Saturday, May 9, 2009
Of course, I grinned with pleasure and that burning desire to hit the ball out of the park with my astute and rehearsed answer. There are few things I enjoy as much as blogging The Casbah: "So" I replied, "the theme of The Casbah is basically something I experienced that has been translated into an intellectual metaphor." Let me explain:
In the summer of 2007, I went to volunteer at a Palestinian refugee camp in Nablus, Palestine. The people who were in charge of our volunteership, the people in charge of the camp, assigned us a high-rise apartment that overlooked the old city of Nablus, or as some of the locals call it, "the casbah." We would sit on the porch of this brash, bricked apartment complex and gaze out at the mystic glow of this seemingly ancient Casbah. So sitting on this porch, we would watch the guerrilla's of the casbah fight the conventional Israeli Army in a seemingly sick and endless game of cat and mouse. It was one hell of an experience; something I will never forget.
As for the metaphor part of my response, I have taken this experience on the West Bank and recycled its paradigm to fit the theme of my blog. Blogging The Casbah: We are intellectual insurgents’ for peace and justice and protectors of the old city. We bring a non-conventional approach to knowledge and understanding that taps into a wisdom that is as old as the Biblical Samarian women who once offered water to Jesus at Jacobs Well in Nablus. We rebel against the conventional norms of mainstream analysis that are all-too-often see on CNN, BBC or any other form of corporate nonsense and bombardment. We are not paid, not influenced and not told what to, or what not to... blog about. We are truly free to reflect and protect THIS Casbah from the greater forces that continuously roam at its gates.
I hoped this helped readership... Welcome to The Casbah.
PS- Read this piece I wrote if you have not already. (It has been published by Ma'an, the largest Palestinian news agency on the West Bank, the Santa Barbara Independent and of course, The Casbah.)
The Rooster adds: "Abu Guerrilla brought me here to The Casbah in order to fill a part of this idea realm. Check out my profile to see what I bring to this Old Digital City we call The Casbah. I like to think that we here can make logical choices and analysis of the topics we feel need to be discussed first and foremost. The Guerrillas that roam this Casbah use our collective education and experience, gained over years of studying and wandering the world visiting places most do not dare to brave, to make sure we write with an honest truth about the facts and its respective impact. Sometimes we even offer advice, yes, we moonlight as sages of the digital age."
Friday, May 8, 2009
So in the name of daily blogging and keeping the readership up to date, I want to share a few new developments:
1. Remember that NPR radio show that your favorite Guerrilla was on (Abu Guerrilla)? Yeah, well, as I was pulling out of my San Diego flat yesterday, I got a call and they now want to put me on a weekly installment while travel through various Middle Eastern countries this summer. This "weekly interview" should include Middle Eastern politics, history, culture, current events and my general raw style of reporting that you are used to here at The Casbah. I even think the name of the program is going to be called "The Casbah." But we will wait and see.
2. I have been "pitching" my surf story with vigor and veracity. It is not easy trying to do much of anything as a freelance Journalist right now--especially trying to get a publisher to pick you up when they haven't worked with you before. Nevertheless, I charge on. Just a few days ago I got a "bite" from a little publication called (I don't know if you've heard of them) The NY frickin' Times!!! My fingers are crossed.
3. I found a really interesting surf story that relates to the story I want to write on Surfline.com. It is a basic 101 on surfing the Mediterranean and it talks of reconciliation and beauty. Worth a read for sure.
So hang on their guerrillas', Abu is getting ready to fly El Al with a Che Guevara stenciled California Surfboard!!! I leave June 4!
PS, question to the readership: The other day I was asked what kind of reaction I expect to get when carrying a surfboard through the Palestinian Territories, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon... Any ideas?
Thursday, May 7, 2009
"No country, no leaders, unless they really are crazy like a Hitler, wants to be destroyed, wants their country to be destroyed when it comes down it," he says. "As bad as these leaders talk in Iran and the Taliban and so forth, they don't ... talk about self-destruction. ... We have no basis for believing they are prepared to be destroyed in the process."
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW
Then sound off in the comments section!
