Israeli settler youth on the rampage in Hebron

The biblical city of Hebron burned late into the night Thursday, as militant Israeli settler youth went on a violent rampage through Palestinian neighborhoods, burning the property of, shooting at and beating random Palestinians they came across. The militants were reacting to an eviction earlier that day by Israeli security forces of settlers occupying a Hebron house whose ownership is in dispute. Initial indications were that the rioting settlers had injured at least 15 Palestinians, two or three of whom had suffered gunshot wounds, and Israeli security officials were on high alert to prevent any attempted settler terrorist attacks on Palestinian mosques or other facilities. Israeli security officials told Time of their fear that the current confrontation could prompt some militants to try to emulate Baruch Goldstein, the settler lionized by extremists for his massacre of 29 Muslims in a shooting spree at the tomb of Abraham in 1994. [continued…]

Hebron settler riots were out and out pogroms

An innocent Palestinian family, numbering close to 20 people. All of them women and children, save for three men. Surrounding them are a few dozen masked Jews seeking to lynch them. A pogrom. This isn’t a play on words or a double meaning. It is a pogrom in the worst sense of the word. First the masked men set fire to their laundry in the front yard and then they tried to set fire to one of the rooms in the house. The women cry for help, “Allahu Akhbar.” Yet the neighbors are too scared to approach the house, frightened of the security guards from Kiryat Arba who have sealed off the home and who are cursing the journalists who wish to document the events unfolding there.

The cries rain down, much like the hail of stones the masked men hurled at the Abu Sa’afan family in the house. A few seconds tick by before a group of journalists, long accustomed to witnessing these difficult moments, decide not to stand on the sidelines. They break into the home and save the lives of the people inside. The brain requires a minute or two to digest what is taking place. Women and children crying bitterly, their faces giving off an expression of horror, sensing their imminent deaths, begging the journalists to save their lives. Stones land on the roof of the home, the windows and the doors. Flames engulf the southern entrance to the home. The front yard is littered with stones thrown by the masked men. The windows are shattered and the children are frightened. All around, as if they were watching a rock concert, are hundreds of Jewish witnesses, observing the events with great interest, even offering suggestions to the Jewish wayward youth as to the most effective way to harm the family. And the police are not to be seen. Nor is the army. [continued…]

Editor’s Commentpogrom (pə-grŏm’, pō’grəm) – Definition: An organized, often officially encouraged massacre or persecution of a minority group, especially one conducted against Jews.

Avi Issachacharoff’s choice of the term might be appropriate in communicating the gravity of what is happening in Hebron, yet when Palestinians make up the overwhelming majority of the residents this cannot be called a pogrom. What it seems more reminiscent of is an echo that few Israelis dare mention: the attacks on Arabs that were instrumental in bringing about the creation of Israel.

Pakistan won’t cooperate with India

Now in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, when a substantial corpus of circumstantial evidence is confirming a Pakistani connection, Mr. Zardari is recycling old, familiar tactics. He immediately rebuffed Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee’s request to extradite some 20 suspects to India. And he insists that India proffer evidence of Pakistani complicity before the country takes any steps to bring the culprits to book. Moreover, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed and Maulana Masood Azar, the heads of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, continue to operate openly in the Pakistani cities of Lahore and Quetta.

This puts India in a tough spot. The Congress Party-led government in New Delhi cannot reveal the sources and methods of its intelligence intercepts — especially at a moment as politically fraught as the present. Indian policy makers also cannot be seen to do nothing. It is a dangerous impasse.

Given these circumstances, if the U.S. wishes to bolster its growing relationship with India and demonstrate its seriousness in combating the global jihadi menace, it needs to call Pakistan’s bluff. Only sustained American pressure designed to induce Pakistan to dismantle what Indian security analysts refer to as “the infrastructure of terror” will produce the right outcome. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — India and its allies would do well not to blithely parrot American and Israeli rhetoric by using phrases like “the infrastructure of terror”. The conundrum in Pakistan is this: how do you dismantle the infrastructure of terror with dismantling the state?

Who are the Taliban?

If there is an exact location marking the West’s failures in Afghanistan, it is the modest police checkpoint that sits on the main highway 20 minutes south of Kabul. The post signals the edge of the capital, a city of spectacular tension, blast walls, and standstill traffic. Beyond this point, Kabul’s gritty, low-slung buildings and narrow streets give way to a vast plain of serene farmland hemmed in by sandy mountains. In this valley in Logar province, the American-backed government of Afghanistan no longer exists.

Instead of government officials, men in muddied black turbans with assault rifles slung over their shoulders patrol the highway, checking for thieves and “spies.” The charred carcass of a tanker, meant to deliver fuel to international forces further south, sits belly up on the roadside.

