9-11: Troofers, John Birchers, Khomeinists, "Anti-War" Activists, Racists, Big Pharma fetishists, "Climategate" crazies, Banking-cartel alarmists, Cynthia McKinney, Cindy Sheehan, George Galloway, Pamela Geller. Plus an Oklahoma Bombing panel, artwork, music, and street actions at Ground Zero.

If you are sane, but you have been bad, that is where you are going to go when you die, and that is where you will stay, for the rest of time.

Ben Cohen has something insightful to say about all this: "You cannot - to transpose this theme to the motley crew of misfits gathering with their slogans in Lower Manhattan - be Pamela Geller and George Galloway. Or can you? Here is where Debord comes in. The spectacle may, on one level, appear divided. On another, it is united, more so than the average angry protestor may realize. . ."

United by the batshit craziness, I would have thought. But there' s more, Ben notices, and it 's about "the paranoid style" in Anglo-American politics, as Adam Holland demonstrates here. The classic work on the subject, Richard Hofstadter's 1964 essay in Harper's Magazine, is online, here.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

"An Afghan Revolution In The Making."

Picture last summer’s Iranian demonstrations, but with American soldiers firing on democracy activists.

You read it here first. And here, and here, and here.

(UPDATE: If any of these charges prove true, they should all be executed by firing squad in front of the entire Stryker Brigade, and an ANA kandak should be invited to play buzkashi with their corpses, televised live on TOLO TV).

(UPDATE II: Con Couglin on the defeatism of the west's governing classes: One by one, the pillars that have underpinned our effort to win the war in Afghanistan are being demolished.)

Remember Massoud, assassinated by Al Qaida on this day, September 9, in 2001.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Fidel Castro: "Goldberg, ask your questions about dolphins!"

Now on the spot, I turned to Garcia and asked, "How much do the dolphins weigh?" They weigh between 100 and 150 kilograms, he said. "How do you train the dolphins to do what they do?" I asked. "That's a good question," Fidel said.

Thats' from a hilarious exchange in an intriguing encounter between the Atlantic's Jeff Goldberg and Cuba's Fidel Castro at the Havana Aquarium, where the dolphin show is run by a nuclear physicist ("We put him here to keep him from building nuclear bombs!" Fidel said, and then cracked up laughing), and where we also learn that Fidel doesn't think the Cuban model even works for Cuba anymore. Plus Che Guevara's daughter Celia works at the aquarium as some sort of biologist or veterinarian.

Castro also had this very interesting message he wanted Golberg to relay to Iranian crackpot Mahmoud Ahmedinejad: Quit slagging off the Jews. "I don't think anyone has been slandered more than the Jews. I would say much more than the Muslims. They have been slandered much more than the Muslims because they are blamed and slandered for everything. No one blames the Muslims for anything."

Fidel might continue in this train of thought the next time Venezuelan Jefe Hugo "Mossad Is Trying To Kill Me" Chavez stops by for lunch.

It's all brilliant stuff, and it reminds me of the last time we heard about Che's kids, which was also in the context of Iran: As part of the Iranian regime's "global progressive front," co-sponsored by Venezuela's Chavez, there was a conference in Tehran attended by two of Che's kids, Aleida and son Camilo. Things got quickly embarassing when the Guevaras objected to the claims of Hajj Saeed Qassemi, Ahmadinejad's coordinator of the Association of Volunteers for Suicide-Martyrdom. Qassemi said both Che and Fidel were really closeted God-worshippers who wore atheists' masks only to secure Soviet support for their revolution. Fidel tells Golberg: "Sorry, I'm still a dialectical materialist."

This brings to mind an edict handed down by my comrade and fellow central committee member Snoopy, the Goon of the Jews: Che Guevara Is Jewish. It Is Final. To me this always seemed clearly antithetical to the more correctly dialectical argument: Che Guevara Is Irish. it Is Final (See Che Guevara: Father of Revolution, Son Of Galway).

But these disputes are now frivolous. We must prepare ourselves for the coming denunciations of Fidel as a splittist and a wrecker, an idler and a lickspittle of the Yanqui-Zionist hegemony, a degenerated admirer of dolphins and a parasite upon the great backsides of the proletariat.

