Tag Archives: Al Jazeera

The Death Of Shabaz Bhatti

Ray Gustini at The Atlantic:

Minority affairs minister Shabaz Bhatti was assassinated Wednesday outside his parents’ house in Islamabad. Bhatti–Pakistan’s only Christian cabinet member–is the second critic of the country’s blasphemy laws to be killed this year. Punjab Gov. Salmaan Taseer was murdered in January by Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, a member of his security detail. Qadri told authorities he killed Taseer because the governor considered the country’s strict blasphemy law a “black law.”

Fasih Ahmed at The Daily Beast:

“Bhatti’s ruthless and cold-blooded murder is a grave setback for the struggle for tolerance, pluralism, and respect for human rights in Pakistan,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, country representative for Human Rights Watch. “An urgent and meaningful policy shift on the appeasement of extremists that is supported by the military, the judiciary and the political class needs to replace the political cowardice and institutional myopia that encourages such continued appeasement despite its unrelenting bloody consequences.”

News of the attack broke shortly before noon. And two hours after his death was confirmed, it was back to business for the country’s boisterous TV channels, which focused instead on the cricket World Cup, political intrigue in the Punjab, and the fate of incarcerated CIA contractor Raymond Davis. Bhatti and Taseer had both advocated reforming the country’s blasphemy laws to prevent their misuse, and both had been declared apostates by the jihadists and tens of thousands of their mainstream supporters. If the celebratory reaction to Taseer’s assassination finally put paid to the notion that Pakistan’s militants are a vocal but fringe group (the Senate refused to offer prayers for Taseer), Bhatti’s seems to confirm growing national fatigue over the blasphemy-laws controversy.

Before they sped off, the assassins dumped pamphlets at the scene of the crime. “This is a warning from the warriors of Islam to all the world’s infidels, Crusaders, Jews and their operatives within the Muslim brotherhood,” it reads, “especially the head of Pakistan’s infidel system, [President Asif Ali] Zardari, his ministers, and all the institutions of this evil system.” This document from the Punjabi Taliban continues: “In your fight against Allah, you have become so bold that you act in favor of and support those who insult the Prophet. And you put a cursed Christian infidel Shahbaz Bhatti in charge of [the blasphemy laws review] committee. This is the fate of that cursed man. And now, with the grace of Allah, the warriors of Islam will pick you out one by one and send you to hell, God willing.”

Gus Lubin at Business Insider:

Al Jazeera has posted a chilling interview from Pakistani Christian Shahbaz Bhatti from before he was assassinated by the Taliban (via @allahpundit).

Bhatti, the federal minister for minorities, had received death threats for supposedly deriding Islam. He said in this interview, “I am ready to die for a cause. I am living for my community and suffering people, and I will die to defend their rights.”

Aryn Baker at Time:

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are a colonial holdover put in place by British administrators seeking to calm the subcontinent’s fractious religious groups. They were sharpened under the reign of dictator Zia ul Haq, who added a clause calling for death to anyone found guilty of slandering the Prophet Mohammad. Since then some 1000 blasphemy cases have been registered. Though roughly half have been applied to religious minorities the others have been registered against muslims, in what is widely assumed to be the pursuit of personal vendettas. In one recent example a schoolboy from Karachi is being held in jail for allegedly writing insults against the on a school exam paper (because repeating what the boy wrote would in itself be considered blasphemy, the accusation  is enough to keep him in detention. Though considering what happened to Taseer, it could also be construed as keeping him safe). In another example, a religious leader and his son have been accused of committing blasphemy because they tore down a poster promoting an upcoming religious conference.

Yet any attempts to amend these laws to stem such abuse has been met with intense outrage by both religious leaders and Pakistani citizens, who hold that the law is divine, and cannot be changed. The blasphemy cases have become a boon for Pakistan’s religious parties, who have seldom done well at the polls. But with the country’s current government on the brink of collapse, religious group may be gambling that the issue of blasphemy could leverage them into power if new elections are called. Their gamble may well pay off. Qadri, Taseer’s assassin, was feted as a hero in Pakistan. In his confession, he said he had been inspired by the teachings of his local mullah Hanif Qureshi, who condemned anyone standing against the blasphemy law, saying they were worthy of death. At a rally a few days later, Qureshi claimed credit for motivating Qadri. “He would come to my Friday prayers and listen to my sermons.” Then he repeated his point: “The punishment for a blasphemer is death.”

Joe Carter at First Things:

Bhatti is the second Pakistani official in the past two months to be killed after publicly opposing the draconian blasphemy laws. How many others in that country will be willing to take his place and speak up for religious freedom?

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

Once again, Pakistan is the most dangerous country of the world. It has 100 nuclear weapons and it seems to be slipping into anarchy. No one is sure how much of its military favors the Islamist path. Several Pakistani friends of mine, people closely associated with the government, are despairing. I truly hope that the U.S. has contingency plans for taking control of Pakistan’s nukes if the Islamist coup that everyone fears come to pass (if we don’t, I expect that India won’t be shy about taking military action).

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Filed under Af/Pak, GWOT, Religion

Is It Gadhafi? Gaddafi? Quadaffi?

Al-Jazeera live blog

Scott Lucas at Enduring America

Doug Powers:

The situation in Libya with Gaddafi continues to deteriorate:

Deep rifts opened in Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, with Libyan government officials at home and abroad resigning, air force pilots defecting and a bloody crackdown on protest in the capital of Tripoli, where cars and buildings were burned. Gadhafi went on state TV early Tuesday to attempt to show he was still in charge.

Amid reports that Gadhafi fled Tripoli for Venezuela and an inevitable power lunch with Sean Penn, Quadaffi chose an unusual setting to reassure Libya that he was still in the country and in charge. He appeared in a car wearing a Cousin Eddy hat holding an umbrella and speaking into a microphone swiped from Bob Barker

Aaron Worthing at Patterico:

And Haaretz has this account, claiming that Gaddafi is barricaded in his compound:

A Libyan opposition activist and a Tripoli resident say the streets of a restive district in the Libyan capital are littered with the bodies of scores of protesters shot dead by security forces loyal to longtime leader Muammar Gadhafi, who is reported to be barricaded in his compound in the city.

