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Ask Dr. Kareem


Here's a little corner of the web you won't want to miss: "Let's Talk," with your host Dr. Kareem bin Jabbar.

From what I can gather, Dr. Kareem is sort of an Arab Dr. Phil, dispensing wisdom—from what The Beirut Daily Star describes as a "fact corner"—on the website for Aljazeera magazine.

A note on the Aljazeera.com website states: "Aljazeera Publishing and Aljazeera.com are not associated with the controversial Arabic Satellite Channel known as Jazeera Space Channel TV station whose website is Aljazeera.net." (Boy, was I ever relieved to hear that. Some of those Aljazeera TV people can be—well, you know—a little out there.)

Dr. Kareem is a fountain of information about international affairs, middle east politics and sundry matters. Here's just a sample of the questions he ponders:

A lot of the "questions" Dr. Kareem answers are actually statements: "Rice can fool Americans but she can’t fool the world!" or "What the U.S. calls “insurgency” will continue until the occupation leaves Iraq!" or "Britain will learn a bitter lesson along with the United States not only in Iraq but in Iran very soon!" (Many of the questions, moreover, are of the Linda Richman "talk amongst yourselves" sort.)

But never mind. Dr. Kareem and his faithful assistant, Sheikha Sajida, can always be counted on to offer a well-informed and constructive response:

  • Bush has long been insisting that the U.S. is "not an imperial power ... We're a liberating power," while his administration’s actions ever since he took up his post was nothing by a series of crimes and lies aimed at causing unlimited destruction to any country dare to stand as an obstacle in Washington’s way of power pursuit. Afghanistan, Iraq, now Iran and may be Syria ….
  • More attacks, bombings and murders are claiming the lives of innocent civilians  in Iraq everyday, and again the one to blame is Mr. Bush ….
  • With blow after blow, the British forces in Iraq have become viewed as butchers much as the U.S. if not worse ….
  • I as a Muslim call on governments, institutions, organizations, as well as individuals to appeal to the Danish government and urge it shut down Jyllands-Posten- What happened is a direct insult and humiliation to the Muslims and to our holy religion ….

"Let's talk" is very nearly as entertaining as the Daily Kos—though not, I'll admit, quite up to the standards of this.

Have a question for Dr. Kareem? You can email him here.

Posted by Rodger on February 27, 2006 at 09:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Great issues of our time


I created this chart at BlogPulse using the search terms "cartoons," "port" and "cheney."

Feel free to discuss. Or not.

Posted by Rodger on February 27, 2006 at 07:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)


Summers' end


The best unknown political commentator in America, Dean Barnett (aka Soxblog), has a brilliant retrospective on Larry Summers' unhappy tenure at Harvard over at The Weekly Standard.

In it, he points out the true victims of the Summers coup d'academie, the University's undergraduates.

And what of the student body? In a development that seems to have surprised virtually all Crimson observers, only 19 percent of Harvard undergrads thought Summers should resign.

This poll perhaps signifies the contradiction at the heart of the modern academy. Students think universities should focus on educating their charges. Undergrads know, however, that their famous professors are often far more interested in their scholarship than in teaching. Summers was probably popular amongst the undergraduates because they knew he was their champion.

In my view, Harvard's undergrads have been getting the short end of the stick since the early 1970s, when the faculty began to realize it was the grad students who made their reputations—and the University did nothing to offset that perception. (Yale, for example, assigned its senior faculty positions as "fellows" of its undergraduate residential colleges, with a meal allowance in the college dining hall, as a way of encouraging the co-mingling of superstar profs and undergrads. Harvard had—and still has, to my knowledge—no such arrangement.)

Anyway, have a look at Dean's column on Summers at the Standard. It's as well-researched and -written a piece as you'll find.

Posted by Rodger on February 25, 2006 at 11:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)


Goodbye, Mr. Chips


Larry Summers may have had his share of kerfuffles at Harvard, but you wouldn't know it to talk to the students:

If Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers was worried about how the undergraduates would greet him Wednesday night at his first scheduled event since announcing his resignation, those fears quickly were put to rest.

He got a standing ovation after he walked in. He got a standing ovation before he left. A row of students with red letters painted on their chests spelled out "Larry."

Sarah Bahan, 22, was wistful as she left the meeting. She had kind words to say about Summers' emphasis on hard sciences.

Mark Hoadley, 21, said Summers' monotone speaking style was balanced by a "dynamic mind."

Trey Kollmer, 21, said "a lot of students feel bad for him and think he got a raw deal."

