The new-found riches of Afghanistan 0

The discovery in Afghanistan of vast deposits of iron, copper, cobalt, gold, niobium, and lithium — used in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys – must change any prognostications made for that benighted country.

At last there’s something there that the world wants other than opium. Afghanistan will surely become richer, and may even be dragged into the 21st century. But will it be less strife-torn, or more?

How will it change American plans to withdraw troops? How will China act? How will Russia? How will Pakistan (part of the find being on its border)? How will India?

American officials fear resource-hungry China will try to dominate the development of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, which could upset the United States, given its heavy investment in the region. After winning the bid for its Aynak copper mine in Logar Province, China clearly wants more, American officials said.

And who among the Afghans will profit most from it?

Instead of bringing peace, the newfound mineral wealth could lead the Taliban to battle even more fiercely to regain control of the country.

The corruption that is already rampant in the Karzai government could also be amplified by the new wealth, particularly if a handful of well-connected oligarchs, some with personal ties to the president, gain control of the resources. Just last year, Afghanistan’s minister of mines was accused by American officials of accepting a $30 million bribe to award China the rights to develop its copper mine. …

Endless fights could erupt between the central government in Kabul and provincial and tribal leaders in mineral-rich districts.

Russians did the original prospecting that revealed the deposits, but the Soviets withdrew before they had time to assess their size, let alone exploit them. Americans found the Russian documentation and looked further.

In 2004, American geologists, sent to Afghanistan as part of a broader reconstruction effort, stumbled across an intriguing series of old charts and data at the library of the Afghan Geological Survey in Kabul that hinted at major mineral deposits in the country. They soon learned that the data had been collected by Soviet mining experts during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, but cast aside when the Soviets withdrew in 1989.

During the chaos of the 1990s, when Afghanistan was mired in civil war and later ruled by the Taliban, a small group of Afghan geologists protected the charts by taking them home, and returned them to the Geological Survey’s library only after the American invasion and the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.

Armed with the old Russian charts, the United States Geological Survey began a series of aerial surveys of Afghanistan’s mineral resources in 2006, using advanced gravity and magnetic measuring equipment attached to an old Navy Orion P-3 aircraft that flew over about 70 percent of the country.

The data from those flights was so promising that in 2007, the geologists returned for an even more sophisticated study, using an old British bomber equipped with instruments that offered a three-dimensional profile of mineral deposits below the earth’s surface. It was the most comprehensive geologic survey of Afghanistan ever conducted. …

But the results gathered dust for two more years, ignored by officials in both the American and Afghan governments. In 2009, a Pentagon task force that had created business development programs in Iraq was transferred to Afghanistan, and came upon the geological data. Until then, no one besides the geologists had bothered to look at the information — and no one had sought to translate the technical data to measure the potential economic value of the mineral deposits.

Soon, the Pentagon business development task force brought in teams of American mining experts to validate the survey’s findings …

Read it all – it’s a dramatic story.

Though probably not an introduction to a period of peace and co-operation.

Forked tongues (2) 0

Bearing out what we have said in the post immediately below about Muslims saying one thing to the West and another to their Muslim audience, today at Front Page Magazine, Michael van der Galien says this about a report written by Matt Walden, a fellow of Harvard, and issued by the London School of Economics:

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) has “an official policy” of support for the Taliban. The ISI, the report says, “provides funding and training” for the extremist Muslim group in neighboring Afghanistan. It adds that the agency even “has representatives on the so-called Quetta Shura, the Taliban’s leadership council, which is believed to meet in Pakistan.” …

“Pakistan appears to be playing a double-game of astonishing magnitude,” the report says. Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari pretends to be enlightened, modern, a staunch ally of the West, and a supporter of the War on Terror, when dealing with Westerners. Not so, says Waldman in his report. The president apparently met with senior Taliban prisoners, promising them they would released as soon as possible, adding that they were only arrested because of American pressure.

“The Pakistan government’s apparent duplicity – and awareness of it among the American public and political establishment – could have enormous geopolitical implications. Without a change in Pakistani behaviour it will be difficult if not impossible for international forces and the Afghan government to make progress against the insurgency.” …

If true, and there’s every reason to believe it is, the report spells tremendous trouble. It is virtually impossible for the West and Kabul to defeat the Taliban if these terrorists are backed by the ISI.

The view from the left 0

Hard as it is to believe, this Washington Post column by Fred Hiatt is not satire. He seems seriously to mean what he says.

Gays, immigrants, union leaders, budget hawks, campaign finance reformers, environmentalists, free-traders, human rights activists and civil libertarians all have had cause to wonder whether they were right to trust Obama. The list is familiar, but the explanation remains disputed.

My theory: The culprit is less ideology than Obama’s fidelity to a strategy he can’t, for tactical reasons, publicly acknowledge. Given the hand he was dealt, the evidence suggests he resolved that he had to choose only one domestic and one foreign objective for his first two years in office.

An ambitious set of goals motivated Obama’s candidacy, and early in his presidency the rap was that he was taking on too many. But the legacy of wars abroad and the Great Recession at home threatened his ability to accomplish any of them. Simply managing that bleak inheritance, he realized, might consume his entire term.

