Sunday, 31 December 2006


'Tis New Year's eve. I did not prepare anything special to celebrate and recognize the new year of 2007 and this past year of 2006. Tomorrow will be the first day of the first month of the 2007th year following the birth of Christ: 1 January 2007 AD. Wow.

Too many things have happened in 2006; and too many things are going to happen in 2007 — for me to prepare what would have to be a massive outline of the year and upcoming year's events, issues, etc.

2006 has also been the maiden year for this blog. In Perspective officially started on 13 September 2006, after I decided I did not want to hold in all my thoughts and opinions anymore — especially after the five-year anniversary of 9/11 just days before — and wanted to let them be known to the world. Thanks for sticking with me as we enter a new year, of, to push the cliche envelope, new beginnings, new opportunities. A fresh 365 days.

More has been found out than ever before about the incompetence and events unfolding in Iraq, with books like Fiasco (which I own), State of Denial (which I also own), Hubris, Looming Tower, The One Percent Doctrine, and many others revealing American policy at home and abroad (namely in Iraq).

This has also been a significant year for me, personally, though I won't elabourate for fear of becoming like many of the touchy-feely ultra-personal blogs I despise. If you want all the content over the past few months, plus more, you can download the In Perspective 2006 ebook (COMING SOON).

More postings of blog post series/ebook "How to talk to a closed-minded person" will begin this new year, though I have not set a target date for the final product because I do not even know how long it will end up being. Oh, one more thing: apparently I won the Time magazine Person of the Year award for 2006. Of course, so did everyone else. The winner: "you", largely because of user-generated content out of the mainstream from things like blogs and YouTube and Digg.

As far as current conflicts go as we prepare to set our mental clocks one year ahead... I introduce the new Conflict Meter:

  • Somalia is up in both news coverage and strife intensity;
  • Iraq is up in news coverage and up in strife intensity;
  • Israel-Palestine is up or level in news coverage, down in strife intensity;
  • Afghanistan is down in news coverage and level in strife intensity;
  • India-Pakistan is up in news coverage and level in strife intensity.

    Shifting focus to American civil liberties — which are corroding — Slate has an article that lists the top 10 civil liberty violations [in the US] of 2006. Also, the very cool legal blog Balkinization has listed a compilation of its posts on "civil liberties, the War on Terror, and presidential power". It is great to have a blog that not only talks about important issues, but does so in an educated and in-depth fashion.

    The buzz wrapping up this year is sure to be about Saddam Hussein, recently executed and still a hot topic. Not bad considering his PR guy probably got knocked down along with the Baathist government following the US-led 2003 invasion. He is still A1, front page material, and is the topic of enough tags and searches on the Web to make even Britney Spears or Tom Cruise (or their publicists) blush.

    My New Year's resolutions are:
  • To continue to blog ( );
  • to blog better and more frequently with more targeted posts;
  • continue writing "How to talk to a closed minded person (if you must)" ebook/blog post series — which I lost the draft too;
  • to be more productive with my spare time; be better at time management;
  • introduce bog features like My Zeitgeist and develop In Perspective further;
  • and whatever else...

    What are your New Year's resolutions?

    Feel free to share by commenting or emailing me.

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  • Saturday, 30 December 2006

    Oh how the mighty have fallen: Saddam is dead

    Saddam hangs
    Saddam Hussein, former Iraqi leader convicted of crimes against humanity, has been executed this morning for crimes against humanity — just before dawn Iraq time (see Wikipedia). A slew of news analysis and historical tidbits have resurfaced, with the wide view that his death will be of little real significance for the situation in Iraq and the wider Middle East. If anything, Saddam's death outlines how his trial went — and failed — and the effects will be of historical symbolism and the small group of Saddam's Baathist loyalists up in arms while many celebrate. First of all, hanging a person is not the greatest way to start a country's legal system; the ensuing celebrations (from Iraqis and those US government) do not help frame the nation as all-too-well either, as if the violence did not already show Iraq to be in deep, serious strife. The reactions have largely been mixed.

    The trial of Saddam Hussein and some of his closest minions was supposed to show Iraqis how bad their former regime had been and how a trial and the legal system should operate. It was all a judicial disgrace. More than a handful of countries seem to think that the execution will — if anything — increase the problems in Iraq. It is not going to have a positive effect, that's for sure. I should say that I am not at all a proponent of capital punishment.
    As I mentioned in my previous post on Saddam's impending execution, Saddam is one of several horrible former heads of state who have died this year. There was an extensive Atlantic Monthly article from 2002 profiling the dictator Saddam, who is to be buried with his brothers.
    What will the hanging of Saddam Hussein accomplish? What was it meant to accomplish — besides killing Saddam, that is. Between 5:30 and 5:45 (AM) local Iraqi time, the hanging took place. The era of Saddam’s domination in Iraq is now definitely over; he ruled absolutely for nearly 25 years before being overthrown in the United States-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The execution was videoed to quash doubts that the execution was staged, though the actual act of hanging was not photographed (only before and after). “A dark chapter in Iraq’s history has come to an end” said Iraq state media while reporting the execution of Saddam. The immediate aftermath of the execution yielded little reaction in the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad. As word spread of Saddam’s death, some small crowds formed in celebration, a minority mourning the death of their former leader. One can only hope that the book of Saddam is really closed and that no new complications — such as a worse-than-expected reaction from Sunni Iraqis — will spring up as a result of the hanging. Initial media reports said that Saddam was killed alongside his half brother and a judge from his regime, both tried alongside him, though those reports were found to be erroneous. The judge and the half brother will be executed after the Eid holiday.
    Rehabilitation certainly would not have been a judicial option for his crimes, but his execution was not just either — nor is the state or otherwise unwarranted killing of a human being (e.g. not for self defense, etc.). Saddam Hussein: a power figure, a murderer and torturer, a danger to regional security, an overall bad man — but as a human being capital punishment should not have been executed (pun) upon him. I will not miss him, and I hope few or no others do, but that does not mean I am content with his hanging or the effects it will bring to an already destabilized — to say the least — region. Most emotions had already been expressed over the merits and failures in the man of Saddam Hussein, so many of the reactions to the news of his hanging are expected.
    Saddam Hussein’s trial, which started in 2005 and ended earlier this year, was supposed to show Iraqis how their leader had poorly led them; the crimes he had committed. The trial was also supposed to illustrate an atypical example of the criminal justice and legal systems for the fledgling Iraqi government and citizens being introduced to ‘democracy’. The failures of this trial — on a human rights, legal, and political scale — are momentous enough to make this “example” trial have a negative affect on Iraq. It was a botched trial, it is believed that the display of ‘justice’ did not even teach the Iraqis or their government anything about how a justice system is supposed to work. The long list of additional charges against Saddam will either be dismissed or will be filed and brought against him in his absence [post mortem]. The latter would be ridiculous, I think history has already made its judgment and there is no reason for the Iraqi judiciary to further ridicule itself. The decision on the other charges against Saddam and how the government is to go about treating them is yet to be announced. The “new direction” for Iraq was a heavily rhetoricized American political plan which emphasized the positive points that trying and convicting Saddam would bring — namely a national unity against Saddam, making at least some unity. However, that “new direction” outcome was about as good as the neoconservative doctrine that got the US to invade Iraq in the first place. “National reconciliation” was another key political point, which was minimized by the botched trial of Saddam and the subsequent hasty decision to execute him.
    I am reading — among other things — a book called The J Curve. The author, Eurasia Group president Ian Bremmer, wrote an article a while back using parts of the chapter of his book on Saddam's Iraq (which I just finished).

