Saturday, November 09, 2002

Tomorrow I'll be installing a wireless LAN card. If you don't hear from me tomorrow, it means that I have screwed something in my network config. Hopefully, all goes well.
IDF is about to reduce its presence in Jenin, although the town is to remain surrounded by the IDF forces. About 200 palestinians were arrested in Jenin during the two and a half weeks, but IDF says there are still hard-core Hamas members active in the West Bank town. (IBA)
This story from UPI is titled “Experts: Yemen strike not assassination”. I am now at a point where every time I see the word “experts” used with regard to any conflict involving Arabs/Muslims, it indicates that they are quoting people who are either ignorant or have an agenda. Anyway,
"Based on what has been reported in the press, this is viewed as a military action against enemy combatants which would take it out of a realm of assassination," said Suzanne Spalding, a former deputy general counsel with the CIA and now an official with the American Bar Association. "It does seem to me this was characterized as a military operation in the war on terrorism -- not a rhetorical war -- and that these are enemy combatants. You shoot to kill enemy combatants."

You shoot to kill enemy combatants?! What planet is she from? Aren’t we supposed to frown real hard, and throw a book at them as a last resort?
An executive order from President Ford, subsequently upheld and strengthened by both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, barred the United States from engaging in assassination. Ford's order was a reaction to multiple failed and embarrassing attempts by the CIA to have foreign leaders assassinated, including several attempts on Cuba's Fidel Castro.

Well, I am not versed in the history of political assassinations, but I am guessing that they were embarassing largely because they were unsuccessful. People find it difficult to argue with success.
But the incident nevertheless causes concern for Aftergood, Spalding and others who worry that the Bush administration's rules for this sort of covert action are intentionally vague and set a dangerous precedent for both the United States and other countries to follow.
"It is difficult to distinguish what we did in Yemen from what Israel has done with the Palestinians with targeted killings," Silliman told UPI.

Funny, I have the exact same thought!
Sunday's operation may erode the influence the United States has over Israel and other states that have been dealing with internal and external terrorist threats to their territory. Broadly interpreted, it could also be applied by other states to justify their own preemptive attacks on perceived adversaries.
"We are basically opening up and crafting a new tool and tactic which is not for (the United States) alone to use," Silliman said. "The United States is not the only one that can do this. We may be putting our own leadership at risk."

Well, the fact that Israel and other nations would feel that their hands are not as tightly tied behind their backs when they fight their enemies is not always a bug, is it? It is true that the US does not always see eye to eye with other nations who the bad guys are, but have we not repeatedly been asked to stop meddling in other countries' affairs anyway?
The Bush administration, in its blanket refusal to discuss the details of the operation, has not answered why al-Hareth and the others were killed rather than tracked and arrested for interrogation.

I have the answer for you: we did not have any questions for them, but we did want them dead.
"If we do this outside the traditional combat area of Afghanistan, in Yemen -- could we not do it in Germany, Ottawa, or even in Cincinnati?" Silliman asked. "If you move outside a combat area to a non-combat area, then wherever al Qaida is becomes a legitimate target. The question is, do we (the United States) become the arbiter on whether a country is capable of dealing with the terrorists on their own?"

It is not all that complicated, really: Most european countries, including Germany, have been quite good at finding and arresting the terrorists on their soil.
"It is a problematic precedent for the future because we really don't know what its implications are, we need greater clarity about the rules of the road not only for ourselves but for other countries. Others should not think or imagine we are willing to invade their territory and strike within their borders unannounced. That's not what we do, not what we stand for. National sovereignty is a value we uphold and respect," Aftergood said. "The fundamental value at stake here is the rule of law, including the laws of war."

Really? Well, I disagree. I actually think they should think and imagine that if they harbor terrorists we will strike, or invade, or do whatever is necessary to protect ourselves.
"This is an area in which the application of laws of armed conflict is very difficult. We have a lot of experience employing laws of armed conflict -- what constitutes a military target, the appropriate use of force. This is anything but a traditional war. Applying those laws to specific targets in this situation is very tricky," warned Spalding. "We're sort of making it up as we go along because we are applying laws written for a very different context from ... today's environment."

Well, he certainly got that right.

One similarity that I find between Israel's situation, and that of the US, however different they are, is that no matter what we do to protect our people, we will find ourselves vilified by the "international community" (Community my eye! A bunch of technocrats, dictators, liars, thieves, who would have exterminated each other long ago, if it was not for the US to keep them in line). Of course, the US is in a much better position to ignore these idiots than Israel is, so it makes me kind of proud that it was actually Israel that set that "dangerous precedent for both the US and other countries to follow".

This reminds me of a story my grandmother used to tell me, about her nephew who just loved sausage. Well, his parents found him a job in a sausage factory. When he saw what it was made of, he never touched sausage again. Thanks, Garison, for ruining my Saturdays.

