What Must be Done to Save the World?
Posted: 01 March 2005 02:23 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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I am in the camp that thinks we are on a course leading to nuclear annihilation. One plausible scenario is that Muslim extremists will release a weapon of mass destruction in an American city. The US will respond, against Muslims in general, by bombing Mecca or Tehran, perhaps using atomic weapons, and so it will go on.

Here are some possible suggestions that might head off such a future.

1. Start dumping huge amounts of money into secular education in the Muslim world. President Musharif asked the Bush administration for 300 or so million dollars to close down the madras's in Pakistan and substitute more a secular education system. The Washington Post reported that this did not "survive the White House budget process". What a missed opportunity.

2. Start actual propaganda against fundamentalist Islam. Drop leaflets on mosques, challenging literal interpretation of the Qurran. Point out that their claims are based on the same lack of evidence as all the religions they hate.

3. The US Senate should reaffirm the 1799 Treaty of Tripoli which stated that the US is in no way a Christian county.

4. Propose a treaty of religious toleration and started pressuring all countries to sign it. It should say that all countries will not discriminate against people of any religion, will protect religious minorities and apostasy, blasphemy, etc. cannot be crimes.

5. Much pressure must be put on Saudi Arabia to allow non Muslims to live in their country. Good symbolism would be to revive the Jewish community of Mecca.

6. Israel and the Muslim countries should enter a mutual "Law of the Return" agreement. In return for letting Jews to return and have full citizenship in Iran, Iraq, Arabia, Yemen, etc, Muslims would be allowed to return to Israel.

Other suggestions are welcome.

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Posted: 01 March 2005 03:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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This is an excerpt from the Washington Post,
Afghanistan, Iraq: Two Wars Collide

By Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 22, 2004; Page A01

Among them was a plan by Wendy Chamberlin, then ambassador to Pakistan, to offer President Pervez Musharraf a substitute for Saudi funding of a radical network of Islamist schools known as madrasas. Downing backed Chamberlin in the interagency debate, describing education as “the root of many of the recruits for the Islamist movement.” Bush promised such support to Musharraf in a meeting soon after Sept. 11, said an official who accompanied him, but the $300 million plan did not survive the White House budget request

I was furious when I read that.

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Posted: 09 March 2005 02:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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I dont worry too much about nuclear annihilation.  There may be a nuke used here or there by some radical group though I don’t think it’ll be Osama…he’s not quite crazy enough.  If you notice, he’s trying hard not to get caught.  I dont think he’s up to being a martyr.  This country would nuke and level that whole region if he resorted to a WMD.  He knows this.  I think there is a significant chunk of the US population that would nuke Afganistan, Iraq and Iran just because of 911. 

If we did nuke the region in retaliation for a WMD strike against us, I doubt any of the nations posessing nuclear weapons would also start throwing them around.  Most nations are like organisms with interests in survival and growth.  Few if any in history have ever engaged intentionally in self destructive behavior.  And the countries with nukes are led by gangsters and moguls wanting the good life and as big a slice of the pie as they can get.  Bush possibly has the most unstable and irrational beliefs in all of the nukelands.

The whole Iraq WMD thing was such a sham.  Saddam would never have used WMD against this country even if he had them.  He’s a thug, not a zealot.  His concern was staying in power and living like a king.

One of the only benefits of having the world controlled by a handful of large corporations is that there likely won’t be another world war.  Its just not in their interests.  There will be many small regional wars and civil wars over labor and resources (like the US/Iraq war) needed to keep the wealth flowing into the right hands and to put down populations unwilling to be exploited.  This in turn will encourage the formation of even more radical groups, some possibly with more than a little flight training but none with the resources or influence to start an all out nuclear war.

We humans are in for a long slow decline but I dont believe our extinction will come about for quite some time.  Within 30 yrs or so I dont think we’ll have to worry about the mid east.  We’ll have left because the oil will be gone and they’ll be dying by the millions of starvation and disease with sand as their only remaining resource.  Of course we’ll have our own new problems due to the fact we won’t have found a viable new energy source, at least not one as available as oil.  Then we’ll be killing each other.

I guess I might be talking out of my ass.  No one can predict the future.  But this seems about right to me unless we have some drastic power shifts.

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Posted: 10 March 2005 04:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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I have to agree with Tom, the large multi-national corporations will serve their interests, and TBH I suspect its in THEIR interest to promote democracy around the world, since the Democracy of the Dollar works so well here in the USA.

I suspect they envision a world of countries run by PAC money = )

I am more concerned the real problems of scarcity of resources and overpopulation and hunger willl begin to destablize more and more of the world.

In point of fact, “terrorism” is the most common way a smaller less equipped force wages war against a larger more organized force, hence the Boston Tea Party.

I am disturbed that Coca-Cola company buys the rights to wells in India, then turns around and bottles the water to sell back to people that can’t afford to buy it.

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Posted: 10 March 2005 06:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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[quote author=“Tom”]One of the only benefits of having the world controlled by a handful of large corporations is that there likely won’t be another world war.

[quote author=“Iisbliss”]I have to agree with Tom, the large multi-national corporations will serve their interests, and TBH I suspect its in THEIR interest to promote democracy around the world, since the Democracy of the Dollar works so well here in the USA.

I suspect they envision a world of countries run by PAC money = )

I am more concerned the real problems of scarcity of resources and overpopulation and hunger willl begin to destablize more and more of the world.

So, corporations control the world, huh? What’s y’all’s evidence? Please don’t say something like, “it’s obvious,” because it is no more obvious than the existence of the Easter Bunny.

Further, even if the thesis is true, please explain why it’s worse than the systems that came before it.

The United Nations Human Development Report for 2001 noted the following facts, which coincide with the rise of “globalization” and the end of the Cold War. Please explain how this correlation is not at least partially causative.

