Missed Opportunities

11 09 2011

The past ten years have been a litany of botched opportunities and profoundly stupid mistakes. For one brief moment, a large part of the world was united in purpose. Such moments are more precious than diamonds, pearls of such rarity that they stand out like beacons in history books amid the clutter of dates and place names. For an instant, we had the chance to change the world and make it better for everyone. Instead, we tossed away the opportunity in favor of short-term political and economic gain for a privileged few.

Under similar circumstances in the past, governments have mobilized their people to face an existential threat posed by power-hungry madmen ruling other countries. We face no such external threat to the very existence of our country and way of life today. Those who attacked us ten years ago were not particularly interested in the United States per se, but rather wanted to decrease our influence with their real target- the House of Saud. For all the hype about our enemies’ hatred of our liberties, the US was (and is) a side issue for our enemies. Our enemies wish to rule Mecca and Medina, and thereby gain control of all of Islam. The US government is closely tied to the ruling family of Saudi Arabia, and this influence was an obstacle to our enemies’ primary goal. In order to remove that obstacle, our enemies struck at what they saw as the heart of US power in the hope of provoking a general war between the west and Islam. In the ensuing chaos, our enemies could topple the House of Saud and become masters of “a billion muslims” already at war with the west.

When you buy into the media and political hype about remembering 9/11, think well on the facts listed above. The worst attack on US soil in history was basically a tactical sideshow in a larger strategic drama in which we were only bit players.

In response, we have endured a decade of increasing loss of essential liberties and a profound sense of dislocation between the general population and the US military. There used to be a sign posted in a Marine barracks which said, “America is not at war. The Marines are at war. America is at the mall.” If the US was truly facing a threat to our very existence as a nation, why were we not called upon to make sacrifices as was the case when previously threatened with destruction? Unless one was a member of the uniformed services or a relative of a service member, most of the US acted as if nothing had happened. The only sacrifices we (the People) were called upon to make were in our individual liberties. Under the fallacious guise of keeping Americans safe, ever-more intrusive government agents routinely violated the civil rights of millions of Americans to fight the “war on terror”. Legislation passed by our elected representatives to make this task easier was almost never used to arrest and convict terrorism suspects, but was used extensively to convict thousands of marijuana growers and users.

Aided and abetted by Congress, the administration at the time kept the costs of all this activity separate from the actual budget. Trillions of dollars and thousands of US servicemen were expended in the “war on terror” to what end? It’s been ten years- has terror been defeated yet?

Let us examine this “war on terror”. Terror is a tactic, a tool used to force one’s political adversaries into certain courses of action favorable to the terrorists. There is a way to fight terrorism, and that is the Russian method of demonstrating to the terrorists that the costs of using such tactics is too high. We, as a culture, are unwilling to employ the methods necessary to win such a war. I’m still naive enough to think that is a good thing, but where does that leave us? We are unwilling to become terrorists ourselves to dissuade others from committing terrorism, but we are in a war against terrorism. Can we win this “war on terror” without becoming what we fight against? I’m not sure we can.

Our military can handily defeat any number of enemies with guns, but classical use of military power is not what is needed here. A far better use of our overwhelmingly potent military force would be to isolate and destroy our enemies in detail (such as the methods used to drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002) and long-term political action to deny our enemies bases from which to strike. Another way would be to decide whether or not supporting the House of Saud is worth the odd terror attack and its attendant civilian casualties, and make our national security policy based upon a rational appraisal of that question.

The ruling family of Saudi Arabia gets its power and prestige from two main sources: the oil they sell to Japan, China, and Europe and their control of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. As a country, Saudi Arabia exhibits the very worst traits of a theocratic monarchy. As an economy, they demonstrate the worst traits of monopolistic capitalism. The combination of these traits results in a profoundly poor and uneducated population ruled harshly by a political and religious elite.  Since such conditions are normally ripe for revolution, the House of Saud deflects popular unrest from the ruling family to outside forces by means of their support for the Wahabbi sect of Islam. The royal family funds Wahabbist schools throughout their country, providing a means of identifying and re-targeting disaffected youths. Those identified and re-purposed are used as purity police throughout the country when possible, or exported to other countries to become someone else’s problem. Note that 17 of the 19 attackers on 9/11 were Saudis, and you might start to understand why US support for the Saudi royal family is a big part of the problem. I fail to understand how allowing the House of Saud to fall could be any worse for American interests than the current state of affairs.

Why do we put up with the Saudis? Contrary to popular belief, it is only partially about oil. The US gets very little of its oil from Saudi Arabia. Our interest in Saudi oil is primarily in keeping the fuel taps open for our allies and trading partners elsewhere in the world. A larger part of the American backing of the Saudis is as a counterweight for Iran. Why is this important to US interests? I have no idea.

In a rational world, the US should be closely tied to Iran in lieu of Saudi Arabia. Iran has less oil than the Saudis, but more than triple the population. Furthermore, Iran’s Shi’a sect is philosophically better suited to a partnership with America than the Wahabbist butchers in Riyadh. Why, then, is America courting the Saudis?

