Monday, February 28, 2011

How about a Jasmine Revolution in China????

Naturally, not only does Taiwan need a Jasmine Revolution,but

across the Taiwan straights, Chinese leadership has been shaking and responding ruthlessly to hints of a Jasmine Revolution heading its way. Here is an article of support for such a revolt from unnamed sources in a local paper. (Why are there no names used? Do assassin arms of China continue to threaten Taiwan?)–KAS

Support a Chinese ‘Jasmine Revolution,’ activists say
Staff Writer, with CNA Taipei Times
Sat, Feb 26, 2011 – Page 1

The people and government of Taiwan should offer more support for a Chinese “Jasmine Revolution” because democracy and human rights are universal values, and a democratic China would serve Taiwan’s interests, rights activists said yesterday.

Several human rights advocates held a press conference in Taipei to comment on the rumblings of revolution that have surfaced on Chinese Web sites over the past week.

A blog post on Feb. 17 called on people to gather at 2pm last Saturday in 13 Chinese cities to protest for “food, jobs, living space, fairness and justice.”

The movement, described as the “Jasmine Revolution,” ended with the arrest of protesters and a wave of Internet censorship.

The rights activists said that people in Taiwan — independence supporters and unification supporters alike — should support China’s democratic movement and the government should lead the charge.

Taiwan Association for China Human Rights president Yang Hsien-hung (楊憲宏) urged the government to actively voice its opinions on human rights and democracy, and make clear that it will not hold political dialogue unless China addresses these issues.

“President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), as a head of state, should have the courage to single out China’s human rights problems,” Yang said.

Ruan Ming (阮銘), a former Chinese academic who now has Taiwanese citizenship, said: “China and other authoritarian regimes are witnessing a new era of political movements driven by youth, who present their ideology with a new strategy — the Internet.”

The political movement that has swept through Africa and the Middle East is destined to arrive in China eventually, he said, adding that even though the number of people answering the call this past week may be small, “the Chinese government is obviously nervous.”

John Wei (魏千峰), a human rights attorney, urged the Chinese government to initiate dialogue with dissidents and called on Taiwanese to pay attention, and support human rights and peaceful democratic movements in China.

“A collapsed China is not necessarily a good thing for Taiwan,” he said.

Chang Tieh-chih (張鐵志), a well-known blogger, warned that Taiwanese know too little about China, especially its “dark side,” despite warming cross-strait ties. The crackdown on dissidents and the censorship of the Internet showed that “China might be powerful on the outside, but it is, in fact, fragile on the inside.”

“No one can predict when a revolution will happen,” Chang said. “However, the social situation in China has reached a boiling point and the Chinese people are now more courageous than ever in voicing their opinions.”

Posts circulating on the Internet have hinted that there could be a second wave of protests tomorrow.

Published on Taipei Times :

Copyright © 1999-2011 The Taipei Times. All rights reserved.


Taiwan also needs a Jasmine Revolution

I wrote to you earlier about 2-28.

Now, there might be a different way to celebrate. Chang Yeh-Shen shares in the article below, how Taiwan may be ready for a Jasmine Revolution.–KAS

Taiwan also needs a Jasmine Revolution
By Chang Yeh-shen /
Sat, Feb 26, 2011 – Page 8 Taiwan Times

The “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia quickly spread to Algeria, Mauritania, Egypt and Libya, as well as Bahrain, Iran and Yemen. Despite crackdowns by police and military using tanks and fighter jets, democratic awareness among the Arabic peoples has surged as they continue to fight a long-term battle.

The Jasmine Revolution has brought the democratic civic awareness of the Arab world more in line with the international trend toward democracy.

Chinese Internet users have also tried to launch a Jasmine Revolution in 13 cities across China. Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) responded by ordering a tightening of Internet censorship and surveillance. The Chinese government also put hundreds of protesters under house arrest.

Taiwan deepened its democracy, freedom, human rights and economic development to create a democratic miracle under former presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Products made in Taiwan achieved a better reputation internationally.

However, ever since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) came to power in 2008, his government has acted irresponsibly despite the fact that his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) holds a great legislative majority. Prices have skyrocketed, putting pressure on the public, while the unemployment rate has seen a sharp increase. With a government that only cares about big conglomerates, Taiwanese live in hardship with no hope in sight, and the lower class passes their poverty on to the next generation.

The government has also weakened our national defense, as key government officials ally themselves with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) against Taiwan. It has also belittled the nation’s sovereignty. For example, Taiwan’s delegation to the Tokyo International Film Festival last year was bullied by the Chinese delegation, and taekwondo athlete Yang Shu-chun (楊淑君) was controversially disqualified during the Asian Games in China. More recently, the Philippines deported 14 Taiwanese fraud suspects to China on Feb. 2, while Ma has had nothing of merit to say.

Meanwhile, the government has interfered with the judiciary, and used political oppression against those with dissenting views. It has replaced Taiwanese history, geography and culture with Chinese in school textbooks, and tried to eliminate the languages of ethnic minorities. It has attempted to perpetuate its rule using vote-buying, gangsters, violence and even bullets. It has encouraged Chinese students to study in Taiwan, thus threatening to limit Taiwanese students’ educational and job opportunities.

The government has allowed politicians and big business to abuse residents in Dapu Borough (大埔) of Jhunan Township (竹南) in Miaoli County, and those who live on the land wanted for the Central Taiwan Science Park expansion project.

The Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement will only bring disaster to this nation and her people, while further broadening the wealth gap. What is worse is that the government has allowed Chinese colonial rule in Taiwan, as low-level Chinese officials frequently visit for “inspection tours.”

The government has shaken the foundations of democratic Taiwan, bringing it to a dead-end in which the lower class is forced to pass poverty from generation to generation.

Taiwan’s situation today is not much better than that of the Arabic countries in the throes of the Jasmine Revolution. We must use our votes to oust Ma to save Taiwan and rebuild the country, perhaps through a “lily revolution.”

Chang Yeh-shen is vice chairman of the Northern Taiwan Society.


Published on Taipei Times :


Should we Call it a Popcorn Revolution in Bahrain?

Notes from Bahrain: Interestingly many of the Pearl Roundabout protestors (Shiite), when you get them one on one, will say they like the King; it is the Prime Minister they want to go. He is holding them back. He is preventing them from getting jobs. He is the one keeping them from joining the police or military. He must go.

I don’t totally agree with this writing on Bahrain but it was sent to me by a Friend in Bahrain–and does reflect the fact that Bahrain is as hardly a ticking bomb as Western media and Al-Jazeera may lead one to believe. Naturally, as a minority party or family runs the island, it should be criticized for its lack of power-sharing and rights. However, Bahrain is no Libya, no Egypt, no Saudi, and no Tunesia.–KAS

Bahrain and the Popcorn Revolution:

