September 2007 Archives

September 26, 2007

Bloggers With Mobile Phones, E-Mail Keep News Flowing Out of Myanmar

Jane Holroyd and Daniella Miletic report in the September 27, 2007, edition of The Age of Australia that, "young student bloggers [in Myanmar/Burma] are risking years in prison by breaking the junta's stringent Internet controls to post descriptions and photos of the biggest anti-government protests in 20 years."

"Known as "citizen journalists", the students are leaking videos and photos mainly caught on mobile phones," according to Holroyd and Miletic .

To read the entire report, see "Bloggers go armed with mobile phones."

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Dave Winer is on the Money With 'Media You Can't Trust'

Dave Winer, the editor of Scripting News, is right on the money with "Media you can't trust." Writes Winer in a September 26, 2007, post:

I saw most of the speech given on Monday by Iranian President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad at Columbia University. I also watched a lot of the coverage that night and the following morning by MSNBC and CNN, and I gotta say, they behaved shamefully, as badly as Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, who introduced Ahmadinejad. Permalink to this paragraph

Transcript of the Ahmadinejad speech. Permalink to this paragraph

Video of the entire talk and intro. 1 hr 21 min. Permalink to this paragraph

Ahmadinejad came off as a gentleman, he had every right to be offended. Had I been in his place, I would have found it hard to give a speech after the intro Bollinger gave. And then the cable networks completely misrepresented what happened.

Winer added: "It was beyond spinning, it was outright propaganda (sic). It wasn't until Hardball that a reporter, Chris Matthews, talked about what really happened." Permalink to this paragraph

Note: Links were added to the names mentioned in Winer's post for perspective.

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September 25, 2007

TPM Muckraker: State Department Told Black Water Don't Talk to Investigators

TPM Muckraker's Spencer Ackerman reported September 25, 2007, that "Just three days after [American] Rep. Henry Waxman announced his House Oversight and Government Reform Committee would hold hearings into the deaths of 11 Iraqi civilians" [at the hands of Moyock, North Carolina, USA -based Blackwater private army], "a State Department contracting official wrote to Blackwater with a simple message: you don't say anything we don't tell you to."

"image We've added the letter to our Document Collection," Ackerman wrote. "You can read it here."

Ackerman said, "The State Department official, Kiazan Moneypenny, wrote Blackwater VP Fred Roitz to "advise" him of Blackwater's obligations under the terms of State's contract. Among them: "all documents and records (including photographs) generated during the performance of work under this contract shall be for the sole use of and become the exclusive property of the U.S. government."

Adds Ackerman: "These obligations, according to the contract, exist in perpetuity -- not just until the contract expires. As a result, Moneypenny told Roitz to make "no disclosure of documents or information generated under [the contract] unless such disclosure has been authorized in writing by the Contract Officer."

Ackerman said "this augurs well for a thorough inquiry into Blackwater's recent behavior in Iraq." Blackwater is a private army that protects U.S. diplomats and contractors in Iraq.

To read more, see "State to Blackwater: You Don't Say Nothin' to No One, See?

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Miliband Admits Britain Has Alienated Millions of Muslims Over Iraq

Patrick Wintour, political editor of the The Guardian of London, reports in September 26, 2007, dispatch that "David Miliband, the [British] foreign secretary, yesterday image[September 25, 2007] attempted a break with a decade of Blairite foreign policy, admitting a scarred government needed to stop and think why its well-intentioned interventions had alienated millions of Muslims." See "Miliband: We have alienated millions of Muslims over Iraq."

 "In a frank speech, he also admitted there could be no military solutions in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying that the government had found it hard to win peace in such countries," according to Mr. Wintour.

Mr. Miliband "repeatedly said the government needed to learn lessons as it launched a second wave of foreign policy in which there would be greater reliance on stronger multilateral institutions," Mr. Wintour wrote.

I hope Mr. Miliband is preparing himself for the withering criticism that's sure come as a result of his views, which are in stark contrast to those of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. The Blair Government walked lock step with U.S. President George W. Bush in invading and occupying Iraq.

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The 'Rise of the Takfiris Within al-Qaeda'

"Al-Qaeda has been in the process of a decisive ideological and strategic debate over the past few years. At times it developed fault lines that brought forward extremists in the organization, whom the Sunni and Shi'ite orthodoxy of the Muslim world calls takfiris," [1] writes Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief Syed Saleem Shahzad  in a September 26, 2007, news analysis at Asia Times Online.

Shahzad said, "This rise of the takfiris within al-Qaeda gave an unprecedented boost to its anti-establishment drive. This concept is based on the philosophies of 13th-century Muslim scholar Ibn Taymiyyah, who threatened to revolt against the Muslim sultan if he did not give up his neutrality toward the invading Tartars and eventually forced him to fight to defend Damascus," he adds. [2]

According to Shahzad, "It also draws on General Vo Nguyen Giap's guerrilla strategy against French and US forces in Vietnam."

image So what's their aim? "The aim of the takfiris now is to extend the current insurgency against the establishment in the North Waziristan and South Waziristan tribal areas of Pakistan into a large-scale offensive to bring down the central government or force the government to support their cause," Shazad writes.

