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Archive for the ‘Israel-Palestina’ Category

Please read PART 1 first.

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As stated in part 1 of this report, after the panelists (Dr. Brook, Dr. Sultan, and Dr. Pipes) took the stage and began their opening dialogs, and as Dr. Daniel Pipes began discussing the jihadi threat around the world including the UCLA campus, the protests and disruptions began.

(Again, as stated in part 1, the pictures in the auditorium and outside after dark aren’t of high quality. I apologize.)

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Dr. Pipes continued to speak, despite the fact that was apparently distracted by something that was transpiring in the audience. I looked behind me and noticed that several audience members began rising from their seats, notably a few young women of Middle-Eastern descent wearing hijab (and it looks like that gentleman in the glasses is flipping me the bird. POWER TO THE PEOPLE, DUDE! Ahem.) No one shouted and no one created much of a ruckus initially. They simply made their way to the aisles and the exits.

Thus the protesting of Dr. Pipes and the panelists began–with a bit of a whimper.

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Dr. Pipes continued to speak, but he was slightly preoccupied with this initial tide of the protest. Still, he and the panelists conducted themselves professionally. They didn’t acknowledge the activists with anger or disdain, choosing rather to ignore them for as long as possible.

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More protestors rise and head for the exits. As you can see, it continued quietly and with a considerable amount of reserve from those in revolt, so much so that many in the audience barely took notice, as you can see in the above picture.

Unfortunately, this relative decorum would not last.

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Welcome to the Age of Aquarius. The above three women must be having one hell of a flashback because they can’t seem to remember that this is 2007 and not 1969. As they passed me up the aisle, making their way toward the exit, it became apparent to me that more had likely been planned by the protestors, and specifically these three elderly ladies, in order to create chaos and disorder within the nights proceedings. As one can see from this photograph, the three women all had black shirts with large white letters plastered on the front. It was obviously meant to spell out “LIAR” but the opportunity to stand united and actually spell the word for the panelists and/or the audience never came to pass. Alas, the will to fight seems to have been drained from these particular women. They didn’t even try, opting instead to simply walk out of the auditorium without executing their carefully laid plan–without even trying.

At least, the “R” and the “A” lady gave up. The “LI” lady wasn’t as easily deterred.

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This particular protestor, pictured above, was evidently the better third of the “LIAR” lady trilogy. While she didn’t have anything intelligent to say, she said it loudly and repeatedly.

“LIARS! LIARS! LIARS! LIARS! LIARS!” All the while she too made for the exits.

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Wagging her finger at the panelists, the “LI” lady resumed her retreating diatribe, “LIARS! LIARS! LIARS!”

By the time she started shouting, so too did the audience, admonishing her and the other protestors disruptive behavior. Many in auditorium at this point were adding their voices to the din, urging the “LI” lady to beat a hasty retreat so the panelists could forge ahead.

The protests from these three women didn’t quite make sense to me. If they were protesting Dr. Pipes and the other panelists, claiming they were liars, then it was apparent to me they (the three ladies in particular) had never even attempted a read of the Qur’an. Many of the statements by the panelists, even this early in the discussion, could be referenced directly from the words and actions of Muhammad within the pages of the Qur’an, or even better, the Hadith. So dubbing the panelists liars was inaccurate. They weren’t there to lie. They were there to provide truths and opinions on what actions might or must be taken to protect the west from radical Islam.

As Dr. Sultan stated during the event, no one has ever murdered someone because they were emulating Jesus. If one wishes to emulate the prophet Muhammad however (as every good Muslim is taught and required to do as Muhammad is the embodiment of the perfect man and all men and women should be like him), killing and murdering by his example is sanctioned within the pages of the Qur’an and the Hadith.

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Finally, one last protestor unfurls a large sign (too big for his wingspan to handle appropriately as you can tell from the above picture–it seems to read “s DON’T SUPPORT TE SPEECH.”) Needless to say, the sign was difficult to read.

Dr. Pipes in the upper left calmly waits until the protests subside.

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I think it said, “DON’T SUPPORT HATE SPEECH.” I heard quite a bit of hate speech from the “LI” lady. She spewed “LIARS!” forth with quite a bit of acerbically drenched venom, but I didn’t notice hate speech coming from any of the panelists. Some in the auditorium may have been slightly surprised by some of the verbiage coming from Dr. Brook for example, but hate speech appeared relegated to the protesters alone.

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As the disruptions subsided, Dr. Pipes resumed his initial comments. You can see he had to remove the lav mic attached to his lapel and bring it closer to his mouth because some in the back of the venue had difficulties hearing him speak.

After a couple of minutes, I became audibly aware that a commotion was taking place outside of the building. Predicting more protests, I quickly shot from my seat (no offense to panelists hopefully) and made my way outside to see what might be taking place.

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Yup. More protests. The individual on the far right of the above picture even sported a fashionable kaffiyeh and military fatigues while banging peacefully on his tabla.

I couldn’t quite make out what the sign read though.

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Ahh! Of course. The protesters had taken the opportunity to transform the panelist’s discussion, Totalitarian Islam’s Threat to the West, into a peace protest against the war in Iraq. That makes perfect sense, especially since the discussion rarely focused on Iraq or the American military adventure within. In fact, the only time the war in Iraq every really surfaced in the dialog was during the question and answer period at the end. This event was not about the Iraq war, but the protesters felt (in a somewhat bigoted manner) that speaking about radical Islam must logically relate directly to that conflict, despite the fact that the majority of the worlds Muslims do not live in the Middle East.

Within this group marched Muslims, hippies, students, young children and even babies (who obviously had no idea why everyone was shouting so angrily.) It was ragtag, and barely organized. The march itself was pathetically short, mostly regionalized to the west face of the building wherein the panelists were speaking, and the south side of the building.

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I honestly can’t remember what everyone was shouting. All I can say is how disappointed I was to see what appears a fellow metal-head, framed in the center of this photograph, participating in the peace march. Dude, metal is not peaceful.

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I was sad to see I had just missed Muslims participating in salah–their prayers, but at least I managed to snap a picture of their rolled up musallah.

There were some young Muslims minutes later praying, but my camera did not take any adequate photographs of their activities unfortunately.

Finally, I re-entered the auditorium and took my seat, taking in the rest of the discussion. Oddly, I had been wondering earlier in the day as to why this issue of radical Islam is such a polarizing one. In general, why does it divide so evenly down political lines? Why is it so partisan? If the left is the champion of women’s rights, equal rights, no war, etc. why would they so recklessly wish to support a religion as oppressive to its followers, particularly its women, as Islam? I mean, the left generally would rather abolish all religion anyway. Why fight for a religious faith that sanctions plural marriage, marriage to children and the subsequent pedophilia (as Muhammad did with Aisha when she was six), beating of women, killing of dissidents, etc.? These are some of the major tenets that the left purports they desire so strongly to prevent, yet they stand in solidarity with Islam. So why the blatant hypocrisy?

