Assassinations Anyone?

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

CIA claims of cancelled campaign are hogwash

By Eric Margolis

CIA director Leon Panetta just told Congress he cancelled a secret operation to assassinate al-Qaida leaders. The CIA campaign, authorized in 2001, had not yet become operational, claimed Panetta.

I respect Panetta, but his claim is humbug. The U.S. has been trying to kill al-Qaida personnel (real and imagined) since the Clinton administration. These efforts continue under President Barack Obama. Claims by Congress it was never informed are hogwash.

The CIA and Pentagon have been in the assassination business since the early 1950s, using American hit teams or third parties. For example, a CIA-organized attempt to assassinate Lebanon’s leading Shia cleric, Muhammad Fadlallah, using a truck bomb, failed, but killed 83 civilians and wounded 240.

In 1975, I was approached to join the Church Committee of the U.S. Congress investigating CIA’s attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro, Congo’s Patrice Lumumba, Vietnam’s Ngo Dinh Diem, and Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Add to America’s hit list Saddam Hussein, Afghanistan’s Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Indonesia’s Sukarno, Chile’s Marxist leaders and, very likely, Yasser Arafat.

Libya’s Moammar Khadaffy led me by the hand through the ruins of his private quarters, showing me where a 2,000-pound U.S. bomb hit his bedroom, killing his infant daughter. Most Pakistanis believe, rightly or wrongly, the U.S. played a role in the assassination of President Zia ul-Haq.

To quote Josef Stalin’s favourite saying, “No man. No problem.”

Assassination was outlawed in the U.S. in 1976, but that did not stop attempts by its last three administrations to emulate Israel’s Mossad in the “targeted killing” of enemies. The George W. Bush administration, and now the Obama White House, sidestepped American law by saying the U.S. was at war, and thus legally killing “enemy combatants.” But Congress never declared war.

Washington is buzzing about a secret death squad run by Dick Cheney when he was vice-president and his protege, the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal. This gung-ho general led the Pentagon’s super secret Special Operations Command, which has become a major rival to the CIA in the business of “wet affairs” (as the KGB used to call assassinations) and covert raids.

Democrats are all over Cheney on the death squad issue, as are some Republicans — in order to shield Bush. But the orders likely came from Bush, who bears ultimate responsibility.

Americans are now being deluged by sordid scandals from the Bush years about torture, kidnapping, brutal secret prisons, brainwashing, mass surveillance of American’s phones, e-mail, and banking.

In 2001, as this column previously reported, U.S. Special Forces oversaw the murder at Dasht-e-Leili, Afghanistan, of thousands of captured Taliban fighters by Uzbek forces of the Communist warlord, Rashid Dostum.

CIA was paying Dostum, a notorious war criminal from the 1980s, millions to fight Taliban. Dostum is poised to become vice-president of the U.S.-installed government of President Hamid Karzai. Bush hushed up this major war crime.

America is hardly alone in trying to rub out enemies or those who thwart its designs. Britain’s MI-6 and France’s SDECE were notorious for sending out assassins. The late chief of SDECE told me how he had been ordered by then-president Francois Mitterrand to kill Libya’s Khadaffy. Israel’s hit teams are feared around the globe.

History shows that state-directed murder is more often than not counterproductive and inevitably runs out of control, disgracing nations and organizations that practise it.

But U.S. assassins are still at work. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. drones are killing tribesmen almost daily. Over 90% are civilians. Americans have a curious notion that killing people from the air is not murder or even a crime, but somehow clean.

U.S. Predator attacks are illegal and violate U.S. and international law. Pakistan’s government, against which no war has been declared, is not even asked permission or warned of the attacks.

Dropping 2,000-pound bombs on apartment buildings in Gaza or Predator raids on Pakistan’s tribal territory are as much murder as exploding car bombs or suicide bombers.

11-31

After the Green Revolution Fails–Invasion Plans Anew

July 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Damian Lataan

With the failure of the Western powers to foment a popular uprising after the 12 June elections in Iran that they hoped would lead to regime change, the West has now had to return to the ‘Iran has nuclear weapons’ meme in order to pave the way for an attack against Iran in the hope that regime change can be affected that way.

In an interview on Sunday, Vice-President Joe Biden, when asked, “…if the Israelis decide Iran is an existential threat, they have to take out the nuclear program, militarily the United States will not stand in the way?” responded saying: “Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination, if they make a determination that they’re existentially threatened and their survival is threatened by another country.”

Biden was then asked: “You sa y we can’t dictate, but we can, if we choose to, deny over-flight rights here in Iraq. We can stand in the way of a military strike”, to which he responded, “I’m not going to speculate… on those issues, other than to say Israel has a right to determine what’s in its interests, and we have a right and we will determine what’s in our interests.”

Yesterday (5 July) ‘Timesonline’ reported that the Saudis had made it clear to Meir Dagan, Israel’s Mossad chief, that they would not object to Israeli overflights if they were on their way to targets in Iran. While a flight to Iran from Israel via Saudi Arabia would be much longer that a direct flight to Iran overflying Jordan and Iraq, a flight via Saudi Arabia would not require permission from any other country; not even the US to fly over Iraq. And if the Israelis can get permission from the Saudis to have support aircraft in the air in Saudi airspace to refuel the Israeli strike aircraft over, say, the Persian Gulf, then an Israeli strike against Iran is feasible.

