Monthly Archives: November 2008

The End (of the Semester) is Near

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Only a few more days until final exams. Then comes the joy of grading them. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel…

After finals week I am heading to Northern California for a few days to visit family and friends. I plan on posting a few pictures from my trip but there will likely be much less Mexican food consumed this time. NorCal simply does not have the variety (or quality) of Mexican food one finds in the southern part of the state.

Instead, expect plenty of beautiful vistas–the San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, etc.–unless it is rainy the entire time. Also looking forward to seeing the new home of the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkekey. The old building was beautiful but as the collections held by the museum continue to grow, it is too small.

Here is a roundup of what I am reading this morning:

Airforce Amazons: Against a False Choice

Bob from Brockley: Fascism Watch (South London)

But I am a Liberal! Iraqi Developments

Contentious Centrist: Germans and terrorism, the RAF movie, etc.

Flesh is Grass: British Fascists and 9/11 Untruths

Terry Glavin (added to my blogroll) has been providing excellent coverage of events in Afghanistan

Greater Surbiton celebrates a First Birthday. Congrats, Marko!

Martin in the Margins: Baader-Meinhoff, terrorism and antisemitism

Modernity Blog: More on the BNP

Normblog: Respect for law and political cynicism

A Secondhand Conjecture: The Voice of Murder

The Stark Tenet: Suggestions for PE Obama

Sultan Knish on The Future of the Republican Party

Your Friend in the North: Woz de Joos wot dun it

Zomblog (Zombietime): Victory in Iraq

Support Farzad Kamangar!

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Please join with the thousands of trade unionists and human rights defenders around the world who are mobilising in defence of Farzad Kamangar, an Iranian Kurdish teacher and trade unionist who is at risk of execution.

More information and a suggested letter may be found at LabourStart.

ADDED:

[H/t Bob from Brockley]

Farzad Kamangar, a teacher, trade unionist and rights activist from Iran’s Kordistan province (who I posted about here), was due to be executed yesterday, on charges of “endangering national security” and “enmity against God”. According to this site, he was not executed. However, it is is still inclear what will happen to him. Information on the case – and how to act – from Incognito/JimJay/ShirazS/WW4.

Mumbai Attacked by Terrorists, Again

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[Taj Palace Hotel, Mumbai]

Mumbai, India has been hit by another terrorist attack. Details remain sketchy but a group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen has claimed responsibility. It appears the terrorists approached the city via boat, whether hijacked or an accomplice vessel, and switched to smaller dinghies to come ashore. After landing, they attacked multiple targets throughout Mumbai.

Unlike previous attacks, the terrorists used small arms and grenades rather than high explosive devices. Early reports focused on the explicit targeting of foreigners at the Oberoi Trident and Taj hotels. However, busy locations frequented by Indians, such as the Chhatrapati Shivaji train station and the Nariman House residential and business complex were also attacked. Nariman House is the location of Chabad Lubavich’s Mumbai center.

Indian authorities report the terrorists appeared highly trained and knowledgeable of the layout of the hotels and other targets. According to the BBC, an unidentified Indian commando stated, “Not everybody can fire the AK series of weapons, not everybody can throw grenades like that,” he said. “By using such weapons and explosives, it is obvious that they would have been trained somewhere.” 140 people are reported dead and I expect this number to rise over the days as buildings are secured and cleared of terrorists.

Here are reports and commentary from around the web:

Excellent coverage may be found at the website for The Hindu and India Express newspapers and Desi Pundit blog.

The Hindu: Terrorists Used Hijacked Vessel

Even as special forces continued to battle the terrorists, investigators have been working to piece together the sequence of events that led up to the massacre that started on Wednesday night.

Based on the continuing interrogation of arrested Lashkar terrorist Ajmal Amir Kamal, investigators believe the 12 terrorists who left Karachi on a merchant ship hijacked a fishing boat to facilitate their final assault on Mumbai.

According to Kamal, the group hijacked the Porbandar-registered Kuber to avoid detection by Indian Navy and Coast Guard patrols, which had a considerable presence in off Mumbai.

While one group of terrorists used the hijacked boat to land at Sassoon Docks on the eastern coast of Mumbai, a second group used a fibreglass lifeboat to row west to the Cuffe Parade fisherman’s colony.

