If Americans knew

It's easy to twist figures or maps, but they simply can't lie when unfairness is so obvious.

Founded by journalist Alison Weir, If Americans Knew (
ifamericansknew.org) is one of many trying to fill the gaps, but this site targets the American audience and that's an essential step towards peace in the Middle East.

Fair pedagogy is crucial, and the American audience must hear Palestinian voices as well as Israeli voices. Right now, that's not the case : US media tend to take the Israeli side even when Israeli leaders err on the wrong side of the road

Traditionally, Americans are not well informed of what's going on overseas in general. And too often, they can only see one side of the coin. It's not only a matter of networks being biased, but also of viewers with a short attention span for things not American.

Yet change seems to be coming with new voices (Obama, J Street...), and the internet. In spite of the Israeli blackout (foreign media were blocked outside of the strip), all major channels had to somehow mention things happening in Gaza because these things were all over the web, because that was the "story" to "tell".

What Americans have been told for decades is that Palestinians are terrorists and Israeli under siege. What the world is realizing is that terror has changed sides, that Palestine is under siege, and that if hatemongers are gaining ground in Gaza, it's mainly because hatemongers are winning in Tel Aviv.

BTW, excellent and timely report from the Red Cross today.

blogules 2009


France, secularism and burqa : a political issue, not a religious one

As soon as Nicolas Sarkozy said that Burqas were "not welcome" in France, the debate rippled across the World.

I mean THE debate. Not about the burqa, but about France itself : the country would be intolerant and undermining freedom of religion.

I faced the same misunderstanding from Muslims, Jews, Christians, and even atheists following my blogule "No to Burqa = No to Fundamentalism... Christian Fundamentalism included" ("Non à la Burqa = Non au fondamentalisme... Chrétien y compris").

I should say the same double misunderstanding :

  • classic misunderstanding : fundamentalism is about politics, not religion. Claiming independence from fundamentalism is about saving democracy, but also about saving freedom of religion... see my usual pitch about the fundamentalist imposture ("Universal Declaration of Independence From Fundamentalism").
  • cultural misunderstanding : France's very specific flavor of secularism, and the cultural exception (particularly compared to the US) regarding religion in general

Thus the key point in that blogule : in France more than anywhere else, wearing a burqa is a political statement. France should deal with the issue peacefully, on the grounds of the republican law. It is not and should not become a debate about religion.

So I fully agree with Sarkozy when he says that "Burqa is not a problem of religion" and "is not welcome on the territory of the Republic".

But I have a slightly different position when I consider his full sentences :

=> "Burqa is not a problem of religion, but a problem of dignity of women / Burqa is not a religious sign, it's a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement" : yes and yes, human rights are definitely involved, but the cause of enslaved women will be even better defended if we act simultaneously at the political level.

Typically, some woman do wear the burqa of their own free will, and fundamentalists do claim that burqas defend the dignity of women because they are protected from the gaze of men.
We must naturally stand strong in the women's rights and freedom of religion debates, but we must also position ourselves on different planes to embrace the true nature of the subject and the true nature of fundamentalism.
Because burqa is not "a problem of religion", but a problem of politics. And a Burqa doesn't protect a woman from male gaze : integral coverings in general (burqa, niqab, masks hiding the face) withdraw people (male or female, of their own free will or not, those are yet other stories) from the watch of the Republic. Accepting this would mean accepting the most essential claim of fundamentalists : their strict set of principles supercedes the laws of the Republic. And in France, what burqas do is to put people beyond the reach of law in a secular Republic, which makes it even more offensive*.
Actually, Sarkozy didn't raise the burqa issue in Versailles out of the blue (chadri ?) : he merely reacted to many complaints by mayors and representatives of the Republic who noticed the incompatibility of such garments with the exercise of law (not to mention, of course, complaints of human right activists, women, moderate Muslims...).

=> Burqa "is not welcome on the territory of the Republic. We must not be afraid of our values, nor of defending them" : yes and yes, it is a matter of values. But let's be very careful not to fuel mutual hatred within the Republic and beyond.

Sarkozy is talking about a garment, but certain people can interpret his words a very different way : "territory" and "our values" resonate very well in extreme right circles, where xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia... and the ultimate theocon-neocon myth of the "Clash of Civilizations" rule*. Typically, radicals like peroxyde-blond Geerd Wilders, who enjoys full support from Israeli Jewish fundamentalists as well as from European Christian fundamentalists, wants to ban the burqa... but as a part of a more general ban on Islam !
Such hatemongers complain about "the Islamization of Europe" and the threats to "Western values", but Islam belongs to the West as well as to the East, North, South and Center. Besides, European culture owes a lot of its richness and diversity to Islam, Europe wouldn't be Europe without its citizens who happen to be Muslims, and France wouldn't be France without its citizens who happen to be Muslims.
Furthermore, let us not stress obsolete geographical divisions as moderates from all confessions and from over the world are reaching out to each other.
The second key point in my blogule was precisely that a ban on burqa, provided it were carefully and soundly planned and implemented, would undermine fundamentalism well beyond Muslim communities, and particularily Christian fundamentalism, also on the rise in Europe.
French Muslims overwhelmingly reject fundamentalism, and feel ostracized each time a few extremists deliberately provoque intra- and inter-religious tensions, or openly reject State laws.

