Kyrgyzstan to close US air base

Kyrgyzstan to close US air base

MOSCOW: News agencies are quoting Kyrgyzstan’s president as saying that his country is ending U.S. use of a key airbase that supports military operations in Afghanistan.

A decision to end the U.S. use of the Manas base could have potentially far-reaching consequences for U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan.

Interfax and RIA-Novosti quoted Kurmanbek Bakiyev as making the statement just minutes after Russia announced it was providing the poor Central Asian nation with billions of dollars in aid.

Bakiyev is being quoted as saying that the Kyrgyz government “has made the decision on ending the term for the American base on the territory of Kyrgystan and in the near future, this decision will be announced.”

Kyrgyz government officials could not be immediately reached for comment.

Another Shia killed in Quetta

Another Shia killed in Quetta

Staff Report

QUETTA: Gunmen killed a Shia trader in a drive-by shooting on Monday, in an attack apparently linked to the recent cycle of sectarian killings in the provincial capital. Syed Iqbal Zaidi, a resident of Quetta’s Shahbaz Town locality, was driving home when two men on a motorcycle shot him near Sariab Bridge on Zargoon Road and fled, police said.

Zaidi ran a furniture shop in Liaqat Bazaar. Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attack so far and no arrests had been made by late Monday.

Banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi organisation had claimed responsibility for the murder of a Shia leader heading the Hazara Democratic Party in a similar attack last week. The murder had sparked a wave of violence in Quetta city when his supporters burnt two banks, several vehicles and attacked the office of a news TV channel. Also on Monday, gunmen riding a jeep shot dead two civilians in Dasht area of Trubat district. The dead were identified as Muhammad Ibrahim and Taufeeq Ahmed. Police said they were searching for the assailants. The motive could not be ascertained.

Faith Trumps Fear For Anti-Taliban Politician In Pakistan

Faith Trumps Fear For Anti-Taliban Politician In Pakistan

“There is no question of surrending,” says Afzal Khan. (photo courtesy PSDP)

February 03, 2009

The Swat Valley, where for two years local Taliban have been trying to establish Shari’a law, is at the center of the Pakistan government’s efforts to root out extremism. Military operations launched in late 2007 in the once-popular tourist region of Northwest Frontier Province has cost the lives of some 2,000 civilians and hundreds of government soldiers. And as the effort gains fresh momentum — 35 Islamist militants were reported killed in an overnight raid conducted on February 2-3 — thousands of desperate locals, fearing reprisals from the Taliban, are looking to flee.

Afzal Khan, whom locals refer to as “lala” — or “elder brother” in Pashto — is an 82-year-old Pashtun nationalist politician who has emerged as a symbol of the resistance to Taliban extremism in the Swat Valley. Khan has survived numerous assassination attempts, but he nevertheless continues to oppose the Taliban and their representation of Islam. In an interview with RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan correspondent Najib Aamir, Khan explains why.

RFE/RL: You top the “hit list” recently issued by the Taliban, and which includes a number of politicians and prominent residents of Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Do you intend to surrender to the Taliban’s Shari’a court, as they have demanded?

So your life reaches a point when going to mosque is virtually equal to running to a trench…Imagine living under such circumstances.

Afzal Khan: If the Taliban had their own state, and they had a president or a prime minister or a king, and it functioned like a [legitimate state] system — then they would have a judicial system and courts that would follow Islamic law, Shari’a. But if they don’t have a state or a political system, then whose court should I go to and why?

Thus, there is no question of surrendering to such a court. I am a Muslim and, therefore, I believe that only almighty God, who has created us all, will decide how and when to take someone’s life. This is my homeland and my people are here, so what can I do? Should I leave my home and my people? But where will I go? Why should I leave — just because of the fear of death?

RFE/RL: Being a leader of the Awami National Party that leads the provincial government, are you satisfied with the policies it is pursuing to restore peace and stability to Swat?

Khan: I was part of the central and provincial governments [as a cabinet member] in the past, and I know that the central government exerts the real authority. The situation here is [really alarming] because the police have collapsed. And we don’t have another [local] armed force. The army is a last resort that the state is now using [to establish its authority]. If this fails, unfortunately, we will have a revolution. I believe that if all institutions honestly play their respective roles, then we won’t face a real problem in [establishing authority].

When I was being treated in the hospital, I told journalists that if I ever met our attackers, I would ask them, ‘What was our crime? I have never even slapped anybody. Why then are you trying to kill us?’

RFE/RL: Mountainous Swat was once a tourist haven. But considering the prevailing insecurity, what is it like living in Swat today?

Khan: We have a lot of problems here. Imagine that mosques are being targeted in suicide bombings. So your life reaches a point when going to mosque is virtually equal to running to a trench. Going to a market [is equally tough], because you think somebody will attack you or there will be a bomb blast. Imagine living under such circumstances. This is [very unfortunate] in a place like Swat because it had been peaceful for centuries. The people of Swat didn’t even think about violence.

RFE/RL: Given that some of your relatives were killed in the numerous attempts on your life, how concerned are you about the security of your relatives and people working for you?

Khan: Two of my young grandsons were killed together. One of their friends was also killed and three were injured. When I was attacked, my driver and a bodyguard were martyred while two were injured. My nephew, Abdul Jabbar Khan, was hit by four bullets, and I was hit by two. If you have to face such circumstances in your home region, how worried would you be? You would definitely ask, ‘Why is this happening to me?’

When I was being treated in the hospital, I told journalists that if I ever met our attackers, I would ask them, ‘What was our crime? I have never even slapped anybody. Why then are you trying to kill us?’

RFE/RL: With the insurgents blowing up schools, hospitals, and bridges, there is a strong perception among Swat residents that they are the victims of an elaborate insurgent plan to establish a new kind of political order in this region. How do you look at this issue?

Khan: The people who are doing this, if they want to establish a new [political] system, then they should know that they cannot institute a new order on the back of murder. They cannot establish a new political order by bombings or suicide attacks. You have to go to people [to talk to them], to change their minds, and to convince [and win over] their hearts. Islam is a religion of peace and one that emphasizes helping the poor and the oppressed.

RFE/RL: You recently met the head of the Pakistani military, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. What did you discuss? Do you see the military winning in Swat?

Khan: He told us that this is a national issue. We told him that it can only be resolved [when it is prioritized] as such an issue. The military is the last option available for a state trying to restore its authority. If they fail, then we will be confronted with a revolutionlike situation. It is the law of nature when you have a vacuum, somebody will come forward to fill it.

I don’t think the military operation will fail. But for it to succeed, everybody will have to fulfill their responsibilities diligently and with honesty.

A military solution to a war on terrorism is doomed

It’s a sore temptation to hunt down Osama bin Laden – one of the most consistent campaign promises made by President Obama – and yet there are strong arguments against it. U.S. forces would have to penetrate deep into provincial Pakistan and perhaps even conduct house-to-house searches. Such incursions would destabilize Pakistan’s already shaky regime and inflame the extremist element. More troops would have to be committed to the Afghanistan war zone, with no positive outcome in sight. And making a martyr of bin Laden would probably incite a crop of new terrorists as deadly as he and his cohorts.

But the most compelling reason is that any solely military solution to terrorism is doomed to fail. Right now, U.S. intelligence knows that the jihadist movement is endemic in the extremist sects of Islam. It exists from neighborhood to neighborhood, dinner table to dinner table, across a vast swath of the globe. Although terrorism is a tactic, what lies behind it is an idea, and once an idea seeps into people’s brains, bombs and mortar attacks won’t defeat it. That’s why Israel’s overwhelming military superiority to Hezbollah and Hamas hasn’t defeated those movements and never will – this is an enemy for whom death is a victory of the spirit.

