Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Friday, November 08, 2002

Another reality check for all of the Leftist America haters who say that the Bush Administration quashes dissent.

A law student who staged a solo protest to demand the release of political prisoners in Myanmar was sentenced to 14 years in jail under emergency laws imposed by the military government, lawyers said. The verdict was passed Tuesday, a week after United Nations human rights envoy Paulo Pinheiro ended a 12-day tour of the country by severely criticizing the junta for holding political prisoners. He demanded their immediate and unconditional release.

Thet Naung Soe, a final-year law student from Yangon, was tried in a special court at the Insein prison where he is being held, the officials said. He was sentenced to two seven-year terms on two separate charges, said a lawyer who did not wish to be named. He said Thet Naung Soe was charged under the all-encompassing emergency laws that can be used to suppress any allegedly political or economic crime.

Myanmar's military government strictly controls the judiciary and the media, and trials of political dissidents are held behind closed doors. Verdicts are almost never made public.

Thet Naung Soe was arrested on Aug. 18 for protesting in front of Yangon City Hall by holding a red flag on which was printed a fighting peacock, a symbol of the National League for Democracy party of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

< email | 11/08/2002 02:33:00 PM | link

PLease exlain again where the middle ground is in coming closer to understanding the 'root causes' that lead terrorists to these measures?

Zachary Abuza, a security analyst who has written extensively on al-Qaida, said the meeting was convened by Riduan Isamudin — also known as Hambali — who is said to be the operations chief of Jemaah Islamiyah, the alleged terrorist group that is the prime suspect in the Oct. 12 bomb attacks.

``One Jemaah Islamiyah member I interviewed said that Hambali was very angry about the arrest of Jemaah Islamiyah members in Singapore and Malaysia,'' he said. ``Instead of going after symbolic hard targets like U.S. embassies, he authorized members to go after soft targets such as tourist spots.''

The thrust of the article is that Thailand is still oblivious to the threat and denies and terrorist presence in the country.

< email | 11/08/2002 02:30:00 PM | link

So howdo the Kuwaitis really feel about Saddam?

``If the United States were not here, maybe you wouldn't see me sitting at this coffee shop today, owning a mobile phone and being able to relax with my family,'' said Reda Shashtari, 56, a Kuwait Airways employee sipping a cappuccino at a Kuwait City mall. ``Instead I would be at home waiting for the Iraqis to come knocking on my door,'' he said. ``The Americans are our supporters. They defeated the Iraqis. How can we complain about them?''

``Other Arab countries, like Egypt and Syria, see one thing — the American dualism where Washington deals with Israel in one way and Iraq in another,'' said Abdullah Sahar Mohammad, a Kuwaiti University international relations professor. ``Because of the invasion and occupation, Kuwaitis see things differently,'' Abdullah says. ``We say Saddam should be deterred from continuing his aggression and that he should follow U.N. resolutions. ``We, too, hate the U.S. policy concerning the Israeli-Palestinian issue, but our existence would be threatened (by Iraq) if the American support in Kuwait was withdrawn,'' he said.

``The Iraqi soldiers butchered our children in front of our eyes, took people out of their houses and stole whatever they wanted,'' says Ali al-Monier, 54, a farmer. ``If America is not here to protect us and the region, I believe Saddam will come back to Kuwait and do more than he did before.''

``I am mad that other countries don't understand how evil Saddam is and the danger he poses,'' says Youssef al-Ameeri, who is in charge of a museum dedicated to the Iraqi occupation and Kuwait's subsequent liberation.

``This is because he has never fired missiles at them or occupied their countries,'' he said. ``Saddam's propaganda machine also has people saying many good things about Iraq, so people don't think he is a threat.'' This week, after Saudi Arabia suggested it would not allow foreign forces to use its military bases to launch a war on Iraq, Kuwait reiterated its stand that U.S. forces could use Kuwaiti bases to attack Iraq as long as the United Nations sanctioned it. The sooner the better, feels al-Ameeri, who said he was held and tortured by the Iraqis for five days during their occupation. ``Kuwaitis are still afraid of Iraq and they believe the Americans should be here, and that they should go into Baghdad and get rid of Saddam,'' he said.

< email | 11/08/2002 02:21:00 PM | link

Amir Taheri looks at the implications of Israel's government change.

As far as peacemaking is concerned, the Likud-Labour coalition had reached an impasse.

Its collapse creates new opportunities. Thus it would be wrong for the Palestinians to pretend that nothing has happened. The Palestinians have a clear option. They can either decide that Israel is the enemy that ought to be fought by all means and to the bitter end. That would require a completely new strategy, one of whose aims would be to break the morale of the ordinary Israelis.

