Tuesday, February 28, 2006

WELCOME TO THE U.E.S.R. (Union of European Socialist Republics): Vladimir Bukovsky, the former Soviet dissident, warns that the European Union is quickly heading towards a totalitarian monster that must be dismantled ASAP.

Couldn't be soon enough.

Check out the great piece at Brussels Journal, where he is also interviewed by Paul Belien.

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IF YOU REALLY want to know what's at play regarding the Samarra shrine destruction, you won't find a better place than Iraq The Model, where Mohammed writes about what happened and the implications stemming from the incident. Of course, Mohammed not only is actually there but, unlike many Western journalists, he really knows what he's talking about.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

AND THE PROBLEM OF RACISM in Spain's soccer stadiums does not abate; John Aust writes about the latest incident this weekend.

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AT FIRST I thought it was a joke, but it isn't. Some competence, huh?

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In five years' time, how many Jews will be living in France? Two years ago, a 23-year-old Paris disc jockey called Sebastien Selam was heading off to work from his parents' apartment when he was jumped in the parking garage by his Muslim neighbor Adel. Selam's throat was slit twice, to the point of near-decapitation; his face was ripped off with a fork; and his eyes were gouged out. Adel climbed the stairs of the apartment house dripping blood and yelling, "I have killed my Jew. I will go to heaven."

Is that an gripping story? You'd think so. Particularly when, in the same city, on the same night, a Jewish woman was brutally murdered in the presence of her daughter by another Muslim. You've got the making of a mini-trend there, and the media love trends.

Yet no major French newspaper carried the story.

This month, there was another murder. Ilan Halimi, also 23, also Jewish, was found by a railway track outside Paris with burns and knife wounds all over his body. He died en route to the hospital, having been held prisoner, hooded and naked, and brutally tortured for almost three weeks by a gang that had demanded half a million dollars from his family. Can you take a wild guess at the particular identity of the gang? During the ransom phone calls, his uncle reported that they were made to listen to Ilan's screams as he was being burned while his torturers read out verses from the Quran.

This time around, the French media did carry the story, yet every public official insisted there was no anti-Jewish element. Just one of those things. Coulda happened to anyone. And, if the gang did seem inordinately fixated on, ah, Jews, it was just because, as one police detective put it, ''Jews equal money.'' In London, the Observer couldn't even bring itself to pursue that particular angle. Its report of the murder managed to avoid any mention of the unfortunate Halimi's, um, Jewishness. Another British paper, the Independent, did dwell on the particular, er, identity groups involved in the incident but only in the context of a protest march by Parisian Jews marred by ''radical young Jewish men'' who'd attacked an ''Arab-run grocery.''

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

THE GREAT Victor Davis Hanson is back after spending a few days in Iraq, but I wouldn't do any justice to what he writes if I highlighted one or two paragraphs only. So read it in full.

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WELL, EVERYTHING is set, apparently; all programs are installed and configured, all files and documents transferred, so it seems I'm ready to go again! Now I just have to catch up with my reading, and then I'll be able to post again. For example, about the tense situation in Phillipines, though Wretchard, of The Belmont Club, is doing a swell of a job with that. Check it out.

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

I'M GOING TO BE OFFLINE most of this weekend; I'm changing the main computer, and it's worse than moving home!

Back tomorrow or Monday, but I'll be checking my email so, if you have anything to send, feel free to do so.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

Europe’s current problems are entirely self-inflicted. This does not mean, however, that the result will be less catastrophic. By subverting the roots of its own Judeo-Christian culture – a process that started with the French Enlightenment (as opposed to the Scottish Enlightenment, which was not anti-religious) – a religious and cultural vacuum was created at the heart of European civilization. The collapse of faith in its own values has, not surprisingly, led to a demographic collapse because a civilization that no longer believes in its own future also rejects procreation. Today, a new religion and culture is supplanting the old one. There is little one can do about it, but hope for a miracle.

America’s immigration problems pale in comparison with what confronts Europe. America’s major ethnic minorities – Blacks as well as Hispanics – are Christian, while the meanstream culture is also rooted in Christianity. In Europe a secularized post-Christian culture is facing a Muslim one. The secularized culture is hedonist and values only its present life, because it does not believe in an afterlife. This is why it will surrender when threatened with death because life is the only thing it has to lose. This is why it will accept submission without fighting for its freedom. Nobody fights for the flag of hedonism, not even the hedonists themselves.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

ANOTHER VIDEO from the Intelligence Summit over at WMD Files: an interview with Richard "Prince of Darkness" Perle, and another with journalist Jack Kelly.