Our only hope against Islamic terrorism is to police it in the short run, and offer a more enticing idea in the long run. Peace and social reform are both enticing ideas. Changing our strategic relationship with corrupt regimes that receive significant foreign assistance from the United States is a second important step. The United States must shift its anti-terrorism policy in those directions. Because the United States kept pursuing a military solution, the 2004 presidential election was a poisoned chalice. Whoever won it would be plunged into the quagmires of Afghanistan and Iraq. The 2008 election was better. Both candidates pledged to leave Iraq, Republican Sen. John McCain under the face-saving banner of “victory;” Democratic Sen. Obama under the more realistic banner of ending an unjust war that should never have been started.

There is a military difference between “deploying” more soldiers to Afghanistan and “employing” them within the country – in an effective way. If President Obama insists on troop buildups in Afghanistan and a promise to hunt down bin Laden, we must all recognize that a country should not pursue two contradictory ideas at the same time: one, that terrorism is stateless, and two, that military forays into foreign states are productive. The chief reason to remain in Iraq and Afghanistan, once we entered and found chaos, is humanitarian, as it has been for at least five years. Both are failed states; both are rife with violent extremists. Age-old hatreds won’t die easily in either region, and yet the United States can’t stand by and let those hatreds turn into genocide and endless combat.

The United Nations and NATO must rally to carry out the humanitarian goals that need to be pursued. But that’s not the same as deluding ourselves into believing that we are defeating terrorism. Bush’s war on terror was a horrendous mistake, an ideological delusion and a failed tactic. It alienated most of the world and created as many extremists as it defeated. Obama knows all this. Now it’s time for him to lead us out of a self-created quagmire. The United States can’t have it both ways, talking peace but maintaining a hostile military presence in the region, neither Pakistan, nor Afghanistan has a government seen as legitimate by its population. Neither has the ability, or the national will to police its borders, or seriously confront extremism, or foreign fighters. History has already taught us how these endeavors end, and they do not end well. No matter how just our cause, we are seen as aggressors, and may just as likely suffer the death of a thousand cuts, just like Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, the British Empire and the Soviet Union. Without establishing a foundation of legitimacy, and hope, or any semblance of the rule of law, a purely military strategy will likely be defeated in the end.

Deepak Chopra is the president of the Alliance for a New Humanity, www.anhglobal.org. Ken Robinson is a former U.S. Ranger and Special Forces officer.

Gazans say Israeli troops forced them into battle zones

Majdi Abed Rabbo stands outside the ruins of his Gaza Strip home, January 30,2009. During Israel's recent 22-day military operation, Abed Rabbo said Israeli soldiers repeatedly forced him to walk into the battle zone to check and see if Hamas fighters were alive or dead. (Dion Nissenbaum/MCT) | Majdi Abed Rabbo stands outside the ruins of his Gaza Strip home, January 30,2009. During Israel’s recent 22-day military operation, Abed Rabbo said Israeli soldiers repeatedly forced him to walk into the battle zone to check and see if Hamas fighters were alive or dead. (Dion Nissenbaum/MCT) |

Gazans say Israeli troops forced them into battle zones

EZBT ABED RABBO, Gaza Strip — The Israeli soldiers outside Majdi Abed Rabbo’s home were after the three Hamas fighters holed up next door, and they wanted Abed Rabbo to be their point man.

For the next 24 hours, Abed Rabbo said, the soldiers repeatedly forced him to walk through the battle zone to see whether the militants were dead or alive.

Abed Rabbo wasn’t alone. Eight other residents in this northern Gaza Strip neighborhood told McClatchy in separate interviews that Israeli soldiers had conscripted them to check homes for booby traps, to smash holes in the walls of houses so that soldiers could use them as escape routes or to try to pull dead Palestinian militants from the rubble.

Conscripting Palestinians during the recent fighting in Gaza would appear to violate not only international law, but also Israel’s court-imposed ban on using civilians as human shields.

“The laws of war make it clear you must distinguish between civilians and combatants and you cannot force a civilian to take on a combat role,” said Daniel Reisner, a legal scholar who spent nearly a decade as the head of the Israeli military’s international law department. “Using a human shield is illegal.”

The issue is especially charged in Israel because its government has said that Hamas fighters put innocent Palestinians in harm’s way by hiding in crowded Gaza neighborhoods and using civilian homes, schools and mosques to stage attacks on Israeli forces.

The Israeli military told McClatchy that it’s investigating a variety of allegations about its Gaza operation but it categorically rejected suggestions that soldiers forced any Palestinians to work for them.

“Of course we don’t use human shields,” Israeli military spokesman Capt. Elie Isaacson said. “Just the opposite. We do everything in our power to avoid harm to civilians, bearing in mind that we know Hamas purposely puts them in harm’s way.”

U.S. and Israeli human-rights groups dispute that.

“There is powerful evidence that Israel used the tactic that they are accusing Hamas of using,” said Fred Abrahams, a Human Rights Watch senior researcher who’s investigating what happened in Gaza during the recent Israeli military offensive, which killed more than 1,200 Palestinians.

The Abed Rabbo case also is under investigation by the Israeli human-rights group B’Tselem, which led a long campaign that eventually persuaded the Israeli Supreme Court to order the Israeli military in 2005 to stop using Palestinians as human shields.

“The testimony seems pretty extensive and presents grave suspicions that Israeli soldiers forced Palestinians to perform dangerous tasks,” said B’Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli. “And the fact that we’re seeing these allegations on such a wide scale leads us to suspect that this was policy and not the decisions of one or two random soldiers.”

Abed Rabbo’s appears to be the most extreme of the cases that the two human rights groups are investigating.

Abed Rabbo, whose extended family dominates the neighborhood that bears its name, is a 40-year-old personal guard for the Palestinian Authority intelligence agency, which Hamas forces ousted from Gaza in 2007. He said he was at home on Jan. 5 with his wife and son when there was a knock on his door.

Mohammed Daher, a 23-year-old neighbor, was standing outside with Israeli soldiers, and he said they’d forced him to help them check the area for militants.

Daher, a graduate of Gaza City’s Fatah-leaning Al Azhar University, said that soldiers already had compelled him to use a sledgehammer to break through house walls in the neighborhood so the Israelis could avoid any booby-trapped doors.

Then, Daher said, the soldiers led him down a narrow dirt alley between the neighborhood mosque and a three-story apartment building where Israeli forces suspected that militants were holed up. As they slowly proceeded, Daher said, one of the soldiers kicked a small, remote-controlled explosive buried in shallow dirt.

The soldiers rushed into Abed Rabbo’s home and, guns trained on Daher and him, eventually ordered the two Palestinians upstairs.

On the roof, the soldiers directed Abed Rabbo to smash a hole in the wall so the group could crawl onto the roof of the neighboring building with the militants inside.

“They were holding a gun to my head as we walked down the stairs,” Abed Rabbo said.

When one of the soldiers apparently spotted the militants inside, the group quickly fell back to Abed Rabbo’s roof. Abed Rabbo and Daher said the Israeli unit grabbed them both, rushed down the street and took refuge with them in the mosque as a firefight broke out.

After a series of intense Israeli assaults using heavy-caliber machine guns, Abed Rabbo said, an officer told him that the fighters were dead. The officer ordered Abed Rabbo to go into the house to collect the fighters’ clothes and weapons, Abed Rabbo said.

As Abed Rabbo crept through the hole on his roof and down the stairs, he called out to the fighters. Surprisingly, the three men were still standing.

The fighters, one of whom appeared to be wearing a suicide vest, wore Hamas bandannas and told Abed Rabbo to carry a message back to the Israeli soldiers: “We’re still alive.”

When Abed Rabbo returned with the news, Israeli forces fired guided missiles at the building and then ordered the increasingly reluctant Abed Rabbo to go back inside.