The show of student loyalty has come as a surprise to many faculty members and administrators at Harvard, who grew to loathe Summers during a five-year tenure that brought a raw blast of politics to the 370-year-old institution.

But never mind the opinion of those pesky students.

It's what the Faculty of Arts and Sciences thinks that really matters.

UPDATE: My son Grant—currently a freshman at Georgetown's School of Foreign Service—informs me that the "Troy Kollmer" quoted in the L. A. Times article is actually Trey Kollmer, one of his friends from Lawrenceville.

Posted by Rodger on February 24, 2006 at 06:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)


Rancho mirage


Even as the MSM belatedly moves on to the administration's alleged sellout of our port security, the Bush-hating left—no doubt unwilling to be caught on the same side of an issue with Tom DeLay, Rick Santorum and others on the right—is still desperately trying to fan the embers of the Cheney hunting accident story.

This item from Doug Thompson's DC gossip site Capitol Hill Blue curently tops the Blogdex list of "the most contagious information currently spreading in the weblog community" …

Secret Service agents guarding Vice President Dick Cheney when he shot Texas lawyer Harry Whittington on a hunting outing two weeks ago say Cheney was "clearly inebriated" at the time of the shooting.Agents observed several members of the hunting party, including the Vice President, consuming alcohol before and during the hunting expedition, the report notes, and Cheney exhibited "visible signs" of impairment, including slurred speech and erratic actions.

According to those who have talked with the agents and others present at the outing, Cheney was drunk when he gunned down his friend and the day-and-a-half delay in allowing Texas law enforcement officials on the ranch where the shooting occurred gave all members of the hunting party time to sober up.

We talked with a number of administration officials who are privy to inside information on the Vice President's shooting "accident" and all admit Secret Service agents and others say they saw Cheney consume far more than the "one beer' he claimed he drank at lunch earlier that day.

"This was a South Texas hunt," says one White House aide. "Of course there was drinking. There's always drinking. Lots of it."

One agent at the scene has been placed on administrative leave and another requested reassignment this week. A memo reportedly written by one agent has been destroyed, sources said Wednesday afternoon.

Cheney has a long history of alcohol abuse, including two convictions of driving under the influence when he was younger. Doctors tell me that someone like Cheney, who is taking blood thinners because of his history of heart attacks, could get legally drunk now after consuming just one drink.

If Cheney was legally drunk at the time of the shooting, he could be guilty of a felony under Texas law and the shooting, ruled an accident by a compliant Kenedy County Sheriff, would be a prosecutable offense.

But we will never know for sure because the owners of the Armstrong Ranch, where the shooting occurred, barred the sheriff's department from the property on the day of the shooting and Kenedy County Sheriff Ramon Salinas III agreed to wait until the next day to send deputies in to talk to those involved.

Of course, this putative "news story" cites only anonymous sources, notably the agents allegedly guarding Cheney at the time of the accident.

But think about this for a moment. The Secret Service agents in Cheney's detail are sworn to protect the Vice President. And while their duties don't extend to monitoring his drinking habits, the agents would be required to intervene if the Vice President—or people around him—were conducting themselves in a manner that could injure him in any way. And that, unquestionably, would extend to carrying loaded firearms while intoxicated.

Having worked with the Secret Service during my brief tenure at the White House, it's pretty hard for me to imagine that agents would knowingly violate their sworn duty—and then freely admit the fact to a Bush-bashing moonbat  like Doug Thompson. (Thompson, incidentally, is a self-admitted "recovering alcoholic" who's previously speculated on the drinking habits of the Commander in Chief. This isn't his first swipe at the Vice President either.)

Sadly, people like Alan Dershowitz—who's otherwise been making an unusual amount of sense lately—seem to be buying into the nutty "Cheney was drinking" meme.

You'd think they'd have more important things to speculate about.

UPDATE: Doug Thompson has posted a defense of his article here. (Still no sources, though … don't hold your breath.) John Hawkins at Right Wing News writes:

One of the things that perpetually amazes me is that anyone pays the slightest bit of attention to Capitol Hill Blue, which is in my opinion, a lefty scam blog that continually claims to have these big scoops about what's going on in the White House. Their standard modus operandi is, again in my opinion, to make up highly charged stories from whole cloth, Jayson Blair style, and then claim that the information they received was given to them by highly placed anonymous sources.

Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom also offers a few well-considered thoughts on the subject.

UPDATE: Mr. Hawkins seems to have figured out Doug Thompson's M.O.