Dr. Pipes and Dr. Brook actually satisfactorily answered my question thanks to a question from the audience. The reason why leftists support Islam is because they all share a common enemy–George W. Bush specifically and western culture and society generally. Who cares if Muslims, under the auspices of Islam and Muhammad, commit abhorrent acts of terror, killing scores of innocent people throughout the world? They hate George Bush. They hate the West and the decent individualistic values we stand for.

It was an interesting and enlightening evening and I hope Dr. Pipes will make his way back soon, for myself and those who wanted to hear what he and the other panelists had to say, and for the panelists right to say it.

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UPDATE: PART 2 is now up. 

Last night I attended the panel discussion, Totalitarian Islam’s Threat to the West, that took place on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles. The panel consisted of notable Middle Eastern and Islamic experts, Dr. Yaron Brook, executive Director of the Ayn Rand Institute (the organization that hosted the event actually, L.O.G.I.C. hosted the event), Dr. Wafa Sultan, and Dr. Daniel Pipes, Director of the Middle East Forum and current instructor at Pepperdine University. They were quite a distinguished trio, encompassing vast expertise on the discussed subject from knowledge and experience–sometimes very direct personal experience as seen from their biographies in this post yesterday.

I thought it would be beneficial to post pictures I took at the event so that those who are interested might garner a decent understanding of what one might expect if one were to attend such a gathering in support of individuals, like the panelists, who not only wish to express their viewpoint, but who also wish to practice their freedom to express that view, no matter how controversial it may be.

So, without any further introductory and unnecessary exposition, enjoy the pictures (with some added annoying exposition.)

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A few UCLA police officers enjoy some dinner before the event. The police presence was unsurprisingly fairly large. It appeared there were probably around 20 to 30 officers covering all entrances and exits at the building where the panel discussion was to take place.

Standing in Line

The line to get into the auditorium was long, and it extended quite a ways down the street behind me….

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…as you can see.

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As the line started moving to allow entry, some young Muslims began handing out literature.

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The literature consisted of pamphlets entitled “Exposing Daniel Pipes.” But it did not consist of naked photos. Instead the pamphlet included information about the evil of Dr. Pipes, denouncing his expertise, deeming him a bigot and anti-Muslim propagandist. It goes on to read how his website, Campus Watch was created to restrict free speech by “stifling any criticism of Israel or its policies and by blacklisting any professors who dare not comply. Pipes labeled these academics as ‘advocates of suicide attacks and militant Islam,’ ‘self-hating,’ or ‘anti-American.'”

Of course, anyone who has actually visited Campus Watch knows that claim is absolutely preposterous. From the website…

CAMPUS WATCH, a project of the Middle East Forum, reviews and critiques Middle East studies in North America with an aim to improving them. The project mainly addresses five problems: analytical failures, the mixing of politics with scholarship, intolerance of alternative views, apologetics, and the abuse of power over students. Campus Watch fully respects the freedom of speech of those it debates while insisting on its own freedom to comment on their words and deeds.”

Campus Watch is designed to ensure what the Muslim pamphlet is accusing Dr. Pipes of doing, doesn’t happen–namely biased academia favoring the Arab or Palestinian position over the Israeli one. Having an opinion is fine. Forcing that opinion on impressionable college students without at least offering an opposing rebuttal is disingenuous and unethical. In all actuality, Campus Watch and the Muslim students pushing the “Exposing Daniel Pipes” disinformation leaflet are in general agreement–desiring a need to reduce bias.

Of course, when you have quotes denouncing Pipes from people such as Hamid Dabashi, Josehp Massad, and Rashid Khalidi, it’s apparent how biased those who were handing out the pamphlets really were.

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Before we entered, everyone was subjected to the metal detectors. Security was understandably tight for this event. Such procedures only seemed to increase the tension that was floating through the air.

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More metal detecting.

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Inside the building, but just outside the auditorium, more propaganda, but this time it’s from the event organizers–Ayn Rand literature including free copies of her seminal work, Atlas Shrugged. Personally, I can’t stand Ayn Rand, and I think Objectivism is contradictory and essentially ridiculous.

Anyway, from this point, I found my way to a seat where I settled in until the panelists arrived on stage.

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And here they are! From the left, introducing Dr. Yaron Brook, Dr. Wafa Sultan, Dr. Daniel Pipes, and on the far right, the mediator for the panel.

(From this point forward, the quality of the pictures degrades considerably. The lighting in the auditorium was poor, and when I end up heading back outside, it’s after sundown which makes taking decent images even more difficult. I apologize for the quality or lack-there-of.)

At the beginning of the discussion, each panelist, beginning with Dr. Brook, offered a four minute opening declaration concerning the danger of radical Islam and the threat it presents against the west. For those who have little knowledge of militant Islam, the majority of the nights discussion would likely have been eye opening to say the least.

Those in the audience who were there in dissent were probably steaming after Dr. Brooks comments, and again I could sense the tension, rising even further. It was obvious to me some members of the audience were there merely to disrupt the proceedings, and while I didn’t wish to profile too much (that annoying politically correct side that’s been indoctrinated into my very soul for over three decades), I found myself picking out several individuals who I suspected might be party to a protest were one to ignite–notably several early 20’s hijab-wearing women a few rows behind me who appeared to be of Middle-Eastern descent.

Finally, Dr. Pipes began to speak, touching upon the concept of capitulation through political correctness to Islam (militant or otherwise), particularly on the American university campus and specifically UCLA. It was a powerful beginning, but short-lived. At that point, the protestors began running interference.

UPDATE: PART 2 is now up.

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Slipping into the aftermath of the recent Iranian hostage crisis, the officials and citizenry of Britain, the soldiers who were held against their will and their families who likely slept little during the nearly 15 day ordeal, are understandably all breathing a collective sigh of relief as the former captives arrive home for tearful reunions and military debriefs (as well as the unsurprising truth that is currently coming to light.) While Prime Minister Tony Blair claims no deals were proffered in order to secure release for the British soldiers, and I tend to accept that as highly probable, we likely won’t know what exactly transpired behind the Persian curtain to enable this thankfully positive outcome. All we have is Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “Easter gift” explanation.

It’s darned nice of Ahmadinejad to offer Britain (and from his point of view, the Western world especially the United States) this “Easter gift” despite the explicit fact that he is the relative leader of an Islamic republic that rejects outright any notion of The New Testament, Jesus Christ, and the resurrection, let alone cute bunnies and colored eggs. By saying this, he only continues his mocking rhetoric, thumbing his nose not only at the west, but at Christianity as well. Ahmadinejad is not some student neo-hippy who took his first philosophy course and suddenly he converted to atheism because it’s the hip thing to do. This is the president of a country whose ruling hierarchy, most notably embodied in the elderly form of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, is purely evil and presents the greatest danger to any stability in the Middle East and the world in general due to their extremist Islamic beliefs. Happy Easter indeed.

Despite Mahmoud’s generous and gracious holiday surprise (what a top notch humanitarian), there lingers the question as to why Iran felt the need to abduct the British soldiers in the first place and at that particular time. Was it a direct response to the detention of Iranians in Iraq by U.S. forces back in mid January? While a convenient excuse, that is probably not the case. Assuming the 15 British troops were indeed in Iraqi waters as is most likely the case, on the surface the abduction at best is a testing of the waters so to speak. At worst, it would appear to have been an act of war.

