Michael Maiello's picture

    Nothing's Ever Simple In War

    Juan Cole's strongly worded "Open Letter To The Left" about Libya seemed designed to take down a very dangerous bit of information that's come out recently but hasn't gotten nearly enough attention in my opinion -- the Libyan rebels we're defending have real and substantial ties to Al-Qaeda.

    Cole dismisses this as propaganda and he's able to do so precisely because the claim, when stated in plain language, misses a lot of necessary nuance.  Just what the heck do we mean by Al-Qaeda, anyway?  Also, as Cole points out, the first claim comes from a very dubious thought.  For obvious reasons, Gadhafi wanted the world to believe that the protests against him were Al-Qaeda inspired.  So Cole is right to have his BS detector up and running and to encourage us to do the same.

    Problem is, it's not Gadhafi making these claims.  It's the rebel leader.  These guys have fought against U.S. and coalition forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  U.S. forces might be protecting them here and now only to have to fight them later, in other places.  There's no excuse for being naive about this -- wars tend to attract war fighting types of people.  But if Cole wants to talk about propaganda, then he has to face the difference between "We have to act now to defend the civilians" and the more complete truth, which is that some of those civilians have participated in guerrilla actions against our misused and overtaxed armed forces.

    Now Cole is right that you should beware folks who will tell you that the Libyan rebels are in Osama bin Laden's back pocket or nonsense of that type.  But Cole seems to me to be too eager to dismiss this out of hand.  "Nothing to see here," is simply not going to suffice in this case.  One of the chief arguments that "non-interference" types make about situations like Libya is that these situations are too complex for us to really get a grip on.  We wind up helping enemies, hurting innocents and generally mucking things up.

    Cole is trying to paper over a very serious issue here and I think he needs to take a step back.  Reasonable people can either oppose or support the U.S. involvement in Libya.  But we all have to face the facts and the connections between the Libyan rebels and the people who have fought U.S. soldiers in both Afghanistan and Iraq are real and have to be considered.



    Well Dester this just goes to show you. We really blew it with the former USSR. If we had been more support of that state, we would still be fighting the cold war and would not be relegated to the dregs of fighting some Arab countries now.

     still be fighting the cold war

    Aside from the ever present threat of nuclear armageddon, the cold war may legitmately evoke nostalgia--our competition with the Soviets in the soft power arena had a tendency to ameliorate  our behaviour.

    opps...forgot the </snark> at the end. Smile

    Be that as it may, I am not snarking when I wax nostalgic for the cold war.   I think it kept us on our best behaviour  (vide, eg, the impact of Soviet-US rivalry on the Kennedy bros. attitudes toward the civil rights movement.)

    Oh I absolutely agree.  Nothing like the threat of becoming radio active dust to keep a country in line that's for sure.  It also kept the wackos distracted.

    For us in the West, the later Cold War was wonderful... We had peace, cold, but stable peace and nuclear terror saved my generation from the meat-grinder of a conventional WWIII. For a Romanian or a Pole... not so nice.

    It also wasn't so nice for the people who lived in countries that the US and Soviets used for their proxy wars, such as Angola.

    U.S. forces might be protecting them here and now only to have to fight them later, in other places ...

    And therefore....? We should let Qaddafi win? Since according to me  the answer to that is No , that's is a consideration that's  irrelevant right now. Or if not totally so, so near as to make no difference

    Having crossed the Rubicon with respect to  Qaddafi we have to maximize the rebels'  ability to defeat him. Not to .almost win.To win.

    Afterwards we can implement  damage control re the A Queda among the rebels..

    We provide nuclear armed and nuclear proliferating Pakistan billions in arms every year and they provide a haven to al Qaeda and the Taliban, we invaded Iraq and displaced Saddam who was a check on Iran, and put Maliki in charge who made Iranian backed Mullah Moqtada al Sadr a big shot minister in his new 'democratic' government.

    Moqtada al Sadr's Mehdi Army fought huge battles with Americans and killed Casey Sheen in Najaf. After Maliki brought in al Sadr, his Mehdi Army members in prison were being released en masse from prisons in Iraq in 2010, perhaps to go back to their Iranian backed death squad activities against opponents of Iran in Iraq. Qadaffi backed terrorists bombed the bar in Germany and blew up Pan Am 109.Qadaffi also backs various militias and bad guys in Africa.

