Agam's Gecko
Wednesday, October 12, 2005

et again, a natural disaster of gargantuan proportions; and once again the "kafir" countries are in there almost instantly with relief and rescue. Not that there should be any such ulterior motive for coming to the aid of people in crisis, but it would be nice to think that this readiness to mount such massive operations at short notice, for anybody regardless of nation, ideology or creed, might be properly noted by the more intolerant or radical streams in the Islamic communities. Here is an area which by many accounts, contains numerous Pakistani jihadist training camps, whose fighters have conducted many violent raids into Indian-administered Kashmir. The area is also not far from the section of Northwest Frontier Province where many al Qaeda researchers believe Osama and his sidekick Zawahiri are being sheltered.

Yet the "Great Satan" and many lesser "Satans" were in there within 24 hours with food, tents and rescue teams, even while in some places, Pakistani military people were standing around doing nothing due to "lack of orders," and their oil-rich Islamic brother countries' cargo planes and helicopters must have been busy elsewhere. India, which suffered thousands of deaths of her own citizens, offered Pakistan assistance -- and it was accepted. The secular democracies again show their principles in action, while those whose talents run more to sectarian or nationalist chauvinism are dumbfounded, wondering which fearless oratory to pull out for the occasion. Oh, I'm sure they will all show up very soon, with bags of food or first aid teams -- this is after all Pakistan, the very first state to be born as an explicitly Islamic one. She needs all the help she can get right now, and as quickly as possible. With the death toll now up to the 35,000 range, and very cold nighttime temperatures in those Himalayan foothills, millions of people who needed help yesterday are still waiting for deliverance. All of our best wishes for their strength and endurance, as for those now working night and day to reach them, feed them and shelter them.

Some of the folks who quickly launched the Tsunami Help Blog last December, have jumped into action again with South Asia Quake Help, a portal to find more info from local bloggers, channels for assistance and other up to date news on the situation. Wai to Mahmood's Den (a very good Bahraini blog) and to Tim Blair (who reports that Aussies are coming through generously once again.... or should I say, as usual).

And once again, I'm very sure we will see some O.I.C. and Arab League countries' efforts on the ground very soon, and thanks in advance. But here's a hypothetical: suppose this massively destructive earthquake had hit, oh let's say in Israel. Tens of thousands dead, infrastructure crippled, and that country completely overwhelmed by the scale of devastation, unable to instantly respond with sufficient rescue operations. I hope someday to live in a world in which Israel's immediate neighbours of the O.I.C. and Arab League persuasion (which counts for all of them, if I'm not mistaken), would be first on the scene with large scale humanitarian help. In that world, such help would be given gladly and in brotherhood. In that world, there would be no need to be concerned about embarrassing episodes of mass jubilant dancing in certain capitals' streets, nor of self-sanctified "spiritual leaders" declaring the deserved wrath of God's vengeance -- for such irrationality would be considered too kooky to contemplate by anyone, of any faith.


n this day three years ago, several gangs of deranged religious extremists, motivated by a lust for the blood of unbelievers, carried their insanity through to its sickening conclusion on a peaceful island. More than 200 people of all races and faiths were killed, many hundreds more were maimed for life. That atrocity still stands today as the worst terrorist attack since September 11, 2001. This morning in Bali, representatives of many countries, and of many families, joined with the Balinese people to remember and mourn, as well as to affirm their solidarity, brotherhood and unified resistance against the violent fringe of freaks who claim to represent an entire major world religion. But now, as three years ago, expressions of "never again" are not enough.

The second attack on Bali eleven days ago was thankfully not as deadly as the first, but that's not much comfort to those maimed and killed, nor to the family and friends they left behind. Much better comfort would be provided with the capturing or killing of the planners and masterminds of the atrocity. On that score there is precious little progress to date, in contrast with the relatively quick progress in 2002. The Indonesian government seems possibly concerned with a sense of frustration in Bali, and a few days ago authorities moved the five major figures convicted of Bom Bali I from their digs at a Bali prison, to the more secure location of Nusa Kambangan, a prison on a small island offshore from Cilacap, Central Java. Of the five, two have been sentenced to life, and three to death.

