Agam's Gecko
Thursday, September 09, 2004
This afternoon a powerful bomb ripped apart the Australian Embassy in Kuningan, South Jakarta. Reports are of a car bomb, however the BBC reporter said the vehicles which looked to be at the centre of the blast were two motorcycles. There are many injured bystanders and passersby, and several confirmed dead at each of the hospitals where the victims were taken. At this early stage it would seem that the death toll might be in the vicinity of approximately 10 -- there are 7 confirmed as of 5pm local time. Many of the injuries are very serious, so this number might well go higher. There are about 150 being treated at several hospitals across the city. The television crews appear to have been on the scene almost immedately after the blast, and the video being shown this afternoon is just gut wrenching.

I had been wondering what I could possibly say about the atrocity at Beslan, after my rather extended hiatus for 2 weeks of moving and settling. What can possibly be said about such absolute evil? And just as I'm about to open my new posting file, to finish tidying up some leftover items collected lately, this breaking news erupts on the Beeb. Fortunately, in Agam's new broom closet, I'm still enjoying not only the treasured company of my infamous gecko -- but was fortunate enough to have my trusty satellite feed re-wired into the new digs. So now, without even needing to run up a flight of stairs, I can magically switch instantaneously to any one of nine Indonesian television services. And what I've seen in the past hour makes me immensely sad, but even more determined. The movement which produces such acts as Beslan and today in Jakarta -- and the threads are there, no question about it -- must be defeated absolutely. There can be no accommodation, no compromise, no negotiation. As if we didn't already know that, but it seems that many still don't get it. The same mindless and soulless ideology which slaughters children without remorse, which kidnaps and beheads innocent workers in Saudi and Iraq, which blows up buses in Beersheva, trains in Madrid and dance halls in Bali, did this today.

Anyone who believes that such people, who attach themselves to such ideology, have legitimate grievances and just need to be "understood", or that the civilised world must oppose this movement more "sensitively", needs to have their brain examined.

I can't wait to see how much of the "old media" -- Reuters, Associated Press, the "newspapers of record" and so on -- will report on this by naming the terrorists who perpetrated it as "militants" or even "activists". Much of the old media seems incapable of calling things what they are. Many of the wire service stories on Beslan actually could not bring themselves to say that the murderous animals who slaughtered the children without mercy, were indeed Islamist jihadis -- although the fact that they brought only weapons, bombs and Korans to the party should have been a dead give-away (pardon the pun).

I have little doubt in my own mind that this is more of the works of Jema'ah Islamiya. And as if on cue to agree with me, TV7 is now showing a video montage of the carnage with accompaniment of music -- the same music that was used (possibly by another station) two years ago for the same purpose after the Bali bombing. A plaintive song, no idea who sings it -- "Everybody hurts..... everybody cries.... some-time....."

It occurred to me on the weekend as I watched the first news of the horrible unfolding of what happened in Beslan... that weeping and wailing sound that people make when their loss is so incredibly severe, has a quality which is almost primordial (if that's the right word) upon the people who hear it. It's as if any human being can't not be emotionally affected by the sound. The sound of absolute despair, where hope is dead and the pain seems infinite. The wail is like a copper wire that can transmit that whole experience from the heart of the one feeling it, to the heart of the one hearing it. I heard (and felt) that on Saturday night from the families of Beslan, and it sounds exactly the same today in Jakarta. Part of the universal language I guess, that primal wail.

UPDATE: Now SCTV is reporting 6 deaths, so let's hope the downward trend continues. About 120 being treated as reported from three hospitals.

SON OF UPDATE: I have no links to offer at this time -- check Jakarta Post, Australian papers and the other Asia Pacific news sources linked in the side bar. I haven't been on the net for a few days (until I actually upload this). These following items were squirrelled away over the past week or so, waiting for me to stop being so hiatus-like and update the blog, dammit.