    When you consider Bush spent seven years and $1,000 to $2,000 billion, 31,000 wounded (US) near 5,000 dead to put an Iranian backed Mullah in charge in Iraq, and Libya so far has cost maybe 1/10 of one billion in missiles and no US or allied casualties, it seems like a pretty small time commitment to dispose of an insane terror linked megalomaniac dictator, in a country that seems to just want what Egypt wants, a more open free country.

    For these reasons 30 guys who may have fought in Iraq fighting Qadaffi in Libya does not seem a huge concern.  I trust the judgment of the French, Spanish, Italians and Britain to know their own neighborhood better than we knew either Iraq or Afghanistan, they are more in the driver seat on Libya policy than us.

    Needless to say, I agree entirely with your characterizations of our misadvantures in Iraq and our foolish Pakistan policies.  But that's too low a bar to set for future policies.

    France is the one that has had the hots for recognizing the rebels as the official represenatives of Libya.

    France is also the one that is the most aggressive about the intervention. There are even suggestions right now that if they aren't happy with the NATO meeting Tuesday, they will go do stuff on their own, see Julian Borger @ The Guardian, March 27: The war in Libya: Nato decides how far it wants to go

    But more importantly on your point, whilst we here were all arguing domestic issues, in the fall and early this year

    France was the one country most targeted by as-authentic-Al Qaeda-as-you-can-get, and dealing with them, the Libya neighborhood Al Qaeda of the Islamic Magreb, with two French hostage situations, in Niger and the Sahel region, in the fall and early this year.

    This article sums it up pretty well,.though it's a very poorly translated piece

    The head of the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden, poses a direct threat to France and links the fate of French hostages kidnapped in various parts of the world to the policy of Nicolas Sarkozy in Afghanistan. So says in an audio message released yesterday by the Qatar television station, Al-Jazzira. It is the second threatening message from bin Laden, led directly to France in less than three months.

    The head of Al Qaeda says that Sarkozy’s policy is going to “cost him dearly and will cost dear to France, on several fronts, inside and outside the country.” He added: “We repeated the same message: the release of your prisoners at the hands of our brothers is related to withdrawal of your troops from our country.” Bin Laden continued in the same threatening tone: “The rejection of your President to withdraw from Afghanistan is the result of tailing of the United States and this means a free hand to kill your prisoners.”

    In September, Al Qaeda Maghreb, kidnapped in Niger to five Frenchmen who worked in uranium mines, the French multinational Areva-or related companies, operates in the region. The last case of kidnapping of French in the Sahel area occurred on January 7, two 25 year-olds working in two NGOs were forcibly abducted while they dined at a restaurant in Niamey. Died during the battle that occurred hours later between the kidnappers and French forces had launched a rescue.

    I could cite better news articles for those stories, and a lot of them, but I don't need to revisit it all to make the point, here's one, here's another and here's another , and a quote from the latter:

    “The Sahel’s becoming a preoccupation for the French” said Alain Antil, a regional expert at the French Institute for International Relations in Paris. “France will be more cautious now. The exchange of information between France and the countries in the region is now much more important.”

    Just suffice it to say France has been quite involved with trying to deal with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb as regards kidnappings of their own citizens, since the fall, with the "ransom" usually reported as a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. And there were months of negotiations and the response included trying sending in special ops troops.

    Furthermore Zawhiri threatened France in July, 2009 and July, 2010 about their supposed war  on hijab and niqab. And to get out of Afghanistan or else.

    And going further back, there's stuff like this:

    Zawahiri message to France
    Thursday, September 20, 2007

    Osama bin Laden's deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri has a new 81 minute video out (released by a US based intel group) with an explicit warning to the French:

        "O our Muslim Ummah (community) in the Maghreb of ribat and jihad (land of resistance and holy war): restoring Al-Andalus is a trust on the shoulders of the Ummah in general and on your shoulders in particular. You will not be able to do that without first cleansing the Maghreb of Islam of the children of France and Spain."....

    Zawahiri: UN 'enemy' of Islam
    03/04/2008, France 24 News
    Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri launched a blistering attack on the United Nations Wednesday calling it the enemy of Islam and Muslims in an online audiofile. "The United Nations is an enemy of Islam and Muslims.....

    Not to mention they have a special anti-terrorism prosecutor/judge since before 9/11/01 with better intel on Al Qaeda than the U.S. had most of the time.

    And you expect me to believe that Sarkozy hasn't checked this guy out and  his group out and naively doesn't know what's up with that?  Sorry, I don't buy it, destor. Either he's not in the rebel groups France has recognized or they don't think of him and his group of buds as their Al Qaeda enemy. The EU takes that threat much more seriously than we do as of late, they've also had some serious terror warnings in the last year.


