September 15th, 2006

The nukes of Iran

From the Washington Post. Emphasis and shortening by me

U.N. inspectors investigating Iran’s nuclear program angrily complained to the Bush administration and to a Republican congressman yesterday about a recent House committee report on Iran’s capabilities, calling parts of the document “outrageous and dishonest” and offering evidence to refute its central claims.

(…) Among the committee’s assertions is that Iran is producing weapons-grade uranium at its facility in the town of Natanz. The IAEA called that “incorrect,” noting that weapons-grade uranium is enriched to a level of 90 percent or more. Iran has enriched uranium to 3.5 percent under IAEA monitoring.

When the congressional report was released last month, Hoekstra said his intent was “to help increase the American public’s understanding of Iran as a threat.” Spokesman Jamal Ware said yesterday that Hoekstra will respond to the IAEA letter.

Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J.), a committee member, said the report was “clearly not prepared in a manner that we can rely on.” He agreed to send it to the full committee for review, but the Republicans decided to make it public before then, he said in an interview.

(…) Privately, several intelligence officials said the committee report included at least a dozen claims that were either demonstrably wrong or impossible to substantiate.

“This is like prewar Iraq all over again,” said David Albright, a former nuclear inspector who is president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security. “You have an Iranian nuclear threat that is spun up, using bad information that’s cherry-picked and a report that trashes the inspectors.”

Read the article linked to pls, it goes on and on and on. I hope it will help you, the reader, “increase [your] understanding of Iran as a threat”. BTW, It’s my personal opinion that nuke stuff in the hands of Iran is quite a bad idea.

September 15th, 2006

The m$oney that buys

I know a big issue is where politicians and the parties get the money from. And it should be. Now read this (we’re talking the Netherlands, a small 16m people kingdom in Europe).

A consorsium of 5 large companies have offered to support all political parties with multi-media campaigning. The companies will take the tab on this, through a neutral foundation. It’s the first time in Dutch history private funding is offered on this scale: the administration has EUR 7m ($8.5m) available for the parties to campaign. The offer would compromise EUR 3.5m ($4.2m).

The consortium consists of KPN (former telecom monopolist), Endemol (media producer, read “Big brother” – no kidding, they made that show up), TNT (mail), Ordina (ICT company) and Microsoft.
VVD (liberal-right, “as long as it’s politically neutral”) and CDA (christian-right, “we believe this is society-responsable entrepreneurship”) were positive; PvdA (left, “no, we would need to provide privacy related information and anyway, our party rules forbid taking gifts exceeding EUR 30k), Groenlinks (more left) and SP (still more left) were opposing.

wtf???? WHAT THE F**K????? Microsoft, a foreign, monopoly hungry, greedy company is starting to interfere in our countries politics with a smokescreened “open to all”? WTF is going on here????

September 15th, 2006

The lawyer that interviewed the shoe bomber

CNN.com ran an interview with a UK human rights laywer, who visited Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, in 2002. It’s kinda interesting as the interview mainly revolves how a relatively non-extremist Joe changes into somebody who wants to kill 200 people including himself for a cause. But really the most to the point analysis is in the last praragraph IMHO (emphasis by me).

Q. When Peter Clarke, head of the anti-terror branch of the Metropolitan Police here in the UK, just a week or so ago says that he was concerned that there were thousands of potential recruits for this jihad. Does that surprise you now after the conversation you had with Richard Reid?

A. I think it’s a surprise that it wasn’t said earlier. I think the police themselves, the security services, it must have dawned on them because they had in the 1990s several plots by UK citizens that were directed against Israel, or possible unknown targets where the motivation seemed to be the link with injustices in Bosnia, North Africa and particularly with Palestine, and the West Bank and Gaza. For the most part, the British government said it has nothing to do with our foreign policy; it’s all about overturning the western way of life and democracy. A concept which I just find ridiculous and clearly Richard Reid, when he was talking, said in clear and quite animated terms, that you cannot have injustice compounded by the detention of people in Guantanamo Bay without charge, and expect people all over the world to sit by and applaud the United States for making the world a safer place.

Wise words. In the long run, nobody can impose rules on others and not apply them to oneselves.

