Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Update and Announcement

First, my apologies for the lack of recent posts. As I'm sure you can understand, closing out AIT is my top priority right now. I'm down to the last five weeks, two in the classroom, two in the field, and a few days of outprocessing and some good old fashioned Army "hurry up and wait" before graduation.

With that in mind, I'm going to take off the month of July, and resume posting when I return to North Carolina in early August. As all of you have probably figured out, I don't really have the time or energy to devote to blogging right now. I will do some posting for the next week before temporarily closing up shop.

I appreciate the links and readership I have received, and hope all of you will continue to check back.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

New Conservative Librarian Blog

P.B.I. Librarian has now joined the ranks of conservative librarian bloggers. Please give his site a read. In addition, Jack Stephens is again posting at Conservator.

The Wrong Approach

LISNews reports that the Miami-Dade school board has voted to remove a book painting an absurdly glowing portrait of life in Communist Cuba from county school libraries. According to the Miami Herald, the vote was in response to a complaint by a Cuban-American resident who spent time as a political prisoner in Castro's gulag.

I am deeply sympathetic to the concerns behind this complaint. Anyone who has read this blog will know my deep loathing for Fidel Castro's totalitarian police state. However, having the book in question pulled from school libraries is wrong. Having justifiably condemned the Cuban regime for its thoroughgoing censorship, we can hardly resort to censoring pro-Castro ideas, no matter how offensive we find them. The proper response to finding such a book in school libraries is to work to ensure that those libraries also have books that tell the truth about the nature of Castro's Cuba.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Women Under Saddam Revisited

In response to my June 4th post on the nature of our adversary in Iraq, commenter JasonM posted the following:

What Durant didn't quote from the article:
"But under the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein, Iraqi women were among the most liberated in the Arab world. “My friends at university, my neighbours — they’re all in the same situation as me,” Noor mourned.

The article in question, from the Sunday Times, is here. While the article provides some useful and disturbing information on current conditions for women in Baghdad, which is why I quoted it, its statement that "under the dictatorial rule of Saddam Hussein, Iraqi women were among the most liberated in the Arab world" is utter nonsense. That may have been true once upon a time, but the Iraqi regime's "Islamization" campaign of the 1990s changed all that. Human Rights Watch summarized the situation of women in the last years of Saddam's rule as follows:

In the years following the 1991 Gulf War, many of the positive steps that had been taken to advance women's and girls' status in Iraqi society were reversed due to a combination of legal, economic, and political factors.22 The most significant political factor was Saddam Hussein's decision to embrace Islamic and tribal traditions as a political tool in order to consolidate power. In addition, the U.N. sanctions imposed after the war have had a disproportionate impact on women and children (especially girls).23 For example, the gender gap in school enrollment (and subsequently female illiteracy) increased dramatically due to families' financial inability to send their children to school. When faced with limited resources, many families chose to keep their girl children at home.24 According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as a result of the national literacy campaign, as of 1987 approximately 75 percent of Iraqi women were literate; however, by year-end 2000, Iraq had the lowest regional adult literacy levels, with the percentage of literate women at less than 25 percent.25

Women and girls have also suffered from increasing restrictions on their freedom of mobility and protections under the law.26 In collusion with conservative religious groups and tribal leaders, the government issued numerous decrees and introduced legislation negatively impacting women's legal status in the labor code, criminal justice system, and personal status laws.27 In 2001, the U.N. Special Rapporteur for Violence against Women reported that since the passage of the reforms in 1991, an estimated 4,000 women and girls had been victims of "honor killings."28 In recent years, both the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) administrations in northern Iraq issued decrees suspending laws allowing for mitigation of sentences in honor crimes, but the degree to which the suspension has been implemented is unknown.29

Furthermore, as the economy constricted, in an effort to ensure employment for men the government pushed women out of the labor force and into more traditional roles in the home. In 1998, the government reportedly dismissed all females working as secretaries in governmental agencies.30 In June 2000, it also reportedly enacted a law requiring all state ministries to put restrictions on women working outside the home.31 Women's freedom to travel abroad was also legally restricted and formerly co-educational high schools were required by law to provide single-sex education only, further reflecting the reversion to religious and tribal traditions.32 As a result of these combined forces, by the last years of Saddam Hussein's government the majority of women and girls had been relegated to traditional roles within the home.

(emphasis added-DD)

The Islamization process also applied to women's dress. As the Washington Post's Anthony Shadid noted in an article from Baghdad on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom, wearing of veils had become widespread even among female members of the Baath Party.

