In response to Pastor Terry Jones’ International Burn a Koran day, the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has decided to post the advertisement below in Jones’ city local newspapers. MRFF is acting because of concern members of the US military have expressed about the impact Jones’ book burning will have on the lives of military personnel posted in Muslim countries. It wasn’t but a few short years ago that any act considered endangering the lives of US servicemen was considered treasonous, but today racist elements in American society have managed to turn that notion on its head and instead say any act which doesn’t outrage Muslim sensitivities is appeasement, no matter how provocative the act may be or how it might endanger lives. MRFF’s response is the kind that will defeat the likes of Jones and the rest of the pilers on who’ve got on board with this xenophobic, Islamophobic notion of either denying Muslims their citizenship rights or provoking them. ‘Attaboy’ to MRFF!
The minister in Florida who wants to have a burn the Quran day on September 11 says he won’t back down from doing it and I say good for him! It is his constitutional right to burn copies of the Quran, the religious book of Muslims. Let’s not forget we live in a country where it is the right of any American to burn the US flag, and we all remember the turmoil reaching that decision caused America. It is one of the “hazards” of living in a free society; protested speech against patriotic or religious symbols is not illegal. American Muslims more than any other group, should understand that, and should register their disagreement with the burning of Qurans act,with thoughtful and or provocative editorials like this one , or planned peaceful protests like this, for even though what Jones wants to do is legal it is morally reprehensible. That’s as far as his opponents should take it, however.
It is this type of dissent Muslims should expect from those who oppose their building of a masjid near the site of the former WTC buildings; one may disagree with the building of the Cordoba House at Park 51, and may protest the building going up there, however it is the right of the supporters of that project, codified by the legal authorities responsible, for the house to be built there and Cordoba House’s supporters should proceed with resolve to see it through even during times of intense opposition to it AND the opponents should resign themselves to the inevitability of its completion . What will then become a true battle of ideas a distinction between those who oppose book burning versus those who oppose a religious house of worship will be how the different groups express their opposition and accept the rule of law. In other words, the behavior of the opposition will have more of an impact on the public debate about the presence of Islam in America than the action which spurs that opposition. America will have to choose between those who promote racist, stereotypical, violent reaction to protected speech and religious freedom and those whose opposition is principled, respectful or thoughtful.
Given America’s past inclination to mob/racist rule the outcome is not so certain and definitely not in the near future. One of the reasons why we must have this frank discussion about race in this country is because the racist template we’ve set for ourselves over the years allows us to insert whatever group of the day we want to hate into it and then hurl invective and discriminatory actions at them which we try to make into law to suppress them. We still have not managed to steer clear of this disease because we haven’t really tried to cure it. Saddle up America, here we go again; we’re in for another protracted campaign for the soul of this country.
Jones did back down and if anyone can understand the reasons why he did so, please explain them to me. The man who claimed to have received messages from God is unfathomable, sick, crazy in the head and one as intimately familiar with him as his own daughter has come out and said so. There’s even mention of a mental disorder here as well. Why we, citizenship media as well as corporate media gave him so much of our time, bandwidth and news print is one of the mysteries of life. A “pastor” with a minuscule congregation of about 50 managed to hold the entire world hostage with his delusions of grandeur and his fear injected venom which paralyzed a nation, diverted its attention from a more pressing national agenda than his personal dementia and left us, after his ‘never mind’ moment feeling used and abandoned from it all. We deserve it….we put in way too much time feeding the ego of a man whose ego is as large as any other megalomaniac or larger, being called by a US Army general, the Secretary of Defense, the FBI, the NYC police chief and countless others who otherwise wouldn’t give you the time of day can be very gratifying, but what did all of that give us, the People? It revealed for us that dark side of our collective nature that loves to be frightened and angered; it allowed the haters in our midst to feed us their daily ration of hatred and loathing for “others” who are really “we”, “us”. Someone wrote on their headline, ‘Florida Pastor Makes National Jackass of Himself’….and my answer would be no he didn’t. He made jackasses out of us.
- Pastor’s new tune: Church will never burn Quran (salon.com)
New York Has the Most Millionaires
According to the new Metro Wealth Index, created by consulting firm Capgemini, the New York Metropolitan area had 650,000 high-net worth individuals, or people with $1 million or more in investible assets in 2009. That is 18.7% higher than in 2008.
Once again, the New York area topped the list of metro-area wealth centers. Its total was greater than the combined total of the next three runners up–Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington.
Of the top 10, Houston posted the the fastest growth, at 28.9%. But all enjoyed strong growth.
Here are the tallies of millionaires for the top 10, along with the percentage growth:
New York – 667,200, +18.7%
Los Angeles – 235,800, +13.3%
Chicago – 198,100, +15.1%
Washington, D.C. – 152,400 +19.3%
San Francisco – 138,300 +14.5%
Philadelphia – 104,100, +20.1%
Boston – 102,300, + 14.4%
Detroit – 89,100, +12.1%
Houston –- 88,200, +28.9%
San Jose — 86,500, +24.5%
What are the takeaways?
First, that the U.S. taxpayers’ bank bailouts certainly helped those on Wall Street (though why New York still has huge budget problems given the wealth surge in 2009 and much-publicized tax burden of the wealthy remains a mystery).
Second, that finance, technology and oil remain the main sources of wealth in the U.S.
Third, while New York, D.C., Houston and San Jose are now above 2007 levels, the rest are still below the 2007 heights.
Fourth, that 2010 may not be as rosy as 2009 when it comes to minting new millionaires or re-minting the old ones.
What patterns do you see in the numbers?
The seat of government, Washington, DC, placed in the top five American cities with millionaires and that should say something about what government has done to its citizens. In a city where the only business is government which then goes and has a steadily increasing number of millionaires from one year to the next but was virtually deadlocked and or engaged in acrimonious debate on increasing unemployment benefits for the country’s unemployed says something about what many people in government think is their role. The war on terror has led to the enrichment of many private citizens whose wealth depends on a fearful government willing to empty out its coffers to fight or demonize people who either don’t exist, mean them no harm or are incapable of inflicting harm, at the expense of the majority of the American people. In this case, the expression ‘follow the money’ has meaning!
Islamophobic racists are all singing the dangers of Shari’ah law as something that will overtake the Nation and either make everyone Muslim or kill those who don’t convert. From the looks of this article, their fears are misplaced; rather it is their own Christian-Judeo tradition which has enveloped the US military they should be worried about. Imagine, an American military force made up of Christians determining whether you meet the criteria for safety or punishment. Think it won’t happen here? Maybe it already is.
The Army said Friday it was investigating a claim that dozens of soldiers who refused to attend a Christian band’s concert at a Virginia military base were banished to their barracks and told to clean them up.Fort Eustis spokesman Rick Haverinen told The Associated Press he couldn’t comment on the specifics of the investigation. At the Pentagon, Army spokesman Col. Thomas Collins said the military shouldn’t impose religious views on soldiers.
“If something like that were to have happened, it would be contrary to Army policy,” Collins said.
Pvt. Anthony Smith said he and other soldiers felt pressured to attend the May concert while stationed at the Newport News base, home of the Army’s Transportation Corps.