NEPHEW OF UPDATE: It seems that this tragedy occurred on SBY's birthday, and he rushed to the scene from the celebrations. SBY of course is the man who I'm crossing my fingers will be the next president of Indonesia, the fellow whose name Rachel Harvey insists on mispronouncing in the most silly manner, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. She ought to just use the abbreviation catching on with Indonesians, and refer to him as "Ess-Bay-Yay" (SBY)! He's a gentle man of compassion and strong backbone -- much like another president I can think of, just what his country needs right now. This is one birthday he won't forget, as I see him trudging through the devastation and from hospital bed to hospital bed comforting weeping families. September 9. Two more days until the third anniversary of September 11. September 3. October 12. March 11. The anniversaries are piling up. Never forget.

And then if you feel down about it all, go to Omar's site, look through his archives for earlier this year where he remembers the one year anniversaries that matter to him: March 20. April 9. Yes, especially April 9, but everything in between as well. "Days I don't want to Forget", as I think he called them. Reading that is the best counterpoint to September 9, or 3rd or 11th.

GRANDNEPHEW OF UPDATE: BBC later reports 8 confirmed deaths, so it's moving in the wrong direction again. Now just before 9pm (about to upload this now), TV7 is showing a huge live event in a stadium somewhere, amazing how they can put such a production together in just a few hours. Solidarity with the Victims in Kuningan, or something like that. Turut berduka cita (I join you in your sorrow)

When I wrote before about the Swifties, the old media was ignoring them with a determination which was a thing to behold. The blogosphere was following the story, digging up more information and moving it forward, to the consternation of the New York Times, et al. Eventually they couldn't continue to sit on it, or bury it any deeper without looking absolutely like Kerry campaign workers, so the issues finally saw the light of day. So one day I'm watching the Jim Lehrer New Hour, toward the end of last month (but before the Repub convention), and Jim was interviewing John O'Neill (the same Swiftie who debated Kerry on Cavett 33 years ago), and columnist Tom Oliphant mounting the pro-JFK side. (Hmm, I always thought journalists were supposed to be above partisanship. Oh well)

And this discussion became the perfect encapsulation of what is wrong with the old media at the present time -- the completely sickening snobbishness of the annointed scribes. O'Neill was calm, reasonable, and had his facts all lined up close at hand. Oliphant had nothing but his superior journalistic persona which could not manage to hide his transparent partisan bias. As if that were not enough, his whole demeanor with which he delivered little more than snide quips and clever insults almost seemed to want to portray some kind of royal infallibility. The session can be read here, but this is the bit that struck me. It occurred right at the end of the interview:
JOHN O'NEILL: Jim, one other thing, they can look at swiftvets.com, which is the web site that has a great deal of information on it.

JIM LEHRER: Is there a web site that's comparable to that? I'm sure the Kerry --

TOM OLIPHANT: Yes, it's called the daily press, which is the most difficult thing for these guys to deal with.
So there we have it. The Swifties have compiled their own stories and supporting evidence (as have, by the way, some of those who felt slandered by Kerry at the "Winter Soldier" hearings, and other veterans who felt their honour had been stolen, and made a documentary about it). So is there a website which presents the Kerry side of things? Why yes of course, Jim. It's called the Daily Press. D'oh! Even I knew that!

It was, until recently, one of presidential aspirant John Kerry's favourite phrases. Mackubin Thomas Owens was in Vietnam during the same period as Kerry, and writes about John Kerry's Two Vietnams, finishing up with this observation:
As a correspondent pointed out to me in an e-mail, each episode of the HBO series Band of Brothers, begins with a voiceover in which the narrator says of the World War II soldiers portrayed in the program: "I was not a hero, but I was surrounded by heroes." In contrast, what John Kerry is saying in essence about his "band of brothers" is that "in Vietnam, I was a hero, but I was surrounded by war criminals."
A reader's comment summed up Kerry's self-inflicted wounds this way (found on a new blog, Swimming through the spin): "I guess Kerry was for 'bringing it on' before he was against 'bringing it on.'" Heh, when you build your entire nominating convention and acceptance speech on "I'm a war hero", you better not complain when people accept that as your main plank, and deal with you on that basis.