Yet government leaders in Jakarta have been giving somewhat wimpy, and even shameful remarks lately. Presidential spokesman Andi Malarangeng -- a prominent young commentator in the media for many years now, and whom I've admired since Suharto times -- had remarked during the first days after the attacks, that the government would be unable to legally ban or restrict the Jemaah Islamiyah organisation, due to the fact that JI doesn't officially have any members. It's not an officially recognised organisation, so it can't be banned! The Australian government has been pressing Jakarta to do just that, and a few days ago I was surprised to see this headline on Metro TV: MENLU: JEMAAH ISLAMIYAH TIDAK PERNAH EKSIS DI INDONESIA. It means, "Foreign Minister [abbrev.]: Jemaah Islamiyah has never existed in Indonesia"......! Huh? Nobody serious about this issue could ever say such a thing, even given the nebulous character of the movement itself -- organised, disorganised, unorganised or otherwise.

His actual words contained in the report were actually not quite so categorical as the headline writer's, yet somehow even more infuriating. "Karena itu melarang sesuatu yang tidak pernah secara formal eksis tentunya kita harus lakukan kalkulasi," tegas Menlu kepada wartawan di Jakarta, Jumat (7/10). "Therefore forbidding something which has never formally existed, certainly we must make a calculation," the FM said to reporters in Jakarta on Friday. Perhaps this can actually be seen as progress from Andi's remarks some days earlier, but not much. To Hasan Wirayuda and fellow ministers: Make your calculation if necessary, and then get on with it.

More dismaying though, was a comment contained in this AP story, made by Vice President Yusuf Kalla:
"Suicide bombings in Afghanistan and Iraq are perhaps understandable because there is an 'opponent' there," Yusuf Kalla said after prayers in the capital Jakarta on the Muslim holy day.

"But here in Indonesia, it makes no sense. Why do they kill their own people, who have done nothing wrong?" he asked, calling on Islamic leaders to condemn the practice as being "not in line with the religion we hold."
Vice Prez Kalla is one of GOLKAR party's big shot businessmen, a connection that Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono probably needed in order to get elected (SBY doesn't have a powerful party behind him). GOLKAR has never been seen as a bastion of principled, democratic idealism. This is one reason that the late, great, Nurcholis Majid declined to run for office with GOLKAR's backing (Nurcholis, affectionately known as Cak Nur would have been a wonderful leader for Indonesia). But even given his affiliation, I'm astounded that a man in Kalla's position could say such a thing.

The suicide bombings in Afghanistan -- and especially in Iraq -- have been targetting mainly civilians, including lots of schoolkids and their teachers, with the express purpose of inciting sectarian hatred and revenge between Iraqi communities. The jihadists understand that their only hope in stalling democracy there is to get a good hot civil war going. They are up-front and completely clear on this point! [As I write, a flash on BBC says Afghanistan terrorists (ok, "terrorists" is my word not theirs) have killed some Afghan police and NGO people working there. People working for the security and benefit of the Afghani citizens, people who have done nothing wrong, in Kalla's phrase.]

Here we have the second highest office-holder in the most populous Muslim country - a secular, pluralistic, multi-ethnic-cultural-religious and everything else constitutional democracy -- seeming to justify or even to support suicide bombing tactics in somebody else's country! In point of fact, a country not as far along in creating their own pluralistic multi-everything constitutional democracy as Indonesia is, but whose people have demonstrated that this is what they intend to accomplish nevertheless. Eight and a half months ago, eight and a half million of them risked violence from jihadi hands to do just that, and they will do it again in a further solid step toward their constitutional democratic national compact in just three days time.

