Beaten- Brit journalist Robert Fisk

– Brit journalist Robert Fisk is beaten by Afghan refugees in Pakistan, his life saved when a Muslim cleric intervened. Even in pain, he finds the politically correct angle, saying that the refugees came from a village that had been bombed by Americans. “It doesn’t excuse them for beating me up, but there was a real reason why they should hate Westerners.”

Celebration in sermons in Kandahar
– The Washington Post reports today on a sermon by a Mullah in Kandahar who attacks the Taliban and Mullah Omar: “As the Taliban militia surrendered its last stronghold in Afghanistan today, few people here in the capital mourned the demise of the radical Islamic movement whose five-year rule brought them little but poverty, isolation and fear. Instead, a moderate Islamic cleric delivered a fiery, sarcastic eulogy to the Taliban era as several thousand worshipers overflowed his mosque. Mullah Abdul Rauf blasted Taliban rule as oppressive and narrow-minded, saying it had humiliated people and dwelt on the ritual of Islam rather than its spirit.” Said one worshiper: “The Taliban tried to re-spread Islam in a country that had been Muslim for hundreds of years. Nobody wanted to pray by force, but you can see there are several thousand people in this mosque today. Now we are free, and we come here to pray of our own will.”

The big bang
Debka speculates that bin Laden is stoking up for his big bang:

Osama bin Laden has packed his entire family out of Afghanistan – wives, sons and daughters – and their wives, husbands and offspring. Roughly 10 days ago, DEBKAfileís intelligence sources reveal, he transferred them to a prepared, well-guarded location in West Pakistan, leaving himself unencumbered in his Afghan hideout.

Those sources interpret this step as supporting the volume of credible evidence of a major terrorist strike in the offing, which has prompted heightened terror alerts in the United States, Israel and the United Kingdom in the last three days.

Target dates range variously from December 12 and the Christmas period (December 23-26) to the first half of January….

American intelligence sources postulate simultaneous strikes in New York and/or a second big US city, plus London and/or Tel Aviv and another Israeli town.

How the world affects Bianca Jagger
– A wholly obnoxious anti-American piece in the Guardian by Bianca Jagger — as if there is any reason to listen to a person whose sole claim to celebrity is her marriage. After telling us about her life — because we should care — she catalogues all our sins in South America — our sponsorship of terrorism there — and her brave resistance. All this so she can attack us for waging “all-out war on the people of Afghanistan.” Hey, you clueless has-been ex-relative of an aging star, wise up. Look at the scenes of people in Kandahar celebrating our ouster of the Taliban today. This was a nation under the thumb of religious despots, a nation suffering under constant war and starvation until bin Laden did them the favor of raising our ire and bringing us in to finally end this war and tyranny in three short months. Why does anyone listen to celebrities?

Counting blessings
– The official death toll from 9/11 is coming down to 3,000; of course, one is one too many. But it’s also good to look at the survivor count and not lose sight of the thousands of miracles that day, thanks in great measure to many of the heroes who died getting people out of those buildings:

Many officials say the loss of life would have been many times higher if not for three factors: the timing of the attack, before the buildings had filled to their usual workday peak; emergency-evacuation improvements prompted by the 1993 terrorist bombing of the trade center; and the urgent reaction of workers, many of whom had been through the earlier attack. On Sept. 11, perhaps 18,000 people by one estimate evacuated the two 110-story towers in less than two hours. “It looks like maybe 90 percent of the people in the buildings survived that day. It’s amazing,” said Alan Reiss, the trade center’s former director.

Add to that the people in the neighboring buildings and on the street in the trains underneath (I was among the latter two groups). Countless thousands were saved that day.

Attention quagmirists
– Enjoy this from the Guardian with backhanded compliments for the “easy victories” in Afghanistan.

The contrast with the military situation in early November could not be more striking. Then, the Afghan militia and its allies – the mainly foreign fighters of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida organisation – gave every appearance of being undaunted by a month of heavy bombing.

