Live from Brussels

Musings from a bored analyst/project-manager.
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Friday, September 13, 2002
How to deal with peaceniks

A pretty interesting way of dealing with people who say that peace should prevail at all costs can be found over at JunkYard Blog. (scroll down to 'Meanwhile in Charm City). Hint: it has to do with beating up old people...

Bush's speech

One of these days I'm going to have to put a link in my blogroll to ScrappleFace. Today, he has a great bit of satire about the effect of Bush's speech, and a more effective way to convince the UN delegates...

Nigerian Spam Scam

For those of you who have never heard of this, the Nigerian Spam Scam is a type of e-mail spam promising you a percentage of a huge load of money if you help transfer it out of Africa by letting someone deposit it in your own bank account. Naturally, the money never materializes, while the victim gets hit upon time after time to pay for 'legal fees', costs, expenses etc. Sometimes attempts at identity theft are also made. That's why this website is so funny: some guy is taking these scammers for a ride... Unbelievable how gullible they are. Just an example: when they asked for a scan of his passport, he sent them this, and they bought it!

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Seems like I shouldn't have been so quick, this image is from september 11th last year. But the US flag remained like this for months, while the next day the rest went back to normal...

Old Glory

As I drove to work this morning past NATO-HQ here in Brussels, sure enough the US flag was at half-pole. And, just like last year, none of the other flags were. Says a lot about this 'alliance', doesn't it?


It seems useless to link to him here, because you probably all read him anyway, but today's bleat from James Lileks is an excellent look back at september 11th, and all the things people thought would be happening.

Pictures say more than words...

Terror gadgets

Apparently now the Palestinians are selling terror lighters, shaped like the twin towers of the WTC and Osama Bin Laden's head. When a button is pressed, a flame shoots out of Osama's head.
Hmm, I think I remember the event they are depicting here... Didn't some unnamed US pilot press a button last year, after which a flame shot out of Osama's head?

Tuesday, September 10, 2002
Just my luck...

Getting InstaPundit'ed just when the comment system breaks down again... That's it, I'm switching comment systems!


When I was a student I studied linguïstics, and so I have also read the 'other' Chomsky, the great linguïst, the one who is almost never discussed in the blogosphere. Maybe that's because as a linguïst he actually had some interesting ideas, while his political writing is so dense it isn't even funny anymore. The latest example is in The Guardian (where else?).

Here is the entire thing, with my comments in italics. My very first attempt at 'Fisking', BTW.

"By attacking Iraq, the US will invite a new wave of terrorist attacks"
And by doing nothing, the US will probably also invite a wave of, potentially nuclear, attacks. Compare to this imaginary 1941 headline: "By attacking Japan, the US will invite a new wave of attacks against it's navy".

"The president is not the first to ask: 'Why do they hate us?' In a staff discussion 44 years ago, President Eisenhower described 'the campaign of hatred against us [in the Arab world], not by the governments but by the people'. His National Security Council outlined the basic reasons: the US supports corrupt and oppressive governments and is 'opposing political or economic progress' because of its interest in controlling the oil resources of the region."
If the US is supporting corrupt and oppressive regimes, then why aren't they supporting Saddam? And the mullahs in Iran? The Syrians? And why are the oppressive Saudis so nervous then? Oh, and where is the oil in Israel? (assuming that Chomsky labels Israel as oppressive and corrupt, which I assume he does)

"Post-September 11 surveys in the Arab world reveal that the same reasons hold today, compounded with resentment over specific policies. Strikingly, that is even true of privileged, western-oriented sectors in the region. To cite just one recent example: in the August 1 issue of Far Eastern Economic Review, the internationally recognised regional specialist Ahmed Rashid writes that in Pakistan 'there is growing anger that US support is allowing [Musharraf's] military regime to delay the promise of democracy'."
Democracy... replacing Musharraf the evil general by Mohammed the evil mullah is not called democracy. Not on our planet, anyway, Noam. And this Ahmed Rashid seems to be very well thought of in Berkeley, which doesn't seem to make him too objective to begin with.

"Today we do ourselves few favours by choosing to believe that "they hate us" and "hate our freedoms". On the contrary, these are attitudes of people who like Americans and admire much about the US, including its freedoms. What they hate is official policies that deny them the freedoms to which they too aspire."
You mean, like the 'government policies' in most of these countries banning free speech, elections, opposition parties, etc? No wonder they admire the US...

"For such reasons, the post-September 11 rantings of Osama bin Laden - for example, about US support for corrupt and brutal regimes, or about the US "invasion" of Saudi Arabia - have a certain resonance, even among those who despise and fear him. From resentment, anger and frustration, terrorist bands hope to draw support and recruits.
So if the US helps them, that will cause terrorists to spring up, and if the US tries to topple them, it will also cause terrorists to spring up. Such a difficult choice...

We should also be aware that much of the world regards Washington as a terrorist regime. In recent years, the US has taken or backed actions in Colombia, Nicaragua, Panama, Sudan and Turkey, to name a few, that meet official US definitions of "terrorism" - that is, when Americans apply the term to enemies."
What, deliberate and pre-meditated efforts to kill as many civilians as possible, in order to push some political goal? Can't really say I remember the US ever going in saying: let's kill as many locals as we can, Freedom ahkbar!