And Yusuf Kalla has the nerve to call the blowing up of these brave and determined people, as well as their children, as "understandable?" His last-quoted sentence above, applies every bit as much to the despicable "insurgency" of terrorists in Iraq, as it does to the intolerant jihadist groups within his own country. "Why do they kill their own people, who have done nothing wrong?"

And why the distinction of "their own people" anyway? Is it somehow less bad if they kill "not their own people" in a senseless act of slaughter? Have the "not their own people" victims done something wrong? Is his yardstick for the worst and most senseless category of terrorism, simply the identity of victims being "one's own people?" It sure sounds like it.

If the first Bali bombs had killed more than 200 Australians, Americans, British, Italians, Danes, Poles, Thais, Japanese etc. but no Indonesians -- would that have been more "understandable" for Mr. Kalla? I shudder to think that it might be.

President Bush made a powerful and principled address last week to the National Endowment for Democracy, which got little notice in the mainstream media (big surprise!). It is very worth taking a few minutes to read (or listen, C-SPAN has it). Within this speech, he reiterated again one of the first policy changes he initiated after Sept. 11:
The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them, because they're equally as guilty of murder. (Applause.) Any government that chooses to be an ally of terror has also chosen to be an enemy of civilization. And the civilized world must hold those regimes to account.
Any government official, particularly a high office holder in a democratic country with its own indigenous terrorism problem, needs to choose his words very carefully about what he finds "perhaps understandable."
* * * *


adical Islamist groups seeking to create an Islamic state out of Indonesia, are nothing particularly new. In fact the current crop can trace their entwined geneologies back in time through the entire lifespan of the Republic, and in some cases, long before independence. Here are some recommended readings which I've come across in the past few days.

International Crisis Group is an excellent source for research papers in this field, and I have kept many of these briefing papers and report files on hand for reference. A report published there in February looked into the ancestry of the recycled militants involved in last year's Australia embassy bombing attack. A few days back, I noticed that Dan Darling, a very well informed researcher into terror groups and their links in his own right, has done an analysis of this ICG report and posted a summary (if you don't care to wade through the amazing detail of Sydney Jones' work) on the Winds of Change group blog (WoC is also highly recommended for regular reading). Part 2 of Dan's summary, focussing on the Usroh movement, is here. And if you can spare an hour or so to watch a presentation that ICG's Sydney Jones made a few months ago, at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, then please go here. Sydney really knows this stuff well, and the web presentation of the seminar (with the video to one side, and her accompanying reference slides displayed with proper timing alongside it) is very well done. Anyone concerned with terror groups in Indonesia needs to see this presentation.

And to end on a more positive note here, check out this op-ed piece in the Washington Post, authored by K.H. Abdurrahman Wahid (Gus Dur) and C. Holland Taylor: In Indonesia, Songs Against Terrorism. Gus Dur was the first democratically elected president of Indonesia (not exactly popularly elected, but rather elected by a popularly elected legislature), and he remains a strong voice for tolerance, and against religious chauvinism. Mr. Taylor founded the Libforall Foundation, which aims to lend support to those who value freedom and tolerance around the world. Gus Dur is the chief patron of this foundation in Indonesia.

