Neocon think-tankers running Iraq war

Arm chair generals help shape surge in Iraq - Examiner.com:
WASHINGTON - When it comes to the troop surge in Iraq, a bunch of arm chair generals in Washington are influencing the Bush Administration as much as the Joint Chiefs or theater commanders. A group of military experts at the American Enterprise Institute, concerned that the U.S. was on the verge of a calamitous failure in Iraq, almost single handedly convinced the White House to change its strategy. They banded together at AEI headquarters in downtown Washington early last December and hammered out the surge plan during a weekend session. It called for two major initiatives to defeat the insurgency: reinforcing the troops and restoring security to Iraqi neighborhoods. Then came trips to the White House by AEI military historian Frederick Kagan, retired Army Gen. John Keane and other surge proponents. More and more officials began attending the sessions. Even Vice President Dick Cheney came. "We took the results of our planning session immediately to people in the administration," said AEI analyst Thomas Donnelly, a surge planner. "It became sort of a magnet for movers and shakers in the White House." Donnelly said the AEI approach won out over plans from the Pentagon and U.S. Central Command. The two Army generals then in charge of Iraq had opposed a troop increase.
Quite aside from whether the surge is working or not (I have no idea, although the continuing death tolls in Iraq would suggest it hasn't done much outside of a few areas), should think-tankers trump generals in planning wars? Isn't this what you always learn is a bad thing for military performance -- like Hitler taking over war-planning from the Wehrmacht? (Obviously I am not comparing the AEI to the Nazi Party, trolls.)
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John Gray on liberal interventionism

The death of this crackpot creed is nothing to mourn:
The liberal interventionism that took root in the aftermath of the cold war was never much more than a combination of post-imperial nostalgia with crackpot geopolitics. It was an absurd and repugnant mixture, and one whose passing there is no reason to regret. What the world needs from western governments is not another nonsensical crusade. It is a dose of realism and a little humility.
Amen.
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BBC radio documentary on US 1930s coup plot

Very interesting BBC Radio Four documentary on a coup by wealthy Americans to overthrow Roosevelt in the 1930s:
The coup was aimed at toppling President Franklin D Roosevelt with the help of half-a-million war veterans. The plotters, who were alleged to involve some of the most famous families in America, (owners of Heinz, Birds Eye, Goodtea, Maxwell Hse & George Bush’s Grandfather, Prescott) believed that their country should adopt the policies of Hitler and Mussolini to beat the great depression.
There are some (occasionally forced) parallels with the current situation in American -- the role of the uber-wealthy and the New Gilded Age, Cheney's powerful and shadowy vice-presidency, etc.
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Nasty Iran, Persepolis

Activists' parents accuse Tehran of torturing their sons:
Fears that Iran is systematically mistreating political prisoners and dissidents have been further fuelled after the parents of three detained student activists claimed their sons had been tortured. In a letter to the country's judiciary chief, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, the parents alleged that the students have suffered a catalogue of physical and psychological abuses since being incarcerated in Tehran's Evin prison in May.
Two weeks ago I got to see the animated feature version of Persepolis. One of the things I drives home very effectively is that the fundamentalist regime in Iran has been much, much worse in terms of human rights and torture (never mind personal freedoms) than the old Shah regime, with its notorious CIA-trained SAVAK security service, ever was. Even more so, the film makes a very effective point in showing how fundamentally retarded that government was, much like any government that seeks to police the private moral life of its citizens -- in other words, an extreme version of what the "secular" regimes in many Arab countries have resorted to. Think of Egypt, and those trials to forcibly divorce public figures judged to be apostates, or the current contradictory statements of the Mufti, or among the opposition of the ridiculous moral crusades regularly brought out by the likes of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or the PJD and its supporters (such as at-tajdid newspaper) in Morocco.
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Azmi Bishara profile

The Guardian profiles former Israeli Arab lawmaker Azmi Bishara and looks at the rising self-assertion of non-Jewish Israeli citizens:
Before his resignation, his Balad party held only four seats in the Knesset in a country where many Arab Israelis still tend to vote for the mainstream political parties, particularly Labour - now part of the ruling coalition. Even Bishara admits there is not widespread public support for his ideas among his own community. One opinion poll earlier this year found that three-quarters of Arab Israelis would support a constitution describing Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. However, in recent months, that has begun to change. For a start, racism against Arabs in Israel is rising, according to at least one recent poll. In a survey for the Centre Against Racism, a poll of Jewish Israelis found that more than half believed it was treason for a Jewish woman to marry an Arab man; 40% said Arabs should no longer have the right to vote in parliamentary elections; and 75% opposed apartment blocks being shared by Jews and Arabs. At the same time, more and more prominent Arab Israelis are adopting ideas similar to Bishara's and proposing a fundamental challenge to the Jewish nature of the state. Four separate documents have emerged since December, each making a similar case. Adalah, a human rights group, issued a draft constitution that said Israel should be defined not as a Jewish state but as a "democratic, bilingual and multicultural state". It called for an end to the Law of Return, which gives automatic citizenship to anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent, and it called on Israel to "recognise its responsibility for past injustices suffered by the Palestinian people".
Mobilizing the Arab population of Israel is perhaps the best way left to force a fair resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - it's pretty clear that most Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, ghettoized and radicalized over 40 years of abuse, are not able to do it.
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Israeli textbook states Arab view - but not for Jews