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LOOK WHAT A LOVELY THING you can find in Hamas's website.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

THREE ILLUMINATING VIDEOS are up at WMD Files, all of them recorded during the Intelligence Summit last weekend. The first one is a segment of the presentation there by Bill Tierney, the translator of the tapes in which Saddam discussed the WMD issue with his henchmen; the second one is an interview with James Woolsey, former CIA director; and the third is a conversation with Richard Miniter, the investigative journalist who has been covering this topic for a while.

It's blog TV, brought to you by Pajamas Media; don't miss it.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

HEH (via Spanish-Dutch blogger Leeuw).

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For the past two weeks, Patrick Sookhdeo has been canvassing the opinions of Muslim clerics in Britain on the row over the cartoons featuring images of Mohammed that were first published in Denmark and then reprinted in several other European countries.

"They think they have won the debate," he says with a sigh. "They believe that the British Government has capitulated to them, because it feared the consequences if it did not.

"The cartoons, you see, have not been published in this country, and the Government has been very critical of those countries in which they were published. To many of the Islamic clerics, that's a clear victory.

"It's confirmation of what they believe to be a familiar pattern: if spokesmen for British Muslims threaten what they call 'adverse consequences' - violence to the rest of us - then the British Government will cave in. I think it is a very dangerous precedent."

Dr Sookhdeo adds that he believes that "in a decade, you will see parts of English cities which are controlled by Muslim clerics and which follow, not the common law, but aspects of Muslim sharia law.

"It is already starting to happen - and unless the Government changes the way it treats the so-called leaders of the Islamic community, it will continue."
They'll better hurry up, because nowadays no less that 40% of British Muslims want sharia law in the UK. And counting.

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Sunday, February 19, 2006


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YES, I KNOW it's NewsMax, but they still publish reliable, good material from time to time. And this is by Kenneth Timmerman, a respected journalist. He is at this weekend's Intelligence Summit and writes:
A top Pentagon official who was responsible for tracking Saddam Hussein's weapons programs before and after the 2003 liberation of Iraq, has provided the first-ever account of how Saddam Hussein "cleaned up" his weapons of mass destruction stockpiles to prevent the United States from discovering them.

"The short answer to the question of where the WMD Saddam bought from the Russians went was that they went to Syria and Lebanon," former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense John. A. Shaw told an audience Saturday at a privately sponsored "Intelligence Summit" in Alexandria, Va. (www.intelligencesummit.org)

"They were moved by Russian Spetsnaz (special forces) units out of uniform, that were specifically sent to Iraq to move the weaponry and eradicate any evidence of its existence," he said.

Shaw has dealt with weapons-related issues and export controls as a U.S. government official for 30 years, and was serving as deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security when the events he described today occurred.

He called the evacuation of Saddam's WMD stockpiles "a well-orchestrated campaign using two neighboring client states with which the Russian leadership had a long time security relationship."

Shaw was initially tapped to make an inventory of Saddam's conventional weapons stockpiles, based on intelligence estimates of arms deals he had concluded with the former Soviet Union, China and France.

He estimated that Saddam had amassed 100 million tons of munitions –- roughly 60 percent of the entire U.S. arsenal. "The origins of these weapons were Russian, Chinese and French in declining order of magnitude, with the Russians holding the lion's share and the Chinese just edging out the French for second place."

But as Shaw's office increasingly got involved in ongoing intelligence to identify Iraqi weapons programs before the war, he also got "a flow of information from British contacts on the ground at the Syrian border and from London" via non-U.S. government contacts.

"The intelligence included multiple sitings of truck convoys, convoys going north to the Syrian border and returning empty," he said.

Shaw worked closely with Julian Walker, a former British ambassador who had decades of experience in Iraq, and an unnamed Ukranian-American who was directly plugged in to the head of Ukraine's intelligence service.

The Ukrainians were eager to provide the United States with documents from their own archives on Soviet arms transfers to Iraq and on ongoing Russian assistance to Saddam, to thank America for its help in securing Ukraine's independence from the Soviet Union, Shaw said.
Read the rest; there's much more.

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EXEMPLARY ATTITUDE by the epitome of honesty and sacrifice, the leader of the most magnificent and moral international law organization (unlike cowboys, his poodles and anything remotely similar to a democracy):
DESPITE FREQUENT DECLARATIONS OF REFORM, it seems that United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has learned nothing from the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food scandal, in which Saddam Hussein's billions corrupted the U.N.'s entire Iraq embargo bureaucracy. Earlier this month, Annan accepted from the ruler of Dubai an environmental prize of $500,000--a fat sum that represents the latest in a long series of glaring conflicts of interest. Call this one Cash-for-Kofi.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

A HEARTWARMING IMAGE coming from a pro-Islamic rally in Pakistan:

NTV, the German all-news TV channel where the picture comes from, has the following caption (translated to English):
What these women want to say with the sign is unclear.
Exactly what part of "God bless Hitler" they don't understand? Can anyone be so dumb. Of course not; they understand it well. Too well. That's why they want to hide the meaning, hoping their audience doesn't understand English.

