Saturday, February 25, 2006

Sectarian violence breaks out

Captain Ed reports of sectarian violence
Sectarian violence broke out today, with crowds swept by religious and historical fervor clashing openly with each other and the overwhelmed security forces that attempted to separate them. Firebombs and hand-to-hand fighting occurred in front of one of the historical shrines of the city as an unprecedented level of dissension threatened to open up old wounds and begin an unravelling of civil accord.
Ah, but then Captain Ed informs us that this is occuring today in Dublin, Ireland. So, Captain Ed concludes
That also points me back to Iraq. Despite the best attempt so far by outside provocateurs, the bombing of the Askariya shrine in Samarra has not resulted in a civil war. Iraqi bloggers such as Iraq the Model and Healing Iraq report that violence continues, but that the Sunnis have not risen up at all; they have not taken advantage of this supposed opening by launching their anticipated attack on the central government. Imams of both sects have called for a stop to the violence and unity in the face of foreign attacks by Zarqawi terrorists.

Civil war remains a distinct possibility, but it has not yet happened. It hasn't happened in Ireland or in Northern Ireland, despite the kind of hatreds that have existed for centuries in those places as well. Not all violence is war, and not all violence means defeat. Insurgents and provocateurs sometimes succeed in their aims, but it is still too early to declare them the victors in Iraq as it is in Dublin.
I do think that as we all try to think of situations that are historically similar to Iraq, Ireland and Northern Ireland is the closest that can be found.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Is Iraq heading for civil war? (Update 7464)

The question comes to mind after yesterday's bombing of the Al Askari mosque in Samarra. Here are a few posts that reflect on the bombing:

From Bill Roggio:

- stepping back from 'civil war' in Iraq

- Iraq "Civil War" Sitrep II

- Iraq "Civil War" Sitrep

- An ebb in fighting

- Looking for Signs of Civil War in Iraq

- Dome of the Golden Mosque Destroyed

From Iraq The Model:

- The shrine crisis...words that need to be said

- Curfew extended in Baghdad and three other provinces

- Holy Shia shrine bombed in Samarra

- In the aftermath of the shrine attack...

From The Belmont Club:

- Two reports from Iraq

- Zeyad reports from Baghdad

- Is the storm building?

- Storm clouds over Baghdad: part 2

- Storm clouds over Baghdad

- Disappointment in Samarra

From Publius Pundit:

- The politics of Iraq's shrine attack

(The comments are equally interesting)

Answer: too early to tell (but I don't think so), let's first find out whodunnit. Al Qaeda (most likely) or (as some - wildly - speculate) Iran, Sadr, Saudi-Arabia... The following days will be very important.

PS. Bill Roggio thinks that the bombing of the Al Askari mosque and the attack on the Saudi oil installation are part of a coordinated effort by Al Qaeda. More may be yet to come. Fellow Flemish Brigant thinks that the two attacks mark a shift in Al Qaeda's strategy for winning the hearts and minds.

If I'm not mistaken previous attacks against Shia targets were aimed at persons or at a mixture of persons & buildings/symbols. For instance the Karbala blast mentioned above: Shia Shrine + 60 people. Perhaps there is a change of targeting: predominantly on buildings and less on persons. The Askara blast seemed to have been an attack whereby the number of possible shia casualties was not the main element but rather the Shrine itself. It is a more dedicated targeting on emotions and ethnicity; which can result -and seems to be resulting- in a heavier backlash and retaliation (sectarian violence).

One of the Iraqi insurgents problem; common with Al Qaeda is its targeting of muslim people or lack off diminishing collateral damage.

It is or was a mayor fault in the psychological element of their war. If you want to be acceptable within a greater population then you're not supposed to blow their people up in tiny bits and go tell them that they're 'martyrs' or somewhat equal to the infidel (saying it was ok to blow them up). It could be more psychological fruitful to engage specific targets and not mass population targets. Basically its a 'winning of their hearts & minds' strategy more adapted to the situation.

Perhaps this explains why there was an attempt to hit a Saudi Oil refinary yesterday; instead of attacking a hotel/compound with westerners/people. Such an attack would have hit the Saudi State and the West (but also the rest of the world economically); but would (perhaps) be more acceptable for Muslim people as it didnt target the Muslims as a population but it targeted the infidel and a 'corrupt' Saudi government. It would form attacks that sell better in an international context; but in the Iraqi context would be used to create internal instability and thus gaining grounds towards their objectives ('Vietnamisation' of Iraq).

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

What about Saddam's WMD?

