April 02, 2007
The New Month Open Thread: April 2007 edition
That hoary old tradition. Afraid Aqoul has been quite of late as the various authors are either lazy good for nothing scum, or busy people unable to post.
However, tradition is very important to us in the MENA region, although often in a lip-service sort of way. So here is the lip service.
Posted by The Lounsbury at April 2, 2007 05:50 AM
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I think posting comments for the hell of it is no more than an ego-trip. Ok, sometimes they are very important and express an important point of view, but we do it at times because we feel it gives us a sense of prowess over the printed word. Having said that I do feel Arabs have to keep going out there in the cyberspace of the internet. Realizing there is a vast world dominated by subjective, biased news against us, we need to be continually pro-active in putting our opinion, analysis and even long features. If we don't do that we leave the field to Zionists, racists and people with axe to grind. But it does not mean we should blubber our mouths without thinking, no it means we say what we want systematically and with methodolgy so that its rational, understood and hopefully point taken. Its a struggle, but its a hard world.
Posted by: Marwan Asmar at April 2, 2007 10:20 AM
Here's one for you: MSK was saying something about meeting up in Berlin sometime. Any further interest in that among the European contingent?
Posted by: Antiquated Tory at April 3, 2007 06:51 AM
Posted by: Bint at April 3, 2007 07:45 AM
Yes. I'd love to come to a European meeting!
Wait ... that was MY suggestion initially ...
When & where?
Can everyone travel everywhere? I'd still suggest Berlin 'cause it's cheap, centrally located, and I wouldn't have to bother traveling somewhere else.
Posted by: MSK at April 3, 2007 12:19 PM
There is the downside of being surrouned by German people..
Posted by: Bint at April 3, 2007 12:26 PM
You might have a vague chance for me to actually perhaps promise to show to Paris, as I am frequently there anyway on biz.
Of course, I am likely to lie to you, but leaving this aside.
Berlin. It has been years, I could visit the site of my Cuban place, but it would likely merely depress me.
And then there are the Germans.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at April 3, 2007 03:37 PM
"There is the downside of being surrouned by German people.."
"And then there are the Germans."
That's cute - obviously neither one of you has an idea of my neighborhood ... ;)
Well ... as L's probably not gonna show anyway (although we could reminiscence about "the good old days" - maybe we've even met back then?) and Miss B might neither (?) I would like to hear some other voices ...
Posted by: MSK at April 3, 2007 05:01 PM
Well, I could drop by. Berlin isn't too far away from Copenhagen.
"There is the downside of being surrouned by German people.."
"And then there are the Germans."
I don't see the problem. I'm sure you can find plenty of Turks to hang out with.
Posted by: Anonymous at April 3, 2007 09:23 PM
If you guys do it, I think you should do it the last weekend of May, and then you can teleconference with those of us who will be in D.C. Or hey, we could even get fancy and videoconference!
Yes, and in 2008 we should all meet in one place, preferably in the MENA region this time.
Next year in Jerusalem!
It would be hilarious to have Aqoul conferences on two continents. Pity we are scattered across the world though.
i wonder if we could have an internet-based conference with voice/video chat... perhaps we can have quarterly aqoulite conference calls in the tradition of the quarterly investor conference call.
A little something more about Iraqi translators. Link from back-to-Iraq, Allbritton seems to be posting regularly again, maybe his depression isn't so bad these days.
Posted by: Klaus at April 4, 2007 01:36 AM
Pity we're not invading someplace Slavic, I could get a phat DOD contract with those standards.
Posted by: Antiquated Tory at April 4, 2007 04:44 AM
I'd be all about going someplace Slavic, or maybe someplace combo and/or colonized. Aqoul Silk Road Tour, anyone? How does Samarkand sound?
E- you send us the tickets & we're on.
But seriously - what do the Euro-based Aqoulites think? Whereto would/could you travel? And when?
Posted by: MSK at April 4, 2007 02:06 PM
at the moment anytime anywhere, within my financial means. Unemployed. Bah.
K- you're SCANDINAVIAN. Everybody knows your government gives you $$$ just for waking up.
Any other ideas than "anytime, anywhere"? If not, I'll just declare the meeting place & time.
Posted by: MSK at April 5, 2007 01:44 PM
First weekend in May is not possible for me, otherwise any weekend fine. Somewhat prefer after May 14 as that is a release date at work.
