Friday, October 26, 2007

Facts are held hostage at the BBC

Alan Johnston, the BBC's Gaza correspondent who was held hostage for nearly four months by Islamic terrorists before being freed in July, is probably the first kidnap victim to develop Stockholm syndrome before being abducted. His solidly pro-Palestinian reporting made him an unlikely target for the militants, and as Melanie Phillips has written, his kidnapping was very likely staged as a prelude to Hamas’s takeover of Gaza a few weeks later.

That’s not to belittle Johnston’s ordeal. But the way the BBC has milked the episode to wallow in self-importance, and generally promote its global brand, leaves a nasty taste in the mouth – to say nothing of its kid-gloves approach to the terrorists of Hamas in the months since.

The Beeb is in full Johnston-mania mode this week, and aired an hour-long Panorama documentary on the kidnapping last night. It was typical of what passes for current affairs on BBC1 these days, mixing slick production values with superficial analysis, and stuck to the simplistic line that Johnston was kidnapped by rogue Islamists and/or criminals, before being rescued by that paragon of law and order, Hamas.

So we had Johnston being interviewed, with no end of nods and winks, by the smooth-but-serious Jeremy Vine in, for some reason, a very large empty warehouse; frantic point-of-view shots as we raced through the streets of Gaza; a raven appearing every now and then to symbolise menace. And most bizarrely, every time the prospect of Johnston’s death was raised, we got a sequence ripped off from Gladiator, showing a woman trailing her hand through a field of tall grass.

But for all its silliness, the programme at least steered clear of the broader politics of the Middle East, a temptation that Johnston was unable to resist in a radio program which also aired yesterday, and the text of which is on the BBC’s website. Slipping effortlessly back into the language he employed as Gaza correspondent, Johnston makes excuses for his kidnappers, implicitly pins the blame for his ordeal on Israel, and even manages to get in a swipe at the US.

Here’s Johnston’s inevitable romanticising of one of his captors:

Like many young men who I had met in Gaza, Khamees was the son of a family that had either fled or been driven from their home in what is now Israel.

He had been raised in the poverty of one of Gaza's intensely crowded cities, and been drawn to the militant groups that had fought the occupying Israeli army.

Khamees had matured into a battle-hardened urban guerrilla.

The BBC’s reporters have come up with no end of weasel words to describe Palestinian murderers over the years, but I thought ‘urban guerilla’ had gone out with flares and disco. And as Khamees apparently belonged to an fringe Islamic group, rather than Fatah or Hamas, I’m not sure which ‘battle’ Johnston thinks he was ‘hardened’ in – perhaps the Battle of Mahmoud’s Barber Shop, when Mahmoud was given a good beating for offering un-Islamic beard trims – or the Battle of Ali’s Video Store, when Khamees and his comrades succeeded, in the face of overwhelming odds, in shoving Mahmoud’s mother out of the way, knee-capping Mahmoud and torching his collection of decadent Western movies.

And you'd think that an authority on the Middle East such as Johnston would be well aware that most of the Arabs who were displaced at the time of the creation of Israel in 1948 either left of their own accord or were told to leave by the invading Arab armies (Alan Dershowitz has a chapter on the 'refugees' in his book The Case for Israel, and there's a good collection of mea culpas from Arab sources here). As for the 'occupation', Johnston might have mentioned that the Gazans were perfectly happy to be occupied by Egypt until the Arab nations' second failed attempt to destroy Israel; they're not against occupation per se – they just prefer to choose their occupiers.

For all Johnston knows, Khamees could have been born and raised in Gaza. He may not even be a Palestinian. Johnston is probably just throwing in a bit of colour here to give his captors a human face, along with an excuse for their brutality to boot: it’s all down to Israeli aggression, and Israeli-inflicted poverty.

And a little later, Johnston recounts how he was able to cheer himself up by putting his ordeal into context:

But the fact was that I had not been killed, and I was not being beaten around.

I was being fed reasonably, and I decided that my conditions could have been much, much worse.

Whatever else it was, my Gazan incarceration was not what Iraqi prisoners had been forced to endure at Abu Ghraib jail.

It was not the Russian Gulag, and it certainly was not the Nazi death camps.

Dreadful as Abu Ghraib was, to talk about what happened there in the same breath as the Gulags and Hitler’s concentration camps – and in fact to focus on the former while adding the latter horrors as an afterthought – is taking moral equivalence to extremes.

Johnston might argue that he was simply looking to provide context. If so, he could have chosen three far more appropriate examples: Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, who are being held captive by Hezbollah, and Gilad Shalit, who remains a prisoner of Johnston’s ‘liberators’, Hamas. All three have been held for over a year, probably not far from where Johnston was confined, and you might think that their fates would have been on his mind in the months he’s had to reflect on his own ordeal.

But in the inverted moral universe of Alan Johnston and the BBC it’s the murderers and kidnappers of Gaza who are the good guys, and the Israelis and the Americans who are to blame for everything that’s wrong in the Middle East. Johnston and other reporters often fret over the lack of progress in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; it might help matters if they stopped making excuses for terrorists and started reporting the truth.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Left and the Islamists

Walid Phares, the author of The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracy, on the marriage of convenience between the anti-war Western Left and the thoroughly warlike jihadis:

Despite all the mutual mayhem across the Mediterranean and throughout the Middle East, an unnatural alliance was established by elites of the two camps, even while blood was being shed in the 1990s. Setting ideologies and history aside, the Islamist tacticians and neo-Left pragmatists gradually converged on a two-lane path against liberal democracies and the specter of a free market and pluralist Middle East.

This tactical cooperation between radical Islam and the Left is also the subject of David Horowitz's Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left. While Horowitz focuses on the radicals behind the US anti-war movement, Phares looks at the phenomenon from the point of view of the Islamists:

The jihadi manipulation of the bourgeois-Neo-Marxist "struggle" has played a central role in the so-called "mass demonstrations" in the West since 2002, and the demonstrations themselves are an important component of the War of Ideas against democracy. On campuses, both in North America and Western Europe, the jihadi-antiwar axis has planted deep roots, and thanks to the skills of university-based anarchist groups, the jihadists have found a cover they can hide under, instead of simply becoming members of the typical Wahabi-contolled Muslim Student Unions.

