Saturday, May 31, 2008

Update - Cluster Munitions Convention Concludes

Some good news for the cause of international law in warfare: the Dublin conference concluded with over 70 countries agreeing to the final wording of the convention. Some exceptions wound up being made, but the worst weapons were firmly banned, without a transition period. Surprisingly, Gordon Brown also jumped on board and agreed to eliminate his country's stockpiles, apparently including the M73 helicopter munition, which Brown had initially wanted exempted.

The US, the world's biggest stockpiler, producer, and user of the weapons naturally didn't show up, and neither did the countries which are most likely to use them in the future - although Britain's participation is significant in that they are still contending with US stockpiles at bases on Airstrip One (another Orwell reference for all you 1984 fans). Pakistan's absence as usual mirrored India's, which is doubly shameful, since the Pakistani army's only combat operations since 2000 have been against Pakistanis.

I myself sent off some of the form letters to various dignitaries that the campaign suggested. When you do that sort of thing, you don't typically expect a response. My own MP might be trusted to get back to me, but one expects to be ignored by the Polish foreign office. Surprisingly, the press secretary did reply (emphasis mine):

In response to your concerns expressed in your e-mail letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Poland with regard to Polish position on Cluster Munitions, please be advised that Poland is fully committed to seek the appropriate solutions to limit the use of this kind of weaponry.
. . .

Poland fully shares the humanitarian objectives of the Oslo Process along with its ambitious timeframe. However, we believe that streamlining the process within CCW will eventually bring a comprehensive solution, which is necessary to address divergent concerns related to this issue. Gathering at one table all major producers, suppliers and possessors of this weapon offers the best forum to exchange views on the issues related to humanitarian, technical and military aspects of cluster munitions.

Obviously, a form letter as well, and full of weasel words designed to make it clear that Poland is unwilling to risk making Uncle Sam mad. Nevertheless, the fact that someone in that office was ordered to sit down and write it up, and then send it to whoever contacts them tells you that the issue is at least on their agenda, even if their action on it consists only of apologetics for their position.

Like I said in my previous post on the topic, the effectiveness of international law in these matters is never ideal. War on the ground will never be what we want it to be on paper, but it needs limits. This was recognized by the first generation of Muslims, and probably by many ancient peoples before them. I don't think it will be possible for us as a species to stop killing eachother in the foreseeable future, but if we're going to invest so much in doing it, at least a significant minority of us need to insist that there be rules.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pacman in the Desert

As everyone knows, the world isn't making anymore oil. We may never "run out," but supply will eventually dwindle to the point that widespread use won't be feasible. Its a question of "when" not "if." The same goes for natural gas, coal, and anything else that we dig out of the ground and burn by the trillions of tonnes.

The discussion in North America over this has been fueled (haha) partly by environmentalism, but also by paranoia. The world's largest proven reserves of oil are on the Arabian peninsula, especially in the part ruled by those odious Saudis. While I despise them for their self-serving perversion of religion, disregard for human rights, and intolerable kowtowing to their great protector Uncle Sam, the feeling amongst populist politicians in the West seems to be that they don't kowtow enough.

I used to wonder what the Saudis would do when their oil ran out. They've a population of 20 million surviving in the desert. How would they import food without the foreign revenues?

Someone over there has evidently had some brains. This is a highway outside Riyadh. The green circles are irrigated fields. You can look closer just by zooming in on Google Maps, where I got that shot.

All is not peachy, however. 70% of the kingdom's potable water comes from desalination. How do you desalinate water? You heat it up. And what do you suppose the Saudis are using to heat it? Not oil, but natural gas, which they have lots of, but wisely do not export (even I am willing to give them this much credit).

Like I said, though, it will all eventually run out. Back in the 1980s, Saudi Aramco's magazine engaged in some self-congratulatory musing about how they would just switch to solar energy production and continue merrily along. After all, what does the peninsula have, if not an inexhaustible supply of sunshine?

After all, how did that desert get so darn hot to begin with? Hmm . . . I wonder if it will get hotter . . .

Ironic, isn't it? The same fuels that are making that desert bloom may also one day make it wither. They're going to need to drink plenty of fluids.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Them Mozlems is still a-coming! Episode 3

Though not usually as entertaining as the lunacy that is still largely restricted to the internet, today's National Post editorial has a lot between its lines.