To avoid that trap, Obama had to govern with discipline. First, he would have to turn potential negatives into successes. At home, that meant not only engineering a stimulus program to end the recession but also designing financial reform to prevent a recurrence. In Iraq and Afghanistan, it meant charting a path to not just to withdrawal but stable outcomes.

Since both fronts would take enormous energy and political capital, Obama could not afford to squander whatever remained across an array of worthy electives. So over time he subordinated everything to just two: health-insurance reform and blocking Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. Anything else, no matter how popular or deserving, had to give way if it interfered with those.

Obama has put enormous energy into repairing relations with Russia, for example, and relatively less into ties with allies such as India, Mexico or Britain because stopping Iran would require Russia’s support of sanctions. Without a new START arms-control treaty, Russia would not play ball on Iran, so Obama worked assiduously to negotiate a new START. The nuclear summit he hosted in Washington this month; playing down trade tensions with China; the relative reticence on North Korea’s nukes; prodding Israel toward peace talks — all of these were crafted with an eye toward Iran.

At home, the mono-focus is more obvious. Obama would like to close the Guantanamo prison, curb traffic of assault weapons crossing the Mexican border, reform immigration laws and reduce carbon emissions. But each would have carried a political cost, to Obama or Democratic allies he needed on health care, so they all had to wait.

I don’t mean to suggest that Obama would go to any lengths to achieve the main objective. He bargained hard on START, for example, insisting that the treaty meet U.S. military needs as well as serve the larger goal.

And it’s not that he has abandoned everything else: Where he could advance other objectives at minimal cost, he has done so, usually by executive action. He wouldn’t fight for labor law reform, but he promulgated regulations that favor unions. He hasn’t replaced No Child Left Behind, but he allowed his education secretary to spur reform by judicious granting and withholding of stimulus funds. There’s no climate change legislation, but the Environmental Protection Agency hiked mileage standards for cars and trucks. And so on.

Obama can’t acknowledge all this. You don’t tell allies, whether gay rights groups or India, that they’ve slipped down your priority list. (That’s especially true now, before an election, as immigration, education and energy advocates jockey to go next.) And the best negotiating strategy to get things you want isn’t always to show how much you want them.

So we may have to wait until Obama writes his memoirs to discover why he elevated these two goals. Was he set on health reform from the start, for instance, or did congressional politics nudge that ahead of, say, coping with climate change?

Abroad, the strategy, with its hope of turning autocracies such as China and Russia into long-term partners, remains at best unproven. At home, it seems to be paying off, with major health reform approved and financial reform in sight. For those at the back of the line — such as the District last week — the opportunity costs are sharply felt. But even at such times, it’s hard not to admire Obama’s focus.

Every statement cries out for exegesis. Some of them – Obama’s “ending of the recession”, his financial reform, his “charting a path to stabilize Iraq and Afghanistan” – need at least a paragraph each. But there’s one that clamors for objection above the rest.

“Blocking Iran’s development of nuclear weapons” has been Obama’s foreign policy priority? Everything else except health care has been subordinated to that goal? He’s focussed on it?

Strange – we haven’t noticed that he’s done a damn thing about it. It seems to us that he’s perfectly willing to let Iran become a nuclear-armed power. A series of  “deadlines” have been allowed to pass without there being any penalty for Iran’s ignoring them. Talk of sanctions has been nothing but talk, and those talked of have been steadily weakened. No military option is “on the table”. Obama has begged Ahmadinejad for his friendship, and the poisonous little dictator has gleefully said no over and over again. How come Mr Hiatt hasn’t noticed all that?

How has the START treaty affected Iran? Russia is still not willing to vote for sanctions. And what US military needs have been served by it?  It is plainly to the detriment of the US and the advantage of Russia. Relations with Russia are in no way “repaired”. If changed at all, they’re probably worse. Nor will China vote for sanctions. And Obama’s “reticence” on North Korea’s nukes has resulted in – what?  As for the nuclear summit, Iran wasn’t even mentioned. And “prodding” Israel – that has made the world safe from Iranian bombs? What it has really done is tell Israel that it has “slipped down the priority list”, along with India and Britain and a number of other allies.

Well, we’ve recovered from being flabbergasted by Mr Hiatt’s quaint perspective and now we find it amusing. And it’s gratifying to know that numerous bunches of lefties (but surely “free-traders” and “budget hawks” do not belong among them) feel disappointed by the president of their dreams. From our perspective he has gone fearfully far to satisfy them, with the “executive action” and “regulations” and so on that Mr Hiatt tells us were thrown to them as mere sops or stop-gaps. So apparently he might have gone further and done even worse.

The implication of Mr Hiatt’s apologia for his hero is that when he has succeeded with his two chosen “electives”, he will go further. Now the health care legislation has been forced through, but there still remains the other goal Mr Hiatt believes Obama is focussed on: stopping Iran going nuclear.

If Mr Hiatt is right and the achievement of that goal really stands between Obama and the rest of the far left agenda he’s expected to foist on us, then we can rest easy. Or could, if dread of those bombs wasn’t keeping us awake nights.

