Monday, November 03, 2014

A talk by (and chat with) the U.S. ambassador

A very good communicator with the task to defend a mixed bag of policies

In March 2007, I met the Czech ambassador to the U.S. His secretary called me to Cambridge, MA and told me that (then) Czech president Klaus wanted to meet me (and a few other global warming skeptics including Fred Singer and Pat Michaels) during a lunch in Washington D.C. It was nearly a civic duty to arrive when your president wishes so, I was told, so I bought the air ticket and wasn't sorry about it. It was my only visit to D.C. (so far?), a city I liked (and probably prefer over the Big Apple which is overcrowded to my taste).

Recall that it was one month after I translated an interview with our president about global warming that became the #1 story on for that day. That also allowed Fox News and others to run stories about a European president who questions Al Gore's sanity. One may both underestimate and overestimate the impact of such individual events but if I recall how hysterically afraid the U.S. politicians (even in the GOP) were to question the global warming dogma in early 2007, one could perhaps argue that this Czech role model was rather important for the world to get where we are today – a world with a lot of climate insanity but a world where the GOP as well as e.g. Australian politicians (including their Labor Party) find it normal to be skeptical about the climate panic. So yes, if you wanted to hear my honest opinion, I would admit that my modest contribution has already helped the world economy to save tens of billions of dollars.

But back to 2014. Today, I went to a talk at the University of Western Bohemia by the new U.S. ambassador to Czechia, Andrew Schapiro. This ex-classmate of Barack Obama from the Harvard Law School began his tenure in September, having replaced Norman Eisen. Norman Eisen was an amusing Gentleman who learned to speak some Czech but my understanding is that the internal justification for the replacement was to hire someone who is more active in promoting the current administration's policies. Schapiro's mother was a Czechoslovak Holocaust survivor so his background has links to the target country which I generally consider a plus.

The title was unsurprising for a U.S. ambassador, "Czech-U.S. relations 25 years after the Velvet Revolution". Before the talk began, I was trying to guess what he would be talking about, and given the expectation that his job is to promote certain policies, my guess was that the talk would be a juxtaposition of four main themes:
  1. Pleasing stories about the shared values of Czechia and America
  2. The need for Czechia to co-operate in the sanctions and hostilities against Russia
  3. Why it's good to support the new U.S. Middle East policies with the new focus on ISIS
  4. How America is helping Czechia to fight corruption
Too bad that I didn't write down this guess before the talk because now you may disbelieve that this is what I expected (for example, I was willing to bet that the fight against corruption would be discussed because of the recent U.S. meddling in Hungarian affairs). At any rate, after the talk, I think that the guess was spot on.

The diplomatic niceties were nice and he's good at telling them. When it comes to the content, I think that if I were the U.S. ambassador here, I would say about 90% of the same factoids as he did. You know, Pilsen was liberated by General Patton and a new memorial will be opened somewhere soon. It has been called the most pro-American city in Czechia and maybe in Europe.

Schapiro is from Chicago which also shows our shared values. For example, a formerly Czech neighborhood of Chicago is called Pilsen. The listeners – mostly students – were amused to hear that the neighborhood is mostly Mexican these days as the Czechs have moved elsewhere. Another thing we share is that almost everyone in Chicago has been corrupt – well, I do actually believe that Chicago is more corrupt than Czechia. Schapiro didn't mention Anton Čermák, the Czech American mayor who was assassinated in 1933 and saved FDR's life – because FDR was probably the planned target of the murder.

Many positive comments were directed at the late Czech ex-president Havel. A new statue of Havel or something like that will be open soon. Only a few foreign politicians got the honor to have statues in D.C., Schapiro told, mentioning Gandhi as an example. What Schapiro seemed unaware of is that this list also includes the first president of Czechoslovakia Thomas Garrigue Masaryk. I actually visited (and liked) the TGM statue in D.C. – not because it was a few meters from Gandhi's statue but because it was a few meters from my hotel!

The Czech students tend to be shy. And I am sometimes shy, too, so despite the plans, I didn't ask the first question. But there was enough silence so that I found it as a plus for the atmosphere if I ask several questions – so about 3 questions out of 10 were from your humble correspondent. Maybe they were good and maybe he's properly trained as a diplomat to say "it is a very good question" whenever the question may raise some tensions. OK, so what was these exchanges about?