Mohammed Ali…

(Must…  resist…  urge…  to make boxing joke…)

…of the Libyan Salvation Front and the resident say Tripoli’s inhabitants are hunkering down at home Tuesday after the killings and warnings by forces loyal to Gadhafi that anyone on the streets would be shot.

Ali, reached in Dubai, and the Tripoli resident say forces loyal to Gadhafi shot at ambulances and some protesters were left bleeding to death. The resident spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

Western media are largely barred from Libya and the report couldn’t be independently confirmed.

As they say read the whole thing.  I am not pleased with that kind of sourcing, but I suspect it’s going to be hard to get reliable accounts of what happened for the next few days.

Meanwhile the New Yorker is already writing the epitaph of the regime.  Mmm, I hope I am wrong on this, but that strikes me as jumping the gun.  Yes, Gaddafi looks like he is in serious trouble, but it is possible to kill your way out of a thing like this, if your military is sufficiently loyal.

In related news, the National Editor’s Union has issued a statement calling for the ouster of the dictator, if only because no one can figure out how to spell his name.  (Yes, that is a joke.)

Bruce McQuain:

Not a good week for authoritarians it appears.  Of course be careful what you wish for – while we may see one crop of authoritarians shunted to the side, there is no indication that anything other than a different type of authoritarian regime would replace it in many of these places.  Change is definitely in the air.  But whether that’s finally a “good thing” remains to be seen.

Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy:

The unfolding situation in Libya has been horrible to behold. No matter how many times we warn that dictators will do what they must to stay in power, it is still shocking to see the images of brutalized civilians which have been flooding al-Jazeera and circulating on the internet. We should not be fooled by Libya’s geographic proximity to Egypt and Tunisia, or guided by the debates over how the United States could best help a peaceful protest movement achieve democratic change. The appropriate comparison is Bosnia or Kosovo, or even Rwanda where a massacre is unfolding on live television and the world is challenged to act. It is time for the United States, NATO, the United Nations and the Arab League to act forcefully to try to prevent the already bloody situation from degenerating into something much worse.

By acting, I mean a response sufficiently forceful and direct to deter or prevent the Libyan regime from using its military resources to butcher its opponents. I have already seen reports that NATO has sternly warned Libya against further violence against its people. Making that credible could mean the declaration and enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya, presumably by NATO, to prevent the use of military aircraft against the protestors. It could also mean a clear declaration that members of the regime and military will be held individually responsible for any future deaths. The U.S. should call for an urgent, immediate Security Council meeting and push for a strong resolution condeming Libya’s use of violence and authorizing targeted sanctions against the regime. Such steps could stand a chance of reversing the course of a rapidly deteriorating situation. An effective international response could not only save many Libyan lives, it might also send a powerful warning to other Arab leaders who might contemplate following suit against their own protest movements.

Aziz Poonawalla:

The Arab Street did not need the US in Egypt, but in LIbya it is a different story entirely. Reports suggest that Gaddafi’s forces have already used heavy equipment and aircraft weapons against protestors. Al Arabiya sources say that bombing of Benghazi will commence tonight – or any minute, since we are half a day behind the Middle East, night is already falling there. And there are even some reports via Twitter sources that the Libyan navy is firing on shore targets.

Earlier, it was reported that a group of Libyan Air Force officers had defected to Malta. It turns out that they were already on a mission to Benghazi and disengaged at 500 feet. Unlike in Egypt, where the military refused orders to fire upon the civlians, these air force officers are in the minority – Libya is killing its own people.

It’s rare for me to advocate something as direct as a military action – but a no-fly zone is something we must as a nation do, and do immediately, if we are to do anything to help bring about a new golden age of democracy in the Middle East. After Egypt, all Arab leaders feared their people; after Libya, the people will again fear their tyrants. All the progress will be lost, all the potential will be wasted.

This is the moment that must be seized. And only we can do it.

I am about to depart Cairo after five great days here spent conducting interviews and gathering “atmospherics” in post-Mubarak Egypt. I want to thank my employers for allowing me to take an extra five days off work to do this research as well as Issandr el-Amrani and his wife for being such generous hosts. I also want to thank Elijah Zarwan and many other people who have shared their expertise but would prefer to remain anonymous. I got to visit with my old friend Charles Levinson before he ran to the border, and let me continue to recommend both his coverage and that of his colleagues at the Wall Street Journal for what has been, in my observations at least, the best newspaper coverage to emerge out of these events. (al-Jazeera and CNN’s Ben Wedeman, meanwhile, continue to set the standard for television journalism.)

Like all of you, I have been horrified to see the images and reports coming out of Libya. Some of the images have been truly shocking, as has been the behavior of the evil Libyan regime.

But I am already reading calls for the United States and its allies to intervene in Libya, and I think we should all take a step back and first ask four questions:

1. Will an international intervention make things better, or worse?

2. If worse, do nothing. If better, who should be a part of this intervention?

3. Should the United States lead the intervention?

4. If so, what should we do?

All too often in humanitarian emergencies or conflicts, we skip ahead to Question 4 without first answering the first three questions. Let us not make that mistake this time. (Because I don’t myself even know the answer to Question 1.)

Doug Mataconis:

Frankly, I’m conflicted on this one. The crackdown on protesters is horrible but, unless is spills over international borders, I’m not sure that foreign intervention is either appropriate or justifiable. In either case, I certainly don’t think that unilateral American action would be appropriate, especially since it would seem to play right into the “foreign influence” meme that the Gaddafi family has been trying to tag the protests with over the past several days. In the end, how this turns out is going to have to be in the hands of  the Libyan people.

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Filed under Africa, Global Hot Spots

Actually, He’s Really Gone Now. No, Seriously. Egypt Just Overthrew Its Government.

Patrick Appel at Sullivan’s place has a round-up of reacts. Video via Appel.

David Kirkpatrick and Anthony Shadid at NYT:

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt resigned his post and turned over all power to the military on Friday, ending his nearly 30 years of autocratic rule and bowing to a historic popular uprising that has transformed politics in Egypt and around the Arab world.

The streets of Cairo exploded in shouts of “God is Great” moments after Mr. Mubarak’s vice president and longtime intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, announced during evening prayers that Mr. Mubarak had passed all authority to a council of military leaders.

