Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Iran on Thursday the "international community is united" in the dispute over its nuclear program, but a Tehran envoy defiantly rejected a U.N. call to reimpose a freeze on uranium enrichment.
Rice spoke after a meeting in Berlin among diplomats from the five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany over ways to press Iran to stop enriching uranium, which can be used for weapons. Iran says its program is peaceful.
The meeting follows agreement Wednesday by the 15-member Security Council to ask the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, to report back in 30 days on Iran's compliance with demands to stop enriching uranium.
In Vienna, Iran's chief representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, told The Associated Press that "it is impossible to go back to suspension."
"This enrichment matter is not reversible," Soltanieh said.
The U.S. intelligence community has concluded that U.N. Security Council sanctions would fail to stop Iran's nuclear weapons program. Officials said the intelligence community assessed that Iran remains determined to acquire a nuclear weapon and would endure penalties to ensure success. They also said several of Iran's allies, particularly China, North Korea and Russia, would either ignore or circumvent sanctions.
From TIME: Today Tehran, Tomorrow the World by Charles Krauthammer.
We have difficulty understanding the mentality of Iran's newest rulers. Then again, we don't understand the mentality of the men who flew into the World Trade Center or the mobs in Damascus and Tehran who chant "Death to America"--and Denmark(!)--and embrace the glory and romance of martyrdom.
This atavistic love of blood and death and, indeed, self-immolation in the name of God may not be new--medieval Europe had an abundance of millennial Christian sects--but until now it has never had the means to carry out its apocalyptic ends.
That is why Iran's arriving at the threshold of nuclear weaponry is such a signal historical moment. It is not just that its President says crazy things about the Holocaust. It is that he is a fervent believer in the imminent reappearance of the 12th Imam, Shi'ism's version of the Messiah. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been reported as saying in official meetings that the end of history is only two or three years away. He reportedly told an associate that on the podium of the General Assembly last September, he felt a halo around him and for "those 27 or 28 minutes, the leaders of the world did not blink ... as if a hand was holding them there and it opened their eyes to receive" his message. He believes that the Islamic revolution's raison d'etre is to prepare the way for the messianic redemption, which in his eschatology is preceded by worldwide upheaval and chaos. How better to light the fuse for eternal bliss than with a nuclear flame?
From National Review: Iran Is at War with Us; Someone should tell the U.S. government by Michael Ledeen. (via TIA Daily)
Iran has been at war with us for 27 years, and we have discussed every imaginable subject with them. We have gained nothing, because there is nothing to be gained by talking with an enemy who thinks he is winning. From Khamenei’s standpoint, the only thing to be negotiated is the terms of the American surrender, and he is certainly not the only Middle Eastern leader to take this view; most of the leaders in the region dread the power of the mullahs — now on the doorstep of nuclear military weapons — and they see the same picture as Khamenei: America does nothing to thwart Iran, and is now publicly willing to talk. In like manner, many Iranians will conclude that Bush is going to make a deal with Khamenei instead of giving them the support they want and need to challenge the regime.
This cartoon originally appeared in January 2004 and is one of over 450 cartoons in our book Black & White World II.
In the cartoon's original post about how the Afghan constitution was a failed attempt to mix Islam and secular, Western ideas of freedom, I wrote: "It's not difficult to guess which of the two -- Islam or the Constitution -- will eventually be favored in legal conflicts, for Islam is given the most moral significance by its very inclusion within the Constitution."
The Afghan man who faced the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity received asylum in Italy Wednesday, despite requests by lawmakers in Afghanistan that he be barred from fleeing the conservative Muslim country.
Abdul Rahman arrived in Rome days after he was freed from a high-security prison on the outskirts of Kabul after a court dropped charges of apostasy against him for lack of evidence and suspected mental illness.
It remains to be seen if the rest of Afghanistan will suffer this fate ... again.
From CNN: Immigration fight looms in Senate
The battle over immigration reform moves Tuesday to the full Senate, a day after a GOP-led Senate committee passed sweeping legislation that sets up a contentious showdown with Republicans demanding a harder line.
Controversial provisions in the Senate Judiciary Committee's election-year bill would create a guest-worker program and give illegal immigrants the chance to work toward legal status without first returning home.
Highlighting the divisions within GOP ranks over immigration, four of the committee's 10 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, which passed 12-6 with support from the panel's eight Democrats.
The full Senate begins debating immigration Tuesday, and it is unclear whether the committee's version will have enough support to survive intact. A procedural vote Tuesday may give some indication of its chances.
Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican, told the Senate after the panel vote that he expected "considerable controversy when the bill reaches the Senate floor."
"It is a very emotional issue; it is a very contentious issue," he said.
The biggest bone of contention is likely to be the legalization process for undocumented immigrants already in the country -- a controversial idea denounced as "amnesty" by its critics and opposed by President Bush.
