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Archive for the 'Middle East' Category

The Syrian Mess

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

The United States’ response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria comes down to a question of deterrence and not necessarily the chemical weapon use.  If the United States does not respond then deterrence will take a hit and this could result in serious set-backs to global security.

The United States is in this unpleasant situation because the administration claimed the use of chemical weapons is a red line that would be met with punishment.  That red line has now been crossed between nine and fourteen times according to reports and if there is no response our ability to provide credible deterrence will suffer more than it has already.

The United States did not have a credible deterrent against the Assad regime to begin with for a couple reasons.  First, the United States does not have a history of retaliating against the use of chemical weapons.  Chemical weapons were used in the Iran-Iraq war with no repercussions.  They were used by Saddam Hussein against Kurds in northern Iraq; once again with no retaliation.  As previously noted, it has been used several times during the Syrian civil war with little response.

Second, Assad is no fool.  He knows that after spending over a decade fighting two wars and helping rebels in Libya that the United States is war weary.  The people of this nation are tired of being the world’s police.  They are tired of having their sons and daughters coming back from far off lands missing limbs or in coffins.  This does not make people gung-ho about getting involved in a civil war.

However, President Obama drew a red line at the use of chemical weapons and now we must act.  Otherwise other red lines will mean little to our enemies.  In the future our presidents should refrain from drawing red lines except for extreme circumstances such as an attack against the United States or its allies and the use of nuclear weapon; not the use of chemical weapons in a civil war.  Neither Assad nor the rebels are allies of the United States, and the claim that chemical weapons kill indiscriminately does not hold water either.  To push for military intervention over the use of chemical weapons is to suggest that a cruise missile or a drone do not kill innocent civilians.

It would be a better use of resources to provide aid to the nations that have been over-run by refugees fleeing the civil war.

Dead Gaddafi for Halloween

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

I am thinking of dressing as dead Muammar Gaddafi for Halloween. But I want your opinion. Would it be too soon? What about dressing as slutty dead Muammar Gaddafi?

Christian preacher stirs up controversy in the EMU Amphitheater

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

“I have become a preaching machine!”

Thumping a well-worn blue Bible, Jed Smock – or Brother Jed, as he likes to be called – is one of the new faces generating controversy around the EMU Amphitheater for his confrontational preaching method. Sporting a bowtie, a sweater vest and a blue blazer, Brother Jed addresses individuals in the amphitheater audience and calls out to “wicked” and “promiscuous” students about how to “change their ways and follow Christ.”

A self-admitted “former hippie” who “found Jesus on a hippie commune in Africa,” Brother Jed is usually met with disdain, mockery and impassioned debate from students, groups such as the Alliance of Happy Atheists and random people walking by the amphitheater.

I had a chance to sit down with Brother Jed and talk about his presence on the University of Oregon.