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Since I am the resident expert on Southeast Asia, I would like to offer a solution to the Somali Pirate Problem: The Strait of Malacca (Molucca) example. The strait of Malacca used to be the hot spot for piracy headlines, with something like 40-50 attacks or so a year. The geography in the Strait of Malacca makes the region very susceptible to piracy. It was, and still is, an important passageway between China and India, and was used heavily for commercial trade. As for modern times, the Strait is on the route between Europe, the Suez Canal, and the oil-exporting countries of the Persian Gulf; and the busy ports of Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Pusan, Tokyo, etc. The strait is narrow, contains thousands of islets, and is an outlet for many rivers, making it an ideal location for pirates to hide and evade capture.
After concerted efforts by joint ops between Singapore, U.S., Indonesia, India and...wait for it...the Chinese, (Like I suggested earlier as a possible ally), the number of attacks last year was down to a whopping...two. (yes, from 200 to two.)
So what was accomplished and why was it successful? Well, in addition to finally including the Chinese under their terms, Indians, and Singaporeans, they established a maritime coast guard consisting of former pirates and malaysians in order to thwart the pirates. Takes a pirate to catch a pirate. Additionally, they signed a cooperative agreement and included interested countries such India in the requirement for patrols.
This is what I suggested for the horn of africa. So, once again, here's how we solve it:
1) Get the Chinese involved. Heck, get the Indians involved too (Lauren, one of our very intelligent readers correctly noted that these two countries are already in the region. Thanks Lauren! So, I'll add to my suggestion; Get the Chinese and Indians MORE involved. Let's say monetarily, more ships in the region, and better communication and coordination with NATO forces.)
2) Hire former pirates from Somaliland, Somalia, and Puntland as deputized coast guards.
3) Continue joint efforts by other countries naval forces, with a signed agreement of cooperation to maintain peace on the seas. As well as utulizing the input and manpower from local and regional personnell.
Accomplish these three, and we will soon forget the horn of African pirates.
Over the past month, we have seen a lot of suicide attacks in the Shia areas--some even neighborhoods that are controlled by the Saddarists. However, today's attack has been targeted at a Sunni community in Baghdad, once controlled by al-Qaeda.
Iraq the unraveling? Only time will tell. But if you had to force optimism on the situation, al-Qaeda gives purpose to the Sons of Iraq program. This means that the Shia-led government of Maliki can continue to put-off integrating these guys while they continue to "take care of radical Sunni elements" (AKA al-Qaeda in Iraq).
But fear not my people, the guerrillas' of this Casbah are watchin' this situation with care.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
And it's been interesting to watch how Western news agencies have tried to cope with this fact. Everyone knows that Pakistan is the story of the year; yet, not to many in the West really understand the place. The majority of the reporting the West sees is basically monopolized by underpaid Pakistani journalists who are handed a camera and are ordered to "point it at the bearded insurgent with the RPG." Some plan eh?
So yeah, it's time to get smart on Pakistan and South Asia. One easy way to get an on the ground 101 to just about any country is to read their national newspaper. And from reading it, it would seem safe to say that the Pakistani's are a little pissed off at the moment:
Mr. Obama used a domestic event to ‘accidentally’ declare war on Pakistan. Now his team is trying to encourage the Pakistani military to seize power. The Americans destroyed Pakistan’s stability through the Benazir-Musharraf deal in 2007. They are doing it again. Here is the easiest way of telling the Americans to: Lay off, stop lecturing us on India, stop supporting separatism, and mend your ways in Afghanistan.
There is not a single towering personality in the Pakistani landscape today, with enough credibility, strong personality and effective communication skills, to stand up and tell U.S. President Barack Obama: You are a liar.
Londonstani, that grown-up over at Abu Muqawama, broke this article down into the top five points that we in the West should take away:
1. All of Pakistan's internal problems come from Indian activities run out of Afghanistan.
2. Pakistan's present "democratic" rulers are useless and owe their positions to America.
3. The real story is that the U.S. has failed in Afghanistan
4. London and Washington have a hidden agenda in cosying up to India.
5. The US wants to invade and dismember Pakistan
If I came out of this post, this article, Londonstani's five points, with anything, it's that it's time to start reading the Pakistani press and listening to their populous grievances. Seemingly everything Pakistan has a problem with has something to do India. Why can't the West get this fact? Perhaps it is because they aren't reading The Casbah...