The alternative is to regard Israel as a potential partner in peacemaking, and a neighbour and future friend. That would also require a completely different strategy aimed at reassuring the ordinary Israelis and giving them the courage to contemplate a future based on the two-state formula.

The phrase "just peace" is an oxymoron. No peace in history has ever been just or can be. Those who want justice must fight to the bitter end and, then, wait for the next world. Those who want peace must compromise, including by swallowing some very bitter pills.

If the Palestinians choose a peace that is both honourable and practical, they would be in a position to offer the Israeli voter a real choice. This is why what has happened is important and what will happen in Israeli and Palestinian politics in the next few months will be even more so.

< email | 11/08/2002 01:25:00 PM | link

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Jemaah Islamiah's structure in Southeast Asia.

The confidential report, seen by The Associated Press today, painted a picture of a well-connected, sophisticated group which uses modern technology, such as mobile phones and e-mail, to communicate and whose members have had extensive training. The report said the three territorial cells are known as "mantiqis." Mantiqi 3, or M3, was based in Camp Abubakar, the main camp of the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front in the southern Philippines, before it was moved to Poso in Central Sulawesi when the Philippine military overran Abubakar in 2000.

M3 - which covers Borneo, Brunei, Sawarak, Sabah, Kalimantan and Sulawesi - was run from Poso until that site was closed down by Indonesian authorities late last year, the report said.

M2 covers all of Indonesia except Sulawesi and Kalimantan. It is based in the city of Solo, Central Java province, which is also home to the group's alleged spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir.

M1, based in Malaysia, covers Malaysia, Singapore and southern Thailand, the report said. Scores of suspected members of Jemaah Islamiah have been jailed in Singapore and Malaysia.

< email | 11/07/2002 02:05:00 PM | link

Laughing at Comrade Bob is a jailable offence.

The man was arrested for carrying a placard that read: "God shall confront Mugabe over evils done to people, then would police and Central Intelligence officials arrest God on that day?" the Herald reported. The man, who is also alleged to have verbally abused the president, was arrested at a shopping centre in Chitungwiza town, south of Harare. Under the Public Order and Security Act (Posa) the man could face a Z$20 000 ($363) fine, a year in jail, or both.

Meanwhile, the government of Zimbabwe is accusing the US of attemting to invade the country under the cover of NOG's distributing food.

The official Herald newspaper quoted Zimbabwe's army chief General Vitalis Zvinavashe as saying Washington was seeking to control the activities of non-governmental-organisations involved in relief food distribution. "We are not answerable to the US. They are using food as a ploy to directly control NGOs distributing food and disregard the laws of Zimbabwe," Zvinavashe said. The Herald itself said in a frontpage story: "The United States is planning to invade Zimbabwe within the next six months on the pretext of bringing relief food aid to people who were allegedly being denied food on political grounds."

< email | 11/07/2002 01:12:00 PM | link

A reporter trying to find the truth in Iraq.

In trying to deny Kiley access to information, the Iraqi officials provide a disturbing glimpse of a country in the iron grip of terror and propaganda. This propaganda would dismiss PBS, Kiley and "Frontline" as mere agents of Western powers and Zionist leaders, yet, again and again, the most incendiary comments are made by people who are provided by the government to make Saddam look good.

When Kiley asks about public beheadings of women, a director at the Ministry of Religious Affairs says, "These stories were all fabricated . . . all the lies of America." If so, they are lies believed by his own people. Assumed to be the will of the government, the beheadings are spoken of with approval by Iraqis voicing approval of Saddam. Confirming the reports of eyewitnesses, they refer to these executions as common knowledge.

When Kiley asks about claims that economic sanctions are hurting hospitals in Iraq, doctors tell him such shortages are a thing of the past. When one doctor says drugs are in short supply, Kiley is stopped from verifying this at the hospital's pharmacy.

This is the truth he found in Baghdad, and he didn't have long to find it. His three-week stay was cut to 10 days when the government decided it didn't like the questions he was asking.

< email | 11/07/2002 12:01:00 PM | link

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

This is all you need to know about how last night turned out.

< email | 11/06/2002 04:23:00 PM | link

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Nifty pic of a Predator.

< email | 11/05/2002 11:41:00 AM | link

A good analogy for North Korea's realtions with the West.

Dialogue with North Korea is like the running gag in the Peanuts comic strip: Lucy holds the football and invites Charlie Brown to kick it, but as he runs up she snatches the ball away and Charlie Brown collapses in an inglorious heap.

We have had three "negotiated solutions" with North Korea in a decade. In 1992, it agreed with South Korea that neither would have nuclear weapons. In 1994, after a confrontation with the Clinton administration that nearly led to war, Pyongyang signed a Geneva agreement to suspend its nuclear weapons program. At the Korean summit in 2000, it signed more pieces of paper about peace and cooperation on the peninsula.