"Like many other media outlets, the National Post editorial board believes Section 13(1) is an unjustifiable infringement on free speech. We have therefore endorsed a proposal by Liberal MP Keith Martin that 13(1) be stricken from the law books. As a result, we have drawn the ire of critics who claim we are attacking a crucial tool needed to fight hate. These critics include the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), a leading advocate of powerful anti-hate laws."
I'm not a fan of restrictions on speech either. I'm actually quite willing to give every crackpot and hate-monger a soap-box if it means that I can keep mine. So far, so good.
"Earlier this month, members of this editorial board sat down with the CJC to discuss this issue. As expected, no one on either side changed their mind. "
As would be expected of passionate advocates of opposing ideas. Do you hear me? We disagree. Our disagreement was big, and strong! It was, like, THIS BIG! *stretches arms to show the bigness of the disagreement*
"But we were impressed to see the CJC. . . "
"acknowledge that, in certain cases, the current system had been improperly exploited to advance meritless complaints. We were also impressed that the CJC is mulling the possibility of endorsing changes to Section 13(1) that would require the attorney-general's approval before complaints could go forward."
More specifically, the CJC suggested a provision under Section 13(1) that would read:

C - The above provisions apply to, but are not limited to, vulnerable groups targeted on the basis of religion, race, gender, sexuality, disability, or age.
a) Except for Muslims.

Ok, maybe not. I am the biggest CanWest-Global hater I know, but at least the Asper rag is making some pretense at being consistent. What would the CJC say if this were a headline in Maclean's?

"The future belongs to Jews.

The Jews have youth, numbers and global ambitions. The West is growing old and enfeebled, and lacks the will to rebuff those who would supplant it. It's the end of the world as we've known it."

That's what Maclean's published, except that I've made two substitutions. See if you can spot them. Is this "hate-speech"? You could make an argument either way. Would the CJC call a complaint about it "improper exploitation of the system to advance a meritless complaint?" Unlikely, given that they would probably be the ones initiating it.

I'm willing to tolerate hate-mongering - in fact I'd rather it be done in public, where it can be properly mocked, then let it be driven underground where it will seek other ways of expressing itself. Freedom of speech includes the freedom to make an ass of oneself, so long as the freedom to point it out is equally preserved.

If we ARE going to have laws about it though, they have to protect everybody. If they don't, then they themselves become a form of unfair discrimination.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, May 23, 2008

What makes good people behave like animals?

Being treated like them.

The story actually "broke" back in 2001 in the Telegraph.

"This is a thing of power for these soldiers who get a kick out of the pictures. They see it as a thing of honour if they get an opportunity to kill a guerrilla and pose for a photo next to them. You can feel the hatred in those photos." - IDF Soldier "Yoram," age 20.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Kinetics of Popcorn

Somewhere out there, there is a man (or a woman), who is a forensic popcorn expert. This person can, based upon all the characteristics of a sample of a batch of popcorn, give you the specific parameters under which it was popped. The colour of the skins, inverted by the small cataclysm that shakes each grain, will give him clues as to the temperature and the method of warming, and the duration for which the batch was heated before its maker decided that the appropriate yield had been achieved.

Perhaps the yield - that is, the fraction of the total number of kernels which were popped - itself will give him clues as to how long the popping phase took, and perhaps even insights into the mind of the popper. Other parameters, like the size heterogeneity of the popcorn, the compressive and tensile strength, the starting and final weight of the kernels, and the percentage of blackened corn in the pot could help to reconstruct the popping method precisely, just by careful observation of the products.

To you it is just popcorn. Only the master can see the pattern.

The knowledge could be used to construct an equation whereby the perfect batch of popcorn, according to the popper's standards, could be produced. At least three different equations would be needed, one for air-popped corn, one for stove-popped corn, and one for microwaveable corn. This last category might be somewhat complex, since each microwaveable package of popcorn is made according to the manufacturer's own process (unless they are really all the same and each brand is fooling us with their claims of superior quality).

By such an equation, which is sure to include many integrals and logarithms just like real life, it would be possible to specify a certain pot size, a certain amount of oil, a certain heating protocol, a certain time, a certain variety of corn (each would probably have a different set of associated coefficients), a certain number or weight of kernels, an open or closed vessel, and a certain ambient atmospheric pressure to produce a batch of popcorn of a desired texture and consistency while maximizing yield. For yield an approximation of 100% could be used, although the validity of such an assumption would have to be studied - otherwise we would have to determine where the slope of the derivative of the yield equalled zero versus multiple variables. It would require a bit more than high school math.

Alternatively, an empirical approach could be employed.