We’re back at missed opportunities. Iran had a democratically elected government once, back in the 1950s. For reasons which (presumably) seemed good at the time, the US decided to help overthrow this democratically-elected government and replace it with a dictator presumed to be more amenable to American interests. The resulting tyranny and autocratic excesses of the Shah led inexorably to the rise of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and the subsequent overthrow of the Shah. In lieu of welcoming the new rulers of Iran to the international community, the US government decided to cut them off from the Shah’s expatriated fortune and give weapons to Iran’s unpleasant neighbor- Iraq. Iran responded by taking a few dozen US citizens hostage and giving the US nose a very public tweaking for several years.

At some point during this time, it became US policy to dislike Iran. In order to “punish” Iran for giving us the finger back in the late 1970s, we gave Iraq the go-ahead to start a long and bloody war with Iran. After nearly ten years of increasingly bloody fighting, both sides were too exhausted to continue- particularly Iran, which relied heavily on “human wave” assaults. Iran lost a generation of young men in the war, which has created an enormous philosophical and cultural gap between the survivors of that war and the generations which followed. Iraq, by contrast, ended up with a moderately well-trained military increasingly under the thumb of the often unstable Saddam Hussein.

During all this time, Saudi Arabia was relatively stable, and was therefore increasingly seen as a useful tool to use against Iran. The US sucked up to the House of Saud to help “contain” Iran, when it should have been the other way around. Because the US was increasingly involved in helping maintain the theocratic rulers of Saudi Arabia, we became a target of those who wish to tear down the Saudi royal family and install themselves in their place. The end result of that was four hijacked airliners and more than three thousand dead US civilians.

So let us take this opportunity to take a long, hard look at exactly what US policy is and why. Short of becoming as ruthless as our enemies, there is little prospect of a military solution to the “war on terror”. The long-term solution would be to remove the root causes of the conflict, which is less about religion and more about the monopoly on power and economic might enjoyed by a handful of despots and their courtiers throughout the middle east. Let us concentrate on taking out the bad guys when we find them while working on loosening the bonds of the massive underclasses in north Africa and the middle east.

We’re Americans. We should start acting like it.

Chickens, Home to Roost

3 02 2011

Looks like the Revolution will be televised this time- despite the efforts of Egyptian police and security forces, who are doing their best to muzzle anything resembling a free press both inside and outside of Egypt. Journalists and reporters have been beaten and arrested whenever they are found.

Even in the face of this media crackdown, Al Jazeera has been doing excellent reporting from inside Egypt- especially from the chaos in and around Tahrir Square in Cairo. MSNBC has been carrying excellent video from Cairo and Alexandria, and Reuters and the BBC have been doing yeoman’s work getting the word out to the rest of the world in defiance of Mubarak’s attempts to shut down anything even loosely related to the truth.

For those who have been living in a cave for the past couple of weeks, the people of Egypt, inspired by the so-far-successful revolt in Tunisia, have been protesting against Egypt’s de-facto President-For-Life, Hosni Mubarak. After more than a week of ever-larger protests throughout the country, Mubarak went on Egyptian TV and vowed to not run for re-election in the upcoming September elections, and asked the protesters to stop protesting. The protesters thought about it for about 30 seconds and decided that wasn’t good enough. They want Mubarak out immediately, if not sooner.

Mubarak is now in a tough spot. If he orders the Army to crush the protests, there’s a very real chance they’ll tell him to pound sand. So far, the Army has shown a lot of sympathy for the protesters, and the protesters share the average Egyptian’s reverence for their professional military. Worse still, most of the Egyptian military officers have deep ties to the US military. Many of their officers are graduates from US military academies, for example, and US troops routinely practice desert warfare with Egyptian troops in Egypt. Furthermore, most of Egypt’s military budget is based on the more than one billion dollar military aid provided by the US, and Congress has been not-so-silently warning Mubarak that using equipment purchased with US money against the protesters will cut off the money tap.

What to do? What to do? Mubarak took a lesson from the Green Revolution in Iran and brought in a bunch of thugs to attack the protesters. Mobs of supposedly pro-Mubarak protesters gathered in Cairo and assaulted the anti-government protesters in Tahrir Square. Unfortunately for Mubarak, he didn’t have enough secret police to dress in civilian clothes and send into the streets on his behalf, so he was forced to hire a bunch of regular Egyptians to augment the disguised police. Several hundred “Mubarak supporters” piled into Tahrir Square with whips, clubs, fists, and Molotov cocktails … and found themselves facing several thousand very angry anti-Mubarak protesters.

Oddly enough, when the anti-government protesters captured some of these “Mubarak supporters”, they found Police ID cards on them. Despite the violence, the anti-government protesters refrained from tearing the now-revealed police limb from limb and just turned them over to the Army around the Square. The Army, for its part, did try to keep the two groups separated, but were sort of hampered by their desire to avoid taking sides. The troops around the Square did act forcefully whenever one of the “Mubarak supporters” started using firearms, but not quickly enough to prevent a half-dozen deaths and hundreds of injuries among the anti-government protesters.

The protesters improvised barricades and shields and weapons from what they had on hand, and drove the “Mubarak supporters” out of the Square. Injured protesters were carried to improvised aid stations and clinics set up inside the Square and in some of the buildings nearby. Doctors from the area joined in helping patch up the wounded, and protesters have been amassing medical supplies, food, water, and shelters to keep up the fight.

Mubarak really stepped on his dick with this move. All this little stunt has done was harden the protesters’ attitudes toward the regime. The deaths and violence have demonstrated to the whole world that Mubarak has no intention of giving up his rule, and he’s willing to spill the blood of his own people to stay in power against their will.

