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The Daily Journal: January 22, 2007

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Pakistan, Bush and the Taliban

A Pakistani officer pretends to be arresting Taliban militants — who are paid by Pakistan and Saudi Arabia

It’s a matter of time before Official Washington and its belt-notches — the columnists, the bloggers, the “maverick” politicians — begin to recognize what became obvious sometime in 2003, and what may have historically been obvious long before: The western occupation of Afghanistan is no different than the western occupation of Iraq. The locals won’t have it. For now, the Afghan campaign still has that sheen of legitimacy because of its association with the 2001 attacks and the downfall of the Taliban, not to mention the Taliban’s history of horrors. But attaching the safeguarding of Afghanistan to a defense against the Taliban’s return will only go so far. Sooner or later the Afghan war will be sees as a continuation, or rather a hybrid, of what the Afghan war was under Soviet occupation and what it was during its vicious internecine phase in the 1990s: a civil war profiting, for popular appeal, from looking like a war of liberation. Iran and Pakistan are the perennial meddlers, but this time NATO and the United States are in the thick of it, target-wise. Russian veterans of the Soviet campaign must be smiling wryly. From the Times: “The most explosive question about the Taliban resurgence here along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is this: Have Pakistani intelligence agencies been promoting the Islamic insurgency?” As if the question needed asking. The Times goes on, in a 2,000-word dispatch summarized here:

The government of Pakistan vehemently rejects the allegation and insists that it is fully committed to help American and NATO forces prevail against the Taliban militants who were driven from power in Afghanistan in 2001.Western diplomats in both countries and Pakistani opposition figures say that Pakistani intelligence agencies — in particular the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence — have been supporting a Taliban restoration, motivated not only by Islamic fervor but also by a longstanding view that the jihadist movement allows them to assert greater influence on Pakistan’s vulnerable western flank. More than two weeks of reporting along this frontier, including dozens of interviews with residents on each side of the porous border, leaves little doubt that Quetta is an important base for the Taliban, and found many signs that Pakistani authorities are encouraging the insurgents, if not sponsoring them. The evidence is provided in fearful whispers, and it is anecdotal. […] One former Taliban commander said in an interview that he had been jailed by Pakistani intelligence officials because he would not go to Afghanistan to fight. He said that, for Western and local consumption, his arrest had been billed as part of Pakistan’s crackdown on the Taliban in Pakistan. Former Taliban members who have refused to fight in Afghanistan have been arrested — or even mysteriously killed — after resisting pressure to re-enlist in the Taliban, Pakistani and Afghan tribal elders said. […] The Pakistani military and intelligence services have for decades used religious parties as a convenient instrument to keep domestic political opponents at bay and for foreign policy adventures. […] The religious parties recruited for the jihad in Kashmir and Afghanistan from the 1980s, when the Pakistani intelligence agencies ran the resistance by the mujahedeen and channeled money to them from the United States and Saudi Arabia to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan […] In return for help in Kashmir and Afghanistan the intelligence services would rig votes for the religious parties and allow them freedom to operate. […] The Inter-Services Intelligence once had an entire wing dedicated to training jihadis, he said. Today the religious parties probably have enough of their own people to do the training, but, he added, the I.S.I. so thoroughly monitors phone calls and people’s movements that it would be almost impossible for any religious party to operate a training camp without its knowledge. [The full story...]

Here’s the question the article doesn’t even hint at: Where’s Osama, and does the ISI know of his whereabouts? Of course it knows of his whereabouts! But the ISI is in this “war on terror” what J. Edgar Hoover was to official Washington all his decades: untouchable. All along, the greater enemy in the war, if war there is, has been Pakistan, just as one of its greatest allies ( Pakistan’s) has been Saudi Arabia. And all along, as in a horror flick where the monster is sleeping with you. The Bush junta has been in bed with the worst two offenders. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

From the inimitable Heretik
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The General in His Laban Cloth
Michel Aoun, Plugged Up

