From The New York Times: Social Conservatives Wield Influence on Platform.
Republicans approved a platform yesterday that puts the party firmly on the record against legalized abortion, gay marriage and other forms of legal recognition for same-sex couples, reflecting the political clout of social conservatives and setting up a stark contrast with the Democrats for the fall campaign. [...]
In a gesture to moderates, the Republican platform added a "unity plank," acknowledging that party members of good will might disagree. But the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay group, and Republicans for Choice faulted the plank for failing to specify the divisive social issues: abortion, stem-cell research and same-sex marriage.
I'm sympathetic to the elephant on the left.
I noticed that Arnold Schwarzenegger -- known for being a social liberal -- gave a good convention speech that included a few lines about putting aside such differences and focusing on the war on terror. Too bad the RNC platform wasn't as inclusive, or as secular for that matter.
I headed for the nearest TV to watch [Schwarzenegger's speech]. Suddenly I realized someone was standing behind me. It was Pat. He had a scowl on his face. As we know, Schwarzenegger does not represent Buchanan's Republican Party. Nothing seems to make Pat happy these days. As Arnold began to lead the chant of "four more years," Buchanan spun on his heels as if repelled and stalked off, heading for the nearest microphone.
From The New York Times: Hostages Urge France to Repeal Its Scarf Ban.
[Hostage] Georges Malbrunot, who writes for the daily newspapers Le Figaro and Ouest-France, said, "I appeal to the French people and every Frenchman who appreciates the meaning of life to stage demonstrations demanding that the law banning the Islamic veil be revoked, because our lives are in danger and we might die any minute if this law, which I urge President Chirac to revoke, is not abrogated." [...]
The law bans conspicuous religious symbols from public elementary and high schools. It is scheduled to go into effect when schools open on Thursday. [...]
... Iraq's prime minister, Ayad Allawi, said the kidnapping proved that France's position on Iraq -- presumably its opposition to the war and the absence of a troop presence -- offered no protection from terrorism.
"Neutrality doesn't exist, as the kidnapping of the French journalists has shown," Mr. Allawi said in an interview with several European and American newspapers. "The French are deluding themselves if they think they can remain outside of this. Today the extremists are targeting them, too."
That realization, that opposition to the American-led war in Iraq has not provided immunity from Iraq-related terrorism, appears to have sunk in here [in France] as well.
"Nobody is safe," said an editorial in Le Monde on Monday. "No diplomacy can claim to be any kind of Maginot line that would protect us better than our Spanish or Italian neighbors from the death wish that has been at work since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001."
More accurately, a policy of appeasement with terrorists and dictators is a Maginot line, i.e., an ineffective line of defense. Worse still, appeasement acts as a lure to evil, inviting more and more blackmail because it rewards blackmail. That is why diplomatic compromise with Islamists -- whether in France or Najaf -- only furthers their cause and, ultimately, threatens western liberty. As the Times article notes:
[I]n an audiotape broadcast by a Dubai-based television channel in February, Ayman Zawahiri, the No. 2 figure in the terrorist network Al Qaeda, condemned France for defending the freedom of nudity and depravity and fighting chastity and decency with the scarf ban, adding that such anti-Muslim acts by the West should be dealt with by tank shells and antiaircraft missiles.
Robert Tracinski summed up the issue in today's TIA Daily:
The Europeans have long clung to the fantasy that certain specific "grievances" -- treatment of Israel and the Palestinians, US "Imperialism," and so on -- are the cause of terrorism. In reality, as French President Jacques Chirac is discovering, Islamic terrorists hate the West because of what we are -- and because we stand in the way of the global Islamic theocracy they long to impose.
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From FoxNews: Anti-Bush Protesters Swarm NYC.
UPDATE: This cartoon will appear in the Tuesday, August 31st edition of The Detroit News.
From The Miami Herald: Windsurfing Olympian brings a "wave" of hope to Israel
Windsurfer Gal Fridman swears he felt all of Israel -- and the 11 slain Israelis from the 1972 Munich Olympics -- pumping his board for him on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. "As if I was somewhere else, and the board was moving by itself in the final meters."
When he crossed the finish line and realized he had just won Israel's first gold medal, he wrapped himself in the Israeli flag and plunged into the water, his tears mixing with the salt water of the Saronic Gulf.
He cried again at the waterfront medal ceremony, when several hundred Israelis belted out "HaTikvah" (The Hope) as the Israeli flag was raised. Fridman, whose first name means "wave" in Hebrew, was mobbed by fans afterward, and security guards had to escort him to safety. [...]
Fridman's victory is a happy chapter in what has been a somber Olympic history for Israel, and he said he knows what he will do with his medal when he returns home. He will take it to the memorial for the murdered 11 Olympians and "show it to them, to show they are always with us, to show that we have moved on, and that we are winning."
We've created a lot of cartoons on the negative aspects of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. We wanted to create a cartoon on a positive note for a change. Our congratulations to Fridman and Israel for its first Olympic gold medal.
From Reuters: N.Korea Hurls Abuse at Bush, Calls Him Human Trash
North Korea hurled invective at President Bush for a second day Tuesday, calling him a political idiot and human trash, and said six-party talks on Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions appeared doomed.