It has become an established fact: there were no WMD in Iraq when the US and its allies invaded. Since then, rumors have been flying around that those weapons were moved to Syria and Lebanon just before the war, but was there someone who took those stories seriously? I didn't know what to make of them either. If they were true, you would think that the US government would want to tell it to the world and get its revenge after all the accusations of having cooked up the WMD-rationale for going to war, wouldn't you?

Today I heard those rumors again, but this with much more details. In addition, I got a possible answer to my earlier question. Apparently the Russians, who had sold Saddam the bulk of his WMD, were responsible for the move. This way they wanted to avoid embarrassing images of boxes of weapons with Russian tags. The American reluctance could be explained by the current diplomacy about Iran's nuclear program: these days it is better to keep the Russians as your friends...

I still don't know what to think of it, but in any case it makes fascinating reading.

PS. Meanwhile so-called Saddam-tapes have surfaced. Apparently, Saddam had some dangerous ambitions with some dangerous weapons just until his end...

Life is Not Fair

Life is hard. Making your way in the world takes time and effort. Getting what you want takes work. These are fairly simple concepts, yet there are those who would make things easy because it isn't fair to those who don't have the same life advantages. This is the problem with many schools. They make the tests and classes easier for those who they feel are underprivileged and should be given a break because of that. My older daughter calls it "dumbing down the classes" or tests and she hates it because it messes everyone up and no one learns the necessary information and skills to life.

We all have to learn to deal with "the big bad world" around us and by making things easier, the children who are given a break are actually given the shaft because they will not have the skills to deal with life's challenges. Many of the children who actually want to excel are held back because the courses and testing have changed to supposedly aid those struggling or less advantaged. These children are not stupid, do not treat them as if they are. Contrary to politically correct thinking, showing children that hard work is the way to succeed is not going to damage their psyche, it will strengthen them.

You cannot survive in society believing that you are going to get a break because your life has been hard or you are poor or your parents are addicts or alcoholics. Your boss doesn't care if you had a bad day. The boss doesn't care if you were late because you had to take public transportation, he only cares that you were late. None of that matters to the boss's bottom line. These are the harsh lessons that our children have to learn. Life is tough and it is not fair.

The best way to help children cope with the their world and society is to stop pandering to them. Make them learn the required curriculum. Even if that means teaching to a graduation test. If the graduation test teaches the lessons that the children need to learn in order to cope with life and society, there is nothing wrong with teaching to it. At least the children will leave school with the skills they need to survive. Ohio has instigated the Ohio Graduation Test (OGT). My oldest daughter was the first class to be required to take it. The test is given in tenth grade and if they pass, they are able to graduate once they have their required credits. Those who do not pass still have two years to learn the necessary lessons and skills in order to graduate.

When children are pandered to, passed without the grades and given a diploma without earning it, we are not only hurting that child, we are hurting society because that child will not have the skills to be a productive member of society. This is how so many end up on welfare. When they are not taught critical thinking skills, reading and math and they are not challenged, these children become discouraged and give up and give in. They end up on welfare and become, instead of a productive member of society, they become a drag upon society.

Some will say that I have no right to say anything of this as I am a white female living the middle class life, but guess what, I am a member of this society and because I am, I have a right to my opinion and I have ideas and possible solutions that may be able to help alleviate some of the problems.

My oldest daughter is very intelligent and she is an excellent student. She has also tutored not only at the request of her teachers, but she and her friends have worked together to help each other. Most children will help themselves if given the encouragement and a little bit of time by a caring adult. They will also help each other if given incentive. My youngest daughter would much rather socialize than learn, but given incentive, she will buckle down and do the work. Her incentive is cheerleading. The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) states that she must have a grade point average of 1.5 to play sports (which is an abysmally low expectation). In our house, that grade point average is a minimum of 2.5 and she knows she will not have the privilege of cheering if she doesn't have the grades.

For those children without parents who seem to care, who are not there for them or cannot be there for them (because of divorce et cetera), there are mentoring programs. If your school district doesn't have a mentoring program, get one set up. A mentor can make all the difference in the life of a child. That mentor, by just showing interest and caring, can help a child not only pass in school, but to excel in life.

If we, as adults, do not force our schools to teach our children the skills they need to survive, if we do not take the initiative to push for excellence, if we simply do not care, our society will fall apart. So stop pandering, stop making life easy for students (life is hard!) and stop treating children differently because of their economic or ethnic background. It is detrimental not only to the children, it is detrimental to our society as a whole!

Anything worth having is worth working for.

(cross-posted at A Rose By Any Other Name)