His own Lebanese idol

I've never been a fan of Michal Aoun (that I know of). He's Lebanon's general who, in 1999--—and with weapons providded by his good friend Saddam Hussein— faced down the Syrian army in a long and bloody stand-off as the Lebanese civil war was drawing to an end: the Syrians got to kick Aoun out as part of the deal that the first Bush administration made with Syrian at the time: Join us in kicking Saddam out of Kuwait, James Baker told the Syrians, and you can have Lebanon. But Aoun also played a big role in the bloody Christian-Christian war that devastated the Christian heartland at the time. Even then, after initially winning the trust of some Muslims, his ultimate power plays made him look to be the megalomaniac that he's always been. He left Lebanon to take up every Lebanese exile's favorite hobby: Ambling down the streets of Paris and, presumably, enjoying its croissants and whorehouses (who wouldn't, given the chance and the embezzled money?). Aoun bided his time. His time finally came again with the assassination of Rafik Hariri, an old nemesis and enemy: Hariri had negotiated the Taif peace accords in 1990 that ended the civol war—the accord that Aoun refused to be part of. Aoun came back to Lebanon when the Syrians were seemingly kicked out a year and a half ago. But since Aoun's uyltimater aim has always been to be president at all costs, he made the only alliance he could with the emerging power-broker of the moment: Hezbollah. This from the Times' Saturday profile:

To his supporters, [Aoun] is a Lebanese de Gaulle seeking to unite a fractious country and rebuild trust in its institutions. To his critics, he is a divisive megalomaniac willing to stop at nothing to become Lebanon’s president. Some accuse him, a Christian, of splitting Christians in Lebanon into rival camps, further weakening them, while others blame him for abetting Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite militia. But most of all, many say, General Aoun has embraced a populist agenda for personal gain. General Aoun, as always, is unfazed by the critics. “You could say I brought Lebanese politics back to life,” General Aoun, 71, said in his home atop the hills overlooking Beirut. “Until now, politics here has been moribund.” [...] The irony of General Aoun, who has spent much of his life fighting Syrian domination of Lebanon, joining hands with Hezbollah, with its close ties to Syria, is not lost on his opponents, nor on followers in protests against the government. But such about-faces are nothing new to him. [...] General Aoun makes no secret of his hope to become president, a role reserved for Christians in Lebanon’s complex sectarian political system. But many doubt whether he would make the best compromise candidate, one who would effectively smooth over tensions once the latest crisis of sit-ins and boycotts ends. “Of course, I want to be president,” he said. “At first I was not that interested, but because there was so much stubbornness against me and because things got difficult, I am now intent on becoming president. I have the backing and popularity to do it.” [...] Backed by Iran, Hezbollah is the sole remaining armed militia in Lebanon; General Aoun is the champion of a strong state and an opponent of militias. General Aoun rails against foreign interference in Lebanon, but Hezbollah is almost completely financed by Iran. [...] “It’s not like I love Hezbollah,” General Aoun said in an interview. “I am not trying to defend Hezbollah as much as I am trying to find a solution with them, because a clash with them would ruin us.” That honesty, Hezbollah officials say, engendered trust in General Aoun. “It created a sense of trust between Shiites and Christians,” said Ghaleb Abu Zeinab, a member of Hezbollah’s politburo. “We don’t want to establish an Islamic republic, we want diplomatic and normal relations with Syria, and we want a consensual democracy and so does the Free Patriotic Movement.” The full story...