I have already stated my dislike for the US government’s habit of cozying up to ruthless murderers and despots in the interests of “stability” or in support of international political interests (however defined). Let me amplify that opinion a bit: The US government should pull its collective head out of its ass and call for Mubarak to resign. Immediately. The US government and military should apply pressure on the Egyptian military to force Mubarak out of the country and hold immediate elections. I submit that allowing the people of Egypt choose their own destinies is better than continuing to support a brutal dictator. If the Egyptians vote in a bunch of radical Islamists to run their country, that is their fucking business, and interfering in their right to choose their own government is absolutely in violation of the principles this country supposedly supports. Half-hearted calls for both sides to play nice aren’t going to cut it. If America really stands for liberty and self-determination, then we need to let Egypt choose its own destiny- whether or not we agree with their choice.

Here are some excellent sources of information and opinion on the situation in Egypt:

Pictures of the clashes in Tahrir Square

An article from the Washington Post

Excellent article from the Guardian UK

Democracy in the Arab World from the Economist

Mubarak holds Egypt hostage from Foreign Policy.com

Remember the Green Revolution in Iran from a while back? I mentioned it above, and said that Mubarak seemed to be trying to copy Iran’s moves in dealing with the crisis. Here is what the protesters have to look forward to if they lose: while the rest of the world has been fixated on Egypt, Iran has been quietly executing scores of people who were arrested during the unrest after the elections. Mubarak has already demonstrated his willingness to shed other peoples’ blood to keep Egypt in his grip. If he succeeds in crushing the protesters, the survivors will likely envy the dead. If for no other reason, that is why Mubarak must not be allowed to remain in power.

So, what can we, the People, do about it? Write and email and call your Congresscritters. Now is not the time for stupid partisan hackery. Now is the time for the US to speak out in favor of the right to self-determination. Tell your Representatives and Senators and the White House to cease their bickering long enough to take care of something really important: the possible birth in blood and fire of a new Egypt.


Current status: Hopeful

Current music: Cold Wind to Valhalla by Jethro Tull

Mad As Hell, and They’re Not Gonna Take It Anymore!

27 12 2009

The peaceful Green revolution from this past June is gone. The people of Iran are tired of bleeding. They’re beginning to make their oppressors bleed as well. The protesters are starting to strike back- especially against the Basij.

Pay attention! This could be a threshold moment.

Here are some pics lifted from an Iranian blog:

And the Beat Goes On

27 12 2009

While Americans relaxed in the post-coital afterglow of the holidays, the young people of Iran once again took to the streets in defiance of the religious madmen who rule their country. While we watch the news amid peace and plenty, young people with literally everything to lose are clashing with the police in the streets of every major city in Iran.

Today is the celebration of Ashura– in memory of one of Muhammed’s grandson’s who died in the battle of Karbala. This is a major holiday for shi’a, and the supposedly devout rulers of Iran seem to be repeating the actions of the sunni despot Yazid. Every drop of blood they spill while slaughtering their own people only creates new reasons for the survivors to turn against their rulers.

At least the western media is actually starting to cover these protests in Iran. I predict that state of affairs will last until another celebrity kicks the bucket, but for the moment, Americans can watch as the young people of Iran struggle for their own independence and freedom.

Because of our past associations with Iran, we cannot do more than watch. The sins of our past prevent us from lending a hand when the protesters desperately need it. What we can do is pay attention and tell others about what we see and hear. The rulers of Iran are expending enormous efforts to silence the protesters and prevent their message from reaching the rest of the world. The very least we can do is defy the despots in Tehran and spread the word.

People are striving for freedom, and paying for their efforts in their own blood. Despite the differences in language or religion, their actions make them our brothers in spirit. Don’t let the murdering tyrants in Tehran commit their atrocities behind a veil of silence.

Current status: Angry

Current music: Let it be by the Beatles

Iranian Irony

8 12 2009

The alleged government of Iran, in celebrating the “National Day of the Student”, unleashed its Basij goons on those students in a storm of beatings and arrests across several cities in Iran. The principal targets of those beatings and arrests were, of course, students.  This is in the wake of his epic rant about how the US is somehow preventing the Twelfth Imam from returning. Honest! Click on the link- I couldn’t possibly make up something that stupid.

I swear President I’minadinnerjacket must be getting his political strategy tips from the Beginner’s Guide to Becoming a Villain Stereotype. All he needs is a top hat, matching cape, and sinister mustachios to complete his transformation to Snidely Whiplash. Next week, the Basij tie all the female students they’ve arrested to sawmills and railroad tracks in a bid to get the deed to the family farm. MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Oh, go look it up. Google is your friend.

Apparently, the “leadership” within Iran believes real life is following the script of a lame 1930’s adventure serial. Not finding success with becoming a Major Player on the world stage, they’ve apparently decided to go with Zany Comic Relief.

It is the National Day of the Student, to celebrate the courageous student revolution which overthrew the brutal Shah. What’s that? There are students demonstrating against me? Have them arrested! Yes, all of them! Who do they think they are, anyway?

I swear it would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. The manifold stupidities of the past are preventing what could be a bright and shining future in the region. The US has far more in common- culturally and economically- with Iran than with all of the Arab states combined. Iran should be a bulwark against the corrupt Arab regimes- especially the House of Saud. Instead, the US panders shamelessly to Saudi interests in order to contain Iran.