Glenn Reynolds has a good overview of the issue and how it might affect Democrats and Republicans: An immigration brouhaha: Poison for both parties?.
It looks like illegal immigration is shaping up to be the issue of the week, in the wake of mass rallies opposing new immigration legislation in Los Angeles, Chicago, and elsewhere.
Mickey Kaus has been paying a lot of attention to this subject and thinks it will be bad for Democrats. I think it may well be bad for everyone.
As I've noted here before, I'm in favor of pretty easy immigration -- my family includes immigrants from Nigeria. But they're legal immigrants, who jumped through numerous hoops to get here and who are, if anything, more unhappy with illegal immigration than most native-born Americans. If we're going to have open immigration, let's change the law, not achieve that end through failure to enforce the laws we have.
UPDATE -- March 29: In the New York Post, John Podhoretz says Republicans are getting played by Democrats: Immigration Politics: Cynical Dems.
Republicans and conservatives who want to "get tough" on immigration issues are convinced of two things: First, that their cause is just, and second, that it is a political winner. There's almost no evidence of the latter - indeed, most of the evidence runs in the other direction.
And Harry Binswanger agrues the case for Open Immigration.
This is a defense of phasing-in open immigration into the United States. Entry into the U.S. should ultimately be free for any foreigner, with the exception of criminals, would-be terrorists, and those carrying infectious diseases. (And note: I am defending freedom of entry and residency, not the automatic granting of U.S. citizenship).
An end to immigration quotas is demanded by the principle of individual rights. Every individual has rights as an individual, not as a member of this or that nation. One has rights not by virtue of being an American, but by virtue of being human.
From Reuters: Libya says it supports Palestinian Hamas: report
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi pledged support for Palestinian militant group Hamas, which faces cuts in Western funding over its refusal to denounce violence against Israel, state news agency Jana said on Friday.
The report came after Gaddafi met Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Meshaal in Tripoli late on Thursday. Meshaal said this week his group will continue to fight Israel and told the United States its Middle East policy would fuel terrorism.
Meshaal's visit to Libya is part of a tour of Arab states to drum up financial aid and political support for Hamas to head the Palestinian government.
"The brother leader (Gaddafi) told Meshaal that Libya will continue its support for the Palestinian people and its just cause," Jana said.
Little Green Footballs has more.
To see more Newsmaker Caricatures by John Cox, click here.
From FoxNews: Afghan Court Dismisses Case vs. Alleged Christian Convert.
An Afghan court on Sunday dismissed a case against a man who converted from Islam to Christianity because of a lack of evidence and he will be released soon, officials said.
The announcement came as U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai faced mounting foreign pressure to free Abdul Rahman, a move that risked angering Muslim clerics here who have called for him to be killed.
TIA Daily's Robert Tracinski commented on Friday:
Introducing a role for Islamic Sharia law, while also affirming religious freedom -- the ambiguity in both the Iraqi and Afghan constitutions -- was meant to evade the necessity for a head-on clash between Islam and secularism. The idea, apparently, was to delay a final choice between freedom and theocracy, in the hope that "moderate Muslims" would come to power and champion a liberal "interpretation" of Sharia.
The article below spells out the result: from the beginning, Afghanistan has been convulsed by a series of rancorous conflicts between the more-liberal (and America-dependent) government of Hamid Karzai and Islamist judges, resulting in a series of blasphemy prosecutions that have been dropped or reversed by Karzai at the last minute, under Western pressure.
Remember the old adage about how a coward dies a thousand deaths? Similarly, in seeking to evade one big conflict, the pragmatist guarantees a thousand smaller, endlessly repeating conflicts later on.
The National Review article recommended by Tracinski: Sharia Calling by Nina Shea.
Rahman is not the only case where execution has been threatened over beliefs and ideas in the new Afghanistan. Last year, an Afghan journalist who argued against the heresy law was found guilty of it, and escaped death after international pressure. Before then, a female cabinet member was charged with blasphemy for criticizing Islamic law, but was also spared after international protest erupted. Other journalists were imprisoned for blasphemy after debating the compatibility of sharia law with democracy, but then quietly allowed to leave the country. It is even reported that other Christian converts are in prison there but not much is known about them.
The administration needs to rescue Rahman as he is determined not to be found “innocent” as Undersecretary Burns had hoped.
But this is about more than Mr. Rahman. This will be a persistent, recurring problem under Afghanistan’s sharia apostasy and blasphemy laws. The administration also needs to do more to ensure the reform Afghanistan’s judiciary. President Karzai must be encouraged to wrest it from the control of Islamists like Supreme Court Chief Justice Fazl Hadi Shinwari, who once told our National Public Radio that it is his duty as a judge to “behead” those who do not conform to Islamic law. Americans continue to give billions of dollars, and sacrifice their lives to support the Afghan government. It not only serves compelling humanitarian interests to use this leverage now, but it would be a betrayal of America’s deepest national values not to.
