Commentary Magazine


Posts For: January 13, 2008

Democracy Talk in The Apolitical Emirates

President Bush supposedly ratcheted up the tough talk against Tehran in his speech in the United Arab Emirates today. However, it’s hard to tease out any substantive change in the mere repetition of charges against Tehran: that “Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere” is an undisputed matter of public record. It was somewhat more heartening to hear the President return to the democracy schema that sat on the back burner throughout the more trying phases of the Iraq War. CBS News reports:

In renewing his “Freedom Agenda” – Mr. Bush’s grand ambition to seed democracy around the globe — he declared that “democracy is the only form of government that treats individuals with the dignity and equality that is their right.”

“We know from experience that democracy is the only system of government that yields lasting peace and stability,” he added.

Saturday’s Wall Street Journal has a surreal companion piece to Bush’s speech in the form of an opinion article by Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The former ruler of the Emirate of Dubai and current vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates has penned something that reads more like a corporation’s quarterly letter to stockholders than a statesman’s declaration of policy. The fascinating document includes this gem:

“What are Dubai’s political ambitions?” Well, here’s my answer: We don’t have political ambitions. We don’t want to be a superpower or any other kind of political power. The whole region is over-politicized as it is. We don’t see politics as our thing, we don’t want it, we don’t think this is the right thing to do.

Sheikh Mohammed stresses the importance of capital investment in the path to well being. Someone should point out to him that there’s no such thing as opting out of politics, and that the Middle East doesn’t suffer from a shortage of capital, but from the lack of political institutions that enable the sharing of prosperity.

President Bush supposedly ratcheted up the tough talk against Tehran in his speech in the United Arab Emirates today. However, it’s hard to tease out any substantive change in the mere repetition of charges against Tehran: that “Iran’s actions threaten the security of nations everywhere” is an undisputed matter of public record. It was somewhat more heartening to hear the President return to the democracy schema that sat on the back burner throughout the more trying phases of the Iraq War. CBS News reports:

In renewing his “Freedom Agenda” – Mr. Bush’s grand ambition to seed democracy around the globe — he declared that “democracy is the only form of government that treats individuals with the dignity and equality that is their right.”

“We know from experience that democracy is the only system of government that yields lasting peace and stability,” he added.

Saturday’s Wall Street Journal has a surreal companion piece to Bush’s speech in the form of an opinion article by Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The former ruler of the Emirate of Dubai and current vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates has penned something that reads more like a corporation’s quarterly letter to stockholders than a statesman’s declaration of policy. The fascinating document includes this gem:

“What are Dubai’s political ambitions?” Well, here’s my answer: We don’t have political ambitions. We don’t want to be a superpower or any other kind of political power. The whole region is over-politicized as it is. We don’t see politics as our thing, we don’t want it, we don’t think this is the right thing to do.

Sheikh Mohammed stresses the importance of capital investment in the path to well being. Someone should point out to him that there’s no such thing as opting out of politics, and that the Middle East doesn’t suffer from a shortage of capital, but from the lack of political institutions that enable the sharing of prosperity.

Read Less

His Name Is Ezra Levant

David Frum and Mark Steyn draw our attention to Ezra Levant–former publisher of the Western Standard, a Canadian political magazine–who, like Steyn, is being harassed by Canadian “human rights” commissars over his apparent lack of sensitivity to fundamentalist Muslims who wish to impose Shari’a law on Canada. In men like Steyn and Levant, the professional grievance hustlers have their hands full.

Levant has his own blog, where he posts missives about his case and republishes statements he’s made to the “human rights” commission. He says rousing things like this:

It is especially perverted that a bureaucracy calling itself the Alberta human rights commission would be the government agency violating my human rights. So I will now call those bureaucrats “the commission” or “the hrc”, since to call the commission a “human rights commission” is to destroy the meaning of those words.

And:

The first [complaint against me] was filed by a radical imam in Calgary, Syed Soharwardy, a tin-pot fascist who has publicly called for Canada to be ruled by sharia law.

And:

Why would my intentions as publisher be relevant in determining whether or not the publication was illegal? The answer is that these ‘human rights’ commissions are interested in what George Orwell called ‘thought crimes’.

And:

No six-foot brownshirt, no police cell at midnight. Just Shirlene McGovern, an amiable enough bureaucrat, casually asking me about my political thoughts, on behalf of the government of Alberta. And she’ll write up a report about it, and recommend that the government do this or that to me. Just going through checklists, you see.

This man deserves not only our support, but a standing ovation–for he is not just defending the basic principles of a free society, but doing so in high style and with a sense of confident outrage that puts his detractors on the defensive, which is the best place they should ever hope to be. His website, again, can be found here.

UPDATE: A Facebook group has been created on behalf of Levant’s cause. It can be found here.