Dalil Boubakeur, Rector of the Great Mosque of Paris, denounced the rise of communautarism, radicalization, and fundamentalism in France. But as the President of the French Council of the Muslim Faith, he must also respect all the sensibilities represented in this institution. That's the reason why his critic of the burqa per se sounds rather weak : "wearing the burqa is not a formal answer to a prescription of Islam", and is "foreign to our traditions".

And when he praises Sarkozy, Boubakeur smartly manages to point an accusatory finger at the French Islamist minority : "this well balanced position, exposing a great secular conscience from the President of the Republic, can only fortify the recommandations issued by the Great Mosque of Paris and encourage French citizen of Muslim faith to integrate harmoniously republican values". In other words : if the vast majority of French Muslims applauds, a minority of fundamentalists does refuse the Republic - those are the enemies of both Islam and France.

Boubakeur also issued a clear warning to the President after his speech : "but you have to hope, Insha'Allah, that there won't be any ill-feeling, controversies, nor incidents".

The third key point I raised (the logical counterpoint of the second), was more direct : I really don't trust Nicolas Sarkozy on that one. He is the kind of man to fuel tensions instead of removing them, particularily when he has an opportunity to help fundamentalists and undermine the French secular system. The 2004 ban on religious signs for civil servants or in public schools passed well and calmed things down as expected because it was implemented under Jacques Chirac's watch, a man who, as Bush well knows, makes no compromise with fundamentalist imposteurs.

In France, everybody is fully aware of Sarkozy's reputation as a troublemaker, and his more or less direct promotion of fundamentalism is becoming a less and less hidden agenda.

He was the one who created the Council, thus offering an official tribune to Islamists... and putting outspoken moderates like Boubakeur under constraints. He was the one who, as tensions around the 2004 ban on religious signs were receding, and right before US Elections, dared publish "La Republique, les religions, l'esperance", a provocative essay recommanding the revision of the 1905 law, cornerstone of secularism in France. He was the one who pleased Benedict XVI and other Christian fundamentalists with his "laicite positive" concept (see "N'ayez pas peur"). He was the one who almost condemned French secularism in highly controversial speeches delivered in Latran or Riyadh. He was the one who seeked favors from then Fundamentalist in Chief George W. Bush, palled around with Tom Cruise and tried to remove Scientology from the lists of cults under watch in France...

Yet, if Nicolas Sarkozy obviously pledged allegiance to US theocons a few years ago and has ever since repeatedly attempted to undermine secularism, I don't think he is himself a theocon. More prosaically : hardcore fundamentalists aside, there's a lot of money to make for megachurches willing to open franchises in France... Besides, Sarko's ego is more complex than it seems : this man really loves to please powerful or famous people, wants to be recognized as an equal. He is surrounded by theocons, but also by celebs acting as entry points for theocons.

Now let's put aside this big question mark, and consider French secularism as it is or rather, as it was before Sarkozy. That would be the fourth point missing in my blogule, which was written in French and for a mostly French audience, very much aware of this oddity.

As others may not know, French secularism has proven an efficient yet fragile shield for both democracy and religions against fundamentalism.

People ask "What's wrong with France ?"

Is France intolerant ?
I'd rather say "intolerant to intolerance".

Is France extremist ?
I'd rather say "extremely moderate".

Is France persecuting Muslims ?
I'd rather say "preventing persecution of Muslims, victims of a few fundamentalists who want to cut them from their own country and from their own sound religion".

Regarding religion, the cultural gap couldn't be wider between France and the US : there's a religious persecution syndrom in the US and a religious neutrality syndrom in France, and that explains the way each democracy chooses to defend freedom of religion. Both systems have their pros and cons.

Freedom of belief and religion does mean something in the US. Many founders escaped religious persecutions. On the other hand, fundamentalism is very popular, creationism commonly accepted, and extremist cults are highly visible... In fact, many among the worst enemies of US democracy are US citizens who are tolerated in their own country but would be considered as dangerous extremists anywhere else, and not only in France.

In France, many US preachers would be charged for incitation to hatred, many US cults seriously restricted if not forbidden... and the Creation Museum closed for bold revisionism. Of course, people proudly parading in Nazi uniforms would go straigth to jail. And such ayatollahs as Pat Robertson or Rush Limbaugh would have to tone down a few notches or face the consequences.

