Saturday, May 31, 2003
In The News - Iran's invitation to ...
* Iran's foreign minister invited Western countries to join Russia in building new nuclear plants in Iran and pledged to sign extra nuclear nonproliferation treaties if Tehran gets access to the latest atomic technologies. He spoke Friday at a news conference in the Iranian capital after Russia's atomic energy minister urged the United States to join Moscow in building a nuclear power plant in Iran. source The Salt Lake Tribune
* Michael Ledeen seems to be a not so happy camper as far as the US State Department is concerned. He singles out a number of reasons to be worried about Iran -- nothing new; we all know those-- in his column at National Review, then he continues:
Despite all this, the State Department had eagerly sought to establish a "dialogue" with the butchers of Tehran. Over the past year and a half, as many as a million people have flooded the streets in open protest, and a general strike has been called for July 9.
Can anyone verify if ONE MILLION people showed on the streets as protest even in separate occasions? Anyway he goes on:
The president has been exceptionally clear about Iran, but some of his top underlings have openly contradicted him. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, for example, recently called Iran a "democracy."
But he has some solutions:
a. It is also long past time for us to support the many independent [Persian]-language radio and television stations that broadcast to Iran from the United States.
b. ... we need to use Iraqi Shiism against Tehran. The Shiite tradition long insisted on separation of mosque and state, but this tradition was abandoned under Ayatollah Khomeini.
c. Lastly, we need to get tangible support to the brave people who have called for a general strike.
source National Review, courtesy of Beaufort Gaze
* The topic of Iran is expected to be on the agenda as Bush meets Sunday in St. Petersburg, Russia, with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Bush, meanwhile, was asked during an interview with Russia's RTR-TV whether U.S. armed forces are turning their sights on Iran. "We've had all kinds of reports that we're going to use force in Syria. And now some on the left, I guess, are saying force in Iran or force here and force there," Bush said. "It's pure speculation." A transcript of Bush's remarks in the Thursday interview was released by the White House on Saturday.
Bush did not reject the notion of using force, though, noting as a comparison that the military was used in Iraq only "after a long, long period of diplomacy." source KansasCity.com
Friday, May 30, 2003
In The News - no military action and more
* Colin Powell said US was not contemplating "military or other sorts of actions" for regime change in Iran, Syria, North Korea or Libya, as it did in Iraq, but its policy was to "speak" to Iranians to bring about a "transformation" in the country.
"We hope Iranian people will make it clear to their leaders that the manner in which they are being led by their political, secular and religious leaders is not moving the country in the right direction," Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Friday. "We believe transformation should be made by the Iranian people, and that we will speak over the heads of their leaders to let the people know that we agree with them," he said.
In the mean time he cautioned "everything is always under review. You can't predict the future forever.. The point is, there has been no change in policy," Powell added. source Hindustan Times
* Meanwhile Russia seems to have invited the United States to join it in building a nuclear power plant in southwestern Iran!!! Sure, one would think the US will join, eh? ;)
Well, one would be wrong ;) A State Department spokeswoman said Friday that no country should assist Iran on nuclear projects until Tehran agrees to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency more power to conduct inspections on short notice. source VOA
* In a separate incident and in what looks to be more pressure on Tehran, a federal judge in Washington ruled yesterday that Iran was behind the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 American servicemen, clearing the way for more than 600 of their relatives to collect financial damages against the Islamic republic. source Washington Post
This time around 50 years ago
Fifty years ago, in the summer of 1953: the U.S. secretary of state held a press conference in which he said, "The growing activities of the illegal [al-Qaeda ... I am sorry] Communist Party in Iran and the toleration of them by the Iranian government has caused our government much concern."
Later in August 1953, a pro-Shah demonstration arose spontaneously in a Teheran bazaar. The demonstration seemed to express public alarm at the plans of the Communist Party to declare Iran a republic. By the end of the day, a retired general and a former cabinet member, Fazlollah Zahedi, had taken over as the new premier. The deposed premier, 71-year old Mohammed Mossadeq, and his cohorts were either in hiding or had been captured. The Shah returned shortly to Iran, where he was given a rousing reception. The U.S. claimed another victory against the evil empire, saying Iran had been prevented from falling behind the Iron Curtain.
A minority argued that a coup d'etat had taken place but the majority accounts disputed that assertion. Time magazine said, "This was no military coup, but a spontaneous popular uprising." The minority version has now been validated by the release of the C.I.A.'s secret history about the Iranian coup of 1953.
Fifty years later, in 2003: Is what we are seeing with the son of the same Shah in it a deja vu?
P.S. Major part of this post was inspired by and taken from an article in CounterPunch.
In The News - Meeting on Iran and more
* The White House has postponed indefinitely a high level policy meeting on Iran scheduled this week, State Department officials told CNN Thursday, source CNN. The officials cited several wide-ranging reasons, including President Bush's focus on the Middle East peace process and the need to further investigate questions about whether Iran is harboring al Qaeda operatives. "No decisions have been made [on Iran policy]," one State Department official said. "The ball is in Iran's court."
Neoconservatives in the Pentagon and the White House are pushing for regime change, CNN says, and other officials in the State Department are saying the jury is still out on the best course of action.
My input: I still think that this regime-change idea is too naive at this stage. What we have seen so far though is that this concept is used to pressure Iran. However, the continuation of this condition can hugely boost the conservatives' position against the reformists in Tehran.
* On a different note, but the same topic, --and above all something to keep in the corner of your mind, even though it is denied all across-- Washington has drawn up a plan for military action against Iran, source Sydney Morning Herald. "The military action is designed to complete a popular uprising on which the Pentagon is counting," said Nezavisimaya Gazeta daily, a Russian newspaper , adding that the operation's launch date would be decided at a meeting due to be held in the White House yesterday --it's cancelled indefinately. The action would be launched mainly from Iraq but military bases in the former Soviet republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan would also be used, the paper said. A deal had been struck between the US administration and Azerbaijani, the paper said.
The report has been denied by Azerbaijan, Georgia, and US ambassador to Azerbaijan.
My input: I have two critiques here:
a. It is not clear who Washington is in this story. Because of Blogger's technical difficulties, I don't bother to put a link from my own archive here. But if you have read my little homework on Washington's think tanks, you know what I am talking about. Add an administration that has less hawkish elements to that big picture too. It is too complicated.
b. As I said before, it is quite possible that Pentagon has military plans against any countries in the world. Whether they are approved by the admin or not is a different story.
c. I said two critiques, didn't I? Well, this one is not a critique. I personally think that regime-change through a "popular uprising" is not practical since the whole idea of foreign intervention -- I repeat foreign intervention-- wouldn't be popular to begin with, and plus Iranians are de-politicized. So a restrcited military incursion would be deemed as a shoe horn to help Iranians put on the new shoes. On top of that, through a military incursion, nuclear facilities could be demolished, huh?
P.S. I gotta anonymously accredit those who point me to the interesting news.
Thursday, May 29, 2003
Back to 'In The News'
During the Iraq war I kept a weblog, In The News, that served as my bulletin board for my friends. That would save me from sending multiple emails to different people. I would post parts of the stories that wouldn't catch the eyes of a casual news follower. Of course I discontinued that weblog after the war and recylced it to be my list-keeper -- on the left.
As Iran is spending very crucial days, I am going to switch to that mode again. This time I will use my main weblog. All these kinds of posts will carry the title 'In The News' in between my regular posts that are somehow related to Iran again. I am sorry that I have to let down many of you who were expecting a not so political or less focused weblog than this. But this is my state of the mind these days. I cannot help it.
Based on my previous experience, once it comes down to the 'In The News' mode, I don't feel like blogging in my regular fashion any more.
P.S. I am still having an eye on the meeting on the Iran's future which is supposed to be held in Washington today --based on one report-- or tomorrow --based on another report. Still nothing.
WMD emphasis was "bureaucratic"?
I need to kill more of my brain cells with some toxicating beverage over this, but it's too early for this ;) We had heard some US officials had admitted there would be no WMD in Iraq. But this one is both reliable and plus has topped them all.
Paul Wolfowitz, US deputy defence secretary, in an interview with the American magazine Vanity Fair said the decision to highlight weapons of mass destruction as the main justification for going to war in Iraq was taken for "bureaucratic reasons". BUREAUCRATIC?????
Picking weapons of mass destruction was "the one reason everyone could agree on", he says in the interview.