It is not going to be pleasant.

UPDATE from Yoani, in Havana, on Fidel's admission that “the Cuban model doesn’t even work for us anymore”: "If my memory doesn’t fail me, they expelled many Communist Party members for lesser or similar phrases, and purged innumerable Cubans who served long sentences. The Maximum Leader systematically pointed his finger at those who tried to explain that the country wasn’t working. And not only were the nonconformists punished, but we were all forced to don the mask of subterfuge to survive on an island he tried to remake in his own image. Pretense, whispers, deceit, all to hide the same opinion that the “resuscitated” commander now flippantly tosses out to foreign journalist."

UPDATE: Fidel retracts, saying he actually meant the opposite of what actually said. I believe this may be an example of what we might call doubleplusungoodthink.

Journalists Write About Journalists Writing About Journalism; Get Story All Wrong.

This is hilarious, and not just because it suggests I wasn't just being lazy in failing to enlist in this whole "Fox News North" freakout, which now turns out to rely mainly on a hoax. I had other reasons.

1. When one of the first things new management at Sun Media does is turf the "anti-war" lunatic Eric Margolis, a far-right, conspiracy-mongering, Ron-Paul admiring Pat-Buchanan acolyte who is also a fruitcake millionaire who runs a family firm that traffics in what is euphemistically described as "alternative medicine," I am not inclined to go all Pavlovian when I hear that the new bosses also have plans for a television station.

2. I am instinctively suspicious of any campaign that requires me to imagine Canada as a hopeless and delicate maiden that is about to be tied to the railway tracks yet again by a brutish and cunning American in a black hat and a handlebar moustache. After all, Canada's Sun newspapers were far more right-wing, far earlier than any major media chain that the Yanks have had to put up with. They were at it a generation before Fox News was even born.

3. Don't get me wrong. I must have been one of the first out of the blocks with worries about our own versions of Fox News shouting matches and the same hoarse and hate-filled stalemate that has so horribly paralyzed American politics. But it didn't help that the outfit that now wants my signature on petitions and my letters to editors and MPs about the spectre of an American-style right-wing television station coming to Canada was itself employing distinctly American-style hysterics in its cause and appeared to be some kind of subsidiary of, the Yankee nutters who gave us Cindy Sheehan, besides.

4. The whole thing just struck me as Canadian media-politics as usual, but I should also confess that for some reason I was strangely confident that if a champion was required to rescue some precious Canadian regulatory matter and prevent any American ruffling or mussing of its petticoats and blonde ringlets, it would be a guy with the delightfully gothic name of Konrad von Finckenstein. I know it's wrong, but I just figured he'd probably save her in the nick of time.

If cartoons and made-up stories must play a role in Canada's newspapers and magazines, then at least let's not pretend. Be honest about it. Scott Feschuk knows how it's done: Dark conspiracy alleged. Dubious motives suggested. Host’s own blog referenced as being uncannily representative of public opinion. Spectre of coalition raised. Grim picture of Canada under Liberal-NDP rule painted. Return to barter system predicted. National butter knife registry deemed likely. . .

UPDATE: Bilking aromatherapy enthusiasts for fun and profit - "Enter your credit card details!"

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Whirlwind of War: The Armless, The Legless, The Blind, The Insane.

"The worst is when we have someone who has lost his legs and his eyes. We have a young man right now who has this." Makay Siawash stops talking for a moment. Then she carries on with all the reasons why up to 8,000 Afghans a year turn for help to the Kabul Orthopedic Organization. This is the agency she runs from a Soviet-era building within the Afghan National Army hospital compound in the Wazir Akbar Khan district of Kabul.

"A lot are from mines, rockets, bombs. But there are also traffic accidents, children who have been blinded, or they are deformed from malnutrition or from some trauma, or malformation during pregnancy. And women, sometimes it is from hard physical activity, or they have been hit by their husbands. We have a lot of children and women. But a lot are from mines."

The young, blind and legless man whose sad story caused Siawash to catch her breath had stepped on one of the Taliban's "improvised explosive devices" of precisely the kind that so routinely kill so many Canadian and other NATO soldiers.