I've been coping with the flu over the past few days and have decided to put cartooning on hold until I feel human again. If you've tried to contact us by e-mail, you probably won't receive a response for a while (if at all). John and I will resume posting as soon as possible.
UPDATE -- March 26: We're back. Latest post is above.
From FoxNews: Gore not an '08 presidential candidate... for now.
Former Vice President Al Gore said Monday he's not planning to run for president in 2008 but hasn't ruled out a future in politics.
"I'm enjoying what I'm doing," Gore told an audience at Middle Tennessee State University, where he gave a lecture on global warming, one in a series.
"I'm not planning to be a candidate again. I haven't reached a stage in my life where I'm willing to say I will never consider something like this," he said. "But I'm not saying that to be coy; I'm just saying that to be honest -- that I haven't reached that point."
From Reuters: Ahmadinejad: Iran will stick to nuclear plans.
Iran will stand by its right to obtain nuclear technology and anyone spreading propaganda against its atomic program will come to regret it, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday.
"No one can take away our nuclear technology. The Iranian nation has obtained it and will preserve it. Some are against the Iranian nation's development," he said in a televised address to mark the start of the Iranian year on March 21.
He spoke as senior foreign affairs officials from the five veto-holding U.N. Security Council powers and Germany were to meet to try to break the impasse over Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The Council has been unable for nearly two weeks to issue a statement telling Iran to halt uranium enrichment efforts which the West believes are a cover for bomb making. Iran says its nuclear program is simply for generating electricity.
Ahmadinejad said Iran would resist efforts to undermine its nuclear program just as it pursued the nationalization of its oil industry last century against the wishes of Western powers
To see more Newsmaker Caricatures by John Cox, click here.
From FoxNews: Demonstrators Protest Iraq War.
The third anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Iraq drew tens of thousands of protesters around the globe, from hurricane-ravaged Louisiana to Australia, with chants of "Stop the War" and calls for the withdrawal of troops.
This cartoon was inspired by a photo of a protest sign in Australia, which can be seen in this Gateway Pundit roundup.
From January 2005 at FrontPageMag.com: Tehran’s Killing Fields by Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi.
UPDATE I -- March 20: Gateway Pundit has more on Islam and homosexuality.
UPDATE II: From Wikinews: Execution of two gay teens in Iran spurs controversy.
Also see our cartoon Mullah Justice.
Arab-American Psychologist Wafa Sultan is getting much deserved attention for recent criticisms of Islam during an Al Jazeera TV interview. This brave woman deserves our praise. I highly recommend all of the following links:
Wafa Sultan: The clash we are witnessing around the world is not a clash of religions, or a clash of civilizations. It is a clash between two opposites, between two eras. It is a clash between a mentality that belongs to the Middle Ages and another mentality that belongs to the 21st century. It is a clash between civilization and backwardness, between the civilized and the primitive, between barbarity and rationality. It is a clash between freedom and oppression, between democracy and dictatorship. It is a clash between human rights, on the one hand, and the violation of these rights, on other hand. It is a clash between those who treat women like beasts, and those who treat them like human beings. What we see today is not a clash of civilizations. Civilizations do not clash, but compete. ...
[...] I am not a Christian, a Muslim, or a Jew. I am a secular human being. I do not believe in the supernatural, but I respect others' right to believe in it.
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli: Are you a heretic?
Wafa Sultan: You can say whatever you like. I am a secular human being who does not believe in the supernatural...
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli: If you are a heretic, there is no point in rebuking you, since you have blasphemed against Islam, the Prophet, and the Koran...
Wafa Sultan: These are personal matters that do not concern you. [...] Brother, you can believe in stones, as long as you don't throw them at me.
The New York Times featured a profile of Dr. Sultan this week: For Muslim Who Says Violence Destroys Islam, Violent Threats.
In response [to Dr. Sultan's comments], clerics throughout the Muslim world have condemned her, and her telephone answering machine has filled with dark threats. But Islamic reformers have praised her for saying out loud, in Arabic and on the most widely seen television network in the Arab world, what few Muslims dare to say even in private. ...
"I believe our people are hostages to our own beliefs and teachings," she said in an interview this week in her home in a Los Angeles suburb.
Dr. Sultan, who is 47, wears a prim sweater and skirt, with fleece-lined slippers and heavy stockings. Her eyes and hair are jet black and her modest manner belies her intense words: "Knowledge has released me from this backward thinking. Somebody has to help free the Muslim people from these wrong beliefs." ...
Dr. Sultan said she took those words [the "heretic" accusation by Dr. Ibrahim Al-Khouli] as a formal fatwa, a religious condemnation. Since then, she said, she has received numerous death threats on her answering machine and by e-mail.