After noting the urgent need to address issues of poverty, women’s emancipation, and so on, the report notes:

The magnitude of these challenges appears daunting. Yet too few people recognize that the impressive gains in the developing world in the past 30 years demonstrate the possibility of eradicating poverty. A child born today can expect to live eight years longer than one born 30 years ago. Many more people can read and write, with the adult literacy rate having increased from an estimated 47% in 1970 to 73% in 1999. The share of rural families with access to safe water has grown more than fivefold. Many more people can enjoy a decent standard of living, with average incomes in developing countries having almost doubled in real terms between 1975 and 1998, from $1,300 to $2,500 (1985 PPP US$).8

The basic conditions for achieving human freedoms were transformed in the past 10 years as more than 100 developing and transition countries
ended military or one-party rule, opening up political choices. And formal commitment to international standards in human rights has spread
dramatically since 1990. These are only some of the indicators of the impressive gains in many aspects of human development.

Achievements noted in the report:

Between 1990 and 1998 the proportion of people living on less than $1 (1993 PPP US$) a day in developing countries was reduced from 29% to 24%.

The number of undernourished people in the developing world fell by 40 million between 1990–92 and 1996–98.

Around 80% of people in the developing world now have access to improved water sources.

By 1997 the female enrolment ratio in developing countries had reached 89% of the male ratio at the primary level and 82% at the secondary level.

Only 32 countries have achieved a reported maternal mortality ratio of less than 20 per 100,000 live births.

In 1990–99 infant mortality was reduced by more than 10%, from 64 per 1,000 live births to 56. Under-five mortality was reduced from 93 per 1,000 live births to 80 in 1990–99.

Contraceptive prevalence has reached nearly 50% in developing countries.

The number of countries adopting sustainable development strategies rose from fewer than 25 in 1990 to more than 50 in 1997.

Now, again, all of this has coinicided with the rise of globalization, the end of the Cold War, and the spread of democratic capitalism worldwide. Those who argue against the trend have to demonstrate why an alternative system is better, and they have to do it with evidence.

This stuff does not come from RNC talking points, either. It is from the United Nations Human Development Programme.

The PPP mentioned in the report stands for “Personal Purchasing Power,” a truer standard of economic empowerment that mere percentages. Consider this example:

Suppose we compare the incomes of two people, one who makes $5,000 a year, and another who makes only $200.  The “rich” person in this example makes $4,800 a year more than the poor person. Five years later, we come back and compare again. This time, the “rich” person is making $7,500 a year, and the poor person is making $2,000. This time around, the “rich” person is making $5,500 a year more than the “poor” person. So, if we looked only at the pay differential, it would seem that the “rich” person did better at the expense of the “poor” person.

But look closely. The “poor” person’s actual income multiplied ten times in five years, while the “rich” person’s didn’t even multiply once. In real terms, the “poor” person has improved a lot more than the “rich” person.

The PPP is a measure of this. The above analogy is really what has been going on in the Third World over the last 30 years… coinciding with the rise of globalization. True, there is still a long way to go, and things aren’t as good as they could be… but then, when are they ever?

The point here is that the evidence indicates that “corporate” “control” of the global economy has been better for the world’s poorest people than has any previous system.

Those who invoke the specter of sinister corporate masters running the world for their own gain can’t ignore this evidence. They first have to demonstrate that corporations actually do run the world—and skepticism about this claim is as justified as claims about Santa Claus—and then come up with an explanation for this evidence that demonstrates something other than the globalization of democracy and capitalism is causing it.

Otherwise, their arguments are only appeals to superstition, and nothing else.

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Posted: 10 March 2005 07:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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[quote author=“Tom”]I dont worry too much about nuclear annihilation.  There may be a nuke used here or there by some radical group though I don’t think it’ll be Osama…he’s not quite crazy enough.  If you notice, he’s trying hard not to get caught.  I dont think he’s up to being a martyr.

He doesn’t have to be a martyr himself. He only has to convince someone else to do it. And since Al-Qaeda has openly stated that they intend to get their hands on a nuke and use it against us (indeed, they say it is their religious duty to do so), please explain why the fear is unfounded. Why should we not take them at their word?

This country would nuke and level that whole region if he resorted to a WMD.

I honestly doubt this assertion, but hopefully, we will not have to find out.

And the countries with nukes are led by gangsters and moguls wanting the good life and as big a slice of the pie as they can get.

Actually, with the exceptions of China and Pakistan, they are led by democratically-elected officials.

The whole Iraq WMD thing was such a sham.  Saddam would never have used WMD against this country even if he had them.  He’s a thug, not a zealot.  His concern was staying in power and living like a king.

The only basis on which we can evaluate Saddam’s motives was his behavior, and his behavior does not support your conclusion. Why would a man whose only concern was “staying in power and living like a king” waste billions of dollars and millions of lives in unprovoked invasions of Iran and Kuwait? Why would he spend 12 years provoking the U.N. and practically daring them to punish him with regime change? Why would he openly admit that his “concern” was being the modern world’s Salah al-Din by conquering the Middle East and restoring the ancient Caliphate? Why would he pretend that he did, in fact, possess WMDs, and offer as proof the undisputed fact that he had used them in Iran, Kuwait and his own country, against his own people? The notion that Saddam wanted only to “stay in power and live like a king” is a political superstition that ignores the evidence.

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Posted: 10 March 2005 07:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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[quote author=“Iisbliss”]In point of fact, “terrorism” is the most common way a smaller less equipped force wages war against a larger more organized force, hence the Boston Tea Party.

Then why aren’t the Lebanese conducting suicide bombings on the streets of Damascus? Why is it, instead, that terrorism in Lebanon is carried out against opponents of the Syrian occupation, rather than by them? Why, during the long interregnum of U.S. support for Saddam, weren’t the Kurds hijacking airplanes or exporting their violence to Western streets? Why, during the Vietnam War, were the VC not producing and distributing snuff films of the execution of their captives?

