Nur al-Cubicle

A blog on the current crises in the Middle East and news accounts unpublished by the US press. Daily timeline of events in Iraq as collected from stories and dispatches in the French and Italian media: Le Monde (Paris), Il Corriere della Sera (Milan), La Repubblica (Rome), L'Orient-Le Jour (Beirut) and occasionally from El Mundo (Madrid).

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Psych-Out Primary

I live in Florida. Today the state had a Democratic primary that doesn't count..unless you are Hillary Clinton. Barak Obama played by the rules, and lost!

In my opinion, the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries boil down to a display of boosterism. When a state the size of Florida goes to the polls, it's for real. But Howard Dean was furious that Florida Democrats decided to assert the weight of the state in the primaries and so he scotched our vote and made the Democrats running for President sign a pledge not to campaign here. We voters were to be shunned, except those giving money to Hillary Clinton, who just happened to be in the state to attend fundraisers (totally unrelated to the primary, of course) last weekend.

Then, this afternoon, before the polls had closed, the Clinton campaign organized a conference call (I really don't know precisely what this is, but back in 2004, Howard Dean would conference with supporters holding small, private fundraisers).
The Clinton campaign, in a conference call billed as “Why Florida Matters” just a short while ago, wants it known that it now believes Florida’s delegates should be seated at the convention.
Obama, you have been the victim of a psych-out. Hillary is now in Davie, north of Miami, at, get this, a victory rally!

p.s. I am happy to report that in my district, Obama trounced Hillary by getting 46% the vote compared to Hillary's 35%.
p.p.s. This is Baptist country...and they all voted for Romney. Now that says something about evangelicals actually liking Romney.

Postmortem. When living in Western NY, one of the nicest, smartest, dedicated, achieving Democrats with a sense of humor I ever met ran for municipal judge and was trounced by the machine, which supported someone who couldn't by any measure hold a candle to my candidate. In my heart of hearts, I know that Obama is the right man for the moment but he's up against the machine, which, while creaky in South Carolina, is probably well-oiled in California and New York. I suppose the lesson is a political campaign is a war, with no room for being right (integrity) or giving sincere, inspiring speeches. Winning is all that matters. And we are all the lesser for it.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Portrait of George Habash

Photo via L'Orient Le-Jour

From Le Monde, 26 January 2008

George Habash, the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) passed away on Saturday, January 26th, in Amman, Jordan where resided since 1992. He was 81 years old. George Habash resigned as Secretary General of the PFLP, a radical nationalist movement in July 2000 after having led the organization for more than thirty years.

A charismatic individual, he was always the most popular of the historical leaders of the Palestinian national liberation movement. His popularity cascaded across the entire movement despite its terrorist drift during the 1970’s. A Christian Palestinian physician trained at the American University in Beirut, he abandoned his profession to devote himself to a tireless struggle against the State of Israel and its Western supporters, notably marked by aircraft hijackings.

Suffering a cerebral hemorrhage in 1992, he was hospitalized in France, which caused a major scandal at the time.

Convinced of the necessity of pursuing the struggle to recover lost land until the bitter end, George Habash always personified the “front of refusal” within the Palestinian movement. All his political acts were characterized by rejection of compromise. From time to time, however, he did make concessions, but most of these were mere formalities. Embittered by the Arab defeat of June 1957, he became an advocate of Marxism, the “popular struggle” against Israel and revolution throughout the Arab world, attributing his former anti-communism to his bourgeois upbringing and his immersion in Anglo-Saxon culture.

George Habash was born in Lydda in 1926 to a family of Greek Orthodox Christian merchants. When he was 22 years old when the State of Israel was created. He watched as Lydda was emptied of its Arab residents, including members of his own family. Profoundly scarred by the event, he began to militate at the American University of Beirut, where he was a medical student. Participating in demonstrations in which several of his comrades were killed, he showed himself to be leader of men. But this did not prevent him from graduating first in his class in Medicine in 1951.