    You can learn a lot about a country by looking at the relationship between its stability and its "openness." Stability is a measure of the extent to which a country's government can weather a political, economic or social crisis. Openness is a measure of the degree to which people, ideas, information, goods and services flow freely in both directions across a state's borders and within the country itself.
    Some countries (the United States, Germany, Japan and many others) are stable because they are open. Other states (North Korea, Cuba, Iran and others) are stable because they are closed. In each of these closed states, a small governing elite has isolated the country's citizens from the outside world and from one another. Saddam Hussein's Iraq was stable because it was closed. President Bush hopes the new Iraq will be stable because it is open.

    Imagine a graph on which the vertical axis measures a state's stability and the horizontal axis measures its openness. Each nation appears as a data point on the graph. Taken together, these data points produce a pattern very much like the letter J. Nations higher on the graph are more stable; those lower are less stable. Nations to the right of the dip in the J are more open. Those to the left are less open.

    For a country on the closed left side of the curve to move to the open right side, it must pass through the dip in the J -- a period of dangerous instability. In the early 1990s, South Africa, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia each descended into this dip. South Africa re-emerged on the right side of the J curve as an open post-apartheid state. The Soviet Union and Yugoslavia came apart and ceased to exist.

    Right-side states have a collective interest in helping to shepherd authoritarian left-side states through the unstable dip in the curve toward a stability that is sturdier because it is based on openness. The Bush administration hopes to achieve just this kind of transition in Iraq.

    In the spring of 2003, the United States pushed Iraq into the dip in the J curve.
    The Bush administration finds itself in this position because it ignored one of the fundamental lessons of the J curve: it's one thing to destabilize an isolated authoritarian state; it's quite another to transform it into a country in which political and social stability is grounded in the free flow of ideas, information, trade and people.

    That's something that Iraqis will one day have to do on their own.

    The situation in Iraq is worse now than it was under Saddam, there is no question about that.
    One interesting thing is how Saddam stayed in power through his foreign policy disasters, including the invasion of Kuwait in 1991 — which he lost — and the skirmishes with Iran throughout the 1980s (and other dates), namely the Iran-Iraq War — of which no one really won. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died as a result of Saddam’s tight and ruthless, and paranoid, stay-in-power policies, his attacks on Kurds and other ethnic and political factions resisting him, and from the stringent sanctions placed on Iraq [by the US]. Saddam lived a life of harming others for his own gain; for his thirst for power and to retain that power. He ruled by fear.
    Now a problem is that Iran is as powerful as ever, extending their Shia influence into Iraq too (Iraq's leading coalition is of the Shia Islam sect, Iran is a Shia Islamic state). Saddam — a Sunni — kept Iraq a major stabilizer in the Sunni-Shia Middle Eastern power vacuum. Now, Iran is almost unchecked in power at a time when it is taunting the international community. Also, the Sunni elite that used to run Iraq were dismissed in disastrous American policies in Iraq, increasing the number of guys with money, power/influence, and guns — three things that those former Baath party elites had. This made the ensuing insurgency all the more strong and make Shia-Sunni tensions build up to a high level of civil war that Iraq is in today.
    The New York Times had an excellent editorial on the subject.
    The important question was never really about whether Saddam Hussein was guilty of crimes against humanity. The public record is bulging with the lengthy litany of his vile and unforgivable atrocities: genocidal assaults against the Kurds; aggressive wars against Iran and Kuwait; use of internationally banned weapons like nerve gas; systematic torture of countless thousands of political prisoners.

    What really mattered was whether an Iraq freed from his death grip could hold him accountable in a way that nurtured hope for a better future. A carefully conducted, scrupulously fair trial could have helped undo some of the damage inflicted by his rule. It could have set a precedent for the rule of law in a country scarred by decades of arbitrary vindictiveness. It could have fostered a new national unity in an Iraq long manipulated through its religious and ethnic divisions.

    It could have, but it didn’t. After a flawed, politicized and divisive trial, Mr. Hussein was handed his sentence: death by hanging. This week, in a cursory 15-minute proceeding, an appeals court upheld that sentence and ordered that it be carried out posthaste. Most Iraqis are now so preoccupied with shielding their families from looming civil war that they seem to have little emotion left to spend on Mr. Hussein or, more important, on their own fading dreams of a new and better Iraq.

    What might have been a watershed now seems another lost opportunity. After nearly four years of war and thousands of American and Iraqi deaths, it is ever harder to be sure whether anything fundamental has changed for the better in Iraq.
    Toppling Saddam Hussein did not automatically create a new and better Iraq. Executing him won’t either.

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    Thursday, 28 December 2006

    The year of the bad dictator deaths... (updated)

    Saddam to be hanged [by] Sunday (31 December) or within 48 hours!
    From MSNBC:

    Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, sentenced to death for his role in 148 killings in 1982, will have his sentence carried out by Sunday, NBC News reported Thursday. According to a U.S. military officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, Saddam will be hanged before the start of the Eid religious holiday, which begins that Sunday.