But what if Mr Hiatt is wrong? We’ll get the bombs and the radical left agenda.

Ingratitude 0

One has to admire the skill with which Obama and Hillary Clinton are handling relations with Iran, China, North Korea, Israel, Britain, Russia, Canada, India, Honduras, Brazil, Czech Republic, Poland, and France. They’re managing to strengthen America’s enemies, weaken its friends, and anger all with great dispatch and – this is the really impressive part – to no discernible end. It’s not as if America’s interests are being served. Nothing selfish like that.

Oh yes – and Afghanistan. There, with thrilling arrogance, and the daring misuse of armed forces, they are demonstrating, through victory after victory, the ultimate impotence of American power.

And are the Afghans grateful? Like hell they are.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

President Hamid Karzai lashed out at his Western backers for the second time in three days, accusing the U.S. of interfering in Afghan affairs and saying the Taliban insurgency would become a legitimate resistance movement if the meddling doesn’t stop.

Mr. Karzai, whose government is propped up by billions of dollars in Western aid and nearly 100,000 American troops fighting a deadly war against the Taliban, made the comments during a private meeting with about 60 or 70 Afghan lawmakers Saturday.

At one point, Mr. Karzai suggested that he himself would be compelled to join the other side —that is, the Taliban—if the parliament didn’t back his controversial attempt to take control of the country’s electoral watchdog from the United Nations …

The Afghan leader seems as mistrustful of the West as ever—and increasingly willing to tap the resentment many ordinary Afghans feel toward the U.S. and its allies. Many here view the coalition as enabling the Afghan government’s widespread corruption, and blame U.S.-led forces for killing too many civilians.

At the same time, Mr. Karzai is working to improve relations with American rivals, such as Iran and China. The result is further strain on an already-tense partnership. …

Associates of Mr. Karzai say the events around last year’s vote left the president feeling betrayed by the West. Those feelings were clear in a speech Mr. Karzai gave Thursday, accusing “foreign embassies,” the U.N. and the European Union of being behind the electoral fraud and of trying to force him into a coalition government with his opponents.

On Saturday, Mr. Karzai went a step further, saying foreign interference in Afghan affairs fueled the insurgency, according to five lawmakers who attended the meeting.

“He said that the only reason that the Taliban and other insurgent groups are fighting the Afghan government is that they see foreigners having the final say in everything,” said one of the lawmakers.

All five lawmakers said Mr. Karzai told those who gathered at the palace that the Taliban’s “revolt will change to resistance” if the U.S. and its allies kept dictating how his government should run. The word “resistance” is a term often used to convey a legitimate struggle against unjust rulers, such as the Mujahedeen’s fight against the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Mr. Karzai’s remarks were the latest sign of the growing rift between the Afghan leader and the U.S., which is pouring troops into the country in a bid to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and win the support of ordinary Afghans.

Key to the surge strategy is restoring the battered domestic reputation of the Karzai administration. President Barack Obama, during a brief visit to Kabul Monday, pressed Mr. Karzai to clean up the pervasive corruption in his government.

If anything, Mr. Obama’s visit appears to have backfired. A businessman with close ties to Mr. Karzai said the Afghan leader was insulted by Mr. Obama’s comments and left with even greater doubts about the American commitment to Afghanistan.

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have an ungrateful puppet!

(Please someone, remind us what the US is in Afghanistan for, what the ultimate aim is, what Afghanistan will look like when that aim is achieved?)

A state condemned 3

“Condemn” is a very strong word in diplomat-speak. It’s the word most American presidents would apply only to the activities and policies of hostile and extremely delinquent states.

Obama is applying it to Israel.

What has Israel done that is very wrong? Let’s see.

Not long ago it reluctantly agreed under American pressure to suspend building new houses for Jewish occupants on the West Bank, but expressly excluded Jerusalem from the agreement, and the exclusion was accepted by Obama’s State Department.

So when it announced recently that planning permission has been given for some additional apartments in an area to the north of Israel’s capital city, Israel did not expect an objection to be suddenly raised. The development, begun a dozen years ago, does not and will not encroach on any Arab neighborhood. Nobody has objected to it before. The ground had not previously been in use for housing or anything else. Some 18,000 Jews live there now with families growing up. There are normal needs for expansion of accomodation.

But because the piece of wasteland was taken in a war waged against Israel in 1948, and held until 1967 by the British-created state of Jordan, Obama wants it to be rid of its Jewish residents and kept in reserve to be “returned” to Arab possession when there is a state of Palestine.

So the routine announcement that long-planned building in that part of Jerusalem will go ahead has been taken by Obama to be such an insult “to America” that Israel must be condemned for it. The result is a crisis of relations between the two countries.

We contend that the announcement was a handy excuse; that the crisis was engineered; that any pretext would have done.

But what is it Obama needs a pretext for?

Caroline Glick’s answer is this:

Why has President Barak Obama decided to foment a crisis in US relations with Israel? …

Obama’s new demands follow the months of American pressure that eventually coerced Netanyahu into announcing both his support for a Palestinian state and a 10-month ban on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria. No previous Israeli government had ever been asked to make the latter concession.

