Wednesday, August 20, 2003

What an awful day. Terrorists, presumably Hamas, blew up a bus in Jerusalem and killed at least twenty people, and the Saddamite terrorists blew up the UN headquarters in Baghdad, killing twenty more. These people, along with the three thousand on 9-11 and the two hundred at Bali and those murdered at the US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and the victims of the Cole explosion and the US and British troops murdered by the Saddam Fedayeen and its Al Qaeda allies, and the hundreds of Israeli citizens killed by nationalism-crazed psychopaths should not be forgotten.

I've got the solution for the Israeli problem. Very simply, pull all the settlements out of the West Bank. (This is the major Israeli political problem. It's got to be Sharon who makes the deal--a weak Labour government wouldn't be able to pull it off.) Pull all your troops out, too. Build an impermeable wall along all Israel's pre-1967 frontiers, though including the Golan Heights. Let foreigners in and out as you wish through official checkpoints. Let the Palestinians set up whatever governments they want in the West Bank and Gaza and do whatever they want, as long as it doesn't include violence against Israel or sheltering terrorists. If those things happen, Israel should be free to retaliate as it sees fit. If those things don't happen over a span of, say, five years, tear down the wall.

As for Iraq, check out this story on page four of today's Vangua by Eusebio Val. I was extremely surprised when I saw this.

...The attack (in Baghdad) has been the latest step in a series of actions against the so-called "soft targets"--of a non-military character and very vulnerable--such as the Jordanian Embassy, the oil pipelines, and the running-water infrastructure. The escalation seems to respond to a well-detailed plan to sabotage the reconstruction of the country, to generate chaos, to increase internal discontent, and frighten away foreign aid.

The terrorists have crossed a line and their message is unmistakeable: not only the occupying troops from the US and the coalition which supports it are in constant danger, but also all those who collaborate in any manner with the reconstruction, whether they are company executives or members of international organisms. Not even the personnel under the flag of the united Nations is safe, as the secretary-general's own special envoy, the Brazilian diplomat Sergio Vieira de Mello.

In the eyes of the terrorists, they are all accomplices of the policy designed by the White House which--we should remember--was approved in a large part in Resolution 1483 passed by the Security Council last May. This resolution, passed by 14 out of 15 votes, accepted the new status quo after the war and gave the Anglo-American occupation coalition supreme power in Iraq for at least a year...

Yesterday's attacks, added to the escalation of recent weeks and the unstoppable attacks on the American troops, support the thesis that Iraq might become an El Dorado of terrorism in the Middle East, the favorite destination of jihadists--Muslim extremists in favor of a holy war against the West, like Al Qaeda--and agents from the countries of the region--Syria? Iran? Sectors of Saudi Arabia itself?--who have no interest in Iraq's stabilization and progress under a democratic experiment that might spread.

It is an ironic paradox that a war officially fought within the framework of the world struggle against terrorism, has fertilized and sown the land for Iraq to become a terrorist magnet. It was never proven that during the Saddam era, Al Qaeda was active in Iraq. No one doubts that it certainly is now.

The spectacle and the media impact of the actions of the Iraqi resistance to the occupation are frustrating for Washington and eclipse the successes which have occurred in many aspects of the everyday life of the Iraqis and the relative tranquility with which, despite the avalanche of negative news, most parts of the country including the capital enjoy, as Joshua Hammer reported yesterday in Newsweek.

Good God. This is the most sensible thing I have ever seen written in the Vangua. Note the emphasis (I added the bold type), that Mr. Val gives to calling a terrorist a terrorist. Note that Mr. Val mentions that most of the country is calm. Note that Mr. Val could sort of deal with the concept of these terrorists fighting the American occupation troops, but he went ballistic when the terrorists started blowing up international do-gooders. Fair enough, I guess, but chalk up one correspondent from the Vangua on the side of the angels.

Alfredo Abian goes spastic in the page two signed editorial:

The dispersed Iraqi resistance is showing itself more and more active. So much that we don't know anymore what the line is between an open insurrection and the ambushes, the bomb attacks, or putting a bullet into an American soldier's head while he is buying a CD...The resistance is in no mood for diplomatic sophistications. To it, all are invaders now, including the very same UN that tried to stop the occupation.