    Earlier Thursday, Saddam’s chief lawyer implored world leaders to prevent the United States from handing over the ousted leader to Iraqi authorities for execution, saying the former dictator should enjoy protection from his enemies as a "prisoner of war."
    Some info seems to be coming out of the White House too.
    The White House expects ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to be executed perhaps as early as Saturday, a senior official said on condition of anonymity.

    Between Pinochet, Slobodian Milosevic, and Saddam Hussein, many horrible, human rights-violating dictators will have died in 2006! — two of natural causes and one of execution (see here and here). 2006 is the year of the bad dictator deaths.

    29 Dec. UPDATE1:
    BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) An Iraqi judge says Saddam Hussein will be executed by Saturday at the latest.

    29 Dec. UPDATE2:
    Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been handed over to the Iraqi authorities ahead of his execution, his lawyers say they have been told.

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    The dynamic Somalia situation; facts from the news this year

    Somalia has become a hot topic yet again. The African nation located close to the Arab lands has been in strife for ages, coming out of civil war(s) and getting into new ones. Most of the areas of Somalia were and are ruled [largely] by warlords, supported — indirectly or otherwise — by the United States. There is also the recently more powerful element of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) — charged by the US as 'terrorists'. Nonetheless, the fighting between the long-powerful tribal warlords (clan militias) and the Islamist fighters has left many Somalians in ruins, and refugees have been pouring out for a long time. Most Somalians do not strongly support either side. Now, the UIC — which had taken the capital Mogadishu but strangely gave it back earlier today — is now facing off with Somali neighbour Ethiopia, or so it seems.

    More events are springing up in the East African nation.

    Government troops in Somalia have marched into parts of Mogadishu, hours after Islamist forces abandoned the capital they had held for six months.

    Ethiopia is much stronger in all aspects when compared to Somalia. The interim Somali government set up by the international community a little while ago is a joke and makes the even Iraqi government look strong to a degree. Ethopia, which only recently acknowledged its military presence in its neighbour's territory, backs the Somali 'government'.
    Delving into the situation, one also sees more "war on terror" fronts, as if there weren't enough already.
    For the past sixteen years, Somalia has been widely acknowledged—and ignored—as a failed state. Now, as a regional war appears imminent, the world is finally paying attention to the Horn of Africa. Somalia is a “feral nation,” (LAT) writes former CIA Case Officer Garrett Jones; the “hot new front in the war on terrorism,” according to the Washington Post. Observers warn the battle between Somalia’s Islamic Courts and Ethiopian troops threatens to pull in neighboring countries and Muslim extremists. Ethiopia’s superior military, which enjoys the tacit support of Washington, has forced the Islamists to withdraw from their front line positions, but analysts are concerned about the ensuing power vacuum (CSMonitor). Some anticipate these radicals will reemerge and wage guerrilla war (LAT), not unlike what the United States faces in Iraq.

    If anyone wants something to browse, check out this "100 things we didn't know last year" list from the BBC. Some highlights:
    2. There are 200 million blogs which are no longer being updated, say technology analysts.
    23. More than one in eight people in the United States show signs of addiction to the internet, says a study.
    57. The word "time" is the most common noun in the English language, according to the latest Oxford dictionary.
    68. The egg came first.
    73. George Bush's personal highlight of his presidency is catching a 7.5lb (3.4kg) perch.
    81. Iceland has the highest concentration of broadband users in the world.
    86. Six million people use TV subtitles, despite having no hearing impairment.
    100. In the 1960s, the CIA used to watch Mission Impossible to get ideas about spying.
    Number 2 does not apply to this blog. Numbers 23 and 86 both apply to me. Number 73 explains a lot. Number 100 does not surprise me, given how the CIA operated back then (and — to a certain extent — now).

    Sorry about the lack of posting lately; vacation and relaxation have made me a bit lazy. I have been reading a plethora of books and magazines, and have some fresh ideas to blog as this new year is upon us in three or so days.

    UPDATE: For a nice overview of the situation in Somalia, see this episode of The Show with Ze Frank.

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    Tuesday, 26 December 2006

    Happy Christmas (?)

  • Present to the needy [in the nearly forgotten genocide]:
    -— Sudan 'to accept UN Darfur force'.
    This is a possible beginning of UN peacekeeping forces in Darfur, After so many years, is a bright light finally looming on the horizon for those suffering in the Darfur genocide — that much of the US media has basically ignored? Let's hope this positive step may help.

  • Present to the world [of foreign policy]:
    -— End of the core of the traditional neoconservative movement in the US [for now]. About time!

  • Present to the deserving and distraught [Palestinians]:
    -— Palestinians get a little Christmas present: some of their tax money back from Israel — with one usual hindering caveat.
    -— Some good news for West Bank residents.
    Israeli Defence Minister Amir Peretz has announced an easing of restrictions on Palestinians, including dismantling roadblocks in the West Bank.

  • Present to the global balance (or, rather, imbalance):
    -— Iran gets slammed with sanctions by UN Security Council. See, it can happen. Iran got what was coming to it, and the government knew that. Ahmadinejad rejects the sanctions. What else is new?

  • Present to NYT op-ed/free speech/transparancy/news source haters:
    -— CIA redacts parts of New York Times op-ed piece by former government employees. Redacted information was sources available to all (e.g. news articles available online) say the op-ed writers. Interesting, nearly Orwellian news. Just to clarify, the article went through a publishing review process that exists to censor out classified information. In this case the information taken out was seemingly not classified at all. The piece was on Iran and the US policy with Iran. The authors' explanation of the redaction was also published.
    National security must be above politics. In a democracy, transparency in government has to be honored and protected. To classify information for reasons other than the safety and security of the United States and its interests is a violation of these principles. It is for this reason that we will continue to press for the release of the article without the material deleted.

  • Present to the Daniel Denett, Sam Harris, et al of Britain:
    -— Religion more bad than good, poll says. perfect news for the holidays.
    More people in Britain think religion causes harm than believe it does good, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today. It shows that an overwhelming majority see religion as a cause of division and tension - greatly outnumbering the smaller majority who also believe that it can be a force for good.
    The poll also reveals that non-believers outnumber believers in Britain by almost two to one. It paints a picture of a sceptical nation with massive doubts about the effect religion has on society: 82% of those questioned say they see religion as a cause of division and tension between people. Only 16% disagree. The findings are at odds with attempts by some religious leaders to define the country as one made up of many faith communities.
    The UK is much more liberal in a cultural and religious sense than the United States — which has seen an increasing rise in far right-wing religious politics. In the US, about half are religious in the traditional sense and believe in creationism (i.e. the Earth was created by God about 6,000 years ago; men lived alongside dinosaurs; humankind started in an enchanted garden with a talking snake). Also, about one forth of Americans are evangelicals, quite conservative Christians backing the religious right.