He singled out a few other less "bureaucratic" reasons as well. One factor he describes as "huge" was that an attack would allow the US to pull its troops from Saudi Arabia, thereby resolving a major grievance held by al-Qaeda.
I am using a friend's comment here: So the reason that so many people were killed in Iraq was that corporal Joe moves from Saudi Arbia to Iraq??? Hmm ... sounds interesting.
Having said that, according to BBC, all opinion polls show most Americans are unconcerned about the failure so far to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
update: Meanwhile, in a US radio phone-in program, US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, said he believes weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq and he rejected the charge that the war against Baghdad was waged under a false pretext. source BBC
Wednesday, May 28, 2003
What do you think about it?
Sydney Morning Herald is a paper that I trusted once and put down a story from on the Iraq's construction contracts that would be given out to only American companies way before the war was waged.
Now here is the second news item. According to this piece of news, Iran has captured a high ranking al-Qaeda leader, al-Adel, an alleged mastermind of the Riyadh bombings.
Now here is the catch. Iran is thought to want to handover al-Adel to Washington in return for senior leaders in the anti-Iranian terrorist group, MKO. If al-Adel is transferred into US hands it will be a serious blow to al-Qaeda and a significant move by Iran in the war on terrorism, SMH says.
It is understood that in talks with the Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, this week, Iran proposed a deal to take significant action on al-Qaeda if the US cracked down on the militant MKO. Formerly funded by Saddam Hussein, the MKO is based in northern Iraq but did not come under heavy attack during the US-led invasion. The Iranians are understood to have used the meeting to convey messages back to the US.
Iran wants the MKO leadership deported to Tehran for trial over numerous assassinations and bombings. The US is understood to be prepared to remove the leaders from the region, but is reluctant to hand them over to the Iranians.
Now what do you think if this story is proved to be true? Do you think it will reduce the pressure on Tehran? Is it a fair deal put forward by Iran -- terrorist for terrorist?
Re-dicovery of a new disease - daily observations
No, it is not SARS, mad cow disease or west Nile. It is an old disease re-discovered by me recently after my occasional, but not casual Internet surfs: self-righteousness.
If you have contracted this mental disease, you will show one of the following symptoms depending on its development and your physical strength.
1- Feeling that what you have or believe is the best and greatest in the world.
2- Feeling that you should share the virture you have got with the rest of the world.
3- Feeling that you should force the rest of the world to accept it if necessary.
4- Feeling that you should eliminate those who don't conform.
Note: Contrary to common sense --or unsense-- there are indications that physical strength has a reverse impact; more the stregnth, stronger the symptoms show.
Tuesday, May 27, 2003
The writing is vividly on the wall, part IV - Iran Watch, latest news
On Tuesday a meeting between top US officials on Iran was reportedly suspended until Thursday, US officials told Reuters news agency. But that did NOT stop the US officials to heat up the pressure on Iran. source BBC:
- The United States has rejected Iranian denials that it is trying to develop nuclear weapons or harbouring al-Qaeda fugitives.
- US Secretary of State Colin Powell said contacts with the Islamic republic had not been stopped, as some reports had suggested. "Our policies are well-known and I'm not aware of any changes in policy [on Iran]. We have contacts with them. They will continue," he said.
- White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the arrests of several suspected al-Qaeda members in Iran on Monday did not quell concerns about the presence of members of Osama Bin Laden's network. "There's... a concern about whether or not the top-level al-Qaeda that are in Iran are being arrested," he said.
- White House spokesman Ari Fleischer played down suggestions the US might be considering stronger actions toward Iran, after reports that the Pentagon was pushing to destabilise the regime. "We'll pursue this through the appropriate channels... The future of Iran will be decided by the Iranian people," he added.
- The heat on Iran is likely to be turned up even further on 16 June if - as Washington hopes - the International Atomic Energy Agency signals grave doubts that Iran's network of nuclear facilities are merely designed for power generation.
- Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was one of those with strong words for Tehran, warning that any attempt by Iran to build an Islamic republic in its neighbour Iraq would be quashed.
Monday, May 26, 2003
We hear a lot about them these days. But who are they? To answer that, I did a little homework. In the end, I found some parts of this article that a friend had sent me some while ago --and I have used here-- more to the point About the rest of the article ... it's a column spiced with lots of personal opinions anyway. I cannot judge it without further studying the subject. Note: I may have changed some words as I wished.
Neoconservatism arose in the '70s as a reaction to the '60s. It was at first a New York phenomenon and mostly, though far from entirely, Jewish. It reflected the sensibilities of a unique generation of intellectuals, often starting out as the poor children of immigrants, who made the long march from Brooklyn and City College of New York and FDR for some and Trotsky for others, to that literary section of Manhattan where they take their politics and their cocktail parties -- and their book reviews -- very, very seriously. These were people of ideas, always articulate and often brilliant, who'd also known depression, war, discrimination and lives of unrelenting effort. They had struggled and succeeded.
Indeed, many saw liberalism's greatest failure as a matter of "will" and "nerve," two favorite neocon value-words, especially when dealing with communists and kids. And when they took up Ronald Reagan, it was his steady anti-communism that they found most attractive.
All in all, they were the right people at the right time. They helped fashion the "will" and the "nerve" that brought the Soviets down.
Today, the Boomer/Generation X neocons invoke icons of steadfastness such as Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, even Winston Churchill. But neocon writer and former Wall Street Journal editor Max Boot caught it best some months ago when he described their preferred foreign policy as "Hard Wilsonianism" -- making the world safe for democracy, this time with the will and the nerve and the power to make it stick. Whatever else this may be, it is not conservatism, which holds these truths to be self-evident.
Some of President Bush's policies resemble things advocated by neocons, but who knows how Bush decides? (Does Bush always know?) Having said that, influence can never be claimed. It can only be bestowed by those who are influenced. What is bestowed can be taken away. Even the appearance of influence can lead to an unpleasant backlash.
The writing is vividly on the wall, part III - doubts and an American perspective
Let's be realistic. As once a friend of mine said, and I agree with him, the Pentagon might have some military plans to attack any coutry just in case the US has to square off with that state. I wouldn't be surprised if they had some plans to attack Canada just in case ... the southbound migrant Canadian geese start biting Americans while flying over that country. This is not a Middle Eastern conspiracy mentality. Blame Hollywood for that.
So it is not that much surpirsing when the Pentagon conspire a regime-change in Iran. But once this plot is picked up by the US administration, that must tell you something. Up to now, it seems that the State Department has not officially subscribed to this plan. However, things could change very fast. But I have this --from previous posts-- in mind too
... it is not clear if Washington is using its Iranian puppets to put more pressure on Tehran for gaining more leverage out of its deals with that country or what we see/hear is what Washington is actually aiming at.
Also I found some comment at Buzzmachine very interesting in this respect, so I asked the commentor's permission to use her words here as well. Although I do not necessarily agree with her word by word, I found them a thoughtful American perspective.
"[It is wrong to think that] the US would try to install Boy Reza Pahlavi as Shah given our recognition that Iranian anger toward the US is centered on our doing just that in 1956 and their goodwill toward the US reflects their having forgiven us for it and is not an invitation to repeat that disaster."
"We didn't try to reinstall a monarchy in Afghanistan even though we brought the old king back into the country for political reasons, and the Iranian monarchists may be playing a similar role."
"The loose group of Iranian monarchists surrounding Reza are an opposition group we are working with along with other opposition groups, and while there may be individuals who want the monarchy restores, there is every indication that that is just the pipe dream of a few. The Iranian people don't want it and would never accept it."
Do I really need to introduce Michael Ledeen here? I have a question though. In 'The writing is vividly on the wall, part I', I suggested the news of regime-change in Iran was openly discussed by the maninstream media.
But in those stories and analyses, there is no mention of Michael Ledeen whatsoever. It is interesting.
P.S. Poor engineers and designers! Their efforts are never truly appreciated in any field or business ;)
update: Meanwhile, the US officials from a range of departments are meeting on Tuesday -- tomorrow-- to discuss Washington's Iran policy. The Washington Post newspaper said the officials would consider a Pentagon plan to destabilise the country.