“Taking into consideration the difficult circumstances the country is going through, President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave the post of president of the republic and has tasked the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to manage the state’s affairs,” Mr. Suleiman, grave and ashen, said in a brief televised statement.

Even before he had finished speaking, protesters began hugging and cheering, shouting “Egypt is free!” and “You’re an Egyptian, lift your head.”

“He’s finally off our throats,” said one protester, Muhammad Insheemy. “Soon, we will bring someone good.”

David Rothkopf at Foreign Policy:

As the jubilation spread across Tahrir Square with the announcement of Hosni Mubarak’s departure, one can only imagine what was running through the minds of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as he watched. Or that of Saudi King Abdullah. Or Jordan’s King Abudllah. Or of any of the region’s autocratic leaders. We know that over the past several days the Saudis, the Emiratis and the Jordanians had urged support for the status quo. So too, for that matter, had Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.

And while the drama unfolding in Egypt today is profound and powerful, it clearly marks the end of only the first scene of the first act of what will be long twisting drama. Many questions hang in the air about what comes next. What will the transition look like? Will the army truly allow the emergence of a pluralistic, representative model government? Will the interim government have the savvy to present such a road map early enough to placate activists? Will the process be transparent enough? Will international observers be invited to monitor elections? Will real democracy be supported by broader changes than just in election laws?

Jeffrey Goldberg:

The Egyptian people have won a startling and historic victory. It is perhaps the most difficult thing in the world to do, to force a Pharaoh from the palace, but they did it, and without bombs.

Now, though, comes a series of terrible challenges that could undo what the people have achieved. The Egyptian economy needs to grow at least seven percent a year to create the jobs necessary for the masses of underemployed, often-over-educated, young people who have been crowding the streets, and economic power is still in the hands of plutocrats and oligarchs, who are not terribly interested in reforming the system that has made them obscenely rich.

If economic power is in the hands of the oligarchs, political power now is in the hands of the military. In other situations, in other countries, what we’ve seen today is called a military coup.  Egypt has no tradition of democracy, and a strong tradition of military leadership. The people, for the moment, seem to want the military. I don’t think this will last. And because Hosni Mubarak spent 30 years marginalizing and banning secular parties and opposition movements, there is no obvious path toward representative democracy. I am not overly worried, for the moment, in the possibility of a Muslim Brotherhood takeover, but the fortunes of the Brothers could change quickly, and dangerously.

My apologies for being a downer, but Egypt’s crisis has just begun.

Spencer Ackerman at Danger Room at Wired:

Don’t even bother to try keeping up with Egypt on Twitter right now. Using the social networking service that allowed the world to follow the uprising in real time is like drinking from a fire hose. Monasosh, another leading Egypt-tweeter, reports, “Shit! Ppl are going crazy, screaming and running.” Danger Room friend Michael Hanna of the Century Foundation: “I am close by Tahrir and the roar even outside the square is really loud. Some happy people right now.”

On “We Are All Khalid Said,” the Facebook page that galvanized the 18-day mass protests, Nana Mohamed comments (via GoogleTranslate), “Egypt gets the salvation of God.” The mood is the polar opposite of the fury expressed on the page last night after dictator Hosni Mubarak defiantly vowed to stay in power until presidential elections this summer.

“I’ve worked my whole life to see the power of the people come to the fore,” activist Rabab Al Mahdi told Al Jazeera through tears.  “I never thought I would be alive to see it. It’s not just about Mubarak. It’s a protest that brought about the people’s power to bring about the change that no one, no one thought was possible.”

The euphoria is unimaginable. Peaceful protests, propelled but by no means determined by social media, dislodged a 30-year dictatorship in one of the most important Middle Eastern countries. Neither violent repression nor an Internet shutdown nor mass arrests of Facebook-fueled human rights activists could stop what’s become the #Jan25 revolution. Al Jazeera was blamed for the protests by Suleiman and its reporters were physically attacked and detained, but the network went to round-the-clock coverage that kept pressure on Mubarak.

Steven Taylor:

It sounds a bit ugly to say, but it is still true:  the removal of Mubarak and the transfer of power to the high command has to be understood as a coup d’etat.  Indeed, I will not be surprised if we learn at some point in the future that Mubarak did not “decide” to “step down” and to then “transfer” power to the military but rather that he was told by the military that that was what he was going to do.  The lack of a statement from Mubarak, and his removal from Cairo seems to support this notion (as did the dour pronouncement of the Vice President about the resignation—a stark contrast to his more defiant statements after Mubarak’s speech last night).

The constitution has been set aside as there are no provisions for a military takeover of this type.  And I would expect to see other extraconstitutional moves in the days to come (like, perhaps, a dissolution of parliament and/or the cabinet).

It is worth noting that while the protestors prompted these events that the state is under the control of the military, not the protestors.   The real question now is whether this abrogation of the constitution will lead to its replacement with a more liberal system or whether the military will consolidate power in its own hands.

In the coming days it will be most fascinating to see whether the military reaches out to opposition figures or whether it remains quiet about its intentions.

I would note, by the way, that to date there is no evidence whatsoever that there is a threat of an radical Islamic takeover in Egypt.

By the way:  to call it a coup is not to assign a negative assessment to the events.  Indeed, this may have been the best way to move things forward.  Still, it seems clear that Mubarak was not going to resign on his own and to foster a transition on his own (which he could have done).  Still, we do not even know what the military high command’s dispositions are at the moment in regards to reform.  No doubt they figured out that something had to be done to restore order and to forestall a movement towards greater chaos.  Beyond that, we do not know what will happen next.

Tom Maguire:

My instant, uninformed reaction – if Mubarak had announced last night that he was stepping aside in favor of Suleiman and a group of generals, the popular reaction would have been that the faces had changed but the regime remains the same.

Today, since he is stepping aside in response to overwhelming public rejection of his speech, the public response seems to be a sense of empowerment and change.

Slick marketing by the regime, if this flies.


Upon booth review, we are considering the possibility that Mubarak is secretly from Missouri, the “Show Me” state.  Yesterday his aides greased the skids and tried to get him to gdepart gracefully, without success.  Today, having seen how well he is loved and how successful his speech was, he is prepared to move on.