It’s interesting that the report about the Saudi’s giving clearance for overflights to attack Iran were quickly denied by Netanyahu’s office. Clearly, the Israelis are anxious to bury this information though, one suspects, that it is now too late and the Iran ians will now have their spies in Saudi Arabia scanning the skies and radio bands for high flying aircraft heading west to east across Saudi Arabia toward the Persian Gulf.

It may well be that Israel could be keen to take advantage of the unrest that has recently unsettled Iran but now seems to have died down. A strike now, they may feel, might just reignite the embers of insurrection that still glow especially if there was also a strike against Iran’s security forces and it’s military.

Even if Israel did strike against Iran via Saudi skies, Israel would still need to rely on the US for support. The fuel required for the mission would need to be supplied by the US as would most of the munitions. US forces would also need to be on standby ready to prevent any Iranian retaliatory strikes against Israel and the US. Israel would also need to have its troops on standby at home in preparedness for retaliatory attacks from both Hezbollah and Hamas.

For Israel, a Hamas and Hezbollah strike against them would be what they want. It would provide the casus belli for Israel to invade both the Gaza Strip and south Lebanon – perhaps all of Lebanon – knowing that the Iranians would not be in a position to help them. And with Iran out of the equation, Syria would not dare move against Israel.

With the failure of the post-election Iranian revolution, Israel will now resort to its old rhetoric of ‘Iran has a nuclear weapons program’ to try again to get public opinion onside for when they launch their attack against Iran to effect regime change. With the US now clearly not standing in the way and the Saudis prepared to let the US off the hook with regard to being seen by the world as facilitating an Israeli attack by allowing the Israelis to overfly Iraq despite all the talk of pursuing a “diplomatic solution”, everything seems in place for the Israelis to feel free to attack Iran when ever they feel they are ready.

The prospect of a final confrontation between Israel and Iran is now off the back burner and back on to the front burner. The problem is, If and when it happens, it won’t be a simple make or break fight for Israel or Iran; the repercussions will reverberate around the world for years to come.

11-29

Obama Administration Renews Sanctions on Syria

May 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sue Pleming

2009-05-07T125052Z_01_SYR06_RTRMDNP_3_SYRIA-US

Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem (R) meets Jeffrey Feltman, U.S. acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, in Damascus May 7, 2009. The portrait on the wall shows Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad.

REUTERS/Khaled al-Hariri

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama said on Friday he had renewed sanctions against Syria because it posed a continuing threat to U.S. interests, despite sending two envoys to Damascus this week to try to improve ties.

In a letter notifying Congress of his decision, Obama accused Damascus of supporting terrorism, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programs, and undermining U.S. and international efforts in trying to stabilize Iraq.

“For these reasons I have determined that it is necessary to continue in effect the national emergency declared with respect to this threat and to maintain in force the sanctions,” Obama said in the letter to Congress.

The sanctions, imposed by former President George W. Bush and which are up for renewal annually, prohibit arms exports to Syria, block Syrian airlines from operating in the United States and deny Syrians suspected of being associated with terrorist groups access to the U.S. financial system.

While the United States has made clear it wants better ties with Syria, which appears on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism, the renewal of the sanctions shows it is not yet ready for a dramatic improvement.

“We need to see concrete steps from the Syrian government to move in another direction,” State Department spokesman Robert Wood told reporters.

Obama signed the executive order extending the sanctions on Thursday, shortly after two U.S. envoys met Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem in Damascus.
The visit by senior State Department official Jeffrey Feltman and White House National Security Council official Daniel Shapiro was their second since Obama took office in January and started talking to Damascus.

Tough Words

The two officials discussed Syria’s role in Iraq, where Washington has accused Damascus of allowing fighters to cross into its neighbor, and Lebanon, where the United States says Syria plays a destabilizing role.

“Part of Feltman’s trip to the region was trying to get the Syrians to take some steps that will move us toward a better relationship,” Wood said. “But there is a lot that Syria needs to do.”

The United States wants a commitment from Syria that it will not interfere with a June election in neighboring Lebanon, which U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited last month to show U.S. support.

The administration hopes direct talks with Syria, which will continue despite the sanctions, will weaken its ties to Iran.

Syria and Iran are the main backers of Hizbollah, a Shi’ite Muslim political and guerrilla group that fought a war against Israel in 2006 and has representatives in the Lebanese government and parliament.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad indicated this week he did not plan to change course. After meeting Iran’s president in Damascus, he said their strategic relationship contributed to Middle East stability.

The administration is reviewing whether to send back an ambassador to Damascus but a senior U.S. official said this week a decision had not yet been taken.

The U.S. ambassador was pulled out of Syria after the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri. Syria denies any involvement in the killing but the United States pointed fingers at Damascus.

11-21

Attacks Commence

April 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dahr Jamail, Truthout

2009-04-21T201436Z_01_BAG200_RTRMDNP_3_IRAQ Everyone knows the analogy of the beehive. When it is goaded, countless bees emerge, attacking the tormentor. Right now in Iraq, the formerly US-backed al-Sahwa (Sons of Iraq) Sunni militia, ripe with broken promises from both the occupiers of their country and the Iraqi government that they would be given respect and jobs, have gone into attack mode.

It is an easily predictable outcome. An occupying power (the US) sets up a 100,000-strong militia composed of former resistance fighters and even some members of al-Qaeda, pays them each $300 per month to not attack occupation forces, and attacks decrease dramatically. Then, stop paying most of them and tell them they will be incorporated into Iraqi government security forces. Proceed to leave them high and dry as the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki begins targeting them – assassinating leaders, detaining fighters and threatening their families. Allow this plan to continue for over six months, unabated.