The issue has reportedly revived the split between moderates in the Bush administration who favour diplomacy and hardliners who prefer more robust action. source BBC
Sunday, May 25, 2003
The writing is vividly on the wall, part II - an Iranian perspective
Reza Pahlavi. Remember this name. Son of the late Shah of Iran, he could very well be Iran's Ahmad Chalabi. Before the rise of Iran's reformist movement, and in the absence of any alternative to the ruling clergies in Iran, Reza Pahlavi had always been raised as an option half jokingly/ half seriously in casual chats within the family get-togethers during the past some 20 odd years in Iran. So the question of Iranians’ reaction to his probable comeback is not much of a mystery.
The reactions range from a simple shrug, expressing boredom to answer an absurd question, to preferring anyone to the status quo. Having said that, all people --except for the die-hard loyalists to the monarchy system-- would agree on something: it’s a wishful thinking. Simply put the idea is looked at skeptically. This is not obviously Pahlavi’s first time to talk about his "soon" return to the country. He had used the word "soon" 14 years ago in the same context too.
My personal input: Washington has never been so determined to change the political map of the Middle East as it seems to be now. So things might be different this time. Remember it does not necessarily mean that the US will eventually put all of its eggs in Mr. Pahlavi’s basket.
Part of the skepticism stems from the fact that the idea is simply far-fetched. His popularity is marginally better than a cult group, MKO, with their eccentric ideology.
How on earth the US is going to sell him to the Iranians?
My input: I cannot think of many revolutions whose leaders had been popular well before the actual revolution took place. People change after seeing blood, and unpopular persons will become popular overnight. Under certain conditions, you can sell anything and anyone to people.
How on earth the US is going to pull this off anyway?
a. United States got directly involved in Iraq, and because of its miscalculations, e.g. underestimating Shi’as’ power, faced some surprises after the war. How many mistakes would they commit when they are not directly involved? I think they will change their tactics many times before conducting an effective regime-change.
b. Unlike Saddam the ruling clergies in Tehran are flexible and ready to negotiate. They will not stick out to insist on their ideology. They have a proven record on this.
c. With paragraph 'b' in mind, it is not clear if Washington is using its Iranian puppets to put more pressure on Tehran for gaining more leverage out of its deals with that country or what we see/hear is what Washington is actually aiming at.
d. As time goes by, more people will settle for Pahlavi, hoping he will play the role of a wedge to unseat the comfortably sitting clergies. And in the end, once he is done, ”Iranians know how to deal with him as did they with his dad and elect more appropriate people this time” as I hear here and there.
The writing is vividly on the wall, part I - regime-change in Iran
These days the signs are not just coming from alternative media like Alternet.org or CommonDreams. org. The US State Department, once hesitant to aim at that direction, appears to have inclined to accept such a policy, Washington Post reports -- courtesy of Payvand News. Even cautious BBC implies that too.
Accroding to BBC's analysis there are three major reasons that has intensified the rift between the US and Iran:
a. Washington has accused Tehran of giving sanctuary to operatives from the al-Qaeda movement. This is despite the fact that nobody is certain if al-Qaeda operatives are in the country with Iranian authorities' consent. It is quite conceiveable that the operatives have slipped in without anyone noticing.
b. It has also repeated its accusation that Iran is pursuing plans to produce nuclear weapons.
c. The two countries are at odds over Iraq as well, where the US is trying to minimise Iranian political influence as it tries to put together some kind of interim Iraqi administration.
As many observers believe there is no prospect of an imminent attack against Iran; hwoever, there are clear signs that Washington is organizing an opposition group led by Pharoah's mummies, otherwise known as Monarchists, who were kicked out of the country in 1979.
Join me later during the day. I am putting down some thoughts on how Iranians look at this development.
update: I almost forgot. If you have not read my previous posts, you may wonder how the US is going to pull off the regime-change provided military attack is not on the plate now. The answer: a "new revolution".
Saturday, May 24, 2003
Hummer kills off hybrid?
This is soooo mind numbing. There are many people out there talking about how tax cuts proposed by George W Bush can benefit the rich. I am not going to harp on that. After all it is not my business either. But this one ... anyway, if you live in America, you can write off $25,000 from your taxes in the first year after the purchase of a 6,000-pound civilian armoured vehicle, aka truck or SUV under the current tax law. But the Senate bill increases the tax deduction to $100,000. Read it for yourself. Is that true?
Relevant reading: Battle of SUVs and Small Urban Vehicles
A few points on socialized services - Inspired by my web host shopping and free service of Bloger.com
Note: There is no such a thing as free service. Our taxes go to pay for their costs.
*In an ideal world where there is no fraud and mismanagement, publicly funded and publicly operated services are deemed to have the lowest cost as opposed to their for-profit counterparts. Mind you the socialized services are not meant to make profit. Mind you again we don’t live in an ideal world, and to make things more complex, non-governmental businesses have proved they could be equally corrupt and mismanaged as their governmental counterparts. We may tolerate fraud when it comes to services that Enron or WorldCom would have provided ... I am not sure we would deal with the same tolerance towards health care.
Speaking of fraud, if you think the socialized system is prone to the abuse of often jobless or low-income people, the privately-run systems could be prone to the abuse of millionaires which is much more subversive!
*By providing an opportunity for tens of thousands of people to blog, Blogger.com is doing something unique here. Without this service, many of bloggers would have disappeared for good. Only a small percentage of Internet savvy dedicated Bloggers would have moved to paid services. Interesting part is that many of them would have realized that there is a good chance you COULD get the same crappy service from a paid host too! Many more would have gone silent and very fewer would have migrate to more expensive hosts where they could get the reliable service they were looking for all along.
With properly replacing a few words in the last paragraph, you will get the picture for the topic on hand.
*A nation's faith in social justice and equal access to medicare makes a huge difference in its psyche as opposed to a more self-centered approach created by 'I have money and I pay for my service’ mentality. As a friend once very well said capitalism seems to be inevitable but it surly ruptures the social fabric.
*Move from the so-called free services to paid ones seems to be unavoidable in the long run. Socialized services tend to be the target market of many businesses that have huge influence in governments. Politicians usually start by luring people into abandoning those services through tax breaks. Tax breaks mean cost cuts and cost cuts mean poor output. Who is first in line to get the axe? Military? No way. All businesses involved in defense and military out there live off your tax money. Their buddies in governments won’t let their income to be cut. The services that support you and me are axed, e.g. education and health care.
*A hypothetical monopoly of Blogger.com would stifle innovation and promotes stagnation. The same monopoly by governments does the same to the socialized services. This is self-destructive.
The days of web host shopping are over. Within the next few days I will decide what I am going to do, based on the responses I get from blog host providers: Should I stay or Should I go? On the other hand Blogger.com seems to be more stable since yesterday. So I start writing again.
Thursday, May 22, 2003
There are many things new actually, but I have decided to slow things down till I sort out my bandwidth problem. Right now Blogger won't let me upgrade because of their changes. I have also asked a few other web servers to provide me some trial account to get a feeling of their blogging application. I'll see what I can do.
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
Reality is relative
Inspired by 'The dullest blog in the world':
As I was surfing the Internet I realized that I had been in the virtual world for quite a while. Then I felt an urge to spend some time in the real world. To surface my submarine and satisfy this urge, I drove to the biggest shopping mall nearby.
It sucks to be me
I have been reading a few columnists' weblogs recently who have been interested in Iranian bloggers. There are some interesting things that they have in common.
a. They are all on the (far) right hand side of the political spectrum.
b. They are quick to pick up anything that an Iranian blogger writes, no matter how irrational it is, as long as it is against the Iranian regime even remotely.
Note: All names used in the following examples are fictional ;)
1. If an anonymous Iranian blog like 'Hooman's Scribbles', that everything around it is in doubt, writes "Iranians are a bunch of camel-rider bastards", it will be quoted by many revered columnists in a sec.
2. On the other hand, if another blog, like 'Scribbles of Hooman', whose identity is again in doubt writes "Camels are easier to come by in North America than in Iran since they are at least found in zoos", it falls down on deaf ears.
That does not stop there. They even run stories in their papers and expand on the camel-riders comments in their columns. It is high time that Hooman scribbled more responsibly. Hooman, do you want to feed those who would justify bombs against Iranians in their writings with your innocent complaints about this and that? Do you?
It sucks to be an Iranian like me who feels sandwiched by the hawks on both sides. It also sucks when you have to defend something that you have escaped from simply because the other side is also off the map, in a different sense.