  • Present to death [penalty advocates]:
    -— Saddam Hussein to be executed 'within 30 days'. His appeal had failed as expected (see background).
    -— Japan executes four on death row; first executions since new prime minster Shinzo Abe took office. ( See this and this post. Correction to previous posts: Japan and US two developed capital punishment countries; US not sole industrialized nation that has capital punishment.)

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  • Sunday, 24 December 2006

    Spotlight on Syria: what we know, what they can do, their motives and actions, and more...

    Spotlight on Syria search, news
    General references: Wikipedia, CIA, BBC, FRD/LoC, DoS, CUL

    Can this oppressive police state and fighter of Islamic extremism really be an ally to the US in its "war on terror" and troubles in Iraq? Yes. But can it happen in an okay manner accaptable to both Western and Middle Eastern powers?

    President Bush critisizes Syria for its human rights — he shouldn't be one to talk, as Syrian leader points out on visit to Moscow. How free are the Syrian people?; how much can Syria do to help the Middle East? One must recognize that both the Syrian and American governments are fighting two common causes: Islamic extremism and human rights [in the process of fighting Islamic extremism or in the name of said fight].

    Syria and Iran have become closer friends as of recent; the international community (especially the US) has moved further away from Iran recently. I plan to draw up a little map of Syria's social network soon to help clarify this whole international relation's web.

    There is a surprising little amount of information about Syria — as I have found out when compiling and writing this post. The reason it is so surprising is the fact that Syria is in the news regularly and it is part of the geographical area called the Middle East. If there is ever no big news coming out of the mid-east, you know something is wrong. Syria was granted indipendence in 1946 after the French ended their rule over the former Ottoman Empire land.

    First off, why is Syria so anti-Israel and anti-US, even siding with Iran (which it has not had an exactly peachy relationship with historically)? The fact that Israel occupies land that rightfully belongs to Syria, the Golan Heights, is one major element to Syria's foreign policy. As we all know and has been shown (especially recently), Arabs and others in the Middle East are very proud of their land; their land is extremely important to them. Israel is more powerful and fruitful than any other Middle Eastern state, so one may propose that the reason Arab states and peoples are so attached to their land is its all they definitively have. When Israel takes away land, this produces an extreme outcome — for reasons aforementioned. Imagine you have one toy, and your young neighbor has many better toys. Let's say your neighbor took away or threatened to take away your toy — or parts of it. You would feel extremely volatile. Tie in some nationalism and exploited cultural [extremism], and add the fact that many need land to survive, and you have an aspect of the Middle Eastern situation between Israel and the Arab states, in a nutshell.

    The Golan Heights were captured by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War.

    In a pre-emptive attack on Egypt that drew Syria and Jordan into a regional war in 1967, Israel made massive territorial gains capturing the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula up to the Suez Canal. The principle of land-for-peace that has formed the basis of Arab-Israeli negotiations is based on Israel giving up land won in the 1967 war in return for peace deals recognising Israeli borders and its right to security. The Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt as part of the 1979 peace deal with Israel.
    The peace talks between Israel and Syria over the Golan Heights stalled in January 2000. The Israeli control of this recognized area of Syria has led Syria to back the extremist security wing of Hezbollah, as well as other groups. Syria has also aided other Islamic and Arab terrorist organizations — whether directly or indirectly.

    Syria has been receiving a plethora of refugees from strife-ridden nations such as Iraq and Palestine.

    The Iraq Study Group (Baker-Hamilton commission) report recommended the US work with Syria in the fight against Islamic extremism and the stablilizing of Iraq. This set off shockwaves through out Washington, making politicians, including President Bush, showing their ignorant cowboy international diplomacy mentality again. Meaning, 'we won't work with them unless they stop doing all their bad stuff' what is left out of this thinking is a sprinkle of reality '...even if its stuff we do and have control to stop without really harming ourselves, and work with us without incentive'. British PM Tony Blair has shown his support for talks with Syria and Iran, after all, you cannot be best friends with everyone you hold diplomatic discourse — or aim to do so — with!
    Given the ability of Iran and Syria to influence events within Iraq and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq, the United States should try to engage them constructively. In seeking to influence the behavior of both countries, the United States has disincentives and incentives available. Iran should stem the flow of arms and training to Iraq, respect Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and use its influence over Iraqi Shia groups to encourage national reconciliation. The issue of Iran’s nuclear programs should continue to be dealt with by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany. Syria should control its border with Iraq to stem the flow of funding, insurgents, and terrorists in and out of Iraq.

    The United States cannot achieve its goals in the Middle East unless it deals directly with the Arab-Israeli conflict and regional instability. There must be a renewed and sustained commitment by the United States to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace on all fronts: Lebanon, Syria, and President Bush’s June 2002 commitment to a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. This commitment must include direct talks with, by, and between Israel, Lebanon, Palestinians (those who accept Israel’s right to exist), and Syria.

    As was reported about the ISG recommendations
    The report said Bush should put aside misgivings and engage Syria, Iran and the leaders of insurgent forces in negotiations on Iraq’s future, to begin by year’s end. It urged him to revive efforts at a broader Middle East peace. Barring a significant change, it warned of a slide toward chaos.
    Being left out of big matters which affect you directly equals hostility and unrest which does not equal peace.

    Yet another significant dilemma is Syria's history with its neighbor, Lebanon. This relationship, which was heavily exposed after the 2005 killing of the Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariripossibly by the Syrian government — has obviously put Syria into the dominating roll over Lebanon. Syria pulled its troops out of Lebanon only last year [2005].