He said, "The US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and Pakistan's post-September 11, 2001, about-turn into the camp of the United States led to a marriage of convenience among the flag-bearers of Ibn Taymiyyah's ideology, zealots of al-Qaeda and experts in Giap's guerrilla strategy - former officers of the Pakistani armed forces who were upset with Pakistan's policy reversal, which included abandoning the Taliban."

Shahzad provides the following notes to help readers follow the train of thought in his analysis:

1. Those who consider non-practicing Muslims as infidels.
2. Ibn Taymiyyah fought against the Tartars who attacked the Muslim world and almost reached Damascus. The people of Syria sent him to Egypt to urge the Manlike Sultan, the sultan of Egypt and Syria, to lead his troops to Syria to save it from the invading Tartars. When he realized that the Sultan was hesitant to do what he asked of him, he threatened the Sultan by saying: "If you turn your back on Syria we will appoint a Sultan over it who can defend it and enjoy it at the time of peace." The strategy was successful and the Sultan was eventually forced to fight against the Tartars.
3. Vo Nguyen Giap (born in 1911)was a Vietnamese general and statesman.
4. For more references of al-Qaeda-Pakistan Army connections see Musharraf's army breaking ranks, Asia Times Online, August 30, 2003, and Pakistan: FBI rules the roost, ATol, August 4, 2003.

To read more of Shahzad's analysis, see "Military brains plot Pakistan's downfall."

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Will Bush Stand By His Man in Pakistan?

The Christian Science Monitor's Vaishnavi Chandrashekhar writes in the September 26, 2007, edition of the Boston, USA-based publication that, "Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf's crackdown on opposition activists over the weekend has raised concern in Pakistan, and in the US, about whether both next week's presidential vote and the upcoming general elections will be truly democratic." See "Criticism mounts over arrest of opposition activists in Pakistan.

Chandrashekhar notes that "Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, is seeking another five-year term. 

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September 7, 2007

Blogger Riverbend Finally Leaves Iraq and Settles in Syria

Riverbend, the Iraqi blogger behind the widely popular Baghdad Burning blog, which was launched on August 17, 2003, and became known around the world, has finally left Iraq. She blogged about it on September 6, 2007. Before then, her last post was on April 26, 2007, and was headlined "The Great Wall of Segregation..."

River's September 6 post is headlined "Leaving Home..." and is an account of her family's escape to Syria after  living under U.S. occupation since March 2003. The car bombings, kidnappings and living with the constant fear that death could come at any moment took its toll on her family. She writes:

There was one point, during the final days of June, where I simply sat on my packed suitcase and cried. By early July, I was convinced we would never leave. I was sure the Iraqi border was as far away, for me, as the borders of Alaska. It had taken us well over two months to decide to leave by car instead of by plane. It had image taken us yet another month to settle on Syria as opposed to Jordan. How long would it take us to reschedule leaving?

It happened almost overnight. My aunt called with the exciting news that one of her neighbors was going to leave for Syria in 48 hours because their son was being threatened and they wanted another family on the road with them in another car- like gazelles in the jungle, it’s safer to travel in groups. It was a flurry of activity for two days. We checked to make sure everything we could possibly need was prepared and packed. We arranged for a distant cousin of my moms who was to stay in our house with his family to come the night before we left (we can’t leave the house empty because someone might take it).

It was a tearful farewell as we left the house. One of my other aunts and an uncle came to say goodbye the morning of the trip. It was a solemn morning and I’d been preparing myself for the last two days not to cry. You won’t cry, I kept saying, because you’re coming back. You won’t cry because it’s just a little trip like the ones you used to take to Mosul or Basrah before the war. In spite of my assurances to myself of a safe and happy return, I spent several hours before leaving with a huge lump lodged firmly in my throat. My eyes burned and my nose ran in spite of me. I told myself it was an allergy.

As Wikipedia notes, River's "weblog entries were first collected and published as Baghdad Burning, (with a foreword by investigative journalist James Ridgeway), and Baghdad Burning II,  (also with an introduction by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella). They have since been translated and published in numerous countries and languages. In 2005, the book, Baghdad Burning, won third place for the Lettre Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage and in 2006 it was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize.

According to Wikipedia, "Baghdad Burning has also been made into several dramatic plays, mostly produced in New York City. BBC Radio 4 broadcast a five-episode dramatisation of her blog, "Baghdad Burning", on the "Woman's Hour" Serial, on each day from the 18th of December, 2006 until the 22nd of December, 2006."

Hopefully, River will blog more about Iraq now that she is in a relatively safe place.

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