A day earlier, a Foreign Ministry spokesman for the isolated communist state described Bush as a tyrannical imbecile who put Adolf Hitler in the shade and said Pyongyang could see no justification to negotiate with his administration.
We'll likely hear more of the same during the Republican National Convention next week, and not necessarily from Pyongyang.
UPDATE August 30: I watched some of the C-SPAN coverage of this weekend's march against Republicans in NYC. There seemed to be less "Bush=Hitler" type expressions than at previous demonstrations, but then I only watch about 45 minutes worth. Two that I noticed: a sign reading "POLAND 1939, IRAQ 2003"; and a t-shirt reading "BUSH" with the "S" replaced by a swastika.
From FoxNews: Have the Swift Boat Ads Hurt Kerry’s Image?
HUME: We got something on our screen now that shows this was. Before the [first Swift Boat Veterans] ad we had 42 percent [of surveyed Independents] leaning toward voting for Kerry. After the ad, it came to 29 percent.
KESSLER: That's correct.
HUME: And so you had a decline. Measurable decline, would you say, in support for Kerry?
KESSLER: Yes. The first Swift Boat ad definitely had an impact.
Read the whole interview, which also says that Kerry's counter ad didn't help him and that the second Swift Boat ad hurt Bush among Independents.
From FoxNews: Negative Attacks Often Prove Effective.
Some political advisers have suggested the Massachusetts senator waited too long to respond forcefully. If nothing else, the issue has thrown Kerry offstride during a between-conventions period when he had hoped to focus on the economy and other issues.
Polls suggest that the Democrat's support has been slipping.
A CBS poll said independent voters were split on whether the allegations were believable, and noted a shift in veterans toward Bush.
A survey by the University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Public Policy Center said more than half of those surveyed had seen or knew about the ad, even though it ran only in a few markets.
From FoxNews: Swift Boat Vets Vow to Press On.
Not only has the Kerry campaign backtracked on the Christmas in Cambodia claims, but the Swift Boat group now says that the Kerry campaign has backtracked on statements about Kerry's first Purple Heart. (Via LGF)
UPDATE II -- August 31: This headline on CNN's home page seemed to reflect our cartoon: • Sources: Dems fear Kerry campaign adrift.
The concern, according to these sources, is that Kerry has failed to effectively respond to attacks from Republicans and criticism of his military service in Vietnam, particular ads from a group calling itself Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
On Sunday, August 15, a 16-year-old girl in the town of Neka, northern Iran, was executed. Ateqeh Sahaleh was hanged in public on Simetry Street off Rah Ahan Street at the city center. The sentence was issued by the head of Neka’s Justice Department and subsequently upheld by the mullahs’ Supreme Court and carried out with the approval of Judiciary Chief Mahmoud Shahroudi.
In her summary trial, the teenage victim did not have any lawyer and efforts by her family to recruit a lawyer was to no avail. Ateqeh personally defended herself. She told the religious judge, Haji Rezaii, that he should punish the main perpetrators of moral corruption not the victims.
The judge personally pursued Ateqeh’s death sentence, beyond all normal procedures and finally gained the approval of the Supreme Court. After her execution Rezai said her punishment was not execution but he had her executed for her "sharp tongue". [Emphasis added]
'Free Iran' News has translated from Farsi another article:
The animosity and anger of [local judge] Haji Reza was so strong that he personally put the rope around the girl's delicate neck and personally gave the signal to the crane operator, by raising his hand, to begin pulling the rope.
And Iran-Va-Jahan reports that Amnesty International has issued a statement on the execution of Ateqeh Sahaleh.
UPDATE August 30: This cartoon appeared in the Sunday, August 29th edition of The Washington Times.
From U.S. News & World Report's Michael Barone: Winter in Cambodia?.
This month the Kerry Campaign abandoned one claim that John Kerry had made for years about his Vietnam War service and put another into question. The claim that has been dropped: that Kerry was in Cambodia at Christmastime in 1968. In a 1979 review of the movie Apocalypse Now in the Boston Herald, Kerry wrote, "I remember spending Christmas Eve of 1968 5 miles across the Cambodian border being shot at by our Vietnamese allies." In a 1986 speech on the Senate floor, Kerry said, "I remember Christmas of 1968 sitting on a gunboat in Cambodia. . . . I have that memory which is seared -- seared -- in me." In a 1992 interview with States News Service, Kerry claimed, "On Christmas Eve of 1968, I was on a gunboat in a firefight that wasn't supposed to be taking place." That year he also told the Associated Press, "Everybody was over there [in Cambodia]. Nobody thought twice about it."
These are vivid statements full of colorful detail -- South Vietnamese soldiers shooting off guns to celebrate Christmas. But, as Emily Litella used to say on Saturday Night Live, "Never mind." Historian Douglas Brinkley's bestselling Tour of Duty, based partly on Kerry's wartime journals, places Kerry on Christmas 1968 in Sa Dec, 50 miles from Cambodia.
Investor's Business Daily reminds Senator Kerry: We Are Waiting.
John Kerry says he'll fight claims he lied about or exaggerated his service in Vietnam. The best way to fight such charges would be to stop calling people names and start providing some answers.