For the most part, the Iranian people are, to say the least, rather disdainful of their current governmental superiors and the path by which they have been led (no need to go into the epidemic of torture and filet-o-tongue style enforcement methods.) The administration of Iran, under the leadership of Ahmadinejad, Khamenei, et. al. have accomplished nothing for their country but increased international censure, diplomatic condemnation, United Nations economic sanctions, and all around general isolation from the world community at large all because they simply want to turn a little weapons grade uranium into a nuclear missile in order to nuke Israel. Sounds like a party to me.

So were the international pressures and economic sanctions actually doing any good? Most likely, as evidenced in the capture and two week internment of the British soldiers. Yet how are sanctions in anyway related to taking hostages? In my estimation, and in this case, they were closely related.

Early last Summer Iran, through its puppet organization Hezbollah, orchestrated and perpetrated a very similar stunt by kidnapping a few IDF soldiers, placing newly instituted Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert into the awkward position of fight or flight. Perceptibly, Ahmadinejad with the backing of the clerics, were testing the resolve of Olmert. Unfortunately, the ultimate failure in that 2006 Israeli-Lebanese conflict (also known as The July War) of Olmert not only strengthened the resolve of Hezbollah specifically and Islamic fundamentalists throughout the Middle East generally, but the failure of the Iranian pop-quiz demonstrated Israel’s faltering infallibility in the face of European and eventually American pressure to stand down–captured Israeli soldiers were not worth the added tumult a prolonged conflict would generate throughout the region. An “F” for Israel and a “D-” for Europe and the United States.

Nearly a year later, Iran once again evaluates the resolve of the West, this time kidnapping and holding hostage the 15 British military personnel. Whereas the first test was squarely directed at Olmert and Israel within the Middle East, this exam would scrutinize the will of Tony Blair and the people of England, our closest and most important ally. For thirteen days Blair did little to encourage his people that matters concerning the return of their hostages from Iran were being efficiently, effectively, and quickly dealt with, at least outwardly. Instead, what the world witnessed was a man flummoxed by the ongoing situation who, through his inability to act in any relevant and purposeful manner, managed to appear wholly capitulating to those who held illegally captive citizens of England. At the very least, Blair proved his worth as an eloquent press secretary by frequently appearing before news cameras, emitting streams of self-demoralizing sententious pronouncements that seemed to do nothing but embolden the Iranian captors on a daily basis. Is it any wonder then Blair appeared more than little confounded when the announcement came down of the soldiers’ release? An “F” for Britain and a “D-” for the West.

What do to these two kidnapping events teach Iran? At this point, it proves to Ahmadinejad that two of their biggest worries, Israel and England (Europe was lost years ago) have little to no will for a fight. While I do not necessarily condone war as was the case with Israel and Lebanon last Summer, neither do I completely rule out military action if diplomacy is obviously going the way of the Dodo.

At this point, Iran is basking in the warm glow of their prodigious accomplishments, at least from their perspective. Despite the fact that sanctions may in fact be working, as is evidently the case partly resulting from their desperate and despicable actions two weeks ago and the aforementioned prequel last Summer in Lebanon, Iran has been given a nuclear reprieve–more time to enrich additional uranium and further destabilize an already chaotic expanse in desperate need of sensible guidance all around.

Unfortunately the Middle East does not get sensible guidance. Instead, it gets Nancy Pelosi. Whether one believes she had the right to travel to such a volatile region in order to conduct international diplomacy with various heads of state including the above mentioned Ehud Olmert and current Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad (whose father, Hafez al-Assad grew to infamy for butchering upwards of 30,000 of his own people in the city of Hama back in 1982), there is no doubt that her presence did nothing but complicate the hostage situation in Iran, perhaps even legitimizing the acts committed by Ahmadinejad and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard because of her flagrant disregard of President Bush’s express wishes to stay away from the area entirely.

Whether she broke the law by making the trip in opposition to Bush is immaterial to this discussion. What she did accomplish was the creation of a wake of confusion with every step she took throughout the Middle East. How does one so dense manage to become one of the central leaders of the most powerful nation on the planet? Considering George W. Bush has managed two terms in office, it’s not difficult to understand the how and the why.

Make no mistake. Nancy Pelosi knows next to nothing concerning foreign policy, particularly in the turbulent Middle East. This is most clearly evidenced in her appointment of Representative Silvestre Reyes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. To see what I mean, go here. If she knew anything about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or Hamas or Hezbollah or the Muslim Brotherhood or Islamic Jihad, she would never have so egregiously misinterpreted and twisted a conversation she participated in with Ehud Olmert to mean that Israel was currently prepared to resume peace talks with Syria when in fact that was not and is not the case. Still, that’s what she told Assad (Olmert strongly censured and distanced himself from Pelosi’s comment to Assad, correcting Pelosi on her ridiculous faux paux), the leader of Syria, a country who’s administration is one of the central providers of weapons to Hezbollah, who supports training for Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and who as an agent of Iran wishes and works towards the unilateral annihilation of Israel. By proxy, this is what Nancy Pelosi is working towards. By proxy, Iran and Syria are who Nancy Pelosi is working with. Shameful doesn’t even begin to cover it.

So why the irresponsible and simple-minded Pelosi makes nice with those who not only seek the destruction of Israel, but of the west and the United States as well, we can be sure that her actions and tactless comments with state supporters of terrorism will certainly embolden and legitimize the concepts of the Islamic state and sharia law, and all of the repressions and curtailed freedoms that come with them. What a nice “Easter gift.”

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Nancy Pelosi colludes with a terrorist tyrant


Posted: April 5, 2007
9:09 p.m. Eastern


Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Syria

It is frankly astounding to me that people aren’t making a bigger deal of the colossal impropriety of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s unauthorized trip to Syria. Where is the outrage?

I realize Democratic leaders and those they answer to have unmitigated contempt for President Bush. I realize they believe the public rewarded their hatred and their anti-war posturing in the November congressional elections.

But according to the latest news reports, President Bush is still in office. This means he is still commander in chief and primarily in charge of U.S. foreign policy.

Democrats have long been opposed to the administration’s stern policy toward terrorist-sponsoring states like Iran and Syria. They apparently believe their evil tyrants mean well, and if we will just open a dialogue with them, we can build a lasting peace. After all, the vaunted Iraq Surrender Group recommended that very thing.

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Terrorists endorse Pelosi’s ‘good policy of dialogue’
Militants call House speaker’s visit ‘brave’ and hope for talks with Iran


Posted: April 4, 2007
2:14 p.m. Eastern
By Aaron Klein
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com


U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

JERUSALEM – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit today to Syria – in which she called for dialogue with Damascus – was “brave” and “very appreciated” and could bring about “important changes” to America’s foreign policy, including talks with “Middle East resistance groups,” according to members of terror organizations here whose top leaders live in Syria.

One terror leader, Khaled Al-Batch, a militant and spokesman for Islamic Jihad, expressed hope Pelosi would continue winning elections, explaining the House speaker’s Damascus visit demonstrated she understands the Middle East.