That would be pretty boring, though.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Mozlems are Coming! Part Deux

Foolish infidels, resistance is futile:

"The group uses the online forum, the Vigilant Freedom group blog and many members� blogs, a weekly email newsletter, an online distance education collaborative workspace for all organizational activities. The Center for Vigilant Freedom website is in development and will be a clearinghouse with organizational profiles on individuals and groups in member countries who are working to roll back sharia laws, defeat jihad and protect liberty. . .

". . .
Our European chapters have formed a coalition
with several other groups in the UK, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Sweden and other countries to organize the 9/11/2007 rally in Brussels to Stop the Islamification of Europe."

Ah paranoid delusions. . . this is almost as good as this blog post, which appeared in 2005 on the wingnut celebrity "Gates of Vienna" site.


Now if you'll excuse me, there's falafel to eat, burqas to distribute and apostates to behead.

Oh crap, the timer's already going. Well, I'm sure someone else will take care of all that. . .

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ban Cluster Munitions

I've never been enthusiastic about non-violence. It seems to me that non-violent and violent action both have their time and place. Civil disobedience alone wasn't going to free China from the Japanese, France from the Nazis, Algeria from the French, or Bosnia from Serb Nationalism. I feel the same way about disarmament. A world without nuclear weapons is a great idea. A world where 5 countries maintain a stranglehold on this power and can leverage it against everyone else is a bad idea. "Go, Iran, Go!" but that's an argument for another day.

I am nevertheless supportive of the Cluster Munition Coalition, and the current Dublin Conference on banning these weapons outright. This is a video produced by HRW on the issue:

What makes cluster bombs different from, say, artillery shells? Morally, the difference might not be that great - many militaries (including our own Canadian one) would still rather bombard a village with artillery than risk the lives of its soldiers going in. You can then excuse your cowardice with the phrase "collateral damage." The problem is the scale upon which the cluster munitions permit this to occur and the complexity of the devices. Unlike the conventional shell, the cluster munition has to survive the initial deployment explosion but still detonate at ground level. If they don't spread out, it's just like any other bomb. Since you can drop them en masse, instead of firing them individually, true "carpet bombing" becomes much more feasible.

The obvious criticism of such conventions is the same that was applied to the Ottawa landmine convention - that the people who actually use the weapons won't bother signing on, and won't abide by it once the convention is in effect. For the countries who do sign on, though, it's an affirmation of the principle and an additional disincentive towards procuring the weapons. That by itself is valuable.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Humanitarianism "must inevitably confront the reality of politics"

Mike Powell recently did an interview with Dr. James Orbinski (audio here), former president of MSF and author of "An Imperfect Offering," about his thoughts and experiences in humanitarian work.

I have always struggled to understand something that has seemed obvious to most people around me - the difference between what is "political" and what isn't. Sending potable water to an afflicted area might seem innocuous and apolitical, but if that area needs water because another set of powers had deliberately created the shortage, then sending water is a very political act - you are acting against those parties who feel they benefit from the shortage. To me, all charity is political, and all my politics are charitable.

Anyways, Dr. Orbinski doesn't solve the quandary for me, but what he says is nonetheless interesting.

As an aside, the photo on the book cover bothers me, but then its his book. The thing could just as well be a bleach commercial, though.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

The Mozlems are coming, the Mozlems are coming!

Speaking of being less Canadian:

From The Grope and Flail:

"The question is, how do you treat the results of this fact? Do you expect from these greater numbers that they will absorb themselves into Canadian society as Canadians or that they'll try to push Canadians to adopt their own values and principles? And this is the gist of the problem," Mr. Baker said in an interview. . . "First of all, there's a Muslim member of Parliament, who's elected to one of the Toronto ridings ..., [Omar] Alghabra, who has been outspoken in his hostility toward Israel," Mr. Baker said.

Which, when decoded, means "Oh crap! Muslims might get involved in politics.
There's already one of THEM sitting in Parliament! What if they don't see Israel as a sovereign state for persecuted Jews, but as a militaristic outpost for Western colonialism? "

Well, your Excellency, oogah-boogah-boo! Here I am with my "un-Canadian" values. You know what IS contrary to Canadian values? Labeling a group of citizens as being aliens to the country by virtue of their political or religious opinions.

Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, a multi-ethnic, multi-faith organization is running an e-mail campaign on the issue, to have Baker reprimanded for the remarks. It's unlikely to actually happen, but that's not the point:

"He also mentioned reports that some delegates to the 2006 Liberal leadership convention sought to use the Jewish religion of Bob Rae's wife against him."