If I simplify a bit, they were about
  1. our apparent "duty" to impose the sanctions on Russia against our interests (and maybe even the opinions);
  2. whether the U.S. help for anti-corruption NGOs is an example of meddling in our internal affairs;
  3. and what needs to happen for him (and other PC Americans) to start to question the widespread thesis (one that he reiterated) that the Islam and jihadism have nothing to do with each other.
I think it was helpful for him that I mentioned the words such as "political correctness" because he could quickly understand where I was approximately coming from.

By the way, I am confident that in his whole talk and answers, he was perfectly mirroring the current official U.S. administration's attitudes and policies. So if Mr Kerry or someone else is reading this blog to find out whether Schapiro is fulfilling these obligations, the answer is Yes, perfectly. ;-)

Ukraine and Russia

Concerning the sanctions, I think that most (and perhaps all) of the people who asked related questions (even if I subtract myself) tended to be against the sanctions. Schapiro seemed very happy about all the potential problems or "embarrassing economic developments" (such as the three rate hikes made by the Russian Central Bank, the falling ruble etc.).

Schapiro was effectively saying that we must hurt Russia even if we're hurt in the same way because it's so important. He reminded me of Sheldon Cooper in his exchange with Penny that was analyzing the relationship of Leonard Hofstadter to Leslie Winkle, an arrogant subpar scientist who actually believes that loop quantum gravity better unites QM and GR than does string theory!
Penny: You must know that if Leonard and Leslie want to be together, nothing you can do is going to stop it.

Sheldon: You continue to underestimate my abilities madam.

Penny: Okay, let me put it this way, if you’re really Leonard’s friend you will support him no matter who he wants to be with.

Sheldon: Wait a minute, why am I doing all the giving here? If Leonard’s really my friend, why doesn’t he have to support me in my hatred of Leslie Winkle?

Penny: Because love trumps hate.

Sheldon: Oh now you’re just making stuff up.

Penny: Okay. Goodnight Sheldon.
You know that Sheldon is right 99.9% of the time but this exchange was a point for Penny, wasn't it? In the same way, if the U.S. liked e.g. Czechia as its ally and Czechia would be hurt by our sanctions against Russia in the same way, then love should trump hate and sanctions should be agreed to be a bad idea, shouldn't they?

Several other questions were about our potentially different attitudes to the conflict. Schapiro said that he is or would be disappointed by them, and so on. But Schapiro was always talking as a diplomat, not like Joe Biden who said that the U.S. had to embarrass the EU for Europe to impose the sanctions. Instead, Schapiro would always try to describe these Czech-U.S. disagreements as decisions of allied nation in which people on both sides matter (and "equally").

Someone asked about the decreasing Czech military budget (as a percentage of GDP) in recent years. I guess that this guy wanted to copy (or amplify) all U.S. hostilities against Russia but he didn't say so. Schapiro answered something but it's pretty clear that the question whether Czechia pays 1.5% or 2% of GDP for defense isn't really a major issue that the U.S. actually cares about. The difference is 0.5% of the Czech GDP which is about 0.005% of the U.S. GDP. ;-) The main role that the U.S. wants us to play is a different one.

(He would praise some of our troops, including ones with a special training and those who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan. Of course that most of these compliments are exaggerated for a largely irrelevant military like ours. However, I think that some of the virtues are understated, too. For example, the Czech troops enjoy much more trustworthiness among the Afghani civilians than the Yankees! Also, Czechoslovakia is still a rather important "brand" in the Arab world where we were always punching above our weight.)

The ambassador would say lots of things about our nations' being close. Despite the disagreement on some issues, I still feel that even he underestimates how much true this comment is. There are some repeatable differences in the statistical distributions of various characteristics among the Czechs and the Americans. Czechs are vastly less religious (which is manifested in various related ways); they are much more egalitarian; similar to each other; and less ambitious. I could mention a few more typical features of my nation – and they can't fully be explained by communism, just to be sure.

But otherwise, if you keep these things in mind, the Czechs are very similar to some communities you may find at many places of the U.S., perhaps more similar than other European nations. After 1989, I would sometimes say that I would have preferred for Czech(oslovak)ia to join the U.S. as the 51st state over joining the EU. Of course that I wasn't "quite" serious – or I didn't think that anything of the sort was likely – but such a thing wouldn't be completely inconceivable. And if there's gonna be some new conflict between some Western European powers and the U.S., it's damn possible that Czechia will emerge as a U.S. ally again. It depends.

