Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Myth of the Myth

Johnny Ryan, also gave Noam Chomsky a big tickling in the Irish Times last year.

Like many leftists, such as Michael Moore or those in the BBC, whose recent Power of Nightmares combined cretinous opinions with the soundtrack from the Magic Roundabout, he picks up the theme that the fear of terror is largely the outcome of the manipulation of public opinion after 9/11 by the Bush administration.

Some evidence on this quesiton, apart from videos of the President's speeches would not go amiss. Luckily, the most recent surveys in the series conducted regularly by the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations, coming after 9/11 and the Iraq war, shows spreading democracy internationally, perpetually unpopular, last among foreign policy goals, with only 14% of citizens considering it very important (See p.21); among foreign policy experts, support is barely higher (See p.21). Regardless of the merits of the President’s emphasis on spreading democracy, through force if necessary, it ill represents the views of the American people.

The CCFR survey data shows the American public believing (pp.6-12) even in polls taken years prior to both 9/11 and Bush’s election, that WMD and international terrorism were the greatest threats facing the US. While the reported levels of concern had increased, 1998 and 2002, they have consistently remained the gravest foreign policy problems in the eyes of ordinary Americans, with around three quarters feeling it is "very important". Again, the foreign policy elite echo this.

In his address at West Point in 2002, Bush stated, "Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies." Later in 2002, Vice President Cheney echoed this alarm about the links between terrorism, WMD and Iraq: Addressing a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, he described Hussein as "a murderous dictator" who now had WMD, was, he stated unequivocally, "as great a threat as can be imagined."

From the attitude surveys, it's obvious that the American public came to this view well before President Bush did. So much for the sheepish masses being led astray by media manipulation.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Misusing Occam's Razor

Johnny Ryan, an Irish polsci postgraduate at Oxford, has an article in the current issue of Magill with the stated aim of introducing to Dr Rory Miller of Kings College London, author of the recently published Ireland and the Palestine Question, the complexity of Islamist terrorism. In attempting to introduce his wrinkles, I suspect that Ryan is missing a number of essential points that the Miller has absorbed from his longer and more focused exposure to Arab and Israeli sources and proficiency in the original languages.

Ryan considers himself too sophisticated - he is a graduate of UCD, after all - to subscribe to the simple dichotomy of President Bush's challenge to the world after 9/11, "Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists" but his scholarship falls down on a number of points - al-Qaeda, the politics of the Islamic world and the Cold War - which leads him to draw inadequately supported and morally-flawed conclusions. As today's birthday boy said, "Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own?" Here it is Ryan rather than Miller who is failing to grasp the nuances of his subject matter.

Occam’s Razor – as applied by al-Qaeda

To begin, who does al-Qaeda consider its enemies? Americans, for certain, especially those representing their government overseas, as in 1998's embassy bombings in Africa. Killing a dozen a US diplomats seems, to their mind, to justify the slaughter of a further 200 innocent bystanders. On its own, this far exceeds in scale and ruthlessness anything ever undertaken by any of Europe's terrorists. Alslo in the firing line have been the UN, which was condemned by bin Laden as "...nothing but a tool of crime.", which presumably justifies the mass murder of its humanitarian staff in Iraq. Neither are tthe aid agencies such as MSF, the ICRC spared from bomb attacks, nor innocents such as Margaret Hassan and Ken Bigley, slaughtered like cattle on video. The same pattern of targeting innocents has been repeated in Bali, Madrid and, but for chance, in Mobassa.

Violence of this sort bespeaks an extremism and indifference to human life that is completely new and untasted for us in the west, but is tragically familiar in the Islamic world. bin Laden's talk of the "tragedy of al Andalus", and his rage at the ending of the genocidal Indonesian occupation of East Timor reinforce the conviction that here we have a murderous fantasist. Gerry Adams and his crew had to concede their shining vision of a 32-county Irish Socialist Republic for some cross-border tourism bodies. The distance for al-Qaeda to travel is far greater.

Civil wars and terrorism in Egypt, Algeria, Afghanistan and now Iraq and Saudi Arabia, have bear out the analysis of Gilles Kepel and other scholars (which, strangely, Ryan cites in his other work) that Islamist terrorism is more a sign of weakness than strength. Islamists have failed to take power, either through the ballot box or through violence against their own societies, as al Zawahiri admits in his Knights Under the Prophet's Banner, quoted extensively in Kepel's War for Muslim Minds. Isolated from their home societies and exiled, they can only bid desperately for support through violent spectaculars, or "propaganda of the deed" as it was known to the anarchists of early 20th century Europe.

Rather than moving from violence to build a base of mass support, al-Qaeda is working in the opposite direction, as a splinter from the more broadly-based Islamists such as those in Algeria and Egypt. The better Irish analogy should be with Justin Barrett, not Gery Adams.

Islam is very far from being a monolith, as one would expect from a religious tradition with nearly fifteen centuries of history that straddles many cultures around the globe. The only government Bin Laden has held up as an example of his ideal society was that of Afghanistan under the Taliban and Mullah Omar, to whom he sweared alleigance as "commander of the faithful".

There are many other variants. Towards the other end of the spectrum, there are the Muslim politicians of South East Asia, such as former Indonesian president Abdurrahman Wahid ("Gus Dur"), who head the world's largest Muslim organisation and worked tirelessly in office for decentralisation and religious tolerance in that diverse nation. One of his more interesting recent roles, according to a recent New Yorker article, has been to act as a go-between for two of his friends, Iraqi Shia leader Grand Ayatollah Sistani and Paul Wolfowitz, a one-time US ambassador to Indonesia.

Then, in the murky middle, we have those movements and individuals, who may be abhorent, but are nonetheless represent useful allies, if not friends. One example is the Egyptian-born scholar Yusuf al Qaradawi, who may enjoy the widest reputation among in both popular and clerical opinion. His sanctioning wife-beating, the killing of gays and suicide-bombings against non-combatant Israelis, including women and children, disgust many in the West (although not, predictably, London mayor Ken Livingstone, who lavished praise on him during a recent visit to the city). The Sheik ridicules Osama Bin Laden's scholarship, and signed fatwas supporting the US attack on Afghanistan.

Hamas is in no sense an agent of reform. It's main electoral intervention to date has been in persuading the Israeli public first in 1996 and again in 2001, through a series of no-warning attacks on commuters, night-clubbers and shoppers, that negotiations would not deliver peace, bringing first Netanyahu and then Sharon to to power, followed by the re-occupation of the Palestinian areas after their attack on a Passover function in a hotel killed thirty. Palestinian terrorism may be accorded legitimacy in the wider Middle East, encouraged by the imprimatur of Qaradawi and others, but by now it's hard, after four years of being ground down to ascribe any success to it in furthering the struggle.

The cold war history he presents is bizarre. Bush's rhetoric of good and evil, strategy of democratisation and military intervention is being wielded, in many cases by the same people, as in the late cold war.

He's correct in drawing a contrast between the neo-conservative philosophy and that of Nixon and Kissinger, but this is only continuing Reagan's policies of reversing the growing Soviety military advantage and, just as importantly, abandoning the coldly amoral use of American power that brought such misery to Indonesia, Chile, Cambodia and other countries. In Korea, the Philippines and ultimately in Eastern Europe, this combination of moral clarity and military strength was the essential prerequisite for the overthrow of dictatorships that had seemed permanent. Oh, and thirty and forty-five thousand Americans died in Korea and Vietnam respectively, not "hundreds of thousands".