Oregon Commentator: Why did you decide to preach in the University of Oregon amphitheater?
Brother Jed: I mean, you’re not going to get college students to get up and go to church early in the morning. So we need to go to them.
OC: Would you say you’ve made an impact [on campus]?
BJ: Oh, yes. I was just talking to someone who recently started reading the Bible. I get letters on my website, brotherjed.org, letters I’ve received from student over the years. They go something like this: “Dear Brother Jed, Your preaching made me so mad that I started reading the Bible to prove you wrong.” And then they find the faith!
OC: So is provoking people the main way you get your message across? It seems very in-your-face, very uncomfortable.
BJ: Yes, you need to engage the audience. I call it confrontational evangelism. The radical left [in the 1960s] talked of “confrontational politics,” really challenging the establishment. Whether you agree with their position or not, it worked… So yes, I want to stir up controversy and dialogue and debate… all college students are thinking about is mundane. They’re not asking “What is our moral foundation?” They aren’t the true questions, the right questions. They’re just focused on “Oh, I’ve got a test today” and “I hope I get laid tonight.” You’re distracted from God.
OC: Let’s talk a bit about how you became a Christian. You mentioned that you lived on a hippie commune in Africa…?
BJ: Yes, I did. One day a man who was dressed in Arabic attires – you know, a turban, a robe, all that – came preaching Jesus to us on Christmas Day, 1971. And we all laughed at him! But as a historian I had to admit that the Bible has great literary qualities. I mean, I was the son of an English professor and some of the greatest works of literature have been inspired by the Bible. So I thought I should read it for academic and spiritual purposes. I was going to study under the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India but I thought “Why don’t I study my religion instead?”
OC: So Judaism, Islam and Christianity all recognize Jesus as a prophet.
BJ: Well, the Jews don’t.
OC: Right. But still, all three religions come from the tree of Abraham. Would you say there’s kinship between Jews, Muslims and Christians?
BJ: Islam denies that Jesus died on the cross. The Qur’an says that “God had no son”… so really Islam is an attack on Christianity. They deny Jesus’ sacrifice. We’re different. No, we believe in the Trinity. We believe Jesus is God!
OC: Has being in academia informed how you preach?
BJ: Yes. I remember reading the Bible and wanting to tell the good news to people! But there’s only so much you can do inside a building, so I decided to go outside.
OC: Would you say you appeal to reason in your preaching?
BJ: It’s about preaching but it’s also about teaching. It’s an appeal to man’s conscience, recognizing this party lifestyle and trying to get them thinking about their life. Most students aren’t thinkers, they’re feelers. So I appeal to that emotion.
OC: Let’s talk about Satan. Do you believe in Satan, that there is an evil force out there?
BJ: I do believe in a fallen angel, Lucifer does mean “bringer of light.” He was perfect in all of his. But they found sin in him. So he rally one third of the angels to rebel against God. Now that took a long time, that’s not an overnight thing… I do believe Lucifer became frustrated with God because God governs the universe not by sheer force but by love. And love puts restraints on us all. It’s like our soldiers over in Afghanistan… if we didn’t have this Christian morality, we’d just wipe ‘em all out, get it over with, y’know? [Laughs] But God is about love, so we can’t do that. God is gonna demonstrate that love always wins. The Devil has all this experience in the realms of hate and power, but what looks stronger than Jesus hanging on the cross? Love defeated hate on the cross. Love will defeat evil.
OC: Would you say the devil is on college campuses? How do you reason that?
BJ: I do believe in demonic possession. I don’t think any students are possessed, but the Devil does influence us with temptations.
OC: What kind of temptations?
BJ: The drugs, the alcohol and the sex before marriage… they all make us morally weak. Drugs and alcohol puts our conscience to sleep. And the music! They’re listening to this decadent rock music, or hip-hop and this music is seductive!
OC: Thank you for your time, Brother Jed.

A story on the controversy surrounding Brother Jed will be available in the forthcoming Commentator.

Feds uncover Bin Laden porn stash

Saturday, May 14th, 2011

American officials have uncovered what appears to be Osama Bin Laden’s porn stash in his Abbottabad compound, and it’s “fairly extensive” according to Reuters. While the contents of the hard drive haven’t been leaked by Wikileaks / Anonymous yet, an unnamed source told the news organization that the collection consisted mostly of modern, digitally recorded videos. This, despite the fact that he lived devoid of wired Internet and phone connection to the outside world, and relied on flash drives and Internet cafes to send messages (and, apparently, collect porn).

There’s no word yet on where in the house it was found, or which rooms were wired for viewing pleasure, so there are a lot of questions remaining. Was it his personal collection, or a shared spank bank to help quell insurrection and improve morale of the troops? Avi, or Mpeg? What sort of porn is a fundamentalist nutjob in to, anyway?  The world may never know / care.

What we do know, is that it’s only a matter of time until someone starts blaming he evil porn that corrupted his mind and drove him to jihad.

My bet is for Pat Robertson.

 

ASUO Senate meeting live…again

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

More on Iran

Thursday, June 25th, 2009

With the Iranian situation quickly out of hand on all sides I thought that I’d share this video from CNN.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEtVRgZ3Szw

[I couldn't get the embed feature to work for some reason. It wouldn't load properly. Click the link instead.]

Note how extremely uncomfortable the interviewer gets when the woman demands that “you people” [Americans] do something about the Iranian government.

Any other revelations you want to take away from it, like her screaming “This is Hitler” or people getting axed at universities. Quite ridiculous.

“Leadership”

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Obama refuses to ‘meddle’ in Iran“. I guess letting the world know that the President of the United States stands behind people who’re being beaten and shot by “security forces” for demonstrating against corrupt elections might run the risk of “offending” Iran.

The President is in full-on “grovel” mode, it seems. Martin Peretz has some related thoughts regarding the “Cairo Speech”.

Keepin’ It Classy at the UO

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

On May 13, the Arab Student Union held a screening of the film “Occupation 101,” which is about the Israel/Palestine conflict. (Take a guess about which side it takes.) Anyway, a student unaffiliated with the ASU showed up and began distributing the t-shirt below:

t-shirt

I emailed the ASU, and they responded saying: “During this educational event, a student unaffiliated with the Arab Student Union began handing out shirts, which this student had individually produced. ASU budget money was not used, and the ASU was not affiliated with the shirts in any way.”