    Syrians think of themselves as family, and believe strongly in the aspect of respect. Though people — including the press — can now critisize the parliment, prime minister, and others in the government, the president and army are off limits. Syria has been in a state of emergency effectively since 1963. Which is similar, but not absolutely comparable to, how the United States has been since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. Believe it or not, Israel has declared war on — meaning technically been at war with — Syria since/after the Yom Kippur War. As of 2005, Syria was rated seven on a scale of one (most free) to seven (least free) by civil liberty and political rights group Freedom House. On the whole human rights front, an in-depth Amnesty International report lists and explanatorily delves into the abuses and status of human rights in Syria. A summary of the summary:
    Freedom of expression and association remained severely restricted. Scores of people were arrested and hundreds remained imprisoned for political reasons, including prisoners of conscience and others sentenced after unfair trials. However, about 500 political prisoners were released under two amnesties. Torture and ill-treatment were common. Human rights defenders continued to face harassment. Women and members of the Kurdish minority continued to face discrimination.
    So, yeah, Syria is horrible in regards to every aspect of human rights.

    Another problem, besides human rights, with Syria is its relations to terrorist groups. Mind you, the Islamic brotherhood and many other groups are strongly condemned and against the law (can you say death penalty), but its anti-Israel groups like Hezbollah that get Syria's support. In a CFR report and recap of the whole Syria-Lebanon and Syria-terrorist shebang, a few key points should be noted:
    Some experts characterize Syria’s involvement in terrorism as “passive support.” But Syria has been involved in numerous past terrorist acts and still supports several terrorist groups.
    Syria—along with Iran—gives the Lebanese militia Hezbollah "substantial amounts of financial, training, weapons, explosives, political, diplomatic, and organizational aid," according to the State Department. Iranian arms bound for Hezbollah regularly pass through Syria, experts say.
    The US and other powers should work with Syria while working with Israel in order to stifle Syria's terrorist group support. On the human rights front, the US should try to nudge Syria in the right direction and work on its own human rights situation. This will cover the fronts of Syria-terrorist, Syria-Iran, and Syria-Israel relations, and, by working with Syria and other Middle Eastern states, the US and international community can better Iraq as well as the states they are working with. Win for US, win for Syria, win for Iraq, win for Middle East and international political stability; good and bad for Israel; not too good for Iran (but they are in control of much of their fate in these matters).
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    Thursday, 21 December 2006

    American or not American... that should not be the question

    Who is to decide what is American and not American? What makes something American or un-American? Who is to judge the traits of people in the US, and how they fit into their country, labeling them right or wrong, out of line or in line with their nation's values. The US was built on an assortment of people with an assortment of traits — and that building continues today. Ironically its those people who have been the targets and scapegoats of many campaigns of bigotry in the name of righteous[-seeming] causes, being different is a handicap for many humans. Like with many other nations, the mixing of peoples has created a melting pot of sorts throughout the centuries. We do not need a Senator Joseph McCarthy (former Republican from Wisconsin) — with his paranoid, fear mongering, and outright despicable Cold War-era Un-American Activities Committee — nor do we need another political or religious figure telling us whether our traits and beliefs are American or un-American. There is nothing, besides the fact that the US is not a communist state, making communism un-American; there is nothing making gun control un-American, though the Second Amendment of the Constitution might be brought into play; there is nothing making the death penalty un-American, even if it be inhumane and against much of modern society's standards of human rights. However, more and more groups, especially from the rising fundamentalist religious right, are placing extreme condemnation on anyone from homosexuals to journalists for not being American. The only 'American values' are the ones various demographics and peoples create — in addition to government PR. Much hate speech and polarizing rhetoric is being elevated to a point that makes bigotry sound like too nice of a word (to describe it). Not only is there this wedging of various people, one also has to endure the swaying of a nation from 9/11 and the ensuing fear-mongering for political gains; exploitation in the so-called war on terror. Like with McCarty's crusade, there is this "with us or against us" attitude coming from the government, but much of the work on that front has been done by Americans themselves, being reinforced by the government in their effort to drive out dissenters, as in the Bush administration's "war on terrorism". If one speaks out against Israel, one is labeled antisemitic; if one speaks against the wrongdoings in the so-called war on terror, one is called a terrorist or terrorist supporter. This kind of polarity and labeling is quashing reasoned thought and moderate discourse on important topics in American society. Not only that, but — in many cases — it drives up nationalism, which can only lead the US down the wrong road. Education and a better job by the news media and especially the government (at all levels) may help drive down some ignorance, but most of all, a lot of Americans need to wake up from their sensationalist, ignorant, pop culture drivel-filled attitudes.

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    What do newlyweds have to do with excited kids and a white Christmas?

    While everyone is busy reflecting on this year and compiling "Top _____ of 2006" lists, I am, as usual, pondering about basically random things and blogging about a select few of them. Here are some holiday thoughts — which have little significance, I just thought they would be a nice break from the important stuff: For many, especially children, the lead up to Christmas is like the lead up to a marriage. Yes there are fears of getting bad or not enough presents — like the matrimonial fear of commitment — but there is also that passion and joy that to-be-wed and newly wed couples often enjoy. This is where the concept of a 'white Christmas' (a Christmas with snow) may actually be more detrimental than enjoyable for those observing Christmas. The lead up to opening the presents — like the lead up to a wedding — is filled with worry and passion. Afterwards, there is a newly-wed kind of aura around the new couple and the honeymoon period of relationship bliss, which is like the period after opening presents for kids. A while down the road the presents loose there appeal, the same thing that happens with many a marriage. Christmas for children is quite comparable to young newlyweds' wedding period and its immediate aftermath. Going back to my white Christmas theory; a white Christmas, with snow for children's enjoyment, may be a distraction in that honeymoon period of presents. Think about it this way: a loving couple excitedly gets married, but soon after, one or both of them needs to work or is occupied by a task cutting into the couple's newly-wed time. Either that intensifies the relationship by making the honeymoon all that more enjoyable (a break from work, after all that waiting), or that often blissful period is shortened because one or both in the couple cannot enjoy one another. With the honeymoon period, post-Christmas, for kids and their presents, a white Christmas — assuming the children go out to play in the snow — can either intensify the fun and freshness of the presents once the kids get back to enjoy them, or the magic is ruined; after all that waiting the mind wants to focus on some other want and wish.

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    Tuesday, 19 December 2006

    Why should Europe have to be buddy-buddy with the US on Iraq?, an article critique

    Like in this post, I am going to critique a frequent Slate contributor on her view of Europe's role in and perspective of the American ordeal in Iraq, and what it should be. A while back, I critisized Anne Applebaum for wanting to lay blame for the 'lack of pressure' on North Korea on China and how she cavalierly proposed options for China that would hurt them and the situation in both Koreas (i.e. the entire region). It seemed she was writing from a narrow view, which surprises me because she wrote an exceptional book: Gulag: A History.