What will the world look like if non-state actors, ETA, the IRA, AQ, the drug cartels, religious cults like Aum in Japan - overcome the state cartel on holding biological and nuclear weapons. The motivations of its potential users are either so extreme, so obscure or simply so insane that they cannot be bargained with.

In summary, Bagdhad isn't Belfast, in spite of Ryan's impenetrable parochialism. al-Qaeda's terrorists have already killed tens of thousands without scruple in their own countries and 9/11 was just a taste of what may come. Let us hope we don't share the unfortunate fate of the battleground states in the Middle East or even the pale shadow of it that Israel has experienced.


Beijing's Qian Men ("front gate"), at the southern edge of Tiananmen Square

My very first blog postings, written from an internet cafe right by Qianmen in Beijing, are here. At the time, the PRC government were blocking access from the mainland to blogger.com. Bizarrely, I was able to post, but not able to read what I had written. Therefore, showing my usual strength of character, I promptly gave up.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Intrinsically Disordered in Baghdad

The Church of England isn't the only religious body having problems in recognising homosexual relationships, according to today's FT:
Say theword mujahid- or holy warrior - these days and many inhabitants of Baghdad are likely to snigger.


For Iraqis opposed to the predominantly Sunni Islamist insurgency, Terror in the Hands of Justice, which airs twice daily on Iraqi public television, has broken the mystique of a force that used to strike terror into the hearts of anyone working with the Americans or the new government.


In recent weeks, however, the insurgents' confessions have become increasingly at odds with the movement's reputation for stringent Islamic austerity.

One long-bearded preacher known as Abu Tabarek recently confessed that guerrillas had usually held orgies in his mosques, secure in the knowledge that their status as holy warriors would win them forgiveness of their sins.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Neigbourhood watch, Bagdhad style

Saudi jihadis out of Iraq?

In spite of the solidarity on show in yet another six-person demonstration in Dublin, the Iraqi insurgency seems to be faltering.

This heart-warming story caught my eye:
As the gunmen emerged from their cars, Dhia and his young relatives shouldered their Kalashnikov rifles and opened fire, the police and witnesses said. In the fierce gun battle that followed, three of the insurgents were killed, and the rest fled just after the police arrived. Two of Dhia's nephews and a bystander were wounded, the police said.

"We attacked them before they attacked us," said Dhia, 35, his face still contorted with rage and excitement, as he stood barefoot outside his home a few hours after the battle, a 9-millimeter pistol in his hand. He would not give his last name.

"We killed three of those who call themselves the mujahedeen," he said. "I am waiting for the rest of them to come, and we will show them."
No doubt had this happened in London, Dhia would have either been left cooling his heels in jail while the terrorists were left off scot-free. Or perhaps he could have been left to meekly offer himself to the terrorists, while pointing out to them any slippy patches on the floor of his home where they might fall and injure themselves and then have to sue him.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

...from my cold, dead hands Mr. Annan...

I spent a big chunk of my Saturday this week at a workshop on the control of small arms at Birkbeck, as part of my International Security course. Dan Plesch led the lectures and workshop as another battle in his long struggle against peace and security as a CND activist, advocate of impeaching every UK prime minister from Thatcher to Blair, anti-war actvist and, according to a recent Sky News caption "Iran Expert". I stuggle to overcome my suspicion of academics who operate under the label of "peace studies", as if moral virtue is its own reward, independent of the harder facts and darker insights into human nature that other academic disciplines and the pragmatic experience of war and turmoil brings. While I soon became intensely riled by the unjustified atmosphere of sanctity that reminded me of my primary school religion classes, there were, however, some very interesting points made.

The activists seemed keen to replicate the Ottowa treaty process that led to an an incomplete ban on landmines. This treaty, with which Princess Di was much taken during the later stages of her life while not blowing Egyptian coke-heads, didn't take into account useful applications like sowing the Korean DMZ to stop the North Koreans sweeping south or the guarding of other frontiers such as those in Cyprus or Israel. Given how the UN disarmament process has been symtied by inertia and the veto-wielding powers, they thought that "civil society" i.e. the usual swarm of NGO pondlife and their journalist camp-followers who seem to be the main halo-polishers of the modern world, decided to act directly on governments, many of whom, responded. Those Atlases that carry the world's security burdens unaided on their shoulders, Canada and Belgium - remember Rwanda anyone? Mark Steyn does, and seems to be the only person condemning UN commander Romeo Dallaire. Needless to say, the US isn't a signatory. I thought, isn't exactly this same logic applicable to Operation Iraqi Freedom, where the democratically elected leaders, in conjunction with their legislatures, took up the baton of stopping genocide in Iraq from the deadlocked UNSC?

Newton's law of civil society - for each NGO, there exists an equal but opposite NGO, also reared its ugly head. The main opposition for these people was the US National Rifle Association. Indeed, the focus of the organisation's work seemed to be on accomplishing, by way of UN bureaucracy and international treaty what the Bill of Rights and public opinion prevents, what I've christened elsewhere as the Held fallacy, after the LSE political philosopher who addressed my class late last year.

Neither do these people ever recognise that control shows state control is worse than the outcomes of the market: all the licensed guns and most of those in the hands of the security forces were there available to defend and protect the Unionists and not nationalists in a crisis such as that of 1969 and are a key weapon in the arsenal of those threatening the "Protestant backlash" - remember Paisley's torchlight eighties rally of men waving gun permits?

Nobody seemed to have the facts as to where the weapons were coming from, as distinct from pushing the concept of another evil capitalist conspiracy, although verbally beating it out of them seemed to produce a tentative consensus that the FSU and Chinese arms are mainly to blame. Apparently, modern guns made for the US market, as almost legal production now is, are too expensive to interest the global black market, where weapons are sold well below manufacturing cost, not surprising given the deadly legacy of stockpiled weapons left over from the Cold War period. Remember how the IRA got its weapons shipped wholesale from Libya, while smuggling from America was sporadic and tiny in scale (according to Ed Moloney's book).

One researcher commented on how Kofi Annan had introduced and most of the NGO community perpetuated completely arbitrary and false statistics about the problem. The landmines campaign had said that there were 500 million in circulation, so the Secretary General said in a speech that there were 500 million small arms, but no sources were available to back this up.

Finally, a German academic, Peter Lock commented on the role of crime, not just in supporting, but increasingly, in driving the politics of civil conflict - a sadly appropriate theme!

Logic and the Left

Tony asks speculates that the left and the right approach problems differently. I think he may be correct in this. One example is the Palestinian issue which he talks over. Those on the right - like Tony and I - seem to always be battling a huge wall of indignant emotion, especially in Ireland, if we sympathise with and argue for the continued existence of Israel, and this even without going into the "extremist" territory of tentatively venturing the hypothesese that the voiding of the Oslo accords, killings of active terrorists and election of Ariel Sharon were, perhaps, just maybe, for the sake of argument, perhaps politically logical and morally justified.

The differences between our mindsets and that of, for example, the standard Irish Times narrative seem to fall into a few broad fallacies.