September 12th, 2006

“Credibility Gap” widens as U.S. Military hides the dead

Here we go again. Cursor.org (my favorite consolidator) points out a story from the McClatchy Washington Bureau (ADN is owned by McClatchy) that says the U.S. is fudging the numbers in Iraq big time. By selectively counting dead Iraqis , based on how they were killed, and then reporting the “cooked” numbers to the public the military is ignoring their own doctrine and “lessons learned.” Lessons learned have, by the way, been a big deal with the military services since Vietnam; they want everyone to know they are not stupid. The path that the D.O.D. folks are slithering down is a foolish one – it will only get them, and us, into trouble – especially if they start believing their own numbers. If the lessons of the past are meaningful, it is us the citizens who, in theory, empower our government that may suffer as more and more draconian laws and law enforcement actions are enacted and carried out to curtail our criticism of our government. In Vietnam the gap between what our government claimed was happening and what was really happening led to a, so called, “credibility gap.” When the North Vietnamese breached the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon during their “Tet offensive” in 1968 more than a few jaws dropped. It looks to me like we’re going down the same path again; so much for “lessons learned.” :)

September 11th, 2006

The war on terrorism

While on my way to a client, I overheard on the radio an interview with Gijs de Vries, the European anti-terrorism coordinator, a quiet, balanced, but outspoken man. One of the things that struck me was him saying that “bottom line,” terrorists are criminals.  Big criminals for sure, but still criminals. Calling the war on terrorism just that and the notion of changing the laws (or changing the application of existing law) was actually a big mistake because it gave the terrorists legitimacy while at the same time attacking our own most basic values. This is the reason why in Europe, fighting terrorism is never refered to as a “war”.

September 8th, 2006

The secret prisons – an outsiders view

I hope you will find this outiders view sort of amusing. When the whole secret prison thing started to boil, parliament sent our secretary of state (we call that minister of foreign affairs) to Condi to ask.

He had that talk and of course while she admitted there were things she simply couldn’t tell, she assured him that such prisons did not exist and consequently, no prisoners flights were flown over, or even handled in our country. Of course he then defended this fiercely and parliament was silenced. So now, with Bush’s confession about the existence of those prisons, the minister is seriously attacked on credibility and earmarked as naïve.

Friday is cabinet (all ministers) meeting day and the official administrations response is out. Let me roughly translate.

There is irritation and concern about the long upheld US denial of the existence of secret CIA prisons. Prime minister Balkenende was not willing to follow the conclusion drawn by some members of parliament that we were ‘screwed by the Americans’. The relationship between allies is affected though. ‘We certainly don’t need something like this too often’. The foreign affairs minister will call Condi and ask for an explanation”.

HAHAHAHHAAA!!!!! The mouse and the elephant! I had a big laugh over this!

note: A cartoon in a newspaper. Two guys, one saying “No airplane on the Pentagon, No WMD…”, the other concurring “….. and now we are to believe those secret prisons all of a sudden do exist?” Title was “Fokke and Sukke are not to be fooled”.

September 7th, 2006

The countries of the world

Today, three people independantly started talking to me about the moon, two on another continent. I must confess, it’s a very clear night here and it’s pretty stunning. The nice thing about the moon’s phase is, it’s (virtually) the same all over the world, other than i.e. the position of the Sun. Me day, you night. Which seems to be a perfect excuse to post this tube video. We’re all connected.

September 6th, 2006

How big is Africa?

How big is Africa

September 6th, 2006

The fire that killed 11 unconvicted prisoners

Amsterdam Airport, called Schiphol, is a rather huge one. I am not exactly sure but it ranks somewhere in the upper 5 airports in the European ranking list. A couple of years ago, the administration built a detention area on the east side of the Airport. The east side is also called the “old” Schiphol, where the tower was when it was still a grass strip. Operations like cargo, maintenance hangars and general aviation (who they hate) are located there. The detention area was built using portable cabins, you and I would call it containers, but think lots of wood and plastics. Starting in 2002 and later in 2003 and 2004, concerns were raised about it’s safety, especially with respect to fire. On the night of oktober 26th 2005 the inevitable happened. A fire broke out in one cell and the consequential blaze, fueled by extra oxygen as the door of that cell was left open killed 11 prisoners, most, if not all, illegal immigrants.