    On the other hand, I found this ad campaign poster, possibly evidence to support your suspicions:


    Need I point out that brand name has always had an accent aigu on its last letter?



    Sarkozy is in huge political trouble at home at the moment, he is being gobbled up by both the center-left and the ultra-right.Like many politicians is such a fix he is looking for a war to distract the voter's attention.

    As we saw with his former foreign minister Alliot-Marie, his administration has been in bed with all the North African dictators including Qaddafi for years. Anything coming from Sarkozy should be examined with tweezers these days.

    I know this,  that was sort of the point. For that reason I find it highly unlikely that he would be risking getting in bed with "the terrorists." It's even more unlikely he could do that in error or stupidity given having recent close and personal dealings with actual Al Qaeda types in the region, dealings about which he probably had polls done as regards his electorate

    Cavaet: if you now come up with some twisted conspiracy theory about how Sarkozy has figured out some complex plot about how becoming  best buds with a Libyan rebel who is also an Al Qaeda supporter will help him win support at home, I probably will be ridiculing your argument.  

    I'm not even at the start of being qualified to answer that AA.  France's history with the region is a lot deeper than ours and France is also home to a discontent population of people from MENA.  My common sense Spidey sense tells me this, though -- if you're in the Middle East and you need competent, battle-hardened fighters willing to go into battle against an entrenched, mostly secular dictator with a bunch of tanks and planes, those fighters are likely going to come from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Who else is going to answer the Craigslist ad?

    Well, while you and others are using this thread to suggest Juan Cole's post sounds too dejas vus allover again vis-a-vis Iraq warmongering, I'll be honest and say that your post struck me that way. You say you are far from qualified to talk on it. Then why are you doing a post suggesting "beware, be scared,  the Libyan rebels may be in bed in with terrorsts"? Based only on an obscure Italian news item that got picked up by the conservative Telegraph and hardly anyone else.

    It just reminded me a lot of the obscure stories back in the day that tried to convince me that Saddam was in bed with Al Qaeda, including the Italian media and Telegraph part.  You start out your post with "war is complicated," you don't like Cole's arguments, and your ammunition is: hey, look the rebels are bed with Al Qaeda, based on something you admit you don't know a lot about. I really expect better from you. If Juan Cole's post is dishonest with his audience or even himself, at least it has a lot more bullet points than  one filmsy story.

    It's actually a very important and topic you're playing with here. The "Arab spring" may be the key to the death of the whole "al Qaeda" problem. Fearmongering that bogeyman is not a healthy way to argue against intervention.

    Actually, the Italian news sources, Il Sole 24 ore has a good investigative reputation and it's something I became familiar with while I was doing some investigative pieces that they were also following back in my journalism days.  So, I don't think this is some sort of crackpot theory.

    But beyond that, my point is that Juan Cole doesn't know who these people are either.  I supported military action in Afghanistan, not realizing that there were so many unknowns on the ground there that we would be there 10 years later.  I learned my lesson and opposed Iraq partly on those grounds and think my opinion there was pretty well vindicated by the facts.

    Now I suggest that the situation in Libya is similarly complicated and the more distance for the U.S. the better.  Cole, who has pretty much ignored any discussion of risk and cost, has the harder case to make here.  I'm making a "reasonable doubt" argument.

    In Iraq the argument was "we have some inkling he's helping al-Qaeda, let's get him!"  I think that should be held to a higher standard of proof than this situation which is more like, "Some of these guys have been fighting our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan, are we sure we want to help them now?"  But beyond that, my point is that this information has only come to light after we started military action.  Would have been nice to have known before.  I wonder what other surprises remain?

    I'm surprised at your take AA. I realize you're well-read, but this is just 'fear-mongering' to you?

    In European coverage, I was getting the impression that it was utterly uncontroversial that the Islamist LIFP - who recruited and organized the shipping out of suicide bombers from Libya to Iraq - are one of the three pillars of the rebel movement, along with the youth movement and the professional class 'human rights' movement (to which breakaway Qaddafi regime elements have attached themselves). And sadly it seems like the youth movement has gotten quickly sidelined in that internicine power struggle. That is the rough impression I'm getting from reading across French and German sources, citing the usual high-profile Libya scholars and Libyan rebel sources as well. I'm travelling without my bookmarks here, but if this is surprising to you, I'll try to dig the links up again when I get home.