First, I think most people make the assumption that because the Palestians appear weaker, they must have justice on their side, a dangerous conclusion. Regardless of their military inferiority when facing the Israelis without the backing of the Arab militaries, they seem to have a preference for massacre and terrorism, with only the first Intifada being a partial exception. Unlike either say the Poles under Soviet rule or even the IRA, they've never seemed to draw back from direct and targeted violence against women, children and non-combatants in attacking athletes, schools, family homes and so on.

Second, regardless of whether Israel is right or wrong, it's more useful to us than the Palestinians have ever been. A modern society, albeit one troubled by ethnic division and political polarisation, even one that's perhaps Enlightenment civilisation's country cousin, is more likely to be a friend than an enemy. As we observed, there was nobody dancing in the streets of Tel Aviv on 9/11. Whatever the shape of any future Palestine, it will be highly unlikely to serve as the stage for the preening leftists like Caoimhe Butterly.

Third, all outsiders, and the BBC and other British reporters in particular, always bring the assumption that the disagreements and conflict are the result of someone being unreasonable. But what if compromises are not reciprocated, inviting only more demands? If the hurt pride or the ambition is too great for compromise, but leads on only to sustained demands, what can be done? If Gaza is on the table, but Jaffa and Jerusalem are the prizes, who would offer compromise? To borrow from Jabotinsky's The Iron Wall, the philosophical cornerstone of the Revisionist Zionism of the Likud:
All this does not mean that any kind of agreement is impossible, only a voluntary agreement is impossible. As long as there is a spark of hope that they can get rid of us, they will not sell these hopes, not for any kind of sweet words or tasty morsels, because they are not a rabble but a nation, perhaps somewhat tattered, but still living. A living people makes such enormous concessions on such fateful questions only when there is no hope left. Only when not a single breach is visible in the iron wall, only then do extreme groups lose their sway, and influence transfers to moderate groups. Only then would these moderate groups come to us with proposals for mutual concessions. And only then will moderates offer suggestions for compromise on practical questions like a guarantee against expulsion, or equality and national autonomy.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Word on the Streets

"The peace process is for the media. It’s not real. The people are waiting for our decision, not Abu Mazen’s."

In "Appointment with Fear", Israeli journalist Yigal Sarna in today’s FT magazine, keeps it real as Ali G might say, if he lived long enough in this West Bank canton.

"Follow me", the boy says shyly. He leads us through alleys where the houses are so close together that the second storeys touch one another. In the doorways of small shops, idle men watch us without a word. At the edge of the camp, my guide phones our liaison, who says: “A child will come to take you.” Ten minutes later another boy pops up beside us. We follow him through the lanes of Balata, the most violent Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank. He stops at a green iron door. We climb four steps into a sooty apartment that doubles as a bakery. Next to the bread oven we are halted by two boys, like two miniature sentries.

The boys are 15 or 16 years old, in the twilight zone between a childhood of plastic pistols and the armed manhood of live weapons and explosives. They move us from room to room, to where their brother Jum’a is sleeping. He wakes, and greets us.

Jum’a, who is a few years older, is our contact: he is an al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades militant, a soldier in the war against Israel. And I am an Israeli journalist. This is a man who would, were I in a Jerusalem street, gladly see me dead. But we are meeting during a time of ceasefire, of truce, of hope - and hostilities are, for the moment, on hold.

In the camp, boys no older than our escort might be recruited by the Brigades to smuggle explosives into Israel. Or they might be recruited by Shin Bet, the Israeli security service, to track the Brigades for them. It depends on who gets their hands on them first. “Just yesterday we caught a boy, a jassus,” Jum’a says to me as he rises from his bed on the floor. Jassus is a harsh word. It means “spy”, an occupation that invites the death penalty.

”The boy was told to keep watch on our two commanders, Sanagra and Saltah,” says Jum’a. “But he was also reporting to Shin Bet; he was supposed to plant a bomb to kill them.” Snooker, the boy who was caught, was sleeping rough after running away from a father who beat him; Jum’a’s commander took pity on him and let him sleep in his own home. Shin Bet’s trap worked well at first - but then the boy was exposed. When the Brigades catch a collaborator, they interrogate him and then, usually, they kill him. In this case, they didn’t: they took pity. “He was working for the Israelis for only three weeks. He didn’t do any harm. We interrogated him and he broke. Just a kid, not well-trained.” The room is filling up with Jum’a’s comrades from the Brigades, and they laugh.

The Brigades make videos of the interrogation and execution of collaborators: two, who were caught in mid-January, were interrogated for several days with the help of burning cigarettes, the red-hot element of an electric heater and beatings. Once the collaborators had admitted everything, they were killed near the mosque, after evening prayers, in full view of the whole community. “We filmed everything,” the men tell me, as if to point out that they are sticklers for procedure.

Why have these men agreed to meet my photographer and me? Perhaps it is because of a burning desire that their fiery youth, doomed to end in violent death, will not be forgotten. Or perhaps it is because they feel that, during this time of talks between the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (also known as Abu Mazen) and the Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon - a period in which they are not supposed to shoot at or kill anyone - they are losing their value. They are evaporating.

Before I met these young men, I spoke with a man I knew from the Balata camp. “This new truce,” he told me, “is the Brigades’ disaster. The street wants peace, but the peace is drying up the Brigades, whose power comes from weapons. The source of donations is also drying up. They are flickering out with the fire.”

Now there are about 10 young fighters in the room. Jum’a, whose home this is; Nasser, the oldest; tall Muhammad; some silent young men who don’t introduce themselves. “What is going to happen to you?” I ask them. “The Israelis will kill us.” They don’t have any other plans. Even when they go upstairs to the open rooftop to pose for the photographer, they seem to be imagining their faces on martyrs’ posters on an alley wall. The camera only completes the work of the rifle.

Now the Brigades’ current commander, Ala Sanagra, joins us. Ahmed Saltah - already nominated as his successor if and when Sanagra dies - is not with him. This is a vital rule: the two men are never in the same place at the same time. Both are on the most-wanted list, having been involved, according to an Israeli military spokesman, in three killings in 2004 and other “extensive terror activity”.

Sanagra is good-looking in a strange way, with sharp, handsome features that stand out from the crowd. He speaks little and wears stylish, tight black clothing. “This is Brigades style,” he says. Most of the young men in the room are dressed in black. Their short hair is spiky with gel, sometimes covered with the small woollen hat worn by pilgrims to Mecca. Most are wearing dark leather jackets.

Sanagra, who is 27 and single - “I’m married to the Brigades” - was born in Balata and into the Occupation: he was 10 when the first Palestinian uprising, or intifada, erupted. Like many other youngsters in the camp, he threw stones at soldiers and saw his father humiliated. There were nights when he awoke in terror as soldiers burst in to search the sleeping house. This seems to be a formative experience for many children in the camp. Their safest refuge is violated; in adulthood, the fear and impotence that this creates develops into a profound need for control, preferably using the power provided by weapons - the same weapons those childhood intruders carried.

Few of those who have gathered in the room to talk with me expect to die a natural death. Since the beginning of the second intifada, at the end of 2000, about 100 people have been killed in the Balata camp. According to the Brigades’ count, 79 of these “martyrs” were their people.