Why this kingdom matters to the West February 23, 2011

Dr. Robin McFee

As I finish this article, a sequel to my earlier one, it is late Monday, February 21st, and I am heading out of Bahrain. By the time I arrive in the West, the impact of the Tuesday deadline — the demands of the protestors and the response from the royal family will be unfolding. Whatever happens will not be settled in an evening, a day or a week. Whether the prince or king release political prisoners (Shiites who likely tried to undermine the government), which I suspect that he will to a degree, or the national guard disperses the protestors (I doubt will happen on Tuesday unless true civil unrest and violence occurs), or multiple events occur through the area, is less important than how the real chess game is played. This article is about what truly underpins the events in Bahrain, and the region, as pertain to the tiny island kingdom.
Saturday, 19 February Arrival — Bahrain”what to expect
After all the pre-travel hype from the media that the Middle East was awash in revolution, and Manama (Bahrain) was embroiled in street wide protests, with tanks, police and mayhem, I half expected that my flight to Bahrain would include Soldier of Fortune instead of Flight Luxury Magazine in the seatback pocket. Thoughts turned to flight attendants announcing “We are preparing to land in Manama. In the event of an attack, reach under your seat for a Kevlar flak jacket , grab the helmet that will drop from above your head, and, open the tray table to find a Sig Sauer with two extra clips. RPGs will be made available as we rush down emergency exit ramps that double as ATVs. Welcome to Bahrain. We hope you enjoy your stay!”
What I found instead was an uneventful landing, smiling people, and a beautiful airport that was extremely quiet, and relatively empty — uncharacteristic of Middle East airports — even the ones on the golden North Coast of the Saudi Peninsula. The airport demonstrated the almost whimsical contrasts becoming so typical of the Middle East. Consider walking off the plane towards baggage claim — a law enforcement officer stands next to a series of posters showcasing the magnificent new high rises being built in his tiny but overall prosperous island nation. And next to the posters are a display of 20 or more multicolored stuffed snakes reminiscent of the kind you would win at a carnival. Stuffed snakes, uniforms, luxury apartment buildings”welcome to Bahrain. You just instinctively, reflexively have to smile at the scene. You also have to be concerned about the lack of travelers into, and out of the airport (did most of them already bail out?)
Near the arrival gate I was greeted by my driver — a non Bahraini — who welcomed me all smiles and immediately began extolling the virtues of Bahrain — his adopted home. The usual pleasantries were exchanged; where are you from, how long will you be staying here, so on and so forth. As if it was time to name the elephant in the room, our conversation quickly turned to the protestors. Before long we were ascending the causeway — an overpass that looks out upon the Pearl Roundabout, which has been the primary site of protesting.
At the onset let us get a few things straight for accuracy-sake. The protests are taking place at a roundabout — that’s right — what we New Englanders refer to as a “rotary” — it is not a square, as the media and those trying to sensationally exploit the situation would have you believe, a la Tiananmen Square or recent events at Squares in Egypt and other Middle East nations where protests are going on. And with the exception of one tempestuous night, the crowds from insiders, and information sources, has been small to moderate. It is a relatively small area, on one side an embankment leads to a highway overpass. The rest of the roundabout is fed by a series of small streets. In usual Middle East fashion, people stop their cars on those streets, temporarily abandoning them to join the protest, or merely catch a closer glimpse of the activities. Some avail themselves of the food purveyors. I kid you not. Every manner of merchandising is present, except perhaps a custom t shirt vendor. Give them time. Hmmm, maybe I missed an entrepreneurial opportunity . Remind me to call my contacts back there and franchise my copyrighted idea “I’ve been to the Popcorn Revolution in Bahrain.”
As an aside, why did I nickname the protests as “The Popcorn Revolution?” Well for starters, at the onset, some folks had the presence of mind to bring party food . There are popcorn machines there”.I kid you not! People mill about, occasionally someone yammers from a speaker. The police move traffic along without being mean-spirited or aggressive. Of note, the police drive Dodge Chargers, and several appear to be of Indian or other nationality. They are restrained, and realize cars are slowing to watch what is going on. The scene is orderly and seemingly non-threatening. But for me, this is a false image. Flashpoint could be just around the corner.
Let me interject again”.’war’ and “peace’ are two sides of the same coin in the Middle East; either can give way to the other in a New York minute. One can enjoy the moment over here, but never let your guard down, or forget the fact that this is a volatile region, populated with a diverse, often impassioned population. Moreover, just because one neighborhood or region is in a state of mayhem, doesn’t mean the other parts of the city or country aren’t enjoying relative tranquility. This is the African way, this is the Middle Eastern way. And to some extent, it happens in the US. People don’t avoid vacationing in LA because South Central can be a war zone.
Continuing with my first evening observations”.A crane is poised near the Pearl Roundabout monument (a series of semi curved supports, holding what appears to be a gigantic pearl, in honor of Bahrain’s early and once time highly lucrative commercial industry — pearls), and hoists a very large version of the red and white Kuwaiti flag. People line the side of the road wrapped in flags, cheering cars, holding hands in a “peace sign,” and generally appearing in good, and peaceful spirits. Clearly much different than the events of the night before — where police and protestors seemed to clash, and resulting in some casualties — the exact number varies, depending upon whether you are the protestors (it was a blood bath from Pearl to the hospital), to the sympathetic media who echo that chorus, to the government (few minor injuries and regrettably some deaths).
Chants of “one Bahrain, one people” fill the air as we descend the overpass towards the hotel.
My driver shoots a furtive look at hearing that.
I ask him, what does that mantra mean and what does he think. Given where I’m staying and my overall appearance, he considers me straight up and not a government listener. And yes, this is a kingdom, not a republic or democracy. People are spied upon — native and visitor. Moscow rules — someone is always watching and listening. Such is life. But to survive, people realize it is often as or more important to know what your friends are thinking as well as your enemies. My driver understands this. Most of us in the security arena recognize it. Never the less, he did share some interesting insights, that over my time in Bahrain, proved pretty close to the mark.
“It is all a lie what they say. They are Shia, they are not Sunni. They want to remove the government. This is a good country, good opportunity. We do not support them (Shia), and have our own pro government rally later on this evening. You will see.”
“You are Sunni?” I asked.
“What is the real grievance among the protestors?”
“They want to get rid of the king and prime minister. They want to take power. They want to change how things go here. The king is a good man — he has done much for this country — new roads, jobs, better healthcare, modern housing.”
How do you know this is a Shia protest and not “one Bahrain” with folks from both Islamic traditions?
“Ask them their names — they will be Shia, not Sunni. Look closely — you will see black or green flags, or black bandanas. These are what Shiites do, not Sunni. Be careful as you go around the city, you will see sections that do not fly the Kuwait flag, but fly black or green flags; they are Shia and dangerous.”
Arriving at the hotel, we were greeted by a variety of security professionals. My intelligence and security friends had told me certain hotel chains had hired special security in addition to their in house teams. It reminded me of the approach to Ben Gurion airport — security folks holding long armed mirrors looking under the carriage, several guards behind a gate ready to respond, others checking inside both passenger and driver side, while the last ones check the trunk. It was fast and courteous, as in Tel Aviv. In a matter of minutes we were driving up the long, palm tree lined approach to the hotel — a very short distance from the Pearl Roundabout, not that in the serenity of the grounds, you’d know that only a mile or so away were a thousand or more protestors.
February 20th
This morning brought some work and a meeting with other security professionals. Then it was time for a “meet and greet’”so I headed to Pearl Roundabout, other parts of Manama, and the countryside to see first-hand what was going on. Over the course of my visit to Bahrain, I interacted with media folks, protestors, locals — expats from around the region, members of both Shiite and Sunni factions, and people well placed in both Kingdoms — Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. What follows is my take on Bahrain and its importance to the Gulf, to Saudi Arabia and to the United States — in a nutshell, the stakes are high, and Bahrain matters to us.
At the Pearl Roundabout
After running across eight lanes of traffic to get to an easy access point, I engaged in conversation with the crowds. Many of their first names identified them as Shiites. A fact some tried to hide. The spirit of the crowd — about 1000 or so, was overall festive. I passed on the popcorn. But there was also an undertone anyone accustomed to the Middle East immediately felt. A sense that with just the right instigation or provocation — either from a trouble maker within the group looking to pick a fight, or a government misstep, this entire event could turn violent and spread throughout the capital. Which is why the US raised the threat level to a 5; hastening the cancellation of several meetings in the region, as they now posed a liability threat and such warnings portend a clear sense of risk.
I spoke with dozens of the folks there — mostly men, a few boys and some elderly, but the majority in their 20′s and 30′s. What do they want? Lots of answers — each of which could be diverted by someone more enthusiastic, or emotional. One didn’t get a real sense except for broad statements.
Then, a most telling situation. After about twenty minutes of discussion, two men approached — each carrying a photograph of someone with most of his head and face blown off — supposedly two of the victims of the police shootings the night before is what the crowd was told. Photoshop or real??? And the two men were followed by several men — older than most of the crowd, and larger. These guys were strident in their antipathy towards the police, the government e.g. the prime minister (king’s uncle), king and crown prince. Where before most of the crowd wanted the prime minister gone, more opportunity for jobs and a parliament that allowed for a greater voice for all Bahrainis, once the large guys arrived, everyone fell into lock step with the notion — the royal family must go, and democracy (i.e. majority — Shiite) rule. The folks I was speaking to, who originally were more moderate, immediately fell in line, nodding with the force of a bobble head doll in a Ferrari on the Autobahn. I almost offered neck braces for the likely ensuing injury. Although I suspect they are used to this series of behaviors and gyrations.
When I engaged one of the large men, he came close to entering my personal space as he emotionally, loudly discussed the murders, the disappearance of people over the last few days by the government, the need for a new government in Bahrain, the need to get rid of the royal family. Not exactly the popcorn Kumbaya I had experienced earlier. These guys were for real, and they had a mission. As he continued to approach me, three of the younger men I was talking with earlier, came between us, and, putting a lighter air into the conversation, interrupted the large guy, and in quieter tones tried to moderate the discussion, lest I come away with the wrong impression, which they feverishly tried to impress upon me. Very well orchestrated.
As counterpoint, it should be noted every night one also sees a counter protest by Sunni who are loyal to the king, and are letting it be known the protest at Pearl Roundabout does not represent all Bahrain. Their cars line the highways, and supporters walk the streets with their own rallies.
Interestingly many of the Pearl Roundabout protestors (Shiite), when you get them one on one, will say they like the King; it is the Prime Minister they want to go. He is holding them back. He is preventing them from getting jobs. He is the one keeping them from joining the police or military. He must go. Then, and not unexpectedly, one or two men (large men) will join in on the conversation. I’d suggest they are the enforcers — the agents provocateur who will get the crowd riled up and speak passionately about the events, take over the conversation, and burst into the rehearsed party line that many people have been killed, many more have disappeared, that the government must go — from King Hamad, to the crown prince and prime minister. They show photos of victims with their faces blown off. Photo shop or real, you decide. They emote with such force you think they will cry as they describe the plight of ambulance drivers being stopped from helping the injured. The mainstream media have picked up this rallying cry and, like a bad game of operator, promulgate the emotional narrative, lock step, chapter and verse. Regardless of proof positive.
In fact, one could argue the events in Bahrain, and the rest of the Middle East have been coordinated and orchestrated.
I was correct in predicting Morocco would become another nation with protests, when the pundits said it would never happen. The problem with pundits, they rarely look in the eye of, or talk with folks in the street — the very folks who march, riot, and are influenced if not influencer of such events. I do. And looking in the eyes of the folks in the Pearl Roundabout protests, smiles and happy voices notwithstanding, there is a very real threat here that could escalate to a flash point in minutes or hours.
I suspect there will be thousands protesting on Tuesday.
Why Bahrain Matters To The US
For starters geography. Look across the water and you see Iran. Imagine Iran in command, proxy or otherwise on both sides of that waterway. Our Fifth Fleet has a home in Bahrain. Our friends make up that corner of the region. Then there are the oil fields. Then there’s Kuwait and Saudi. Then the Emirates.
Then there is history — Iran claims rights to Bahrain — mind you a centuries old claim, but memories run long in the region, something the West often forgets. To many Muslims, the Crusades are still fresh in their minds.
Then there is politics — Bahrain falling, while our fleet, the Saudi national guard and close ties with the Kingdom are right there — A US and Saudi ally falling to Iran — speak about bragging rights in the Middle East. If Egypt was significant, this would be seismic.
Then there is money — Bahrain is a successful regime. Most countries that aren’t true theocratic enterprises are, and enjoy decent standards of living in the region. So while Islam and Middle Eastern nations are inextricable, Sharia is understood, if not fully implemented — religion and daily life are nearly one in the region, unlike Western nations that may be built upon some Judeo-Christian principals, but are not truly governed by religious practice or fiat. Having a Shiite control would be damaging to the economy, to our interests, oh and to women.
The Real Story
Having spent a few days in the Kingdom of Bahrain, mixing in with the protestors, wandering about Manama and other parts of Bahrain, and interviewing a wide range of people — expats, Sunni, Shia, Christian, the occasional Jew and Hindu, it becomes clear that this is a Shiite protest. Any disclaimer from the crowds, the Obama Administration, or mainstream media for that matter, to the contrary, is utter falsehood. The media, most of the Administration and the West, so badly want to believe that Iran isn’t behind this, or the protests aren’t a religion motivated movement, that the protestors are not Shiite led nor even Iran instigated nor Muslim Brotherhood assisted, that they readily embrace the deception promulgated and perpetrated by the crowds who shout “not Shia, not Sunni, we are Bahraini.” Let’s be clear”Those who are shouting at Pearl Roundabout are Shia. Not Sunni. Black flags, green flags are not being flown by Sunni. Nor are headbands in black or green being worn by anyone but Shiites.
What do the protestors want? Jobs, equality, greater human rights?
Among the loudest of chants is for jobs, equality, fairness — the putative prime motivation of the protestors (Shiites) would naturally resonate with the West, and by extension the Media. Alas, in our sound bite driven world that either plays into or fosters our superficial examination of or understanding concerning most issues, but especially the Middle East.
It is only natural, albeit ill conceived, to view the world through the prism of our own world vision and experiences. But policymakers should not have the luxury to interpret Middle East behaviors, and thus draw (erroneous) conclusions based upon how we in the West would behave given those circumstances. The Middle East sensibility is not a Western one. We are entirely different cultures. We have walked far different paths, have extraordinarily different histories and draw from far different heritage.
But let’s be frank. The Shiites have a proclivity for posing a threat to Sunni leaders — but this is only a multicentury problem; I’m sure it will go away with the blessings of 1600 and the main stream media!
So as a Sunni king, if I perceive you or your group (Shiite) as wanting to kill me, why on earth would I give such people weapons, access to the inner workings of the military, law enforcement or intelligence communities? Call me crazy, but I’d like to keep a pulse until my natural expiration date runs out, thank you very much. Duh”.Of course I’m going to hire from within (Sunni) or from outside the danger zone (India, the Emirates, Qatar and elsewhere). I’m not condoning the behavior. Not condemning it either. But I’m not a Sunni monarch facing hostile, armed and traditionally adversarial people.