Terrorism is a tactic of oppressors, not the oppressed. Al-Qaeda was founded by a member of the Saudi ruling class (Bin Laden); the Taliban was created with the help of the Pakistani ISI and supported with Saudi patronage. Hezbollah was created by Iran, and enjoys support from both that country and Syria. Hamas and Islamic Jihad were backed by Ba’athist Iraq and Syria, who provided them with weapons and training in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon (controlled by Syria) and the Salman Pak camp south of Baghdad. The PKK and Ansar al-Islam were both supported and partially founded by Saddam’s govt. The genocidal, Arab-supremacist janjaweed militias of the Sudan are backed up by the Sudanese air force and army. The PLO was founded by Arab states before the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, in the prelude to the 1967 war.

None of these are “smaller, less well-equipped forces waging war against larger, more organized forces.” Indeed, the reverse is true: they are branches of larger, organized forces of oppression, engaging in assymetrical tactics through proxy armies to provide themselves with “plausible deniability,” against smaller, less-organized forces with progressive or liberationist agendas.

Most modern terrorism is a campaign of sectarian violence by the Muslim Religious Right against the towers of decadent Babylon and global Jewish conspiracy; it has more in common with the KKK during Reconstruction, the Friekorps in Weimar Germany, and abortion clinic murders than it does with the Boston Tea Party, which killed no one.

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Posted: 10 March 2005 10:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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I dont have time right now to answer all your objections GVI, but I will respond to a few.  But first, notice the context.  We were primarily discussing fears of hypothetical events leading to global nuclear destruction.

He doesn’t have to be a martyr himself. He only has to convince someone else to do it. And since Al-Qaeda has openly stated that they intend to get their hands on a nuke and use it against us (indeed, they say it is their religious duty to do so), please explain why the fear is unfounded. Why should we not take them at their word?

I have never heard any quotes from Al-Qaeda claiming that intention.  I have heard quotes about killing millions of Americans and I know WMD could be extracted from that.  I wouldn’t doubt that nuclear weapons will be used against us, and maybe by some Muslim group centered in the Middle East.  In fact its something I expect in my lifetime.  But it will be one bomb, or two, or even three…not the nuclear annihilation Ricky was worried about and that we were discussing.  Sure it will be horrible.  Millions will die.  But it wont exterminate the species.

And OBL is demonstrating every day a determination to not get found, something that would surely happen if a WMD attack could be linked to him.  I admit this is just specutation.

Any claims any of us make as to knowing the events of the future or knowing the minds and motivations of individuals is all purely speculative and could be called superstition.  It is unknowable and unprovable.  Granted, some predictions seem more likely than others.  That weak cheap shot claim of “political superstition”  shocked me GVI seeing the clear thinking of some of your other posts.

The only basis on which we can evaluate Saddam’s motives was his behavior, and his behavior does not support your conclusion. Why would a man whose only concern was “staying in power and living like a king” waste billions of dollars and millions of lives in unprovoked invasions of Iran and Kuwait? Why would he spend 12 years provoking the U.N. and practically daring them to punish him with regime change? Why would he openly admit that his “concern” was being the modern world’s Salah al-Din by conquering the Middle East and restoring the ancient Caliphate? Why would he pretend that he did, in fact, possess WMDs, and offer as proof the undisputed fact that he had used them in Iran, Kuwait and his own country, against his own people? The notion that Saddam wanted only to “stay in power and live like a king” is a political superstition that ignores the evidence.

You are right. I should have said “expanding his power,demonstrating the inevitable male bravado, and living like a king”...very thug-like activities.  None of the above activites imply a zealotry.  We were dealing with a brutal thug, but not one insane with the mental virus of religion.  As far as Al-Qaeda is concerned, his kind is part of the problem.  Of course he’ll want to compare himself to Saladin, the greatest general the M.East ever produced.  Of course he’ll defy the world law like some punk holed up in his house surrounded by police.  Why did we profess to having technologys we didn’t have during the cold war?  We didn’t mind those WMD until he was a bad pawn and invaded Kuwait.  We continued to smile and shake his hand and sell him arms right through the gassing of the Kurds and the years of war with Iran (who we were also selling arms to.  I guess we just wanted to spred democracy and be fair?).  And we fucking knew he was exterminating his own people!

Again:  He’s a brutal son of a bitch.  But he’s not crazy or stupid.

Actually, with the exceptions of China and Pakistan, they are led by democratically-elected officials.

Just because someone gets democratically elected doesn’t mean they don’t meet the criteria of being gangsters or moguls.  Bush with the Bush dynasty is the very definition of a mogul.  Putin runs his house like a gangster.  If you don’t see most world leaders as self centered and supremely ambitious power junkies, then you don’t understand the nature of power.  If this country nuked some little country that sheltered terrorists who used WMD on us first, then what do you think the rest of the world would do?  I guess it depended on the country, but I dont see anyone doing anything but displaying shock and protesting.  They have enough of their own problems and none will risk losing all they’ve worked so hard to achieve cause some little country gets dusted.  If you want to understand how I think the world would respond, then you should have seen the guy I saw get stabbed to death in broad daylight in NYC while folks quickly walked away nervously glancing over their shoulder.

Again, speculation.  But thats all we’re doing here.

As far as your support of globalization,well, its a word I never used. And if you can’t see the extent that American law and foreign policy is influenced by economic and corporate interests while cloaked in a moral shawl to make it more palatable because of the violence sometimes required, then you must be intentionally not looking. I fear you have a little bit of the Patriot bug; another little mental blinder that needs to go right after fundamentalist religion.
But more on that later. I gotta eat.

BTW, don’t get me mixed up with the liberal stereotype you distrust and apparently think I am.  I don’t give a rats ass about any of your political categorys.  I prefer to check things out with as few allegiances as possible.

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Posted: 10 March 2005 12:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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[quote author=“Tom”]I dont have time right now to answer all your objections GVI, but I will respond to a few.  But first, notice the context.  We were primarily discussing fears of hypothetical events leading to global nuclear destruction.

