Friday, August 27, 2010

An embed with the Taliban

Norwegian journalist Paul Refsdal succeeded in convincing a Taliban commander to let him accompany them. This is his report from Australian TV. (h/t Huffington Post)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chilly down here

Two people I never thought I would be quoting

So please, no more talk about those idealistic neoconservatives who are willing to expend blood and treasure so Afghans and Iraqis can live free. People in Basra and Kandahar had better hope that America’s counterinsurgency warriors create a society in which they can practice their religion free of intimidation and insult. Because it’s now clear they can’t do so on the lower tip of the island of Manhattan

And from now on, let’s stop condescending to the French about their anti-headscarf laws. Until a month ago or so, I genuinely believed that no such law could ever pass in the U.S. How na├»ve. After the right’s despicable performance over the last month, can anyone seriously doubt that if the U.S. had as large, and religiously traditional, a Muslim population as France, that Republicans would be clamoring for Congress to regulate their “Islamofascist” garb? Perhaps they’d merely propose that Muslim women be prohibited from wearing the headscarf within a mile of military bases that house families that have lost loved ones in the “war on terror.” We have to be sensitive, after all.


And oh yes, my fellow Jews, who are so thrilled to be locked arm in arm with the heirs of Pat Robertson and Father Coughlin against the Islamic threat. Evidently, it’s never crossed your mind that the religious hatred you have helped unleash could turn once again against us. Of course not, we’re insiders in this society now: Our synagogues grace the toniest of suburbs; our rabbis speak flawless English; we Jews are now effortlessly white. Barely anyone even remembers that folks in Lower Manhattan once considered us alien and dangerous, too.

Peter Beinart

The inclination to go from the particular to the general -- to blame a people for the acts of a few -- is what has always fueled pogroms and race riots. History shows that it is a natural tendency and it will literally run riot if not controlled. It is the solemn obligation of elected leaders to restrain such an urge -- to be moral as well as political leaders. Obama almost pulled that off, but he flinched.

Yes, he couldn't.

Richard Cohen

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The floods in Pakistan

Natural disasters are testing times for governments as Bush found out during Katrina. The current floods in Pakistan have been a test for the Zardari/Gilani government which it seems to have failed miserably. That it would not be able to cope with the natural disaster was a given. The poor infrastructure which is a reflection of the lack of governance made it certain that the government could not respond. Zardari compounded the problem by showing a lack of sensitivity that put Bush in Clinton territory.

President Asif Zardari's trip to France and Britain as the floods raged last week created an image of an indifferent, arrogant leadership, say critics. Already unpopular, Zardari faced protests on Saturday at a rally for his Pakistan Peoples party in Birmingham, with one demonstrator trying to throw a shoe at him.

"Even when governments can't cope, they can at least show empathy. That was missing," said Ayaz Amir, a newspaper columnist and member of parliament for the opposition Pakistan Muslim League (N). "Who was the first person on the scene? The army chief. This has really cost [Zardari] heavily. This image will linger.

"The image of President Zardari visiting his chateau in France, while there was devastating flooding in Pakistan: this will have long-term effects."

... images of what some have dubbed Zardari's "joy ride" have played continuously on Pakistani TV, adding to public anger.

Zardari's party, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), with the help of a compliant police force, decided to shoot the messenger.
Transmission of Geo TV was blocked in some parts of the country and copies of The News and the daily Jang burnt in a few areas of Karachi and Sindh on Sunday as the media group gave coverage to the hurling of shoes at President Asif Ali Zardari during his party address in Birmingham.

Many offices of cable operators in Karachi were set ablaze by angry activists of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Newspaper vendors were robbed of copies of The News and the daily Jang upon the direction of PPP leaders, besides, PPP workers were accompanied by police officials in hurling threats at cable operators and hawkers, sources told the media.
While the US is trying to turn the floods into an opportunity to win hearts and minds it is not alone in this endeavor. The groups most active in relief operations are the Islamist groups which are accused of being fronts for jihadi organizations. More rains are forecast.