CIA’s War

Josh Marshall quotes the Nelson Report about war between the CIA and the administration.

and the war has just begun, intelligence community sources warn. The Iraq/Niger debacle is but one of “a whole series of stories which are ready to break”, a source told us today, adding, “I’ve never seen such hostility and disdain as now being expressed between the White House and the CIA. Never…”

Much as I don’t like the Bush administration’s policies and especially methods, I think this is bad. We need to make sure that the intelligence agencies don’t declare a media war on the necons in the Bush administration. Not by supporting the administration’s ideas, but by opposing them in the arena of politics and public opinion.

Intelligence agencies are by their nature very secretive organizations which do some of the dirty intelligence stuff that needs to be done. They do need to do their intelligence work free of political interference, but embarassing the government or getting it to agree with them is not part of their job.

Like Max Sawicky, I am not a fan of the CIA and I do believe that the administration was wrong. But it should not be the CIA which proves it wrong in the media. That job should be Congress’s.

Boring Porn

I can understand the woman’s reaction, but what kind of porn puts a man to sleep?

Pakistan and Afghanistan

This random rant is brought to you courtesy of Tacitus:

Pakistan itself, meanwhile, is happily engaging in its national pasttime of effectively ignoring its extremists and conducting small-scale aggression against its neighbors. Is Islamabad an ally? I guess if Riyadh is, sure. And I deserved to get hit, because he works hard and I didn’t have dinner ready.

Ally? Who says Pakistan is an ally or friend! Doesn’t Tacitus remember the idea of states having interests and not friends? Was it Washington or Jefferson who said that? We have an interest in Pakistan helping us with Al-Qaeda and Taliban, but we should not delude ourselves into thinking that other countries will act according to our will in this or other matters. They will look towards their national interest. They will do some of our bidding because let’s face it we are big and rich. The Pakistanis will do whatever they think is in their interest and that’s ok by me even if their interests don’t match with ours.

Also remember that the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is not properly marked. According to the Washington Post,

“This is a dotted-line border,” the ambassador said. “It has not really been demarcated. So what happens is that the soldiers, not knowing where the exact border would lie, they trespass into Afghanistan territory or Pakistan territory by 100 meters or 200 meters for a better location. These things happen.”

Some Western diplomats, however, accuse Pakistan of using the international battle against terrorism as cover to assert territorial claims over its impoverished neighbor by establishing military outposts.

Let us remember what was happening in the same border areas last year.

U.S. military authorities announced today that a brief shootout erupted between U.S. and Pakistani troops along the Afghan border Sunday, prompting the U.S. forces to call in an F-16 warplane that dropped a 500-pound bomb on the Pakistanis to end the clash.

[…]Reports from Pakistani officials in South Waziristan, the tribal administrative zone on the Pakistani side of the border, said at least two members of the Pakistani Border Scouts were killed in the bombing, which they said hit a Muslim religious school on the Pakistani side of the border in which some of the Border Scouts had taken refuge.

[…]Details of Sunday’s shooting and the subsequent bombing remained unclear —- including exactly where it happened. A U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Steve Clutter, said the incident occurred in a “gray area” between Pakistan and Afghanistan along the Durand Line, which was defined in the 19th century by the British and is often disputed or ignored by both sides. A Pentagon official said, however, that the military believes both the shooting and the bombing took place inside Afghanistan.

Seems like we never can agree which side of the border things happen over there! The reason seems to be the Durand line. It is a mostly unmarked 2,430km (1,510 miles) long arid mountainous border which is named after Sir Mortimer Durand who basically forced Abdur Rahman Khan, amir of Afghanistan, to agree on the border in 1893. It basically divided the Pashtun tribal areas into half as a sort of buffer between Afghanistan and British India.

Afghanistan did not like the Durand line and was in fact the only state to vote against Pakistan’s admission to the UN in 1947 because of the border dispute. The original agreement was for 100 years and Pakistani efforts in 1996 to get the Taliban to agree on the Durand line as a permanent border were not fruitful.

And if you think that Pakistan is always meddling in Afghan affairs, here’s some news for you: It didn’t start that way. Afghanistan had a claim on the Pashtun areas of FATA, NWFP and Baluchistan from the beginning. There used to be this idea called Pashtunistan (or Pakhtunistan), an independent state for all the Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Nationalist Pashtuns and the Afghan government wanted the Pashtun-dominated areas of Pakistan to secede. Now no government likes that irrespective of the validity or otherwise of the claims of parties trying to secede. Afganistan’s government, especially under the Prime Ministership of Sardar Daud (who later overthrew his cousin King Zahir Shah in 1973), helped the Pakhtunistan cause quite diligently.