Which, I agree, is terribly unlikely. As, I think, is Ricky’s initial assertion that the U.S. would respond to a WMD attack by attacking “Muslims in general.” I think we would attack whichever state we suspected of backing the attacks, and no one else.

I have never heard any quotes from Al-Qaeda claiming that intention.  I have heard quotes about killing millions of Americans and I know WMD could be extracted from that.

Bin Laden said in an interview in the Dec. 23, 1998 issue of Time magazine that acquisition of nuclear weapons was a religious duty. He has, since the founding of Al-Qaeda, been openly seeking a fatwa from Saudi clerics authorizing the use of nuclear weapons against “infidels”—a fatwa that was finally issued in 2003 by Sheik Nasir bin Hamid al Fahd, a radical Salafist cleric. Since then, Ayman al-Zawahiri has claimed on numerous occasions that Al-Qaeda has prepared “dirty bombs” and suitcase nukes for use in its jihad. Of course, some of this latter talk may be psychological warfare, but whether they have nukes or not, Al-Qaeda has been out in the open about wanting them and intending to use them, right from the start.

I wouldn’t doubt that nuclear weapons will be used against us, and maybe by some Muslim group centered in the Middle East.  In fact its something I expect in my lifetime.  But it will be one bomb, or two, or even three…not the nuclear annihilation Ricky was worried about and that we were discussing.  Sure it will be horrible.  Millions will die.  But it wont exterminate the species.

I agree with that.

Any claims any of us make as to knowing the events of the future or knowing the minds and motivations of individuals is all purely speculative and could be called superstition.  It is unknowable and unprovable.  Granted, some predictions seem more likely than others.  That weak cheap shot claim of “political superstition”  shocked me GVI seeing the clear thinking of some of your other posts.

I am not claiming to know the mind of Saddam or Bin Laden. I am, however, capable of observing their words and actions, and deducing from them what their motivations might be. Especially when they tell us openly what their motivations are. By invoking the label of “political superstition,” I was saying that analyses of their motives which contradict their clearly-stated intentions and behavior are the equivalent of superstition, because they are based on an equal amount of evidence… none. WRT to Saddam, specifically, I hear all the time from people confidently asserting that he had no expansionist intentions, no ties to religious extremism, and so on. But these claims ignore the evidence, and tend to be based on “conventional wisdom,” which is rarely a reliable guide to anything.

You are right. I should have said “expanding his power,demonstrating the inevitable male bravado, and living like a king”...very thug-like activities.  None of the above activites imply a zealotry.  We were dealing with a brutal thug, but not one insane with the mental virus of religion.  As far as Al-Qaeda is concerned, his kind is part of the problem.

See, this is what I mean. The claim that Al-Qaeda “hated” Saddam and considered him part of the problem is flatly false. As early as 1998, Al-Qaeda and Saddam’s govt were forging a formal pact, and Iraqi intelligence offered Bin Laden safe haven in their country in 1999 (9/11 Commission Report, p. 66). Al-Qaeda announced in 1998, as well, that collaboration with the “socialists” of Saddam’s and other secular regimes was permissable, and of all the Arab and Muslim governments, Saddam’s was the only one against which Al-Qaeda never had a bad word to say. The U.S. bombing of the al-Shifa plant in Khartoum that year (1998) was based on intelligence (backed up, at the time, by Richard Clarke and David Kay) that Iraqi scientists in the plant were manufacturing chemical weapons for use by Al-Qaeda. Saddam’s daily state-run news media regularly praised Bin Laden as a hero of the people. Saddam named his most ambitious genocide operation against the Kurds after a surah of the Qur’an. After 9/11, Saddam was the only Arab leader to praise the attacks and announce his solidarity with its perpetrators.

Saddam and Al-Qaeda did not hate each other. This claim is, yes, a political superstition. They had no formal operational ties (yet), and did have some notable ideologcial differences; but even before 9/11, they were in the process of reconciling those differences. None of this is disputed by any credible source. Therefore, claims to the contrary—that from Al-Qaeda’s point of view, Saddam was part of the problem—are the equivalent of claims about the Tooth Fairy. They are not supported by a preponderance of the evidence.

Why did we profess to having technologys we didn’t have during the cold war?  We didn’t mind those WMD until he was a bad pawn and invaded Kuwait.  We continued to smile and shake his hand and sell him arms right through the gassing of the Kurds and the years of war with Iran (who we were also selling arms to.  I guess we just wanted to spred democracy and be fair?).

No, we wanted to secure our oil interests. You won’t find me defending our policy towards Saddam during the 80s; indeed, I cut my activist teeth back then protesting against that support, and calling for the U.S. to reverse its policy and help the Kurds overthrow Saddam. The U.S. did that very thing in 2002, with the armed support of the secular Left in Iraq, including the Kurds. I stand with the Kurds and the Iraqi secular Left; as long as they stand with GWB on this issue, then so do I. 

But it should be pointed out that Saddam got 90 percent of his arms and WMD capacity from the Soviets and the French. The most we ever sold him was baseline material for sarin gas and some bio-weapons. That’s bad, very very bad; but we did not arm or train Saddam’s military, or really offer him more than token support, even during his war with Iran.

Just because someone gets democratically elected doesn’t mean they don’t meet the criteria of being gangsters or moguls.  Bush with the Bush dynasty is the very definition of a mogul.  Putin runs his house like a gangster.  If you don’t see most world leaders as self centered and supremely ambitious power junkies, then you don’t understand the nature of power.

I think you over-simplify things. What I object to in this kind of weasel-word language is the implication of ethical or political equivalence between democracies and dictatorships. I don’t deny at all that power attracts the corruptible, but as Orwell said, it is better that the bullies in charge be policemen rather than gangsters. As Orwell also said, the implication of equivalence between even the most reactionary democratic leader and an unelected dictator is “arguing that half a loaf equals no bread” ... an absurd proposition on its face. Freely-elected capitalist democracies are corrupt in many ways, but they are objectively, empirically better for people than dictatorships (which is part of the point I’m making with my post about “globalization”; poltical/economic systems were not created equal, and some of them really are objectively better than others, no matter what any political partisan believes).