Monday, May 4, 2009
1. Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal, has recently re-said that Hamas will support a Palestinian state in the '67 borders. (He just won re-election for another four years.) Something interesting from the NY Times interview:
"But he urged outsiders to ignore the Hamas charter, which calls for the obliteration of Israel through jihad and cites as fact the infamous anti-Semitic forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” Mr. Meshal did not offer to revoke the charter, but said it was 20 years old, adding, “We are shaped by our experiences.”"
2. Iraq. Remember the Surge? It came in two parts: more troops to live with Iraqis, and paying Sunni leaders to fight Islamist cells (deemed the Sons of Iraq program). Many had questioned whether it would work. And, well, now there are signs of it falling apart. Hmm... How do you say Mess-o-potania? Hopefully this will pass and the Maliki government can integrate these Sunni's into government.
3. Just when the world wrote-off Benjamin Netanyahu as a political crusader, he makes a move that could be summerized as land for peace. Looks like Israel is going to withdraw from the northern part of Ghajar, as outlined by Resolution 1701 that ended the 34-day war between Israel and Lebanon's Hezbollah in 2006. I don’t want to say more about this until I see some action. But it looks like we might.
Thanks guys, these are some hot issues to watch.
This is what some yahoo had to say about the 1919 King-Crane Commission and the Armenians:
The commission also tackled the issue of whether there should be an Armenian state, and came to the conclusion that there should be one. While one explanation might be mere favoritism (the Armenians are Christian), the arguments used for an Armenian state are quite similar to later arguments for the existence of Israel after World War II. The report noted that the Armenians had suffered a traumatic experience in the genocide, that they couldn't trust the Turkish state to respect their rights anymore, and that they were "a people." Therefore, Armenian independence should be respected and ensured.
But if you haven't been following the up and coming June 7, Lebanese election, here is a quick review. To oversimplify, there are two different coalitions contending for votes. The first is dubbed the March 8 coalition and its major actors are Hezbollah and Christian dominated Free Patriotic Movement. The second is called the March 14 coalition; basically the current pro-Western government in Beirut. (There are many smaller parties and constituencies that will be key in swinging this election, but this is the general framework. And click here for a better review.)
Now lets get to that darn question all you Casbah guerrilla' have been asking about: WHAT IN GOD'S NAME WILL HAPPEN IF MARCH 8 WINS!?! Here are a few popular responses I've stumbled across:
Reader-funded foreign correspondent Michael J. Totten says:
"Here's the reason I would vote against March 8, though, if I were Lebanese. If war breaks out again between Hezbollah and Israel, the Lebanese government itself would be considered a military target. Nowhere in Lebanon would be safe. This is what worries me more than anything else. A March 8 victory might blow up the entire country. But it also might not. Maybe things would pretty much proceed as normal. It's hard to say. Perhaps we'll find out."
Popular Lebanese commentator Jim Ramsey Khoury says:
"A March 8 government would give the US government justification to ignore Lebanon and leave it at the mercy of the Israelis. That said, March 14 isn’t a much better choice for election. I’d much rather vote for new candidates who represent themselves rather than a side like M8 or M14."
Joe M., AKA a random guy who commented on Qifa Nabki's blog says:
The opposite is also true. The more Hizbullah is empowered, the less possible it is for Israel to strike all of Lebanon. Because, for instance, it is politically harder for the international community to defend Israel when it is attacking all of Lebanon rather than simply targeting Hizbullah. When Hizbullah is out of power, the world is less likely to restrain Israel because Israel can claim to be attacking only Hizbullah (even though they are bombing everyone anyway, as we have seen). Also, if Hizbullah is in a majority government, that does not mean that other factions have no say or no roll. And attacking Lebanon is not in Israel’s interests anyway, because it will simply alienate more of the Lebanese people, whether Hizbullah’s in government or not. When Lebanon is being bombed wholesale, I doubt the people being hit will be saying “oh, that bomb is what i deserve because Hizbullah won in the parliamentary election…”
There's a few different opinion out there eh? If you ask me, Totten hit a home run when he said "Maybe things would pretty much proceed as normal. It's hard to say. Perhaps we'll find out."