Posted by: Antiquated Tory at April 5, 2007 02:08 PM
Bah. Any gov can give you bucks for being awake. I want one who gives 'em to you for sleeping. And napping.
Posted by: pantom at April 5, 2007 09:19 PM
"I want one who gives 'em to you for sleeping. And napping."
Then you want the US government; we had a special session of congress and almost a constitutional crisis over someone in a coma.
Posted by: matthew hogan at April 5, 2007 10:53 PM
That someone would be American common sense.
Anyway: Here's a good and depressing article on interpreters in Iraq, the single photograph on the first page tells the whole story really. Also, p.16 is about Sweden. They seem to allude that Malmö is more boring than Baghdad. The cheek.
But: Still don't know exactly what Americans are supposed to do about Iraq. Everyone agrees it's fucked beyond repair, yet many think pulling out would be immoral.
Posted by: Klaus at April 6, 2007 05:49 PM
klaus/packer - ...Malmö, a city of eighteenth-century storefronts and modern industrial decay at the southern tip of Sweden, just across the Öresund Strait from Copenhagen. [...] Since the war began, nearly twenty thousand Iraqis had arrived in the country.
Well, I hear Malmö has really good falafel these days, so I expect the White House to redefine victory as "bringing Arab fast food to Scandinavia" any day now and pull out. And it is a very good article. Everybody should read.
But what to do with Iraq? I still think the Baker report makes most sense of all the suggestions so far (= pull back and contain). And if I'm not misinformed, the Democrats are trying to force something like that through by mandating a pullout of all active combat troops to 2008, and leaving only support and training missions. Would be smarter to do it in a planned fashion by military choice of course, instead of writing a law about it, but whatever. It isn't happening anyway, it seems, because of presidential veto.
Posted by: alle at April 7, 2007 11:24 PM
Falafel is the new pizza.
But don't you agree Baghdad would very likely become a new Stalingrad if the US Army withdrew to the ISG-recommended super-bases?
Well, I suspect more like Beirut, with militia-run cantons etc, but yeah. So perhaps they should get out slower there and try to cordon off parts of the city somehow, by backing various defensive militias long-term. Or something like that, I don't know.
I'm afraid it will be very messy and unpleasant whatever they decide to do, but it's also a question of when they decide to do it. It seems to me the US is running out of time -- not so much because of what's happening in Iraq, but because patience is running out at home. In a year or two, people will be demanding not a new strategy, but a total pullout. And eventually they'll get it, with or without a good plan, so it makes more sense to seize the opportunity to do it gradually -- the Baker strategy isn't necessarily a good plan, but it seems to be the only one.
Posted by: alle at April 9, 2007 07:10 PM
Found, via Angry Arab, an article on reconstruction in Lebanon after the summer war. At the time of the donors' conference, there was much talk about how the West would step up and give, give, give, to show that it was a better friend than Hizbullah and other radicals.
So what happened? Quite predictably, Hizbullah and Iran (and some Gulf states) are doing well in the south, which is where reconstruction is most needed. But here's a gem: USAID has a total of eight (yeah, 8!) employees in all of Lebanon, who are apparently supposed to channel $1 billion and best Hizbullah by themselves! And I thought the Iraqi mission was understaffed...
The Lounsbury wrote on the topic before, but I couldn't imagine it would be quite this bad. Anyone who is or recently was in Lebanon -- what are your impressions on this? Is US/European cash coming through at all, and is it noticed?
Posted by: alle at April 9, 2007 08:56 PM
Well, Lebanon has a (kinda sorta) functional government, at least as compared to Iraq, and enough of a civil society that the USAID people don't have to build everything from the ground up. (Again, as compared to Iraq). So 8 people is still understaffed, but it's not the same sort of problems.
Qatar was definitely very visible when I was there. (Some of the Euro countries, too, at least in the immediate aftermath. There are still those emergency bridges up that the French army put up, for instance).
Posted by: Tom Scudder at April 9, 2007 11:58 PM
It's really a matter of having operating networks.
Building out functional organisational networks is time-consuming work.
Pouring in a huge number of USAID employees would be pointless. Indeed probably counter-productive.
The problem for the Americans is they don't understand that you need deep -time wise- networks in region to be effective. Constantly rotating projects around, etc., expecting things to happen on US time, and insisting on US "best practice" seriously reduces their ability to be long-term "rapid."
