All Reality is but a Reflection of Amber
From the series of books, by Roger Zelazny, by the same name. The concept that reality is in the eye of the beholder is one that can be used to examine concepts and ideas, and I hope to do that, here. My main interests are politics and history, but I am also interested in anything else, including my own life, so it should be interesting. Comments are always welcome.

Al Gore Event Funded by Bin Laden’s Fami

14th February 2006

Fascinating stuff. One has to wonder what is happening to the Democrats, that they would lose so much sense in so little time.  Between Howard Dean, Teddy Kennedy and Algore, the Republicans almost do not have to do anything at all, but watch them self-destruct.

The Saudi Arabia seminar that was addressed by former Vice President Al Gore over the weekend in a speech that criticized the U.S. for being too tough on Arabs was sponsored, in part, by Osama bin Laden’s family.

On Saturday, the state-run Saudi news outlet Arab News reported that the Jeddah Economic Forum, where Gore spoke, was funded by “Saudi Arabian Airlines, the Saudi Binladin Group, Gulf One Investment Bank, Saudi Basic Industries Corp.” and an array of other big companies with ties to the Middle East.

The Saudi BinLadin Group - which is Saudi Arabia’s largest construction company - is run by Osama bin Laden’s brothers and cousins. Jeddah, the site of the forum attended by Gore, is Osama bin Laden’s hometown.

Although family members claim they’ve disowned bin Laden, his mother told reporters after the 9/11 attacks that she received advanced warning from him that something big was about to happen


The Shameful American Media

14th February 2006

Dennis Prager

If the liberal news media in America — conservative Fox News and The Weekly Standard have shown the cartoons — admitted they feared being hurt if they showed the cartoons, one would have respect for their honesty, if not their courage. But the liberal news media’s lack of courage coupled with their dishonest justifications make for a devastating commentary on American news media.

One should not be surprised. A few years ago, New York Times foreign affairs reporter John Burns reported — to his great credit — that some of the most prestigious American


Reid, Schumer run Hackett out of politic

14th February 2006

 Feb 14 2006 10:28 AM

By Tim Chapman

Senators Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer have just made a political blunder. The duo made a political calculation (which, by the way, is correct) that Iraq veteran Paul Hackett could not defeat incumbant Ohio Senator Mike DeWine, so they actively began undermining his campaign by privately urging donors to give to another candidate while publicly asking Hackett to run for a House seat instead of Senate.

Hackett as a result has decided not to run for either. He calls the Reid/Schumer gambit a “betrayal.” As a sign of protest, he is leaving politics.

And now, not only is Hackett ticked off, other vets are too.

The New York Times:

Mr. Hackett was the first Iraq war veteran to seek national office, and the decision to steer him away from the Senate race has surprised those who see him as a symbol for Democrats who oppose the war but want to appear strong on national security.

“Alienating Hackett is not just a bad idea for the party, but it also sends a chill through the rest of the 56 or so veterans that we’ve worked to run for Congress,” said Mike Lyon, executive director for the Band of Brothers, a group dedicated to electing Democratic veterans to national office. “Now is a time for Democrats to be courting, not blocking


Who’s selling and who’s buying?

14th February 2006

An interesting insight from one of the more consistant and informative Iraqi blogs. Who is selling, indeed? Are these modern weapons? Could they be coming from from the coalition armies? If so, how are they getting there?

From Iraqi Pundit:

Just found this disturbing report regarding some worrisomely big weapon bazaar in Qurna, the largest town at the center of the triangle formed by Basra, Nasiriya and Amara.
Qurna is located 6 kilometers from the Iranian border, population around 100,000 with a strong presence for Sadrists and there’s a story running among thr locals that their town was the spot where Adam first landed at on earth after he was expelled from heaven.


I’ve been to Qurna many times during my internship in the northern suburbs of Bsara and I heard a lot from the locals about the huge weapon business in the area but it seems that with time, the quality of the business had grown wild; at that time, they mostly sold pistols, ak-47s and grenades. By the way the latter are a famous fishing tool in Iraq!
But now there are a few more exotic items on the menu:

Residents said the trade was not confined to small arms. They said smugglers openly put for sale mortars, rockets and landmines.

Those weapons are certainly remnants of the Iraq-Iran war. Says who? Says the dealers themselves!

The source of the weapons is not known. The smugglers say the weapons are remnants of the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war.