The Islamists have about as much chance of restoring the Caliphate as the Left has of seeing off free-market democracy, but the former group is prepared to keep killing even when it knows it has no chance of victory, and the latter is prepared to tolerate the excesses of its allies because it knows that its opposition to the War on Terror is one of the few causes that gives it a semblance of legitimacy. Ultimately it may not be freedom-loving Westerners who defeat either ideology, but rather a desire for peace and prosperity by the majority of ordinary people in the Middle East that renders them irrelevant.

Another reason to ignore Gore

Denis Keohane at American Thinker wonders why anyone should trust Al Gore when he warns of the disasters he claims will be wrought by global warming in 50 or 100 years, given that he couldn't envision the threat of Islamic terrorists using hijacked planes as weapons just a couple of years before it happened, despite having a wealth of germane material in front of him. Keohane writes:

Terrorists had been hijacking airplanes, destroying or plotting to destroy airliners, committing numerous acts of terror suicide, and using vehicles to deliver both the terrorist and the explosives to lethal proximity of their targets for years. Heavily fueled commercial airliners as devices of suicide attack seemed an obviously predictable development. In retrospect. Foresight failed us because we gave insufficient thought to how terrorists might attack.

As Keohane explains, giving thought to how terrorists might attack in the future was precisely what Gore was tasked with doing when President Clinton appointed him chairman of the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security back in 1996.

He failed miserably. Maybe his exhortations about global warming are his way of trying to make amends.

More from Mark Steyn:

Anyone can, as the environmentalists advise, think globally and act locally, but only Gore thinks cosmically and acts not at all.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Apologies for the lack of posts...

You might be wondering if Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize has finally broken my spirit, but the fact is I've been ridiculously busy in work the last week or so, and in the brief periods when I haven't been working I've barely had time to keep up with the news and the blogs, let alone post my own stuff. I also stare at a computer screen in work all day, so when I get home staring at another one isn't top of my list. I'll aim to get some bits and pieces up in the next couple of days, and hopefully things will be back to normal next week.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Nobel Prize for fear-mongering?

In Oslo tomorrow the Nobel Institute will announce the winner of its 2007 Peace Prize. If, in a collective fit of madness, the committee is thinking of giving it to Al Gore for his efforts to alert the world to the 'threat' of 'global warming', they should have been given pause for thought by yesterday's ruling from a British High Court Judge.

By a delicious fluke of timing, Judge Michael Burton reminded the world that Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth, on the back of which the inconsequential former VP has ridden from failure and obscurity to worldwide prominence, is nothing more than a slickly presented collection of exaggeration, half-truths and outright lies.

Expanding on comments he made last week, the judge ruled that the film contained nine 'key scientific errors'. Most of these falsehoods ('errors' is being far too kind) are by now well known not only to sceptics, but to the alarmist politicians, pressure groups, celebrities and companies who cynically continue to employ them for their particular ends.

The falsehoods include, of course, the infamous claim of an imminent 20ft sea level rise, which even the IPCC's most pessimistic computer models don't come close to substantiating. Judge Hudson, with a politeness most of Gore's critics find hard to muster in the face of such blatant dishonesty, noted that the claim was 'not in line with the scientific consensus'.

Then there are the claims of drowning polar bears, and inundated Pacific atolls, neither of which the UK government's lawyers could present evidence for; Gore's assertion that the snows of Kilimanjaro are melting as a direct result of global warming, when several studies have shown that deforestation and local weather patterns are the likely causes; the unproven link between climate change and Hurricane Katrina; that 'exact fit' between graphs for CO2 emissions and global temperature that's nothing of a sort. And a few others.

Of course, anyone with a vaguely inquiring mind would have been well aware of these 'errors' when Gore was nominated for the prize back in February. But if the two Norwegian MPs who nominated Gore knew, they didn't let it stop them. And nor did the facts prevent the Nobel committee from accepting the nomination.

But let's imagine that Gore's film wasn't so shamelessly dishonest, and was in fact, grounded in fact. Even if mankind is responsible for unprecedented warming that threatens to create environmental chaos, and assuming that global warming might create theoretical security problems, the suggestion that alerting us to the risk somehow makes Gore eligible for the Peace Prize is something of a stretch.

The prize has traditionally been awarded to those who have campaigned to end conflicts around the world. According to the rules of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, the Peace Prize is awarded to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.

While the contributions of some past winners – notably Yasser Arafat and Jimmy Carter – to world peace were negligible, if not downright counterproductive, they did, at least, pay lip service to the idea of resolving a conflict that was, at least, taking place.

Gore, on the other hand, would be the first recipient to be honoured for his efforts to avert a hypothetical future conflict. Presumably he and his acolytes have in mind conflicts between states over dwindling resources. Then again they could be worrying about an all-out war between the penguins and the polar bears over choice slabs of iceberg.

So Gore shouldn't even have been nominated, and if he actually wins the thing it will be a slap in the face to other nominees who have genuinely worked for peace, such as Irena Sendler, a Pole who saved more than 2,500 Jewish children from the Holocaust in World War Two, and Finland's former President Martti Ahtisaari. And they, by the way, were acting out of genuine humanity, rather than being motivated by self-interest and conceit.

It would also be an insult to the memory of every past winner (Arafat, Carter and a couple of others excepted), including Jean Henry Dunant, Founder of the Red Cross, Theodore Roosevelt and Martin Luther King.

It would be a disgrace. It would be as if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had decided to award Gore the Oscar for best docu… Ah yes. There's a point. While we're on the subject of august bodies conferring illegitimate awards, and specifically conferring them on Al Gore, now that his magnum opus has been officially and spectacularly discredited I suppose it's too much to hope that the Academy might ask for their statue back. After all, my dictionary provides the following definition of 'documentary’:

(of a movie, a television or radio program, or photography) using pictures or interviews with people involved in real events to provide a factual record or report

Of course the Academy has much in common with the Peace Prize committee – both are largely staffed by left-leaning elites whose criteria for handing out prizes is the degree of hostility that nominees display towards America. But the Academy is already a joke, taken seriously only by itself and the rest of the self-absorbed Hollywood pack. The Nobel Peace Prize committee still has some credibility left – but tomorrow that could disappear as quickly as one of Al Gore’s icebergs.

Update: Jules Crittenden has some thoughts on the matter at Pajamas Media.

If you're wondering where all that aid money goes...

This is going to be bad news for Bono and Bob Geldof, but what a lot of people have long suspected is now official: every last penny in foreign aid sent to Africa is effectively being spent on waging war. The BBC reports:

A report on armed conflict in Africa has shown that the cost to the continent's development over a 15-year period was nearly $300bn (£146bn).