JasonM quotes two additional paragraphs from the Sunday Times article dealing with the experiences of "Riverbend", a young female Iraqi blogger who, by her account, lost her job because she is a woman. Of course, this took place in June 2003, not recently as the Times article implies.

JasonM sums up his point as follows:

In other words, the average Iraqi woman is even worse off now than under Saddam Hussein.

Forgive me for disagreeing, but I would hardly consider women living in upper-class Sunni neighborhoods of Baghdad to be "average" Iraqi women. Riverbend in particular, with her flawless command of English and unrelenting hostility to every change that has occurred in Iraq since the fall of Saddam, has become the darling of the "anti-war" left. The fact that she is almost certainly a child of Baathist privilege, whose experiences are anything but typical of Iraqi women, is usually overlooked.

It is true that Iraqi women who were part of the elite under the old regime, such as Riverbend, are worse off now than they were under Saddam. Of course, unlike other Iraqi women, they never had to worry about being tortured, dumped in a mass grave, or dragged from their homes and beheaded by the Fedayeen Saddam. As long as their husbands or parents kept them away from Uday, privileged Iraqi women such as Riverbend were safe. Unfortunately, the majority of Iraqi women under Saddam couldn't say the same.

Yes, the status and situation of women in Iraq is very much an issue of concern. The forces of radical Islamism, both Sunni and Shia, are determined to destroy women's rights in that country. However, the idea that the "average Iraqi woman" was better off under Saddam is simply not supported by the facts.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

And Now for Something Completely Different

Greg McClay recently posted at LISNews on an interesting new trend in library construction: waterless urinals. Apparently, they are in use at the Seattle Public Library, and in the words of at least one writer, "reek". Greg then asks the question:

I guess you'd have to use one to make up your own mind about odor but if you pay a water bill there is a significant advantage.

Anyway, we do in fact use waterless urinals here at Ft. Huachuca, and they seem to work just fine. There haven't been any issues, and they are a good way to save water. Here in the middle of the desert, that's obviously an important factor.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Islamists vs. The World Cup

Unlike the majority of Americans, the World Cup is my favorite sporting event. With the Army justifiably taking up the bulk of my time right now, I don't really have the opportunity to watch this year's competition like I have in the past. I missed today's USA match, for example, which probably turned out to be a good thing.

Of course, not everyone is a fan of soccer and the World Cup. As an American, I've certainly found that to be the case. However, the ranks of those who despise the World's Game go far beyond Americans ranting about "furriners". In fact, radical Islamists hate soccer just as much as they do anything else that promises to bring joy and happiness to people:

-A Saudi cleric recently warned his listeners that they would have to answer to Allah for watching the cup.

-In Somalia, Islamist militia, who seem determined to become the Taliban of East Africa, banned showings of World Cup matches.

Of course, the majority of Arabs and Muslims are as excited about the World Cup as most of humanity is. Iraq the Model quotes the Iraqi newspaper Al-Mada to bring us this encouraging story:

In the presence of Basra's governor Mohammed al-Wa'ili and the members of the city council, politicians and clerics signed the 'Germany W.C. peace treaty'.

On the occasion of the beginning of the world cup in Germany, politicians, clerics and tribal sheiks gathered at the Basra businessmen center to sign the 'Basra Peace Declaration' which is basically a call for peace and friendship to create an appropriate environment for Basrans to watch and enjoy the matches of the world cup without fear. On the honor of signing the document, a party was held where speeches were made and gifts from English superstar David Beckham were given away.

Let's hope the Beautiful Game manages to give the people of Basra at least a few days of peace.

Censorship in New Jersey

Two New Jersey Democratic state assemblywomen have called for Ann Coulter's latest book not to be sold in the state (link courtesy of LISnews):

"Coulter's vicious characterizations and remarks are motivated by greed and her desire to sell books. By making these claims, she proves herself worse than those she is attempting to vilify - she is a leech trying to turn a profit off perverting the suffering of others.

"No one in New Jersey should buy this book and allow Ann Coulter to profit from her hate-mongering. We are asking New Jersey retailers statewide to stand with us and express their outrage by refusing to carry or sell copies of Coulter's book. Her hate-filled attacks on our 9-11 widows has no place on New Jersey bookshelves."

Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time will realize that I am not a fan of Ann Coulter. As a conservative, I regard her as an embarrassment. She is a completely over the top demagogue. Having said that, the assemblywomen are utterly wrong in calling for bookstores not to carry her book.

It's true, of course, that anyone in NJ wanting to buy the book can simply log on to Amazon. Still, the spectre of state officials telling bookstores what books they should not carry is cause for concern. It is instructive, though, that ALA or other library organizations have yet to respond to this news. If these were conservative Republicans calling for bookstores to boycott Michael Moore's latest book, would ALA be just as silent?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Visit Freadom

Walter Skold has resumed blogging at Freadom with a vengeance. He has some terrific updates on the Cuban libraries situation that are well worth reading.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

"May he rot in hell"

As you would expect, today has been a rather happy one here at Ft. Huachuca, with the elimination of Al Qaeda in Iraq's "Emir", Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarqawi's record of barbarism is nicely summarized by Dan Darling at the Weekly Standard web site. See also the analyses previously done by Dan and others at Winds of Change, and this good roundup from the Council on Foreign Relations.

I have blogged frequently about Zarqawi and al-Qaeda's murderous campaign to prevent the creation of a pluralist, democratic Iraq. Suffice it to say, it is one of the main reasons why I am now a North Carolina National Guardsman. The final word, however, should belong to Mr. Paul Bigley, an Englishman whose brother was murdered by Zarqawi in Iraq:

"The man was an animal, and he deserved what he got, and may he rot in hell," Paul Bigley told Channel Four Television in the United Kingdom today. "So he thinks he's going to paradise? I'm convinced the man is in hell."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Halfway Home

For those who are interested, here's an update on my situation in the Army:

I have almost completed my tenth week of study here at the US Army Intelligence School at sun-drenched (until this week) Ft. Huachuca, AZ. I am studying to be an Intelligence Analyst. I picked that job because it is the one that is by far best suited to my abilities.

Counting Basic Training, I have been away from home for 20 weeks now. In 8 weeks I finally escape the clutches of TRADOC and return home a fully trained Army intel analyst. At that point, I return to my civilian job, and join my Guard unit in North Carolina. While I'm certainly ready to go home at this point, I also realize that my "sacrifices" pale in comparison to those who have risked their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rejecting the Flag

Courtesy of LIS News, here's the infuriating story of a former employee of the Boulder, CO, Public Library:

Just in time for Flag Day, a former Boulder librarian has come out with a self-published book about the infamous post-9/11 flag flap that caught national attention and he says cost him his job.

When Boulder's library director nixed his idea for a large American flag in the front entrance, but approved a display of 21 ceramic penises, his star started falling, said Christopher J. Power, author of Long May they Wave.

Power, who wrote the library's master plan, said he found himself snubbed by library officials and ultimately laid off.

After 9/11, when America was in a patriotic fervor, Power proposed to library director Marcelle Gralapp that they hang a 10-foot-by-15-foot American flag in the foyer, which is mostly glass and has a 41-foot-high ceiling.

Gralapp gave an initial OK but later nixed the idea after a library manager with extreme anti-American ideas had a talk with her, Power said.

The story reached the press, and Gralapp initially told reporters that an American flag "could compromise our objectivity. We want people of every faith and culture walking into this building, and we want everyone to feel welcome."

(emphasis added-DD)

Yes, because nothing makes everyone feel welcome like 21 ceramic penises. In addition, I find it fascinating that Ms. Gralapp felt that some of her patrons might be offended by the sight of the American flag. I'm also puzzled by her conviction that her library should remain neutral in the struggle between America and Salafist-Jihadism.

During World War II, ALA and libraries in general openly participated in the nation's war effort, adopting the slogan that "Books Are Weapons in the War of Ideas." Today, America is at war with an adversary rivaling the Nazis in barbarism and hatred of intellectual freedom. Yet, as the Boulder episode helps show, it is impossible to conceive of today's libraries playing a similar role.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Cuban Libraries Update: Censoring the Internet

Here is the latest update from Robert Kent and Friends of Cuban Libraries. It was originally posted to the Conservativelib e-mail list:

The Friends of Cuban Libraries
June 1, 2006

Crisis Among "Internet Police" Revealed in Video

A video filmed at Cuba's University of Information
Sciences has revealed a crisis within the elite being
trained to administer the island's high-tech industry,
including the branch of the security police which
tries to suppress access to the World Wide Web. The
secret video, filmed on Feb. 18 and designated for
restricted viewing among the island's ruling elite,
was smuggled out of Cuba and placed on the Internet by
La Nueva Cuba, an electronic journal critical of the
Castro government. The 58-minute long Spanish language
video, entitled "Necessary Point of Reflection," can
be seen at:
(click here-DD).

