A Talk with the Taliban

December 17, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Sara Daniel, Le Nouvel Observateur

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Former Taliban are part of the ongoing dialogue between the Karzai government and the Taliban in Pakistan. (Photo: Codepink / Flickr)

Obama has finally opted for troop reinforcement. But by evoking the beginning of a scheduled withdrawal 18 months from now, he has also incited the Karzai government to keep the channels of discussion with the Taliban open.

And what if the stabilization of Afghanistan could come only at this price? While Barack Obama’s decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan seems to sound the death knell for that option envisaged by the more cynical members of the American administration, those who don’t believe in a military solution in the country continue to militate in favor of a “discussion” with the enemy. Not with the “pragmatic” Taliban Hamid Karzai boasted of having been able to rally to his cause – and who are today considered traitors by the guerrilla – but with the most ideological fringe of the “students’ of religion” representatives, the Mullah Omar and Hezb-e-Islami leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. These are the ones who are inflicting losses on NATO’s forces and laying siege to Kabul. “If you want significant results, you have to talk to important people,” Norwegian diplomat and UN representative in the country Kai Eide declared the day before the elections to encourage discussions with the guerrilla movement’s leadership.

The idea is highly controversial. Its detractors explain that any attempt at dialogue would be considered a sign of weakness by the fundamentalist guerrilla at precisely the moment when the West is demonstrating the scope of its determination to pacify the country militarily. Didn’t Mullah Omar just violently reject the proposals for national reconciliation that President Karzai since his investiture has ceaselessly tried to engage him in? Nonetheless, Barack Obama has repeated that NATO’s troop withdrawal should begin in 18 months. Yet, nothing proves that the counterinsurgency strategy he has opted for will be a success in the meantime. Consequently, the Afghan president maintains all channels open and, far from official platforms, enemy leaders are talking to one another.

In spite of the fighting, meetings occur between the clandestine headquarters of the blind mullah and the Afghan government. From Pakistan to Kabul, intercessors see to it that messages are passed under the watchful eye of the Americans. Even American Defense Secretary Robert Gates has declared that, in Afghanistan as in Iraq, it would be necessary to come to the point of conducting a policy of a reconciliation with people who have killed American soldiers: “Isn’t that how wars always end?” he declared during a NATO meeting.

Maulvi Arsala Rahmani is one of those messengers. Under the Taliban regime, he was minister for religious affairs. Today, he has returned to the Afghan Senate. He receives people in his house in Kabul, where he is under good protection and spied on by several countries’ intelligence agents. Enveloped in an Uzbek coat lined in gray fur, he prays with fervor, as though better to reflect on the questions he is asked. To hear him tell it, he would like to reconcile everybody. For he likes Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and … Mullah Omar. He mentions his “friend, Osama” (bin Laden), whom he knew well in Sudan, then during the jihad. According to Rahmani, Mullah Baradar, the present Taliban operational commander, is a “good and honest man.” And he misses Jalaluddin Haqqani, whose armed groups are covering the south of the country with blood: “We always used to be together …” Nonetheless, he believes that the time has come for the guerrilla movement to dissociate itself from his “friend Osama.” But are the members of Mullah Omar’s choura (council of notables), with whom he is in contact, ready for that divorce? In his opinion, it’s not impossible. For, in spite of their military “success,” the Taliban, like all soldiers, would like to be able to go home. Moreover, and contrary to what has been suggested in Mullah Omar’s communiqués, it is sometimes the guerrilla leaders, and not the Afghan presidency, who take the initiative for these meetings, Maulvi Arsala Rahmani assures me. Last year, Mullah Baradar led a Taliban delegation to Kabul to talk with Karzai’s older brother, Qayyum.

Born to the same tribe as the Afghan president, Mullah Omar’s right hand man is supposed to be a more conciliating man than his mentor. Patient, charismatic, he has proved to be a redoubtable enemy for NATO’s troops. At the head of the Quetta choura in Pakistan, it is he who manages the war chest – the booty from kidnappings and trafficking – and who coordinates attacks. Above all, it is he who has been authorized to speak in the name of the man the insurgents consider the commander of the faithful: Omar. “Should there ever be discussions, he will be an indispensable interlocutor,” asserts Rahmani.

In Kabul, the former minister is sharing his home with another one of these “intermediaries” who sound out the Taliban and regularly meet with Barack Obama’s advisers. His beard is black, his turban, cream-colored: Pir Mohamed was the president of the University of Kabul under the Taliban regime: “Afghanistan is composed of several groups. No one should be excluded … That’s what I said to Holbrooke, who shares my point of view!” Repeating – for whatever purpose it might serve – that, at the time, he had tried several times to convince Mullah Omar to allow him to give girls a religious education, he asserts that today he has warned the White House special envoy against the new pacification strategy for the country: “Afghanistan is not Iraq. The Taliban come from very different origins. Mores come from Uzbekistan, Kandahar or Khost. And one may neither set the tribes against one another nor buy them: there are too many of them!”

Yet, is seems that the political leadership of the Taliban, tossing around between Peshawar, Quetta and Karachi, would like to put an end to its wanderings in Pakistan. That’s the sense of the messages from the Quetta choura and its representatives, Baradar and Mohamed Mansour, former chief education officer. The rebels would like to install themselves somewhere, then form a government-in-exile to elaborate the conditions for a negotiation with the Karzai government. Why not in Saudi Arabia where Mullah Zaeef, former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, has already tried to organize a meeting between the enemy sides? Then from Riyadh, the Taliban leadership could negotiate its own neutrality in exchange for a right to return, amnesty and participation in political life after the withdrawal of foreign troops.

Isn’t this scenario unrealistic or premature? Our intermediaries agree: it will not be easy to convince Westerners to guarantee a safe haven for the same people they’re fighting. But the two men insist on the necessity of cutting the guerrilla off from its Pakistani sanctuary. Even though they know Afghanistan will not be at peace until Pakistan agrees to it. “As long as Pakistan’s vital interests, such as the future of the Durand Line, are not taken into account, all discussions will fail,” explains Rahmani. According to him, the key to potential negotiations is in the hands of the Pakistani mullahs, themselves under ISI – the Pakistani secret services’ – control.  As are Mullah Fazel Rahman and Sami ul-Haq, who lead the coalition of Pakistani fundamentalist religious parties. “Before the Taliban, it is they who must be convinced to make peace, because today they control al-Qaeda and bin Laden and hold the future of the region in their hands …” On this point, at least, the former Taliban and Barack Obama come to the same conclusions.

Maulvi Rahmani

Religious affairs minister under the Taliban regime, he is a member of the Afghan Senate today. He has contacts within circles close to the Pakistani secret services.

Pir Mohamed

Former rector of Kabul University. He meets regularly with Richard Holbrooke and representatives of the Quetta choura.

Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef

He was the sole interface between the Taliban regime and the international community from 1996 to the end of 2001. He was imprisoned at Guantanamo from 2002 to 2005. He would like to see the Saudis play a role in future peace talks.

Wakil Muttawakil

Former foreign affairs minister for the Taliban, he played the role of intermediary between the Americans and Taliban groups in Kandahar and negotiated the conditions for surrender with the Americans at the fall of the regime.

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Kafkaesque Justice Under the USA Patriot Act

December 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

A Book Review By Mirza A. Beg

December 15, 2009

Book:              Rounded Up – Artificial Terrorists and Muslim Entrapment after 9/11
Author:             Shamshad Ahmad, Ph.D; with a forward by Stephen Downs.
Publisher:        The Troy Bookmakers, Troy N Y 12180, www.troybookmakers.com.
Year:                2009,
Pages:             267 pages
Sale price        $17 (donated to the family of the victims of entrapment)
ISBN 978-1- 9345534-174

In the wake of 9/11, the Bush Justice Department arrested almost 1,200 Muslims throughout the United States. They were ordinary American immigrants, mostly of Arab origin. The evidence at best was flimsy based on someone’s vendetta or in some cases neighbor’s paranoia.

Within a week the Justice Department unveiled the infamous “USA Patriot Act”. Congress passed it in early October 2001 over the objection of many thoughtful Americans. The word USA PATRIOT is an acronym designed to pull at American heart strings. It stands for ‘Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism’

None of the arrested were ever brought to trial; although a few were summarily deported at the slightest irregularity in their immigration documents. Many were tortured. Exactly how many were tortured and how badly is a secret under the aegis of the “Patriot act”. Perhaps some day it will come out.

Overnight Muslim organizations became suspect. FBI undercover operations were taken in stride by most Muslims as a part of the job of the FBI to protect the citizens. But what unfolded in many cases was incitement and entrapment by implanted agent Muslim provocateurs with shady pasts, in trouble with the law.

On August 5, 2004, the lead national news was that two Muslims associated with the Albany Mosque were arrested in a terrorist plot. There names were Yassin Muhiddin Aref and Mohammed Mosharref Hossain.

The book “Round Up” is written by Dr. Shamshad Ahmed, a professor of Physics, who established the Masjid As -Salam in 1980 and serves as its president. He knew the two victims of entrapment to be honest decent people.  It is essentially a short account of Yassin Muhiddin Aref, an immigrant from the Kurdish part of Iraq and Mohammed Mosharref Hossain from Pakistan, their background and how were they entrapped by the FBI.

Why were they entrapped is best known to the government or perhaps it is not even known to them. It is just possible that because they could not convict any of the 1,200 arrested, they tried random entrapment under the “one percent Cheney doctrine”, that is if the law enforcement authorities suspected someone of having a1% chance of supporting terrorism, America would treat him as if he were 100% a terrorist. Once the process was in motion, the Justice Department did not back down because the conviction was under the Kafkaesque “Patriot Act”.

The chapters are generally arranged chronologically from the day of the FBI raid on the Mosque (Masjid) on the 5th of April 2004, with a few flash back chapters describing the establishment of the mosque and how the author met the two victims of the FBI sting.

Dr. Shamshad in this book exposes the “Catch 22” nature of the infamous “Patriot Act”. One would expect that by planting an informer, the FBI had a clear case. No, the case lasted three years, and all the delays were by the FBI asking extensions to prepare their case. The defense was kept in the dark even about the exact charges. Every piece of information had to be pried out after lengthy court petitions. Occasionally when they succeeded, the information was so redacted to be almost useless. Even the judges ruling, why the information was classified, was classified and the defendant was denied access. In essence the “Patriot Act” renders justice of a Kangaroo Court, so well described by Franz Kafka in his dark novel “The Trial”.