The research was undertaken by a number of non-governmental organisations, including Oxfam. It says the cost of conflict was equal to the amount of money received in aid during the same period.

The Guardian has more on the report, including this from Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who wrote in an introduction to the report:

"The sums are appalling: the price that Africa is paying could cover the cost of solving the HIV and AIDS crisis in Africa, or provide education, water and prevention and treatment for tuberculosis and malaria.''

The report adds that, compared to peaceful countries, war-ravaged African nations have 50 per cent more infant deaths, 15 per cent more undernourished people, life expectancy reduced by five years and 12.4 per cent less food per person.

None of this will come as a surprise to those who argue that Africa is never going to be turned around as long as foreign governments, charities and organisations such as the UN and EU continue to treat it as one giant welfare junkie, pumping in billions of dollars in aid without making it conditional on political and social reform.

Africa needs our help, but it's time that well-meaning politicians and guilt-tripping celebrities stopped pretending that more money is the answer. We might as well cut out the middle-man and send over crates of AK-47s.

Other than emergency measures to alleviate chronic hunger and illness, aid should first and foremost take the form of real support for those working to advance democracy and peace, while European governments and the UN need to stop indulging tyrants like Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, and instead arrest and charge them for war crimes and human rights abuses.

Sadly, despite the wake-up call this report should sound, nothing's likely to change in the near future. The current system benefits Africa's dictators and the corrupt bureaucracies of the EU and UN in equal measure.

Maybe someone could organise a series of rock concerts around the world to raise awareness of the problem. Another wristband, anyone?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Happy Che Day!

This is how I like to remember him…

I posted about a nauseating BBC tribute to Guevara here, and there's no shortage of other uncritical, grossly distorted eulogies on the major news sites today. Fausta has more, while Babalu has lots on the anniversary, including a round-up of links here.

While the Left gets misty-eyed with reminiscence, it's worth remembering that they're really just pining for an ideology that has been consigned to the dustbin of history. Cuba, and the handful of other countries where the ideas Guevara stood for are still practised, are economic basket cases whose people are denied basic freedoms. Outside of those godforsaken places, Marxism, Communism and their variants exist only in books and lecture halls. They're over, and no amount of T-shirts or posters are going to bring them back, which is probably why the Left are so damn mad all the time.

But they haven't given up, and the delusions that manifest themselves in the hero-worship of Guevara are still very much with us, in the form of the anti-globalisation and anti-American movements, and in the apologies for Islamic extremism. While they might have tweaked the details a little, the leftist worldview is fundamentally the same. We may never find a cure for the self-loathing and moral confusion that torments them, but when your most influential and charismatic figurehead has been dead for 40 years, you know your ideology's in trouble.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Fate of Iraqi interpreters still in balance

The British government has indicated that Iraqi interpreters and other key staff who have worked for the British army will be allowed to move to the UK with their families.

However, the numbers involved, and the exact details, are unclear, and Dan Hardie, who's been spearheading the campaign to allow the interpreters to settle in Britain, is sounding a note of caution.

Gordon Brown is expected to make a statement to the commons today, but there's a real danger that any announcement will be no more than a headline-grabbing half-measure that will leave many brave Iraqis stranded in the country, and at risk of intimidation and murder.

A meeting to discuss the plight of Iraqis who've worked for the British is being held at the House of Commons tomorrow - there's still time to email your MP and urge them to attend.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The BBC’s vile infatuation with Che Guevara

"To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary... These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine motivated by pure hate.”
Che Guevara

In the short time this blog has been going I’ve singled out so many instances of left-wing bias by the BBC that sometimes I find myself wondering if I’m over-sensitive, and perhaps looking for evidence of bias where it doesn’t necessarily exist.

But any doubts I might have had over the moral depravity of the BBC’s journalism have been dispelled by this piece, which unashamedly celebrates the legacy and ‘iconography’ of Che Guevara, while glossing over the Marxist revolutionary’s proclivity for murder and torture, and his role in subjugating and impoverishing the people of Cuba.

I’ve written previously on how the BBC routinely ignores the atrocities of the Cuban revolution while constantly drawing attention to the crimes of Latin America’s right-wing dictators; indeed, on the same page as the Guevara puff-piece is a story on corruption charges against Augusto Pinochet’s family, which reminds us that: “More than 3,000 people were killed or "disappeared" during his military rule.”

And true to form, Stephanie Holmes manages to write 1,000 words on Guevara without acknowledging, or even hinting, that he ever killed anyone, let alone that he was directly or indirectly responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Cuba and elsewhere.

Readers unfamiliar with the subject could be forgiven for thinking that he was nothing more than some idealistic student agitator. This paragraph early in the piece sets the hagiographic tone:

It's now 40 years since the Argentine-born rebel was shot dead, so any young radicals who cheered on his revolutionary struggles in Cuba and Bolivia are well into middle age.

Contrast Holmes' facile drivel with this extract from Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s superb essay on the Guevara phenomenon, The Killing Machine:

In January 1957, as his diary from the Sierra Maestra indicates, Guevara shot Eutimio Guerra because he suspected him of passing on information: “I ended the problem with a .32 caliber pistol, in the right side of his brain.... His belongings were now mine.” Later he shot Aristidio, a peasant who expressed the desire to leave whenever the rebels moved on. While he wondered whether this particular victim “was really guilty enough to deserve death,” he had no qualms about ordering the death of Echevarría, a brother of one of his comrades, because of unspecified crimes: “He had to pay the price.”

To Holmes, this psychopath who shot his victims in the head at close range with little regard for their guilt or innocence is nothing more than a ‘rebel’. (Elsewhere, she stupidly writes that Guevara was ‘murdered’ in Bolivia, rather than being executed as the terrorist he was).

The gist of her piece is about how the famous Guevara image came into being, and how it was disseminated in Europe by various anarchist groups and intellectuals such as Jean-Paul Satre. To this end Holmes relates how Jim Fitzpatrick, the Irish artist who created the graphic portrait of Guevara from the photo by Alberto Korda, became devoted to building up the Che myth after his death, inspired by having met him when he visited Ireland.

According to Fitzpatrick, who was ‘outraged’ by Guevara’s death, he was “an immensely charming man – likeable, roguish, good fun…”. He was also, according to Humberto Fontova, the author of Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him, a racist who made disparaging remarks about Cuban and African blacks, and a homophobe. Attributes, along with the predilections for murder and torture, that jar somewhat with Fitzpatrick’s description of himself on his website:

I’m a militant pacifist. I am resolutely opposed to all forms of violence, torture and oppression (state-sponsored or otherwise) and racism in all its forms. I belong to and support Amnesty International.

