Noori Al-Maliki: best goalkeeper 2008

Al-Baghdadya TV journalist Montathar Al-Zidi threw a pair of shoes at President Georges W. Bush at a press conference in Baghdad today. The aljazeera.net readers have made about 5000 comments on the news on the web site, mostly approving of what the journalist did.

I did not post a comment on the article, but I would have approved of Montathar's action had I commented. However, on a second thought I tend to pity Georges W. Bush for what he got himself into after years of random destruction.

Full video here


Teeless cisco.com

On Thursday 25 September 2008, a coworker noticed that the cisco.com web site was not rendering correctly:

On closer inspection, I noticed that all the "t" letters were removed from the HTML document. As you can see on the shot above, the style sheet did not load for instance because the statements "stylesheet" and "text/css" lost their t's.

I'm speculating that someone in the web development team decided to "clean up" the pages from tab characters and wanted to ran something like:

$ sed 's/\t//g'

.. but ended up forgetting to quote the "t" or maybe, influenced by web scripting languages, ended up double quoting it.



I kept quiet for about two years, but a recent ban on the Hizbollah military arm by the UK government "forced" me to scribble a few words in this post.

As a young boy, my knowledge of Hizbollah was close to non existent. At the time, news reports in Tunisia were putting Hizbollah under a neutral light, so to me, it was just another Lebanese faction of the so many I could not distinguish.

I spent several years trying to educate myself about Hizbollah and I came to the conclusion that it's one of the best organised and disciplined groups I can think of. Most importantly, the popularity of Hizbollah leadership in the Arab and Muslim world is hard to describe in words. For instance, the average western reader would probably find it surprising that even Hayfa Wahbe is an admirer of Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbollah's Secretary General. Now, Hayfa Wahbe (هيفاء وهبي) is the female sex symbol of the Arab world, and on top of that, she's Christian. One would wonder, why such an entertainment figure would voice admiration in public to the head of a supposedly fundamentalist, violent Islamic organisation?

Another example is George Kurdahi (جورج قرداحي), a Lebanese Christian popular media figure (and a lot more respected than Hayfa in my opinion). Kurdahi has made very praising and supportive statement about Hizbollah.

Julia Butrous, yet another Christian Lebanese singer, has done even better: she released a song called Ahibba'i (أحبائي) which is a very elegant praise for Hizbollah, it calls the fighters "builders of civilisation", "a revival of values", "the glory of our nation" and "with you, we'll change the World and make fate hear our voice". To emphasis the irrelevance of Hizbollah's faith in the wider struggle with "Israel", Julia dressed in a black long dress, usually worn by Shiia women.

For the wider arab and muslim public, Nasrallah was a honest, brave, wise and most importantly, a religious figure who laughed and told jokes; Bin Laden was someone who did stand against the American domination, but his leadership and ideology was an embarrassement to the Islamic World. Hence, the emergence of Nasrallah was a God-send event which made millions of people proud, minus the embarrassement.

In the France 5 documentary referenced below, a very religious Christian lady finds that "[Hizbollah] are honest, very honest". Hassan Nasrallah's own son, Hedi Nasrallah, was a Hizbollah fighter himself and was killed in confrontations with "Israel" when it used to occupy Southern Lebanon.

Hizbollah signed a memorandum of understanding with the Courant Patriotique Libre (Al Tayyar Al Watani Al Hurr - التيار الوطني الحر) which represents the Christian majority in Lebanon. The Tayyar is headed by General Michel Aoun, a former head of the Lebanese Army. The question that would come into the mind of the average American reader is: Why would a supposedly fanatic, violent Islamic group take a group of "infidels" for partners? and, even more stunning, why are those Christians admiring the group so much?

When "Israel" was forced to retreat from Southern Lebanon, Hizbollah did not seek revenge from the South Lebanon Army who collaborated with the "Israelis" throughout the occupation of the South. This collaboration resulted in continuous imprisonment and torture of their peer Lebanese, so not seeking revenge was a significant self restraint. Not only that, but in the memorandum of understanding with the Tayyar, Hizbollah officially committed to allow the return and not to seek revenge from the South Lebanon Army members who had to seek refuge in "Israel" after the liberation of the South.

Nasrallah has gained even more respect in the region when he expressed admiration to the very "Israeli" administration he's fighting where it did deserve credit.

Despite all of the above praise, I was not surprised when I found out that the US administration reporters were calling Hizbollah a "terrorist organisation". Robert Fisk explained this quite simply:
"Once you put the Middle East through the filter of the very gutless and cowardly reporting of the [US] journalists, it filters out into what the White House wants or the Pentagon wants or the State Department wants or the Republican Party wants or whatever. I can open, as I did this morning, the New York Times here (..) and its coverage of the Middle East is absolutely, for me, incomprehensible. It's so frightened of telling the truth (..). When you have this diminution of the semantics of this great tragedy as you do in the American press where anyone who opposes the United States power or opposes Israel becomes a terrorist, you're no longer dealing in reality, you're dealing in a fantasy world".
No wonder that the US administration has classified Hizbollah as a "terrorist organisation". The UK administration tried, at least, to be a bit more realistic and explained the ban with Hizbollah's "support for terrorism in Iraq and Occupied Palestinian Territories" and limited it to the External Security wing while acknowledging the noble character of the social activities ran by the party. Obviously, what is regarded as "terrorism" by the UK government statement here is seen as brave resistance by the overwhelming majority of people in the region. The European Union seems to adopt an even wiser approach and, so far, decided not to put Hizbollah on a terrorist list.

Most Western media try to cast Hizbollah under a very negative light, but it's quite difficult to do so without recourse to lies and fabrications at times. Therefore, most outlets keep envelopping it with a cloud of mystery. That's probably why a France 5 documentaty was suitably named: Le mystere Hizbollah, for "The Hizbollah mystery".

Let's review together what happened in the 2006 war between Hizbollah and "Israel" to figure out why they could possibly be branded "terrorists".

Somehow, I find it a bit strange that when a "terrorist organisation" goes to war with a regional super power, the war ends with 1200 Lebanese deaths mostly civilian and 160 "Israeli" deaths mostly combatants. Terrorists are usually the ones who go after the soft targets and try to kill civilians.

I find it a bit strange that a regular army fires millions of cluster bombs, most of it in the last 72 hours of the war, and refuse to provide maps of their locations to the United Nations. The estimated 100,000 unexploded bombs have already killed around 80 Lebanese civilians. Usually, a terrorist organisation would have recourse to explosive devices in order to cause indiscriminate death among civilians.

About 24 hours after the cease fire was signed by both parties, the "Israeli" military sent a commando into Lebanon in the hopes of capturing Hassan Nasrallah, Hizbollah's Secretary General. Hizbollah maintained its committment to a cease fire and did not retaliate. Usually, a terrorist organisation has no respect and does not abide by the agreements it signs, if it does sign anything that is.

When a terrorist organisation takes prisoners, it usually tortures them and, in this case, sodomise them too. A civilised group would show respect for the unarmed captured combatants.

From what the two conflicting parties have done so far, there is clearly a lot of terrorism here, but it was not perpetrated by Hizbollah. By the way, I used the term "terrorist" so many times already, and I'm not sure it means the same thing to everybody, but this is a bigger topic that we shall discuss in another post.

What I would suggest to those branding Hizbollah as terrorist is simply to seek all points of view before casting a judgement. A first step would be to listen to what Hizbollah is saying and learn about their ideology from them themselves rather than from so called "Israeli" terrorism experts. This interview of Nasrallah by Edward Peck would be a good start for instance.