    Yes I know. That was my point, the nuance of all radical Islamists are not the old "Al Qaeda" bogeyman. This why I didn't like Destor's post suggesting as it does "we could be getting in bed with the bad guys" without much evidence. There's no evidence that he's a "bad guy" now, there's only evidence he went on a jihad in the past, one against George Bush's foreign policy.

    A significant part of radicalization of more Islamist youth was our invasion of Iraq, it titled them towards jihadism and Al Qaeda theory.Now we have a western intervention, supposedly on behalf of Arab spring self-deterrmination movement (especially if following the UN resolution, and I am keeping a skeptical mind about that, thank you--though it's clear Juan Cole has been convinced.) And  we have things like an avoidance of demonizing choices like the Muslim Brotherhood party in Egypt except by conservatives. And other hopeful understanding of the nuances going on.

    In the minds of those like Sarkozy I imagine he thinks he is counteracting the Islamist demonizing of him, i.e., we are not as intolerant of Islamism as you might think. (Not that I don't think he probably still is as intolerant as he ever was. Wink) That's why it's important not to use this stuff for simplistic point making. If we ever want to get away from the war of civilizations thing, it is important not to paint all Islamists or even all jihadis with the same broad brush. If we ever do, it will actually kill actual Al Qaeda theory like that of Bin Laden for good-real dustbin of history of W's speech this time. It is very important to recognize differences in motives between all these actors, and especially to recognize ones that fought the west in the past because they thought the west was taking away from self-dertermination rather than promoting it. In the end, it's the good Taliban vs. bad Taliban story, etc. And to get back to my original point, Sarkozy's recent experiences would suggest he knows more about good guys/bad guys/inbetween guys in the neighborhood than many others involved. And that he is the only one that's not afraid to recognize them. So where's the beef in destor's point? Sarkozy/France should be the last one to want to recognize the rebels if this fear has any basis in reality, instead, they are the first one.

    P.S.  You remind me, I often used to post a lot of stories from EU press  on intel about jihadis from Europe and Africa going to fight in Iraq quite a few years back on another board. Ironically, back then many lefties didn't like hearing it, would give me a lot of grief about it, tey would question the sources. They didn't like hearing about things like the idiosyncracies of the problems with the various Islamist groups in Denmark, how some were with "the terrorists" sometimes.and sometimes not. It muddied the propaganda wars between Bush and not Bush. It was particularly controversial info. when the left was trying to prove that there were no foreigners fighting in Iraq, because they wanted to make it a story of only Iraqis fighting the U.S. occupation, some just didn't want to hear it, it was like the idea of foreign jihadis had to be fought for ideological reasons because the Pentagon and Bush wee saying it was true. Well, they were there. Now some want to fight to prove for ideological reasons that they were there.

    Thanks AA. That's clearer to me. Yes, we need a nuanced view - not just manichean good vs bad. Yes, liberals (like everyone) are suspicious of reporting that goes against ... their suspicions. But just to push back against some of what you say: I think the appropriate level of nuance on the Islamist question as regards Libya involves a compare-and-contrast with the Muslim Brotherhood, where they come out, imo, as much more dangerous - (i) dominated by their armed militant wing, (ii) active involvement in Iraq jihad, and (iii) based on tribal as well as religious cohesion. I don't find the MB remotely as threatening. So, sure, lets be careful not to pigeon hole them as 'islamists=al qaeda', but let's also not dumb it down to 'just another popular islamic party like the MB'. Yes?

    Then there is the additional worry about how a foreign military intervention alters the balance of power between the different forces in the rebel camp. I think Sarkozy and co are running on the theory that their support for the transitional council - euro and us-friendly professional class types - will help swing the balance of power away from the islamists. What it does do is set up a sharply bifurcated opposition between islamists on the one hand and professionals/ex-Qaddafi types on the other, and the original youth movement largely caught in the middle, which means a likely more complicated civil war where the west will be openly the enemy of Islam. I think it is what lies behind Turkey's very forceful interference in the Libya operation. They don't want to have to choose sides in that kind of conflict.

    I'm not quite sure I should say this - Juan Cole apparently being a bit of a god in this field - but I found his piece to be drivel. If he's an academic, then I suspect he'd be run out the room for some of the outlandish things he's saying - and rightfully so. It just feels to me that - for whatever reason - he's got a personal burn going on this one. 