I need to find a reality with a more reasonable author. Could you please direct me to the nearest dimensional portal?

Current status: Bemused

Current music: Istanbul (not Constantinople) by They Might Be Giants

Scraps of Consciousness

16 08 2009

For those of you might be paying attention, I’ve been absent for a bit. In lieu of the usual rant, here are some bits and pieces.


Can somebody please tell me why Cynthia McKinney continues to get press coverage? She is not a member of congress- or any other elected body. She does not fit the usual definition of “celebrity”. And yet, she continues to attention-whore her way into the news cycle at least once a month.


Queen Nancy has managed to win the Hypocrite of the Month Award just before undergoing surgery to remove both feet from her mouth. Despite her outspoken support of organized liberal groups disrupting town hall meetings, she has apparently decided that organized conservative groups disrupting town hall meetings is some kind of sinister conspiracy. An “un-American” sinister conspiracy, no less.

This was stupid back when the Bush Administration tried to classify all dissent as treason, and its still stupid now. A foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds, but stupid inconsistency is the trademark of the hypocrite. How does this imbecile continue to win re-election? Are the other choices that much worse? Since she is from California, I am forced to concede the possibility.


Speaking of weapons-grade hypocrisy, ex-Veep Cheney has been holding forth (at length) in the media about his thoughts and opinions. For those of you who couldn’t bear to pay attention over the last eight years or so, this is the same man who willfully dodged media attention, public scrutiny, and even Congressional subpoenas when he was in office. When his opinion actually mattered, he was nowhere to be found. Now that he’s a used-to-be, we can’t seem to avoid him.

Clue time: Hey, Dick! When the majority of the country sees you as a sinister, Machiavellian figure, complaining that the President started ignoring your advice and acting “independent” is not going to win you any points. Just take your retirement check and fade into oblivion as quietly as possible.


As I predicted, the American people rapidly lost interest in the tragedy happening in Iran. Driven by the lack of overt, graphic video coverage from the feckless media, the masses of US consumers drifted blindly off to the next manufactured outrage. In the meantime, thousands of people have literally disappeared, violent oppression of all dissent continues unabated on the streets in Tehran and other cities, and spasms of protest keep recurring every forty days or so. Oh, yeah- Ahminadinnerjacket was sworn in as President of Iran. The rest of the world greeted the news with a collective yawn.


I’ve tried to avoid weighing in on the health-care debate. I rarely watch TV, but the little I do watch is saturated with the trials and tribulations of the various health care reform bills being bandied about. Here’s my take:

The system we have now (more or less private industry and free market controlling prices and access to health care) is chaotic and inconsistent. Anecdotal evidence from the UK, Canada, and other places seem to indicate that government-run health care is somewhat less chaotic and somewhat more consistent. Several people who probably don’t know any better have chimed in that the US military has government-run health care. This idea sends a shiver down my spine. The country at large does not- repeat, NOT– want to be subjected to military-style healthcare. Military health care (Tricare for active-duty personnel and the VA for veterans) are hardly models of efficiency and high standards. I have lived through both, and they suck. We already have a government health care plan. It is called Medicare. It sucks. It is marginally better than nothing at all.

Given that the Gummint is incapable of efficiency and cost-effectiveness, I fail to understand why anyone would be interested in a government-run health care system. Those who can afford health insurance and want it already have it. Those who want health insurance and cannot afford it are eligible for Medicare. If they want better medical care than the Gummint provides, they’ll have to pay for it themselves, somehow. Forcing me to pay for everyone else’s health care is hardly a viable option.


At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire, the media managed to manufacture another tempest-in-a-teapot to distract the viewers from the real issues. President Obama was going to be speaking at a high school about health care, and thousands of citizens showed up to advocate one side or another of the debate. Instead of providing actual journalism, however, the media decided to focus on the fact that one of the people outside the venue was carrying a pistol on his hip.

Alarm! Fake outrage! Shrill screeching and squawking from the talking heads! Frantic gesturing and pontificating!

Let’s take a look at the actual facts, shall we?

1- New Hampshire is an open-carry state. This means that any citizen can carry a loaded firearm in public at his or her discretion. There are a few restrictions on places where firearms are not permitted, but the law is fairly clear that wearing a pistol in a holster is not a problem. In addition, according to friends of the man in question, he always carried a gun.

2- The man in question was not a threat to the President. He was contacted by the Secret Service and the police and reminded to stay 1,000 feet from the school, and he complied immediately. If the Secret Service (who are understandably jumpy and disinclined to laxity on the subject of Presidential security) did not have a problem with the armed citizen, why did the media start foaming at the mouth on the subject?

3- When interviewed later by one of the talking heads, the armed citizen was asked if the gun was loaded. WTF? Carrying an unloaded gun would have been stupid beyond belief. I have always held that the media talking heads are ignorant fools, but this was a stupid question- even for them. Here’s a much better question: Were you trying to foment an incident, or are you just stupid? See? That wasn’t too difficult, and I never took any journalism classes in college.


I note with sadness that the Barefoot Bum has chosen to quit blogging. He and I rarely saw eye-to-eye, but he always presented a sound argument and had an excellent grasp of fact and theory. He’ll be missed.

That’s all for now. Tune in next time for more observations of the idiotic and ridiculous.