(via LGF)

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Friday, February 17, 2006

DID ABC TV 'smooth' the translation of Saddam's tapes in his report the other night and made them sound less threatening? Bill Tierney, who had originally translated them for the FBI, says so.

By the way, don't forget to follow what will happen at this weekend's Intelligence Summit, over at Pajamas Media's WMD Files. There will be video and blog reports.

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SORRY FOR the lack of posts; been busy. While I'm back, and since the WMD issue is heating up again, check out this report according to which a Syrian journalist claims he knows where in Syria are the weapons. Just saw it via The Daily Brief and, though it's dated two years ago, it still makes an interesting read.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

IRAQIS HAVE DONE IT AGAIN. Gone against the Cassandras, that is: in a new poll -and there's been quite a few of them-, they have said that, in spite of all the drawbacks, getting rid of Saddam was worth it.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

NOW THE DEATH THREATS start to come for things that don't have anything to do with depicting Mohammed. Now it's for this cartoon published in the German publication Der Tagesspiegel:

To be fair, this controversy in the European press hasn't had a fraction of the brouhaha surrounding the Danish ones, at least so far. Perhaps it's because this makes abundantly clear that the lame "they're angry because the depiction of Mohammed is a blasphemy" excuse is bogus.

That, or they're waiting for the German embassies to be torched...

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Monday, February 13, 2006

CAN'T THINK OF A REASON why the media hasn't focused in this:
The annual Shia Ashura festival brings out the faithful in large numbers, and was banned when Saddam ruled. Since then, terrorists have attacked the Shia participants, killing 55 in 2005, and 181 in 2004. This year, the terrorists were unable to kill anyone. Iraqi police and soldiers supplied the security, with the help of some religious militias. This sharp drop in terrorist activity was no fluke.
Don't worry, dear readers, I haven't suddenly turned naif; I was being ironic.

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IT'S COMFORTING IN SOME WAY, and yet disturbing at the same time, that they admit it openly, unlike others who shield themselves behind the cover of respect and sensitivities; the Boston Phoenix openly explains why it has decided not to publish the Mohammed cartoons:

There are three reasons not to publish the Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed with his turban styled as a bomb (to view the cartoons, click here) and the other images that have sparked violent protests and deaths throughout Europe, the Middle East, West Asia, and Indonesia:

1) Out of fear of retaliation from the international brotherhood of radical and bloodthirsty Islamists who seek to impose their will on those who do not believe as they do. This is, frankly, our primary reason for not publishing any of the images in question. Simply stated, we are being terrorized, and as deeply as we believe in the principles of free speech and a free press, we could not in good conscience place the men and women who work at the Phoenix and its related companies in physical jeopardy. As we feel forced, literally, to bend to maniacal pressure, this may be the darkest moment in our 40-year publishing history.

2) Out of respect for the millions of faithful and peace-abiding believers throughout the world who are deeply disturbed by the violation of their religion’s proscription against the pictorial representation of their prophet.

3) And in the hope that restraint shown by those who believe deeply in the sanctity of free speech will be able to stand side by side with those who believe with equal fervor in the dignity of religious expression to oppose the forces of darkness and evil in the Islamic world.

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THAT'S WHAT I CALL to have balls: crashing the rally against the Mohammed cartoons in Paris last Saturday, carrying Danish flag and signs defending free speech. It was two against four thousand. As expected, they had to be taken out of there by the police when things started to get ugly.

The brave guys tell all about it , and you can watch it all on video (via No Pasarán and Pajamas Media).

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

MARK STEYN, brilliant as usual:
From Europe's biggest-selling newspaper, the Sun: ''Furious Muslims have blasted adult shop [i.e., sex shop] Ann Summers for selling a blowup male doll called Mustafa Shag."

Not literally "blasted" in the Danish Embassy sense, or at least not yet. Quite how Britain's Muslim Association found out about Mustafa Shag in order to be offended by him is not clear. It may be that there was some confusion: given that "blowup males" are one of Islam's leading exports, perhaps some believers went along expecting to find Ahmed and Walid modeling the new line of Semtex belts. Instead, they were confronted by just another filthy infidel sex gag. The Muslim Association's complaint, needless to say, is that the sex toy "insults the Prophet Muhammad -- who also has the title al-Mustapha.''