Bear with me
I am sorry for the inconvenience caused by presumably Blogger's upgrade. That could explain the frustrating connection problems to my weblog and dramatic drop in my traffic. But that's the only problem you encounter while connecting to my site. Or maybe not. All other free of charge services, e.g. open-comment and site meter, have their own hiccups as well.
I have to deal with another issue too: Editting. I wrote a few things just to realize that my scribbles COULD go down the drain altogether only after clicking publish key.
So I have decided to wait and shop. Wait for the upgrades to finish. I don't want to move like a looser when a few days later Blogger.com provides a better service. In the mean time I am shoppig for a web server and DNS server (not sure). I have already tried Tripod. But how do I know if the bandwidth is good when I have just one post? I could have the same problem that I am having with Blogger.com when my archives grow.
Saturday, May 17, 2003
I don't get it
Let me get something straight. Who pays for the cost of the Iraqi war? US government, obviously. They are those who ran the military operation, flew the bombers and shot the missiles. But who pays the US government? American tax payers, of course. They are those who work off the cost.
Do the American tax payers get somehow redeemed? Like some other countries contributing even partially in financing the cost? Hmm ... perhaps Britain and the rest of the "coalition of the willing", but to save time and energy and after looking at the names of the countries on the list of the coalition ... my answer is no. There is no major contributor.
There are some companies out there, though, that keep grabbing the Iraqi reconstruction project bids. But there are only a few of them and there is no way that the money they receive is funneled back to the Americans who actually pay for the war. Rather, the money goes directly to the bank accounts of those companies' CEOs and stockholders. There are even some tiny number of the people who get some jobs at those booming companies. But that's about it.
So is it safe to say that the war makes a tiny percent of Americans richer at the expense of the rest of the population? I know it is a bit naive of me but this is where I am stuck. The conclusion alone should raise a lot of questions in people around the war's financial justification -- not necessarily only Iraq's war -- whereas it doesn't. Did I make a mistake in drawing my conclusion?
Friday, May 16, 2003
It is a human nature to resort to conspiracy theory where we fail to see contexts and explanations. Basically you can find them in every imaginable field from politics to workplace. The common aspect among these theories is that they simply add up. Human brain works in an amazing way to infer links between separate incidents. In another words human brain falls for an imaginary single explanation to a series of events as opposed to more complicated possibilities. In doing so, it erects a wall around that rejects any other explanations.
Political conspiracy theories fact or fiction, finding someone from outside of events' context to blame, as if we don't have any responsibility in our destiny, has become a way of life for some people in the course of time. This mindset could most likely be part of a collective victim culture and is consequently found wherever there is a historical underdog, patronized by a bigger power. Conspiracy theories then fit this psyche very well and serve as painkiller. As the debate over egg and chicken is endless and inconclusive, nobody can be sure if victim culture has made victim the victim, or being victim has developed victim culture, or a bit of the both.
It is not a question of big guys' involvement in some secret operations. They certainly have, and their operations may have potentially changed nations' destiny, but growing into the habit of blaming solely others could potentially change destinies too.
Mass graves in Iraq and the question of liberation
Thousands of bodies have been discovered in a series mass graves in Iraq. They are believed to be the remains of the people who have been killed in a Shi'a uprising in 1991.
You would think that this story should be the big news that could be taken the most of to justify an already finished war, specially in the absence of any evidence on weapons of mass distraction ... I am sorry, I meant destruction. But this has not happened for some reasons yet.
However, wouldn't these discoveries dig up previous US administration's mistakes? Mistakes like encouraging Shia and Kurdish revolt, and then stepping aside when the time came.
We knew the existence of these mass graves all along. There is no doubt that Saddam's regime committed many unspeakable crimes. Did those who supported him during the '80s know this? You might say you didn't know what kind of criminal you dealt with. Perhaps you who read my ramblings didn't know, but I would be surprised if people on the top weren't aware. If they weren't truly aware, well, maybe it is time to have more knowledgeable politicians.
But is our memory short? When the talks of a new war began, "liberation" was NOT on the table. All was discussed was terrorism and how Saddam was lurking for an attack on the American soil at any time. I vividly remember TV shows where panelist suggested, "maybe acting now is even too late, he may have shipped his dirty bombs via commercial ships to the US ports by now".
The so called liberation was NEVER the reason for waging war against Iraq till the very last few days leading up to the war. To say such findings justify that bloody war would be like giving countries such as the US a blank cheque for waging war on the basis of mere speculations.
- I am afraid that there are too many self-righteous people in this world who cannot fix their own daily life issues and yet they have no hesitation to poke their nose into the affairs that they simply don't have any clue of --to say the least they give their blessings to those who do the nose poking job. I admire your idealism and all that, but where were you when they asked for help in 1991?
- I am also afraid skeletons are in every country's closet. If they are brought out, they could be used as a cause for just about anything.
Thursday, May 15, 2003
Mummies return, and more ...
I am not in the mood of writing. But here are a few things that I have in mind and I leave most of the job of conveying message to the links I have provided here:
- Mummies Return:
You may know how I think when emigrants of a country make political comments on their old country: Frozen in time. That includes me as well by the way. But hey, we are all free to make comments.
Judging from that, you should be able to imagine how I would also feel about the return of mummified Pharaohs, otherwise known as Monarchists, to Iran. As Michael Ledeen gives life to them, I am thinking although they look cool on the big screen when you have pop corn handy, going through a whole regime-change and all that in the real life, then I start feeling ... read for yourself. Courtesy of Payvand News.
There are many things I have recently come across regarding him, but as his ideas have not been taken seriously by the Bush administration yet, I am not going to waste my time on his day dreams.
- Ledeen vs Margolis:
Speaking of Ledeen, I don't know why I left a vague comment here. If I didn't want to raise curiosity, I shouldn't have taken down such comment. Else I should have given it more detail. I got the fifth email on that today, asking for more detail. The funny thing is that 2 out of 5 used Ledeen vs Margolis as the subject of their email. Well, the last email got it almost right. I looked up what the sender had guessed in the Internet and I found the big picture.
What was discussed between Eric Margolis and Michael Ledeen in a political show, was the details of who did what and who carried what part of a conspriacy theory. I still don't want to spread unconfirmed rumors. But as it is all over the Internet, there you are if you are ready to get your eyes burned --instead of your ears: Another conspiracy theory, the big picture.
update: What was questioned in that particular political TV show was regarding certain events in 1982 that some believe were initiated by October Surprise. I don't know if certain conspiracy theories are true or not. All I know is that what we see is not necessarily what happens in reality. Are you out of the Matrix yet? ;)
- Not enough fun for devils in Ottawa, eh?
The New Jersey Devils did not stay in Ottawa between Games 1 and 2 of their Stanley Cup semifinal series against the Senators last week. They simply flew home to spend 48 hours in East Rutherford. "If you look around, there's not much to do around here." New Jersey goalie, Martin Brodeur, told reporters.
Funful East Rutherford?Fun free Ottawa? Hello?
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
Roots of the Islamic terrorism, cold war
We all may have heard arguments like, " ... these kind of crises exist wherever Muslims are, whether in the Philippines, Indonesia, Kashmir, Chechnya, or Nigeria". Then commentators conclude there is something wrong with Islam or its followers, or muslims are branded as problematic.
You may have also heard of the word 'Wahabism'. It started as an Islamic cult in Saudi Arabia almost 100 years ago and then it burst to prominence around 20 years ago by the green light of the US and its dollar in the hands of the Saudis. Why?
Revolutionaries in Iran initially felt offended to see their revolution's thunder in the Islamic world was stolen by a Saudi/American backed movement that started to pick a fight with almost anyone. Although Iran's revolution was not on a scale to deserve such an attention from the Americans and training and investment from the Saudis, this militant movement with its radical views managed to "touch every heart" in the Sunni dominated Islamic world that Iran's revolution would have deemed to touch.
Apart from taking the Iranian revolution to sidelines, the main purpose was pushing back the Soviets in the cold war's battle fields from the Philippines and Indonesia to Chechnya. American politicians couldn't care less who they would ally with back then. They half wittingly and half unintentionally provided room for the most extreme faction of the militant Islam to grow. The Saudis, too, through their Madarras, religious schools, promoted Wahabism. The cell members of the terrorist organizations were later selected from the pupils of these schools. The frontline of the cold war along the Muslim countries became of course Afghanistan. That was where the Saudi spin-off, the Taliban, rose from its launching pad in the northern Pakistan. You may have heard that northern Pakistan is also is bastion of Wahabism, eh? If all of these was coincidence, it must have been a massive coincidence!!!