But some former military personnel think that’s not the case:

Recently, new weapons were being brought to the area. Residents, who served in the former army, said they had not seen such weapons before.
“Some of these (smuggled) weapons were not used by the former army. They are new to us and look modern. Some of the items on show fall under the heavy weapons category,” a resident said.

So the question is, if those were weapons sent by Iran to the militias to help them carry out attacks on coalition forces like many of us already think, why would the militias sell the weapons?

The only explanation I can find is that Iran is sending enough weapons and munitions to the extent that the militias can feel well armed and at the same time make some good bucks.
But again, this theory brings up another question, that is who is buying the excess weaponry?
I can think of the tribes as a likely potential customer for grenades and even for mortars since I know from spending a whole year over there that there had been times when tribes used mortars against each other during some nasty conflicts but who is buying the landmines? Any suggestions?


Danish Cartoon Intifada Won't Go Away

Monday, February 13, 2006

From Talisman

Allah Sends New Anti-Danish Message, This Time in Bovine Form

Nearly 20,000 Egyptians converged on the village of Tunis in southern Egypt’s Sohag Province to witness a newborn calf said to have two heads and the words “No God But God” apparent on his hide. The crowds mobbed the home of Mumid Abu Dhaif where the ‘miracle’ occurred, according to an AFP story carried on Elaph today. It was a ‘sign’ interpreted by many onlookers as a divine rebuke from Allah against those who had recently mocked the Prophet Muhammad; demonstrating that Allah continues to provide round-the-clock commentary on the Danish cartoons.

 Small Victory in a Losing War

February 13, 2006

CAIRO, Egypt - A sign on the entrance to the Alfa Market in Zamalek boasts "All Danish products have been removed from our displays." The island of Zamalek, with its grand apartment buildings, embassies and bars, is a refuge for secular elites. Its cafes are popular among teenagers because they can hold hands in public without risking intervention from pious onlookers. But even Zamalek, even the Alfa Market - with its gleaming shelves of goods only those earning western salaries can afford - is not immune to the poison of Islamism.

This ought to alarm us. The outrage over the 12 Danish cartoons in Cairo is not a temper tantrum among fringe ideologues or uneducated workers manipulated by state-run newspapers and opportunist television sheiks. The affair has tapped a vein among the educated classes, the very people we hope would be our front lines in a fight for a tolerant modern society.

The primary means of spreading the distortions over the cartoons has been the cellular telephone text message, the preferred mode of communication for Cairo's middle class. Many of the messages, which appear coordinated, say the Danish government has organized parties to burn the Koran, that Copenhagen publishers are now planning to reprint the Muslim holy book with edits and new additions. The deputy chief of mission for the Danish embassy here, Christian Gronbech-Jensen, says that the text messages are providing the worst source of disinformation his embassy, now guarded by riot police 24 hours a day, must counter. But because of the nature of the medium and the fact that cell phones are now disposable, no one knows from where these messages originate.

Mr. Gronbech-Jensen says he has taken to telling Arab diplomats in his conversations of an antiquated Danish blasphemy law that is being invoked by local Muslim groups against Jyllands-Posten, the newspaper that commissioned the 12 cartoons. He has had to answer questions about what his government would do if someone in Denmark were to burn a Koran. "We cannot promise people that no one in Denmark would ever burn the Koran. But we try to explain that anyone who does this will be dealt with by the law," he said referring to his country's laws prohibiting hate speech.

The rise of Islamism among Cairo's lawyers, journalists, doctors and accountants is sometimes called the Amr Khaled effect, after an imam whose television show on the Iqra satellite network instructs Egypt's middle class how to be better Muslims. He stresses his show is "not political," but in many ways it is. A few years ago he urged his well-heeled followers to start calling Valentine's Day, "Mohammed Day." And so it was. The shops of Zamalek began phasing out cards and gifts referencing Cupid on the Hallmark holiday invented to celebrate romantic love.


Iraq’s Divided Insurgents

13th February 2006

by Mahan Abedin for the Mideast Monitor

Mahan Abedin is the editor of Terrorism Monitor, published by the Jamestown Foundation, a non-profit organization specializing in research and analysis on conflict and instability in Eurasia.