Last year, the organization signed a contract with the Afghan Defence Ministry. Before 12 months was up, Siawash had added more than 1,700 Afghan police officers and soldiers to her client list. "They have lost arms, legs, hands, eyes ..." Usually, though, the organization's clients are civilians.

As often as not, the exploding landmines are left over from the days of the Soviet occupation. Eight out of every 10 amputees registered with the Kabul Orthopedic Organization are the victims of landmine blasts. There are at least 60,000 surviving landmine victims in Afghanistan. Every month, another 60 Afghans are killed or wounded by landmines. This is a drop from roughly 100 landmine casualties a month from only a few years ago. . .

- from the latest essay in my series, running in the Calgary Herald.

Some Labour Day Rally Slogans From The Bolivarian Workers' Paradise Of Venezuela.

Patria y Socialismo o Muerte! Trade union activists are being murdered at an alarming rate in Venezuela - 75 in the past two years - making it one of the world's most dangerous countries for union organizers, and worse than Colombia, which over the years has been known as the most dangerous country for union organizing. Emilio Bastidas, a regional leader of the UNETE confederation of unions in Maracay, says hit men are killing off union leaders in a strategy designed to weaken unions opposed to El Jefe Hugo Chavez.

Libertad! With one of the world's highest homicide rates, violent crime is the top concern of Venezuelans, polls show. The government has not published official murder figures for several years. Nongovernmental organizations, citing leaked police statistics and media reports, say that between 13,000 and 16,000 people were killed last year.

Venceremos! Venezuelan farmer Franklin Brito has died after months on hunger strike in protest at the seizure of his farm in 2003 during a government land reform drive. He had demanded that president Hugo Chávez compensate him for the seizure of his holding in the south of the country where he had grown yams and watermelons. In a statement, his family said Mr Brito “lives on in the struggle of the Venezuelan people for the right to property, access to justice, for liberty and the respect of governments for human rights, both collective and individual”.

Un Mundo Mejor Es Posible! More than 4,500 inmates in three prisons in Venezuela have gone on hunger strike to protest overcrowding and mistreatment, protesters told the local media on Friday. The mass hunger strike, which began Thursday, includes 3,400 detainees at Tocoron prison, in northern Aragua state, 1,137 inmates at Vista Hermosa in south-east Bolivar state, and 80 at Minima in northern Carabobo state.

Sionismo no! In his 12 years in power, President Hugo Chávez has made speeches accusing "Semitic banks" of sabotaging the economy and lent his support to an indigenous Islamic group known as "Hizbollah Venezuela.” In June Mr Chavez accused Israel of financing the Venezuelan opposition and said that Mossad agents were trying to kill him. Now, Venezuelan Jews are fleeing the country in droves. The Venezuelan Confederation of Jewish Associations (CAIV) says half the Jewish community has fled the country for various reasons. In 2008 alone, the number of Jews in Venezuela shrank by 5,500 to 15,000. Salomon Cohen, the head of CAIV, says the exodus is being caused by the economic crisis, violence and antisemitism.

Viva Fidel! As in Cuba, the Venezuelan government barely disguises the use of official resources to finance the ruling party's campaign. When the Socialists decided to have an election rally in Barinas recently, a platoon of army soldiers were ordered to help set up. The five state TV channels, the dozens of state-backed "community radio" stations and a slew of state newspapers are unembarrassed to act as the propaganda arm of the ruling party, openly campaigning for the ruling party. Meanwhile, people who oppose the government on TV find themselves facing obscure criminal charges and radio stations that broadcast critical content are shut down en masse.

A country round its shoulders, a flag raised on a gallows tree - but I won 't let it get me down, I know there are people now who bind together what they do and live their lives like I want to. . . We will steal what we can, with the courage to be free. I have found where I belong, among the poorest company.

Peace, Order And Good Government.

Good Government, Not Guns, Will Win Afghanistan: “I want Canadians to realize that what we’re trying to deliver is not kinetic effect, not gunshots, not dead Taliban; what we’re trying to deliver is a population that is experiencing the satisfaction of political assembly and political voice and responsive government,” said Brig.-Gen. Jonathan Vance "We don’t prop up corrupt practices; we root them out. We don’t ever kill indiscriminately, and we are dealing with an insurgency that is using the most barbaric means of terror to try and stop this country from getting on its feet.”

