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Bloviating Zeppelin: July 2004

Bloviating Zeppelin

(in-ep-toc'-ra-cy) - a system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Core Source of Iraqi Dissension Identified?

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

WASHINGTON — American and Iraqi joint patrols, along with U.S. Special Operations teams, captured two men with explosives in Baghdad on Monday who identified themselves as Iranian intelligence officers, FOX News has confirmed.

Senior officials said it was previously believed that Iran had officers inside Iraq stirring up violence, but this is the first time that self-proclaimed Iranian intelligence agents have been captured within the country.

The Defense officials also confirmed to FOX News that in recent days there has been significant success in tracking down "known bad guys" based on information from local citizens. While those captured aren't from the list of former regime members or from terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's network, they are "active" bombers and organizers of recent violence.

The arrest of the two Iranians suspected of attempting to carry out a vehicle bombing has focused new attention on how Tehran is trying to protect its interests in the country it fought for eight years in a devastating war.

So far, Iran is believed to have used money, not guns, to influence Iraq — particularly by spreading wealth among Shiite political factions — while avoiding a direct confrontation with its longtime rival the United States.

Monday's arrests came on the heels of comments by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari (search) saying some neighboring countries were financing and training terrorists in Iraq, apparently referring to Iran and Syria.

Syrian President Bashar Assad (search), at the end of a two-day trip to Iran on Monday, said developments in Iraq are "the most important issue" for Syria and other neighbors of Iraq, including Iran.

Iran's powerful former President Hashemi Rafsanjani (search) said Syria, Iran and Turkey should coordinate their policies to prevent the disintegration of Iraq, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported on Monday.

The "conspiracies" being hatched by "Washington and Tel Aviv" against Iraq call for increased "strategic cooperation" between Iran and Syria, Rafsanjani was quoted as saying.

The announcement of the arrests by the Iraqi Interior Ministry was a rare instance tying Iranians to a particular attack.

Iranians enraged that Shiite shrines in Iraq were damaged in fighting between U.S. troops and Iraqi insurgents have volunteered to join the battle against the Americans.

Iranian officials have said they would try to stop zealots from crossing the border — and Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (search), has refused to give a green light to one group, the Devotees for Martyrdom, that says it's eager to fight in Iraq.

Tehran insists it has no interest in fomenting instability in its neighbor to the west — and many observers say that a smooth path to elections could benefit mostly Shiite Iran, since a vote will likely bring an Iraqi government dominated by Shiites.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told reporters Sunday that Tehran wants only "stability and security in Iraq."

"We haven't done any action that may smell of an act of interference in Iraq's internal affairs from the very beginning, and won't do so in the future either," Asefi said.

Tehran fears the United States is cementing its influence in Iraq. But at the same time, Iran can little afford an open clash with the Americans — something that backing for anti-U.S. violence would likely bring about.

To date, Iran has not been considered a source of manpower or financing for Iraq's mainly Sunni Muslim insurgency, said a Western diplomat in Baghdad who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Instead, it is believed to be involved in intelligence gathering inside Iraq, while quietly funding Shiite political parties in a bid to influence the government that emerges from January's elections, the diplomat said.

"Iran wants to be a silent power broker," said Iranian political analyst Davoud Hermidas Bavand. "And Iran needs to make sure that the government in Iraq will not be America's puppet."

The United States, which has been at odds with Iran since the pro-U.S. shah was toppled in the 1979 Islamic revolution, fears Iran wants to establish a fundamentalist Shiite regime in its own image in Iraq.

Saddam brutally suppressed Iraq's Shiites and fought a devastating war with Iraq from 1980-88 that is thought to have killed a million people from the two sides.

Since Saddam's fall, Washington has repeatedly accused Tehran of sending money to various Iraqi groups, dispatching intelligence agents and allowing foreign anti-American fighters to travel to Iraq through its territory. Iran has persistently denied the charges.

Iranians have been detained previously in Iraq — U.S. records show several people listed as born in Iran as currently in American custody — but none has been publicly accused of involvement in violence.

Members of Devotees for Martyrdom (search), a loose grouping of Iranian religious extremists, have said they will go to Iraq as soon as Khamenei gives them the go-ahead.