    For starters, he says things like, "Libya 2011 is not like Iraq 2003 in any way." Ummm, ok class. Your assignment... is to list some ways these things are alike. How about... having lots of easy-to-access oil? How about... having a psychotic leader? Who kills significant numbers of his own people? Who rose to power out of the military? A leader who is known by name, and absolutely hated and reviled by almost every American, and has been so since the 1980's? Who has been actively involved in - or feared to be involved in - cross-border terrorism? Who has nasty sons at an age to succeed him in power? How about having a relatively small population vis a vis a major power on their border (6M vs 80M and 31M vs 77M? And having fought wars with that neighbour (and not done so well?) How about the leaders being desperate to hit above their weight? And who have, at times, been off our Bad Boy list and maybe even helped us along? Hell, even though he says there is no sectarian or ethnic dimension to the Libyan War, most of the coverage I've seen emphasizes the East/West divide, how badly the East has been treated, and the tribal/clan difficulties. 

    Please, carry on  without me.

    Then, there is his oh-so-balanced and fair response to critics of the intervention. Where he comes up with the sort of list you might see on SNL or Fox News. I best just quote him here. 

    "Among reasons given by critics for rejecting the intervention are:

    1. Absolute pacifism (the use of force is always wrong)

    2. Absolute anti-imperialism (all interventions in world affairs by outsiders are wrong).

    3. Anti-military pragmatism: a belief that no social problems can ever usefully be resolved by use of military force."

    So, Mr Fair & Balanced Cole gives us an ABSOLUTIST position for starters, which he then says don't really exist. Then another ABSOLUTIST position, which he follows by complaining about those who like Ahmadinejad (I've met oh-so-many of those.) And then, a third ABSOLUTIST position (note the "no" and "ever.")

    At which point, I just figured he must travel in the weirdest circles on Earth.

    He has l,ots of other such toital comments, and they're equally absurd:

    "The other Arab Spring demonstrations are not comparable to Libya." Gee, Juan, do you mean not comparable in the way Iraq is not comparable to Libya in any way? 

    "There is no advantage to the oil sector of removing Qaddafi." Ok, here I'm on fairly sure ground. While the oil sector taken as a whole may like Muammar, there is ALWAYS, in any economic sector, an advantage to some firm or firms to change the rules or change the other players/referees, because somebody is relatively on the outs. This is like... physics. 

    "I also don’t understand the worry about the setting of precedents." This, in reference to the UN. Gee. Me neither. Precedent, schmecedent. He seems to believe that because it's a "political" body, precedent is irrelevant. 

    Juan Cole may be a great scholar of the region. I can't judge that. But what I can say is that his recent pieces on Libya contain a long series of over-the-top claims and arguments. He's protesting way too much, and to me, it sounds like something's up in Juan's world. 

    Yeah, wasn't exactly climbing Mt. Olympus, was it?


    I agree with you, I am having trouble following Juan on this one. I really can't see where he is coming from.

    The wisest thing I've read about Libya so far is the following:

    It would be a serious blow to western credibility if, having set out to remove Col Gaddafi, the allies failed to do so. But even success in achieving this will represent only a starting point for a voyage into the unknown.  Max Hastings - Financial Times

    My personal feeling is that this is just another mess that the US is getting into that it cannot afford to get involved in: http://dagblog.com/reader-blogs/neo-imperialism-future-failed-state-9581

    The possibilities for blowback are infinite.

    He's also doing what most of the pro-intervenionists do -- he's ignoring risks and costs.  It's easy to ignore risks if there are no American casualties, though to my thinking we already had too close a call with a crashed fighter jet.  Since the Pentagon is paying the US share out of already allocated funds, the US budget is somewhat insulated from the immediate bills.  But I wonder if we'll hear from Mr. Cole next year when the Pentagon asks for another huge budget increases because of all the cash it diverted to Libya.


    In my post I quote Bob Herbert, who I think sums it up best:

    So here we are pouring shiploads of cash into yet another war, this time in Libya, while simultaneously demolishing school budgets, closing libraries, laying off teachers and police officers, and generally letting the bottom fall out of the quality of life here at home. Bob Herbert's last column in the New York Times

    I am truly afraid of growing social breakdown in the USA. Last night I saw "Inside Job" and it painted a darker picture of the future for me than any Kunstler or Orlov could ever paint. If Americans want peace in the world the best thing they can do is repair America. Because think about it, could there be any country in the world as potentially dangerous as a fear-crazed, poverty stricken, dazed and confused USA? Physician heal thyself!