The police say they don’t dare enter these districts, especially at night when the guerrillas rule the roads. In some parts of the country’s south and east, these insurgents have even set up their own government, which they call the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the name of the former Taliban government). They mete out justice in makeshift Sharia courts. They settle land disputes between villagers. They dictate the curricula in schools. [continued…]

Policing Afghanistan: An ethnic-minority force enters a Taliban stronghold

In the nineteen-eighties, the Soviet occupation largely spared the Hazara homeland, but they mounted an insurgency nonetheless, singing revolutionary songs whose villains were Pashtuns rather than Soviets. By the nineteen-nineties, when the Sunni Taliban formed around Mullah Omar, the Hazaras had found an Iranian-backed Shiite, Abdul Ali Mazari, to oppose him. Mazari led Hazara attacks on the Taliban, but, in 1995, he was captured, tortured, and thrown from a helicopter near Ghazni, southwest of Kabul. After Mazari, no Hazara leader reached national prominence until the formation of the Karzai government, in 2002. During the Taliban ascendancy, Muhammad Khan and all his men lived in Iran, as refugees. Khan himself has spent twenty years there—most of his life—and he speaks with a slight Iranian accent. Having been treated poorly as refugees, these Hazaras have no lingering fondness for Iran, but they have benefitted from the country’s superior educational standards. This, together with their determination to reëstablish themselves in what some Hazaras regard as their ancestral homeland, makes them effective janissaries for NATO.

The formation of police units like Khan’s gives the Hazaras greater authority outside their own territory than they’ve had in a century. It is also a classic counter-insurgency gambit. Tom Donnelly, a defense analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, who has undertaken a book-length study of NATO in Afghanistan, compares it to the American use of Shiite militias to fight Sunni insurgency in Iraq. “It’s a common tactic in irregular warfare situations to pit the rivalries of an ethnically diverse populace against each other,” he told me. The difficulty is finding a way to avoid unleashing a dispossessed minority on a rampage of revenge against the group it is asked to control.

Alessandro Monsutti, an anthropologist who has studied the Hazaras, fears that the short-term gain of the Hazara units’ efficacy may be outweighed by long-term harm. “They’re very efficient for narrow, military targets,” he told me. “But what about rebuilding the country?” Donnelly, too, acknowledges that the use of ethnic militias could lead to explosive retribution when NATO leaves Afghanistan. (European use of privileged local minorities in colonial Africa contributed to the continent’s most destructive post-colonial wars, including the Rwandan genocide.) The Hazaras have not, historically, fared well in combat with the Pashtuns, although the policemen at Pashmul seem eager to try their luck. When Vollick asked them where he could get more police like them, they replied that they could raise a militia of a thousand men in their homeland, in Daykundi Province. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — During an era in which democracy has been held up as the panacea for most of the world’s problems, something far less idealistic but probably of much more practical value is being overlooked: self-policing.

A fundamental requirement of sustainable civil order is that law enforcement be indigenous. Wherever “the law” looks different — be that in Hazara-policed Pashtun Afghanistan, Israeli-controlled Hebron, or a black inner city with a predominantly white police force — the sense that order is imposed by oppressors on the oppressed, will override a collective interest in civil order.

The real Bill Ayers

Now that the election is over, I want to say as plainly as I can that the character invented to serve this drama wasn’t me, not even close. Here are the facts:

I never killed or injured anyone. I did join the civil rights movement in the mid-1960s, and later resisted the draft and was arrested in nonviolent demonstrations. I became a full-time antiwar organizer for Students for a Democratic Society. In 1970, I co-founded the Weather Underground, an organization that was created after an accidental explosion that claimed the lives of three of our comrades in Greenwich Village. The Weather Underground went on to take responsibility for placing several small bombs in empty offices — the ones at the Pentagon and the United States Capitol were the most notorious — as an illegal and unpopular war consumed the nation.

The Weather Underground crossed lines of legality, of propriety and perhaps even of common sense. Our effectiveness can be — and still is being — debated. We did carry out symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed at monuments to war and racism, and the attacks on property, never on people, were meant to respect human life and convey outrage and determination to end the Vietnam war.

Peaceful protests had failed to stop the war. So we issued a screaming response. But it was not terrorism; we were not engaged in a campaign to kill and injure people indiscriminately, spreading fear and suffering for political ends.

I cannot imagine engaging in actions of that kind today. And for the past 40 years, I’ve been teaching and writing about the unique value and potential of every human life, and the need to realize that potential through education. [continued…]

Team of heavyweights

President-elect Barack Obama has appointed an extraordinary team for national security policy. On its face, it violates certain maxims of conventional wisdom: that appointing to the Cabinet individuals with an autonomous constituency, and who therefore are difficult to fire, circumscribes presidential control; that appointing as national security adviser, secretary of state and secretary of defense individuals with established policy views may absorb the president’s energies in settling disputes among strong-willed advisers.

It took courage for the president-elect to choose this constellation and no little inner assurance — both qualities essential for dealing with the challenge of distilling order out of a fragmenting international system. In these circumstances, ignoring conventional wisdom may prove to have been the precondition for creativity. Both Obama and the secretary of state-designate, Sen. Hillary Clinton, must have concluded that the country and their commitment to public service require their cooperation.