As an Amnesty supporter, Fitzpatrick will be probably familiar with that organisation's 2007 report on the state that his hero helped to bring into being, which says:

Freedom of expression, association and movement continued to be severely restricted. At least 69 prisoners of conscience remained imprisoned for their political opinions. Political dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists continued to be harassed, intimidated and detained, some without charge or trial.

And of course things have improved a lot since Guevara’s time. Whether it's dishonesty, ignorance, naivety or all three, Fitzpatrick’s testament, given his central role in creating the Guevara legend, is breathtaking. And there’s plenty more that Guevara’s eulogists won’t tell you.

There were the disastrous economic polices he oversaw, and land ‘reforms’ under which estates were seized from the wealthy and given to party functionaries, rather than to the peasants; there were the failed uprisings he inspired across Latin America that cost countless lives (by all accounts Guevara himself was an inept tactician and fighter, who preferred that his adversaries have their hands bound), and the support for brutal rebel leaders in Africa. And of course there were the forced labour camps he helped to set up, and which over the years have been employed to incarcerate gays, dissidents, Christians and AIDS victims.

Far from being a freedom fighter, says Llosa:

At every stage of his adult life, his megalomania manifested itself in the predatory urge to take over other people’s lives and property, and to abolish their free will.

Helpfully, at the end of Holmes' piece there’s a comments form, via which readers are invited to share their 'memories of Che Guevara'. I’ve already sent them my observations, with the relevant links. They also want 'pictures of Che memorabilia, posters and wall-paintings', so I’ll be sending them a few ‘iconic’ images of executions under the Castro/Guevara regime.

I urge you to do the same, and to forward this post to your friends and to other websites, particularly those run by Cuban exiles and democracy campaigners.

The BBC’s vile infatuation with Guevara, and the inanities of 'radicals' like Jim Fitzpatrick, are emblematic of the left’s moral equivocation, which enables them to gloss over everything from Stalin’s gulags to Islamic terrorism, and spare individuals who are responsible for the deaths of millions the opprobrium they reserve for real or imagined transgressors perceived as being motivated by right-wing or Judeo-Christian convictions.

What distinguishes the BBC’s news-gathering operation from other leftist propaganda is that the ideology, the selective reporting and the cynical rewriting of history are hidden behind a facade of impartiality and authoritativeness that means it's trusted by millions of people around the world. And, of course, the fact that the whole disreputable enterprise is funded by the British taxpayer.

Llosa sums up the Guevara phenomenon thus:

It is customary for followers of a cult not to know the real life story of their hero, the historical truth. […] It is not surprising that Guevara’s contemporary followers, his new post-communist admirers, also delude themselves by clinging to a myth — except the young Argentines who have come up with an expression that rhymes perfectly in Spanish: “Tengo una remera del Che y no sé por qué,” or “I have a Che T-shirt and I don’t know why.”

If more people, especially the young, learn the truth about Che Guevara, perhaps they’ll be more inclined to treat the reporting of the BBC and the rest of the MSM on Iraq, Islamic extremism and other issues with the skepticism, if not utter disbelief, it deserves. And it would help if people like Jim Fitzpatrick were able to find the courage to admit: "I was young, I was stupid, I didn't know the facts – and I helped to turn a monster into a pin-up."

Update: Thanks to Gateway Pundit to linking, and Sister Toldjah, who flags this excellent piece on Guevara by Ian Robinson at the Calgary Sun. I've also received an email from Steve, who draws my attention to this paragraph in the BBC story, quoting the curator of an exhibition on the iconography of Che:

"His death was followed by demonstrations, first in Milan and then elsewhere. Very soon afterwards there was the Prague Spring and May '68 in France. Europe was in turmoil. People wanted change, disruption and rebellion and he became a symbol of that change."

As Steve has pointed out to the BBC, the Prague Spring was of course a rebellion against the same communist system that Guevara helped to impose on Cuba.

Update 2: Thanks to Eric at Classical Values for linking, and to the anonymous commenter who reminded me about Che Mart, the one-stop-shop for all your Che mockery needs!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The most powerful piece you'll read this year

Mark Daily was killed in Iraq in January. Christopher Hitchens writes about his feelings on discovering that his articles in support of the war had helped persuade Mark to join up, and about meeting the young soldier's family.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Iraqi Shias rain on Mahmoud's Palestinian parade

If you're hearing a lot of noisy parties in your neighbourhood, and the local store's all out of 'Death to Israel' placards and quick-lighting American flags, you know it must by al-Quds day - Iran's annual day of protests in support of the Palestinian people.

The BBC reports that tens of thousands of Iranians marched in central Tehran, while the authorities claimed that "millions" took part in protests across the country.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad marked the occasion by proclaiming that Iran would work until "all of Palestine is liberated", and in a none-to-subtle reference to the means by which he intends to achieve said liberation, described Iran's nuclear programme as a "great victory" for the country.

Unfortunately, Shias over the border in Iraq are unlikely to be celebrating al-Quds day with quite as much enthusiasm as their neighbours and co-religionists to whom they supposedly look for leadership. As AFP reported in a story I posted on last week:

Thousands of Palestinian refugees in Iraq have been ill-treated, with many of them abducted, tortured and murdered by armed Shiite Muslim groups, Amnesty International said in a report published Monday.

The London-based human rights group issued an urgent appeal to the Shiite-led Iraqi government, US-led coalition and international community to take concrete steps to protect the Palestinians.

The report explained that Palestinians are being targeted because Shiites think they received preferential treatment under Saddam Hussein, who like most Palestinians was a Sunni, or because they're suspected of supporting Sunni insurgents.

The report added:

Estimated at 34,000 in May 2006 by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Palestinians now number no more than 15,000 in Iraq, most of them in Baghdad but many in Mosul in the north and Basra in the south.

If I was the cynical type, I might conclude that al-Quds day isn't about the Palestinian people at all, but about a corrupt and brutal Iranian dictatorship whipping up hysteria over their perceived plight to divert attention from all-to-real repression at home.

The great al-Quds day massacre

We've been hearing a lot about US forces targeting al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters and their Sunni allies recently, so it's good to know that the Iranian-backed Shia militias haven't been forgotten.