Uh, no. I was paying attention, and no one (at least, no one of mention) did anything of the kind. There was, however, a campaign to discredit Rae for his role as a board member on the Toronto committee of a racist organization - one that used its charitable tax status and the country's good name to cover up a war crime.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Double Disgrace

“The fact that a foreign state paid a bounty for the apprehension of a Canadian citizen abroad and that Canadian officials were aware of it at an early stage is also a matter in which the public would have a legitimate interest.” - Canadian Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley

From Dawn and the Globe and Mail.

It's unfortunate to see the Pakistani Army reduced to being bounty hunters for the U.S. of A., chasing down Canadians.

Meanwhile, Abdullah Khadr's brother spends his 6th year imprisoned in Guantanimo Bay, where he has been since he was 16. Canada is the only non-Muslim-majority country with a citizen in Guantanimo Bay. For Stephen Harper, though, some of us are more "Canadian" than others.

The implications of this sort of thing are far-reaching. Most people know that Benazir Bhutto was assassinated earlier this year, but don't know what set the stage for the political crisis that still grips the country. It started when a certain Chief Justice began demanding that the Pakistani government produce people whom it had "disappeared" without charge, again in the name of the "War on Terror." I have written before on what followed.

The political deadlock over the judiciary in Pakistan today is therefore a direct product of the role that the Pakistani government has been pressed into since 2001, which its military arm is only beginning to escape from - the bounty hunter captures Canadians, but he kills Pakistanis.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


It has been narrated on the authority of Sulaiman b. Yasar who said: People dispersed from around Abu Huraira, and Natil, who was from the Syrians, said to him:

O Shaikh, relate (to us) a tradition you have heard from the Messenger of God (may peace be upon him). He said: Yes. I heard the Messenger of God (may peace be upon him) say: The first of men (whose case) will be decided on the Day of Judgment will be a man who died as a martyr. He shall be brought (before the Judgment Seat). God will make him recount His blessings (i. e. the blessings which He had bestowed upon him) and he will recount them (and admit having enjoyed them in his life). (Then) will God say: What did you do (to requite these blessings)? He will say: "I fought for Thee until I died as a martyr." God will say: "You have told a lie. You fought that you might be called a 'brave warrior'. And you were called so." (Then) orders will be passed against him and he will be dragged with his face downward and cast into Hell.

Then will be brought forward a man who acquired knowledge and imparted it (to others) and recited the Qur'an. He will be brought And God will make him recount His blessings and he will recount them (and admit having enjoyed them in his lifetime). Then will God ask: "What did you do (to requite these blessings)?" He will say: "I acquired knowledge and disseminated it and recited the Qur'an seeking Thy pleasure." God will say: "You have told a lie. You acquired knowledge so that you might be called "a scholar," and you recited the Qur'an so that it might be said: "He is a Qari" and such has been said." Then orders will be passed against him and he shall be dragged with his face downward and cast into the Fire.

Then will be brought a man whom God had made abundantly rich and had granted every kind of wealth. He will be brought and God will make him recount His blessings and he will recount them and (admit having enjoyed them in his lifetime). God will (then) ask: "What have you done (to requite these blessings)?" He will say: "I spent money in every cause in which Thou wished that it should be spent." God will say: "You are lying. You did (so) that it might be said about (You): 'He is a generous fellow' and so it was said." . . .

- Sahih Muslim, Book 20, #4688

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Wright on AIDS

In response to my enthusiasm for Barack Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright, someone pointed out to me that Rev. Wright has gone off the deep end a couple of times with respect to the HIV pandemic. He apparently believes that HIV was, or at least could have been, the creation of the US Government as a means of wiping out people of colour, and defended those remarks at the same Press Club gathering that I posted before.

After thinking about it a bit, I don't think such a thing is at all plausible. I think the Rev. has let paranoia get the better of him. If I had grown up in a country where the government had denied antibiotics to people of my ethnicity in order to see how syphilis affected them, I'd be a bit paranoid too.

This does not, however, greatly diminish my liking for Rev. Wright. Watch the following video, think about what Wright and his colleagues are trying to do, and then ask yourself how many religious or political leaders you can think of who have done something comparable on the HIV issue. Pope Benedict, would you care to swab? President Bush?

And just for the fun of it, here's Rev. Wright making more sense while smug, self-righteous, rich, white people sit around scolding him for it.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Yep, it's over

Predictably (according to my gut), but contrary to the hopes of some, the fighting in Lebanon was winding down. The Army is taking control of the streets again, the opposition is satisfied, and the fools who started this have hopefully learned their lesson. It came at the cost of 42 deaths. This didn't have to happen.

