Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Iranians involved in 1988 massacres remain in public life
One's sympathy for the Communist victims is considerably tempered by an awareness that they would have behaved similarly had they gained power
The anniversary at the weekend of Iran's rigged election turned the spotlight on the man who approved it - the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei - and the man who was cheated of the presidency, Mir Hossein Mousavi.
If there was justice in the world, both men would be still be serving prison sentences, along with Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and a number of the nation's top judges and politicians. All were complicit in one of the gravest crimes against humanity since World War II, the mass slaughter of political prisoners at the close of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988.
Then, Mousavi was prime minister, Khamenei was president and Rafsanjani commanded the Revolutionary Guards. They implemented a secret fatwa which ordered the mass murder of left-wingers in prisons nationwide.
The victims were mainly student protesters who had been arrested and sentenced for leafleting and demonstrating against Khamenei's revolutionary republic in the early 1980s. They sympathised with the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, an armed Islamic group with Marxist leanings, or with communist and socialist organisations that did not believe in God and certainly not in the ayatollah's theocracy.
As the war with Iraq ended in 1988, the regime decided it was too dangerous to let these dissidents live, so its leaders plotted a "final solution". On July 28, a week after the ceasefire, the secret fatwa was issued, at first decreeing death for all who remained "steadfast" in their Mujahideen sympathies.
They were hauled from their cells and were paraded before a death committee - a religious judge, a prosecutor, and a man from the Intelligence Ministry - and hung from cranes, four at a time, or in groups of six from ropes hanging from the stage of the prison assembly hall. Their bodies were buried by night in mass graves, the locations of which are still withheld from their families. Between July 28 and August 13, several thousand Mujahideen-e-Khalq members were killed in this manner.
After a short break for a religious holiday, the death committee began to kill the left-wingers. All prisoners who were Marxists, communists and members of other political groups and had been born Muslim but who did not believe in the official version of Islam, were deemed apostate. If male, they were sent straight to the gallows after a brief trial with no notice or right of defence. Women were sentenced to torture (severe whipping five times a day) until they repented and prayed or died from the lash.
The second wave of killings also claimed several thousand victims and was accompanied by the same secrecy. Eventually, several months later, relatives were called to the prison and handed a plastic bag with their children's effects. By October many thousands of prisoners had been killed without trial, appeal or mercy.
When word of the mass murder began to leak out, Iran's diplomats and politicians began a cover-up. They pretended the victims were few and were planning to take over the prisons by violence. Mousavi played a particularly shameful part, urging "Western intellectuals" to see him as an Allende-like victim, who had acted in time against encircling enemies. His election meetings last year were interrupted by shouts to explain his role in 1988; he has never come clean about his part in this international crime.
Nor, of course, have the other perpetrators. Most notably the present Supreme Leader, Khamenei, who passed it off at the time with a brutal remark: "Do you think we should give them sweets?". Rafsanjani, still politically active, played an important part: he dispatched the Revolutionary Guards to carry out the slaughter.
The death committee members remain in senior positions in the judiciary and several are government ministers. They cannot hide behind a defence of ''superior orders'' - not even a fatwa can protect them from legal responsibility for an international crime. (I exclude the President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: although he was a Revolutionary Guard and one witness claims to identify him as a torturer, this has not been corroborated.) Khamenei, as head of state, has some immunity but, as Charles Taylor discovered, this does not fully protect sitting heads of state from indictment for international crimes.
For the past year, I have conducted an inquiry into the 1988 massacres for a Washington foundation and my report sets out the evidence justifying the international law indictment of a number of Iranian leaders. Those who conducted the prison massacres in 1988 are not only guilty of directing torture and murder but of implementing a plan to exterminate a group on the basis of its religious belief (the Mujahideen prisoners who believed in a different form of Islam) or, in the case of the Marxists, its non-belief.
That amounts to genocide and there is an international obligation on all nations under the Genocide Convention to bring them to book.
The men who implemented the fatwa did so knowing they were committing an international crime. They were well versed in the Geneva Conventions because they were always complaining about Saddam Hussein's breaches. By refusing to explain the fate or identify the burial places of the victims, Iran's present leaders perpetuate the crime.
The Security Council would be entitled to use its power to set up an ad hoc international court to indict the Supreme Leader and others in his government. This may be a better way to deal with a theocracy whose inability to punish, or even admit, the barbaric behaviour of 1988 provides the greatest reason for concern over its future access to nuclear weaponry.
Fear the Intellectual
Only yesterday to be called an "intellectual' was a compliment. But intellectuals no longer carry much weight in politics, in cultural salons, book clubs or the wider world of ideas. Like professors whose faculty-lounge infighting is so vicious because the stakes are so small, intellectuals are often noisy because they have nothing to say.