US forces killed 25 militants suspected of links to Iran's Quds Force in a raid near Baquba early today - what a great way to mark al-Quds day, of which more in a later post. So much for all that Iranian training; any fighters who survived the encounter should send back their diplomas in protest.

As Bill Roggio reports, the US took the opportunity to repeat its thinly veiled warning to Moqtada al Sadr, to the effect that his militias can expect similar treatment if he decides to end his six-month 'suspension' of attacks.

More importantly, this raid also sends a clear message to Tehran: you keep arming, training and giving orders to these guys, and we'll keep killing them. And the more success the US enjoys against these groups, the more likely Iran will overplay its hand in trying to hit back, clearing the way for long-overdue strikes against Quds targets inside Iran.

WSJ on Blackwater

The Wall Street journal has an editorial today on the (manufactured) Blackwater controversy. It goes over much of the ground I've been covering recently, and makes some good observations on the need to clarify the legal status of private security companies. Key paragraphs:

From General Petraeus's perspective, by taking on critical but peripheral security functions, Blackwater employees and other firms' contractors free the U.S. military to focus on more productive missions, such as securing Baghdad's neighborhoods. If contractors didn't perform these functions, the U.S. military deployment in Iraq would have to be even larger than it is. This relationship is a far cry from the Capitol Hill spin that President Bush has unilaterally Rambo-ized the U.S. military.

The legal status of these workers needs to be clarified, and the Senate ought to take a deeper look than the 24 hours of non-thought the House gave the issue. We doubt putting them under civilian court jurisdiction makes much sense; investigations would be arduous. There is logic in putting the contractors closer to the military's legal system. These people by and large are mature troops who served in elite special ops units in military conflicts from the Gulf War to Bosnia. They know the existing rules.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Why the fuss about DNA tests for migrants?

You can rely on the BBC to describe a law that asks prospective immigrants to France to prove that they are indeed related to the people they claim to be related to as 'controversial'.

The tests are designed to speed up the application process; they aren't even mandatory, and the French government will meet the cost. But none of this has prevented howls of protest, and cries of 'racism' from immigrants' groups. The BBC reports:

The legislation asks immigrant family members older than 16 to take a test in their country of origin, demonstrating a good knowledge of French language and values.

Applicants also have to prove that their family in France could support them and earn at least the minimum wage.

All perfectly reasonable, and the sort of measures the UK should have adopted years ago. The fact that the likes of the BBC and immigrant welfare groups seem to think that such common-sense policies are controversial just shows how far out of step they are with ordinary people.

Required reading

Won't have much time for blogging today, so, courtesy of Barcepundit, here are two very interesting articles, and two excellent magazines to bookmark.

In the left-leaning British monthly Prospect, the wonderfully named Bartle Bull argues that the US is rapidly approaching the point where it will be able to declare 'mission accomplished' for a second time – and that this time it won't simply be a soundbite. The thrust of the piece is captured in this extract:

The great question in deciding whether to keep fighting in Iraq is not about the morality and self-interest of supporting a struggling democracy that is also one of the most important countries in the world. The question is whether the war is winnable and whether we can help the winning of it. The answer is made much easier by the fact that three and a half years after the start of the insurgency, most of the big questions in Iraq have been resolved. Moreover, they have been resolved in ways that are mostly towards the positive end of the range of outcomes imagined at the start of the project.

I also want to highlight this bit, which echoes what a lot of supporters of victory in Iraq have been saying for a long time:

By the second half of 2004, the insurgency had had six months to show what it was capable of, and it became clear that its goal could not be the military defeat of the Americans. The Sunnis were now fighting not for a military victory but a political one, to win in the US congress and the newsrooms of CNN and the New York Times the war they could not win in the alleys and date palm groves of Mesopotamia.

Bartle might have added that while the Sunnis have largely given up their campaign, CNN, the Times and others are continuing to fight it on their behalf.

The second article is from World Politics Review, a magazine I haven't come across before, but will be keeping an eye on in the future. With verdicts due shortly on 28 people accused of involvement in the 2004 Madrid train bombings, Robert Latona reviews the court case and the investigation, and the political fall-out from the attacks; namely that the Socialists were able to capitalise on the tragedy, and blunders by the ruling Popular Party, to triumph in an election they'd previously had no hope of winning. The article is also noteworthy for introducing the reader to Spain's very own Cindy Sheehan.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Communists behind anti-war protests

Who'dve thunk it! Gateway Pundit has the details.

US 'not able to attack Iran'

So says their foreign minister.

I guess he has a point, what with all those Carrier Battle Groups, B1s, B2s and B52s bogged down in house-to-house fighting in Diyala province.

Let's hope such overconfidence causes Iran to do something really stupid.

Risk of plummeting to a fiery death declines

Great news for anyone with a fear of flying: the New York Times reports that air accidents are down 65% in the US in the last ten years, and the trend around the world is also downwards (yes, I know I'm always accusing the Times of manipulating figures, but that's with regard to Iraq; I believe them on this one).

Okay, maybe the news isn't that great, because if you have an irrational fear of flying then a bunch of statistics, no matter how positive, are unlikely to cure you of it. But if, like me you're just a bit nervy, then this is encouraging.

I flew a few times when I was young without any problem, then didn't fly for a long time until I was in my twenties. My first couple of flights as an adult were fine, but then I had a very bad turbulence experience on the way back from a skiing holiday in Bulgaria (when the stewardess is on her knees in the aisle, gripping a seat and crying in terror, it's not reassuring), and the fear took hold.

I got over my fear partly by flying a lot without incident, and partly by obsessively reading reports of air crashes, and watching documentaries about them. I realised that some very clever people made their living from finding out what exactly had gone wrong, and that every time there was an crash, lessons were learned that made the likelihood of a similar accident ever happening again remote.

This latest news is another contribution to my therapy (although I think the line 'Barring a crash before midnight Sunday…' might be tempting fate a little), and the next time I'm buckling myself in I'll relax that bit more. But you still won't get me on one of those budget carriers in Asia.

UK judge says Gore's film is biased

This is a great victory for opponents of climate change hysteria. A judge in the UK has said that Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth promotes partisan views, and that teachers who show the film to their pupils must make it clear that there are opposing opinions on the subject.

Stewart Dimmock, a lorry driver from Dover in South-east England who has children aged 11 and 14, went to court after the government announced in February that DVDs of the film would be sent to all secondary schools in England, along with other global warming propaganda.