But Khamenei did nothing when Iranian officials barred volunteers from entering Iraq earlier this year when fighting between U.S.-led coalition forces and militiamen loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr (search) damaged Shiite shrines.

Grand Ayatollah Kazem al-Hosseini al-Haeri, al-Sadr's Iran-based spiritual mentor, has said it wasn't yet time for military confrontation with the United States.

Iran is believed to be trying to win influence with both al-Sadr and Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric, the Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani (search).

Iraqis in the southern holy cities have expressed suspicions that offices set up by Iranians ostensibly dispensing charity or providing assistance to Shiite pilgrims might be covers for Iranian government agents.

Mohammad Ali Samadi, a spokesman for the Devotees for Martyrdom, said private Iranian charitable funds were going to a variety of Iraqi groups. He would not specify the groups.

"Iran enjoys a lot of spiritual influence in Iraq," Samadi told The Associated Press. "Iran does offer financial support to Shiites, but in the form of charity. However, it doesn't send any intelligence agents."

Iran long has maintained close ties with a variety of Iraqi groups, including Iraq's largest Shiite group, the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution of Iraq (search), and the two powerful Kurdish groups controlling northern Iraq, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (search) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (search). The Kurdish parties are not Shiite.

Iran's contacts with Ahmad Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress (search) led to U.S. accusations that Chalabi, once a U.S. favorite to replace Saddam, passed classified intelligence to Iran. Iran said it has had a constant dialogue with Chalabi, whose group had offices in Tehran before the war, but denied that he handed over sensitive information.


And BTW, John Kerry chose his Vice President today, Tuesday, July 6th (earlier than any other candidate in 50 years): John Edwards. Chris Matthews on Hardball reports that Edwards was Kerry's third choice, behind John McCain, and Florida Senator Bob Graham. Rumor has it that Tuh-RAY-zuh doesn't care for Mr. Edwards due to the prior rhetoric. OFW. BABAGOI.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Iraqi Sovereignty: Two Disparate Views

The United States turned over sovereignty to Iraq two days prior to the officially acknowledged day.

My father, who is 84, and I have had numerous discussions about this very same topic and we, to this day, agree to disagree. I believe there are many factors shadowing our respective views.

Whereas I prefer to research and predicate my views and writings upon facts and reality, I am temporarily abandoning my research tendencies for the nagging and twisted feelings (how I dislike writing that word!) I am experiencing regarding Iraq and its interlinked future with the United States.

First: my father clearly thinks we made a horrible mistake by even considering moving into Iraq. He's never given me an alternative action, but believes we shouldn't be spending millions and millions of dollars and the lives of soldiers for this action.

I tend to think in these terms (because it is my current job to manage people, parts, tools and assets): Okay. Then what's your suggestion? What is your alternate course of action? What would you have done? What would you do now?

I suppose what I'm saying is this: it's easy to criticize. But unless you propose solutions to the questions raised, you have nothing for me. What matters is not the criticism. What matters are the solutions and answers proposed. And from these, a logical and systematic sifting of these ideas.

Don't just tell me you don't like something. Give me some options. Provide proposals, alterate thoughts, logical arguments based in facts, history, precedent and, moreover, concise thinking directed at the specific problems at hand. For lack of a better phrase (Ucko! Hok! Ptui!): "thinking out of the box."

I see very little of this from the "liberal" or "left wing" side of things. Any 4th grader can criticize. Do more: "give me solutions or shut the hell up."

A "conservative" radio talk show host recently went to a showing of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" and made an observation that the greater bulk of the audience consisted of persons over 60+ years of age -- which tends to indicate that this age group is buying into Mr. Moore's propagandic exposition, running quite artistically and profitably, thank you, to hundreds and hundreds of theatres nationwide.

I believe I have an explanation for this phenomenon and the fact that my very own father finds our response to Iraq overboard and beyond logic. I chalk it up to the fact that he and many others of his time represent, in truth, "The Greatest Generation."

And that, truly, may be their greatest downfall.

It is why their generation of elderly make the easiest targets for half-baked solicitations, advertisements, door-to-door criminals, gypsies, transients and the like.

Despite what they've seen and experienced, they still believe in the Inherent Goodness of Man. It was true for their time and many wish to believe it still.