Joshua Keating at Foreign Policy:

There’s been a fair amount of speculation in recent days about now ex-President Mubarak’s preperations for departure. I just spoke with Christopher Davidson, a professor of Middle East studies at Britain’s Durham University who focuses on the economic interests of Arab rulers. He cast doubt on the $70 billion figure which has been floated widely by the media recently, but said Mubarak undoubtedly has interests throughout the world to fall back on:


There would be something wrong with the people he paid if we knew much about this. A lot of the figures we’ve seen in the press are really just speculation.  As with gulf ruling family, his wealth his hidden abroad very carefully with layer upon layer of shell companies in London and the States. There’s also a big question about his numbered bank accounts in Europe, whether he will be able to recover those or not.

Davidson speculated that Mubarak’s ability to recover funds from his Swiss bank accounts, and the difficulties his now partner-in-exile Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier has had in recovering his own assets, may have played a role in his delayed departure:

I would imagine that he’ll struggle to recover everything. A few weeks ago we had the Baby Doc ruling in Switzerland so that will clearly be playing on his mind. I suspect that this one of the reasons why he was trying to hold on as long as possible, so he could portray himself as having resigned peacefully as a legitimate president rather than having been ousted.

Despite having now holed up at his “Winter Residence” in Egypt — which is less a palace than a floor of a luxury hotel and golf resort —  and his earlier promise to die on Egyptian soil, Davidson believes that Mubarak is not long for Egypt:


He’ll be headed to the Gulf for sure. Perhaps not to Saudi like Ben Ali, but I think he’ll go to the UAE. [UAE Foreign Minister] Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed visited Cairo quite publicly and likely put a plan on the table to give him refuge.

Update: Sure enough, we now have reports that Switzerland is freezing Mubarak’s assets.

Jonathan Bernstein:

And so Mubarak is done.

How has Barack Obama done during this major foreign policy challenge? I don’t know, and you don’t know, and the people talking about it on TV and in the blogs don’t know; too much of what’s happened (and what may have happened) is behind the scenes. Not just what Obama and the Americans are doing, but it’s going to take some time for us to really know what many of the key Egyptians have been up to. If I had to guess, at this point, I’d say that at the very least he’s avoided any significant egregious blunders, but even that is extremely provisional. We won’t be able to really say much for a while.

In the meantime, I want to steer you to some very useful analysis of the presidency in foreign affairs from political scientists. Over at the Monkey Cage, read two excellent posts from Elizabeth Saunders (first one, second one), who studies the ways that presidents personally make a difference in foreign policy. And I also highly recommend a post by presidential scholar Matthew Dickinson, who emphasizes the constraints presidents work under in foreign and security issues. For those interested in more, read a journal article by Saunders on JFK and LBJ in Vietnam.

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Filed under Middle East

The Tree In Lebanon

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with the round-up. Fisher:

Israeli and Lebanese forces briefly exchanged fire across the border today, killing an Israeli officer, three Lebanese soldiers, and a Lebanese journalist. The conflict has sparked tension on both sides of the border and raised fears of a return to the periodic Israeli-Lebanese violence that most recently recurred in Israel’s 2006 invasion in retaliation against Lebanon-based militant group Hezbollah.

Gregg Carlstrom at Al Jazeera live-blogged:

1:24pm: A few regional reactions. Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, phoned Sleiman and told him Syria “stands with Lebanon.”

And Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Egyptian foreign minister, spoke with Hariri and promised Egyptian support. He also called for “self-restraint,” and asked the UN to intervene to “de-escalate” the situation.

1:14pm: Many reports say this whole incident started because Israeli troops were trying to cut down a tree on the Lebanese side of the border.

The US television network MSNBC has posted a photograph that appears to show an Israeli soldier, in a crane, cutting down a tree on the Lebanese side of the border fence.

1:08pm: The Israeli military, which issued only a brief statement this morning on the clashes, just e-mailed a longer statement to reporters.

It claims an Israeli army unit was carrying out “routine maintenance” along the border, and that the work was “pre-coordinated” with UNIFIL, the United Nations peacekeeping force in the region.

The IDF force immediately returned fire with light arms at a force of the LAF, and the IDF also made use of artillery fire.

[…] The IDF holds the LAF responsible for the incident that disrupted the calm in the region, and its consequences.

12:56pm: Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, meanwhile, said Israel “holds the Lebanese government responsible” for the incident.

This recent violation is one of many violations of Resolution 1701, the most severe of which is the massive rearmament of Hizbullah, including the rearmament of Hizbullah units in southern Lebanon.

He also directed the Israeli representative at the United Nations to file a formal complaint about Lebanon.

12:51pm: Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, and Michel Sleiman, the Lebanese president, were the first two senior Lebanese politicians to comment on the clash.

Hariri’s statement was predictable: It condemned Israel’s “violation of Lebanese sovereignty” and demanded that the UN stop the fighting.

Sleiman said much the same thing, but he also included a message for the Lebanese army, asking it to “confront any Israeli aggression, whatever the sacrifices.”

12:45pm: There are many conflicting reports from southern Lebanon, but the latest confirmed details right now (from the Lebanese defence ministry) are that three Lebanese soldiers were killed, and four others wounded.

There are also reports of an Israeli soldier killed in the fighting – the Al-Manar television station, which is run by Hezbollah, has carried that story for an hour or so – but no confirmation from the Israeli military.

A journalist was also killed in the fighting; Lebanese media are identifying him as Assaf Abou Rahhal, from the Al-Akhbar newspaper.

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs:

UNIFIL says IDF activity did not warrant Lebanese fire:

UNIFIL forces who toured the site of Tuesday’s deadly exchanges of fire on the northern border said the IDF’s activity did not warrant the attack launched by Lebanese Army soldiers, Israeli army officials who spoke to UNIFIL representatives said.

According to the IDF, soldiers were performing routine operations in a border-area enclave within Israeli territory when they were ambushed by Lebanese troops.

