Friday, November 28, 2008

Terror in Mumbai

They targeted foreigners: Americans, British, and Jews, but the victims include many Indians. As if this will help Muslims in India.

"As the death toll from two days of violence rose to 160, details of some of those killed were emerging including Indian police and military, a rabbi, an American father and teen daughter, and a British yacht magnate.

The bodies of five hostages were found at the Chabad House Jewish center where commandos stormed the building through a hole blasted in the wall.

After several hours of gunfire and explosions from inside all went quiet and CNN's senior international correspondent Nic Robertson said it appeared the operation was over.

The death toll from attacks in nine locations was 160 -- including three Germans, an Italian, an Australian and one Chinese among the at least 15 foreigners killed -- with a further 327 injured."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

SOFA: Good or Bad?

From a November 2005 interview by Arianna Huffington:

'Chalabi definitely wants American troops to stay in Iraq -- even though he had a lot of horror stories about the way the U.S. military is operating "with total immunity and impunity."

"American soldiers," he said, "are breaking into people's homes and are arresting and detaining Iraqi citizens without charges. Even if they run over an Iraqi and kill him they will not be charged with a crime, because they are above Iraqi law."

"Isn't that proof," I kept asking, "that the presence of the military is fueling the insurgency, and that your job would be easier if the Americans left?"

"No," he kept insisting, "we need the Americans to protect us from our neighbors. From Syria, from Saudi Arabia, from Iran."

That's obviously one of the main objectives of his current trip. He's convinced that the administration, for political reasons, is looking for a way out of Iraq. And he wants to make sure that doesn't happen.

But his other objective, which he told me he was planning to discuss with both Rumsfeld and Cheney, is to change the way U.S. troops are operating in Iraq. "America," he said, "has a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which governs how U.S. forces operate inside a sovereign nation, with over 100 countries. But the Bush administration refuses to have one with Iraq -- and, as a result, the U.S. Army is operating outside the law. Rumsfeld feels that a SOFA will tie the hands of the U.S. military and not allow it to fight the insurgency. Of course, the lack of such an agreement has the opposite effect since it causes great resentment towards the U.S. among the Iraqi people." '

Mithal Alusi wins legal battle

What is wrong with an Iraqi learning from Israel how to defeat terrorists?

IRAQ: Iraqi lawmaker wins in fight over Israel visit

'Iraqi lawmakers, who have become enraged with fellow parliament member Mithal Alusi for his visits to Israel, now have another reason to be angry with the fiery politician. Alusi hired Iraq's leading constitutional lawyer to fight the legislature's attempt to punish him for visiting the Jewish state, and today, he won.

That means Alusi, a secular Sunni Muslim who frequently criticizes Iraq's Shiite-led government, no longer faces prosecution for traveling outside Iraq or for having visited Israel, most recently in September when he attended a terrorism symposium at an academic institute. Upon his return from Israel -- his third trip there since 2004 -- Iraq's parliament erupted in angry debate over what to do about Alusi, who has accused many leading Iraqi politicians of being stooges of Iran.

The session ended with a vote to strip him of his parliamentary immunity and to pursue criminal charges. Alusi immediately threatened to fight the decision in court. His lawyer, Iraqi constitutional expert Tariq Harb, took up the case two days later. Reached by phone today, Harb said the trial lasted two months before the supreme federal Court and that he based his case on a provision of Iraq's Constitution, Article 44. It guarantees Iraqis freedom to travel where they want.

"Removing the immunity is violating the constitution and the Iraqi law," said Harb. This morning, the court found in favor of Alusi, who was reported to be traveling and unavailable for comment.

"I am happy for two reasons here," his lawyer said. "One is because I won the case. And the second is that this proves the Iraqi judiciary is independent, and there is no influence of the executive, legislative or government authorities on it. We have a courageous and daring judiciary," he said.'

-- Saif Rasheed and Tina Susman in Baghdad

Monday, November 17, 2008

Iraq Cabinet Approves SOFA

BAGHDAD — "Iraq’s cabinet on Sunday overwhelmingly approved a proposed security agreement that calls for a full withdrawal of American forces from the country by the end of 2011. The cabinet’s decision brings a final date for the departure of American troops a significant step closer after more than five and a half years of war.

The proposed pact must still be approved by Iraq’s Parliament, in a vote scheduled to take place in a week. But leaders of some of the largest parliamentary blocs expressed confidence that with the backing of most Shiites and Kurds they had enough support to ensure its approval.

Twenty-seven of the 28 cabinet ministers who were present at the two-and-a-half-hour session voted in favor of the pact. Nine ministers were absent. The nearly unanimous vote was a victory for the dominant Shiite party and its Kurdish partners. Widespread Sunni opposition could doom the proposed pact even if it has the votes to pass, as it would call into question whether there was a true national consensus, which Shiite leaders consider essential."


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Torture and Murder by Saddam's Regime

For 24 years, between 1980 and 2003, Saddam's regime tortured, raped, and murdered Iraqis. Most of the world did not know of his crimes. It amazes me that some people (especially Shia) would have expected Iraqis to put up with Saddam's regime even longer.