The apartment was on fire, but the militants were still alive. Abed Rabbo said he took back a new message from the militants: “If you are real men, come and face us yourselves.”

The Israeli forces called in an Apache helicopter, which mistakenly hit Abed Rabbo’s empty house. A second strike hit the militants’ building, Abed Rabbo said.

Sent back yet again, he said, he found the militants trapped by rubble but still alive.

The standoff had dragged on for more than 12 hours. The Israeli soldiers were growing angry and began to suspect that Abed Rabbo was lying to them, he said. One of the soldiers taunted the militants over a loudspeaker, telling them that their leaders had abandoned them and they should give up.

At dawn, the soldiers sent Abed Rabbo in yet again. He returned with the same news: The militants were alive.

The Israeli officer, Abed Rabbo said, exploded in anger and grabbed two other men from the neighborhood.

One of them, Zaher Zidane, said the officers gave him a digital camera and told them to go into the house to take pictures of the militants.

The 27-year-old taxi driver said the soldiers threatened neighbor Jamal Qatari and him, leaving them no real choice.

Inside, Zidane said, he, too, found the Hamas fighters badly injured but alive.

Eventually, the Israelis ended the standoff by calling in a bulldozer to bring the building down on top of the Palestinian fighters, Daher and Abed Rabbo said.

After the building collapsed, Daher said, the soldiers ordered another man and him to pull the bodies out of the rubble. The dead militants, however, were trapped under the wreckage.

Daher, Abed Rabbo and Zidane weren’t the only ones in the neighborhood who said they were forced to work for the Israeli forces.

Sami Rashid Mohammed, a 45-year-old police officer for the Palestinian Authority, said that Israeli soldiers forced him to enter houses to check for fighters and booby traps.

At one point, Mohammed said, Palestinian militants opened fire on the Israeli soldiers he was with as they crept through a small orchard. Mohammed said the Israeli forces kept him trapped in the middle of the firefight and used him as cover.

“The spent bullets were flying over my shoulder,” Mohammed said.

Rashad Abu Saffi, a 60-year-old businessman who runs a livestock feed business that Israeli forces destroyed during the military operation, said Israeli soldiers forced him to lead them into the neighborhood mosque to check for militants and booby traps.

When the soldiers later ordered Abu Saffi, his wife and two of their friends to leave the neighborhood, he said, soldiers opened fire on the group. Abu Saffi and neighbor Hani Al Mabhooh said that one shot hit Abu Saffi’s wife in the hip and leg.

The two men said they dragged the wounded woman through the empty streets until they found safety in a friend’s home nearby.

In another section of Ezbt Abed Rabbo, Castro Abed Rabbo said that Israeli forces sent him to check homes for fighters and booby traps before they sent in specially trained dogs with high-tech surveillance equipment.

Legal scholar Reisner said that if the allegations were true, they should be the subject of a serious investigation by the Israel Defense Forces.

“Israel had a policy in the past called the ‘neighbor policy,’ where soldiers would ask neighbors to persuade terrorists to come out of their houses,” he said. “The Supreme Court reviewed this procedure and ruled that this was unlawful. The answer is very clear: It is illegal. The IDF should look into such charges.”

(McClatchy special correspondent Cliff Churgin contributed to this report from Jerusalem.)

Army in controversy after father of four killed in shootout

Majid Jahangir

The army in Kashmir was caught in a controversy regarding the death by firing of a father of four.The army in Kashmir was caught in a controversy regarding the death by firing of a father of four.

Srinagar: Army in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district is embroiled in a controversy after a father of four, Fayaz Ahmad Mir, was killed in a shootout on Sunday evening.The villagers say that the civilian was killed by Army but Army claims that he was killed in crossfire.

The villagers of Kurhama, where Mir was killed allege that the 32-year-old Mir was killed by Army when he was coming out of his home on Sunday evening to attend nature’s call. The villagers accuse the Army’s 18 Rashtriya Rifles (RR) for killing Mir during a patrol.

“He was seriously injured and we rushed him to Kupwara hospital. The doctors at hospital referred him to Srinagar,” the villagers said. “But he succumbed on his way”.

The Army, however, refutes the allegations of the villagers and says that Mir was killed in crossfire. “He (Fayaz Ahmad Mir) was killed in crossfire,” an Army spokesman said. “He was not killed by Army and now that the Police is conducting investigation let us wait for it.”

As the news about Mir’s death spread in his native village on Monday, hundreds of villagers took to streets and shouted anti Army slogans. “It is a cold blooded murder as there was no crossfire between militants and Army,” a local resident said. “The authorities should hold an inquiry in the killing and the guilty should be punished.”

Senior Superintendent of Police, Kupwara, Uttam Chand who visited the village said that they have registered a case.”We have registered a case after locals accused Army of killing Fayaz (Ahmad Mir). We are investigating the case,” Uttam Chand said.

The former legislator and National Conference leader Jamsheed Lone who visited the village also demanded a through probe into the killing. Sources said that he is likely to take up the issue of civilian killing with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and party president Farooq Abdullah.

After Omar Abdullah took over as the J-K’s youngest Chief Minister last month, this is the second killing of a civilian which has embroiled Army in a controversy. Earlier, on January 7, the Army had shot dead a physically challenged man Abdul Rashid Rishi, 45, allegedly trying to intrude into a high-security Army premises housing officers at Gupkar Srinagar. The incident had taken place outside the residence of Omar Abdullah and he had assured that those found guilty by the probe would be dealt with according to the law.

Obama Allows Rendition, Angers EU

Obama Allows Rendition, Angers EU

IslamOnline.net & Newspapers

Image

“Western liberals are totally deluded at the moment,” Smith said. (Google)

CAIRO — European human rights groups and lawmakers are infuriated by the Barack Obama administration’s intention to retain the right to render terror suspects to a third country for interrogation.“Western liberals are totally deluded at the moment,” Clive Stafford Smith, director of British human rights group Reprieve, told The Times on Monday, February 2.

“Like George Bush, who declared ‘mission accomplished’ on Iraq six years ago, they need to realize that the job is far from done.”
Two days into the White House, Obama signed an executive order to close the Guantanamo detention center and the secret CIA prisons abroad.

The order, however, allows the CIA to retain the right to render terror suspects as long as they are not held for long periods.

The instructions to close the CIA’s secret prison sites “do not refer to facilities used only to hold people on a short-term, transitory basis,” reads the order.

“Obviously you need to preserve some tools — you still have to go after the bad guys,” a senior Obama administration official told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, February 1.

“The legal advisors working on this looked at rendition. It is controversial in some circles and kicked up a big storm in Europe. But if done within certain parameters, it is an acceptable practice.”

Renditions were first authorized by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 and used by the Clinton administration to transfer drug lords and terrorists to the US or other countries for military or criminal trials.

Since 9/11, the Bush administration widely used the controversial tool, rendering more than 100 people from one country to another, usually with well-documented records of abuse.

Policy Voice

European rights activists and lawmakers urged Obama to keep his promise of reversing Bush’s controversial anti-terror measures.

“I believe that Obama’s heart is in the right place but he is surrounded by people in the US intelligence and military who don’t want either themselves or their policies subjected to too much scrutiny,” said Smith.

Claude Moraes, a British member of the European parliament, agrees.

“We should be pleased he has closed Guantanamo and acknowledged the existence of the secret CIA prisons,” he said.

“But if he’s going to complete the change, he must see that rendition is part of the package.”

A 2007 European investigation into the CIA rendition found that the CIA had operated more than 1,200 flights in European airspace since 9/11.

“I have heard testimony from people who have clearly been tortured in Egypt and Jordan,” said Moraes, who was a member of the European committee investigating the CIA renditions.