But somehow the Americans never get it.
Just ran into this problem trying to hire in a consultant, American, to work on an issue I am facing on risk management. He couldn't grok "good enough" and had Patriot Act bullshit to throw at me.
Finally told him, "no thanks, I'll go local."
Posted by: The Lounsbury at April 10, 2007 05:23 PM
Have just finished watching the Adam Curtis BBC series 'The Power of Nightmares'. It's good, if only because it has the same thoughts on the unnecessity of conflict that I do. If anyone here has seen it, what did you think about the bit on Algeria?
A few transcripts:
In the early ‘90s, Algeria, Egypt, and other Arab countries were being torn apart by a horrific wave of Islamist terror. The jihadists who had returned from Afghanistan were trying to topple the régimes. At the heart of their strategy was the idea that Ayman Zawahiri and others had taught them: that those who were involved in politics could legitimately be killed, because they had become corrupted and thus were no longer Muslims. This violence, they believed, would shock people into rising up, and the corrupt régimes would then be overthrown.
But the revolutionaries soon found that the masses did not rise up and follow them. The régimes stayed in power, and the radical Islamists were hunted down. Faced by this, the Islamists widened their terror. Their logic was brutal: it was not just those who were involved with politics who should be killed, but the ordinary people who supported it. Their refusal to rise up showed that they, too, had become corrupted, and so had condemned themselves to death.
There was definitely a logic. The logic is that you assault the leaders, you assault those who are associated with them, and eventually you assault the people who have consented to the presence of such a despotic leader, even if they are passively supportive through their silence.
In turn, the generals running Algeria infiltrated the revolutionary groups. They told their agents to persuade the Islamists to push the logic even further, to kill even more people. This would create such horror that the groups would lose any remaining support, and the generals could use the fear and revulsion to increase their grip on power.
ANAS : The generals infiltrated the jihad ideas, the jihad groups, to put the society under fear. By creating terror and violence, [unintelligible] everything in the society, no politic, no economy, no everything, just to stay and saying to the West, “we are facing terror.”
INTERVIEWER (off-camera): Using fear.
ANAS : Using fear to stay on the power.
Posted by: Klaus at April 10, 2007 10:17 PM
Oh, and Wolfie gets it really, really hard. People do look evil when they smile and clap in slow motion to sinister music.
Can't pass up an Algeria discussion, can I?
klaus/BBC -- In turn, the generals running Algeria infiltrated the revolutionary groups. They told their agents to persuade the Islamists to push the logic even further, to kill even more people.
This is, to put it mildly, controversial. There's no doubt that the GIA -- which was the group most responsible for massacres of civilians, after declaring a particularly loony doctrine called "takfir al mujtamaa," or the "apostasy of society" (in general) -- was heavily infiltrated. Presumably infiltrators were under orders to push whatever divisive and self-destructive strategies they could, because that's the point of infiltrators. And, sure enough, the butchery led to GIA's splintering in the late 90s (after other hardline groups, incl. al-Qaida, had started complaining about their methods of warfare).
But the psychopaths running GIA were perfectly capable of going there themselves, without military prodding, and they were certainly into terror tactics from the very beginning. The fact that they publicly and proudly claimed the massacres, and all manners of other atrocities, as glorious and divine victories says something about their mindset.
A lot of Algerian (and French) observers have taken to blaming all the massacres on the army, and not just by saying that they are indirectly responsible through infiltrators in the GIA, but that they actually carried them out as military operations and then covered their tracks. Now, admittedly, there are holes in the official versions on some of the massacres, and I'm sure that army factions must've had a finger in one or two of them, but to try to explain away the GIA as a military puppet just reeks of conspiracy theory. Same as when people start explaining how Zarqawi and Bin Ladin are really American/Israeli agents, because who stands to gain from this...? (Some contradictory testimonies on how many cars the attackers came in, you say? Solid proof that the Masonic Order was behind it, I say!)
That said, there is probably nothing that the generals weren't and aren't capable of. And trying to force the West to chose between themselves and violent chaos was undoubtedly part of their strategy. So let's not rule anything out. But just because it's a comforting theory and holds (more than) a grain of truth, and they're monsters anyway, doesn't mean one should subscribe to whatever bullcrap the GIA's successors now put out to absolve themselves of what they've done.
