Thursday, December 29, 2005


It has been on the news lately that the NSA was authorized by Bush to wiretap some 30 American citizens without judicial consent. I've been hearing all about how this is further evidence of our civil liberties being eroded away, blah, blah. To be honest, this news actually makes me more comfortable, and not because I think the tapping has helped us catch terrorists.

The NSA has been reputed to have a budget that is five times larger than that of the CIA. The general public has very little knowledge about what the NSA actually does. Especially after 9/11, I had assumed that the NSA was wiretapping tens thousands of Americans without judicial -or- presidential consent. The fact that there were only 30 cases, authorized by an elected representative, makes me feel better. The situation isn't nearly as bad as I thought it was. Leave it to hollywood to make us more paranoid than we really should be (Enemy of the State?).

Sunday, December 18, 2005


Finals are finally over...they were nasty (particularly physical chemistry). I have confirmed As in all of my classes right now, except for evolution. Its going to be either an A- or an A. I think its crap at IU that you can get penalized for an A- but you do not benefit from an A+. If that was not the case, I'd have two 4.0 semesters (including this one). Purdue doesn't give plusses or minuses; that would be great for me, considering I have many more A-'s than I have B+'s.

Iraqi elections - went astoundingly well. There were even reports that Sunni insurgent groups were protecting polling stations in Anbar from public enemy #1 - Al Qaeda in Iraq. Iyad Allawi was the head of Iraq's transitional government a year or so ago. He ran in this election on a secular (non religious) platform that has both Shiite and Sunni participants. I really hope he did well this time around. Shying away from a religious or Shiite-dominated government would be the best thing for unifying the country.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

'Zarqawi is an American agent'

From Aljazeera:

"In a move that would have been inconceivable only months earlier, Saddam Hussein loyalists are urging Sunnis to vote in Thursday's poll and warning al-Qaida fighters not to launch attacks."

This says it all. Sunni clerics in Falluja of all places are telling the people that voting is a religious duty. Iraqis in Anbar (the extremely violent Sunni province) have made it clear that they will protect the polling stations from Al Qaeda in Iraq.

This election won't end all of the violence overnight. However, it is a big slap in the face to Zarqawi, and will be a great victory for America. The Sunnis are going to have a political voice, and hopefully this will draw them away from the insurgency. After Thursday's election, our administative duties in Iraq are over, because this final election is for a permanent, legitimate Iraqi government. America's misson from Thursday on will be to provide security for as long as the new government wants. When they ask us to leave, we will leave.

No mistake would be bigger for Zarqawi than if he was to attack Sunni polling stations on Thursday. Such moves would completely polarize the Iraqi Sunni population against him, and give all native Iraqis a common enemy (aside from the US).

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Holocaust denial.

Iranian President Ahmadinejad makes an ass out of himself again. He "expressed doubt that the holocaust ever occurred". He has also recently turned down Russia's offer to supply Iran with enriched uranium, saying that Iran will enrich their own. Part of me wishes that cool heads in Iran would get rid of him. The other part of me is thankful that a complete moron is running their country; it only makes our job easier.

A few posts down I mentioned that Sistani had endorsed a religious Shia political party for the December 15th elections. According to Juan Cole, Sistani issued a new statement from his office today saying that the previous statement was a fabrication. In other words, Sistani may be staying out of politics, not telling people to vote for anyone in particular. It would be great if this turns out to be true.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Choice quote

"Whereas a year ago, many Sunni Arabs believed they could eventually regain control of the country, now the majority opinion is that one must cut a deal before a Shia or Kurdish death squad, or a war crimes indictment, gets you. While Iraqis love their illusions, when death or destitution gets really close, logic becomes more of a factor."

I've got to believe that as reality sets in, Sunni support for the insurgency is going to quickly wane. That reality is becoming more evident every single day. The above quote comes from this article, which discusses some of the insurgent tactics such as suicide bombings, and how they are not as effective as they might seem.

Also, this is a great article that discusses why things are going to be so utterly nasty in Iraq for a long time. When you look at the history of the country, it is no surprise that the place is going nuts right now - not all of the violence is the result of America's failures.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

So much for secularism.