Israeli textbook states Arab view:
The Israeli government has approved a school textbook that for the first time presents the Palestinian denunciation of the creation of Israel in 1948. The book, to be used only in Israeli Arab schools, notes that Palestinians describe the event as a "catastrophe". "Both the Israeli and Palestinian versions have to be presented," education minister Yuli Tamir said. The book was condemned by right-wing politicians but hailed by Arab Israelis who say all schools should use it.
Separate schools, separate schoolbooks. But don't call it an apartheid state. (Why on earth the spin on this article, notably the headline, is positive is beyond me.)
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Avraham Burg profile

The New Yorker has a profile of Avrahum Burg, the former Knesset speaker turned anti-Zionist, that's well worth reading even if it contains obvious faults and biases, notably in the first two paragraphs. It also contains some excellent examples of how the Zionist meta-narrative brooks no dissent and savages its opponents by qualifying critiques as "unutterable":
Soon after the interview was published, Otniel Schneller, a Knesset member from Ehud Olmert’s centrist Kadima Party, said that when Burg dies he should be denied burial in the special section of Mt. Herzl National Cemetery, in Jerusalem, reserved for national leaders. “He had better search for a grave in another country,” Schneller said. One letter to the Jerusalem Post compared Burg to young people who, after military service, go off to India to find their spiritual selves in an ashram. “Yesteryear, Burg would have been disowned as at least a lunatic,” the columnist Sarah Honig wrote in the same paper. “The grave danger is that today he gives voice and lends insidious quasi-respectability to what was heretofore unutterable. By tomorrow, the uncontrollable infestation he spreads might confer outright legitimacy on Israel’s delegitimatization.” If and when Israel’s borders changed, Honig continued, “Burg probably won’t stick around to risk the ensuing slaughter. The new Wandering Jew will pack his sinister seeds and propagate his wicked wandering weeds from afar.”
In some ways I think this article -- notably the themes of Holocaust exploitation and the power of the US Lobby -- would not have been possible before Norman Finkelstein's books and the "lobby" essay by Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer.
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Al-Masri al-Youm's English edition

While I can only applaud the efforts made by al-Masri al-Youm to provide an English translation for its leading articles, I think I'll stick to the Arabic edition. The quality of the translation is at times comical, such as when the name of the current American ambassador to Cairo, Francis Ricciardone, is translated as "Francis Richard Dooney" as in here.
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Napoleon's Egypt

Uber-blogger and Middle East historian Juan Cole has a new blog on Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion of Egypt, the first modern invasion of the Middle East by a Western power. It's called Napoleon's Egypt and goes along with Cole's new book, Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East. Cole is appears to be going through the invasion chronologically, quoting from memoirs and and biographies written at the time -- in the excerpt below, from an eye-witness account of how Napoleon came decide on invasion:
'In the month of August 1797 he [Bonaparte] wrote "that the time was not far distant when we should see that, to destroy the power of England effectually, it would be necessary to attack Egypt." In the same month he wrote to Talleyrand, who had just succeeded Charles de Lacroix as Minister of Foreign Affairs, "that it would be necessary to attack Egypt, which did not belong to the Grand Signior [Ottoman Emperor]." Talleyrand replied, "that his ideas respecting Egypt were certainly grand, and that their utility could not fail to be fully appreciated."
More from that except here.  Napoleon Nb
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Lebanese brain drain

LEBANON: One in three Lebanese wants to leave:
BEIRUT, 10 June 2007 (IRIN) - Researchers warn that economic instability and persistent security threats are driving ever more young, educated Lebanese abroad, creating a brain drain that threatens the country’s economic and social future. “We’re suffering a huge brain drain,” Kamal Hamdan, head of the Lebanese Centre of Research and Studies, told IRIN. “Those who have the brains take their diplomas and leave. They are the young people who would go on to be middle executives and entrepreneurs. In the long term, their absence means we may face a serious shortage of policy developers and managers.”
Perhaps one of the worst consequences of last summer's war -- it repeated the brain drain caused by the civil war.
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Giulani as the neo-con candidate

