Fear thy neighbour

The real ideological war going on in this country right now is not between terror and its antithesis, but between action and apathy.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister of Great Britain gave a speech on the dangers of Islamist terrorism, calling for an end to the ‘passive tolerance’ of Islamic ‘extremists’ and explicitly yoking this new ‘muscular liberalism’ to his government’s policy of withering the public sector. As Cameron spoke in Germany, thousands of members of the racist street protest movement the English Defence League (EDL) held their largest-ever rally declaring their opposition to the presence of Muslims in their communities.

According to eyewitnesses, EDL protesters were thrilled by Cameron’s speech. At best, the timing was insensitive. At worst, it explicitly incorporates working-class unrest into the xenophobic posturing of the “war on terror”.

A decade after the World Trade Centre attacks and six years after the last successful terrorist attack in Britain, the threat of Islamist terrorism is still the bogeyman under the bed, a frightening story to scare citizens into behaving. The “war on terror” is an ephemeral war, a perpetual war, a war that is fought in newspaper columns and over family dinner tables just as fiercely as it is fought in the mountains of Iraq and Afghanistan. It will be as enduring as its prosecutors deem useful, but it will never be won. That’s the point. You can’t fight terror and win, anymore than you can fight a plume of smoke and win, and like smoke, if you run into terror wildly, clouds of it will get in your eyes and distracts you from the truth.

The war on terror will endure whilst our leaders find it profitable to divert public anxiety towards notional bearded extremists with rucksacks full of nitroglycerine and idiosyncratic interpretations of the Koran. Now, that ideological war is being reinvoked in British communities. Although the phrase has not been officially used since Barack Obama became President of the United States, the “war on terror” casts a dark semantic shadow over global security strategy; the enemy is never any individual terrorist, always an ephemeral “ideology of extremism” whose borders are amorphous and whose solutions just happen to closely resemble whatever crackdowns on individual freedom and public investment successive neoliberal administrations are most keen to justify.

It is unequivocally tragic, of course, when innocent people die pointless, violent deaths at the hands of desperate butchers with hate in their hearts. When it comes to international policymaking, however, not all tragedies are equal. Since 2005, between six and thirteen times more British people have been killed by violent husbands than by Islamic terrorists, and yet at no point have the leaders of this country called for global consensus to end domestic violence and misogynist hate-crime. Indeed, as council spending cuts come into force, many local authorities will see their funding for refuges, battered women’s shelters and domestic violence support services cut by up to 100 percent, with nothing to replace them but vague Tory assurances that kindly volunteers might step in. In Austerity Britain, lots of things can be left to the Big Society, but not our commitment to prop up the paranoid entrenchment of the American military machine: Cameron’s speech opened with explicit reassurance that Britain’s NATO spending will remain top dollar.

Terrorism is not an everyday threat in this country. Most of us do not worry, when we get on the public transport, that the bus or train is going to be blown up: we worry that if ticket prices keep rising, we won’t be able to afford to get to work. When researchers turn up their findings on thecommon fears that beset ordinary people on a daily basis, it’s still the everyday stuff: money, employment, the health of our relatives. This administration is uninterested in helping ordinary people tackle the real fears that come from being human in a world where profit is more important than people, but seems keen to divert public anxiety into aggressive posturing against the relatively abstract threat of Islamic extremism within our communities.

The Conservative-led government has done nothing to halt the escalation of far-right groups like the English Defence League. Such groups are, in fact, profoundly useful to the centre-right. The torturous slide of Conservative rhetoric towards the lexicon of racist organisations has been noted by, amongst others, Nick Griffin, the leader of the British National Party, who told his followers in a newsletter: “the Prime Minister has at last admitted what the British National Party has said since the very beginning: multi-culturalism encourages Islamic extremism. We forced [him] to tell the truth.”

The demon being invoked here is terror at its most viscerally parochial: terror of the other, of foreigners and foreign ideas, of anyone who looks or speaks or prays differently. At root, this banal breed of suspicion taps into the more instinctive insecurities that beset all working people: our worries about loss of status and secure work, our fears that the communities upon which we rely might no longer be safe, supportive places to live and work. These fears are reasonable, but they have nothing to do with multiculturalism. They have everything to do with an economic programme that threatens to put millions out of work and destroy social housing.