Netanyahu was led to believe that in return for these concessions Obama would begin behaving like the credible mediator his predecessors were. But instead of acting like his predecessors, Obama has behaved like the Palestinians. Rather than reward Netanyahu for taking a risk for peace, Obama has, in the model of Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, pocketed Netanyahu’s concessions and escalated his demands. This is not the behavior of a mediator. This is the behavior of an adversary. …

Obama’s assault on Israel is likely related to the failure of his Iran policy. Over the past week, senior administration officials including Gen. David Petraeus have made viciously defamatory attacks on Israel, insinuating that the construction of homes for Jews in Jerusalem is a primary cause for bad behavior on the part of Iran and its proxies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria and Gaza. By this line of thinking, if Israel simply returned to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines, Iran’s centrifuges would stop spinning, and Syria, al-Qaida, the Taliban, Hizbullah, Hamas and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards would all beat their swords into plowshares. …

Even more important than its usefulness as a tool to divert the public’s attention away from the failure of his Iran policy, Obama’s assault against Israel may well be aimed at maintaining that failed policy. Specifically, he may be attacking Israel in a bid to coerce Netanyahu into agreeing to give Obama veto power over any Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear installations. That is, the anti-Israel campaign may be a means to force Israel to stand by as Obama allows Iran to build a nuclear arsenal. …

Obama … seeks to realign US foreign policy away from Israel. Obama’s constant attempts to cultivate relations with Iran’s unelected president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ahmadinejad’s Arab lackey Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, and Turkey’s Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan make clear that he views developing US relations with these anti-American regimes as a primary foreign policy goal. …

[And] he  is using his manufactured crisis to justify adopting an overtly anti-Israel position vis-à-vis the Palestinians. …

Likewise, the crisis Obama has manufactured with Israel could pave the way for him to recognize a Palestinian state if the Palestinians follow through on their threat to unilaterally declare statehood next year regardless of the status of negotiations with Israel. Such a US move could in turn lead to the deployment of US forces in Judea and Samaria to “protect” the unilaterally declared Palestinian state from Israel.

General Petraeus has even suggested putting the “Palestinian territories” under his central command.

We don’t believe the Palestinians’ threat. If they declare a state they’ll need to declare its boundaries, and if the boundaries do not embrace the entire state of Israel plus Gaza plus Judaea and Samaria, they’ll  be acknowledging the right of Israel to exist. Borders have two sides. “This side  the State of Palestine; that side the State of Israel”. The pretence of their now being willing to settle for a “two-state solution”  – when they’ve been rejecting such a thing for more than six decades – would instantly be exposed as the lie it is.

But Obama wants there to be a Palestinian state. And if it cannot, because it will not, be a second state in the region, will he then insist that it should be the only state?

We see no reason why there should be a 22nd Arab state.

We see no reason why the 21 existing Arab states shouldn’t assimilate the refugees of the Palestine region just as Israel assimilated the Jews who were expelled by the Arab states in 1948.

We see no reason why Jews shouldn’t live in Arab/Muslim countries just as Arabs/Muslims live in Israel, with full voting and property-owning rights, paying the same taxes, protected by the same laws equally.

We would be happy to see only one state in the region – the State of Israel, not Palestine.

But Obama, and the huge bloc of Islamic countries, and Europe, and Russia, have a vision of a 22-state Arab judenrein Middle East.

If America withdraws diplomatic support, as it is likely to do now; if Iran, bent on destroying Israel, is soon to be nuclear armed with Obama’s consent; and if, in addition, American forces are to be sent to the West Bank to aid Palestinian forces against their Israeli enemy as has been proposed, how good is Israel’s chance of surviving?

Buddhists murdered by Muslims 1

In 2001 the Taliban destroyed two ancient Buddhist statues. In Western eyes it was an unforgivable act of vandalism. It was widely reported, and the perpetrators were angrily denounced.

Even an archaeologist, K. Kris Hirst, could not keep a cool professional view of the deed entirely free of moral judgment, having this to say about it:

In March 2001, six months before the September 11th bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City, the Taliban destroyed two ancient statues of the Buddha called Bamiyan in an attempt to cleanse the country of Afghanistan of what they perceived as Hindu heresy.

To be perfectly blunt, this is an old story. New landowners of a country move in and do their best to obliterate all traces of the conquered and now minority population. Former cultural monuments, particularly if they are of a religious nature, are pulled down, and monuments for the new group built, frequently right on the top of the foundations of the old. The old languages are forbidden or limited, along with other cultural phenomena such as marriage customs, rites of initiation, even food taboos.

The reasons the conquerors give for this trashing of the old ways and structures are varied, and include everything from modernization to saving the souls of the recently conquered. But the purpose is the same: to destroy the remnants of a culture which represents a threat to the new dominance. It happened in 16th century AD in the New World civilizations; it happened in Caesar’s Rome; it happened in the dynasties of Egypt and China. It’s what we as humans do when we are afraid. Destroy things.