    This time, I have a smaller bone to pick with Ms. Applebaum's latest article. Number one, maybe I am out of the loop, but what is this "Old Europe" she constantly talks about? Is it Western Europe, because there are plenty of British and other peoples criticizing US policy too. Number two, it is only typical to hear the 'don't critisize, help out!' babble, and this article, with a subtitle of "A New Year's resolution for Europe: Less carping, more helping.", is a good example of that mentality.

    She quotes German and French newspapers in her introduction, while they are pretty muich doing their jobs: reporing the news. The newspapers are not supposed to help out, that is not their jobs! She then mixes up what is on the cover of an array of French and German newspapers with the various perspectives European people have of Iraq — if someone did have another plan or idea, it would probably not be on the front page but the op-ed page. As if American papers did not have the --. It is not as much gloating as it is pointing out the fairly obvious about the Bush administration and its plan for Iraq.

    On the day James Baker's Iraq Study Group report was published, I gritted my teeth and waited for the well-earned, long-awaited Franco-German "Old European" gloat to begin. I didn't have to wait long. "America Faces Up to the Iraq Disaster" read a headline in Der Spiegel. In the patronizing tones of a senior doctor, Le Monde diagnosed the "political feverishness" gripping Washington in Baker's wake. Süddeutsche Zeitung said the report "stripped Bush of his authority," although Le Figaro opined that nothing Baker proposed could improve the "catastrophic state" of Iraq anyway.

    And then, for two weeks … silence. If there are politicians, academics, or journalists anywhere in Germany and France who have better ideas about how to improve the catastrophic state of Iraq, they aren't talking very loudly. There is no question that America's credibility has been undermined by the Iraq war in "Old Europe" as everywhere else. There is no question that America's reputation for competence has been destroyed. But that doesn't mean there are dozens of eager candidates, or even one eager candidate, clamoring to replace us.

    In her article, Applebaum also hits a nerve with me when she treats "Old Europe" as if it was one group of people — similar, but much more generalizing, to the steriotypes people put on [so-called] Hollywood-types and African Americans in the US.

    Not everyone should have to help everyone else when they are in the doldrums, although it would be nice (and utopian), it is not feasible and is selfish for a country like the US to be already plenty self-centered and expect the whole world to rush to its aid when it makes a mistake. Nor would the US allow help... remember the ensuing aid offers following Hurricane Katrina? The Cold War is over, and no one really gets anything for helping America either, especially when the US is wrong.

    A more cold, but still down-to-earth, point against Applebaum would be: why should Europe have to painstaking help fix something it did not cause? The US started the Iraq war and knowingly damaged its reputation for it, why should an unrelated third party swoop to unappreciated assistance?

    Presumably, these are the same optimists who used to believe that a Franco-German-British diplomatic team could persuade Iran to stop conducting nuclear-weapons research. Presumably, they didn't notice that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad held a Holocaust denial conference in Tehran last week—not, perhaps, the clearest signal that he wants to make friends with bien pensants Europeans—or that French President Jacques Chirac recently declared that his views on Syria exactly matched those of his U.S. counterpart.
    Isn't the cynicism she expresses in the above quote the same kind of stuff she is no-noing Europe for reporting, or, in her view, expressing and "patronizing"?

    Maybe the Old Europeans will find inspiration to support and contribute further to the alliance, diplomatically and ideologically, if not militarily.
    This is the point where she looses me and talks about NATO — which has basically nothing to do with Iraq.

    Applebaum seems to be very supportive of alliances favouring one side, the United States, which, in her perfect world, would make the US like the rock star or popular student and Europe like the US's groupies or staunch followers. She does not make any mention of the United Nations in her article, also something to think about.

    Characterizing France and German as the faces of Europe; newspaper headlines as op-ed pieces; and thinking that everyone should always come to the aid of the US while contradicting herself in her own patronizing of Europe are what makes this and the previous article of Ms. Applebaum's I critiqued lackluster insight. As I said in my last Applebaum critique:
    she needs to work on her logic in the delicate sphere of international politics, governmental and regional stability, and foreign relations.

    Happy holidays everyone.

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    Sunday, 17 December 2006

    Ethics in America: lethal injection under scrutiny; punishment and religion

    I have already stated my opinion on the death penalty. Are the efforts in Florida and California to put a hold on lethal injections capital punishment a turning point in that aspect of human rights in American commonly ignored? Are these judges and others using the lethal injection label of 'inhumane' as a way to get rid of the death penalty once and for all? Shall the death penalty be stopped in those two states vis a vis the specific argument against the death by lethal injection? — we will see.

    Executions by lethal injection were suspended in Florida and ordered revamped in California on Friday, as the chemical method once billed as a more humane way of killing the condemned came under mounting scrutiny over the pain it may cause.

    If the chemically-initiated killing process is ruled definitely as crossing the boundaries into "cruel and unusual" — which the death penalty already is — then what next? Firing squads (still used some today), electric chair, hanging [by rope, etc.], and things like forced drowning have all been used to enforce the death penalty in the past, and if lethal injection is gone, than what other methods still exist? Will those be as 'humane'? The irony is that those being put to death by the state are going to die no matter what method is used, death is death. I guess society wants to feel better by saying we gave them the best death possible — an excuse (the process for the killing) for the act (the state killing). I just wish public debate will be sparked at least a bit in America over this news, even though chances are it will be far from intelligent, rational debate. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth would leave everyone blind and toothless. Vengeance breeds vengeance; vengeance is not as much as a deterrant as the act of revenge and personal/societal justice that outweighs it. Hopefully reason will prevail — eventually — in the US. Just my usual two cents.

    Let's hopefully — in public discourse on capital punishment — focus less on the method of putting the person to death, and more on the act of the state killing someone as a punishment. After all, the judicial process is more for rehabilitation than punishment. And, if one argues the flawed (to say the least) argument that punishment is greater than rehabilitation into proper society, then I might expect that person to be against the death penalty. I would rather die than spend the rest of my life, tens and tens of years, in a concrete and steel holding cell.

    The United States is the only developed nation to use the death penalty as a method of punishment. The United States is one of five countries that puts to death people under 18. Bodies such as the European Union and the United Nations have spoken against capital punishment and have strong treaties and laws against it — especially in the case of the EU (which makes sense because Europe's political climate is more to the center than America's relatively conservative-leaning politik).