David Frum and Mark Steyn draw our attention to Ezra Levant–former publisher of the Western Standard, a Canadian political magazine–who, like Steyn, is being harassed by Canadian “human rights” commissars over his apparent lack of sensitivity to fundamentalist Muslims who wish to impose Shari’a law on Canada. In men like Steyn and Levant, the professional grievance hustlers have their hands full.

Levant has his own blog, where he posts missives about his case and republishes statements he’s made to the “human rights” commission. He says rousing things like this:

It is especially perverted that a bureaucracy calling itself the Alberta human rights commission would be the government agency violating my human rights. So I will now call those bureaucrats “the commission” or “the hrc”, since to call the commission a “human rights commission” is to destroy the meaning of those words.

And:

The first [complaint against me] was filed by a radical imam in Calgary, Syed Soharwardy, a tin-pot fascist who has publicly called for Canada to be ruled by sharia law.

And:

Why would my intentions as publisher be relevant in determining whether or not the publication was illegal? The answer is that these ‘human rights’ commissions are interested in what George Orwell called ‘thought crimes’.

And:

No six-foot brownshirt, no police cell at midnight. Just Shirlene McGovern, an amiable enough bureaucrat, casually asking me about my political thoughts, on behalf of the government of Alberta. And she’ll write up a report about it, and recommend that the government do this or that to me. Just going through checklists, you see.

This man deserves not only our support, but a standing ovation–for he is not just defending the basic principles of a free society, but doing so in high style and with a sense of confident outrage that puts his detractors on the defensive, which is the best place they should ever hope to be. His website, again, can be found here.

UPDATE: A Facebook group has been created on behalf of Levant’s cause. It can be found here.

Read Less

Is it the “Monkey”?

ANOTHER Connecting the Dots EXCLUSIVE

More from Jennifer Dyer, a retired Commander, U.S. Naval Intelligence, on the small boat incident in the Persian Gulf: 

Recent reports, like this one from Navy Times, cite the Navy’s long-time Gulf hands as suggesting that the voice heard to make threatening statements in bridge-to-bridge communications during the Iranian small boat incident of 6 January was that of the “Filipino Monkey” — a known, but unidentified, voice communications intruder.

While the “Monkey” is indeed well known to Gulf sailors, the explanation implied by news organizations like the Washington Post, that he was the source of the voice threats made during this incident, strains logic to the breaking point.

The “Filipino Monkey” does not have a history of intruding on bridge-to-bridge (BTB) with pertinent comments.  His interjections are profane and taunting, but not operationally relevant in the manner clearly evident in this incident.  To make the statements recorded by the Navy (“I am coming to you.  You will explode after … minutes”), the BTB speaker of these threats would have had to know the operational facts of the encounter from something other than what he heard on BTB — if he was acting both simultaneously and independently.  This is especially so because observers not within visual range of the ships would not have been aware that the Iranians were dumping boxes into the water.  Suggesting that the Monkey merely giggled to himself, unaware of the facts on-scene, and for no particular reason chose that moment in time to issue voice threats, which coincidentally amplified the impression of threat created by both the dumped boxes and a speedboat swarm, is relying far too heavily on chance.

As noted by some reports, the recorded threats lack background noise of the kind we would expect in BTB communications from a speedboat at sea.  Additional speculation that the speaker’s accent is not that of a native Farsi speaker is unimportant:  Iran is well able to put speakers who don’t sound Iranian to microphones.  But the character of the threat recordings is worth considering.  They can be heard most clearly in this excerpt aired on Hannity & Colmes by Fox News.

Additional queries from an accented speaker can be heard in the first minutes of the full incident video released by the Pentagon yesterday, the speaker twice asking the “Coalition warship” for its course and speed.

The voice excerpts may or may not be from the same speaker, but to my ear they all sound like recordings being broadcast over BTB, more than a live speaker.  The voice is oddly measured, to an extent that may not even be natural; I would recommend sophisticated audio analysis. Far from implicating the Filipino Monkey in a coincidental prank, these excerpts suggest deliberation and forethought by someone.  If we are to believe that that someone is not the Islamic Republic of Iran Revolutionary Guards Navy (IRGCN), there needs to be much more substantial proof of that, given the presence and provocative actions of IRGCN speedboats.