Parts of the transcribed taped evidence by the Pakistani informer that were procured after long court battles are in the Appendixes of the book. They clearly show, it was the informer who kept on badgering the victims to say and do things that could be construed as illegal. At times the victims objected to his proposals as immoral and un-Islamic. He persisted, and on occasions the victims appear to be humoring the informer. The case rested on Musharraf Hossain being induced to take a loan from the informant at very favorable terms. The fact that the informer could launder his money and perhaps buy Chinese made rockets Hussain did not condone. Though the informant wanted the loan to be unrecorded, Hossain insisted on the propriety of it being recorded .The only crime for which Yassin Aref was roped in at the time was that as a friend he acted as witness to that loan.

Aref’s command of English was not very good. It often appears that he was not quite clear about the tenor of the conversation. The conversations with Hossain were often in Urdu and the FBI’s paid translator intentionally mistranslated taxes to terrorist. In 2005, a raid on a Kurdish camps in Iraq yielded a tape recording was unearthed, where someone seems to refer to Aref almost ten years earlier by a word in Kurdish that translates as elder brother. But if one wanted to stretch the meaning, it could be commander. Only this nebulous translation was presented to the jury to prove that he was a militant.

Dr. Shamshad Ahmad presents a very cogent account of the atmosphere in Albany during the publicity and the trial of the two defendants. On the one side the rightwing talk radio was in overdrive demonizing the Muslim and Arab community that we have become very familiar nationwide. The politicians such a Governor Pataki also took advantage of the situation. But the author also very lucidly portrays the support they got from the thoughtful American, including some in clergy in the best of American traditions. They not only joined the vigils in support of the defendants but gave material help and wrote petitions.

The balanced and thoughtful reporting of the Albany Times Union was exemplary. The author has included many of the incisive cartoons by John deRosier castigating the bizarre nature of the case. Those cartoons are indeed worth the proverbial thousand words.

The lawyers worked assiduously towards an impossible task of defending the accused where parts of the charges, the evidence and even the rationale judge’s rulings are reminiscent of a Kangaroo court without the clowns. Stephen Downs who voluntarily joined the case pro bono and has written the forward to this book especially worked hard in the best tradition of the American legal system.

In the introduction of the book Dr. Ahmad has described his own conservative education in a Madarsa where he learned his basic values of Islamic decency and caring. From his short narration of his background, it becomes clear that one can be conservative in the best sense of the words as well as a progressive with liberal values as well.  He has dedicated this book to the peace and justice loving humanitarians, and the proceeds from this book go to help the victims of the justice system gone awry in the shadow of the unpatriotic, “Patriot Act”.

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Insurgents Intercept Drone Video in King-Size Security Breach

December 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Noah Schachtman, Wired Magazine

Even worse…

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military depends on an array of drones to snoop on and stalk insurgents. Now it looks as if insurgents are tapping into those same drones’ broadcasts, to see what the flying robot spies see. If true — and widespread — it’s potentially one of the most serious military security breaches in years.

“U.S. military personnel in Iraq discovered the problem late last year when they apprehended a Shiite militant whose laptop contained files of intercepted drone video feeds,” Wall Street Journal reports. “In July, the U.S. military found pirated drone video feeds on other militant laptops, leading some officials to conclude that militant groups trained and funded by Iran were regularly intercepting feeds.”

How’d the militants manage to get access to such secret data? Basically by pointing satellite dishes up, and waiting for the drone feeds to pour in. According to the Journal, militants have exploited a weakness: The data links between the drone and the ground control station were never encrypted. Which meant that pretty much anyone could tap into the overhead surveillance that many commanders feel is America’s most important advantage in its two wars. Pretty much anyone could intercept the feeds of the drones that are the focal point for the secret U.S. war in Pakistan.

Using cheap, downloadable programs like SkyGrabber, militants were apparently able to watch and record the video feed — and potentially be tipped off when U.S. and coalition forces are stalking them. The $26 software was originally designed to let users download movies and songs off of the internet. Turns out, the program lets you nab Predator drone feeds just as easily as pirated copies of The Hangover.

And here’s the real scandal: Military officials have known about this potential vulnerability since the Bosnia campaign. That was over 10 years ago. And, as Declan McCullagh observes, there have been a series of government reports warning of the problem since then. But the Pentagon assumed that their adversaries in the Middle East and Central Asia wouldn’t have the smarts to tap into the communications link. That’s despite presentations like this 1996 doozy from Air Combat Command, which noted that that “the Predator UAV is designed to operate with unencrypted data links.”

If you think militants are going to be content to just observe spy drone feeds, it’s time to reconsider. “Folks are not merely going to listen/watch what we do when they intercept the feeds, but also start to conduct ‘battles of persuasion’; that is, hacking with the intent to disrupt or change the content, or even ‘persuade’ the system to do their own bidding,” Peter Singer, author of Wired for War, tells Danger Room.

This has long been the nightmare scenario within Pentagon cybersecurity circles: a hacker not looking to take down the military grid, but to exploit it for his own purposes. How does a soldier trust an order, if he doesn’t know who else is listening — or who gave the order, in the first place? “For a sophisticated adversary, it’s to his advantage to keep your network up and running. He can learn what you know. He can cause confusion, delay your response times — and shape your actions,” one Defense Department cybersecurity official tells Danger Room.

Despite this rather massive vulnerability, drone operations show no signs of letting up. According to the Associated Press, “two suspected U.S. missile strikes, one using multiple drones, killed 17 people in a Pakistani tribal region.”

Meanwhile, military officials assure are scrambling to plug the hole. “The difficulty, officials said, is that adding encryption to a network that is more than a decade old involves more than placing a new piece of equipment on individual drones,”  the Journal notes. “Instead, many components of the network linking the drones to their operators in the U.S., Afghanistan or Pakistan have to be upgraded to handle the changes.”

So it may be quite some time before this enormous security breach is filled.

– Nathan Hodge and Noah Shachtman

American Hikers in Iran Are Too Useful to Release

December 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

William O. Beeman, Commentary, New America Media

NAM Editor’s Note: American hikers Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd are a precious catch for Iran, which is hoping to get some political mileage from their detention, observes NAM contributor William Beeman. Bauer freelanced for NAM.

the-three-hikers

Three Americans, journalist Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd, have been detained in Iran since July 31, 2009 for entering the Islamic Republic from Iraq at a remote mountain border without visas. Now, Iran’s Foreign Minister Manoucher Mottaki has announced that they will be tried in Iranian courts. It is likely they will be charged with espionage.

The three Americans appear to have strayed innocently into Iranian territory, but they have provided an unusually strong opportunity for the Iranian government to continue to engage the United States in tit-for-tat attacks.

Superficially, the detention and eventual trial of these three individuals resembles the earlier detention of a number of Iranian Americans traveling in Iran, the most recent being journalist Roxana Saberi, who was released last summer after having been charged with espionage. Iranian-American academic Kian Tajbakhsh remains in custody facing a 12-year jail sentence after his espionage conviction.

The case against Bauer and his friends provides many political advantages to the Iranian government.

First, there can be no question that people who stray over international borders without proper documentation are subject to scrutiny and legal action. Here, the Iranians have an open and shut justification for holding the three hikers, and can claim indisputable high legal ground for their actions.

Second, Iran wants to make the point that foreign spies are operating in its sovereign territory. The United States has admitted to maintaining operatives in Iran, as has Israel. Israel has even bragged about assassinating an Iranian nuclear scientist. Thus, although the three Americans are probably not spies, they serve as reminders to the Iranian public and to the international community of the real spies that Iranian authorities have not caught.

Third, Iran has reportedly linked the American detainees to 11 Iranians that have been held by U.S. federal officials, as reported by Laura Rozen in the blog, Politico . These individuals are charged with violating export laws — essentially by supplying arms and military equipment to Iran. They were arrested in several European countries, and have been held incognito and incommunicado for more than a year in some cases. The Iranians certainly hope to see movement on releasing these detainees.

Iran also charges the United States with engineering the disappearance of nuclear researcher Shahram Amiri during his pilgrimage to Mecca last spring.

Finally, the Iranian government is desperate for a distraction from the unprecedented opposition disturbances in protest of the June 12 presidential elections. December 18 marks the beginning of the month of Muharram, when Shi’a Muslims commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Hossein, grandson of the Prophet Mohammad (s), murdered in 680 C.E. There will be street processions, religious demonstrations and ritual mourning for 10 days. This is the perfect smokescreen for anti-government demonstrations.

To add to the government consternation, sections of the regular Iranian military have threatened to emerge from their barracks to protect “the people” from the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard and Basij units that have been attacking the anti-government opposition. A big show trial against “foreign spies” will reinforce the Iranian government claims to its own citizenry that all the troubles in the Islamic Republic today are being fomented by foreign agents.

It is clear that both the United States and Iran have a lot of human traffic to account for on each others’ soil. The real impediment to sorting out these matters is that the United States and Iran still have no comprehensive way to talk to each other. Moreover, there is too much to be gained in both nations by mutual demonization to move forward toward rational discussion. Iran’s non-existent nuclear weapons program remains a red herring, preventing any real progress in reaching an accord between the two nations.

For the hapless hikers, the worst-case scenario is one where they get caught up in the maelstrom of events that have nothing to do with their meager crime, and end up as object lessons in the mutual hostilities between Iran and the West.

William O. Beeman is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, and is past president of the Middle East Section of the American Anthropological Association. He has lived and worked in the Middle East for more than 30 years. His most recent book is “’The Great Satan’ vs. the ‘Mad Mullahs’: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other.” (Chicago, 2008).

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Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) Convention

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

With the twin scourges of Islamophobia and racism prevalent in the United States and with the media acting as an echo chamber, a great burden is placed on individuals and groups who seek to speak the truth about Islam and the nature of the crises that effect us domestically and internationally.

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), created in 1988, is one such organization. MPAC was formed to work for the civil rights of Muslim Americans and to facilitate their entry into American pluralism. MPAC works at the national as well as the grassroots level and has won the trust and respect of the Muslim and non Muslim community. MPAC has become an information source for those seeking to understand Islam and seeking also to put current events in their proper perspective.