The commision that investigated the fire, in fact our sort of NTSB to keep it independant, stated in their leaked report that the guards, who were employees of a private security company, had not had any practical training on fire handling, were not even near the area where the fire started, the complex was highly flammable, had no central unlock system to open the doors and the building licences were totally fucked up. The report on this horrible accident, while not officially out yet draws serious conclusions: had the administration stuck to their own rules (or even listened to the growing concerns expressed by insiders), more, if not all lives would have been saved that night.

Now whatever anyone thinks of foreigners or (illegal) immigrants is more or less their business. It is worth to note though that most of them had no criminal record. Their crime was they tried to enter this country without permit. The simple fact is these prisoners were in the custody of the administration, and while they were detained, the administration has an obligation to care for them. The administration knowingly didn’t care for these prisoners.

Right now, the cover-your-a$$ engine is in full spin, but the political consequences could be fierce, with elections coming in November. Minister of Justice Donner (kinda Rummy type of character, really scary) is powerplaying in opposing the report; his letter to the commission leaked too, how weird ;) . While it is hard to imagine parliament will send the two responsible ministers home, it would be kind of interesting, as the crew tripped a few months ago and the november elections are a result of that crisis, which btw was caused by the insane behavior of the right winged minister Verdonk responsible for expedition and segragation, oh sorry, immigration and integration. How to send away these boys and girls who already lost their mandate? To be continued.

unfolding story I: The official report is out today (sept 21). A few days ago, another the ministers called the fire “a dirty act”, ininuation one of the prosoners lit the fire on purpose. Turned out the prisoners were allowed to smoke in their cells and there is not a shred of proof for arson. He already took his words back and apologized. 1-0. The commision did not bow for the powerplay and made the report even a bit stronger. 2-0.

unfolding story II: Donner’s dead. He resigned, together with the minister responisble for all government assets, such as buildings. Just to refresh your minds, he’s also the scary anti-terror minister. If the 11 dead weren’t so tragical, it is really funny that he trips in sight of the harbor, casued by illegal immigrants.

September 3rd, 2006

The boys in Afghanistan

After intense political debate a couple of month ago, we sent our boys to Afghanistan. The missions is called ISAF, it’s for “humanitarian aid”, “helping the population build up their country”, etc. etc. Next door, the coalition forces, lead by US militairy is busy with “Operation Enduring Freedom” (OEF), fighting Taliban and Al-Qa’ida. Our Marines are helping there too, a not very well known fact. A few of our F-16′s are stationed there too. One of those crashed last thursday, killing the 29 year old pilot. It was flying at high altitude and the cause was probably mechanical failure on both the aircraft as well as the ejection seat; the pilot was found in his seat, the parachute undeployed. Two days later, a UK Neptune crashed, killing all 14 on board, supposedly after a shortcircuit and a fire on the 30+ year old, aging aircraft (speculation).

It is becoming pretty clear the humanitarian mission is doomed to fail. Quoting a soldier “There is really nothing to build up here, it’s simply total war. That is probably also the reason why our troups took over the Canadian workload near the capital Kandahar. The Canadian troups were then sent into ISAF (not OEF) operation “Medusa”, a fierce battle where 200 Taliban fighters were killed.

Way to go. Afghanistan, the forgotten war. At least this one is fought for a legitimate reason, both in the formal sense (a UN resolution) as morally, opposing the insanely violent-to-their-own-people Taliban.

ps: Almost all poppy (read: opium) in the world is grown in Afghanistan. The awfull repression of the Taliban reduced that to almost zero two years ago, but now it’s in full production again. It is said about nothing else grows there.
pps: While history will not view religious-crazy Taliban as liberators (from the Russians yes, but what did they get in back), I keep wondering if the the people, the children will see “us”, the western-world helpers as liberators or as occupants. Are we creating a new pool of hatred?

update: In operation Medusa, one soldier was killed and several wounded by friendly fire. The nationality of the victims has not been released yet. Four Canadians were killed in the battle.

Ed. Note: For those of you in the USA who may have thought upon reading the first line, “WTF, we invaded Afghanistan years ago?”, we must explain that yoh-there is our European correspondent living in The Netherlands.

update: News here is that OEF and ISAF-III are now officially the same and moved from a “build up” mission to a “battle and counter-insurgency” mission. Of course we knew this alltogether, but now it’s official. Oh and it gives some credibility to OEF (pun intended). Please note that our boys going there was politically closely linked to the rebuilding mission. I’ll keep you posted what happens next (my predicion: nothing).