David Cameron’s government is doing less than nothing to allay these root-level fears. The Conservative-led administration, with its merciless programme of cuts to public spending and welfare and its plan to sell off the libraries, the schools and the forests, has given ordinary families far more to fear than the occasional misguided teenager with homemade explosives strapped to his nether regions.

The real ideological war going on in this country right now is not between terror and its antithesis, but between action and apathy. The notion of community solidarity, of local people standing together against the government’s austerity programme, as they are this week with library and council sit-ins, is profoundly threatening to the political elite. Buried in the hawkish rhetoric of Cameron’s attack on multiculturalism is an implicit imprecation to his grassroots constituencies, one that serves the interests of a government trembling at the thought of popular uprising: fear thy neighbour.

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Why Isn’t US Number One, On US Terror List?

Could Lebanon end up on U.S. terror list?

By Michael B. Kraft, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Michael B. Kraft, counterterrorism consultant and writer, is a retired State Department Counterterrorism Office senior adviser who helped draft the terrorism list legislation and 1996 foreign terrorist organization legislation. He is the co-author of “The Evolution of U.S. Counterterrorism Policy.”

(CNN) — Although overshadowed by the demonstrations in Egypt, a problem continues to simmer for U.S. policymakers in Lebanon.

A 32-year-old law enacted in reaction to threats against Egypt and Lebanon by their Arab neighbors could result in the State Department’s designation of Lebanon and perhaps an independent Palestine as state sponsors of terrorism. Such a designation could cut off U.S. foreign assistance and impose other sanctions.

The issue with Lebanon is that its president has appointed Najib Mikati as the new prime minister, and Mikati is backed by Hezbollah, which the U.S. regards as a terrorist group. Hezbollah’s future actions could determine whether Lebanon faces those sanctions.

The long history of strife in the Middle East still reverberates in U.S. counterterrorism legislation, which dates to a time when rogue states were the main actors in international terrorism, long before the emergence of al Qaeda and related Islamic militant fundamentalist groups. The Export Administration Act (EAA) of 1979 established the so-called terrorism list of state sponsors of terrorism.

The 1979 congressional initiative was intended to force the administration to scrutinize more closely export licenses for equipment or services that might enhance the military capabilities of those nations designated as supporters of international terrorism.

Over the years, Congress enacted “piggy back” amendments that required the cutoff of military and economic assistance to the designated countries and imposed other sanctions, such as prohibiting financial transactions and denying U.S. tax credits for income that U.S. individuals and companies earned in terrorism list countries.

Two events in the late 1970s triggered the EAA counterterrorism provision, and both involved threats to Arab states.

The Commerce Department had approved export licenses for a U.S. company to sell 400 heavy duty trucks to Libya, ostensibly for carrying oil rigs. But these were the same kind of trucks the U.S. and Canadian armies used to transport tanks, and Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi was threatening border incursions against Egypt.

I was a young foreign policy staffer then to the late Rep. Millicent Fenwick, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Middle East Subcommittee. A State Department official unofficially approached me to discuss ways to block the sale.

At the same time, the Syrians were shelling the Christian suburbs of Beirut in their intervention in the Lebanese civil war. Despite that, the Commerce Department and a midlevel State Department Near East Bureau official had approved the export of six “civilian versions” of the C-130 military cargo plane for Syria.

Rep. Edward Derwinski, who had American-Lebanese constituents, was upset with the proposed sale. Both Derwinski and Fenwick thought the two sales — trucks to Libya and cargo planes to Syria — had major foreign policy implications and Congress should have been informed in advance.

The end result was the Fenwick amendment, which required the executive branch to notify Congress 30 days before such licenses were issued. The law required such licenses to be approved at the highest levels of the State Department, and perhaps the White House, instead of midlevel officials or licensing clerks making the decision. Syria and Libya were original members of the terrorism list.

The Anti-Terrorism and Arms Export Amendments Act of 1989 included language that the State Department worked out with Congress.