A week or so ago, I read that the Chinese government's English language media mouthpiece, China Daily, had expressed support for John Kerry's electoral success in a recent editorial. Now this from Judicial Watch:
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, today released recently declassified documents showing that Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry accepted laundered contributions for his 1996 re-election campaign from the Communist Chinese government and that, in exchange, he may have arranged meetings between Chinese aerospace executives and U.S. government officials.
It's funny, I haven't read anything about this by any journalists -- why do you suppose that would be? They usually love this kind of stuff. Hat tip for the new, and very interesting
Swimming through the Spin.

So just as with the Dems convention in July, and due to my extreme good fortune to retain my satellite feed, I saw the main prime time PBS coverage of the Repub's bash too. I though the contrast between the two couldn't have been sharper. The Dems were all style -- and militaristic style at that! -- and little substance. Kerry's own moment in the spotlight was an hour that was virtually substance-free, with nothing memorable apart from the "and I'm... [pregnant pause] ... reporting for duty.] with the belaboured salute and the one eyebrow up, one eyebrow down, facial expression. (What was up with that? The photo looked horrible.) I thought the GOP did much better at having something to say, at having some substance in the areas which I think Americans (for the most part) feel are important. Of course I would disagree with them on all sorts of things, things that don't matter much to me because I don't live there. But on the issue that does matter to me, which does affect me and everyone else despite not living there, I feel that these people get it the way I get it. On the great global struggle of our time, between freedom and tyrany, between tolerance and terror, on the tug-of-war which we cannot lose, and time is fast running out to turn the tide -- in this field I'm sure that Bush's commitment is the best chance we have. Maybe there'll be a time for airy-fairy nothin' scary, touchy feely sensitivity at some point later in history, but not now. This is no time for fooling around. I hope it doesn't sound too glib, I don't mean it that way, but I want to see adults in charge.

So a lot of the 4 night presentation was forgettable but some things stood out. John McCain had a fine speech I thought, although his delivery isn't always the best. He took a verbal thrust at Michael Moore, perhaps not even realising that Moore was present as an acredited journalist for USA Today. The camera found him though, sitting in the press box fending off the hoots with some undeterminable hand gestures. I managed to read his lips though, in response to the delegates' chant of "four more years", he mouthed the words "two more months". Hah, you wish. Bloggers reported the next day that poor Michael's feelings were hurt by the experience, and he decided not to return on the following days. I wonder if USA Today got their money back. I could relate to a lot of what Arnie said, though his opening jokes were rather flat. Lefty hacks the next day called him a liar for claiming to have seen Soviets in Austria as a boy -- he wasn't of course. Now married to the Kennedy clan, there he was in "Medicine Square Godden" leading the crowd: "Foaah Moaah Yeaahhs!" Giuliani was quite good. Michael Steele was terrific -- "John Kerry doesn't want to use the word 'war' to describe the struggle against terrorism? I don't want to use the word 'Commander in Chief' to describe John Kerry!" Remember that name, Michael Steele, I could see him making a run in the not too distant future. Hey, how about an election campaign in, let's say 2012 with Barack Obama vs. Michael Steele. Yeah!