Remember this isn’t the US. We are a young nation. A bastard or orphan nation. Most hail from “the old world” two or more generations removed. Our religious traditions have long since ceased to be tantamount to being matches a la Manchester United versus Liverpool, as they were in the 70′s and 80′s when Catholics and Protestants had major rifts here and abroad. Tribal and religious rivalries trace back over 1000 years in the Middle East — as blood sport and grudge matches the most ardent football/soccer fanatic could barely fathom. Imposing Western sensibilities and judgments on sovereign survival, especially among our friends, is arrogant, foolhearty, and dangerous. It doesn’t promote warm feelings.
To be sure, some of the choice jobs are not going to Shiites.
On the other hand, the king just authorized 1000 Bahraini Dinars (~$3000) to Bahrainis — regardless of religion. Add to this, the minimum wage in Bahrain is higher than in many other regional nations, including Saudi Arabia. Unemployment is less than 4% – for the entire island nation! There is also a safety net, which on a monthly basis is again higher than most in the Middle East. Education, housing, healthcare are advanced by regional standards. And yes, Sunni (the Islamic tradition of the ruling family) are advantaged in the security oriented job market. Why not — the old axiom “bullets change governments faster than votes” is a chilling reality to rulers.
But if you listen to the impassioned, emotional dialogue of journalists, some of whom I met over appetizers one evening, you would think Bahrain was practicing apartheid, starving children, denying jobs and indenturing the Shiites. One of my drivers was Shia. College educated, he was angry that the Prime Minister (there is no love lost with the Kings uncle — a point of common ground even for some Sunni with the Shia) hired foreigners to become police and complained that he applied but was not hired — educated and a native Bahraini. Other Shia I spoke with all were employed, most had good jobs for the region, and lived pretty nice middle class lives. Others did live in tough neighborhoods.
And most of the folks I spoke with at the Pearl Roundabout were friendly. Not anti-West, not anti-US. In fact many wanted to talk about or visit the US. Several offered to walk with me down the steep embankment (I politely declined their offer) being quite protective, expressing concerns as I made the descent. This is one, albeit likely temporary plus — the protests are about Bahrain, Shia and Sunni, not the US. But be warned — if the balance of power in Bahrain shifts, the US and our interests will face significant challenges. Remember not only is our Fifth Fleet based there, other critical assets of our security and intelligence infrastructure in the region are there.
Tomorrow Never Dies — A warning about the media
The media walk a fine line between covering the news and being the news. A new dynamic is afoot, courtesy of the digital age and 24 hour news cycles requiring constant footage and information. The media as creator of news. In the James Bond movie “Tomorrow Never Dies” a media mogul would have tomorrow’s headlines ready in the wings; he’d utilized his global resources to create the very crisis he would be the first to report. If one listened to CNN and Anderson Cooper, you would get the impression Haiti would have been abandoned after the Earthquake were it not for him galvanizing global aid. The ability of the media, especially with social networking and integrated digital communications from broadcasting and telecommunications — to manipulate events towards a sensationalized endpoint is a very real danger.
While it has nearly always been the case in the post Huntley/Brinkley era of true journalism, that the line between reporter and op-ed or analyst has been blurred, never has the ability been greater to manipulate events through the media — which is perilously becoming more propaganda for an agenda than honest broker.
Where the MSM, including such venerables as the NY Times and others fail to get it right, and portray things as truly accurate through the mind set of folks living, dying, and surviving or thriving in the region, when they describe activities, they should label them with the actual groups participating, fostering, fomenting or engaged — i.e. Sunni, Shiite, Wahabist or other. Because nothing is more fundamental, essential than this concept. Nothing is more than 1 step removed from religion. A foreign concept if you will to those among us who have rarely ventured into the Middle East and have largely grown up in secular
Having spoken to several media folks there, it was apparent they had made up their minds who was in the right. When I asked them if Iran was involved or if they thought Tehran planted agents in Bahrain, the universal response was “no.” They did acknowledge that Iran was exploiting it in the media, but they had their own problems with protestors at home and were too distracted to engage in Bahrain. I just stared at them and finished my lamb. Arrggghhh!!!!! Can we please have some Middle East savvy reporters show up?
Facebook/Twitter Revolution — A New and worrisome security threat
Twitter and Facebook — tools of change.
One of the most worrisome of recent events in the Middle East is the use of social networks such as Facebook and twitter. Consider the enormous power of these tools — agent provocateurs, professional protestors and rent a mobs can be organized and sent to virtually any area in near live time.
Throughout my visits to the Pearl Roundabout — almost everyone there was texting, twittering and Facebooking. Up to the minute info — invitations to come join, or move to another location were being transmitted. The ability of a select few people to mobilize large masses is a new threat to domestic security, and one we should pay attention to. Consider the events closer to home”in Wisconsin. Credit social networking for the size of the crowds.
The Geopolitical Realities of the Middle East
Bahrain we have come to fondly refer to as “the land of Islam light!” Westerners may tour the large mosque in Manama (Sunni). They are a relatively liberal nation, which means women do better here than in other parts of the region, as evidence by the easing of clothing restrictions.
To the Westerner, it is a welcoming country. A business, conference, even tourist destination. Warm waters, a pleasant climate most of the year, decent breezes contrast nicely against the backdrop of some pollution — including sand blowing everywhere. But make no mistake, it is still a Muslim nation — and while women for example, fare much better here than in many other Arab or Muslim nations, traditions — familial, tribal and religious still hold true. Never the less, it is a far more open and safe nation, except in certain areas, especially “black flag” areas.
To those living and prospering in more strict nations, Bahrain is one of the “Vegas — like” settings where one can come for the weekend (males) and enjoy some heretofore prohibited activities were one still at home — wine, women and song. Bahrain is to Saudi, and to others in the region euphemistically considered a “honey pot” and for that reason alone warrants protection!
Egypt has always been, as I mentioned in my earlier piece on Bahrain, the focal point, and de facto leader, center of the Arab world. Which is why what happened last week, symbolically was cataclysmic! While all eyes remain on that North African nation, including Israel’s, Egypt is in a state of flux for the moment.
Saudi Arabia has the distinction of being the center of the Muslim world — boasting two of the holiest sites in Islam — Mecca and Medina. It is a wealthy oil rich kingdom where many of the royal family are friendly to US interests, others friendly to the notion we will protect them. It remains the jewel in the crown in terms of business ventures in the region. The state bird is definitely “the crane’ as new building projects are being planned at a dizzying rate. Saudi Arabia views itself as the power broker in the Gulf. Several well placed sources in the region have told me Saudi Arabia will not allow Bahrain to be coopted, nor allow the protests to unsettle their tiny neighbor as has happened elsewhere in the region. So concerned is the royal family, that actions promoting nationalism — flags flying in honor of the king, pro Saudi rallies have all been staged. Moreover, independent sources confirmed for me elements of the Saudi National Guard have been deployed inside Bahrain — a fact publicly denied, but privately in effect. It wouldn’t be the first time Saudi has quelled internal unrest in Bahrain. Saudi Arabia is not above doing its own bit of posturing. Riyadh, certainly more than Washington, recognizes that Iran is trying to challenge its leadership in the region.
Then there is Iran! Let’s look at who is on their payroll? The former head of the IAEA, rent a protestor mobs, clerics who foment disruption here and abroad, including a growing fifth column in the US that we’d better start addressing. Weapons broker to terrorists, and cause of death to some of our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. And Iran is on Russia’s payroll as favored unnerving agent of the US.
The elephant in the room is, was and will always be IRAN! And we must name it before it is too late.
Shiites and Iran — they are nearly indistinguishable in objectives and danger. There is something ominous about the black, green flags flying about the city of Manama and out into the outskirts of Bahrain. Sunni will whisper to you — beware the black flags — that is Shia area. Not safe.
The protests that have engulfed many of our allies have some common threads. Many of the nations are or were our friends, that is to say allies of the US. Some were very moderate. And a few had passable if not peaceful relations with Israel. They also contain a not insignificant Shiite population. When you think Shiite, there is no other corollary that is more important to connect than to Tehran. To suggest otherwise flies in the face of reality. Iran wants to become the new sheriff in town, a force to be reckoned with, gain respect it feels long overdue, and become the de facto leader of the Arab/Muslim world. And for the cherry on the sundae — the thorn in the West’s side, especially assaulting the interests of the US. And, the Russ-An team (Russia-Iran) is doing a bang up job of disrupting US influence in the region.
There is a global chess game going on, and we are three years or more behind it. Old line Russians have never forgiven the West, e.g. the US for undermining the Soviet Union and Russia’s global influence, if not rightful place on the world stage. We perilously underestimate Moscow. We did so under a president (Bush) who understood power and influence on a global level — and generally did a good job on that front, and are now in far worse shape under this administration that has no clue how to address the Kremlin, China, our adversaries, let alone a mass of protestors or allies for that matter. It is truly pathetic to read the exhortations coming out of Washington — admonishing Bahrain’s leaders to play nice. Really? That’s the best advice. Beyond the arrogance of such lame minded meaningless dialogue, is the notion there is no real strategy behind anything we do with the Middle East at this point. Contrast this with Russia’s leaders — Putin and Putin-Lite (Medvedev). Putin is the master and has taught his student — especially Ahmadinejad — very, very well. Iran, taking a page out of the Soviet/Russian playbook, understands the importance of proxies, agents provocateur, and a show of strength.
A few years ago Russia sent part of its navy into the Syrian region; and is committed to enlarging and modernizing some of Syria’s ports so that Moscow can turn the Mediterranean — formerly the US Navy’s private waterway, into a shared arena. Now Iran is sending two of its warships into the region via the Suez.
In the Middle East, as in global affairs, perception is power. Sending your ships into a region that has largely been the sole territory of the United States and our allies, is a significant message being sent to the US and to the Arab world. No one really paid attention to Iran until the nuclear issue. Imagine a nuclear Iran with global proxies. It is already happening. It will get worse unless we start exerting our own leadership and do a bit of effective posturing. Alas, the world knows we are a paper tiger, and are exploiting that at every turn.
Iran recognizes with the power vacuum left in the wake of Egypt’s uprising and government instability, it can now challenge the only other major power broker in the Middle East for influence — Saudi Arabia. There is a tug of war going on, and the flag is located in Bahrain, with one end of the rope in Riyadh and the other in Tehran. The tiny island nation Bahrain shares a causeway with Saudi Arabia — and many sensibilities — from a “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” mentality as an entertainment and play venue for Saudi men, to a strategic partnership with both the US and Saudis on common defense, to financial, oil and commercial ventures. From Saudi to the Emirates, these are critical commercial entities, and allies of both Saudis and the US. And therein Sunni’s play a leadership role, but each area has sizable Shiite populations. Saudi Arabia is one of the most important economies in the region. It is also a major customer of US arms, security, financial, oil and construction companies. If Iran can put a wedge in the middle of that northeastern crescent of the Saudi peninsula, it can exert enormous influence and have a staging ground to amass additional proxies and power. Iran already has relations with Venezuela, where agents of Hamas and Hezbollah train. Iran, through Hezbollah, runs Southern Lebanon and, now, arguably most of that nation. Iran has legitimized Syria, as evidenced by Obama reaching out to the despot president in Damascus. The tentacles and reach of Tehran is growing.
Iran has agents and cells in Bahrain. To that there should be no dispute. They are monitoring, exploiting and likely inciting much of what is going on in Manama.
As I’ve written in the past, Russia is the patron of Iran. Many of their weapons, nuclear and missile technology, air defense system, back door sanction busting financial support, and gas/petro revenue is courtesy of Moscow. Wherever Iran makes a move, Russia cannot be far behind and visa versa when it comes to the Middle East.
The purported rationale for the protests, these enforcers will say is jobs, employment, equality. Unspoken but inferred — equality with the Sunni, the Bahrainis who are in power. And on the surface, sounds OK, especially to the Western mind that thinks, well sure, this is reasonable. After all, the West has evolved to enjoy some form of constitutional protections that provide for equitable treatment under the law — de jure, if not de facto. So demands for more equality surely resonate as reasonable to our sensibilities. And the MSM buy the rhetoric — dead people, bloody photos, mothers wailing, and protestors speaking in measured tones about the need for jobs and fairness. These make for sensational photos, powerful sound bites, and good copy. Every great story must have three ingredients — a victim, a villain and a hero. So when the crowd (Shiites) chant that they want a greater influence in the government, a better parliament where all people (translation Shiites) have a larger voice to make changes, more jobs (translation the ability for Shiites to have positions in law enforcement, the military and other government work) — it sounds ok. And it is easy to be seduced into believing that which, either through a sense of decency, or antipathy towards monarchs, especially those friendly to the West, words that align with ones’ own values. Too bad it is all choreographed, orchestrated, false.
In the Middle East, it is often what isn’t said, or what you don’t see that is the most telling. On the King Faisal Defense Causeway from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia — a multilane highway usually busy or congested, especially during work hours, it was a ghost ride — a handful of cars. Colleagues told me Saudi Border Guards would ask people who were about to leave the kingdom towards Bahrain if it was an emergency to go over there? If not, they were directing people to return to Saudi and not traverse the causeway.
The airport was empty. I suspect my flight to the US will be the same.
Corporations, even the Bahrain Race, are being cautious.
Security professionals in the region recognize that Saudi Arabia will not allow Bahrain to fall without a fight.
Iran will not go quietly into the good night. Nor will they squander an opportunity. Much of the major media from the West are now in Bahrain. This is a forum of inordinate propaganda value for Tehran and they are making great strides. Iran will continue to use its vaunted intelligence service, foreign agents, money, influence, weapons. No matter what happens over the next couple of days, be assured Iran is playing to win — and if we let our guard down for too long, they will in fact destabilize Bahrain, and ultimately the region.
With an ineffectual response from US leaders, who remarkably and sadly announce how stunned (translate caught off guard) they are at what is going on in Bahrain — again feeding the global notion the US is now clueless — and an emboldened Iran and Russia who as the Russ-An partnership are adding proxies all across the globe, Bahrain may be the Thermopolyae, the Battle of Britain, the place to make a stand, for the West. Are we, our partners up to the challenge? Bahrain must remain part of the US, Saudi, United Arab Emirate collective.
The US needs to be on the right side of history, and promote democracy. But the battle for Bahrain is not about democracy. It is about who wins in the Middle East. And at the end of the day, the US’s fortunes are intertwined in this winner take all battle. As long as we survive on oil, gas, and global trade, the Middle East will remain a critical commercial region for the US. We can play to win, like the Russ-An duo, or continue to watch our allies dwindle, relying upon the media to celebrate our efforts, when nothing of value has resulted.
Bahrain — the stakes are high. The popcorn revolution is not a carnival, or a festival. It is a winner take all challenge for the United States, the West, Saudi Arabia, and our allies. Are we up to the challenge, or will we add Bahrain to the list of former partners and now disrupted nations in the Middle East?
FamilySecurityMatters.orgContributing Editor Dr. Robin McFee is a physician and medical toxicologist. A nationally recognized expert in WMD preparedness, she is a consultant to government agencies, corporations and the media. Dr. McFee is the former director and cofounder of the Center for Bioterrorism Preparedness (CB PREP) and was bioweapons – WMD adviser to the Regional Domestic Security Task Force Region 7 after 911, as well as advisor on avian and swine flu preparedness to numerous agencies and organizations. Dr. McFee is a member of the Global Terrorism, Political Instability and International Crime Council of ASIS International, and member of the US Counterterrorism Advisory Team. She has delivered over 400 invited lectures since 9-11, authored more than 100 articles on terrorism, health care and preparedness, and coauthored two books: Toxico-Terrorism by McGraw Hill and The Handbook of Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Agents, published by Informa/CRC Press.