From the Daily Star:
Day 5: Lebanese Dare to Hope the Worst is Over

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Friday, May 9, 2008

And the award for dishonest reporting goes to. . .


(But only because if I look at whatever Fox has got, my head will explode, and Al-Qaeda will take responsibility).

"Hezbollah "turned their weapons ... toward the hearts of the innocent civilians of Beirut," said Samir Geagea, executive director of the Lebanese forces, reading a statement after a meeting of the pro-government March 14 coalition."

Lebanese forces? Oh, you mean like the Army? Oh wait, nope:

"The Lebanese army did not join the battles that erupted this week. Taking sides could throw the military -- with its own political factions -- into disarray."

CNN's "Lebanese forces" are themselves a group of thugs operating with political direction. Whoever wrote the article wants us to think that Hizbullah are a bunch of foreigners fighting "real" Lebanese.

The rest of the article - with all of its moral indignations, disguised editorializing, insinuations of a vast Iranian conspiracy, and accusations of a spontaneous Hizbullah-led coup - should be compared with the more straightforward editorial from the Beirut Daily Star.

"Now Nasrallah has to prove that his side is ready, willing and able to live up to its own expectations, and speed is of the essence: After 15 years of civil war, 15 of diluted sovereignty, and three of limbo, the Lebanese deserve at last to have a level of politics commensurate with their talents and energies. If Nasrallah is the man who makes this happen, history will judge his actions to have been a revolution, not a coup, and a long-overdue one at that."

Strange isn't it? The people sitting in offices in Atlanta write a hysterically biased piece, while the people working a few blocks from the fighting deliver cool-headed objectivity.


As an aside, someone pointed out to me today that while Hizbullah is often called upon by disingenuous people to disarm, nobody breathes a word about the people they're fighting. Where the heck did the supposedly "progressive" and "democratic" political parties of Fouad Siniora and Rafik Hariri get all the guns to fight Hizbullah to begin with? We know why Hizbullah has them - they've been doing a better job of defending Lebanon from invasion than anyone else. Why do all these peace-loving pro-Western politicians need them?

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Another sad episode

So they're fighting.

In Lebanon.


Michel Aoun, who is the last person who would ever want to see Hizbullah rule Lebanon, does not blame Hasan Nasrallah.

My gut tells me that, so long as everyone's favourite occupying power doesn't get (overtly) involved, that this will not go to into a full-blown war. I get the vibe from the BBC's coverage that they're almost hoping for more blood. By trying to shut down Hizbullah's communication network, Hariri has instigated the crisis. He probably thinks that he will get the support of the Arab monarchies, terrified of yet another popular and successful republican movement in the Middle East. They can't really help him, though, and anyone who's relying on the Lebanese Army to save them should give up politics right now.

Now, to help inflate my credibility a bit more, those of you who heard me saying last year that the so-called "Shi'a-Sunni Divide" in the Muslim world was not widening can continue to have faith in my prognostications. As I predicted, Hasan Nasrallah is the most popular leader in the Arab world.* This is what happens when you fight a completely legal war against a vastly superior aggressor and manage not to lose.

The only "Shi'a-Sunni" divide that is widening in the Middle East is between governments, with the Arab monarchies and despots terrified of the popularity and populism of Iranian-sponsored Shi'a movements who oppose both them and their American patrons. Amongst the regular folk, it's a non-issue.

God-willing, this will be over before the news networks have put their graphics packages together.

*And reading that article, I am pleasantly surprised at how intelligent the respondents to the poll were!

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

If only everybody were this honest

I'll move back to Canadian politics soon enough, but I just took the time to watch Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the vilified African-American Pastor, speaking and taking questions at a US National Press Club meeting.

The questions are incredibly stupid. The answers, absolutely brilliant.

Ironically, the person who posted them on YouTube gave them the rather prescient title of "Rev. Wright Shocking Q&A at National Press Club."

Shockingly good that is! I haven't been so impressed by anyone in American political life since I discovered Malcolm X's debate at the Oxford Union. I will, however, let Rev. Wright speak for himself.

Part I

Part II

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Saturday, May 3, 2008

" Islamist" Revisited

Right and Below: Christianist Politicians

In my introductory post on this blog, I was fairly critical of the term "Islamist" - for those of you just joining us, the title of this blog is more of a comment on the word than on my membership or sympathy with any political group.