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Flag Wars
Australia's Confederates


From the Sydney Morning Herald: "Organisers should cancel the Australia Day eve Big Day Out concert in Sydney rather than ban the flag at Thursday's event, parliamentary secretary for immigration Andrew Robb says. NSW Premier Morris Iemma and the RSL also condemned the decision to ban the flag, describing it as "outrageous" and "unbelievable". A newspaper reported that organisers of the Big Day Out at Homebush had decided they would confiscate any flag or bandana featuring the national symbol at the gates. Event organiser Ken West was quoted as saying fans' behaviour last year in the wake of the Cronulla riots and the recent ethnic violence at the Australian Open tennis tournament had forced his hand. "The Australian flag was being used as gang colours. It was racism disguised as patriotism and I'm not going to tolerate it," Mr West said.[...]
RSL national president Bill Crews said he would back the concert being cancelled if the flag ban continued. [...] BDO organisers said while they intended no disrespect to the flag, the Sydney concert was not an Australia Day event and there was no need for the flag to be waved there. [...] The event tours six cities in Australia and New Zealand but the ban will only affect Sydney, where the festival has been shifted to the day before its usual Australia Day date to avoid nationalistic overtones." The full story...

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Some of My Best Friends Are Quebecers
Is Quebec More Racist?...

The second part of that question, as McLean's poses it, is, "...or just more willing to confront its prejudices?" From McLean's: “According to a recent poll, 59% of Quebecers are racists. What’s more, they know they are. When a Léger Marketing survey asking Quebecers to self-identify their feelings toward other races, 43% of respondents self-identified as “mildly racist,” 15% said they were “fairly racist” and another 1% considered themselves “very racist.” As alarming as those numbers may be, there’s something of a silver lining. More so than other Canadians, Quebecers appear to be determined to tackle their racism head on. Though it’s generated little attention, Leger found similar sentiments in other provinces - 47% of respondents outside Quebec confessing to racist sentiments. But only Quebec seems to be particularly bent out of shape, with each of the province’s media outlets engaging in its share of hand-wringing and Premier Jean Charest weighing in with assurances that “Quebecers aren’t racist” and that the province has “different cultural currents present within a society where the majority is francophone.” If Quebecers are more sensitive than most, it’s probably because their relationship with immigrants has long been a little volatile - most recently manifesting itself in a province-wide debate over what’s been termed “reasonable accommodation.” Referring to the necessity of modifying certain rules, behaviours or conventions in order to avoid offending minority groups, the issue initially sprung up in 2001 around a case involving a young Sikh boy’s fight to wear a kirpan at school. At that point, a Montreal school board had forbidden the traditional dagger on the grounds that it was a weapon. But further fueling the debate, the Supreme Court of Canada reversed the school board’s decision last year.” The full story…



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George Carlin
The Ten Commandments, Castrated
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A Pamuk Bit
Family Photographs

From Orhan Pamuk’s “Istanbul”:

“My prolonged study of these photographs led me to appreciate the importance of preserving certain moments for posterity, and in time I also came to see what a powerful influence these framed scenes exerted over us as we went about our daily lives. To watch my uncle pose my brother a math problem, and at the same time to see him in a picture taken thirty-two years earlier; to watch my father scanning the newspaper and trying, with a half smile, to catch the tail of a joke rippling across the crowded room, and that very same moment to see a picture of him at five years old—my age— with hair as long as a girl’s, it seemed plain to me that my grandmother had framed and frozen these memories so we could weave them into the present. When, in the tones ordinarily reserved for discussing the founding of a nation, my grandmother spoke of my grandfather, who had dies so young, and pointed to the frames on the table and the walls, it seemed that she — like me — was pulled in two directions, wanting to get on with life but also longing to capture the moment of perfection, savoring the ordinary but still honoring the ideal. But even as I pondered these dilemmas—if you pluck a special moment from life and frame it, are you defying death, decay, and the passage of time or are you submitting to it?—I grew very bored with them.”

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Crumbs & Quickies

In the Blogosphere

Featured Blog
What Loaded Question Should We Ask About Barack Obama?

From His Eminence Jon Swift: “The media's job is to raise important questions about the candidates not provide simplistic answers. The American people can provide the simplistic answers on their own. So far the media has raised a lot of important questions about Barack Obama. Who is Barack Obama? Why is his middle name Hussein? Is he secretly a Muslim? Does he smoke? Does he work out? What is he wearing? If he were a tree, what kind of a tree would he be?” See the full post...


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