If this country nuked some little country that sheltered terrorists who used WMD on us first, then what do you think the rest of the world would do?  I guess it depended on the country, but I dont see anyone doing anything but displaying shock and protesting.  They have enough of their own problems and none will risk losing all they’ve worked so hard to achieve cause some little country gets dusted.  If you want to understand how I think the world would respond, then you should have seen the guy I saw get stabbed to death in broad daylight in NYC while folks quickly walked away nervously glancing over their shoulder.

Though I object to the analogy (stabbing someone in cold blood is not the moral equivalent of retaliating against an attack), I see your point, and I agree with it. Even a terrorist attack using WMDs is not likely to lead to full-fledged nuclear war.

And if you can’t see the extent that American law and foreign policy is influenced by economic and corporate interests, yet cloaked in a moral shawl to make it more palatable because of the violence sometimes required, then you must be intentionally not looking.

In other words, “it is obvious” ... an invalid response. Corporate control of U.S. policy is no more obvious than the existence of Nessie. It’s no different than saying we’re “obviously” controlled by the Jews, or Satan. What’s obvious to any rational observer is that corporate interests form only one of many motivations behind any foreign policy, and often compete with other power blocs in policy circles (for instance, there is right now a dispute going on among business conservatives and evangelical Christian human rights activists over our policy towards Sudan); that idealism has historically been at least as important to policy as has raw power-hunger;  that international relations is a complicated topic that is not intuitively grasped and cannot be reduced down to simple catch-all formulae like “corporate interest.”  Democracies are full of competing interest groups pushing their own (often-contradictory) agendas, and thus, democratic states do no ever act with a single mind or out of one interest alone—corporate or otherwise. Single-minded focus on “corporate interests” does not even provide an observer with half the story; it is no more reliable a compass than belief in the Devil.

I fear you have a little bit of the Patriot bug; another little mental blinder that needs to go right after fundamentalist religion.

Not sure what the “Patriot bug” is; I assume it means you think I have uncritically accepted some line or other of American propaganda. But I have not. I just reject the simplistic and, yes, purely superstitious, notion that America (or “corporate interests”) is always wrong. America is right sometimes, wrong others, and usually a little bit of both at the same time. It is, after all, controlled by complex human beings. My position is the result of applied skepticism; right around 9/11 and for several months thereafter, I was a Chomskian fundamentalist, blindly mouthing “evil America” orthodoxy out of fear in changing, dangerous times. But intellectual honesty drove me to examine my own dogmas as rigorously as I examined others. In the end, what convinced me was not some “Patriot bug,” but examination of the evidence, and realization that for once, America has met an enemy that is not us.

BTW, don’t get me mixed up with the liberal stereotype you distrust and apparently think I am.  I don’t give a rats ass about any of your political categorys.  I prefer to check things out with as few allegiances as possible.

I do, too. Which is how I got to my current views on American policy and terrorism. I laid aside what I thought my allegiances required me to think, and instead investigated the facts as skeptically as I could.

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Posted: 10 March 2005 05:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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You know GVI, I was going to respond by carefully addressing all these topics, letting you know exactly where I agree and where I dont, debating the bias of some of your sources, etc.  But just the idea of spending even another 10 minutes on this shit seems exhausting.  Its not that I don’t enjoy talking to you.  I think we are too similar and its not worth it to fret over the details, even if a few might look a little glaring.  Just a couple things.

Though I object to the analogy


The analogy was used only for the crowd response, not the crime.  Thought that would be obvious.

Bin Laden said in an interview in the Dec. 23, 1998 issue of Time magazine that acquisition of nuclear weapons was a religious duty. He has, since the founding of Al-Qaeda, been openly seeking a fatwa from Saudi clerics authorizing the use of nuclear weapons against “infidels”—a fatwa that was finally issued in 2003 by Sheik Nasir bin Hamid al Fahd, a radical Salafist cleric. Since then, Ayman al-Zawahiri has claimed on numerous occasions that Al-Qaeda has prepared “dirty bombs” and suitcase nukes for use in its jihad. Of course, some of this latter talk may be psychological warfare, but whether they have nukes or not, Al-Qaeda has been out in the open about wanting them and intending to use them, right from the start.

Interesting.  I’d like to read that.  Yup, you never know.

I hear all the time from people confidently asserting that he had no expansionist intentions

Of course he did.

I think you over-simplify things. What I object to in this kind of weasel-word language is the implication of ethical or political equivalence between democracies and dictatorships.


How the hell did you get that out of what I wrote?  There is nothing even close to support that.  Because I group a handful of leaders together and quickly describe them as possibly similar in some respects in order to show a uniformity of response to a given situation claims nothing about the governments they represent.

poltical/economic systems were not created equal, and some of them really are objectively better than others, no matter what any political partisan believes

yup

If you could give me a few more sources for your quotes and stats, like the 80% of weapons from France and Russia to Saddam. 

No, we wanted to secure our oil interests.

Corporate control of U.S. policy is no more obvious than the existence of Nessie.

  You seem to be contradicting yourself.  The above mentioned oil interests were not state oil interests, they were corporate oil interests.  Of course, I know about the necessity of this due to our dependence on oil.  We cant have our economy flail while others may thrive.

What’s obvious to any rational observer is that corporate interests form only one of many motivations behind any foreign policy

Very true.  But a bigger part then you are willing to admit.  No, the corporations are not some sinister force meeting in dark rooms, laughing greedily and then sticking a pin into Bush’s ass.  Of course Bush isn’t a puppet on a string.  But all camps are funded and caressed by massive corporations that expect a great deal for their investment in the campaigns.  And the corporations are getting larger.

and realization that for once, America has met an enemy that is not us.

  For once

Damn its late.  I’ll tune in tomorrow night.