Critics in London and Washington, most pointedly inside the Pentagon itself, were sniping at the operational commander, General Tommy Franks. He was too stolid, his reliance on air power outdated, the mostly anonymous critics said.

Those voices have now fallen quiet. Caution and bombs seem to have worked. There could be bloody ambushes in the mountains in the coming weeks, but the four US casualties so far have come from accidents, a prison riot and friendly fire. As in Kosovo two years ago, the bodybag syndrome feared by US military planners and politicians since Vietnam has been avoided.

The ease of the battlefield successes so far will undoubtedly stoke enthusiasm for future military ventures…

An editorial in the Guardian also swallows hard on a compliment: “The US-led campaign in Afghanistan continues to be far more successful than the pessimists, and even most optimists, ever thought possible. It is always harder to act than not to act, but the action taken by the US has been largely vindicated, at least in the short term.”

Bring back wooden type
– You know you’re addicted to this damned technology thing when it doesn’t work. Layne and Welch were down but they’re back up now. Go to Layne for a plethora of posts that came out of him like a good, satisfying sneeze when his connection came back up. And now I can link to the post I mentioned yesterday on Welch — a reminder that Democrats bear some blame for the Ashcroft monster: “The only reason John Ashcroft is Attorney General is that the Democratic Party did not have the cojones to challenge his nomination.”

Can the Mullah get the

Can the Mullah get the cell next to the blind cleric?
The Times of London reports that Mullah Omar is being held captive in a “friendly environment.” More on the religious despot from the Times: “The devout son of an impoverished farmer from southwest Afghanistan, he had no experience of politics, little education, no understanding of international affairs and a medieval view of religion.”

Ashcroft: as scary as…
– I admit I was practicing political cognitive dissonance when it came to civil rights and the war. I wanted us to get the f’ers and, yes, I was willing to throw out a few pages of the Constitution… for now. I was willing, that is, until I heard John Ashcroft before Congress and was reminded of just how frightening — just how much of a fundamentalist — this guy is. Now I am scared. We’re heading toward the old absolute-power-corrupts-absolutely equation; Ashcroft (with Boss Bush et al right behind him) are getting too cocky, too power-mad, too dismissive of what we like to call democracy. I won’t argue with their need to push limits to protect us. I won’t argue with temporary suspension of some rights toward that end. But I cannot stand to see the paternalistic Ashcroft and dogmatic, inflexible Bush returning to the scene, acting as if they don’t need our approval but we need theirs. It’s the other way around, guys; Bush has had a problem understanding this ever since he lost/won the election in Florida. True, we gave him license, lost of license, since 9/11. But he’s letting Ashcroft blow it for him. I’d link to Welch or Layne, who had something very smart to say about this today, but it appears both their sites are down. Later.

Today is V.A. Day!
– The Telegraph’s editorial on victory in Afghanistan:

The decision by the Taliban to surrender Kandahar, its last stronghold, is a tremendous vindication of American political will and military strength.

Within three months of the suicide hijackings on September 11, the United States has brought a regime on the other side of the world to its knees. George Bush has shown that he can strike against the sponsors of terrorism at will.

As for the terrorists themselves, the fate of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qa’eda network, now shorn of their Taliban protection, is telling testimony to the cost of attacking the one remaining superpower.

Nuremberg, here we come
– We’re already in a muddle about the fate of Mullah Omar. The head of the interim government said with his first official breath that the one-eyed, addle-brained, terrorist, sicko religious freak would get safe passage home. Then, on NPR tonight, he said that Omar would have to renounce terrorism — but he wouldn’t say what he’d do if Omar wouldn’t comply. Meanwhile, Washington says no deal, he has to face trial — but that could be in an Afghan court. Put him on trial somewhere, just bring him to justice, for his crimes against his own people and us.

– And speaking of bozos who need to face a jury: Johnny The Rat Traitor Superdoofus Walker refused to cooperate with Hero CIA Agent Mike Spann shortly before his death. The Newsweek story about a videotape taken of Walker is amazing. Spann and the other CIA agent, “Dave,” try again and again to get Walker to talk to them but the traitor does not.