By most statistical measures, the Arab Sunni insurgency in Iraq is stronger than ever, drawing upon an estimated 30,000-40,000 combatants and several times this number of informants and other active supporters. The death toll on coalition troops, Iraqi security forces, and civilians shows no signs of declining, while the economic costs of relentless insurgent violence and infrastructural sabotage have become staggering. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, Iraq’s GDP declined in 2005 (a stunning achievement in the light of the enormous amount of money being injected into the country).[1]

The insurgency has one glaring weakness, however - it is divided. A small network of mostly foreign Salafi jihadists, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is striving to turn Iraq into a springboard for global Islamist struggle, while an array of indigenous Arab Sunni groups with an Islamist-nationalist orientation are fighting to achieve conceivably realizable domestic political goals. Although driven by fundamentally different long-term agendas, both have shared the short-term objective of derailing the American-sponsored political transition in Iraq. This may be changing, however.

The Islamist-nationalist camp’s tacit endorsement of Sunni participation in parliamentary elections in December indicates that it may be willing to end its rejection of the new Iraqi state (if not its fight against American forces) in exchange for political concessions. The recent spate of suicide bombings, coming amid Shiite-Sunni negotiations over the formation of a new government, suggests that the Salafi-jihadists will stop at nothing to prevent this accommodation.

The Salafi Jihadists

Since the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, thousands of Islamist militants from throughout the Arab world have infiltrated Iraq for the express purpose of fighting the United States. Although representing a small segment of the insurgency, the Salafi-jihadists are responsible for most of the mass killings of Iraqi civilians that have become emblematic of the conflict.

Most jihadist factions in Iraq are affiliates (or subordinate allies) of Zarqawi’s Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia network, though their precise interrelationships are not entirely clear. All see the Iraq conflict as an extension of their global war against America and therefore have no stake in Iraq’s political future other than making it as chaotic as possible.

The Zarqawi network has established a particularly strong presence in western Anbar and Nineveh provinces along the so-called Euphrates river valley and near the border with Syria, from where the great majority of its fighters infiltrate into Iraq. US and Iraqi forces carried out large-scale operations throughout last year to dislodge jihadist insurgents from towns and villages in the area. However, the insurgents tend to quickly reestablish themselves following these sweeps because the American military is reluctant to heavily garrison this region (partly for fear of aggravating an already hostile local population) and Iraqi security forces are not yet up to the task.

Although foreign fighters are the life-blood of the Zarqawi network,[2] it has established substantial indigenous roots. Some of Zarqawi’s top lieutenants and advisers are said to be Iraqi and it is clear from the sophistication of its attacks that the network has legions of local informants, logistical agents, and other active supporters. Its deadly operational performance would not be possible without this indigenous foundation. Significantly, however, very few suicide bombings have been carried out by native Iraqis,[3] a strong indication that the ideological appeal of Salafi-jihadism in Iraq is still very limited. Local support for the Zarqawi network is fueled primarily by Arab Sunni revulsion toward the US-led occupation.

For this reason, the Zarqawi network is not, strictly speaking, trying to drive American forces out of Iraq - this would remove its raison d’etre in the eyes of most Iraqi Sunnis. Believing that a strong and coercive American military presence in the Middle East is the most effective catalyst for the widening and deepening of Islamic militancy, Zarqawi’s goal is to sink America deeper into the Iraq quagmire.

Many people make the mistake of seeing their enemy as more powerful than they actually are, and thus live in fear when they should, in fact, feel empowered by their own strength. I am reminded of an incident during the American Civil War’s Battle of the Wilderness, where a general came running up to the Union General Ulysses S. Grant in a panic about the activities of the enemy. General Grant listened, a while, and then stood up and said, “I am tired of hearing about what the enemy is doing. You people seem to feel that he is going to do somersaults and land in our rear at any time. It is about time you stopped worrying about what he is going to do to us, and he start worrying about we are going to do to him.

WE are the strength, here, and we should always remember this. Results are rarely instantaneous, but we are very good at what we do, are not likely to make serious mistakes, and will win, if we keep our focus.