Before leaving the fishing boat, the terrorists beheaded its captain, who Gujarat authorities have identified as Balwant Tandel, from Una village in the Union Territory of Diu. There is no word on the fate of the remaining crew of five.

The Hindu: Premature Action, Israeli Experts

Israeli security experts have said that the Indian security forces were premature in storming the besieged Nariman House.

“Indians should have sanitised the area and first collected intelligence about the terrorists before launching flushing out operations,” a media report here said, quoting the experts.

“In hostage situations, the first thing the forces are supposed to do is assemble at the scene and begin collecting intelligence,” a former official in Israel’s famed anti-terror agency Shin Bet told The Jerusalem Post.

“In this case, it appears that the forces showed up at the scene and immediately began exchanging fire with the terrorists instead of first taking control of the area,” he said.

Foreign Policy: Who are the Deccan Mujahideen?

One must always be suspicious when a “new” terrorist organization crops up. Today’s horrific attacks in Mumbai were claimed by a previously unknown group calling itself the Deccan Mujahideen. But one India journalist claims the pattern of the attacks suggests that Lashkar-e-Taiba, a nasty Islamist organization based in Lahore, Pakistan, and with a significant presence in Kashmir and links to al Qaeda, may be to blame.

Here’s where it gets interesting — and I stress here that I am just speculating. Lashkar-e-Taiba’s main goal is to expel India from Kashmir. In the past, some have accused elements of the Pakistani military and intelligence services of having ties to the group. Pakistan’s government has always hotly denied such accusations.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has in recent weeks moved closer to the United States, made some significant gestures toward India, and moved to shut down the political wing of the ISI, Pakisan’s powerful intelligence service (that’s the unit that tries to steal elections). How likely is it that some angry “rogue elements” of the ISI, aligned with Kashmiri jihadists and a team of Indian domestic extremists, sought to head off these moves? I have no idea, but it’s definitely a theory worth exploring.

There’s another more straighforward explanation for today’s attacks — revenge. A group calling itself the “Indian Mujahideen” has claimed responsibility for attacks in a number of different cities over the past several months. The Indian Mujahideen sent a warning in September expressing anger over recent raids by the city’s antiterrorism squad (ATS). Today’s message from the Deccan Mujahideen appears to be identical…

Abe Greenwald (Contentions): Return of the Root Cause

The Chief Minister of Mumbai, Vilasrao Deshmukh claims that “British citizens of Pakistani origin” were among the armed terrorists who took over various sites in the city. If true, this puts a new twist on Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement that “external forces” were responsible for the attack. Time and Newsweek can publish all the articles they want about a “mounting sense of persecution” among Muslims in India, but if Indian businessmen (and foreign tourists) are being slaughtered by loyal subjects of the Crown, I’d say the media’s emphasis is a little off-base.

Islamic terrorists don’t need a regional excuse; Western journalists do. Nothing demonstrates this better than the shell game playing out in India this Thanksgiving weekend. One of the terrorists who seized the Oberoi Trident hotel told an Indian news station by phone, “We love this as our country but when our mothers and sisters were being killed, where was everybody?” and then his colleagues went and set off bombs to kill all the neglectful Indian lawmakers in . . . a Jewish outreach center.

Martin in the Margins: Mumbai and the Theology of Death

At lunchtime today, I listened to an insensitive, boneheaded Radio 4 presenter asking the Indian ambassador whether, given that the Mumbai attackers were probably Islamists, his government should now start attending seriously to the grievances of its Muslim population, as Britain had to do after 7/7. It’s enough to make you weep. In something he wrote after 9/11, but which I can’t find right now, Christopher Hitchens recalled asking some Chilean exile friends whether they were tempted to launch a similar attack on America, after the CIA-backed overthrow of Allende. They were horrified at the thought. Genuine radicals, those whose radicalism arises from a love of humanity and rage at inequality and injustice, don’t tend to see the mass murder of innocent people as a legitimate tactic. The murderers of Mumbai, like the Baader-Meinhof killers that I wrote about the other day, were not reacting to ‘grievances’, unless they were grievances imagined in their twisted theology of victimhood, but acting out the logical dictates of a nihilistic and death-loving ideology.