Both the US and France have cornerstones for religious neutrality and for separation of church and state, with a common ground dating from the late XVIIIth century, thanks to people like the very francophile Thomas Jefferson :
- the 1789 US Bill of Rights. In particular Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof")
- the 1789 Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen. In particular : "No one may be disturbed on account of his opinions, even religious ones, as long as the manifestation of such opinions does not interfere with the established Law and Order", "The source of all sovereignty lies essentially in the Nation. No corporate body, no individual may exercise any authority that does not expressly emanate from it", and "Liberty consists in being able to do anything that does not harm others: thus, the exercise of the natural rights of every man has no bounds other than those that ensure to the other members of society the enjoyment of these same rights. These bounds may be determined only by Law". One could also mention the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights : "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law".
- the 1796-1797 Treaty of Tripoli : "the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion".
- ..

Separation of church and state is still a raging debate in the US, and fundamentalists are fighting every jurisprudence that secures it. Religion in general is a very big business and partisans of genuine secularism (ie no mention of "God" during inauguration speeches) are a minority.

By contrast, most French are ardent defensors of secularism, and most churches, temples and mosques are poor. Which by the way makes it easier for rich fundamentalist sponsors from overseas.

France put an end to a heated debate on secularism thanks to the December 9, 1905 law on the Separation of the Churches and State, which goes beyond the sentence "the Republic neither recognizes, nor salaries, nor subsidizes any religion". The Republic's unity was clearly under threat, and mutual hatred bloomed everywhere, with a peak of anti-semitism during the Dreyfus Affair (settled - and in the right direction - soon afterwards, in 1906).

But as History cruelly reminds us, anti-semitism survived in France, and World War II atrocities led to another set of reforms. If French census bureau doesn't collect any data about race, and if French laws strictly forbids databases based on religious beliefs or race***, it's because all humans are considered as one race, but also because the French police collaborated with Nazi occupants and kept files on many citizens, leading to their most tragic fate.

In 1958, France entered its Vth Republic. And the Article 1 of the Preamble of the 1958 Constitution clearly stipulates : "France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic. It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs" ("It shall be organised on a decentralised basis" being added much later). "Secular" goes with "indivisible", and freedom of religion should not lead to any division.

There is also a cultural issue : in France, religion is considered as something personal, proselytizing as an aggression, and categorizing people as rude. Most French Muslims or French Jews don't want to be singled out as Muslims or Jews. They are true believers, but they want to be simply considered as French citizens. The first thing fundamentalist imams do is to negate Republican laws as a preamble to their own political constitution.

For decades, France enjoyed a relative peace without significant intra- nor inter-religious tensions, fundamentalism remaining well below the radar. But obviously, change has come :
- The first rifts within the Jewish community appeared as a minority took sides in favor of Israeli Jewish fundamentalists or at least in favor of conservative hardliners. The majority of French Jews distance themselves from Israel, and are as sick and tired of the confusion Jew = Tel Aviv Hawks bombing Gaza as Muslims are tired of the confusion Islam = al Qaeda. Yet, there is a French equivalent to an edulcorated AIPAC, but not to J Street. Yet. Regarding the conflict, a majority of French people, beyond Muslims, supports the Palestinian cause, particularily after Arafat gave up terror.

- If wahhabism had a tough time trying to buy its way into France (where moderate Islam has traditionally been sponsored by countries like Morocco), more recent and radical movements leverage on Islamist movements fighting against dictatorship in former French colonies, most notably Algeria. al Qaeda smartly outsourced part of its French operations to GSPC (Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat), now known as "al Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Magreb". Clearly, George W. Bush's crusade in Iraq helped the most radical Islamists gain ground, particularily among the younger generation of Muslims, many of North African origins and living in derelict suburbs, where integration failed most spectacularly. Fundamentalists did their "best" to cut those from their parents, who embraced the Republic and integration.

- Christian fundamentalism had been pretty much silenced since Vatican II, until George W. Bush and Benedict XVI revived it. Recently, the latter even lifted the excommunication of four bishops ordained in 1988 by then Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, the French leader of the very fundamentalist Society of St. Pius X (SSPX). Among them, Richard Williamson, an outspoken Holocaust negationist.

- Over the past few years, hatemongers of all kinds have been multiplying provocations, including profanations of Jewish or Muslim tombs...

Fundamentalists are clearly waging a war on secular exceptions like Turkey and France. Both countries stand at key cultural crossroads, and see their institutional shields against fundamentalism repeatedly tested. Sunni fundamentalists are methodically working on the destruction of secular Turkey (and European Christian Fundamentalists applauding their efforts), but France sits at the top of the agenda for all breeds of radicals : the "Eldest daughter of The Church" lies at the heart of the EU, and boasts its biggest Muslim and Jewish communities.

Fundamentalists mean to destroy France's very foundations : liberty, equality, and fraternity within the "indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic". And if they don't succeed in amending laws, they try to play "religious freedom" against systems precisely meant to protect, fueling communautarism against integration, forcing people to take sides following their own agenda, to the point that even moderates can sound radical when they talk about them.