Here's a representative sampling of  Capitol Hill Blue stories about the White House:

Bush's Erratic Behavior Worries White House Aides (6/4/04)

GOP Leaders to Bush: 'Your Presidency is Effectively Over' (11/4/05)

GOP memo touts new terror attack as way to reverse party's decline (11/10/05)

Pentagon, intel pros tell Bush war cannot be won (11/30/05)

Bush on the Constitution: 'It's just a goddamned piece of paper' (12/9/05)

Bush's drinking and drug use must be investigated (1/3/06)

Bush approved multi-agency program to spy on Americans (2/3/06)

Look at the sourcing. Notice a pattern?

Posted by Rodger on February 23, 2006 at 09:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Alan Dershowitz: Who knew?


What's gotten into the man Newsweek called "the nation's most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer and one of its most distinguished defenders of individual rights"?

Here he is defending outgoing Harvard President Larry Summers against the baying hounds of the University's Faculty of Arts and Sciences:

Summers could do no right in the eyes of his radical critics, who could never forgive him for his perceived original sins and who saw an opportunity to build wider coalitions every time Summers took actions that alienated other groups, as a president -- especially an activist and sometimes abrasive president -- will inevitably do. Some less ideological critics of Summers's leadership style then joined the radicals in a cacophony of strange bedfellows, but the core of the opposition always remained the hard left.

It was arrogant in the extreme for a plurality of a single faculty to purport to speak for the entire university, especially when that plurality is out of synch with the mainstream of Harvard. It was dangerous for the corporation to listen primarily to that faculty, without widely consulting other professors, students, and alumni who supported Summers. Now that this plurality of one faculty has succeeded in ousting the president, the most radical elements of Harvard will be emboldened to seek to mold all of Harvard in its image. If they succeed, Harvard will become a less diverse and less interesting institution of learning governed by political-correctness cops of the hard left. This is what happened in many European universities after the violent student protests of the late 1960s. It should not be allowed to happen at Harvard in the wake of the coup d'etat engineered by some in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

Not the sort of thing you'd expect to hear from a card-carrying ACLU member. But even more shocking is what he has to say in his latest book, Preemption: A Knife That Cuts Both Ways:

The shift from responding to past events to preventing future harms is part of one of the most significant but unnoticed trends in the world today. It challenges our traditional reliance on a model of human behavior that presupposes a rational person capable of being deterred by the threat of punishment. The classic theory of deterrence postulates a calculating evildoer who can evaluate the cost-benefits of proposed actions and will act — and forbear from acting — on the basis of these calculations. It also presupposes society's ability (and willingness) to withstand the blows we seek to deter and to use the visible punishment of those blows as threats capable of deterring future harms. These assumptions are now being widely questioned as the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of suicide terrorists becomes more realistic and as our ability to deter such harms by classic rational cost-benefit threats and promises becomes less realistic.

Sounds a lot to me like Professor Dershowitz has reinvented the Bush Doctrine. Who knew he was a fan? Seriously, though, as Tony Blankley notes in The Washington Times:

A prominent scholar of the left has finally entered into a constructive conversation about how to manage our inevitably dangerous WMD/terrorist-infested future.

If such as Mr. Dershowitz and I can find common ground, there should be space there for a multitude. And from that common ground can grow a common plan for a common victory.

Such sound thinking on the left, unfortunately, is not so common. And I expect that rather than embracing his recent thinking, many on the left will seek to purge Professor Dershowitz from their ranks.

Alan Dershowitz, meet Joe Lieberman.

Posted by Rodger on February 23, 2006 at 06:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)


The "deep politics" of the Armstrong Ranch shooting


It turns out that David Ignatius' ingenious comparison of Chappaquiddick and Dick Cheney's hunting accident may have been borrowed from this RJ Eskow item, which appeared two days earlier on The Huffington Post.

Eskow, moreover, did a follow-up post last Wednesday that's become one of the most circulated bits of speculation in the left-wing blogosphere. Eskow theorizes that the real reason the Vice President didn't ring up the White House press corps and call for a news conference pronto monto was that (1) he was drunk and (2) may also have been having an affair with Pamela Willeford, our current ambassador to Switzerland. (Under questioning from Tucker Carlson on MSNBC's "The Situation," Eskow has since backed away from his suggestion and is now accusing Carlson of having "slandered" him, both on television and on Carlson's blog. All in a day's work for your typical moonbat.)