Which is good, but to Mr. Anonymous Student, a swastika on an Israeli flag? Way to keep it classy. You represent your cause well. I also enjoyed the horrible misspellings, especially “Zionest.” Is that the superlative of Zionist, as in “I am the most Zionest”?

Piracy out of Africa

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

For several years, as the the Somali state has spiraled down into deeper and deeper chaos, piracy in Somali and international waters around the failed nation has threatened to close off vital shipping lanes through the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. Piracy has only gotten worse in the last couple years as the political situation in Somalia has deteriorated even further.

This last year alone, there were over 40 successful hijackings and over 15 ships are currently being held for ransom, with over 250 crew members held hostage. The first mistake that the civilized world is not taking more forceful action against these pirates. It doesn’t help that the ships’ crews are lying down and waiting for the ships’ owners to pay up the ransom. The fact that these ransoms are being paid is encouraging piracy, because these impoverished young Somali men know they can get a (relatively) easy payout from this. (more…)

Ol’ Dirty Guest Columnist: “The JOOS Control EVERYTHING!”

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Imagine my surprise when I opened up today’s Daily Emerald, only to find a guest column by one George Beres, Pacifica Forum stalwart and one of Eugene’s more prolific writers of letters-to-the-editor.

For whatever reason, the Emerald saw fit to publish Beres’ latest rant, the somewhat cryptically titled “Fear of subduing conflict discussion“. Evidently unaware of the massive media attention given to protests around the world in response to Israel’s recent “Operation Cast Lead” (including coverage on this very blog and in the printed magazine of the student protest here on campus), Beres starts yammering about how Jews “Zionists” are silencing dissent:

Nothing has been more hotly contested than the policies of the new state of Israel in Palestine. I’ve found it raises a broader question: Can this subject even be discussed? Zionists and Israel sympathizers have said no and silenced such dialogue at some schools, threatening it at the University.


I’ve seen evidence of it – personal experience that suggests a growing pervasiveness of those willing to halt speech to stop such criticism. Much of it has come from the campaign designed by a writer for the New York Post, Daniel Pipes, who encourages students to create an aura of suspicion around anyone who questions Israel’s behavior.

[...]

I interviewed author John Mearsheimer on his book about Israel’s brutality in Palestine. It was at a news conference in the Portland Hilton prior to his public talk there. Not one other reporter attended. Mearsheimer told me he was not surprised, having seen Zionists influence the news media against him, as well as object to his campus appearances.

It’s a Jewish “Zionist” conspiracy, you see. And they’re in the media, orchestrating smear campaigns against their foes.

At the risk of being identified as part of the Jewish “Zionist” conspiracy, let me be the first to publically chastise the Emerald for seeing fit to publish such blatantly anti-Semitic rubbish. And let’s be clear here: what Beres is saying is anti-Semitic. Maintaining that Jews are part of shadowy conspiracies, pulling the strings behind the curtain to control the media and silence critics, and having dual allegiances are classic anti-Semitic tropes.

The Emerald, of course, has every right to publish whatever it pleases, and it’s certainly not for me or anyone else to say that the shouldn’t. One only wonders if their editorial policy would be so open-minded if it were instead a white supremecist talking about Muslims.

Couldn’t Have Happened to Nicer Guys

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Somehow, this seems appropriate.

Can’t please all of your supporters all of the time

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Briefly came across this on yahoo news.

The gist of the article is that President-elect Barack Obama is alienating himself from the liberals that supported him with such stances as:

-Letting the tax cuts of people who make $250,000+ expire in 2010

-A “responsible drawdown” from Iraq

-Appointing Hillary Clinton, keeping Robert Gates, and having a centrist cabinet

-Not taxing the windfall profits of oil companies

To sum up this article:

Now it’s Obama’s Cabinet moves that are drawing the most fire. It’s not just that he’s picked Clinton and Gates. It’s that liberal Democrats say they’re hard-pressed to find one of their own on Obama’s team so far – particularly on the economic side, where people like Tim Geithner and Lawrence Summers are hardly viewed as pro-labor.

Apparently, what they want is a cabinet made entirely of Nanci Pelosi.

Whither Belgium?

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Via Harry’s Place, a piece at the Z-Word blog examining centrifugal nationalist forces in Belgium. Quoting Ian Buruma:

“Belgium is in danger of falling apart. For more than six months, the country has been unable to form a government that is able to unite the French-speaking Walloons (32%) and Dutch-speaking Flemish (58%). The Belgian monarch is desperately trying to stop his subjects from breaking up the state.”