MPAC held its ninth annual convention in Long Beach, Ca. this past Saturday. The event brought a capacity audience to attend workshops and listen to speakers, expert in their fields, and who provided insight and education into topics taken from today’s headlines. The title of the convention was: “With Change come Challenges.”

After thought provoking and informative workshops, the event ended with a banquet featuring Congressman Andre Carson (D,IN), awards, and entertainment.

Among the presenters (but not limited to) were Dr. Maher Hathout, a retired physician celebrated in the Muslim and non Muslim community for his dedication to peace and human rights and for his interfaith work. Dr. Hathout is the MPAC Senior Advisor, an author, and a sought after speaker.

Dr. Aslam Abdullah is the Editor-in Chief of The Muslim Observer, a weekly English language Muslim newspaper. He was recently elected vice president of the Muslim Council of America, a new organization which serves Muslims in the arena of policy and political affairs. Dr. Abdullah is active in Islamic affairs in Nevada which activity also includes being secretary of the Interfaith Council of Nevada.

Dr. Laila Al Marayati is a physician and the Chairperson of KinderUSA, an organization dedicated to the well being of children, focusing in particular on the children of Palestine. Dr. Al Marayati is also the spokesperson for the Muslim Women’s League, a Los Angeles group which seeks to strengthen the role of Muslim women.

Haris Tarin of MPAC is that group’s Community Development Director. Mr Tarin has traveled extensively and has spoken at various symposia on the topic of Islam and the Muslim community.

“Fort Hood: A Defining Moment” was the topic of an afternoon panel. Most of the audience spoke among themselves before the event began and indicated thoughtful interest in how the matter would be handled.

“I am so glad this is being discussed” said one young man to his companion.

“I know there is more than what the media say” said his companion.

When asked by panel moderator, Salaam Al Marayati, MPAC’s Executive Director, whether Muslims should respond to this event, Dr. Maher Hathout declared that Muslims should not be apologetic because of the deranged acts of one man who happened to be Muslim. He reminded his audience that Major Nidal Hasan shouted  “Allahu Akbar” before he began his killing spree.  He said that if he used those two words now, every non Muslim would run out of the room.Yet Muslims use the same two words forty two times a day during their prayers. It is wrong to tar Muslims with a broad brush as the media have been wont to do. Non Muslims, most of whom do not understand the phrase, and its meaning, “God is Greater”, automatically fear it. Muslims are an essential part of the solution to the problem of Muslim extremists. They are essential to the education of non Muslims about Islam and the only ones truly qualified to ascertain when there is extremism and to propose effective solutions.

Dr. Connie Rice, an attorney and activist and a second panel member, said that this incident indicates more than ever the essential role that MPAC and other moderate Muslim groups must play in partnering with law enforcement. This places a terrible burden on MPAC, she said,  but one which they will willingly and efficiently carry out. She seconded the presentation of Dr. Hathout in presenting the necessity for groups such as MPAC to educate the community about Islam and to partner with law enforcement.

After the panel MPAC received an award from the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Dr. Maher Hathout accepted the award.

During a particularly timely panel on “”Rebuilding US-Muslim World Relations”, a State Department official, Jonathan Morgenstein of the Department of Defense, commented that in Iraq and Afghanistan American soldiers were interacting with the local population. Dr. Laila Al Marayati commented that it would be so much better if these men and women were doing so in the capacity of peace corps volunteers and not as occupiers.

A bazaar was held in the main room and featured booths representing different Islamic groups. These booths include (the list is incomplete): CAIR; Islamic Relief; the Muslim Women’s League; ACCESS; American Medical Overseas Relief (AMOR); the Islamic Center of Southern California (ICSC) Youth Programs, and Al-Madinah School. AMOR is dedicated to helping the medically needy in the Middle East with emphasis on children in Afghanistan. It may be accessed at: <www.AMORelief.org>.  The Al-Madinah school in Los Angeles is currently engaged in building projects that will be in the heart of urban Los Angeles.

Those wishing to learn more about MPAC and/or to make a contribution may access it at: www.mpac.org.

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Obama, the Anti-Churchill?

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Fareed Zakaria

winston_churchill_01 If you take out just one sentence, Barack Obama’s speech on Afghanistan last week was all about focusing and limiting the scope of the U.S. mission in that country. The objectives he detailed were exclusively military: to deny al-Qaeda a haven, reverse the Taliban’s momentum and strengthen the Kabul government’s security forces. The nation that he was interested in building, he explained, was this one.

And then there was that one line: “I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.” Here lies the tension in Obama’s policy. He wants a clearer, more discriminating foreign policy, one that pares the vast commitments and open-ended interventions of the Bush era, perhaps one that is more disciplined than Bill Clinton’s approach to the world. (On the campaign trail, Obama repeatedly invoked George H.W. Bush as the president whose foreign policy he admired most.) But America is in a war that is not going well, and scaling back now would look like cutting and running. Obama is searching for a post-imperial policy in the midst of an imperial crisis. The qualified surge — send in troops to regain the momentum but then draw down — is his answer to this dilemma.

This first year of his presidency has been a window into Obama’s worldview. Once most presidents get hold of the bully pulpit, they cannot resist the temptation to become Winston Churchill. They gravitate toward grand rhetoric about freedom and tyranny and embrace the moral drama of their role as leaders of the free world. Not Obama. He has been cool and calculating, whether dealing with Russia, Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan. Obama is a realist by temperament, learning and instinct. More than any president since Richard Nixon, he has focused on defining American interests carefully, providing resources to achieve them and keeping his eyes on the prize.

“In the end,” the president said last Tuesday, “our security and leadership does not come solely from the strength of our arms.” He explained that America’s economic and technological vigor underpinned its ability to play a world role. At a small lunch with a group of columnists before his speech last week, he made clear to us that he did not want to run two wars. He seemed to be implying that the struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan were not the crucial path to America’s long-term security. He explained that challenges at home — economic growth, technological innovation, education reform — were at the heart of maintaining America’s status as a superpower. In fact, throughout history great nations have lost their way by getting bogged down in imperial missions far from home that crippled their will, strength and focus. (Sometimes even when they won they lost: Britain prevailed in the Boer War, but it broke the back of the empire.)

It is clear that Obama is attempting something quite ambitious — to reorient U.S. foreign policy toward something less extravagant and adversarial. That begins with narrowing the “war on terrorism”; scaling back the conflict with the Islamic world to those groups and countries that pose serious, direct threats to the United States; and reaching out to the rest. He has also tried to develop a better working relationship with major powers such as Russia and China, setting aside smaller issues in hopes of cooperation on bigger ones. This means departing from a bipartisan approach in which Washington’s role was to direct and hector the rest of the world, pushing regimes large and small to accept American ideas, and publicly chastising them when they refused. Obama is trying to break the dynamic that says that when an American president negotiates with the Chinese or Russians, he must return with rewards or concessions — or else he is guilty of appeasement.

For his policy to succeed, Obama will need to maintain his focus come July 2011. Afghanistan will not be transformed by that date. It will not look like France, with a strong and effective central government. The gains that will have been made will be fragile. The situation will still be somewhat unstable. But that should still be the moment to begin the transition to Afghan rule. We can find ways to secure American interests in that region more manageably. By the end of 2011, the United States will have spent 10 years, thousands of lives and $2 trillion trying to create stable, democratic governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the most difficult, divided countries in the world. It will be time to move on.

Fareed Zakaria is editor of Newsweek International. His e-mail address is comments@fareedzakaria.com.

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Iraq Parliament Passes Key Investment Law

December 10, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Iraq’s parliament passed an investment law on Monday that would allow foreigners to own land for housing projects, and is designed to streamline regulations and applications for foreign investment, lawmakers said.

Iraq hoped for a tide of foreign investment as the sectarian bloodshed triggered by the 2003 U.S. invasion subsided in the last two years, but bureaucracy, red tape and outdated land ownership laws have deterred businessmen.

“This is a huge achievement for everybody, the parliament, the cabinet and the Iraqi people. This will remove many obstacles blocking the investment process in Iraq,” National Investment Commission Chairman Sami al-Araji told Reuters.

The investment law does not cover the oil sector, nor hotel construction, but housing is a potentially huge growth industry.

Iraq hopes to build millions of new housing units. The old real estate laws only allowed the lease of land to foreign investors for a limited time.

The new law aims to speed up the process of applying for investment licenses and to clarify federal and provincial powers when dealing with investors.

It must now be approved by Iraq’s presidential council.

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Iran: Time To Leave The NPT?

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nader Bagherzadeh & Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich

Article IV of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) acknowledges the “inalienable right” of non-nuclear weapons states (NNWS) to research, develop, and use nuclear energy for non-weapons purposes. The NPT also supports the “fullest possible exchange” of such nuclear-related information and technology between nuclear weapons states (P5) and non-nuclear weapons states. Iran, a NNWS has been denied its “inalienable rights” while support and the exchange of nuclear-related information has been withheld. This begs the question why Iran should continue to honor the NPT?

Indications are that Tehran did not believe that in the international arena, its biggest foe would be injustice. When former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton was busy engineering completely illegal sanctions against Iran, it was with the goal of testing Tehran’s patience in the hope of having it exit the NPT so that he could muster up support for yet another war against an Islamic country in the Middle East. But Iran remained steadfast and in sharp contrast to the United States, it continued to respect international laws in the firm belief that justice would prevail. It did not.

Since 2003, the IAEA has consistently failed its obligations towards Iran as defined by the 1974 Safeguards Agreement. It has failed to facilitate refueling of a small reactor in Tehran, used mostly for short-lived medical isotopes. It has cancelled several key technical assistance programs with Iran, some of them related to nuclear safety issues, under pressure from the US. At America’s behest, the IAEA has become a conventional weapon inspector agency, seeking information about national secrets of Iran related to missiles and conventional bomb making capabilities; which is completely outside of its jurisdiction, as spelled out in the 1974 agreement. In violation of Article 9 of the 1974 Agreement, the IAEA has shared Iran’s sensitive nuclear technology with member nations, as well as outside nuclear experts with dubious connections to Iran’s enemies. And most importantly, the Agency with tremendous pressure from US, has elevated a technical non-compliance matter to the level Chapter 7 UNSC sanctions, which should have been used when there is a clear indication of a nuclear weapons program.