The full 45-minute video released by the Pentagon confirms the nature and extent of the provocation.  It begins with audio of the accented speaker asking the “Coalition warship” for its course and speed (all experienced sailors know the US Navy does not give out that information, but it is common for navies like Iran’s to ask). We also hear parts of the standard warnings being issued by the Hopper‘s crew to the Iranian boats. Almost immediately we see footage of multiple speedboats zipping dangerously around USS Hopper and USS Port Royal (we see a few shots of USS Ingraham throughout the 45 minutes as well).  We hear multiple short warning blasts from the ship’s whistle (close and loud enough that it is undoubtedly Hopper‘s).  The speedboats continue to maneuver for more than ten minutes, until at about 16 minutes Hopper’s bridge crew discusses an order to go to flank speed, and we hear the order “all ahead flank” given.  The ships, which appear by their wakes to have been traveling at about 15 knots (around 18 mph), increase speed to flank, about 28 knots (around 33 mph), and maintain it for about the next 25 minutes.  Through this period at least one Iranian speedboat stays with the formation, appearing to maintain station a little over 2000 yards off Hopper‘s starboard bow.  At 25 minutes we see a second Iranian speedboat join the one on station, and at 27 minutes we get the first videocamera focus on something that may have been dropped in the water (there is no audible narration to confirm this).  After we lose sight of the second speedboat, another one comes up to join its dogged partner at 34 minutes.  They remain together for several minutes, and in the 40th minute we see a much clearer shot of an item dumped in the water ahead of Hopper.  At this point the last speedboat breaks off, and the camera focuses on two dhows in Hopper’s vicinity for the rest of the video.  The dhows do not appear to be involved; they are laden with cargo and look to be in transit on typical dhow business.  Of note, at least one of the task group’s SH-60 helicopters is seen to be aloft throughout this incident.

The full video release does not place the threat warning (“I am coming to you. You will explode after … minutes”) at its exact time — the warning is not heard in this video — but previously released Navy video puts it in the first 16 minutes, while the speedboats are maneuvering among the Navy ships.

Comments on the provenance of the threat warning are sheer speculation at this point, given only what has been released so far.  Its similarity in some aspects to the course and speed query, repeated twice at the outset of the full-length Navy video, suggest a single agent making recordings, if not necessarily a single speaker.  It is even possible that the recordings are, in fact, of the voice of the Filipino Monkey, although they do not sound much like the little I have heard of his BTB “oeuvre.”  However the words were assembled, and whether they were live or recorded, it does seem probable that they were broadcast from an enclosed site, somewhere other than on an open speedboat.  Iran’s Abu Musa and Tunb islands in the southern Gulf would be ideal transmission spots, over the Gulf international bridge-to-bridge frequency (a little under 160mHz).  U.S. warships entering the Gulf routinely pass by Abu Musa while in the transit lanes, and are always close enough to see it with the naked eye.  The maps used to report the incident show the task group well situated to be both observed from Abu Musa, and to receive VHF transmissions from the island.

It is easily possible for the voice issuing the threats to be that of the Filipino Monkey (although I consider that unlikely), while the threats themselves were neither random nor coincidental — and in fact were issued under the direction of the IRGCN.  This explanation is far more credible than the suggestion that the Filipino Monkey (or any other independent provocateur) intensified a brinkmanship incident, with precisely the most alarming and pertinent words, purely by coincidence. The character of the voice recordings does not fit the presumption of a transmission from one of the speedboats, but neither does it fit the “Filipino Monkey” explanation, if that explanation only allows the Monkey to be acting on his own accord.

If anything, the trouble Iran would have gone to, to create this multifaceted incident, underscores the likelihood that it was commissioned at a high political level.  My assessment is that in this case, the monkey on a keyboard did not produce Shakespeare’s sonnets.

ANOTHER Connecting the Dots EXCLUSIVE

More from Jennifer Dyer, a retired Commander, U.S. Naval Intelligence, on the small boat incident in the Persian Gulf: 

Recent reports, like this one from Navy Times, cite the Navy’s long-time Gulf hands as suggesting that the voice heard to make threatening statements in bridge-to-bridge communications during the Iranian small boat incident of 6 January was that of the “Filipino Monkey” — a known, but unidentified, voice communications intruder.

While the “Monkey” is indeed well known to Gulf sailors, the explanation implied by news organizations like the Washington Post, that he was the source of the voice threats made during this incident, strains logic to the breaking point.

The “Filipino Monkey” does not have a history of intruding on bridge-to-bridge (BTB) with pertinent comments.  His interjections are profane and taunting, but not operationally relevant in the manner clearly evident in this incident.  To make the statements recorded by the Navy (“I am coming to you.  You will explode after … minutes”), the BTB speaker of these threats would have had to know the operational facts of the encounter from something other than what he heard on BTB — if he was acting both simultaneously and independently.  This is especially so because observers not within visual range of the ships would not have been aware that the Iranians were dumping boxes into the water.  Suggesting that the Monkey merely giggled to himself, unaware of the facts on-scene, and for no particular reason chose that moment in time to issue voice threats, which coincidentally amplified the impression of threat created by both the dumped boxes and a speedboat swarm, is relying far too heavily on chance.