    That's a great point.  Our elites like to pretend that the people are stupid -- that they don't know that foreign aid is only 2% of the budget, and whatnot.  But that's because the people lump things like Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan into the concept of "foreign aid."  They don't care that the money is spent by the Pentagon rather than state.  They just know it's being spent abroad while they're being told to face austerity at home.  I don't see how people won't react to that, eventually.

    I saw "Inside Job" Saturday night, narrated by Matt Damon, who presently plays the part of a talented up-and-coming politician destined to become (implied, a great progressive) President one day--but only if he does not end up with the woman he was "meant" to be with--in a movie currently playing in the US called "The Adjustment Bureau".  Gives some sense of stuff going on in Damon's life that might help explain his recent very public comments on Obama, although he has long been politically active anyway.  Many here know that Damon and Ben Affleck grew up in the same neighborhood as the late Howard Zinn, knew Zinn and were influenced by him. 

    Probably the two most distinguished anti-militarist critics in the US, Andrew Bacevich and the late Chalmers Johnson, have their books both out just now in paperback.  As is, some five months ahead of scheduled paperback release (I very rarely observe that happening), Bethany McLean and Joseph Nocera's All the Devils are Here: The Hidden History of the Financial Crisis, yet another among a number of excellent reporting-and-analysis books on the financial crisis.  One of Nocera's latest is at: http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20110319/ZNYT01/103193010/-1/business?Title=An-Advocate-Who-Scares-Republicans  Robert Reich's Aftershock PB is out next week, wherein he tries to offer some positive suggestions about where to go from here.  Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson's Winner Take-All Politics is also recently out in paperback. 

    For Madrid expats, among other inquiring minds...Wink

    My family was connected to Hull House in Chicago and I have been reading Chomsky, Zinn, Bacevich and Chalmers Johnson for years now, but despite that, "Inside Job" truly shocked me.. Strangely enough what surprised me most was how corrupt the elite universities have become. I grew up surrounded by Northwestern professors and their children and this caught me totally off guard... as if Albert Einstein were doing consulting work for TEPCO. In a way I find this as shocking as paedophile priests. Anybody that can shrug this off is nuts in my opinion, the negative consequences of this sort of intellectual dishonesty going forward are monumental.

    The Center for Science in the Public Interest has for years been trying to raise awareness about academics whose research has been paid for by, among others, large pharmaceutical companies, and then cited by these companies in promoting the benefits of products that were the subject of the paid research.   http://www.cspinet.org/about/index.html

    Re economists and potential conflicts of interest, see the following January 3, 2011 article, on efforts by 300 economists to get the 18,000 member American
    Economic Association to adopt a code of ethics requiring, among other things, disclosure of potential conflicts of interest: http://blogs.reuters.com/the-deep-end/2011/01/03/lets-be-ethical-economists-say/

    Thanks for these links Dreamer

    That would be The Devil's Casino, by Vicky Ward, that is out in paperback, not All the Devils are Here, which indeed is scheduled to come out in paperback at the end of August.  Hard to keep those financial meltdown books with the word "Devil" in them straight, for me, at least.  Smile

    Juan speaks and reads Arabic, which does set him apart from other ME experts.  He also lived in Beirut and I believe Libya; I think he said once for a total of two years.  When Flavius put up his blog about the ten reasons, etc., he mentioned that Cole had mentioned Gadaffi murdering someone/s that he greatly admired.  It was from long ago, but it would't be hard to imagine that he still has many friends in the region; that could inform some of his thinking; it's hard to know.

    Because he reads Arabic, I had considered asking him in the comment thread whether or not he had read a piece at Al Jazeera Arabic that someone at FDL had seen about some Israeli 'businessmen' having been green-lighted by Bibi and Barak to recruit mercenaries for Gadaffi; prices per unit were even mentioned.  Some readers thought that if it were documentable, AJE would pick up the story, but it never appeared that I saw. 

    I sure hesitated to ask Juan; asking anything about Israel has the potential for starting a flame-war, but it did seem, if true, and important part of the geopolitical considerations in the region, and among the 'coalition'.  Guess we'd need some new Wikileaks.

    It wasn't until his open letter that Cole came out full-throatedly in favor of the no-fly zone and 1973, though he certainly was edging toward it as I looked backward on his diary entries for the past couple weeks.  What we choose to highlight often shows our biases.  Maybe almost always, really.

    Thanks for your list on ways Libya IS like Iraq; I'd started one for Flavius, then bailed when other things became more important in RL and writing.