Not surprisingly, the Sahwa are fighting back against US forces and those of the Iraqi government.

2009-04-23T110151Z_01_BAG400_RTRMDNP_3_IRAQ While not all of these attacks can be attributed to Sahwa forces, I believe it is safe to say the majority of them are. A brief overview of the last few days in Iraq is informative, as it shows many of these attacks, as well as some of the ongoing attacks by government forces against the Sahwa:

# April 20: Suicide bomber wounds eight US soldiers in Baquba, 40 miles northeast of Baghdad. Dubai-based satellite TV channel al-Arabiya reports that three of the US soldiers were killed. The US military does not confirm the deaths. Iraqi officials tell the media the bomber was wearing a police uniform. This method is becoming increasingly common now. Sahwa forces already have police and military uniforms, as they have been working as security personnel for months now. In another attack in the same city, a suicide bomber kills two US soldiers, their Iraqi interpreter and two bystanders, although the US military has not reported on the incident. Overall, 16 Iraqis killed, 11 wounded.

# April 19: Gunmen kill an off-duty lieutenant-colonel policeman in his car in Baghdad. Mortar round wounds two civilians when it hits a power generator in the Zayouna district in east Baghdad. Police find the bodies of two Sunni Arab militiamen with bullet wounds in the head and chest in Hilla, 60 miles south of Baghdad. Gunmen kill two Sahwa members in separate incidents around Mussayib. Gunmen kill an Interior Ministry official in Nu’ariyah and another in Ur. The Interior Ministry is responsible for targeting the Sahwa leadership. In total, 14 Iraqis are killed, 28 wounded.

2009-04-23T124809Z_01_BAG202_RTRMDNP_3_IRAQ-VIOLENCE # April 17: Mortar attacks across Shi’ite-majority districts of Baghdad kill eight and wound 19.

# April 16: A suicide bomber kills 16 Iraqi soldiers and wounds another 50 after infiltrating an army base in Habbaniyah, on the outskirts of Fallujah, and mingling with a queue of soldiers at a dining facility. The bomber is wearing a military uniform. A Sahwa leader is killed when a bomb planted on his car explodes in Baquba.
In addition to the aformentioned, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of bombings and roadside bombs across Iraq recently. On April 20, two young girls were killed in Fallujah when a sticky bomb targeting an army officer exploded outside their home as he left for work. The same day in Basra, a roadside bomb targeting a US patrol detonated, but the military reported no casualties. April 19 saw a roadside bomb targeting a police patrol that wounded five people, including two policemen in the Zaafaraniya district of southeast Baghdad. That same day, another roadside bomb wounded four people in the Doura district of southern Baghdad, and the so-called Green Zone was shelled. On April 17, a roadside bomb wounded a policeman in Baquba, and three bombs were defused in Amara in southern Iraq.

There is a new kind of war on in Iraq – and it is spreading. Tit-for-tat killings between the Sahwa and government forces are increasing. Roadside bomb attacks and suicide strikes against US forces are also increasing in recent days. Meanwhile, there is no sign of reconciliation between the Sahwa and the Iraqi government, and of course little if any of this is mentioned in most US corporate media.

While the current trend still pales in comparison to previous levels of resistance in Iraq, if left unchecked, it will certainly continue to increase.

»Dahr Jamail, an independent journalist, is the author of “Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches From an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq,” (Haymarket Books, 2007). Jamail reported from occupied Iraq for eight months as well as from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Turkey over the last four years.

11-18

US Envoy Writes of Israeli Threats

April 9, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy Barbara Crossette

john_gunther_dean In the wake of the accusation by Chas Freeman that his nomination to lead the National Intelligence Council was derailed by an “Israeli lobby,” a forthcoming memoir by another distinguished ambassador adds stunning new charges to the debate. The ambassador, John Gunther Dean, writes that over the years he not only came under pressure from pro-Israeli groups and officials in Washington but also was the target of an Israeli-inspired assassination attempt in 1980 in Lebanon, where he had opened links to the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Dean’s suspicions that Israeli agents may have also been involved in the mysterious plane crash in 1988 that killed Pakistan’s president, General Mohammed Zia ul Haq, led finally to a decision in Washington to declare him mentally unfit, which forced his resignation from the foreign service after a thirty-year career. After he left public service, he was rehabilitated by the State Department, given a distinguished service medal and eventually encouraged to write his memoirs. Now 82, Dean sees the subsequent positive attention he has received as proof that the insanity charge (he calls it Stalinist) was phony, a supposition later confirmed by a former head of the department’s medical service.

Dean, whose memoir is titled Danger Zones: A Diplomat’s Fight for America’s Interests, was American ambassador in Lebanon in August 1980 when a three-car convoy carrying him and his family was attacked near Beirut.

“I was the target of an assassination attempt by terrorists using automatic rifles and antitank weapons that had been made in the United States and shipped to Israel,” he wrote. “Weapons financed and given by the United States to Israel were used in an attempt to kill an American diplomat!” After the event, conspiracy theories abounded in the Middle East about who could have planned the attack, and why. Lebanon was a dangerously factionalized country.

The State Department investigated, Dean said, but he was never told what the conclusion was. He wrote that he “worked the telephone for three weeks” and met only official silence in Washington. By then Dean had learned from weapons experts in the United States and Lebanon that the guns and ammunition used in the attack had been given by Israelis to a Christian militia allied with them.

