On a Monday in late February, I received a Facebook message from a Syrian activist notifying me that a demonstration was due to start in half an hour in a heavily guarded section of Damascus. The occasion was a funeral, and so the protest was likely to be large. “Two of the five martyrs are children, and funeral processions for children are always big,” the message explained. I took a cab to the Kafr Sousa district, an area that is home to many government buildings, and walked for 20 minutes, until I came upon about 75 casually dressed men toting machine guns.
They march in place as a drill sergeant barks commands. They simulate shooting 106-mm guns in a concrete lot. They practice charging enemy buildings. They are giving it their all, but they resemble high school freshmen learning to march on their first day of band practice. Meet the recruits who hope to overthrow Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.
Four days before the fall of Kabul in November 2001, Osama bin Laden was still in town. The Al Qaeda leader’s movements before and after September 11 are difficult to trace precisely, but, just prior to the attacks, we know that he appeared in Kandahar and urged his followers to evacuate to safer locations in anticipation of U.S. retaliation. Then, on November 8, he was in Kabul, despite the fact that U.S. forces and their Afghan allies were closing in on the city.
Though they differ in many ways, John McCain and Barack Obama have one thing in common: Each sees the other as a posturing phony. When McCain talks about Obama on the stump, he trades his typical graciousness for sarcasm and contempt. When McCain lectured Obama about the future of Iraq last week, he did so with what The New York Times called "a tone of belittlement in his voice." McCain has also called Obamamania a swindle. "America is not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change that promises no more than a holiday from history," he said in Wisconsin last month.