Prime Minister Daud Khan (1953—63) took a stronger line on Pashtunistan, and, to the surprise of many, turned to the Soviet Union for economic and military assistance.

The Pashtunistan issue precipitated Daud Khan’s downfall. In retaliation for Afghan agitation, Pakistan closed the border with Afghanistan in August 1961. Its prolonged closure led Afghanistan to depend increasingly on the Soviet Union for trade and in-transit facilities. To reverse the trend, Daud Khan resigned in March 1963, and the border was reopened in May.

Pakistani interference started after Sardar Daud overthrew King Zahir Shah in 1973 and increased quite a lot when Daud was overthrown by People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) in 1978. The Soviets invaded in 1979 and the rest is history.

As I said, this is just a rant against the simplified view of history and international relations that conservatives generally have. I don’t have any clue why the Pakistani army is wandering in the border area since it has never really controlled the tribal areas of Pakistan. One guess is that they see this as a chance to assert army and federal authority over the fiercely independent tribes in FATA.

Also, I have long criticized the Pakistani army doctrine of “strategic depth” which calls for a friendly or client Afghan state to get some depth in a war with India. That is a crazy idea and can only lead to problems with Afghanistan.

X2 and T3

This was the weekend of sequels and single letters.

We finally watched X2. It’s good; in fact, it’s better than the first one. But you definitely should have seen X-men before watching X2. There is not much character development and screen time is divided almost equally. Definitely one of my favorite comic book movies.

We did not have high expectations for Terminator 3, but having watched Terminator as a teenager it was absolutely necessary to keep up with the story. It does seem like they want to make another couple of sequels. Lots of action and not a bad movie overall. I think low expectations definitely helped as well.

Comments Imported

You might have noticed that the “Most Comments” on the sidebar have changed drastically since yesterday. That is because I was finally able to import all my Haloscan comments.

Gabriel Misura has written the Perl code required to import comments from Haloscan. It works like a charm except that the email addresses get a bit funky in the process.

Here is the link for the plug-in and here are some instructions I wrote for it.

After importing the comments, I needed to fix the email addresses of the imported comments since I use the CommentLeaders plugin for counting the number of comments my readers have made. For that purpose, I used phpMyAdmin and Kristine’s wonderful tips for mySQL.

Thank you very much, Gabe.

I Don’t Speak Muslim!

On CNN’s Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, Senator John Kerry had this to say:

“And I believe the obligation of the United States government, of the president is to rapidly internationalize the effort in Iraq, get the target off of American troops, bring other people, particularly Muslim-speaking and Arabic-speaking Muslim troops, into the region, help us diffuse the sense of American occupation, and rapidly transfer power to the Iraqis.”

Do you speak Muslim? I don’t.

May be we should give the task of finding some Muslim-speaking troops to Senator Kerry. If he succeeds, we give him the Presidency!

Via Al-Muhajabah and Muslim Wakeup.

Israel and Pakistan – A Report

Google is great; it’s amazing what you can find while looking through your referral logs. I have gotten quite a few visits who were searching for Israel and Pakistan. My post about Pakistani recognition of Israel is #5 on Google. While looking through the search results, I noticed a report Beyond the Veil: Israel-Pakistan Relations by P.R. Kumaraswamy which was published by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. It was published in March 2000 before the Al-Aqsa intifada.

Israel has been more interested in normalization than Pakistan. Even though Pakistan is not a “vital” area for Israel, one cannot underestimate its importance in the Islamic world. Since 1948, Israel has been eager to intensify and upgrade contacts and dialogues, but the nature, depth and content of such contacts were determined by the reluctant other: Pakistan. The latter has been reacting and responding to Israeli overtures. While Israel might take the initiative, the outcomes rest on Pakistan.

Kumaraswamy starts out by discussing some similarities between Israel and Pakistan.

Notwithstanding these differences, however, both states share a certain common historical legacy and the contours of state-building. They both suffer from internal strife and divisions. As states created with the explicit purpose of safeguarding the political rights of religious minorities, the Zionist and Pakistani struggles for independence reflect some similar political traits and approaches. Some of the problems they faced in nation-building were also similar.

In both cases, the question of nationhood was strongly influenced by religion; yet those who led the struggle were anything but religious. Neither Mohammed Ali Jinnah, the architect of Pakistan, nor David Ben-Gurion visualized the creation of theocratic entities.

[…]These are not the only similarities between Israel and Pakistan. Since their establishment, both countries have been haunted by an existential threat and have struggled for acceptance by their regional neighbor/s. It is no coincidence that the security establishment plays a pivotal rule in both countries; in one case as an effective vehicle for national unity and cohesion and in another as the ultimate arbitrator in the national power struggle. While the degree of external threat differs, both countries had genuine fears about their acceptance by the majority from which they broke away.