When some opinions prevail in Czechia that don't quite prevail in the U.S., a fair and wise American should notice something that is almost always the case: even if the dominant Czech opinion isn't held by the majority of Americans, you find significant groups of Americans – and I really mean unquestionable, full-fledged Americans – who have pretty much the same opinions. For example, Ron Paul is a 100% full-fledged American and given his very limited influence on the major parties, he can be easily marginalized.

However, you may notice that Ron Paul has certain opinions that may be shared by the majority of Czechs – and pretty much for the very same reasons. So when a U.S. administration is trying to suppress such views in Czechia, it is a very analogous type of pressure as suppressing the domestic (U.S.) opposition or disagreements.

While I am no fundamentalist who is against "meddling of any kind", I do think that this kind of meddling against political views in a different country (e.g. Czechia) that have been and still are rather strong even in your country (especially the U.S.) is something that the foreign policy simply shouldn't be doing. Other countries have the right to have different ratios of political schools and different winners in the elections! Even with different winners, you may still see that some other nations are much closer to yours than some completely different nations.

If I return to the Russian topic, Schapiro would say that the U.S. pressure to make countries like Czechia impose sanctions against Russia are not meddling because we, the Czechs, want the sanctions as well. He mentioned a poll (that I saw in the local media, indeed) that 70% of Czech companies think that the sanctions are just fine. I believe that this may be the result of some polls but its "majority is right" interpretation is very dangerous. In reality, it may mean that 70% of companies do no significant business with Russia so they are not hurt by the sanctions and they actually want the sanctions because some of their competition will be hurt! And the 30% may be those companies that are hurt – and for them, the loss is of course much more important than the "gain" for those 70%.

It's like a plan to arrest all people whose surname doesn't start with "M" and divide all their confiscated assets among the people whose surname does start with "M". Would I approve of such a plan? Maybe I wouldn't but I am afraid that most of the other M-bastards would! ;-)


When I asked him whether the U.S. support for the local anti-corruption NGOs is meddling in our internal affairs, he answered that it was no meddling because the Czech government has nothing against such a cooperation of the U.S. and the Czech NGOs. Well, it is an argument. A problem is that almost every government is simply scared to complain in a similar way.

A part of this question of mine was whether the Obama administration would allow the Czech government to support some special NGOs that are pushing the American politics in a specific direction. I didn't get any answer to that part of the question. You know, we in Czechia are used to the fact that foreign governments are more able to influence what is happening here than how much we may influence events in other countries. It's partly explained by our less-than-a-power size.

But there are other countries that are powers of a sort and where the U.S. is meddling in a similar way. I think it would be a good exercise if the U.S. officials tried to imagine how they would react if someone else were intervening in the U.S. domestic affairs in a similar way. Do they really misunderstand why e.g. Russians want to treat many NGOs according to the same laws as "foreign agents"?

Minutes before the talk started, I thought that I would ask him something like this:
Is it appropriate for you to teach Czechia about corruption if you have been one of the people who helped your ex-classmate from Harvard to become the U.S. president and who has collected millions of dollars in donations in both presidential campaigns of Barack Obama – and now you were apparently rewarded for these services by getting this rather comfortable job? ;-)
There were two reasons why the question wasn't asked in this way. First, he was just more friendly than what I was predicting. Second, by the moment when I wanted to ask, he had already preemptively listed all the data. A female student has asked him how she should organize her life to achieve similar things as he did. He answered that she shouldn't plan her life in any detail – things can't be planned in this exact way. Nice. But he also used the opportunity to say that he was never planning to become an ambassador when he was collecting millions of dollars for the Obama campaign. (He left a job of a corporate lawyer when he came here.) So it's a complete coincidence that these "millions" rhyme with the word "millions" that he is getting and will be getting for being the ambassador. Million-million: the rhyme is just a coincidence. ;-)

It may be true or not. It's impossible to reconstruct it. Some people may find it suspicious, others are OK with the coincidence. I think that such things simply have to be considered OK. In democracies, people must be allowed to help others in their campaigns; and presidents or secretaries of state must be allowed to pick ambassadors and people for other jobs. And there has to be some presumption of innocence.