2-28 Day Taiwan (Formosa)


By Kevin Anthony Stoda, Taiwan

There are many holidays in Taiwan, including regional, local, and national ones. Some change by the international calendar—others rotate on the traditional Chinese Calendar. A few years ago, as most schools and many institutions and factories were reducing the workweek from 6 days to 5 days, there were some calendar reforms here concerning holidays in the land once known as Formosa. Some traditional holidays were eliminated from the official calendar. Others were either combined or became optional holidays—much like in the USA where some states still celebrate Lincoln’s birthday while most do not. Finally, some new holidays came into being.

One of those holidays is today: February 28. It is called 228 (2-28) after a so-called “incident” that led to the deaths of anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 Taiwanese in March 1947. Today it’s a holiday that calls on the peoples of Taiwan to really reflect on who they are how their island has historically functioned as a land quite separate from mainland China.

According to one writer, this is the background to the events in February and March 1947. “In 1945, 50 years of Japanese rule ended, and in October the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) handed administrative control of Taiwan as a province to the Kuomintang-administered Republic of China (ROC). But one year (16 months) of KMT administration led to the widespread impression that the party was plagued by nepotism, corruption, and economic failure. Tensions increased between inhabitants and the ROC administration. The flashpoint came on February 27 in Taipei, when a dispute between a cigarette vendor and an officer of the Office of Monopoly triggered civil disorder and open rebellion that lasted for days. The uprising was violently put down by the military of the Republic of China.”

In this part of the narration, the Kuomintang (KMT narration on Wikipedia) does admit that the “incident” that followed the February 27 dispute were a revolt against mainland China’s corrupt occupation of the island of Formosa after WWII.

In 1947—and thereafter—there has certainly been more than an “impression” that the KMT and its leading henchmen of that era were “plagued by nepotism, corruption, and economic failure”. Moreover, 228 or 2-28 became a buzzward to resistance against the KMT’s martial control of the land over the subsequent decades.

Online are several books on the so-called “incidents” of February 28. Here is the link to this classic, FORMOSA BETRAYED.

Regarding this important work, by George H. Kerr, “This book is a damning indictment of the KMT administration in Taiwan in the years just after World War II. It contains detailed information on Chiang Kai-shek, Chen Yi, 2-28 (the massacre of thousands of Taiwanese that began February 28, 1947), and many other subjects.”
“George H. Kerr, the author of the book, was in Taiwan during that time, serving as vice consul at the U.S. consulate.” It took the author. George Kerr, 18 years to publish this account in the USA. (Kerr was forced to leave his beloved second home in March of 1947, i.e. while the massacres were taking place.) The U.S. did not want to hear much during the McCarthy Era about how bad the Chiang Kai-Shek regime was to the millions of Taiwanese people it subjugated after the withdrawal of USA controls of the island, i.e.s as a protectorate (for the United Nations) after WWII.
Unlike the government of Japan, who had occupied Taiwan from 1895 through 1945, the incoming government of the KMT took the best for itself but left no major construction projects, like trains and railroad networks for the first few decades. Instead in the first two or three years after the war, equipment and infrastructure from Taiwan were simply schlepped back to the Mainland to the KMT’s few strongholds .
In his introduction to FORMOSA BETRAYED, Kerr’s supporters noted that after the Japanese had left their brutal occupation of the island, 80% of the Formosa (Taiwan’s) population was literate—which was the opposite of what the KMT had left conditions in mainland China like—after 30 years of power there.,9171,792979,00.html
Nonetheless, the KMT arrived as conquerors and rapists of the islands resources. They proceeded to run the island under martial law through the late 1980s (and the islands of Matsu where I live until 1992.)
For nearly 40 years after “the incidents”, the events of 2-28 and March 1947 remained fairly sealed.
Only in the last decades has a memorial park been created in Taipei to commemorate the so-called revolt or incident on February 28, 1947. Finally, during the prior decade, the date 2-28 began to be commemorated in Taiwan, but sadly most Taiwanese residents do not openly take this date to reflect on what there fore-fathers faced in terms of the erasing of Formosan memories from the 1950s onwards.
Meanwhile, thousands of statues and busts of the so-called founding father of the KMT—Chiang Kai Shek--remain throughout the country. The party of Chiang Kai Shek is again in power and KMT officials continue to downplay the relevance of continued apologies for the sins of their fathers.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Beyond the Battlefields and the Peace Museum on Beigan Island

