• Gratuitous insults: The staying power of bad ideas

    The state of Tennessee will consider a bill which will make supporting Sharia law a felony; Oklahoma already has a similar measure of the books, but it is currently under judicial review; burning the Koran and declaring Sharia law to be a felony are not going to help in our war against terrorism; they will have the opposite effect; they are provocative measures which will inflame Muslims around the world; without the active support of Muslims around the world, the war against the terrorists cannot be won; one way to make sure we do not receive such support is by burning the Koran or by declaring support for Sharia law to be a felony; legislating that support for Sharia law is a felony is unnecessary; we outlaw polygamy without declaring support for Mormonism to be a felony; Hassidic Jewish men believe that they can divorced their wives simply by repeating “I divorce you” three times; we do not allow that – without declaring support for Orthodox Judaism to be a felony

  • Gaddafi launches first major counter-attack on rebels

    Gaddafi’s forces are escalating a counteroffensive, pushing the country closer to an all-out civil war; opponents of Gaddafi today (Wednesday) repelled an attack by the Libyan leader’s forces trying to retake Brega, a key coastal oil installation, in a topsy-turvy battle in which shells splashed in the Mediterranean and a warplane bombed a beach where rebel fighters were charging over the dunes. At least five people were killed in the fighting; the assault on the Brega oil port was the first major regime counteroffensive against the opposition-held eastern half of Libya, where the population backed by mutinous army units rose up and drove out Gaddafi’s rule over the past two weeks; a coalition of anti-government movements is considering whether to ask the UN to execute airstrikes against pro-Gaddafi forces; NATO has drawn up plans for imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, but the organization said it would implement the plan only with a UN Security Council blessing, which is unlikely because of Russia’s objections

  • UN Human Rights Council to praise Libya's human rights record

    While the UN Security Council has imposed sanctions on Libya, the UN Human Rights Council is set to adopt a report full of praise for Libya’s human rights record; the report also contains comments on Libya by Council members: Sudan praises Libya for improving education conditions; North Korea noted Libya’s progress on economic and social rights; Saudi Arabia praised Libya for improvements in constitutional, legislative, and institutional frameworks, which “showed the importance that the country attached to human rights”; praise is also heaped on Libya by Cuba, Venezuela, Oman — and two nations whose leaders were recently ousted in the midst of Middle East unrest — Egypt and Tunisia

  • History: Libya and the Un Human Rights Council

    In May 2010, in a secret ballot, Libya received a shocking 155 votes (out of 192 countries who are UN members) and was elected to the UN Human Rights Council; UN members were aware of Libya’s human rights practices, such as extrajudicial and summary executions, systematic use of torture, and the imposition of the death penalty for political and economic offences; UN members were also aware that Libyan agents in 1988 blew up a passenger airplane over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people, exploded a French airliner over the Sahara desert, killing 170; Gaddafi also financed and helped train dozens of terrorist organizations, supported Charles Taylor in the Liberian civil war that was responsible for more than 200,000 deaths, supported the insurgency by Fodeh Sanko in Sierra Leon — Sanko’s followers chopped off the arms and legs of more than 82,000 men, women and children in villages loyal to the government, but left them alive so the government would go bankrupt trying to take care of them — and backed Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who brought hunger and devastation to that once relatively prosperous country; but then again, this is the UN

  • Battle lines in Libya harden

    The divisions in Libya harden; the Gaddafi government reinforces its hold on the Tripoli region by transferring to the area thousands of soldiers from southern tribes loyal to Gaddafi, augmented by hundreds of mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa; in the break-away eastern part of the country, former justice minister Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, who defected from the Gaddafi regime, announced Saturday he was setting up a provisional government; the UN Security Council imposed a series of sanctions on the Gaddafi regime and its loyalists; the UN General Assembly will debate tomorrow (Tuesday) whether to kick Libya off the UN Human Rights Council (the 47-member Council debated the Libyan situation Friday, but member states could not bring itself to criticize Gaddafi); British and German military planes landed in Libya’s desert over the weekend to rescue hundreds of oil workers and civilians stranded at remote sites; the secret military rescue missions signal the readiness of Western nations to disregard Libya’s territorial integrity when it comes to the safety of their citizens

  • Acoustic gunfire detection devices heading to the field

    Technological developments may one day create artificial soldiers, but until they come along, the United States and other countries will continue to rely on human soldiers; the militaries thus want to preserve as many of their soldier’s lives as possible; to that end, Shoulder-Worn Acoustic Targeting System (SWATS), which helps Marines zero in on enemy sniper fire, is a godsend to the United States; asymmetric warfare favors the forces that can strike and runaway unharmed, but with plentiful acoustic sensors in the field it will be that much harder for snipers to ambush U.S. soldiers and live to escape

  • On kabuki, farces, subpoenas, and theocracy

    The United States is trying to persuade the UN Human Rights Council to kick Libya out (yes, Libya is a member of the council) and to order an investigation of the atrocities committed by the Gaddafi regime against anti-government protesters; trouble is, members of the council include such towering paragons of human rights as Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Burundi — and the council is controlled by a bloc of Islamic and African states, backed by China and Russia; to hope this UN body will be moved by the plight of the Libyan people is to expect too much; closer to home, Darrell Issa (R-California) promised that when he assumed the chairmanship of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, he would launch a subpoena campaign against the Obama administration; the campaign has now been launched; in Kentucky, the state’s homeland security department requires the department’s executive director to publicize a “dependence on Almighty God” in agency training and educational materials; atheists argue in court that this would turn Kentucky into a theocracy