Spann [to Dave]: I explained to him what the deal is.

Spann [to Walker]: Itís up to you.

Dave [to Spann]: The problem is, heís got to decide if he wants to live or die. If he wants to die, heís going to die here. Or heís going to fócking spend the rest of his short fócking life in prison. Itís his decision, man. We can only help the guys who want to talk to us. We can only get the Red Cross to help so many guys.

We did see the Pope using the Internet, didn’t we?
– One of the great things about having a blog is looking at the stats and seeing where people come from. Former pacifist that I am, I’m amused to see readers from the various military branches. I’m flattered to see the Senate. I’m gratified to see loyal reader from Sweden and Petsmart, too. But the best yesterday: the Vatican.

Speaking of God…
– The mother superior of the blog with the best name in Blogdom, Relapsed Catholic, had to take a few days off, so she pointed to what we in the old media world would call her competitors and thus I discovered another religion blog of which I have become a fast fan: Holy Weblog! I like religion with attitude. Sample posts:

Sigh. You never call. You never write. Ananova: “A charity phone line which helps people join the Pope in prayer has only attracted six calls in two months.”
What would Jesus pierce? The Boston Globe examines the harder edge of Christian music: “In the world of religious rock, circa 2001, giving praise and wreaking havoc seem indistinguishable, and love of Jesus and love of tongue studs peacefully coexist.”

Friday is VA day…- The

Friday is VA day…
– The Taliban confirms that they are going to surrender the last stronghold Friday. Mullah Omar et al are supposedly going to be given safe passage home; Rumsfeld et al won’t go for that. But that pretty much mops up that part of the war: Victory in Afghanistan. But just like World War II, this World War III is being fought on many fronts and there are other victories ahead: First, bin Laden at Tora Bora.

– Our pal, Tony Blair: “Think back three months and you had a regime in Afghanistan that was one of the most brutal anywhere and was funding literally and training thousands of terrorists… It seems that the final collapse of the Taliban is now upon us.”

– They planned suicide attacks in Australia, the UK, and India.

– Abandoned terrorist haunt shows evidence of an Indian hijacking. Says the NY TImes: “Its presence here suggests why a Taliban-run Afghanistan was of such strategic importance to Pakistan over many years: the country provided a haven for Islamic militants who could later be deployed to fight Indian rule of mainly Muslim Kashmir. Successive Pakistani governments have attached great importance to this campaign.”

– More accusations between India and Pakistan on bin-Laden-affiliated terrorism, this time the Pakistanis capturing alledged terrorists and saying that India is helping them.

A post-Arafat Palestine
Debka says that Israel and Arab countries and the U.S. are already looking at a post-Arafat world:

Eight years after US President Clinton engineered the Oslo Peace Framework Accord installing the exiled Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with self-determination for his people, George W. Bush has taken the lead in the effort to end his reign.

The Palestinian may try last-resort maneuvers, but he cannot escape the joint American-Israel sword poised over his head. Neither can he hope for any world leader to reach out and rescue him. Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres and his dwindling pro-Oslo adherents may try, but they will do so in isolation.

In the diplomatic flurry surrounding this terminal process, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon sent a secret envoy to Cairo Wednesday night with a personal message to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The response was immediate: Egyptian foreign minister Ali Maher was dispatched to Jerusalem Thursday for urgent talks with the Israeli prime minister. Maher, after meeting foreign minister Shimon Peres, is to call on Arafat in Ramallah and goes on to Amman for talks with King Abdullah.

DEBKAfileís political sources reveal that Sharonís messenger was Mossad head Ephraim Halevy. Our sources add: Both the Egyptian and Jordanian rulers, appreciating that Arafatís days as an effective leader are numbered, have moved forward to deliberations with Israel on the post-Arafat order.

Israel gives Arafat 12 hours to start arresting 36 terrorist suspects.