On the other hand, I know very well that similar corruption-non-corruption is sometimes being criticized in Czechia as well (sometimes hysterically) – although it is obviously the very same thing that is happening in the U.S., too. Czech journalists sometimes use the term "trafika" – a newsstand or a tobacco shop, a government-controlled job that politicians get for helping other politicians in some political way (the name "trafika" goes back to the First World War, I think, when the veterans who have returned from the front were getting tobacco shops from the emperor, or something like that). Less than 2 years ago, Petr Nečas' center-right government was removed by an investigation of 3 bizarre and unrelated "potential crimes" and this "tobacco shop" corruption-non-corruption was one of them. (The other two were: a silly order by Nečas' secretary and lover – and current wife – who managed to hire a secret agency to monitor Nečas' then-wife, a silly thing relatively to the politics of the whole country and a controversial act not "directly" linked to the work of the government; and some mysterious speculative connections of this secretary of the prime minister with some businessmen accused of crimes.)

I am surely among those who think that it is utterly idiotic to criminalize such agreements – if a politician legally has the power to appoint someone to a chair, he is allowed to use this power (partly or almost completely) as a compensation for something else that the person has done for the politically desirable goals. It's just the political business-as-usual! It's a form of trade, and politics can't work without this political trade just like capitalism can't work without the commercial trade. Trade is typically good for both sides – and for the whole, too. But if someone starts to criminalize such things, sometimes even based on speculations, then I would insist that e.g. the appointment of Schapiro should be looked at equally critically! Is that too much to ask?

Middle East

When I asked him whether Islam was really independent of jihadism – and what is needed for the U.S. to learn something from the apparent mistakes (such as the removal of secular regimes in Egypt, Libya, and Syria that has made the situation in the countries worse – I was oversimplifying things a little bit), Schapiro said that almost all "mainstream" Muslim scholars denounce almost everything that ISIS is doing. Well, that's plausible.

However, one should ask whether the meaning of "Islam" is determined by this ensemble of "Muslim scholars". There are real-world scholars out there – men preaching to hundreds of millions of people in the Middle East – who know a lot about Quran and their conclusion is very different. More importantly, in the real world of the Middle East, one is facing the large populations and not scholars. And the large populations are willing to embrace jihadist values and rules of the game. I think that the evolution has shown us many times that the idea that the Middle East is full of moderate, U.S.-style Muslims is just a silly fairy-tale. In that part of the world, Islamic strategic policies and jihad are almost synonyma!

And of course, he would also defend the gap between "Islam" and "jihad" by referring to some moderate Muslims out there, namely in Turkey, Malaysia, as well as the small population of 10,000 Muslims we have in Czechia.

I know next to nothing about the life in Malaysia so I won't pretend otherwise. Malaysia may be or may not be supporting Schapiro's thesis. But concerning the other examples, they're problematic. First, Turkey has been turned into the first major quasi-secular Muslim state by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk 90 years ago. It's questionable whether Turkey of the 1920s or 1930s – or today – should really be called a "secular state". But what's important is that it's more secular than countries like Iran or the would-be country known as the Islamic State. Full-fledged Muslim officials are actually not in charge of the everyday life. And that makes a difference. It's the key difference we are talking about when we ask whether it has ever been a good idea to undermine Assad's regime in Syria, for example.

On the other hand, Turkey isn't "quite" secular. So we could see that the Kurds who live there are in some trouble. Turkey was refusing to help the Kurds who were being mass murdered by ISIS etc. – and even refusing to allow the Turkish Kurds to help the Kurds on the ISIS-harassed territories. It's no coincidence. This official anti-Kurdish attitude was due to Turkey's not being "quite" secular. When Turkey says that the Kurds are "terrorists", what the Turks really mean is that the Kurds are annoying infidels! The word "terrorist" is just a translation of "infidel" meant to ignite similar negative sentiments in other countries. But the reason why they're given these negative labels is completely different than terrorism – it's their different religious status.

Now, the Czech Muslims (0.1% of our population) seem harmless now, no doubt about it. But whether it will remain so will also depend on our attitudes. It's simply a fact that the Muslims need a smaller critical mass to start to violently convert or liquidate the "infidels". Their high percentage is a time bomb, a threat for the Western values in every European country. Even though our local experience with the Muslims is very tiny, people are well aware of the risks. And in most polls, about 98% of Czechs say that they have a problem or two with the construction of Muslim schools and similar facilities on the Czech territory. Perfect freedom for everyone is great but sustainable freedom is even better and sometimes someone's freedom has to be imperfect for the freedom of others to be sustainable.