“My whole issue was I don’t need to be preached at,” Smith said in a phone interview from Phoenix, where he is stationed with the National Guard. “That’s not what I signed up for.”
Smith, 21, was stationed in Virginia for nearly seven months for helicopter electrician training when the Christian rock group BarlowGirl played as part of the “Commanding General’s Spiritual Fitness Concerts.”
Smith said a staff sergeant told 200 men in their barracks they could either attend or remain in their barracks. Eighty to 100 decided not to attend, he said.
“Instead of being released to our personal time, we were locked down,” Smith said. “It seemed very much like a punishment.”
You can read more about the efforts of many in the military to make it Christian, thereby usurping the Constitution, here.
This is a very compelling read that I hope you will take time to absorb. I wanted to excerpt points I find particularly relevant to today’s debates
Declining civil rights: Everyday freedoms are often a casualty of a society in collapse. As the anger of the populace mounts in response to declining economic conditions and political corruption, the government counters by increasing draconian measures that restrict the political rights and civil liberties of its citizens.
America is becoming a country like China, which has one of the lowest scores according to Freedom House. In America, private discussions and movements are monitored, free speech is corralled, the freedom to assemble for protest is by government decree, and independent thought that questions the political system is increasingly looked upon with suspicion. A final indicator is when the government insists upon secrecy for its own actions, while new laws and systems are created to put the individual under nearly constant surveillance.
Failing infrastructure: As 46 of 50 states are on the verge of bankruptcy, cities are going dark, asphalt roads are returning to the stone age, and nationwide budget cuts are leaving students without teachers, supplies, or a full-time education. These are common features one will see as they travel through the poorest of Third World countries.
Controlling the media: A government-influenced media that censors information is a key component of Third World countries. In some countries it is openly owned by the State. In America, privately-owned major media is not as balanced or as diverse as it seems; the concentration of ownership has led to censorship when national and corporate interests have sometimes overlapped. The persecution of high-profile investigative journalists such as WikiLeaks is set amid a backdrop of the proposed Internet censorship of bloggers who wish to remain anonymous. The end of net neutrality creates a pay-to-play system that can lead to further corporate and government control of information and opinion. Cybersecurity initiatives are the final nail in the coffin, as the entire free flow of information can be vetted in a China-style system of “identity management.” On the street, the police state and media control have converged in the recent rise of arrests for those who videotape the police. This is a huge blow to First Amendment rights and the role of photojournalists who wish to document public police behavior.
Bob Cesca’s Awesome Blog does an awesome job of destroying the race baiting Islamophobes’ objections to the Cordoba House being built in close proximity to the 911 disaster because it somehow will upset the sensitivity of those who suffered loss there. And while there really were never any legitimate objections to this project to begin with, and each one that the opponents have raised has been seriously knocked down or derailed they keep popping up because there are some in America who want to ascribe any and all failure to the present administration or want to maintain an obstructionist agenda in order to win elections in November.
So here we go again……the hallowed ground scenario. This is also what’s going up in and around the “sacred” ground of the World Trade Center complex, some would say the same distance from it as the Cordoba House. The New York Dolls Gentlemen’s Club on 59 Murray Street, where you can have all of your emotional needs met. If you want to reflect on what happened at WTC on 911 the New York Dolls club is the place to go to do just that. No doubt the likes of the one above will be glad to give you a hand, at a price of course, to come to grips with what took place on that awful day and hold the memories of loved and cherished ones who died on that day. A titty bar, that’s what we call them down South, is more deserving of occupying that holiest of ground in the American psyche than an interfaith institution that wants to bridge gaps and promote brother/sisterhood among people. That’s just what the country needs.
The building of a Muslim community center in an abandoned building two blocks from the site of New York’s former World Trade Center has become the latest controversy in America’s long fought religious wars. The construction of the center, often referred to as a mosque, has become the latest rallying issue for the Christian right, Tea Party proponents and Republican operatives in their war to impose moralistic and corporatist values on America.
It is too early to know how the Muslim center issue will be resolved, but it is clear that the rantings of Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Abe Foxman (of the Anti-Defamation League) and others have played an important role pushing a local issue into the center-stage of national politics. Since the horrendous attacks of 9/11, Muslims in general and American Muslims in particular have been the targets of an undeclared religious war promoted by Christian fundamentalists and self-serving Republicans. For some among these religious zealots, Islam is a threat to their belief that the U.S. is a white Protestant nation. Over the last four centuries, Quakers, Mormons, Catholics, Jews and many others have been targets of religious persecution, often the victims of imprisonments, hangings, lynchings and other acts of violence.
Rightwing ranters might well not know the history of religious intolerance in America, but they are surely aware that they are fueling a deep-seated rage among a certain scary segment of the Christian populous. This round in the ongoing religious culture wars has yet to explode into the ugly violence that took place in the aftermath of 9/11, and one can only hope that the current controversy will not lead to attacks on Muslims.
Sadly, like the attacks the followed 9/11, rightwing ranters like Palin and Gingrich will act “shocked” by the violence if it occurs and will claim innocence as to their roles fomenting it. With a knowing sneer, they will wash their hands of the blood they have caused and seek out other innocent victims.
In an excellent article on Tomdispatch, Stephen Salisbury details the current Manhattan Muslim center controversy and the spreading anti-Muslim hysteria being whipped up around the country over the opening of new local mosques. As Salisbury opines, “The angry ‘debate’ over whether the building should exist has a kind of glitch-in-the-Matrix feel to it, leaving in its wake an aura of something-very-bad-about-to-happen.” [tomdispatch.com, August 11, 2010]
Salisbury discusses the ongoing protests against mosques also taking place in New York’s Brooklyn and Staten Island as well as in California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Wisconsin. He connects these controversies to the headline-grabbing opportunist comments by Palin (in true Palin-speak, “peaceful Muslims” need to “refudiate” the center) and Gingrich (who calls on Saudi Arabia to open churches and synagogues).
He also draws attention to the pernicious role played by Rick Lazio, New York State Republican gubernatorial candidate, who assails the center as subverting the right of New Yorkers “to feel safe and be safe.” Because New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York State Attorney General (and likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate) Andrew Cuomo have come out in support of the Muslim center, it will like be a major issue in the November election.
Most importantly, Salisbury provides an invaluable overview of the anti-Muslim campaign that arose in the wake of 9/11, reminding readers just how alarmingly vicious good-old Christian love can be.
Part of the “glitch-in-the-Matrix feel” that Salisbury notes is the absence of a recognition that the current Muslin center controversy is part of a long history of religious intolerance in American.
In the days following the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush, a born-again Christian, in a spontaneous and unscripted statement blurted out the unspoken truth that guided the U.S.’s initial military counter-attack campaign in Afghanistan: “This crusade,” he said, “this war on terrorism.” While Bush’s admission was later repudiated and disappeared from the public discourse, it define the unstated goal of the ultra-reactionary Christians who were his core-constituency and knew full well what he meant.