Rudy Giuliani apparently wants to be known as the neo-con candidate in the US presidential race. I was aghast enough that he chose pro-Israel agitator Martin Kramer as his Middle East advisor, but now he's gone one step further and taken on grand-daddy of all neo-cons Norman Podhoretz as his foreign policy advisor:
WASHINGTON, July 23 (UPI) -- Republican candidate for the presidency Rudy Giuliani, the leading hawk among presidential hopefuls, has appointed Norman Podhoretz senior adviser for foreign policy. A founding member of the neo-con movement, Podhoretz, in the June issue of Commentary magazine, called for an immediate attack on Iran. Either we bomb Iran now, or "we could wake up one morning to find that Iran is holding Berlin, Paris or London hostage to whatever its demands are then." The geopolitical label for the process is the "Islamization" of Europe, which neo-cons say is a rerun of Hitler's conquest of Europe in the 1930s and 40s. Giuliani's eight-member foreign policy team also includes Martin Kramer, an Israeli-American expert on Shia Islam at Harvard and a fellow with both the pro-Israel Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Jerusalem-based Shalem Center ("for the development of Zionist thought"). Kramer once said the tendency by American Middle Eastern academics to neglect radical Islam as an issue was partly to blame for the failure to anticipate the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Well, at least we'll know clearly where he stands. It's rather alarming, though, considering that Giulani (despite being a well-known nutter) has the potential to appeal beyond the Republican mainstream and cross-over to some Democrats and swing voters because of his more liberal social views, has taken foreign policy advisors that only care about Israel. If he's elected, we're not likely to see the same drift on US foreign policy outside the Middle East that we saw during the Bush administration. With these people (and with neo-conservatives more generally) it's Israel, Israel, Israel. And here's Podhoretz foaming-at-the-mouth piece in favor of bombing Iran, which is an interesting example of the paranoid delusional mindframe.
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Moustache vendetta

Am in calm, clean Morocco for the summer, but this story made me miss Egypt:
When an elder was kidnapped in a clan dispute in conservative southern Egypt, the al-Arab family's worst fears were soon realised -- they received a package containing his moustache, local media reported on Sunday. The man himself was returned uninjured, but the use of the new shaving tactic sent shockwaves through the town of Mahrusa, near Luxor, 650km south of Cairo, where a man's honour is measured by the size of his moustache, the al-Gomhuria daily said.
Return to semi-regular blogging schedule soon.
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WWII mines Egypt

I have this article on qantara.de on the WWII mines and other ammunition left behind on Egypt's North coast. The Egyptian government wants to re-launch its efforts to clear the zones that are affected, but wants to have it all paid for by its international donors. As Egypt has brought to perfection the art of donor-shopping probably more then any other nation, I guess in the end they'll find someone stupid enough to pay the bills submitted by the Egyptian army. In contrast to what appears to be common in other countries, the Egyptian army maintains its monopoly over mine-clearing. Which is why not much has happened until today and which is why most donors rightfully so are reluctant to contribute. Excerpt from the English translation:
It was not until 1982 that the Egyptian government acknowledged the problem. "It was a question of costs and priorities," Fathy El Shazly, director of the national northwest coast development program, frankly admits. He refers to the history of his country, which after the Second World War was first busy gaining independence and then tied up in four wars against Israel. A bit more haste would have been advisable, though. According to the NGO "Landmine Monitor," there have been 8,313 mine-related casualties in this region since 1982, including 619 deaths. As can be observed again and again whenever natural disasters or accidents occur, however, the Egyptian government evidently does not place much importance on its own citizens. It has done little to help the victims to date. The Egyptian army did clear some 3.5 million pieces of ammunition out of the desert between 1982 and 1999, but since then a lack of funds has slowed down their efforts – at least that's the official line. Since things are moving much too slowly for the private sector, which has great plans for the region, some hotels and oil companies have begun to remove buried ammunition at their own expense in order to build access roads to their projects.
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Alain Roussillon died yesterday