The U.K. has much more intense problems with immigrants – Muslims are very important in the mix – and Angela Merkel just told Cameron that she is the dictator of Europe so she can assure Cameron that if he doesn't stop negotiating restrictions on the free transfer of immigrants (who are getting there from France), she – Mrs Europe – will prefer to kick the U.K. out of the EU.

Well, nothing against Angela but she is not the EU dictator so that she could speak on behalf of the whole confederation. More importantly, Cameron's efforts are just the first sign of something that will soon or later become inevitable. The current openness to immigrants coupled with their free motion across the EU will inevitably lead to an extremely bad outcome in a nearly foreseeable future. The question is what is the right way to deal with this growing problem, not whether something should be changed at all. If the EU decides that this unrestricted and unlimited growth of the Muslim immigration and similar things is an unquestionable dogma, well, then the EU will have to be liquidated, too. It's simply not a sustainable picture for the future of the European continent.

Concerning the interventions in the Middle East in general, Schapiro said that the U.S. have surely made mistakes – everyone else has made mistakes, too – but this won't make the U.S. become "isolationist" or stop making these attempts and these mistakes. That's a clearly formulated attitude, indeed, but it might be a good idea to at least consider the possibility that to stop making the same mistakes could be a better path to the future, right? Err once, err twice, and so on. :-)

In a few sentences, he would also defend some quasi-feminist clichés. A partial goal was to encourage girls to speak and interrupt men – which was partly successful. Czech women and girls are really not afraid to interrupt men. They are just less interested in similar political questions.

Schapiro said that it was his second visit to Pilsen. He had been here in 1982. Too bad he didn't tell us which communist friend would have invited him those 32 years ago and why. ;-) Update: He was a backpacking teenage tourist, of course.

But it was an interesting talk and exchange.

A parody song "C*nt here, c*nt there" based on the interview described below.

Off-topic, Czech politics: On Sunday, after 3 months, President Zeman gave a 51-minute-long interview known as "Dialogues at the Lány Chateau", from a chateau used by our presidents. These recordings have been made by T.G. Masaryk and later by Havel. He would say lots of interesting things about China, his negotiations over there, our trade with the country, the Russian questions, and so on. I don't agree with everything but it's interesting.

But most of the would-be pundits were only interested in four expletives he has used – ku*da (his translation of "pussy" in "Pussy Riot", which he mispronounced as "Puhsy"), ku*va (a bitch, a person similar to a member of the Pussy Riot), ho*no (šit, a popular word of Mr Schwarzenberg who would run against Zeman), and zkur*ený (f*cked up: that's what a party did with the bill on the State Service). It's not too many sensitive words for him in 51 minutes. This folksy approach is partly a consequence of his being directly elected - he really represents the people and that's how we often speak. In fact, the intellectuals from the Prague cafés who would like to restrict everyone else speak in this way, too.

Moreover, kids need to learn this vocabulary from the president to acquire the pre-requisites for the new Harvard course, Anal sex 101.

You may imagine that I don't care about it at all, it's refreshing even though I don't use a similar vocabulary on radio and neither did e.g. Václav Klaus. But many people went ballistic – even though their frequency of using expletives is often higher by orders of magnitude. I find it amazing how so many people love to focus on totally irrelevant details and completely ignore the whole essence. Zeman mentioned the same problem in the journalists' reaction to his choice of the aircraft to return home – after he negotiated multi-billion contracts in China; and about one film director who picked a medal at the Prague Castle in an informal athletic outfit – while the achievements of the laureates don't seem to be interesting for anyone.

Expletives heard from a president may disappoint someone but the people's obsession with trivialities is much more disappointing for your humble correspondent.


  1. Dear Lubos,

    1. I think it is safe to say that the vast majority of Muslims believe that ISIS is an American Ploy, Period. I can bet you a case of vintage Penfolds Grange!

    2. The word "Jihad" has changed meaning and purpose after 1400 years of Islam. It mostly means today to defends oneself, even then under strict rule of state readiness(by most Muslim scholars).