Weasel Zippers:

According to my sources:

  • IDF in coordination with the UN and Lebanese army were working within Israeli territory to fix security cameras.
  • Overconfident due to this coordinated effort, the soldiers did not mind the watchful eye of Lebanese soldiers at close range.
  • Lebanese forces opened fire, Israel says a few soldiers were wounded (recent wording on Israeli news site suggest possible casualties).
  • Israelies retaliated, killing 3 soldiers and a news reporter.
  • Lebanese president came out in statements supporting further escalation.
  • Rockets were fired again at northern Israeli towns.
  • Lebanese villagers are packing their bags and fleeing.
  • Israeli officials stated they do not wish to continue escalation, while certain operations within Lebanon are in action.

Edward Teller at Firedoglake:

In clear violation of U.N. Resolution 1701, which Israel signed at the conclusion of their ignominious defeat in July-August 2006, Israeli troops violated Lebanese sovereignty this morning, cutting down a tree on the Lebanese side of the border. An MSNBC video and still clearly show the Israelis, attempting to cut down the first tree on the Lebanese side of the border.

The Lebanese Army (not Hizbollah) responded with warning shots, then with live fire. The Israeli counter-reasponse apparently killed three Lebanese soldiers and a reporter. A sniper from the Lebanese side of the border then killed “a high-ranking Israeli officer.

Although Israel routinely violates Resolution 1701 (overflights, shelling of Lebanese fishing boats, etc.), Hizbollah has also done so, though less blatantly.

The Israelis are now responding with heavy artillery and rocket fire, as well as white phosphorus. Numerous Lebanese soldiers and civilians have been injured in the exchange, which is probably escalating to include Hizbollah rockets, as I write.

UPDATE: Israel Matzav

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit

UPDATE #2: Daniel Levy at Foreign Policy


Filed under Israel/Palestine, Middle East

Man Lied To Get A Woman Into Bed. In Other News, The Sky Is Blue.

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with a round-up.

Jo Adetunji and Harriet Sherwood at The Guardian:

A Palestinian man has been convicted of rape after having consensual sex with a woman who had believed him to be a fellow Jew.

Sabbar Kashur, 30, was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Monday after the court ruled that he was guilty of rape by deception. According to the complaint filed by the woman with the Jerusalem district court, the two met in downtown Jerusalem in September 2008 where Kashur, an Arab from East Jerusalem, introduced himself as a Jewish bachelor seeking a serious relationship. The two then had consensual sex in a nearby building before Kashur left.

When she later found out that he was not Jewish but an Arab, she filed a criminal complaint for rape and indecent assault.

Although Kashur was initially charged with rape and indecent assault, this was changed to a charge of rape by deception as part of a plea bargain arrangement.

Handing down the verdict, Tzvi Segal, one of three judges on the case, acknowledged that sex had been consensual but said that although not “a classical rape by force,” the woman would not have consented if she had not believed Kashur was Jewish.

The sex therefore was obtained under false pretences, the judges said. “If she hadn’t thought the accused was a Jewish bachelor interested in a serious romantic relationship, she would not have cooperated,” they added.

The court ruled that Kashur should receive a jail term and rejected the option of a six-month community service order. He was said to be seeking to appeal.

Segal said: “The court is obliged to protect the public interest from sophisticated, smooth-tongued criminals who can deceive innocent victims at an unbearable price – the sanctity of their bodies and souls. When the very basis of trust between human beings drops, especially when the matters at hand are so intimate, sensitive and fateful, the court is required to stand firmly at the side of the victims – actual and potential – to protect their wellbeing. Otherwise, they will be used, manipulated and misled, while paying only a tolerable and symbolic price.”


The Israeli criminal code mentions “deceit” as a possible aggravating factor in sexual assault cases and the verdict in Kashur’s case is not the first time an Israeli court has sentenced a man for “rape by deception,” according to several Israeli lawyers.

The most notable case was in 2008, when Israel’s high court of justice upheld the conviction of Zvi Sleiman, a man who impersonated a housing ministry official and promised women apartments and benefits in exchange for sex.

A rape conviction sentence could be upheld, the court ruled, when “a person lies does not tell the truth regarding critical matters to a reasonable woman”.

Several other men have been convicted of “rape by deception” since that ruling.

But the Kashur case appears to be the first time a person’s race has been used as the determining factor.

“In this case, the ruling seems to say that if a ‘reasonable’ Jewish woman knew a man was an Arab, then she would not make love to him,” Abeer Baker, an attorney with Adalah, an organisation that advocates for Arab rights in Israel, said.

Baker called it a “dangerous precedent,” saying it would allow the Israeli government to interfere in the private lives of citizens.

“It’s interfering in a very intimate, personal decision,” she said. “That should be made between two people. The court should not interfere.”

Open hostility

Similar laws have been controversial in other countries, as well. A man in the United States was convicted in 2007 of impersonating his brother in order to have sex with his girlfriend. That conviction was overturned on appeal, though, after an appellate court ruled that rape laws apply only to non-consensual sex.

Kashur’s case also highlights the open hostility with which many Israeli Jews view mixed relationships with Arabs, who make up one-fifth of the population of Israel.

A poll conducted in 2007 by Israel’s Geocartography Institute found that more than 50 per cent of Israeli Jews thought marrying an Arab was “equal to national treason”. Jews are legally forbidden to intermarry in Israel.

The Sunday Times reported in 2009 on a squad of “vigilantes” in the Jewish settlement of Pisgat Zeev. The group has patrolled the streets for more than a decade looking for mixed couples.

And in 2009, the town of Petah Tikva established a team of counsellors and psychologists to “rescue” Jewish women from relationships with Arab men.

The Israeli daily Maariv reported in February that Tel Aviv had launched a similar programme.

Eugene Volokh:

Such “fraud in the inducement” would not suffice for a rape conviction under the law of most American states (see, e.g., this case), though it’s an interesting question why it’s a crime to get money by fraud but not to get sex by fraud. There are good answers to that question, I think, but they’re not so obviously right as to keep the question from being interesting.

