Sunday, August 07, 2005

Ctr Games, Protest, IEDs, Cook, Calloway, Humor Blogs,

1) Computer games and politics. Remember Friedman's objection to computer games last week -- here's more on that topic:

The Middle East Conflict on PC
Shooting Baruch Goldstein, Carpet Bombing Beirut

The relentless brutality of the Middle East conflict has inspired both sides to produce video games based on actual events. Hezbollah's computer and Internet division is eager to catch up on US and Israeli expertise. Alfred Hackensberger reports


In "Under Siege", the backdrop for entertainment is the "liberation struggle of the Palestinian people" The Uzis rattle, the hand grenades explode, and the Israeli soldiers behind the high barricades of their military posts exude a deep "ahhhh" as they die. Simultaneously, the points quickly rise on the scoreboard. The way is now open for the next level in the fight against the Zionist occupiers of Palestine.

Under Siege is the title of a new, three-dimensional computer game, in which the backdrop for entertainment is the "liberation struggle of the Palestinian people". The game is produced in Damascus by a local software company, Afkar Media, which already released a similar product, Under Ashes, in 2001.

That game, which revolved around the life of Ahmed, a young man involved in the Intifada of 2000, was downloaded some 500,000 times from the company web site and 10,000 copies were sold in the Middle East.

Following this success, the Syrian company decided to bring an updated sequel to the marketplace.

The Goldstein incident

Like Under Ashes, the new game, Under Siege, is also based on actual incidents. The opening sequence deals with the murderous assault carried out by Baruch Goldstein, a Jewish doctor from New York. In 1994, the radical Jewish settler killed 27 Palestinians praying in the Hebron mosque and wounded over 100 others. The players of Under Siege are given the opportunity of preventing the attack. The aim is to shoot Baruch Goldstein as quickly and as accurately as possible.

"We are attempting to provide a new sort of digital dignity," says Radwan Kasmiya, the manager of Afkar Media. Under Siege is meant to be an answer to popular selling games from the USA, such as Delta Force or America's Army, which, for the most part, present Arabs in terms of clichés and stereotypes.

"Our game isn't about killing. We tell a story," stresses Kasmiya, who began programming at the age of 13.

The story features young men who fight tanks with slingshots and hurl back tear gas bombs, as well as experienced fighters with machine guns in hand, battling against the Israeli military.

Under Ashes also includes an episode about a suicide bomber, which has provoked harsh criticism from Israel. A young woman leaves her children with relatives before detonating a grenade amidst a group of Israeli soldiers, who, earlier in the game, had murdered her husband in cold blood.

Instilling the notion of sacrifice

"This is not a story about desperation," explains the manager of Afkar Media. "What is at issue here is the willingness to offer one's life for the sake of others."

Nonetheless, with its portrayal of this "readiness to sacrifice," the software company from Damascus is somewhat lagging behind current political events, as Palestinian and Israeli politicians have recently displayed a willingness towards rapprochement.

In addition, the latest polls taken since Mahmoud Abbas became president indicate that only 29 percent of the Palestinian population still supports "suicide actions." By comparison, six months ago, support stood at 77 percent.

Under Ashes and its sequel, Under Siege, are not the only Arab war games. Early last year, the computer and Internet division of Hezbollah put out a game called Special Force, and have since been regularly providing updates.

Digital memorial for Palestinian struggle

Similar to the products from Damascus, the war game produced by the "Party of God" claims to be based on real events. It is meant to serve as a digital memorial, recalling the expulsion of Israeli occupying forces from South Lebanon in 2000.

Islamic soldiers are shown conducting "liberation missions," such as capturing Israeli military outposts in the Lebanese-Israeli border area. The game indicates an attempt by the Lebanese resistance movement to close a media gap. The organization hopes to become the computer entertainment equivalent of what Al-Jazeera and Al Arabyia are in the news broadcasting sector – a public Arab opposition voice against pro-Western dominance.

"Special Force is only the first step. The movement will only become greater with time," prophesizes Bilal Zeyn from Hezbollah's Internet office.

"Most American games offer players the opportunity to humiliate Islamic and Arab countries," he explained further. Arab soldiers and civilians are usually treated as mere terrorist cannon fodder, and the hero killing them is, as a rule, an American. "In Special Force, the Arabs are not terrorists, but rather freedom fighters."

The Hezbollah game has since sold over 20,000 copies, mainly in Syria, Iran, Kuwait, and in the United Arab Emirates. By comparison, only 1500 copies were purchased in Europe and Australia. Nevertheless, the game has aroused virulent protest in the Western world. Jewish organizations in Britain strongly condemned the game.

In Australia, Labour parliamentarian Michael Danby called it dehumanizing and that "it encourages young people to become suicide bombers and to participate in attacks on people from the West."

These accusations have also been directed against Under Siege by Afkar Media in Damascus. The computer game will soon be available in English, translated by volunteers from Europe, Asia, and South America.

The games of the US and Israeli army

Yet, in terms of their "inhumanity" and "bloodthirstiness," Under Siege and Hezbollah's Special Force both pale in comparison to the games from the USA and Israel, which have enjoyed enormous commercial success.

Almost 1.5 million individuals have registered for America's Army, a game that can be found on the web site of the US Army. According to the US Department of Defense, between 20 to 30 percent of the 35,000 players visiting the site daily go on to click the army's recruiting page.

The goal of America's Army is to destroy terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, and no concern is expressed for the resultant collateral damage.