“I know as surely as I know anything that Mossad, the Israeli intelligence agency, was somehow involved in the attack,” Dean wrote, describing how he had been under sharp criticism from Israeli politicians and media for his contacts with Palestinians. “Undoubtedly using a proxy, our ally Israel had tried to kill me.”

Dean’s memoir, to be published in May for the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Memoir Series by New Academia Publishing under its Vellum imprint, has been read and approved for publication by the State Department with only very minor changes, none affecting Dean’s major points. Its underlying theme is that American diplomacy should be pursued in American interests, not those of another country, however friendly. A Jew whose family fled the Holocaust, Dean resented what he saw as an assumption, including by some in Congress, that he would promote Israel’s interests in his ambassadorial work.

Dean, a fluent French speaker who began his long diplomatic career opening American missions in newly independent West African nations in the early 1960s, served later in Vietnam (where he described himself as a “loyal dissenter”) and was ambassador in Cambodia (where he carried out the American flag as the Khmer Rouge advanced), Denmark, Lebanon, Thailand (where Chas Freeman was his deputy) and India. He takes credit for averting bloodshed in Laos in the 1970s by negotiating a coalition government shared by communist and noncommunist parties.

He was sometimes a disputatious diplomat not afraid to contradict superiors, and he often took–and still holds–contrarian views. He always believed, for example, that the United States should have attempted to negotiate with the Khmer Rouge rather than let the country be overrun by their brutal horror.

As ambassador in India in the 1980s he supported then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s policy of seeking some kind of neutral coalition in Afghanistan that would keep the American- and Pakistani-armed mujahedeen from establishing a fundamentalist Islamic state. For several years after the Soviet withdrawal, India continued to back Najibullah, a thuggish communist security chief whom the retreating Soviet troops left behind. After the mujahedeen moved toward Kabul, Najibullah refused a United Nations offer of safe passage to India. He was slaughtered and left hanging on a lamppost.

It was in the midst of this Soviet endgame in Afghanistan that Dean fell afoul of the State Department for the last time. After the death of General Zia in August 1988, in a plane crash that also killed the American ambassador in Pakistan, Arnold Raphel, Dean was told in New Delhi by high-ranking officials that Mossad was a possible instigator of the accident, in which the plane’s pilot and co-pilot were apparently disabled or otherwise lost control. There was also some suspicion that elements of India’s Research and Analysis Wing, its equivalent of the CIA, may have played a part. India and Israel were alarmed by Pakistan’s work on a nuclear weapon–the “Islamic bomb.”

Dean was so concerned about these reports, and the attempt by the State Department to block a full FBI investigation of the crash in Pakistan, that he decided to return to Washington for direct consultations. Instead of the meetings he was promised, he was told his service in India was over. He was sent into virtual house arrest in Switzerland at a home belonging to the family of his French wife, Martine Duphenieux. Six weeks later, he was allowed to return to New Delhi to pack his belongings and return to Washington, where he resigned.

Suddenly his health record was cleared and his security clearance restored. He was presented with the Distinguished Service Award and received a warm letter of praise from Secretary of State George Shultz. “Years later,” he wrote in his memoir, “I learned who had ordered the bogus diagnosis of mental incapacity against me. It was the same man who had so effusively praised me once I was gone–George Shultz.”

Asked in a telephone conversation last week from his home in Paris why Shultz had done this to him, Dean would say only, “He was forced to.”

Barbara Crossette, United Nations correspondent for The Nation, is a former New York Times correspondent and bureau chief in Asia and at the UN.

She is the author of So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas, published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1995 and in paperback by Random House/Vintage Destinations in 1996, and a collection of travel essays about colonial resort towns that are still attracting visitors more than a century after their creation, The Great Hill Stations of Asia, published by Westview Press in 1998 and in paperback by Basic Books in 1999. In 2000, she wrote a survey of India and Indian-American relations, India: Old Civilization in a New World, for the Foreign Policy Association in New York. She is also the author of India Facing the 21st Century, published by Indiana University Press in 1993.

Pretty in Pink

March 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS

pink

The delicate color pink graces everything from haute couture to the latest techno gadgets geared towards females in the global market, however one of the last places anyone would expect to find the color is on taxicabs. Sure enough, a savvy businesswoman in Lebanon has painted the traditional yellow taxicab a cuter shade of pink. Nawal Yaghi Fakhri is the owner of ‘Taxi Banat’, which means ‘Taxi for Women’. Female drivers decked out in, what else, pink drive a fleet of blush colored Peugeot taxis throughout the capital of Beirut. The uniform they wear is comprised of a pink shirt, pink tie and a complimentary bubble gum shade of lipstick. The customers they cater to are women only, as men are not allowed to ride in the gender specific cabs.

09_ae_pink_taxi01_4 The pink taxicabs are meant to serve as a safe option for women out on the town in Lebanon who want a safe ride home. Crimes against woman traveling in taxis, often by the male driver, is not unheard of in the region as well as in most cities of the world.  The taxis are also popular with Muslim woman who adhere with the Islamic specification of not mixing with non-related men. The Lebanese Ministry of Tourism has backed the initiative whole-heartedly as the country has launched a campaign to draw millions of tourists in 2009. The minister is banking on an influx of rich Muslim ladies from the Gulf descending upon the capital this year and taking advantage of the female-fueled taxicabs.

Female geared taxicabs are nothing new in the Middle East. Both Iran and Dubai have launched similar services. However, Dubai has found the most success with the cabs, in large part due to the sprawling commercial complexes chock full of female clientele looking for a way home with their shopping loot.