The Senate and House report language laid out virtually identical illustrative criteria for designations, saying it “…should include, but not be limited to, whether the country provides to terrorists: sanctuary from extradition or prosecution; arms, explosives and other lethal substances; logistical support; safe houses or headquarters; planning, training or other assistance for terrorist activities; direct or indirect financial backing; and diplomatic facilities such as support or documentation intended to aid or abet terrorist activities.”

Until now, Lebanon has received a pass from Republican and Democratic administrations, partly based on the view that the weak Lebanese government did not really control its territory, especially the Bakaa Valley, where many secular terrorist groups had bases, and the southern regions dominated by Hezbollah.

But Najib Mikati’s appointment could change that, especially if Hezbollah continues building up its huge stock of advanced missiles and again launches large numbers at Israeli civilians or conducts other forms of terrorism. Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Hezbollah are on the U.S. government’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. They and dozens of other groups are designated under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act 1996.

The Palestinian Authority is making a big effort to get other nations to recognize a Palestinian state. The campaign is even getting support in Latin America.

But, if a Palestinian state is officially established and Hamas becomes part of the government, or even if the Palestinian Authority allows terrorists to enjoy sanctuary, the Republican-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee is likely to be watching very carefully and perhaps press for designation.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michael Kraft.

Calling the CIA’s Bluff In “International Terrorism” Case In Norway

[If CIA doesn’t show proof that an Uzbek, a Kurd and a Chinese Uyghur (sounds like the beginning of a bad joke) are connected in a plot by alleged “international terrorists” from “al-Qaeda,” then the whole case will fall apart.  The CIA is trying to build a case for legally prosecuting three men for being members of an imaginary organization.  If the prosecutor gets this information somehow (leak) and uses it without permission, it will screw Norway/US spy coordination in the future.  The prosecutor is about to bet his credentials on his ability to play along with the fucked-up spy game being engineered on Norwegian soil, without compromising the liars behind this whole charade, the US Govt.]

Terror cell probe hits crucial phase

February 7, 2011

An international probe of a terrorism case connecting Norway with the UK and the US is coming to a head, with authorities keen to gain access to US evidence related to an alleged Norwegian terror cell.

Newspaper Aftenposten reports that the Norwegian police intelligence service (Politiets sikkerhetstjeneste, PST) has requested information from the US’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) that they believe links Mikael Davud, a Norwegian accused of heading a terrorist group in the country, to Abid Naseer, a Briton facing extradition to the US who allegedly coordinated attacks on targets in Britain, the US and Norway during 2009. Davud, Naseer and Najibullah Zazi, who has admitted involvement in the foiled attempt to bomb the New York metro system, are all thought to have maintained contact with the same Al-Qaida operatives in Pakistan.

Contact in code
E-mails found on computers owned by the suspects suggest they maintained contact with Al-Qaida members, and apparently used a code in which discussion of weddings, marriage and the weather disguised plans for acts of terrorism. The Americans believe British Al-Qaida commander Rashid Rauf and another senior member, Saleh al-Somali – both of whom were later killed in drone attacks in Pakistan – led the plans of Davud, Naseer and Zazi. The three men are also believed to have been trained in Pakistan.

Norwegian authorities, though, face difficulties in using evidence from foreign security services in court. “There are almost sacred rules for the use of such information,” PST’s Janne Kristiansen told newspaper Aftenposten over the weekend. “It cannot be used in court without permission. If we still use it without permission from the cooperating service, it will hurt further collaboration.”

An Oslo court gave PST eight more weeks in January to question Davud, who reportedly has not been cooperative. The ruling emphasized the testimony of another of the accused, Shawan Bujak, which suggests that the Norwegian terror cell’s target was the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which published controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Davud himself has only mentioned the Chinese embassy in Oslo as a possible target, as revenge for Chinese oppression suffered by his family, but this has been rejected by investigators, who have confirmed that the accused did not know the location of the Chinese embassy in Oslo when questioned.

‘No firm plans’
Aftenposten reports that Davud’s own lawyer, Arild Humlen, also confirms this, suggesting that his client had no firm plans for an attack. He believes this weakens the prosecution’s case because “there isn’t any new evidence that strengthens the accusation that the three defendants had entered into any association” with each other. Indeed, documents revealed by Wikileaks, which detail discussions between the US embassy and Norwegian authorities, suggest that PST had, in January, no leads that illuminate the goal of any eventual attack.