Perhaps we will. And keep checking The Casbah for updates on the Lebanese Election as I will be blogging from Beirut in the aftermath.
In one recorded sermon, Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Hensley, the chief of the US military chaplains in Afghanistan, is seen telling soldiers that as followers of Jesus Christ, they all have a responsibility "to be witnesses for him".
"The special forces guys - they hunt men basically. We do the same things as Christians, we hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down," he says.
"Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business."
If you ask me, part of our problem in Afghanistan is that we impose ourselves into this ancient culture and assume that our way of life is better. And yeah, I'd have to say that there are more than a few things that the West does better than Afghanistan. No duh right?
But it isn't what I think, it's what the Afghan people think. They are the ones we need to resist the Taliban insurgency.
So stop trying to impose evangelical Christianity on them U.S. servicemen! This fits right into the Taliban's theme of "fighting for Islam and Afghanistan." This war is no longer George W. Bush's crusade. And if a major Arab news outlet like al-Jazeera is now picking up this story, I think it would be safe to say that this is not a contained incident, or just a few outlaw Military chaplains.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
In 2008, international intelligence agencies thought Baitullah Mehsud was dead. But this is no longer the case, Baitullah Mehsud is not dead. Baitullah Mehsud is alive and he remains one of the powerful men in Pakistan and indeed, the world.
Baitullah Mehsud is the leader of the Pakistan Taliban (if you can call that range of Talib groups throughout the north and west of the country a cohesive group). He achieved his position through his Teamsters-like ability to organize, a solid network from his time over the border (where he was mentored by Afghan Taliban head Mullah Omar) and the tribal allegiances that are at his beck and call.
Baitullah Mehsud is thought to be behind the December 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the September 2008 Islamabad Marriott bombing, and the March Lahore police academy bombing. Mehsud has waged a war of fear and violence on vast swathes of the north-west populace, demanding payment from citizens (he calls it a "tax") for protection and solving minor and major disputes with summary justice. Essentially Mehsud is operating a high level mafia protection racket, but with a Middle Eastern twist complete with suicide blasts and AK-47 supported attacks.
Here are some excerpts from Virginia M. Moncrieff about Mehsud:
A brief article such as this cannot do credit to the twists and turns and Machiavellian nature of the Talib movement in Pakistan. There are so many factions, views on Sharia law, breakaway groups, imposters, allegiances and much infighting and intrigue involved. But at the centre of it all is mastermind Baitullah Mehsud - who has overseen the Talibanization of Pakistan and the incidences of random suicide bombings over the last four years.
Here's some personal statistics. Baitullah Mehsud is about 35 years old and is thought to have had little formal education outside the madrassah. People who have met him say he is short - around 5'2" (156cm). He was born in the North West Frontier, and is from the Pashtun tribe of his name - Mehsud. His first wife gave him four daughters so he reportedly married again, hoping for male offspring.
He did grant an interview to the BBC in 2007 where he said that the way to world peace was through jihad, and that it is the duty of every Muslim to join jihad. In March, he told Agence-France Press "Very soon we will take revenge from America, not in Afghanistan but in Washington, which will amaze the entire world."
His elusiveness hasn't prevented him negotiating with Islamabad, though it could be argued that the negotiations were more like the government ceding to threats and standover tactics. In early 2005 under a 'negotiated peace', the Pakistan army withdrew from Mehsud-held areas of Waziristan, leaving only a small paramilitary presence. In return, Baitullah Mehsud agreed not to give safe haven to foreign militants or disrupt government operations. The agreement did not last long (although Baitullah Mehsud blamed its collapse on the Pakistan government and then took 200 soldiers hostage for three months).
Last month the State Department slapped a $5 million reward on Baitullah Mehsud. Islamabad says that the US has spectacularly failed to bomb Mehsud out of his haven despite the US being provided with the best intelligence on his whereabouts.
Million dollar rewards, aerial bombing, intelligence, political will. Up until now, Baitullah has defied them all.
So there you have it. In The Roosters opinion, bringing to justice (dead or alive) the number four Man according to Time Magazine should be the number one priority.