In a world in which Danish cartoons insult the prophet and Disney Piglet mugs insult the prophet and Burger King chocolate ice-cream swirl designs insult the prophet, maybe it would just be easier to make a list of things that don't insult him. Nonetheless, the Muslim Association wrote to the Ann Summers sex-shop chain, "We are asking you to have our Most Revered Prophet's name 'Mustafa' and the afflicted word 'shag' removed."

If I were a Muslim, I'd be "hurt" and "humiliated" that the revered prophet's name is given not to latex blowup males but to so many real blowup males: The leader of the 9/11 plotters? Mohammed Atta. The British Muslim who self-detonated in a Tel Aviv bar? Asif Mohammed Hanif. The gunman who shot up the El Al counter at LAX? Heshamed Mohamed Hedayet. The former U.S. Army sergeant who masterminded the slaughter at the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania? Ali Mohamed. The murderer of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh? Mohammed Bouyeri. The notorious Sydney gang rapist? Mohammed Skaf. The Washington sniper? John Allen Muhammed. If I were a Muslim, I would be deeply offended that the prophet's name is the preferred appellation of so many killers and suicide bombers on every corner of the earth.
He doesn't stop there; read the rest.

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THIS IS IN TODAY'S Sunday Telegraph in the UK:
Strategists at the Pentagon are drawing up plans for devastating bombing raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran's nuclear sites as a "last resort" to block Teheran's efforts to develop an atomic bomb.

Central Command and Strategic Command planners are identifying targets, assessing weapon-loads and working on logistics for an operation, the Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

They are reporting to the office of Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, as America updates plans for action if the diplomatic offensive fails to thwart the Islamic republic's nuclear bomb ambitions. Teheran claims that it is developing only a civilian energy programme.

"This is more than just the standard military contingency assessment," said a senior Pentagon adviser. "This has taken on much greater urgency in recent months."
Not much hard evidence in the piece, but it would be foolish to think that such planning is not taking place. But this report sounds more like a calculated leak / warning than anything else, which is fine with me...

UPDATE. Stop the ACLU has a roundup of reactions in the blogosphere.

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WINSTON CHURCHILL, a little over a century ago:
How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity.

The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceasedto be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities – but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

American capitalism really is a harsh taskmaster, isn't it? Those excessively long hours that everyone works, so different from the ease and leisure that applies in Europe along with our whiskey fountains, lakes of stew and the big rock candy mountain. That last being a product of a misdirected sugar beet subsidy of course. Indeed, there are those who insist that the US should regulate working hours, insist upon a reduction, as a way to bring some of this Euro-nirvana to the west coast of the Atlantic.

There's only one small problem with this idea. It turns out not to be true.
Read what follows.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

REMEMBER THE LETTER by Zapatero and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan in which they condemned the Mohammed cartoons while not uttering a single word of censure for the riots and the death threats? "Freedom of expression is one of the cornerstones of our democratic systems and we shall never relinquish it. But there are no rights without responsibility and respect for different sensibilities," they wrote.

Well, this piece by a oh-so provocative genius called Oscar Seco is displayed in Arco, the art fair just opened in Madrid. Yes, Madrid, the capital city of the country where Zapatero is the head of government.

No word yet on the need to respect sensibilities. I won't hold my breath.

(The first image comes from daily La Vanguardia; the other three below were taken by my buddy Maromo Surfero)

UPDATE. Reader David Banowsky has a point when he emails: "Just saw your story with the picture of Jesus holding a Phoenix missile. I was commissioned into the U.S. Navy through Aviation Officers Candidate School at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Pensacola, Florida (remember the movie "An Officer and a Gentleman"). I remember that the chapel on the Naval Air Station had a statue of the Virgin Mary in it holding an F-4 Phantom in her hands (Our Lady of Loretto is the patron saint of aviators). Context and perspective make all the difference."

It certainly does, and I haven't seen the display myself, but knowing what usually happens in this country (where not too long ago a TV showed a short film teaching how to cook a Christ in its crucifix: how to spice it, how to boil it; or where the intelligentzia were crying "Censorship!" when official subsidies were threatened to be withdrawn for a theater play titled "I sh*t on God"), I'm pretty safe assuming that the context is not like the one in Pensacola. Not by a long shot.

As I've said many times before, I'm not a believer, but I know when I see a religious offence and more than that, I know when I see a double standard by people who say that we should respect artistic freedom when one religion is mocked and also say that the Mohammed cartoons are an intolerable offence to people's religious beliefs.

UPDATE II (Feb 11). Hey, it's an AIM-54 Phoenix! (via Chip)

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GO READ this by Gerard Baker, the superb correspondent in the US for UK's The Times, who is a blogger now too.

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EGYPTIAN BLOGGER The Big Pharaoh was sleeping the other night when Allah woke him up and told him the ten commandments that Muslims should follow. An outstanding post.