I think many people who distain Dick Cheney as some sort of Nazi who eats fetuses for breakfast, have probably never actually listened to him speak. That's why I'm so grateful to have been able to see C-SPAN in recent years. I can actually have the opportunity to get a better picture of some of these people than those who only gets the soundbites that "old media" feeds them. Anyway, Cheney's speech was understated in its delivery, and all the more powerful for it. I know I'll shock some people here, but I most enjoyed the stemwinder, the barnburner of the week, the Democrat who declared that "My family is more important than my party!" The "progressive media" of course had a field day with him in the papers the next day, virtually painting him as a hate-filled venomous, segregation-loving Dixiecrat. Pah! No evidence of that whatsoever. Why they even tried to make fun of his Appalatian accent. Listing the military equipment Kerry has voted to eliminate over the years, he was quoted saying, "U.S. forces armed with what? SPEUUTBALLS?" I liked him. His recounting of Wendell Wilkie (a Republican) and his principled non partisan support for Roosevelt, was very apt. His party of course hates him now, just as well he's decided not to run for Senate again.

But of course the main event was President Bush. Would he flub his lines? Would he coin a new word? Would the pundits be laughing at him the next day? Not to worry. He got 99.9% through the text before almost stumbling on the last word. Which is better than virtually every other speaker in either convention -- but you can be sure that if he had stumbled, it would have been seized upon instantly as further evidence that he's an imbecile. Somewhere midway through the speech, he took the opportunity to poke a little fun at himself, and his reputation.
You may have noticed I have a few flaws, too. People sometimes have to correct my English I knew I had a problem when Arnold Schwarzenegger started doing it. Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called "walking."
He spoke of the ability of freedom to absolutely transform societies and peoples, which I firmly believe. A few phrases that I jotted down: on his own shortcomings, "people are gonna notice 'em, and whatever strengths you have, you're gonna need 'em". He displayed his honest emotions when talking of the families of sacrifice and their "sorrow and pride", remembering their loved one who was "last seen doing good", and that "liberty was precious to the one they lost". When he hit these passages, his compassion was evident to anyone watching. He felt these words very deeply, just as I remember noting in his leadership after September 11, and which impressed me very much. It was indeed all I could do to stem my own tears. He went on to talk of the "character of a great nation"... "decent, idealistic and strong"... and one of the most memorable phrases in tribute to New York -- "Here buildings fell; here, a nation rose." I sincerely pray that he will be proven correct by history, when he described "This young century will be liberty's century." For everyone's sake.

That previous bit was just my filling in a little bit between the few words from the speech that I tapped out last week as I watched it. Doesn't really do it justice, so I here quote just the last few paragraphs:
In 1946, 18 months after the fall of Berlin to allied forces, a journalist wrote in the New York Times, "Germany is a land in an acute stage of economic, political and moral crisis. [European] capitals are frightened. In every [military] headquarters, one meets alarmed officials doing their utmost to deal with the consequences of the occupation policy that they admit has failed." End quote. Maybe that same person's still around, writing editorials.
One thing I have learned about the presidency is that whatever shortcomings you have, people are going to notice them and whatever strengths you have, you're going to need them. These four years have brought moments I could not foresee and will not forget. I have tried to comfort Americans who lost the most on September 11th people who showed me a picture or told me a story, so I would know how much was taken from them. I have learned first-hand that ordering Americans into battle is the hardest decision, even when it is right. I have returned the salute of wounded soldiers, some with a very tough road ahead, who say they were just doing their job. I've held the children of the fallen, who are told their dad or mom is a hero, but would rather just have their dad or mom.

And I have met with parents and wives and husbands who have received a folded flag, and said a final goodbye to a soldier they loved. I am awed that so many have used those meetings to say that I am in their prayers to offer encouragement to me. Where does strength like that come from? How can people so burdened with sorrow also feel such pride? It is because they know their loved one was last seen doing good. Because they know that liberty was precious to the one they lost. And in those military families, I have seen the character of a great nation: decent, and idealistic, and strong.

The world saw that spirit three miles from here, when the people of this city faced peril together, and lifted a flag over the ruins, and defied the enemy with their courage. My fellow Americans, for as long as our country stands, people will look to the resurrection of New York City and they will say: Here buildings fell, and here a nation rose.