Most of the men here are heavy smokers, getting through a packet of Marlboros during the course of our conversation, crumpling the empty packet next to the ashtray. I count three rounds of coffee during the meeting. The room fills up with smoke. The atmosphere is a mixture of caffeine, nicotine and gunpowder.

The screened windows are slightly open and look out over a narrow passage between houses, but there is something suffocating and claustrophobic about sitting here. The room is a refuge, but also a potential trap. For a moment I imagine an Israeli force suddenly bursting in through the windows. My mind fills with an image of murderous chaos; the fighters, however, are having fun. They regale me with some of the folklore and humour of the Martyrs’ Brigades: how they forced a collaborator they had captured to phone his controller in Shin Bet, listened to the conversation, then interrupted it to yell at the Israeli intelligence captain, who quickly hung up. How six of them shot holes in the collaborator with their automatic weapons until he looked like a honeycomb. How people came to kick his corpse.

They like to tease their pursuers, even though they know that the Israelis are a hundred times stronger, that they will get them in the end. The game always ends in death, but at least playing wins you a temporary sense of power - a release from the Occupation, where from the moment you are born you have no control over anything, in which your every move is watched, your every move blocked. Control, even momentary control, is magical. For a brief while you instil fear in those who have made you afraid from the moment you were born. You rise from the dust of your trampled father.

”Ever since I was a child I’ve loved disturbances, demonstrations, stones,” says Jum’a. “I felt that this was my thing in life,” he says, holding a Kalashnikov he has brought out from its hiding place. The room is full of weapons. They have an animal presence, like the reek of a lion in a cave. These are guns that have fired and killed, and most of their owners are wanted men “with blood on their hands”, as Israel defines it: the killing of soldiers, the planning and implementation of terrorist attacks. Fear of these men casts a shadow in Israel that extends into the camp, where they have appointed themselves the guardians of morality. They will punish a wife-beater, a woman who strays, a thief who is caught. “They’ve acquired the reputation of very cruel fellows,” a camp-dweller told me. “Children who have no mercy.”

Ten years ago this group of young men were children, who sometimes threw stones at soldiers. But as they grew, they each became active in the Shabiba youth movement; they became a coherent group upon joining the Tanzim, the military wing of al-Fatah. Once the second intifada began, the group adopted the name “al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades” - thus commemorating the spark that caused the conflagration: Ariel Sharon’s September 2000 visit to Temple Mount in Jerusalem (the site of, among other holy places, al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock) and the killing of Palestinians in the riots that followed. Now the men of the Brigades are the least restrained of all the Tanzim’s fighters, sustaining a very high level of losses. The attrition rate is so high that it seems as though death itself is with us in the room.

”How many commanders were there before you?” I ask Sanagra. His hand caresses the ammunition clip of his weapon as he enumerates them in his mind.


He is the ninth: all the previous commanders have been killed or captured by their Israeli pursuers; only three were taken alive.

”A cat has only nine lives,” I say.

”I’m on the ninth,” Sanagra smiles when my guide translates.

The men show me a poster depicting all the commanders. In the centre is Yasser al-Badawi, the Brigades’ founder; around him are the others: the dead, who are buried in the camp cemetery, and the living, who are buried alive in prison.

Al-Badawi established the Brigades in the camps in January 2001. He was a native of Balata, unmarried and in his early thirties. For seven months he recruited youngsters, collected donations, located weapons and ordered attacks - until he was killed in his car, when a grenade belonging to the co-fighter sitting next to him blew up. The men are certain that the weapon had been booby-trapped, and was triggered by an Israeli drone that passed overhead - that the “accident” was a targeted killing.

How do you select a new leader?

”The Brigades are a pyramid. The top of the pyramid decides who is next, according to seniority and the successes that person has had.” They count up “successes” as a businessman counts up commercial initiatives: 23 dead from an attack in Tel Aviv; a female suicide bomber killing two policemen in Jerusalem; a bomb in a shopping mall; a youth who blew himself up in an outdoor market.

The third commander was called Mahmood al-Titi, who is admired to this day. He shot down an Israeli drone, carried out terrorist attacks and even killed an Israeli soldier from an elite unit. He was blown up by an Israeli tank shell while visiting the camp cemetery. His replacement was Amir Zukan, who held sway for a few months until he was captured and given seven life sentences. In the chaos that ensued, 20-year-old Muhammad al-Hatib was chosen as the new commander. Two months later he was wounded and captured. After his arrest, Hashem Abu Hamdan and Nader Abu Leil commanded the Brigades, together with Khalil Marshoud. On June 2 2004, combat helicopters killed Abu Hamdan and Abu Leil by firing missiles at their vehicle; Marshoud remained alone as the eighth commander.

In mid-June 2004, Marshoud had talks with Fatah about the possibility of a ceasefire with Israel. That evening, he took a taxi to the camp with two other young men. Marshoud was next to the driver; Muhammad al-Assi, now sitting with us in the baker’s apartment, was in the back seat. Al-Assi remembers that it was dark when they entered the camp.

”Four days later I woke up in a hospital without remembering a thing.” He shows me a scar on his neck, and another on his abdomen. “The helicopters fired two missiles.” One missed, but the second was a direct hit on Marshoud. “We took him out of the vehicle: without a face, without a belly and without one arm,” says another young fighter, who helped carry Marshoud’s body from the smashed car. Around his neck there now hangs a small photograph of the martyr, a handsome young man.

And so Ala Sanagra was appointed the ninth commander, with Ahmed Saltah as his nominated successor. In order to demonstrate the danger that does not disappear for a moment, Sanagra shows me his mobile phone. “Captain Munir of Shin Bet knows my number,” he says. “He phoned me this week and said: ‘Soon I am going to slaughter you with a knife. You are a dead man.’” He laughs, briefly.

Such intimacy between pursuer and the pursued is not unusual: the Israelis possess photographs and details of every wanted man; the Palestinians know many of their hunters. Meanwhile, all about them, the territory is “planted” with collaborators.

”Don’t believe anyone here. The people in the camp love us,” Nasser, the group’s oldest member, tells me, “but it is a love without trust. That’s our law.”

What will happen next?

”This is just a temporary lull. Not a hudna,” says Sanagra, using the word for a truce. “For the moment, all sides have locked the safety catch on their weapons. We and the Israelis. But if they execute someone, we will take strong vengeance.” He is holding an M-16 engraved with a cedar tree - the symbol of Lebanon, where the rifle came from. As we talk, the fighters pass their weapons - a silvery pistol, an M-16 with a telescopic sight, a short Kalashnikov - hand to hand, like pets, as though it were hard for them to live without their metallic closeness, without the control and the security that they afford.

And the peace process?

”It’s good only for the media. It’s not real. We don’t want a complicated agreement like Oslo, but a simple agreement: for Israel to get out of the whole West Bank and to release all the prisoners. Then there will be peace. The people are waiting for our decision. Not Abu Mazen’s. We get messages from Abu Mazen all the time, but we aren’t a part of the new mood. He does not represent us, even though we are together with him in the Fatah. We haven’t given our agreement to the current process. But we want peace.” He says this like a man longing for a good sleep, after years of keeping his eyes wide open.

Will you fight Palestinian soldiers if they come here to force through an agreement?

”We will never shoot at our own soldiers,” says Sanagra.