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THE CARTOON KERFUFFLE was manufactured in Mecca during a meeting of Islamic leaders during the hajj, reports the New York Times in detail. Spanish journalist and blogger Juan Pedro Quiñonero accurately points out that one of the attendants was Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan. Yes, the one who co-signed with Zapatero that infamous letter.

UPDATE. Much more are the Washington Post, and by Amir Taheri in today's New York Post.

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THE EU COMMISSIONER Franco Frattini, after seeing in print his plans for a code of conduct for the the press reporting on religious issues, has clarified his position (backpedalled?). The Daily Telegraph reporter has published the transcript of his interview with Frattini. Read it and judge for yourselves (links via Belmont Club).

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

I'M AFRAID the esteemed Victor Davis Hanson was a tad too optimistic when he wrote that the cartoon controversy might mean an European awakening against Islamic fascism. Turns out that the European Union is planning a press code of conduct:
Plans for a European press charter committing the media to "prudence" when reporting on Islam and other religions, were unveiled yesterday.

Franco Frattini, the European Union commissioner for justice, freedom and security, revealed the idea for a code of conduct in an interview with The Daily Telegraph. Mr Frattini, a former Italian foreign minister, said the EU faced the "very real problem" of trying to reconcile "two fundamental freedoms, the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion".

Millions of European Muslims felt "humiliated" by the publication of cartoons of Mohammed, he added, calling on journalists and media chiefs to accept that "the exercising of a right is always the assumption of a responsibility". He appealed to European media to agree to "self-regulate".

Accepting such self-regulation would send an important political message to the Muslim world, Mr Frattini said.
Yes, it would indeed send and important political message. The wrong one.

UPDATE. I hadn't read David Gillies's take; we are pretty much in the same wavelength.

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LOTS OF CARTOONS from all over the world about the Mohammed Danish kerfuffle here (via Solomonia)

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A former special investigator for the Pentagon during the Iraq war said he found four sealed underground bunkers in southern Iraq that he is sure contain stocks of chemical and biological weapons. But when he asked American weapons inspectors to check out the sites, he was rebuffed.

[...] Mr. Gaubatz said he walked the streets of the largely Shiite city of Nasiriyah, interviewing local police, former senior civilian and military leaders in Saddam Hussein's regime, and local civilians.

Between March and July 2003, Mr. Gaubatz was taken by these sources to four locations - three in and around Nasiriyah and one near the port of Umm Qasr, where he was shown underground concrete bunkers with the tunnels leading to them deliberately flooded. In each case, he was told the facilities contained stocks of biological and chemical weapons, along with missiles whose range exceeded that mandated under U.N. sanctions. But because the facilities were sealed off with concrete walls, in some cases up to 5 feet thick, he did not get inside. He filed reports with photographs, exact grid coordinates, and testimony from multiple sources. And then he waited for the Iraq Survey Group to come to the sites. But in all but one case, they never arrived.

[...] He says the reasons he was given by the survey group were that the areas of the sites were not safe, they lacked manpower and equipment, and at the time the survey group was focusing activities in northern Iraq. "The ISG team was not organized nor outfitted for this mission in my opinion and were only concerned to look in northern Iraq. They were not even on the ground during the first few weeks of the war, and this was the most critical time to go out and exploit sites. I feel very comfortable in saying the sites were never exploited by ISG," he said. In one instance a few inspectors did come out once to follow one lead, Mr. Gaubatz said. But they lacked the equipment and manpower to crack the bunker. "An adequate search would have required heavy equipment to uncover the concrete, and additional equipment to drain the water."

[...] "The four sites were corroborated with more than one source. The sources were deemed highly credible due to access and knowledge of the sites. Many of these sources and ourselves put their lives on the line to assist in identifying WMD. The sources would continuously ask us when the inspectors were going to come to the sites with heavy equipment to uncover the WMD," he said.

Mr. Gaubatz said each site he visited had similar characteristics. "Everything was buried and under water. They would drain canals and parts of the rivers. They would build tunnels underneath and they would let the water come back in," he said. But the water would only be allowed back into the tunnels after concrete walls were installed sealing off the secret caches of unconventional arms, Mr. Gaubatz said. He added that the tunnels in all four sites were wide enough for tractors. One of the giveaways, he said, was that homes near the sites were equipped with gas masks and other items to protect against a chemical weapons attack.
Like I said, hmm....

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TWO MUST-READ ARTICLES about the Danish cartoons kerfuffle:

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CHARLIE HÉBDO, a French magazine, has just released its latest issue. And it's brave:

The picture which is due to grace the cover of the weekly satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, with the caption "Mohammed overwrought by the fundamentalists," shows Mohammed crying, saying "It's hard to be loved by such idiots."