For some thoughts from last year on a proposal in Massachusetts that might have allowed liability in such a situation, see here. Also, it appears that a few American rape statutes might already criminalize sex procured through false statements. State v. Tizard, 897 S.W.2d 732 (Tenn. Ct. Crim. App. 1994) holds that Tennessee law rejects the distinction between “fraud in the inducement” and “fraud in the fact,” which is what has prevented rape prosecutions in cases such as the Israeli one; the facts of Tizard, though, are rather different — the defendant was lying about the supposed medical reason of the sexual act (there, the defendant’s masturbation of the victim, though the analysis would be the same for intercourse) rather than about the defendant’s identity. And some states generally provide that “assent does not constitute consent if … [i]t is induced by force, duress, or deception” (to quote Colo. Rev. Stats. Ann. § 18–1-505), which would in principle apply to rape cases as well.

If anyone can point me to the written opinion in the case, I’d be much obliged, both so I can blog about it and so I can use it in my Criminal Law class this Fall (I have a unit on fraud in the section on the law of rape). Thanks to Mike Sheridan for the pointer.

UPDATE: Several commenters raise a point that was also made by one of the source cited in the article: “Gideon Levy, a liberal Israeli commentator, was quoted as saying: ‘I would like to raise only one question with the judge. What if this guy had been a Jew who pretended to be a Muslim and had sex with a Muslim woman? Would he have been convicted of rape? The answer is: of course not.’”

It’s certainly possible that a court would have — and still would in the future, even given this decision — acquit this hypothetical Jew-pretending-to-be-a-Muslim defendant. But I’m just not sure that one can categorically assume this, especially in light of the judges’ rhetoric. It seems to me that Jewish judges might well think the lying Jew’s behavior is as deceptive, manipulative, and injurious to “the sanctity of [victims’] bodies and souls” as a lying Muslim’s, and that the deceived Muslim woman should be as protected as a deceived Jewish woman. And this is so even given the undoubted psychological reality that judges, like other people, generally tend to empathize more with people who are like themselves. Despite this reality, judges may still empathize enough with people who are less like themselves.

Now I’m certainly not an expert on Israeli judges’ attitudes, and I’d be happy to hear the views of people who have lived in Israel and have a sense of how the Israeli legal system would deal with this situation. But I’m reluctant to accept the assumptions of the one Israeli commentator who was quoted, at least unless I hear a broader range of people confirming his judgment.

Jonathan Turley:

That reads uncomfortably close to old miscegenation cases where judges sought to protect women from “smooth-taking” black men.

Even in cases where women have been falsely told that a lover does not carry an STD, the matter is addressed in the United States as a matter of civil not criminal battery. Does this mean that any false fact used in a one-night stand is now a criminal matter deserving of jail or it is only Arab status that gets that level of punishment? For example, if a Israeli man says he is unmarried and looking for a lasting relationship, can he be jailed? If so, the Israeli jail would be stuffed to over-capacity.

We have been following a crackdown on Israeli women dating Arab men recently.

Richard Lawson at Gawker

The Jawa Report:

Frankly, one has to wonder about this case. I suspect it’s somewhat common for a man to tell a woman lies while trying to bed her.

In fact I heard about one case where a woman sued a man for lying because he said he would take her to Florida if she went to bed with him. The case was thrown out after the man explained that he never said he was going to take her to Florida, rather he said he was going to tamper with her.


Robert Stacy McCain:

Obtaining sex “under false pretences” is a crime in Israel? It’s against the law in Israel to get sex by feigning interest in “a serious romantic relationship”? OK, you bachelors out there, let’s have a show of hands: How many of you guys have ever lied to get some nookie?

Everybody? I thought so.

Just don’t try that in Jerusalem, buddy. And let this be a lesson to you Israeli ladies: Just because a goyim tells you it’s kosher . . .

UPDATE: Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon

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Give ‘Em Hell, Hamid!


Brian Katulis at Foreign Policy:

With three days until ballots are cast in presidential and provincial elections here, an air of uncertainty hangs over a process that U.S. President Barack Obama has called the most important event of the year in Afghanistan.  Threats of violence along with worries about the potential for electoral fraud and possible post-election political violence loom, and no one knows what quite to expect in the coming days and weeks here.

I’m here in the country as part of one of the international delegations to observe the elections, with Democracy International, an organization that has gathered together a group of election specialists and Afghanistan experts and sent them around the country, including Kandahar, Helmand, Herat, and Paktika, among other places (check out the special DI election website here).  DI has had some long-term observers in the country and plans to stay through the entire process, a process that could continue into the fall.  We’re getting a steady stream of reports from the observers posted around the country.


Election observers in Kandahar reported to us over the weekend that just as the Taliban step up their anti-election campaign, they witnessed candidates increasing their own campaigns, with more posters appearing on the streets.  Just last night, President Hamid Karzai participated in a national televised debate with two of his rivals; a previous presidential debate on Tolo television last month that Karzai skipped was reportedly watched by more than 10 million Afghans, about a third of the public here.  The media has given the campaign a lot of play.  There is a “Daily Show” style program poking fun at politicians and a reality show called “The Candidate” that pits young Afghans in a mock election.

In addition to nearly 40 presidential candidates (the number has decreased with recent dropouts), there are more than 3,100 candidates running for four-year terms in 420 seats in 34 provincial councils.

The level of campaign activity has varied according to the area, but the main point is that the Taliban threats and violence haven’t shut down the campaign nationwide.  A joint report released earlier this month by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan found some challenges resulting from the insecurity, with severe limitations on freedom of movement, assembly, and association in some parts of the country.

Yet the election goes on, and the real test will come Thursday, when we see how many of the 17 million Afghans registered to vote show up at the polls.  Many observers expect a light turnout in the morning, as voters wait and see what the situation looks like.

Joe Klein at Swampland:

I’m beginning to hope that Hamid Karzai pulls a Ahmadi-Khamenei and steals the thing. Yes, he is corrupt and incompetent. Yes, democracy is a wonderful thing. But too much democracy, too soon, in a country that is barely governed–see under Palestine, 2005–can be a toxic disaster. The problem in Afghanistan is, as the NY Times reports today, Taliban intimidation of the Pashtun majority population in the south and east of the country.

Karzai is a Pashtun. His vote could be depressed to the point where his primary opponent, Abdullah (or Abdullah Abdullah) comes first or a very close second, forcing a runoff. Why is that bad? Well, it wouldn’t be, if the election were perceived as fair and unimpeded on all sides. Abdullah, a doctor and former foreign minister, is an entirely credible candidate. He is also of mixed parentage–his father a Pashtun, his mother a Tajik–and is therefore the favored candidate of the non-Pashtun north, and that is where the problem comes in.