Even if French laws and Constitution were clear enough to avoid it, France had to pass a law to specifically ban religious signs in public schools and for civil servants. Islamic headscarves had almost become an obligation in certain areas, where young Muslim women couldn't (and still now can't) go out anymore without a headdress for fear of being violented, and not only verbally. A 2005 poll showed that 77% of French Muslim women wearing headscarf (we're talking the lightest form of garment) don't do it from their own will and wouldn't wear it if given the choice. A Muslim woman founded the association "Ni Putes Ni Soumises" (Neither Whores Nor Slaves) to defend women and particularily Muslim women. This fierce advocate for secularism is now Minister for Urban Policies.

Likewise, these days, France is compelled to position itself for or against burqa. The vast majority of French Muslims are against this import from Islamists, and a bill will probably be needed to specify a ban for burqa and niqab. Even if, unlike headscarves, there are only a few hundred cases in the whole country.

I know that, from a US perspective, such a ban can sound extreme, particularily after Obama's speech in Cairo (see "State of The World Union : The Obama Doctrine")****.

But you have to understand how the vital battle under way within the Muslim world impacts this very special country, where fundamentalism is spreading like fire at the expense of the silent moderate minority (particularily young women). Except for a few Islamist radicals, Muslim organizations are in favor of these laws because they are precisely seeking from the state protection from fundamentalism.

Of course, producing the law remains tricky and legislators have to be very careful : it's about bringing everybody together and certainly not antagonizing. And of course, France must do better at the root of extremism, which thrives on poverty and unfairness. The self proclaimed "country of human rights" does support dictatures overseas and tolerate inequalities and discriminations at home.

As you see, France is a strange country... but its laws are not meant against religion but in favor of a clear separation between politics and religion, to better defend democracy and religion from those who want to destroy both.

stephane mot - blogules 2009

* elsewhere, wearing the burqa can be about both religion and politics (fundamentalism rules), or simply about tradition. But even in the case of tradition, the same political statement exists.

** I know that's unfair because positive meanings have been twisted. Some expressions can be most unfortunate, maybe not as criminal as the "crusade" mentioned by W. after 9/11, but "Western values" has unfortunately become almost a moto for the "Clash of Civilization" imposture.

*** Furthermore, every database featuring individuals should be declared to a specific commission, and every individual has the right to have his record deleted if he or she stops subscribing to a service.

**** On the other hand, what sounds extreme to French people is a democracy where the President swears in on a Bible, finishing by the words "so help me God". It's OK when Obama's speaking, but when Fundamentalist in Chief Dubya speaks, the words resonated very differently. I know that JFK said ("considering the separation of church and state, how is a president justified in using the word 'God' at all? The answer is that the separation of church and state has not denied the political realm a religious dimension"), but I had a dream : Barack Obama has a "Zapatero moment" for his second inauguration (see "So help me Rick Warren").


Keep your eye on the ball, Barack !

Cartoon of the day :

"Back to you in a minute, Mahmoud... Benjamin too".

follows "
Netanyahu's al Aqsa intifada" and "Khamenei's death wish"

Netanyahu's al Aqsa intifada

Benjamin Netanyahu has a sense for timing. To answer Obama's ultimatum on illegal colonies on Palestinian ground, he waited for the POTUS to be silenced by uproar in Iran*.

Emboldened by the crisis in Tehran, Tel Aviv hawks pushed ahead, financing new settlements. Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharanovitch's visit to al Aqsa Mosque was supposed to mirror that of then Interior Minister Ariel Sharon to the Temple Mount back in 2000, which ignited the Second Intifada. Only Sharon didn't even dare entering the Mosque. Avigdor Lieberman's friend did, and his team went as far as exlaining that "the intention of the visit was to see how the police would deploy in case of an emergency"**.

The Temple Mount has been under considerable threat for years, several extreme right Israeli activist groups undermining its very foundations and claiming this sacred Muslim ground as theirs. One could hardly find any more controversial thing to do at this defining moment.

As advertised during his campaign, Benjamin Netanyahu is governing the most extreme way. His intentions are crystal clear : fueling hatred, destroying all peace attempts, strengthening radicals within Israeli as well as Palestinian ranks... business as usual for a post-Rabin Israeli PM. The difference : Netanyahu must act even bolder than his predecessors to maintain his coalition.

Joe Biden mentioned a test during the first 6 months of Obama's presidency ? Here we are. Die hard fundamentalists are putting their very existence in the balance in both Iran and Israel... And oh, Kim Jong-il plans another missile launch to celebrate July the 4th. Take your ticket and get in the line.