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Posted: 10 March 2005 09:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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[quote author=“Tom”]How the hell did you get that out of what I wrote?  There is nothing even close to support that.  Because I group a handful of leaders together and quickly describe them as possibly similar in some respects in order to show a uniformity of response to a given situation claims nothing about the governments they represent.

But the language you used was inherently equivocal. Describing our leaders as gangsters when they aren’t makes it harder to recognize real gangsters when we encounter them. I realize that probably isn’t your intention, but it is the net effect when this kind of talk becomes commonplace. Discussion and evaluation of policy requires precise language, no less than discussion and evaluation of medical claims or criminal investigations. People’s lives are at stake, and the process of figuring out what to do and who to support is not helped by fuzzy misleading or hyperbolic language, however unintentional their use.

If you could give me a few more sources for your quotes and stats, like the 80% of weapons from France and Russia to Saddam.

Sure. A lot of it is just public record, available to anyone who does research by means of academic journals dealing with history or international relations, biographies of Saddam, and so on. But first, I should admit that I was being inadvertantly vague there. Saddam’s conventional weapons and military training were supplied by Russia, France and China (see below for an inventory); components of his WMD development programs were sold to him mostly by European countries and companies, with a handful of American companies in the mix. A good place to start is the 1990 Frontline documentary The Long Road to War , which dealt specifically with who armed Saddam with what.

At least half of Iraq’s conventional weapons were purchased from its ally, the Soviet Union, but France was also a major source, providing its sophisticated Mirage fighters and deadly Exocet missiles. And there were many others—China, South Africa, Czechoslovakia, Egypt and Brazil. At one point, in the 1980s, Iraq was the biggest importer of arms in the world.

The New York Times has also done extensive coverage of the sources of Saddam’s arsenal, (link requires a subscription).

ABSTRACT - Means for making any chemical weapons that might be found in Iraq came primarily from Western companies years ago; Germany and France outstripped all others in providing Iraq with specialized chemical-industry equipment that is particularly useful for producing poison gas; map shows origins of sensitive chemicals, equipment and other munitions acquired by Iraq.

Iraq’s Air Force was supplied primarily by the Soviet Union, and was composed mostly of MiG, Sukhoi and Mach 3 Foxbat strike fighters. The rest of the air force came from China and France, the sources of Iraq’s Chengdu F-7s (China) and Mirage F-1s (France)—the best jet fighters in Saddam’s arsenal. Russia supplied him with Mil-24 Hind attack helicopters,  and the French with Gazelles—both of which were used in his attacks on the Kurds.

Iraq’s missiles and the bulk of their components all came from those three countries, as well. The Scud, Saddam’s primary missile capability, was of Soviet origin. His other missile forces included FROG-7s from Russia, Exocets from France, and Silkworms from China. In addition, there were SA-2 Guidelines, SA-3 Goas, and SA-6 Gainfuls from those three nations, as well. France supplied Saddam with Roland missile defense systems, and most components for his missiles came from China, France and the Soviet Union.

Saddam’s tank forces were made up of T-72s and T-55s from Russia, Type-59s from China, and Soviet BMP armored personnel carriers.

Iraq’s main artillery were French-made 155mm howitzers and Soviet-made 122mm cannons and rocket launchers. His army’s official firearm was the AK-47, from Russia and China.

Saddam’s nuclear programs—mostly wiped out in the 80s, but still with a few scattered seeds even into the 90s—was [url=http://www.nti.org/e_research/profiles/Iraq/Nuclear/2121.html] built by the French, Italians and Russians .

Another good source for the background and origin of Iraq’s arsenal is the   Institute for Science and International Security. It’s   Iraq page contains lots of useful info on Saddam’s nuclear program over the years.

I also gleaned a lot of background from the [url=http://www.carnegieendowment.org/

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace [/url], which is where the 90 percent figure came from initially, though they appear to have removed the report from their online archives.

The bulk of Iraq’s outstanding military debt is owed to China, France and Russia.

Now, what the United States did do during the Iran-Iraq war was supply Saddam with satellite intelligence, and Iran with weapons, with the primary motive of playing the two of them against each other, in the hopes that neither would gain the upper hand; we also, shamefully, looked the other way when he was slaughtering the Kurds in 1988 (though Congress did pass a resolution condemning him for it and calling for international punishment). The Commerce Department in the 80s also liscenced several U.S. companies to sell Iraq biological and chemical agents (including anthrax and botulism) and “dual-use” items like insecticides and computer technology, despite well-documented fears that Saddam would use them for nefarious purposes. So the claim that America is totally innocent in helping Saddam is false; but based on a fair assessment of the evidence, it also does not bear anything resembling primary guilt.

No, we wanted to secure our oil interests.

Corporate control of U.S. policy is no more obvious than the existence of Nessie.

  You seem to be contradicting yourself.  The above mentioned oil interests were not state oil interests, they were corporate oil interests.  Of course, I know about the necessity of this due to our dependence on oil.  We cant have our economy flail while others may thrive.

I’m not contradicting myself. I maintain that corporate interests alone do not dictate U.S. foreign policy at all times and places. But it does have influence, greater at some times and places than others (though there is more to our oil interest than mere economics; national security and international stability concerns were also involved, particularly during the Cold War, with the Soviets on the border of the world’s largest oil-bearing region). The fact that a particular U.S. policy in a given time and place is influenced by corporate or other economic interests does not mean that it always is in all times and places.

I also was pointing to a distinction between past and present policy. I do not believe present policy in Iraq (or the Middle East generally) is primarily motivated by corporate oil interests. I do think, though, that for most of the Cold War, it probably was, with the caveat that such interests were considered vital to the containment of the Soviets and thus motivated primarily by ideology rather than economics.

I don’t deny that corporate interests is one influence on U.S policymaking, sometimes a significant one. What I deny is that it controls U.S. policy, which is what you started out saying.

What’s obvious to any rational observer is that corporate interests form only one of many motivations behind any foreign policy

Very true.  But a bigger part then you are willing to admit.