Alf, it would be an insurrection if the people en masse were grabbing guns and standing in the street facing off with the occupation troops. This is a bunch of terrorist gangs, to wit: the Saddam Fedayeen--Saddam's SS, who are all criminals and deserve no pity--Ansar Al Islam, a terrorist gang operating in north-central Iraq with ties to Al Qaeda and many Muslim-fanatic volunteers from other countries--and Saddam's Marielitos, the guys he turned out of the jails, are just plain criminals operating criminally in small gangs. This is not a resistance, since resistances are fighting for their national survival, and the Iraqi terrorists are destroying their country rather than helping it build itself up.

I see several very positive sides to the current struggle in Iraq: a) it is now clear to the whole world outside Berkeley and Barcelona that these are bad guys, as if it weren't clear already, but you must have your head up your ass if you can somehow argue that these murderers are fighting for the right b) we're fighting the terrorists in their territory, not ours, and that's where we want to fight them c) if Iraq is a terrorist magnet, all the better, we can get 'em all in one place d) everybody is recognizing that the reconstruction people are trying to do something good and decent rather than being ruthless imperialists e) we're going to win if this is the best they can do. They've got a limited number of loyalists and I don't think they're going to get too many new ones outside the Tikrit triangle. Assuming our Special Forces are not complete morons, which I just bet they're not, they ought to be cracking down on some of these terrorist cells f) there's a swing toward seeing the war as legitimate, if a paper like the Vangua can print an article like Eusebio Val's using words like "terrorist" g) our guys keep busting more and more of Saddam's top henchmen--the ten of diamonds just got nailed.

The Vangua prints several very good George Bush quotes:

"The civilized world will not allow itself to be intimidated and these murderers will not determine the future of Iraq, which is on an irresistible route toward self-government and peace."

"The terrorists have demonstrated their fear of progress and their hatred for peace. They are enemies of the Iraqi people. They want to go back to the days of the tortures and the mass graves."

"We will persevere through all difficulties, we will continue this war against terrorism, and we will win."

Remember the Casablanca bombing that killed 45 people, incluiding four Spaniards? The Moroccan government held the trial. 87 members of the terrorist group Salafiya Yahadiya were convicted. Four death sentences. Life imprisonment for 37. 30 years for 16. 20 years for 16 more. Lesser sentences for thirteen.

Morocco, for a North African country, is pretty decent. It has a fairly stable and legitimate government. Its people live acceptably, at the level of, say, Turkey or Brazil or Thailand. It is a US ally. I vote we do whatever we can to strengthen ties with Morocco (without going into opposition of Spain, of course) and make it a high-level project to induce the absolute Moroccan king to increase the country's amount of democracy and liberalize the economy. Morocco could be a real success story in five or ten years with a couple of pushes in the right direction.

In the Barcelona metropolitan area approximately 900 more people died during the heat wave than during that usual stretch of time. We're about 1/10 the population of Spain, four million or so, depending on where you draw the metro area line. 9000 extra dead in Spain? That might be way too high, but I guarantee you it's in the thousands.

The Catalans are all thrilled because there was a big feature in the Travel section of the New York Times, which I haven't read but which I gather was very positive. It mentioned Ferran Adria's restaurant as having the most creative cuisine in the world, and pointed to Spanish cooking as able to stand up to the best France can offer.

The story also mentioned hiking at Aiguestortes National Park, the scenery in the Valle d'Aran, and the Romanesque churches in the Valle de Boi. I've been to all of those places and highly recommend them. The local people up there are great because the tourists they get are not millions of sun-sea-sangria morons, but several thousand appreciative people who like their country--and are high-dollar tourists, too, interested in nature and culture and good food. The other tourists you meet are cool people, too, not chalky-white fat guys from Sunderland with tattoos on their faces but people who know the difference between Romanesque and Gothic architecture and that the Pyrenees has some of the best hiking trails in the world.

By the way, check out Trevor over at Kaleboel if you want to set up a hiking trip; that's what he does, organizes cool hikes in Catalonia.

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