The Daily Mail reports that in a three-day hearing, the court was told the film contains a number of inaccuracies, exaggerations and statements about global warming for which there is currently insufficient scientific evidence. Mr Dimmock says Gore's film is "sentimental mush", and accused the government of "brainwashing" children. The Mail reports:

Mr Justice Burton is due to deliver a ruling on the case next week, but yesterday he said he would be saying that Gore's Oscar-winning film does promote 'partisan political views'.

This means that teachers will have to warn pupils that there are other opinions on global warming and they should not necessarily accept the views of the film.

Mr Dimmock said at the start of the hearing: "I wish my children to have the best education possible, free from bias and political spin, and Mr Gore's film falls far short of the standard required." He wants the film banned altogether, and his solicitor said "no amount of turgid guidance" could change the fact that the film is unfit for the classroom.

The film should certainly be banned from schools, but given that the global warming alarmists enjoy the full support of Britain's political, media and educational establishments, this is still a significant victory.

Those who believe we should have an open and honest debate on the subject should be grateful to Stewart Dimmock for standing up to the media/political global warming spin machine, and take encouragement from the fact that AIT has officially been labeled the lie-strewn piece of agitprop a lot of people have been calling it for years.

Blackwater is the NYT's new Abu Ghraib

The New York Times famously carried a front page story about Abu Ghraib virtually every day for a month back in 2004. While its obsession with Blackwater hasn’t quite reached those levels, it’s clear that as far as the Times is concerned, the private security company’s name has become the new byword for failure in Iraq.

Following yesterday’s story on the report prepared for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Times today carries yet another new account of the shooting incident involving Blackwater contractors on September 16.

The Times now claims the incident began when, for no apparent reason, a Blackwater guard shot the driver of a car in a line of traffic close to an intersection that had been blocked to allow a Blackwater convoy carrying US officials to pass. According to the Times, with the driver incapacitated the car continued to roll towards the intersection, and “Blackwater guards responded with a barrage of gunfire and explosive weapons, leaving 17 dead and 24 wounded”.

Even if we accept that a Blackwater guard chose to shoot the driver of a car just for the hell of it, and that rather than crashing into the vehicle in front the car somehow managed to ‘roll’ towards the Blackwater team, there’s the question of that death toll, which started at eight, rose to 11 and now has become 17. Who’s to say the actual death toll isn’t five? Or seven?

And as the Times reports, several deaths apparently occurred in a separate, and previously unreported, incident at a different location. It’s odd that with Iraqi and US forces swarming over the scene in the aftermath of the shooting, and with several investigations being carried out, we’re only hearing of this new incident two weeks later.

Then there were the initial reports, seized on by the Times, of a dead mother cradling her dead baby in her arms. That ‘dead baby’ now appears to have been an adult. If witnesses can be ‘mistaken’ about something that clear-cut they can be mistaken about other things. Then again, ‘witnesses’ motivated by anger towards the US, and news ‘stringers’ with ties to political and militant groups, know that in Iraq, one dead infant is worth perhaps ten dead adults.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Times reported tomorrow that an entire ‘wedding party’ had been mown down in the incident. And isn't it funny that, as is so often the case in such incidents, one of the key witnesses just happens to be a 'lawyer', rather than, say, a kebab vendor or the local pickpocket – particularly given that the Times is forever telling us that most of Iraq's professional classes have fled the country.

Having breathlessly presented its preferred version of events, the Times later concedes that the role of Iraqi security forces (funny how you never hear those guys referred to as 'trigger-happy cowboys') in the incident has yet to be ascertained, and quotes a US official as cautioning that "important elements could still be missing from that account".

None of the above is to dispute that innocent civilians were killed, or to claim that Blackwater personnel didn’t act recklessly, and possibly illegally. If Blackwater employees are found to have used excessive force, or otherwise broken Iraqi or US law, then they should face justice. But we don’t know the full facts yet, and perhaps we never will.

The Times is fully aware of how hard it is to get to the truth in Iraq when reports from hospitals, the police, government officials and other contacts are unreliable at best, and distorted or manufactured for political reasons at worst. Far from building the case against Blackwater, the Times’ rash of conflicting, uncorroborated accounts, each more sensational than the last, demonstrates just how difficult it is to separate fact from fiction.

Unfortunately, for the Times and others on the anti-war left, this is about neither truth nor justice: it's about propaganda. The tide of political and public opinion has turned in recent months from calls for an immediate withdraw from Iraq to a growing realisation that progress is being made, and can only be sustained by keeping large numbers of troops there for a good while longer.

Abu Ghraib, which opponents of the war seized on at a time when support for the war, and for President Bush, was still strong, is over. Haditha hasn’t lived up to the hype. In the absence of a steady stream of bad news from Iraq, the Times and others are taking one tragic, chaotic incident, and from it weaving a narrative of politically-connected mercenary armies rampaging around the country slaughtering civilians.

But while the Times’ obsession with Blackwater is irritating, it’s also encouraging. Because as long as Blackwater remains on or close to its front pages, we can be confident that things are going pretty well in Iraq, and in the War on Terror.

Update: Of course, it's not just the Times – Ace tears the WaPo a new one here.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Burma: online petition and more

I haven't posted anything on Burma, partly because I've been preoccupied with other stuff, and partly because a whole lot of bloggers are already on the case, but I just got this email from a friend, along with a link to an online petition and more information:

I'm sure that you are aware of the situation that has arisen in Burma over recent days, it's been an interesting time in my house, as my wife is originally from Burma. Her family took flight from the military regime as long ago as 1966 and watched with increasing anguish over the years as the quality of life for friends and family that were left behind deteriorated.

Things last came to a head in 1988, when the people launched a virtually unarmed uprising which was brutally crushed, leaving over 3,000 people dead. Sadly the world blinked and moved on. In 1990 the military government held elections which were won by the National League for Democracy party headed by Aung San Suu Kyi who was already under house arrest. The government refused to recognise the result and freedom of movement has been denied to her and many of her followers ever since. By and large the plight of the elected leaders and the people has been ignored by the rest of the world. Forced child labour, eviction of whole communities from their land, mass detention without trial, corruption on a massive scale, torture and murder of its citizens are the cornerstones of this brutal dictatorship.

Last week that changed, the monks and the people raised their voices once more, hoping that this time the world would listen and support them. For now the regime appears to have taken back control in the only way they know how, by the bullets, beatings and locking people up. The people of Burma are on the back foot and need your voice to be raised with theirs.

It's time for the world to take notice!