Pelosi’s visit was opposed by President Bush, who called Syria a “state sponsor of terror.”

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PMO denies peace message to Assad

The Prime Minister’s Office issued a rare “clarification” Wednesday that, in gentle diplomatic terms, contradicted US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s statement in Damascus that she had brought a message from Israel about a willingness to engage in peace talks.

According to the statement, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert emphasized in his meeting with Pelosi on Sunday that “although Israel is interested in peace with Syria, that country continues to be part of the Axis of Evil and a force that encourages terror in the entire Middle East.”

Olmert, the statement clarified, told Pelosi that Syria’s sincerity about a genuine peace with Israel would be judged by its willingness to “cease its support of terror, cease its sponsoring of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad organizations, refrain from providing weapons to Hizbullah and bringing about the destabilizing of Lebanon, cease its support of terror in Iraq, and relinquish the strategic ties it is building with the extremist regime in Iran.”

The statement said Olmert had not communicated to Pelosi any change in Israeli policy on Damascus.

Pelosi, who met in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar Assad over the objections of US President George W. Bush, said she brought a message to Assad from Olmert saying that Israel was ready for peace talks.

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The man within the red circle is believed to be Mahmoud Ahmedinejad during the Iran Hostage Crisis that began November 4, 1979.

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There was a moment several months ago when my good friend, John and I became embroiled in a heated debate focusing on Israel’s attack of and drive into Lebanon during July of 2006. Now Dubbed the July War or commonly known in Israel as The Second Lebanon War, I expressed my belief that, whether one believes Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is an effective leader or not, due to the circumstances involving the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers, Olmert had to act or face the perception from those who support violent aggression against Israel that Olmert would have no will to defend and fight for the country and for the Israeli people. Despite the eventual outcome of that month-long conflict, and the subsequent loss of Israeli confidence in their newly appointed ad hoc leader, there was left little doubt that Olmert would commit to protecting the nation.

As tends to occur, my friend who passionately supports the Palestinian cause, began intensely referencing particular actions and specific examples of Israeli crimes against Palestinians, most notably the Phalangist massacre of 1982 which still evidences doubt as to categorical, direct involvement of the IDF (Maronite Christian forces committed the massacre; whether Israeli forces knew or didn’t know what was taking place within the Palestinian refugee camps is still unclear. Regardless, the IDF’s perimeter around the refugee camps prohibited Palestinians any escape from the marauding Maronite militias. This does not diminish the fact that Israel is one of the leading human rights adherents on the face of the planet, not to mention the only democracy in the Middle-east with a judiciary that is near second to none.)

As I’ve said, John is passionate and intense, and I do become easily flustered in verbal arguments especially when he and I come face to face. Needless to say, we don’t participate in too many political debates, but one thing I did learn from that experience is how little I knew about the Israel/Palestinian conflict specifically and the Middle-east in general. In essence, the respect I have for my friend inspired me because of my ignorance, regardless of our differences.

Since last summer I have set out on a personal crusade, or more appropriately a jihad in order to educate myself in such matters. Through books, magazines, and websites, I have learned more than I have ever known about the Middle-east and the geopolitical/religiopolitical enfilade that encompasses the region.

Inevitably, and in order to better understand the motivations of the inhabitants in that part of the world, I was compelled to ascertain more information about the majority belief systems in the Middle-east–Islam. My general studies did not lead me to others who would formulate my opinion for me. Rather, I came to conclusions that centered around the idea that Islam is a repressive, intolerant, and expansionist faith based around the idea of capitulation to Allah, subjugation, or death. After that, after I had worked out my own conceptions and conclusions, then I came across such websites as Jihadwatch.com and The Gates of Vienna–websites with writers and scholars whose ideas matched my perceptions of Islamic ideology.

From Jihad Watch, below is another fantastic piece by Hugh Fitzgerald about the rise of those (namely infidels) who wish to learn more about Islam who also end up being faced with the concept of global jihad. My recent experiences and discoveries stemmed from an argument with a friend as well as the continued fallout from 9/11 and the subsequent and unjustified war in Iraq. There may be many paths to Allah, but there are also many paths to discovering the truth about Islam.

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Fitzgerald: Cat’s out of the bag

Those at the Emory Wheel are reduced to this transparent nonsense of Taqiyya and Tu Quoque. How else can they proceed? They know what is in the texts. They know what states, societies, families suffused with Islam are taught. They know the tenets. They know the attitudes. They are well used to the atmospherics. They just don’t know how to handle those Infidels who also know those texts, those teachings, those attitudes, those atmospherics.

And there is nothing they can do to stop more and more Infidels, as they pick up their newspapers or turn on the evening news, from realizing how much of it is about this or that local manifestation of the worldwide and permanent Jihad — which can only get worse, and examples of which will only proliferate. Those Infidels will find out, slowly and then more rapidly, in greater and greater numbers, about Islam. There is nothing Islamic apologists can do about this, try as they will to lie, or to hide, or to distract with irrelevancies, or by appeals to Western “guilt” and false claims of victimization. Islam itself, as the vehicle for Arab imperialism, is the most successful imperialist project in history, the force which caused whole peoples to jettison and ignore, or despise, their own histories, pre-Islamic or non-Islamic. In light of that, the raising of idiotic claims of “racism” will not forever prevent Infidels, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and all others, everywhere and not just here in this country, from finding out about Islam.

It’s too late. Cat’s out of the bag. The Qur’an is just a click away (www.quranbrowser.com). And so are the Hadith. And so is the Sira — or you can read the texts about Muhammad, the Muslim texts, the texts of Qur’an and Hadith and Muslim Sira, and Muslim commentators and historians, with connective tissue and organizing principle supplied by Robert Spencer.

There is nothing these people can do about all that, except what they have been doing all along: “three Abrahamic faiths,” “one of world’s great religions,” “hijacked” or “perverted” by “extremists,” or adducing in support of this preposterousness a handful of Qur’anic phrases: “there is no compulsion in religion” (which does not mean what an Infidel who reads only those words would naturally take it to mean), and 5.32 but not 5.33 (Bush does it, Blair does it, even semi-educated fleas do it). Or if not the Qur’an, then one of the inauthentic Hadiths from one of the unauthoritative collections: Karen Armstrong loves the one about Muhammad returning from the “Lesser Jihad” of war to the “Greater Jihad” of domestic life, without recognizing that the hadith in question is not widely accepted as authentic. Why, I can write the Mosque-Outreach script for Infidels myself, and so can you, dear reader, and so can any man.

Here’s a case study, based on the posts of a Muslim who dropped by Jihad Watch a few days ago. He asked:

My questions to you are: Do you personally know any Muslims? Do you have any Muslim friends? Do you know about the Muslim experience in the post 9/11 America? Have you ever visited a Mosque? Have you ever been to an inter-faith event (e.g. poetry recital)? Have you ever read the Holy Qur’an or any of the other Islamic spiritual texts such as the works of Jalaluddin Rumi or al-Ghazali, Rabia al-Adawiyyah, Muhammad Iqbal, etc.?