George Wallace carried four Southern states in 1968, but he's mostly remembered for his memorable description of snobbish East Coast liberals as "pointy-headed intellectuals" who "can't park a bicycle straight." David Halberstam's "best and the brightest" turned out to be neither. French intellectuals who held sway over college students in the middle of the 20th century were eventually unmasked as highly intelligent but not very smart.
Jean Paul Sartre completely misread how communism exploited the workers he wanted to protect. Woody Allen once joked that if the robust debates in Commentary and Dissent magazines were merged into one intellectual journal they could call it Dissentary. Witty, if unfair.
Some intellectual debates, however, are more important than others, and there's one today that goes straight to the heart of an important matter. Few intellectuals celebrate Karl Marx as they once did, but many continue to criticize "oppressive" Western values, defend Islamism and look for every opportunity to scorn America -- and Israel. They're influential and deserve to be exposed for propounding meretricious reasoning.
Many of them give cover to the cruder forms of anti-Semitism; Helen Thomas, though certainly no intellectual, probably felt empowered to say that the Jews ought to get out of Palestine and go back to Poland and Germany because so many academics stop just short of expressing themselves that way.
When Rodger Claire sought publishers for his new book about the story behind Israel's successful bombing of Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor in 1981, every European publisher, including those in Britain, France, Italy and Spain, passed on the rights to the book. He said his agents were told that European readers shied away from anything that put Israel in a positive light.
"Furthermore, it can be easily argued that Europe's so-called intelligentsia has long been mildly anti-Semitic, drawing from a strain of mistrusting the Jews which dates back to the Middle Ages," he told Frontpage magazine. Many of these so-called intelligentsia joined the chorus to find Alfred Dreyfus guilty of treason in France in the 1890s because he was a Jew.
By the 1970s, some of the French intellectuals who were blinded by Marxism finally began to question their political prejudices. In his book "The Flight of the Intellectuals," Paul Berman praises the "New Philosophers" of France, who finally asked "why, in the face of ever-growing overwhelming mountains of evidence over the course of the 20th century, so many intelligent people in the Western countries had kept on deluding themselves about the Soviet Union, and then about communist China, Cuba and other such regimes."
After the Berlin Wall fell, no proper intellectual would defend "Third Worldism," but prominent leftist intellectuals smoothly replaced "Western imperialism with "the forces of globalization." The overriding anti-Western values remained intact with the belief that financial success is inherently made at the expense of the poor and that personal prosperity grows only from greed.
Berman's special targets are intellectuals who are highly regarded despite their blurring of the distinctions between Islam and Islamism, "between religion and the modern totalitarian ideology." Such Muslims are passed off as "moderate" and "modernizing although they indulge in 'the racism of the anti-racists'." He includes Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss-born Islamic "scholar" whose grandfather founded the fanatical "Muslim Brotherhood, which he has not rejected.
Ramadan, who was praised in the New York Times Sunday Magazine for providing a comfort zone for Euro-Islam accommodation, expresses his high-mindedness by suggesting a moratorium on the "honor killing" of women by stoning. A moratorium, note, not a cessation.
Berman reserves his harshest criticism for intellectuals contemptuous of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somalian woman whose documentary, with Theodore van Gogh, on behalf of the rights of Muslim women brought down threats and intimidation. She fled to America after van Gogh was murdered by an Islamist fanatic, and she lives here with full-time bodyguards.
Muslim intellectuals who defended Salman Rushdie when he was targeted for death show no sympathy for Hirsi Ali. If she had been "short, squat and squinting" instead of good-looking, sneered Timothy Garton Ash, she would not have developed such a devoted following in the West. He prefers Jamal al-Bana, who isn't so attractive but defends Palestinian suicide bombers and admires the Sept. 11 terrorists for their courage in opposing "barbaric capitalism."
"In a modern political world shaped by the rise of the Islamists," Berman writes, "even some of the most attractive thinkers tend, if they have come under an Islamist influence, to have a soft spot for suicide terrorism." And a soft spot for anti-Semitism." We've been forewarned.
Some rubbishy "research" about Lesbian parenting
A recent and widely reported news story, headlined "Kids of lesbians have fewer behavioral problems, study suggests," reported that "A nearly 25-year study concluded that children raised in lesbian households were psychologically well-adjusted and had fewer behavioral problems than their peers."
The conclusion does not strike me as particularly surprising. In our society and many others, mothers play a larger role in child rearing than fathers, so it would not be surprising if children with two mothers did, on average, better than children with a mother and a father. Reading the story, however, I concluded that it did not actually give me much reason to believe in its conclusion —for two related reasons.
The first was a quote from the lead researcher that appeared in some versions of the story: "Gartrell can't say with certainly whether the findings would apply to gay fathers. It's "highly likely," she says."
Gartrell's study was limited to lesbian couples. On theoretical grounds, one could take her result as evidence not that homosexuals are good at child rearing but that women are, in which case it would imply the precise opposite of what she suggests. Insofar as the quote is evidence of anything, it is evidence of bias on the part of the researcher. As anyone familiar with statistical work knows, there are a lot of ways in which a researcher can tweak the design of a study, deliberately or not, to produce the result the researcher wants.