One of Karzai’s few achievements has been to create a government that unites Tajiks and Pashtuns–you may remember that before September 11, Afghanistan was split between the Pashtun Taliban government and a non-Pashtun rebel movement, the Northern Alliance. If the Taliban manage to significantly suppress the Pashtun vote, to Karzai’s detriment and Abdullah’s advantage, the Pashtuns may be even less motivated to pledge allegiance to the Kabul government than they are now. A runoff election would not be catastrophic, but it would add to the uncertainty that currently hobbles the Kabul government and the U.S. effort to stablilize the country.

Spencer Ackerman:

Please, everyone: let’s skip around the manufactured outrage over the news that Hamid Karzai is bringing back Abdul Rashid Dostum, the warlord responsible for 2001’s mass killing of Taliban prisoners, so Dostum’s clout among Afghanistan’s Uzbek minority can secure Karzai’s reelection. The only thing surprising is that anyone is surprised. In September 2004, Karzai sacked Herat warlord Ismail Khan only to bring him back months later — after Karzai won his first election that October — as energy minister. Remember what Afghan political analyst Haroun Mir said recently about Karzai:

“Karzai doesn’t think in terms of growth in GDP in Afghanistan, unemployment, more services or security,” said Haroun Mir, director of Afghanistan’s Center for Research & Policy Studies. “He’s a consensus builder. As long as he could win a consensus of important power brokers, he thinks he’s a very successful man.”

Karzai is who he is, and the United States will very likely have to deal with him for years to come. Indeed, the intensifying Taliban pre-election violence might lead to the worst possible outcome: Karzai winning an election marked by irregularities and denied legitimacy in the eyes of many Afghans but not the power of the presidency.

Dexter Filkins in NYT

Al Jazeera

UPDATE: Chris Good at The Atlantic

UPDATE #2: Peter Worthington at New Majority

More Ackerman

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No Fast Forward Button To See How This Movie Ends


Bombings today in Iraq.

Al Jazeera English brings us the video

Rod Nordland and Sam Dagher in the NYT:

At least 39 people were killed and hundreds were wounded early Monday morning as a series of bomb attacks struck Baghdad and destroyed an entire village near the northern city of Mosul.

A pair of truck bombs exploded simultaneously in the village, known as Khazna, about 10 miles east of Mosul, according to an official in the Ministry of Interior who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with ministry policy. The village is inhabited mainly by Shiite Shabaks, a small Kurdish-speaking minority.

The police in Mosul said 30 homes were destroyed from the two bombs, which were placed in trucks that had been parked overnight in the village. Police officials put the preliminary toll of casualties at 23 dead and 128 wounded.

Juan Cole:

This attack was not just mindless violence. Khazna is inhabited by the Shabak, a Kurdish people with their own dialect and their own form of religion, a form of folk Shiism. An attack on Khazna at the present juncture suggests an attempt by the Sunni Arab guerrillas based in Mosul to ethnically cleanse Shiites in Ninevah Province, and possibly to begin the long-feared Arab-Kurdish civil war. 

Likewise, the bombings in Baghdad of day laborers targeted Shiites in neighborhoods that had been mixed but from which the Sunni Arabs had been subjected to ethnic cleansing. These attacks, in short, were revenge by displaced Sunni Arab guerrillas for the loss of their neighborhoods to Shiites who had advanced west and north.

Now, looking at the longer view, Eli Lake in the Washington Times:

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a recent interview with The Times that sectarian conflict poses the greatest challenge to Iraq’s stability.

“The biggest threat long-term would be the breakout of sectarian violence,” he said last week. “I would extend that to your question about the sectarianism inside the military. … The sectarian issue is one that we are very focused on. It was a brutal, brutal teacher to so many of us. I don’t think Iraq has much of a future if that breaks out.”

Adm. Mullen said, however, that authorities had defused several potentially explosive incidents over the past few months without sectarianism raising “its ugly head.”

“It didn’t happen,” he said. “That is not a prescription for [saying] it won’t happen, for sure. Except that all the leaders, political and military, recognize this could be their undoing.”

Michael Crowley at TNR:

 As I’ve mentioned here before, some smart Iraq-watchers believe that sectarianism–Shiite vs. Sunni violence–has played itself out, and are now more concerned about the volatile Kurdish north, where disputes about land and oil still fester. But this report is further evidence that we may not have the luxury of focusing on the Kurds–a point underscored by a new series of terrible bombings near Baghdad today.

All of which comes just as credible analysts are talking about sending another 45,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

Thomas P.M. Barnett:

Iraq will end up being Iraq, no doubt, but clearly our intervention has placed the country on a far different and better trajectory than the one it had under Saddam. Will the “right” Iraq emerge fast enough for most Americans? Absolutely not.

But as I said in the original PNM article back in March 2003: as babysitting jobs go, this one will be a doozy.

Big point: our patience is being rewarded, bit by bit.

It’s important to keep that reality in mind when we talk about Afghanistan and how long that will take.

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As Atrios Says, “Meanwhile… Over There”


Turn your attention to another country in the Middle East. Four letters, starts with “I,” we used to pay a great deal of atteention to it.

Atrios, pointing out, of course, “over there.”

Iraq Slogger: 50 Killed in Sadr City, according to Al-Jazeera

Middle East Analysis:

Bombs killed five Iraqi policemen and at least two civilians Thursday, police said, and the vice president blamed insurgents trying to delay this month’s withdrawal of U.S. troops from towns and cities.

A string of attacks has cast doubt on the ability of Iraqi forces to keep the lid on a stubborn insurgency after U.S. combat troops pull back from towns and cities by June 30.
Thursday’s blasts came just a day after at least 72 people died in a market bombing in Baghdad.
“The political nature of these attacks is becoming clear. They are an attempt to delay or suspend the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraqi urban centres according to the timetable,” Vice President Tareq al-Hashimi said in a statement.