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

NOTHING IS SACRED (via Spanish leftist blogger Ignacio Escolar, to his credit)

How many Irish embassies were burnt in Italy, or Spain? Did Sinnead O'Connor have to go in hiding, or with 24/7 protection by bodyguards? Was there any Catholic boycott of Jameson or Guinness?

That's what I thought.

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AYAAN HIRSI ALI weighs in the cartoon controversy, in a must-read interview in Der Spiegel translated into English in the mag's own website.

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OMAR, OF IRAQ THE MODEL, writes on the cartoon kerfuffle:
I swear that 90%+ of the protestors in Muslim countries have not seen the cartoons and do not know the name of the paper and when I say that I'm sure of it because I have access to the web 24/7 and I spent a really long time searching for the cartoons and couldn’t find them until a friend emailed me a link and.

You know that those cartoons were published for the 1st time months ago and we here in the Middle East have tones of jokes about Allah, the prophets and the angels that are way more offensive, funny and obscene than those poorly-made cartoons, yet no one ever got shot for telling one of those jokes or at least we had never seen rallies and protests against those infidel joke-tellers.

[...] One last thing, even if the entire EU apologizes it won't change a thing; fanatics in our countries here had always considered the west their infidel arrogant crusader enemy and no apology no matter how big or sincere can change that.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

It was one of those unpredictable Lebanese Sunday mornings. The ski slopes in the mountains overlooking Beirut would have been crowded with skiers enjoying the brilliant winter sunshine. Walkers were out along the Corniche, strolling in designer tracksuits. Downtown, the chic restaurants were preparing for lunchtime. And there were a few men on scooters riding around town broadcasting an imminent protest.

It wasn't long before the heavily-laden coaches and minivans began to arrive from Beirut and the rest of Lebanon. They were all full of young, often bearded men who wore headbands and carried identical flags with calligraphic inscriptions in Arabic such as: "There is no god but God and Mohammad is his Prophet" and "O Nation of Muhammad, Wake Up."

There were soon as many as 20,000 of them filling the streets. They walked up past the Christian quarter of Gemmayze and into the even more genteel Christian area of Achrafieh, gathering not far from the Danish embassy, the target of their protest. One man waved a placard in English that said: "Damn your beliefs and your liberty." Another carried a sign saying: "Whoever insults Prophet Muhammad is to be killed."

The police seemed to know the demonstrators were coming and had turned out in force with barriers, barbed wire fences and several large fire trucks. Just a day earlier, the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus had been torched by a furious mob, repeating the violent protests that have spread across the world from Gaza to Afghanistan to London. On Saturday night, anticipating trouble, the Danish diplomatic staff in Beirut flew home.

The mob stood in the street, chanting their fierce condemnation of the Danish cartoons that spawned this rapidly-spreading crisis. By 11am, the Lebanese police and army were firing tear gas at the crowd. The protesters threw volleys of stones. Some stuffed cotton wool into their nostrils to stifle the effect of the gas.

One group overturned a car and set it alight. Sunni clerics in robes tried to calm the young men down. They were ignored. One cleric, Ibrahim Ibrahim, said his pleas were met with stones and insults. "They are hooligans," he said.

The mob grew fiercer, and finally the police withdrew. As they moved back, the crowd smashed their way into the building housing the Danish embassy and set it ablaze. From the burning building they hung a banner that read: "We are ready to sacrifice our children for you, O Prophet Muhammad." By now dozens of people had been wounded or arrested and at least one person was killed, a protester apparently caught up in the fire at the embassy building.

The many politicians representing Lebanon's fractured sectarian society sensed this was suddenly a situation a long way out of control. "It is the work of infiltrators," said Saiad Hariri, a prominent Sunni politician. "These acts have nothing to do with the Prophet. They are harming Muslims."
Read it all.

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NOW, ZAPATERO HAS DEFINITELY put Spain in the wrong side. With all Western countries publicly defending free speech and condemning the barbaric acts of violence after the publication of the Danish cartoons, Zapatero and Erdogan write an open letter that has been published in today's International Herald Tribune:
With growing concern, we are witnessing the escalation in disturbing tensions provoked by the publication, in European newspapers, of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that Muslims consider deeply offensive. We shall all be the losers if we fail to immediately defuse this situation, which can only leave a trail of mistrust and misunderstanding between both sides in its wake. Therefore, it is necessary to make an appeal for respect and calm, and let the voice of reason be heard.
(emphasis mine)

And then:
Freedom of expression is one of the cornerstones of our democratic systems and we shall never relinquish it. But there are no rights without responsibility and respect for different sensibilities. The publication of these caricatures may be perfectly legal, but it is not indifferent and thus ought to be rejected from a moral and political standpoint.
Read the rest of the letter, in which you won't find a single line of clear and specific condemnation for the death threats, embassy burnings, etc. There isn't any aknowledgement whatsoever of previous acts of violence in the name of Islam prior to the Danish cartoons, which is specially egregious considering Zapatero is the Prime Minister of a country where 192 people were killed in the name of Islam (at least apparently) almost 2 years ago. Way before any cartoon "provoked" any reaction.