Together with other students, Hani al-Hindi (Syrian), Ahmed el-Khatib (Kuwaiti) and Wadih Haddad (Palestinian), he founded the Arab Nationalist Movement (AMN). The founding members of the movement dispersed to found branches in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait and Aden. Habash went to Amman. There he created a school for refugees and a “people’s dispensary” where he worked as a pediatrician until 1957. When martial law was proclaimed in Jordan in April 1957, he was forced underground. Several bombings were blamed on the ANM and Habash was sentenced in absentia to 30 years in prison.

The unification of Syria and Egypt in February 1958 provided him with refuge and he resided in Damascus for five years where he espoused Nasserism, as every good Arab nationalist of the time. But relations deteriorated between the Nasserites and the Baathists, who in the interim had taken power in Damascus, and Habash went Beirut. In December 1967, he began to devote himself entirely to the Palestinian cause. Returning to Damascus, he founded the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, formed from the merger of three groups: The Heros of the Return, Youth for Vengeance and Ahmed Jibril’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The PFLP will undergo a series of split-offs, the most significant of which were those led by Ahmed Jabril and Nayef Hawatmeh.

[To be continued...]

Friday, January 25, 2008

The daily blunder - another police massacre

Soldiers serving in the international coalition led by the United States shot and killed nine Afgani police in central Afghanisan, including an officer and his wife. The Coalition, which had announced that it killed several "Taliban" during the night, said it would investigate the "allegations" of the locals. The people of Ghazni, 100 km south of Kabul, marched through the streets to protest the killings, shouting "Death to America!". [Via L'Orient-Le Jour]

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Italy: The Blackshirts are Back

The Prodi government has fallen and blackshirts (see picture at the top of this post) have taken to the streets in Rome. If this scares the pants off you, it should.

Prodi's misery is all the fault of a certain squirrelly character by the name of Clemente Mastella, a right wing Catholic with sympathies for fascist l'Allianza Nazionale party and a friend of The Mob.

Prodi's unwise decision to name him Justice Minister was the result of compromise. The majority governs with a razor thin margin, provided by Mastella's centrist party, the UDEUR, which had demanded the Defense portfolio but received Justice. Mastella's wife, who serves in local government in the south, was recently indicted on corruption charges and Mastella himself has been under investigation for corruption and abuse of power since October.

Mastella resigned a few days ago, setting off such a tumult that there was vote of confidence in the Prodi government. The vote passed in the lower house but failed in the Senate, where the UDEUR abandoned the government. One courageous UDEUR Senator, Nuccio Cusumano, was mobbed and gagged when he attempted to vote to support the government (middle photo). Sorry! The photo is of UDEUR Senator Tommaso Barbato, who was shouting obscenities at Cusumano. Barbato also attempted to assault Cusumano, who collapsed in the commotion and was carried out on a stretcher. The UDEUR does have _some_ integrity. It threw Barbato out of the party that evening.

The Berlusconi-led right is positively gleeful to the point that they popped champagne in the National Assembly.

Dark days ahead.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Don't think that a damned thing has changed in Afghanistan

The Western effort there doesn't mean a thing:

An Afghan journalist held in prison for three months has been condemned to death by the First Court of Northern Afghanistan for "blasphemy". The family of Perwiz Kambakhsh, 23, received written notification of the death sentence handed down by the court in Balkh Province. The trial was held behind closed doors. Mr. Kambakhsh was arrested for handing out tracts "insulting Islam" at the University of Balkhh. [Via L'Orient-Le Jour]

Into the breach!

The Palestinians of Gaza have had enough and, with a swarm of people and a bulldozer in the service of humanity for once, took down the whole damn wall near Rafah.

See the whole heartwarming photogallery here, at Corriere Della Sera

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Robert Gates: Ignorance on display

Another history-impaired Administration functionary has just embarrassed himself by lashing out at NATO: "They can't fight insurgent wars! They're locked in a Fulda Gap mindset."