”We need peace even more than you Israelis do,” says the baker and the owner of the house, Jum’a’s father. His greatest fear is that the Israeli army will, in pursuit of his son, blow up his home and that he, his wife and their other six children will be left without a roof over their heads. Jum’a’s mother remains outside the room, but I hear her angry mutterings against the men. “Why have they all come here?” She also scolds us, two Israelis who have come into her home. But it is the men who decide who enters. And when the father speaks, his son keeps quiet: filial respect is stronger than any politics. Jum’a’s father belongs to the generation that worked in Israel and misses the place. He remembers a boss who was “sweet as sugar”. To this the son says nothing; his generation is cut off from that Israel.

When we leave, some of the Brigades’ fighters accompany us the short distance to the military roadblock where our taxi waits for us. The people of the camp watch the armed men in silence. Only children gather around them. Forty-five minutes later, I am at home in Tel Aviv.

A week later, I return to the same room. Sanagra does not appear. He has vanished.

A few young men come in, surrounding a tall, thin figure. He is the tenth: Ahmed Saltah, Sanagra’s partner in the leadership. There is a heavy Hungarian pistol stuck in his belt, but the room is empty of sub-machine-guns.

Where have all the weapons gone?

”This week we lost the weapons that you saw,” says Saltah.

He himself was saved by a miracle. On the previous Tuesday evening, Saltah was sitting with three colleagues in an abandoned house in the village of Kalil. According to the Israeli Defence Force’s version of events, the four men were preparing to mount a terrorist attack. There were two others with them, not from the Brigades: the mayor of Nablus’s bodyguard and a Palestinian policeman. One looked out of the window and saw that the house was surrounded by the Israeli army.

The policeman and the bodyguard fired through the windows, creating cover for Saltah to slip out the back. He says the two men were killed in the house; the army says they were shot outside, close to the fence surrounding a nearby Jewish settlement, while carrying an explosive charge with a cellular detonator.

”They sacrificed their lives for me,” Saltah tells me, as one of Jum’a’s younger brothers looks on admiringly. It is the day after the dead men’s funeral, and Saltah’s right leg is jittery with tension. Had the Israelis killed him that night, his men would have taken revenge. Had he succeeded in any terrorist attack, Israel would have taken revenge. Possibly the fire would have reignited and the cards been reshuffled. Everything is so fragile in this peace.

A thick furrow is etched between his soft, boyish eyes. He does not smile much. Before October 2000, he had managed to spend two months studying economics at Najah University. Now his future is a helicopter missile or a bullet.

”I could be killed at any moment. But as long as there is a Palestinian woman who gives birth to a son, there will be a new leader to replace me. This is a chain.” He knows all the details of the deaths of his predecessors, and of the deaths of those they killed; he knows this better than anything. And a few years from now, if nothing changes, that admiring younger brother will be sitting under the commanders’ faded photographs, holding his automatic weapon, and talking to another journalist.

Turning to the Dark Side

With Jon Ihle's relationship with notorious Irish neocon rag Magill magazine now out in the open, it looks like the dark side of the blogosphere has gained another convert, so the BSD link in my blogroll has been shifted accordingly.

What the FIUK are youse doing here?

The latest Irish sojourners to wash up on England's shores are in London at present. With any luck, they will be able to squeeze me into their hectic schedule sometime this weekend. I've

I've recently come across some of the people that they mention. The wonderful blog of the Social Affairs Unit, publishes the original and erudite work of many heavy-hitting writers, including NHS psychiatrist Anthony Daniels (aka "Theodore Dalrymple"), Cambridge international relations don Brendan Simms, whose Unfinest Hour so mercilessly highlighted the need for what's now known as the neo-conservative approach during the scourging of Bosnia, Irish doctor and critic Seamus Sweeney and wunderkind Douglas Murray.

Alex Singleton is familiar to any reader of the Adam Smith Institute Blog. As well as posting frequently there and on Samizdata, Alex has just set up a new think-tank, the Globalisation Institute, as a platform for his pioneering policy research on globalisation from the perspective of a European free-markets advocate.

The granddaddy of all the free-market think-tanks, the Institute of Economic Affairs, which invented much of what is now absoluely undisputed in economic policy, such as the abolition of exchange controls and resale price maintenance in Britain, as well as building the intellectual foundation for Thatcherism. They do not, unfortunately, have a blog yet, but many of their books are available free for download at their site.

Friday, March 18, 2005

George Kennan: 1904-2005

George Kennan, the intellectual dynamo who first articulated the doctrine of containment that guided American foreign policy all throughout the terror and tensions of the Cold War until its triumphant ending. His obituaries in the Washington Post and New York Times describe the somewhat dissappointing arc of his life and thought.

The force of Mr. Kennan's ideas brought him to power in Washington in the brief months after World War II ended and before the cold war began. In February 1946, as the second-ranking diplomat in the American Embassy in Moscow, he dispatched his famous "Long Telegram" to Washington, perhaps the best-known cable in American diplomatic history. It explained to policy makers baffled by Stalin that while Soviet power was "impervious to the logic of reason," it was "highly sensitive to the logic of force."Widely circulated in Washington, the Long Telegram made Mr. Kennan famous. It evolved into an even better-known work, "The Sources of Soviet Conduct," which Mr. Kennan published under the anonymous byline "X" in the July 1947 issue of Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations. "Soviet pressure against the free institutions of the Western world is something that can be contained by the adroit and vigorous application of counterforce," he wrote. That force, Kennan believed, should take the form of diplomacy and covert action, not war.

Mr. Kennan's best-known legacy was this postwar policy of containment, "a strategy that held up awfully well," said Mr. Gaddis.
And in echoes of today's debates, as a policy-maker, he was pessimistic of the potential for change in the Communist bloc and opposed on many occaisions the use soft power measures to roll back the occupation of Easter Europe.

A touchstone of his worldview was the conviction that the United States cannot reshape other countries in its own image and that, with a few exceptions, its efforts to police the world are neither in its interests nor within the scope of its resources.

"This whole tendency to see ourselves as the center of political enlightenment and as teachers to a great part of the rest of the world strikes me as unthought-through, vainglorious and undesirable," he said in an interview with the New York Review of Books in 1999.

"I would like to see our government gradually withdraw from its public advocacy of democracy and human rights. I submit that governments should deal with other governments as such, and should avoid unnecessary involvement, particularly personal involvement, with their leaders.
Again, Gaddis is quoted in the Times:
"...he missed the ideological appeal of democratic culture in the rest of the world," Mr. Gaddis said, as the slow rot of Soviet Communism undermined the cold war's architectures.
He also publicly deplored his role in the setting up of the CIA's covert political operations capability, spoke against Vietnam and campaigned for nuclear disarmament. Eventually, he came to deplore and to some extent disown his legacy, disputing the resolute application of military power to corral the Soviets:
In February 1994, in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations at a celebration of his 90th birthday, Mr. Kennan harked back to the "X" article. The time to have negotiated with Moscow, he said, was right after the evident success of the Marshall Plan and the Berlin Airlift, "when the lesson I wanted to see us convey to Moscow had been successfully conveyed."