Friday, November 08, 2002

Very light blogging today - tired, busy, but mostly nothing to say that others did not. I'll leave you with my favorite lefty, who is also probably the most famous Canadian Jew:

Ballad of the Absent Mare

Say a prayer for the cowboy
His mare's run away
And he'll walk til he finds her
His darling, his stray
but the river's in flood
and the roads are awash
and the bridges break up
in the panic of loss.
And there's nothing to follow
There's nowhere to go
She's gone like the summer
gone like the snow
And the crickets are breaking
his heart with their song
as the day caves in
and the night is all wrong

Did he dream, was it she
who went galloping past
and bent down the fern
broke open the grass
and printed the mud with
the iron and the gold
that he nailed to her feet
when he was the lord

And although she goes grazing
a minute away
he tracks her all night
he tracks her all day
Oh blind to her presence
except to compare
his injury here
with her punishment there

Then at home on a branch
in the highest tree
a songbird sings out
so suddenly
Ah the sun is warm
and the soft winds ride
on the willow trees
by the river side

Oh the world is sweet
the world is wide
and she's there where
the light and the darkness divide
and the steam's coming off her
she's huge and she's shy
and she steps on the moon
when she paws at the sky

And she comes to his hand
but she's not really tame
She longs to be lost
he longs for the same
and she'll bolt and she'll plunge
through the first open pass
to roll and to feed
in the sweet mountain grass

Or she'll make a break
for the high plateau
where there's nothing above
and there's nothing below
and it's time for the burden
it's time for the whip
Will she walk through the flame
Can he shoot from the hip

So he binds himself
to the galloping mare
and she binds herself
to the rider there
and there is no space
but there's left and right
and there is no time
but there's day and night

And he leans on her neck
and he whispers low
"Whither thou goest
I will go"
And they turn as one
and they head for the plain
No need for the whip
Ah, no need for the rein

Now the clasp of this union
who fastens it tight?
Who snaps it asunder
the very next night
Some say the rider
Some say the mare
Or that love's like the smoke
beyond all repair

But my darling says
"Leonard, just let it go by
That old silhouette
on the great western sky"
So I pick out a tune
and they move right along
and they're gone like the smoke
and they're gone like this song

Leonard Cohen.
"The mid-term results show the stark contrast between the US and Europe" says the Guardian. Indeed, they do - thank god.
Syrian ambassador to the UN said that he hopes (or thinks) that the resolution does not mean an authorization to use force against Iraq. No, it does not. But it does not mean the opposite, either. Syria was going to vote against or abstain, and it is said that Chirac has convinced Assad to vote in favor. I wonder what did he promise him in return.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Maariv has a preview of an interview with the retiring head of the Mossad Ephraim Levi, to be published tomorrow. So far nothing in it that we could not figure out ourselves: Saddam and Arafat will soon be out of the picture, and the regime in Iran will change, 3 years tops. A commentary to the article echoes the above, but raises an interesting quetion, though: should the US openly support such a regime change. The answer is probably "no", although the key word here is "openly". Given the Bush administration's tendency for secrecy, I would not be surprised that there are things going on that are not being fed to the media.
Screw the French. Well, actually I don't think we will have to worry about that - it looks like it will be taken care of. (Via USS Clueless).
Steve DenBeste asks: By the way, is there any chance at all that yesterday's result will put an end to the claims that the Republicans stole the 2000 election? ...I was afraid not. Actually, I still think that the Republicans stole the 2000 election. I voted for Gore at the time. My natural inclination is to think that it's a good thing that he is not the President now. The truth is, no one knows what he would have done following 9/11. I prefer the way Andrew Sullivan put it: I think we can finally say that the election of 2000 is now over. After 2000 elections the Democrats were asking for a "do-over". They got it now.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long years
Stole many a man's soul and faith
And I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moment of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank
Held a general's rank
When the blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name
Ah, what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
I watched with glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the gods they made
I shouted out,
"Who killed the Kennedys?"
When after all
It was you and me
Let me please introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name,
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name
But what's confusing you
Is just the nature of my game
Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails
Just call me Lucifer
'Cause I'm in need of some restraint
So if you meet me
Have some courtesy
Have some sympathy, and some taste
Use all your well-learned politesse
Or I'll lay your soul to waste
Pleased to meet you
Hope you guessed my name
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