Now South Korean President Kim Dae Jung is picking himself up from the heap again. He's game for another run at the football. It's very saintly of him, but it doesn't seem likely to produce what we all want -- a secure peace on the peninsula.

Now we are being told that Pyongyang's "voluntary" confession of its nuclear program shows that it is eager for dialogue and ready to show "transparency." But this confession was not volunteered; it was elicited by a U.S. diplomat who produced irrefutable proof, reportedly including receipts and customs documents, of Pyongyang's cheating.

Should we nevertheless try one more time to kick Lucy Jong Il's dialogue football? The danger of isolating North Korea, as Kim Dae Jung pointed out, is that it will only go ahead with both nuclear programs -- the plutonium reprocessing that was stopped by the 1994 agreement and the new uranium enrichment program. In short order, Pyongyang could have 10 or a dozen bombs and could sell fissile material to terrorists or rogue states.

< email | 11/05/2002 11:32:00 AM | link

Malaysia will be monitoring sermons at mosques.

"This is not to punish the imams, but to clear the air over the issue of imams abusing their position and disseminating anti-government messages through their sermons," Kedah Chief Minister Syed Razak Syed Zain, was reported as saying by the New Straits Times. Any imams found guilty will be told to quit their post.

Opposition parties say Mahathir, who retires at the end of next year after 22 years in charge, is too authoritarian. Political rallies are tightly controlled, and the mainstream media is pro-government. Mahathir, who heads a multi-ethnic coalition, is seen as moderate and tolerant on religious issues. PAS wants to turn the country into an Islamic state -- starting with introducing Muslims' sharia law complete with punishments like amputation and stoning.

Besides trying to neutralize radicalism in the mosques and classrooms, Malaysian police are also battling secret militant networks, and have arrested nearly 70 members of Jemaah Islamiah, the group suspected of being behind last month's Bali bomb blast.

< email | 11/05/2002 11:24:00 AM | link

Canada went and deported a Hezbollah 'special agent'. Thedy better watch out. The UN Human Rights Commission may accuse them of hate crimes.

A Hezbollah "special agent" who admitted to orchestrating terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians was caught in Toronto and deported following a struggle with police, according to federal war crimes officials. When Toronto police officers tried to arrest the Hezbollah member on an immigration warrant, he grabbed at their guns but was subdued and later deported to Lebanon for his alleged involvement in crimes against humanity.

Although the Canadian government still refuses to accept that Hezbollah is a terrorist organization.

< email | 11/05/2002 11:18:00 AM | link

Apparent suicide attempt?

Irv Rubin, the Jewish Defense League leader who was jailed on charges of plotting to bomb a mosque and the office of an Arab-American congressman, has been declared brain dead after what federal authorities called a suicide attempt.

Rubin used a razor to slash his neck and throat and then fell or jumped from a prison balcony at about 5:30 a.m. Monday as he and other inmates lined up for breakfast, said U.S. Marshal's spokesman Bill Woolsey.

< email | 11/05/2002 10:46:00 AM | link

Monday, November 04, 2002

Someone finally says it. Of course not an American media source. It is Bangladeshi.

I am writing in protest against the article: "Bush's war agenda under doubts," by Prof. Rashiduzzaman, Rowan University, Glassboro, New Jersey. It was published on November 1.

In this current deluge of articles and opinion pieces by self-styled outside experts, no one seems to be listening to what the Iraqi dissidents are saying. Unlike the Soviet dissidents during the Cold War, who got all the media attention, Iraqi dissidents are all but ignored at a time when the future of their country is at stake. Before we listen to what others are saying, it is time their voice was heard.

Haithem Al-Hassani, a spokesman for the Iraqi-Canadian Co-ordinating Committee, a Toronto-based alliance of various Iraqi groups in exile, told the press recently: "We have an outlaw regime such as in Iraq that is not a legitimate regime... This needs to be stood up to."

Mr. Al-Hassani said those who oppose war with Iraq on the grounds that that civilians would be killed fail to understand that people are already dying due to Saddam's misrule. "In any war situation there must be some innocents that will die but the thing is in Iraq, as we speak, innocents are dying, I'm talking in thousands." Another Iraqi-Canadian, who said his family in Iraq would be harmed if his name were published, told Toronto's National Post that he too was against war with Iraq - until he visited his native country a few months ago. After seeing how Saddam had diverted money to lavish palaces and weapons while the Iraqi people go without food, water, schools and hospitals, he said he now wants Canada to support a war to oust Saddam. "I was against doing anything against my country but I am with it now. Let [ Iraqis ] suffer for a few months, but they will be living like humans for the rest of their lives." The man said his recent visit to Basra was an eye-opener. There was shortage of food and water and Saddam's forces controlled every facet of life. "My family, I had a big family there, all of them are against Saddam.