“To deposit people in those prisons still speaks volumes about American foreign policy.”

Obama’s approach in the region

Obama’s approach in the region

President Barack Obama wants to try a different approach in the region that includes Central Asia, Iran and South Asia. The latest move is to try some lateral thinking on Iran which keeps on harping on the theme of a “new footing” to US-Iran relations. He wants to begin the process of thawing with Syria, persuading it to relent in its opposition to Israel, and thus discourage Iran in its anti-Israel policy. But more importantly, it wants to align policy with Iran to isolate the Taliban in Afghanistan. Needless to say, it wants to help Pakistan more in its effort to fight terrorism and re-establish its writ in the Tribal Areas.

President Obama will have policy leverage in Afghanistan and Pakistan by reason of a beefed-up troop presence in the former and more aid for the latter. But Iran will be a difficult nut to crack because of the nature of its government and an aggressive President Ahmadinejad who may yet lean on the policy of insult to the US to remain popular in Iran. But Iran needs to straighten out its ambivalent approach to the Taliban and Al Qaeda, both of whom are its enemies but both of whom it assists in making things tough for the US. Does America have leverage vis-à-vis Iran apart from the sanctions that have not worked so far to modify Iran’s conduct of foreign policy?

A similar question mark will arise when the US tries to comprehend Pakistan’s view of what is happening in Afghanistan. Broadly speaking, Washington has accepted that the key to Afghan peace is normalisation of relations between India and Pakistan. But there is an imbalance of leverage here that will hamper any effective diplomacy in South Asia. Pakistan links normalisation of Indo-Pak relations to the resolution of the Kashmir issue and hopes that President Obama will somehow work on India to give ground on it, but the truth is that Washington is already unwilling to challenge India on its current policy of not negotiating Kashmir, just as it will not pressure Israel on the issue of Palestine.

President Obama will certainly not follow this snakes-and-ladders connectivity of issues. He will bring more troops to Afghanistan, lean on Pakistan more for his fight against Al Qaeda in return for good money that he will give to Pakistan to survive economically. He will talk to Iran if Iran is willing to take a realistic look at its economy and wants the gas pipeline to Pakistan to materialise. Meanwhile, he will concentrate more on the collapsing American economy without whose revival the war against terrorism might not be won at all. *

Editorial: 3Ds: dialogue, development, deterrence?

Editorial: 3Ds: dialogue, development, deterrence?

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said at a press conference in Islamabad on Sunday that he had convinced the world that military operations alone were not the solution to terrorism, and that Pakistan’s “3Ds” strategy was essential to winning hearts and minds of the people involved in it. The 3Ds he explained as dialogue, development and deterrence. He also claimed that he had “convinced several world leaders that employment, development and alleviation of poverty were the key to success in the war on terror”. Mr Gilani spoke out again against the US policy of drone attacks inside Pakistani territory and he appealed to the US to share actionable intelligence with Pakistan. He said the war against terrorism could not be won without the cooperation of the people, and that army operations were not the only solution to it. He thought the possibility of a “foreign hand” could not be ruled out in Swat.

The three concepts are unassailable, divorced as they stand from the reality in Pakistan. Anywhere in the world, before the hostilities actually begin, it is perhaps the only policy to follow, with the exception perhaps that deterrence should always be a factor regardless of whether or not the fighting has begun. In this context, it is possible that Mr Gilani did not sequence his 3Ds in any kind of priority. He has put dialogue first but experience in Afghanistan and Pakistan is that, violence having begun, dialogue continues to be shunned by the militants. Their aim always is to bring the state on the table in order to make it capitulate.

In fact, dialogue in South Waziristan was always a non-starter because Nek Muhammad and Baitullah Mehsud had reached the level of rebellious capacity where they could bend the will of the state. So dialogue with the terrorists should come right at the end, after the government has fully asserted its monopoly of force and brought the terrorists to the negotiating table. It has to make sure that it talks to them from a position of strength. Dialogue after losing the writ of the state, which is Pakistan’s case at the moment, is of no use. The subsequent case of Swat has made it amply clear.

Similarly, experience shows that unless the target areas are sufficiently pacified, development simply cannot begin to take place. It doesn’t deserve the second priority given to it in the 3Ds. We all know that development in Afghanistan — whatever little there was despite the US approach of neglecting “nation-building” — simply could not go on in the areas where the Taliban could intervene and reverse the process. In Pakistan, too, the first thing targeted by the terrorists is the development infrastructure. The Taliban in Swat began their rebellion by destroying schools and other state-owned buildings. This week, North Waziristan has thrown out all the NGOs doing development work there.

Now let us come to deterrence. The state deters lawbreakers and the terrorists all the time. This is its normal function. If it neglects this function of normal deterrence by weakening itself through strategies of covert war and power-sharing with “non-state actors” within the country, the consequences include the slackening of the writ of the state and the proliferation of terrorists, including those who come in from the neighbourhood. Mr Gilani has hinted at a “foreign hand” but the world understands that when Pakistan says this it is not pointing to the foreign terrorists lurking in its territory but to foreign states. So this statement begs the question and is not helpful.

The stage we are at ordains us to fight the war against terrorism as the final war of the state. Dialogue and development will come after we have started winning it. *


Suicide bomber attacks foreign troops in Kabul

An Afghan villager shouts slogans against the U.S. and Afghan government during a demonstration following a U.S. operation on their village, in Mehterlam, capital of Laghman province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009. (AP / Rahmat Gul)

Suicide bomber attacks foreign troops in Kabul

KABUL — A suicide bomber in a car attacked a convoy of foreign troops in the Afghan capital Sunday, but there was no immediate word on casualties, a police officer said. Taliban militants claimed responsibility for the attack.

The bomber targeted the convoy in Kabul’s western outskirts, said Gen. Zulmay Khan Horiyakheil, a regional police commander. It was not clear if the bomber hit the convoy. Representatives for NATO and U.S. troops said they were checking the report.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahed, claimed responsibility for the blast in a phone call to an Associated Press reporter in Kabul.Insurgent regularly launch suicide attacks on foreign and Afghan troops throughout Afghanistan, but the number of such attacks in the capital has decreased over the past year.

There are some 70,000 U.S. and other NATO troops in the country.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has indicated it is likely to send 30,000 additional troops in hopes of turning the tide of Taliban gains, and extending the control of the central government into the far reaches of the country.

Afghan War and Regional Players

The security of Afghanistan is assuming greater urgency in the US-led coalition’s war on ‘extremism’.

There has lately been a perceptible movement to increase the involvement of regional stakeholders such as Russia, China, India and Iran in the country. Pakistan, even though recognised as a key player vital to the coalition’s fight against the Taleban and Al Qaeda, has also been labelled disappointing for its failure to rein in the pro-Taleban militants and root out Al Qaeda.

As militants incensed by the continuing drone attacks in the tribal belt stepped up attacks on Nato supply trucks and ambushed convoys carrying essential supplies to the allied forces on the Khyber highway — the main supply route running through the border — western strategists began to review other alternate routes for supplies to their forces in Afghanistan. Alternate route options passing from China, Central Asia and Iran had been considered before. However, the existing routes running through Pakistan emain the most feasible in terms of distance and time.

Unless the new US administration manages a breakthrough with Teheran, it is unlikely to use Iran as a conduit for its strategic supplies to the ISAF. It would also be wary of Iran’s outwardly conciliatory and good neighbourly approach towards rebuilding Afghanistan as Iran would naturally be inclined to extend its influence eastwards. As Afghanistan hosts a theatre for regional power struggles and proxy conflicts between states like Pakistan and India, it could see further chaos with Iran’s growing role and assertions in militarising Afghanistan’s Shia population. India’s assertion of its role as a regional power and its activities in Afghanistan, including its desire to play a more active role in Afghanistan’s security architecture has been a source of great concern to its neighbour. Pakistan has accused India of subversive activities in both Balochistan and FATA (federally administered tribal areas) and has in turn been blamed for attacking Indian interests and role in Afghanistan. India has played a smart role by forging links with Iran and Kabul while limiting Pakistan’s role in Afghanistan.