The next generation US administration after the cold war made another mistake: failure to do something about the left-overs from the cold war. So not only the terrorist cells remained as they were, but also they regrouped to take on a new enemy: the United States of America. In doing so, they even freely slipped to other countries that were not directly involved in the cold war. And the rest is what we have seen recently.
I have to add that from what I see on CNN, many people inside the US administration have recognized these fault lines and are acting to fix them behind the scene. However, they are those who try to divert the attention to sideshows like Iran and Syria. They have already managed to do it regarding Iraq.
Note: There have been always other Islamic militant groups who did terrorist activities. However, their rein did NOT go further than a local region. Its has been always Wahabi-trained groups who had a more global reach due to the factors mentioned.
P.S. The Saudi government's direct involvement is more complicated than that, as there is a wide spectrum of opinion within or influencing the kingdom. Even though the more conservative elements within the regime contributed more to the rise of this tide, the moderates of the same system made somehow the hit list of the terrorists as well.
Traffic laws ... democracy
This post is a round-up of some comments on the line of the disucssion I am having here.
Valerio, who is from Italy, gave my previous post, life in Iran , an Italian spin in his weblog. In doing so, he has switched my jay-walking metaphor with wearing seatbelts that has apparently the same implications in Italy. This spin gave me some foods for thought.
Certainly traffic laws, both for drivers and pedestrians, are observed with different emphasis within the borders of a country. Each region twists the traffic codes according to its road fabric, population, and so forth. Driving habits and tolerance toward driving habits are different in the French dominant city of Montréal as opposed to Toronto. Inside Ontario, too, the same things are totally poles apart between the big city of Toronto and the small city of Hamilton.
Now put it in a global angle. What you end up having will be the exact same thing that we have in our world regarding diverse traffic codes and diverse traffic behaviors.
Now, do we really expect the complicated notions like democracy and human rights to be observed with the same emphasis throughout the whole world? So if you lived in, let’s say Canada, and had some ideals developed in your mind, how would you share them? How would you sell them to people in the rest of the world? Would you insist on one set of rules and standards of democracy for the whole world? The much simpler traffic laws' analogy shows complete failure in some parts of the world.
You might say that you would need to know and understand people who would buy those ideals. As Dave once put in one the comments, we cannot understand our wives who live with us under the same roof. How are we going to understand the people in far-flung parts of the world?
P.S. Although I cannot complain about the number of my site's vistors, I could be surprised to see the low number of comments. I think I should change my discussions to topics like these -- courtesy of Dave, to expect more comments ;)
Monday, May 12, 2003
Stop at the red light - Before changing the government
I came across this article, by Farhad Radmehrian, that had appeared on Iranian.com. Courtesy of observations of Tehran life -- a cool weblog. It was so thought-provocative that made me write the prequisite to a discussion -- previous entry.
In a nutshell, the author raises instances of traffic law breaches and expands on them. Then he draws this conclusion:
I believe the solution to Iran's current political and social deadlock has to begin with small steps from the grassroots. It begins with stopping for the red light, using the pedestrian crosswalk, respecting the lanes, honoring the next person's right in a movie theatre queue, etc, etc.
Indeed, much work remains to be done before simply replacing the figureheads at the top!
I have my own critiques on how he jumps into such a conclusion based on abiding the traffic codes. But he eventually comes down to something that I used to believe in. With a large population of impatient young poeple in Iran that presses on changes at any costs I am not sure where I stand now though. I am not sure any longer, either, if these small steps led to democracy in the West or they were just by-products of the West's democratization. It's too late now (half past 11pm) for my brain to answer chicken and egg questions, but his conclusion strikes a cord with me. I leave the questions for you to answer.
Life in Iran
One of the examples I usually bring up to walk people through a very challenging concept to human-beings, i.e. life in Iran, is jay-walking ;)
Jay-walking is illegal and subject to certain amount of fine according to law; however, at the same time it is also tolerated. Hang on a second. Although the cops seem normally to be cool about it, jay-walking is still left to your discretion. Every so often cops run special projects to take the instances of this law's breach under acceptable levels.
The same thing is valid in Iran for jay-walking as well. Now try harder to apply this pattern to every imaginable aspect of your life. In Tehran, on an ordinary day, you can break the law from dawn to dusk, often unknowingly. If caught, though, you have to sometimes pay much higher prices than you would pay for a jay-walk.
Tehranis are expert at stretching the better-known laws: everyone knows where to buy alcoholic beverages or get the newly released Block Buster movies while it is still in theatres in North America. They get on with their lives, "... and it does NOT make any difference whether it is the Shah, Khomeini, or this lot in charge", I was once hinted by an elderly wise man many years ago "this has been our way of life for centuries".
So as you see things are NOT as bad as you may have pictured. Having said that, things ARE really bad. Fiddling the rules is a way of life and a sad and hollow way to consume the vision and energy of millions of people.
My issues with polls
There are always three critiques that I have on the result of a poll:
- Many pollsters have access to a circle of people with certain commonalities linking them to the pollster, e.g. viewers/ readers of the same TV program or newspaper that runs the poll.
- The same people react differently to the same question when the question is re-worded. To get the point across, I make a gross exaggeration:
Canadian would have reacted quite differently to the two questions of:
1- Would you like to see Canada support the US in its invasion of Iraq and defiance of the UN?
2- Would you like to see Canada support the US in its effort to bring about democracy to Iraq and remove a brutal dictator?
The way the questions are put is a delicate subject that draws a lot of attention from the pollsters.
- Public opinion changes in a short period of time. Sometimes it takes only a few weeks for the public opinion to tilt to the opposite side it would take initially. The classic example is the polls taken before and after wars in any country.
P.S. Duh! Why did I state such an obvious here? You will see, like a software programmer, who “calls” his previous codes, I am going to “call” this piece of writing in other posts.
Sunday, May 11, 2003
Putting something into perspective - Iran's Internet restriction
It has been a while since I felt I would be double standard if didn't write about Iran's latest restrictions while I keep writing on certain policies of the current US administration. But wait a second, there is less damage to the smaller animals and plants when a fox walks in a forest as opposed to when an elephant moves. You may want to cry foul till the end of the world that Iranian government has banned quite a few websites. As bad as it sounds and it really is, let me put it into the right perspective.
- Iran is a country where only a tiny percentage of the population has access to the Internet. So I expect only a fraction of that tiny percentage to care about it.
- I look at it as a doomed attempt as it was doomed elsewhere too. On the bright side, Iranians will always find a way to get around it. It is our name. Everything that has banned in Iran, has always found its way to the Iranian households too. Weren't video-set banned in Iran 20 years ago? Weren't alcoholic drinks banned in Iran? Wasn't mingling of boys and girls in public banned in Iran? Didn't the number of breaches of those bans skyrocket? So I look at this restriction as a boost for the Internet in Iran , not in short term though.
- Although I don't have anything against those who blow these kinds of news out of the proportion since pressure always helps, I don't approve of them. Iran is the jail of the journalists in the Middle East. That's right. But no other country in the region, except Israel that is democratic, has the quasi-freedom of the press that Iran does. Jounalists won't get arrested where a total police state is in place. By the way did I mention all of those countries that have no free press happen to be the US ally? Well, now I did. Did I mention those who focus on just certain countries' slips never talk about their allies? I guess I did again. I am just putting finger on an apparent double standard here.
- Governements even in the free world have an eye on the people's Internet activities. They even ban certain sites based on their content from time to time. No, I am NOT talking about child porn sites. So why would you be surprised to see this restriction from a country that is not so well-reputed in freedom?
I browsed the list of the websites. Let me tell you this. If McArthur was in charge today, he would not only shut down some of those websites, but also he would do a witch-hunting against the commie guys behind those sites.
So let's put everything into perspective when we talk about different things. I am not suggesting people what to say or write since I believe in a free Internet and above all diversity. It is not my business, either, to suggest things to people. Plus, if everyone wanted to take on the same topics, we wouldn't be able to address the other issues. Disclaimer: I don't count myself as part of any issue-addressing group.
However, for me, I ask myself this question: Wouldn’t I be double standard if I ignored the policies of an administration that affect the lives of thousands of people and could and will change the fate of many nations around the world, and wrote on some globally minor issues that affects the lives very few people instead? But I guess this is just me.