    3. The Kurdish politics you describe is very far from the truth. Some Kurds are part of ISIS, they belong to the Sunni sect with some minority zealots. FYI Salah Aldeen who defeated the Crusaders was Kurdish, and they are very proud of that. Turkey's problem with Kurds are secular/ethnic and not religious. The Kurds have the same problem in all the countries they live in, they feel marginalized.

  2. 1. Fine, it's a silly conspiracy theory. If most Muslims believe such stupid - and offensive - conspiracy theories, it's just another piece of evidence that Islam as such, and not just some "minor forms" of it, is harmful and pathological.

    2. That's just fog. The word "jihad" has always been questionable and potentially ambiguous but the distribution of its possible meanings has *not* changed in 1,400 years because Islam hasn't undergone any significant evolution.

    3. The very fact that you have to go to crusades to find a Kurdish guy who was a combative Muslims shows how incredibly weak the case is. Kurds are not being harassed in every nation where they live. For example, they are not being harassed here in Pilsen where lots of Kurds studied at the very same University of Western Bohemia. They are being harassed in the Middle East because all the countries around them are much more strongly Islamic than the Kurds are, and this agreement is more or less enough for me to see that it's the Islam, and not the Kurds, who are the source of the problem.

  3. We certainly have made mistakes in the Middle East. We were largely responsible for the anarchy in Anbar Province (and elsewhere) by disenfranchising Iraq's Sunnis in 2003 and we have contributed significantly to the anarchy in Syria. The rise of ISIS and its military successes are partly a result of the lack of stability resulting from these errors. The availability of skilled, out-of-work Baathist commanders has also helped ISIS to field a remarkably effective military force.
    It should also be pointed out that Turkey’s own Kurds have been a big problem in that country since its beginning. It is not politically easy for Turkey’s government to support Kurds, no matter how desirable that may be.
    From a longer term perspective, our increasing energy independence will make the entire Middle East of less interest to the US in future years. That, I think, is a very good thing. Needless to say, I am a big supporter of fracking and the Keystone pipeline.
    With their increasing energy requirements, China and India will find the Middle East to be of increasing importance in the years to come. The resulting dynamics of that situation are not yet clear.

  4. Will you offer me a case of Penfold’s Grange if I offer a case of George de la Tour?

  5. Dear Lubos, I think you misunderstood some of my statements, let me explain.

    1. Of course that is somewhat conspiratorial thinking. But my point was that people don't believe in their ideology, tactic, purpose .... etc.

    2. Islam for sure spread by force in the first hundred years, there is no doubt whatsoever about that. But many, many events have happened since. The Islamic empire has been destroyed ever since the Mongolian invasion in 13th century. Since then Islam has spread more on the basis of trade, local rulers converting to Islam and so on. Only the Ottoman empire expanded aggressively and that was purely on a "nationalistic" ground. Since 1500 the Muslim world has been on the receiving end. The Europeans super aggressive invasions, colonization of Muslim AND none Muslim worlds has been a fact of life ever since, so Europeans should not pretend to be holier than thou.

    3. I meant to say that the Kurdish people marginalized in the areas of their native land, I myself from a minority and I know how it feels to be marginalized. True our countries have not learned how to build a truly secular states. That is a disease that you find a lot in third world countries, and even in advanced nations( your own history is full of that), it has little to do with religion. Especially like I said the Kurds are Sunnis, in a largely Sunni world, they are very well respected only in that sense.

  6. I agree with you mostly.

  7. sure, if it is from a good year!

  8. "A part of this question of mine was whether the Obama administration would allow the Czech government to support some special NGOs that are pushing the American politics in a specific direction."

    Only Israel is allowed to do that.
    As for the rest, you know who's the boss so why even ask.

  9. "Since 1500 the Muslim world has been on the receiving end."

    Vienna 1683 — so those fun-loving 'nationalistic' ottomans were just out on an away-day trip then, were they? And neither were they real muslims imbued with the holy revelations and injunctions of the religion of peace? Or if they were, it was a pure fluke? Right?

    No desire today for a reconquest of Spain and Portugal? No desire for a conquest of England by any muslimes here, and no such preaching in mosques here ... no world-domination imperative? The whole world isn't allah and his gang's for the taking? Those promulgating such notions aren't real™ muslimes? No islamic scholar (an oxymoron if there ever was one) would ever countenance such things?

    It amazes me liar Bliar never converted to the creed. It would suit him to a T.