The Agency’s clear violation of Iran’s rights under the NPT leads one to wonder if the IAEA is ever going to clear Iran’s file and revert it back to the normal status while the US is exerting pressure. It is unrealistic for Iran’s leadership to assume that by fully engaging the IAEA, sometime in the near future, this agency, working against the wishes of Obama’s administration, will clear Iran’s path to have nascent enrichment capability. After all, the so called “laptop” filled with mostly fabricated information against Iran’s nuclear programs did not show up until it was clear that the IAEA was going to declare 6 outstanding concerns on Iran’s past nuclear activities were no longer valid.

Although Obama has extended his hand towards Iran, the policy of “zero-enrichment” has not changed an iota from Bush’s policy. When Obama chose Gary Samore and Dennis Ross to handle Iran’s nuclear case, it was obvious that Obama did not have any major changes in mind, and the goal was to use a softer approach to gather more support for putting pressure, or as Ross calls it “bigger sticks.” Moreover, a recent trip by Ross to Beijing to convince Chinese leadership to sign up for more sanctions against Iran on behalf of Obama, shows that not only Ross was not marginalized after he was transferred from the State Department to the White House, but he is practically in the driver’s seat for Obama’s Iran policy.

In addition to the West’s shaping of IAEA’s illegitimate position on Iran’s nuclear file, relentless fabricated attacks by the western media has finally resulted in portraying Iran as an outlaw when it comes to the nuclear activities. The propaganda machine led by the likes of Fred Hiatt of Washington Post and Nicolas Goldberg of Los Angeles Times, have helped create such an environment that a recent Pew poll showed that more than 50% of Americans support a US military strike against Iran while the U.S. is in a quagmire in the graveyard of the empires – Afghanistan, and continues to be engaged in its sixth year war in Iraq.

The latest IAEA’s report which continued its demands from Iran to go beyond its obligations under the NPT safeguards and Subsidiary Arrangement Code 3.1 is another misrepresentation of the truth by the Agency. Iran’s Majlis (parliament) never approved this code which requires reporting any nuclear project at the point of inception. It is ironic that a major NPT member (i.e. US) is allowed to threaten Iran’s nuclear facilities with military strikes, but when Iran rightfully wants to prevent that from happening by using passive defensive majors, she is censured by the Board.

Iran’s continued cooperation with the IAEA may be a call for equality. Their security in pursuing their goal stems from the justness of their cause, itself a compelling reason to delay a war with the US. However, this cooperation is not serving the development of peaceful nuclear energy in Iran. The Agency has been a tool in the hands of major powers and it does not seem that the status will change anytime soon. The way Obama is pushing the chess pieces against Iran by seeking an oil embargo and crippling sanctions, he may be boxed into a war, even if he is ostensibly against it. Perhaps it is time for Iran to reconsider her membership and leave the NPT.

Dr. Nader Bagherzadeh is a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UC Irvine, California.

Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich has a Master’s in Public Diplomacy from USC Annenberg. She is an independent researcher and writer.

11-51

Obama’s Exit Strategy

December 10, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Patrick J. Buchanan

If actions speak louder than words, President Obama is cutting America free of George Bush’s wars and coming home.

For his bottom line Tuesday night was that all U.S. forces will be out of Iraq by mid-2011 and the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan will, on that date, begin to get smaller and smaller.

Yet the gap between the magnitude of the crisis he described and the action he is taking is the Grand Canyon.

Listing the stakes in Afghanistan, Obama might have been FDR in a fireside chat about America’s war against a Japanese empire that had just smashed the fleet at Pearl Harbor, seized the Philippines, Guam and Wake, and was moving on Midway.

Consider the apocalyptic rhetoric:

“As commander in chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest …”

“If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake …”

“For what is at stake is not simply a test of NATO’s credibility, what’s at stake is the security of our allies, and the common security of the world.”

After that preamble, one might expect the announcement of massive U.S. air strikes on some rogue nation. Yet what was the action decided upon? “I … will send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.”

To secure America and the world, not 5 percent of the Army and Marine Corps will be surged into Afghanistan for 18 months — then they will start home.
Let us put that in perspective.

During the Korean War, we had a third of a million men fighting. In 1969, we had half a million troops in Vietnam. But in Afghanistan, where the security of the world is at stake, Obama is topping out at 100,000 troops and will start drawing them down in July 2011.

“Of course, this burden is not ours alone to bear. This is not just America’s war,” said Obama. But if the burden is not ours alone to bear, where is everybody else?

Apparently, the Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Indians and Arabs do not believe their security is imperiled, because we are doing all the heavy lifting, economically and militarily.

The contradictions in Obama’s speech are jarring.

He says the new U.S. troops are to “train competent Afghan Security Forces and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help to create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.”

Thus, we are going to train the Afghan army and police so that, in 18 months, they can take over the fighting in a war where the security of the United States and the whole world is in the balance?

Moreover, the commitment is not open-ended, but conditional. “It will be clear to the Afghan government — and … the Afghan people — that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country. … The days of providing a blank check are over.”

Most Americans will agree the time is at hand for Afghans to take responsibility for their own country. But, if the stakes are what the president says, can we entrust a war to preserve our vital national interests and security to an Afghan army no one thinks will be able, in 18 months, to defeat a Taliban that has pushed a U.S.-NATO coalition to the brink of defeat?

At West Point, Obama did not hearken back to Gen. MacArthur’s dictum — “War’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision. In war, there is no substitute for victory” — but to Dwight D. Eisenhower’s, that we must maintain a balance between defense and domestic programs.

Obama was not citing the Eisenhower of Normandy but President Eisenhower, who ended Korea by truce, refused to intervene in Indochina, did nothing to halt Nikita Khrushchev’s crushing of the Hungarian revolution, ordered the British, French and Israelis out of Suez, and presided over eight years of peace and prosperity, while building up America’s might and getting in lots of golf at Burning Tree.

Not a bad president. Not a bad model.

How can we reconcile Obama’s end-times rhetoric about the stakes imperiled with an 18-month surge of just 30,000 troops?

Stanley McChrystal won the argument over troops. But Obama, in his heart, does not want to fight Bush’s “Long War.” He wants to end it. Obama is not LBJ plunging into the big muddy. He is Nixon coming out, while giving an embattled ally a fighting chance to save itself.

In four years, Nixon was out of Vietnam. In 18 months, Obama says we will be out of Iraq with a steadily diminishing presence in Afghanistan.

What we heard Tuesday night was the drum roll of an exit strategy.

Mr. Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, “The Death of the West,”, “The Great Betrayal,” “A Republic, Not an Empire” and “Where the Right Went Wrong.”

11-51

Afghanistan: Why it’s impossible to support the war

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Edward F. Haas

2009-11-12T140643Z_818541329_GM1E5BC1OXP01_RTRMADP_3_AFGHANISTAN It’s been eight years since the United States invaded Afghanistan. After all these years many Americans have lost sight of the alleged purpose of our invasion – to hunt for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

What has also been lost is any government inquiry whatsoever into the accuracy of the “smoking gun” evidence that the Bush Administration presented as the final justification for invading Afghanistan – the peculiar “Osama bin Laden confession video.”

Released on December 13, 2001, the videotape of bin Laden and associates taking pleasure in the 9/11 attack was seen around the world – over and over again. I remember the 24 hour news channels playing the same scenes practically non-stop while the talking heads told their audiences that this was absolute proof that the United States invasion of Afghanistan a few months earlier on October 7, 2001 was the right action.

The corporate media, liberal and conservative, failed to question the Department of Defense Press Release 630-01 that accompanied the video release. No so-called professional journalist found the circumstances surrounding the discovery of the video unusual. The corporate types just accepted at face value that the videotape was discovered by U.S. forces in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. The names of the troops that discovered the video, the name of the unit, the circumstances as to how the video was actually discovered, and what prompted the troops to look at the video in the first place was never asked by the White House Press Corps or any other corporate media type. How U.S. troops discovered the video and what prompted the troops to explore the content of the video remains a mystery.

That is if you believe Press Release 630-01was factual.

Many Americans, as well as other people around the world, believe the video was a U.S.government fabrication. Others believe it to be the result of a sting operation taped in the last week of September 2001. This would mean that Osama bin Laden did not know he was being videotaped, and that the U.S. and foreign intelligence operatives had bin Laden in their sights prior to the U.S. invasion. A strong argument can be made that if bin Laden had been captured or killed before the U.S. invasion, support for the war would have been greatly diminished, particularly outside the United States.

A few years ago when I was writing the Muckraker Report, I used Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests in an attempt to discover some facts surrounding the discovery of the video.

In a September 2006 letter from the Department of Defense, I was told that any information / documentation related to the discovery of the video would be found with United States Central Command (CENTCOM).

On February 26, 2007 CENTCOM received my FOIA request. In the request I wrote:

Please provide documents related to the discovery of the December 13, 2001 released Osama bin Laden video. Documents include action reports, logbook entries, e-mails, and transcripts, etc., which the U.S. forces that reportedly found the video would have recorded upon “discovering” the video. I am trying to identify the – who, what, when, where, and why of how this video dubbed the “confession video” by the corporate media, was actually discovered.

To my amazement, nearly three years later, I finally received a response from CENTCOM. What didn’t surprise me is that CENTCOM found “no records” related to the discovery of the video. CENTCOM wrote:

“Pursuant to procedures established in 5 U.S.C. 552, Freedom of Information Act and DOD 5400.7-R, Department of Defense FOIA Program, our search included all existing records in USCENTCOM. Despite our extensive search for documents pertaining to your request, we were unable to locate responsive documents.”

I am of the belief that there is credible evidence that the video in question was the result of a sting operation. I also believe that it was taped before the U.S. invasion. The lack of any documentation supporting the government’s claim that the video was discovered by U.S.troops in Jalalabad adds fuel to this belief. Had bin Laden been captured or killed rather than taped in September 2001, the current debate as to whether the United States should send more troops into Afghanistan could have possibly been avoided.

That is why it is impossible for me to support the war in Afghanistan at this time. Until the facts come out about the video and its discovery I will always believe the cause was fabricated – just like the war in Iraq.

Ed Haas is a freelance writer residing in Charleston, SC. He is the former editor of the Muckraker Report. Ed was the recipient of the 2008 Project Censored Award. This award recognized the Top 25 censored news stories of 2006-2007.

