The CIA and Iran

October 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The CIA and the Iran Caper: How Petraeus Fueled the Plot

By Ray Mcgovern

2011-10-11T221215Z_548393142_GM1E7AC0HEY01_RTRMADP_3_USA-SECURITY-IRANWashington Post columnist David Ignatius, in his accustomed role as unofficial surrogate CIA spokesman, has thrown light on how the CIA under its new director, David Petraeus, helped craft the screenplay for this week’s White House spy feature: the Iranian-American-used-car-salesman-Mexican-drug-cartel plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S.

In Thursday’s column, Ignatius notes that, initially, White House and Justice Department officials found the story “implausible.” It was. But the Petraeus team soon leapt to the rescue, reflecting the four-star-general-turned-intelligence-chief’s deep-seated animus toward Iran.

Before Ignatius’s article, I had seen no one allude to the fact that much about this crime-stopper tale had come from the CIA. In public, the FBI had taken the lead role, presumably because the key informant inside a Mexican drug cartel worked for U.S. law enforcement via the Drug Enforcement Administration.

However, according to Ignatius, “One big reason [top U.S. officials became convinced the plot was real] is that CIA and other intelligence agencies gathered information corroborating the informant’s juicy allegations and showing that the plot had support from the top leadership of the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, the covert action arm of the Iranian government.”

Ignatius adds that, “It was this intelligence collected in Iran” that swung the balance, but he offers no example of what that intelligence was. He only mentions a recorded telephone call on Oct. 4 between Iranian-American cars salesman Mansour Arbabsiar and his supposed contact in Iran, Gholam Shakuri, allegedly an official in Iran’s Quds spy agency.

The call is recounted in the FBI affidavit submitted in support of the criminal charges against Arbabsiar, who is now in U.S. custody, and Shakuri, who is not. But the snippets of that conversation are unclear, discussing what on the surface appears to be a “Chevrolet” car purchase, but which the FBI asserts is code for killing the Saudi ambassador.

Without explaining what other evidence the CIA might have, Ignatius tries to further strengthen the case by knocking down some of the obvious problems with the allegations, such as “why the Iranians would undertake such a risky operation, and with such embarrassingly poor tradecraft.”

“But why the use of Mexican drug cartels?” asks Ignatius rhetorically, before adding dutifully: “U.S. officials say that isn’t as implausible as it sounds.”

But it IS as implausible as it sounds, says every professional intelligence officer I have talked with since the “plot” was somberly announced on Tuesday.

The Old CIA Pros

There used to be real pros in the CIA’s operations directorate. One — Ray Close, a longtime CIA Arab specialist and former Chief of Station in Saudi Arabia — told me on Wednesday that we ought to ask ourselves a very simple question:

“If you were an Iranian undercover operative who was under instructions to hire a killer to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador in Washington, D.C., why in HELL would you consider it necessary to explain to a presumed Mexican [expletive deleted] that this murder was planned and would be paid for by a secret organization in Iran?

“Whoever concocted this tale wanted the ‘plot’ exposed … to precipitate a major crisis in relations between Iran and the United States. Which other government in the Middle East would like nothing better than to see those relations take a big step toward military confrontation?”

If you hesitate in answering, you have not been paying attention. Many have addressed this issue. My last stab at throwing light on the Israel/Iran/U.S. nexus appeared ten days ago in “Israel’s Window to Bomb Iran.”

Another point on the implausibility meter is: What are the odds that Iran’s Quds force would plan an unprecedented attack in the United States, that this crack intelligence agency would trust the operation to a used-car salesman with little or no training in spycraft, that he would turn to his one contact in a Mexican drug cartel who happens to be a DEA informant, and that upon capture the car salesman would immediately confess and implicate senior Iranian officials?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to suspect that Arbabsiar might be a double-agent, recruited by some third-party intelligence agency to arrange some shady business deal regarding black-market automobiles, get some ambiguous comments over the phone from an Iranian operative, and then hand the plot to the U.S. government on a silver platter – as a way to heighten tensions between Washington and Teheran?

That said, there are times when even professional spy agencies behave like amateurs. And there’s no doubt that the Iranians – like the Israelis, the Saudis and the Americans – can and do carry out assassinations and kidnappings in this brave new world of ours.

Remember, for instance, the case of Islamic cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, who was abducted off the streets of Milan, Italy, on Feb. 17, 2003, and then flown from a U.S. air base to Egypt where he was imprisoned and tortured for a year.

In 2009, Italian prosecutors convicted 23 Americans, mostly CIA operatives, in absentia for the kidnapping after reconstructing the disappearance through their unencrypted cell phone records and their credit card bills at luxury hotels in Milan.

Then, there was the suspected Mossad assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh at a hotel in Dubai on Jan. 19, 2010, with the hit men seen on hotel video cameras strolling around in tennis outfits and creating an international furor over their use of forged Irish, British, German and French passports.

So one cannot completely rule out that there may conceivably be some substance to the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador.

And beyond the regional animosities between Saudi Arabia and Iran, there could be a motive – although it has been absent from American press accounts – i.e. retaliation for the assassinations of senior Iranian nuclear scientists and generals over the last couple of years within Iran itself.