Internet? While Iranians have hard time dealing with more serious issues? While the world faces more serious issues that indirectly affects Iranians in way that the Internet doesn't? Give me a break.
A note back from self
So my self writes me back, an answer to my request put in the previous post:
I can't help it. It is more of a sensitivty than anything else these days that your country of birth has come closer to the spot light. Or at least you think it has come to that place.
I was trying to take the time to write 'My Pub Talks', a round-up of the chats you and I have had in pubs --not together, but with other people, when, as Leonard Cohen puts it, "Johnny Walker wisdom" kicks in. But you know, sometimes you get bogged down. Wish me out of this.
Friday, May 09, 2003
Note to self: enough of politics
This site is getting boring. Get back to social, life, and other easy-going matters. Otherwise I am outta here. Keep your posts short and enjoy your weekend as well.
I was curious to know if this bomb us, please is what Iranians think. So I did a bit of a research through the small circle of people I know in Iran and asked their input based on their respective circle of people around them. Even I was surprised to learn that if there was one thing that defines an average Iranian in this diverse and polarized nation, this would be the one: They have dropped the letter 'r' in the word 'revolution' long time ago, let alone a direct invasion by a foreign country.
However, there seems to be many things uniting them. And this could be the second thing. If you read it, please read it in its entirety to see things from an Iranian perspective. On the other side of the pond, Iranians don't see their country as a "threat to the world peace". The days of exporting the revolution are long gone, but apparently these days are not over for some hawks in Washington and their own violent form of "democratic revolution" export. Thanks to Mr. Ledeen and his fellow mindset-alikes, in advance, for uniting Iranians more than ever.
Would Israel cease to exist once Iran gets hold of A-bomb? Mark asks. He and I both agree that simply won't happen. It does not sound very convincing, does it? Especially if it does not come out from CNN. Who am I who's saying NO? Let me tell you this though. A-bomb in the middle east is looked at as just a bargaining leverage. Moreover, most of the rhetoric that we hear coming out of the Middle East, or Iran, has internal public consumption to justify an arms race to achieve the "right" bargaining leverages. I have learned not to read too much into them. Just think about it for a second, the most conservative people in Iran are smart enough, unlike Saddam, not to mess with Israel directly knowing there is a giant elephant that has thrown its weight behind that country. If you have doubts about it, I can assure you, your knowledge on the Iranian politics leaves to be desired.
Mark also argues:
Not only does Israel have nukes, they have chemical and biological weapons stockpiles as well. Although they are in clear violation of the 1968 non-proliferation treaty, this has always been an open secret; and objections against this violation have been largely ignored by the US.
Having said that I have an issue with nuclear power plants in general. If a country wants to obtain A-bomb there are many other simpler and quieter ways than building a big power plant that draws suspicion and attention.
P.S. I am personally for a WMD-free region with no exception.
Bomb us, please
Since I changed the subjects in my weblog from gun control and sunflower seeds -- I still think those posts were the best, to political ones, I have received two emails from two Iranians, asking questions like this --I am paraphrasing:
"Hooman, it is easy to live in a peaceful country like Canada and recommend other Iranians or Iraqis to bear with their plight. Someone must help them out of their misery."
Here has been my answer. Keep in mind that I guessed the whereabouts of their locations from their email address:
"Dear so and so, it is apparently easier to live in the 'Beautiful British Columbia' [or sunny California] and recommend people in Iran and Iraq that bombs could help them out of your misery.", and I continued "Would say the same things if you knew you or your family would be directly affected by the falling freedom bombs?"
I think most of these people take these arguments straight from their hips when living somewhere safe. "What if they live in Iran or Iraq and still insist that?", you may wonder. Click here to see what I think.
Well, let's see what a person with a closer insight of "liberation" bombarding-style think. I was so waiting for someone to read the whole journals of the Iraqi blogger who has recently crawled out of Shock'n'Awe, and it happened, courtesy of BBC:
"War sucks big time. Don't let yourself ever be talked into having one waged in the name of your freedom," reads one of the most recent entries.
"To see your city destroyed before your own eyes is not a pain that can be described and put to words," he wrote, "the American Government is getting as many curses as the Iraqi."
"Somehow when the bombs start dropping or you hear the sound of machine guns at the end of your street you don't think about your 'imminent liberation' anymore"
Here is a run-down of what he used to think once under the Shock'n'Awe. Of course I have chosen the quotes selectively. What else did you expect? I am a biased person like anyone else. But at least I admit it.
Relevant reading: Self-esteem
Brain behind Washington's foreign policy
This post is a summary of William O. Beeman's column at Alternet.org. He teaches anthropology and directs Middle East Studies at Brown University.
Most Americans have never heard of Michael Ledeen, but if the United States ends up in an extended shooting war throughout the Middle East, it will be largely due to his inspiration.
A fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, Ledeen holds a Ph.D. in History and Philosophy from the University of Wisconsin. He is a former employee of the Pentagon, the State Department and the National Security Council. As a consultant working with NSC head Robert McFarlane, he was involved in the transfer of arms to Iran during the Iran-Contra affair ? an adventure that he documented in the book "Perilous Statecraft: An Insider's Account of the Iran-Contra Affair." His most influential book is last year's "The War Against the Terror Masters: Why It Happened. Where We Are Now. How We'll Win."
Ledeen's ideas are repeated daily by such figures as Richard Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz. His views virtually define the stark departure from American foreign policy philosophy that existed before the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001. He basically believes that violence in the service of the spread of democracy is America's manifest destiny. Consequently, he has become the philosophical legitimator of the American occupation of Iraq.
Now Michael Ledeen is calling for regime change beyond Iraq. In an address entitled "Time to Focus on Iran ? The Mother of Modern Terrorism," for the policy forum of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) on April 30, he declared, "the time for diplomacy is at an end; it is time for a free Iran, free Syria and free Lebanon."
With a group of other conservatives, Ledeen recently set up the Center for Democracy in Iran (CDI), an action group focusing on producing regime change in Iran.
Quotes from Ledeen's works reveal a peculiar set of beliefs about American attitudes toward violence. "Change ? above all violent change ? is the essence of human history," he proclaims in his book, "Machiavelli on Modern Leadership: Why Machiavelli's Iron Rules Are as Timely and Important Today as Five Centuries Ago." In an influential essay in the National Review Online he asserts, "Creative destruction is our middle name. We do it automatically ... it is time once again to export the democratic revolution."
Iraq, Iran and Syria are the first and foremost nations where this should happen, according to Ledeen. The process by which this should be achieved is a violent one, termed "total war."
"Total war not only destroys the enemy's military forces, but also brings the enemy society to an extremely personal point of decision, so that they are willing to accept a reversal of the cultural trends," Ledeen writes. "The sparing of civilian lives cannot be the total war's first priority ... The purpose of total war is to permanently force your will onto another people."
Clearly a final decision has not been made on whether the United States will continue military action in Iran, Syria and Lebanon. But Ledeen has a notable track record. He was calling for attacks against Iraq throughout the 1990s, and the U.S. invasion on March 19 was a total fulfillment of his proposals. His attacks against the CIA and the State Department have contributed to the exclusion of these intelligence bodies from any effective decision making on Iraq. His attacks on Iran, even when Iran was assisting the United States, helped keep the Bush administration from seeking any rapprochement with Tehran. Were it in Ledeen's hands, we would invade Iran today.
Given both his fervor and his influence over the men with the guns, Americans should not be surprised if Ledeen's pronouncements come true.
My comments: A few months ago when there was still a sense of diversity of opinions in Canada's political TV programs, Michael Ledeen attended one of them as a panelist via satellite from Washington. The whole half of an hour program was on Iran. He had to face a mind-blowing question from another panelist, Eric Margolis. Ledeen denied any knowledge of the subject or involvement in it. I cannot give any more details since it would count as a baseless allegation, but it was really really really mind-blowing. It kinda made sense to me and I think it would do the same to all other Iranians. This guy sounds like the devil himself.
My American friends, the sanity of the whole world hinges on you.
Thursday, May 08, 2003
Liberated from the media
I hate to use black and white expressions like liberal and conservative, or left and right. But I have used them from time to time to save extra explanations. Here I do it again.