* see previous blogules on post-Bush Israel and Iran, and "Justice in America, No Democracy in Israel ?".
** from IslamOnline.net and "Occupied Jerusalem" : "Palestinians Blast Provocative Al-Aqsa Visit"


Khamenei's death wish

It's over now. As expected*, even if Khamenei manages to crush the opposition, the Supreme Leader has totally lost the battle against himself.

Iran rulers are now led to the classic desperate straits of a fascist regime lacking confidence in their discredited leader. Since they cannot anymore pretend to bring the Iranian people together around the figures of Ahmadinejad or Khamenei, they forge a case for terror attacks on the father figure of the 1979 Revolution ("suicide bomber" near Khomeini Mausoleum), and fuel nationalism by mentioning foreign agent provocateurs**.

Official media exhibit demonstrators attacking policemen as a proof of their terrorist nature, but the very image of demonstrators defying the explicit orders of Ali Khamenei is in itself a major blow to the country's most important Ayatollah.

Terror and foreign agent provocateurs are a reality, though. But terror perpetrated by the State, foreign agents invited by the State (some Iranian policemen refuse to hit their own kind, some militiamen talked only Arabic and not Farsi...).

Official propaganda remains strong and powerful, but Iran's level of education and international overture makes it impossible to control minds as tightly as in other countries.

Mousavi brilliantly exposed Khamenei's contradictions, putting a true believer's mirror in front of his face and caricature of faith. Who is the true guardian of the spirit of the revolution ? Who is the true defensor of the Islamic Republic ? Who would be a true martyr if he were to die ? And on the other side, who is this imposteur posing as a Supreme Leader ? Who is this deviant liar ? Who must "face the consequences" ?

The stronger the repression, the quicker the implosion. Khamenei seems ready to go all the way and probably won't concede. The key now is to see who wants to join him as he fullfills his death wish.

* see "
Ahmadinejad Alienates Iranian People Today, Iranian Clerics Tomorrow" and "Party Unity My Ayatollah ?"
** UK explicitely named by Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. BBC's Jon Leyne asked to leave (BBC in Farsi too independent for the regime).


Scoop : Karl Rove is Pro Choice

According to Karl Rove, "The GOP Can Stop ObamaCare" (see WSJ 20090618).

Beyond the negative title, the idea is to prove that the GOP cares, and that the Party of NO can make proposals.

Karl himself becomes pro choice. Well... in favor of "Patients' Choice Act", at least.

To understand a proposal, you have to understand who's pushing it. Karl named four names :
- Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK). Yes, that's Tom "But what if I want to drive a gas guzzler ?" Coburn
- Senator Richard Burr (R-NC). Famous these days for promoting R.J. Reynolds' highly controversial "tobacco lollipops".
- Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI). This man is in favor of universal coverage but make no mistake : his dream has always been to serve his generous sponsors and to offer to private funds the possibility to manage SS money
- Representative Devin Nunes (R-CA).
Citizens Against Government Waste elected him "Porker of the Month" in February 2008 for "attempting to impede the recovery of hundreds of millions in over-payments to Medicare providers in the state of California" (thanks to SourceWatch / CMD for that gem)

This compassionate dream team comes up with a very innovative proposal : vote John McCain, and socialize the losses of companies.

Health insurance portability sounds nice, but it's mainly a scheme to clean up big corp balance sheets. Transferring the tax reductions for health care from the companies to individuals, that's a way of taking the burden off corporate shoulders, empowering private financial advisors, and weakening the collective power of employees.

Karl keeps going : "another proposal is to pass medical liability reforms that will reduce costly junk lawsuits." OK, but what is a "junk" lawsuit ? "A charge on big tobacco", would answer Senator Burr.
Overall, a pervasive system designed to weaken individuals vs big companies, to scatter about all counter-powers.

The GOP set up a Health Care Solutions Group, a one stop shopping joint to facilitate the job for lobbyists.

The GOP does care, after all. For his generous donators.


Party Unity My Ayatollah ?

As expected (see "Ahmadinejad Alienates Iranian People Today, Iranian Clerics Tomorrow ?"), Supreme Leader Khamenei ends up badly exposed in the front line after taking too carelessly sides in utterly controversial elections.

Khamenei eventually conceded a recount and theoretically, Guardian Council won't change the story. Except this is Khamenei's last chance to save face : at this stage, he can still dump his joker (Ahmadinejad). Unless he prefers to share his fate.

Either way, the system failed :

=> The official story doesn't stand mathematically or rather, appears too outstandingly perfect.
Beyond the elements in the equation already mentioned earlier, some pointed out the fact that when you compared votes for Mousavi and Ahmadinejad, the six official partial results released over election day drew too perfect a line. Farideh Farhi (University of Hawaii) nails the result as "pulled out of a hat"*.

=> A different story would mean a failure in the election process, ricocheting on the country's ruling class.

And either way, the Supreme Leader failed in his judgement and sense of timing. His supporters, but furthermore the people of influence who owe him their powers, must have taken notice. Khamenei caused a disruption that could prove fatal for the unity of Iran as a people as well as a political system.