I really hoped that Al-Sistani wasn't going to do this. That is, calling for voters to elect religious candidates. I hoped Sistani would urge people to vote, but let the people decide for whom to vote for. Well, I suppose it's to be expected that the new government will be religious. I hope it doesn't become too religious; the last thing we need is another Iran.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Bombing Al-Jazeera

Aljazeera is pressuring the British government to release the secret memo. Quote from article:

"Journalists' fears that the report may not be so inconceivable are fuelled by previous incidents: a US missile attack on Aljazeera's Baghdad bureau in April 2003 which killed reporter Tariq Ayub, and the US bombing of Aljazeera's bureau in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2001."

If Bush was joking, this incident still looks really bad, considering we've already (accidentally) bombed Aljazeera twice. Another piece by the London Times. Interesting quote:

Frank Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy, a Washington-based think tank, last week described Al-Jazeera as “fair game” on the grounds that it promoted beheadings and suicide bombings.

The Times article also discusses events that took place the day before Bush met Blair. Rumsfeld was on TV, describing Aljazeera reporting as “vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable”. Is silencing criticism a great way to spread freedom? Given that Rumsfeld's words were fresh in Bush's mind, it is very plausible that he was serious (and tactless as always) regarding his comments in the memo.

Incidentally, I've found Aljazeera's reporting to be far superior to that of many US news outlets (ie Fox). Its been said that Aljazeera softens up the tone of their English site, though. Not that such matters; its not like our networks weren't extremely biased and horribly ineffective too in the runup to the war.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

You have got to be kidding me.


Bush wanted to bomb Al Jazeera's headquarters? Please let this be a sick joke. If he was serious, it would indicate just how absolutely inept and unqualified Bush really is. In a war to "spread democracy and freedom", Bush has decided to not only torture our enemies, but to also destroy media outlets that don't support his views. We shut down the Shiite cleric al-Sadr's newspaper when we invaded Iraq too; he was writing anti-American things. No wonder he launched an uprising against us.

If this bit is true, Bush should be impeached immediately. He has done quite enough.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Iraqi "Tet Offensive"?

For a long time during the Vietnam War, the question asked in this country was not *if* we would win, but rather, when would we win? Then the Vietcong launched a massive assult on South Vietnam, which became known as the Tet Offensive. During this daylong assault, the North Vietnamese were able to take control of many cities and other areas of South Vietnam. However, there was a swift American counterattack, and by the end of the day the US and the South Vietnamese had recovered all lost territory.

From a military perspective, the Tet Offensive was a resounding military defeat for the North; it was a great military success for the US and the South Vietnamese. The Tet Offensive completely changed American public opinion, though. From that day forth, people began to call for the removal of our troops from Vietnam. The Tet Offensive proved to be devistating to public morale and support for the war; it was a great political victory for the communists.

There calls in this country for the removal of troops from Iraq are becoming more intense and more frequent. Republicans in Congress are under great pressure in this regard; the Bush administration too is reeling. If the Iraqi Sunnis were to launch a massive, coordinated strike on US and Iraqi government targets, one analogous to the Tet Offensive, I am convinced that public support for the war would all but disappear. I'm surprised that Sunnis haven't done this yet.

Maybe their failure to do so is evidence of the (alleged) lack of unity of the insurgency as a whole? An encouraging thought, IMO.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Vengeful God?

According to Pat Robertson, God is going to smite a town in Pennsylvania, Gomorrah-style. The citizens in the town voted out the school board members, who were trying to get intelligent design (creationism) taught in their schools. I wonder if Pat Robertson has ever read the New Testament? Last time I checked, Jesus didn't talk about smiting people, or turning from them in their time of need.

I will never understand why people pay attention to assholes like Pat Robertson.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

"Burn in hell, Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi"

Hotel bombings in Jordan

"Death to al-Zarqawi, the villain and the traitor," shouted the angry crowd comprising Jordanians of all backgrounds, including women and children.