One message said: "Oh, you are still alive? Wait and see." She received an e-mail message the other day, in Arabic, that said, "If someone were to kill you, it would be me."
Dr. Sultan said her mother, who still lives in Syria, is afraid to contact her directly, speaking only through a sister who lives in Qatar. She said she worried more about the safety of family members here and in Syria than she did for her own.
"I have no fear," she said. "I believe in my message. It is like a million-mile journey, and I believe I have walked the first and hardest 10 miles."
TIA Daily's Robert Tranciski provide a good analysis of the above stories as well as a Los Angeles Times piece: "The Escaped Prisoner": Wafa Sultan's Forward Strategy of Intellectual Freedom.
[The interview] was Wafa Sultan's declaration of intellectual independence from Islam. It was a declaration, by an Arab speaking in Arabic to an Arab audience, that Islam is a backward, violent religion, and that a secular, free society—a culture of science, independent creative thought, and political freedom—is superior to the Islamic culture of faith. ...
[T]he fact that Wafa Sultan is not a "moderate Muslim" is precisely what makes her so important. What the Arab world needs—and what we need to deploy as our primary intellectual offensive against Islamic fanaticism, is not such a watered-down version of the same violent Islamic dogmas. As I remarked when I originally covered this story on March 1, the reason I admire Wafa Sultan is that "She's no 'moderate Muslim'—she's an uncompromising firebrand in the defense of reason and freedom."
Let us hope that this firebrand can set off a conflagration of independent thought. And let's do whatever we can to add fuel to those flames and spread them across as much of the globe as possible.
UPDATE I -- March 17: From TownHall.com: Stand Up; Wafa Sultan is passing by Mona Charen.
In an age that has brought us the Theo van Gogh assassination, deadly riots over a series of Danish newspaper cartoons, the Pym Fortune assassination, the death threats against Salman Rushdie, Hirsi Ali and Ibn Warraq, among many others, it requires truly remarkable courage to stare into the Al-Jazeera camera and calmly permit yourself to be labeled a heretic.
UPDATE II -- March 18: Patrick Mullins points us to the Wafa Sultan appearance on Al Jazeera from July:
Wafa Sultan: Why does a young Muslim man, in the prime of life, with a full life ahead, go and blow himself up? How and why does he blow himself up in a bus full of innocent passengers?
In our countries, religion is the sole source of education, and is the only spring from which that terrorist drank until his thirst was quenched. He was not born a terrorist, and did not become a terrorist overnight. Islamic teachings played a role in weaving his ideological fabric, thread by thread, and did not allow other sources – I am referring to scientific sources – to play a role. It was these teachings that distorted this terrorist and killed his humanity. It was not (the terrorist) who distorted the religious teachings and misunderstood them, as some ignorant people claim.
When you recite to a child still in his early years the verse: "They will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off," regardless of this verse's interpretation, and regardless of the reasons it was conveyed or its time – you have made the first step towards creating a great terrorist...
This cartoon is originally from March 2004 and is one of over 450 cartoons in our book Black & White World II.
From SMCCDI: Symbols of Islamic regime set on fire.
Thousands of pictures of the Islamic regime's leaders were set on fire, by maverick Iranians, at the occasion of the banned "Tchahar-Shanbe Soori" (Fire Fiest). In places, the constitution of the Islamic regime was also thrown in fire bushes with the "Hurray" of maverick Iranians.
Reports from several areas of the Capital, such as Sadeghie and Mohseni, or from cities, such as, Esfahan, Ahvaz, Mahabad, Hamedan and Shahin-Shar, are all stating about some of the regime's symbols set on fire.
The Movement issued, yesterday, a communique by asking to "transform into ash the symbols of the regime and to give the ash to the wind." The call was broadcasted by most popular abroad based media for inside the country.
This year's Fire Fiest demos have been qualified as unprecedented. many Iranians intended to defy the Islamic regime and to reject the religious ban of the event.
Free Thoughts has photos and links
UPDATE -- March 16: From Regime Change Iran::
Roundup of Fire Festival Stories
Five Dead, Hundreds Arrested In Iran Fire Festival
From FoxNews: USDA Confirms Mad Cow Case in Ala..
Government investigators are tracing the history of an Alabama cow that has become the nation's third case of mad cow disease.
The Agriculture Department confirmed the infection Monday. Unable to walk, the cow was killed last week by a local veterinarian and buried on the farm.
"This animal did not enter the human food or animal feed chains," the department's chief veterinarian, John Clifford, told reporters during a Monday conference call.
Word came as the Bush administration sought to reassure Japan, South Korea and other trading partners that U.S. beef is safe. The United States is still working to recover some markets that were cut off after the first U.S. case of mad cow disease in 2003.
From FoxNews: Iran's Top Leader: Nuclear Program Is 'Irreversible'.