Those who take the phrase “team of rivals” literally do not understand the essence of the relationship between the president and the secretary of state. I know of no exception to the principle that secretaries of state are influential if and only if they are perceived as extensions of the president. Any other course weakens the president and marginalizes the secretary. The Beltway system of leak and innuendo will mercilessly seek to widen any even barely visible split. Foreign governments will exploit the rift by pursuing alternative White House-State Department diplomacies. Effective foreign policy and a significant role for the State Department in it require that the president and the secretary of state have a common vision of international order, overall strategy and tactical measures. Inevitable disagreements should be settled privately; indeed, the ability of the secretary to warn and question is in direct proportion to the discretion with which such queries are expressed. [continued…]

The broken state

In August of this year I flew in to Kabul, a bustling city undergoing a construction boom, with shopping malls, new banks, restaurants and traffic jams, where I stayed in a hotel catering to weary journalists and aid workers. I arranged to meet two Taliban commanders who agreed to take me to their province, Ghazni – about 100 miles south of the capital. They picked me up one day from a posh Kabul neighbourhood in an innocuous-looking car and we headed south. We drove past barren rocky mountains, desolate Afghan Army checkpoints being punished by the wind, roadside shacks selling food and drinks and herds of camels.

Heading southwest from Kabul, we crossed into Wardak province, and into a war zone. The burning carcasses of supply lorries meant for American and British bases in the south littered both sides of the road, and craters blown by the roadside bombs the Taliban deploy against convoys blocked our path every few minutes. Before long we were forced to stop by a battle raging ahead between the Taliban and American and Nato forces, whose explosions shook the car.

There are too many symptoms of Afghanistan’s decline to inventory, but the roads are an easy place to start, a clear sign of the shrinking zone of order that now barely reaches beyond the outskirts of Kabul. We were driving on the “ring road”, the most critical thoroughfare in Afghanistan, and the fastest, most direct and practical way of travelling between major cities – if you ignore the mounting risk. It is the only road that even resembles a motorway in Afghanistan, and the only viable route for large supply convoys. The only alternatives are small provincial roads, many just gravel or dirt – on which a journey can take days rather than hours. The section of the ring road between Kabul and Kandahar, rebuilt with international funds in 2003, was a crucial connection between the two main American bases at Bagram and Kandahar and linked the two halves of the country, reducing a two-day trip to six hours. Now bridges along the route have been destroyed, and the transport of supplies to support the Afghan government and coalition forces has become difficult. The Taliban continue to mount audacious ambushes against convoys, destroying dozens of lorries at a time and killing some of the drivers. [continued…]

Looking for the ideal spot to make a speech

President-elect Barack Obama’s aides say he is considering making a major foreign policy speech from an Islamic capital during his first 100 days in office.

So where should he do it? The list of Islamic world capitals is long, and includes the obvious —Riyadh, Kuwait City, Islamabad — and the not-so-obvious — Male (the Maldives), Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso), Tashkent (Uzbekistan). Some wise-guys have even suggested Dearborn, Mich., as a possibility.

Clearly it would be cheating for Mr. Obama to fly to Detroit, talk to Dearborn’s 30,000 Arab residents and call it a day. And Male and Ouagadougou, while certainly majority Muslim, can’t really be what Mr. Obama’s aides have in mind when they talk about locales for a high-profile speech that would seek to mend rifts between the United States and the broader Muslim world.

So Burkina Faso and the Maldives are out. But that leaves a whole swath of Islamic capitals, all ready to be spruced up for Mr. Obama to make his speech. I’ve thought hard about this, and asked a few people — diplomats even — which capital Mr. Obama should pick.

The consensus, after an entire day of reporting, is Cairo. [continued…]

Editor’s Comment — The consensus in the NYT newsroom might be Cairo, but unless Helene Cooper is cheating (because team Obama already gave her a tip), I suspect she’ll turn out to be wrong. My bet goes on Doha. Rather than honor an old tyrant like Husni Mubarak, I think Obama will be more interested in forging a closer relationship with Qatar’s prime minister and foreign minister, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani, perhaps the only Middle Eastern leader who has demonstrated a knack for dealing effectively with every major player in the region.

Blackwater guards indicted in deadly Baghdad shooting

Five Blackwater Worldwide Security guards have been charged in a September 2007 shooting that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead and raised questions about the U.S. government’s use of security contractors in combat zones, according to two sources familiar with the case.

The guards, all former U.S. military personnel, worked as security contractors for the State Department, assigned to protect U.S. diplomats and other nonmilitary officials in Iraq.

Federal prosecutors obtained the indictment Thursday, and it was sealed. Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District, declined to comment on the investigation. The exact nature of the charges could not be determined. The five security guards are expected to surrender to authorities on Monday, the sources said.

Authorities have not publicly identified the guards.

The indictment caps a year-long investigation into the shooting, which occurred Sept. 16, 2007, when the guards’ convoy arrived in Baghdad’s bustling Nisoor Square. [continued…]

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