Current status: Annoyed

Current music: Coffee Song by Soul Coughing

Taken for granted

12 07 2009

I am deeply disappointed with my countrymen. It seems that interest in liberty can be extinguished by the passing of time and an abundance of cheap entertainment. The American people have turned their collective backs on the sacrifices of their ancestors. The men who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor would weep with shame at the self-indulgent parasites their descendants have become.

Liberty in this country is taken for granted. With a few noteworthy exceptions, none of the people living in the US today have had to exert the slightest effort to enjoy the blessings of liberty. They take their basic freedoms for granted, and ignorantly assume that the same happy state of affairs is the natural state of humanity. When they are inevitably exposed to the harsh realities of life in much of the world, Americans may write a few letters to Congress or send a few dollars to some charity or another and consider that they’ve done their part … until something more interesting is on TV.

Those to whom liberty is anathema have come to count on America’s miniscule attention span. Despite the extravagant way the last administration expended American goodwill, much of the world looks to the United States for leadership. The fact that the American people will reliably lose interest in anything in a matter of hours means that the enemies of liberty need only wait until the next television extravaganza to continue committing atrocities. The tyrants of the world will be very careful to keep their excesses out of view of the American imbeciles as much as possible. They will also take great pains to avoid directly threatening or attacking the US. We may be jaded, overweight dullards, but our patience and willful ignorance has limits.

Sadly, the villains ruling Iran have not yet grown so stupid as to push Americans beyond those limits. The government there has expended enormous resources trying to shut down the flow of information out of the country- to the point of making journalists, politicians, and anyone else who might become a threat just disappear. Possession of a cell phone or computer is not illegal in Iran, but those who own such devices risk arrest, beating, and death at the hands of the Basij.

Despite the vicious crackdown on all forms of dissent or protest, the streets of Tehran were filled with protesters again yesterday. In a sign that the protesters are growing increasingly annoyed with the Basij, more and more protesters are openly confronting them in the streets. Protesters make a point of taking pictures of Basij, then posting them online for others to help identify them. There is a growing dossier of Basij available online, with home addresses and photos. Whenever the government shuts the websites down, new ones pop up- often hosted on foreign servers and protected by Americans and Europeans who object to the Iranian government’s tyranny. Government websites doing the same thing for protesters are identified almost as quickly as they appear, and just as quickly shut down by foreign hackers.

A worrying sign for the government is the fact that businesses and the large merchant class in Iran is beginning to side with the protesters. Passive strikes- where the shops are open but not selling anything, and shoppers are present but not buying- are one way of getting around government prohibitions against public gatherings. Shopkeepers close their shops during protests, but allow injured or hunted protesters to take shelter within. The extensive middle class in Iran is sending more and more of their money to overseas banks, further robbing the government of desperately needed funds.

In their increasingly frantic attempts to shore up their position, Khameni and Ahmadinejad are destroying their own legitimacy, and the legitimacy of the Islamic Revolution. The protesters originally did not want to throw out the Islamic Republic. They wanted the government to follow the rules. When Khameni started taking the position that any dissent was equivalent to apostasy, he undermined the very heart of the Revolution. One of the core principles of Shi’a Islam is the requirement to protest apparent injustice. By declaring dissent a mortal sin, Khameni is violating one of the most cherished tenets of the religion he professes to protect. This declaration puts Khameni in company with the Sunni rulers of Saudi Arabia, and definitely against the principle of the Revolution.

Despite the chaos and violence in the streets, the future of Iran will probably be decided in the Holy City of Qom. Many powerful men- all survivors of the Revolution- are watching the antics of the Supreme Leader and feeling the winds of change blow about them. If they support Khameni, they are becoming the same as the Sunni rulers of the old Caliphate. This would almost certainly mean another Revolution, sooner or later, where the clerics would lose all of their power and privileges.  If they support the protesters, they risk losing some of their power and privileges, but will retain enough.

The big question is how many of the supposedly Holy men have grown accustomed to the economic benefits of being on top. Rafsanjani may be a Grand Ayatollah, but he is first and foremost concerned with his business empire. So long as he retains that, he probably wouldn’t mind much if his political power were diminished. Many of the senior clerics are in similar situations. Many of these men are possible supporters of the current unrest.

Some of the clerics- including the universally revered Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani in Iraq- are philosophically opposed to clerics having political power. Many of these clerics are also likely to support the protesters.

For the sake of an entire generation in Iran, let us hope the changes which will inevitably result from the unrest (sooner or later) are in the form of a step forward, and not a backslide into barbarism. That would lead to problems far outside Iran.

Not that the bulk of the US population would even notice.

Current status: Alert

Current music: Hazy Shade of Winter by the Bangles

I Apologize to the Gnats

5 07 2009

I recently commented that Americans have a gnat-like attention span. I am forced to admit that this was an unwarranted slur against gnats and an undeserved accolade to the American public.

All it takes to get the People’s teensy little minds off something important is flashing a shiny bauble in front of their collective eyes. “Pay no attention to the important events going on over there! We have round-the-clock coverage of the life and miracles of aging pop stars! Ooooh! Shiny!

Bah! It is a deliberate insult to those who risked so much and fought so hard for Americans to have the blessings of liberty that their descendants are so easily distracted from the plight of others who are seeking those same blessings. Despite the fact that past US policy makes direct involvement in Iran a practical impossibility, the very least we can do for those who are risking their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors in pursuit of freedom is to pay attention.