'Against all the odds "A", a 59-year-old medical doctor in Baghdad, bribed a prison officer and fled the country. She told her story to Amnesty International just three weeks ago. Her crime? She was arrested in June 1999 on suspicion that she had contacts with an Iraqi opposition group. She denies the accusation.

"Those suspected of any involvement in opposition activities can expect to be arrested without a warrant; held in secret detention, without access to family and lawyers; be brutally tortured -- including in one case known to Amnesty International, having their eyes gouged out --and finally, could face execution," the human rights organization revealed in a new report today.

In its report, Amnesty International is shining a spotlight on these grave human rights violations in Iraq, that are taking place systematically and with total impunity. These violations range from arbitrary arrest and detention, to torture, extrajudicial and judicial executions after unfair trials, "disappearances" and forcible expulsions on the basis of ethnic origin.

The majority of the victims of Iraq's relentless repression are Shi'a Muslims in Southern Iraq and in some districts of Baghdad, as well as Kurds in the north. Summary executions are being carried out on a regular basis. The Iraqi Government rarely announces executions or makes public any official statistics in relation to the death penalty. In many cases it is impossible to determine whether the reported executions are judicial or extrajudicial given the secrecy surrounding them.

On 11 July 1999 Ibrahim Amin al-'Azzawi, a 70-year-old lawyer, was executed. His family, who have now fled the country, believed it was because his son-in-law, Riyadh Baqer al-Hilli, a Shi'a Muslim, was suspected of involvement in underground anti-government activities. No information on any charge, trial or sentencing was ever available. No information is available to Amnesty International either as to the fate of Riyadh, who was also arrested and taken away.'

Monday, November 10, 2008

Gay Marriage

If you live in California you probably know about Proposition 8. On election day a slight majority (52.3% so far) of Californian voters voted to ban gay marriage. I was surprised and a bit disappointed by the results, but then I listened to the news: an exit poll found that 70% of African American voters and 53% of Hispanic voters in California voted to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry. Both groups are heavily influenced by the Church. I wonder what percentage of Californian Muslims voted to ban gay marriage. I have a feeling it's probably higher than 70%. Even my dad's cousin, a secular man of science, urged me to vote for the ban. Why? I don't understand what the big deal is. What is marriage besides a promise and maybe an exchange of money? Why can't gay couples have this right?

We already know how gays are treated in the lands of Wahhabism and Khomeinism. Guys like Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Usama bin Ladin undoubtedly agree with the Californians who voted for the ban. The Islamic clerics who condemn Iranian gay men to death by hanging are probably proud of the Mormons who funded the campaign against gay marriage. This issue will eventually be decided by California's Supreme Court, and I hope the court decides to overturn the ban once again.

On Saturday I saw protesters carrying some great signs. "I Didn't Vote On Your Marriage" and "OMG CA WTF??" were two poignant messages. I agree.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Iraqis on the US Presidential Election

'In Kurdistan, some Iraqis were inspired by Obama’s historic rise, 44 years after racial segregation was outlawed in the United States. “America has opened a new page,” said Tawana Othman, an intellectual in Sulaymaniya, Kurdistan. “Today, a black man has reached the White House.”

Some Kurds pined for Sarah Palin, McCain’s running mate, famous for her pointy glasses and snug red dresses. “Obama’s victory froze my heart. I liked Sarah Palin, her leadership, with its mix of innocence and courage. She was beautiful and sweet,” said Shadman Rafiq, who works in a computer repair shop in Sulaymaniya.

Rafiq believed that McCain and Palin would protect the country’s Shiites and Kurds, but he feared Obama would abandon them.

In the ethnic powder keg of Kirkuk, people rallied to Obama because he has promised an end to the American intervention in Iraq. Mohammed, a 54-year-old Turkmen, said: “Obama's victory means the U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, and he will implement his promises to the American and Iraqi people."

Some looked to Obama’s rise as a lesson for their own nations about overcoming discrimination and bigotry. “This is a historic event. As far as I know, there is a silent sectarian war between blacks and whites, like the one in Iraq between the Shiites and the Sunnis, but I think Obama’s winning proves that there is no difference between the white people and the black,” said Ammar Makiya, a 24-year-old barber, who worked in Baghdad's Bab Sharji market.'

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Americans have elected an African American man named Barack Hussein Obama as their next President. God bless America!

Monday, November 03, 2008

True Change

Watch this first:

...then watch this:

So what if I support Obama?

I like McCain. I appreciate his efforts to help Iraq defend itself against terrorists. He has criticized the Bush administration's blunders in Iraq. But when it came time to choose a running mate, McCain chose poorly, in my opinion. I found her comments about "real" America to be strange - they reminded me of Arabs who cling to "real" Iraqis. Palin mocked community organizers and implied they don't have actual responsibilities. The mayor of a small town has actual responsibilities, she said. Watch this: Understanding Real America. YIKES.