But there has been close to zero real evidence coming from the main source of information — officials of the Justice Department, which like the rest of the U.S. government has long since forfeited much claim to credibility.

Petraeus’s ‘Intelligence’ on Iran

The public record also shows that former Gen. Petraeus has long been eager to please the neoconservatives in Washington and their friends in Israel by creating “intelligence” to portray Iran and other target countries in the worst light.

One strange but instructive example comes to mind, a studied, if disingenuous, effort to blame all the troubles in southern Iraq on the “malignant” influence of Iran.

On April 25, 2008, Joint Chiefs Chairman, Adm. Mike Mullen, told reporters that Gen. Petraeus in Baghdad would give a briefing “in the next couple of weeks” providing detailed evidence of “just how far Iran is reaching into Iraq to foment instability.” Petraeus’s staff alerted U.S. media to a major news event in which captured Iranian arms in Karbala would be displayed and then destroyed.

Oops. Small problem. When American munitions experts went to Karbala to inspect the alleged cache of Iranian weapons, they found nothing that could be credibly linked to Iran.

At that point, adding insult to injury, the Iraqis announced that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had formed his own Cabinet committee to investigate the U.S. claims and attempt to “find tangible information and not information based on speculation.” Ouch!

The Teflon-clad Petraeus escaped embarrassment, as the David Ignatiuses of the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM) conveniently forgot all about the promised-then-canceled briefing. U.S. media suppression of this telling episode is just one example of how difficult it is to get unbiased, accurate information on touchy subjects like Iran into the FCM.

As for Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama, some adult adviser should tell them to quit giving hypocrisy a bad name with their righteous indignation over the thought that no civilized nation would conduct cross-border assassinations.

The Obama administration, like its predecessor, has been dispatching armed drones to distant corners of the globe to kill Islamic militants, including recently U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki for the alleged crime of encouraging violence against Americans.

Holder and Obama have refused to release the Justice Department’s legal justification for the targeted murder of al-Awlaki whose “due process” amounted to the President putting al-Awlaki’s name on a secret “kill-or-capture” list.

Holder and Obama have also refused to take meaningful action to hold officials of the Bush administration accountable for war crimes even though President George W. Bush has publicly acknowledged authorizing waterboarding and other brutal techniques long regarded as acts of torture.

Who can take at face value the sanctimonious words of an attorney general like Holder who has acquiesced in condoning egregious violations of the Bill of Rights, the U.S. criminal code, and international law — like the International Convention Against Torture?

Were shame not in such short supply in Official Washington these days, one would be amazed that Holder could keep a straight face, accusing these alleged Iranian perpetrators of “violating an international convention.”

America’s Founders would hold in contempt the Holders and the faux-legal types doing his bidding. The behavior of the past two administrations has been more reminiscent of George III and his sycophants than of James Madison, George Mason, John Jay and George Washington, who gave us the rich legacy of a Constitution, which created a system based on laws not men.

That Constitution and its Bill of Rights have become endangered species at the hands of the craven poachers at “Justice.” No less craven are the functionaries leading today’s CIA.

What to Watch For

If Petraeus finds it useful politically to conjure up more “evidence” of nefarious Iranian behavior in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, Lebanon or Syria, he will.  And if he claims to see signs of ominous Iranian intentions regarding nuclear weapons, watch out.

Honest CIA analysts, like the ones who concluded that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in late 2003 and had not resumed that work, are in short supply, and most have families to support and mortgages to pay.

Petraeus is quite capable of marginalizing them, or even forcing them to quit. I have watched this happen to a number of intelligence officials under a few of Petraeus’s predecessors.

More malleable careerists can be found in any organization, and promoted, so long as they are willing to tell more ominous — if disingenuous — stories that may make more sense to the average American than the latest tale of the Iraninan-American-used-car-salesman-Mexican-drug-cartel-plot.

This can get very dangerous in a hurry. Israel’s leaders would require but the flimsiest of nihil obstat to encourage them to provoke hostilities with Iran. Netanyahu and his colleagues would expect the Obamas, Holders, and Petraeuses of this world to be willing to “fix the intelligence and facts” (a la Iraq) to “justify” such an attack.

The Israeli leaders would risk sucking the United States into the kind of war with Iran that, short of a massive commitment of resources or a few tactical nuclear weapons, the U.S. and Israel could almost surely not win. It would be the kind of war that would make Iraq and Afghanistan look like minor skirmishes.

Ray McGovern was an Army officer and CIA analyst for almost 30 year. He now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. He is a contributor to Imperial Crusades: Iraq, Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair (Verso). He can be reached at: rrmcgovern@gmail.com.

A version of this article first appeared on Consortiumnews.com.

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Statement Issued from Zuccotti Park by the General Assembly at Occupy Wall Street

October 13, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

2011-10-12T185041Z_1334754903_GM1E7AD084Z01_RTRMADP_3_USA-WALLSTREET-PROTESTS-BOSTON

A passerby reads signs at the encampment in Boston, Massachusetts October 12, 2011. Occupy Boston is an extension of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City.

