Sunday, June 28, 2009
at 11:53:00 PM
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
It is with some self-loathing that I find myself awash with tears when I think of Neda. Unfortunately, not knowing what I was about to see, I viewed the video of her murder, and it won't leave my thoughts. I am a retired firefighter, so clinically I knew what was happening as the sad events unfolded. ..But someone so young, so beautiful, with so much to live for. My "assessment" is that as her eyes rolled back in her head she was gone, already. But it seemed like she gazed at all of us with incomprehensible shock and sadness. As Ms Parker says, she has given life to the struggle, but at such a great cost, to herself, and to all of us.
Every revolution needs a unifying symbol, and members of Iran's opposition movement now have theirs.
That was one dumb sniper who took out the young woman millions now know as Neda. Or was he?
No one seems to know the identity of the rooftop shooter who pierced Neda's heart with a bullet Saturday. Was he a Basij sniper, as some witnesses have reported? Was it a mistake? Or did the shooter see an opportunity to create a necessary martyr?
The thought is inescapable that the beautiful Neda Agha Soltan might have been selected from the crowd not to scare away protesters, but to unite them.
It is not impossible to imagine that someone had a greater purpose in mind for the young philosophy student. If stories emerging from Iran are accurate, even Neda seemed to anticipate what might happen. When a friend begged her not to join the protesters, Neda said:
"It's just one bullet and it's over."
Just one bullet was all it took. Neda reportedly died within two minutes as onlookers shouted "Do not be afraid." That phrase, a single word in Farsi, has become a chant among protesters.
In a matter of hours, a video of Neda's death was circulated through YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. Neda is now the undisputed symbol of reform-minded Iranians' demand for freedom.
What follows next is by no means predictable, but history provides hints. Neda's anointment as a martyr could become crucial in the next month. Followers of the Shiite branch of Islam participate in cycles of mourning - on the third, seventh and 40th days after death. These cycles served as rallying points during the 1979 revolution and conceivably could serve the same purpose now.
In the meantime, it is reasonable to ask why Neda so captured the imagination when many others have died since the June 12 election. On the same day that Neda died, at least 9 other protesters were killed.
At first, reports were that she was a teenager, just 16, walking with her father. Perhaps the world's initial reaction was tied to the belief that the government had slaughtered a child. Later, we learned that Neda was 26 and that the man with her was her music teacher. By then, the image of the young woman's dying face was firmly imprinted on the international psyche and the mythology of Neda had taken root.
What of all those others? Were they only men? Were they not as beautiful?
We are a video culture attracted to drama and beauty, an admission of which does not diminish the tragedy of Neda's death or the terrible loss for her family and friends. But as the days unfold, it will be interesting to watch how Neda, whose name means "The Voice" or "The Calling," is incorporated into the developing narrative of Iran and especially of Iranian women.
In fact, the protest movement's martyr needed to be a woman. And she needed to be a modern woman. It is noteworthy that Neda was wearing jeans and sneakers, uniform of the West, rather than the traditional garb of hijab or chador. It was clearly Neda's choice to ignore her government's preference that women hide their feminine features.
What better symbol for the repressive rule of old clerics than a liberated beauty brutally cut down in the prime of youth? Symbolically, Neda's death isn't about voting irregularities, but about the clash between superstitions that justify men's dominion over women and the universal yearning for freedom.
Women's rights were at the center of opposition candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi's reform agenda. His wife, Zahra Rahnavard was front and center in the campaign, urging a "religious democracy, which would allow young women ... to thrive and flourish by providing them with security, freedom and employment."
That message may have been the sniper's target. With his bullet, he delivered another: Women either will behave and follow the rules, or they will die. Whatever the shooter's true aim, the body he left in the street has become immortal in the story of Iran. Neda - the voice of freedom - can never be silenced now.