Sayed Hamed Noori Is Dead: Noori, a news presenter in government RTA TV and member of Afghan Journalists Association, was killed by unknown gunmen on Sunday night in Kabul. Afghan security officials have yet to comment on the incident. Scores of journalists have been killed in Afghanistan in recent years.

Afghan Vice-President Marshal Mohammad Qasim Famim Is Alive: Speaking from Germany, Qasim Fahim told Tolonews on the phone that he is completely well and will be back to Kabul next week. "I am completely healthy. I request the Afghan people not to trust news published by irresponsible websites," said Mr Fahim.

Militants continue to return to Germany: They're coming from camps on the Afghan-Pakistan border, including a hard core with combat experience in Afghanistan, said Jeorg Ziercke, head of the BKA Federal Crime Office. But curbs on storing telecoms data were hurting efforts to track suspects, he said.

More than 400 Islamists are living in Germany, some of whom had trained in the camps, Ziercke told Tagespiegel newspaper. "Since the beginning of 2009 we have registered an increase in travel and attempted travel from members of violence-prone Islamist circles. In Germany we now classify 131 as potential instigators. These are people we assume could perpetrate politically motivated criminal acts of a considerable magnitude.We even have concrete proof 70 individuals completed paramilitary training in terror camps. Forty people have combat experience from battles in Afghanistan."

Taliban threats, shuttered polling centers and warnings of widespread fraud are clouding hopes for Afghanistan's September 18 parliamentary election, a key test of an already fragile democracy. With the poll less than two weeks away, the U.N.-backed Electoral Complaints Commission said it has already received 1,503 complaints, ranging from public resources being given to preferred candidates to interference by government officials.

"Things are getting worse. Many (politicians) are just after making themselves rich and working for their own interests," said Azizullah, a 32-year-old Kabul civil servant. "I do not want to vote, because I have lost my trust in the government, parliament and election under the current situation," he said.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Snakes On A Plane.

Dexter Filkins: It’s not as if the Americans and their NATO partners don’t know who the corrupt Afghans are. American officers and anti-corruption teams have drawn up intricate charts outlining the criminal syndicates that entwine the Afghan business and political elites. They’ve even given the charts a name: Malign Actor Networks.

“There are 50 of them,” says Mr. Ahmed Shah Hakimi, who runs a currency exchange in Kabul. “The corrupt ones. All the Afghans know who they are. Why do the Americans support them? What the Americans need to do is take these Afghans and put them on a plane and fly them to America — and then crash the plane into a mountain. Kill them all.”

Program on International Policy Attitudes: Both the Israeli and Palestinian publics want to reach a peace agreement, but both sides deeply distrust the other and are pessimistic that negotiations will soon resolve their conflict. Negotiators on both sides also are constrained by extremists opposed to major Israeli-Palestinian compromises - Hamas which favors a posture of "resistance" to Israel, and the Israeli settler movement which opposes yielding territory or settlements to the Palestinians. (Put them on a plane and fly them to America — and then crash the plane into a mountain).

Kuala Lumpur: A Malaysian man pleaded guilty to wildlife smuggling after his bag bursting with 95 live boa constrictors broke open on a luggage conveyer belt at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, an official said Friday.

(You just can't win.)

Saturday, September 04, 2010

A Legitimate And Peaceful Request For Cheddar Cheese And Pineapple On A Stick.

Unionists Criticize Peace Process Revelations:

East Derry MP Gregory Campbell said his DUP colleagues questioned Mr Blair’s word, and always placed proper emphasis on actions not words.” Said Mr. Campbell: “We never accepted words because we knew how easily they had been ditched in the past. Indeed, that is why we ensured upfront delivery by the [British] government and Sinn Féin before we entered government. Tony Blair’s handwritten pledges are a textbook example of his approach to the truth as they were put up in lights before the 1998 election and dumped immediately afterwards.”