"In the most sober establishment journal, Foreign Affairs, Samuel Huntington wrote in 1999: "While the US regularly denounces various countries as 'rogue states,' in the eyes of many countries it is becoming the rogue superpower ... the single greatest external threat to their societies."
Maybe that is because their societies have certain... problems? Like a lack of individual freedom, no rights for women, religious intolerance...? And what exactly is bad again about threatening such society?

"Such perceptions are not changed by the fact that, on September 11, for the first time, a western country was subjected on home soil to a horrendous terrorist attack of a kind all too familiar to victims of western power. The attack goes far beyond what's sometimes called the "retail terror" of the IRA, FLN or Red Brigades.

The September 11 terrorism elicited harsh condemnation throughout the world and an outpouring of sympathy for the innocent victims. But with qualifications.

An international Gallup poll in late September found little support for "a military attack" by the US in Afghanistan. In Latin America, the region with the most experience of US intervention, support ranged from 2% in Mexico to 16% in Panama."
And in Taliban-held Afghanistan, support was probably 0%... The point being?

"The current "campaign of hatred" in the Arab world is, of course, also fuelled by US policies toward Israel-Palestine and Iraq. The US has provided the crucial support for Israel's harsh military occupation, now in its 35th year. "
That's what you get from attacking a country... they fight back and occupy you. And if you then start killing civilians, they might even 'harshly' occupy you.

One way for the US to lessen Israeli-Palestinian tensions would be to stop refusing to join the long-standing international consensus that calls for recognition of the right of all states in the region to live in peace and security, including a Palestinian state in the currently occupied territories (perhaps with minor and mutual border adjustments).
As soon as the Palestinians stop refusing to join the long-standing international consensus that it is wrong to intentionally target civilians in random terror attacks, there might actually be a chance of this coming true. And for *****-sake, Bush himself said he wasn't opposed to a Palestinian State. So what's this bullshit about refusing to join the consensus anyway?

"In Iraq, a decade of harsh sanctions under US pressure has strengthened Saddam Hussein while leading to the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis - perhaps more people "than have been slain by all so-called weapons of mass destruction throughout history", military analysts John and Karl Mueller wrote in Foreign Affairs in 1999."
Interestingly enough, sanctions were the first thing the left called for when Saddam invaded Kuwait, because going to war "wouldn't solve anything". And if Saddam had let in the weapons inspectors in the first place, none of those Iraqi's would have died because there wouldn't have been any sanctions to begin with!

"Washington's present justifications to attack Iraq have far less credibility than when President Bush Sr was welcoming Saddam as an ally and a trading partner after he had committed his worst brutalities - as in Halabja, where Iraq attacked Kurds with poison gas in 1988. At the time, the murderer Saddam was more dangerous than he is today."
Because, well, umm, the US Airforce bombed his army to smithereens? Under the command of, oh, Bush Sr, I believe? So is Bush Sr bad for welcoming him as an ally, going to war with him or trying to change his mind through sanctions? Which one is it, Chomsky?

"As for a US attack against Iraq, no one, including Donald Rumsfeld, can realistically guess the possible costs and consequences. Radical Islamist extremists surely hope that an attack on Iraq will kill many people and destroy much of the country, providing recruits for terrorist actions."
Let them hope... In the mean time, much of Iraq's population probably hopes an attack will free them of a terrible dictatorship, while people in the West hope they will gain safety from WMD's

"They presumably also welcome the "Bush doctrine" that proclaims the right of attack against potential threats, which are virtually limitless. The president has announced: "There's no telling how many wars it will take to secure freedom in the homeland." That's true."
Unfortunately. But no reason not to wage them. There was no way to tell how long WWII would last either, yet no-one in their right mind considered this as an argument for not entering it anyway, after being attacked.

"Threats are everywhere, even at home. The prescription for endless war poses a far greater danger to Americans than perceived enemies do, for reasons the terrorist organisations understand very well."
That's why the US has civil liberties organisations, and a democratically elected government. If the American people think the war should stop, they'll vote someone in office who will stop it. And if the US government ever tries to tinker with that right, there's always the second amendment to their constitution...

"Twenty years ago, the former head of Israeli military intelligence, Yehoshaphat Harkabi, also a leading Arabist, made a point that still holds true. "To offer an honourable solution to the Palestinians respecting their right to self-determination: that is the solution of the problem of terrorism," he said. "When the swamp disappears, there will be no more mosquitoes." "
I thought they tried this in Oslo... and failed! I hope for the Palestinians that they understand one day Israel's patience with swatting mosquitoes will run out, and that on that day the swamp will be napalmed and sterilized. In fact, it's a credit to the Israeli's that they still haven't done so...

"At the time, Israel enjoyed the virtual immunity from retaliation within the occupied territories that lasted until very recently. But Harkabi's warning was apt, and the lesson applies more generally.

Well before September 11 it was understood that with modern technology, the rich and powerful will lose their near monopoly of the means of violence and can expect to suffer atrocities on home soil.

If we insist on creating more swamps, there will be more mosquitoes, with awesome capacity for destruction."
All the more reason to go over there, kill the mosquitoes, drain the swamps and install friendly, democratic regimes, no?

"If we devote our resources to draining the swamps, addressing the roots of the "campaigns of hatred", we can not only reduce the threats we face but also live up to ideals that we profess and that are not beyond reach if we choose to take them seriously. "
Great idea, Noam, let's kill some of those root causes, and bomb the people who fund them... and then bring them some of that Freedom, Justice and Democracy!