So, it shouldn’t have been as shocking as it was, to see the Taliban in Afghanistan blast two enormous 3rd and 5th century AD statues of Buddha to powder with anti-aircraft guns. … It is … an ominous forewarning of the Taliban’s distaste of anything other than their own set of extremist Islamic values.

When it comes to the destruction of  Buddhists themselves by Muslims, there is less interest. Virtually none at all. But news of it crops up in obscure places.

This report comes (via Creeping Sharia) from the Hindi weekly, Organiser:

Brutal killings of hapless Chakma Buddhists living for centuries in Chittagong hill tract and burning of their houses and pagodas by powerful gangs of Muslim land mafias in Bangladesh on February 19-20 …

Apart from killings of 10 poor Chakmas, at least 200 houses in 11 Chakma villages were burnt to ashes by marauding goons on the night of February 19. At one point during the clash, the military personnel started firing indiscriminately on fleeing Chakma villagers only to help encourage attacking Muslim settlers. Chittagong is Bangladesh’s only district having a significant Buddhist population. Army was called in after a pagoda and an office of a UN-funded project were set on fire. A statue of Lord Buddha installed at the Banani Buddhist Monastery was damaged and another statue was looted… Chakmas demanded immediate withdrawal of 400 army camps from Chitagong hills alleging that Bangladesh army personnel are actually helping outsiders to settle in Chakma villages by grabbing their land

There have been many attacks on Buddhist and Hindu villages since 1997 in Bangladesh which have now become occupied by Muslim villagers and landowners…

We are waiting patiently for the denunciation of the Muslim murderers in the United Nations. Can one doubt that the UN Human Rights Council will be taking vigorous action over the matter in the very near future? (Or maybe when they’ve finished condemning Israel for renovating the Hurva synagogue in Jerusalem, or the site of Rachel’s Tomb on the West Bank.)

A question of belief 1

The Washington Post reports:

In theory, the Afghan government is in place in Kandahar, but its authority is nominal. Bombings and assassinations have left the government largely isolated behind concrete barricades and blast walls. In the latest burst of violence, a suicide squad struck across the city late Saturday, detonating bombs at a recently fortified prison, the police headquarters and two other sites … At least 30 people were killed.

For the first time in years, however, the U.S. military again has Kandahar in its sights.

American troops are seeking to reclaim the city and surrounding province, where the Taliban has proved resurgent, more than eight years after the U.S.-led invasion forced the group from power. But a visit here last week made clear that American forces will face an insidious enemy that operates mainly in the shadows and exercises indirect control through intimidation and by instilling fear. The provincial governor remains mostly behind barricades. The provincial council has trouble convening because many members have fled to Kabul. The police are viewed as ill-trained, corrupt and possibly in league with criminal gangs.

The environment here [is] more complicated than the one the Marines have encountered in neighboring Helmand province and the town of Marja, where the Afghan government’s presence was nonexistent and where Taliban fighters were massed in large numbers. The Marines took Marja with relative ease, installing a governor handpicked by the Kabul government.

In Kandahar city, residents say, real power rests with Ahmed Wali Karzai, head of the council and the younger brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Ahmed Karzai has been accused of vote rigging and involvement in the drug trade, allegations he has consistently denied. The eight judges still working in the city and province live together for security, packed into an impregnable compound, behind gray concrete walls topped with razor wire. …

If Kandahar city is sliding into lawlessness, the surrounding province appears in even worse shape. In the city, the government has retreated behind concrete barricades; in much of the countryside, there is no government presence. …

Haji Raz Mohammed, president of a district council, said he regularly negotiates with the Taliban to prevent its fighters from destroying development projects. “The Taliban is there, the Americans are there, the government is there,” he said, “But nobody is really in control of the district.”

To operate so easily, in the city and the province, the Taliban must rely on some level of local support. …

“The majority of people say they are afraid of the Taliban,” said a paid adviser to the government’s reconciliation commission in Kandahar. “But they are better than the government, because the government is so corrupt.”

We are to understand that “the coalition forces” – ie America and Britain  – will win the war in Afghanistan; that the lives lost and the blood shed to turn Afghanistan into a peaceful democratic country have not been sacrificed in vain. We have to try to believe that Afghanistan will soon have a government that is no more corrupt than most western governments are; that the traditionally warring tribes will from  then on forget their old hatreds and live peacefully with one another; that there will be no, or at least much less, drug trading; that the criminal gangs will become less of a danger; that the police will be well-trained and less corrupt; that the Taliban will give up its passionate warfare and bow to the democratically elected government; that the whole miserable place will become something like Surrey or California.

Or what?

And who can believe it?

Posted under Afghanistan, Commentary, Islam, Muslims, Terrorism, United States, War by Jillian Becker on Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tagged with , , , , , ,

This post has 1 comment.

Permalink

The cloud of knowing 5

Traces of some very abstruse reasoning emerge tantalizingly from the Cloud of Knowing – the thinkers who influence current US foreign policy. Secretive ends are being pursued. Can we discern what they are, or guess what they might be, from the clues dropped by the press?