AT THE EDGE OF ASIA--Beyond the Battlefields and the Peace Museum on Beigan Island

By Kevin Stoda, Matsu Islands

As many of my readers know by now concerning the Matsu islands, “Unlike Kinmen, which underwent persistent bombardment, the military atmosphere of the Mazu region has less of an undercurrent of sorrow, and more of a feel of mystery. Today, Gaodeng and Liangdao, the only islands where the military remains stationed, are still shrouded in mystery, not having been opened to visitors. In addition to Nangan’s Beihai Tunnel and Beigan’s Wusha (Beihai) and Andong tunnels, which have been opened to visitors, are more hidden tunnels,guard posts and gun muzzles, witnesses to the stories of sweat, toil and tension of the many soldiers who excavated the tunnels and stayed on watch in them.”
Preserving and commemorating this history, “the Peace Memorial Park was established on Beigan’s Mt. Da-ao; Mazu’s wartime atmosphere is reproduced here in miniature, with historical relics and defensive weapons on display as a reminder of the past.” I had visited the museum and the armaments around Mt. Da-ao last autumn when I first moved here. Today, I finally chose to see the islands and hills just south of there.
Starting in the village of Houau, across from the airport at the town of Tang Qi, I hiked up past the few remaining soldiers stationed on the island to the now-unused Stronghold No. 12. One of the guard stations has been turned into a restroom just below the museum.
I turned there at Stronghold No. 12 and headed out on the highest points towards Luo-Shan (Mt. Luo on tiny Lao Island). Walking along the peak of the hills above any tree line, I suddenly felt like I was temporarily in the Andes mountains, i.e. near Machu Picchu (and around Cuzco on one of the Incan Highways). The only contradiction between that memory (of mine) of an earlier global journey and this one reality was the fact that instead of seeing peaks and snow-covered mountains to my right and left, I was observing the windswept seas at low tide--nonetheless striking the largely marble coastline harshly on the Eastern Slopes of the isle where I was perched between two slopes..
At two points as I descended the Luo-Shan trail to the neighboring isle of that same name, I had to hold onto a rope so as to avoid any chance that I would stumble or fall down or near the embankment on either side. The winds from the East or open sea were very strong and chilling while on the western side I felt warm enough to take off my scarf and eventually my coat as the afternoon wore on.
Because of the low tide, I was also able to cross over easily to Luo Island after climbing down a steep edifice. There I came upon a moon-like landscape of boulders and rocks. Among them was the former King of the Sea Rock—now known locally as Confucian Rock. In the days when the rock was known as the King of the Sea, local fisherman and oysterman gathered here to pray for success (and for safety) in their journeys.
Wishing to avoid the chilling winds from the East, I moved to the lower leeward side of Mt. Luo, rested, and ate an apple. On the far distant shore of Beigan Island, I could easily make out Ban Li Beach—the largest and nicest beach in the Matsu Island Chain—and my current home on this island of Beigan.
Next, I felt emboldened to try and scale Mt. Luo, but the wind was too strong and too bone-numbingly-cold, so I determined to circumnavigate the skirt of the island to the West climbing along and amongst the grass, rocks, and small trees above the boulders of the shore in the direction of the final large island of the Beigan Island group, named Bang Island.
As I approached the south side of Luo Island, I realized that the island of Bang was much too far away to approach without being in a boat. So, I turned back. Suddenly, I slipped and fell for the first and only time. I only slid a short distance on my buttocks, but the surprise was enough to awaken me to the fact that I should have not been climbing alone there—and definitely not without a cell phone.
I was soon cautiously heading back to my belongings.
After gathering my things, I proceeded back over the small causeway to retrace the trail back up the long incline in the direction of the Peace Memorial Park and Stronghold No. 12. Suddenly a boat came steaming up from the direction of Ban Li Beach, where I soon discerned that these fisherman had been checking their cages for catches of vertebrates, squid and other creatures of the sea.
Below me now, I could see three rock fishermen. Next, coming down the slope--with some trepidation--was a family of 4 Chinese. I observed them nervously looking down the stairs cut into the side of the hill and then looking in my direction as I proceeded up the slope towards them.
In order to encourage them on their journey, I bounded up the stairs, and then grabbed the rope—telling them to hold onto it on their way down to the path to the shore, i.e. to the point where I had crossed between the two islands. They took my cue and proceeded (holding on to the rope) carefully downward towards Luo-Shan and the Confucian Rock.
Later, on my way back to Tang Qi, I stopped in Houau village and though how nice it would be to live their and help restore the ruins there into new homes.
You see, much of Began island had become depopulated during the Martial Law years (1940s through 1994). Only now has the government of Taiwan offered to repopulate and help rebuild the crumbling ruins of many a village on Beigan (and on the neighboring islands of Matsu). Alas, only a handful of stone masons are now around to help in returning these villages back to their former good state, i.e. pre-1948 condition.
The reconstruction has been slow, but some local initiatives are leading some towns to be restored much more quickly than others. Click on this link for the short story of one Matsu village that has restored itself through local leadership.


Every day, 34 American families say goodbye to a parent, child, or sibling murdered with guns

Mayors Against Illegal Guns have stated: “Every day, 34 American families say goodbye to a parent, child, or sibling murdered with guns. In this moving video, family members from across the country remember the loved ones they’ve lost and speak out about the real cost of gun violence.”

They’ve maded this video.”Unfortunately, the political debate about guns has gotten so loud that the voices of those closest to the issue can’t always be heard. As we start building momentum for the newly announced Fix Gun Checks legislation, make sure you listen to their stories and see how gun violence affects us all.”

See this video, send it to your congressmen. Do something America about lack of gun checks.

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When Politics becomes Idolatry: The Demise of the Moammar Qaddafi and his Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

When Politics becomes Idolatry: The Demise of the Moammar Qaddafi and his Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

By Ibrahim Ramey

When I personally met the supreme leader of the Libyan people in June, 1990, the world was a different place, and his unflinching grip on the reins of absolute national power was as close to unshakable as one could imagine.

Colonel Qaddafi was cool, elegantly attired, quite gracious, and also typically incoherent when he appeared, unannounced to a session of a conference in Sirte, Libya, where my friend Greg Payton and I were, as far as we could tell, the only persons from the United States in attendance. Qaddafi, quite interestingly, was making overtures to the global peace and disarmament movement (where I located myself at the time), and more than a few of us benefited from the largess of the Libyan leader and his cronies.

But now, as events clearly show, the construction of the popular Jamahiriya, or "state of the masses" was little more than a front to consolidate power in the hands of one man, whose rule has gone from reckless to crazy to almost genocidal. The Libya of today is deeply submerged in the pit of civil war, and forces loyal to Qaddafi are engaging in an orgy of murder and, reportedly, rape of unarmed demonstrators, all to to keep their leader in power and their juice flowing from the oil wealth that has been expropriated from the Libyan people for decades. This is a bloody struggle, with no clear victor and no clear end in sight.

And it is also a contest that teaches us a bit about the danger of ego worship, and the idolatry (in Arabic, Shirk) that compels people to reject the worship of God and substitute it for the deification of a human being.

In the case of Moammar Qaddafi, I suspect that the deviation from the worship of God was not sudden, but that it happened over time. When he presented himself at the conference where I met him nearly 21 years ago, he interrupted his rambling and extemporaneous talk to go to the mosque next door to pray when we heard the sound of the Athan (call to prayer). He made a point to tell the audience about the importance of prayer as he and his entourage left the room for 30 minutes while his guests stopped everything to wait for his return. I had not taken my declaration of faith in Islam at the time, but I remember how impressed I was that the leader of a nation could demonstrate such piety, especially to a largely non-Muslim conference.

But now, some 21 years later, this "pious" Muslim leader is slaughtering his own people as punishment for their crime of demanding freedom and democracy.

The spiritual lesson that I learn from this is that when individuals abandon God for the worship of a human personality, and the worship of absolute (worldly) power that a dictator possesses, they have committed the most grave of all sins in Islam. Leaders can be mistaken, or corrupt, or even delusional, but when they take for themselves the power of literal life or death to their compatriots, based on nothing more than personal loyalty and submission, they become monstrosities.

God enjoins us, in whatever capacity we find ourselves, to be just and honorable, and compassionate. And when dictators become objects of worship, they become false gods that can destroy a nation.

Qaddafi may well have been a decent Muslim sometime in the past. But now,as the world recoils from the mass killing in the streets of Libya, he is only barely recognized as still human. And those of us who love and worship the One Lord of Creation (Allah) and follow the guidance of His Qur'an, must do all we can to save the people of Libya from the horrible consequence of this worship of the human personality.


Are the USA and NATO making enough progress to continue this war in Afghanistan?


Are the USA and NATO making enough progress to continue this war in Afghanistan?

This past month, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, claimed that the Surge in Afghanistan (now-going-on for 2 years) seems to be working.
What do you think? Is the Afghan surge working by your definition of success?


Are the USA and NATO making enough progress to continue this war in Afghanistan?

Not at all. Let's Call it a Day!
Barely. Let's try to find a way out ASAP!
Some progress is being made, but we need to extricate ourselves as soon as possible
I don't know.
Let's up the ante and pray for a miracle.
There is certainly progress.. We should not cut and run.


Take the Poll: By what percent does the DOD need to see its budget cut in this coming decade?


By what percent does the the USA need to cut its Defense and War Budgets?

By what percent does the the USA need to cut its Defense and War Budgets?

Currently 50 to 70 percent of the total USA national budgets each year goes to pay for present, past, and future wars under terms of "defense" and "security".

By what percent does the DOD need to see its budget cut in this coming decade?

By 0%
By 10%
By 20%
By 30%
By 40%
By 50%
By 60%
By 70%
By 80% or more
It should not be cut. We need to increase it to over 75% of our budget.


Friday, February 25, 2011

A Short set of Primers on the Koch Brothers of Kansas--peruse these suggested links!


By Kevin Stoda

I was watching the Democracy Now Program (on Thursday Feb. 24) concerning the Unholy Alliance of Koch Brothers and the Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin—and was surprised at the implication from the DN interview that the Koch brothers are from California. Of course, Koch Industries and the Koch family are from Kansas.

Koch Industries has its headquarters in Wichita. By the way, in 2006 Koch Industries was already valued at nearly 100 billion dollars. Because Koch Industries apparently doesn’t pay all its taxes nor declare some of its income, it is not clear how much the firm is worth today. “Charles and David H. Koch each own 42% of Koch Industries, and Charles has stated that the company will publicly offer shares "literally over my dead body". Finally, I should note that only Cargill corporation is a wealthier privately owned conglomerate in the USA.