At the heart of Bush’s crusade agenda was an invocation of the “shock and awe” tradition that defined religious wars since the grand crusades of the Middle Ages and an acknowledgement that they needed to be applied in Afghanistan. The grand crusades waged by the Roman Church were against Muslims and Jews to capture and hold ancient Jerusalem and the Holy Lands, and to defeat Orthodox or Eastern Christianity. Many perished. Similar, crusaders were waged against Christian heretics, including early Protestants, and done so in the name of their absolutist god.
This tradition was brought over to the New World with the Pilgrims and other early British settlers. The worst and most sustained form of religious war in America has been waged against the Native people. For all the annual whitewashing that takes place at Thanksgiving Day parades, early Puritans fought the Pequot Indians in Eastern Connecticut until 1637 when the General Courts of the Plymouth and Massachusetts Colony launched a war of extermination against them. (Native people found that the Pilgrims stunk, literally; Europeans rarely bathed, believing it unhealthy, and seldom were naked, believing it immoral.) The white Christian race and religious crusade against Native North American people persisted for centuries.
Pilgrims also imposed religious intolerance on themselves. Early Massachusetts Bay Colony settlers were aligned with the Church of England and looked badly upon those who contested their orthodoxy. Those challenging Calvinist dogma were subject to banishment, whipping, branding, ear-lobbing and even hanging. Early leaders like Thomas Hooker, Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson were banished. Early Quaker settles in Plymouth were also banished and four were hung publicly.
Over the subsequent centuries, Americans have witnessed repeated bouts of religious intolerance. Not surprisingly, these episodes were often accompanied by the same shrill rhetoric we find shouted today by those opposing the Muslim center.
The Know Nothing movement grew out of the Second Great Awakening or the Great Revival of the 1830s and became the American Party that flourished during the late-’40s and early-’50s. It got its name when members where asked the party’s positions and simply said, “I know nothing.” It drew together Protestants who felt threatened by the rapid increase in European immigrants and, most especially, Catholics, flooding the cities. It felt that Catholics, as followers of the Pope, were not loyal Americans and were going to take over the country. It had strong support in the North that witnessed large-scale Irish immigration after 1848. The American Party captured the Massachusetts legislature in 1854 and, in 1856, backed Millard Fillmore for president, who secured nearly 1 million votes, a quarter of all votes cast.
The Ku Klux Klan was established in 1866 and, during Reconstruction, began a systematic campaign against freed African Americans. However, by the ’80s, it had lost its way as a racialist organization. It was revitalized in the wake of the Atlanta trial of Leo Frank, a Jewish businessman who had been falsely charged and convicted of murdering Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old white Christian girl, in 1913. In 1915, after the Georgia governor commuted his sentence, Frank was forcibly removed from the state penitentiary where he was being held by a mob of white Christians and lynched. Subsequently, many of those who participated in Frank’s murder came together to re-launch the Klan.
In the late-’10s, the Klan aligned with nativists, eugenicists and the Anti-Saloon League (ASL) to not only promote temperance but racialist and anti-immigrant policies. As WWI hysteria mounted, ASL’s New York representative, William Anderson, equated being pro-German with being anti-American: German beer, saloons and breweries were the unnamed enemy. He had a deep antipathy toward Catholics, accusing the Church of mounting an “assault on law and order,” of opposing Prohibition because it was promoted by Protestants and accusing it of engaging in “efforts to destroy [the Prohibition] victory and bring back the saloons.” Anti-Catholic antipathy contributed to the defeat of the country’s first Catholic nominee, Al Smith’s, in the 1928 presidential election.
Many other episodes of religious intolerance have taken place since the ’20s. However, John Kennedy’s 1960 presidential victory marked the moment in American history when anti-Catholic appeals in national election were no longer acceptable. Similarly, the growing acceptance among Christian evangelicals of the notion of the “last days” has lead to a weird embrace of Jews and Israel and may have contributed to a moderation in anti-Semitism.
In the days before 9/11, most informed people accepted Islam as a variant within the Abrahamic tradition. However, in the aftermath of the attacks, even this claim came under suspicion. Earlier this summer, Ron Ramsey, a Republican candidate for governor of Tennessee, claimed that Islam is a “cult” that did not deserve First Amendment protection: “You can even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, a way of life, or a cult — whatever you want to call it… .” Challenged by a diverse assortment of Tennesseans, including traditional conservatives, Ramsey has backed off this assertion.
If truth be told, the Manhattan Muslim center is both a real issue and a fictitious spectacle. It is real in the sense that its being built at the designated site on Park Place will be a victory for religious tolerance. America is undergoing a profound economic and cultural realignment. Traditional white society is giving way to a truly multi-cultural America; conventional Protestantism is giving way a significant increase in the Catholic populous (mostly Hispanics) and growing Muslim, Hindu and Sekh communities.
The Muslim center story, like that of Michelle Obama’s holiday in Spain, is a false issue, a spectacle promoting social deception. Since Obama’s victory, the Republican right has implemented a very effective wrecking-ball strategy, attempting to destroy every issue considered. Its guiding principle is simple: Obama and the Democrats can do no right. To realize this goal, it did anything and everything in its power to make sure as little as possible got through Congress, got honestly assessed in the media and got to help ordinary Americans. Sadly, the Christian Republican right is succeeding and the Obama leadership remains clueless.
A century-and-a-half ago white Protestants came to accept Irish immigrants as white. While hard to imagine today, early Irish immigrants, those who came to America in the wake of the 1848 famine, were seen by many traditional Protestants as “niggers,” not really different from African Americans. Faced with the inevitabilities of post-Civil War modernization, old-world Protestants changed. And with it, racism changed.
The challenge that faces today’s Anglo-American Protestant descendents, those who see Muslims as “niggers,” is whether then can change and accept America as a multi-cultural society.
I thought this was a very good article and decided to excerpt it here
On August 4, 2010, Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine and chair of the Interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives, published an article in Sabbah Report, entitled “Shame on ADL for Opposing Mosque 2Blocks from Ground Zero.”
Rabbi Lerner’s position on the ADL’s (Anti-Defamation League) objection to building an Islamic Community Center in Manhattan, near Ground Zero is praiseworthy. But his interpretation of ADL’s reasons for resisting such a project lacks insight. ADL leader Abe Foxman’s statement: “In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right,” spells out the real reasons behind the decision. That decision cunningly reinforces the notion that Muslim fundamentalists were behind the attacks of 9/11 – a position also perpetrated by the architects of those attacks.
Rabbi Lerner’s statement: “It was not ‘Muslims’ or Islam that attacked the World Trade Center, but some Muslims who held extreme versions of Islam and twisted what is a holy and peace-oriented tradition to justify their acts and their hatred,” echoes George W. Bush’s address to a joint session of Congress on Thursday, September 20, 2001, whereby the blame for 9/11 was put on “a fringe form of Islamic extremism … that perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam.” Unfortunately, both positions – the first, explicitly, the second, apologetically – demonize Islam.
As rightly noted by Jack G. Shaheen in his book Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilified a People (see, also Reel Bad Arabs – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5), a consistent stereotype of Arabs and their religion existed since the earliest, most obscure days of Hollywood. Perhaps, this was the continuation of European fascination with Orientalism. However, in the hands of Hollywood, it acquired a new malicious bend that increased proportionally with the number of Jewish entrepreneurs in Hollywood. Arabs were typically presented as rich and stupid, and their Western captives as victims of prejudice, manipulation and oppression. This pattern was further exploited by Zionists to include violence and acts of terrorism.