Last month’s opening of the $150 million, 220-km road linking Delaram in Nimroz in South West Afghanistan with Zaranj and the Iranian port of Chahbahar, funded entirely by India, is of strategic import. It underscores Delhi’s determination to consolidate its foothold in Afghanistan as well as opening vital trade and communication routes with the country and other Central Asian states — thus bypassing Pakistan.

India’s plan of establishing a naval base on the Iranian coast to counterbalance Chinese presence at Pakistan’s Gwadar port is doubly significant. The security and stability of Afghanistan is essential and should ideally include all regional players to participate and partake in the responsibility.  But the country shouldn’t end up as a theatre of proxy wars between regional stakeholders. It is bound to create further chaos and will not only undermine the southwest Asian security but also have an impact on the Gulf states considering their regional proximity and the threats they face from transnational issues of terrorism and drug-trafficking.

What India should do

What India should do

By Ahmad Faruqui

The terrorist attacks in Mumbai have reignited a tiresome and dangerous blame game in India. Opinion leaders are having a field day making Pakistan look bad and India look good.

The terrorists have tarnished Pakistan’s image and the Indians can exult in their Mumbai moment if they wish. But if that is all that they do, they will be doing a grave disservice to the scores of people who lost their lives and were wounded.

In Pavlovian fashion, Pakistan’s opinion leaders continue to disavow any involvement in terrorism. However, international observers are convinced that the terrorists had Pakistani ties. Indeed, many suspect that their handlers were directly or indirectly connected with Pakistan’s intelligence agencies which have long been fighting a proxy war with India.

There is little doubt that if Pakistan is to survive as a nation-state, it needs to expunge terrorism from its strategic culture. But what is equally true is that India, if it is to attain greatness in the decades to come, needs to rethink its strategic culture. India’s leaders should see the Mumbai attack as a wake-up call. They are heirs to a long intellectual tradition of introspection. One hopes they will engage in a meaningful debate on the assumptions that gird their nation’s domestic and international policies.

But will India’s leaders engage in what is likely to be a painful process? It is hard to say. Since it gained independence from Great Britain in 1947, India has related to its smaller neighbors with magnanimity at certain times and with stinginess at others. The face of India which the world sees oscillates between generosity and hubris. Its diplomatic history is colored by the contradictory comments of leadership and hegemony.

What are the false assumptions in India’s policies that need revisiting? First, that Indians can prevail in a limited war with Pakistan. Between two nuclear powers, a limited war is inherently limitless.

Second, that it can continue to be an economic powerhouse without resolving its congenital dispute with Pakistan. The dispute has led to a costly diversion of resources from productive to unproductive sectors in both countries. While keeping its economy on a war footing has devastated Pakistan, it has also held India back from realizing its true potential. Foreign investment will not flow to India under the shadow of a nuclear war.

Third, that the dispute with Pakistan can be resolved bilaterally and does not require international mediation. Given the imbalance in political and military power between the two countries, the problem has defied a solution for six long decades. It is time to involve another power, one that both countries can trust. The U.S., now under a new president who brings no historical baggage to his role, is best suited to this task and should be invited in. The creation of the Taliban was linked to Pakistan’s desire to create strategic depth for itself in the event of an Indian invasion. The war against terror in Afghanistan, which largely revolves around the Taliban, cannot be won without resolving the Indo-Pakistani dispute over Kashmir.

Fourth, that India has well-trained security forces that can thwart a future terrorist attack. The sophistication of the terrorists in Mumbai was matched by the ineptness of India’s security forces. New Delhi’s weaknesses in this regard are the focus of a new report from the RAND Corporation which recommends numerous improvements.

Fifth, that there is no political or human rights problem in Jammu and Kashmir. New Delhi continues to argue that the state is an integral part of India and that it is governed democratically. So why is it that even the casual visitor to Kashmir finds himself or herself stranded in a garrison state? While estimates vary, the combination of military, paramilitary and police forces deployed in that state is probably in excess of half a million. The figure would dwarf the population which lives there, estimated at less than one per cent of India’s population.

Sixth, that India is a secular democracy where minorities are treated equally with the majority community. In this regard, the Rajindar Sachar Committee report on the status of Indian Muslims prepared in 2006 on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a must read. But it is not just the Muslims who get the raw end of the deal in India. There have been many instances of Christians being treated poorly and of Catholic missionaries being burned alive. It is time for India to rein in the fascist influence of those who espouse Hindutva.

Seventh, that for India to be viewed as a great power, it also needs to become a military power with an ability to shoot ballistic missiles across the seven seas. Such power play hearkens back to the past. It does not beckon to the future. It is sad to see yesterday’s philosophy trumping tomorrow’s, as those who voice a view of greatness premised on hard power appear to have prevailed over those who propose a view based on soft power.

Eighth, that India has purged its polity of all economic and social ills and that it is a rising and shining power, an ‘Incredible India’. Just witness the howls of protest that were reported in the Indian media when the film, Slumdog Millionaire, got global recognition.

The story, seen through the eyes of a Muslim child who was orphaned when murderous Hindu gangs went on a rampage in the slums of Mumbai, was a timeless tribute to the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. It could have been written by Charles Dickens or Victor Hugo. Instead of absorbing the film’s lessons, a segment of the Indian elite expressed their contempt for the film’s raw depiction of the squalor and misery in India’s slums where millions eke out an existence. If they had their way, films would put the spotlight on India’s new economy, its Silicon Valley and its lunar rocket program. If India’s leaders revisit these eight assumptions, they can ensure that one day in the future India will be recognized as a great power. And if they don’t, India will continue to be, as only Nirad C. Chaudhuri could have put it, a ‘Continent of Circe’, the Greek goddess who used a magical potion to transform her enemies into pigs.

The author is a researcher at the University of Bradford. He can be reached at faruqui@pacbell.net.

(Source: Dawn

US shouldn’t meddle in Kashmir: India

US shouldn’t meddle in Kashmir: India

National Security Advisor MK Narayanan said the government would adopt a wait-and-watch policy to gauge Obama’s reorientation of the US foreign policy in South Asia, especially regarding fighting the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and its “link” to the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan.

Speaking to Karan Thapar on CNBC TV18’s India Tonight programme, Narayanan said: “…references made by (US) President Obama, which seem to suggest that there is some kind of link between the settlement on Pakistan’s western border and the Kashmir issue, certainly have caused concern.”

In the event of Obama believing that there is a link between Pakistan’s eastern and western borders, he said, “I do think that we can make President Obama understand, if he does nurse any such view, that he is barking up the wrong tree. I think Kashmir today has become one of the quieter and safer places in this part of the world.”

He said some of Obama’s advisors could be “harking back to the pre-2000 era.” However, Narayanan said this would not be an issue and added he was confident that “…it should be possible for us to make him (Obama) understand or his advisors understand this problem. So we are not making this a big issue as of now.”

New Delhi has reacted cautiously to the appointment of Holbrooke, whose brief is to handle the terror threat along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. He is slated to visit New Delhi.

Narayanan said India would discuss issues concerning the region with Holbrooke, but if he broached Kashmir he would be informed that India would not accept any third-party involvement.

Meanwhile, he said Pakistan had replied with queries to India’s dossier containing information relating to the Mumbai attacks.

However, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his ministry denied this claim. Speaking in West Bengal yesterday, Mukherjee said: “Islamabad has not replied to the dossier that India had officially given to that country.”

Pakistan militant attack halts US, NATO supplies

Pakistan militant attack halts US, NATO supplies

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Islamist militants blew up a bridge in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, cutting a major supply line for Western troops in Afghanistan, a government official and a NATO spokesman said.

The attack was the latest in a series on the Khyber Pass by insurgents seeking to hamper the U.S.-led mission against the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

A NATO spokesman in Afghanistan confirmed that supplies along the route had been halted “for the time being,” but stressed the alliance was in no danger of running out of food, equipment or fuel.

The attack will add urgency to NATO and U.S. efforts to find alternative supply routes to landlocked Afghanistan, an already vital task given American plans to double its troop numbers in the country.

Meanwhile, authorities said they were questioning 15 people in connection with the abduction Monday of an American U.N. worker in the southwest of the country.

They said the men, among them several Afghans, were not considered suspects in the attack in which American John Solecki was kidnapped and his driver was shot and killed. The assault underscored the threats to foreigners in Pakistan as it battles al-Qaida militants.

Hidayat Ullah, a government official in the Khyber tribal area, said the bridge was about 15 miles (25 kilometers) northwest of the main city of Peshawar. He said trucks carrying NATO and U.S. supplies were unable to cross it.

It was not immediately clear whether supply convoys could reach Afghanistan through alternative routes in the region, nor how long it would take to rebuild it.

Up to 75 percent of the fuel and supplies destined for U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan travel through Pakistan after being unloaded at the port of Karachi. Most are driven along the Khyber Pass.

Pakistan has dispatched paramilitary escorts for supply convoys and cracked down on militants in Khyber, but attacks have persisted in an area that up to three years ago was largely free of violence.

Solecki was kidnapped as he traveled to work in Quetta city in Baluchistan, a province that partly borders Afghanistan but has largely been spared the al-Qaida and Taliban insurgency in the northwest.

The government called the abduction a “dastardly terrorist act.” But police said it was not clear whether Islamist militants, criminals seeking a ransom payment or members of a regional separatist group were responsible.

“We have opened investigations, and our various teams are working on this case and the effort is to safely recover the man,” said senior police officer Wazir Khan.

Solecki headed the Quetta office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which has worked for three decades in the region helping hundreds of thousands of Afghans fleeing violence in their homeland.

Suspected militants have attacked or kidnapped several foreigners in recent months.

In August, Lynne Tracy, the top U.S. diplomat in the northwest, narrowly survived an attack on her vehicle in Peshawar by suspected militants. In November, also in Peshawar, gunmen shot and killed American aid worker Stephen Vance.

Quetta has been mentioned by Afghan officials as a likely hiding place for Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders thought to have fled Afghanistan after the U.S. invasion in 2001.

Baluchistan is also the scene of a low-level insurgency driven by nationalist groups wanting more regional autonomy. They are not known to target foreigners.

Meanwhile, at least 35 Islamist militants were killed in an overnight operation in Swat Valley, an area in the northwest which has been increasingly overrun with insurgents, Pakistan’s military said in a statement.

Associated Press writer Abdul Sattar in Quetta contributed to this report.

Soldier killed in South Waziristan

Soldier killed in South Waziristan

Tuesday, February 03, 2009
Our correspondent

WANA: An Army soldier was killed and five others injured, two of them seriously, when unidentified miscreants attacked a military convoy near Khamrang area of South Waziristan tribal region on Monday.

Sources said the military convoy was on its way to Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan, from Angoor Adda along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border when it came under attack.

An explosive device, which the miscreants had planted, went off soon after the military convoy passed through the area. It caused damage to one of the vehicles, resulting in death to a soldier and injuries to five others. The injured soldiers were later taken to the paramilitary Frontier Corps hospital located in the South Waziristan Scouts camp at Wana.

Official sources said two of the soldiers were in a critical condition. No one has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, which is a rare incident of its kind in the Ahmadzai Wazirs-inhabited areas.

Political Agent of South Waziristan Shahab Ali Shah, when reached by telephone, confirmed the incident. He said probe into the attack had been launched and punitive action under territorial responsibility act of Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) would be taken against the Ahmadzai Wazir tribesmen.

Meanwhile in Bara, leader of the outlawed Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) Mangal Bagh has banned shaving of beards and asked women to wear proper veils. Addressing on his private FM radio station here Monday, Mangal Bagh said: �From now on, the men are warned to grow breads according to Islam�s teachings and women should be properly veiled while leaving homes�. Last week, the LI enforced �Shariah� in Bara tehsil of Khyber Agency.

Int’l Criminal Court at The Hague Considers ‘War Crimes’ Charges

by Hana Levi Julian

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(IsraelNN.com) A prosecutor at the International Criminal Court at The Hague has announced he intends to consider petitions by Arab groups charging Israel with war crimes in response to the counterterrorism Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

According to a report published Monday in the London Times, Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he is in the midst of investigating claims by Palestinian Authority Arab groups that Israel committed the crimes. This, he said, does not relate to the issue of Israel’s guilt or innocence, but rather is more focused on whether in fact the court has any jurisdiction over the case.

“It is the territorial state that has to make a reference to the court,” Moreno-Ocampo was quoted as saying. “They [the petitioners] are making an argument that the Palestinian Authority is, in reality, that state. They are quoting jurisprudence. It’s very complicated. It’s a different kind of analysis I am doing.”

The prosecutor would not commit himself to saying how long such an analysis might take. “It may take a long time,” he said, “but I will make a decision according to law.”

Spain, meanwhile, has allegedly agreed to change its legislation in order to try and prevent international forces – such as the PA – from manipulating its court system unjustly in the future, according to a statement issued late last week by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

The move came in the wake of charges filed in a Madrid court against past and present senior IDF officials accusing them of “war crimes” in the assassination of senior Hamas terrorist Salah Shehadeh in 2002.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert referred on Sunday to the issue of international court action against Israeli officials during the weekly Cabinet meeting.

“Many countries which allowed themselves to hit at civilians in order to remove what they deemed to be a threat, today preach morality to us, and a willingness to cooperate with a terrorist organization that took control of a population and intentionally operates from within it,” he noted.

“This is both unjust and immoral and we will fully back every Israeli citizen, and certainly security personnel who acted on behalf of the State if someone tries to cast aspersions on them and take legal steps against them,” he added.

It’s Not Going to Be OK

It’s Not Going to Be OK

By Chris Hedges

February 02, 2009 “” — The daily bleeding of thousands of jobs will soon turn our economic crisis into a political crisis. The street protests, strikes and riots that have rattled France, Turkey, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria and Iceland will descend on us. It is only a matter of time. And not much time. When things start to go sour, when Barack Obama is exposed as a mortal waving a sword at a tidal wave, the United States could plunge into a long period of precarious social instability.

At no period in American history has our democracy been in such peril or has the possibility of totalitarianism been as real. Our way of life is over. Our profligate consumption is finished. Our children will never have the standard of living we had. And poverty and despair will sweep across the landscape like a plague. This is the bleak future. There is nothing President Obama can do to stop it. It has been decades in the making. It cannot be undone with a trillion or two trillion dollars in bailout money. Our empire is dying. Our economy has collapsed.

How will we cope with our decline? Will we cling to the absurd dreams of a superpower and a glorious tomorrow or will we responsibly face our stark new limitations? Will we heed those who are sober and rational, those who speak of a new simplicity and humility, or will we follow the demagogues and charlatans who rise up out of the slime in moments of crisis to offer fantastic visions? Will we radically transform our system to one that protects the ordinary citizen and fosters the common good, that defies the corporate state, or will we employ the brutality and technology of our internal security and surveillance apparatus to crush all dissent? We won’t have to wait long to find out.