In a now-infamous spoof of one of the Koch Brothers, by blogger Ian Murphy who “revealed he had impersonated David Koch in a recorded phone conversation with an unsuspecting Walker” on Wednesday of this week, Ian Murphey [alias David Koch] invites Governor Walker to California saying “Well, I’ll you what, Scott. Once you crush these bastards [the protestors and unions], I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.”
California isn’t anywhere near Kansas—therefore--I reckon’ or suggest you’all need to read up more on the Koch Brothers and Kansas sometime.

Here are a few articles or primers for you Koch-neophytes:
“Billionaire Brothers Out to Destroy Progressivism”
“Hightower: Two Billionaire Brothers [from Kansas] are Remaking America for their Own Benefit”
‘The Brothers Koch: Rich, Political, and Playing to Win”

“The Koch Brothers are Buying Up Kansas”
“The Koch Brothers: a statewide and nationwide embarrassment for Kansas and the country”
“Koch Bros. behind Dangerous ‘Oil Sands’ Pipeline”



Taiwan has moved closer to becoming a smoke-free country by lowering cigarette sales by 13 percent over the past year


By Kevin Stoda, Taiwan

Taiwan is not the only country to have stiff anti-smoking laws. Nor is it alone in Asia in creating and carrying out strong anti-smoking campaigns among its populace, but Taiwan does appear—from my perspective—to have significantly reduced smoking and has created a near zero-tolerance level among many populations of the country. (I have taught in ten countries and I have never seen such a reduction in smoking anywhere in such a short period of time.)

Let me clarify. When I visited Taipei in 1992, I observed no significant difference between the smoking levels in Taipei City, Tokyo nor Hong Kong. The only country in Asia that appeared to have much restriction on smoking at that time, e.g. especially in and around its metros of subways, was, of course, Singapore. However, since 2004, both tiny Bhutan and Taiwan have been leading the way in Asia, in terms of anti-smoking campaigns, implementation of strong anti-smoking laws, and carrying out crack-downs in the popular media.

Who says that having a patriarchal government doesn’t have benefits?

Adults here in Taiwan claim that the biggest obstacle to smoking is a tax rate of 20 to 25% on cigarettes and tobacco products, but I believe the shift over the last twenty years to be more likely due to the combination of taxes, legislation, and popular campaigns against smoking (and campaigns promoting better health). For example, since I arrived to teach in Taiwan in August last year, I have been given no less than three T-shirts with “No-Smoking” printed on them to be worn at home or around the school. Likewise, this last autumn all Taiwanese schools at all grade levels had anti-smoking campaigns or, at least, offered educational programs.

“Smoking in Taiwan is regulated by the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act (Taiwan). Tobacco advertising is banned, and smoking is banned in all indoor public places. Taiwan was the second Asian country to institute a smoking ban, after Bhutan, which banned the sale of cigarettes and smoking in 2005. The Government of Taiwan is planning to extend the smoking ban to cars, motorbikes and pedestrians.”
Taipei City even provides free treatment for addicted smokers. It is believed that such programs for citizens“can save each smoker NT$1,000 to NT$3,000, and they can get professional help to quit smoking.”
According to Wikipedia’s article sources, out of 23 million Taiwanese, there are approximately 5 million smokers. However, I suspect that the numbers are lower than this—as that particular article was written two years ago and the national and local campaigns continue. Moreover, visibility of cigarettes and smoking are becoming almost null through fairly draconian media rules and self-imposed political correctness campaigns run by editorialists in major newspapers.
According to one article, it is the popular Japanese-produced TV programs, which most often break the media restrictions and taboos now-outlined clearly by various Taiwanese government authorities and think tanks. The examples provided in that particular article however, were of two children’s cartoons (made in Japan)—both regularly showing smokers with cigarettes hanging from their chins or mouths.
This means that depending on the way the cigarettes or smoking are portrayed in such kids-programming, children may continue to be effected by non-Taiwanese programming, media and internet sites (as long as Taiwan does not censor such foreign-produced programming).
Meanwhile, in January of this year it was reported that the consumption of cigarettes in Taiwan had declined a further 13% over the previous 12 month period. I laud Taiwan for the success they have had in reducing smoking consumption—even if the crackdown over the past decade has been patriarchal. It is certainly to the society’s benefit, especially in terms of savings on health care costs over the next years and generations.


Calling on Our Governments to instate a Robin Hood Tax--a levy on large international financial transactions to benefit the world’s poor

AS YOU KNOW, I am an independent candidate in 2012. I vow to have a a Robin Hood Tax implemented on as many firms and individuals as possible globally. As explained in the letter form Jubilee (below), such a global levy would be on "on large international financial transactions to benefit the world’s poor". Tell your Senators and Congressmen to get on the global bandwagon today, i.e. close these tax loopholes.--KAS

Dear Kevin,

Activists from Global South to North are donning green caps and calling on their governments to instate a Robin Hood Tax: a levy on large international financial transactions to benefit the world’s poor.
Now, in the U.S., we have our chance to take action. Representative Pete Stark (CA) has introduced the Investing in Our Future Act, which would place a .005% micro tax on big-time international currency gambling to raise funds for global public goods.
Not only could the Act help prevent speculative financial bubbles that make Wall St. rich and cause crisises for the poor, it would generate $5 billion each year for global health, climate change preparation in poor countries, and childcare for low-income Americans.
Ask your representative to co-sponsor this important and innovative legislation today!
In the wake of the financial crisis, low-income countries shouldn't have to take on new unsustainable debts to pay for economic recovery and climate disasters. Nearly $1.5 trillion changes hands on international currency markets every day, almost all of it through untaxed transactions made by wealthy speculators. Even a fraction of these funds could generate billions in new grant assistance.
Curbing Wall St. greed could fund global needs. Please ask your member of Congress to prevent financial crisis and prioritize the poor.
In an exciting turn of events, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has vowed to move forward on the issue of financial transaction taxes as head of the G-20 group of the largest economies. Now, the U.S. Congress should follow his lead. With harmful budget cuts on the table, there is no excuse to leave a resource like international currency exchanges completely untapped.
Join with concerned citizens around the world and help make this common sense legislation a reality in the United States. Ask your representative to co-sponsor the Investing in our Future Act today.
Katherine Philipson
Policy and Advocacy Fellow, Jubilee USA
P.S. To learn more about the Investing in Our Future Act, click here.
Join us for for Ecumenical Advocacy Days, March 25-28, 2011. Be part of an action weekend of worship, dialogue, workshops, and advocacy to speak out on issues of economic justice, peace, and gender equality. To register, go to:
If you are part of a Jewish faith community, you could host Jubilee Shabbat on May 14th, a day of prayer, worship, study, and action to end the cycle of poverty caused by international debt.



Tell President Obama to defend civilian control of the military by ordering the Secretary of Defense to fire and court-martial Lt. Gen. Caldwell and hold him accountable for his crimes.

Dear America (esp. President Obama), If this info below on Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, a court martial and trial should be immediate!!! As a midwesterner, I can beleive that Kansas and Missouri Senators are among the more easily manipulated. --KAS

Dear Kevin,

Lt. Gen. William Caldwell ordered the use of "psychological operations" against Members of the United States Congress in order to secure more funding and troops for the war in Afghanistan and advance his own career. Lt. Col. Michael Holmes, head of an information operations unit in Afghanistan, told Rolling Stone, that his job is "to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave." Lt. Gen. Caldwell ordered his unit to replace al-Qaeda and the Taliban as his enemy and instead set their sights on the U.S. Congress.

This is a direct attack on the civilian leadership and oversight of our armed forces and there need to be immediate consequences for all of those involved.

ACT NOW: Tell President Obama to order Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to fire and court-martial Lt. Gen. Caldwell for his illegal actions.

General Caldwell's Chief of Staff made it clear they intended to run a propaganda campaign against their own government when he issued -- in writing -- the order that "directly tasked" Lt. Col. Holmes with conducting an information operation campaign against all distinguished visitors. The order: "How do we get these guys to give us more people? What do I have to plant inside their heads?"

Investigations will be needed to root out the full extent of Caldwell's actions, but the first step to ensuring civilian control over the military is to enforce the strictest consequences possible for this shameful episode.

Tell President Obama to defend civilian control of the military by ordering the Secretary of Defense to fire and court-martial Lt. Gen. Caldwell and hold him accountable for his crimes.

Thank you for working for peace,

Ryan, Tom, Daniel and the Win Without War team


Thursday, February 24, 2011


Tell Secretary Salazar: Don't Trash Joshua Tree

Developers are trying to put the nation's largest garbage dump right next to Joshua Tree National Park.

The proposed Eagle Mountain landfill would cover 3,500 acres of federal land, bordered on three sides by Joshua Tree's unique beauty, and fragile ecosystem.

The proposal by developers Kaiser Ventures has been struck down by two courts. Now Kaiser Ventures is asking the Supreme Court to review the case, and the Department of the Interior has until February 25th to weigh in.

Tell Secretary Ken Salazar: Don't trash Joshua Tree! Oppose the Eagle Mountain landfill project. Sign the petition before the February 25th deadline.

Landfill impacts have a nasty habit of creeping over borders and boundaries. And Eagle Creek would be an especially nasty neighbor.

The landfill would take in 20,000 tons of garbage per day, 16 hours a day, six days a week, for 117 years -- posing a profound threat to the desert ecosystem and imperiled species that the next-door National Park is designed to protect.

The Department of the Interior has twice sided with the developers in favor of the landfill -- but so far hasn't taken a position on their appeal to the Supreme Court. The agency's position could impact whether or not the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case. And if that happens, it likely won't be good news for Joshua Tree.

The Department of the Interior has a deadline of February 25th to submit its position to the Court. Secretary Salazar needs to hear from us this week that he must act to protect Joshua Tree National Park.

Tell Secretary Ken Salazar: Protect Joshua Tree from the world's largest landfill.


Dear World, Are Americans belatedly Ready to Fight for the long-ignored American Dream?