Al Qaeda miscalculates again. In a battle for hearts and minds, they couldn't have picked a worse tactic.

Thank You America.

I mentioned a few days ago that not all of our effort in Iraq has resulted in bad outcomes. The Kurds are better off than they ever have been, and they want to thank us for it. View some of the ads on that website, and you will feel a little better about what we've done.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Burn it down?

Rioting has been going on in Paris for almost two weeks now. Hundreds of cars and trucks have been destroyed; shops and buildings have been put to the torch as well. The French government cannot regain control; police are being attacked. Most significantly, the majority of the youths involved in the rioting are Muslims. You had to know from the moment this first started that Fox News was going to have a field day with this. Seemingly, all of the theocon predictions of a clash of cultures have proven to be true. Not even France is safe, and it was the largest opponent of the war in Iraq! We need to teach these Islamofascists a lesson! Round them up and deport them!

Please. First of all, only one person thus far has died. When Islamic fundamentalists are out to prove a point, they don't burn cars and attack cops with bats. Instead, they blow themselves up with a bomb in the middle of crowded civilian areas. Based on this, I was initially very suspect that these riots were a religious phenomenon. A quick internet research session has revealed the history of these immigrants. They have been stagnant for thirty years, and things aren't getting better for them.

Now, this isn't to say that their violence is justified, because its not. However, the impression I've been getting recently is not that this is the product of radical preachers rallying their subjects to start a religious war. Mass rioting has happened in America before, and it wasn't due to a religious conflict. This whole thing in France has been building up; the storm has been brewing for some time. Apparently, it just needed a spark to set it off (pun intended - I know, I'm horrible). The rioters mostly are teenagers, kids that are probably bored out of their minds all day, while simulatenously very annoyed that they are excluded from greater French society. Their rioting almost seems to be more of a result of their desire to prove that they have influence over something - in this case, they are proving that they can defy the French authorities and get away with it. That fact makes me pity them even more - they think they're proving something by defying the French government.

Moroccans Protest Al-Qaeda Threat

I found this to be very encouraging.

Holding banners and chanting "Muslims are brothers. A Muslim does not kill his brother" and "Yes to freedom, No to terrorism and barbarity"...

Wow, that sounds so much better than reading about chants of "Death to America". Barbarity in particular builds on a point I was making in a previous post. That is, Al Qaeda's brutal actions of beheading and attacking Shia Muslims may alienate moderate Sunni Muslims worldwide, and hurt their cause. It seems to be so.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Why gas prices need to stay high.

My father designs transmission for a branch of GM. In the 90's, he was urging his supervisors to let him begin working on a hybrid gas/electric transmission. He argued that an energy crunch was coming in the near future, and we would need such technology. With gas being as cheap as it was, my dad's short-sighted supervisors did not comply with his request. Now a decade later, the crunch is upon us; finally American hybrids are being produced. The transmission that my dad recently designed is being tested in the Seattle bus system. These hybrid buses are more fuel efficient by 50%, and reduce emissions by 90%. Imagine the amount of pollution that could have been prevented by stimulating this research a decade ago? Two decades ago?

In biological evolution, organisms do not evolve with the intent of being more prepared for a potentially adverse future environment. Rather, they evolve to maximize their interactions with their current environment (or more specifically, their parent's). There are many commonalties between evolution and capitalism (why do you think capitalism works so well?); a reactive rather than proactive nature is a big one. Like evolution, a capitalist system will not change until it is forced to do so.

Nothing in this country ever gets done unless there is a financial incentive. Without expensive gas, there will not be enough alternative energy research, enough fuel saving technology research. These high gas prices can't be a temporary thing, they have to be a permanent thing to stimulate the research we need. Given that the market itself will be incapable of being proactive on its own, the government needs to step in. The policy of our government should be to keep jacking up gas prices with taxes, regardless of what the market price is. The tax money should go directly to fund this sort of research. Further, private investment in said research will increase if people know that gas will never be cheap again.