[…]Unlike their rivals (India and the Arab countries respectively) they pursued a realistic foreign policy devoid of idealism and rhetoric. At the time of their independence, both tried to pursue a non-aligned foreign policy that sought friendly relations with the rival blocs of the Cold War. A host of regional developments curtailed their options, however. Very soon, both were firmly entrenched in the Western camp and emerged as principal allies, and at times proxies, of Washington in the region.

Here are his conclusions on normalization of relations between the two countries:

The absence of formal diplomatic relations has not inhibited Israel and Pakistan from maintaining regular contacts, dialogues and meetings. On numerous occasions, they have adopted identical positions on important developments in the Middle East. Furthermore, they have worked out limited understandings on sensitive security issues, including the nuclear question. Although Pakistan has been reluctant to agree to the persistent Israeli suggestions that full and formal relations be established, normalization is no longer a taboo subject and has been widely discussed by the Pakistani media. The question is when and not if. A comprehensive Middle East settlement, especially with the Palestinians, would significantly modify Pakistan?s position. Nevertheless, ideological and Islamic considerations might prevent Pakistan from agreeing to full normalization.

Whenever Pakistan recognizes and establishes relations with Israel, it will not be the first Islamic country to do so. Since it has no direct disputes with Israel, Pakistan is not under any compulsion to seek a “cold peace” with Israel, and therefore has several options to choose from.

  • The Turkish model: Pakistan can recognize Israel without establishing diplomatic relations immediately.
  • The Iranian model: It can follow the precedent set by the Shah of Iran and recognize the Jewish state, but maintain its relationship under wraps.
  • The Jordanian model: It can imitate the Jordanians and maintain close political as well as military relations with the Jewish state without granting any official recognition.
  • The Chinese model: It can adopt the Chinese example and view military contacts as a means of promoting political relations.

At least in the foreseeable future, the political status of the relationship is likely to be tentative. While maintaining and even intensifying political contacts in private, both Israel and Pakistan will probably be extremely reluctant to discuss the nature and intensity of their contacts and relationship in public.

In my opinion, Pakistan would like to go the Chinese model route, but Israel is not willing especially since it has good relations with India now. That is why Israel is dangling the prospect of neutrality in India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir if Pakistan proceeds towards establishing relations.

Next: Some details of the history of Pakistani involvement in the Arab-Israeli dispute and contacts between Israel and Pakistan.

Yellowcake and Moussaoui

No, I am not trying to link the two. These are the big news in recent days. I thought about blogging about them, but I don’t have anything original to say and lots of bloggers have already posted about it.

The blog central for information on the Bush claim that Iraq was trying to get uranium from Africa is Josh Marshall. Here is his latest entry, but he has been covering this for some time now and has lots of good posts.

In the Moussaoui case, the Justice Department has decided to defy the court and not let Moussaoui interview Bin Al-Shibh. I have no sympathy with Al-Qaeda member Zacharias Moussaoui (despite our similar first names) but the court system must be respected. Lots of bloggers have pitched in with their thoughts about this development.

Honda Civic R.I.P.

Amber’s car was in the workshop since her accident. Now, we have found out that the frame of the car is damaged and our insurance is declaring the car a total loss. I am surprised since the airbags did not deploy. So I thought she was not going fast.

We bought the silver 1999 Honda Civic LX sedan in May 1999. It was the first reasonable car we bought (the other one being a very old and cheap car). It was also the first car Amber drove. It stayed in Atlanta for a month before we moved to New Jersey. Amber kept the car when I moved back to school and considered it as her baby. We have had some good trips in the northeast in this car (our cross-country trips have been in my car).

Now, it’s gone! It’s a big deal for Amber since this was her first car.

Since Amber does need a car for her commute and we are not in a position to buy another car at this point in time, I think I’ll leave mine with her at the end of the semester. I can make do without a car at school.

Photography Related Questions

  1. Is it possible to have the thumbnail show up on the main page and monthly and category archives (with the full-sized image available as a pop-up by clicking on the thumbnail) but have a full-sized image on the individual entry archive? I could put the full-sized image in the Extended Entry part, but then both the thumbnail and full-sized image will show up on the individual entry page.
  2. This is the first time I have used the film scanner at school. It does 4000dpi, but they don’t have any blower etc. to clean the negatives before loading, so there are lots of particles and even some fingerprints on the scanned images. How should I clean the negative strips and should I do it immediately before loading? I need tips, people (PhotoDude, are you reading?)
  3. When scanning negatives, is it worth it to play with the curves, noise reduction, multi-sampling etc. in the capture software or should I capture the image and do everything later in Photoshop?
  4. Is it normal to have a noisy image at the 6000 × 4000 resolution?