    A Latter-day Wake-Up West Side Story. Some suggested lyrics:

    Taqiyya . . .
    The worst dissembling crap I ever heard:
    Taqiyya, taqiyya, taqiyya, taqiyya . . .
    All those hideous damned lies wrapped up in a single word . . .
    Taqiyya, taqiyya, taqiyya, taqiyya . . .
    I've just heard total šit — Taqiyya,
    And suddenly that word
    Is synonymous with turd
    To me . . .

    Fanatics the lot given half a chance. The West should send them ALL back — NOW!

  10. I disagree with the second part. It relies on the common and widespread perception that Americans are in ME only because of the oil.
    Nowadays, every waitress in some cafeteria in some EU country can tell you that. Yes, women are getting smarter. Widespread, except in the US, otherwise at least half of the US population would be laughing at the very term "Iraqi Freedom". Even waitresses. They weren't and aren't. The other two most important reasons are: 1) Military Industrial Complex or MIC and 2) Israel.

  11. Oil is not the only thing but it is pretty important. Unfortunately, our interests are seen through the looking-glass of politics. Public attitudes actually determine US actions and these frequently are not in our best interest as. Such is the problem with our democratic system. As always, the public is not very informed nor is it astute. But I do not know of a better system.
    "Iraqi Freedom" is asinine, of course.

  12. If it's not a good year there is no George de la Tour.

  13. I don't think that Israel's government is meddling in this way, or that it would be tolerated to do so.

  14. Dear Gene, I don't know how relatively important the ME oil is in the U.S. decisions on the region. But wouldn't you agree that killing thousands of people and starting civil wars with the goal of having cheap access to oil in a different country is immoral?

  15. If cheap oil from Iraq were that important, today Iraq would be our main supplier and they would be selling it to its new, best friends at better prices than anybody else. Instead, in last 6 years we cut oil imports from Iraq by half and increased imports from Canada by almost 100%. We import from Venezuela twice as much as from Iraq and from Colombia about the same amount. Invading the latter two countries would have been much, much easier.

  16. Israel had little to do with it?
    Then, who was supposed to be the primary target of those never-found WMDs? Mormons? Amish? Your neighbors? French? French didn't buy it, that's why we got Freedom Fries.

  17. John,

    First,Ottoman empire consisted of Turkish people, they had hostilities with the Persian side. Moreover, they were considered by many Arabs as Occupiers. That is why the Arabs collaborated with you(English) to defeat the Turks in WWI, only to be stabbed in the back with Sykes–Picot Agreement and not to mention what happened to Palestine .

    Second, Spain, Portugal and Greece(you can buy a whole island) they were up for sale at half price, you can buy some real estate for little money and you get permanent residency (you can Google to check their program). However, most rich Arabs(not even counting Muslims) who are in the millions will not touch those countries, they prefer to invest in other "cooler" European countries because of weather or Dubai( where the prices keep sky rocketing) or many other countries in the world. I have a summer house in Devon France near Geneva. Dear John, I keep telling you the world has changed, you are living in the past.

    Third, I am from the Shi'a Islamic sect and the word Takkiya is invented by us and not the Sunni majority because of the severe persecution by the Sunnis over the centuries. Actually these days of internet and revival of the sectarian hatred they use the word against us to shame us. So the word does not belong to Muslims as a whole, got it.

    Fourth, I hope your discussions become more intellectual type so that I may understand your points better, thanks.

  18. My dear QSA,

    "Dear John, I keep telling you the world has changed..."

    Really? When did you tell me that?

    And then: "I hope your discussions become more intellectual type..."

    Leading by example, are you: "the world has changed"? :)

    On style: "... you are living in the past."

    You forgot to add the need to "move on".

    But never mind all that, moving on...

    "... the word Takkiya is invented by us and not the Sunni majority.... So the word does not belong to Muslims as a whole, got it."

    I have now. Thanks. So only Shias lie "by the book" then? No "lying low" (both senses) until islam's forces are sufficiently gathered to ensure victory over the infidel? Meanwhile did you like my song? Snappy, isn't it?

    Incidentally, I have no more interest in the doctrinal differences between your various sects than muslims do in those of Christendom. In fact, I can make a sharper claim: I have no interest at all in either.