Hollywood’s groundwork was certainly useful to all that planned on instigating a clash of civilization between Muslims and non-Muslims. Huntington’s civlizational conflict between “Islam and the West” became the cornerstone of Zionist propaganda. But long before the establishment of Israel, the Zionist intellectual Maurice Samuel in his You Gentiles of 1924 polarized the Gentile and the Jewish worlds: “There are two life-forces in the world I know: Jewish and Gentile, ours and yours … Your outlook on life, your dominant reactions, are the same to-day as they were two thousand years ago. All that has changed is the instrument of expression” (pp. 19-20). Samuel admits that the “surface credo of a Jewish faith” imposed on a gentile way of life did not make a fundamental difference: “But in the end your true nature works itself into the pattern of the borrowed faith, and expresses itself undeniably” (p. 22).
According to Samuel there is a “clear and fateful division of life – Jewish and Gentile,” with an “unsounded abyss between” them. Gentiles have a “way of living and thinking” that is distinctly different from Jews: “I do not believe that this primal difference between gentile and Jew is reconcilable. You and we may come to an understanding, never to a reconciliation. There will be irritation between us as long as we are in intimate contact. For nature and constitution and vision divide us from all of you forever…” (pp. 22-23).
Samuel’s description provides a classic example of a real “clash of civilizations.” The notion of a clash also fits Samuel’s final solution, based on the destruction of the existing world order: “A century of partial tolerance gave us Jews access to your world. In that period the great attempt was made, by advance guards of reconciliation, to bring our two worlds together. It was a century of failure. … We Jews, we, the destroyers, will remain the destroyers forever. Nothing that you will do will meet our needs and demands. We will forever destroy because we need a world of our own, a God-world, which it is not in your nature to build” (p. 155).
The modern equivalent of Samuel’s “God-world” and “destroyers” is religiously motivated terrorism – the accusation conveniently hurled at Muslims. After 9/11 – a false flag operation, no doubt – every Mossad-induced terrorist hoax, from shoe-bombers to crotch-bombers, is blamed on Muslims. Meanwhile, terrorist attacks on civilians of a humanitarian aid ship are dubbed as self-defence. There certainly is a clash of civilizations, witnessed by its concomitant double standard. But the clash is not between Muslims and non-Muslims, as the Zionists claim. Rather, the real clash, as Samuel described so promptly, is between Jews and Gentiles. The bogus clash, conveniently induced through tags like “Islam has bloody borders,” is of Zionist origin. It fits the Zionist strategy of demonizing Islam, and is an expedient cover for the real clash between Jews and Gentiles.
Following up their ban of the niqab, or face veil in public because it is a secular democracy, France has denied again, women the right to wear modest clothing while swimming and recently removed two Muslim women from a pool at le Port Leucate for doing so. We wrote about this phenomenon last summer but it doesn’t look like people have taken our advice.
Two Muslim women were ordered to leave a swimming pool in a French holiday village on the southwest coast for wearing body-covering “burkinis”.
The women had plunged into the pool at le Port Leucate wearing full body swimsuits, including a head-covering hijab veil, but were immediately told to get out of the water.
The incident occurred less than two weeks after French MPs voted to ban body and face-covering garments, including the full Islamic veil, from public places including the street.
Under the new law, due to come into force early next year, women face a fine or community service for hiding their faces in public and those forcing women to wear the full veil risk prison.
President Nicolas Sarkozy has described the garment as “not welcome” in the staunchly secular French republic.
Now my question is if Muslims in France insist on asserting their rights in this secular democracy where certain things are not welcomed, what else will France do to them? The history of Europe in the 20th century for religious minorities doesn’t bode well for French Muslims. Wars and ethnic cleansing have been the by-product of European religious intolerance. My advice, if you’re willing to take is if you like swimming during the summer time, go to another country where you will be welcomed to vacation. My advice to America is now is the time for an excellent marketing campaign to attract Muslim vacationers…..opps. I forgot they’d probably be on a no-fly list, along with thousands of other law abiding Americans. My bad.
Just when you think it’s safe to have hope in government they go and make a major bo0 boo when it comes to your rights as a citizen. For now, government is pretty safe in saying they will go after and even KILL Anwar al-Awlaki because as far as everyone is concerned he’s a bad guy and he’s not entitled to the same rights and privileges as the rest of us and that’s because the government said so. It doesn’t matter that not one shred of proof has been offered other than the government’s claim to Awlaki’s nefarious character, or that we haven’t given him a chance to defend himself against the accusation. Nor does it seem to matter that his rights as an American citizen are irrelevant as far as the government is concerned; perhaps there are many who assert he isn’t an American citizen, much like the teabaggers who say the same about Obama, and in that he and Obama, oddly enough, have something in common. What is telling is the government’s premise their position to extra-judiciously kill Awlaki is in ‘strict accordance with the law.‘ He’s no longer considered a ‘militant preacher’ now he’s an operative for al-Qaida based on the kind of evidence that was enough to allow others to stand trial or have access to the judicial system but for him is a death sentence without recourse to the rights guaranteed him by the US Constitution. However the incremental erosion of citizenship rights by Government means what’s here and allowed today can very easily be taken away tomorrow merely on the declaration of an un-named and in general civics terms unaccountable public servant.
What bothers this observer is how close the US response to perceived acts of terrorism mimics that of the Israelis who claimed the right to kill any of their enemies whenever and wherever they wanted at the beginning of the 21st century. Years later Israel is still an insecure, even by their own admission, country that continues to kill its opponents while at the same time further dimming hopes for peace and security. Simply put, assassinations of political foes does not engender security or peace nor the cessation of hostilities, but rather exacerbates them. That is a lesson the US, despite the Israeli model, has refused to learn.
What looms on the American horizon is the prospect that any one who resists the government and can be adequately portrayed as evil enough for his death to be accepted by a large segment of the US population stands the risk of having their rights casually dismissed and their life equally dispatched the way of a common criminal without the ability to prove or disprove a charge or legally defend himself. I know that’s enough to get tea baggers angry in this day and age; the existence of a black American as president sets them off. The polarization of American society has made it possible for people to turn a blind eye to the idea that one branch of government can unilaterally determine the rights it is willing to extend to a citizen with the citizen having no say in the matter especially when that citizen is not from one group or another. That can only mean the continued insurgency of the federal government on the rights of its citizen.
One of the reasons Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize from a grateful prize committee is because those who awarded it to him realized America has barely escaped falling into the abyss of becoming a dictatorial and insane government worse than Josef Stalin et.co could ever imagine. It wasn’t without a big price that we as a Nation and the world community had to pay; two invasions, the almost complete evisceration of the US Constitution and the de facto persecution and or ethnic cleansing of a religious group that would make even Israel green with envy. In the clear light of day, absent the Bush Administration and its evil cohorts cooperation spin of fantasy from reality, the blinders are falling from our eyes and there is some sense of truth that has made its way in the media, that was once the stenographer for what could be the most corrupt US administration in the history of this country.