It would be too easy to say that Zapatero's position comes from the fact that he owes his position to Islamic terrorism; it would also be too simplistic to think that it's because of fear, although fear plays a part here, considering that most of approximately 8% of alien population in Spain comes from Islamic countries.

Alas, what this letter probably reflects is probably worse in the long term: that Zapatero is simply clueless, stupidely naive, and really thinks that niceties will work.

So in Zapatero's honor, I'll re-use the picture from Allah (with his permission back then):

"See? This letter has no offensive cartoons!"

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

Angry Lebanese demonstrators torched the Danish consulate in Beirut on Sunday, further escalating a violent turn in protests over the publication by European newspapers of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad.

Thousands of protesters, some carrying green Islamic flags, chanted "God is Greatest" outside the burning building as thick black smoke billowed into the sky.

Where next? And what about this cover of a fairly well known satirical magazine in Spain? It's not a recent cover, as far as I know, and of coursenobody complained; it's humor, damnit!:

"My God! -- Clash of Civilizations"
Maybe they will now.

UPDATE. Excellent Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe:
"HINDUS CONSIDER it sacrilegious to eat meat from cows, so when a Danish supermarket ran a sale on beef and veal last fall, Hindus everywhere reacted with outrage. India recalled its ambassador to Copenhagen, and Danish flags were burned in Calcutta, Bombay, and Delhi. A Hindu mob in Sri Lanka severely beat two employees of a Danish-owned firm, and demonstrators in Nepal chanted: ''War on Denmark! Death to Denmark!"In many places, shops selling Dansk china or Lego toys were attacked by rioters, and two Danish embassies were firebombed."

It didn't happen, of course. Hindus may consider it odious to use cows as food, but they do not resort to boycotts, threats, and violence when non-Hindus eat hamburger or steak. They do not demand that everyone abide by the strictures of Hinduism and avoid words and deeds that Hindus might find upsetting. The same is true of Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Mormons: They don't lash out in violence when their religious sensibilities are offended. They certainly don't expect their beliefs to be immune from criticism, mockery, or dissent.

But radical Muslims do.
And no less excellent Mark Steyn:
One day, years from now, as archaeologists sift through the ruins of an ancient civilization for clues to its downfall, they'll marvel at how easy it all was. You don't need to fly jets into skyscrapers and kill thousands of people. As a matter of fact, that's a bad strategy, because even the wimpiest state will feel obliged to respond. But if you frame the issue in terms of multicultural "sensitivity," the wimp state will bend over backward to give you everything you want -- including, eventually, the keys to those skyscrapers. Thus, Jack Straw, the British foreign secretary, hailed the "sensitivity" of Fleet Street in not reprinting the offending cartoons.

[...] Very few societies are genuinely multicultural. Most are bicultural: On the one hand, there are folks who are black, white, gay, straight, pre-op transsexual, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, worshippers of global-warming doom-mongers, and they rub along as best they can. And on the other hand are folks who do not accept the give-and-take, the rough-and-tumble of a "diverse" "tolerant" society, and, when one gently raises the matter of their intolerance, they threaten to kill you, which makes the question somewhat moot.
UPDATE II. Oh, and read this too.

UPDATE III. And this.

UPDATE IV. And Cristopher Hitchens:
As it happens, the cartoons themselves are not very brilliant, or very mordant, either. But if Muslims do not want their alleged prophet identified with barbaric acts or adolescent fantasies, they should say publicly that random murder for virgins is not in their religion. And here one runs up against a curious reluctance. … In fact, Sunni Muslim leaders can't even seem to condemn the blowing-up of Shiite mosques and funeral processions, which even I would describe as sacrilege. Of course there are many millions of Muslims who do worry about this, and another reason for condemning the idiots at Foggy Bottom is their assumption, dangerous in many ways, that the first lynch mob on the scene is actually the genuine voice of the people. There's an insult to Islam, if you like.

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Saturday, February 04, 2006

JUST BACK IN and find this incredible news:
Hundreds of Syrian demonstrators stormed the Danish Embassy in Damascus Saturday and set fire to the building, witnesses said.

The demonstrators were protesting offensive caricatures of Islam's Prophet Mohammed that were first published in a Danish newspaper several months ago.

Witnesses said the demonstrators set fire to the entire building, which also houses the embassies of Chile and Sweden.