The pink taxicabs in Dubai have recently metamorphosed to allow families to use the service even when male family members are included. However, bachelors will still either have to use the ‘shoe leather express’ or hail a different shade of cab.

Like most things in the Middle East, the idea for the pink taxicabs was copied from the west.

In 2006, the British Pink Ladies Club first came up with the idea for the gender biased pink cabs to help inebriated female party goers find their way home safely in the wee hours of the morning after bars and nightclubs have closed.

While the pink cabs have largely been embraced in the west, they have come under harsh criticism from many in the Middle East. Numerous Gulf women have publicly spoken out against the cabs citing that they will just give husbands another excuse to shirk their duties.

11-13

The Hummus War

October 16, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS

081008_hummus

The inconspicuous chickpea, while puny in size, is causing a major war of words between Israel and Lebanon. Both countries lay claim to inventing the savory dip that has become a worldwide hit thanks to the tasty travels of visitors to the Middle East which has caused a dramatic demand for Hummus in North America as well as other regions like Japan.

So what’s all the fuss about? Apparently, Israel has been laying claim to such Lebanese national dishes as Hummus, Falafel, Baba Ghannoui and Tabbouleh, which have been adorning the dinner tables of Lebanese families for centuries. The Director, Fadi Abboud, of the Lebanese Industrialists Society is launching a lawsuit against Israel for infringement across food copyright laws. “It is not enough they (Israelis) are stealing our land. They are also stealing our civilization and our cuisine,” said Abboud in a recent interview. The case will be mirrored after the successful feta cheese copyright dispute, where the European Parliament declared Greece as the sole country with rights to brand the salty dairy product as originating from the Greek culture, which includes a mandate that says any cheese that bears the name ‘feta’ must be produced with either sheep or goat’s milk.

This culinary war is not merely about bragging rights but rather millions of dollars in export revenues that are at stake. In the USA alone, the domestic market for store-brand hummus has grown by 78% this year alone. Hummus sales in America are valued at approximately $250 million dollars for this fiscal year and that figure is set to skyrocket as the demand for hummus continues it upwards spiral. The global market for Hummus is estimated to be in the billions of dollars.

The reason for the popularity of hummus is that it really is the perfect food. It’s smooth, goes down easy and digests well especially since it does not cause the ‘gassy’ after effects that most bean-based foods do. Hummus is also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, healthy nutrients like iron and manganese, and is an excellent source of fiber. Talk show host Oprah Winfrey has even listed Hummus as one of the best foods for weight loss in her ‘O’ magazine citing that the creamy dip is filling and nutritious enough to snack on a few times a week.

Only time will tell who will win the rights to hummus as it remains to be seen just exactly where Lebanon will file it’s lawsuit given that it is officially at war with Israel. It’s also noteworthy to mention that the Palestinians also lay claim to being the originators of Hummus, however they have stayed out of the fray for the time being. If the case ever does appear in court, it’s likely another hummus contender may step in the ring. However, while their busy duking it out in court, anyone with a blender can whip up their own Hummus at home. Just visit www.allrecipes.com and search the word ‘Hummus’. Happy dipping!

10-43

Community News (V10-I31)

July 24, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Asif Chaudhry appointed US envoy to Moldova

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A Pakistan born agricultural economist has been appointed as the new American envoy to Moldova. Asif Chaudhry will take over the charge as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Republic of Moldova from August, the Pakistan Post reported.

In an interview with the journal, Chaudhry said he was the first Pakistani appointed as United States’ ambassador to another country on merit, and was proud to be the first Pakistani-American to take oath on Holy Quran.  

Dr.Chaudhry, a member of the US Foreign Service, was born and raised in a farming family in a small village in Pakistan, Mr.Chaudhry completed his Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Political Science from the University of Punjab in Lahore, Pakistan, before going on to the American University of Beirut, Lebanon for a Master’s degree in Agricultural Economics. He completed a PhD in Agricultural Economics from Washington State University, Pullman Washington, and had a brief stint as Assistant Professor of Economics at Montana State University, Bozeman Montana, before joining FAS.

Mr. Chaudhry’s language skills include Russian, Urdu, Punjabi, Arabic, and Polish. He is an avid squash player. He is married to  Charla Chaudhry and they have two sons and a daughter.

He has also served as the Assistant to the General Sales Manager (GSM)in FAS Washington from 1999-2002, and was the GSM’s principal advisor on USDA commodity assistance programs for the Former Soviet Union and other Eastern European Countries. Prior to assuming this role in Washington, he served at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow during 1996-1999, where he was assigned as the Senior Agricultural Attaché and was promoted to the position of Agricultural Counselor after one year.

In his first overseas tour (1992-1995), Mr. Chaudhry served as the Agricultural Attaché in Warsaw, Poland overseeing the USDA assistance programs designed to help with the transformation of Poland to a post-Soviet free-market economy. He worked as a Marketing Specialist and an Agricultural Specialist in the Horticultural and Tropical Products Division of CMP prior to converting to Foreign Service and starting his overseas career.

Obama campaigns hires Muslim liaison

WASHINGTON D.C.—US presidential aspirant Barack Obama’s campaign has created a Muslim liaison to reach out to the community, the Politico website reported.

The website reports that the position will likely be filled by Haim Nawas, a Jordanian-American. She had worked in a similar capacity for the campaign of Gen.Wesley Clark in 2004.