A post-OPEC world
Jane’s says that Opec is sputtering: “How odd that a global political crisis and a war in one of the worldís most unstable regions would drive oil prices down. But thatís precisely what has happened…. The full extent of the strategic shift in Russian-American relations, and the potential economic benefits to both sides, are now becoming clear.”

If this had been an actual emergency…
– So two friends and I freaked a fourth friend yesterday as we talked about our plans if bin Laden set off a radioactive bomb in New York. For me it’s the same as the smallpox plan: Canada, here we come. Even if it’s just a low-grade bomb that scatters radioactive dust around Manhattan (contaminating it, what, forever?), who knows which way the wind blows. So the family should get in one car from the ‘burbs and drive north and west quickly. I’ll be stuck in New York and probably won’t be able to get out, but I’ll catch up as soon as I can. Can you believe that four adults are sitting around talking about this? Such is life under high, higher, highest alert.

Brother, can you spare a link?
– Matt Welch extends a challenge to me. He asks everyone else to put tips in his guitar case. Just because I have a job with a business card and a suit, he goads me to come up with some venture capital for some sort of new blog-inspired media. Sadly, in this world, all the capital’s ventured (nothing gained). But Welch is right about there being the germ of something terribly new for media in the world of blogs and I have been coming up with a few harebrained schemes. More over beers….

You think your job is tough
– Try being the interim head of the Afghan government.

– Guardian Q&A on the Bonn Afghan government deal.

Pictures worth…
National Geographic reporting, photography, and maps.

– A very good Dallas News photo essay [via Bushwacker].

Praise God and pass your

Praise God and pass your headsets to the aisle
– Airport chapels are seeing a boom: “Business travelers in the habit of making a beeline for the cocktail bar closest to their departure gate now may be more likely to seek spiritual refreshment in the airport chapel. Stressed-out, often sleep-deprived travelers are generally more vulnerable to ‘anticipatory anxiety’ in the times after September 11 that psychologists have labeled ‘the new normalcy.’ Indeed, since the destruction of New York’s World Trade Center claimed victims from 86 nations around the world, a new lexicon of psych-speak has intruded into our daily lives. Another term gaining currency, they say, is ‘the God factor.’ ‘I’ve noticed a considerable increase in the number of people looking for the chapel and coming in to say a prayer. I’d say it’s almost double,’ said Father James Devine, of Our Lady of the Skies, the Catholic chapel inside New York JFK International Airport’s Terminal 4. ‘I’ve seen business travelers here. I’ve talked to them after the service and they’ve appreciated the opportunity to say a prayer before they fly out.’ ” [Reuters via Orbitz [via Holy Web Log via Relapsed Catholic]

Tabloid heaven
– New York Post headline today on the Superdoofus, traitor John Walker: ” ‘ Poor Fellow’ or traitor? Looks like a rat. Talks like a rat. Smells like a rat. Hides like a rat. IT IS A RAT”

Nuke 101
The ABCs of building a dirty radioactive bomb, from the Washington Post.

He’s our dork-in-chief, damnit
– Grumpster Michael Wolff in New York takes on his own gut reaction to Bush: “To get the willies from George W. Bush, to distrust the man, to have your stomach roll a bit when you hear him speak, is to feel like the most churlish and sullen of adolescents. He’s the unappealing uncle — with his cold eye on you — whose house you’re stuck at this holiday season. While you’re trying to shut out his existence, everybody else is sucking up to him. If you knew it was just pretend, just a holiday bit — everybody being phony and polite — you could handle it; the problem is in thinking that all this affability, this undisaffected appreciation for the guy, is honest feeling on everyone else’s part. What if 85 percent of the American people actually, deep in their hearts, approve of him — dig him? What does that say about you and where you fit in?” OK, I don’t disagree. Bush is a dork. He’s a dork who grins inappropriately and repeats himself too much. But he’s our dork, damnit. He is the dork-in-chief. I amaze myself with my ability to ignore his dorkiness. That is wartime; he’s the boss. The truth is that I’m refreshed with the relative lack of politics and personality in war; we have a goal and we’re going to get there together. America today feels like an Internet startup back in the go-go days: all teamwork and goal-orientation and oomph. It’s about winning, no matter who’s in charge.