He'll have to show that the charges by a group called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are false. That's a tall order. The allegations are numerous, well documented and quite serious.
In general, they insist that Kerry has consistently overstated his heroism, that many accounts of his service in Vietnam are not true and that he has slandered his fellow veterans by claiming they were guilty of widespread war crimes and atrocities.
It's too bad Kerry has responded to these charges — and particularly those raised in the book "Unfit for Command" by former Swift boat commander John O'Neill — by vowing to "attack."
So far, his "attack" seems to be of the political and personal kind, with Kerry and his followers claiming that O'Neill, and the 250 or so Swift boat vets who back him, are Republican Party shills. On Friday, Kerry filed a legal complaint about O'Neill's group.
But that won't do. Only answers will.
From CNN: U.S. troops move gets muted response.
Though the withdrawal will be spread over years, areas of southern and western Germany with U.S. bases will feel a sharp economic impact, including the likely loss of tens of thousands of local jobs. Germany is home to some 70,000 U.S. soldiers, the bulk of the American military presence in Europe.
"I regret this very much," German Defense Minister Peter Struck told reporters during a visit to troops in northern Germany. "This is a serious loss for those regions."
Although US officials have assured Germany that the move is not intended as punishment for Berlin's outspoken opposition to the Iraq war, the plans have left a bitter aftertaste in towns that have come to rely on Uncle Sam.
Not surprisingly, Kerry challenges Bush troop plan.
Kerry told the veterans Bush's plan "sends the wrong signal to withdraw from Europe and the Far East now when we need to cultivate those allies" to help fight the war on terror.
But as James Taranto noted today:
... Kerry seem[s] to be making a fetish of preserving Cold War-era alliances and institutions, even if it means sacrificing U.S. security interests. Given who's proposing change here and who's resisting it, you really have to wonder just who the "conservatives" are.
The latest regarding the illegal use of performance-enhancing drugs at the Olympics:
I'm not a drugs cheat, says Greek hero Kenteris
Myanmar weightlifter fails drugs test
Greek Team Says Two Baseball Players Tested Positive for Drugs
US sprinter Edwards out of Olympics as doping appeal fails
From The Australian today: Sadr told: drop your guns and join us.
IRAQ'S national conference, charged with charting a course to democracy, yesterday urged rebel Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to disband his Mehdi Army militia and join the mainstream political process. The conference voted to send a delegation to meet Sadr in the besieged holy city of Najaf as Iraq's hostage crisis worsened with the kidnapping of an American journalist.
Participants approved a proposal by a Sadr relative, Baghdad Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Hussein al-Sadr, who said: "There are inviolable conditions in civilised countries ... there is no place for armed militias. ... We must work together to convince Moqtada Sadr and the dear brothers in the Mehdi Army to transform (the militia) into a political party, whatever its leaning."
[Iraq's chief negotiator, Mouwaffaq] Al-Rubaie said he had proposed that al-Sadr's militia be disbanded and become a political movement.
And from a report last week:
But as [Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi] demanded that al-Sadr disarm his militia, Allawi left maneuvering room for the cleric himself. He repeated a longstanding invitation to al-Sadr to take part in elections due by the end of January.
It's bad enough that al-Sadr -- an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist -- is being treated as a reasonable being, but to offer him political power? Our soldiers are not supposed to be getting killed for al-Sadr's appeasement. This is the danger that came from quickly handing over sovereignty to the Iraqis. The handover did not appease al-Sadr and his thugs, who still consider us "occupiers" and the interim Iraqi government "U.S. puppets."
Worse still, we no longer have ultimate authority to pursue our security interests in Iraq. We have to ask permission of the Iraqis. Maybe they will let us; maybe they won't. It should never have been left up to them to decide, as evidenced by how al-Sadr is now being treated (though it must be noted that Bush also pursued an appeasing tack in April). A glimmer of hope that the Iraqis will allow (!) us to take out al-Sadr appeared in the first article:
Sporadic fighting continued in Najaf last night as US-led forces prepared for another offensive on the city. "A major assault by forces will be launched quickly to bring the Najaf fight to an end," Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Sabah Kadhim said.
Then again, we've heard that before.
In today's TIA Daily, Robert Tracinski commented on the broader issue, "Democracy vs. Liberty in Iraq":
Recent events in Iraq show the folly of promoting "democracy" -- in the form of unlimited mob rule -- as the ideal political system for Iraq. At a conference gathered to decide on election rules, a mob of al-Sadr's sympathizers have demanded an end to military action against the Mahdi Army and seem to have succeeded in forcing yet another delay of Sadr's long-overdue demise. This kind of "democracy" will only serve to deliver Iraq to a new variant of tyranny: al-Sadr's Iranian-backed theocracy.
UPDATE I -- August 17: From The Australian today: Seven die as Sadr mission delayed.
Speaker after speaker decried the violence in Najaf and, on Monday, a party of Sadr loyalists showed up -- despite pledges to boycott the conference -- to chant their defiance.
There was a moment of stunned silence in the sometimes rowdy assembly when Sadr supporters started chanting a message of self-sacrifice that used to be dedicated to Saddam Hussein.