In order to convict Davud, Bujak and their other alleged colleague, David Jakobsen, who was released from custody last fall, the prosecutors must convince the court that the men knowingly entered into an alliance with the intention of committing one or more acts of terrorism. After a further custody hearing in March, PST would have until the summer holidays at the latest to conclude their investigation, after which the public prosecutor will decide whether to indict the three suspects.

Views and News from Norway/Aled-Dilwyn Fisher

‘They broke my legs with bars in prison’

AHMED Douma knows there is nowhere else for him to go if the protests on Tahrir Square fizzle out. He will end up back in the state’s torture cells, where he has already suffered so much abuse.

“I have been detained by the police 25 times,” said the 21-year-old computer engineer and political activist. “They broke my legs with bars in prison and left me with no medical treatment. They broke my arm four different times.”

He was also subjected to electric shocks and left without food, water or toilet facilities for up to five days at a time. “The police asked only one question: ‘Why are you against the Mubarak regime?’ After that, they used their torture tools on me,” he said.

“Torture is an endemic problem in Egypt,” the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a report last week, adding that “ending police abuse has been a driving element behind the massive popular demonstrations”.

Amnesty International yesterday gave warning that Wael Ghuneim, Google’s head of marketing for the Middle East and North Africa, faced a serious risk of torture after being arrested. The authorities were furious at the demonstrators’ use of the internet to organise protests.

“The Egyptian authorities must immediately disclose where Wael Ghuneim is and release him or charge him with a recognisable criminal offence,” said Amnesty’s Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Businessman Naguib Sawiris has been negotiating the release of Ghoneim, and announced yesterday on his television channel ON TV that the IT executive is to be freed later today.

Until the past week, Egyptians alone were subjected to the brutality. But faced with an uprising, the Government set its henchmen on dozens of foreign media representatives, beating, stabbing and detaining them in what Washington called a coordinated campaign to silence the press.

Two New York Times journalists described being detained and handed to the dreaded Mukhabarat, or secret police, into whose murky cells thousands have disappeared for days, months or even years. “Our discomfort paled in comparison to the dull whacks and the screams by Egyptian people that broke the stillness of the night,” they wrote.

Activists doubt that Egypt’s dire human-rights record will improve under the new Vice-President, Omar Suleiman, who was in charge during last week’s bloody crackdown.

The Times

George W. Bush calls off Europe visit after arrest threat over torture of terror suspects

HE WAS once mocked for his scant foreign travel. Now George W. Bush faces the prospect of a retirement confined to the United States after the cancellation of a trip to Switzerland amid fear of being prosecuted for torture.

The former president’s first trip to Europe since leaving office was called off after human rights groups lodged a complaint with the Swiss courts urging that he be prosecuted under international laws forbidding torture.

Mr Bush had been due to speak in Geneva on February 12 at a dinner for the pro-Israeli United Israel appeal. A lawyer for that organisation told Swiss media that the event had been cancelled because of the risk of violence at planned protests against Mr Bush.

But human rights groups, including the London-based Amnesty International and the New York-based Centre for Constitutional Rights, claimed a victory in their battle to have Mr Bush prosecuted for his role in ordering terror suspects to be tortured.

RELATED COVERAGE

The groups filed their complaint with the Swiss courts on Friday, accusing Mr Bush of torture based on the frank admission in his recent memoir, Decision Points, that he personally gave the go-ahead to the waterboarding of terror suspects held in CIA custody.

In the book Mr Bush recounts being asked by the CIA whether it could proceed with waterboarding the 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was suspected of having information about plans for future attacks against the United States.

“Damn right,” Mr Bush writes of his reply, saying that the decision had saved lives and that he would not hesitate to make it again.

Amnesty International said that on Friday it had sent prosecutors “a detailed factual and legal analysis of President Bush’s criminal responsibility for acts of torture” and concluded “that Switzerland had enough information to open a criminal investigation”.

The Centre for Constitutional Rights said the complaint, which has yet to be filed with the courts, was made on behalf of two terror suspects, Majid Khan, who is being held at Guantanamo Bay, and Sami al-Hajj, a former al-Jazeera cameraman who was released in 2008.