ZWord: The Mumbai Terrorist Attack

We’re continually being told that a solution to the Palestinian question will bind up the wounds inflicted on the pride of certain sections of Muslim opinion by the existence of a state for Jews. It’s never been a very convincing view and every attack like this makes it less so. A solution to the Palestinian question must be found for the sake of the Palestinians themselves and not because it would cool the ardor of radical Muslim opinion in India, Pakistan, Indonesia or anywhere else. To put it another way, does anyone really believe that the coming into existence of a Palestinian state would have convinced the Mumbai terrorists not to attack the Jewish centre?

UPDATE:

Indian troops have stormed the Chabad house. Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, were among the murdered. JTA notes:

Conflicting reports following the takeover of Mumbai’s Chabad-Lubavitch house in the terrorist attacks in India, which left more than 140 dead, prompted confusion and anxiety surrounding the fate of the house’s occupants, including the Holtzbergs.

Four Israelis were among those freed from the Trident-Oberoi luxury hotel along with other hostages late Friday morning, according to the Israeli Foreign Ministry…

On Thursday afternoon, Indian commandos surrounded the Nariman House, where Chabad is located, with plans to storm in and release the hostages. There reportedly were four terrorists holed up inside with six hostages. Indian special forces reportedly killed one terrorist in the building.

Earlier Thursday, the hostage takers released the Holtzberg’s 2-year-old son and the building’s cook, who said that the couple was alive but unconscious…

The Chabad house is located at 5 Hormusji Street in Mumbai. India is a popular destination for young Israeli backpackers, who often make the trip after their army service. The Holtzbergs moved to Mumbai from Brooklyn, New York in 2003 to do Jewish outreach work in India.

Concern about the fate of the Chabad rabbi and his wife mounted throughout the day, with the Brooklyn-based organization issuing calls for prayer to Jews the world over. The National Council of Young Israel also sent out an alert asking Jews to pray for the rabbi and his wife.

“One friend of Gavriel Holtzberg reported receiving an e-mail from the Mumbai rabbi at 11:30 p.m. local time,” Chabad.org reported. “The Israeli Consulate was in touch with Holtzberg, but the line was cut in middle of the conversation. No further contact has since been established.”

On Thursday morning, according to the Jerusalem Post, the Chabad rabbi’s toddler son was rushed from the house in the arms of one of the Jewish center’s employees, Sandra Samuel.

“I took the child, I just grabbed the baby and ran out,” said Samuel, 44, who was identified as a cook.

Analysis from Bill Roggio (Long War Journal)

Civic Literacy in the USA

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The Intercollegiate Studies Association (ISI), a conservative organization, has released the findings of their annual survey on civic literacy in the United States and the results are not encouraging. Here are some of the major findings:

If there is any presidential speech that has captured a place in popular culture, it is the Gettysburg Address, seemingly recited by school children for decades. The truth is, however, Lincoln’s most memorable words are now remembered by very few.

Of the 2,508 Americans taking ISI’s civic literacy test, 71% fail. Nationwide, the average score on the test is only 49%. The vast majority cannot recognize the language of Lincoln’s famous speech.

The test contains 33 questions designed to measure knowledge of America’s founding principles, political history, international relations, and market economy.

While the questions vary in difficulty, most test basic knowledge. Six are borrowed from U.S. government naturalization exams that test knowledge expected of all new American citizens. Nine are taken from the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests that the U.S. Department of Education uses to assess high school seniors. Three are drawn from an “American History 101” exam posted online by http://www.InfoPlease.com. Two were developed especially for this survey and the rest were drawn from ISI’s previous civic literacy tests.

The results reveal that Americans are alarmingly uninformed about our Constitution, the basic functions of our government, the key texts of our national history, and economic principles.

  • Less than half can name all three branches of the government.
  • Only 21% know that the phrase “government of the people, by the people, for the people” comes from Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
  • Although Congress has voted twice in the last eight years to approve foreign wars, only 53% know that the power to declare war belongs to Congress. Almost 40% incorrectly believe it belongs to the president.
  • Only 55% know that Congress shares authority over U.S. foreign policy with the president. Almost a quarter incorrectly believe Congress shares this power with the United Nations.
  • Only 27% know the Bill of Rights expressly prohibits establishing an official religion for the United States.
  • Less than one in five know that the phrase “a wall of separation” between church and state comes from a letter by Thomas Jefferson. Almost half incorrectly believe it can be found in the Constitution.