The Washington Post reports:

American foreign policy is handicapped by a narrow, ill-informed and “uncompromising Western secularism” that feeds religious extremism, threatens traditional cultures and fails to encourage religious groups that promote peace and human rights, according to a two-year study by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

So, according to a body that calls itself the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, secularism “feeds” religious extremism. Presumably that means it nourishes it, energizes it, makes it stronger than it would otherwise be.

Now how could it do that? Does it drive the religious mad by simply being non-religious? And if so, is it to blame for that, or are the religious perhaps over-reacting?

Wait. It’s not any old secularism that is guilty of annoying the religious; it is specifically Western secularism. Other sorts – if there are sorts of secularism – are not bad, or not as bad.

Why? Apparently because Western secularism, in contrast to, say, Eastern secularism if it exists, is “uncompromising”. But how should not-being-religious compromise? Should it be a little bit religious? If so, how much? And would it then still be secularism?

One may begin to suspect that here is another formulation of the now familiar accusation from the left that the West has only itself to blame for being attacked by religious extremists – aka Muslim terrorists – because it is not Muslim. Or is that leaping too quickly to an as yet unwarranted conclusion?

Let’s proceed cautiously. As well as “feeding” religious extremism, this Western secularism also “threatens traditional cultures”. How? Does it proselytize non-belief? Not that anyone’s heard. Does it try to force non-belief on believers? Again, no, not noticeably. Then does its mere existence raise questions that endanger the belief of “traditional cultures” – in which case what would the Chicago Council on Global Affairs have it do to lift the threat from those intimidated folk?

Wait again – the list of accusations against this dangerous force called secularism is not yet exhausted. It also “fails to encourage religious groups that promote peace and human rights”.

Which groups would those be – could we have some names, please? And why can they only carry out their noble mission if they are encouraged?

Answers to these questions cannot be found in the Washington Post story.

What it does tell us is that it took this body two years to reach its conclusion. So we  should not brush it off as nonsense: in two years it is possible to go very deeply into grievances.

What’s more, the conclusion requires, and will elicit, action by the government of the United States.

The council’s 32-member task force, which included former government officials and scholars representing all major faiths, delivered its report to the White House on Tuesday. The report warns of a serious “capabilities gap” and recommends that President Obama make religion “an integral part of our foreign policy”. 

A serious capabilities gap? Not a mere pothole in the diplomatic road to perfect global accord? And it could be filled in by – what exactly? A state religion? No – that could not be the recommendation of 32 officials and scholars representing all major faiths.

Just a generalized religiosity then?

But how is religion, whether specific or a mere aura of sanctity assumed by the State Department, going to improve American foreign policy, soothe the extremists of foreign creeds, reassure traditional cultures,  and stiffen the backbone of groups (presumably different from the religious extremists) intent on virtuously promoting peace  and human rights?

We are not told, and can only hope that the Chicago Council’s report to the White House provides answers to these difficult questions.

Thomas Wright, the council’s executive director of studies, said task force members met Tuesday with Joshua DuBois, head of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and State Department officials. “They were very receptive, and they said that there is a lot of overlap between the task force’s report and the work they have been doing on this same issue,” Wright said.

Something is already being done by the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to make religion in some way an integral part of US foreign policy? It would be most interesting to know what exactly.

DuBois declined to comment on the report but wrote on his White House blog Tuesday: “The Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership and the National Security Staff are working with agencies across government to analyze the ways the U.S. government engages key non-governmental actors, including religious institutions, around the globe.”

Ah! He’s not being exact, but there’s a clue in here somewhere.

The Chicago Council isn’t as influential as the Council on Foreign Relations or some other Washington-based think tanks, but it does have a long-standing relationship with the president. Obama spoke to the council once as a state senator and twice as a U.S. senator, including his first major foreign policy speech as a presidential candidate in April 2007.

It could depend on his sympathy then, with whatever it is they want done.

Michelle Obama is on the council’s board.

Again, ah!

Now we learn that the problem, however obcure it may seem to the public, has been troubling smart people for quite some time.

American foreign policy’s “God gap” has been noted in recent years by others, including former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright.

Well, she has been associated with a few faiths in her time – Judaism, Catholicism, Protestantism. So perhaps she would be especially aware of a shortage of religious belief in the State Department. Could have struck her forcibly when she assumed office.

“It’s a hot topic,” said Chris Seiple [read something very politically correct that he’s written here], president of the Institute for Global Engagement in Arlington County and a Council on Foreign Relations member. “It’s the elephant in the room. You’re taught not to talk about religion and politics, but the bummer is that it’s at the nexus of national security. The truth is the academy has been run by secular fundamentalists for a long time, people who believe religion is not a legitimate component of realpolitik.

Come now, politics can hardly be avoided by a Council of Foreign Relations. But you say that religion is “the elephant in the room”? And it is “at the nexus of national security” ?

The Chicago Council’s task force was led by R. Scott Appleby of the University of Notre Dame and Richard Cizik of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.

Who is Richard Cizik, and what is the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good? According to Newsweek he was the Washington lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals for nearly 30 years, and then, towards the end of 2008, he announced “the formation of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a group devoted to developing Christian responses to global and political issues such as environmentalism, nuclear disarmament, human rights, and dialogue with the Muslim world”.

Hmm.