Kathleen Parker's syndicated column appears regularly in The Baltimore Sun. Her e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2009, The Baltimore Sun
at 10:32:00 PM
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
at 10:05:00 PM
Monday, June 22, 2009
at 7:46:00 PM
at 2:43:00 PM
Sunday, June 21, 2009
at 4:56:00 PM
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
By Barry Rubin*
June 16, 2009
President Barack Obama based his policy of engaging with Iran on the idea that while President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was a wild man, Supreme Guide Ali Khamenei was a closet moderate, or at least a pragmatist.
Now all can see that Ahmadinejad and Khamenei are wedded, together at last. Khamenei is so set on Ahmadinejad’s character and policy that he risked the regime’s internal and external credibility and stability in order to reassure his reelection.
Pro-Ahmadinejad forces are now talking about this event as a “third revolution,” following on the 1979 Islamist takeover and then seizure of the U.S. embassy and the holding of all their as hostages. In other words, this is an even more radical rebirth of the movement, but this time with nuclear weapons.
Reality: 1, Obama policy: 0
Then comes the Palestinian reaction to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech which accepts immediate negotiations and a Palestinian state at the end of the process, if an agreement can be made.
What did Obama say in Cairo? First, he said that the Palestinians, have “suffered in pursuit of a homeland” for more than 60 years. Second, he insisted that “the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.”
As I pointed out at the time, the first statement was a misrepresentation of history, the second a false picture of the present.
Now if Obama was right, the Palestinians should be eager for a state. So if Netanyahu calls on them to recognize Israel as a Jewish state—what do they care if they are accepting to live alongside it permanently?—and have their own state. Yes, that state would be “demilitarized,” I prefer the word “unmilitarized,” but all that means is that they would have the same security forces that they do now. And in proportional terms, the Palestinian Authority (PA) already has more men in uniform compared to the overall population, than any state on the planet.
So here’s Obama’s solution: an independent Palestinian state, Muslim and Arab, according to the PA’s constitution for that country, next to a Jewish state.
But how does the PA’s leader—who is always referred to as “moderate” in the Western media and is more moderate than any other Palestinian leader (it’s all relative)—react?
Nabil Abu Rdainah, spokesman for PA leader Abbas, said Netanyahu’s speech "torpedoes all peace initiatives in the region." Another top PA leader, Yasser Abed Rabbo, said that recognizing Israel's Jewish character would force Palestinians "to become part of the global Zionist movement".
Think carefully about what Rabbo said. Very carefully. The Zionist movement advocates a Jewish state, Israel, exists. But the PA leadership—the top “official” leadership, the most moderate people in the Palestinian movement—are still not reconciled to Israel’s existence.
Sure, there might be a country there but not a Jewish state, in their thinking. But if it isn’t a Jewish state, why call it Israel? They have another name for the future state they have in mind for Israel to become: Palestine.
How does even the BBC, famous for its anti-Israel bias, explain this? “The Palestinians say they and their millions of descendants have the right to return to Israel - which would mean an end to its Jewish majority - but Israel has consistently rebuffed that demand.”
And Abbas is well-known as a fervent advocate of this “right of return.” So Netanyahu is right: the core of the issue is the refusal to accept Israel’s existence as Israel, not a Palestinian “pursuit of a homeland” or “intolerable situation.”
Ladies and gentleman, the facts are before you.
Iran’s regime is irreconcilable. It seeks to become the main regional power. It doesn’t want conciliation with America, it wants America’s defeat.
The Palestinian movement as presently constituted is irreconcilable. It wants to destroy Israel, not live alongside it. The movement prefers to sustain the conflict for decades rather than make a stable peace.