The very least I can do is to try- however unlikely success may be- to break people in the US out of their self-imposed craniorectal inversions. Like it or not, here comes the news you choose to ignore.

The government of Iran has been growing increasingly repressive in its attempts to shift from an Islamic Republic to an Islamic dictatorship. Thousands of people have been arrested, and at least 20 killed (according to government figures). Outside estimates of the dead range from 35 to well over 100. The death toll cannot be independently verified due to the near-total lockdown within Iran and the widely-reported tendency of government thugs to abscond with the bodies of slain protesters- often taking the bodies out of the hospitals before notification to the families. The fact that government militias have been searching the hospitals for wounded protesters to arrest has forced protesters to set up improvised hospitals in homes.

The government in Iran is still losing the information war, despite their increasingly-frantic efforts to shut down communications into and out of Iran. There have been reports of active measures (DDoS attacks, for example) against websites outside Iran sympathetic to the protesters, prompting Anonymous to issue a Declaration of War. The desperate measures taken by the government to shut down communications within and out of Iran are having significant economic effects, as well. Business needs communications to survive, and the government needs business to be able to pay their bills. Not least of these bills are the hundreds of Basij who are being paid to assault and murder the protesters.

As I reported earlier, many individuals outside Iran have taken it upon themselves to provide electronic support for the protesters. Many people have provided proxies. Still others have signed up for Twitter accounts and set their time zone and location to Tehran. A small minority– including Anonymous- have engaged in active cyber warfare against the Iranian government. Then there are people who provide ongoing updates from within Iran.

Despite the crackdowns on dissent within Iran, the protesters continue to resist. People go to their rooftops at night and shout, “Allahu Ackbar!” (God is great!) as a sign of protest. In response, the supposedly Islamic government sends its Basij thugs to break down doors and beat people. Each instance of violence creates more martyrs. Each martyr becomes the focus for more protests. Forty days after each killing, more protests will flare up for each new martyr. Every crackdown on the mourning cycle only solidifies the resistance to the government.

All of this repression has a political price- even within the Iranian government. More and more Islamic clerics are calling on the Supreme Burrito to step down, with some accusing him of emulating the Shah. That wily and villainous grey eminence in the Holy City of Qom, Rafsanjani, has become ever more vocal in his condemnation of the Supreme Leader. Some of these clerics may in fact be deeply religious men who believe that the government is acting contrary to Islamic Law. Most of them, however, are growing very much aware of the fact that Khameni is destroying the very roots of the Islamic Republic by wiping out public reverence for clerics with political power. In his desperate attempts to maintain his own political power, Khameni is destroying the foundation of that power. He runs the very real risk of undermining the Islamic nature of Iran.

I have no particular problem with that, but it isn’t my country. The people of Iran are proud to be Islamic. The protesters were originally not interested in overthrowing the Islamic Republic, they just wanted the Supreme Leader to follow the rules. Every act of violence against the people of Iran brings the end of the Islamic Republic that much closer, as more and more people grow angry with the repression. The people of Iran are being trained to despise their political and religious leaders, and every single attempt by those leaders to prevent the loss of power makes that loss all the more certain. The price Iran might be forced to pay for the lesson will probably involve the blood of thousands- most of whom will be innocents.

The least we can do is pay attention.

Current status: disgusted

Current music: Black Dog by Led Zeppelin


29 06 2009

To the delight of everyone in Iran and around the world, the Guardian Council announced today that they had completed a partial recount of the votes from the June 12th election, and the clear winner was Mahmoud Ahminadinnerjacket. Complaints and reports of widespread fraud were dismissed as “irrelevant”. Personally, I am ever so glad they have finally laid this issue to rest.

In a pig’s eye.

I’ve been torn between two competing ideas about the clerics who make up the true rulers of Iran. I originally thought that their extremely stupid machinations were merely a cynical ploy to cement their power by fomenting a modest rebellion, which grew beyond their control.

My other idea is that the various beards trying to run things- specifically including the Burrito Supreme and his midget sidekick- are actually completely clueless. They’ve been gazing into their navels and engaging in mutual self-congratulation for so long that they honestly have no idea how idiotic they appear to the rest of the world- and their own citizens.

That brings us to Rafsanjani. The former President and current Big Turban in the Holy City of Qom is a villainous old scoundrel who only truly cares about his widespread business interests. He is also the best hope for a resolution of the current unrest in the protesters’ favor. Rafsanjani despises Khameni and Ahmadinejad- partly because of political rivalry but also because their antics are hurting Rafsanjani’s businesses abroad. He has been cynically manipulating events from his political stronghold in Qom with a level of guile which would make Macchiavelli weep with envy. While the young men and women of Iran are getting beaten and murdered in the streets of Tehran and other cities, Rafsanjani has been making political capital from their blood, sweat, and tears.

There are a few good things coming out of the unrest in Iran. Among other things, some of the terrorist groups Iran has been sponsoring haven’t been getting their monthly stipends. I don’t have a link to the source material, so I will just copy-and-paste the article from ThreatsWatch below:

Iran Turmoil Causes Terrorism Economic Crisis

Aaron Klein, who has perhaps the deepest contacts within Palestinian terrorist organizations of any journalist in the world, made note Monday that the turmoil in Iran had caused the Iranian regime to miss its regularly scheduled subsitance payment to at least one group, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. As of Friday, the Iranian regime’s regular terror stipend has still not arrived, preventing the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist leadership from paying its henchmen.