“Religion,” the task force says, “is pivotal to the fate” of such nations as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iraq, Iran, Nigeria and Yemen, all vital to U.S. national and global security.

So the particular religion they have in mind is Islam?

Not necessarily … don’t jump to conclusions …  it could also be  .. hmmm-mmm … Hinduism and …  Christianity and … who knows what?:

“Despite a world abuzz with religious fervor,” the task force says, “the U.S. government has been slow to respond effectively to situations where religion plays a global role.” Those include the growing influence of Pentecostalism in Latin America, evangelical Christianity in Africa and religious minorities in the Far East.

All of which feel threatened by Western secularism? Are crying out for it to compromise a little?

But okay, mostly Islam:

U.S. officials have made efforts to address the God gap, especially in dealings with Islamic nations and groups. The CIA established an office of political Islam in the mid-1980s. … During the second Bush administration, the Defense Department rewrote the Army’s counterinsurgency manual to take account of cultural factors, including religion.

Could that have had something to do with the shooting of soldiers by an “extremist” Muslim officer at Fort Hood? Just wondering.

The Obama administration has stepped up the government’s outreach to a wider range of religious groups and individuals overseas

… even, say, the Dalai Lama if he’ll use the back door …

…  trying to connect with people beyond governments, said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Very hush-hush stuff this.

The effort, he said, is more deliberate than in the past: “This issue has senior-level attention.”

He noted that Obama appointed a special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference …

The envoy being a Muslim and a terrorist sympathizer [see our post The trusted envoy, February 20, 2010], and the Organization of the Islamic Conference being a major instrument of the Ummah for the conquest of the non-Muslim world, chiefly by methods of “soft jihad” in Europe.

… and created a new Muslim outreach position in the State Department. In the past year, he said, embassies in Muslim-majority countries have held hundreds of meetings with a broad range of people not involved in government.

Huh? Muslim-majority countries have had hundreds of meetings with individual people not involved with government? What people? Why? To what end? How does the government know about them?

Whatever was going on with that, it was apparently too “episodic and uncoordinated”. Now there must be something more programmatic, more official, more formal, more defined, and definitely involving government:

To end the “episodic and uncoordinated nature of U.S. engagement of religion in the world,” the task force recommended:

— Adding religion to the training and continuing education of all foreign service officers, diplomats and other key diplomatic, military and economic officials. …

— Empowering government departments and agencies to engage local and regional religious communities where they are central players in the promotion of human rights and peace, as well as the delivery of health care and other forms of assistance.

Leaving aside the code words “human rights” and “peace” which in such a context as this usually mean “leftism” and “Islam” – diplomats, and military and even economic officials should deliver health care?

But here comes the stunner. (Remember that “clarify” in diplomatic talk always means “take it back and say something more to our liking”.)

— Address and clarify the role of religious freedom in U.S. foreign policy.

Cizik said some parts of the world — the Middle East, China, Russia and India, for example — are particularly sensitive to the U.S. government’s emphasis on religious freedom and see it as a form of imperialism.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IS A FORM OF IMPERIALISM?

We give up. Such nuanced thought is beyond our grasp.

A report from Afghanistan 2

Islamic law requires homosexuals to be put to death.

This report comes from the Islamic state of Afghanistan:

Over six months an Afghani journalist, Najibullah Quraishi, has risked his life to document the practice of Bacha Bazi (boy play), where young men are forced into prostitution serving the needs of rich and powerful men.

The filmmaker follows those who make a living procuring young boys, and those who abuse them. The result is a deeply disturbing portrait of a society that publicly promotes a strict moral code while effectively condoning systematic child abuse.

Imagine being nine or ten years old. You are orphaned and living on the streets of a city in Afghanistan. You are approached by a man you do not know. He will clothe, feed and “protect” you. All you must do is learn to dance.

At first you will practice your routine with another young man. After weeks of training you will make your debut dancing before a crowd of men. Many are former warlords who helped the Karzai Government make its way to power. Others might be powerful businessmen.

Before you dance you will be given clothes and make up to make you look feminine. After the dancing, the men are excited and they bid for your company. If you please a warlord or businessman they will pay highly for your favours. Ultimately you will be traded, violated and abused by a large number of men.

This is the world of the Bacha Bereesh, which means “beardless boys”. These children are groomed to become sex slaves. It is not a new practice. In Afghanistan the Warlords often kept young boys as their sexual partners. But in modern Afghanistan the practice has evolved into a lucrative and expanding business. In a country ravaged by war orphaned boys are being openly targeted by paedophiles. Some families are so poor that they are willing to sell their sons into slavery. Official reports now suggest thousands of children are at risk.

For the first time on television this practice is finally exposed. A locally born reporter has taken a camera and gone inside the world of the dancing boys. He goes with the “protector” as this man buys children. The reporter is told how the boys are trained and he is told how the “protector” will rent them out and take his “cut”.

The documentary finds evidence that this practice is not confined to any one area of Afghanistan. Although it is popular in the north it is now spreading across the country.

The investigation also shows what happens when the boys mature or fall out of favour with the men who desire them. Some are abandoned, others are killed.