The questions are misplaced. Many of the readers at this site have visited those Mosque Outreach exercises in Taqiyya-and-Tu-Quoque. Many have read the Qur’an, and have read and reread it, keeping in mind several things:

1) About 20% of it makes no sense, even to Muslims who know classical Arabic. See Christoph Luxenberg for one attempt to solve that matter of philology.

2) The internal contradictions in the Qur’an are resolved through the doctrine of “naskh” or “abrogation,” so that, as in the systems of common law, where the doctrine of stare decisis ordinarily holds but later decisions, when different, cancel the effect of earlier ones (e.g., Plessy v. Ferguson is not valid after Brown v. Bd. of Education).

3) The doctrine of “naskh” allows the so-called Meccan suras, the softer ones, which were presumably the product of a time when Muhammad still felt the need for support and had not yet become as harsh toward Infidels as he became once he had taken control in Medina (Yathrib), to be cancelled or overruled or overturned by the much harsher so-called “Medinan” suras.

4) While there are more than 150 Jihad verses in the Qur’an — though only 27 appearances of the word “qitaal” or combat, the most dangerous ones, such as those contained within Sura 9, are among the very last “revealed,” and hence possess great authority.

5) In English or French, as Western scholars of Islam familiar with the original texts have noted, the Qur’an’s verses are far less harsh than they are in the Arabic. Many of the words involving the treatment to be meted out to Unbelievers, that is Infidels or non-Muslims, are of this kind.

6) The official Muslim groups tend to distribute the translations that are much milder than the real thing. Even those used by Muslims, such as that of Yusuf Ali, do not always adequately convey the real meaning. But that can be found usually in the notes, and it is important for Infidels to read those Muslim annotations.

7) The Qur’an by itself does not yield up its full meaning, and the Sunnah, that is the customs and practice of Muslims of the time, of Muhammad and the Companions, is the true interpretive aid, the essential means by which obscure meanings are teased out. That is why Muslims so often refer to “Qur’an and Sunnah.”

8 ) Islam is a collectivist faith that does not admit of free exercise of conscience. That is, it will not permit — often on pain of death — individuals from deciding for themselves that they wish to leave Islam, sometimes for another faith, sometimes for no faith at all. That Islam does this makes it akin to other totalitarian belief-systems that do not tolerate anyone leaving that closed system. In a sense, a Muslim who leaves Islam is treated as a deserter from the army of Islam, just as someone who is persuaded to become a Muslim, even without any real understanding and with very incomplete (often deliberately withheld) knowledge, merely by reciting the single verse of the Shehada, is regarded as a recruit to the army of Islam, someone who has been signed up, rather than someone who has been carefully taught in order to save his individual soul.

9) Yes, not only have many of those posting here visited mosques during those phony Outreach Programs, but we have made it a point to attend those utterly phony presentations of Islam, in which none of the real questions — about how Islam divides the world uncompromisingly between Believer and Infidel, and territorially between Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb — ever come up. And of course there is never a discussion of Muhammad, that is of the killings of Abu Afak and Asma bint Marwan, the decapitation of the bound prisoners of the Banu Qurayza, the attack on the inoffensive Jewish farmers of the Khaybar Oasis, the tale of little Aisha, and so much else.

It makes no sense whatsoever, given the smooth taqiyya-and-kitman-and-tu-quoque so well-practiced and presented, for Infidels to attend any Muslim event without having thoroughly prepared themselves by learning about Islam, by reading the immutable texts of Islam, by talking to those who have grown up in Islam and left it, or those who, as Infidels, grew up in lands dominated by Islam — such as Hindus from Bali or Bangladesh, Christians from Egypt or Iraq or Pakistan, Jews from Yemen or Egypt or Syria, Zoroastrians, what few are left, who have escaped from Iran, and so on. One can expect only apologetics from Muslims — that is what our experience, individual and collective, demonstrates again and again. One can only take so much nonsense and lies, before even the most naive start to have things begin to make sense. They figure the whole thing out.

You offer, instead of honesty, a list of all kinds of irrelevancies. Jihad Watch is a pedagogic site. It is a site devoted to presenting all kinds of material about Islamic behavior and Islamic doctrine, and showing their connection. And it is also devoted to revealing the ways in which Infidels, in and out of the West, do or do not exhibit the traditional behavior of dhimmis — that is, the non-Muslims under Islam who were allowed to stay alive, and even to practice, within severe limits, their non-Muslim religions, but who were subject to a host of economic, political, legal, and social disabilities that together amounted to a permanent condition of humiliation, degradation, and physical insecurity.

In conclusion, a few questions, in turn, for you.

Have you ever compared the treatment, meted out over the past 1350 years, in all the lands conquered by Islam, toward the indigenous non-Muslims, with the way in which Muslims have been received and allowed to settle deep behind what they themselves are taught to regard as enemy lines?

Have you ever given the slightest thought to the possibility that the belief-system of Islam, with its Total Regulation of Life and Complete Explanation of the Universe, was essentially akin to a totalitarian doctrine?

Have you ever wondered about, or gone to hear, or read the books of, the many brilliant and articulate apostates from Islam, including but not limited to, Ibn Warraq (Why I Am Not a Muslim), Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ali Sina (whose site http://www.faithfreedom.org relentlessly offers arguments against Islam from those who finally left it, and in so doing found intellectual and moral peace), Anwar Shaikh (who has described Islam as a vehicle for Arab supremacism in “Islam the Arab National Religion”), and many others, the most impressive people born into Islam, thoughtful, articulate, coherent — and being joined by other thoughtful, articulate, sensible people who through no fault of their own were born into Islam.

Eventually some Pakistanis and Bangladeshis and Indian Muslims may be able to slough off Islam as an ideology through a re-embrace of what could be seen as an original identity: that they were merely the descendants of Hindus, or in some cases Buddhists, who were forcibly converted to avoid either death or the onerousness of the dhimmi condition. Similarly, in the case of some North African “Arabs,” they may recognize themselves as the descendants of the indigenous Berbers — so many of whom, under the cultural and linguistic imperialism of the Arabs, were so arabised as to become “Arabs” themselves. And they not only became “Arabs,” but in turn to oppress the rights of those Berbers who still, steadfastly, have managed to resist the very arabisation that the ancestors of the “Arabs-from-Berbers” did not. Similarly, given how educated and intelligent Iranians are, including some who once worked to overthrow the Shah, they will come to see the use to which Islam is naturally put, the damage it has brought to Iran. This can be made to frame the incipient anti-Islam sentiments of many Iranians in national terms, see the primitive desert Arabs as having brought the “false gift” of Islam to the superior civilization of Persia. Discussion of what misery the Arab “gift” of Islam has brought to Iran, and a recognition by Iranian Muslims that they are the descendants of Zoroastrians whose last adherents are now so oppressed in Iran, might be one point of purchase to undo or at least limit the appeal of Islam. Have you given that Arab supremacism for which Islam is a vehicle any thought yourself?