Obama’s campaign did not confirm the report at print time.

An Obama aide told the Politico.com that the job had been created, but said the campaign had not made a final decision on who would fill it.

Former prison guard files discrimination lawsuit

CHICAGO, IL—A former guard at Kane County Jail in Illinois has a filed a federal lawsuit claiming that he lost his job because of his Muslim faith. Abal Zaidi worked for a six month period in 2006 as a correctional officer at the county jail located in Geneva.

He claims that he was fired after the new sheriff mandated that all office employees be clean shaven. Zaidi objected to the order because having it was “an expression of his Muslim practice and belief.”

He was initially asked to show the religious meaning of the beard but was never given the opportunity to do so.

Zaidi claims that he was fired despite having a flawless record and good performance reviews.

The one-count suit claims violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and seeks a written apology from the sheriff’s department; all wages and benefits he would have received if not for the discrimination; compensatory damages; punitive damages; attorney fees; additional relief; and an unspecified amount of money.

Township assessor forwards anti-Muslim email

FRANKFORT, IL—An assessor with the Frankfort township in Illinois has forwarded an email containing vile anti-Islamic comments.

The e-mail, circulated last month, said America should follow the lead of Australia’s former prime minister John Howard, who said Muslims who want to live under Islamic Sharia law should get out of Australia.

“Once you are done complaining, whining, and griping about our flag, our pledge, our Christian beliefs or our way of life, I highly encourage you to take advantage of one other great Australian freedom, the right to leave,” the e-mail said, supposedly quoting Howard.

“Maybe if we circulate this amongst ourselves, American citizens will find the back bone to start speaking and voicing the same truths,” the e-mail continued. “If you agree, please send this on.”

The assessor did not respond to a request for comments.

10-31

Muslim Society of Paraná Celebrates 50th Anniversary

August 16, 2007 by · 1 Comment 

Established to provide support to the Muslims arriving at the city of Curitiba, the organisation currently promotes various cultural, educational and religious activities, acting as a reference point to those who want to learn about Arab and Islamic culture.

Courtesy Omar Nasser, ANBA News Agency

Curitiba – A solemnity to be held on Friday evening (10th) will mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Muslim Beneficent Society of the State of Paraná (SBMPR), in southern Brazil. The event will bring together, at the seat of the organisation in Curitiba (capital of Paraná), immigrants, descendents, and relatives, as well as municipal and state-level officials. The members of the Islamic society who have rendered relevant services to the SBMPR throughout these 50 years will be awarded diplomas of Highest Honour.

The minutes of the organisation’s foundation date from July 28th, 1957. “The objective, at that time, was for the Beneficent Society to provide support to the Arab immigrants who started arriving here, in greater number, after the end of World War Two,” explains Jamil Ibrahim Iskandar, the current president. Being a Lebanese immigrant himself, Iskandar recalls that the pioneers had no relatives to help them and, in many cases, did not even know the Portuguese language.

Presently, SBMPR carries out a series of activities of cultural, educational, and religious nature, such as lectures, conferences, and exhibitions. Operating in the premises is an elementary school– the Brazilian-Arab School of Curitiba – and a nursery school. In the evening, Arabic language classes are held. “One can safely say that the Society is now a reference point, not only to the Muslim community in Curitiba and Paraná, but also to the Brazilians who want to learn about Arab and Islamic culture,” says Iskandar.

Currently living in Curitiba are approximately 1,500 Muslims, including immigrants, descendents, and converted Brazilians. The majority of Arab Muslims living in the city is of Lebanese descent, followed by Palestinians and Syrians. Among the Lebanese, there is s significant presence of people originally from the cities of Hermel and Baalbek, in the Bekaa Valley, as well as from the cities of Khirbat Roha and Jezzini, among others. In a recent trip to Curitiba, the then-resigning Lebanese minister of Labour, Trad Hammadeh, was puzzled by the fact that he found, in the city, the preserved accent of the Hermel region, which no longer exists even in Lebanon.

Early on, SBMPR operated from a leased building, in downtown Curitiba, next to the Tiradentes Square. As immigrants would achieve economic stability, they started having financial conditions to afford a property of their own in which to base the organisation. By 1964, the seat of the SBMPR was already established in a solidly built masonry building, where it remains to date. The building has an ample auditorium, rooms for the teaching of the Quran, offices, and an apartment to accommodate travellers.

In addition to the seat of the SBMPR, the Muslim community in Curitiba counts on a Mosque, which bears the name of Imam Ali ibn Abi Tálib, an homage to the cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad. In 2007, it will be 35 years since the temple was inaugurated. Another important milestone of Muslim Arab immigration to Curitiba is Cemitério Jardim de Allah (“Garden of Allah Cemetery”). Located in the industrial city of Curitiba, the cemetery occupies a spacious area and has a wake room with bathrooms and a kitchen.

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Book Reviews

April 5, 2007 by · Leave a Comment 

Lebanon: A House Divided

By Sandra Mackey

W. W. Norton & Company

The author of The Saudis and The Iranians, Sandra Mackey, a veteran journalist and expert on Middle Eastern culture and politics, has republished her 1989 volume Lebanon: Death of a Nation with a new introduction with the latest occurrences in Lebanon; giving the reader a better comprehension of this sometimes misunderstood country.

Going over Lebanon’s history, including the civil war of 1975-89, Mackey also makes sense of the divisions between Lebanon’s religious and cultural groups; Lebanon’s toleration of Hezbollah; and Iran’s financial support for Lebanon.