More interesting than the potential split-up of Belgium, however, are the insights they have about how “pan-European post-nationalism” has possibly had the unintended effect of promoting ethnic separatism:

Buruma argues that during the 18th and 19th centuries, when nation-states were formed, cultural, linguistic and national differences were frequently transcended in order to promote “common interests.” That was as true of Britain and Italy as it was of Belgium.

The EU has changed all that. As Buruma puts it, using another example of nationalist revival in supposedly post-national Europe, “[W]hy rely on London, say the Scots, if Brussels offers greater advantages?”

The Scottish example is one that I’ve been aware of for awhile now, but I’d never quite thought of it in the context of European unity. Whether or not it (and other cases, like Belgium) are really unintended byproducts of the EU I can’t say for certain. I’m sure there are those out there who are more informed than I am on the issue who might be able to offer some insight into the dynamics at play. That being said, it makes a certain amount of sense, at least superficially.

Finally, the author uses the case of Belgium as comparison for the situation in Israel/Palestine:

Whether or not Belgium actually breaks up, the current strife there will have demonstrated beyond doubt that the notion of a “post-national” Europe is wishful thinking. Yet many advocates of the single-state “solution” in Israel and Palestine base their thinking on precisely this premise.

Belgium is held up as the inspiration for a one-state solution in the Middle East at precisely the time when significant numbers of Flemish and Walloons are militating for a two-state solution in their own domain.

It is here, I think, that the argument gets simultaneously stronger and more far-fetched. On the one hand, the situation in Belgium versus what’s happening in Israel are extremely dissimilar — Belgium has historically been a pretty peaceful sort of place and the forces that seem to be jeopardizing its existence are rooted in economics that happen to be correlated to ethnicity (Wallonia is much poorer than Flanders), whereas the Israel/Palestine conflict, while undeniably posessing an economic element, carries with it the burden of religion, decades of bloodshed, a sense among Palestinians that their land was taken from them, and the prevalence of violent, hard-line parties on both sides, none of which are all that prevalent in Belgian politics, from what I can tell.

On the other hand, I think all of these extreme dissimilarities actually strengthen the argument that Belgium serves as a useful “canary in the coal mine” for any potential unified state comprised of Israel and the Palestinian territories.

Given that I think few would deny that the Walloons and the Flemish probably have more in common with one another than Israelis and Palestinians, it’s hard to see how the “one-state solution” could have any chance of succeeding.

If Belgium is as on the rocks as it’s made out to be (and I have my doubts, personally), it’s hard to see how a united Israel/Palestine could hold itself together, given that the situation there is on the order of magnitudes more extreme than anything we’ve witnessed in Brussels.

Utter Crap

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Seumus Milne“thick as a post”:

And now they’re reduced to writing Chin Up, Lads memoranda to the Taliban in the pages of the Guardian, and pretending it’s journalism, all the while reiterating the same vile, stupid, reactionary position they began with, all those years ago, as Milne does, even now: “The only way to end the war is the withdrawal of foreign troops as part of a political settlement negotiated with all the significant players in the country, including the Taliban, and guaranteed by the regional powers and neighbouring states.”

Which is to say: 1. Cut a deal with the the slaughterers of the Afghan people. 2. Veil your foetid complicity in lies. 3. Cover your tracks with the footfalls of like-minded despots and cowards from Afghanistan’s “neighbouring states.” 4. Run away. 5. Run away. 6. Run away.

[EDIT]

Incidentally, I’ve seen numerous references to Milne supposedly having supported the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the pages of the journal Straight Left, for whom he served as a Business Manager. However, I have not been able to verify this, as Straight Left doesn’t appear in JSTOR or have any other online archives that I can find.

Harry’s Place Facing Hamas Lawsuit

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

Hot on the heels of the Mark Steyn/Maclean’s case in Canada, a British law firm, acting on behalf of Mohammed Sawalha, the President of the British Muslim Initiative and mastermind of “much of Hamas’ political and military strategy”, has filed suit against UK blog Harry’s Place:

Mr Sawalha claims that we have “chosen a malevolent interpretation of a meaningless word”. In fact, we did no more than translate a phrase which appeared in an Al Jazeera report of Mr Sawalha’s speech. When Al Jazeera changed that phrase from “Evil Jew” to “Jewish Lobby”, we reported that fact, along with the statement that it had been a typographical error.

Mr Sawalha says that the attribution of the phrase “Evil Jew” to him implies that he is “anti-semitic and hateful”. Notably, he does not take issue with our reporting of the revelation, made in a Panorama documentary in 2006, that he is a senior activist in the clerical fascist terrorist organisation, Hamas.

A member of Hamas has no reputation to defend.

If Mr Sawalha persists in attempting to silence us with this desperate legal suit, we will need your help.

We won’t be able to stand up to them alone.