Its not just the environment that I'm worried about. Guess what - we wouldn't have had to invade Iraq if we weren't so dependent on fossil fuels. Without oil revenue, Saddam's repressive and corrupt government would have collapsed on its own years ago. We wouldn't have had to fire a shot. Who has control over the rest of the world's oil? Iran, Venezuela, and Saudi Arabia. Do we really want to have the economic well-being of our country in the hands of the leaders of those nations?

On a final depressing note, when has our government ever been proactive? Our government isn't even reactive this days.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

A reason to stay the course.

In today's Iraq, we mistakenly assume violence is everywhere all of the time, and that every Iraqi hates Americans. Certainly the Sunni Arabs hate Americans; the Shia generally probably aren't too fond of us (but at least aren't trying to kill our soldiers). The Kurds, however, love America and what we have done. In the north, they are prospering like never before. They have stability and relative safety in their region, mainly because they have a hundred thousand armed militia men keeping order. Their economy is booming to such an extent that Arabs from the rest of Iraq travel to the Kurdish north looking for work. They are politically united, and Kurds hold many positions in the new Iraqi government.

The Kurds are the largest ethnic group in the world without a homeland. They have been oppressed virtually everywhere they have lived, including Iraq, Iran, and Turkey. A few significant instances:

1980 - The Iran-Iraq war affects Kurds in both countries. Support to either government by Kurds could cause repercussions for Kurds in the other country. Both governments send Kurds to the frontlines. More than 1 million die on both sides.

1988 - The genocidal Anfal-campaign is being carried out by the Iraqi government to "decrease" the Kurds. Some 4500 villages are completely destroyed, and 182,000 Kurds are relocated to unknown destinations, in this year alone.

1988 - The Halabja-disaster on the 16th of March, with intensive aerial chemical bombing (by Saddam's regime), such as Nerve gas, VX and Mustard gas, kills more than 5000 Kurds and wounds an estimated 12,000.

1991 - A popular uprising by the Kurds, encouraged by George Bush Sr. ignites, after the Iraqi defeat of the Persian Gulf war. The uprising is initially successful, but government forces crack down; causing more than 2 million Kurds to flee to Turkey and Iran. Thousands die of starvation, cold and hunger.

These people have been through enough. They deserve their freedom (truly, freedom, and not Bush rhetoric), but there is no way they could have it if America pulled out of Iraq. If we pulled out, the Iraqi government would collapse, and the Kurds would attempt to secede and form their own country. Alone, they would fail - if not by Iraqi Arab hands, then by those of the Iranians or Turks, who would likely invade from the north and dissolve such a nation. Turkey for example would have a lot to lose if Iraqi Kurds formed a separate state, because Turkish Kurds might try to secede from Turkey and join those in Iraq.

If America remains in Iraq, there are really only two possible outcomes, both of which are favorable to Kurds. The first would be if (ideally) the Sunnis abandon the insurgency and get involved in the political process. Iraq would become stable, and the Kurds would be well represented politically for the first time in their history. Alternatively, if the Sunnis refused to abandon their campaign of violence, the country would partition. The Kurds would form their own country, and it would be safe from guerilla and suicide attacks thanks to the Kurdish militia men providing security. The new nation would be vulnerable to invasion from an armored modern military; this is where the US should step in. We should provide a partitioned Kurdistan with conventional military protection against any potential invader. This is the type of support that America is good at; straight up fighting and none of this guerilla warfare / insurgency mess. In all likelihood we wouldn't even need to do any fighting, since no country would be stupid enough to pick a conventional fight with the United States.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Calling for the eradication of Israel. You expect this sort of thing from your average Hamas extremist in Palestine, not from the leader of a nation. During the same speech, the Iranian President had some other fightin words for the West:

"We have a strategy drawn up for the destruction of Anglo-Saxon civilization... we must make use of everything we have at hand to strike at this front by means of our suicide operations or by means of our missiles. There are 29 sensitive sites in the U.S. and in the West. We have already spied on these sites and we know how we are going to attack them.

Is he really talking about going to war with America? Just because we're losing a war of occupation in Iraq doesn't mean our military is suddenly inept in a conventional war. This guy is insane; are we supposed to stand idly by while his government tries to acquire nuclear weapons? Any Iranian attempt to enrich uranium should be met with airstrikes - end of story. If we don't do it, Israel will; and they should.