The video shows a panel consisting of the University's
rector, Melchor Felix Gill, and three student leaders,
including the head of the local Communist Youth
organization, lecturing an assembly of students and
faculty. The panel members sternly denounce "serious
violations" of university regulations: large numbers
of students and faculty members have been detected
surfing the Internet, distributing passwords allowing
other persons to access the World Wide Web, e-mailing
people outside of Cuba without authorization, and
setting up clandestine chat rooms. These "serious
security violations" are a breach of Cuban laws which
outlaw access to the Internet and the possession of
unlicensed computers, except for a small number of
persons considered trustworthy by the regime.

The secret video contradicts public claims by the
Cuban government that the Internet is readily
accessible to all Cuban citizens. Many nations devote
resources to censoring or blocking individual
websites, but the Castro regime is one of the few
governments which tries to completely ban all access
to the World Wide Web, except for a privileged few.
Foreign tourists are allowed to surf the World Wide
Web at a few Internet cafes, to which the average
Cuban is denied entrance, but the tourists are charged
six dollars per hour or more for this privilege. Cuba
has been named among the world's "Ten Worst Enemies of
the Internet" by Reporters Without Borders.

In addition to criminalizing access to the Internet,
Cuba also persecutes a group of volunteers who have
opened uncensored libraries throughout the island in
an effort to challenge government control of
information. A number of Cuba's independent
librarians, now serving 20-year sentences following
one-day trials, have been adopted as "prisoners of
conscience" by Amnesty International, which is
demanding their immediate release.

In the video smuggled out of Cuba, the offending
students and faculty at Havana's prestigious
University of Information Sciences are accused of
using their expertise and government-supplied
equipment to circumvent the information security laws
they are being trained to enforce. The regime is
especially alarmed by the fact that these alleged
crimes are being committed by the students of an elite
university, who are subjected to intense scrutiny by
the State Security police before admission; 80% of the
students at the University of Information Sciences are
members of the Communist Youth organization.

In the course of the video, as the camera scans
members of the audience whose facial expressions range
from impassivity to defiance, the students and faculty
are reminded that they are banned from surfing the
Internet outside of supervised classroom exercises.
Details on the cases of four students expelled for
breaking the rules, complete with mug shots, are
highlighted by the panel members. The assembled
students and faculty are warned that new legislation
will make such security breaches punishable by prison
terms of up to five years, and they are urged to serve
as informers against any colleagues who commit
"crimes" such as surfing the World Wide Web outside of

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Final Thoughts for Today

These comments from former Syrian prisoner Hassan Bahri speak for themselves. Courtesy of a terrific post from Norm Geras:

In that black abyss many lives withered away unconsoled, and thousands of vigorous dreams vanished, shattered against those yellow walls as they tried to reach loved ones far away, in cities and villages of broken dreams. But in there, more than two years after we arrived, we finally had access to some books from the prison 'library'.

Prison, the master of annihilation, can kill even books. It gave these books its muted yellow colour. Mites feasted on their pages, and moisture eroded them. Nevertheless, the great thoughts captured in written words refused to die away, resisting many years of oblivion, waiting for us, as we waited for them.

If the importance of books can be measured by their impact on the reader, those books were the best. Three books, three breaks in the walls, gave meaning to our empty days, and a new horizon to our shared existence, already losing its pulse. The first book was from the Andalucian philosopher Ibn Rashid (Averroes), the second was The Bridge over the Drina by the Bosnian writer Ivo Andric. And the third, Adrift in Soho by the English writer, Colin Wilson.

Thoughts on Haditha

Recently, evidence has emerged of possible atrocities committed by US Marines last November in the Iraqi city of Haditha. There is an investigation underway, and as a soldier currently on active duty it would be wrong of me to offer any opinion on the guilt or innocence of the Marines in question. Two pieces at National Review Online, by former Marines Mackubin Owens and W. Thomas Smith, do a good job of explaining what might have happened and putting it into context. I will only say that if the allegations are true, that whoever was involved should be prosecuted to the full extent permitted by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Opponents of American victory in Iraq have gleefully seized upon the Haditha story as vindication for their position. They ignore the fact that the number of confirmed atrocities committed by US troops in Iraq has paled next to those committed by their adversaries. Just today, news came of a horrific massacre of Shia civilians who were literally taken from their vehicles and slaughtered. Of course, this story will see a mere fraction of the attention that the media is devoting, and will devote in future, to the Haditha allegations.