The article looks at the origins of the Laskar Jihad movement and the sectarian violence which erupted soon after Gus Dur took office. Much of what is outlined in this piece is not widely known -- or at least it was news to me. Although I should say that it confirms some of my suspicions about what was happening at that time, regarding certain "green" factions in the armed forces unwilling to submit to civilian control. It's a very interesting history. The article continues with an account of the beginnings of a new youth-based movement inspired by the example of one of the most popular rock bands in Indonesia, Dewa, and their front man Ahmad Dhani.
In response to Laskar Jihad's atrocities, and to discredit the appeal of fundamentalist ideology, Dhani composed the best-selling album "Laskar Cinta" ("Warriors of Love"). Released in November 2004, it quickly rose to the top of the charts as millions of young Indonesians embraced its message of love, peace and tolerance.
A few months ago, I recall seeing on the news that Dewa had been hauled into court by one of the hardline Islamist groups, possibly FPI (the notorious Islamic Defenders' Front, which I've written of previously). The impression given by the reporting was that the Islamists were mad because the album cover bore the Arabic calligraphic for "Allah". (shades of the Burger King ice cream cup caper!) No indeed, they were most exercised at the use of music to promote a Muslim message of tolerance and love -- a dangerous competitor to their own creed of extreme chauvinism and hatred.
Dhani and his group are on the front lines of a global conflict, defending Islam from its fanatical hijackers. In a world all too often marred by hatred and violence committed in the name of religion, they seek to rescue an entire generation from Wahhabi-financed extremists whose goal is to transform Muslim youth into holy warriors and suicide bombers.
Here then, is a frontline in the struggle for hearts and minds, between the regressive, imperialist vision of the 7th century dreamed of by modern jihadists, and the progressive future for Islam dreamed of by the Laskar Cinta, Warriors of Love. The field is the beautiful country called Indonesia, the largest concentration of moderate, tolerant Islamic followers anywhere on earth, and it is critical that Ahmad Dhani and his comrades should succeed.

Read more about Dhani and Dewa here, with photos and music lyrics. There are also videos available on the site, see especially A Muslim Solution to Terror (flash movie, about 10 Mb).

One more: A very interesting account on Gus Dur Net (Abdurrahman Wahid's official site - don't forget to read his jokes!) of an alumnus of Abu Bakar Ba'asyir's infamous Ngruki Pesantren. It is a terrorism school? Nice indeed, to know that someone can go through the indoctrination of hatred and anti-Semitism, and still come out of it with humanity intact.

Late note: Good thing they moved those convicted bombers out of Bali the other day. This afternoon, thousands of Balinese converged on the prison demanding their immediate execution. It looked like a major seige! I didn't see any real violence in the video, but it was a huge crowd and they were angry! They could have probably taken the place apart one brick at a time if they'd wanted to. They broke down a fence and massed around the building, but remained under control. Metro doesn't have the video up on their site yet.


his is a horrible story, and one which the world might likely not have even heard about had it not been witnessed by a British reporter. A Chinese democratic rights activist has been dragged from the taxi he was sharing with this Guardian journalist, after it was surrounded by large numbers of thugs -- some in uniform and some without. The uniformed guys disappeared while the plainclothes thugs took the rights activist out and beat him to a pulp. By the accounts I've seen, it seems unlikely that anyone could have survived such a brutal beating.

Read the accounts on Rebecca McKinnon's blog here, and on Gateway Pundit here. Wai InstaPundit for both.


here is so much "received wisdom" about Iraq being bandied about, especially by people who don't make the slightest effort to honestly inform themselves before flapping their gums, that these days the "conventional wisdom" is nothing more or less than absolute and complete failure. Here I'm thinking particularly of a substantial heap of US senators. I heard one the other day, Durbin as I recall, and every single claim he was making was totally wrong! And as per usual, the reporters lapped it all up without question. That's because he was merely pronouncing the exact talking points of conventional wisdom that he (more than likely) got from them in the first place.

Strange as it may seem, there actually is one freelance reporter seeing events up close and personal, observing the relationships and interaction between coalition forces and the Iraqi Security Forces, and reporting actual happenings with remarkable style and courage. He has been in Mosul, living with and accompanying the "Deuce Four" in operations there. His name is Michael Yon, and he'll surely be remembered by history as our generation's Ernie Pyle.