And you ask, who has read the Qur’an? You should have asked: Who has read the Qur’an, the Hadith, and the Sira, should you not? In turn, one might ask: Have you read the Bible? Have you gone to a church merely to observe Christian worship? What do you know about the field of comparative religion? And would you allow other Muslims, your siblings or your children, to freely visit churches and synagogues and Hindu temples, and to read the holy scriptures of other faiths, and even to study those faiths formally, as many non-Muslims study Islam and the history of Islam? Would that be something you think should be encouraged for Muslims, both in Dar al-Islam, and in the Lands of the Infidels?

Tell us all about it.

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Condoleezza Rice.jpg

While I’m obviously not a fan of Bush and his underlings (I’d go so far as to say they’re the worst and most despicable administration to have polluted the hallowed halls of the White House in over a century), I do not have a problem taking a part from the whole, occasionally admiring the diamond in the rough who is Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

My perception of Rice is sort of akin to Michael Corleone in the first Godfather film–an intelligent, well-meaning, good natured, fairly honest human being who simply and unfortunately, and with skewed fore-knowledge, managed to get caught up in the underworld of his fathers’ crime syndicate even though he was timidly reluctant to do so. Right or wrong, he became swept up in the nefarious turmoil of his family business because of a sincere desire to protect his father from harm. Michael is an unapologetic character, but that does not make him unsympathetic. On the contrary, his initial inclination to remain outside of the Corleone clans’ chosen vocation makes him an entirely sympathetic individual of quality who willingly made sacrifices that would haunt him for the rest of his days.

Similarly and unfortunately Condoleezza Rice was simply drawn into the wrong crowd–the bad kids on the block. The respect I might have had for her had she not been a major participant in the Bush administration would be, I’m sure, much higher than it is today–you’re judged by the quality of your friends.

Still, I couldn’t help feeling a bit sad for her while she sat in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, understandably receiving a deserved pummeling on Iraqi policy and the President’s scheme to deploy 20,000 additional troops into the midst of the Sunni / Shi’a civil war (totally discounting our own state senator, the ridiculously out-of-touch simpleton, Barbara Boxer who managed to place the entirety of her leg in her mouth when addressing Rice by making the comment, “Now the issue is, who pays the price? Who pays the price? I’m not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young. You’re not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family. So, who pays the price? The American military and their families. And I just want to bring us back to that fact.” Wow, Boxer! Way to retrogress the feminist movement to the dark ages.)

Condoleezza Rice is an exceptionally intelligent and talented person. She’s a classically trained pianist, having played with the likes of famed Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and violinist Mustafa Fuzer Nawi. Fluent in Russian, she also speaks German, French, and Spanish. She received her Ph.D in political science from the Graduate School of International Studies at the University Of Denver, Colorado.

From Wikipedia…

Rice was hired for her first academic position by Stanford University as an Assistant Professor in Political Science (1981–1987). She was granted tenure and promoted, first to Associate Professor (1987–1993), and then (she was off-campus from 1989–1991) to Provost, the chief budget and academic officer of the university (1993–2000), and full Professor (1993–present). In addition to being the first female and first minority to hold the position of Provost at Stanford, Rice was the youngest Provost in Stanford’s history. She was also named a Senior Fellow of the Institute for International Studies, and a Senior Fellow (by courtesy) of the Hoover Institution. She was a specialist on the former Soviet Union and gave lectures on the subject for the Berkeley-Stanford joint program led by UC Berkeley Professor George Breslauer in the mid-1980s.

To say Rice is a highly educated, intelligent person would be an understatement. But a high degree of intelligence is not all-pervasive. The Secretary of State, along with Bush and his minions as well as much of the general populace of the United States and the world, simply have very little understanding of Islam, the Qur’an, Muslims, and the Middle-east. Of course, I’m not an expert on the subject either, but I understand what she does not–the continued rift and subsequent and inevitable violence between Sunnis and Shi’ites benefits non-Muslims throughout the world by fueling divisive chaos and disorganization between two separate and dangerous religiopolitical theocratic sects bent on brutal imperialistic expansionism.

Of course, my understanding pales in comparison to Islamic scholar and regular Jihadwatch.org contributor, Hugh Fitzgerald who writes an impassioned and reasoned response to Rice’s comment.

My understanding of Islam is in it’s infancy. Fitzgerald’s is not.

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Fitzgerald: Rice and worse than Rice

The Secretary of State recently stated that the Middle East will have to “overcome” the tendency to see things in Sunni-Shi’a terms. There are two things wrong with the statement of Condoleeza Rice.

The first is the o’erweening, history-ignoring idea that Sunni-Shi’a rivalries and hostilities can “be overcome.” The Sunni-Shi’a split long ago transcended the initial quarrel over succession. Now there are differences in the organization of the Shi’a and Sunni variants of Islam: in organization (the power of the Shi’a ayatollahs and other Shi’a clergy has nothing similar in Sunni Islam); in ritual (the Shi’a Ashoura, with its emphasis on self-flagellation); and practice (the Shi’a shrines and visits to those shrines, so offensive to austere Sunnis, especially to the most austere of all, the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia).

The belief that somehow deeply-held beliefs and attitudes can be “overcome” seems to approach all this as if it were a question of civil rights in the South. One of the silliest and most harmful aspects of American governments is the belief that many things are susceptible of change, or of change that will come quickly. “Let’s have self-determination now” or “Let’s end poverty the way Jeffery Sachs says we can” or “Let’s just get right in there and reform Islam.” A blend of naivete, ignorance, and arrogance, which yields a most unappetizing brew.

The second thing wrong with Rice’s statement is that apparently she cannot conceive of why this Sunni-Shi’a split is a good thing for Infidels. She cannot conceive of why chaos and confusion and endless hostility between the two main branches or sects of Islam is something to be exploited, not to be deplored. It appears that American governments want always to take the side of this or that plausible group of Muslims. First, it was the Shi’a in exile who managed to woo and win so many in the American government with their tales of WMD (Chalabi and his group), and others who confidently predicted that once the Americans “liberated” Iraq they would be greeted, those Americans, with an outpouring of joy and presumably permanent gratitude that “would make the liberation of Kabul look like a funeral procession.” It would cost, according to Wolfowitz and others, nothing like what it cost to maintain those sanctions — possibly a few tens of billions of dollars. And then it would be over. A “cakewalk,” wrote Kenneth Adelman (sometime purveyor of Shakespeare to corporations so that the tycoons and tycoonettes can apply “Shakespeare to the business world).

Many have in this farce, on all sides, in the government, and in the press, been weighted and found wanting.

Meanwhile, there’s something just over here, freshly scribbled on this wall, that I’d like to show our rulers and our pundits:

“Mene, mene, tekel upharsin.”

Do you think they’ll be able to make it out?

Yet Rice is not the worst. She is far superior to others who preceded her. If she invites comparison with two former and still nattering-away National Security Advisers, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, Condoleeza Rice only gains by the comparison. But that should not be the point of comparison. She, and all others in the government, should be spending their days and nights studying Islam, studying not only the texts — Qur’an, Hadith, Sira — but how those texts are naturally received by, not all, but almost all, Muslims, and figure out on what side the textual authority lies. They should learn about taqiyya. They should learn about the history of Islamic conquest and about the subjugation of non-Muslims — which is not only a matter of history, but can be seen today in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iraq, Sudan, Saudi Arabia (where the non-Muslims are to found only among the expatriate wage-slaves). They must learn what is so misleading about the phrase “moderate Muslim” — misleading and unhelpful. They must learn to detect the plausible from the true, to discover the smyler with the knyf under his cloke, as Chaucer emblemized the figure of Treachery he found in Boccaccio, well in advance.