I believe that, in their hearts and guts, they cannot understand nor stomach anything even remotely resembling a pre-emptive response to threats made upon their country (I'm still not convinced the country itself realizes Militant Islam is a threat).

In their day, in their schools, in their society, there was logic and common sense and a systematic progression to life that is not present today. Very little makes sense anymore. Society is nothing like what they experienced growing up.


And this perception ranges from our music to our movies to our television (which they find themselves almost prisoners of) to our newspapers, to our magazines, to our children and our grandchildren (many of whom are cared-for by Grandparents on behalf of their brain-dead, stupid or loser children -- which they cannot acknowledge because, after all, they believe in the best in us all).

It's as I've said before to many of my friends: Life will get better when my generation, the Baby Boomers, die out. It can't happen too soon. We took our parents' ethos, codes, sense of duty, honor, loyalty, responsibility and turned them upside down because we could -- because we took advantage of our parents' inherent and innate goodness.

And then we took things further because we could: we wanted it all because we thought we deserved it -- but at the expense of our children. We thought Quality Time meant just that: a few minutes every day expended just for our children when, in fact, children demand minute-by-minute monitoring.

After all, we took our children to T-ball, to Soccer practice, to after-school activities. Weren't we good parents? Couldn't we prove it? We raised them in nice secular homes in good neighborhoods with day care, in good schools with computers and games and transported them in leather-clad vans and SUVs. White guilt certainly over-rode our sense of Life. Hey: if we managed our children well, just like our DayMinder, all would be fine.

Wouldn't it?


Ramp back up to today:

My dad can't understand my response to Iraq and terrorism. My visceral, emotional, unfettered, improper, horrible response is this: we need to make a stand and a statement because no other President, including Reagan, up to this point has drawn a line in the Middle Eastern sand. Militant Islam understands nought but power. Reagan didn't understand because the concept was relatively new (let us not forget Lebanon). Bush Senior didn't understand because he didn't take things far enough. Clinton didn't understand because he was hampered by his mindset and philosophy from the onset.

Collectively, WE didn't understand because Militant Islam was something someone else experienced -- some other "Third World dirtball nation;" although, now we can see the signs for what they were -- but only because we learned, grudgingly, to read said signs aloud.

It cost us roughly 3,600 lives to read those signs.

Pre-emptive strikes to save the union are, in my opinion, warranted.

Pre-emptive strikes, in the eyes of the Greatest Generation, are forbidden, cheating, an admission of inadequacy, poor form, unwarranted. Because there is almost always something MORE that we could or should do to avoid confrontation.

Logic, common sense, decorum and propriety would dictate this.

Except that Militant Islam doesn't care to sit down at a nice ebon table, pour some tea, make some conciliatory statements, play some new age music, sign some documents, "mean well," and promise to understand our way of thinking.

Their view is this: either you convert to Islam or we'll kill you.

I think they'd rather just kill us anyway, and be rid of us.


I do not believe in the Inherent Goodness of Man. I'm not a believer in Altruism. I am a believer in history, in patterns, in closely examining the past in order to discern the future. I believe in substance over form, in deeds and not words. The closest thing to a democracy in the Middle East, save for Israel, is Jordan -- ruled by a king.

I wish I could believe that, in a few weeks or months, maybe a year, all will be well. I wish I could believe that the Common Man and Woman in Iraq will rise up against their inner oppressors and acquire that sensitive balance of accommodation for each form of Islam, to the satisfaction of all.

Unfortunately I tend to think this: absent iron-fisted, unbending rule, Iraq will degenerate back into tribal and ethnic divisions irrespective of and spanning boundaries, borders and regions.

Knowing this, my father says: so, you acknowledge we shouldn't have gone into Iraq. We shouldn't be wasting our time there, spending our billions there. Letting our boys die there.

And my response is: no. Wrong. Militant Islam was at work there, and we need to do what we can when we can. And like a bully, they will push and push until stopped. If we don't react, if we don't push back then, like any bully, it will only get worse.

If we don't want to see one kiloton backpack tactical nukes (SADMs) exploding on continental US soil, if we don't want to see chemical and biologic weapons pierce our borders and strike at the very beating heart of our society, then we need to change our mindset and deal with what IS rather than what we WANT.

Dad believes he is right. I believe I am right. Only time will tell.

And that time will become known as our history. . .