There are a few isolated individuals who saw it coming. The political philosophers Sheldon S. Wolin, John Ralston Saul and Andrew Bacevich, as well as writers such as Noam Chomsky, Chalmers Johnson, David Korten and Naomi Klein, along with activists such as Bill McKibben and Ralph Nader, rang the alarm bells. They were largely ignored or ridiculed. Our corporate media and corporate universities proved, when we needed them most, intellectually and morally useless.

Wolin, who taught political philosophy at the University of California in Berkeley and at Princeton, in his book “Democracy Incorporated” uses the phrase inverted totalitarianism to describe our system of power. Inverted totalitarianism, unlike classical totalitarianism, does not revolve around a demagogue or charismatic leader. It finds its expression in the anonymity of the corporate state. It purports to cherish democracy, patriotism and the Constitution while cynically manipulating internal levers to subvert and thwart democratic institutions. Political candidates are elected in popular votes by citizens, but they must raise staggering amounts of corporate funds to compete. They are beholden to armies of corporate lobbyists in Washington or state capitals who write the legislation. A corporate media controls nearly everything we read, watch or hear and imposes a bland uniformity of opinion or diverts us with trivia and celebrity gossip. In classical totalitarian regimes, such as Nazi fascism or Soviet communism, economics was subordinate to politics. “Under inverted totalitarianism the reverse is true,” Wolin writes. “Economics dominates politics-and with that domination comes different forms of ruthlessness.”

I reached Wolin, 86, by phone at his home about 25 miles north of San Francisco. He was a bombardier in the South Pacific during World War II and went to Harvard after the war to get his doctorate. Wolin has written classics such as “Politics and Vision” and “Tocqueville Between Two Worlds.” His newest book is one of the most important and prescient critiques to date of the American political system. He is also the author of a series of remarkable essays on Augustine of Hippo, Richard Hooker, David Hume, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Max Weber, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Marx and John Dewey. His voice, however, has faded from public awareness because, as he told me, “it is harder and harder for people like me to get a public hearing.” He said that publications, such as The New York Review of Books, which often published his work a couple of decades ago, lost interest in his critiques of American capitalism, his warnings about the subversion of democratic institutions and the emergence of the corporate state. He does not hold out much hope for Obama.

“The basic systems are going to stay in place; they are too powerful to be challenged,” Wolin told me when I asked him about the new Obama administration. “This is shown by the financial bailout. It does not bother with the structure at all. I don’t think Obama can take on the kind of military establishment we have developed. This is not to say that I do not admire him. He is probably the most intelligent president we have had in decades. I think he is well meaning, but he inherits a system of constraints that make it very difficult to take on these major power configurations. I do not think he has the appetite for it in any ideological sense. The corporate structure is not going to be challenged. There has not been a word from him that would suggest an attempt to rethink the American imperium.”

Wolin argues that a failure to dismantle our vast and overextended imperial projects, coupled with the economic collapse, is likely to result in inverted totalitarianism. He said that without “radical and drastic remedies” the response to mounting discontent and social unrest will probably lead to greater state control and repression. There will be, he warned, a huge “expansion of government power.”

“Our political culture has remained unhelpful in fostering a democratic consciousness,” he said. “The political system and its operatives will not be constrained by popular discontent or uprisings.”

Wolin writes that in inverted totalitarianism consumer goods and a comfortable standard of living, along with a vast entertainment industry that provides spectacles and diversions, keep the citizenry politically passive. I asked if the economic collapse and the steady decline in our standard of living might not, in fact, trigger classical totalitarianism. Could widespread frustration and poverty lead the working and middle classes to place their faith in demagogues, especially those from the Christian right?

“I think that’s perfectly possible,” he answered. “That was the experience of the 1930s. There wasn’t just FDR. There was Huey Long and Father Coughlin. There were even more extreme movements including the Klan. The extent to which those forces can be fed by the downturn and bleakness is a very real danger. It could become classical totalitarianism.”

He said the widespread political passivity is dangerous. It is often exploited by demagogues who pose as saviors and offer dreams of glory and salvation. He warned that “the apoliticalness, even anti-politicalness, will be very powerful elements in taking us towards a radically dictatorial direction. It testifies to how thin the commitment to democracy is in the present circumstances. Democracy is not ascendant. It is not dominant. It is beleaguered. The extent to which young people have been drawn away from public concerns and given this extraordinary range of diversions makes it very likely they could then rally to a demagogue.”

Wolin lamented that the corporate state has successfully blocked any real debate about alternative forms of power. Corporations determine who gets heard and who does not, he said. And those who critique corporate power are given no place in the national dialogue.

“In the 1930s there were all kinds of alternative understandings, from socialism to more extensive governmental involvement,” he said. “There was a range of different approaches. But what I am struck by now is the narrow range within which palliatives are being modeled. We are supposed to work with the financial system. So the people who helped create this system are put in charge of the solution. There has to be some major effort to think outside the box.”

“The puzzle to me is the lack of social unrest,” Wolin said when I asked why we have not yet seen rioting or protests. He said he worried that popular protests will be dismissed and ignored by the corporate media. This, he said, is what happened when tens of thousands protested the war in Iraq. This will permit the state to ruthlessly suppress local protests, as happened during the Democratic and Republic conventions. Anti-war protests in the 1960s gained momentum from their ability to spread across the country, he noted. This, he said, may not happen this time. “The ways they can isolate protests and prevent it from [becoming] a contagion are formidable,” he said.

“My greatest fear is that the Obama administration will achieve relatively little in terms of structural change,” he added. “They may at best keep the system going. But there is a growing pessimism. Every day we hear how much longer the recession will continue. They are already talking about beyond next year. The economic difficulties are more profound than we had guessed and because of globalization more difficult to deal with. I wish the political establishment, the parties and leadership, would become more aware of the depths of the problem. They can’t keep throwing money at this. They have to begin structural changes that involve a very different approach from a market economy. I don’t think this will happen.”

“I keep asking why and how and when this country became so conservative,” he went on. “This country once prided itself on its experimentation and flexibility. It has become rigid. It is probably the most conservative of all the advanced countries.”

The American left, he said, has crumbled. It sold out to a bankrupt Democratic Party, abandoned the working class and has no ability to organize. Unions are a spent force. The universities are mills for corporate employees. The press churns out info-entertainment or fatuous pundits. The left, he said, no longer has the capacity to be a counterweight to the corporate state. He said that if an extreme right gains momentum there will probably be very little organized resistance.

“The left is amorphous,” he said. “I despair over the left. Left parties may be small in number in Europe but they are a coherent organization that keeps going. Here, except for Nader’s efforts, we don’t have that. We have a few voices here, a magazine there, and that’s about it. It goes nowhere.”

© 2009 TruthDig.com

A MATTER OF DEFIANCE Let The World Rain Shoes On Israel

A MATTER OF DEFIANCE
Let The World Rain Shoes On Israel
William C. Carlotti

Giotto, Massacre of the Innocents, Arena Chapel, consecrated 1305.