    Still sick; I hope to be better later this week. I have had time, however, to read up on some philosophy, and plan to have more philosophy-related posts soon. I have especially been reading up on my favourite philosopher, John Stuart Mill, who — from what we know — is pro-death penalty (according to a speech he gave). If Mill did believe in the death penalty, then he was wrong. If he changed his mind as he aged and developed views independent of his father's (James Mill) and godfather (Bentham) about the death penalty, then that's good. Of course, as I explain below, times change. One might say that the religion — it's really ideology but bare with me, spirituality plays into the next topic of this post — of Mill was utilitarianism. Not only did Mill's views develop, but so did utilitarianism — which he moved a bit more away from as he grew older.

    The Bible, Torah, and Koran all speak for and against the penalty of death, and all say things like killing the nonbelievers or stoning women or homosexuals, etc. In the time these religious texts were written, the death penalty might have — like dictatorships and monarchies (for stability's sake back then) — make more sense then than now. A mix of ignorance or knowledge and just the situation of the times shape the relative relation between what those thousands of years old texts say. Through out those many years, the Bible, for example, has been so modified and was already questionable in the first place that its spiritual messages, let along its historical merit, are highly questionable.

    I usually do not quote television scripts, but here is a bit from an episode of The West Wing relating to the death penalty
    RABBI GLASSMAN: You know what it (the Torah) also says? It says a rebellious child can be brought to the city gates and stoned to death. It says homosexuality is an abomination and punishable by death. It says men can be polygamous and slavery is acceptable. For all I know, that thinking reflected the best wisdom of its time, but it’s just plain wrong by any modern standard. Society has a right to protect itself, but it doesn’t have a right to be vengeful. It has a right to punish, but it doesn’t have to kill.
    That's why I love that show.

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    Thursday, 14 December 2006

    Blame it all on a rush of blood to the head...

    Regretfully, I am sick — which is why I have not been posting as much lately. I know many readers will probably be out of town for the winter holidays, but I will be posting over the next few weeks, so when those readers come back, I may have some goodies posted. I just need to continue to work on my "How to talk to a closed-minded person (if you must)" blog post series/ebook. I am researching John Stuart Mill, especially the views expressed in his On Liberty and the ideology of Utilitarianism. If anyone has any special knowledge in this area, please send me an email. (For feedback, one can always reach me at my alternate email address by clicking here.) I want to bump my lengthy essay (et al) on the Democrats and the United States elections, so, if you have not read it already, check it out here. See most of my "recommended" posts here. One thing I forgot to add to my post giving the hindsight scoop on the midterm elections was that illegal immigration did not seem to be nearly as big of a deal as was thought, just thought I'd mention that.

    Song stuck in my head right now: "A Rush of Blood to the Head" by Coldplay; recently: "Imagine" by John Lennon.

    UPDATE 16 December 2006 (1:19 AM EST): Well, still feeling bad. I just finished watching Chicago (the movie), which I had TiVo-ed a while back. I do wonder why we root for Roxie Hart even though we know she is guilty, self-centered, and corrupted by the pop celebrity atmosphere. I guess that's how Hollywood frames it; maybe its just modern pop culture's impression on us as viewers. Surely we are not free from prejudice...

    Wednesday, 13 December 2006

    Bush rhetoricizes Iraq strategy; Annan preaches US

    Well, after the much talked about Iraq Study Group (aka Baker-Hamilton commission) report, many expected President Bush to announce a change in Iraq strategy, and for him to replace the warn out "stay the course" catchphrase. Wrong again, everyone. The Decider is going to do it his way: delay until everyone forgets — or he forgets, whichever comes first. Remember that history 'will judge' him 'well' (sarcasm). Washington Post:

    President Bush said today he has rejected "some ideas that would lead to defeat" as he considers a new Iraq strategy, and he vowed not to be "rushed" into a decision.

    Asked if he has heard "any new ideas" that would change his thinking about a new strategy for Iraq, Bush said, "I've heard some ideas that would lead to defeat. And I reject those ideas: ideas such as leaving before the job is done; ideas such as not helping this [Iraqi] government take the necessary and hard steps to be able to do its job."
    What exactly is defeat at this point? I mean, how low can you even go? He does not want to be "rushed" into "defeat", why did he ever give Paul Bremmer the green light with the the CPA? That was the perfect way to further ruin a recently invaded nation.

    There looks to be absolutely no strategy change, and whenever a "change" is announced, it will just be recycled rhetoric. Now I am even more inclined to get the Frank Rich book on the Bush administration's PR, ranging from 9/11 to Hurricane Katrina, this president is the undisputed king of rhetoric. King George, fancy that...

    Selections from the BBC News article reporting on the Annan speech:
    Kofi Annan has made his final speech as UN secretary general, calling on the US not to lose sight of its core principles in its fight on terror.

    "No nation can make itself secure by seeking supremacy over others," Mr Annan said, urging the US to respect human rights in its "war on terror".

    The speech has been interpreted as a sharp rebuke of President Bush.

    [...]Mr Annan again raised objections to the Iraq war, a war he has already condemned as illegal.

    "When power, especially military force, is used, the world at large will consider it legitimate only when convinced that it is being used for the right purpose - for broadly shared aims," he said.

    In the address, he urged the US to embrace its natural and historical role as responsible global leader and warned that no nation can make itself secure by seeking supremacy over others.

    But he also said that "that lead can only be maintained if America remains true to its principles - including in the struggle against terrorism".

    "When it appears to abandon its own ideals and objectives, its friends abroad are naturally troubled and confused."

    Mr Annan also stressed that Washington's current position in the world gives it "a priceless opportunity" to entrench the principles of democracy at a global level.

    He ended with an appeal for a shift in US policy, saying "In order to function effectively, the system still cries out for far-sighted leadership in the Truman tradition."

    "I hope and pray that American leaders of today and tomorrow will provide it."
    The speech was held at the Truman presidential library in Missouri; Truman was a champion of the UN as Bush is a dissenter.