Th Stones are 40. Actually, they wish they were...
Labor MKs are yelling towards Sharon: "You stole the election!"
Netanyahu says that the nation is looking for a way [out of the security and economical crisis], and is looking for a leader who can lead them there. He says that he is such a leader, and that the people know it. I think that he is being presumptuous at best.
2 Israelis shot dead in Gush Katif, near Gaza strip. At least 3 Arabs seized near the Ben-Gurion airport, foiling a suicide bombing. Via "Haaretz".
The "International Hour" is aired on IBA radio ("Kol Israel" - voice of Israel) every weekday at 3pm. That is when I usually happen to tune in - 8am here, just after I put Pashosh on the bus. Since yesterday they have been covering the American elections most of the hour. It is kind of funny to listen over the Internet to an Israeli guy, who is no more than 100 miles away from me, talking on the phone to the show's host back in Jerusalem about what is going on here.
I imagine that IBA, like a few other major media in Israel, has a permanent bureau in Washington DC and NYC, and maybe in LA and Miami. I don't think they have one in Minneapolis, though. I think that if they need an Israeli to report on the Minnesota race, they call the Chicago consulate and find someone. In case you are not aware of this, we have our people everywhere. Years ago my family and I were driving from Orlando to Texas, and we found ourselves on I10. I did not like the area much. It rained like hell throughout the day. I kept expecting a shackled guy to emerge out of the surrounding swamp, collapsing on the road just in front of us, followed by bloodhounds and swearing deputies, swarming the poor fellow, and us - just in case. It was late, and we were tired and hungry, so we stopped at the first restaurant we saw. It turned out quite big, clean and civilized, and the shrimp were the best I ever had. My nephew went to the bathroom, and came back with good news: on the wall there it was scribbled In Hebrew "I shat here, too. Moshe".
"Our man in DC" reffered to the republican victory as a "confidence vote" for Bush. I think I can second that emotion. Their analisys of the American politics is quite accurate, much better than some of the things we see here regarding Israel. Not that ordinary Israelis are that well informed, but that is to be expected, of course. 12 years ago, when I was first headed here, people asked me if I was going to NYC or LA. No, I was going to central Missouri. Most had no idea where it is, and the few who did wondered what the hell did I loose there.
Someone on the show said that the fact that Israel is headed for elections in three months is very convinient for Bush, since it helps him avoid taking any initiative regarding the Conflict. He will keep paying lip service to the "road map", and keep sending second-league State Dep. officials. But he can always fall back on the fact that this is an interim government, and we have to wait until after the elections.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Got into a rental today (don't ask), tuned in to the station I always listen to. It was just past noon, and Fresh Air was supposed to be on. This show is one of the few reasons I still listen to NPR. Besides, if someone can direct me to a quality radio station/show/whatever that is not biased to the left, I will greatly appreciate it. No, Limbaugh won't do. Anyway, I tune in, and I hear a lady with a strangely deep voice talking about some museum, where they have an enlarged human colon on display. 5 times the normal size. "Hmmm, strange topic for Fresh Air - must be the car...", I thought for just a split second. Now, I am sure this is a known psychological fenomena, and I am curious what is the professional term for it. Any psychologists reading this?
Yeah, I know you would like to hear more about that colon, so you can help yourself to the link, and hopefully you have RealAudio...
Actually, the show turned out to be quite interesting. The museum is one of the oldest of its kind, and its displays range from human abnormalities, to medical equipment used in the Civil War. BTW, there is no such thing as Siamese triplets, and they did have anesthetics other than booze during the Civil War.
A very able fisking of the BBC analysis of the coalition crisis in Israel. By Mr. Ribbity Frog, who is one of the few Israelis who blog in English.
The always excellent Judith Weiss on Jewish partisans in WWll.
Amnesty Int. report underestimates the number of Israeli casualties in terrorist attacks that led to the operation Defensive Shield (40, instead of at least 96). Thanks to Tal G. for the link.
More on the torture issue.
I wonder if what I heard on my phone yesterday was a recording of Janet Reno's real voice, or was it a computer simulation?

Monday, November 04, 2002

The shopping mall in Kfar-Saba, Israel: 2 dead, 19 injured, 1 seriously. Among the other injured are 2 babies.
Is Sharon going to tell Bibi to go and make love to himself?
Kuwait is joining Jordan and Baharain in closing al-Jazeera offices, citing the stations "lack of objectivity" and it's reports being "inflated" and "damaging to Kuwait's image".
Maariv says that tensions between the station and Kuwait's rulers is not new: they have accused al-Jazeera in the past of being biased in Saddam's favor. The emir of Qatar (where the station is based), and the station's owner are known to have ties with Hussein. In '99 the station was closed, following an on-air insult to the emir of Kuwait, but was reopened after a month. It is unclear if this time they are closing it for good.
A month ago the Gulf states have called for a boycott of the station.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

The connections between various Palestinian terror groups and the German Red Army are a well known fact. This article in the German "Der Spiegel" has some interesting details. It is long, so I link to the translation (courtesy of Mr. Feloniuos Punk, with some minor editing on my part), rather than post it here.
To all my fellow Americans (and Canadians) who, like me, are "right-wing" on the Israeli-Arab conflict, and who, unlike me, think that Netanyahu is the strong leader that will solve the problem: think again. Despite what you have heard him say, or read him write, Bibi is no good. He already was PM once, and was no good. The guy is very bright, understands the issues very well, his English is impeccably American, he is young (well, kind of) and agressive. He might make an effective foreign minister, although it will not last. Just today one of his anonymous associates said that "Bibi will not play a second violin [do you say this in English?] to Sharon". It is healthy for a politician to have a certain hunger for power, but Bibi is well beyond the healthy limit. He is not a team player, and not a leader. And my gut feeling (like many Israelis') is that he is not to be trusted. No good.
Both IBA and Maariv report that Russia has started a major military offence in Chechnia, following inteligence on planned terrorist attacks. ABC only quotes Ivanov as saying that Russian forces will not proceed with the planned withdrawal. Nothing in Pravda.
Update: UPI has it, too.
Long day: soccer, cleaning, birthday party. See you all tomorrow. Hey, it is tomorrow!