Not to be outdone by Eskow, Neal Gabler last Friday on "FOX News Watch" implied that Cheney shot Whittington deliberately, in order to distract the public from the latest round of Abu Ghraib photos. Ian Schwartz at Expose the Left comments: "First it was Cheney was drunk, then it was Cheney is cheating on his wife with the ambassador to Switzerland, and now it’s he did it on purpose. Memo to the left: pick, choose, and stay with your conspiracy theories." (He's got the video available for download here.)

You'd think, of course, that if a brilliant criminal mastermind like Dick Cheney were going to go to all the trouble of shooting his good friend Harry Whittington, he'd have had his alibi ready for the press a little sooner.

Guess I don't have much of a grasp of deep politics.

Posted by Rodger on February 20, 2006 at 04:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)


The MSM goes off the deep end


Not sure how I missed this …

Here's David Ignatius opining about the Cheney hunting mishap in last week's Washington Post:

Nobody died at Armstrong Ranch, but this incident reminds me a bit of Sen. Edward Kennedy's delay in informing Massachusetts authorities about his role in the fatal automobile accident at Chappaquiddick in 1969.

Okay, now there's a brilliant analogy. As Mark Steyn analyzes it:

Hmm. Let's see. On the one hand, the guy leaves the gal at the bottom of the river struggling for breath pressed up against the window in some small air pocket while he pulls himself out of the briny, staggers home, sleeps it off and saunters in to inform the cops the following day that, oh yeah, there was some broad down there. And, on the other hand, the guy calls 911, has the other fellow taken to the hospital, lets the sheriff know promptly but neglects to fax David Gregory's make-up girl!

One can only hope others agree with Ignatius' insightful analogy, and that the reprehensible Cheney will be hounded from public life the way Kennedy was all those years ago. One would hate to think folks would just let it slide and three decades from now this Cheney guy will be sitting on some committee picking Supreme Court justices and whatnot.

The MSM seems to be working itself into quite a lather about the "arrogance of power" in the Veep's not promptly alerting the White House press corps of the accident. As with so much of their fault-finding with this administration, they may have started with a semi-valid point, but by the time they've finished with their slings and arrows, they'll have turned Dick Cheney into the Republican Party's Saint Sebastian.

Look for Cheney's approval ratings to akyrocket in the next month or two.

UPDATE: Paul at Wizbang is predicting a nine percent bump. I say he's being too conservative.

UPDATE: The  MSM's emerging meme about the Cheney controversy seems to be the notion of an "excessively secretive" White House:

Newsweek cover story: "Cheney's Secret World"

Baltimore Sun headline: "Cheney's secretive behavior follows pattern of others"

Los Angeles Times headline: "Straight shooter? Not with public"

Seattle Post-Intelligencer headline: "A missed lesson in transparency"

Guardian headline: "Bush denies secrecy over Cheney shooting"

Newsday headline: "The secrecy approach"

New Zealand Herald headline: "Shooting highlights Cheney's secrecy"

Miami Herald headline: "Vice president's secrecy is no laughing matter"

Bill Clinton: "The White House should have said something about it sooner. I think that it's gotten a little more light than it would have because the administration has an enormous penchant for secrecy, for not telling anybody anything about anything."

Harry Reid: "I think the reason it took the vice president a day to talk about this is part of the secretive nature of this administration. The American people's not entitled to know what's going on in their mindset. They keep things pretty close to the chest."

Joe Biden: "The way they're going about this thing just sort of reinforces this whole notion that this administration, particularly this vice president is incredibly secretive about everything."

Makes you wonder who's writing the talking points.

Posted by Rodger on February 19, 2006 at 08:59 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Swann dive?


The juggernaut that is Lynn Swann's campaign for governor of Pennsylvania has begun to hit a few nasty potholes.

First there was the flap of his voting record: "Republican Lynn Swann's spotty record of voting over the past 20 years won't cripple his candidacy for governor," writes The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Tom Barnes, "but it's a sign that the gushing adoration he's been getting may be over. That's what several political analysts said yesterday in sizing up the disclosure this week that Mr. Swann voted in only 17 of 43 elections since he first registered to vote in Allegheny County in 1984."

(Admittedly, Swann voted in 9 out of the last 10 general elections, but that's not the story the Pennsylvania news media is running with.)

Then there was his ill-coached performance last Sunday on ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos—where the former Democratic political strategist actually had to give Mr. Swann a nationally-televised civics lesson:

Stephanopoulos: So if you were governor and the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, would you try to pass a law banning abortions in the state of Pennsylvania?