One such revelation came in the form of a lecture by a CIA employee, a 30 year veteran by the way, who it can be said has been around in the intelligence field a lot longer than Dick Cheney has, that intelligence gathering by his agency HAS NOT suffered as a result of not waterboarding terrorist suspects. This flies in the face of assertions made by Dick Cheney, most notably, and others in the former Administration who claimed the US was at risk of an imminent attack if it did not waterboard information from people. We’ve written about waterboarding alot here on the pages of Miscellany101 because it is an illegal activity that was sanctioned and made legal by the illegal Administration of Bush/Cheney. Every other month or so another crack appears in the wall they set up to separate America from the rule of law and slowly but surely voices are speaking out to say we can survive as a Nation without resorting to criminal behavior. This latest voice, that of career intelligence agent, Michael Sulick is a welcomed addition to the others who stand up to say what makes America great and exceptional is ‘after 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true to the granite ridge, and her glow has held no matter what storm. And she’s still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.’
For some, the search for what happened on 9/11 isn’t over
You didn’t see anything about it in the mainstream media, but two weeks ago at a conference in San Francisco, more than one thousand architects and engineers signed a petition demanding that Congress begin a new investigation into the destruction of the World Trade Center skyscrapers on 9/11.
That’s right, these people put their reputations in potential jeopardy because they don’t buy the government’s version of events. They want to know how 200,000 tons of steel disintegrated and fell to the ground in 11 seconds. They question whether the hijacked planes were responsible – or whether it could have been a controlled demolition from inside that brought down the twin towers and Building 7.
Richard Gage, a member of the American Institute of Architects and the founder of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, put it like this: “The official Federal Emergency Management [Agency] and National Institute of Standards and Technology reports provide insufficient, contradictory and fraudulent accounts of the circumstances of the towers’ destruction.” He’s especially disturbed by Building 7, whose 447 stories came down in “pure free-fall acceleration” that afternoon – even though it was never hit by an aircraft.
This is a subject I take up in my new book, American Conspiracies, published this week by Skyhorse. An excerpt follows:
Some people have argued that the twin towers went down, within a half hour of one another, because of the way they were constructed. Well, those 425,000 cubic yards of concrete and 200,000 tons of steel were designed to hold up against a Boeing 707, the largest plane built at the time the towers were completed in 1973. Analysis had shown that a 707 traveling at 600 miles an hour (and those had four engines) would not cause major damage. The twin-engine Boeing 757s that hit on 9/11 were going 440 and 550 miles an hour.
Still, we are told that a molten, highly intense fuel mixture from the planes brought down these two steel-framed skyscrapers. Keep in mind that no other such skyscraper in history had ever been known to collapse completely due to fire damage. So could it actually have been the result of a controlled demolition from inside the buildings? I don’t claim expertise about this, but I did work four years as part of the Navy’s underwater demolition teams, where we were trained to blow things to hell and high water. And my staff talked at some length with a prominent physicist, Steven E. Jones, who says that a “gravity driven collapse” without demolition charges defies the laws of physics. These buildings fell, at nearly the rate of free-fall, straight down into their own footprint, in approximately ten seconds. An object dropped from the roof of the 110-story-tall towers would reach the ground in about 9.2 seconds. Then there’s the fact that steel beams that weighed as much as 200,000 pounds got tossed laterally as far as 500 feet.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) started its investigation on August 21, 2002. When their 10,000-page-long report came out three years later, the spokesman said there was no evidence to suggest a controlled demolition. But Steven E. Jones also says that molten metal found underground weeks later is proof that jet fuel couldn’t have been all that was responsible. I visited the site about three weeks after 9/11, with Governor Pataki and my wife Terry. It didn’t mean anything to me at the time, but they had to suspend digging that day because they were running into heat pockets of huge temperatures. These fires kept burning for more than three months, the longest-burning structure blaze ever. And this was all due to jet fuel? We’re talking molten metal more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Probably the most conclusive evidence about a controlled demolition is a research paper (two years, nine authors) published in the peer-reviewed Open Chemical Physics Journal, in April 2009. In studying dust samples from the site, these scientists found chips of nano-thermite, which is a high-tech incendiary/explosive. Here’s what the paper’s lead author, Dr. Niels Harrit of the University of Copenhagen’s chemistry department, had to say about the explosive that he’s convinced brought down the Twin Towers and the nearby Building 7:
“Thermite itself dates back to 1893. It is a mixture of aluminum and rust-powder, which react to create intense heat. The reaction produces iron, heated to 2500 degrees Centigrade. This can be used to do welding. It can also be used to melt other iron. So in nano-thermite, this powder from 1893 is reduced to tiny particles, perfectly mixed. When these react, the intense heat develops much more quickly. Nano-thermite can be mixed with additives to give off intense heat, or serve as a very effective explosive. It contains more energy than dynamite, and can be used as rocket fuel.”
Richard Gage is one of hundreds of credentialed architects and structural engineers who have put their careers on the line to point out the detailed anomalies and many implications of controlled demolition in the building collapses. As he puts it bluntly: “Once you get to the science, it’s indisputable.”
The fifth column was always something ascribed to a fanatical Islamic element on western shores that lurked around the fringes of respectability waiting for an opportunity to destroy western institutions through terror and mayhem. It was a notion advanced by Islamophobes and carried gleefully by members of corporate media and cited by government in order to maintain its hold on a citizenry drunk with fear and hatred, willing to hand over any and all rights demanded of it by fear mongers, the press and government.
Unfortunately it was aimed at the wrong group for if it was to be attached to any one group of people it should have been affixed to the dual loyalists zionists, those who carry the passports of a western country and of Israel and who are slowly being outted as the ones responsible for the terror murder in Dubai in January of this year. Dubai Police chief, Lieutenant-General Dahi Khalfan Tamim, who has given the world a very strong civics lesson on international relations, has gone on record as saying, people traveling to the UAE who are suspected of having Israeli citizenship will not be allowed to enter the country regardless of what passport they hold, and the reasons should be more and more apparent. As the lists of suspects responsible for the murder of Mahmoud Al Mabhouh grows it becomes increasing apparent it was carried out with the help of a very substantial logistical network in place in all of the countries touched by this incident, from the US where bank funds were made available to the terrorists to Ireland and Australia where passports were secured illegally and other illegal activity took place or networks were used for the terrorists to throw law enforcement agencies off their trials, through SIM cards and communications from Austria. The extensive international nature of the operation is the only distinguishing feature of an otherwise very public execution which has been quickly and methodically solved and revealed by the Dubai police.
Tamim’s announcement that dual Israel nationals will no longer be accepted is most likely an acknowledgment that such dual nationals are a threat to the national security of those countries that house or allow them and who don’t act in the best interest of their host countries. That is too plain for all to see. What isn’t being explained is how and why a so called crack pot agency like the Mossad would use 26 agents to kill one man? I’ve been asking that rhetorical question for several days, and the answer is as plainly obvious to me as it is to the Dubai police who have now instituted this ban on dual Israeli passport holders. Throughout all this is the stunning admission by the emirate of Dubai, that in the past they have willing accepted Israelis Jews, into their country, that they knew they were Israeli Jews, not just American or British Jews, yet allowed them as long as they traveled under a western passport and respected the laws of the emirate. That privilege was abused by the Israelis who have managed to upset, justifiably so, Dubai with its act of terrorism on Emirati shores. In an effort to staunch the damage done by a fifth column that really exists, Emirati authorities have reasonably imposed this ban. One more victory in the ongoing war on terror.