11-50

Mideast Firms Ramp Up in Iraq, Western Firms Trail

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Deepa Babington

2009-11-27T155315Z_1505821627_GM1E5BR1TSO01_RTRMADP_3_IRAQ-OIL

Workers dig a new oil well at South Rumaila oil field, in southern Iraq November 26, 2009. Britain’s BP and China’s CNPC have clinched a final agreement to operate Iraq’s biggest field, Rumaila, and groups led by Italy’s Eni and U.S. major Exxon Mobil have secured initial deals over Zubair and West Qurna Phase One. Picture taken November 26, 2009. 

REUTERS/Atef Hassan

BAGHDAD, Nov 30 (Reuters) – While Western firms notch up high-profile energy deals in Iraq, smaller regional firms from Iran to Turkey are quietly building a broader Iraqi presence by pumping billions of dollars into housing and other projects.

Pledges by companies to invest in Iraq are suddenly taking off as violence falls sharply and the government seeks help to rebuild after years of war, sanctions and bloodshed.

Investors have announced $156.7 billion worth of projects in Iraq this year, not all of which are likely to bear fruit, Dunia Frontier Consultants said in a report.
Much of the spotlight has fallen on mega-deals by Big Oil firms like Exxon Mobil <XOM.N> and BP <BP.L> for oilfields, but high security costs — 26 percent of total costs according to one estimate — have deterred Westerners from other sectors.

Meanwhile, Iranian investors have been piling into the Shi’ite Muslim tourism business, Turkish companies have cornered the market in the Kurdish north and Gulf companies, some run by Iraqi expatriates, are nailing construction deals.

Middle East firms are perhaps more accustomed to operating in difficult environments, and have an easier time navigating Iraqi red tape and corruption, analysts said.

“It is easier for Gulf and regional companies to operate here because they know the mentality here,” said Munther al Fattal, director of investment promotion at the U.S. agency for international development’s Tijara project.

“Security has greatly improved but there still are a lot of impediments such as bureaucracy and lack of transparency.”

While most investment projects announced in Iraq never seem to get off the ground, the growing business clout of regional firms is increasingly obvious.

Turkish firms have been investing in projects in the north and plan an $8 billion mixed development project in the south, while Iranian firms have catered to tourism supporting Shi’ite pilgrimages to the holy cities of Najaf and Kerbala as well as industrial projects in Basra in the south, Dunia says.

Lebanese investors have opened up a bank and plan to set up a $500 million residential city and dairy factory in Diwaniya, while investors from the United Arab Emirates have been eyeing residential complexes and infrastructure projects.

US is Small Fry Outside Energy

The United Arab Emirates has emerged as the top foreign investor in Iraq this year with pledges of $37.7 billion, followed by South Korea and the United States, Dunia said.

But South Korea owes its number two spot almost entirely to a planned $20 billion investment in a new industrial city in Anbar province’s untapped gas fields, which appears to be little more than a pipedream or at the very least, aspirational.

The U.S. position in the rankings is almost entirely due to Exxon’s $25 billion contract for the West Qurna oilfield, which has yet to be ratified by the Iraqi cabinet. U.S. investment into Iraq accounts for less than 1 percent of the total if government contracts and oil are excluded.

A look at smaller deals offers a more revealing picture of the players with a wider presence in Iraq.

Lebanon tops the list of investment deals below $1 billion, followed by South Korea, Iran, the UAE and Turkey, Dunia said.

Once again, South Korea’s position in the list is misleading, exaggerated due to a single energy project.

“Once the major energy deals are stripped away, it is largely regional players that dominate,” the Dunia report said.

Some analysts say the dominance of Middle East players is likely to continue.

“Most of the investment will come from Gulf States and Jordan — with a significant contribution from Iran,” said Gavin Jones of Upper Quartile, an Edinburgh-based research firm.

He said repatriation of wealth by Iraqis living in Jordan or the Gulf could account for a sizeable chunk.

(Editing by Michael Christie; Editing by Victoria Main) ((deepa.babington@thomsonreuters.com, Baghdad newsroom, +964 7901 917 023, deepa.babington.reuters.com@reuters.net))

11-50

Houstonian Corner (V11-I50)

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Helping Hand For Relief & Development Has Started Office in Royal Center Houston

   

Eminent Islamic Scholar Sheikh Mohammad Yousuf Islahi inaugurated the US South Central Region office of Helping Hand For Relief & Development (HHRD), which is located at 11945 Bissonnet, Houston, Texas 77099, Phone: (713) 984-4558, Fax: (713) 429-1421, Webpage: www.HHRD.Org.

Sheikh Mohammad Yousuf Islahi met with several people from the community, as they kept coming to the OPEN HOUSE of HHRD from 1:30pm. till 4:30pm. Also present on the occasion were ILyas Hasan Choudry, Coordinator of HHRD for US South Central Region; and Maaz Adil, Administrative Assistant of HHRD for US South Central Region.

HHRD is considered most proficient in the field of Basic Healthcare & Disaster Relief Services (Emergency; Short-Term; & Long-Term Recuperation) and are still involved in the field works of Tsunami 2004-2005 (Sri Lanka & Indonesia); Earthquake 2005 (Kashmir & NWFP, Pakistan); Floods of Bangladesh 2006-2007; Earthquake 2008 (Ziarat, Baluchistan, Pakistan); Floods 2008 (NWFP, Pakistan); & IDPs 2009 (Swat & now Waziristan, Pakistan).

Due to the works of HHRD, they have recently received grants of over $3-Million from the World Food Programme of UNO and World Health Organization (WHO).

This year HHRD crossed the record 8,000 mark in the performance of Qurbanis, booked by people from USA and Canada in 60 different countries.

HHRD most famous project is “Orphan Support Program”, where with just $365/Year (or automatic deduction of $30/Month), one can sponsor an orphan (age 0 till 19), to bring food, clothes, education and much happiness to his or her life. These orphans are in about 15 countries, including Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kenya, Palestine, and Iraq.

In his communiqué, the Executive Director of HHRD Farrukh Raza has remarked: In recent years, HHRD works have been recognized by Americans and International Relief Agencies. This has been due to the Blessings of God; most generous donations by people of USA & Canada of various backgrounds; hard-work of our field & office staff and our partner agencies; and so on. HHRD Office in Houston has brought opportunities of benevolence near the people living in the South Central Region of USA. Our office and programs need the moral & monetary support from all the members of the society. With the end of year approaching us, this is a reminder that general public, professionals as well as businesspersons; need to start thinking and consulting experts to determine their tax status, so that they are able to mutually benefit by donating to a 501 (c) organization. In this case, they must strongly consider HHRD for their contributions in our “Orphan Support Program”; “Water For Life” Wells Projects; “Give the Gift of Eyes” Surgery Program; “Wedding Box” for Needy & Orphan Girls; and Ongoing Disaster Relief Projects. They must consider HHRD because of our credible work in the field and track-record of delivering competent services, due to the Grace of God. Visit www.HHRD.Org for this purpose.”

Cold Front Could Not Stem the Heat in the Run-Off Elections

Temperatures are expected to hover between low 40s and high 50s as the first week of Early Voting started on Monday, November 30th, 2009 in the City of Houston Run-Off Elections, with the last day of Early Voting being Tuesday, December 08th, 2009; and Saturday, December 11, 2009 is the actual voting day. For all election details, one can visit: www.harrisvotes.com.

Despite the cold weather, the Mayoral Race got heated up on the first day of Run-Off Elections, as Candidate Gene Locke launches a damaging commercial against his opponent Annise Parker, who promised to retaliate in kind. Earlier at his fundraising event, City Controller Candidate M. J. Khan said he is very lucky to have got a candidate, who has Federal Liens on his Properties.

Before the end of the first day of Early Voting, Annise Parker did hit back, with an E-Mail Press Release from her Campaign Staff Sue Davis, asking Gene Locke to come clean on several charges of Conflicts of Interest.

Now in the negative commercial, Mr. Locke has criticized Parker for saying she would “take apart the police department”. Ms. Parker has made such remarks on several occasions, including recently at the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Monthly Luncheon, where she said she would not only change the face of METRO, but also change HPD Chief.

Locke defends this advertisement, saying it is accurate and gives chance for voters to reflect on the number one issue of the campaign (Public Safety).

Parker said this Ad is deceptive, and said it shows desperation in Gene Locke’s Campaign.

Later on in the afternoon, Annise Parker Campaign for Mayor called on Gene Locke to say whether he will take himself out from voting on lucrative city contracts that his law partners will bid, if elected mayor.

“Lawyer-Lobbyist Gene Locke continues to demonstrate his disdain for open and transparent government and his disrespect for the voters,” said Adam Harris, Parker’s Campaign Manager. “He still refuses to say whether or not he will vote on millions of dollars of city contracts for his law partners if elected mayor.”

Locke is a partner in the politically connected law firm of Andrews Kurth. The firm has made more than $17 million in the last six years alone from the City of Houston, METRO, the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority and the Port Authority of Houston, the same public agencies whose board members Locke would appoint as Mayor – while his law firm, Andrews Kurth, continues to bid for contracts from the city and each of those agencies.

Locke has billed local government agencies like METRO at rates of up to $640 an hour. He billed $574,000 in fees to the Sports Authority alone in the last 30 months.

Gene Locke has refused to release his tax returns for weeks after Ms. Parker voluntarily released hers, and agreed to release them only after being cornered by a Texas Watchdog reporter the week before Thanksgiving.

In one setback to Annise Parker Campaign, the Houston Police Officers’ Union has come up with a stark question for voters’: How would you feel if someone had stolen your identity? The Today, the Houston Police Officers’ Union (HPOU) put out an all-points “press” bulletin asking Houston voters to be wary of false and misleading radio and television ads by mayoral candidate, Ms. Annise Parker. HPOU, Houston’s largest and most respected police officer organization, is warning Houston voters not to be misled by Parker’s radio and television ads, which falsely imply she has the police group’s endorsement. The police organization has endorsed Gene Locke for Mayor in the upcoming runoff election.

11-50

Houstonian Corner (V11-I50)

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Helping Hand For Relief & Development Has Started Office in Royal Center Houston

Picture AE  Picture AF

Sheikh Yousuf Islahi In Houston As Guest At The OPEN HOUSE Of Helping Hand For Relief And Development.

Voting In City of Houston Run-Off Elections Is On December 10, 2009…;

Eminent Islamic Scholar Sheikh Mohammad Yousuf Islahi inaugurated the US South Central Region office of Helping Hand For Relief & Development (HHRD), which is located at 11945 Bissonnet, Houston, Texas 77099, Phone: (713) 984-4558, Fax: (713) 429-1421, Webpage: www.HHRD.Org.