I still am confused as to why Iran suddenly is so fiercely anti-American. We did them a favor by invading Iraq! Saddam was a sworn enemy of Iran, and a man responsible for the deaths of millions of Iranians during the war in the 1980s. Further, the Iraqi Shia now are in control of Iraq (Iran of course is a Shia Muslim theocracy), instead of Sunnis under Saddam. They should be thanking us.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Al Qaeda's Mistakes

Whenever America is faced with an enemy, it is all to easy to make a comparison with Hitler in order to convey a sense of danger. This comparison was commonplace during the runup to the war in Iraq; Saddam of course was the modern Adolf Hitler. This simplification is strategically very silly, because in every conflicting situation, an overkill response will be elicited. In other words, we do not need to deal with every potential enemy as we did with Adolf Hitler! Hitler certainly was an evil genius, but his greatest weakness was his irrationality. He was irrational in refusing to ever surrender because he believed the German soldier was far superior to any other man. He was irrational in believing that Germany alone, and its Aryan master race, could defeat the world's largest empire, the world's largest industrial power, and the world's largest army at the same time. Simply put - irrationality makes one prone to making great strategic blunders because the underlying assumptions for those decisions are not based on reality.

Saddam Hussein was different than Hitler. Saddam was rational - he has been consistently ruthless throughout his entire rule, but he has been predictable and rational in his doings. This was one of my primary arguments as to why we need not invade Iraq before we went - since Saddam was rational, he was containable. And we were containing him. He wasn't pursuing weapons of mass destruction, he wasn't cooperating with Al Qaeda (Islamic fundamentalists hated Saddam just as much as they hate America), he wasn't doing anything he didn't think he could get away with because he was first and foremost concerned with his own well-being. I need no other evidence but to point out the most telling proof - he allowed himself to be captured alive. Humiliated, yet certainly condemned either way. Saddam's only error when dealing with America might have been in assuming we had elected a president that wasn't honest mistake!

So I have been thinking lately about what kind of enemy we face in Al Qaeda. Obviously the entry level suicide bombers are crazy religious fanatics, but what about the leaders? Just because they claim to be acting in the name of religion doesn't mean they are; history is riddled with cases of people using religion to recruit followers. If the Al Qaeda leadership was irrational, like Hitler, then I would be less concerned. The assumption, that ultimate victory is assured by God no matter what, would be a foolish one, and it would only be a matter of time before bin Laden would mis-step and the game would be over. Alternatively, I would be very concerned if I had reason to believe that the higher Al Qaeda leadership was more calculating and rational.

Up until very lately, it seemed to me that the latter was the case. I almost felt as if America and our bull-headed leaders had played right into bin Laden's hands. "Come and get me, George! I'm hiding in Iraq!". Unilaterally invading and occupying a Muslim country? Am I the only one who didn't think it would go as well as Bush said it would? I mean, what did people think was going to happen? We turned the entire world against us. A failed Iraq really would be everything bin Laden could have wanted.

The US has made some great strategic blunders, but Zarqawi has also made many of his own. For one, Zarqawi has declared all-out war against the Iraqi Shia Muslims, 60% of the population. He has since targeted Shia civilians and Mosques, killing hundreds. Though Al Qaeda and most Muslims worldwide are Sunni, this is a mistake. The average Muslim doesn't want to see other Muslims blown to bits in their Mosques. The average Muslim doesn't want to see hostages brutally beheaded. These actions will alienate moderate Muslims worldwide, even the ones that hate America. Like Hitler, Al Qaeda in Iraq seems to be biting off more than it can chew; it has opened up a second front in Iraq. It already has the most powerful military in the world to fight against; to extend that war against the majority of the indigenous (Shiite) population seems like a recipe for failure.