"With my soul, with my blood, I sacrifice for Iraq," the men shouted, pumping their fists and substituting the word 'Saddam' with 'Iraq'.
Many liberal delegates looked on in shock at the Shi'ites, who had suffered under Saddam, coming out with such a cry.[Emphasis added]
Some Shiites want to impose their own tyranny in place of Saddam's. What's shocking about that? Just because they were persecuted under Saddam's regime doesn't mean they're automatically going to embrace individual rights. A willingness to sacrifice themselves and others for an Islamist Iraq was to be expected from Islamic theocrats. Reminds me of this cartoon from April 2003 (same cartoon but added commentary here).
This has been coming for some time. The question now is will the new Iraqi government have to will to crush the Islamist theocrats and terrorists? Will they succeed where we failed?
UPDATE II -- August 18: Unfortunately this cartoon is turning out to be all too accurate. CNN reports today: Al-Sadr says militia will leave mosque.
Radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced Wednesday his militia will leave the Imam Ali Mosque, after a threat by the government to "liberate" the holy site.
In a letter from al-Sadr's office in Baghdad, al-Sadr said he agreed to three demands made to him Tuesday night by a delegation from the conference -- that he and his forces leave the mosque, disband the Mehdi Army and "enter into the mainstream political process."[Emphasis added]
It remains to be seen how far al-Sadr will exploit the government's pandering, but it's clear is that our forces were used as a political tool to pose a threat to him. "Used" is the important word here. Consider what our forces were doing while al-Sadr was being appeased:
Heavy fighting continued in Najaf overnight and throughout the day. Marine Capt. Carrie Batson told CNN that militia have launched "sporadic attacks" on the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit forces and they "remain in a defense posture" in a cemetery near the mosque.
"Thus far, soldiers in the cemetery came under approximately 10 separate volleys [at least six rounds each volley] of mortar fire, along with sniper fire," Batson said. "After it was clear that the mortars weren't going to stop, we shot artillery at the mortar position in self-defense. There are no indications of damage to the shrine."
Over sixty mortar rounds are fired at our troops before they decide it's appropriate to take defensive measures. Then immediately afterward they are compelled to make clear that no harm was done to the shrine being used by the enemy as a shield. All this so a terrorist, Islamist cleric could be allowed to enter politics, thus legitimizing the possibility that Iraq could become another Iranian-style theocracy.
There's nothing good in any of this. In fact, this is a (if not the) political low-point in the Iraq war, though the groundwork for this surrender was laid many months ago. The Fallujah surrender was bad enough, but that happened when we still had military authority and could correct it. We have since forfeited that authority.
In an April 2003 news story, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld stated regarding an Iranian-style government in Iraq: "That isn't going to happen."
The problem now is that, because of the quick handover of sovereignty to the Iraqis, the Defense Department no longer has a final say in the matter. The same article had a quote from President Bush that indicated a fatal flaw: "One thing is certain: We will not impose a government on Iraq. We will help that nation build a government of, by and for the Iraqi people."
In other words, if the Iraqis want terrorist al-Sadr to form a political party and influence the direction of the Iraqi government toward an Iranian-style theocracy, then so be it. That's "democratic." And our soldiers will be right there, dying to make it all possible.
Frankly, it's difficult to imagine John Kerry doing a worse job as president in regard to Najaf. How much worse could it be? I think President Bush is doing an overall better job of defending America than Kerry would -- I'm still inclined to vote for Bush -- but this whole episode is a stain on Bush's presidency. Keep in mind, this is the man who said on Sept. 20, 2001: "From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime."
Yet today we are allowing an Islamist terrorist to officially become part of the new Iraqi government. Talk about flip-flops. Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise since Bush has treated Yassir Arafat in a similar fashion. But it's nonetheless disappointing, particularly since our troops are at risk.
The only way to protect Americans -- and, coincidentally, good Iraqis -- is to bomb the Najaf mosque into a parking lot, and to announce that any building used for such purposes gets the same treatment. They chose to use their House of God as a House of War. The marching crowds agree. Admit the facts, and act accordingly. Continue aggressive investigations into mosques in America. And let those who will condemn the Americans choose their side openly.
Below is a cartoon from a time when we thought there had been a policy change to treat hostile enemy positions appropriately. A General Mattis was quoted as saying: "If they barricade themselves inside a mosque, we are not going to care about the mosque anymore than they do." So much for that. Now we're burying American soldiers who were killed around the Iman Ali shrine, which still stands along with the thugs inside.
UPDATE III -- October 4, 2004: From The New York Times: Militant Cleric Considers Entry Into Iraqi Politics.
The Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr has begun laying the groundwork to enter Iraq's nascent democratic process, telling Iraqi leaders that he is planning to disband his militia and possibly field candidates for office.
After weeks of watching his militia wither before American military attacks, Mr. Sadr has sent emissaries to some of Iraq's major political parties and religious groups to discuss the possibility of involving himself in the campaign for nationwide elections, according to a senior aide to Mr. Sadr and several Iraqi leaders who have met with him.
From FoxNews: Saudi Royal Family Faces Troubles
Behind a façade of control, the ruling family of Saudi Arabia is in tough shape and teetering on the brink of collapse, a victim of its own corruption and a violent Islamic insurgency at its door, some U.S. experts warn.