You can sign the petition, find out about events in your country and generally get involved here.

Exclusive: Blackwater 'not Boy Scouts of America'

Having got its teeth into Blackwater, the New York Times shows no signs of letting go, having clearly decided that the alleged misadventures of the private security company in Iraq currently offer the best opportunity for undermining the American war effort there.

Despite its best efforts, however, the Times has conspicuously failed to build a case against Blackwater, and PSCs in general, as this post, and this response from an Infantry NCO with extensive service in Iraq, make clear (scroll down, or click the Blackwater label at below right, for related posts).

Undeterred, the Times has returned to the fray with another Blackwater-bashing piece today, based largely on a report by a congressional committee, and the introductory paragraph sets the tone nicely. It’s a perfect storm of violence, irresponsibility and heartlessness, and I take my hat off to the writers and editors who crafted it:

Employees of Blackwater USA have engaged in nearly 200 shootings in Iraq since 2005, in a vast majority of cases firing their weapons from moving vehicles without stopping to count the dead or assist the wounded, according to a new report from Congress.

The sentence is, however, devoid of context and utterly misleading. We’ve already established that, while Blackwater has been involved in more shooting incidents than other PSCs, this is largely explained by fact that it operates in more dangerous areas, and protects higher-value officials. And as the Times acknowledges in today’s story, Blackwater has twice as many employees in Iraq as the two other main security contractors, DynCorp International and Triple Canopy, combined.

It’s unclear how many of the incidents involved nothing more than warning shots being fired, but it’s hardly surprising that Blackwater guards fired from moving vehicles in the majority of cases, given that they’re in the business of convoy protection. As for the bit about not stopping, perhaps Mother Teresa would have hung around in a hostile environment around to tend to the wounded, but then it’s unlikely that she would have fired a weapon from a moving vehicle in the first place.

That intro also implies that Blackwater convoys habitually leave a trail of dead and wounded in their wake, but gives no supporting evidence. In fact, leaving aside the recent tragic, and apparently exceptional shootings, in over two years of careering around Iraq firing at everything that moves, the Times suggests Blackwater employees have only managed to kill two people. There may have been others, but as the Times is pulling out all the stops in its efforts to demonise Blackwater, you would think it would mention them.

The Times is also desperate to create the impression that Blackwater and the State Department have been covering up the carnage left, right and centre. While some less-serious incidents may have been brushed under the carpet, in the two cases the Times mentions in which people were killed, there’s no suggestion of any attempt to conceal the truth. The relevant authorities were informed, investigations were carried out and compensation was paid to the victims’ families.

An official writing “I hope we can put this unfortunate matter behind us quickly” does not constitute a cover-up; indeed, its a phrase that’s probably been used on many occasions at the Times with regard to the various editorial scandals the paper has been embroiled in over the years. And the Times further undermines its ‘cover-up’ theory by revealing that Blackwater has dismissed employees for, among other things ‘failure to report incidents or lying about them, and publicly embarrassing the company’.

Predictably, the report also rehashes the now-familiar ‘cowboys’ leitmotif:

The report by the Democratic majority staff of a House committee adds weight to complaints from Iraqi officials, American military officers and Blackwater’s competitors that company guards have taken an aggressive, trigger-happy approach to their work and have repeatedly acted with reckless disregard for Iraqi life.

The Times obviously feels that it has established the ‘trigger-happy’ narrative to the extent that it doesn’t need to provide any quotes to support this claim, anonymous or otherwise. It remains a disgraceful and unsubstantiated slander. As for ‘aggressive’ – well, show me a passive former Navy SEAL and I’ll show you an SUV full of dead diplomats.

The Times at least breaks some new, albeit unremarkable, ground with the revelation that Blackwater employees (or ‘gunmen’, as the Times has taken to calling them) took part in offensive operations alongside uniformed American military personnel on two (two!) occasions “in violation of their State Department contract”.

Such behaviour could only appear ‘wrong’ to someone – say a New York Times editor – who can’t even begin to understand the military mind, and whose experience of combat is limited to squabbling over the last bagel in the vending machine.

What such people couldn’t possibly understand is that the ties between soldiers are rather more binding than a State Department contract. Most Blackwater guys are ex-special forces, and if they found themselves in a position where regular forces were under attack, and they had the training and equipment to assist, does anyone seriously imagine they wouldn’t do so, lest some Green Zone bureaucrat – or indeed the New York Times – take exception?

As I’ve said before, while the liability of PSCs, and the authority under which they operate, need to be clarified, the obsession of the Times and others with these companies is out of all proportion to the problem, and reflects their growing desperation to respond to the progress that’s being made in Iraq, and to which PSCs and their brave employees are contributing.

Once again the Times has produced an ostensibly sensational story that, on closer inspection, tells us little that’s new, and adds absolutely nothing to the wider debate over PSCs. Unfortunately for the paper, its own obsession with ‘accuracy’ and ‘record’ compels it to include details that either fail to stand up its claims, or completely contradicts them. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot – when it comes to Blackwater, the Times is doing a wonderful impression of a centipede with a minigun.

Liveblogging the Blackwater hearings

The White Rabbit is liveblogging the House Oversight committee hearings on Blackwater. I'm currently working on a post about today's NYT story.

The NYT: Making sure you get the message

The above image is from a promo at the New York Times online, and shows a page from the Times displayed on a handheld device. You probably can't make out the headline on the left, but if you see the original ad it reads 'Afghans say NATO bombs kill 25 civilians'. To the right is a photo of coffins draped with the American flag, presumably those of fallen service personnel from Iraq or Afghanistan, although I can't make out the accompanying text.

The image is a link to the Times' technology pages, where you'll find stories about mobile phones, computers and internet companies, but very little about the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.

I guess you could call it 'subliminal editorialising'.

The real 'cowboys' in the Blackwater affair

Ben Ryan, a former Navy Seal who has worked for a private security company in Iraq, has a piece at WSJ online on the Blackwater furor that echoes a lot of what I said in three posts which you'll find here and here and here, and the comments of an anonymous Infantry NCO which I posted here. Ryan's conclusion:

Like soldiers, security contractors are sometimes forced to make split-second decisions with enormous consequences. They must be – and are – accountable to our government for their actions. But the people I worked with in Iraq, including veterans working for Blackwater, were hardly rogue cowboys. I did, however, meet some trigger-happy journalists over there.