Well, apart the glaring fact that the alliance is an anti-Russian treaty, no they can't, Robert, because they are not colonial powers anymore. As a matter of history, they had plenty of experience fighting insurgent wars in Vietnam, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaya and Algeria that killed hundreds of thousands, to mention only the biggest and bloodiest.

Gates has some gall to make such a statement in public, because I seem to remember scores of Spaniards, Italians, British, Dutch and Canadians dying for Uncle Sam in Afghanistan. When you have allies such as these, countries with leaders maintaining a military presence in Afghanistan despite domestic objection, some of who are even non grata in Washington (Zapatero), you keep your mouf' shut. I see that the Hague is hopping mad, and Holland has been one of the big cheerleaders for maintaining NATO troops in Afghanistan.

Perhaps rather than asking for higher body counts, Mr. Gates should consider what the hell he is trying to achieve in Afghanistan (besides revenge) in the first place.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Saudis Say "No" to Bush

During the second day of his visit to Saudi Arabia, George Bush endured a series of reverses handed to him by Riyahd. The Saudi Foreign Affairs Minister, Saud al-Faisal, declared that the kingdom had "nothing against Iran; it an important neighboring state" and that it could do nothing more in relation to Israel to foster Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Meanwhile, in Cairo where Turkish President Abdullah Gül is meeting with Hosni Mubarek, both leaders warned against military action against Tehran.

[Via L'Orient-Le Jour]

Galileo gives the Pope the Boot

There is the matter of 5-centuries old feud between the University of Rome - La Sapienza and the Vatican. Ever since the Pope burnt Giordano Bruno at the stake and made Galileo swallow his words. The Pope Ratzinger's announced visit to the university raised a ruckus...faculty and students banded together to protest the visit and the end,the Pope renounce the visit. Secular Humanism is alive and well, judging the comments at La Repubblica's web site:

Franco: Great news! The Vatican had to give it up. Maybe they've understood that their policies do not belong to our times. I'm proud of La Sapienza, its students and faculty. When will the rest of Italy understand that the Church is our ruin?

Federico: Very happy. What does religion have to do with science?

Alex: The Vatican disgusts me they way it arrogantly insinuates itself into our civil society.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Filipino Monkey

Yes, The Navy Times reports that was ham radio operator "Filipino Monkey" whose mangled Farsi on Channel 16 caused the warmongers at CNN/Fox to cheer for a week.

They come on and say ‘Filipino Monkey’ in a strange voice. They might say it two or three times. You’re standing watch on bridge and you’re monitoring Channel 16 and all of a sudden it comes over the radio. It can happen anytime. It’s been a joke out there for years.”

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Che Balle!

Cristo, we have the lyingest head of state in the world. Bush today in the United Arab Emirates did what the Italians say is "sparare grosso" (tell a whopper): "Iran finances al-Qaeda". Well, at least Italian Foreign Minister D'Alema has come out and said something: "Bush is unnecessarily scaremongering". Thank you Signor D'Alema!

As Bush is whining about Iranian nuclear power plants while visiting the Arabian Gulf States, Nicholas Sarkozy will be in Saudi Arabia tomorrow. I find it quite extraordinary the both Presidents Sarkozy and Bush will be in the area concurrently. Sarkozy is to said to be selling French nuclear reactors to Abu Dhabi. Back in Paris, Tony Blair was guest of honor at the UMP's (Right-Sarkozy's party) party congress.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Presidents on Parade

I really hate it when US Presidents are paraded in front of the Wailing Wall ->wearing a yarmulke. I think it's undignified on a state visit. Privately, who cares?

Springtime for Baathists...

If only someone had predicted this headline in February 2003: "US President George W Bush has praised a new law in Iraq that will allow former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party to return to public life." [Via BBC]