"It is a pretty fragile royal family, it's pretty corrupt and it's sitting on some pretty weak legs," S. Enders Winbush, director of the Center for Future Security Strategies with the Hudson Institute, told FOXNews.com. [...]
[Author Stephen] Schwartz said he does not buy into the theory that the government's fall is imminent, but he does call the situation there "a crisis." He said a large middle class is repressed by the strictest of religious law, which bars women from an education and gives them no rights; men are whipped publicly if they don't get to daily prayers on time and people accused of crimes are beheaded in the public square.
Fay Wray - Legendary Scream Queen by Barry Meyer:
Miss Wray spent her final years in the shadows of the landmark which brought her fame -- the Empire State Building.
'Each time I arrive in New York,' she wrote in her biography 'and (I) see the skyline and the exquisite beauty of the Empire State Building, my heart beats a little faster. I like that feeling. I really like it!'
New York City paid tribute to the legendary movie star Tuesday night by dimming the lights of the Empire State Building for fifteen minutes.
The legendary scream queen died in her Manhattan apartment Sunday night.
I've loved the movie King Kong since I was a kid. This is our small tribute to Ms. Wray, who starred in the 1933 film.
Presidential candidate Senator John Kerry recently claimed he would fight "a more sensitive war on terror". In the abstract, that's a frightening prospect. Because in reality, President Bush is already taking too sensitive an approach. Right now in Iraq, we're allowing the cultural and religious aspects of the Imam Ali shrine to protect murderous cleric al-Sadr from our full powers. It's said we're doing so to avoid "alienating" the dominant, Iraqi Shiite population. But how much will we alienate the population from respecting us if we keep handling killers like al-Sadr with kid gloves?
It's possible that our "sensitive war" approach will change today now that the assault on al-Sadr has been launched. We would love to be wrong in this regard. But the articles below don't provide much hope.
Please, Mr. President: Treat the Imam Ali shrine for what it is -- a hostile enemy position -- and let the Marines do their job.
From The Washington Post yesterday: Showdown Looms in Najaf.
U.S. Marines and soldiers prepared on Wednesday for what was expected to be a decisive battle for the holiest city in Iraq, but as darkness fell the sense of imminence receded abruptly. An armored column idling at the main gate turned back, and commanders said preparations for the offensive were being extended.
The American-led force may have been awaiting final approval from Iraq's political leader for a combat operation [...]
But military planners were also vexed by intelligence reports that the militiamen, who have fought U.S. and Iraqi security forces here for a week, had rigged explosives in the shrine of Imam Ali, the most sacred site in the Shiite branch of Islam. The reports indicated that the insurgents, who have been using the shrine as a refuge and staging area, would wait until advancing U.S. forces drew near, then detonate the charges and blame the resulting destruction on the Americans.
Military officials said the reports had not been confirmed. "The fear is that the intelligence might not be right in fact, but in effect -- that he has something catastrophic planned for the mosque that he will blame on the U.S.," one commander said, referring to Moqtada Sadr, the radical cleric who leads the loosely formed Mahdi Army militia.
The sensitivity of any U.S. military action here was underscored by a warning from the supreme leader of neighboring Iran, who called American operations in Najaf "one of the darkest crimes of humanity."
And from CNN today: U.S. launches offensive in Najaf.
Calling the operation a critical test for the interim government, Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman Sabah Kadhim said fierce fighting is taking place around the sacred Imam Ali Mosque in the city center, with Iraqi forces taking the lead in that area.
"There is intensive fighting going on, surrounding holy places in Najaf. The Iraqi forces -- that is, the police and the national guard -- are heading this operation supported by multinational forces aircraft," Kadhim said. "They are under strict instruction that only Iraqi forces will enter the holy places."
"We want to disarm the militias inside [the mosque], who are preventing ordinary visitors from going to the holy places," he said. [...]
[CNN's Matthew] Chance reported that Mehdi Army members were firing mortars from the grounds of the mosque, hitting and heavily damaging a police station. [...]
Earlier in the week, U.S. forces fought insurgents in the sprawling Wadi al-Salam cemetery, near the sacred Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf.
Najaf Gov. Adnan al-Zurufi cleared the way for military operations at the previously restricted area where armed militants are holed up. U.S. forces have been careful when firing on militia positions in the cemetery and the mosque -- aware that they could alienate many if they stepped foot in the sacred compound.
One of the options being discussed: sending Iraqi forces rather than Americans into the compound in an effort to quell the crisis.
UPDATE: CNN reports: Forces raid al-Sadr home in Najaf.
U.S. Marines battling militants in Najaf conducted a raid on Muqtada al-Sadr's house Thursday, but the renegade cleric was not there, CNN has learned. Authorities believe he could be holed up in the Imam Ali Shrine compound with other militia fighters. The compound is surrounded by Iraqi forces, but there is no plan to storm the site. Great caution and care is being taken not to disturb that site, one of the holiest in Islam.[Emphasis added]
UPDATE II: Here comes the "alienation." AP reports: Iraqi Shiites Angry at Fighting in Najaf .
Iraqi Shiites expressed anger Thursday at a major U.S.-led assault on a rebel militia in the holy city of Najaf, warning the violence could spread to other parts of the country and damage the political process.