I used to read newspapers and watch TV news a lot more than these days. But in the course of time, I axed one newspaper after another and one TV newscast after
another. The number of slashes increased dramatically since the Iraq's war started. I still watch CBC's National program, though. Add BBC to that too. They both happen to be state owned by the way, another reason, on top of the free health care, education and other things, why I have mixed feelings toward the small government .
Why am I slimming my list down? I have started detecting a sense of big bias in favor of the right-wingers. I dropped a political discussion off my list where a panelist from an organization with the word "peace" in its name reflected pro-war sentiments !!! And he was supposed to balance out the more pro-war panelists in a program that had attracted me because of the difference in opinion I would provide me.
The latest victim in my list is the revered Canadiann ewspaper of the Globe and Mail with its TV commercial where its readers leave X-ray type images of their glowing brains on metal detectors machine while passing through the machine's frame at airports. My favorite part of the paper was the comment section. It used to bring columns from both left and right, even though many would have called the paper right wing way before all these. As the discussions on a probable war on Iraq got more serious, the tone of comments changed. Even though they
claim otherwise, and might bring up Naomi Klein's return as an instance, but I have noticed so many of their left wing columnists start writing in commondreams.org.
What happened the other day put the last drop in my patience's bucket. A full page commentary on Iran with a picture of Iran's clergy was the first thing caught my eyes. The column was from a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, Michael Ledeen. He argues that Washington should put Iran next in its fight against terrorism and the best way to do it is a "new revolution". He was a moderator of a one-day conference on the future of Iran on the very same day. The way I used to know Globe and Mail would have worked was that for this out of whack and quite out-front comment, they would have published a contradictory comment the very next day or a few days after the first opinion. So far nothing. In
that specific conference there happened to be a lot of different opinions that simply branded Mr Ledeen's a mere wishful thinking.
Canada's political debates on the English language TVs are getting more and more one-sided, and there are no English language paper outside of a few exclusive clubs that reflect a different perspective.
Does that explain why a nation that initially was determined to stay out of the war in all polls ended up deeply divided in another poll conducted by the same company that happens to run the Globe and Mail? Speaking of reliability of polls, at the same time there were other polls suggesting that a certain political party became the least popular one because of its vocal support of the war!!!
P.S. I may want to add Blogger to my black list too since it gave me a hard time while I was editting ;)
Ice thaws in spring, or does it?
I don't care if the Iranian reformists MPs call for restoration of ties between Iran and the US since they cannot even enforce what they agree on to begin with. However, once Iran's foreign minister urges better ties with Washington, I think to myself, "hmmm ... that could mean something". "What's the difference? We hear the Iranian government is equally powerless", you might ask.
There is a bit of a difference here though. Iran's foreign minister's speeches and comments are very well pre-planned, thought out and agreed upon by both conservatives and reformists in the country. I would pay a closer attention to what he says.
Iran has been trying to warm up its relations with the US since 9/11. But instead it got "axis of evil" in response right off the bat. Then although Iran collaborated in America's fight against the common enemy in Afghanistan, Taliban, it got a colder shoulder instead. Well, things have not been that one-sided. Frustrated by cold responses from Washington, it was once declared illegal any calls for restoring relations with the United States.
This time, though, things look different. Here are my 2 cents:
From the American standpoint the important thing is to have a hassle and distraction-free presidential election. And with Iraq and its Shia majority keen to have a government like their neighbor to the east, things would not be as distraction-free as they may want to be if Iran did not fall in line somehow.
However, for Iran, stakes are much higher. Do I really need to explain this?
Take it into this regional perspective: Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said he is ready for unconditional negotiations with Syria, three years after talks broke down over the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. source
Are you following me? Or do I sound like always confusing? ;) It's time for diplomacy for a while now, or is it?
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
Self-esteem - long overdue post
The emergence of some people in certain Middle Eastern countries who long for foreign invasion to their country certainly defies common sense. This defiance is especially more visible when you don’t have any direct exposure to the mindset of people in the countries mentioned above. I cannot speak of other less fortunate countries in other parts of the world with the same confidence; however, I wouldn't be surprised to find cravings of the same nature elsewhere too.
Definitely it is a social failure that its analysis is beyond my ken. But I can say that the sheer lack of self-esteem in parts of a nation simply blows every westerner's mind away on encountering this fact for the first time. "Do these people have the same mentality as suicide bombers, but different cause?", I was once asked half jokingly, half seriously, "'Cause these two groups seem to suffer from masochism." Although I thought the comparisons and comments were a bit off, I could find something in them to think about.
I guess national syndromes of this nature (leave the suicide bombings aside for now) are not developed overnight and are not built up even during 20-30 years of oppression, yet it’s a deeper issue in the psyche of a nation. What do you think?
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
Next stop, Tehran Updated
Michael Ledeen, author of The War Against the Terror Masters, is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and moderator of a conference on the future of Iran taking place today in Washington D.C.
To have a big picture of Washington's who's who and where the American Enterprise Institute fits, go to my previous post.
He believes Tehran should be next on the "war against terror". "Happily, it doesn't seem necessary to wage war in order to accomplish regime change in Tehran and Damascus. Political warfare is the order of the day, just as we brought down Slobodan Milosevic in Yugoslavia, the Marcoses in the Philippines, and regimes in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia in the latter days of the Cold War.", he says,"I have no doubt that many Western countries will come to this conclusion, and collectively support the incipient democratic revolution that will start in Iran."
On the other hand, here is what Gary Sick, a Columbia University expert, believs on the same subject that strikes a cord with me:
''The argument among the American ayatollahs (of conservatism) is that the only solution for Iran is to get rid of the regime,'' says Sick. "They say that the Iranian people are ready to rise up, the regime is about to collapse, but people in Iran say this is just nonsense. The situation in Iran was far more unsettled in 1999 than it is now,'' added Sick, who noted that suspicions among Iranians that Washington is already trying to manipulate the internal situation is complicating the life of (Iran's) reformers''. Source.
The hawks have been encouraged in that view by much of the Iranian exile community, according to Gary Sick. For that matter I don't think people who have chosen the easy life abroad, including me, can have a say in it as much as someone living with realities on the ground. Why? Because.
If one crisis, e.g. 9/11, can push a democratic country to a direction whereby privacy and human rights are compromised, what would happen to a crisis-ridden country? I have lived in a country whose prime minister and president were assassinated at the same time and at the same place. And yet that was just the smallest drop in the crisis bucket of the country.
On a totally unrelated matter, the same cult-like group that carried out the attack has come to an agreement in Iraq with US recently to keep their arms. Speaking of war on terrorism!
Anyways it seems to me that on the face of crises, all governments act more or less the same. Some governments actually use the pretext of a sustaining crisis to declare emergency measures, the best excuse to say goodbye to democracy. This crisis factor could explain why moderates and reformists evolve from the body of revolutions during the peaceful --uncritical, times: some predator animals start picking on one another in the absence of a prey, as you know.
Monday, May 05, 2003
Chance for democracy in Iran?
This post is an answer to a few questions I have been asked on Iran after Khatami and whether he is really a chance for democracy in Iran. The jubilant mood that succeeded Khatami's rise to presidency in Iran has certainly subsided to a large degree. And there are many reasons to it:
- Khatami's weakness in delivering his promises to people. He is weak by the power given to him through the constitution. The same weakness is also shared by the Iranian parliament, the legislative branch of the government. Plus, he is not an assertive president at all, something that sometimes seems to be more effective than anything else. He is an intelligent person, though, who can play the role of an intellectual at his free time.
- A large group of reformists accompanied Khatami, many of whom happened to be the old henchmen of the conservative theocratic system. As an ironic example, those who were directly involved in the American embassy crisis, are now at the forefront of establishing relationship with US.
Once SOME people came to this realization, they got the impression that what they had witnessed all along was a pre-planned show, whereby their votes were manipulated too; a sham whereby the Iranian government would get a more legitimaized image.
On the other hand, to the few people who have read history and know how in the French, Russian, American, and any other revolutions, for that matter, reformists evolve from the old followers of revolutions, this was less than a surprise. It was yet another revolution following the same pattern, a natural evolution. However, for the rest of us uninterested in the abstract subjetcs, this concept is hard to digest ;)
Staying on the same point, like many other revolutions, some of these old henchmen, who had been alienated by their fellow comrades for any reasons in the past, found conforming into reformist group a very good opportunity to maintain their interests.