Will the democratic and incorruptible government which NATO forces will soon enable to establish power firmly throughout Afghanistan abolish this custom and save young boys from this fate, do we suppose?

Posted under Afghanistan, Islam, Muslims, NATO, War by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Tagged with , , , ,

This post has 2 comments.

Permalink

Saudi Arabia’s man in the State Department 0

An ardent supporter of the Wahhabi fundamentalists who rule Saudi Arabia, John Duke Anthony, has been appointed by the Obama administration as an adviser to the State Department. He has been zealous in promoting Arab and Islamic propaganda in American colleges, in some of which the Saudis have invested millions to pursue such programs. What advice is Anthony giving to Hillary Clinton’s department? If he urges a US ‘dialogue’ with Hamas, which he has already called for, he  is unlikely to arouse outrage. Hillary Clinton has provided billions indirectly to the terrorist organization that rules Gaza, while insisting that the money would never reach its coffers.

From Campus Watch:

Most Americans, even many of those concerned with the problems of academic Middle East Studies, have probably never heard of the Model Arab League (MAL), an American exercise similar to the better-known Model United Nations. The stated aim of such efforts is to expand awareness of world affairs among high school and college students. Participants compete in regional role-playing sessions as representatives of constituent countries in the corresponding world bodies and receive awards for their performance. They are then sent to contend at “nationals” held in Washington, D.C. and similar to matches sponsored by many other student societies and sports associations.

But the Model Arab League could be described better as a propaganda network for Arab nationalism, including promotion of the Arab states’ hostile postures toward Israel, than as a contributor to excellence in international studies or debate.

The Model Arab League was created in 1983 at Georgetown University by the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR), which came into existence that same year, and the website of which prominently features MAL activities. NCUSAR’s president and chief executive officer is an indefatigable Saudi apologist named John Duke Anthony. In May 2009, Anthony was appointed by the Obama administration to the U.S. State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy. He has been an adjunct professor at the Georgetown Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS) since 2006.

Saudi prince Turki al-Faisal, the former head of the Saudi General Intelligence Directorate who served briefly as Saudi ambassador to the U.S. in 2005-06, joined Anthony at CCAS in fall 2008. Al-Faisal has admitted dealing with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, allegedly in the 1980s during the anti-Soviet resistance war, and in the 1990s with Mullah Omar, leader of the Taliban.

The original Arab League, known formally as the League of Arab States, was conceived in 1944 and comprises 22 Arab and African nations, [and includes] the Palestinian Authority (P.A.). The following year, the League promulgated a pan-Arab boycott on the purchase of products from “Zionist” enterprises in Palestine. This was followed by a full embargo against commercial relations with Israel after the latter proclaimed its independence in 1948. The League has extended the embargo to a secondary ban on any individual, enterprise, or agency operating in any of the Arab League member countries that does business in Israel. Individuals, companies, or public institutions maintaining relations with Israelis are placed on the League’s boycott blacklist. A tertiary boycott prohibits dealings with companies from America and elsewhere that have been blacklisted.

Yet the anti-Israel embargo is not the only topic on which the Arab League finds itself in conflict with U.S. policies and laws. In late 2009, Secretary-General [Amr] Moussa held a joint press conference in Cairo with Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani at which Moussa announced the League’s support for Iran’s nuclear program.

Back in America, the Model Arab League will hold its college “nationals” at Georgetown in March. High school “regionals” are pending, with local sessions at Marist High School in Atlanta later this month and in Boston, where students will meet at Northeastern University in April. Separate high school “nationals” will take place at Georgetown on April 16-17.

College-level MALs are held at 10 campuses around the U.S. These include, aside from Georgetown: Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina; Texas A&M, Miami University of Ohio; the University of San Francisco; the University of Montana-Missoula; and several others.

Students and faculty at Montana-Missoula got a taste of who and what the NCUSAR, the MAL, and John Duke Anthony represent when the latter keynoted a seminar on “New Avenues for U.S. Middle East Policy” on March 4, 2009 at the University of Montana … Anthony called on the Obama administration to begin a dialogue immediately with the Palestinian terrorist movement Hamas and otherwise spent his time on the Montana campus, according to student sources, assailing Israel as the sole perpetrator of problems in the Middle East.

While U.S. policy condemns the Arab League embargo against Israel and questions the goals of Iranian nuclear development, the Model Arab League indoctrinates American high school and college students into a radical Arab-Muslim paradigm. This is unsurprising in that the MAL is a creation of Anthony, one of Washington’s veteran servants of the Saudis, and has its focus at Georgetown, already well-known for its Saudi endowments, including the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, financed by a $20-million donation from the Saudi prince after whom it is named.

The Model Arab League is offered to the educational establishment — including high schools — as a teaching device for the betterment of young Americans’ knowledge of essential contemporary issues. In reality, its origins and content reveal it to be an intrusion of Saudi-financed ideology into American academic life, the appropriateness of which should be questioned … In addition, the appointment of John Duke Anthony to an advisory economic position in the State Department, given his advocacy for Saudi interests (which do not coincide with U.S. economic needs) should be subject to public scrutiny.

Older Posts »