Posted by: alle at April 11, 2007 06:09 AM
Posted by: alle at April 11, 2007 06:50 AM
blast from the past. Wonder if this has anything to do with the Morocco ones.
oh, how's your w-sarahan gig doing?
This has charmingly fucked my Algiers business into a cocked hat. Big boom.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at April 11, 2007 10:01 AM
Lounsbury -- What, are you doing business with the prime minister? Tell your clients that the occasional blast is to be expected, nothing changes. Though of course, it doesn't help tourism.
Klaus -- The Morocco bombs seem to have been set off by a police chase, so I don't think so. The Western Sahara blog is doing okay: I had a long ramble on Algeria a few days back, if you're interested. And speaking about the past, you gotta love the official Algerian reaction: Algiers' bomb attacks: President Bouteflika convenes emergency meeting and takes several decisions.
Posted by: alle at April 12, 2007 08:17 AM
Could the Algerian bomb comments get split into their own thread somehow? Maybe with klaus' comment on the BBC show as the OP and the remainder as comments? Or could someone start a thread on the bombs and then relevant comments could be moved?
(yes I'm a moderator on a bulletin board, how did you know?)
Posted by: Antiquated Tory at April 12, 2007 11:20 AM
Done, although transferring comments from here requires some minor database hacking. Easier to simply repost them.
Posted by: eerie at April 12, 2007 12:40 PM
Bank Privatisations mate, bank privatisations.
Algerians called it off, even before - and now the whole Pouvoir is going to be focused on saving their skins, not restructuring and selling certain people a bank or two.
Plus, many investors are oddly shy of putting serious equity into a situation that may be about to go to hell again. Queerly difficult to make money with bombs going off.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at April 12, 2007 02:21 PM
lounsbury - Bank Privatisations mate, bank privatisations.
Oh, that. The CPA, by any chance? If so, tell them to get a fucking cash machine that takes Visa. If not, the terrorists will have won.
Posted by: alle at April 12, 2007 06:17 PM
Can't bloody well tell them anything, since the cretins' fax machines don't even bloody work right, and the fucking DG's assistant can't be bothered to actually deliver messages.
The only thing that saves the Algerians from being Egyptians is far better food, and far, far better music.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at April 12, 2007 07:22 PM
I didn’t think it was sissified at all. Hey, the Taliban love kohl! There’s actually a fantastic photo book called Taliban that reveals all of their weird fashion kinks, including painted toenails. The thing is, the Taliban have automatic weapons, so nobody is ever going to give them shit about wearing makeup.
The thing is, the Taliban have automatic weapons, so nobody is ever going to give them shit about wearing makeup.
Mail that one to Eddie Izzard.
The Belgravia Dispatch comments on reports that the Turkey/Iraq border is heating up.
"From the military point of view, a [military] operation in northern Iraq must be made," said Gen Buyukanit. He added, however, that he had not yet submitted a request to parliament and that "no political decision has been made yet".
Posted by: Antiquated Tory at April 24, 2007 04:26 PM
antiq. tory - that's a couple of weeks old, isn't it? anyway, it smacks of electioneering more than anything else, and is probably as much for domestic consumption as for the kurds/US. certainly, barzani's response (that if you meddle with kirkuk, we're meddling with diarbakr) was only intended to bolster his nationalist credentials vs talabani.
but then again, invading could also be a form of electioneering. closing off borders and stuff, which is the alternative, would probably hurt them as much as the kurds, although they could try to target the leadership somehow (sanctions or sniper rifles) to get the parties/militias more amenable to their point of view. but they're in trouble. there's very little they can realistically do that doesn't risk backfiring, but now is when they need to do it if they ever are going to -- the kirkuk problem is drawing towards resolution/explosion. i guess the US must decide what happens here, but i've seen no indications they are doing anything yet.
Posted by: alle at April 25, 2007 12:18 AM
About that. I saw a little al-Jazeera report on that border a couple of weeks ago, there actually are Turkish troops inside Iraq. It was a very odd situation: A dozen Turkish tanks inside a shabby compound, just...uh...sitting there. Intimidation-like. Kurdish troops patrolling around the compound, turning their backs to the Turks to show disrespect. I know Iraq's borders are porous, but that takes the cake.