Lebanon will be beneficial to those looking to gain knowledge beyond news media reports.
The book can be purchased at bookstores for $15.95.

Even Angels Ask: A Journey to Islam in America

By Jeffrey Lang

Amana Publications

A professor of mathematics, Jeffrey Lang, a Catholic turned agnostic, became a Muslim in the early 1980s.
In Even Angels Ask, Lang shares with the reader the experiences of American Muslim converts and young Muslims who find it difficult to follow the faith of their parents in American society.

In chapter one, Lang discusses how young American Muslims leave their religion as they get older. He finds that the children of Muslim parents, asked about their religion, say often that their parents are Muslim but that they do not belong to any particular religion.

Has the Western way of life changed their perspective of Islam?

In chapter two, Lang talks about God and the Qur’an; quoting verses; the Beautiful Names; life; prayer; worship; temptation; the Prophet (s) and so forth.

Chapter three discusses the struggles converts go through as they try to decipher what ritual portions of the religion they see are from “Islam” and which are not a part of Islam but non-religious cultural practices.
Chapter four takes the reader into the life of a Muslim and Muslim convert as they bear witness to Islam and follow the five pillars of their faith.

Chapter five, titled “The Best of Communities” goes over Lang’s experiences after he became a Muslim and the reactions of non-Muslims and other Muslims.

In Chapter six, he discusses “The Road Ahead” for newcomers, immigrants Muslims, the community and society.

    Even Angels Ask is a must read for Muslims and non-Muslims wanting to understand the difficulties and trials young and converting Muslims go through in America. The book can be purchased online or at bookstores.

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Escape from Bint Jebail

August 3, 2006 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil James, TMO Staff reporter
A Muslim Observer exclusive report

Hussein Khalil looks like a man who spent all night watching a ghost. His face is pale and ashen, with a few days’ growth of beard on his cheeks. His face is young, but his manners show the sincerity that usually results from a close experience of the fragility and beauty of human life. He still sees pictures of the dead people he saw only last week in the south of Lebanon. He still doesn’t sleep quietly through the night, and nor do his children. When airplanes fly overhead, his 3 and a half year old son screams at him to run for shelter before the Israelis kill them.

Mr. Khalil just returned from Lebanon, crossing through a harrowing and miserable odyssey to save his wife and children. On June 6th, his wife and children had left happily for a vacation with her parents in Ainetta, the town immediately neighboring Bint Jebail. They expected to return at the end of the summer, on September 6th.

As the political situation melted down after Hezbollah’s July 12th abduction of two Israeli soldiers in a cross-border raid, he kept in constant contact with his family by phone. The phone calls got worse and worse. Through some of the phone calls, he could hear distant bombs and other sounds of war. The bombardment affected his children—they started to become annoyed, hysterical, crying frantically. His infant daughter Muna cried to him on the phone, “Please come and get us—why are they trying to kill us?” His wife told him, “Don’t even try to come,” because of the fierce bombardment. Terrified of the rumored death traps waiting for fleeing refugees on the roads out of southern Lebanon, the family hunkered down in the house. The pressure affected Khalil—at night, he could not sleep; in the day, he could not work; he could not drink, he could not eat.

Friday July 14th was the worst day. That day, he was talking to his wife during an artillery bombardment when he heard a loud explosion, somebody screaming, and the phone line went dead. Although he would not find out until he arrived there days later, the artillery shell had hit the house, destroying the top floor but (through apparently miraculous intervention) not injuring his family members in the house. But that Friday, he knew no such thing. Frantic, he went to the airport. He flew to Jordan; a flight delay gave him an expected wait of 13 hours, which was too much for him at that point. He found a car and traveled to Syria. Explaining his situation, he was allowed to cross the border.

A friend in Damascus prepared a car for his use and made travel plans for him, giving him contact numbers of other people who might help him in Lebanon. Everyone else in Damascus told him not to go, that Beirut was a war zone.

His heart burning for his family, Mr. Khalil continued on, driving to Beirut. He arrived in Beirut on Tuesday. Then he went to the American embassy; after waiting in line, he spoke to an embassy official, telling him that at least 10 US citizens were in a house close to Bint Jebail under heavy bombardment, including his wife and children and in-laws. The American official told him, “We cannot stop the war for your family.” They told him to let them stay where they were, and asked Mr. Khalil for his phone number [which, not surprisingly, they never called].

Then he went to the Red Cross. They said the same thing, that “It is hostile there—we are not allowed to go there, we are not permitted to go.” They told him to try the UN.

He went to the UN, where no one actually met with him, other than to make a generalized announcement that they were trying to obtain a cease-fire there.

Desperate to help his family, he began to contact taxi drivers. He offered some of them $10,000 to drive him to Bint Jebail. No one would take the money—“it’s not an issue of money,” they said, “it is impossible.”

Exhausting all of his friend’s contacts, he turned to an old friend from years ago, whose number he still had. That friend agreed to drive him to Tyre, without ever mentioning money. Their plan was to leave after fajr on Wednesday morning. That night the Israeli air force bombed the Beirut airport. After fajr they left for Tyre.

Lebanon is small, and travel is a minor act relative to what it is in America—if a driver could drive 60mph in a straight line from the south to the north, he could travel the length of Lebanon in less than two hours. When the Israeli army invaded Lebanon in 1982, they waltzed to Beirut in four hours. Tyre is normally a 45 minute drive from Beirut (from Tyre, Khalil planned to hitchhike or walk the 25 miles to Bint Jebail). Against all the advice of those in Lebanon, they drove a van—and it is for this reason that they would be able to save so many of their relatives in Bint Jebail.