It is a rather unique term in politics, very unlike so many of the other -isms we hear. A communist believes in Communism. A zionist believes in Zionism. A Marxist agrees with Marx. A liberal with Liberalism. Although the word "fascist" now has largely polemical connotations, it was used self-descriptively by many, including Mussolini, who (you guessed it) believed in Fascism.

What does an "Islamist" believe in? Islam? We have a word for that - "Muslim."* How about "Islamism"? Well, that only begs the question, since it's hard to say what that means or how it differs from Islam.

There are, however, no "Islamist" political parties in the Muslim world, and relatively few that oppose "Islamism." The word is largely a Western invention - in the Muslim world the former word naturally only appears in the English or French press, the latter almost never.

To get a sense of the history of this term, I did a little experiment with the online journal database JSTOR, an archive of journals from a broad spectrum of topics dating back to the 1880's, whose strengths lie in the social sciences and humanities (although some historic gems in the natural sciences can also be found).

In the window from 2001-2007, there were 612 articles with the word "Islamist." Obviously, one would expect a surge in interest in the topic since 2001. Moving backwards, from 1994 to 2000, the number hits 1066. That's a bit surprising - one would have expected a surge of activity after 2001, not a drop-off. From 1986-1993, the number falls sharply to 311. From 1978-1985, the number falls further to a puny 50.

So, in 8-year windows from 1978-2007, the sequence is 50, 311, 1066, and 612. Such a lack of interest in the first window is surprising - 1979 was the year of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, an event that was, in the politics and history of the Middle East, an earthquake. Thanks to the hostage crisis at the US Embassy, every American knew about it. With the hugely successful Hezbollah attack on the US Marines in Lebanon, against the backdrop of the IDF occupation, such groups should have drawn a lot of scholarly interest in the West.

So why the paucity of interest in "Islamists" during late 70's and 80's? The first answer has to do with a flaw in the method of this little study - the consistency of the JSTOR database with respect to content and focus of the publications can change over time, as journals change management or are added or removed from the database.

Bernard Lewis: Also a Proud Islamist

A more significant answer emerges after reading some of those earlier articles - the Islamists being spoken about aren't Muslims in Iran or Pakistan or Algeria - they are American and European professors at major universities. In the 1970's and earlier, the term "Islamist" didn't refer to a political movement, but to a non-Muslim academic who studied Islam and the Muslim world - a subset of Orientalists.

In this sense, the meaning of the word is relatively clear, but what of its more common usage today? What does an Islamist believe in? The answer is that there is no answer. The word is an invention of pundits and academics, that bears only a tenuous relationship to any political movement or group. Yes there are a series of political movements in the Muslim world with a religious rooting, but to call them all "Islamists" is misleading, giving the impression of some sort of commonality of aims or methods. Jesse Jackson and George W. Bush are both Christian politicians, but this doesn't mean that their politics are similar in any way.

Some people do indeed derive political inspiration from Islam.

There are around a billion of them, and we don't need to invent a word to label them.

*Although in a strictly Qur'anic sense, this doesn't signify any institutionalized religion beyond a faith in and submission to God. Then again, the same could be said about Islam, but that's another kettle of fish.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

Thursday, May 1, 2008

How about Carter?

Being out of public office, Jimmy Carter has been free to speak and act in a sensible way. I was about to say "Carter for Prez," but something tells me that his ability to act this way would evaporate if he actually had to win a primary, and he'd wind up like Obama.

Pariah Diplomacy

". . .

Two notable examples are in Nepal and the Middle East. About 12 years ago, Maoist guerrillas took up arms in an effort to overthrow the monarchy and change the nation’s political and social life. Although the United States declared the revolutionaries to be terrorists, the Carter Center agreed to help mediate among the three major factions: the royal family, the old-line political parties and the Maoists.

In 2006, six months after the oppressive monarch was stripped of his powers, a cease-fire was signed. Maoist combatants laid down their arms and Nepalese troops agreed to remain in their barracks. Our center continued its involvement and nations — though not the United States — and international organizations began working with all parties to reconcile the dispute and organize elections.

The Maoists are succeeding in achieving their major goals: abolishing the monarchy, establishing a democratic republic and ending discrimination against untouchables and others whose citizenship rights were historically abridged. After a surprising victory in the April 10 election, Maoists will play a major role in writing a constitution and governing for about two years. To the United States, they are still terrorists. . . "

Stumble Upon Toolbar