This is what happens when the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism meets with conflict of its own. As an Islamic Jihad source told Klein nearly a week ago, “If money is not sent one way or another, we may have to close some agencies and bureaus.”

Oh, money is pouring out of Iran in a big way. But they’re not transfers from the terrorist regime to its foreign legions. They are transfers by businesses rushing to deposit their millions out of Iranian banks and into more stable environments abroad.

In radio interviews over the past two weeks on the situation in Iran, I ahve often asked hosts and listeners to close thier eyes and imagine the region beyond Iran’s borders when the cash cow of international terrorism is no longer there to be the lifeline of Hizballah, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. They starve, with their chief supplier of money, arms and training no longer available to feed them. They will be forced to rely almost solely upon the support of Arabs once the sustaining Persian money line is severed.

The Palestinian Islamic Jihad is tellig us this right now, either the first group to feel the effects of the people’s revolt in Iran or, more likely, the first terrorist group to actually say so publicly. Or perhaps Hamas and Hizballah had their cash flow uninterrupted by supplying reinforcement thugs for Iran’s Basij militia. It has been reported often by Iranians that there have been many Arabic-speaking forces among the Farsi-speaking Basij on the Iranian city streets. Whatever the Iranian terror cashflow dynamics, the Palestinain Islamic Jihad is feeling the pain.

There is “no shame in being poor,” they have told Klein in his most recent update. And we at ThreatsWatch concur. We in fact encourage an increased piety among the Palestinian Islamic Jihad leadership and ranks and the closure of more “agencies and bureaus.”

By Steve Schippert on June 26, 2009 at 9:36 AM

Despite the savagery of the Basij and other government-sponsored militias, the protests are continuing. Amnesty International estimates that some two thousand Iranians are imprisoned. Many analysts are coming to the realization that this revolution will not die down anytime soon. The 1979 Islamic Revolution took more than a year to come to fruition. The protesters can afford to bide their time and make plans. The government, by contrast, is under severe diplomatic pressure from abroad and economic pressure at home. There are thousands of Basij in the streets of Tehran, each one costing the government a great deal of cash and other resources. Worse, Tehran is not the only city in turmoil. The government is hemorrhaging money trying to maintain itself in the hope that the unrest can be beaten into submission and IranCo can get back in business.

One of the big movers against the Shah during the 1979 Revolution was a series of general strikes. There have already been calls for strikes by Mousavi and others. This sort of economic pressure on the government would have enormous effect, particularly for the Grey Eminence- Rafsanjani.

Of course, the American public has completely lost track of the situation in Iran. With the fickleness of the well-fed and safe and the collective Attention-Deficit Disorder of those resting on their laurels, people in the US have largely lost interest in Iran in favor of Infotainment. If it weren’t so nauseating, it might almost be funny.

Fortunately for those on the ground inside Iran, there are still those in the wider world who are paying attention. It is little enough we can do to help you, but we will do what we can. We cannot be with you in person, but we are with you in spirit. Many of us are providing proxy servers and torrents. Others are taking more active measures. We are listening. We are watching.

We will not forget.

Current status: Determined

Current music: Tuesday Afternoon by the Moody Blues

There are FOUR lights!

27 06 2009

If you can’t get ’em to join you, beat ’em until they shut up.

The government of Iran seems to be Hell-bent on destroying what little international credibility remains to them. Here are a few bits and pieces from Iran over the last few days.

This one is from Letters from Iran:

The following email in Farsi we received today (Wednesday 24th june). It is written by a doctor from “Rasul Akram” hospital in Tehran who says that some people were killed not only by one bullet as they found two or three bullets in some bodies, close to one another, showing that shooters used barrage shooting against people and not only a single
shot. A 68 year old man had 3 bullets inhis body, two on his left shoulder and one in the left side of his stomach. The doctors of the “Rasul Akram”hospital say they had been faced with 38 people killed during last week’s protests. Apparently, police took the corpse of the dead bodies out from the hospital and carried them away by truck. Most
of their families still do not know if their children have been killed. Besides, among the corpse there were some 15, 16 years old kids.

According to the email, the crew of the hospital protested in the street next to the hospital giving out the information about the violence to the people.

One has to wonder how long the government can keep up this sort of crap. The protesters have been peacefully demonstrating, for the most part. Given the strong incentive to lash back at the government forces attacking them, the behavior of the protesters has been extremely civilized.

Protesters protecting riot police.

If you must protest and demonstrate, make sure to demonstrate your humanity at the same time. These protesters have more courage than I. I doubt I would be nearly as forgiving under the same circumstances.

Message to the Basij from Why We Protest:

به شما چه اتفاقی می افتد هنگامی که رژیم می افتد؟ ما عکس شما را. میبینیم ضرب و شتم و به شما تیراندازی غیر مسلح و دانشجویان ، زنان و مردان قدیمی. وضع کردن اسلحه خود را. آزادی را انتخاب کنید به جای قتل مردم خود.

و حتی برخی از ژنرالها شما امتناع سفارشات. سوال من دوباره ، چه رخ می دهد تا زمانی که شما بیش از Rafsani طول می کشد؟ ما عکس شما را به شما خواهد شد و تقاضا برای قتل و ضرب و شتم مردم حساب شما. آزادی را انتخاب کنید.