- Young people who make up a large portion of population. For young people anywhere in the world, including me, there is no such a word as PATIENCE. Did you notice how I squeezed in among the young ;) What young people want is ALL and they want it NOW. The young people's wish is contradictory to what people interested in the abstract subjects, aka history, may find. What other revolutions' history teaches them is that it takes a couple of more generations at least till Iran walks past its most critical period of its recent history on the most optimum pathway. However, this demographic imbalance may knock down the whole unstable balance to a total instability. Well, I admit I used blanket phrases here.
- A huge victory that brought him to power definitely got SOME people's hopes unrealistically high. Naturally once the realities set in, these folks started feeling extra skeptical and frustrated.
All in all it seems that apart from very few people, the weary majority has naturally given up the politics and prefers to get along their daily life through the harsh economic situation. Many within the circle of the people I know back in Iran have settled for changes in the course of times. Having said that, Iranians are very diverse and polarized on certain issues. You can always find the right people voicing what you want to hear.
In this situation, we might hear more often from some Iranians who long for an American "liberation" or have more radical views. Although, to me, these groups don't represent the majority, their voice is and will be a good sell by the western media. It is always interesting to hear eccentric news on eccentric people with eccentric views.
Relevant reading: Who's next after Iraq?
Sunday, May 04, 2003
Weapons of mass destruction
I don't understand why some people are in such a rush to jump into certain conclusions. Like the conclusion that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And yet wrose, they wave this conclusion in the face of the US administrations as a reason that the administration was lying all along. Hey people what's the rush? Calm down. You have to give the weapon inspections more time ;) till those weapons are found, and you will see that Iraq had defyed the UN and didn't demolish those weapons. That's why the US defyed the UN and invaded Iraq ;)
P.S. The original idea for this was from the Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
P.P.S. This neutrally put homour can be easily interpreted in any directions. You pick yours.
Saturday, May 03, 2003
Polarized society and democracy - Iranian example
If you are North American and think you live in a diverse society, let me walk you through this:
Forget about ethnic diversity. It is not too unfair to say that the developing countries with a history of being colonized suffer from a deeply divided and polarized society. Polarized between what? Between tradition, modernity (read Westernization), and nationalism. Although, these three pillars exist in the Western countries as well, they don’t leave as deep impacts as they do in the societies described earlier. My cliché example is always Algeria, a former colony of France; however, the country I can confidently talk about is Iran. Even though it never became a colony –there is more to it though, the Iranian society reflects patterns of a former colony to a certain extent.
Like many cosmopolitan North American cities, Tehran serves as a big melting pot for new job seekers from around the country. It is a melting pot in a sense that regardless of people's ethnic and cultural backgrounds, second generation Tehranis conform into "Tehrani" culture and upbringing. Like all of its North American counterparts, Tehran also reflects different lifestyles, preferences, and mentalities. It is not hard to find neighborhoods with totally different and sometimes conflicting cultures. Driving in northern Tehran leaves you with a totally different impression than driving in the south. Women dress differently to begin with and it is not a question of wealth. Black chadors in the south and colorful scarves wrapped loosely around the heads in the north are just more than different tastes of fashion. Mind you, there are many affluent neighborhoods in southern Tehran. There are families, residents of certain southerly neighborhoods, who manage a noticeable portion of the economy in the market, locally known as "the Bazaar." We also tend to forget there are families who perceive watching TV, as is in the Islamic country, religiously forbidden, and yet there are people who won't miss any opportunity to go on a religion bashing spree. There are also people in between, people who don't see any conflict between their religious beliefs and modernity or westernization. Consequently, there is a vast variety of family cultures developed, based on personal interpretations. They range from people who break their fast with a glass of wine to people who refuse to wear foreign made leather jackets or shoes, because of the probable un-Islamic killing of the calf whereby the leather comes from. The extreme cases described here make up an insignificant part of the society in terms of perhaps numbers, but they show a wide spectrum developed in Tehran. Yet all the cases I mentioned come from the same religious faction and ethnic background.
Can you define an average Iranian now? How about the mainstream Iranian mindset? Will you know what people on the ground think and want? How will you find some common ground among the population to work out a democracy? After all, there should be some common ground for democracy to blossom. Or is it that democracy is a viable way to work out where there are diversities? Or a bit of the both?
Internal battles in the most influential city of the world
On 17th Street, Washington DC, every Tuesday the leading neo-conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute, holds its "black coffee morning". Before Bush took his oath, AEI had issued an astonishing paper urging the US to ally with Israel and "strike fatally" at Damascus, Baghdad, Tripoli, Teheran and Gaza, to "establish the recognition that fighting either the United States or Israel is suicidal."
Just around the corner, on K Street, is the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Here on Wednesdays, a very different viewpoint of the Republican Party is portrayed. This is the place where Colin Powell had given one of his main speeches just before a key United Nations vote. He pointed to the difficulties of both the military and reconstruction task.
A few blocks away, the Brookings Institution - Washington's first think tank --holds its sessions on Thursday mornings. Many former members of the Clinton administration's foreign policy team take part, including Kenneth Pollack. His book, The Threatening Storm, argued for a war against Iraq because containment had failed and Saddam Hussein had to be disarmed soon. Mr Pollack is one of “realists” who are the targets of the neo-conservatives. The realists see limits to US power and, in contrast to those at AEI, worry much more about alienating European allies.
On the other hand, the "idealists" want a multilateral world order based on the UN. Their Washington base is the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, next door to Brookings on assachusetts Avenue. Jessica Matthews, its president, had urged the US to give the UN inspectors more time before abandoning diplomacy.
But Carnegie is also the home to the leading neo-conservative, Robert Kagan. who argues that Europe and America have irreconcilable differences over the use of force due to their history and culture.
Got confused? Now get this. Just across the street is another academic institution, the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, which was headed by the leading Pentagon hawk, Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz.
That’s astonishing to me how close and inter-related these think tanks are. And yet whoever prevails, they will influence the conduct of US foreign policy for years to come, not just in the Middle East, but across the world.
P.S. This post was a summery of a few different sources. Finally my quest to make a head or tail of Washington's Who's Who is over.
Friday, May 02, 2003
Re: Requisites of democracy - rundown of previous discussions
Before anything, I must welcome all of you, new readers, including my now more regular reader from the US State Department. But let me tell you, if you watch me ...[trembling voice] ... I watch you too in my site hit counter...actually I have read your website, the US State Department thing, too and that was ... [gulping fearfully]... good ;)
Now to the serious stuff. Judging from the incoming emails I get these days, it seems that I have thrown off some of my new readers a bit by my last posts. So I need to give some explanation where I am coming from.
I am against war. Note: I did not say anti-war. There is only one answer to being directly attacked: war. That ambiguous exception, that can be interpreted in many ways, aside, I strongly believe invading another country is wrong. And the human side of it is very important to me. But I have not written on it except carrying a comment from Canada's best selling singer of all time, Neil Young, on the Iraqi war for a while. I didnt see the reason to talk about Iraqi kids while pictures and many others can convey the message more powerfully than my wobbly writings. Dorna asks in her weblog and also in an email to me:
At the end of the day, is it not just a question of intent? In the Caribbean we have too often seen America's good albeit misinformed intentions go woefully awry. But I have a question of more sinister import. What if it's intentions are not altruistic?
I didnt explicitly touch on this area either, as there are a lot of arguments backing Dorna's, at least I feel that way. However, I brought a couple of theories that question the pro-war argument on it. I also brought up an example from Iran's quest for democracy that has been crawling since the1900's and has got derailed all the time by foreign influence. I also asked why I would trust foreign interference after examples like these. As a Persian saying goes, its absurd to try something already tried out.
So why did I choose this specific line of discussion I have been conducting? I felt being challenged on the arguments such as spreading democracy or getting rid of a brutal dictator, something that many anti-war or "against-war" people missed to put finger on. Simple as that.
In responding the challenge, I mentioned some previous wars like, Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, and Afghanistan. I wrote on Haiti in the Caribbean as well. I described how comparing Germany to Iraq is like comparing apples to oranges. I challenged pro-wars to give me an example where war had been done any good to people's lives. No answer. Later down the road, I put up a poll giving a wide range of options, from all-out war to the Middle East to leaving them alone. There were people who chose all-out war, or at least preferred to keep the war option open. I again challenged them to site me of a happy-ending war case. No answer yet. I have changed my restrictive method of feedback, hopefully to encourage shy pro-wars to step forward.