But the United States and its allies insisted on "unconditional surrender" by the Soviets. The result, he said, was 40 years of Cold War at a cost of vast and unnecessary military expenditure, a useless and dangerous nuclear arsenal and 40 years of communist misgovernment in Eastern Europe.
Also, through no fault of his own, he inspired the worst opening line I've ever encountered in any book, from George Dempsey's From the Embassy, which I read and wrote about last year here and here, , "I joined the American diplomatic service because I was seduced by George F. Kennan." Whatever Kennan's faults, they didn't include a being the Bill Clinton of the diplomatic service.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Ireland's Cancer

As Hedges relates, the outcomes unleashed by extreme nationalism and the violence it uses are hellish - it snuffs out human lives and coarsens our culture with crude propaganda, and everwhere cultivates an indifference to humanity. In this way, the IRA, even with a limited level of violence are the greatest threats to Ireland's cultural keys of learning, art, memory and compassion.

A friend sent me the article below this morning. I've never been a fan of the Provos, and neither have I had much time for the often hysterical denunciations of the Sindo.

My brothers were with me on Saturday. They think that the Irish Republic faces a threat of Weimar dimensions. I might not have agreed with them three months ago, but I've come around to believe just that.

From the Sunday Independent 13 March 2005

Laundering operation was a SF/IRA conspiracy to overthrow this State

GARDA COMMISSIONER Noel Conroy does not give press conferences. He eschews publicity. So his decision to go before the television cameras on Friday is an indication of the commissioner's view of the magnitude of the operation the Garda Siochana was undertaking in Cork and across the country starting last Wednesday evening.

Members of the Garda Special Branch, and the Fraud and Criminal Assets bureaux had just launched the biggest ever set of raids on the offices of accountants, solicitors and finance companies across the country looking for documents linked to offshore accounts, property deals, business ownerships and money transactions which are estimated to run into hundreds of millions of euro.

There is said to be a massive amount of financial activity ranging from pubs to trading corporations situated in countries outside the European Union in order to avoid the scrutiny of EU financial regulations. There are believed to be companies in Africa and Eurasia involved.

And they all have one thing in common. They are all linked to the IRA.

What's more, the money was clearly not for personal enrichment alone. The amounts involved were evidently for a purpose far beyond the purchase of holiday homes or new cars. The finance operation uncovered is on a scale to mount a massive campaign to subvert the sovereign state of the Republic of Ireland, to undermine its political parties and maybe even its political institutions and Constitution.

It is, gardai say, the IRA's banking system, to be usedto overthrow the government of Ireland.

A key part of the grandiose plan was the subverting of Sinn Fein's political opposition. The IRA is in the process of building a black propaganda campaign to attack TDs and other elected representatives. Across the country, the IRA have been spying on members of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labour and the Progressive Democrats. Units of IRA volunteers, under the guise of Sinn Fein "activists" have been building up dossiers on members of constitutional political parties with the intention of either destroying their reputations or blackmailing them.

This information is to be used to destroy the careers of politicians and public figures at key points, mainly in the run-up to the next general election in which Sinn Fein hopes to establish itself as a major presence in the Dail.

One instance, known to the Sunday Independent, involves a plot to reveal details of the extramarital activities of a TD in a constituency where Sinn Fein has hopes of gaining a seat.

This year the party is launching a series of major profile-building events across Ireland - in line with the so-called centenary of the foundation of Sinn Fein.

The party will be spending millions in promotional activities and recruitment drives through this year, followed next year by further rallies and commemorative events leading up to the 2007 general election, when it hopes to more than double its representation in Dail Eireann.

Although republicans and their supporters dismiss such claims as fantasy, gardai and members of Army Intelligence have become increasingly uneasy about the intentions of the IRA and Sinn Fein.

They believe the leadership of the Provisionals has decided that it has completed its strategic project in Northern Ireland, having overthrown the SDLP to become the biggest nationalist party, and has now turned its attention to its grand plan of taking power in the Republic.

Within republican circles this project is commonly referred to as the "re-conquest of the South".

This project is, as the Minister for Justice Mr McDowell commented last week, on a "colossal" scale.

It requires hundreds of millions of euro to pay for the small army of activists of all shades ranging from local "community" workers to high-flying financiers handling the organisation's money, and the spies who are involved in subverting the politicians and institutionsof the State.

The truth has finally dawned on Government that rather than be content with a political agreement that would have seen Sinn Fein in a Stormont Executive, the Provisionals were intent on an altogether bigger prize.

It is believed that this awareness underlies the Taoiseach's reference to the sense of "betrayal" in the duplicity of the Sinn Fein and IRA leadership throughout the years of painstaking negotiations to try and achieve a political settlement in the North.

The Taoiseach is now believed to accept that even if the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party had agreed to a deal with Sinn Fein last December, the IRA would still have carried out the Northern Bank raid.

Mr Ahern has been told that the planning for the raid had been under way for months and was agreed by the IRA Army Council - which includes Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness - at the very same time that he and the British prime minister were desperately trying to get the DUP to agree to share power with Sinn Fein in the North.

If the two prime ministers had succeeded and the raid had gone ahead, the DUP would have been shattered and the North could have been pitched into turmoil.

THE robbery of the stg£26.5m was, however, a completely disastrous miscalculation on the part of the Provisionals.

The IRA may have a highly sophisticated money-laundering operation which funds its huge political machine - with as many paid members as all the other political parties in Ireland put together - but the strain placed on this system by the injection of stg£26.5m was too much.

Over the past weeks the signs of the strain began to emerge as two separate garda intelligence-gathering operations came together, when members of the Special Branch following a dissident republican in Co Cork and anti money-laundering detectives found that they were watching the same people meeting together and exchanging packages of cash.

The Special Branch detectives were on the routine surveillance of a Cork member of the Real IRA, who appeared to have an unusually close relationship with a man who was both a senior IRA figure and a member of Sinn Fein.

The two had been friends since childhood and although they had apparently gone in different directions when the Real IRA split from the Provisionals in 1997, they were still in close contact and obviously working together.

This unusual and baffling relationship between the two Cork men had caused considerable interest and this interest doubled when the Branch men found that in the past month the two had held meetings with a financier at the centre of a completely separate investigation by CAB and the Garda Fraud Bureau into suspected money-laundering.

Some weeks ago it became clear that what the two sections of the Garda Siochana were witnessing was the movement of cash from the North to Cork and the laundering of that money on a very large scale.

High level conferences were held in Garda Headquarters overseen by Commissioner Conroy, Deputy Commissioner Fachtna Murphy and the Force's chief intelligence officer, Assistant Commissioner Joe Egan.

A joint operation was put into place, overseen by the director of Support Services, Assistant Commissioner Tony Hickey, the gardai's most experienced and successful crime investigator and the man who led the hunt for the killers of Veronica Guerin.

The operation swung into action last Wednesday with the first of a series of raids that went on over the following 48 hours, involving eight arrests and the seizure of thousands of files and computer hard drives relating to financial dealings here and abroad.

Of key interest are documents relating to the setting up of trading companies and property deals outside the European Union in places such as Bulgaria, Turkey and Libya.

Last week's operations are merely the start of an investigation which gardai say will run for years. As Commissioner Conroy confirmed at his press conference the operation is aimed at the "subversive" activities of the Provisional IRA.