Sheikh Mohammad Yousuf Islahi met with several people from the community, as they kept coming to the OPEN HOUSE of HHRD from 1:30pm. till 4:30pm. Also present on the occasion were ILyas Hasan Choudry, Coordinator of HHRD for US South Central Region; and Maaz Adil, Administrative Assistant of HHRD for US South Central Region.

HHRD is considered most proficient in the field of Basic Healthcare & Disaster Relief Services (Emergency; Short-Term; & Long-Term Recuperation) and are still involved in the field works of Tsunami 2004-2005 (Sri Lanka & Indonesia); Earthquake 2005 (Kashmir & NWFP, Pakistan); Floods of Bangladesh 2006-2007; Earthquake 2008 (Ziarat, Baluchistan, Pakistan); Floods 2008 (NWFP, Pakistan); & IDPs 2009 (Swat & now Waziristan, Pakistan).

Due to the works of HHRD, they have recently received grants of over $3-Million from the World Food Programme of UNO and World Health Organization (WHO).

This year HHRD crossed the record 8,000 mark in the performance of Qurbanis, booked by people from USA and Canada in 60 different countries.

HHRD most famous project is “Orphan Support Program”, where with just $365/Year (or automatic deduction of $30/Month), one can sponsor an orphan (age 0 till 19), to bring food, clothes, education and much happiness to his or her life. These orphans are in about 15 countries, including Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Kenya, Palestine, and Iraq.

In his communiqué, the Executive Director of HHRD Farrukh Raza has remarked: In recent years, HHRD works have been recognized by Americans and International Relief Agencies. This has been due to the Blessings of God; most generous donations by people of USA & Canada of various backgrounds; hard-work of our field & office staff and our partner agencies; and so on. HHRD Office in Houston has brought opportunities of benevolence near the people living in the South Central Region of USA. Our office and programs need the moral & monetary support from all the members of the society. With the end of year approaching us, this is a reminder that general public, professionals as well as businesspersons; need to start thinking and consulting experts to determine their tax status, so that they are able to mutually benefit by donating to a 501 (c) organization. In this case, they must strongly consider HHRD for their contributions in our “Orphan Support Program”; “Water For Life” Wells Projects; “Give the Gift of Eyes” Surgery Program; “Wedding Box” for Needy & Orphan Girls; and Ongoing Disaster Relief Projects. They must consider HHRD because of our credible work in the field and track-record of delivering competent services, due to the Grace of God. Visit www.HHRD.Org for this purpose.”

Cold Front Could Not Stem the Heat in the Run-Off Elections

Temperatures are expected to hover between low 40s and high 50s as the first week of Early Voting started on Monday, November 30th, 2009 in the City of Houston Run-Off Elections, with the last day of Early Voting being Tuesday, December 08th, 2009; and Saturday, December 11, 2009 is the actual voting day. For all election details, one can visit: www.harrisvotes.com.

Despite the cold weather, the Mayoral Race got heated up on the first day of Run-Off Elections, as Candidate Gene Locke launches a damaging commercial against his opponent Annise Parker, who promised to retaliate in kind. Earlier at his fundraising event, City Controller Candidate M. J. Khan said he is very lucky to have got a candidate, who has Federal Liens on his Properties.

Before the end of the first day of Early Voting, Annise Parker did hit back, with an E-Mail Press Release from her Campaign Staff Sue Davis, asking Gene Locke to come clean on several charges of Conflicts of Interest.

Now in the negative commercial, Mr. Locke has criticized Parker for saying she would “take apart the police department”. Ms. Parker has made such remarks on several occasions, including recently at the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Monthly Luncheon, where she said she would not only change the face of METRO, but also change HPD Chief.

Locke defends this advertisement, saying it is accurate and gives chance for voters to reflect on the number one issue of the campaign (Public Safety).

Parker said this Ad is deceptive, and said it shows desperation in Gene Locke’s Campaign.

Later on in the afternoon, Annise Parker Campaign for Mayor called on Gene Locke to say whether he will take himself out from voting on lucrative city contracts that his law partners will bid, if elected mayor.

“Lawyer-Lobbyist Gene Locke continues to demonstrate his disdain for open and transparent government and his disrespect for the voters,” said Adam Harris, Parker’s Campaign Manager. “He still refuses to say whether or not he will vote on millions of dollars of city contracts for his law partners if elected mayor.”

Locke is a partner in the politically connected law firm of Andrews Kurth. The firm has made more than $17 million in the last six years alone from the City of Houston, METRO, the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority and the Port Authority of Houston, the same public agencies whose board members Locke would appoint as Mayor – while his law firm, Andrews Kurth, continues to bid for contracts from the city and each of those agencies.

Locke has billed local government agencies like METRO at rates of up to $640 an hour. He billed $574,000 in fees to the Sports Authority alone in the last 30 months.

Gene Locke has refused to release his tax returns for weeks after Ms. Parker voluntarily released hers, and agreed to release them only after being cornered by a Texas Watchdog reporter the week before Thanksgiving.

In one setback to Annise Parker Campaign, the Houston Police Officers’ Union has come up with a stark question for voters’: How would you feel if someone had stolen your identity? The Today, the Houston Police Officers’ Union (HPOU) put out an all-points “press” bulletin asking Houston voters to be wary of false and misleading radio and television ads by mayoral candidate, Ms. Annise Parker. HPOU, Houston’s largest and most respected police officer organization, is warning Houston voters not to be misled by Parker’s radio and television ads, which falsely imply she has the police group’s endorsement. The police organization has endorsed Gene Locke for Mayor in the upcoming runoff election.

11-50

Why the U.S. Kneels

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Philip Weiss

Gideon Levy in Haaretz tells America to stop sucking up to Israel. He leaves out the root cause. You can’t just tell the Americans to make better policy without dealing with the Israel lobby and, barring wider outrage among Americans, issues of Jewish identity.

Levy: Before no other country on the planet does the United States kneel and plead like this. In other trouble spots, America takes a different tone. It bombs in Afghanistan, invades Iraq and threatens sanctions against Iran and North Korea. Did anyone in Washington consider begging Saddam Hussein to withdraw from occupied territory in Kuwait?

But Israel the occupier, the stubborn contrarian that continues to mock America and the world by building settlements and abusing the Palestinians, receives different treatment. Another massage to the national ego in one video, more embarrassing praise in another.

Now is the time to say to the United States: Enough flattery. If you don’t change the tone, nothing will change. As long as Israel feels the United States is in its pocket, and that America’s automatic veto will save it from condemnations and sanctions, that it will receive massive aid unconditionally, and that it can continue waging punitive, lethal campaigns without a word from Washington, killing, destroying and imprisoning without the world’s policeman making a sound, it will continue in its ways.

Illegal acts like the occupation and settlement expansion, and offensives that may have involved war crimes, as in Gaza, deserve a different approach. If America and the world had issued condemnations after Operation Summer Rains in 2006 – which left 400 Palestinians dead and severe infrastructure damage in the first major operation in Gaza since the disengagement – then Operation Cast Lead never would have been launched.

It is true that unlike all the world’s other troublemakers, Israel is viewed as a Western democracy, but Israel of 2009 is a country whose language is force. Anwar Sadat may have been the last leader to win our hearts with optimistic, hope-igniting speeches. If he were to visit Israel today, he would be jeered off the stage. The Syrian president pleads for peace and Israel callously dismisses him, the United States begs for a settlement freeze and Israel turns up its nose. This is what happens when there are no consequences for Israel’s inaction.

When Clinton returns to Washington, she should advocate a sharp policy change toward Israel. Israeli hearts can no longer be won with hope, promises of a better future or sweet talk, for this is no longer Israel’s language. For something to change, Israel must understand that perpetuating the status quo will exact a painful price.

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Being A Muslim Soldier at Fort Hood

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

IslamOnline.net & Newspapers

CAIRO – Every morning, Sgt. Fahad Kamal reports for work at Fort Hood military base to treat ailing soldiers returning from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Being a good Muslim means being good to everyone,” Kamal, a Muslim army medic, told The Dallas Morning News on Sunday, November 22.

The 26-year-old, who served in Afghanistan before moving to Fort Hood, spends most of his time treating his traumatized fellow soldiers.

On November 5, Kamal heard the news that a Muslim army physician went on a shooting rampage in the military base, killing 13 people and wounding 30.
Major Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim army psychiatrist, is the sole suspect in the shooting.

Immediately, Kamal joined his fellows in rescuing the wounded of the attack, refusing to leave the base to see if Fort Hood needed help treating victims.
The Muslim combat medic said that Islam is against violence.

“That man happened to be a Muslim, but in our religion, we don’t condone such violence.”

*Fort Hood Tragedy… Muslim Soldiers Speak Out

Maj. Derrill Guidry, another Muslim soldier at Fort Hood, agrees.

“He (Hasan) cracked under the pressure of his own fears,” he said.

“In terms of Islam, he was just plain wrong.”

The Fort Hood attack drew immediate condemnation from all leading American Muslim organizations, including Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA).

US Muslim groups have also launched a fund to help the families of the Fort Hood victims.

Tolerant Army

Since joining the army, Kamal has been open about his Islamic faith, answering his fellow soldiers’ questions about the religion.

“Jesus is one of our prophets as well,” Kamal answers his fellow soldiers, to their great surprise.

When Kamal first decided to sign up for the army, his mom initially refused, fearing discrimination.

“I was scared,” his mother, Nabeela, said.

“I didn’t want him to be far from the family, because he is my oldest son. Father was going through chemotherapy at that time.”

The mother had another concern.

“Are they going to look down on you?” she asked.

“Mom, this is America,” Kamal answered.

At his military service, Kamal easily mixed with soldiers of other faiths, swapping gifts with friends at Christmas and feasting on both roast turkey and biryani on Thanksgiving Day.

Concerns have been growing about anti-Muslim backlash over the Fort Hood shooting.

US Army chief of staff General George Casey has warned that the attack could prompt a backlash against Muslim soldiers.

But Kamal says that he has never felt discriminated against as a Muslim in the US military.

He even sees the Army as more knowledgeable and tolerant of Islam than the general public.

The Muslim soldier recalls one day when he was bantering with a fellow soldier, when he ribbed his friend, saying “You loser!”

“You terrorist!” the fellow soldier replied.