We'll have to see how the EU, and the international community, responds to this barbaric act of war. Don't have much hope that it will be more than a rhetorical condemnation.

I don't have time right now to be over the issue today, so I suggest you to read Instapundit's roundup.

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Friday, February 03, 2006

A JORDANIAN EDITOR decided to run the Mohammed cartoons, and bluntly defended his action:
The paper's editor, Jihad El Momeni, had something very interesting to say. "What insults Islam more?" he asked in his editorial. "a foreigner who drew the prophet or a Muslim who donned a bomb belt and committed suicide in the midst of a wedding party in Amman or anywhere else?"

"What forces the world more to blaspheme Islam, cartoon drawings or a real beheading scene of a hostage with the cry of "Allahu Akbar" being heard in the background?" El Momeni asked.
Today he has been fired.

Meanwhile, the estimable blogger Jan Haugland has already received a death threat. So, in case it wasn't clear when I posted one of the cartoons the other day, here goes the full set as published by the Jyllands-Posten:

Now they can come and bite me.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

EVO MORALES, a true statesman:

The one and only Fausta has the translation in English.

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On further reflection, the Danes should surely apologise for the cartoons and for their media in general. The Islamic press would never, ever publish a cartoon which might conceivably offend another religion's believers. Never, ever.

This cartoon, for instance, would never, ever appear in Al-Quds:

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IT'S NOT ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that it's real, but this footage of the impact of the second plane into the World Trade Center is chilling. I'm not an expert but it seems real; there's an nteresting discussion about it here.

(via Patterico)

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THE FRENCH NEWSPAPER France Soir was great yesterday: "Yes, we have the right to draw caricatures of God," and, in the blurb, "Don't complain, Mohammed; we've all been caricaturized here". I'm writing in the past tense because the French, after showing some spine yesterday, they immediately surrendered (why am I not surprised?): the editor was summarily executed, er, fired.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports that "La Stampa in Italy, El Periodico in Spain and Dutch paper Volkskrant also carried some of the drawings." I was quite surprised, because it was clear to me that no Spanish newspaper had published the cartoons; besides, being El Periodico a quite leftist newspaper that salivates over anti-Westernism and anti-Bushism (disclosure: I have written several columns for them under my real name but only in their tech section) it's probably one of the last places where I would expect to see a defiance against Muslim fanatics. So I quickly went to yesterday's edition and, while it's technically true they did republish the cartoons, they did so in an article which was quite sympathetic to the grievances of the offended Muslims. It was an illustration of, shall I say, how right they were to be offended by a cartoon depicting Mohammed with a turban-bomb. See it for yourselves:

True, in their editorial yesterday they defended free speech, but only after saying that Muslims were right to be offended; it's just that Muslims shouldn't expect to be able to control what's being said about them outside their geographical area of influence (I'm afraid the editorialists failed to make the logical connection: Europe is more and more withing Islam's area of influence...)

In today's edition, they talk about France Soir in another article quite sympathetic to the offended Muslims and whose only blurb is a quote by an important leader of France's Islamic community:

So, whileit's technically true that El Periodico carried those images, it did like most of the Spanish media: as an illustration that Muslims were fundamentally right to be offended. It was definitely not a stand against them as the BBC wants you to believe.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

I WON'T PUT them all here because Blogger is lousy for these things and because after all you can see them all here, but I want to publish this one as a challenge to all the forces of obscurity. Heck, as if it was the first time that the face of the prophet has been depicted. I also do this in solidarity with the people at the Jyllands Posten and all the other newspapers who have jumped in. None in Spain, of course. At least so far; I wish I am proved wrong soon.

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A Latin American war could possibly break out in the next few years. Unlike what happened in the 20th century when all confrontations were caused by border disputes, this time the war could be a bloody, multinational conflict triggered by ideological reasons.
All symptoms indicate that behind that likely disaster will be the irresponsible behavior of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, a quixotic firebrand who is intent in reconstructing the continent according to his revolutionary fantasies.
There's more.

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The International Atomic Energy Agency says it has evidence that suggests links between Iran's ostensibly peaceful nuclear program and its military work on high explosives and missiles, according to a confidential agency report provided to member countries today.

The four-page report, which officials say was based at least in part on intelligence provided by the United States, refers to a secretive Iranian entity called the "Green Salt Project," which worked on uranium processing, high explosives and a missile warhead design. The combination suggests a "military-nuclear dimension," the report said, that if true would undercut Iran's claims that its nuclear program was solely aimed at producing electrical power.

The report will be debated by the 35 countries that make up the international agency's board when they meet in emergency session on Thursday to decide whether Iran should be reported to the United Nations Security Council for its nuclear activities.

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