The 2,500-page complaint under the Convention Against Torture, is to be released today in Switzerland.

“The message from civil society is clear: if you’re a torturer, be careful in your travel plans. It’s a slow process for accountability, but we keep going,” the organisation said.

Whether any prosecution could have arisen from the complaints remains unclear. A Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters that the country’s justice ministry had concluded that Mr Bush was immune from prosecution for any alleged actions while in office. The human rights groups say there is no such immunity.

Amnesty said Switzerland was legally obliged to investigate if Mr Bush entered the country and to prosecute if grounds were found. Legal experts say it is unlikely that Swiss prosecutors would have been able to act swiftly enough to move to an arrest during Mr Bush’s brief visit. But the threat of an embarrassing diplomatic incident may have led to the decision to cancel the entire event.

Amnesty said: “Anywhere he travels, President Bush could face investigation and potential prosecution for his responsibility for torture and other crimes in international law.”

The situation raises parallels with that faced by Israeli officials such as the former foreign minister Tzipi Livni, who was forced to cancel a trip to Britain after a complaint was lodged in court over alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza. British police would have been obliged to arrest her. The same could be true of Mr Bush if human rights groups were to pursue a complaint against him in British courts.

The Times

Egypt Protesters Hold Square Saying Concessions Not Enough

Egypt Protesters Hold Square Saying Concessions Not Enough

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak came under fresh pressure Monday to step down immediately as opponents said concessions made in landmark talks were not enough to halt a revolt against his 30-year reign.

As a winter sun began to peep through a chill morning mist, thousands of demonstrators emerged from under blankets and tarpaulins in central Cairo’s Tahrir Square, which over two weeks has begun to resemble a tented camp.

Many slept under the tracks of Egyptian army tanks arrayed around the square — fearful that if the troops manning them begin to move it could be to drive out the protesters or to abandon them to the mercies of pro-regime thugs.

Wife of Shooting Victim Commits Suicide Upon Hearing of Possible Davis Release

Wife of man killed by Davis commits suicide

By Muhammad Saleem
A nurse and unidentified relatives of Shumaila Kanwal, bottom, the widow of a Pakistani man allegedly shot and killed by a US official, stand beside her at a local hospital in Faisalabad. -AP Photo

FAISALABAD: The wife of one of two youths gunned down by a US government employee Raymond Davis in Lahore on Jan 27 committed suicide on Sunday.

Shumaila Kanwal, wife of Faheem Ahmed, took insecticides in the morning and was brought to Allied Hospital where she died a little before midnight. Hospital official Prof Zahid Yasmeen Hashmi confirmed her death.

When she was brought to the hospital, Ms Kanwal told newsmen that she had decided to end her life in protest against “favourable treatment being accorded to the killer of her husband by police and reports that he will be set free”.

Ms Kanwal had married Faheem Ahmed about six months ago.

Her cousin said the 26-year old widow had taken insecticides to kill herself after learning Davis would be handed over to the US government without trial. She had returned to her parents’ home from Gadri village near Chak Jhumra a couple of days ago.

She had told newsmen gathered at the hospital: “The killer is being treated as a guest at the police station. I need justice and blood for the blood of my husband.”

She said that even after 11 days after the murder of her husband, there had been no progress in the case.

Activists of Jamat-i-Islami gathered outside the hospital and held a demonstration.

JI district chief Azeem Randhawa said Ms Kanwal was an orphan and her mother was disabled.

Agencies add: Faheem’s brother Mohammad Waseem told AFP that Ms Kanwal was plunged into a “severe depression” by her husband’s death.

She took the poison before dawn and was rushed to the hospital early on Sunday, he said.

“I want blood for blood. The way my husband was shot, his killer should be shot in the same fashion,” she had told reporters at the hospital.

“I do not expect any justice from this government,” said Ms Kanwal in a statement recorded by doctor Ali Naqi. “That is why I want to kill myself.”

“Mohammad Faheem’s wife Shumaila this morning took poisonous pills and she was taken to Allied Hospital” in Faisalabad, local police chief Usman Anwar told AFP.

Earlier, Dr Naqi confirmed the suicide attempt, describing her condition as critical.

The shootings have stoked anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, feelings that could be further inflamed by Ms Kanwal’s death.