    From Guardian Unlimited's Comment Is Free:
    The UN secretary general used his farewell speech to take revenge on his persistent critics from the US administration.
    I see it less as vengeance and more as truthful commentary, saying what needed to be said about recent United States policies. Whether it be about military or human rights, the US has gotten schooled plenty, but this is a well-needed slap in the face by a very powerful man: outgoing UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Too bad Annan did not show this sincere charisma when dealing with UN reform or things such as the oil for food program scandal. He will leave office on 31 December 2006, after being the head of the international body since 1997. Annan's successor will be South Korean diplomat Ban Ki-moon.

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    Tuesday, 12 December 2006

    US Cold War foreign policy and the death of Pinochet, and the GWOT

    From BBC News:

    Chile's former military leader Augusto Pinochet has died in hospital aged 91.
    A Washington Post feature:
    Pinochet assumed power on Sept. 11, 1973, in a bloody coup supported by the United States that toppled the [democratically] elected government of Salvador Allende, a Marxist who had pledged to lead his country "down the democratic road to socialism."

    First as head of a four-man military junta and then as president, Pinochet served until 1990, leaving a legacy of abuse that took successive governments years to catalogue. According to a government report that included testimony from more than 30,000 people, his government killed at least 3,197 people and tortured about 29,000. Two-thirds of the cases listed in the report happened in 1973.
    It seems that many throughout the Americas still have the ignorance of the Cold War. (BBC News)
    Despite his human rights record, many Chileans loved him and said he saved the country from Marxism.
    His supporters argue, as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said, that Pinochet "saved Chile for democracy".

    They contend that he stepped in when the country was on the verge of chaos that could have led to a Communist take-over and alignment with the Soviet Union.
    More like 'saved Chile from democracy'. Anyone ever wonder if he was the one who instigated much of that chaos? Thatcher, as many know, was not too much of a friend of the people, so she shouldn't even talk about democracy, especially when saying that brutal dictatorship is better than democracy. Pinochet cheated the Chilean people by stealing their money, killing and torturing, trampling on human rights, and basically ransacking the government and social structure.

    In all irony, Pinochet died on the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights' 50th anniversary.

    Cold War
    Some of these anti-Communist diplomatic maneuvers used by the United States during the Cold War era were mentioned in the essay I posted on this blog about the Monroe Doctrine:
    Throughout the early 20th century, the U.S. sometimes questionably created regime changes in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and other nations, as well as occupying or invading (and many times running or controlling in some way) Mexico, Nicaragua, Honduras, Panama, Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic, and El Salvador, among others. In addition, the CIA and other clandestine agencies also interfered with many Latin American nations from the 1950s through the 1980s (Rosenfelder; Wikipedia). Many of these interferences, including regime changes, the establishing of puppet governments, assassinations, occupations, and embargoes, were done in the climate of fear of communism that encapsulated the Cold War, some of which the legality is disputed and the “claim of self-defense” had “no legal basis” (Hilaire 96). Many times regimes were changed from left-leaning or even moderate democracies or republics to military dictatorships, because of the fear that the democracies or republics could turn to communism.
    Chile was one of the nations the US undeniably supported, that is, during the reign of Pinochet.

    On an Oxblog post made by conservative-leaning David Adesnik, I commented
    David, you know that the United States was a major force that got Pinochet into power and kept him there, right? (Oh, that Kissinger...) Yes, and he obviously wasn't too great for the Chilean economy; replacing democratically-elected leaders with a coup backed by the US was all too widespread and common during the Cold War.
    In a civil and direct response, the author replied
    Clearthought, I'm glad you pointed out Kissinger's role in Pinochet's rise to power. An important reminder of what "realism" in foreign policy is all about.

    With regard to replacing elected governments with dictatorships during the Cold War, even one instance counts in my book as "all too common", but actually there weren't that many.

    Off hand, I can think of Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954 and Chile in 1973. There were also instances in which we didn't do enought to prevent democratic governments from falling to a coup d'etat or other assault.

    But the real thing we did is stand by and not complain too much about all of the dictators we chose to collaborate with. Was that the best way to prevent Soviet expansion? I don't think so.

    And now we face the same question today. Should we push hard for democracy in the Middle East, or focus on stabilizing pro-Western dictatorships. Strangely, many of those who think we shouldn't have befriended dictators during the Cold War are now calling for exactly that approach to the War on Terror.

    "War on terror"
    The final thought he presented in Adesnik's reply comment is one to ponder: how are US policy support of governments during the Cold War different than that of this "war on terror" (see this post). One point is that the Cold War was an era, it had an inevitable ending and, although it was not clearly set out the objectives of the War, there was a start and finish to the United States-Soviet Union conflict. In this "war on terror", there is no real start and finish. There has pretty much always been terror; there will always be terror. It's part of our existence, though one may argue the civility of such existence. The "war on terror", like the "war on drugs", is only a metaphorical war, the target is not concrete, and even less is the objective. It is a shame the media did not challenge the wording of the politically-charged words "war on terror" soon after their post-9/11 existence, now this "war" is imprinted into history. As Juan Cole noted in an article for Foreign Policy republished here.
    'The war on terror has no end.'

    That's the plan. The Bush administration has defined the struggle vaguely precisely so that it can't end; President Bush clearly enjoys the prerogatives of being a war president.

    So the administration has expanded the goals and targets of this war from one group or geographical area to another.
    If the "war on terror" is indeed all these things, then it could drag on for decades. More likely, the American public will not tolerate such a costly grab bag of initiatives for much longer.

    If there is no major attack in the United States, pressure will build on Washington to stop fiddling with the politics of Kandahar and Ramadi, much less those of Damascus and Tehran. At some point, the American public will have to choose between paying for Bush's ongoing wars and Medicare. And that will be the true end of the war on terror.
    As far as the popular counter argument about the GWOT and the "clash of civilizations" between the US and Islam, Cole cleans that up too.
    '9-11 was a clash of civilizations.'

    False. The notion that Muslims hate the West for its way of life is simply wrong, and 9-11 hasn't changed that.

    The exhaustive World Values Survey found that more than 90% of respondents in much of the Muslim world endorsed democracy as the best form of government.
    If it is not a clash of civilizations, what is it? It is a clash over policy.
    The bloody U.S. occupation of Iraq has now created another point of tension: The Muslim world does not believe that Iraq will be better off because of the U.S. intervention.

    Autonomy and national independence appear to be part of what Muslims mean by "democracy," and they consider Western interventions in Muslim affairs a betrayal of democratic ideals. Sept. 11 and the American response to it have deepened the rift over policy, but they haven't created a clash of civilizations.

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