Agam's Gecko
Wednesday, August 24, 2005

ith increasing frequency, I find myself reading news reports these days that cause a strange disoriented sensation. I want to grab hold of something solid as reassurance that the space - time continuum hasn't been rent asunder, transporting me in reverse for 35 minutes, or some such bizarre phenomenon. I shake my head thinking, "I could have sworn I was reading an AFP news report on Burma just now, how in the hell did I wind up on Scrappleface?"

The disorientation is fleeting though, as it usually turns out that I am indeed reading actual news, and not parody. Joan Baez singing "Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing....?" at Crawfordstock Nation? Where am I, and when will they ever learn? Learning that Mother Sheehan has a personal hero in the form of Lynn Stewart, the "radical" lawyer of Omar Abdul Rahman (the 'Blind Sheik' convicted in the 1993 WTC bombing), who was herself recently convicted on terrorism charges (aiding Mr. Rahman by passing communications and orders to his jihadist footsoldiers) -- that one didn't cause me any confusion at all... at first. Then I learned that her admiration was such that she actually likens Stewart (who worked for and conspired with terrorists who wish to kill infidels - and most especially Jews) to Atticus Finch, the principled lawyer in 'To Kill a Mockingbird' who defends an innocent black man in 1932 Alabama.

Now, Atticus Finch became the young Agam's hero at about the age of 12, when both the classic movie, and later Harper Lee's book, became enduring touchstones in his life. Atticus Finch and Lynn Stewart -- surely no one but Scott Ott could put those together into a pot of boiling sarcasm, right? Garnished with something about hooded religious fanatics who terrorise innocent people of the wrong ethnic or religious group by use of rope or sword or homemade bomb? It might work as a dark parody in the right hands -- Abdul Rahman, the terror master, sitting in place of Tom Robinson, the young black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman. But it would only work to show how stupid it could be, for anyone to claim the slightest similarity between the fictitious Finch and the all too non-fictious Stewart. By the way, that's Brock Peters (who played Tom Robinson) pictured alongside Gregory Peck in the photo link above. Brock Peters passed away yesterday at the age of 78. He was a wonderful actor, never to be forgotten.


s I said, I was reading news about Burma the other day, concerning the visit of an envoy from Kofi Annan to the junta of thuggish brutes who still rule the place. The SecGen had another special envoy to the military dictatorship, who has been trying for several years to help broker some type of political reform, but lately the generals and their government ministers have refused even to see him -- a Malaysian diplomat named Razali Ismail. This time I see that the SecGen's envoy is Ali Alatas, a former and long serving foreign minister of Indonesia.

But wait! There isn't anything about the massive problems of Burma or its long-promised political reform, nor about the ongoing genocidal wars they conduct against the Karen, the Shan, the Rohingya and other minorities. Nothing about encouraging actual progress in the "constitutional drafting process" -- which has been going on for almost 15 years already. No sir:
Alatas is the first UN envoy admitted into the military-run country since March 2004, when Malaysian Razali Ismail visited.

Asda Jayanama, Thailand's former ambassador to the United Nations who also served in Myanmar, said in Bangkok that Alatas' visit signalled changing relations between the United Nations and Yangon.

"It means more or less that Kofi Annan's given up on Razali, because obviously Razali didn't speak about UN reform," Asda told AFP.

"Burma's (Myanmar's former name) a very small player on UN reform."
I just love that biting sarcasm there, the point at which I did my double-take to check which website I was on. Kofi gave up on Razali, because he didn't talk to Burma's Senior Dictator Than Shwe about UN reform! Precious....

Alatas later confirmed that the subjects of Burma's domestic situation, human rights, and especially Aung San Suu Kyi, did not arise in his talks. This is the way the thugs of SPADCO (State Peace and Development Council, formerly known by SLORC, the State Law and Order Restoration Council) has had the United Nations wrapped around its pinky finger for most of the 15 years since their political surrogate party lost a landslide election to Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, and refused to honour the result.

I wonder if Ali got any really good ideas from Than Shwe on UN reforms.


alk of the 'sphere these past few days has been the National Geographic Channel's four hour special, "Inside 9/11." Somehow though, the "progessive" blogs seem to have not noticed it much. It sounds terrific by the discussion I've read from those who did watch it this week, and it even referred briefly to the ABLE DANGER revelations discussed here previously. I have heard that the NGC special will also air on their Asian broadcast channel in September, and I'll sure be watching for it if it does.

A comment on lgf pointed me to some video clips from the program. Here is part of the intro, and here is part of an interview with Steven Emerson from the program. Over here is an interview with Michael Scheuer about the program, and about those days when the Clinton administration ignored warnings, and multiple chances to deal with bin Laden.

LTC Anthony Shaffer, who worked with the ABLE DANGER team, was on C-SPAN's Washington Journal last weekend. You can watch the half hour interview by going to this page and picking the video marked "8/21/2005: WASHINGTON, DC: 30 min." While you're there, why not also watch the appearance of Christopher Hitchens from the same program a few days earlier? From this page, pick out the video marked "8/18/2005: WASHINGTON, DC: 40 min." Hitchens is in fine form here, particularly when he straightens out some unbelievably ignorant callers.


t the beginning of the month I wrote a little about Steven Vincent, the journalist who was killed in Basra by the enemies of Iraq ("freedom fighters" -- yeah, in the sense of fighting against freedom). Steven's companion and translator, a young Shia woman he referred to on his blog as "Layla", was also shot several times in the back but survived. I noticed in some news and blog writing at the time, that some people were passing around the rumour that they were having an affair. I thought this was strange, as his blog entries were always written as letters to his wife back in New York. The love he had for Lisa always came through in those missives, and it seemed to me that this innuendo about the Iraqi woman must be wrong. He clearly loved her as well, but from his writing it was an entirely different sort of love. I think that few people who read Steven regularly, would fail to fall in love just a little bit with "Layla" -- she just sounded like such a wonderful woman.

One of those who latched on to this innuendo in a most despicable manner, was the tenured professor of Middle Eastern studies, Juan Cole. Cole basically blamed Steven for his own death, asserting the extramarital affair as undisputed fact, and ridiculing Steven's ignorance of "Mediterranean culture". Mediterranean? This is par for the course with Cole, who constantly gets even simple stuff wrong and will never admit to it. How he ever got a tenured chair will remain a mystery I'm sure, but I sure wish PBS' News Hour would stop using him for an "expert source" on the program.

Well, the mystery gets cleared up once and for all by Steven's wife Lisa. Understandably offended by Cole's slander of her husband's name, she wrote a long email to the "professor", and also sent a copy to Murdoc Online as a comment to a discussion there about Steven's death. If you are curious about the sort of man Steven Vincent was -- I consider him a journalist hero, and there sure aren't too many like that anymore -- then please read Lisa's letter: 'It's called courage'. The creep Cole has yet to mention anything more about it, but then he never admits when he's wrong. He owes Lisa (as well as Steven and Nour) a very sincere apology. But he won't, because he simply doesn't have the honour in him to do it.

On a totally different subject, Agam has a VIP guest here in the Big Mango for the next few weeks, so I'll have even less time than usual available for writing. I'll try to post a bit now and then when possible.

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