In Michael's writing, there are insights galore into what's happening in Mosul, and more widely in that part of the country. Make no mistake: nobody is saying that everything is going perfectly or that success is just around the corner. But a huge amount of progress is being made, and simply not being reported by our esteemed media. And the media front is the one that the terrorists have had the most success in exploiting:
To an enemy in need of assets, a press that is increasingly disengaged is like an empty car with keys in the ignition--begging to be stolen. How the keys came to be left in the car, and how the inevitable theft managed to go unreported are questions for a different dispatch. To really understand the dynamics of the Battle for Mosul, it suffices to say the enemy started with a media advantage that they continue to exploit even now.
Michael Yon's Online Magazine makes rivetting reading, very human and even quite funny at times. When I see, through his work, what the Iraqi forces are actually doing in defence of their own country, and the solid commitment they have displayed particularly since the January 30 election, and the attitudes of local people toward those who slaughter their children, I'm more sure than ever that the bad guys simply cannot win. Their capacity for making things miserable degrades by the day -- and they are capable of nothing more than producing misery. Take in Michael's latest dispatch, a highly engaging read. And if you can manage to read to the end (and he includes plenty of photos), don't miss the previous entry on "Operation Rhma" (it's not what you'd expect with that name)

Recently returned from Iraq, and making the rounds of press conferences and speaking engagements, is the highly respected Lt. Gen. David Petraeus. General Petraeus has been leading the transition work involved with having Iraqi forces take over the defence of their country, and progress in this area has been very good over the past 8 or 10 months. Don't believe it? Think the conventional wisdom, that Iraqi forces are useless and getting worse, is the actual truth? Think again, if you can -- or at least keep an open mind about it. Give General Petraeus a few minutes of your time. He's an honourable soldier who doesn't sugar-coat the situation, and he knows the truth far more precisely than Durbin and Kennedy. Read what he says, or even better, take the time to watch his presentation: Lt. Gen. David Petraeus speaks at Princeton. Then you, too, will know more than Durbin and Kennedy. Tigerhawk was there, and offers not only a full account, but links to Princeton's video of the presentation so you can make up your own mind. After watching it myself, I could see exactly what the Durbinite dismal doom mongers are up to -- and whatever it is, it ain't honesty. Wai Counterterrorism Blog.

One link I'd wanted to pass along some time back, is Fouad Ajami's recently featured article in WSJ: Heart of Darkness. It's all about what's at stake -- in Iraq and the wider struggle. The defeatists simply don't understand how truly dangerous they are. Wai protein wisdom.


wanted to write something about last month's anti-war rallies, since those earlier mass rallies in Europe and elsewhere (was it 2002 or 2003? I've forgotten already) were a turning point of sorts for me. I saw the pictures of the massive crowds and thought, "Just a few years ago I would have been right in there. But this time, they are wrong." It was a strange sensation, one that I tried to explain to some close friends via email. The banners and placards were ones that I might have carried myself not so long before. Now, all I could think while watching them was, "How could you?" I tried to express this inner conflict I was feeling, to people I'd been long close to, still somewhat wondering whether I was right now and wrong then, or vice versa. I bared my soul, writing things that I'd never actually expressed out loud. I didn't know exactly what my correspondents' attitudes were, but I was becoming more sure that the movement against the liberation of the Iraqi people was either naive, just plain understandably wrong, willfully malicious toward a downtrodden and tyrannized people, some combination of these or something else unknown. I simply felt that they weren't right.

Some of my correspondents simply stopped corresponding, and I never really did hear what they thought. Some longtime friends simply decided to act as if I'd ceased to exist, which for them I had. Their love was conditional on our perpetual agreement. When that agreement fractured on this issue, that was the end. I might as well be dead. A couple of years later, when I listened to a Democratic senator speaking in front of a stadium full of Republicans, something he said resonated strongly with me. Zell Miller spoke about people's attachment to ideology and their "party," and he said that for him, family came before party. He was a Democrat who put the safety and future of his family before adherence to his party's position, he was a Democrat who supported President Bush. In a different way, but in the same sentiment, I couldn't cut loved ones off just because we might suddenly disagree about politics. Family, and friends who were like family, came before politics, whether we agreed or not. Imagine my surprise to learn that for some of them, party came first.