Though the soldier was joking, the drill sergeant called the guy out in front of everyone.

“You window licker! You peanut butter eater! This Army is diverse,” the sergeant angrily told the soldiers at the drill.

Muslim Patriot

In 2007, Kamal was deployed to a 15-month tour in war-torn Afghanistan.

During his tour in the southern province of Kandhar, Kamal packed a copy of Sura Yaseen, “the heart of the Quran,” in the left chest pocket of his uniform.

The Muslim medic was valued by his commander for his native Urdu language skills, sometimes asking him to translate or brief troops on basic greetings.

He was also admired for remaining calm under pressure.

“I like helping people,” said Kamal. “It feels good to see you made a difference.”

During his tour, Kamal went on night patrols, where soldiers are encountered with improvised explosive devices.

“He’s a very patriotic individual, and he enjoys what he does,” Kamal’s brother, Faez, 23, said.

Many Muslim soldiers have lost their lives during their military tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At Arlington National Cemetery, amid a sea of crosses, there are crescents carved on tombstones. There are Muslim names on Iraq war memorials at Fort Hood.

“We’re serving and sacrificing alongside our fellow service members,” said Jamal Baadani, a Marine Corps veteran who founded the Association for Patriotic Arab Americans in Military after the 9/11 attacks.

There is no official count of Muslims serving in the 1.4 million-strong US armed forces because recruits are not required to state their religion.

But according to the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affair Council, there are more than 20,000 Muslims serving in the military.

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The Great American Fraud

November 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) Middle East Correspondent

money-stacks2 The U.S. Chief District Attorney, this week, revealed a conspiracy by a Kuwaiti owned and operated food company to bilk the American government out of $8.5 billion in contracts to provide food for troops in Kuwait, Jordan and Iraq. It took the Atlanta-based Grand Jury no time at all to indict the Kuwaiti company. According to the indictment, Agility (formerly known as the Public Warehousing Company) was charged with a veritable ‘laundry list’ of crimes related to defrauding the U.S. Government. Agility provided food for U.S. troops from 2003-2005. The conspiracy was uncovered during a probe into unethical business practices of Middle East vendors.

According to court documents, Agility took painstaking measures to get away with the fraud. Some of the charges include submitting falsified documents, overinflating prices to sometimes triple the local Kuwaiti market value, making false statements and wire fraud. Most damaging is perhaps the revelation that Agility ordered it’s own suppliers to reduce the size of packages so that twice the number of packages would be delivered to unsuspecting U.S. military bases.

Agility is not taking the charges sitting down and has already come out ‘swinging’ and leveling their own verbal barrage at the U.S. government. In a recently released statement to the press, Agility has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and says that the charges are baseless. The company also says that ongoing contracts with the US government, which are not part of the current indictment, remain in tact. However, Agility has been barred from bidding on new contracts with the US until the pending indictment is either proven or dismissed. The press release also went on to say that Agility is putting its’ full confidence in the US system of justice to prove its’ innocence, “An indictment and a complaint are merely allegations. PWC is confidant that once these allegations are examined in court, the will be found to be without merit.” Agility also revealed that the prices it charges for its’ goods and services were predetermined and approved by the U.S. government and that company heads are “surprised and disappointed” by the charges.

This case is only one out of several that have been launched against contractors hired by the U.S. government over the past several years. The most notable is a case of fraud leveled against KBR, which is a subsidiary of Halliburton. The company has been charged with overcharging the U.S. government for oil and other military supplies. Since the news of the Agility fraud broke, the company has ceased all trading in the Kuwait stock market which has seen an 8% drop in its stocks. However, on the Dubai market, Agility continues to rally without incident.

Agility stands to lose plenty if it is found guilty of the charges of fraud. According to a recent report by Goldman Sach’s, the company’s annual revenue is comprised of a meaty 37% of American contracts. A guilty verdict would result in Agility being put on probation and having to repay either twice the gain they received from the contracts or twice the loss that the U.S. government incurred. The U.S. government has promised to deal swiftly with those seeking to defraud it and that the charges against Agility are “only the first step” in dealing with dishonest contractors.

In the meanwhile, Agility continues to look for new ways to break the chains of reliance upon the U.S. government for it’s daily ‘bread’. Agility has diversified itself across the board. The company now sells real estate and even provides freighter service for gold mining companies in Papua New Guinea. However, their new business ventures may prove to be exercises in futility as the U.S. government is unlikely to back down as it relentlessly seeks justice.

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Military Muslims: What Now?

November 12, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Imam Abdullah El-Amin, MMNS

2009-11-08T171028Z_192441419_GM1E5B902TX01_RTRMADP_3_TEXAS-SHOOTING When Major Nidal Hasan went on a murderous rampage in Ft. Hood, Texas, the entire nation snapped to rapt attention and said, “Here we go again.  Those crazy Muslims are at it again.”

Immediately after the story hit the airways the usual apologies from Muslim organizations and individuals started pouring in.  “We Muslims do not condone the actions of Major Hasan.  “This is not Islam.”  “Islam means peace,” etc etc etc.

I don’t mean to sound callous or uncaring about the grief being felt by the family and other loved ones of the slain.  Of course, we abhor the actions of any deranged person who without warning, and seemingly without any justification or provocation, takes innocent human lives.  This person was obviously not in a rational state of mind, and plainly his actions had absolutely nothing to do with his religion, or lack of it.  I believe the world knows this but the anti-Islamic fever sweeping the world, fed by the other media, will keep people’s rational thoughts from surfacing.

Some news accounts make reference to the Islamic signs that major Hasan had on some of his property.   The news media interviewed some people who made statements like “I heard him speaking Muslim talk.” (He could have been saying as-salaam-alaikum).  It is an obvious attempt to discredit anything with any ties to Islam.  And by making note of his artifacts, they are saying that having these things in his possession automatically makes him a dangerous “Islamic Radical.”

But actually it is no stranger than a Catholic crazy man having a rosary, or a Buddhist crazy man with his statue of Buddha, or a Jewish crazy man with copy of the Torah and a yarmulke on his head.  It does not matter what his religion is.  If you’re crazy, you’re just crazy.

But on the other hand there are numerous Muslim soldiers and veterans who have annual observances to mark Veterans Day in this country.  But for the most part, they are not reported.  I realize that good, positive events that enhance humanity are not as sensational as a shooting rampage by a crazy person. But they are nevertheless so very important because with the automatic sensational reporting of negative events getting all the attention, it takes extra effort to put some balance in the reporting.

For several months the Dawah Team at Masjid Wali Muhammad in Detroit, Michigan, under the leadership of the late Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, has been planning a salute to all veterans from any branch of service and any dates of service.  The event will be a luncheon held at Masjid Wali Muhammad from 11AM – 1PM.

Brother Lawrence Ziyad, a veteran of the Viet Nam war and one of the coordinators of the event, says the program will be one heavy with reverence for ALLAH, and patriotism for the United States government.  It will begin with prayer followed by the National Anthem and Lift Every Voice and Sing, popularly known as the Black National Anthem.  Also, as part of the opening and closing of the luncheon, they will salute the American flag.

These Muslim brothers, maybe more than many other people, are keenly aware of the ills of this country.  Most are descendants of slaves that suffered what is arguably the worst treatment of any human beings in the history of mankind.  Still they recognize the beauty and importance, and the privilege of being Americans, and are grateful for being so. This picture of Muslim patriotism is rarely seen in the media.

Another group, the Muslim American Veterans Association (MAVA) is a nationwide service organization comprised of former members of any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.  The group is officially recognized by the United States government along with other veteran groups such as the veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), American Legions, Polish American Veterans, Jewish Veterans, Italian Veterans and other Veteran organizations.  The Muslim-American group is made up primarily of Muslims of African American descent since most Muslims that immigrated here from other countries, came here past military age.  The group, comprised of five posts in various cities is headed by National Commander Saleem G. Abdul-Mateen.

What major media cared to report that the MAVA Commanders recently met on Capitol Hill in Washington to meet with Muslim American Congressman Andre Carson to present ways to help assist young veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.  What media (other than the Muslim Observer) cared to report that the MAVA Post #1 received a community service award from CAMP (Council for the Advancement of Muslim Professionalism for its untiring efforts in making life better for those who sacrificed and served this country unselfishly.

Congressman Carson was so impressed with the group that he invited them to establish a forum for dealing with veteran affairs and open up a dialogue for addressing these issues.  MAVA has already created programs to assist returning servicemen and women.  “Our aim is is to interact locally and nationally with organizations and institutions that have exhibited care and concern for these service members,” said member Saleem Abdul Mateen.

Another fine example of Muslim American patriotism is in the person of Chaplain Lt. Colonel Abdul-Rasheed Muhammad.  Chaplain Muhammad is another Muslim American in the community of Imam Warith Denn Mohammed.  I have personally watched his rise in the military and admired his character, and balanced approach to different situations.

These fine Muslims are just a few examples of the great majority of Muslims in this country.  They love their religion, they love their country, and they love being fine and caring representatives of both.

Let us remember the victims, and their families in our prayers.  And let us strive to be good Muslims and good Americans.  Ameen.   

As Salaam alaikum
Al Hajj Imam Abdullah El-Amin

Study: Weapons, Civilian Deaths

November 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

The Weapons That Kill Civilians — Deaths of Children and Noncombatants in Iraq, 2003–2008

Researchers from King’s College London and Royal Holloway, University of London in the UK, together with members of the non-profit group Iraq Body Count, have published a new event-based analysis of the impact of different weapon-types on Iraqi civilians in the April 16, 2009 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine: The Weapons That Kill Civilians – Deaths of Children and Noncombatants in Iraq, 2003-2008

Using the extensive and detailed database of Iraq Body Count (IBC), the researchers analyzed 14,196 events in which 60,481 civilians were violently killed during the first five years of the conflict in Iraq, thereby gaining an extraordinary overview of the harm that different weapons — from low to high tech — have brought to Iraq’s civilian population. Dr Madelyn Hicks of King’s College London, lead author of the article, said, “By linking a large number of deaths to the particular weapons used in specific events, the IBC database offers a unique opportunity for detailed analysis of the public health impact of different forms of armed violence on Iraqi civilians.”