They must learn to understand it all, and to understand not only the texts and the history, but the other attitudes that naturally arise in Islam: aggression, violence, inability to compromise, susceptibility to the most primitive conspiracy theories, blaming of non-Muslims for all the ills that should rightly be attributed to Islam but of course cannot be, and so on.

These are the things she, and so many others, including all of the would-be Presidents now eagerly seeking our support, must learn. Now, not in five or ten years. Now.

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Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s insane dictator, has been hosting a “conference” that questions the validity of the Holocaust–according to him, it’s a myth. What saddens me is how many attendees are Jews from various countries, Europeans, and Americans.

At a speech he gave during the event today, Ahmadinejad once again threatened complete destruction upon Israel.

“Just as the Soviet Union was wiped out and today does not exist, so will the Zionist regime soon be wiped out,” he said. I’m assuming he’s also indirectly including America as part of the “Zionist regime.”

Believe it when Ahmadinejad says he will destroy Israel, or at least work towards doing so. Iran is not developing its nuclear program for energy producing peaceful purposes. They are developing nuclear weapons, most notably demonstrated when Mahmoud held a highly publicized celebratory public event when the country finally was able to successfully enrich a touch of uranium. For all of his supposed bluster, he is deadly serious. He will do it.

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Iran president says Israel’s days are numbered

By Paul Hughes

TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday told delegates at an international conference questioning the Holocaust that Israel’s days were numbered.

Ahmadinejad, who has sparked international outcry by referring to the killing of six million Jews in World War Two as a “myth” and calling for Israel to be “wiped off the map”, launched another verbal attack on the Jewish state.

“Thanks to people’s wishes and God’s will the trend for the existence of the Zionist regime is downwards and this is what God has promised and what all nations want,” he said.

“Just as the Soviet Union was wiped out and today does not exist, so will the Zionist regime soon be wiped out,” he added.

His words received warm applause from delegates at the Holocaust conference, who included ultra-Orthodox anti-Israel Jews and European and American writers who argue the Holocaust was either fabricated or exaggerated.

The Vatican, Germany and the European Commission added their voices on Tuesday to others — such as the United States and Israel — who have condemned the Tehran meeting.

Iran says it organized the conference to shed light on the reasons behind the formation of the state of Israel after World War Two and to allow researchers from countries where it is a crime to question the Holocaust to speak freely.

“Iran is your home and is the home of all freedom seekers of the world,” Ahmadinejad said. “Here you can express your views and exchange opinions in a friendly, brotherly and free atmosphere.”

“FACT-FINDING” COMMITTEE FORMED

He urged countries where Holocaust denial is a crime, to respect freedom of speech and not to take action against any of the conference participants on their return.

Human rights groups frequently number Iran as one of the world’s worst violators of free speech, where scores of newspapers have been closed, journalists jailed, access to Web sites blocked and government critics hounded out of the country.

Delegates at the meeting earlier on Tuesday agreed to form a “fact-finding” committee to study the Holocaust.

The head of the new committee, identified as Iranian academic Mohammad Ali Ramin, said its members were “not racist or opposed to any particular group”.

“Rather they are just seeking the truth to set humanity truly free,” the ISNA students news agency quoted him as saying, without naming the committee members.

Robert Faurisson, a French scholar who has described the Holocaust as a “historical lie”, said the committee included members from the United States, France, Canada, Switzerland, Austria, Iran, Bahrain and Syria, ISNA reported.

The Vatican called the Holocaust an “immense tragedy” which had to remain forever a warning for all people to respect the rights of others.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the Tehran meeting “shows the danger of the situation Israel is in and in particular the threat that Israel lives under.”

She was speaking after meeting Ehud Olmert, who was on his first visit to Germany as Israeli Prime Minister.

Germany has made it a priority to support Israel since the Holocaust under the Nazis and the end of World War Two in 1945.

EU Commissioner Franco Frattini expressed “shock and indignation”, adding: “Anti-Semitism has no place in Europe; nor should it in any other part of the world.”


Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad welcomes participants of a Holocaust conference in Tehran, December 12, 2006. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

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Photo

“Politicians are dumb everywhere. There are very few smart, well-meaning politicians.”
– Hecubus

That is a quote from little old me from this story concerning Chicago’s ban on The Nativity Story advertising. As much as I believe that statement, little did I predict that a politician would emerge this quickly and demonstrate so thoroughly his lack of knowledge in matters he had better well have a near-expert understanding. Please meet your new Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Silvestre Reyes, Democrat from Texas, a man who possesses an obvious flair for the obtuse.

Below is an interview conducted by Jeff Stein for the Congressional Quarterly. In his time with the incoming HIC Chairman, Stein asked some fairly basic, and fairly simple questions concerning Islam, Iraq, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda. Reyes’ mental acuity is shocking–not in what he knows, but in what he doesn’t (but certainly should) know.

[Of course, Republicans prooved just as moronic in a previous interview under similar circumstances, but they don’t head the House Intelligence Committee either. ]

Now you may say to yourself, “Well, I don’t know all the answers,” or “those are some pretty tough questions.” That’s fine. But your job doesn’t likely require you to know all of the answers to the questions posed by Stein. It’s disturbing that the soon to be leader of the House Intelligence Committee, whose job it is to be intimately familiar with subjects and issues such as Islam, Iraq, Shiites vs. Sunnis, and al-Qaeda, has barely a clue as to what those concepts and entities entail. Reyes doesn’t even do a passable job stumbling his way through the interview with the typical politicized pat answers that all politicians practice religiously when standing in front of a mirror.

But in all honesty, the questions in the interview are not difficult to anyone who keeps up with current world events, and I found myself becoming very angry with Reyes and the intellectual vacuum in which he resides . This man has no clue, and he has no right to sit as Chairman for a committee whose expertise lies in the areas in which he was queried.

Oh well, Nancy Pelosi picks another winner to lead the nation. She would have been much better off choosing Reps. Jane Harman (Calif.), who does have the understanding and expertise necessary for the Chairman post, but Pelosi’s personal issues with Harman prevented her from making the right choice. Way to go, Pelosi.

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Democrats’ New Intelligence Chairman Needs a Crash Course on al Qaeda

Forty years ago, Sgt.
Silvestre Reyes was a helicopter crew chief flying dangerous combat missions in South Vietnam from the top of a soaring rocky outcrop near the sea called Marble Mountain.

After the war, it turned out that the communist Viet Cong had tunneled into the hill and built a combat hospital right beneath the skids of Reyes’ UH-1 Huey gunship.

Now the five-term Texas Democrat, 62, is facing similar unpleasant surprises about the enemy, this time as the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

That’s because, like a number of his colleagues and top counterterrorism officials that I’ve interviewed over the past several months, Reyes can’t answer some fundamental questions about the powerful forces arrayed against us in the Middle East.