One way might be by the choice of the set of heterosexual couples to which the lesbian couples were being compared. The two groups might differ in important ways other than their sexual preferences. Most obviously, since the lesbian parents had conceived via artificial insemination, their pregnancies were all planned and all desired. If the comparison group contained a significant number of children from unplanned and unwanted pregnancies, that might explain why more of them had behavioral problems. One could imagine a variety of other possible explanations as well—and the news stories did not provide enough information to confirm or reject them.
Fortunately, nowadays, one is not limited to news stories. A web search quickly turned up the actual text of the article. Reading it, I discovered:
1. The two groups were not closely matched, due to data limitations, a problem that the authors noted. They differed strikingly in geographic location, since the lesbian couples were all recruited in the Boston, D.C., and San Francisco meteropolitan areas, while the data on children of heterosexual couples, coming from another researcher's work, was based on a wider distribution of locations. They were not matched racially—14% of the heterosexual couples were black, 3% of the lesbian couples were. They were not matched socio-economically—on average, the heterosexual couples were of higher SES than the lesbian couples.
The statistical analysis on which the story was based contained no controls for those differences, any one of which might have affected the conclusion. The authors could have compared the outcome of child rearing by white lesbian couples to the outcome of child rearing by white heterosexual couples, by high SES lesbian couples to high SES heterosexual couples, ... . They did none of that, although it is possible that in future work they will.
2. There was a second problem that had not occurred to me, possibly because I had not read the news story carefully enough. Questionaires went, at various points in the study, to both mothers and children. But the conclusion about how well adjusted the children were was based entirely on the reports of ther mothers. A more accurate, if less punchy, headline would have read: "Lesbian Mothers Think Better of Their Kids than Heterosexual Mothers Do."
My point in this post is not to criticize the authors of the study. There may have been good reasons why they used the data they did, despite its limitations, and they may be planning a more informative analysis of their results for later work. It is easy for an outside observer to suggest things scholars ought to have done, not always as easy for the scholars to follow the advice.
My point is rather about the information available to ordinary readers through newspapers, the webbed equivalent, radio and television, and similar sources. The implication of the news stories was that the study provided strong evidence that lesbian parents did, on average, a better job of child rearing than heterosexual parents.
A reader who went to the trouble of locating and reading the published report of the study, as few would, would discover that that implication was false. The study provided some evidence for the conclusion, but not very much. It could as easily be interpreted as evidence that richer people do a worse job of child-rearing than poorer people, blacks worse than whites, parents from flyover country worse than the inhabitants of the coastal metropolises—or that lesbian parents are even more strongly biased in favor of their own children than other parents.
The only thing that the headlines provided clear evidence of was what their authors wanted their readers to believe.
Australian Federal Govt wants access to emails, browsing history
The Fed Govt is considering forcing Australian ISPs to retain data on how Australian citizens are using the internet, such as their sent and received email and browsing history
The Federal Government has confirmed it is considering a policy requiring Australian internet providers to retain precise data on how their users are using the internet, with the potential to include information on emails sent and — reportedly — their web browsing history.
“The Attorney-General’s Department has been looking at the European Directive on Data Retention, to consider whether such a regime is appropriate within Australia’s law enforcement and security context,” a spokesperson for the department confirmed via email today. “It has consulted broadly with the telecommunications industry.”
The spokesperson’s confirmation was also contained in a report by ZDNet.com.au (which broke this story), which stated that ISP industry sources had flagged the potential for the new regime to require ISPs to record each internet address (also known as URL) that an internet user visited.
APC has contacted spokespeople from major ISPs such as Telstra, Optus, iiNet, Internode and Adam Internet to ask for a response on the matter, as well as the Internet Industry Association, a group which represents the ISPs. The office Communications Minister Stephen Conroy and the office of Attorney-General Robert McLelland have also been contacted for comment on the matter.
The European Directive on Data Retention (2006) requires communications providers to retain a number of categories of data relating to their users.
Broadly speaking, they must retain data necessary to trace and identify the source, destination, date, type, time and duration of communications — and even what communication equipment is being used by customers and the location of mobile transmissions.
According to the directive, where internet access is concerned, this means the ISPs must retain the user ID of users, email addresses of senders and recipients of email, the date and time that users logged on and off from a service, and their IP address — whether dynamic or static applied to their user ID.
For telephone conversations, this means the number from which calls were placed and the number that received the call, the owner of the telephone service and similar data such as the time and date of the call’s commencement and completion. For mobile phone numbers, geographic location data would also be included.
The EU directive requires that no data regarding the content of communications be included, however, and it has directives regarding privacy, including the fact that data would be retained for periods of not less than six months and not more than two years from the date of the communication.
Any data collected is to be destroyed at the end of that period.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.