For overall combined causes of civilian death from weapons in the data-set — ranging from gunfire, to improvised explosive devices used in roadside bombs, to precision-guided missiles — the average number killed per event was 4. However, the researchers found that when air-launched bombs or combined air and ground attacks caused civilian deaths, the average number killed was 17, similar to the average number in events where civilians were killed by suicide bombers travelling on foot (16 deaths per event).

The authors relate their findings to international humanitarian law and the need for effective policies to protect civilians. Describing suicide bombers on foot as a form of precisely targetable “smart bomb,” they argue that their pattern of killing high numbers of Iraqi civilians can only result from disregard for civilian life when targeting opposition forces, or the direct targeting of civilians, which is a war crime. Regarding their finding of a high rate of civilian death from aerial bombs, they write, “It seems clear from these findings that to protect civilians from indiscriminate harm, as required by international humanitarian law (including the Geneva Conventions), military and civilian policies should prohibit aerial bombing in civilian areas unless it can be demonstrated — by monitoring of civilian casualties, for example — that civilians are being protected.”

The researchers were also able to analyze the demographic characteristics of noncombatants who fell victim to different forms of violence. Execution after abduction or capture was the single most common form of death overall, with by far most of its victims (95%) being male. Nearly a third of execution victims were described as bearing marks of torture, evidence that they had suffered “a particularly appalling form of violent death.”

For Iraqi females, and children, events involving air attacks and mortar fire were the most dangerous. In air attacks causing civilian deaths, 46% of victims of known gender were female, and 39% of victims of known age were children. Mortar attacks claimed similarly high proportions of victims in these two demographic groups (44% and 42%). By comparison, 11% of victims across all weapons types were Iraqi females, and 9% were children. The authors argue that their findings showing that air attacks (whether involving bombs or missiles) and mortars killed relatively high proportions of females and children is further evidence that these weapons should not be directed at civilian areas by parties to conflict because of their indiscriminate nature. As co-author Professor John Sloboda of Royal Holloway, University of London, who is also a co-founder of IBC, notes, “Our weapon-specific findings have implications for a wide range of conflicts, because the patterns found in this study are likely to be replicated for these weapons whenever they are used.”

The authors conclude that “Policymakers, war strategists of all persuasions, and the groups and societies that support them bear moral and legal responsibility for the effects that particular combat tactics have on civilians — including the weapons used near and among them.”

Authors:

Dr. Madelyn Hicks, King’s College London; Hamit Dardagan, Iraq Body Count; Prof. John Sloboda, Royal Holloway, University of London and Iraq Body Count; Prof. Michael Spagat, Royal Holloway, University of London.

11-47

Soldiers Often ‘Racialize’ to Cope

November 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

New America Media, Interview, Aaron Glantz

Editor’s Note: The horrific shooting Thursday at Fort Hood that claimed 13 lives and hospitalized another 30 people has set off a great deal of speculation as to why the alleged shooter, Major Nidal Malik Hasan, did what he did.

NAM Editor Aaron Glantz spoke to former Marine Corps Cpl. Dave Hassan, who served in Iraq in 2005 and 2006. Hassan, an Egyptian American, said that while he was in Iraq, racist language was so pervasive that he began to use it himself.

egyptian soldier guy from NAM article

When you heard that the shooter was an Arab-American major what was your reaction?

This is not going to end well. That was essentialy my first reaction. I don’t know if the guy did it or not but assuming that this guy did do it, somebody who shoots a whole bunch of people ought to get punished for it, but in a broader sense, it’s just going to fuel more of the anti-Arab racism that’s grown up in the past decade or so. It’s going to be fun for the rest of us. [laughs]

What about the fact that he was a psychiatrist?

He was probably treating guys with PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] and there’s a lot more overt racism in that crowd than there is in the rest of the military.

Talk about that.

Well, your average service member is not particularly racist and not necessarily more racist than your average American. But in order to go be involved with killing large [numbers] of other human beings, you have to dehumanize the enemy, and the easiest way to dehumanize them is to racialize them. In my experience, they’re much more prone to talking about ‘f** hajji’s,” if only “these f** hajjis wouldn’t be here, this wouldn’t have happened.’

But after you were deployed to Iraq, you used that language even though your family is Egyptian.

Oh, absolutely. I absolutely used those words. I didn’t think anything of it. It was just a part of how you talked about the people who were in Iraq and it didn’t even register that I was even talking about my own ethnic community until I started thinking about it after I got home. That was a little hard for me.

But it’s just how you talk about Iraqis and Afghans. It’s a word that’s used for specific people in Arabic. It means someone who has completed a pilgrimage so it’s a term of respect in Arab cultures. Now it’s present at every level of the military chain of command, so everybody uses it. In the military, things stop because commanders want them to stop and that wasn’t the case for that kind of language.

They’re hajji’s and you don’t even think about the fact that it’s a pretty racist term to be using it the way that we used it. And he [Hasan] would have heard a lot of it, because he was treating a lot of pretty angry folks.

And how was that day-to-day for you?

For me, it never went beyond the use of language. People would say, ‘Why are hajjis wearing dresses all the time,’ [talking about traditional Iraqi dishdash]. One or two of the officers that I had contact with would call me over and say ‘Hassan, how come these hajjis want to be doing this?’

So thinking of all this were you surprised when Major Hasan opened fire at Fort Hood?

I was surprised that it was a psychiatrist that shot a lot of people. It’s no longer surprising to me that returning veterans would kill a bunch of people. But this guy was a psychiatrist who hadn’t been deployed, and he was also a major, which means he was in for a long time. If he had been at Walter Reed for a long time it was probably the first time that he had to think in detail about actually deploying to a foreign country and what that means. He would have been a lot closer to the ‘action’ there.

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Why Was Imam Luqman Killed?

November 5, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO Editor-in-chief

Over one thousand Muslim Americans were present at the funeral of Imam Luqman Amin Abdullah in Detroit. He was shot several times by the FBI in an apparent attempt to arrest him. He was accused of orchestrating illegal financial activities to raise funds to establish an Islamic Sharia state in the United States. Some 10 of his supporters were also accused and arrested for using violent means to preach his ideology.

If illegal financial activities are potential reasons for killing the perpetrators, then perhaps all those who are responsible for the financial crisis of the country, who were responsible for pursuing illegal means to maximize their profits should have been killed. If stealing is a crime punishable by deaths, then all those CEO’s of Banks and other major financial institutions who steal from people’s money in the name of bonuses should have been dealt with differently.

There are several questions that need to be asked to get a clear understanding of what happened and why it happened. We believe that law enforcement agencies are there to protect citizens and defend their constitutional rights, and not to kill them. Imam Luqman’s death has raised several questions. However, we do not expect any truthful answers. There is ample evidence to prove that our government is not afraid to tell lies. The FBI lies even under the leadership of Robert Muller, the media lies–even CNN and MSNBC, and people of course lie. In general, in our social and political life, we lack honesty, integrity and truthfulness. To cover up issues, we and our officials and law enforcement agents can concoct any lies. Since those who concoct lies have the power their lies rule and rock.

We want to raise the following questions.

Was Imam Luqman Amin Abdullah really involved in illegal financial activities? Did he really break the law? Was he aware that his group was doing that? Or were those who had been planted in his organization responsible for creating situation that would ultimately lead to his tragic death? Is it possible that illegal financial activities were performed by FBI informants?

Was he so naive to believe that he would be able to defeat the entire military power of the United States to establish a Sharia state? Was he so knowledgeable that he defined the shape and form of a Sharia state that no Muslim scholar has done in this or previous century? Did he really promote violence? Did he ever ask his followers to kill people randomly or in a systematic manner? Did he really think that a small warehouse in Detroit, MI, can become the headquarters of one of the most deadly movements of the world?

Luqman, that people knew, does not fit into the description of FBI. He dressed different that most American do. But so do Amish and Indians and many others. He believed that America has been unjust to many of its people, a belief that is held at least by 75 per cent of social scientists who have written about race and ethnic relations in America. He believed that America is run by powerful interests, an idea that was repeated by Michael Moore in almost all of his documentaries. He believed that American political leadership invents lies to kill people, an idea that most American think was behind the invasion of Iraq.

But who is going to investigate? The government will do everything possible to cover it up. The media is already biased and one cannot expect the mainstream media to do any real investigative story. What will the media get to prove the innocence of Luqman?

Private sources cannot reach to a level of credibility where their report can be trusted.

The truth may never come out. FBI agents who would give testimony under oath can say anything to make more money or to save their own life. The government investigator cannot put the blame on a major government agency and the court would act only on the basis of evidence that would be presented before the judge?

Thus the truth will never be known. But, we can outline certain scenarios that we have heard people talking about. They may be totally absurd or wrong. Nevertheless, they must be reported  in  order to develop an understanding of the reality.

1. FBI always speaks the truth, hence its account of what happened in the shot out should be accepted and matter should be closed.
2. Some FBI agent acted in panic and now the entire organization is trying to cover him up.
3. Some FBI agents were anti-Islam and Islamophobic and they found this opportunity to show their anger.
4. Luqman was very close to Imam Jamil Amin and hence he was punished for his vocal support for the jailed leader.
5. Some law enforcement agents are hunting down the old black panthers leaders and targeting them.
6. Luqman was really a criminal who wore an Islamic garb to cover his real violent nature.
7. Luqman was promoting violence in his sermons in a coded language that only FBI was able to decipher.
8. Informants made it up.
9. FBI informants trapped him and made him do things that later turned out to be illegal.
10. Luqman reacted angrily when he saw a dog running around at a place which was used by his followers as a prayer place.
11. Some forces in law enforcement agencies are acting on behalf right wing Christian fundamentalists who want to silence every assertive voice of Islam.

And so on so forth.

But we can suggest an Islamic course of action to resolve the issue.

1. We should refrain from accusing and making inflammatory statements.
2. We should ask our representatives to seek total disclosure in this matter
3. We should demand a congressional or state level hearing on the subject.
4. We should seek clarification from FBI and other law enforcement agencies on how it views Muslims and Islam
5. We should ask FBI and law enforcement agencies to screen their agents for their affiliation with Christian, Zionist or Muslim fundamentalist organizations.
6. We should ourselves resolve that non-violence is the message and method of Islam and Islam does not promote violence to achieve its objectives.
7. We should not shy away from expressing the truth, exposing the government and public officials for their failure to protect the lives of people.
8. We should demand justice for all.
9. Rather than remaining aloof from the political system, we should be part of it to introduce changes to protect people from the tyranny of law enforcement officials.

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