The Israelis had bombed the normal roads going south from Beirut, so only someone with knowledge of the back roads could succeed in going south to Tyre. Fortunately the driver knew the back roads through the mountains, and after four hours they began to approach Tyre. Refugees going away from Tyre tried to flag them down, telling them not to go forward.

The driver wanted to turn around, but Khalil begged him, “Just get me to Tyre.”

Asking for directions through the remnants of the devastated roads of southern Lebanon, they tried dead end after dead end. Finally, two people having just come out of Tyre directed them to pass through a nearby orchard, which they did, to find their way.

That was when they found the bodies. They passed at least four cars and one van, full of people, most of whom were dead but some of whom were still alive and moving in agony in those burnt-out shells of cars, all of which still had white flags; body parts and luggage was strewn across the ground. All of the cars had been hit where the heat of the engine provided a signature for missiles to hone in on—this fire was targeted by Israeli helicopters or jets, and was not the result of errant artillery. The smell of burnt human flesh still haunts Mr. Khalil. One man had tried to escape his doomed vehicle, but not in time. The door hung open, and the man’s headless body still leaned out of the car when they passed.

Desperate to save his family, with no medical training and himself on a mission which would save tens of people, Mr. Khalil and his friend continued on. Warned of the danger they faced, Khalil kept his eyes glued to the sky, his hand attached to the door handle, while the driver focused on driving. At a moment’s notice they were prepared to jump out of the van and run away.

He prayed continuously and sincerely, accepting that if he died on this journey at least it would be in the course of doing a good deed, as a martyr, trying to save lives and serve his family.

For some reason, as they left Tyre, the driver continued on and never asked Mr. Khalil to continue on by himself on foot.

They passed through Tibneen. Tens of people waited next to the Tibneen hospital on the road, desperate for food. If Mr. Khalil had stopped here, it would have been impossible to continue on. Many people would have crushed the car. They pushed the bread through the windows to the starving people, about 30 bags of bread, and continued on. Mr. Khalil estimates there are about 15,000 refugees in Tibneen, close to the hospital.

After journeying, they arrived at the split in the road between Bint Jebail and Aineta. To the right there is a valley, from which they saw the white streaks of Hezbollah missiles streaking south towards Israel—the only evidence they ever saw of the presence of Hezbollah in Bint Jebail—“I never even saw one man holding a Kalashnikov,” said Mr. Khalil.

Jet fighters banked and turned in the sky, immediately directing their fire downwards at the source of those plumes of smoke. Artillery flew into the valley, and into Ainetta, the rocket attack providing a focal point for the Israeli military. This barrage affected the travelers as well—they flew down the road past destroyed buildings. One top story of a building was blown up as they passed. They heard and saw an Israeli drone patrolling above. Smoke was everywhere, missiles were flying down, artillery was bombing everywhere.

When he saw his family’s destroyed house Mr. Khalil’s heart sank to his knees. The artillery shell had blown off the top of his roof, he sprinted from the van, through the bombardment, to the house, wrenching open the door, to find his wife and children sitting on the floor, crying under the merciless Israeli bombardment. In a short time, he crowded his entire family into the van; neighbors ran to him, giving him their children to put into the van with him, not caring about themselves but only caring that he save their children. In their minivan, they stacked 32 people, mostly women and children, of several different families.

Later, Khalil learned, only 3 hours after he left the house in which his family had sheltered was splintered by an Israeli attack, killing three people who had been sheltering there—so if he had only waited a day, or had been delayed by only a few hours, his entire family would have been killed.

Thus began their escape. They careened through the streets of Ainetta and towards Tibneen, artillery pounding so close to them that one 155 mm howitzer round blew out the back window of the van. He begged his family, “Do not look outside the van—do not look left or right,” not wanting his children to see the dead people in the road. “Allah Allah please help us,” he prayed fervently. Some in the van read Qur`an, some did other zikr, begging for safety from above. And so, miraculously, 32 people crowded into a minivan did the unthinkable—escaping a merciless Israeli barrage that explicitly targeted all vans and pickup trucks.

When he got to Tibneen, Mr. Khalil felt better, less pressure from the Israelis. When he got to Sida, he got out of the minivan and kissed the earth, thanking God for having brought him out safely. From Beirut, the family was evacuated via the USS Nashville to Cyprus, then by military transport to New Jersey, then via a surreal rental car ride from New Jersey home to Dearborn, Michigan.

When he returned home, he learned that the driver that saved him and his family was later blinded by an Israeli attack while making a second attempt to pass the gantlet and save more people.

Speaking of the state of Lebanon today, Khalil says it is “three times worse than it was during the civil war. They are targeting the infrastructure.” The roads, the gas stations, the small and large factories, the electricity and phone switchboards are all catastrophically devastated. Prices for travel, he says, are astronomically inflated—it now costs about $1,000 or $1,500 to take a taxi from Beirut to Syria.

The tragedy of this past two weeks was not the first of Hussein Khalil’s life. His background reflects the terrible history of Lebanon. His father, a baker, never himself involved in any fighting, was brutally murdered when Mr. Khalil was only 6 years old for the crime of being a Muslim who lived in a Christian neighborhood. Mr. Khalil’s mother first brought him to the United States in 1982, when he was 12 years old, to escape the Lebanese civil war. And we hope that he and his family have finally escaped war for good.

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