    Now, I see you like to put up a lot of smoke—about rich arabs, their investments ... yadda yadda blah blah blah—but avoid responding to the central issue embodied in my questions. So let me try this simple one on you:

    Do you see any potential for civilisational conflict between the West and the muslime world in terms of the values and beliefs each holds? To be clear, and in an attempt avoid any further hair-splitting fog, please take the following identities as broadly definitional: West = secular; muslime world = islam.

    In particular, and for example, if Christians—or Druids for that matter—living in majority muslime lands wish to erect a church or temple, then any problems they encounter in doing so, or indeed any restrictions placed on them in practising their faith, have nothing whatsoever to do with the teachings of islam; that such impediments, if they exist, are a purely secular perversion in origin — is that correct?

    Also in particular and for example, are muslimes free to convert to other faiths or none, or is it true that the mandatory penalty under islam for apostasy is death?

    There, I hope that lifts things onto a sufficiently high intellectual plane for you, though what islam and "the intellectual" have to do with each other beats me.

    Final point: you won't find me defending (but much less apologising for) the undeniable problems Western imperial powers have caused in the past in places like the middle east and india, day, with their divisions of territories etc, and other things. The breed responsible for those is the same breed that has been pissing up our backs here too, all down centuries. They're still at it, this time with a real vengeance — they're swamping the place with out and out fucking hideous aliens. Believe you me, I'd like to see an end to them and their doings.

    Finally finally: you didn't mention whether you had indoor plumbing. A curious omission.

  19. I admit I used a bit harsh expressions, but nowhere near your street talk. However, I do apologize.

    I answered you in a point by point in a straightforward manner. If Muslims wanted Spain they can buy and settle there. First you throw words around, like Takkiya and when I explain it to you, then you put on it your spin and then you say I don't care. Then you say smoke and fog.

    I just assumed that many of the issues you raised I have already clarified in the earlier long thread about ISIS, but it seems you have not been going through the thread attentively.

    I will answer one more time. The Christians and Jews have a special status in Islam since it considers them from the same God. ME is the origin of these two religions and many of the oldest churches are in northern part with very large population(they are the main supporters of Assad), not to mention Egypt's 10% christian. And they are almost ALL Arabs.

    As for apostasy, I said before over 40% (my guess) don't care that much for religion, any religion, so for all practical purposes it does not affect the society by and large. And the laws on paper and in spirit do exist to provide some harmony in the society because of the history. Not unlike Holocaust deniers laws. Also, for example, the Mcarthiasm in united states.

    I also said I personally do not wish to see these laws.

    FYI, I went to Greenville college Illinois(Free Methodists) where alcohol and tobacco were forbidden in the 30 miles radius, we had to go to church every morning, second offence you were out.

    I can criticize your society( I got my Master from U. Sussex, my land lady's son committed suicide), and you can criticize mine and myself I hate the way my society functions, But to consider all these people are villains, savages .. etc like when the whites invaded north America and stigmatized the locals to justify their own savagery , is immoral and a clear violation of decency.

    Otherwise this extreme, ugly Xenophobia is not worthy of your intellect if you profess one.

  20. uh...who might have been potential targets of husseins WMDs? Maybe the people who were previously targeted by hussein...just saying, if he gassed the marsh arabs, and used chemical weapons and nerve gas against the iranians, a reasonable person MIGHT entertain the thought that he might do the same thing again, to the same people... But you're far too smart for, according to you, the israelis, who BTW managed to bomb hussein's nuclear program back to the stone age all on their own, are behind the US move into iraq.
    Are you investing in cold fusion too?

  21. I see. We spent billions all to protect Marsh Arabs and Iranians. Learn a new thing every day.

  22. its nice how you avoid the point I made.....sad really.
    we sold hussein WMDs...we gave him satellite data to help him kill iranians with them...why would you expect him to use them against israel, when all he ever did was use them against his own citizens, kurds or iranians?
    You pondered who the targets of hussein's WMDs might be...I pointed out the most probable targets would be the people he used them against previously.
    Good job ignoring that.
    if the israeli government didn't need our help to bomb his country's nuclear reactor back in the 80's why now?
    Merely because we didn't invade iraq to protect the marsh arabs doesn't imply that we went in to protect israel(never my point BTW, but nice attempt to dissemble on your part).
    you think there might be other motivations behind bush's policy?
    But no, you're smarter than everyone else in the room. only you and your ilk are sharp enough to smell out israel's plot against hussein...
    you're really quite sad.