We see America's character in our military, which finds a way or makes one. We see it in our veterans, who are supporting military families in their days of worry. We see it in our young people, who have found heroes once again. We see that character in workers and entrepreneurs, who are renewing our economy with their effort and optimism. And all of this has confirmed one belief beyond doubt: Having come this far, our tested and confident Nation can achieve anything.

To everything we know there is a season a time for sadness, a time for struggle, a time for rebuilding. And now we have reached a time for hope. This young century will be liberty's century. By promoting liberty abroad, we will build a safer world. By encouraging liberty at home, we will build a more hopeful America. Like generations before us, we have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for freedom. This is the everlasting dream of America and tonight, in this place, that dream is renewed. Now we go forward grateful for our freedom, faithful to our cause, and confident in the future of the greatest nation on earth.
Some parts of this might read a bit like triumphalism, but it certainly wasn't delivered that way. It was a very strong and principled determination to do what is required, to do what is right without bragging about it, full of an idealism which I have no quarrel with at all.

Here's a little item to take to heart on the eve of September 11th's anniversary. News of an Islamist convention in London this weekend, courtesy of the Middle East Media Research Institute: London Convention Will Celebrate 9/11
The London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that the extremist Islamic movement Al-Muhajiroun had announced a convention in London, titled "The Choice is in Your Hands: Either You're with the Muslims or with the Infidels," to mark the third anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The organization had planned a similar anniversary event a year ago, called "The Magnificent 19 [Suicide Attackers]," but had cancelled it at the last minute. The following is a summary of the report:

Al-Muhajiroun leader Omar Bakri, a Syrian residing in London, told the paper by phone that the convention would feature Al-Qa'ida "surprises," with the screening of a never-before-shown video. He said that the convention will focus on "the anniversary of the division of the world into two great camps -- the camp of faith and the camp of unbelief," and would take place September 11, 2004 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Bakri added: "On this day, we will talk about the ramifications of these [9/11] operations for Afghanistan and Iraq... We want the world to remember this operation ... that lifted the head of the [Muslim] nation." Bakri called 9/11 "a cry of Jihad against unbelief and oppression," and said that the aim of remembering it is to "revive the commandment of Jihad among the youth of the [Muslim] nation."

Bakri said that the convention will also feature a lecture about the Islamic religious roots of "slaughtering the infidels," that is, beheading foreigners in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and that there will be films by Al-Qa'ida, the Tawhid and Jihad organization, and the Brigades of the Two Holy Places in the Arabian Peninsula, and that there will also be a film on the most recent operations in Chechnya. He added that one of the speeches, by Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, known to be Al-Qa'ida's military commander in Iraq, will be translated.

Another lecture, he said, would be dedicated to the memory of three Al-Qa'ida commanders: Abd Al-'Aziz Al-Muqren (Abu Hajer), killed in June 2004 by Saudi security forces; his predecessor Yousef Al-Ayyiri, killed in June 2003 in a clash with Saudi security forces, and Abu Hafs Al-Masri, a top Al-Qa'ida military officer, killed in the U.S. attack on Kandahar in late 2001.

According to Bakri, the anticipated criticism of Al-Muhajiroun for the organization's insistence on memorializing 9/11 will be "a simple sacrifice in comparison with what we must actually do -- that is, support the Jihad led by bin Laden."
And if that isn't enough (what the hell is this Bakri guy doing still walking around at liberty, anyway?), another nugget which reveals that, in the wake of the Beslan massacre, Bakri supports targeting children
An extremist Islamic cleric based in Britain said yesterday that he would support hostage-taking at British schools if carried out by terrorists with a just cause.

Omar Bakri Mohammed, the spiritual leader of the extremist sect al-Muhajiroun, said that holding women and children hostage would be a reasonable course of action for a Muslim who has suffered under British rule.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Mohammed said: "If an Iraqi Muslim carried out an attack like that in Britain, it would be justified because Britain has carried out acts of terrorism in Iraq.

"As long as the Iraqi did not deliberately kill women and children, and they were killed in the crossfire, that would be okay."

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