The local Sunni insurgents are organizing a justified resistance to the occupation. The Sunni insurgents, though not pleased with the Shia, are not calling for the systematic murder of their neighbors. Rather, they focus their attacks on the interim government, and on US and Iraqi troops- arguably legitimate targets (as much as I hate to see it). In this sense, Zarqawi's terrorists are undermining the political objectives of the Sunni insurgency. If you are trying to make an important point, you don't want the support of a loud know-nothing, because his voice will discredit your idea. By killing innocents, Zarqawi is undermining the justification for the resistance.

Considering Iraqi Sunnis are likely to be secular in most cases, they've got to realize that their "friendship" with Al Qaeda is temporary at best. The moment US forces leave Iraq, the Sunni insurgency and Al Qaeda would immediately be at odds. Just before the elections, Al Qaeda threatened anyone with violence if they voted - including the Sunnis. Having foreigners tell them what to do probably didn't sit so well, and the Sunnis have outright said that Al Qaeda needs to stop meddling in their affairs; that they don't need Al Qaeda's help in their war. I wonder if defiance of Zarqawi was one cause of the large Sunni turnout at the polls?

If Al Qaeda had played their cards right, Iraq could have been a resounding victory for their cause. Our position in Iraq really was that vulnerable, thanks to our inept neoconservative leaders. Fortunately, Al Qaeda's irrational leadership has made some strategic errors of their own. Zarqawi's actions could potentially drive the Sunni insurgents to pursue more political means to combat the new government. I can only hope that the Sunnis will come to know that the only logical outcome of Zarqawi's civil war mongering is the partitioning of Iraq, the worst outcome for their people. I do think Al Qaeda is right about one thing, though - Iraq is the most important battleground for the war on terror right now. How this new nation turns out will greatly impact history for decades, for better or worse.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Iraqi referandum

The voting process has started.

I'm going to come out and say that I hope the Sunnis are able to strike down the constitution. To do this, they need a 2/3 no vote in 3 separate provinces. What is a Sunni insurgent going to think if the constitution passes? He is going to have proof that the political process doesn't work, hes going to be further convinced that Sunnis will be marginalized in the new Iraq. His *only* option to combat the situation is more violence. What if the Sunnis are able to strike down the constitution? "Wow, we went and voted, but we didn't actually think it would actually work!". Suddenly you do have an alternative to violent means to combat the new government - with a vote. Perhaps this would take the sting out of the insurgency.

If the constitution is confirmed, it may not prove to be a horrible outcome, though. Just before the election, the Iraqi Islamic Party (a Sunni party) had agreed to endorse the constitution in exchange for a promise that it would be potentially amended next April. Naturally, a lot of Sunnis were really pissed about this. If the Iraqi government follows through with this promise, and amends the constitution to be more appealing to the Sunnis, it will again show that compromise and democracy can work.

The absolute worst case scenario either way is if Sunni turnout is very low. This is what Al-Qaeda in Iraq wants, and rightfully so. A low Sunni turnout would indicate that there is going to be no way to politically bring them into the new government; nothing short of civil war would be required to stop the insurgency. This is why Al Qaeda has threatened Sunnis with violence if they vote at all. It may turn out that this move is yet another blunder by Al Qaeda; these threats have been perceived by Sunnis to be meddling by outsiders into their affairs. They already do not agree with many of Zarqawi's tactics; who knows, they may vote just to defy Al Qaeda.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


Especially after reading Maddox's post on blogging, I was a bit skeptical in starting this up. What is the deal here? Is blogging some sort of a passing fad, or something that is going to be a big deal in the future?

It is extremely important for individuals to get their opinions out, to speak their minds and posit new solutions and ideas. The internet provides an excellent medium for this. Who will be heard, though? Should it only be those that are connected to major newspapers or other media outlets? I think not. It should be those with the best ideas.

If good ideas are the defining aspect of what should determine if someone is heard or not, then blogging seems to me to be a great system. Those bloggers with good ideas will make a larger impact on their readers. Those readers will both come back to said blog, as well as link those ideas and spread them to new audiences. Therefore, the bloggers with the best ideas will also be those that eventually end up with the most traffic. Is this not an utopian way to determine whose voice is heard, and whose is not?

It is in this spirit that I begin my blog.