Iran's supreme leader said Tuesday that Tehran's nuclear program was "irreversible" and warned that any retreat in the face of international pressure would "break the country's independence."
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei took the tough line over the nuclear program hours before the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council were to hold discussions on what action to take if Iran doesn't back away from its atomic ambitions.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also vowed to resist pressure from the U.N. Security Council over the program, which the United States says aims to produce nuclear weapons. Iran denies that charge, saying it wants only to generate nuclear energy.
A Dutch toxicologist said Monday that Slobodan Milosevic was taking antibiotics that diluted prescriptions for heart ailments and high blood pressure while he was pleading with a U.N. tribunal for permission to get treatment in Russia.
Donald Uges said he found traces of rifampicin, an antituberculosis drug, in Milosevic's system earlier this year after the former Yugoslav leader did not respond to blood pressure medication given at the U.N. detention center.
Rifampicin "makes the liver extremely active," possibly hindering the effectiveness of other medications.
"If you're taking something, it breaks down very quickly," Uges said.
Milosevic, 64, was found dead in his jail cell Saturday morning of an apparent heart attack. Hours earlier, he wrote an accusatory letter alleging that a "heavy drug" had been found in his bloodstream during a medical exam.
To see more Newsmaker Caricatures by John Cox, click here.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), headquartered in Washington, is perhaps the best-known and most controversial Muslim organization in North America. CAIR presents itself as an advocate for Muslims' civil rights and the spokesman for American Muslims. "We are similar to a Muslim NAACP," says its communications director, Ibrahim Hooper. Its official mission—"to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding"—suggests nothing problematic.
Starting with a single office in 1994, CAIR now claims thirty-one affiliates, including a branch in Canada, with more steadily being added. In addition to its grand national headquarters in Washington, it has impressive offices in other cities; the New York office, for example, is housed in the 19-story Interchurch Center located on Manhattan's Riverside Drive.
But there is another side to CAIR that has alarmed many people in positions to know. The Department of Homeland Security refuses to deal with it. Senator Charles Schumer (Democrat, New York) describes it as an organization "which we know has ties to terrorism." Senator Dick Durbin (Democrat, Illinois) observes that CAIR is "unusual in its extreme rhetoric and its associations with groups that are suspect." Steven Pomerantz, the FBI's former chief of counterterrorism, notes that "CAIR, its leaders, and its activities effectively give aid to international terrorist groups." The family of John P. O'Neill, Sr., the former FBI counterterrorism chief who perished at the World Trade Center, named CAIR in a lawsuit as having "been part of the criminal conspiracy of radical Islamic terrorism" responsible for the September 11 atrocities. Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson calls it "a radical fundamentalist front group for Hamas."
Of particular note are the American Muslims who reject CAIR's claim to speak on their behalf. The late Seifeldin Ashmawy, publisher of the New Jersey-based Voice of Peace, called CAIR the champion of "extremists whose views do not represent Islam." Jamal Hasan of the Council for Democracy and Tolerance explains that CAIR's goal is to spread "Islamic hegemony the world over by hook or by crook." Kamal Nawash, head of Free Muslims Against Terrorism, finds that CAIR and similar groups condemn terrorism on the surface while endorsing an ideology that helps foster extremism, adding that "almost all of their members are theocratic Muslims who reject secularism and want to establish Islamic states." Tashbih Sayyed of the Council for Democracy and Tolerance calls CAIR "the most accomplished fifth column" in the United States. And Stephen Schwartz of the Center on Islamic Pluralism writes that "CAIR should be considered a foreign-based subversive organization, comparable in the Islamist field to the Soviet-controlled Communist Party, USA."
CAIR, for its part, dismisses all criticism, blaming negative comments on "Muslim bashers" who "can never point to something CAIR has done in its 10-year history that is objectionable." Actually, there is much about the organization's history that is objectionable—and it is readily apparent to anyone who bothers to look. [See link at top for all footnotes]
This cartoon's main point comes from a section in the report titled "Intimidation" which states:
CAIR attempts to close down public debate about itself and Islam in several ways, starting with a string of lawsuits against public and private individuals and several publications. CAIR's Rabiah Ahmed has openly acknowledged that lawsuits are increasingly an "instrument" for it to use.
Are there no limits to how arrogant and out-of-touch America's Ivy League schools can get? Last week it emerged that Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, former deputy foreign secretary of the Taliban, is now a student at Yale while at the same time the school continues to block ROTC training from its campus and argues for the right of its law school to exclude military recruiters. King George's troops played the music to "The World Turned Upside Down" as they surrendered at Yorktown. Perhaps the Ivy League should adopt that tune as they surrender all vestiges of common sense.
Yale's decision to admit Mr. Rahmatullah is particularly jarring given constant reminders of the Taliban's crimes -- both past and present. Last week, as President Bush visited democratic Afghanistan, its TV news aired fresh footage of beheaded bodies being paraded through a street. The men had been murdered because they opposed local Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists.