The simple truth is that war is ugly and cruel, and all armies in all wars commit acts that are unspeakable. As Frank Schaeffer pointed out in yesterday's Washington Post, allied forces in WWII were far more brutal than their present-day successors in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet that hardly means that the US and UK were morally equivalent to the Third Reich and Imperial Japan. In WWII, as today, the distinction was that on one side such atrocities were the exception, while on the other they were very much the rule.

If We Abandon Iraq

Two articles from this morning's newspapers paint a chilling picture of the barbarous, totalitarian nature of our adversaries in Iraq. Anyone who thinks that withdrawing US and coalition forces from that country would produce a situation that could be called "peace" needs to read them both:

From the Sunday Times:

NOOR and her boyfriend used to go out a lot and listen to dance in their favourite restaurant in Baghdad. The 26-year-old university lecturer also used to enjoy going window shopping at night in the city’s once-glitzy Mansour district, dressed in the latest fashions.

That was before the “men in black”, the Taliban-style militias waging terror against the urban middle class, arrived in Noor’s neighbourhood, threatening to shoot, kidnap and shave the heads of anyone who challenged their draconian strictures.

The militias are part of a hardline religious crackdown organised by Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. On Friday he released a four-hour sermon, effectively a message of hate, calling on Sunni Muslims to confront adherents of the rival Shi’ite branch of Islam.

Zarqawi, who appears to act with impunity in Iraq despite a £13m bounty on his head, has printed pamphlets that were delivered through doors in the Amariya district of Baghdad, one of his self-declared Sunni “emirates”.

The “emir”, identified as Abu Houzeifa, announced new rules: “Women cannot drive; women cannot go out after midday; women and men are not allowed to go out and walk together, they must walk separately.” The rules are enforced by Al-Qaeda thugs who drive around in cars in Amariya, Yarmouk and other Sunni areas that Zarqawi has declared are his. Noor said: “If they see someone breaking the rules, they shoot them.”

From the Washington Times:

As the purveyors of nothing spicier than the odd dash of hot chili sauce, Baghdad's falafel vendors had never imagined their snacks might be deemed a threat to public morality.

Now, though, their simple offerings of chickpeas fried in bread crumbs have gone the same way as alcohol, pop music and foreign films -- labeled theologically impure by the country's growing number of Islamic zealots.

In a bizarre example of Iraq's creeping "Talibanization," militants visited falafel vendors a couple of weeks ago, telling them to pack up their stalls by today or be killed.

The ultimatum seemed so bizarre that, at first, most laughed it off -- until two of them were fatally shot as they plied their trade.

"They came telling us, 'You have 14 days to end this job,' and I asked them what was the problem," said Abu Zeinab, 32, who was packing up his stall for good yesterday in the suburb of al Dora, a hard-line Sunni neighborhood.

The struggle in Iraq is essential to the outcome of the broader war with radical Islamism. If we lose, and allow the jihadists to carve out the first stage of their planned "Caliphate", the consequences for Iraq, the US and the world could well be catastrophic.

Dealing with Free Speech in White Bear Lake

Apologies for the lack of recent posts. Things have been very busy lately, but more on that later.

In late April, I posted a link to an article about Ms. Karen Murdock, a Minnesota community college professor who posted the Danish Mohammed cartoons on a school bulletin board. Unfortunately, her attempts to foster discussion on an important issue of the day were met less than enthusiastically by campus administrators.

When you look at the issue of free speech coming under threat on college campuses, White Bear Lake, MN, is probably the last place you would think of. Unfortunately, this seems to be exactly the case. Two weeks ago, Ms. Murdock emailed me and said the following:

Century has decided to deal with the problem of
controversial postings by making sure nothing like that
ever happens again. The administrators have promulgated
a new policy which forces professors to get prior approval
for anything they post. The vice president for academic
affairs will enforce this decree. He even threatens to take
down the *bulletin boards themselves* and not merely
material posted on them, if he has not personally approved
of the boards.

This should solve the pesky problem of free speech here
in White Bear Lake!

Unfortunately, the administrators at Century College are probably within their rights when they decided to censor the content of departmental bulletin boards. However, it is a craven decision that abandons any pretense that their institution stands for free speech and expression.