Monday, October 1, 2007

If only life imitated art at the CIA

A lot of conservatives have been quibbling with The Bourne Ultimatum because of its portrayal as the CIA as a corrupt and sinister organisation that puts its own interests before those of America. This doesn't bother Dean Barnett, however, because, as he points out: "Portraying the CIA as a malign force is a venerable tradition in American film." Barnett has an altogether different quibble:

What struck me as laughable about “The Bourne Ultimatum” was how frighteningly efficient the movie’s version of the CIA was. Jason Bourne’s CIA can decide that a reporter at London’s “The Guardian” is a threat, and literally within 30 seconds the Agency has his cell phone and land-line bugged and his every move physically monitored. Within two minutes, they have a team of dozens of agents on top of him, and one stealthy “asset” moving in for the kill shot.

Were it only so! In real life, the CIA is closer to the gang that couldn’t shoot straight. Sad to say, this isn’t a true indication of the CIA’s abilities. As Lawrence Wright horrifyingly recounted in “The Looming Tower”, much of the American spy establishment entered the post-9/11 world without the ability to send email or even to access the internet from their ancient desktop computers.

He concludes:

I didn’t mind the politics of “The Bourne Ultimatum”. I just wish its fantastic vision of America’s intelligence capabilities were a little closer to reality.

Lessons in bigotry

Melanie Phillips on how 'citizenship' lessons in British schools are being used to spread anti-Israel propaganda:

We are now a country where the uninformed are instructed by the bigoted. From the Olympian heights of Britain’s once unsurpassed education system, which produced the fairest, gentlest and most rational society on earth, Britain’s children are now being equipped instead to inhabit Planet Virulence, where ignorance, irrationality and injustice rule.

Guess this is the end for pan-Arab nationalism

Apparently no one's told Iraq's Shiites that the fate of the Palestinians is supposed be a rallying cry that unites all Arabs against the Great Satan and the Little Satan. As AFP reports:

Thousands of Palestinian refugees in Iraq have been ill-treated, with many of them abducted, tortured and murdered by armed Shiite Muslim groups, Amnesty International said in a report published Monday.

The London-based human rights group issued an urgent appeal to the Shiite-led Iraqi government, US-led coalition and international community to take concrete steps to protect the Palestinians.

The report explains that Palestinians are being targeted because Shiites think they received preferential treatment under Saddam Hussein, who like most Palestinians was a Sunni, or because they're suspected of supporting Sunni insurgents.

The report adds:

Estimated at 34,000 in May 2006 by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Palestinians now number no more than 15,000 in Iraq, most of them in Baghdad but many in Mosul in the north and Basra in the south.

If anyone still needs convincing that the problems of the Middle East aren't about borders, or oil, but about ancient religious hatreds, perhaps this story will help to set them straight.

Just in case you haven't seen…

Saturday Night Live's Ahmadinejad skit featuring Andy Samberg and Adam Levine of Maroon 5. Have been trying to find the lyrics, so if anyone's managed to do so please let me know!

This is no time for Karzai to go wobbly

The next time someone’s compiling a book of inspiring speeches by wartime leaders, Hamid Karzai’s response to the suicide bombing that killed 30 Afghan military personnel on Saturday is unlikely to feature alongside the words of Churchill, Thatcher and Franklin Roosevelt.

Rather than vowing that the terrorists would never again impose their will on the Afghan people, and indeed would be hunted down and killed, the President’s response to the atrocity was to invite the perpetrators of the attack to join his government, and ask exactly how high they wanted him to jump.

The Taleban’s response, in addition to dismissing Karzai’s offer out of hand, has been to issue its very own constitution for Afghanistan, lest anyone should be confused as to their intentions towards the country. As the UK’s Telegraph reports, the 7th Century lobby appears to have won out over the Jeffersonian wing:

The 23-page document envisages a country where women would remain veiled and uneducated, "un-Islamic thought" would be banned and human rights would be ignored if "contrary with the teachings of Islam".

No doubt the UN will be prepared to meet them half-way on that last point.

As the Telegraph notes, Karzai isn’t the only one who regards the Taleban as potential ‘partners for peace’. Last week, Britain’s pitiful excuse for a Defence Secretary, Des Browne, said Afghanistan’s erstwhile oppressors would need to be involved in the peace process. But it’s Karzai who’s the real worry.

After Saturday’s bombing he said he wished he could contact Taleban leader Mullah Omar and warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, to ask why they were "trying to destroy Afghanistan". As if that wasn’t enough, he said he would meet both men personally, and even offer them cabinet posts, if it would help to bring about peace. There’s a thought: Mullah Omar as Minister for Women’s Education.

Karzai lived in exile in Pakistan for most of the Taleban’s rule. Maybe he thinks the stories about life under the mullahs have been exaggerated – executions in the soccer stadium? Come on! And perhaps he’s also prepared to let the several attempts the Taleban have made on his life (they also assassinated his father) be bygones.

Or maybe he’s just been spending too much time with the multi-culturalist, multi-lateralist bureaucrats of the UN and the EU, who have yet to encounter a threat to human life and liberty that can’t be dealt with by means of a five-nation working party, a sprinkling of special envoys and a week of seminars at a nice hotel in Europe.

Of course, Karzai knows precisely why the Taleban and their al-Qaeda allies want to destroy his country: because a peaceful, stable Afghanistan led by Islamic moderates and with ties to the West is a very large obstacle to the extremists’ dreams of restoring the Caliphate over large areas of the Middle East and Asia. So perhaps Karzai's words were no more than a cry from the heart from a man tasked with an almost unbearable responsibility.

But if Karzai is in fact ‘going wobbly’, this isn’t the time. Coalition forces are killing Taleban fighters at a prodigious rate, including 200 or so in the past week. Assorted jihadis are fighting among themselves over the border in Pakistan’s tribal areas, and according to this article in The American Thinker, al-Qaeda is on the run and getting pounded in the vicinity of Tora Bora.

The occasional bombing, however devastating, doesn't mean the Taleban can't be beaten; on the contrary, such attacks are a sign of their increasingly desperate attempts to terrorize the population into rejecting Karzai and his Western allies.

Thousands of former Taleban fighters have already laid down their arms and pledged to work with the Afghan government, and it makes perfect sense for Karzai to reach out to other moderate elements. But there’s no negotiating with the extremists; Mullah Omar is the epitome of extremism, and he and his followers need to be killed or captured. Karzai can talk to the survivors all he likes at Bagram airport, when they’re shackled to chairs and dressed in orange jumpsuits.