I watched nearly all of the ANSWER Coalition sponsored event in DC last month. C-SPAN carried it live, and re-broadcast it the next day as well. Then I was also able to see the "You Don't Speak for Me, Cindy" counterprotest which followed. The numbers weren't even close -- many tens of thousands vs. a few tens of hundreds -- but the honesty factor was miles apart in the other direction. I wish everyone could have just heard the contrast in what was actually said on those stages. Or in the first event, a more accurate term would be screamed. Those who spoke eloquently of liberty and honour at the second event didn't need to bellow, where reason can carry the argument.

The ANSWER Coalition is a front group of the Workers' World Party, a Stalinist offshoot that broke away from some other branch of international communism over the Soviet invasion of Hungary -- these are the folks who supported it. Their faves on the current world stage are regimes like Kim Jong Il's North Korea. These people are no more pacifist than is al Zarqawi himself, they're just a lot less honest about it. I'm sure there were many honourable peace-loving people at the rally (though you wouldn't know it by the signage!), but they simply do not understand who they are following. It was to be a "stop the war, bring the troops home now" event -- even the notoriously shrill Mr. Daily Kos exhorted participants to leave their anti-Israel, smash capitalism, no blood for oil and abortion for all signs at home. It didn't work. Instead of a unified pacifist message, they effectively portrayed a dizzying array of dissparate causes, many completely unrelated to either the Iraq policy or the war on fundamentalist terror.

Everything from "Smash the Zionist State" to "Destroy Capitalism, Communist Revolution Now!" was on offer. Supporters for the "Iraqi Resistance" were out in force, many choosing to come dressed as hooded jihadis. It's all so romantic, eh Habib? Abortion activists, Katrina groupies, and lots and lots of Nazi regalia to festoon pics of George W. and Condi, all so very smart and intellectual, and so very reasonable. Profanities on banners and t-shirts would surely shock the American people to wake up to a peaceful world, wouldn't it? Not to mention the cadre of the Very Large Womyn Corps who fearlessly bared their large, very pendulous breasts to Bring the Troops Home Now. You really go for that, eh Habib?

Cindy's Summer of Love
"Help, help! I'm repressed .... um, I mean I'm being repressed! Wheeee...."
I was listening to Washington Journal a few days later (the C-SPAN call-in show) when one of the "angry left" explained why he went. "Of course we support the troops," he said, "what we're against is the US military!" OK buddy, if you say so. That afternoon, the parade of committed activists getting their three minutes at the mike, was a spectacle exactly like the one at every ANSWER rally. The speakers actually had a PA system, but seemed not to understand this. I can't think of a single angry activist group, of all the various causes that might make people paint themselves and dress up funny, that wasn't on the roster. Everything that Kos had warned them not to do, they did it. When it was Cindy's turn, she'd only barely gotten started when someone behind her warned her to "keep it short" or "wrap it up" -- she actually stopped and said, "OK, I'm almost finished." Looks like her day in the sun among the comrades is almost up, although why they might worry about her embarrassing them is a puzzle to me. Cindy's Summer of Love has reached its end. The mother who praised the killers of her own son, has served her purpose to the smash Israel and capitalism crowd.

Cindy wrote the day following her arrest, in explanation as to why she looked so happy being lifted by DC police officers, that she was excited because somebody might see the Abu Ghraib torture impliments hidden under her dress (panties, she said -- same diff). Having the time of her life during her days in the spotlight, so exciting and making a difference to change the world, and all that. Her son made a difference, and he chose to do so as an adult with full franchise of a free man. Someday she will look back on her summer, and she might not smile so broadly.

Chris Hitchens wrote a good piece on the phony peaceniks after all was said and done, well worth reading from a former Trotskyist. Zombietime has a fine categorized set of photo galleries from the San Francisco rally, and here's another extensive set of photo pages from the DC rally. They pretty much make my point without words, but there, it's off my chest now.

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