In a previous post I alluded to how people in media with a certain interest are neglectful of trends that are staring them in the face when those trends don’t suit their agendas, such as advancing the notion that one group of people has invested in it all the anti-social behavior and negative traits are the worse while ignoring the very same inclinations in other groups. Here is an article written by Alison Weir that states that case far better than I could.
Recent exposés revealing that Ethan Bronner, the New York Times’ Israel-Palestine bureau chief, has a son in the Israeli military have caused a storm of controversy that continues to swirl and generate further revelations.
Many people find such a sign of family partisanship in an editor covering a foreign conflict troubling – especially given the Times’ record of Israel-centric journalism.
Times management at first refused to confirm Bronner’s situation, then refused to comment on it. Finally, public outcry forced Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt to confront the problem in a February 7th column.
After bending over backwards to praise the institution that employs him, Hoyt ultimately opined that Bronner should be re-assigned to a different sphere of reporting to avoid the “appearance” of bias. Times Editor Bill Keller declined to do so, however, instead writing a column calling Bronner’s connections to Israel valuable because they “supply a measure of sophistication about Israel and its adversaries that someone with no connections would lack.”
If such “sophistication” is valuable, the Times’ espoused commitment to the “impartiality and neutrality of the company’s newsrooms” would seem to require it to have a balancing editor equally sophisticated about Palestine and its adversary, but Keller did not address that.
Bronner is far from alone
As it turns out, Bronner’s ties to the Israeli military are not the rarity one might expect.
• A previous Times bureau chief, Joel Greenberg, before he was bureau chief but after he was already publishing in the Times from Israel, actually served in the Israeli army.
• Media pundit and Atlantic staffer Jeffrey Goldberg also served in the Israeli military; it’s unclear when, how, or even if his military service ended.
• Richard Chesnoff, who has been covering Mideast events for more than 40 years, had a son serving in the Israeli military while Chesnoff covered Israel as US News & World Report’s senior foreign correspondent.
• NPR’s Linda Gradstein’s husband was an Israeli sniper and may still be in the Israeli reserves. NPR refuses to disclose whether Gradstein herself is also an Israeli citizen, as are her children and husband.
• Mitch Weinstock, national editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune, served in the Israeli military.
• The New York Times’ other correspondent from the region, Isabel Kershner, is an Israeli citizen. Israel has universal compulsory military service, which suggests that Kershner herself and/or family members may have military connections. The Times refuses to answer questions about whether she and/or family members have served or are currently serving in the Israeli military. Is it possible that Times Foreign Editor Susan Chira herself has such connections? The Times refuses to answer.
• Many Associated Press writers and editors are Israeli citizens or have Israeli families. AP will not reveal how many of the journalists in its control bureau for the region currently serve in the Israeli military, how many have served in the past, and how many have family members with this connection.
• Similarly, many TV correspondents such as Martin Fletcher have been Israeli citizens and/or have Israeli families. Do they have family connections to the Israeli military?
• Time Magazine’s bureau chief several years ago became an Israeli citizen after he had assumed his post. Does he have relatives in the military?
• CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, while not an Israeli citizen, was based in Israel for many years, wrote a book whitewashing Israeli spying on the US, and used to work for the Israel lobby in the US. None of this is divulged to CNN viewers.
Tikkun’s editor Michael Lerner has a son who served in the Israeli military. While Lerner has been a strong critic of many Israeli policies, in an interview with Jewish Week, Lerner explains:
“Having a son in the Israeli army was a manifestation of my love for Israel, and I assume that having a son in the Israeli army is a manifestation of Bronner’s love of Israel.”
Lerner goes on to make a fundamental point:
“…there is a difference in my emotional and spiritual connection to these two sides [Israelis and Palestinians]. On the one side is my family; on the other side are decent human beings. I want to support human beings all over the planet but I have a special connection to my family. I don’t deny it.”
For a great many of the reporters and editors determining what Americans learn about Israel-Palestine, Israel is family.
Jonathan Cook, a British journalist based in Nazareth, writes of a recent meeting with a Jerusalem based bureau chief, who explained: “… Bronner’s situation is ‘the rule, not the exception. I can think of a dozen foreign bureau chiefs, responsible for covering both Israel and the Palestinians, who have served in the Israeli army, and another dozen who like Bronner have kids in the Israeli army.”
Cooks writes that the bureau chief explained: “It is common to hear Western reporters boasting to one another about their Zionist credentials, their service in the Israeli army or the loyal service of their children.”
Apparently, intimate ties to Israel are among the many open secrets in the region that are hidden from the American public. If, as the news media insist, these ties present no problem or even, as the Times’ Keller insists, enhance the journalists’ work, why do the news agencies consistently refuse to admit them?
The reason is not complicated.
While Israel may be family for these journalists and editors, for the vast majority of Americans, Israel is a foreign country. In survey after survey, Americans say they don’t wish to “take sides” on this conflict. In other words, the American public wants full, unfiltered, unslanted coverage.
Quite likely the news media refuse to answer questions about their journalists’ affiliations because they suspect, accurately, that the public would be displeased to learn that the reporters and editors charged with supplying news on a foreign nation and conflict are, in fact, partisans.
While Keller claims that the New York Times is covering this conflict “even-handedly,” studies indicate otherwise:
* The Times covers international reports documenting Israeli human rights abuses at a rate 19 times lower than it reports on the far smaller number of international reports documenting Palestinian human rights abuses.
* The Times covers Israeli children’s deaths at rates seven times greater than they cover Palestinian children’s deaths, even though there are vastly more of the latter and they occurred first.
* The Times fails to inform its readers that Israel’s Jewish-only colonies on confiscated Palestinian Christian and Muslim land are illegal; that its collective punishment of 1.5 million men, women, and children in Gaza is not only cruel and ruthless, it is also illegal; and that its use of American weaponry is routinely in violation of American laws.
* The Times covers the one Israeli (a soldier) held by Palestinians at a rate incalculably higher than it reports on the Palestinian men, women, and children – the vast majority civilians – imprisoned by Israel (currently over 7,000).
• The Times neglects to report that hundreds of Israel’s captives have never even been charged with a crime and that those who have were tried in Israeli military courts under an array of bizarre military statutes that make even the planting of onions without a permit a criminal offense – a legal system, if one can call it that, that changes at the whim of the current military governor ruling over a subject population; a system in which parents are without power to protect their children.
* The Times fails to inform its readers that 40 percent of Palestinian males have been imprisoned by Israel, a statistic that normally would be considered highly newsworthy, but that Bronner, Kershner, and Chira apparently feel is unimportant to report.