"I said, "Then why are you cheering him on the TV?' They said, 'every day there is an event or something there, they knock from door to door, take the people, the families, from houses to participate in this cheering, or election or whatever, by force. If you are not going you are on the blacklist. If you are on the blacklist, your son or your daughter or your wife will disappear. Or you are going to lose your job. Iraq is the worst country in the Middle East.' "

Hamid Ali Alkifaey, an Iraqi journalist living in Britain, wrote in The Independent, London: "When I was recently asked by the Fabian Society to give a talk about the nature of the threat that Saddam Hussein represents, I didn't know where to start. ... Perhaps the best place to start is with the present threat of weapons of mass destruction, which the world fears, and to explian why the United Nations' plan for weapons inspection will never work. The threat does not stem from the possession of these weapons alone. Many countries in the world possess these weapons, but few people feel threatened by them. The threat comes from the nature of Saddam Hussein himself. Since his rise to power he has had three obsessions: secrecy, security and weapons. He was lucky to have been able to achieve all three, but at a huge cost to Iraq's people, to its neighbours and to the environment."

Ridha Saleh, another Iraqi-Canadian, wrote in The Toronto Star: "Indeed, as I am aware from my communications with friends and relatives in Iraq, most citizens of that country are waiting with bated breath for a strike that will free them from their current state of oppression."

< email | 11/04/2002 04:16:00 PM | link

Another step in Afghanistan. The kurfew in Kabul will be lifted for the first time in 23 years.

< email | 11/04/2002 04:11:00 PM | link

Karzai testing how much authority he wields.

Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, in a risky attempt to exert his authority beyond Kabul, has sacked more than 15 top provincial officials, accusing them of abuse of authority, corruption and, in some cases, drug trafficking.

< email | 11/04/2002 04:05:00 PM | link

Schools should teach Arabic, the language of the Koran, to foster greater understanding of the Arab world and help Muslim pupils feel less isolated, a report suggests today.

Thus spake The Guardian. Will they be calling for the implementation of Sharia rule next? You know...to help Arabs and Muslims feel less isolated.

< email | 11/04/2002 03:14:00 PM | link

Another senior al Qaeda member is killed. In Yemen this time.

Follow up: Apparently they were on the way to assassinate the American Ambassador. And the explosion was due to American missiles.

Once the al-Qaeda assassination team was spotted headed for their attack on the American ambassador, the American CIA commander in Yemen gave the order to strike. The four "Hornet" aircraft flew in from the sea at high speed, and as they approached the target two of them flew low. Each of these two jets launched one television-guided missile. At least one of the two missiles hit the pickup truck in the cab, while the second missile apparently missed entirely. The attacking aircraft turned around and made a slow flight over the burning wreckage before joining their two fellows and heading off to sea.

< email | 11/04/2002 02:58:00 PM | link

Dersh talking about what an intergalactic visitor would think if the first place visited was an American or Canadian University.

If a visitor from a far away galaxy were to land at an American or Canadian university and peruse some of the petitions that were circulating around the campus, he would probably come away with the conclusion that the Earth is a peaceful and fair planet with only one villainous nation determined to destroy the peace and to violate human rights. That nation would not be Iraq, Libya, Serbia, Russia or Iran. It would be Israel.

< email | 11/04/2002 02:55:00 PM | link

Don't let the anti-war folks, as well as the French and Russians, tell you they are not on Saddam's side. He knows they are.

"Time is in our favor, and we have to buy more time hoping that the U.S.-British alliance might disintegrate because of . . . the pressure of public opinion on American and British streets," Saddam told the Egyptian weekly Al-Osboa in the interview published Sunday. "The demonstrations in the Arab and Western world include hundreds of thousands of peace-loving people who are protesting the war and aggression on Iraq," he said, apparently referring to protests in the United States and around the world last month.

Sounds like Saddam is a writer for the anti-war movement.

Pointing to Arab public opinion as a force in Iraq's favor, Saddam also appealed to Arab leaders to defend Iraq. Arguing that Washington's goal is to control Mideast oil, he said that after attacking Iraq, U.S. forces could strike at other Arab countries and non-Arab Iran. Most of Saddam's statements were standard Iraqi rhetoric -- he blamed "Zionist schemes" for Iraq's troubles and said invading Iraq would not be "a picnic" for American and British forces.

< email | 11/04/2002 02:51:00 PM | link

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