Fighters loyal to rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have been holed up in and around the Imam Ali shrine, which holds the remains of Ali, the most exalted Shia saint and the son-in-law and cousin of Islam's prophet Muhammad. Damage to the shrine could anger Shiites and Muslims worldwide. [...]
In an effort to avoid a Shiite backlash, Iraqi and U.S. military officials said any assault near the militants' refuge in the shrine would be led by Iraqi forces. The shrine has suffered slight damage in previous clashes, and some Shiites were appalled the violence has brought foreign troops within sight of the holy place.[Emphasis added]
Did you get that? Muslims are "appalled" that foreign troops are simply "within sight" of the shrine? Talk about ultra-sensitive... If we allow that attitude to dictate our military tactics in Najaf, we're doomed. And notice the outcry from the mere fact that we're fighting in the holy city of Najaf -- it's not even about the shrine any more. Why? Because it's us, the infidels, whom they hate.
Blogger Timothy Perry summed up the issue nicely: "Our enemies will still hate us in the morning no matter what we do. Lives depend on our capture of Al-Sadr, we cannot stand by and let this drag on."
UPDATE III: Looks like we've chosen the "stand by and let this drag on" option. The New York Times reports: U.S. Switches Tactic in Najaf, Trying Isolation.
Only days after the new Iraqi prime minister, Ayad Allawi, flew into Najaf on an American military helicopter and announced that there would be "no negotiations or truce," he and the American officials in Baghdad who are his indispensable partners in power appear, for now, to have backed away from a showdown. Instead, they are pursuing a combination of negotiations and a tightening blockade around the mosque.[...]
The situation in Najaf was redolent of events in April , when American commanders, confronted then as now by an uprising stirred by Mr. Sadr, built up a powerful strike force around Najaf with a vow to uproot the cleric and his fighters from the Imam Ali mosque, then decided that the political costs of attacking or damaging the shrine compelled an accommodation.
Then, Mr. Sadr won agreement to a wide "exclusion zone" in the center of Najaf that left him free to build his militia force and advance himself as the authentic leader of Shiite resistance to American military occupation.
This time, senior American officials in Baghdad said, the aim will be to constrict Mr. Sadr and his black-uniformed followers much more tightly, moving in from the initial cordon, set about a mile from the mosque at the closest point on Thursday, to a blockade line closer in, with Iraqi police and national guardsmen moving farther forward.
The officials said the aim would be to halt the flow of men, weapons and ammunition, as well as food and other supplies, into the militia-controlled area around the mosque, and to prevent any fighters from leaving until they have surrendered their weapons. [Emphasis added]
UPDATE IV -- August 13: Remember a few days ago when officials announced that there would be "no negotiations or truce" with al-Sadr? AP now reports: U.S. forces suspend offensive in Najaf for talks.
"We are allowed to engage the enemy only in self defense and long enough to break contact," said Maj. Bob Pizzateli, executive officer for the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment of the 1st Cavalry Division. "That was a blanket order for everybody."
He said the militia appeared to have stopped most attacks as well, and the city appeared quieter Friday, a day after the U.S. military announced it had begun a major offensive to rout the militants.
"Hopefully the talks will go well and everything will be resolved peacefully," Pizzateli said.[...]
"Multinational forces are operating under firm instructions not to pursue Muqtada and not to conduct operations within the exclusion zone surrounding the Imam Ali and Kufa Mosques," [Brig. Gen. Erv Lessel, deputy director for operations for the coalition forces] said in a statement.
It appears that al-Sadr has won again. He regroups while are troops are paralyzed by politics. Want to lose the election, Mr. President? Keep up your "sensitive war." Maybe you should listen to your Vice President:
"A sensitive war will not destroy the evil men who killed 3,000 Americans and who seek the chemical, nuclear and biological weapons to kill hundreds of thousands more. The men who beheaded Daniel Pearl and Paul Johnson will not be impressed by our sensitivity."
I wonder if the men who have kidnapped a journalist and threated to kill him if we don't pull our troops out of Najaf will be impressed by our sensitivity.
UPDATE V: If al-Sadr remains alive and free, he has won -- regardless of the fact that he is wounded and has lost hundreds of men. And there are indications that Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad "no negotiations or truce" Allawi would except such an outcome. Consider this report from earlier this week:
After meeting with U.S. Marine commanders, Allawi vowed that there would be "no negotiation with any militia that bears arms against Iraq" and demanded gunmen leave the Shi'a shrine city. [...] But as he demanded that al-Sadr disarm his militia, Allawi left maneuvering room for the cleric himself. He repeated a longstanding invitation to al-Sadr to take part in elections due by the end of January. [Emphasis added]
It's been about politics from the beginning, instead of being about capturing or eliminating an Islamist terrorist supported by one of our worst enemies, Iran.
As Robert Tracinski at TIA Daily recently observed, Allawi has become our "de facto secretary of defense for Iraqi."
Belmont Club has more.