William Ulsterman agrees: "I shall judge whether it is nice to meet you, Mrs. Binfield, by your actions, not your empty words."

Friday, September 03, 2010

Everybody's an expert and nobody knows a thing. Be happy.

While the world looks on in astonishment as sockeye salmon continue to pour up the Fraser River in abundances far greater than anyone has seen in their entire lives, you'd think that Canadians might be allowed to take the event as an occasion for some happiness. It could be an opportunity for some reflection on our good fortune, and we might even be possessed of the tiniest bit of humility as we ponder the implications. This is the biggest run of salmon to the biggest sockeye spawning stock on Canada's west coast since 1913, and nobody saw this coming. Nobody.

Still, you can't pick up a newspaper in this country without being hectored and shouted at and instructed to fall in line and be miserable about it and to shut up and pick up your torch and your pitchfork like everybody else: Them dang environmentalists have been lying to us all along, the gummint scientists have mismanaged the fishery, this just proves we should act more like Alaskans, and by the way, if we don't hurry up and catch eight out of every ten homeward-swimming salmon the result will be an ecological disaster.

There are great mysteries that remain unexplained in the vast ocean pastures of the North Pacific's subarctic gyre, where the sockeye spend their lives, and there are riddles that remain unresolved within the microscopic genetic architecture of Oncorhynchus nerka. This may always be so. But none of that is as mysterious as the matter of how it is that such a phenomenally high occurrence of Homo sapiens who wholly lack the gene for embarassment end up in the ranks of Canadian fishery "experts," and how it is that journalists who couldn't tell a salmon from a sablefish ensure that their every bleating and crackpot theory will fill the front pages of the dailies.

There is so much to laugh at in all this it's hard to pick just one freak show. But for my money, the most uproarious lament making the rounds is the popular recrudescence of an old and long-debunked superstition. This is the idea is that unless we let the fish buyers get even more fish than they're being allowed, the Fraser's sockeye will swamp their spawning grounds in Adams Lake and ruin everything for themselves and dig up their own egg nests, and doom will surely result.

When was the last time the folkloric hysteria of "overspawning" moved in such high-traffic volume? It was in 2002. The progeny of the spawners from that so-called disaster returned in fairly healthy numbers in 2006, and it is their offspring we are seeing swarming up the Fraser Canyon as I write this. Some disaster. Some catastrophe.

While you're being hectored to set fire to the federal government's fishery-management garrisons out on the west coast, you might want to notice that the Adams-bound sockeye are not the only salmon heading home to the Fraser River this year. As always, dozens of other sockeye runs are co-migrating with the Adams run. Many of those runs are in terrible shape. The vast majority of ordinary Canadians have made it clear that they are not content to see them fished into extinction. British Columbians have been particularly clear about this.

So Fisheries and Oceans managers have been a bit timid lately in carrying on with their custom of giving a puny and increasingly irrelevant consortium of fishing companies anything and everything they always want. That's why they waited a few extra days this year before letting the industry wail away on the Adams sockeye run. If you think you should be angry about this and scream that they should all be fired, gor right ahead. Scream yourself blue.

To be fair, the greedier gasbags in the fishing industry - an ever-louder but an ever-diminishing minority - may well be right. It could well be that if Ottawa let them catch eight or nine out of every ten homeward-swimming Adams sockeye this year, no long-term calamity would befall the Adams run. But ask any fisheries scientist - even one who's eccentric enough to be enlisted to that argument - and they will tell you that such high harvest rates would likely mean the loss of Cultus sockeye, Bowron sockeye, Harrison sockeye, Pitt sockeye, and any number of other sockeye runs, to say nothing of Fraser-bound salmon of other species, like coho and chinook.

Well, why the hell should Canadians allow this? To prop up an antiquated and grotesquely subsidized annual jamboree that consists of a lumbering fleet of seine boats pullling into the Steveston docks to be paid pennies a pound for the best marine protein on the planet just so that it can all be stuffed into freezer trucks and shipped across the border to Seattle, while the rest of us are expected to call this an "industry"?