Last week I described Mr. Rahmatullah's remarkable visit to The Wall Street Journal's offices in the spring of 2001. After a meeting in which he defended the Taliban's treatment of women and said he hadn't seen any evidence that their "guest" Osama bin Laden was a terrorist, I felt I had looked into the face of evil.
Searching the Internet, I found a March 2001 interview with Mr. Rahmatullah in which he defends the destruction of the Buddha statues and strict Islamic law in Afghanistan -- including forcing men to grow beards and women to wear burqas. Ironically, "Taliban" means "students" in Persian.
SECOND PANEL: From CNN: Teacher who compared Bush and Hitler put on leave.
A high school social studies teacher who was put on leave after comparing President Bush's State of the Union address to speeches made by Adolf Hitler defended his lecture on Tuesday, saying he was trying to encourage students to think.
"My job as a teacher is to challenge students to think critically about issues that are affecting our world and our society," Jay Bennish said on NBC's "Today Show."
Bennish is on paid leave from Overland High School in suburban Aurora while Cherry Creek School District investigates whether his Feb. 1 lecture violated a policy requiring that balancing viewpoints be presented in classes. ...
On the recording, Bennish told the students that some of Bush's speech "sounds a lot like the things that Adolf Hitler used to say. We're the only ones who are right, everyone else is backwards and our job is to conquer the world and make sure that they all live just like we want them to."
Later in the recording, Bennish said he was not claiming Bush and Hitler were the same, "but there are some eerie similarities to the tones that they use."
THIRD PANEL: From CNN: Accused: Campus crash was 'to spread will of Allah'.
A University of North Carolina graduate from Iran, accused of running down nine people on campus to avenge the treatment of Muslims, said at a hearing Monday that he was "thankful for the opportunity to spread the will of Allah."
At about the same time, UNC students held what they called an "anti-terrorism" rally on the Chapel Hill campus.
Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar was accused of driving a sport utility vehicle through The Pit, a popular campus gathering spot, injuring nine people Friday. None of the victims was seriously hurt.
Police Chief Derek Poarch said Taheri-azar told investigators he intentionally hit people to "avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world."
Taheri-azar appeared in Orange County District Court in nearby Hillsborough. He was assigned a public defender, but said after the hearing: "The truth is my lawyer."
Taheri-azar, 22, was charged with nine counts of attempted murder and nine counts of assault. His bail was set at $5.5 million.
UPDATE-- March 10: Malkin has the latest.
Need a little break from politics? The cartoon above is from our continuing series of gag cartoons for the Buster McNutt humor column in AutoGraphic's Automotive Report publications. We figured that if an RV is a little "home away from home," why not bring a little of the yard too?
For no extra charge, here are some travel and recreational vehicle facts from an Indianapolis Star article.
A record number of recreational vehicles are on the road in the U.S. today. Get ready for more, predicts Ken Sommer.
"Baby boomers are entering the prime age for RVs," said Sommer, director of media relations for the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association.
"A lot of Baby boomers will redefine their retirements. They will want to continue to learn and to contribute in their post-retirement years."
A recent study by the University of Michigan found that nearly one in 12 U.S. households that own a vehicle own an RV.
"There has been a dramatic increase in RV ownership in the last four years," Sommer said. "It went up 15 percent. Since 1980, there's been a 58 percent increase in the U.S.
"By 2020 we project RV ownership will rise another 8 percent," she added. "There will be 8 1?2 million households in the U.S. with an RV."
Sommer said the RV industry believes that to many newly retired couples, an RV will represent freedom and independence. "We expect a lot of baby boomers to say, 'Let's see America, the landmarks, the national parks. And let's visit the grandkids along the way,' " Sommer said.
Asked to predict what RVs in 2020 might feature, he said, "Baby boomers and Gen-Xers will want high-tech RVs with wireless capabilities, computers, the Web and whatever a plasma TV has become in 2020."
From CNN: U.S., Russia: No new Iran proposal.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, flatly denied reports from high-level diplomats that Russia had offered a new proposal that would allow Iran to enrich a small amount of uranium on its soil. ...
She said the United States has not changed its position "that enrichment and reprocessing on Iranian soil is not acceptable because of the proliferation risk." ...
The United States and European Union have demanded Iran return to its voluntary cooperation as a good-faith measure, but Tehran, which insists its program is for peaceful purposes only, accuses the West of holding the Islamic state to stricter standards.
U.S. military and intelligence officials tell ABC News that they have caught shipments of deadly new bombs at the Iran-Iraq border.
They are a very nasty piece of business, capable of penetrating U.S. troops' strongest armor.
What the United States says links them to Iran are tell-tale manufacturing signatures -- certain types of machine-shop welds and material indicating they are built by the same bomb factory.