First, you have no idea what I’m willing to admit. ;o) Secondly, you are here simply arguing by assertion, and offering no evidence. Thirdly, I don’t deny there is a big economic influence involved. But you’re the one who began his discussion on this thread by saying the world is controlled (not merely influenced) by a handful of large corporations. And that claim is no different, to my skeptical mind, than a claim that the world is controlled by Jews, or the minions of Cthulhu (burp). Now, perhaps you chose your words imprecisely, and didn’t actually mean to imply a conspiracy. But it sure didn’t look that way.

And as you pointed out earlier, I’m no mind reader.

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Posted: 11 March 2005 03:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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Actually I am not against increased globalization of corporations, nor of spreading capitalism further and further abroad.

In the basic economic model, for capitalism to work, producers MUST also be able to consume, in other words, you have to pay your workers enough to buy things in order to market more things.  This leads to increased development, more middle class lifestyles, overall poverty reduction in the LONG run.  On the same line, your producers also have to save, which is bascially reinvesting in corporations, so that they can continue to advance technologically.  The curve runs between increased consumption of resources and improved technology for utilizing those rescources.  Continued use of rescources with no advancement in utilization technology is a dead end.

However to me its a vital balancing act between the interests of corporations and the interests of individuals, because in the SHORT run, corporations can exhibit excessive greed and exploitation because they are institutions and not individuals, they have questionable moral guidelines, and tend to be shortsighted.  As we progess technologically however, some of this shortsightedness goes away, as the corporate “survivors” tend to be the best long term planners and innovators.

I am old enough to remember when deforesting by lumber companies was a serious problem before “forest farming” became the most economical model for lumber companies to work from, but not before we lost a ton of woodlands unnessarily through rescource exploitation.

The other issue I have with the capalist model besides requiring SOME checks on greed and exploitation of rescources is the marketing and consumption model that encourages overconsumption to keep the ball rollling instead of spreading consumption out farther, it encourages localized extreme consumption.

I would say that the biggest crime of capatilsm right now is the effect on society of promoting a consumption morality based on ego satisfaction, much like religion.  I think you can see a very good example of this in the American obesity issue, and two hours of watching food commercials on TV. 

I think the “product” mentality of politics is a dangerous development, where political policies and agendas are treated as purchasable products, only because it erodes the only other major human institution that has the capablity and the power to Check the Excesses of greed and protect average people from exploitation.

To me the solution is viligance against exploitation while at the same time supporting increased development and decreased consumption in some areas with increased consumption and education in other areas. 

Its like a vine, its good that it grows and blooms but sometimes you have to trim it and guide it.  If the gardener is in the employ of the vine, its not good for the rest of the plants in the garden.  We know this, because we have anti-monopoly laws.

Meanwhile, back at world annihilation, I dont think it will happen.  I realize there are alot of people praying for it, but I dont see any real situation developing where even N. Korea would nuke anything.

The only reason I can even remotely think the war in Iraq was a good idea has nothing to do with WMD or Saddam himself.  Its more to do with what would have happened had Saddam died or been assasinated.

In a Saddam assasination or death scenario, the country would have most likely devolved into civil war, with the Kurds pulling out to form their own country, setting off Turkey, and possibly destablizing the entire region, and setting up a free-for-all type of situation that would have in all probablity ended up enhancing world terrorism.
I don’t think any of his sons would have been able to keep it together, and quite possibly his own family might have been involved in the assasination.

I am willing to give the governments of Britian and the US the benefit of the doubt that they knew there was no WMD but maybe DID know about assasination plans, ones with high chances of success, and this was more scary than WMD but way harder to market for a war.

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Posted: 11 March 2005 03:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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I agree.

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Posted: 16 March 2005 08:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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Let’s talk about irony, in particular an irony that’s directly relevant to the discussion on this thread.

Since the start of the Iraq war, many people have been self-confidently preening over the alleged failure to find WMDs in Iraq. The claim that there never were WMDs of any kind has become central to the belief that WMD claims were a menu of lies concocted to lure the American public into war.

And yet, paying attention to the actual news on the subject, even after the war, paints a very different picture.

Take, for instance, this report in the New York Times, on 13 March 2005. It begins with the following lead paragraphs:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 12 - In the weeks after Baghdad fell in April 2003, looters systematically dismantled and removed tons of machinery from Saddam Hussein’s most important weapons installations, including some with high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear arms, a senior Iraqi official said this week in the government’s first extensive comments on the looting.

The Iraqi official, Sami al-Araji, the deputy minister of industry, said it appeared that a highly organized operation had pinpointed specific plants in search of valuable equipment, some of which could be used for both military and civilian applications, and carted the machinery away.

The four-page report also reveals the following “surprises” (or so they might seem to those who say it was all lies):

—For the past year, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), have been sending regular reports to the U.N. Security Council “detailing evidence of the dismantlement of Iraqi military installations and, in a few cases, the movement of Iraqi gear to other countries.”

The monitoring commission has filed regular reports to the Security Council since raising alarms last May about looting in Iraq, the dismantlement of important weapons installations and the export of dangerous materials to foreign states.

—That the “looting” (an odd name for the activity, given the following description of it) was systematic and organized, taking place over a four-week period by teams equipped with flat-bed trucks, who moved from site to site.

—The sites so “looted” included several flagged by the U.N. prior to the war as suspected centers of Saddam’s WMD capacity, including “the Nida Factory, the Badr General Establishment, Al Ameer, Al Radwan, Al Hatteen, Al Qadisiya and Al Qaqaa. Al Radwan, for example, was a manufacturing plant for the uranium enrichment program, with enormous machine tools for making highly specialized parts, according to the Wisconsin Project. The Nida Factory was implicated in both the nuclear program and the manufacture of Scud missiles.” The Al Hateen site is described as a “munitions production plant that international inspectors called a complete potential nuclear weapons laboratory.”

—That “the kinds of machinery at the various sites included equipment that could be used to make missile parts, chemical weapons or centrifuges essential for enriching uranium for atom bombs.” This is the machinery that was stolen during the “looting.”