Swann: Well, if the Supreme Court overturned it, then they've basically … overturned it. They've basically said that, you know, you can't have an abortion.

Stephanopoulos: No, no. They would send it to the states and it would be up to each state to decide …

Swann: Well, if they sent it to the states to decide, then I would sign legislation from the legislature making abortions illegal.

Stephanopoulos: No exceptions?

Swann: No, there would be exceptions.

Stephanopoulos: For?

Swann: In terms of the health of the mother, rape, incest …

Stephanopoulos: Many people who describe themselves as pro-life are opponents of stem cell research. Are you?

Swann: I am not an expert on stem cell research at this particular time. I'd rely on the science and medical community to give me some input in terms of where we should go.

Stephanopoulos: Well, what you say there should be … generally?

Swann: I've talked to doctors who say you can do great stem cell research without getting involved, heavily, in embryonic stem cell research. And there are people on the other side, who believe that the only viable stem cell research is embryonic stem cell research.

Stephanopoulos: What do you believe?

Swann: Well, I don't … it's no a matter of what I believe. It's a matter of getting the information and making an informed decision. You know … in our scientific community, why are they opposing each other? I mean if both are valid …

Stephanopoulos: If doctors believed it could be valuable, would you be for it?

Swann: Well, I'd have to give it more consideration …

Stephanopoulos: But right now you're against it?

Swann: I want to give it more consideration.

Stephanopoulos: But where do stand right now?

Swann: I'm not standing anywhere. What I want to do is get the information from the scientific community.

I think you may get the impression here that Mr. Swann hasn't quite done all the homework he could have on some of the hot-button issues that will help decide the election this November. (You can watch the complete interview here. When you do, you'll see that Mr. Swann's answers on the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit, restructuring the National Guard and how he came to be a Republican were similarly ill-thought-out.)

What makes fumbling his first nationally-televised interview so alarming is that, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll, incumbent Governor Ed Rendell currently holds a 12-point lead over Swann—even though just 49 percent of voters think Rendell actually deserves re-election. And a big part of Mr. Swann's problem is that, despite his high name recognition among sports fans, fully 52 percent of voters say they haven't heard enough about him as a candidate.

Naturally, the Sunday morning news shows don't draw big audiences, but they do create enormous buzz among what marketing types call "influentials." And I can't imagine that most of the buzz about the "This Week" interview has been positive for Mr. Swann.

Maybe he feels he shouldn't worry too much about boning up on the issues until after the primary season, now that his main Republican challenger, Bill Scranton, dropped out of the race, and he's essentially running unopposed.

But I can confidently predict he's going to coming up against a much tougher questions—and a much more formidable opponent in Ed Rendell—than anything he's seen so far from Messrs. Stephanopoulos and Scranton.

He may go on to beat Rendell—who has all the charm and good looks of Don Rickles (and actually ranks far higher on the annoying scale).

But,  like the Steeler's recent Superbowl victory, it ain't gonna be pretty.

Posted by Rodger on February 19, 2006 at 01:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Two wars converge in Nigeria


Two separate wars are now raging in Nigeria: one in its heavily-Muslim north, another in its oil-rich south.

Both, however, have clear ties to the global jihad inspired by Osama bin Laden.

The Times of India reports that the death toll in the cartoon jihad has climbed much higher than originally estimated:

The Nigerian government deployed troops in the northeastern parts of the country on Sunday as the death toll from the previous day's riots over the controversial Prophet Mohammed cartoons rose to 45.

Police reports said 42 people have been arrested in the city of Maiduguri, capital city of Borneo state and the scene of Saturday's riots.

Soldiers have been deployed amid fears that rioters could regroup or strike in another city in Nigeria's predominantly Muslim north ….

Most of the victims of Saturday's violence were Christians or other non-Muslims.

Rioters razed 18 churches during the protests and at least 17 houses were set alight.

Thousands of demonstrators took part in Saturday's rally to protest the cartoons of Prophet Mohammed, published last year by a Danish newspaper.

Meanwhile, in southern Nigeria, a fierce assault—led by an Islamist militant loyal to Osama bin Laden—continues against foreign oil facilities in the region, particularly those of Shell Oil.

WARRI, Nigeria (AP) -- Militants who seized nine foreign oil workers in a string of attacks across Nigeria's troubled delta region threatened Sunday to step up assaults by firing rockets at international oil tankers.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, which claims to be fighting for a greater local share of Nigeria's oil wealth, claimed responsibility Saturday for a series of raids, including one in which militants abducted three Americans, two Egyptians, two Thais, one Briton and one Filipino. The violence cut the West African nation's crude oil exports by 20 percent.