David H. Young in Al-Jazeera on SOFA, Iraq and Iran

Thomas Ricks:

Here is a guest column by Adam Silverman*, who was in Iraq last year, explaining why he thinks the war there isn’t over or won. This reinforces my view that the transition to Iraqi forces that is supposed to happen this year generally will be just one more instance of prematurely transferring security responsibilities to Iraqis. Back in the Bush days, doing that was called “rushing to failure.” I am not sure what the Obama-era term will be.  Btw, there was a truck bomb near Kirkuk on Saturday that caused more than 250 casualties, and a string of smaller bombs in in Baghdad yesterday.

[…] The opening or space that the combination of the 2006 Awakenings, the Sunni/Shia cleansing of Baghdad and other once mixed urban areas, and the hard work of the military and civilian allies in the Surge created or allowed for was squandered by the Bush Administration both politically and diplomatically. The opening was supposed to be used for the reconciliation of societal elements, so that there would be tethering, both horizontally to each other and vertically to the state, in order to achieve actual progress in Iraq. The Bush Administration squandered that opening by trying for a pie-in-the sky SOFA agreement that media reports indicated would have kept large numbers of troops in Iraq in perpetuity on huge bases located to stage for Iran and Syria.  The Iraqis rolled us on this, then rolled us and IHEC/UN on the Provincial Elections. So our official occupation status ran out and we’re now there on sufferance. And if you missed it, MSNBC reported last Wednesday, and I saw NO other coverage of this, that the Iraqi Parliament has appropriated the funds for the referendum on if we stay in Iraq. If they call that referendum we will most likely lose!

Erik Leaver and Daniel Atzmon at Foreign Policy in Focus:

The implications of the June 30 pullout are manifest: As Iraqis grapple with increasing responsibility for the security of their country and American military leaders search for avenues to project their influence, withdrawal from urban areas will set important precedents for the proposed full withdrawal of American forces.

The ability of Iraqi and U.S. commanders to subvert the SOFA and extend the stay of U.S. troops in Iraqi cities past the June 30 deadline does not bode well for the other withdrawal deadlines laid out in the agreement. Moreover, the vague language of the agreement lends itself to the possibility that U.S. forces will remain in Iraq past the December 31, 2011 deadline.

This all may be for naught, however, as a referendum on the SOFA is scheduled for July 30 in Iraq. Despite attempts by the Iraqi cabinet to postpone the vote, lawmakers think a delay is unlikely. The measure is likely to lose if it goes to popular vote given the widespread opposition to the SOFA in Iraq, which is seen as legitimizing the U.S. occupation until 2011. According to the latest polls, published in the Brookings Institution’s Iraq Index, 73% of Iraqis oppose the presence of coalition forces. If the SOFA is struck down by the vote, U.S. forces could be forced out of Iraq immediately as the forces would not be legally protected.

UPDATE: Peter Feaver in Foreign Policy

UPDATE #2: Spencer Ackerman

Via Patrick at Sully’s Andrew Exum:

Despite all these bombings, we have yet to see signs that the death spiral of sectarian retaliation has returned or is about to return.  This is a point that General Odierno has made with some regularity.  The attacks in and of themselves are terrible, but not necessarily strategically significant unless they trigger waves of reprisals that Iraqi forces cannot control.  If there are signs of this occurring, it doesn’t seem like they’re being noticed.  Instead we get statements from al-Sadr after the recent attacks calling for restraint.  Obviously we can’t take that restraint for granted, but that still seems qualitatively better than the days of 2006.


Filed under GWOT, Iraq

And We Note Again That “The Simpsons” Covers All Eventualities


Khamenei gives a speech.

Andrew Sullivan:

I think we find one clue to why he rigged the vote count so crudely. His argument that a majority of eleven million was too big to allow for any irregularities suggests he believed that a big lie was the only one that would work. But if you utter a big lie, you had better hope it could persuade some. It appears to have persuaded no one but a few fools at the Washington Post and the executive editor of the New York Times.

Ed Morrissey:

We have made this point a number of times, and it bears repeating once again: Mousavi was a candidate approved by the mullahs.  He’s part of the “ruling system,” not a “governing system.”  While he may have some stylistic differences with Ahmadinejad, Mousavi takes his orders from the same people as Ahmadinejad, which means that a Mousavi win would not make a tremendous difference in Iranian policy.  Barack Obama was correct when he pointed this out earlier this week.

However, the people of Iran also clearly understand this.  The crisis has moved beyond Mousavi, and Khamenei knows that.  The people in the street may shout Mousavi’s name, but their protests have evolved into a protest against being ruled and not governed.  Mousavi could choose to join that fight, or he could choose to remain within the ruling system, but the people on the street now may choose to fight absolute rule without him.  Khamenei can’t back down without losing his conceit of infallibility in temporal matters, and if the Iranians refuse to return to the yoke of tyranny, then this will get ugly very, very quickly.

Rich Lowry at The Corner

Joshua Keating at Foreign Policy

Al Jazeera English has Robert Fisk and Farzad Agha on the speech.

Jamal Dajani in HuffPo

Michelle Malkin links to Caleb Howe:

On both the right and the left, on the blogs, at twitter, among the pundits, this is largely a shared sentiment. Sure there are some who cynically object – ignorant celebrities or Obama loyalists. But for the most part, the web has seen a sea of green in support of the people of Iran exercising their right to self-determination. And now we see some in Congress standing up.

U.S. Congressman Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Chairman of the House Republican Conference, and Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, have introduced a resolution that goes where the President fears to tread: explicit support for the Iranian dissidents.

Spencer Ackerman, linking to Glenn Thrush:

Meanwhile, Glenn Thrush at Politico reports that the White House is backing the resolution, and “worked with House Democrats to moderate a fire-breathing resolution circulated by Republicans to rebuke Iran for its post-election crackdown on dissent, according to an Obama aide.”

“We made it clear that we didn’t want to make the U.S. a foil in a debate that has nothing to do with us,” a senior administration told me this morning. “This is a debate among Iranians.”

If so, then the go-ahead from the White House represents its largest step yet at expressing rhetorical support for the Iranian opposition, even if the language is couched in support for universal human rights.

Another Ackerman post here.

UPDATE: Steve Benen

Thomas Joscelyn in TWS

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