UPDATE VI: The latest. The good news: Kidnapped journalist released. The bad news:
A Sadr spokesman said the cleric would pull his forces out of Najaf if U.S. forces also withdrew and religious authorities agreed to administer the city's sacred Shi'ite sites. Sheikh Ali Smeisim also said Sadr was demanding the release of his captive guerrillas and an amnesty for his fighters, who should be allowed to participate in Iraq's political process.
"Sayyed Moqtada [al-Sadr] will not be touched if he leaves the shrine peacefully," Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib said.[Emphasis added]
UPDATE VII: Al-Sadr is now making demands. So much for the "decisive battle" -- we're basically back to where we started, only it's worse for us. After this and Falluajah, we've made it clear to the enemy how to defeat America in Iraq.
Robert Tracinski at TIA Daily had another good observation about what has become "The Never-Ending Battle for Najaf":
It has been said that a coward dies a thousand deaths, while the brave man dies but once. The same goes for a pragmatist, who suffers through a thousand political upheavals because he is afraid to take just one controversial action. We could have stormed the Imam Ali shrine in April, taken the political heat for it, and then moved on. Instead, we're enduring yet another cycle of attack, retreat, and bogus "truce."
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From the last three days:
Jewish students attacked at Auschwitz (via LGF);
Jewish cemetery and chapel vandalized in New Zealand (more at Silent Running); and
Jewish graves desecrated in France.
From the latter article:
[In addition to today's vandalism:] In France in May, swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti were scrawled on 127 headstones at a Jewish cemetery in the Alsatian town of Herrlisheim. And last month, vandals painted swastikas and Satanic symbols on 32 tombstones at a Jewish cemetery in Saverne, also in Alsace. Muslim and Christian cemeteries have also been vandalized.
Despite a series of government measures, anti-Semitic violence has increased in recent years in France, coinciding with rising tensions between Israelis and Palestinians. Authorities have blamed young French Muslims for some of the violence. A recent report by the French Interior Ministry found 510 anti-Jewish acts or threats in the first six months of the year, compared with 593 for all of 2003. [Emphasis added]
From the BBC: Taiwan-China row reaches Olympics.
Taiwan's government says it has been told to remove adverts for the island from hundreds of airport baggage carts and buses in Athens. A spokesman said he suspected the order was a result of China lobbying the Athens organising committee. [...]
Under pressure from China, Taiwan participates in the Olympics under the name of Chinese Taipei, and its national flag and anthem cannot be used when its athletes win medals.[Emphasis added]
What a gross injustice. And apparently it's all sanctioned by the Olympic authorities.
CNN has more: China pushes for Taiwan poster ban.
"Communist China's pressure on us is constant," Lin [Chia-lung, head of the Government Information Office,] told a news conference.
[I]t isn't enough to defend Islam or attempt to explain aberrations away. He [Rauf] and other Muslim leaders have an obligation to speak out forcefully against betrayals of their own traditions. Throughout the Muslim world, fatwas are issued every day on all conceivable subjects; where are the fatwas condemning such barbaric crimes as the beheading of hostages or suicide-bombing?
The review says the book's author is the "spiritual leader, or imam, of a mosque just blocks from Ground Zero." Another New York state imam was in the news yesterday: Two men arrested in missile sting operation.
The imam and the founder of an Albany, New York, mosque are being held after an FBI sting operation in which the suspects tried to help an undercover agent posing as a terrorist, federal law enforcement sources said Thursday. [...] They were apprehended when they allegedly agreed to launder the money from the sale of a shoulder-fired missile, sources said.
And meanwhile in Britain: U.S.: Al Qaeda leader held in Britain.
[...] Heathrow Airport was one of "several potential" targets in London that were uncovered as a result of the Pakistan investigation.
It's long over due for moderate, secular Muslims to start loudly separating themselves as a matter of principle from theocratic and terror-sponsoring Islamists. Otherwise it's going to be hard to believe that moderate Muslims exist at all, much less in significant numbers.
(Here is another cartoon on this topic.)
UPDATE: This cartoon was inspired by commentary from Harry Binswanger on his HB List. The following is the relevant excerpt (titled "Moderate Muslims?") from a larger post looking at what hasn't happened (but should have) in the three years since 9/11:
Imagine that a sect of fanatical Jews blew up three American buildings, killing thousands. Imagine that this sect of Jews issued a declaration of holy war on the United States, in the name of Judaism.
What do you think would have been the response of the rest of the Jews in America and around the world? Our ears would have been deafened by the roar of Jews' moral outrage, their resounding support for America, and their demands for the destruction of the radical sect. You wouldn't be able to turn around in NYC or any urban center without seeing Jews wearing some insignia to show their love for America and hatred for the sect. There would be endless TV spots sponsored by Jewish organizations, there would be T-shirts with "Those killers aren't Jews," there would be multitudes of young Jews volunteering to go into the military to fight the sect. Israel would be acting in the same way.
So where is any peep from the Muslims? Or the Muslim nations?
The WSJ had a review of a new book What's Right with Islam, by Frisal Abdul Rauf. According to the review, "Mr. Abdul Rauf makes an effort to come to grips with this disastrous passivity [i.e., silence] on the part of Muslims, but his comments fall far short. To state that 'suicide bombing is a tragic phenomenon that strikes at us all' and to follow this up with the remark that 'it takes a terrible toll of innocent lives, while it also reflects the deep despair and hopelessness of its perpetrators' hardly seems commensurate with the magnitude of the disaster." I'll say. And I wouldn't describe Osama bin Laden or Muhammed Atta as filled with "despair and hopelessness."