Even Mousavi would have some trouble playing the Obama role, bringing back all parties together...

Party Unity My Ayatollah ?

* see "
Was Iran's election rigged? Here's what is known so far" (Christian Science Monitor 20090617).


Ahmadinejad Alienates Iranian People Today, Iranian Clerics Tomorrow

Iran reformers were denied their "Yes We Can" moment or at least, a second round against the incumbent at the Presidential elections.

To Mahmoud Ahmadinejad I'd say "yes, you can" remain in power thanks to such disgraceful methods but no, you can't declare yourself a winner. Because somehow, you put an end to the 1979 Revolution and alienated, beyond half of the great Iranian people, the clerics who allowed this political suicide.

The problem with official election results is that they look too perfect to be true :

. Ahmadinejad's 62.63% are high enough to avoid controversies about a potential second round, and low enough to avoid embarrassing comparisons with dictator plebiscites in banana republics or stalinian states... or even Bush approval rates in Midland, TX.

. in a model democracy you need a significant opposition, and considering the success of his campaign as well as all polls published before election day, Mir-Hossein Mousavi couldn't decently claim less than one third of ballots. Done, but not by much (33.75%).

Great, but that leaves us with only a few votes to split between the remaining two candidates. And we want to keep the same 2 to 1 ratio in favor of conservatives against reformers... so be it : 1.73% for Roshen Rezaee and 0.85% for Mehdi Karroubi !

Don't get me wrong : I expected Ahmadinejad to come first at the first round, leveraging on his position at the entry point of elections, for the registration. He was bound to get a massive turnout in rural regions, struggling only against candidates with a local stronghold. But a second round was more than likely.

The turnout exploded (85% vs 62.6% in 2005), but Mousavi contributed a lot to it while mobilising younger generations. With 13.2 M votes, he weighs twice as much as Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani at the first round four years ago (the old leader campaigned for him). But Ahmadinejad's score seems extreme (even in rural areas - 75% according to the IRNA / Islamic Republic News Agency), and Karroubi's simply impossible : 300,000 ballots for a man who claimed over 5 millions at the 2005 presidential elections and was expected to finish significantly ahead of Rezaee ?

In a press conference broadcasted live on international channels (NB: CNN winning over BBC for the Farsi to English interpretation), Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli exposed the smoking gun : in the same speech, he delivered extremely precise results at the national level, and announced further delays in the publication of regional results.

Officially, the announcement has to be done by each region, but the message seems obvious :

- leave us some time to give our "top down" decree some illusion of "bottom up" consistency.

- there will necessarily be some inconsistencies hard to swallow for the opposition (you can't explain quantum physics with classic physics), but we would consider them minor and local, and they wouldn't threaten the national results

Always the vigilant Juan Cole* already pointed out a few aberrations : "Ahmadinejad's numbers were fairly standard across Iran's provinces. In past elections there have been substantial ethnic and provincial variations", the Lur Karroubi failing in Luristan, the Azeri Mir-Hossein Mousavi in Azerbaïdjan... Mahsouli did announce a victory of the latter in Tehran, though.

Unsurprisingly, opposition turned into resistance as soon as the first results were published.

Violence, arrests, censorship... unsurprisingly, Ahmadinejad confirmed his
fundamentalist nature : his main targets are neither Israeli nor Americans but Iranian moderates.

His 2005 victory was already a felony but here, the clash seems final. Something is broken for good, and beyond the trust between some Iranians and their president.

Dragging along with him down to illegitimacy the clerics who let him go this far, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may simply have put an end to the 1979 Revolution :

- as a former Prime Minister of Khomeini, Mousavi was paradoxically in the best position to extend the regime's legitimacy even as he pushed reforms

- by alienating Iran youth, religious leaders deprived themselves of a future

- worse : their destiny is now intimately linked to a man who is not even one of them. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei cannot hide anymore behind this joker : he is more than ever responsible for whatever Ahmadinejad does.

- Ahmadinejad wins but the cleric system loses - exactly like the 2004 US elections, when Bush's victory meant the end of the GOP

This President and this system cannot go on forever together and a divorce seems ineluctable. And the more Ayatollahs stick to their suicidal posture, the nastier the separation will be.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has never looks so strong, nor Iran so weak since 1979.

Exactly as the world needs a stable and consistent Iran.

Of course, repression can succeed in the short term, but Iran may have soon to choose between the unity of the country and the survival of a regime. Right now, Ahmadinejad is compelled to enter one way or another unknown territories : even only in apparence, he must somewhat offer some positive change in the balance. And the easiest path seems on the international stage.

* see "Informed Comment" : "
Stealing the Iranian Election"

also on
blogules (V.F.)