It begs the question, of course: How can the Intelligence Committee do effective oversight of U.S. spy agencies when its leaders don’t know basics about the battlefield?

To his credit, Reyes, a kindly, thoughtful man who also sits on the Armed Service Committee, does see the undertows drawing the region into chaos.

For example, he knows that the 1,400- year-old split in Islam between Sunnis and Shiites not only fuels the militias and death squads in Iraq, it drives the competition for supremacy across the Middle East between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia.

That’s more than two key Republicans on the Intelligence Committee knew when I interviewed them last summer. Rep.
Jo Ann Davis, R-Va., and
Terry Everett, R-Ala., both back for another term, were flummoxed by such basic questions, as were several top counterterrorism officials at the FBI.

I thought it only right now to pose the same questions to a Democrat, especially one who will take charge of the Intelligence panel come January. The former border patrol agent also sits on the Armed Services Committee.

Reyes stumbled when I asked him a simple question about al Qaeda at the end of a 40-minute interview in his office last week. Members of the Intelligence Committee, mind you, are paid $165,200 a year to know more than basic facts about our foes in the Middle East.

We warmed up with a long discussion about intelligence issues and Iraq. And then we veered into terrorism’s major players.

To me, it’s like asking about Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland: Who’s on what side?

The dialogue went like this:

Al Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shia?

“Al Qaeda, they have both,” Reyes said. “You’re talking about predominately?”

“Sure,” I said, not knowing what else to say.

“Predominantly — probably Shiite,” he ventured.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

Al Qaeda is profoundly Sunni. If a Shiite showed up at an al Qaeda club house, they’d slice off his head and use it for a soccer ball.

That’s because the extremist Sunnis who make up a l Qaeda consider all Shiites to be heretics.

Al Qaeda’s Sunni roots account for its very existence. Osama bin Laden and his followers believe the Saudi Royal family besmirched the true faith through their corruption and alliance with the United States, particularly allowing U.S. troops on Saudi soil.

It’s been five years since these Muslim extremists flew hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center.

Is it too much to ask that our intelligence overseers know who they are?

Civil War

And Hezbollah? I asked him. What are they?

“Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah…”

He laughed again, shifting in his seat.

“Why do you ask me these questions at five o’clock? Can I answer in Spanish? Do you speak Spanish?”

“Poquito,” I said—a little.

“Poquito?! “ He laughed again.

“Go ahead,” I said, talk to me about Sunnis and Shia in Spanish.

Reyes: “Well, I, uh….”

I apologized for putting him “on the spot a little.” But I reminded him that the people who have killed thousands of Americans on U.S. soil and in the Middle East have been front page news for a long time now.

It’s been 23 years since a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed over 200 U.S. military personnel in Beirut, mostly Marines.

Hezbollah, a creature of Iran, is close to taking over in Lebanon. Reports say they are helping train Iraqi Shiites to kill Sunnis in the spiralling civil war.

“Yeah,” Reyes said, rightly observing, “but . . . it’s not like the Hatfields and the McCoys. It’s a heck of a lot more complex.

“And I agree with you — we ought to expend some effort into understanding them. But speaking only for myself, it’s hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories.”

Reyes is not alone.

The best argument for needing to understand who’s what in the Middle East is probably the mistaken invasion itself, despite the preponderance of expert opinion that it was a terrible idea — including that of Bush’s father and his advisers. On the day in 2003 when Iraqi mobs toppled the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, Bush was said to be unaware of the possibility that a Sunni-Shia civil war could fill the power vacuum, according to a reliable source with good White House connections.

If President Bush and some of his closest associates, not to mention top counterterrorism officials, have demonstrated their own ignorance about who the players are in the Middle East, why should we expect the leaders of the House Intelligence Committee to get it right?
Trent Lott, the veteran Republican senator from Mississippi, said only last September that “It’s hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what’s wrong with these people.”

“Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion?” wondered Lott, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, after a meeting with Bush.

“Why do they hate the Israelis and despise their right to exist? Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference?

“They all look the same to me,” Lott said.

Haunting

The administration’s disinterest in the Arab world has rattled down the chain of command.

Only six people in the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad are fluent in Arabic, according to last week’s report of the Iraq Study Group. Only about two dozen of the embassy’s thousand employees have some familiarity with the language, the report said.

The Iraq Study Group was amazed to find that, despite spending $2 billion on Iraq in 2006, more wasn’t being done to try “to understand the people who fabricate, plant and explode roadside bombs.”

Rare is the military unit with an American soldier who can read a captured document or interrogate a prisoner, my own sources tell me.

It was that way in Vietnam, too, Reyes says, which “haunts us.”

“If you substitute Arabization for Vietnamization, if you substitute . . . our guys going in and taking over a place then leaving it and the bad guys come back in. . . .”

He trails off, despairing.

“I could draw many more analogies.”

Yet Reyes says he favors sending more troops there.

“If it’s going to target the militias and eliminate them, I think that’s a worthwhile investment,” he said.

It’s hard to find anybody in Iraq who thinks the U.S. can do that.

On “a temporary basis, I’m willing to ramp them up by twenty or thirty thousand . . . for, I don’t know, two months, four months, six months — but certainly that would be an exception,” Reyes said.

Meanwhile, the killing is going on below decks, too, within Sunni and Shiite groups and factions.

Anybody who pays serious attention to Iraq knows that.

Reyes says his first hearings come January will focus on how U.S. intelligence can do a better job helping the troops in Iraq.

It may be way too late for that.

“Stop giving me tests!” Reyes exclaimed, half kidding.

“I’m not going to talk to you any more!”

Queries Vex New Chair of Intelligence

Reuters
Tuesday, December 12, 2006; Page A07

The incoming Democratic chairman of the House intelligence committee could not describe Hezbollah and incorrectly described al-Qaeda‘s Islamic roots in a recent interview.

Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), whom incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) named earlier this month to chair the panel, formally known as the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, was asked by a reporter from Congressional Quarterly whether al-Qaeda was Sunni or Shiite. “Predominantly — probably Shiite,” Reyes replied.

From Osama bin Laden down, al-Qaeda’s leadership is comprehensively Sunni and subscribes to a form of Sunni Islam known for not tolerating theological deviation.

In fact, U.S. officials blame al-Qaeda’s late leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, for the surge in sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites.

Asked to describe the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, according to a story published online Friday, Reyes responded “Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah” and then said, “Why do you ask me these questions at 5 o’clock?”

The Texas congressman later added: “Speaking only for myself, it’s hard to keep things in perspective and in the categories.”

Reyes, a former Border Patrol agent and an opponent of the Iraq war, was chosen for the intelligence committee post over the panel’s two top-ranking Democrats, Reps. Jane Harman (Calif.) and Alcee L. Hastings (Fla.).

Reyes’s office issued a statement yesterday noting that the interview covered a wide range of topics.

“As a member of the intelligence committee since before 9/11, I’m acutely aware of al-Qaeda’s desire to harm Americans. The intelligence committee will keep its eye on the ball and focus on the pressing security and intelligence issues facing us,” Reyes said in the statement.

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