The French scholar Alain Roussillon, an expert on Egypt and the director of the CEDEJ in Cairo, passed away yesterday from a after suffering from a brain hemorrhage. He will be buried in Egypt, where his mother came from. I last saw Roussillon on March 5, when we had a long chat about the constitutional amendments and current political situation in Egypt. I remember him being concerned about the rising social tensions in Egypt, seeing in them both an opportunity for the expression of genuine grievances and the return of la question sociale in Egyptian politics and a potential danger. He compared the present situation to the atmosphere of the year preceding the July 1952 coup -- the Cairo fire and ensuing riot, the political intrigue, the massive social disaffection and rejection of the government. Some of the large-scale strikes we had seen at the time made him suspect that the legendary patience of long-suffering Egyptians was wearing thin. “Street protests in Egypt are dangerous – you will have thousands of deaths in case of a riot. Neither the Muslim Brotherhood nor the regime really control the street,” he said. “The January 1952 model is reproducible.” We differed somewhat on that point, but agreed on one thing: the greatest threat to the regime is not the Muslim Brotherhood or some other political group, but popular attitudes towards it, and there are few countries where the state lacks as much legitimacy as Egypt. He was very well versed in the debates in the Egyptian press and intellectual circles -- the way positions are taken and framed, the coded references and intellectual antecedents of the idées reçues of Egyptian discourse. He was also alarmed, as someone who has spent most of his adult life chronicling Egyptian society, of the ascendancy of shallow conservative and materialistic ideas in Egyptian life -- the entire ecosystem of ideas and practices that has largely taken over this country in the past 20-30 years, ideas he explored by examining the new Islamic writings that were came out of the globalization of Islam. He was a fascinating conversation partner, I regret that we will not meet again. The announcement of his death, information on the church service, and a note from the CEDEJ staff follows after the jump in French and Arabic. From the CEDEJ: Nous avons le regret de vous faire part du décès d'Alain Roussillon, directeur du CEDEJ, survenu ce jour au Caire, des suites d’une hémorragie cérébrale. Une cérémonie, à laquelle chacun pourra assister, aura lieu le mercredi 4 juillet à 13h00 à l'église copte de la Vierge, rue Maraashli – El Zamalek. La famille recevra les condoléances à partir de 19h00 dans la salle attenante à l’église. L'inhumation se fera dans l'intimité, au Caire, dans le caveau familial. Une cérémonie d’hommage sera organisée à Paris en octobre.

L'équipe du CEDEJ

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بكل أسى ننعى لكم الآن روسيون مدير السيداج الذي توفى اليوم بالقاهرة، إثر نزيف في المخ. تتم مراسم الجنازة المفتوحة للجميع يوم الأربعاء 4 يوليو بكنيسة العذراء، شارع المرعشلي بالزمالك في تمام الساعة الواحدة. تتقبل عائلة الفقيد التعازي على الساعة السابعة بقاعة العزاء في نفس الكنيسة. فريق العاملين بالسيداج

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Alain Roussillon nous a quitté, terriblement rapidement.

Directeur du CEDEJ, directeur de recherche au CNRS, organisateur de multiples entreprises intellectuelles collectives, compagnon des charrettes de veille de colloque, animateur d’une vie de laboratoire qui pouvait se prolonger tard dans la nuit, aimant la recherche comme la vie et la vie comme la recherche, faisant leur part à l’intellect comme aux affects, complice des fêtes conviviales comme des petites et grandes colères contre le monde tel qu’il va, qui devenaient chez lui rage de comprendre et de faire comprendre, Alain a été tout cela à la fois, et bien autres choses encore. Nous perdons, qui un directeur, qui un ami, qui un « pote », un compagnon de route, un collègue stimulant et pour beaucoup, tout cela à la fois ; nous perdons par dessus tout une présence chaleureuse, généreuse, bouillonnante, inventive et dynamisante. Elle manquera terriblement au CEDEJ.

De Beyrouth à Paris, de Rabat à Tokyo, en passant par Bogota et Manille, du GSPM au GTMS, ses pas le ramenaient toujours vers le CEDEJ et Le Caire, une ville qu’il ne quittait que pour mieux y revenir. Cette fois-ci pour toujours. Alain est inhumé dans la terre de sa famille maternelle, la terre d'Egypte. Sur cette ascendance égyptienne qu’il ne reniait pas, il était très discret car, pour les avoir longuement examinées, il ne connaissait que trop bien les impasses séduisantes des jeux identitaires.

A Anna et Antoine, à Giuliana, à Christine, à sa mère, à son frère, à ses proches et amis, au Caire, à Paris et ailleurs, aux membres du CEDEJ enfin, restent les meilleurs des souvenirs. Ceux qui l’ont connu le savent, les mots comptaient beaucoup pour lui, et il aurait sans doute ironiquement souri en entendant parler de son « œuvre ». Parlons plutôt d’un savoir précieux que ses collègues s’attacheront à transmettre et faire connaître, et d’une « posture » exigeante - c'était son mot favori - où le chercheur rejoignait la personne, où la prise de parti pour les plus faibles et l'indignation face à leur condition stimulaient la volonté de comprendre, sans jamais sacrifier au compassionnel, mais sans non plus verser dans le cynisme.

Au revoir, cher Alain, avec toi l'un des artisans d'une intelligence généreuse du monde arabe et musulman disparaît, en un moment où il en est plus que jamais besoin. Tes travaux et ton souvenir contribueront, sois en sûr, à maintenir, encourager et inspirer cette exigence d'intelligence. De cela aussi, merci, Alain !

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