According to a variety of writers for the Progress Report, America’s Main Stree is Finally Fighting Back for the American Dream it Lost over the Past 4 decades. rad the summries below–KAS

The Main Street Movement

Earlier this month, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) “sent shockwaves across the state” when he unveiled a budgetary bill that would strip most of the state’s public workers of collective bargaining rights, essentially devastating state government employees’ ability to negotiate for fair wages, benefits, and working conditions. At the time, many local news observers thought the bill would easily pass. After all, Republicans won commanding majorities in the legislature during the last election and stood united in support of the bill. Yet on the eve of the bill’s certain passage, all 14 state Senate Democrats fled the state, denying the Senate the quorum needed to proceed and freezing the anti-labor bill in its tracks. Tens of thousands of Wisconsinites then took to the streets in support of the “Wisconsin 14,” invigorating a nascent progressive movement. And all around the country, Americans inspired by Wisconsin’s example are taking action and battling attempts by conservative-led state governments to attack organized labor, slash education and environmental funding, and to make America a country where only the privileged and well-connected can prosper. While conservatives may believe that the last election gave them a wide mandate to decimate the social safety net and enact policies that will make us an even more unequal country, it appears that Americans disagree. By trying to enact their radical agenda, conservatives have stirred America’s Main Street into action. The progressive protests that are sweeping the country are defending the American Dream itself, the idea that anyone, no matter what their socioeconomic background, can succeed and prosper.

ASSAULT ON THE MIDDLE CLASS: While Walker’s assault on his state’s public employees’ labor rights is the most visible assault on the middle class, conservative governments across the country are waging similar campaigns. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich (R) is backing legislation similar to Wisconsin’s in that would gut the organizing rights of public employees. Kasich has already killed his state’s federally-funded high-speed rail project, which will cost Ohio $400 million in infrastructure investment and thousands of jobs. While he justifies these moves by claiming he’s tackling his state’s deficit, he also is championing a slew of tax cuts that could actually double the state’s deficit. New Jersey’s Gov. Chris Christie (R), who previously vetoed progressive efforts to raise taxes on his state’s millionaires, is trying to ram through steep cuts to education funding and municipal assistance. In Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) has unveiled cuts to the state’s treasured subsidized college tuition program, HOPE, which would lead to hundreds of thousands of college students paying thousands of more dollars out-of-pocket in order to be able to get a higher education. Deal is also cutting overall education spending by seven percent, and he simultaneously plans to dramatically reduce the corporate income tax rate, further reducing the state’s revenue coffers. Gov. John Hickenlooper (D-CO) has dismissed tax increases while simultaneously slashing funding for K-12 education, because, he argued, “That’s where the money is.” Michigan’s Gov. Rick Snyder (R) has unveiled a spending plan that includes “$1.2 billion in cuts to schools, universities, local governments and other areas while asking public employees for $180 million in concessions” while at the same time giving $1.8 billion in tax cuts to businesses.

WORKING AMERICA FIGHTS BACK: To the chagrin of right wingers like Walker, Americans have decided that they don’t want to live in a country where their labor rights are destroyed and their children grow up in the most unequal era since the 1920s. All over the country, ordinary Americans are fighting back, because they understand that if you want a strong middle class you need organized labor and important social services. Yesterday, Indiana House Democrats inspired by Wisconsin’s example fled the state to prevent the passage of a bill that would enact “right-to-work” policies that would cripple the right to organize in the state. After the departure of the House Democrats, hundreds of unionized workers and students marched into the state capitol and began a sit-in in solidarity with the state’s labor unions. Meanwhile, as many as 10,000 union workers and other Ohioans demonstrated both inside and outside the state house in Columbus, as former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) joined the rally to show their support for the protests. So many people showed up that the Ohio Highway Patrol was ordered to lock the doors of the state capitol to stop more demonstrators from getting into the building. At least 2,000 demonstrators rallied in Olympia, WA, against state budget cuts and in solidarity with the Wisconsin protests. In Montana, hundreds of “conservationists, sportsmen, firefighters, teachers, correctional officers and others” gathered at the state capitol to defend the state’s environmental laws and protest budget cuts. Hundreds of teachers in Idaho marched against legislation that would layoff 700 teachers and leave schools severely understaffed. Emboldened, the South Central Federation of Labor, a Wisconsin union federation consisting of 97 unions and representing 45,000 workers, voted on Monday to endorse a general strike if the state’s anti-union law is passed by the legislature. Although the strike would be restricted by federal law thanks to the 1947 anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act, it represents a courageous act of civil disobedience and solidarity.

CONSERVATIVES BACKING DOWN: There is evidence that the massive groundswell of legislative disobedience and grassroots protests that have erupted all over the country have started to succeed in forcing conservative governments to back down. Despite the passage of Indiana’s right-to-work bill out of a House committee, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) “signaled [yesterday] afternoon that Republicans should drop the…bill that has brought the Indiana House to a standstill for two days and imperiled other measures.” Conservative Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) refused to endorse Walker’s anti-union bill for his own state, saying, “My belief is as long as people know what they’re doing, collective bargaining is fine.” Right-wing Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) also said he has no plans to enact a Wisconsin-style law. Although in Michigan, Gov. Snyder does plan to take aim at public worker compensation, he so far has said he’s “not interested in making Michigan a right-to-work state, or going wholesale after the bargaining rights of unionized workers.” One reason these conservatives may be backing down is because they realize Main Street America is against their anti-middle class agenda. A USA Today/Gallup poll found that 61 percent of Americans oppose a Wisconsin-style anti-labor law and only 33 percent favor such a law.

DEFENDING THE AMERICAN DREAM: As CAP Senior Fellow Van Jones writes, this new Main Street progressive movement seeks to “renew and redeem the American Dream.” “It’s time to draw a line in the sand — nationally,” he writes. “Someone has to stand up for common sense and fairness.” A coalition of progressive groups and organizations is taking up this call to “Save the American Dream” by announcing rallies at every single statehouse in the country on Saturday at noon. The groups, led by, are calling for Americans to “[d]emand an end to the attacks on workers’ rights and public services across the country. Demand investment, to create decent jobs for the millions of people who desperately want to work. And demand that the rich and powerful pay their fair share.” It is up to Americans to ensure that states do not balance their budgets by gutting important services and attacking public workers in order to deal with the effects of a recession caused by Wall Street’s misdeeds — not those of policemen, firefighters, teachers, students, and other hard-working middle class Americans.


Tell Senate to Cut Budget Elsewhere: “DON’T KILL THE EPA!”

The Wilderness Society reports, “Last week, the House Majority — on a virtual straight party-line vote — passed an extreme bill that terminated funding for dozens of important environmental programs. One example: the bill would block Interior Secretary Salazar’s new policy that restored protection to millions of acres of wilderness — quality public lands across the West.”

The Wilderness Society says, “If the bill becomes law, we will return to a Bush-era policy of degrading and even destroying America’s wilderness through oil and gas development, off road vehicle abuses, and other forms of development.”

In short, “[t]his radical legislation if passed in the Senate would:

(1) Cut EPA’s budget by 30 percent and cripple the agency’s ability to reduce greenhouse gases that endanger public health and contribute to global warming;
(2) Slash the Land and Water Conservation Fund by 87 percent;
(3) Eliminate $1.2 billion in science funding needed to move away from fossil fuels towards sustainable, non-polluting sources of energy;
(4) Prohibit EPA from enforcing Clean Water Act protections for thousands of American streams and wetlands, and eliminate all funding for the North American Wetlands Conservation Fund;
(5) Cut in half funding for cleanup efforts in the Chesapeake Bay, Puget Sound, Long Island Sound, Great Lakes and Lake Champlain;
(6) Eliminate all funding for the Forest Legacy Program, which restores ecosystems damaged by logging and other forms of development;
(7) Cripple Endangered Species recovery efforts.”

WORSE STILL, The Wilderness Society NOTES, “the [insane] bill leaves untouched $4 billion in annual oil, gas and coal subsidies!”

The Wilderness Society notes that American Senators need to be contacted to save the destruction of almost all environmental oversight regulation in the USA.


In your contact with your senator, you might state:”I am appalled at what the Majority of the House of Representatives has attempted to do to our nation’s environmental laws. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s new Secretarial Order 3310 on Wild Lands would restore the importance of wilderness among the many values of our public lands. I fully support Secretary Salazar’s Wild Lands policy, and hope you will do all you can to prevent the House-passed language from being included in the final continuing resolution for this year.”and

“I also urge you to reject the Continuing Resolution passed by the House Majority. This is an extreme assault on conservation funding, not just for the Wild Lands policy, but for a host of America’s bedrock conservation laws. These cuts will do little to change the long-term deficit, but represent a radical abandonment of a century of bipartisan support for conservation and environmental protection in America.”



Hisham Matar, whose own father disappeared after being imprisoned and tortured under the Libyan Dictator Ghadaffi, has been telling Europeans for years to stop supporting the Libyan Hitler (Ghadaffi), but Europe until now has only played an appeasement game with the Libyan Regime for over a decade. Europe needs to grow up and even provide undercover support for the 6 million victims (the civilian population in Libya).

Already over 1000 people have been assasinated by Ghaddaffi thugs and allies from neighboring countries, such as Chad. America and Asia also need to speak the truth about Ghadaffi’s regime and call it Hitler-like. Listen to Matar’s narration on Democracy Now.–KAS

AMY GOODMAN: In Libya, the government continues its brutal clampdown on the growing uprising against the four-decade rule of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. In a rambling speech aired on state television Tuesday, Gaddafi vowed to fight to his “last drop of blood” rather than leave the country.

MUAMMAR GADDAFI: [translated] I will not leave the country. And I will die as a martyr at the end.

AMY GOODMAN: During his speech, Gaddafi called protesters “rats” and “mercenaries” who wanted to turn Libya into an “Islamic state,” and said enemies of the country “should be put to death.” He also called on his supporters to take back the streets from anti-government protesters.

Gunfire was reported this morning in the capital of Tripoli, and Human Rights Watch says witnesses there describe Libyan forces firing “randomly” at protesters in the past couple of days.

Gruesome photos from Libya have surfaced of burnt corpses and protesters hacked apart. The death toll in the country is unknown, but witnesses reported scores dead. The International Coalition Against War Criminals estimates more than 500 people have been killed, 4,000 wounded, and at least 1,500 missing in Libya since demonstrations began last week.

Several high-ranking Libyan diplomats around the world have resigned. The man considered the Colonel’s number two, Interior Minister Abdul Fattah Younis al Abidi, is among senior figures who have joined the opposition. There are also reports that many top military brass and low-ranking soldiers have defected. Major cities across Libya, including Benghazi and Tobruk, are now reportedly under the control of the opposition.

For more on Libya, we’re joined from London by Hisham Matar, a renowned Libyan novelist. He’s the son of a prominent Libyan dissident, and he’s currently running his own ad hoc news desk informing the Western media of events occurring in Libya.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Hisham Matar. What is the latest you understand is happening in your country, in Libya?