  • Pity Libya: Gaddafi is not a quitter

    There is much for which Tunisia’s Zain el-Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak should be criticized, but at least, at the end, they did not plunge their countries into a blood bath in order to keep their hold on power; Gaddafi is not a quitter, and it is not likely that his departure from the scene will be as peaceful

  • Anti-rocket system may become operational soon

    Terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas are too weak to fight the Israeli military, but what they can do is shower Israeli towns and cities with home-made Kassam rockets and Syria- and Iran-made Katyusha rockets; these rockets are not accurate and they carry a small warhead, but if you fire thousands of them (as Hezbollah did in the summer of 2006) or even a few hundreds (as Hamas has done since Israel left the Gaza Strip in 2005), it is enough to terrorize the population; the solution Israel has been working on for a while now is Iron Dome

  • Libya rocked by massive anti-government demonstrations

    Thousands of anti-government protesters demonstrate in Tripoli and Benghazi ahead of Thursday “Day of Anger” mass rally in the capital; the protesters are said to have thrown stones and petrol bombs, and set vehicles alight. Witnesses said police used rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse them; Colonel Gaddafi is the Arab world’s longest-serving leader, having ruled oil-rich Libya since a coup in 1969; he has always insisted that the country is run by a series of peoples’ committees, though most outside observers believe it is a police state with him firmly in control; this popular anti-government wave in the region began with the overthrow of Tunisia’s leader, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, in January; last week, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt resigned; in recent days there have also been anti-government demonstrations in Yemen, Bahrain, and Iran

  • U.S. and Turkey meet to expand counter-terrorism partnership

    Last week DHS secretary Janet Napolitano met with Turkey’s state minister Hayat Yazici to strengthen ties between the two countries and increase coordination to combat terrorism; Turkey is a critical ally in the Middle East and has worked closely with the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan; last month, Turkey arrested a wanted Saudi terrorism suspect who was on the Saudi Interior Ministry’s list of eight five most wanted terrorists; the meeting comes as Napolitano is working with her European counterparts to secure the global supply chain, prevent terrorists from exploiting it, and protect its critical infrastructure; Turkey has worked closely with the United States on Project Global Shield, an international effort to interdict shipments of dangerous chemicals used in improvised explosive devices (IEDs)

  • Iran faces anti-government protests Monday

    Opposition groups in Iran are calling for massive demonstrations on Monday; the Iranian government, which brutally suppressed anti-government demonstrations following the disputed 2009 elections, vowed to stifle the opposition and not allow the demonstrations to take place; Reza Pahlavi, the eldest son of the last shah of Iran who was deposed in the 1979 revolution, said that the outcome in Egypt must be “emboldening” for his country; U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said: “By announcing that they will not allow opposition protests, the Iranian government has declared illegal for Iranians what it claimed was noble for Egyptians”

  • The third way in Egypt

    The dilemma the United States is facing in Egypt is often compared with the one encountered by the United States during the Iranian Revolution of 1979; pundits argue that the alternative in Egypt is between a corrupt but pro-Western dictatorship and a repressive religious autocracy; in the United States, worries have been expressed that the post-Mubarak transitional government, led by an intellectual or secular leader such el Baradei, will be vanquished in favor of Islamic autocracy as was the case with Shapur Bakhtiar, the last secular prime minister of Iran; this comparison misstates the history and presents a false choice

  • Mubarak cedes authority to Suleiman, but remains in office

    Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak said Thursday he has passed authority to Vice President Omar Suleiman, but will not step down before September elections; the move, announced in a nationally televised address, means he will retain his title of president and ensures the regime will continue to control the reform process; it is not clear whether the anti-government protesters would accept Mubarak’s plan; Suleiman has led the regime’s management of the crisis since he was named to the vice president post soon after protests erupted on 25 January; with his efforts failing to bring an end to protests, he and his foreign minister both warned of the possibility of a coup and imposition of martial law if the protesters do not agree to a government-directed framework of negotiations for reforms

  • Governing post-Mubarak Egypt

    The end of Mubarak’s reign and the likely reforms of Egypt’s political system make for an unpredictable, nervous period; in 2005 the Muslim Brotherhood won 88 seats in parliament, or about 20 percent; the leadership of the MB at the time was more pragmatic and actively sought to be involved in the country’s politics; in January 2010 the leadership of the MB was changed, and a more religiously conservative, but also a more politically aloof, leaders are now at the helm; moreover, the MB historically has been the only movement to take on the regime, and as a result it has enjoyed what analysts regard as an inflated support; the demonstrations of the last two weeks show that there are many movements and groups now willing to participate in the political process; this means that Egypt’s silent majority will have alternatives to the MB at the polls; the trouble: there may be too many alternatives, risking splitting the secular vote, thus allowing the MB to emerge as one of the largest, if not the largest, party in the post-September elections parliament