"The signature is the same because they are exactly the same in production," says explosives expert Kevin Barry. "So it's the same make and model."
U.S. officials say roadside bomb attacks against American forces in Iraq have become much more deadly as more and more of the Iran-designed and Iran-produced bombs have been smuggled in from the country since last October.
A similar report from CNN in August 2005: Rumsfeld: Iraq bombs 'clearly from Iran'.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Tuesday that weapons recently confiscated in Iraq were "clearly, unambiguously from Iran" and admonished Tehran for allowing the explosives to cross the border.
Iran's defense minister denied the claims in a report carried by the state-run news agency IRNA.
According to Ali Shamkhani, Iran is playing no role in Iraqi affairs, including "its alleged involvement in bomb explosions."
The shipment of sophisticated bombs was confiscated in the past two weeks by U.S. and Iraqi troops in southern Iraq, senior U.S. officials said Monday.
Although he would not comment on whether the Iranian government was directly involved, Rumsfeld said, "it's notably unhelpful for the Iranians to be allowing weapons of those types to be crossing the border."
"What you do know of certain knowledge is the Iranians did not stop it from coming in," he said.
UPDATE I -- March 8: From The New York Sun: Iran Threatens U.S. With 'Harm and Pain'; Heading To Security Council. (via TIA Daily)
Iran threatened the United States with "harm and pain" Wednesday for its role in hauling Tehran before the U.N. Security Council over its nuclear program and for plans to push fellow council members to impose tough measures against the Islamic republic. ...
"The United States has the power to cause harm and pain," said Ali Asghar Soltanieh, a senior Iranian delegate to the IAEA. "But the United States is also susceptible to harm and pain. So if that is the path that the U.S. wishes to choose, let the ball roll."
Iran is already causing us "harm and pain" in Iraq. As Robert Tracinski retorted to the "let the ball roll" line: Let's roll.
And reader Russ reminded us of an article we forgot to include earlier: Iranian negotiator boasts of fooling Europeans.
Iran secretly agreed to assist the Taliban in its war against U.S. forces in October 2001, according to the transcript of a high-level Taliban official's tribunal session at Guatanamo Bay, Cuba. The seven-page transcript, as well as thousands of pages of similar documents, was released by the Pentagon on March 3 in response to litigation brought by the Associated Press.
UPDATE III -- June 26: From the The Washington Times: Casey cites Iran hand in attacks by Iraqi Shi'ites.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh were due to hold talks on Australia's embargo on uranium sales to India in discussions that would also touch on trade and defence cooperation, officials said.
"We would like to trade with Australia in all areas...we are short of uranium. We would very much like Australia to sell uranium to India," Singh told reporters Monday after a formal welcome for Howard in the Indian capital.
Howard, who on Sunday ruled out such a sale, was non-committal in his reply.
"I think we will talk about this against the background of the policies and needs of the two countries," he said after the welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace.
Singh was quoted by The Australian newspaper as saying that India needed "to import uranium and our needs will increase in years to come."
"I hope Australia will be an important partner in this," he said in comments published Monday.
To see more Newsmaker Caricatures by John Cox, click here.
Nothing tells you more about Hollywood than what it chooses to honor. Nominated for best foreign-language film is "Paradise Now," a sympathetic portrayal of two suicide bombers. Nominated for best picture is "Munich," a sympathetic portrayal of yesterday's fashion in barbarism: homicide terrorism.
But until you see "Syriana," nominated for best screenplay (and George Clooney, for best supporting actor) you have no idea how self-flagellation and self-loathing pass for complexity and moral seriousness in Hollywood.
From the Telegraph: Bereaved parents call on Oscars to drop suicide bomb movie by Harry de Quetteville.
The families of three Israeli teenagers who were killed in a suicide bombing are appealing to the organisers of the Oscars to drop a film from the nominations because they say it glorifies terrorism.
Paradise Now, a film about two friends from the West Bank who decide to carry out a joint suicide attack in Israel, will compete in the best foreign language category at Sunday's Academy Awards.
Sunday is also the third anniversary of a attack by terrorists on a bus in the northern Israeli town of Haifa, which killed 17 people and wounded 53 others.
Among the dead were Yuval Mendelvitch, a 13-year-old boy whose parents yesterday sent a petition to Sid Gains, the president of the Academy of Motion Pictures, calling for Paradise Now's nomination to be withdrawn.
Via Little Green Footballs: Director of "Paradise Now" Would Be a Suicide Bomber.
In other words, had you been living in the territories, you would have become a shahid (martyr)? Abu-Assad hesitates for a second before replying, “yes.” He recounts an episode in which he was humiliated by a soldier at the Kalandiya checkpoint near Jerusalem, and says this was what made him realize what runs through the heads of people who later become suicide bombers.
You feel like such a coward it kills you, he describes, saying this cowardice makes people start hating life and feel impotent.