As noted by some reports, the recorded threats lack background noise of the kind we would expect in BTB communications from a speedboat at sea.  Additional speculation that the speaker’s accent is not that of a native Farsi speaker is unimportant:  Iran is well able to put speakers who don’t sound Iranian to microphones.  But the character of the threat recordings is worth considering.  They can be heard most clearly in this excerpt aired on Hannity & Colmes by Fox News.

Additional queries from an accented speaker can be heard in the first minutes of the full incident video released by the Pentagon yesterday, the speaker twice asking the “Coalition warship” for its course and speed.

The voice excerpts may or may not be from the same speaker, but to my ear they all sound like recordings being broadcast over BTB, more than a live speaker.  The voice is oddly measured, to an extent that may not even be natural; I would recommend sophisticated audio analysis. Far from implicating the Filipino Monkey in a coincidental prank, these excerpts suggest deliberation and forethought by someone.  If we are to believe that that someone is not the Islamic Republic of Iran Revolutionary Guards Navy (IRGCN), there needs to be much more substantial proof of that, given the presence and provocative actions of IRGCN speedboats.

The full 45-minute video released by the Pentagon confirms the nature and extent of the provocation.  It begins with audio of the accented speaker asking the “Coalition warship” for its course and speed (all experienced sailors know the US Navy does not give out that information, but it is common for navies like Iran’s to ask). We also hear parts of the standard warnings being issued by the Hopper‘s crew to the Iranian boats. Almost immediately we see footage of multiple speedboats zipping dangerously around USS Hopper and USS Port Royal (we see a few shots of USS Ingraham throughout the 45 minutes as well).  We hear multiple short warning blasts from the ship’s whistle (close and loud enough that it is undoubtedly Hopper‘s).  The speedboats continue to maneuver for more than ten minutes, until at about 16 minutes Hopper’s bridge crew discusses an order to go to flank speed, and we hear the order “all ahead flank” given.  The ships, which appear by their wakes to have been traveling at about 15 knots (around 18 mph), increase speed to flank, about 28 knots (around 33 mph), and maintain it for about the next 25 minutes.  Through this period at least one Iranian speedboat stays with the formation, appearing to maintain station a little over 2000 yards off Hopper‘s starboard bow.  At 25 minutes we see a second Iranian speedboat join the one on station, and at 27 minutes we get the first videocamera focus on something that may have been dropped in the water (there is no audible narration to confirm this).  After we lose sight of the second speedboat, another one comes up to join its dogged partner at 34 minutes.  They remain together for several minutes, and in the 40th minute we see a much clearer shot of an item dumped in the water ahead of Hopper.  At this point the last speedboat breaks off, and the camera focuses on two dhows in Hopper’s vicinity for the rest of the video.  The dhows do not appear to be involved; they are laden with cargo and look to be in transit on typical dhow business.  Of note, at least one of the task group’s SH-60 helicopters is seen to be aloft throughout this incident.

The full video release does not place the threat warning (“I am coming to you. You will explode after … minutes”) at its exact time — the warning is not heard in this video — but previously released Navy video puts it in the first 16 minutes, while the speedboats are maneuvering among the Navy ships.

Comments on the provenance of the threat warning are sheer speculation at this point, given only what has been released so far.  Its similarity in some aspects to the course and speed query, repeated twice at the outset of the full-length Navy video, suggest a single agent making recordings, if not necessarily a single speaker.  It is even possible that the recordings are, in fact, of the voice of the Filipino Monkey, although they do not sound much like the little I have heard of his BTB “oeuvre.”  However the words were assembled, and whether they were live or recorded, it does seem probable that they were broadcast from an enclosed site, somewhere other than on an open speedboat.  Iran’s Abu Musa and Tunb islands in the southern Gulf would be ideal transmission spots, over the Gulf international bridge-to-bridge frequency (a little under 160mHz).  U.S. warships entering the Gulf routinely pass by Abu Musa while in the transit lanes, and are always close enough to see it with the naked eye.  The maps used to report the incident show the task group well situated to be both observed from Abu Musa, and to receive VHF transmissions from the island.

It is easily possible for the voice issuing the threats to be that of the Filipino Monkey (although I consider that unlikely), while the threats themselves were neither random nor coincidental — and in fact were issued under the direction of the IRGCN.  This explanation is far more credible than the suggestion that the Filipino Monkey (or any other independent provocateur) intensified a brinkmanship incident, with precisely the most alarming and pertinent words, purely by coincidence. The character of the voice recordings does not fit the presumption of a transmission from one of the speedboats, but neither does it fit the “Filipino Monkey” explanation, if that explanation only allows the Monkey to be acting on his own accord.

If anything, the trouble Iran would have gone to, to create this multifaceted incident, underscores the likelihood that it was commissioned at a high political level.  My assessment is that in this case, the monkey on a keyboard did not produce Shakespeare’s sonnets.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.