Garda sources have confirmed that the €2.3m, and other money seized in Cork, is from the Northern Bank raid.

It is believed that this constituted only part of the IRA laundering operation and that most of the other dirty cash was being laundered by other people on both sides of the Border.

The Garda believe the operation uncovered in Cork is only a small part of the overall 'IRA volunteers have been building up dossiers on members of constitutional political parties with the intention of destroying their reputations or blackmailing them'

IRA laundering operation and that separate financial operations are in place in Dublin, the midlands and the Border area. The PSNI are also understood to be looking at financial operations just over the Border in the Newry area and in Derry.

The laundering of the Northern Bank cash has been a difficult and complex issue involving the transaction of the sterling notes for other "clean" sterling, its conversion into euro and its subsequent transfer out of the State.

The fact that this is proving difficult, even for a laundering operation on the scale of the Provisionals', was evidenced in the fact that following the raids in Cork one man gave himself up at Anglesea Garda Station in Cork city and handed over €175,000 in cash which he said he had been asked to keep by one of thefigures at the centre of theinvestigation.

Then, on Friday afternoon, another man was arrested while trying to burn tens of thousands of Northern Bank notes in his back garden in Passage West.

THE garda operation into the IRA's money-laundering is now the biggest and most complex ever undertaken by the force. More than 100 detectives, mainly from the Criminal Assets Bureau and Bureau of Fraud Investigation, are expected to be engaged almost permanently over the next few years in tracking down and revealing the extent of the IRA's illegal fund-raising operation.

The Special Branch will also play a key role and is already understood to have identified a very large number of businesses, licensed premises and hotels that have been acquired on behalf of the IRA. In particular, they have identified a substantial number of pubs which have been acquired by members of SF who previously had no obvious means. It is understood that once the gardai are assured they have exposed the core of the IRA money-laundering operations they will switch their attention to the businesses, pubs and houses, that have been acquired by members of the IRA and Sinn Fein through what is now corrupt or unjust enrichment.

Gardai have pointed out that in the 10 years since the first IRA ceasefire, the IRA has turned itself into the biggest organised crime organisation in the history of this State, comparable to the Mafia in the United States, and has become a threat to the institutions of democracy.

As the police and FBI in the United States embarked on a war against organised crime, so in this country the Garda Siochana is embarking on a dangerous and complex campaign against a highly dangerous and powerful terrorist-criminal organisation.

Jim Cusack

War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning

Perhaps the best book I read last year was War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by NY Times journalist Chris Hedges. A veteran war correspondent, he's plainly a very damaged man after witnessing wars in Yugoslavia, Central America and the Middle East and their effects. Not only does he relate the utter misery of death, injury and psychological damage on those in and around the fighting. Just as tragic is the ripping asunder of cultures as societies turn inwards into the narcissism of national-self love. Steeped in the classics and
educated as a theologian at Harvard, Hedges offers some of the most powerful prose on war since Thucydides. Commenting on Shakespeare's play, he writes:

Troilus, at the start of the play, states that he will not fight for Helen, a woman portrayed by Shakespeare as a mindless paramour. "It is", he says, "too starved a subject for my sword." Dying for this Helen, who has neither morals nor wit, is absurd. Yet I have seen men die for even more ridiculous reasons. There was no reason for the war in Bosnia. The warring sides invented national myths and histories designed to mask the fact that Croats, Muslims and Serbs are nearly indistinguishable. IT was absurd nuances that propelled the war, invested historical wrongs, which, as in the Middle East, stretched back to dubious accounts of ancient history. I have heard Israeli settlers on the West Bank, for example, argue that Palestinian towns, towns that have been Muslim since the seventh century, belong to them because it says so in the Bible, a reminder that this sophistry extends beyond the Balkans.
The cast of warlords in the former Yugoslavia was made up of the dregs of society. These thieves, embezzlers, petty thugs and even professional killers swiftly became war heroes.

Whatever war is, its amoung the greatest evils in human society, seducing us towards our own destruction. I certainly don't consider myself immune to this.

The Arab Street Erupts in Rage

According to Reuters , "We call on the Iraqi government to close all Arab embassies," said a protestor in Baghdad's Shi'ite Sadr City district as others yelled "No to Syria." (Found in the Corner).

Stormont for Slow Learners?

"The statement is rooted in the republican movement's insistence on its own autonomy, in its private and closed belief system, and in its axiomatic insistence that it cannot be answerable to any other law but its own... This is the IRA's world and in this world there is no law and no enforcement but their own. In particular, there is no place there for the police or the laws of states... whose existence they do not recognise."

Guardian editorial, 9 March

Nice of them to notice. How did they not figure this out with all those dead people on the streets of London and Belfast?

Ireland and the Palestine Question

Speaking of the Middle East, Rory Miller's new book, which got a favourable if overly short review in the Sunday Business Post yesterday, is now available on Amazon.

Smogasbord from the Sunday NY Times

The Sunday NY Times had a rich selection of articles by some of my favourite authors.

Niall Ferguson wrote on the international political economy of the dollar system, arguing that the US gets reduced borrowing costs in return for acting as the buyer of last resort for Asia. More importantly, he looks to see the situation continue for the forseeable future, as the Asians both look to maintain employment and avoid capital losses on their dollar assets.

The magazine has a long reportage on the state of Palestine, wearily taking a break from violence, absorbed in its own situation and soberly accepting the political culture that seems to drive the violence.

Francis Fukuyama celebrates the centenary of Max Weber's Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (which Ferguson has also spoken of). The target of his criticism of cultural explanations of politics and econoimcs seems to be his frequent adversary Samuel Huntington.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Has the IRA waged a just war?

I thought that I should cross-post this piece of mine from Slugger's thread on the half-hearted apology by Garda McCabe's killers:

I'm not aware of any moral tradition (and I straddle several) which condones armed robbery of the mails or the killing of policemen. Even the Provos aren't cynical enough to condone it. If these maggots get out, I wouldn't expect to see them appearing on a gable wall anytime soon.

Think about the just war criteria (jus ad bellum)

  • "War can only be waged for a just cause"
    I'm sure we all recall the vast majorities SF gained in free and fair voting for the Dail and Westminster? No? Me neither!

  • "War can only be waged under legitimate authority."
    Who elected the Provo Army Council? Ah, but I thought you said Gerry and Martin weren't on it. And no, the Second Dail doesn't count either.

  • "War can only be waged with the right intention."
    And getting your hands on the registered mail doesn't count.

  • "War can only be waged with a reasonable chance of success."
    Sorry guys but Belfast remains, as Thatcher said so long ago, as British as Finchley.

  • "War must be waged with proportionality in mind."
    Yeah, Jonathan Ball and Tim Parry had it coming: Probably wanted to be soldiers when they grew up.

  • "War can only be waged as a last resort."
    i.e. only after losing elections and being suppressed by the Republic's police and army, with overwhelming public support.

Blogger Constipation

For some reason, I've had problems logging in to Blogger today. In frustration, I've taken myself over to Slugger instead to do battle with the Provo-bots. They're not very good debaters - that's what comes of reading too many of big Gerry's shite books.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Family Values

I thought I'd be Scarface instead, but I suppose it's not too far off!