Americans, whose elected representatives give Israel uniquely gargantuan sums of our tax money (a situation also not covered by the media), want and need all the facts, not just those that Israel’s family members decree reportable.
We’re not getting them.
There’s no doubt about it in this observer’s mind Joe Stack was a terrorist, and his act of flying an airplane into a building which contained the offices of a government agency (and I don’t care which acronym like agency it was) was straight out of the book of terror that this Nation went through a decade ago, yet very few people in corporate media or in government want to label him as such. Wonder why?
There’s been a certain amount of self-righteous discussion among media types why this is the case but in the end those who are self-indulgent simply say Stack doesn’t meet the criteria of a terrorist. There are even some who claim, such as Stack’s daughter that he was a hero of sorts, protesting against government. Wonder why?
Stack’s singular act of protest doesn’t even begin to meet the definition of the legally acceptable form of dissent, but it fits perfectly into the definition of terrorism. Yet there are people who are determined to not call it that and the simple reason why is because the West has been gripped by a virulent form of racism that is ethnocentric in nature towards people of color. This indignation attempts to dress itself in a cloak of preserving a Judeo-Christian ethic, but when the results of such preservation have included diminishing the progress of that ethic, subversion of the rights of those who enjoy that ethic, such as privacy rights, free speech, et.al that excuse too falls by the wayside and is as hypocritical as media’s refusal to be inclusive in the terrorism appellation.
The refusal of corporate media to label Stack the terrorist he was has allowed all the other fringe groups to come out in support of his action in their opposition to the Nation’s first black president. The Tea Party movement is nothing more than the 21st century Ku Klux Klan dressed up with the likes of Sarah Palin, Michele Bachman, et.al who are used to give such a movement legitimacy. There is this symbiotic relationship, therefore, between corporate media and these racists. They give rationale to one another; the racist relish the media attention to their cause of opposing the first black, “foreign born”, “Muslim” president and the media loves the sound bites such idiots the likes of Stack, and Scott Roeder (the murderer/terrorist who stalked legally licensed American physicians) give them ignoring their, media’s, own responsibility to this collective hypocrisy and morass. At the same time corporate media plunges headlong into their racist diatribe against Muslims, Arabs and especially Palestinians justifying any and all forms of state sponsored oppression against them because to media types the designation “terrorist” is appropriate and they have no hesitation at all using that term to describe them.
This way of doing business means the Joseph Stack story is merely a mention in the headlines of the day, social titillation at best not worthy of any real consideration or reflection about the role of government, the impact of violence in society, the responsibility of citizens to social cohesion, the role of media if any in all of this, nothing to see just move along. We should now expect this social irresponsibility from a upper middle class mostly white media with a strong affection for power and those who wield it in defense of their, corporate media’s interest. However, the public, infinitely smarter than given credit by that same media, has to realize the impact media’s dereliction has on the over all society, in the form of their, corporate media’s, justification for wars of occupation and the sublimation of the rights of citizens, legal residents, and yes, even foreigners living in America to the wishes of government and corporate entities.
A Nation that is immersed in healthy not stifled debate is much more informed and enlightened. Corporate media mimics its forefathers of old who sought to keep people in the dark by allowing only those deemed worthy the right or ability to read and get an education. That dispensation of rights and responsibilities by the wealthy and often oppressor class became a rejected standard of living, and societies were better off for doing away with such notions. Joseph Stack was a terrorist, no more and no less, who committed the same heinous act as those on 911, in his rejection of government policy and it resulted in the loss of human life, his and other(s) and that’s that. Corporate media’s refusal to simply say that says more about them than Stack. Perhaps its time we did away with them.
In an interview on ABC’s This Week, Dick Cheney loudly proclaimed, ‘I was a big supporter of waterboarding. I was a big supporter of the enhanced interrogation techniques’ and forever cast himself as an indictable war criminal who will never be indicted. He has been assailed by the progressive side of the political spectrum for not only putting his foot in his own mouth but also for so clearly incriminating himself. Cheney however knows he won’t be indicted and the simple reason is his logic is far more pervasive in the American body politic than any of us would care to admit. It would appear the only opposition coming to his remarks is from people outside of government and politics who might possess the last vestiges of decency still have left in America; those people who believe in the American system and ideals and not those who merely spout them as a means to assuming a really nice paying job in government at taxpayer expense.
On all the websites that feature articles about Cheney so prominently one can always find letters or comments from people who ask why isn’t Cheney in jail, or why hasn’t he been indicted. I myself have asked that question a time or two, but when reading another reporter’s take on Cheney’s remarks ran across this snippet
The “torture memo” and related legal opinions were considered so unprofessional that Bybee’s replacement to head the OLC, Jack Goldsmith, himself a conservative Republican, took the extraordinary step of withdrawing them after he was appointed in October 2003.
However, Goldsmith was pushed out of his job after a confrontation with Cheney’s counsel Addington, and the later appointment of Bradbury enabled the Bush White House to reinstate many of the Yoo-Bybee opinions.
Last month, Newsweek reported that Yoo and Bybee had avoided any disciplinary recommendations because a draft report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility had been rewritten to remove harsh criticism that the two lawyers had violated professional standards, softening the language to simple criticism of their judgment.
The weaker language meant that the Justice Department would not refer the cases to state bar associations for possible disbarment proceedings.
Despite the really sophomoric job that Yoo and Bybee did in supporting the Bush administration’s desire to torture, a job done so poorly that it was immediately tossed out by someone who replaced them, someone who was also a lawyer, who knew the law and knew that the legal brief written didn’t have a leg to stand on and would not hold up to judicial review, members of the Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility would not phrase their criticism of such low standards in such a way as to punish Yoo and Bybee. Instead those two gentlemen have gone on to lucrative careers, Bybee as a federal judge who might very well adjudicate terrorist cases he was responsible for jeopardizing with his justification for torture, and Yoo as law professor at UC-Berkeley without any consequence for advising a US administration to break the law! That eventuality was made possible by career government officials who are not accountable to all the voices of disgust and anger at obvious Bush-Cheney illegality who have made it possible for all concerned to evade and escape punishment. But there’s also this admission by Cheney himself
The reason I’ve been outspoken is because there were some things being said, especially after we left office, about prosecuting CIA personnel that had carried out our counterterrorism policy or disbarring lawyers in the Justice Department who had — had helped us put those policies together, and I was deeply offended by that, and I thought it was important that some senior person in the administration stand up and defend those people who’d done what we asked them to do.And that’s why I got started on it. I’m the vice president now — ex-vice president. I have the great freedom and luxury of speaking out, saying what I — what I want to say, what I believe. And I have not been discouraged from doing so.