President Obama and everyone else, take heed and act accordingly. You already have two strikes against you and we're just getting started.
at 8:23:00 AM
Monday, June 15, 2009
at 12:35:00 PM
Sunday, June 14, 2009
at 9:30:00 PM
at 2:10:00 PM
Saturday, June 13, 2009
friday, june 12, 2009
I read the transcript of Rush Limbaugh's argument that the von Braunn evil man was a "leftie". That only lefties radicalize issues and carry them to extremes. We all know that is not true. Extremism in any belief creates people that take issues a step too far. I continued to read about this guy and on his website is a very detailed chronical of his path to the Right side of politics and beyond and then it's eventual peversion. The only thing he agreed with the left about was George Bush, but the rest is pretty rightwing. His associations are rightwing, libertarian and white supremacists. He is an entire package of hatred of all things.
I have been thinking about a lot of things. I have been thinking about my conservative beliefs and about our country and about the issues we face, about the election and the changes that have happened so quickly, about the lead up to the election, and how things have gone so terrribly wrong these past few years. You might read that statement and think I am talking about our nation under control of the Democratic Party, but I'm not.
I remember when I was struggling with the loss of my husband in Iraq. I read and reread everything he wrote to me from that place. He wrote about good things and the horrible things he had witnessed. He talked about extremism. He mentioned "mob mentality" a lot and how in a group as one bolsters the ideas of another and another that the frenzy grows. He said he watched several times when mobs would form after an incident and it became a one-upsmanship contest of who could say the most vile thing and suggest the most horrible retribution. It would feed on one another and grow and grow. Days later, Iraquis who had been a part of the mob would wonder how they got dragged into it.
I am seeing the same thing take place in the US right now. We have some people with great loud constant voices. They are pushing those who listen to them to more ridiculous places in their thinking. Their rhetoric is cruel and based on half truths. People don't seem to be able to step back and think for a minute "What is this person doing? Why is this person saying this?"
Yes, I'm talking about Rush Limbaugh. So often I have listened to him or read transcripts as I am doing now and I chase down his theme and he leaves out everything that does not support his theme or his point for the day and what he says more often than not is incendiary and wrong. His ratings since Obama was elected have skyrocketed. The more he incites people, the more they hang on his every word, the more his ratings go up and the more he is pushed farther and farther into extremism. This guy make $400,000,000 a year! What is his purpose? Saving the nation? Leading the Republican Party? I don't think so. His purpose is his own wealth, his ratings, his popularity, his ego.
Rush Limbaugh and a few others on the Right remind me of the stories I have heard of a nation held spellbound by people like evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson back in the 20's as she led the battle of the fundamentalists against the "modernists." There was a lot of immigration at the time, a lot of racism, lots of new technology like moving pictures and radio to get her word out. Sound familiar in a very simplistic way?? I was always confused as to how she became so popular and influential with such craziness, but I am watching it again in my own life time now.
Rush Limbaugh and his quest for ever higher ratings is not our leader, or anyone's leader. He is doing this for him. If there is harmony in the country, the need for a show like his is less. If there is chaos and discord his ratings skyrocket. His success depends on the country in turmoil. The more discord, the more bloody attacks on innocents, the more dissention among neighbors, the more extremism we have, the better he does and the richer he gets. I have no use for anyone like him. I will not give him my time or attention any longer. He is creating the atmosphere for the upswing in domestic terrorism and he is encouraging it. He is destroying us. I believe that many of his messages borderline sedition or treason.
I will turn my attention instead to people who are working toward positive moves in the next election. We need balance in our government. We need balanced numbers in the House and Senate. We don't need a runaway congress rubberstamping every idea put forth by the White House.
We conservatives have a problem. We lost and we need to know why. We can't say it is because Obama was better online than the Republicans and dismiss it. There were problems with our message. We weren't focused. We were put on the defensive. We reacted. We didn't establish our goals and then go after them in an organized way. We didn't lead. We didn't put up any leaders. We put up a moderate and a dingbat. We failed to understand the problems and formulate solutions. We were so used to being in charge that we couldn't see how much trouble we were in. We still don't. Nothing has changed. We complain about the Democrats and put out distorted negative ads on You-Tube. We say outlandish things. We rail against the Democrats. We do not have a cohesive positive message yet. We cannot find a leader. We trot people out in front of a camera and see how they play and if they don't do so well, we abandon them like we have Bobby Jindal.