—That in its most recent report to the Security Council, the IAEA stated it “continues to be concerned about the widespread and apparently systematic dismantlement that has taken place at sites previously relevant to Iraq’s nuclear program.” In fact, the UN is now concerned that such stolen materials may be used for clandestine bomb production in neighboring countries, and has been searching the Middle East for evidence of their fate.

Agency inspectors, in visiting other countries, have discovered tons of industrial scrap, some radioactively contaminated, from Iraq, the report noted. It added, however, that the agency had been unable to track down any of the high-quality, dual-use equipment or materials.

“The disappearance of such equipment,” the report emphasized, “may be of proliferation significance.”

– That independent experts in the field, including the Wisconsin Project and the (previously-linked) Institute for Science and International Security, agree that the most likely candidates for having received all of this “looted” WMD capacity are Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

So, what’s going on here?

On the one hand, we have a litany of voices in the political realm screaming, “there were no WMDs, liar!”; yet on the other hand, we have the U.N. and anti-proliferation groups consistently behaving – before, during and after the U.S. invasion – as if Saddam did, in fact, have WMDs… and doing so because the evidence told them he did.

This gets to the heart of a point I have belabored on these boards endlessly: arguments against the Iraq war which claim that WMDs in Iraq was a lie are nothing but political superstition. They are not based on the evidence available either before or after the U.S. invasion, let alone on differing assessments of that evidence.

Before the war, several critics of Bush’s plan argued that an intervention would be too dangerous, either because Saddam Hussein would actually unleash his arsenal of WMD, or because he would divert it to third parties. The “organized looting” described in the NYT piece has all the earmarks of a planned military operation, which kind of begs the question: if Saddam was capable of this dismantling and apparent redistribution of his WMD capacity during the invasion, wasn’t he certainly capable of it before the invasion? And doesn’t that lend some credibility to Bush’s pre-invasion claim that he was?

There is a crucial passage in George Orwell’s essay “Looking Back on the Spanish Civil War,” in which he comments that a British and German historian in the 1920s, discussing WW1, would have had some profound differences but would nonetheless each have been willing to cite some of the same material, however much they would have disagreed about its interpretation or relative importance. This, he contrasted with the collapse of intellectual honesty in the 30s and 40s, when many intellectuals would refuse to admit the existence of any facts which were inconvenient to their chosen myths.

The same thing is going on today with regard to the Iraq war (and several other critiques of U.S. foreign policy). One can certainly look at the evidence for Saddam’s WMD capacity and come to different conclusions about its importance or threat level, as well as about the most effective policy for dealing with it. This, many honest critics of Bush have done. It’s still possible to be against the war and acknowledge the facts.

But, what one cannot do – not honestly, anyway – is base one’s opposition on the claim that there were no WMDs in Iraq, or that the Bush Administration fabricated it as part of some other, shadowy agenda for corporate hegemony. That claim is superstition, and nothing else. Like any other extraordinary claim, it requires an extraordinary amount of evidence to prove it; and if it is asserted without evidence, it can be dismissed without it, as well.

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Posted: 24 May 2005 06:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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[quote author=“Ricky”]I am in the camp that thinks we are on a course leading to nuclear annihilation. One plausible scenario is that Muslim extremists will release a weapon of mass destruction in an American city. The US will respond, against Muslims in general, by bombing Mecca or Tehran, perhaps using atomic weapons, and so it will go on.

Well, at least Ricky is addressing the key issue confronting us today.

[quote author=“Ricky”]
Here are some possible suggestions that might head off such a future.

1. Start dumping huge amounts of money into secular education in the Muslim world. President Musharif asked the Bush administration for 300 or so million dollars to close down the madras’s in Pakistan and substitute more a secular education system. The Washington Post reported that this did not “survive the White House budget process”. What a missed opportunity.

Might help.  Like chicken soup, couldn’t hurt.

[quote author=“Ricky”]
2. Start actual propaganda against fundamentalist Islam. Drop leaflets on mosques, challenging literal interpretation of the Qurran. Point out that their claims are based on the same lack of evidence as all the religions they hate.

I can see bin Ladn now, picking up one of these leaflets off the ground, reading it, shaving off his beard, tossing his Koran in a fire, and turning himself in to the CIA.

[quote author=“Ricky”]
3. The US Senate should reaffirm the 1799 Treaty of Tripoli which stated that the US is in no way a Christian county.

In my ignorance, I never heard of this treaty.  How did they ever slip it past Pat Robertson—who was already broadcasting the 700 Club in 1799?

[quote author=“Ricky”]
4. Propose a treaty of religious toleration and started pressuring all countries to sign it. It should say that all countries will not discriminate against people of any religion, will protect religious minorities and apostasy, blasphemy, etc. cannot be crimes.

Countries are not the problem.  Religion—specifically Islam—is the problem.  Countries are a home address.  If any country launches a terrorist nuclear attack against the US, they will be incinerated in a matter of minutes.  If a fundamentalist terrorist cell launches a nuclear attack in the name of Islam, whom do you retaliate against: 1.2 billion Muslims?

[quote author=“Ricky”]
5. Much pressure must be put on Saudi Arabia to allow non Muslims to live in their country. Good symbolism would be to revive the Jewish community of Mecca.

How about the Jews and Wahabis forming a kibbutz around The Cube?


[quote author=“Ricky”]
6. Israel and the Muslim countries should enter a mutual “Law of the Return” agreement. In return for letting Jews to return and have full citizenship in Iran, Iraq, Arabia, Yemen, etc, Muslims would be allowed to return to Israel.

I thought the point was to minimize bloodshed.

Regards,
Mark Starr

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Posted: 24 May 2005 06:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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[quote author=“Tom”]I dont worry too much about nuclear annihilation.  There may be a nuke used here or there by some radical group though I don’t think it’ll be Osama…he’s not quite crazy enough.

But you are.

Regards,
Mark Starr

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