Intelligence Supremacy

Yesterday, an 88 year old unrepented White Supremacist, James W. von Brunn, murdered a black guard at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Earlier this month, a "pro-life" fanatic murdered a doctor at his church (see '"Pro Life" Murderers').

Both crimes demonstrated the sad reality of "supremacy" : bullets over flesh, negation over facts, fundamentalism over intelligence.

In this country, John Kerry or Barack Obama have been criticized for respecting the intelligence of voters.

In this country, the First Amendment allows Nazis to parade and advertise.

In this country, creationist can call "Museum" an altar to revisionism and to the negation of science or education.

If they existed, Intelligence Supremacists would never - say - burn down that infamous Creation Museum. Instead, they would transparently and without any ounce of hatred expose the imposture, and make sure democracy prevents revisionism and hatred from spreading.

Unfortunately, US democracy has to survive in spite of a double edge sword Amendment.

Recent history proved that some form of intelligence could easily undermine even further this already fragile democracy. The time has come to use intelligence a more positive way.

I wish Supreme Court could come up some day (the earliest the better) with a really smart America v. Amerika case, waterproofing democracy for good instead of waterboarding it for ever.


State of The World Union : The Obama Doctrine

Believe it or not, we live in a multicultural and diverse world.

A world with Muslim Americans, Christian Palestinians, and Jewish Iranians. A world where a woman can lead the biggest Muslim-majority country, where a Hussein can lead America (which by the way is not a Christian country*), and where an Israeli leader is allowed to survive a few hours after signing a peace agreement with an Arab or Palestinian leader.

Barack Hussein Obama delivered his first State of the World Union address in Cairo**.

A great and powerful speech, without any surprise as far as the content was concerned. But I guess much will be said about its form, around 7 points (a number rich of symbols in all religions) :

Priority given to "violent extremism in all of its forms". In a nutshell : "We reject as false the choice between the Bush Doctrine and the Qaeda Doctrine"***. Yes, dear reader, we're definitely heading towards a Universal Declaration of Independence from Fundamentalism. And U-Turn is not an option, because "violence is a Dead End".

Second point : solving the first point will be much easier once we settle the issues between "Israelis, Palestinians and the Arab world" (note the address to the peoples, beyond the states)

Third point : North Korean and Iranian leaders must read Sun Tzu and Stan Lee. "With great powers come great responsibilities", said Uncle Ben to Peter Parker. In That One's mouth, it comes like this : uh... lllook, let's consider the "rights and responsibilities of nations on nuclear weapons".

Issue #4 : Democracy. A beautiful word, which the new POTUS doesn't want to define nor to force into other countries (leaving that to his predecessor). He does expose clear directions, though : "the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn't steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments – provided they govern with respect for all their people." The perfect message ahead of the Iranian elections, stressed by this spectacular act of contrition on behalf of the American people : "the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically-elected Iranian government". Change is coming to the CIA as well...

The 5th branch of this verbal Menorah is "religious freedom". But not as the "freedom of proselytization" envisioned by W., willing to open the gates of secular Europe to fundamentalists, cultists, and megachurch franchises... Religious freedom is first about "the ability of peoples to live together". Obama prefers "Interfaith service" to that more or less literal cut-throat competition.

Number 6 : "I am not a number, I am a free man!" And a free woman. Always keeping in mind that "women's rights" are not threatened only in the Muslim world. The US or France are lagging behind "Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead". Obama scores another big hit when he blames hastive judgements : "I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who CHOOSES to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality".

The 7th and final point can seem a trifle commercial, but "economic development and opportunity" does include education and science, and not the way intended by promoters of Intelligent Design and other creationists of all confessions. We are facing a future where, even if peace emerges soon, many generations will have no experience of it beforehand. This is about preventing a relapse to "violent extremism in all of its forms", preventing a return to square one.

A call for mutual respect wrapped up in references from the Torah, the Quran, and the New Testament. Religion never mixes well in politics but precisely, somehow, Obama managed to draw a most precious line in Egypt.

* according to the first international treaty signed by the US (Treaty of Tripoli, 1796, Art. 11.) : "the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion". That's right before the part quoted by Obama in Cairo ("the United States has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Muslims").

** see transcript (NYT 20090604)

*** If you miss the Bush-Cheney, us-vs-them mantras, there's still Osama Bin Laden :
""Antagonizing Muslims" ?!? Look who's talking, Osama"


"Antagonizing Muslims" ?!? Look who's talking, Osama

Osama Bin Laden has got a sick sense of humor : Barack Obama would be "antagonizing Muslims"... that's according to a man who killed much more Muslims than non-Muslims.

Remember this : the main targets of al Qaeda are not Americans but moderate Muslims across the world. And George W. Bush's Amerika was not an enemy but a partner, and a very efficient at that : a double imposture that fueled fundamentalism over the past few years (see "Universal Declaration of Independence From Fundamentalism").