We are so busy posturing and saying the same talking points over and over we don't listen. We don't listen. We don't listen. We are a representative government or supposed to be. We need to listen to the people, understand their concerns and find leaders who will take their message to Washington.
There are very good people out there, but the very good people are NOT Rush Limbaugh, NOT Sarah Palin, NOT Newt Gingrich, NOT Michael Steele. These people are all jokes. They are all gimmicks. They make outlandish statements and make for interesting news cycles but they are not leaders. I want my party back. I want real conservative leaders who listen and do the right thing. I want all the hate mongering messages to stop. I want the hatred to stop. I want to work together to find solutions that are the best for the country not one side's reaction to 8 years of impotency. Our complaints are not being heard. We are not being taken seriously.
I have been all over the place here but I am angry. This isn't my country the way it is now. It is a devisive hate-promoting place with serious issues. We cannot fix this thing in separate camps. One side cannot shut down, complain, and whine. We need to find a way. In the mean time we need to pull together and try to find common ground. When I would tell my husband that I did not agree with moves we were making in the conduct of the war in Iraq he would chide me regardless of our individual opinions we needed to support our country and those in command or it will all fall apart. I am not sure what he would say now but what I am seeing is or country falling apart. I don't know whose fault it is but I believe that conservatives cannot walk away from out part in this. Like in anything in life, if you make a mistake, find out where you went wrong and fix it. We need to do the same.
I know this is disjointed but I am so frustrated right now. I want the hate to stop.
tuesday, june 9, 2
at 6:02:00 AM
Friday, June 12, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
at 6:32:00 PM
Monday, June 8, 2009
at 11:39:00 PM
Sunday, June 7, 2009
By Barry Rubin* June 5, 2009 Obama sought to put the United States into a neutral rather than pro-Israel position. This is not so unusual as it might seem compared to the 35 years U.S. policy has been trying to be a credible mediator, a length of time many forget--including Obama himself—through numerous peace plans and negotiating structures.
The speech is beautifully constructed and carefully crafted. But what does it say, both intentionally and implicitly?
Obama began by stressing U.S.-Israel links, not downplaying or concealing this from his Muslim audience:
“America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.”
He then makes two points: the reality of the Shoah (Holocaust) and opposition to wiping Israel off the map:
“Threatening Israel with destruction--or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews--is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.”
Previous presidents have often said such but Obama is wrapping this into his attempt to show Muslims that he is on their side it might be deemed especially effective. But putting almost all emphasis on the Holocaust—which in Arab and Muslim views is a European crime whose bill they are unfairly paying—may be the wrong approach.
He also roots Jews desire for their own country mainly in persecution, to which the Arab/Muslim answer has been that this isn’t their responsibility or that Jews can live happily—as Obama wrongly hints they have done in the past—under Muslim rule.
While Obama tries hard, his approach may reverberate only for a small minority of politically powerless Western-oriented liberals who already understand it.
Turning to Palestinians, he uses an appealing image but one so wrong that it undermines Obama’s entire approach. The Palestinians, he says, have “suffered in pursuit of a homeland” for more than 60 years.
But if that were true the issue would have been solved 60 years ago (1948 through partition), 30 years ago (1979 and Anwar Sadat’s initiative) or 9 years ago (Camp David-2). What has brought Palestinian suffering is the priority on total victory and Israel’s destruction rather than merely getting a homeland. This is the reason why the conflict won’t be solved in the next week, month, or year.
Obama states, “The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable.” But in real political terms that’s untrue. If it were true, the leadership would move quickly to improve their situation rather than continue the struggle seeking total victory. The Oslo agreement of 1993 and Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip were both based on this premise and both failed miserably for this very reason.
And so will Obama’s effort.