Take the test here.

Herf on the RAF and the German New Left

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[H/t to ZWord]

Professor Jeffrey Herf has an article on the German New Left that you really should check out, “An Age of Murder: Ideology and Terror in Germany“:

It is best to begin with the obvious. This is a series of lectures about murder, indeed about an age of murder.[1] Murders to be sure inspired by political ideas, but murders nevertheless. In all, the Rote Armee Fraktion (Red Army Faction, hereafter the RAF) murdered thirty-four people and would have killed more had police and intelligence agencies not arrested them or prevented them from carrying out additional “actions.”[2]

Yesterday, the papers reported that thirty-two people were killed in suicide-bomb attacks in Iraq, and thirty-four the day before, and neither of those war crimes were front-page news in the New York Times or the Washington Post. So there is an element of injustice in the amount of time and attention devoted to the thirty-four murders committed by the RAF over a period of twenty-two years and that devoted to the far more numerous victims of radical Islamist terror. Yet the fact that the murders of large numbers of people today has become horribly routine is no reason to dismiss the significance of the murders of a much smaller number for German history.

Along with the murders came attempted murders, bank robberies, and explosions at a variety of West German and American institutions. The number of dead could have been much higher. If the RAF had not used pistols, machine guns, bazookas, rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs), remote-controlled bombs, and airplane hijackings, and if the West German radicals of the 1970s through the 1990s had only published turgid, long-winded communist manifestos, no one would have paid them much attention at the time. I doubt that the German Historical Institute would have decided to sponsor a series about Marxist-Leninist sects of the 1970s.

This article is important for a number of reasons. First, for clarifying the totalitarian (and specifically German) roots of the German New Left. Second, for discussing the RAF’s antisemitism and the prevalence of antisemitism in the German New Left. Third, for debunking some of the myths circulated on the radical left about the RAF.

If you are unfamiliar with Professor Herf’s work, he is an historian of Modern Europe and has written extensively on Germany during the Weimar Republic, Nazi Germany and the Cold War. He is also one of the authors of “American Liberalism and the Euston Manifesto“:

We reject the now ossified and unproductive political polarization of American politics rooted as it is in the conflicts of the 1960s, not the first decade of this century. We are frustrated in the choice between conservative governance that thwarts much needed reforms at home, on the one hand, and a liberalism which has great difficulty accepting the projection of American power abroad, on the other. The long era of Republican ascendancy may very well be coming to an end. If and when it does, we seek a renewed and reinvigorated American liberalism, one that is up to the task of fighting and winning the struggle of free and democratic societies against Islamic extremism and the terror it produces.

Professor Denied Tenure Due to International Zionist Conspiracy

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Another professor has been denied tenure due to the power and influence of the International Zionist Conspiracy, this time at Ithaca College:

Margo Ramlal-Nankoe, a member of the sociology department for the past 11 years, said she has more than met the standards for tenure but has been denied twice — once in 2005 and again in 2007.

Ramlal-Nankoe said she was denied tenure not based on her teaching, service or scholarship, the three areas considered by tenure review boards, but her politics, which she says other faculty members and administrators called anti-Israel.

The Board of Trustees says this claim “is unsubstantiated and at best serves only as a smokescreen for the less than excellent performance by Dr. Ramlal-Nankoe in the areas used as an assessment for the granting of tenure at Ithaca College.”

Ramlal-Nankoe said her work on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a direct link to her being denied tenure.

“For me it is so clear it is about the politics of my work,” she said. “(The dean) would go out of his way to cut or reject funding for our activities,” especially for the student organization Students for a Just Peace*.

Ramlal-Nankoe has filed a discrimination complaint against the college and has hired Norman Finkelstein’s lawyer to prove her case. You know how Fink’s case went.

*I can imagine what sorts of events “Students for a Just Peace” organizes. Israel = bad, Palestinians = good, Hamas is a social justice organization, etc. etc. etc. You know the deal.