New Information Revealed About Al-Qaeda

13th February 2006

From Talisman

This is an important scoop published today by the Lebanese daily Addiyar (February 11, 2006, 18th Year, Issue No. 6182, edited by Charl Ayoub, an ex-officer seen as close to the Syrians). It broadly follows what I discussed here on Talisman Gate a few days ago, although Addiyar fleshes out the skeletal information with names, dates and time-lines. The story carries Simon Abu Fadhil’s byline, and in translating it I have tried to stay as close to the Arabic wording and sentence structure as possible, even though it becomes somewhat of a clunky read.The chief points revolve around the notion that this group was somehow involved in the Hariri assassination through the association of one of its leaders, Khalid Taha (still at large), with the suspected suicide bomber, Ahmad Tayseer Abu Ades. One of its members is a Syrian neurosurgeon, while others have had fighting experience in Iraq. I think there is more to this story that will begin to be revealed over the course of the next few weeks. My own hypothesis is that this group was just one of four involved in pulling off the Hariri assassination, and their prime task was in picking and handling the suicide bomber, Abu Ades, and preparing the media package of him taking credit for the crime, thus I’d refer to them as the “Spotters and Handlers”. The other groups would have been respectively responsible for information gathering (general data about the Hariri convoy, his security detail, his usual routes…etc), ‘close’ surveillance (these would be the guys with the 6 cell phones tracking Hariri on the day of the assassination), and logistics (these provide safe houses, access to explosives, the stolen vehicle, rigging the car bomb, as well as covering tracks). Given the usual messiness that accompanies such big operations, it is possible that at some points there was overlap between the various groups, such as some of the “Spotters and Handlers” getting a peak at how the car bomb was prepared and where it was stored.

When Moktada Met Bashar

13th February 2006

From Iraqipundit

Juan Cole writes about his favorite non-cleric, Moktada Al Sadr, and his trip to Damascus to meet his new best friend, Bashar Assad. The professor mentions a speech the religious school dropout gave in the Syrian capital, in which Al Sadr said Sunnis and Shiites should unite and killing Christians is wrong etc. Cole, of course, has been a fan of Al Sadr all along and has often written admiringly of the man. Cole has presented him as the “young Arab nationalist” who will rescue Iraq from all this turmoil.

Of course, Cole is not the only fan Al Sadr has in the West. There was a New York Times op-ed By Bartle Breese Bull that characterized Al Sadr as Iraq’s Alexander the Great. (Iraq Pundit wrote about that bizarre idea on Oct. 16, 2004.)

The problem is Iraqis know that Moktada Al Sadr is, quite honestly, a mentally challenged sap who is surrounded by brutal thugs. His black-clad army had to remove its “uniforms” when in Najaf because somebody (probably the locals) was picking them off. Iraqis are also aware that Al Sadr murdered Abdul Majid Khoe’i in the spring of 2003. So why Cole and others see positive possibilities in him, we will never understand. The only thing Moktada Al Sadr has going for him is his family name.

Perhaps it is the family name thing that explains Al Sadr’s fondness for the current Syrian leader. Because frankly, what does Bashar Assad have going for him other than his family name? Former Syrian vice president Abdul Halim Khaddam


Cheney’s Hunting Accident

13th February 2006

Frankly, I am not going to say more on this subject than the following. I think that Conservatives do themselves much better to ignore the left when they make fools of themselves like this than to give this nonsense the dignity of refutation. Middle America is familiar with hunting, knows things like this happen, and can only be bemused at this demonstration of Liberal hysteria. We should stand above it, ignore it, and let it die away, as it will if no one notices it. I think Cheney might have handled it better, if only not to give the press ammunition, but I cannot fault him for worrying more about his friend, who was wounded, and about the dignity of his host. There was no immediate ‘need to know.’ There were other things that were more important..

 Michelle Malkin reports:

White House press secretary Scott McClellan is getting mauled over the delay in the public disclosure of Vice President Dick Cheney’s hunting accident. NBC’s David Gregory is fuming (I know, what else is new). Other reporters are shouting and interjecting.

The Powerline blog group says:

Elements of the MSM, led by the ridiculous David Gregory of NBC, are working themselves into a fever pitch over the hunting accident in which Vice President Cheney wounded a fellow hunter. It seems that Cheney was more concerned with his companion’s well-being than with notifying the press, and the latter chore eventually fell to a third-party — the person who organized the outing. Beyond hoping that the injured party is well, I don’t see much need to comment about this one. I think Mark Levin has it about right.

And Sister Toldjah wraps it pretty much up:

You’re watching it and reading it all over the news - the ’scandal’ over the accidental shooting by VP Dick Cheney of fellow hunter Harry Whittington. Newsbusters gives the lowdown on how Charlie Gibson


AAUP Conference Cancelled

Res ipse loquitur:
The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) announced Thursday it would postpone a conference on academic boycotts scheduled to begin next week in Bellagio, Italy.

The conference, which was originally sponsored by the Ford, Rockefeller and Nathan Cummings Foundations, came under attack due to the fact that more than 8 of the 21 academics invited to participate in the conference publicly support boycotts of Israeli universities. Another decisive revelation that led to the postponement of the conference was that material distributed prior to the conference included an anti-Semitic paper by a Holocaust denier.

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