I realized, Abu-Assad explains, that when a man systematically goes through such humiliation, he chooses to kill his own impotency by carrying out an act of “let me die with the philistines.”
UPDATE -- March 6: From FoxNews: Academy Awards Ratings Down 8% From '05.
An estimated 38.8 million people watched the Academy Awards on ABC, down 8 percent from last year and the second-worst showing in nearly two decades, according to Nielsen Media Research.
From Expatica: EU calls for end to 'bitterness' with Muslim world.
The European Union on Monday said it was time for an end to "bitterness" between Europe and Islamic countries over the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.
"We must concentrate on the next steps and future activities to reduce tensions and become more aware of what unites us rather than what divides us," Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik told reporters.
Both sides must make a "real effort to put some of the bitterness behind us," Plassnik underlined. Austria is current president of the 25-nation EU.
Diplomats said a statement on the issue released by EU foreign ministers was the result of a compromise between governments like Britain which wanted more conciliatory language towards Muslim countries and others, including the Netherlands, which insisted the bloc must not be seen to be apologising on the issue.
The final statement voiced "deep concern at the events that followed the publication of cartoons" and said EU governments "acknowledged and regretted" that the caricatures were considered offensive and distressing by Muslims across the world. ...
The EU statement underlined the EU's desire to "actively promote dialogue, mutual understanding and respect" with Muslim countries.
From Khaleej Times: 'Controversy helped Europe understand Islam'.
The massive protests in the Muslim world against the Danish cartoons have helped Denmark, as also Europe, have a better understanding of, and respect for, Islam, said the Danish Consul in Dubai, Thomas Bay, yesterday. ...
Khaleej Times pointed out that freedom of expression does not mean hurting others' sentiments.
'I fully agree with you. That is exactly the key. The editor of the Danish daily had not anticipated the outcome of his action, [like the burning of flag, embassy, and killing of hundreds in protests in the Muslim world]. Yet, he has the freedom of speech. However, now, I am sure they [the newspaper] are not very proud of what they have done', the Danish head of mission said.
'You can also turn around and say, this had a positive impact on Islam. The realization has come that you have to respect Islam, and the prophet. Now Europe is more aware of this aspect. There is positive thinking in this respect...and people will now be more careful [about hurting others' feelings]. People have now been more careful', he observed.
From Times Online: We should fear Holland’s silence.
[T]he story of Holland -- which I have been charting for some years -- should be noted by her allies. Where Holland has gone, Britain and the rest of Europe are following. The silencing happens bit by bit. A student paper in Britain that ran the Danish cartoons got pulped. A London magazine withdrew the cartoons from its website after the British police informed the editor they could not protect him, his staff, or his offices from attack. This happened only days before the police provided 500 officers to protect a "peaceful" Muslim protest in Trafalgar Square.
It seems the British police -- who regularly provide protection for mosques (as they did after the 7/7 bombs) -- were unable to send even one policeman to protect an organ of free speech. At the notorious London protests, Islamists were allowed to incite murder and bloodshed on the streets, but a passer-by objecting to these displays was threatened with detention for making trouble.
Holland -- with its disproportionately high Muslim population -- is the canary in the mine. Its once open society is closing, and Europe is closing slowly behind it. It looks, from Holland, like the twilight of liberalism -- not the "liberalism" that is actually libertarianism, but the liberalism that is freedom. Not least freedom of expression.
(Links via Little Green Footballs)
UPDATE II -- March 6: Juventudes Liberales hosts a pro-Denmark, pro-Free Speech demonstration in Madrid.
Above is the cover illustration we recently created for The Intellectual Activist magazine. Editor and publisher Robert Tracinski came up with the basic idea. The challenge was to depict a fear of physical harm from the TV's imagery, as opposed to merely a desire to avoid viewing it. In the cover story, Tracinski writes:
Terrorism is the weapon of those who are weak -- weak materially, weak in numbers, weak in ideological support. And precisely for that reason, terrorism is a weak weapon, an ineffective tactic that does not actually empower its perpetrators to achieve any substantial military objective.
If terrorism seems to achieve its objectives -- indeed, if it seems to threaten us with defeat -- it does not do so under its own power. Terrorism, with the images of carnage that it produces, is merely a front, an illusion that masks the power of a very different and more sinister force, which is the only adversary we have to fear in this war.
The powerlessness of terrorism -- and the real power that will determine American victory or defeat -- is the lesson to be learned from the past eighteen months of warfare in Iraq.
One recent pair of events provides a microcosm of the current state of the war, summing up everything that comes before it and setting the stage for what comes after it: the assault on the insurgent -- controlled town of Tal Afar by combined US and Iraqi government forces, conducted in a series of engagements from September 2 through September 6 of last year -- and the series of suicide bombings in Baghdad that followed on September 14 and 15. ...