HISHAM MATAR: Well, the latest is that I think what we’re witnessing is the violent lashings of a dying beast, who is willing to go to extreme measures in order to try to cling on to power. It’s definitely unraveling, but the question that remains is that how many more people will this man kill before he either leaves or meets his end, one way or the other. That seems to be the question. And although, yes, most of the East now is under the control of the people, who were demonstrating peacefully in the beginning, before they were attacked, he controls Tripoli, of course. And Tripoli is the central—it’s the capital of the country. And he is hiring mercenaries to fly planes and bomb demonstrators, fire from the air on demonstrators.

There’s a palpable sense of fear. I think the country is actually going through—I think we’re going to live with this trauma for a long time. You know, there’s terrible eyewitness accounts of people huddled in their flats, watching these mercenaries walking up and down the streets with yellow hard caps. I mean, Orwell couldn’t have made it up. And they’re hitting people with sticks and machetes and hammers. And there’s this kind of sort of—I think it’s the recklessness of it and the kind of madness of it that has disturbed most of us.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about Gaddafi’s speech yesterday, and where he gave it in Tripoli?

HISHAM MATAR: Well, he gave it in the part of his big camp in Tripoli where it’s basically a military base, but he lives in the middle of it, which I think says quite a lot about his rule and the nature of his rule and how people view it, that he feels only safe living in the middle of a military camp in the heart of the capital. Part of it was bombed in the air raids that Reagan ordered in the late ’80s, in which several people died, of course. And it was a great gift for Gaddafi, because what it did is it gave him this kind of heroic, kind of man in the third world fighting the great empire kind of image, which is far from the truth about his real [inaudible]—

AMY GOODMAN: And his daughter was killed in that bombing, right?

HISHAM MATAR: Adopted daughter was killed, absolutely, yes, and many people injured. It was a terrible event. And so, what he did was he memorialized the event by keeping the bombed-out building. And so, it’s very symbolic that he was in it yesterday, because he’s basically saying, you know, “I am fighting not my people here. I’m fighting foreign powers that have hired these people to come and depose me.”

What’s interesting is that everything—you know, there’s kind of—there’s, of course, specific different peculiarities about all the speeches that were given by the three dictators that we saw—you know, Ben Ali, then Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, and Mubarak—and Gaddafi, I mean. But there are some similarities. And the similarities are that they all confuse the word “Libya” or “Egypt” or “Tunisia” for themselves. And so, when they’re speaking about the country, they’re really speaking about themselves. And Gaddafi was doing that all the time yesterday. And he was sort of—I mean, it struck me that he was actually being—at that moment during the speech, he is being the victim of his own contradictions and the victim of his own reality, a reality in which, for a long time, this man is surrounded by people who agree with him, who are, for one reason or the other, either because they’re benefiting or they’re frightened, tell him that he is always right. And that’s kind of a—it’s a terrible fate, I think.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the U.N. and what it has done and its significance, the U.N. Security Council issuing a statement urging the Libyan government to end the attack on demonstrators, and then the Libyan diplomats around the world who are resigning?

HISHAM MATAR: I think, yeah, you know, I believe that most of the Libyan diplomats resigning are resigning because they’re genuinely shocked by the reality of how bad this regime is. But I think a lot of them are resigning also because they want to be on the right side of history, and they can see that the ship is sinking. In fact, the ship has been sinking for a few years. You know, there’s been—lots of Libyan diplomats and very senior people in the government have been behaving in a way that suggests that they did sense this coming. So they’ve been sending abroad a lot of money. They’ve been stealing in a way that is just far more nakedly and just on a very large scale.

But as far as Europe is concerned, I think there’s kind of—you know, all of these announcements that we heard that have been very high on sentiment, saying all the right things, but very low on action, I think all that says much more about the corrupt nature of the relationship between Europe, America and the Gaddafi regime than it does about Europe and America, actually. It says much more about that very strange relationship that they’ve had, a kind of a parasitic relationship, in which they were prepared to do business and therefore strengthen the legitimacy, but also the power, of this regime that was oppressing its people and killing its people and funding, you know, various different terrible projects abroad.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Hisham Matar, a novelist, Libyan novelist, based in London, now, with a few others, has set up an ad hoc news group to get people’s accounts from Libya out into the media. What is your understanding of the numbers of casualties, Hisham?

HISHAM MATAR: That’s difficult to verify, Amy. And I spoke to one doctor in a Benghazi hospital three days ago. So, three days ago, when the death counts were officially—when the conservative accounts were saying that the death toll was somewhere around 200. Well, when I spoke to this doctor, he said to me that he had seen 200 bodies in his hospital alone. So it’s very difficult to know.

What is very clear is that this is actually part—although the scale is incredibly horrific, and we’ve never seen anything on this scale before in Libya, these kind of tactics are familiar to us. You know, Gaddafi bombed Darnah in the ’90s when there was an uprising there. Of course, then there weren’t mobile phone pictures going out on Twitter and Facebook; it was sort of a silent event that was hardly reported on, even in the Arabic media. Nobody could verify it. And then, of course, in 1996, he bombed—sorry, he issued orders to assassinate—to execute, summary executions of 1,200 political prisoners in Abu Salim prison, so—again, because they had had a demonstration in the prison. So, this is kind of a familiar tactic; it’s just the scale is much larger. And I suspect, when all is said and done, I would be very surprised if the death count is not much higher than what we’re being told today, which is, as you reported, somewhere around 500.

The Libyan revolution is—I think it’s unique, because Libya is far smaller than Tunisia and Egypt. Tunisia—Libya is only six-and-a-half million people. Yet, in fewer days, today is just—the revolution is only a week old, yet we’ve seen the number of deaths is just much higher than Egypt and Tunisia. And what that says is that it says actually exactly what Seif al-Islam, in his equally bad speech that he gave, Gaddafi’s son, that he gave before his father’s speech, in which he said, you know, Libya is not Tunisia, Libya is not Egypt. And his idea was that Libya is somehow unique and therefore can be ruled in this way forever by his family. But actually, I agree with him that Libya is not Tunisia and not Egypt, in the sense that the Libyan dictator has shown himself to be prepared to kill as many people as he needs to in order to cling on to power, which worries me, because this is—it’s become an emergency now. That’s why these kind of, you know, polite, didactical conversations that are going on in Europe about, “Oh, was it correct for us to have become friends with him in 2003? Should we perhaps, you know, not get so close to dictators like him in the future?”—all that is completely inappropriate and self-indulgent, as far as I’m concerned, because it is an emergency. You know, more people will continue to die if nothing is done.

AMY GOODMAN: Hisham, your father, a political dissident in Libya?

HISHAM MATAR: Yes, my father was a political dissident, and he was kidnapped from his home in Cairo, where he lived in exile, by Egyptian secret service police, who then handed him over to the Libyans. There was a deal done. The Libyans also handed over other Egyptian dissidents hiding in Libya. And money was exchanged. My father was taken to Libya immediately. He was imprisoned in Abu Salim prison, which is an infamous kind of terrible political prison in Tripoli.

AMY GOODMAN: What year was this?

HISHAM MATAR: This was in 1990, March 1990. And he was tortured and imprisoned. And we didn’t know of this. We didn’t know where he was, because the Egyptians lied to us, said that he was actually—they were keeping him in Egypt, and it’s for his own good—the other option would be sending him to Libya—and threatened us to remain quiet. You know, “If you speak, we can’t guarantee his safety,” things like that. So, we were in limbo as a family and, you can imagine, incredibly worried, concerned, not really sure what is the correct thing to do. You know, if we speak, are we really risking his safety? And if we don’t speak, are we somehow becoming complicit with what is happening to him? And about three years into this terrible time, we received a letter that my father smuggled out of Abu Salim prison, in which he detailed everything that happened—when he was taken, the people that took him, and so on. And that’s when we started campaigning very actively.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think countries should do right now, Hisham?

HISHAM MATAR: What do I think what? I’m sorry?

AMY GOODMAN: Countries should do right now about what’s happening? And what did you learn was the fate of your father?

HISHAM MATAR: Well, I don’t know. My father has been subjected to what the U.N. call “enforced disappearance,” political prisoners that are imprisoned and then just vanish into the prison system. I don’t know if my father was killed in 1996 in the massacre that I mentioned, and I don’t know if he was moved somewhere else. So I don’t know whether my father is alive or dead. And it’s this kind of level of contempt that the regime has for anybody that disagrees with them.

You know, there was something actually that—about the speech yesterday, with Gaddafi’s speech. He went on about, you know, “This is a problem, that people didn’t understand what the revolution was about. People didn’t understand what I was talking about.” You know, so it’s like disagreement is always about you not listening. And this reminded me of a terrible detail that my father included in his letter, where, in the middle of the ceiling in the cell where he was imprisoned, they had placed a loudspeaker. And this loudspeaker would play from 6:00 in the morning ’til the end of the night. So, from 6:00 ’til midnight they would play Gaddafi’s speeches and revolutionary songs and slogans. So it’s sort of—the idea is that you didn’t disagree with us because you actually disagreed with us legitimately; you know, you disagreed with us because you’re stupid, you didn’t understand. And that kind of attitude that the regime has towards its people now, it’s just taken a completely different, grotesque scale.

And I think the world now is watching a massacre, and history will hold it responsible, will hold the international community responsible, because—not only because we are watching a dictatorship, an unelected dictatorship, massacring its own people, but we are watching a dictatorship that is—that the world has profited from close relations with. When America and Britain were keen on getting their oil contracts, they moved much faster. They did much more. They were involved in a very active, you know, enthusiastic way. When Gaddafi starts killing his people, nobody knows what to do. I am kind of slightly sort of sympathetic, actually, with Mr. Obama, because he knows that if he comes out and speaks in very clear terms about Gaddafi, it will probably make things worse for the Libyan people. But what that says, actually, what that says, is that the whole enterprise of engaging with somebody like him in the way that they did, and giving him international legitimacy, not only makes life difficult—or, no, it makes life slightly inconvenient for America, but it has made life hell for Libya. You know, it’s given the regime eight more years into power than it needed.

AMY GOODMAN: Hisham Matar, I want to thank you very much for being with us, and of course we’ll continue to follow events taking place in Libya. Again, we don’t know how many are dead. It could be over a thousand, could be 500, could be well of a thousand missing now and thousands injured. Thank you so much for being with us, Hisham Matar, a novelist based in London, putting out news to Western news agencies, spent the last several days running his own ad hoc news desk about events occurring in Libya.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, our own Sharif Abdel Kouddous has returned from Egypt. We’ll get the latest. Stay with us.