A man identifying himself as the commander of the movement told The Associated Press by telephone his group was poised to escalate the violence by firing rockets at crude oil tankers offshore.

"We'll use our rockets on the ships to stop them from taking our oil," said the man, who gave his name as Efie Alari. His identity could not be independently verified, but the call came from a number used by the group before.

The military said it would do whatever necessary to ensure tankers remain safe.

"I don't know their (militants) capabilities but we're not leaving anything to chance," said Maj. Said Hammed, spokesman of the military task force in the Niger Delta in Warri. "The assurance has been given at the highest level of government that oil tankers are safe in Nigerian waters. That assurance remains."

The militants said Saturday's attacks were in retaliation for assaults last week by military helicopters.

The raids began before dawn, when more than 40 militants overpowered military guards and seized the foreigners from a barge belonging to Houston-based oil services company Willbros, which was laying pipeline for Shell, a Willbros official said on condition of anonymity.

In Houston, Willbros spokesman Michael Collier confirmed that nine employees had been taken.

"We have not had any communication with those involved. Right now, we're in the process of contacting the families. The well-being of our people is foremost, and we're trying to keep this situation under control as best we can," he said.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Noel Clay called for the hostages' unconditional release and said: "We're working with the Nigerian government and talking with them about this."

In other, apparently coordinated violence, militants blew up a major Shell crude oil pipeline near a facility by the western delta's Chanomi Creek, Shell official Donald Boham said.

Militants also claimed they destroyed a state-run pipeline that feeds gas from the Escravos gas plant in the delta to the country's commercial capital, Lagos. That attack could not be independently confirmed.

The violence took its toll on oil exports in Nigeria, Africa's leading oil exporter and the United States' fifth-largest supplier, that normally producing 2.5 million barrels a day.

A fire was put out on a Royal Dutch Shell platform that loads the company's tankers in the western delta, but the Forcados terminal's normal operations could not continue, halting the flow of 400,000 barrels a day.

Shell said it had also evacuated an oil platform off its Atlantic coast as a precaution, shutting off an additional 115,000 barrels a day.

On Friday, Shell shut down a facility pumping 37,800 barrels daily after a fire at a nearby oil well. The firm has yet to restore 106,000 daily barrels lost when a major pipeline supplying the Forcados terminal was hit last month by a similar wave of attacks and hostage takings.

Oil prices jumped more than $1 and settled near $60 a barrel Friday on supply concerns sparked by a militant threat to wage war on foreign oil interests.

The militants have accused foreign oil companies of providing their helicopters and air strips for military operations in the oil region. They said they would now target all helicopters in the delta, including civilian aircraft.

On Saturday, the militants reiterated warnings that foreign oil workers must leave the Niger Delta, saying the expatriates were "caught up in a war, and the Nigerian government can do nothing to guarantee the security of anyone."

The MEND rebels have a vested interest in promoting such an idea, of course, but they do seem to be right on this. The Nigerian army, despite recent efforts by Britain and the United States to help reform it, is notoriously corrupt, ill-disciplined and abusive of the civilian populations where it operates. It's hard to imagine that the security situation in the Niger delta won't continue to deteriorate until some Western country musters the political will to send in troops to clean up the mess.

In the meantime, look for disruptions in Nigeria's oil production to drive the price you're paying at the pump even higher in the months ahead.

Look also for ties to emerge between the cartoon rioters in the north and militants in the south. As Stephen Schwartz wrote presciently last fall, al Qaeda and its allies have a vested interest in disrupting the oil flow from non-Persian Gulf states like Nigeria (and Venezuela) as a way of demonstrating their global reach.

It is clear that as the dominant power in the entire West African region, [Nigeria] will remain a major focus of extreme Islamist attention. In addition, Muslim activists in the West African diaspora living in the U.S. insist, in dismay, that Nigeria, which lacks the widespread influence of Sufis and other mystics found in the coastal Francophone states such as Senegal, is especially susceptible to radical agitation. Finally, Nigeria is also characterized by polarization of Muslims against Christians. In these conditions, Nigeria must be considered a country at serious risk of becoming a major new front for Islamist terrorism.

Keep a close eye on Nigeria. It could well emerge as the next major front in the war on terror.

Posted by Rodger on February 19, 2006 at 11:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)