    So today Juan spotlights the apparent evidence that Gadaffi's thugs are using rape as a weapon of war; lots of sites are, really.  If it's so, it's detestable and repugnant, and not uncommon (see Darfur attrocities, for instance).  We've watched those in favor of wars, and the media by extension, increase the detestability quotient of our monsters so often that I will hope that it's so if they are saying ot's so.  I do remember that reason #4 or whatever to stay in Afghanistan AND increase troop strength again 'for the women and children' worked for far too many Democrats tp be entirely comfortable with the evidence at this point.  I don't mean to sound one iota cavalier about it, but I also still have the 'Saddam stealing the incubators' bullshit dreamed up by a Madison Avenue ad outfit ringing in my brain.

    Really, it's a stinking thing to be so wary of our involvement in what can be construed as a humanitarian venture, especially one that's already been declared a success.

    But my mind is pinging on all the other spots like Yemen, Syria, Bahrain...where the US doesn't really want to perceived as favoring any Shiite-dominated protests; we KNOW which country those folks are alligned with!

    Cripes, even Gates was just in Ramallah trying to gin up some enthusiasm for a ME peace process, though Bibi's remarks about Hamas shelling Israel got most of the ink.  Okay; don't eant to get too far afield here, but humanitarian concerns seem to be just a prt of all this.  IMO, of course.

    …asking anything about Israel has the potential for starting a flame-war…


    LOL!      "I DIDN'T, I DIDN'T", screamed Stardust.  "I am but a lowly ilk!"

    How totally fatiguing!

    "Today, we are all wearing fatigues!"  -- Douglas MacArthur

    I am very concern trolled about the tone of this discussion.

    Probably the funniest comment of the week, Destor, save for the inadvetently hilarious "ilk"-speak.  (Thanks for making my night last night, Trope.)

    CoolKissTongue outWink   Four out of a possible five smileys...


    I try my best.  Although right now I am leaning toward utilizing its ancestor, the Old English ilca, because I think sounds nicer. 

    No, Trope.  It is written: No changing ilks in midstream.

    Hey, lady - if you're selling "ilks", you're working my side of the street.

    If you've seen one ilk, you've seen them all.

    When they came for the ilks, I thought...

    Hey, there, big boy; would you like to come up to my room and see my ilks?

    See?  Persecuted for even saying I MIGHT ask Juanie a question about Israel?  Freakin' site shut my out.  You call it paranoia; I call it The Truth!

    As the Spanish say, "All ilks are gray in the dark".

    Er...wouldn't they say it in Espanol?  De noche todos los ilks son gris?

    Free translation of "De noche todos los gatos son pardos"

    So today Juan spotlights the apparent evidence that Gadaffi's thugs are using rape as a weapon of war; lots of sites are, really

    His title says Women’s Rallies in Libya Protest Rape. I'd call that highlighting protesting rape, not highlighting just the rape itself.

    As a feminist, I'm very happy to see it happening, especially in an Arab culture, and think it's very newsworthy.

    To poo poo this coverage like it's a made up story about baby incubators being stolen to create outrage to fuel war is also to support women being silent about rape. Even if what's inspiring it has been ginned up by one side to hurt the other, it is a devil's bargain in my opinion to disregard the protests. Women being brave enough to protest it there is a good thing, and men supporting them doing that is a good thing, Al Jazeera talking about it is a good thing.  It's good that it's happening and if talking about it benefits one side of a war unfairly or whatever so be it, it's the cause of stopping that counts more. I'm against all the sides that think women shouldn't protest rape.

    I found myself wishing after reading this that more women in India would follow suit.

    I feel that the main message to take away from the amazing story of  Eman al-Obeidy is not that she's a rebel supporter and therefore have her motives questioned, but rather that the thugs trying to stop her so desperately did not want what she was saying reported to a wider audience. Libyan authorities first said she was insane, then there was a flip flop to say to the western media that they were prosecuting the perps, now they have flip flopped again and are saying she's a prostitute. I don't care which side the rapist thugs are on, I'm all for speaking out about it. Silence perpetutates the whole problem.