Whatever it says or doesn't say in the Koran, there is something terribly wrong with a religion whose adherents fail to be heard in the 3 years after an attack of this magnitude made in their name.
CNN reports today: Statue of Liberty reopens.
Tightened security measures at the 118-year-old national monument include a new anti-bomb detection device that blows a blast of air into clothing and then checks for particles of explosive residue. Bomb-sniffing dogs also were present during the preview.
Liberty Island, the statue's 12-acre home, was closed for 100 days after September 11, 2001. The second of two terrorist-hijacked jetliners had skimmed low over the statue just seconds before it crashed into the World Trade Center's south tower 1 1/2 miles away. Airport-type metal detectors were installed to screen visitors boarding the ferry from lower Manhattan, and the island was reopened in December 2001. [Emphasis added.]
FoxNews reports: Dems Fail to Register Post-Convention Bounce.
In today's TIA Daily, Robert Tracinski examines why "Kerry's Post-Convention Dip" may have happened.
That question is implicitly answered in a report in today's Washington Post (here) on Kerry's post-convention campaigning. Since this comes from the generally liberal Washington Post, you would expect it to be positive toward Kerry (e.g., the kind of uncritical drivel still being churned out by the LA Times). But this report is a clear, factual, somewhat dry blow-by-blow of the intellectual gaffes Kerry has committed just in the past 72 hours. The left's rap against Bush is that he is supposedly "stupid" and "arrogant." Yet thoughtlessness and arrogance are exactly the qualities that emerge from this report on Kerry -- and they may explain why getting to know Kerry's personality has not swayed voters to his side.
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From the Houston Chronicle: Pregnant al Sadr commander an unlikely warrior in Iraq.
Umm Muhammad's green eyes flashed one day last week as she listened to the imam at a run-down Baghdad mosque preach about how women should be silent and unseen, traveling only "from the home to the grave."
She knew the edict didn't apply to her; the same imam had blessed her before battle when she became one of the first female commanders in rebel cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi's Army militia.
"Even my husband didn't know I was fighting, or he pretended not to know," Muhammad, 34, said. "He tells me, 'One day you're going to go and never come back.' I tell him I dream of martyrdom."
The article bends over backwards to put the best possible spin on the fact that women, mothers even, are volunteering to blow themselves up to murder other people -- and planning to train their kids to do the same. The words "terror" or "terrorism" don't even appear in the article. These new female terrorists are "soldiers" and "warriors." It's as if we're to take these developments as a positive sign that feminism is taking hold among Islamists in Iraq. And "rebel cleric"? Al-Sadr is wanted for murder by the Iraqi government. Apparently the writer didn't think that little fact was relevant.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ran basically the same article as above. But The Detroit Free Press ran another version that had this tidbit:
Women fought alongside men during al-Sadr's uprising against U.S. forces in April, and at least two female guerrillas died in combat. Their funeral banners proclaimed them shaheeda, the feminine form of the Arabic word for martyr.
Sabriya Beqal, a 50-year-old mother of eight, was killed by U.S. fire last month as she was bringing water to the Mahdi's Army fighters camped out in her courtyard, her family said. Her sons and other militiamen carried her coffin to the cemetery and noted the shock of passersby who overheard that the fallen fighter was a woman.
"No less than 10 Americans will be killed to avenge my mother," said Beqal's 25-year-old son, Ahmed. "She was such an honor for us. All my friends wish their mothers could be martyrs, too. When we're all dead, we know the women will still be there, fighting."
It's been said before, but if so many of the enemy are wishing for martyrdom, we ought to help them reach their goal before they have a chance to take others with them.
UPDATE: The BBC reports: Fighting flares around Sadr home.
US armoured vehicles cordoned off the Zahra neighbourhood, reports said. The sounds of heavy gunfire, mortar shelling and grenade blasts followed. Witnesses told AP news agency Mr Sadr was in the house at the time. US forces are now said to have withdrawn.
Mr Sadr led uprisings against coalition forces in several cities in April before a truce was agreed. Over the last few weeks, Mr Sadr's fiery rhetoric against the US presence had softened, and he had pledged to lead a peaceful campaign of resistance.
Apparently, coalition troops have not given up on getting al-Sadr, truce or no truce. We certainly know that al-Sadr's pledge for "a peaceful campaign of resistance" is a crock. Why else would he need the women's suicide brigade?
The article does mention the arrest warrant and shows why compromising with such people is a mistake.
A ceasefire was reached in June and earlier this month the newspaper was allowed to resume publishing. During truce negotiations earlier in the year, Iraqi officials had said Mr Sadr would not face arrest despite an arrest warrant issued over the murder of a rival cleric.
So not only is he getting away with murder, but now he can re-launch his Islamist, anti-American newspaper. Despite the losses in his army, al-Sadr appears to have won politically. That is, unless our troops can get to him.
UPDATE August 5: CNN reports: U.S., Iraqi forces battle cleric's militia in Najaf.