Pulling out of Gaza, for instance, Israel urged the Palestinian Authority to provide stability, improve living standards, and stop the war on Israel. Huge amounts of money were provided. And the result has been evident.
For Obama, Palestine is what Iraq was for George W. Bush. By rebuilding and reshaping its situation, providing its people with good lives and democracy, he expects to win Arab and Muslim gratitude. Obama’s supporters have ridiculed Bush for trying to remake other peoples, cultures, and countries. The same point applies to Obama.
He concludes, “The only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.” True. But what else is new? Israelis’ aspirations—despite misunderstandings by others--can certainly be met by this outcome. The same is not true for Palestinian aspirations as they really exist, rather than as Westerners think they should be.
While Obama might have said it in a different way, his words echo those of the last five American presidents. In the way he argues, however, Obama reveals his weakness in dealing with these issues. First he says—and this sounds wonderful to Western ears:
“Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed,” citing the American civil rights’ movement as example. This sounds noble but it is silly because it ignores the social and ideological context.
Fatah believes it got control of the West Bank and leadership of the Palestinian people through violence and killing. Hamas in Gaza; Hizballah and Syria in Lebanon; and Iran’s Islamist regime as well as the Muslim Brotherhoods believe that “resistance” works.
From the standpoint of Palestinian leaders, violence and killing are not failures. Moreover, violence and killing are commensurate with the goal of the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian leadership, which is total victory. Their main alternative “peaceful” strategy is the demand—shared by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas—that pretty much all Palestinians who wish to do so must be allowed to live in Israel. A formula for more violence and killing.
Obama also says: “Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people.” This, of course, is what we’ve been hearing since 1993, when the responsibility for governing was supposed to transform Yasir Arafat from terrorist to statesman. Isn’t there some reason that this didn’t happen?
He continues: “Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have to recognize they have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, recognize Israel's right to exist.”
The mind reels. Hamas doesn’t just have support, it governs the Gaza Strip. It disagrees with Obama. Fulfilling Palestinian aspirations means for it creating an Islamist state from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean. Unifying the Palestinian people means for it seizing control of the West Bank also and putting all the territories under its rule.
And what will Obama do when nobody behaves the way he wants them to? In this respect, Israel is not his problem, though he doesn’t seem to understand that yet.
Consider the otherworldliness of what he says about Israel. Here’s an example: “The continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank.” Actually, the latter point is precisely the current Israeli government’s policy. As for Gaza, mitigating the alleged humanitarian crisis means strengthening a Hamas government. Ending the “crisis,” by opening the borders and infusing lots of money that will inevitably be used to strengthen Hamas’s rule threatens Israel’s security far more than the status quo.
One of Obama’s best lines was to say, “The Arab-Israeli conflict should no longer be used to distract the people of Arab nations from other problems.” But this is so basic to the needs of the existing regimes, why would the governments respond to Obama’s call to do this, any more than to Bush’s urging for democracy?
Here’s Obama’s main theme: “Privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.”
This argument—peace is rational so just do it!--has been the basic concept governing Western policy toward the issue at least since the late 1970s. Even before. In 1955, U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles asked why the Arabs and Israelis didn’t settle their differences like “Christian gentlemen?” Obama is more cultural sensitive, but his ethnocentric approach is basically the same.
After decades we are no closer to implementing this idea, perhaps even further. Obama’s task is to come to understand why this is so. Here’s one hint: almost all Israelis publicly support a Palestinian state if it leads to a stable peace. Those Muslims ready for full peace with Israel are still a minority who are too afraid to speak other than “privately.” This imbalance explains why the conflict continues, who is responsible for it, and what must be done to change that situation.
By Barry Rubin*
June 5, 2009
Obama sought to put the United States into a neutral rather than pro-Israel position. This is not so unusual as it might seem compared to the 35 years U.S. policy has been trying to be a credible mediator, a length of time many forget--including Obama himself—through numerous peace plans and negotiating structures.
at 12:28:00 PM