No thanks. You can keep your torches and pitchforks and crackpot superstitions. I am going to be happy, my freezer will be filled with sockeye any day now, and I'll be canning some, too. I will have contentedly paid my pals in the gillnet fleet a premium for those fish, and and I'm going to be well pleased with myself, and there's nothing anyone can do to stop me.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

And Everywhere The Ceremony Of Innocence Is Drowned.

A NATO spokesman: A "precision air strike" has hit a militant's vehicle in the Rostaq district of the northern province of Takhar. Provincial governor Abduljabar Taqwa has told the BBC News that ten election campaign workers were killed in the strike. President Hamid Karzai condemned the incident, saying that "pro-democracy people should be distinguished from those who fight against democracy."

Greg Mortenson: “Success in Afghanistan will come when the people themselves can determine their own destiny. We need to put more emphasis on empowering Afghans, which means involving them in the process. You have to get buy-in from the people themselves.”

Ghulam Sakhi Kargar, Afghan Healthy Ministry: Blood samples taken from Afghan schoolgirls who have collapsed in apparent mass poisonings showed traces of toxic chemicals found in herbicides, pesticides and nerve gas. Suspicion has fallen on sympathizers of the Taliban. Poisonous levels of organophosphates were found in samples taken from girls sickened in incidents over the past two years.

George Packer: What President Obama called the end of the combat mission in Iraq is a meaningless milestone, constructed almost entirely out of thin air, and his second Oval Office speech marks a rare moment of dishonesty and disingenuousness on the part of a politician who usually resorts to rare candor at important moments.

Candace Rondeaux: Short-termism has been the name of the game in Afghanistan since the start of this engagement. And it is not at all surprising that nine years later, we don't have much to show for this type of thinking. . . Anyone who spends any time in Afghanistan fully understands that if you want to make change here, you've got to get your arms around really big institutional change and you have to be prepared to fight that fight, but recognize that at the same time, if you don't have Afghan buy in, you're not going to go anywhere.

William Butler Yeats: The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

No Surrender.

What We Would Wish For Ourselves We Demand For All: The attempt to preserve the notion that there is no need to respond to injustices in faraway places lies at the heart of cultural relativism. In the guise of an objective position, relativism is nothing more than protection for selfishness and preservation of insularity. Relativism implies the privileges and freedoms we expect in the West are values that only we own. It's sloppy scholarship and a bad joke that far too many have fallen for.

Cultural relativism allows us to listen to the power-hungry gun-wielders of a society like the Taliban, and drown out those who, inconveniently, want the same things that we do: democracy, human rights, wealth, and the capacity to live a life of dignity and free of fear. It is easier to ignore the will of Afghan intellectuals, progressive MPs, artists, activists and reformers to pretend the Taliban's world view is the status quo; it demands no action on our part.

Free Shiva Nazar Ahari: In a stirring personal recollection of her friend Ahari, Sepideh Pooraghaiee quoted from a letter which Ahari sent to a fellow prisoner: "When your heart trembles for the rights of another human, that is when you begin to slip; that is when the interrogations begin. When your heart trembles for another prisoner, a woman, a child laborer, that is when you become the accused. When you find faith in people and believe in humanity and nothing else, that is when you commit your first crime."

Iranian authorities first arrested Shiva Nazar Ahari in 2001, when she was seventeen. Her ‘crime’ was attending a candlelight vigil in Tehran that commemorated the victims of 9/11. Since then, she’s taught Iranian homeless children and Afghan refugees' children. In 2006, after she became the spokeswoman for the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR), Ahari was kicked out of university, whereupon her troubles really began.

Comrade Brian Platt on Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism: To consider Islamist violence as a reaction to our foreign policy, what Berman calls the “naive rationalization” of the West, is to fundamentally misunderstand the terms of this fight. Sayyid Qutb, the pioneer of Islamist ideology, understood what liberalism meant to an astoundingly sophisticated degree. He described it as the product of a Christianity torn apart by schisms and reformations, and the increasing tolerance of dissent against religious leaders, to the point where religion in Christian countries was eventually relegated to a private sphere of society. As Berman puts it, “Qutb's deepest quarrel was not with America's failure to uphold its principles. His quarrel was with the principles.”

Keep an eye on Brian Hutchinson's Assignment Kandahar.