Bigger than IT
– This may seem off-topic but it really is an illustration of what makes America great. The other day, I ended up wandering in the Newport Mall in Jersey City (aka Terror Town!), NJ, a lower demographic shopping experience, and I came across a new operation that makes me want to give up my dreams of getting a Jerky Hut franchise. It’s called Aqua Massage and it looks like a cross between a tanning bed and an iron lung: You lie down, face down, clothed, and water jets massage you through a thick plastic that covers you and keeps you dry and all the while, people stand there in the mall gawking at you — $7 for 5 minutes and the units are working full time. Two people are making a decent living off this; the people in the machines are enjoying some sort of bliss; the mall rats are entertained; America is great. This is capitalism; this is choice; this is about creating good fortune out of mere inventiveness; this is what makes us great. Meanwhile, the Taliban sits in caves.

Kinda evil
– Franklin Graham backpedals on his assertion that Islam is evil.

The eternal flame- The fire

The eternal flame
– The fire at the World Trade Center is still burning almost three months after the attack, reports New Scientist. Before it is finally extinguished, I humbly suggest that the city capture it for an eternal flame in the memorial.

Nuclear mules
– Debka says there’s further evidence that bin Laden is smuggling radioactive materials into the U.S. It says that the Pakistani who died in U.S. custody in Hudson County, NJ — my backyard — had the symptoms of radiation poisoning, leading them to theorize that he was bringing nukes into the U.S.:

In the first week of October, a Pakistani arrested on immigration charges in the course of the FBI investigation into the September 11 suicide attacks, complained of bleeding gums and pain, symptoms of gingivitis. He was treated with antibiotics, but was found dead in his cell in Hudson Count jail in Kearny, New Jersey, three weeks later.

The cause of death was not released, any more than the dead manís identity.

DEBKA-Net-Weeklyís medical experts note that the bleeding gums the anonymous Pakistani was treated for are a symptom of radiation poisoning, suggesting he might have been a ìmuleî transporting nuclear materials or devices into America. (A subsequent investigation revealed that he had contracted gingivitis as a result of radiation-induced leukemia.)

This explanation would imply that more than one such carrier is employed by al Qaeda to smuggle nuclear materials or devices into the United States, Western Europe and the Middle East, their mission being to plant their deadly burdens in pre-arranged secret locations, ready for activation.

Whatever happened to that dork in high school
– The tale the American-turned-Taliban is just too amazing. Superdoofus. The Newsweek story … NY Times: “John Walker Lindh’s parents knew he was a different sort of boy” … SF Chronicle (boy, is this a San Francisco kinda story) … The father is on Today this morning. “I saw John as having opinions I didn’ t agree with but I never saw John as being a terrorist…. John is a very good-natured kid… John’s a very peaceful boy….” …who should have been in therapy long ago.

Three traitors so far.

– More scary pictures of the Superdoofus from the Sun.

High, higher, highest
– So Ridge puts us on high alert. Weren’t we already there? Or did we need to be reminded to be scared again? Want more motivation? The Washington Post says bin Laden made greater strides in getting nukes than previously thought…. And the U.S. now admits that thousands of letters may be tinged with anthrax.

– More smart words from Andrew Sullivan: “Iím grateful to the Post for this story not least because I notice in myself ñ and all around me ñ an unnerving sense that the war is somehow over. People arenít talking about it in the same earnest and desperate way they were before. I guess we knew this would happen ñ but itís surely a mistake. Weíre barely three months away from the massacre, and growing psychologically complacent. Iím not say we should stay afraid indefinitely ñ just that itís good to have a reminder that we still have something to be very afraid of.”

– The Times of London says Blair is softening his opposition to attacking Iraq.

Life returns to normal
– And there are reports this morning that police raided O.J. Simpson’s home. Howard Stern is in heaven. Later news: part of an investigation into ecstasy sales, theft of satellite TV service, and money laundering. Superduperdoofus.