Bin Laden speeches resonated well with a fellow fundamentalist at the helm of the US but now, they fall short. His attacks sound more unfair, less sincere than ever, and at last, the impostor is exposed.

Bin Laden is not a religious leader with consideration for coreligionists, but a selfish warlord purely motivated by hatred, on a personal crusade against himself, alienating his own allies because he is unable to build anything positive, hiding behind Zawahiri's fundamentalist rethorics to make himself believe he is fighting for a cause. Bin Laden is not submitting to Islam but to his own troubled ego. He is not defending Islam but destroying it.

Barack Obama is not a religious leader (
and he most certainly doesn't want to be that One !) but he has the qualities required for a great religious leader. Not respected because feared ; respected because respectful.

Barack Hussein Obama is not antagonizing Muslims when he says "I have Muslim members of my family. I have lived in Muslim countries".

Barack Hussein Obama is not antagonizing Muslims when he says "My job is to communicate to the American people that the Muslim world is filled with extraordinary people" (...) "My job to the Muslim world is to communicate that the Americans are not your enemy" (...) "My job is to communicate the fact that the United States has a stake in the well-being of the Muslim world, that the language we use has to be a language of respect".

President Obama doesn't act like a stubborn again Christian fundamentalist pretending to force caricatures of democracy into other countries, but as a humble leader trying to restore the core values of democracy in his own country.

Of course, Ayman al-Zawahiri can mock at Mubarak or King Abdullah, the kind of leaders who make al Qaeda's day almost everyday. But what is Zawahiri doing except reminding us what his top job consists of : "antagonizing Muslims".

And while touring the Middle-East, Obama will probably put as much pressure on the Egyptian and Arab leaders as he did on Netanyahu.

Bin Laden (or his al Qaedan impersonator) doesn't dare to flash the Palestinian card in his attacks. So he focuses on the usual new weak spots*, and pushes hard on Pakistan : "Obama and his administration have sown new seeds to increase hatred and revenge on America. The number of these seeds is equal to the number of displaced people from Swat Valley."

Not totally untrue : as everybody concedes, US bombings in Pakistan as well as civilian casualties both sides of the border, an unsettling echo of the Bush heritage, hurt the image of the country and trouble the message of its leader.

But somehow, Bin Laden is not as much planting new seeds in order to harvest future generations of terrorists as trying to secure his own old and shaky alliances with Talibans.

Osama Bin Laden is weaker than ever : USA's main target is no more a fake icon pretending to lead the Muslim world, but the very roots of fundamentalism upon which this impostor feeds and thrives. Obama means to fight poverty and unfairness, help moderate Muslims reclaim their hijacked religion, contribute to a sustainable resolution of key conflicts...

You simply can't grow in popularity by criticizing this kind of agenda.

* see "
Next stop: Pakistan"


"Pro Life" Murderers

George Tiller was murdered on Sunday. Just outside the church where he served as an usher, in Wichita, KS. Back in the nineties, this physician already survided one bombing and one shooting.

The murderer* will probably get a life sentence for this monstruous crime... Life for a "pro-lifer", because I presume that this dangerous lunatic considers himself a good Christian and a good defensor of God's creation, and that in this troubled mind, Tiller was a serial killer because he happened to perform late term abortions.

But to the contrary, "thanks" to his crazy act, Tiller died a martyr for actual faith as well as a martyr for the actual "pro-life" movement : those who chose saving one life over fanaticism, those who respect mankind and want to protect democracy from fundamentalism.

Federal law protects people like Tiller because America chose democracy over fundamentalism. His tragic death will resonate during the usual Roe v. Wade bout following Justice David Souter's retirement announcement.

Pro-choice activists will screen Judge Sonia Sotomayor as well as pro-lifers, and both should : any democracy needs transparency, and this one endured enough consequences of hidden agendas. Justice Souter's most important decision was to wait for the Bush-Cheney era to end before leaving office (see "
5-4. Still standing").

About Fundamentalist in Chief George W. Bush, I spilled this blogule a couple of days before the November 2004 Elections (see archives : "
Red Blogule to this "pro-life" President - Stem cells : who's the murderer ?"**)
Somebody tell me why this "pro-life" President, so much eager to protect life in the form of embryos, is the biggest supporter of death penalty and holds the record for executions in the US.
Somebody tell me why this man, who says every tiny cell counts, doesn't show any remorse when soldiers die because of his failures or kids are slaughtered during his massive bombings to smoke Zarkawi out before November the 2nd.
Somebody tell me why this imposteur, who dares say he defends the values that built America, should even have the slightest chance of fooling the electors once more.
He did. But American voters redeemed themselves last year.

Justice Souter will not be replaced by a radical. Nor will Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

I'm so glad Obama makes the choice. Of life.

* probably the man already charged : Scott Roeder, also from Kansas
** to complete the Pro-life trilogy, see also Pro-life / pro-death pro-teges"
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