This attitude is also apparent in the game Israeli Air Force. Taking on the role of an Israeli fighter jet pilot during the invasion of Lebanon in 1982, the player can choose the option of "carpet bombing over Beirut." Both games have been praised in specialist magazines and web sites for their "realistic representations."

A heart-pounding mission to defend the homeland

"In light of current political developments in Iraq, these kinds of war games are gaining ground in the USA," reports the well-known Internet game site One such game is Terrorist Takedown, which was released in November last year.

"As a soldier in the US Army, you are in the very front lines in the fight against terrorism. Your job is to neutralize known terrorists. Apache and Huey helicopters, Humvees with heavy machine guns, and rocket launchers are at your disposal. This is a heart-pounding mission to defend your homeland."

Perhaps the Arab games are no less propagandistic, yet they do not mercilessly sacrifice civilian lives. In the Palestinian liberation struggle of Under Ashes and Under Siege, points are lost and "Game Over" can even be declared when just one civilian is killed. The Hezbollah game Special Force doesn't include any civilians that could be drawn into the conflict.

The kids in Beirut and even those in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon show little interest for the locally produced Arab games compared to the American competition. "Most people don't even know these Arab games," said one student who works as an Internet supervisor in Starcafe. "All games are popular for only a short time anyway, and then the search begins for something new."

A new "resistance game" is currently being produced by the computer division of Hezbollah. "It is considerably more refined, with helicopters and all sorts of new missions," tells Bilal Zeyn, head of Hezbollah's Internet office. He can't provide any more information, says Zeyn secretively, bearing a smile not unlike that of the larger-than-life portrait of Ayatollah Khomeini behind him on the wall.

Alfred Hackensberger
© 2005
Translation from German: Mark Rossman

2) A Mother's protest:,1280,-5195529,00.html

Mom Protesting Iraq War Meets Bush Aides

Sunday August 7, 2005 10:16 AM

AP Photo TXSA101


Associated Press Writer

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) - The angry mother of a fallen U.S. soldier staged a protest near President Bush's ranch Saturday, demanding an accounting from Bush of how he has conducted the war in Iraq.

Supported by more than 50 demonstrators who chanted, ``W. killed her son!'' Cindy Sheehan told reporters: ``I want to ask the president, 'Why did you kill my son? What did my son die for?''' Sheehan, 48, didn't get to see Bush, but did talk about 45 minutes with national security adviser Steve Hadley and deputy White House chief of staff Joe Hagin, who went out to hear her concerns.

Appreciative of their attention, yet undaunted, Sheehan said she planned to continue her roadside vigil, except for a few breaks, until she gets to talk to Bush. Her son, Casey, 24, was killed in Sadr City, Iraq, on April 4, 2004. He was an Army specialist, a Humvee mechanic.

``They (the advisers) said we are in Iraq because they believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, that the world's a better place with Saddam gone and that we're making the world a safer place with what we're doing over there,'' Sheehan said in a telephone interview after the meeting.

``They were very respectful. They were nice men. I told them Iraq was not a threat to the United States and that now people are dead for nothing. I told them I wouldn't leave until I talked to George Bush.''

She said Hagin told her, ``I want to assure you that he (Bush) really does care.''

``And I said if he does care, why doesn't he come out and talk to me.''

Sheehan arrived in Crawford aboard a bus painted red, white and blue and emblazoned with the words, ``Impeachment Tour.'' Sheehan, from Vacaville, Calif., had been attending a Veterans for Peace convention in Dallas.

The bus, trailed by about 20 cars of protesters and reporters, drove at about 15 mph toward Bush's ranch. After several miles, they parked the vehicles and began to march, in stifling heat, farther down the narrow country road.

Flanked by miles of pasture, Sheehan spoke with reporters while clutching two photographs, one of her son in uniform, and the other, a baby picture, when he was seven months old.

She said she decided to come to Crawford a few days ago after Bush said that fallen U.S. troops had died for a noble cause and that the mission must be completed.

``I want to ask the president, `Why did you kill my son? What did my son die for?'' she said, her voice cracking with emotion. ``Last week, you said my son died for a noble cause' and I want to ask him what that noble cause is?''

White House spokesman Trent Duffy said response that Bush also wants the troops to return home safely.

``Many of the hundreds of families the president has met with know their loved one died for a noble cause and that the best way to honor their sacrifice is to complete the mission,'' Duffy said.

``It is a message the president has heard time and again from those he has met with and comforted. Like all Americans, he wants the troops home as soon as possible.''

The group marched about a half-mile before local law enforcement officials stopped them at a bend in the road, still four to five miles from the ranch's entrance. Capt. Kenneth Vanek of the McLennan County Sheriff's Office said the group was stopped because some marchers ignored instructions to walk in the ditch beside the road, not on the road.

``If they won't cooperate, we won't,'' Vanek said.

3) IEDs Article, a solid military analysis:,1280,-5194374,00.html

Bombs Becoming Biggest Killers in Iraq

Saturday August 6, 2005 6:46 PM

AP Photo BAG114
Associated Press Writer

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Bombs like the titanic roadside blast that killed 14 Marines last week are becoming the biggest killers of U.S. troops in Iraq, surpassing bullets, rockets and mortars, as insurgents wage an unconventional war that has boosted the American death toll beyond 1,820....

4) Robin Cook has died. He was the rarest quality, a politician who at least tried to rule ethically. He opposed Blair's misadventure and resigned right before the invasion of Iraq. A good man:,6903,1544284,00.html

6) Op-Ed about George Calloway:

5) The dullest blog in the world:

6) A fashion satire blog:

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