Via Slugger

The Movement Gains Another Recruit

If you look carefully, you might notice that Gavin has been promoted into the ranks of the "cow demons". According to Indymedia, which I take as Holy Writ, the Sheridan is now officially a "a Freedom Institute-linked blogger".

Welcome to the vast right-wing conspiracy, a chara!

Father Benedict McArnold

US-based priest (Or perhaps former priest? I can't imagine how canvassing for the 'RA would be authorised by any Irish bishop) Sean McManus has been giving grief to Richard Develan for his excellent coverage of the McCartney affair and the laughable smear from McManus. In response to his statement I wrote him the letter below to his email address sean@irishnationalcaucus.org, as well as leaving several angry comments on his new blog.

I'm mystified by why Americans still haven't woken up to the fact that the IRA and Sinn Fein represent the most violent and extremist brand of anti-Americanism in Europe. Somehow, their aiding and abetting America's enemies, rogue states like Cuba and Libya and terrorists such as FARC or Hizbollah, and that's not to mention Sean Russell's little cruise on the Nazi u-boat. Quite how the third-world communist vision of Irish autarchy and anti-American "neutrality" accords with US interests and values is another mystery.

One of my acquaintances who knows a great deal about the topic referred to him as "very anti-British. Believer in purity of SF vision of an Irish Socialist republic. Sort of guy displaced by constitutional nationalism of peace process. "

Anyway, please feel free to share your opinions with the cleric yourselves.

Dear Father McManus,

I’ve recently read of your comments:

"If the purpose is to launch a campaign in America against not only the IRA but Sinn Fein, than that campaign is profoundly misguided because it's going to distract from the issue, and further it's not going to succeed."

It may have escaped your notice, but An Taoiseach and Deputy McDowell are the elected and lawful government of the Republic of Ireland. I would like to refer you to article 2266 of the Catechism: "The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people's rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party."

Could I humbly suggest that the best service you can render to a country several thousand miles away of which you are not a citizen and remain entirely ignorant would be to stop trying to finance and propagandise for gangsters and terrorists?

Why has it escaped your notice that the IRA have been close collaborators for decades with America’s enemies Libya, the Soviet Union, the FARC, Cuba and Iran? That’s not to mention its utterly cynical violence as the dominant force in the Irish underworld and the greatest threat to Ireland’s democracy? How would you react if there was a campaign launched in Dublin having both John Gotti and David Duke as its beneficiaries?

Having argued long and hard here against the stereotype of Americans as violent fanatics and religious hypocrites utterly unfamiliar with the world outside their borders, it’s ironic that you should be the one to prove it.

You have no right to call yourself and Irishman or an American and certainly not a Christian.

Peter Nolan

W stands for War on Terror"

As I had expected, irritating the hot-tempered and emotional President Bush when he has lent you his credibility isn't a smart thing to do, as Yasser Arafat learned to his cost and Gerry Adams now seems to be discovering, according to the Telegraph.

Mr Bush now views Mr Adams in the same unfavourable light as he did Yasser Arafat, the late Palestinian leader, a senior presidential adviser said last night. "At the White House, Adams is now regarded with the same sort of disdain as Arafat," the adviser told The Telegraph. "The President no longer considers Mr Adams a reliable partner for peace. He doesn't want to meet him." [...] Mr Bush's displeasure has forced Mr Adams to abandon plans to raise money while in America. The United States government made it clear that it would not grant him a visa that permits fund-raising, this newspaper has learnt. Sinn Fein had claimed that Mr Adams had chosen not to raise money "to avoid it being made into a contentious issue''. In reality, he was told not even to bother applying for the appropriate paperwork for the week-long visit, which began in Ohio yesterday. American officials are also demanding major concessions from Sinn Fein, most significantly that the IRA be disbanded.

Adams is probably calculating that he can live with riling the White House, given that the Irish electorate isn't concerned about Bush's anger and that friends on Capitol Hill will cover him from the consequences. That might be a serious misjudgment.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

As the World Turns

This caught my eye - I particularly like the denunciation of sinister outside forces.

Whatever else that Iran and Syria can do, probably the biggest vulnerability for the US and its allies lies in the main arena of combat in the region, namely Iraq. Bad as the situation there is now, for the Americans and the locals, Hezbollah's weapons and experience - although their experienced fighters in Lebanon probably only number in the dozens - would allow them to cause terrific chaos.

Palestinian militants denounce Tel Aviv bombing
By Harvey Morris in Nablus,West Bank
Published: February 28 2005 18:21
Palestinian militants, including a leader of the Islamic Jihad group claimed to be behind Friday's Tel Aviv nightclub bombing, on Monday denounced the attack and said it was the work of outside forces.

As Israel announced a diplomatic offensive against Syria, which it alleges was behind the bombing that killed five Israelis, a wanted Fatah militia leader said: "It is clear that some resistance cells are infiltrated. We are not in a position to name Syria or Hizbollah but probably there is money coming from abroad."

Mohamed Dandan, leader of Fatah's al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Nablus's Balata refugee camp, said individuals claiming to be linked to Lebanon's Hizbollah organisation had made intensive efforts to contact Palestinian militants to persuade them to break the present ceasefire.

He said a man identifying himself as Qais Obeid, a Lebanon-based Israeli Arab said to be behind the October 2000 Hizbollah kidnapping of an Israeli businessman, had been in touch with West Bank militants.

However, Mr Dandan would not confirm a report that the caller had offered them money to take responsibility for Friday's bombing.

He said Palestinian factions refused to be tools in the hands of any outside force. "We understand the difference between the local and the regional struggle against Israel," he said. "We can see an end to our struggle but perhaps Hizbollah and Syria and Iran cannot see an end to theirs."

Mr Dandan and a West Bank leader of Islamic Jihad said their organisations were committed to the ceasefire declared between Israel and the Palestinians three weeks ago.

The Israeli killings of militants seem to have encouraged a newfound reticence on the part of the terrorist groups. Viral marketing perhaps?

As Islamic Jihad leaders went to ground for fear of Israeli reprisals, its spokesman, a well-known figure in Nablus who has served time in Israeli jails, declined to be identified by name.

Regardless of the bloodshed, the political situation seems to have turned a corner, with the hard men realising that violence will ill-serve Palestinian interests.

"Frankly, it's the first time I've been distressed to hear about a suicide bombing in Israel," he said. "It came at a time when we had a consensus to preserve quiet to allow the Palestinian Authority to pursue a political breakthrough with Israel."

Although the Palestinian bomber said in a video he was acting for Islamic Jihad and a claim of responsibility was posted on an Islamic Jihad website, the Nablus leader rejected Israel's assertion that the bombing was ordered by the group's exiled Damascus leadership.

Both militant leaders said the situation in Lebanon supported a theory of Hizbollah involvement. They said Israeli retaliation against the organisation could give Syria a pretext to keep its troops in the country in the face of international and increasingly vocal Lebanese demands for their withdrawal.

The Israeli government on Monday gave foreign ambassadors an intelligence briefing on Syria's alleged involvement in the bombing. A foreign ministry spokesman said the aim was to try to ensure that today's London conference on Palestinian reform was not limited to economic issues but also stressed the necessity of a war against terrorist organisations.

Mahmoud Abbas, the PA president who will head the Palestinian delegation in London, said at the weekend that an unnamed third party was behind the Tel Aviv bombing.