What happens to you when the regime falls? We have your photos. We see you shooting and beating unarmed students, women and old men. Lay down your arms. Choose freedom instead of murdering your own people.

Even some of your Generals are refusing orders. I ask again, what happens to you when Rafsani takes over? We have your photos and will demand you account for killing and beating your people. CHOOSE FREEDOM.

Despite vicious provocation by their own government, the protesters have been models of non-violent resistance. Most outside observers and those with access to information from within Iran believe that the government is figyhting a losing battle. Even if they succeed at violently suppressing the current dissent, the social contract within Iran would be irrevocably damaged. Here is a good analysis from TehranBureau:

25 June: Possible compromise? [I also heard the same thing independently from a good source today. It is of course unconfirmed; even if true, the authorities may change their mind as well. tb]:

The following is from Mehdi Noorbaksh, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology:

There is a possibility, and I am saying a possibility, for a compromise on the election result among the involved parties in Iran in the next couple of days. I received a call from Iran late last night indicating that there is a possibility for a runoff between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad. There are a few points that we should consider in this

1. The Guardian Council all but acknowledged election irregularities a few days ago and indicated that it involved 3 million votes. This body did not restrict these irregularities to a few thousand or even a hundred thousand votes, but millions. That was a face saving gesture to open the door for a possible future compromise in the event of mounting
pressure. There are other irregularities having the same nature. Many districts, up to 170, show voter turnout of 95% to 140% of the eligible voters.

2. Ali Larijani, the head of the Iranian parliament, is trying to convince the leadership on the side of the supreme leader to give national TV time to Mousavi to talk to the Iranian people. In his TV talk a couple of days ago, Larijani was critical of the Iranian national TV for not allowing Mousavi to use that medium of communication to talk to the Iranian people. He also announced that a few members of the Guardian Council were biased toward one candidate, namely Ahmadinejad, in the election.

3. There is report that Rafsanjani has succeeded to get the signatures and support of many of the high clerics in Qom denouncing the election. If they openly denounce the election that could be a colossal blow to the supreme leader, and the much diminished legitimacy of the institution of Velayat-e Faqih and his authority.

4. The Guardian Councils’ investigation of the vote fraud has been extended, possibly to gain more time in negotiating a solution to the conflict.

5. There are reports that divisions within the Revolutionary Guard are beginning to surface. There is speculation that one of the commanders, Afzali, has either resigned or been abdicated from his post.

6. Rallies are expanding in many other cities of Iran, and street demonstrations have not been diminished in Tabriz, Isfahan, Kermanshah and other cities. Although the size of the demonstrations is smaller, they are more violent and forceful.

7. The killings of demonstrators will definitely result in more defiance and bolder actions of the protesters and gain more legitimacy for the green movement and its leadership. More killings will definitely delegitimize further the supreme leader’s authority. Imposing a government, after mass killings, on the Iranian people is a much more
difficult task.

Note that many “professional” analysts are still playing catch-up with the supposedly amateur information gathering conducted by a few hundred people around the world with access to modern technology. There seems to be a great deal of wishful thinking going on on all sides. The protesters are hoping that their government will live up to its own promises. The government is hoping that the proetsters will just shut up and stop embarrassing the government. The Supreme Leader’s political rivals are hoping they can use the current crisis to remove the Supreme Leader (just like a regular leader, but with sour cream and lettuce) and bring in someone more amenable. Iran’s neighbors are hoping to capitalize on the disturbances and reduce Iran’s influence in the region. The US government is hoping to get a less hostile Iran. The hordes of keyboard warriors providing aid and comfort to the protesters are hoping for an Iran with less control over the flow of information. One of those people came up with a fairly profound quote:

The internet sees censorship as damage and automatically tries to work around it.

This self-repairing nature of internet communications is one of the reasons the Iranian government is having so much trouble cutting the protesters off from contact with the rest of the world. At present, the government has shut down all communications nodes except one in an attempt to get a handle on the protesters’ links to the outside world. All traffic has to go through a single node, and the government is trying frantically to monitor all of that communication in order to strangle the flow of embarrassing information. If they completely shut off communications, they’re going to end up like North Korea. I’m pretty sure that the Supreme Burrito and his midget sidekick aren’t stupid enough to think that’s a good idea.

So far, outside events are working in favor of the government. The gnat-like attention span of the west has been largely diverted to more trivial things like the death of a couple of so-called “celebrities”. Iran has been taking advantage of this to crack down on the protesters even harder. Several sources inside Iran are reporting that PersianKiwi has been arrested. For those who have not been paying attention, PK has been one of the more prolific and reliable sources of information from inside Iran. If this report is true, the government will have struck a blow against the flow of information from the protesters. Unfortunately for the government, the fine folks at Anonymous and 4chan have all been talking with PK for several weeks, and consider him to be one of their own. If PK has indeed been arrested, I predict a swift and savage response from the global online community.

Despite everything the Iranian government can do, news embarrassing to the government has been flooding out of Iran to the rest of the world. Private citizens around the world have been doing whatever they can to keep the information flowing and the lines of communication open. Individuals have been taking active measures against a sovereign nation’s government, and this will only get worse as the government crackdown continues. The internet community is waking up and discovering they are strong.

If PK has actually been arrested, the world might soon see just how strong they are.

Current status: Concerned

Current music: Free Will by Rush