    I was certain someone would mischaracterize what I wrote, but what I wrote was:

    "So today Juan spotlights the apparent evidence that Gadaffi's thugs are using rape as a weapon of war; lots of sites are, really.  If it's so, it's detestable and repugnant, and not uncommon (see Darfur attrocities, for instance).  We've watched those in favor of wars, and the media by extension, increase the detestability quotient of our monsters so often that I will hope that it's so if they are saying ot's so.  I do remember that reason #4 or whatever to stay in Afghanistan AND increase troop strength again 'for the women and children' worked for far too many Democrats tp be entirely comfortable with the evidence at this point.  I don't mean to sound one iota cavalier about it, but I also still have the 'Saddam stealing the incubators' bullshit dreamed up by a Madison Avenue ad outfit ringing in my brain.

    Did you believe the incubator stories at first?  Does it take 'feminist' to find rape horrid, or protest brave?  Not to my mind.  It would take a Human Being.  But I would like to know that it's true, not just from doctors reporting viagra and condoms in thugs' pockets. 

    But by all means, go ahead and feel superior; but again, it shouldn't be a woman's issue, or a feminist issue, IMO.  Largely I'd like to make sure it's so before I get all raged up.  And as I said, in Darfur IT IS, bigtime. 

    I'm sorry you feel I mischaracterized what you wrote when I was just picking up on one part of it.

    It's just that one of the main reasons women do not speak out about rape is that they fear the honor wars among men that doing so will provoke. Always being silent to keep the peace is not the solution. We can't help it that people use it as excuse to war against someone else. I just feel strongly that the coverage and the protests are a good thing. That some in the Gaddafi regime scrambled to make it look like "we don't do that" is a result of the coverage. That those contemplating doing it might think twice because of the possibility of it being used as propaganda aginst them is a good thing. Let's put it this way: I'm all for an all-out propaganda war about which side rapes less, all for it.

    I think the coverage and the protests are good too; I was glad that some covered the Egyptian army or secirity people raping (if i remeber right) seven women is a good thing.  Some have already used it a s evidence of the failure of the revolution.

    I also would want people to spotlight the LA Times story about how crap the rebel forces were treating their captives, as well as the story that many were making war on Africans due to the fact that Gadaffi had hired African mercenaries. 

    I didn't know that the Libyan womwn story was doubted before you said it.  It's also still true that most women in this country won't report rape since they go on trial as much or more than the defendants in so many cases. 

    Anyway: fuck Gadaffi; he's an evil pig any way you slice it.

    On the oil cui-bono thing, quinn: Now that the rebels have retaken Ras Lanuf, Qatar's state oil company has agreed with the provisional govt. to act as a middleman for all the production it can crank out. Does that imply repudiation or renegotiation of the contracts Gaddafi signed with various countries? I dunno, but Italy used to get about a quarter of Libya's output. As a fellow member of the coalition, surely the price Italy pays is not going to go up!

    The Pentagon as of this afternoon is still mouthing the UN position, that they are not.working with the rebels. (If Obama says different tonight, that will be news):

    [4:37 p.m. Monday ET, 10:27 p.m. in Libya] U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said at the Pentagon Monday that the United States is not working in direct support of opposition forces in Libya.

    "We're not coordinating with the opposition," he said, adding that any gain it makes is "tenuous."

    Gortney's comments come after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov complained Monday that airstrikes by an international coalition including the United States seemed to expand beyond the scope of a U.N. resolution. That resolution, approved on March 17, created a no-fly zone above Libya and mandates the protection of civilians.

    "There are reports - which go undenied - that the air forces of the coalition conduct airstrikes on (Libyan leader Moammar) Gadhafi's troops and support the military actions of rebels. There is an obvious controversy there," Lavrov told reporters in Moscow. "We believe that the interference into what is, essentially, an internal civil war is not sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council resolution."

    Libyan government officials also have argued that coalition forces target only troops loyal to Gadhafi.

    from CNN's Live Blog, March 28, 2011

    The rebels can't call in an airstrike, but come on, double A!  We're not lobbing missiles at random.  I'm also confused as to what this can possibly mean.  That we can stop bombing and firing and Gadhafi runs out of equipment to blow up?  That we stop when we get bored?  When does it stop?

    I received this comment over at my home blog that I thought to share with y'all here:

    Why do you think the Brits choppered in spies, excuse me, diplomats protected by commandos in the first days of the "rebellion," rather than to wait and see which way the cookie would crumble?

    Might it just have been that they wanted undertakings about present and future oil and Sovereign Wealth Fund deals before the "world community" decided who the "reformers" and "moderates" were.

    At present prices, Libyan oil production is about $185 million a day. Amortising the development costs of weapons that are mostly exported at $100 million a day for a month is a bargain if it gets you hooked up with $200 million a day for the next 3 decades.

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