Guernica

What do you think an artist is? An imbecile who has only eyes if he is a painter, or ears if he is a musician, or a lyre in every chamber of his heart if he is a poet, or even, if he is a boxer, just his muscles? Far, far from it: at the same time, he is also a political being, constantly aware of the heartbreaking, passionate, or delightful things that happen in the world, shaping himself completely in their image. How could it be possible to feel no interest in other people, and with a cool indifference to detach yourself from the very life which they bring to you so abundantly? No, painting is not done to decorate apartments.
Pablo Picasso
A friend of mine recently sent me the following two reviews of the newly released film Defiance and recommended that I be sure to see it.
(SEE: Consider The Source, by Kim Voynar, Movie City News, Oscar Outsider Dec. 24, 2008 and Heroes in the Family, by Eric Herschthal, The Jewish Week, Dec. 12, 2008 )
The film Defiance is one of a group of films that have appeared this year with a similar theme involving the decade long nazi led German government’s assault on humanity. The spate of films include The Boy With The Striped Pajamas, Valkyrie, and The Reader.
The question that must arise because of this sudden renewal of the genre is,
—Is it a result of the increasing criticism of the Jewish Zionist led, Christian Zionist supported Israeli government 60 year murderous assault on the people of Palestine as Israel occupies and absorbs the Palestine beyond Israel’s internationally recognized borders demonstrated by its latest barbarous assault on the Gaza sector of Palestine?
This new movie about the brothers Bielskis, heroes during the brief decade long period of the nazi-led German government’s assault on humanity, is amongst the myriad of all kinds of material about the period. Yehuda Bauer, academic advisor to Yad Vashem in Israel, put it this way on January 27, 2006 at the first commemoration of nazi led Germany’s victims at the United Nations,
“…why is there a flood of fiction, theater, films, TV series, and music, and, of course, historical, sociological, philosophical, psychological, and other academic research, a flood that has rarely if ever been equaled in dealing with any other historical event?”
Bauer asks the question as a rhetorical question in his speech—it is a good question– and he has his answer and I have mine.
From my perspective, there are two reasons for the flood. The first and foremost reason is that it makes a hero out of the United States in its historical narrative. The scenario as it is played out in the narrative of the United States is that the “forces of freedom and democracy” defeated “the forces of totalitarianism and genocidal despotism”. So much of a hero, in fact, that the three centuries of the organized, industrial, capture, transport, enslavement and murder of millions of Africans and indigenous people of this land is shuttled into the background. So much so that the racist characteristics of the nazi led venture with its racial courts–to detect non-aryans using the tools developed by the eugenics movement in the United States– is also shunted into the background as the United States’ racially segregated armed forces engaged them.
Imagine —a centuries old industry that has special forces and traders engaged in the capture of humans, has a whole industry that builds special transport ships for its human cargo, has specific insurance for the transport, has an industry that produces special iron forged instruments of containment and torture, has an international trade involving the production and sale of rum as the finance for the human cargo, has a whole religious, philosophical academic rationale for the industry, has special training camps and personnel for breaking the will of the captured, has an entire society built on the premise of this industry for centuries. Then, when the flood described by Bauer of the nazi led decade is considered, there is scarcely, in comparison, a trickle of the myriad of descriptions possible, in the vast variety of genre that Bauer lists, of this enormous racist human crime of the United States.
This is not a comparative analysis of the two historical events but, instead, it is a description of how the one historical event in its emphasis and abundance, in its “flood” as Bauer puts it about the decade of the nazi led German government’s atrocities, is used, on the one hand, to embellish the United States historical narrative and, on the other hand, to subsume and to smother the enormous, unspeakable, human genocidal atrocities committed for centuries by the racist, slave holders controlled United States government.
The second and equally relevant reason has been examined in detail by Norman Finkelstein in his consummate study of the “flood” phenomenon in his books The Holocaust Industry, Reflections On The Exploitation of Jewish Suffering and Beyond Chutzpah, On The Misuse of Anti-Semitism and The Abuse of History.
So as much as I am inspired by the recounting of the stories of the heroes that opposed the nazi led atrocities, the story of my family’s participation in the resistance in Italy and of my family’s and the myriad of other family’s and their organized resistance to the racism of the United States will have to suffice until this latter issue is seriously dealt with  and the “flood” about the stories about the nazi-led German government is recognized for the purposes it serves independent of the accounts of its victims.
Yet, in spite of my inclination, Kim Voynar’s review of the film makes a relevant point. She writes,
“..Defiance tells a tale of a group of Jews who fought back against the Nazis, who survived against all odds through conditions that would thwart the best of us, were we to suddenly find ourselves uprooted from our cozy lives, and for that it stands out amidst other films about the Holocaust as a film not just about survival, but about an uprising of the spirit, led by these brothers who refused to site back and be victims. If they were going to die, they were going to die fighting, and they imbued their band of ragtag, displaced villagers with the desire to not just survive, but to survive by fighting against their enemy.”
Her statement brings to mind the story of the defiance of the people of Vermont to slavery written into the Vermont Constitution.
Her statement brings to mind the story of the defiance of John Brown who was amongst the first to oppose the racist led United States government’s support of slavery.
It brings to mind the story of the defiance of Nat Turner whose assault on the population of the racist slave holders is part of the unrequited history of the resistance of the African slaves in the United States
It brings to mind the story of the defiance of Geronimo who fought the long resistance to the racist colonization of what has become the United States.
It brings to mind the story of the defiance of the Lincoln Brigade that was amongst the first to oppose fascism when it appeared in Spain supported by the nazi-led German government.
It brings to mind the story of the defiance of the The White Rose, the group of Germans that opposed the nazi led German government.
It brings to mind the story of the defiance of the Italian Partisans that my family was a part of that captured, tried and hung Mussolini for his crimes against humanity.
It brings to mind the defiance of the Palestinian youth who throw rocks at the behemoth tanks of the racist,colonizing Jewish Zionist led, Christian Zionist supported Israeli government.
It brings to mind the defiance of the Palestinian resistance, including its use of the hand carried bomb,  whose purpose  is to strike against the nation, the people of the nation that have invaded your country, ravaged its cities towns and hamlets, brought death, starvation and suffering to your people, displaced your country’s population, absorbed your homes, farms, private property to their own purposes and to let them know that so long as they carry out the occupation and absorption of your country they will be bombed, they will not live in peace, they will not enjoy the fruits of their genocidal crimes.

It brings to mind the hundreds of Palestinians that are now throwing shoes at the all Jewish Israeli armed forces guarding the construction of Israel’s beloved ghetto wall. The Palestinians are imitating the courageous journalist that took off his shoe and threw it at George Bush in disgust at his answers to questions at a news conference.


LET THE WORLD RAIN SHOES ON ISRAEL

Gather up your dirty, stinking, smelly old shoes and sneakers and send them, in solidarity with the people of Palestine, to:
THE ISRAELI CONSUL GENERAL
800 2nd AVENUE
NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10017

hasEML = false;


Sudan: Israel arming Darfur rebels

An Israeli soldier covers his ears as a mobile artillery unit fires a shell towards Gaza in mid-January. Israel receives at least $2 billion a year in US weapons.

Sudan: Israel arming Darfur rebels

Israel has supplied a rebel group involved in the Darfur conflict in Sudan with a considerable amount of weaponry, a new report says.

The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) has received considerably heavy military logistical support from Israel, Sudan’s state media reported on Sunday.

The shipment has been sent through France, which is in charge of training military personal inside neighboring Chad, the Sudanese Media Center, a news outlet with links to Sudan’s security service said.

France maintains a 1,650 soldier mission to Chad as part of the EUFOR mission to protect refugees who have fled the conflict in Darfur in neighboring Sudan.

The JEM which seized the city of Muhageriya about two weeks ago is considered Darfur’s most powerful rebel group.

The group managed to capture the city form forces loyal to the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) faction of Minni Minawi, which is the only rebel group to have signed a peace deal with Khartoum.

Sudan accuses Chad of providing military and logistical support for the rebel group’s attacks on Southern Darfur.

Chad, however, blames Sudan for the creation of the Union of Resistance Forces, an umbrella group for the main Chadian rebel factions created in late January 2008.

The two neighbors broke off diplomatic relations last year, with each accusing the other of supporting rebel assaults on their capitals.

Although relations were re-established in November, ties still remain tense between the two central African nations.