The obvious implication is that Cheney’s reach inside the bowels of government is long; anyone not willing to accommodate those who have signed on to his belief in the validity of torture as a tool of foreign policy risks losing his or her job. Similarly, if you are willing to cover for those who have broken the law there is some temporal reward for you. Bybee was appointed to his seat as a circuit court judge by Bush. While he may be at the end of his political career Cheney still has access to many others who depend on politics, political good fortune, appointments and corruptible politicians and he seems quite intent on keeping those who agree with his torturous politics from any harm, professionally or legally, and they in turn are intent on protecting him. So the fix is in and despite our protestations to the contrary, Cheney will not face prosecution because career diplomats, lawyers, intelligence agents and agencies have too much at stake and will do everything possible to protect themselves and their titular heads, i.e. the Cheneys and the Bushes, Obama’s pledges of change and transparency nothwithstanding. It’s sad that a constitutional lawyer now president like Obama has had his hands tied up by criminal politicians like Cheney who have no regard for the Constitution but such is the situation he finds himself. Realistically, there is no way out; Obama’s position is intractable and for us progressives, the sooner we realize that the better. Such is the cost of doing business with evil.
By Gareth Porter
Evidence now available from various sources, including recently declassified U.S. State Department documents, shows that the Taliban regime led by Mullah Mohammad Omar imposed strict isolation on Osama bin Laden after 1998 to prevent him from carrying out any plots against the United States.
The evidence contradicts the claims by top officials of the Barack Obama administration that Mullah Omar was complicit in Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the al Qaeda plot to carry out the terrorist attacks in the United States on Sep. 11, 2001. It also bolsters the credibility of Taliban statements in recent months asserting that it has no interest in al Qaeda’s global jihadist aims.
A primary source on the relationship between bin Laden and Mullah Omar before 9/11 is a detailed personal account provided by Egyptian jihadist Abu’l Walid al-Masri published on Arabic-language jihadist websites in 1997.
Al-Masri had a unique knowledge of the subject, because he worked closely with both bin Laden and the Taliban during the period. He was a member of bin Laden’s Arab entourage in Afghanistan, but became much more sympathetic to the Afghan cause than bin Laden and other al Qaeda officials from 1998 through 2001.
The first published English-language report on al-Masri’s account, however, was an article in the January issue of the CTC Sentinal, the journal of the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point, by Vahid Brown, a fellow at the CTC.
Mullah Omar’s willingness to allow bin Laden to remain in Afghanistan was conditioned from the beginning, according to al-Masri’s account, on two prohibitions on his activities: bin Laden was forbidden to talk to the media without the consent of the Taliban regime or to make plans to attack U.S. targets.
Former Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil told IPS in an interview that the regime “put bin Laden in Kandahar to control him better.” Kandahar remained the Taliban political headquarters after the organisation’s seizure of power in 1996.
The August 1998 U.S. cruise missile strikes against training camps in Afghanistan run by bin Laden in retaliation for the bombings of two U.S. Embassies in East Africa on Aug. 7, 1998 appears to have had a dramatic impact on Mullah Omar and the Taliban regime’s policy toward bin Laden.
Two days after the strike, Omar unexpectedly entered a phone conversation between a State Department official and one of his aides, and told the U.S. official he was unaware of any evidence that bin Laden “had engaged in or planned terrorist acts while on Afghan soil”. The Taliban leader said he was “open to dialogue” with the United States and asked for evidence of bin Laden’s involvement, according to the State Department cable reporting the conversation.
Only three weeks after Omar asked for evidence against bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader sought to allay Taliban suspicions by appearing to accept the prohibition by Omar against planning any actions against the United States.
“There is an opinion among the Taliban that we should not move from within Afghanistan against any other state,” bin Laden said in an interview with al Jazeera. “This was the decision of the Commander of the Faithful, as is known.”
Mullah Omar had taken the title “Commander of the Faithful”, the term used by some Muslim Caliphs in the past to claim to be “leader of the Muslims”, in April 1996, five months before Kabul fell to the Taliban forces.
During September and October 1998, the Taliban regime apparently sought to position itself to turn bin Laden over to the Saudi government as part of a deal by getting a ruling by the Afghan Supreme Court that he was guilty of the Embassy bombings.
In a conversation with the U.S. chargé in Islamabad on Nov. 28, 1998, Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, Omar’s spokesman and chief adviser on foreign affairs, referred to a previous Taliban request to the United States for evidence of bin Laden’s guilt to be examined by the Afghan Supreme Court, according to the U.S. diplomat’s report to the State Department.
Muttawakil said the United States had provided “some papers and a videocassette,” but complained that the videocassette had contained nothing new and had therefore not been submitted to the Supreme Court. He told the chargé that the court had ruled that no evidence that had been presented warranted the conviction of bin Laden.
Muttawakil said the court trial approach had “not worked” but suggested that the Taliban regime was now carrying out a strategy to “restrict [bin Laden’s] activities in such a way that he would decide to leave of his own volition.”
On Feb. 10, 1999, the Taliban sent a group of 10 officers to replace bin Laden’s own bodyguards, touching off an exchange of gunfire, according to a New York Times story of Mar. 4, 1999. Three days later, bodyguards working for Taliban intelligence and the Foreign Affairs Ministry personnel took control of bin Laden’s compound near Kandahar and took away his satellite telephone, according to the U.S. and Taliban sources cited by the Times.
Taliban official Abdul Hakeem Mujahid, who was then in the Taliban Embassy in Pakistan, confirmed that the 10 Taliban bodyguards had been provided to bin Laden to “supervise him and observe that he will not contact any foreigner or use any communication system in Afghanistan,” according to the Times story.
The pressure on bin Laden in 1999 also extended to threats to eliminate al Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan. An e-mail from two leading Arab jihadists in Afghanistan to bin Laden in July 1999, later found on a laptop previously belonging to al Qaeda in and purchased by the Wall Street Journal , referred to “problems between you and the Leader of the Faithful” as a “crisis”.
The e-mail, published in article by Alan Cullison in the September 2004 issue of The Atlantic, said, “Talk about closing down the camps has spread.”
The message even suggested that the jihadists feared the Taliban regime could go so far as to “kick them out” of Afghanistan.
In the face of a new Taliban hostility, bin Laden sought to convince Mullah Omar that he had given his personal allegiance to Omar as a Muslim. In April 2001 bin Laden referred publicly to having sworn allegiance to Mullah Omar as the “Commander of the Faithful”.
But al-Masri recalls that bin Laden had refused to personally swear such an oath of allegiance to Omar in 1998-99, and had instead asked al-Masri himself to give the oath to Omar in his stead. Al-Masri suggests that bin Laden deliberately avoided giving the oath of allegiance to Omar personally, so that he would be able to argue within the Arab jihadi community that he was not bound by Omar’s strictures on his activities.
Even in summer 2001, as the Taliban regime became increasingly dependent on foreign jihadi troop contingents, including Arabs trained in bin Laden’s camps, for its defence against the military advances of the Northern Alliance, Mullah Omar found yet another way to express his unhappiness with bin Laden’s presence.
After a series of clashes between al Qaeda forces and those of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Taliban leader intervened to give overall control of foreign volunteer forces to the Tahir Yuldash of the IMU, according to a blog post last October by Leah Farrall, an Australian specialist on jihadi politics in Afghanistan.
In Late January, Geoff Morrell, the spokesman for Defence Secretary Robert Gates, suggested that the United States could not negotiate with Mullah Omar, because he has “the blood of thousands of Americans on his hands,” implying that he had knowingly allowed bin Laden’s planning of the 9/11 attacks.
emphasis are mine and suggest the Taliban was quite willing to give bin ladin over to any authority that would take him.