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November 07, 2007

Between a rock and a hard place in Pakistan

For the past couple of days I've been trying to work out what I feel about what's happening in Pakistan. Despite Musharraf's claims that the martial law he's declared is to fight Islamist extremists, it's pretty clear the ultimate goal is to hold on to power. The elections in January weren't looking good for him, so he's decided (or will decide, actually) to postpone them. He's a dictator. He should go.

Yeeeaaaahhhh... but...

Pakistan is a tinderbox. The democratic institutions there are pretty weak already, and they operate only because the military allows them to. The country has been invaded by Wahhabi massadras that have introduced large parts of the population to the pleasures of paranoia and fanaticism. The military is infested with Islamist sympathizers who -- so far, anyways -- have been held in check by Musharraf. If Benazir Bhutto got into power, the country would explode.

Maybe. Or maybe it's going to happen anyway. I dunno.

Most of the world's press has come down against Musharraf, so you've probably heard that side of the argument. But David Warren dares to argue for him, so have a listen to the other side.

July 23, 2007

Cruel and unusual

Forget Guantanamo Bay, in the Philippines they really know how to torture their inmates: they make them participate in reenactments of Michael Jackson videos. Do not watch this if you're faint of heart...

UPDATE: Additional warning: you may not be able to get that wretched song out of your head. Always proceed with caution when dealing with Michael Jackson songs.

July 13, 2007

The last time the Americans abandoned their allies

From Wikipedia:

In Vietnam, the new communist government sent many people who supported the old government in the South to "re-education camps", and others to "new economic zones." An estimated 1 million people were imprisoned without formal charges or trials. 165,000 people died in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam's re-education camps, according to published academic studies in the United States and Europe. Thousands were abused or tortured: their hands and legs shackled in painful positions for months, their skin slashed by bamboo canes studded with thorns, their veins injected with poisonous chemicals, their spirits broken with stories about relatives being killed. These factors, coupled with poverty, caused millions of Vietnamese to flee the country.
Given the nature of the various terrorist groups in Iraq, it's safe to bet that the carnage after an American retreat there would be even worse. Whatever brutal regime finally emerges after the inevitable devastating civil war would take revenge on their enemies in a most bloody fashion. Refugees would flood the Middle East, most winding up in permanent camps similar to those of the Palestinians. Possibly millions would die.

Whatever your thoughts on the wisdom of the original invasion of Iraq, it should be clear that retreat now by the Americans would be a disaster. And not just for Iraq, but for America and the world. I think everyone knows this -- including the opportunistic politicians now leading the charge for withdrawal -- but they are unable politically support a cause that the hated George Bush has staked everything on. This is madness, childish madness, and unless the politicians, the media, and the public grow up a lot of people are going to die.

But maybe it won't be so bad. After all, like in Vietnam, the press will be driven out of Iraq and no longer will there be death tolls reported daily on the news. There may be a few video clips smuggled out, a couple of rumours of atrocities trickling across the internet, but those can (and will) be ignored by the media. It will be up to the scholars a decade or so into the future to figure out the final toll for an article in their obscure journals.

July 11, 2007

Uses for the Multitudians

In Stanislaw Lem's book, The Cyberiad, Trurl was offered a few hundred thousand slaves by the King of the Multitudians in exchange for his services. When Trurl refused, the King told him of the many wonderful things you could do with so many slaves.

You can, for example, dress them in robes of different colours and have them stand in a great square to form a living mosaic, or signs providing sentiments for every occasion
Some South Koreans working at Samsung have made this vision a reality. It's as creepy as it sounds:

Expect to see something like this at the Beijing Olympics.

October 02, 2006

Progress in Afghanistan

A new poll suggests that a majority of Canadians now feel Afghanistan is a lost cause. Based on the way conditions there are reported in the news, I'm not surprised. But huge progress has been made in the country over the past five years, and it's worth protecting. Shere Khan at Dust My Broom has collected some information about the changes and a few stories from the Afghans that have benefited. It's useful stuff to remember as the Canadian media starts to drift into the default defeatist mode of their American and British counterparts.

September 13, 2006

North Korea is teetering

Via The Corner, I found this very informative pdf on current conditions in North Korea. It paints a very believable picture of a Stalinist state rotting from below. I think most people's perception of North Korea is that it is a perfect totalitarian state, ruthlessly efficient (in it's ruthlessness, not in actually producing anything) and in complete control of its dispirited population. But in reality, the machinery of state is now a sham, and most of the economy -- as well as the culture -- moves through unofficial channels. This transformation was underway for some time, but the famine in the late '90s accelerated it. People were forced to become illegal entrepeneurs -- just to survive. Those true believers who depended on the state to feed them... died.

In such a situation, the ability and willingness to engage in private business
became a major guarantee of one’s physical survival. As one local observer described the situation in post-famine North Korea: "Those who could not trade are long dead, and we are only left with survivors hanging around
now."
Small 'garden plots' are seen all over North Korea now. I'm sure the food is organic and the methods used are very sustainable -- I wonder when David Suzuki will head over there to make a documentary about this 'revolution'.

July 07, 2006

The nicer parts of Hell

It's not often you get a glimpse of the most paranoid state in the world. Check out this message board for dozens of revealing photos taken secretly by a Russian on a tour of North Korea.

(via Vodkapundit)