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice we must not lose sight of what brought us together.

We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members.

That our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors.

That a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people, and the Earth, and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power.

We come to you at a time when corporations – which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality – run our governments.

We have peaceably assembled here as is our right to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give executives exorbitant bonuses.

They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in workplaces based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

They have profited off the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.

They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.

They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is, itself, a human right.

They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut worker’s health care and pay.

They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people with none of the culpability or responsibility.

They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams, but look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.

They have sold our privacy as a commodity.

They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.

They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products, endangering lives in pursuit of profit.

They determine economic policy despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.

They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.

They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.

They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives, or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.

They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.

They purposefully kept people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.

They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners, even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.

They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.

They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.

To the people of the world, We, the New York City general assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble, occupy public space, create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard.

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Shahbaz Bhatti Assassination: Family Rivalry as Motive?

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Zahid Gishkori

Pakistan

The photograph above, taken March 4, 2011, shows Pakistani Christians as they attend a funeral ceremony of slain Pakistani minister for minorities Shahbaz Bhatti in his native village of Khushpur.

ISLAMABAD: 

Family rivalry and not religious victimisation claimed Minorities’ Affairs Minister Shahbaz Bhatti’s life, according to investigators.

In an interesting twist, the daylight murder in the capital has been attributed to a property dispute between relatives. Police investigators have concluded it was not a religiously-motivated murder in their latest report despite the fact that the Punjabi Taliban had claimed responsibility for the assassination.

Justice appears to be a long time coming for the former minister’s family since the murderers have fled the country.

“Shahbaz’s murder is said to be linked to a ‘chronic rivalry’ with relatives who lived in Faisalabad five years ago,” revealed an investigator associated with the Joint Investigation Team (JIT).

New clues have led the Islamabad police to a family, who left the country due to the rivalry with the Bhattis, the JIT stated in its latest report. The family was also residing in Bhatti’s native town Khushpur, which has produced famous priests and nuns, but some family members are now reportedly living in the UAE. Two or three of them have converted to Islam and are living in Malaysia, said a member of the JIT.

The Express Tribune reported on June 29 that Shahbaz’s murder was plotted by al Qaeda-linked militant commander Ilyas Kashmiri. National and international media ran the  story quoting the newspaper. All but two of his brothers moved to Europe in the aftermath of the assassination for security reasons.

The murderers are currently in Dubai or Kuala Lumpur according to an investigator. However, their names have not been identified yet. “We will approach Interpol for their arrest,” he said.

Paul Bhatti, the slain minister’s brother and an adviser to the prime minister, said he has moved his family to Europe. But he did not disclose their exact location due to security concerns. When questioned if his brother’s murder was a case of family rivalry, Paul only said that Interior Minister Rehman Malik had told him he had contacted Interpol to arrest some accused from the UAE.

However, there has been no further progress, he said quoting police officials. “I will request Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to constitute a judicial commission to investigate my brother’s murder.”

Minister for National Harmony Akram Masih Gill said he would take up the issue with President Zardari and the prime minister on August 11, the day they are to inaugurate Shahbaz Bhatti’s memorial trust. “Paul will also speak to both dignitaries to convey the minorities’ resentment which is increasing with every passing day,” Gill said.

Interpol has not been contacted for assistance because we have no clue about the exact location of the accused, said an interior ministry official familiar with the matter.

“We cannot put our case before Interpol without substantive proof,” he added.

“Firstly, we wanted to close the investigation but then we learnt that there was a chronic ethnic and property dispute between the two families which led to Shahbaz’s murder,” said a police official.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 9th, 2011.

Express Tribune

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The Most Dangerous Cities In America

May 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

5. Memphis, Tennessee

> Population: 673,650
> Violent Crime Per 1,000: 15.4
> 2010 Murders: 89
> Median Income: $34,203 (31.8% below national average)
> Unemployment Rate: 9.9% (0.9% above national average)
Memphis has high rates for all the violent crimes considered for 24/7 Wall St.’s rankings. It has the sixth highest rate in the country. Incidents of violent crime in the city dropped slightly less than 15% between 2009 and 2010 though. Memphis Mayor A C Wharton attributes this decrease to Operation Safe Community, a citywide plan developed in 2005. The plan consists of a number of strategies meant to increase crime prevention, through toughening punishments for criminals, and the effectiveness of the city’s legal system, through changes such as expanding court programs so that they operate consistently and at full capacity.

4. New Haven, Connecticut

> Population: 124,856
> Violent Crime Per 1,000: 15.8
> 2010 Murders: 22
> Median Income: $38,279 (23.8% below national average)
> Unemployment Rate: 9.6% (0.6% above national average)
New Haven has historically had the highest rate of violent crime on the east coast. The impoverished, crime-ridden parts of the city stand in stark contrast to affluent Fairfield county to the West, and elite Yale University, which is located within the city itself. The number of murders in the city doubled last year. New Haven has the eighth highest rate of robbery and the fourth highest rate of assault in the U.S. The New Haven Police Department is considering adding cameras at every intersection in one of the neighborhoods where shootings are the most common.

3. St. Louis, Missouri

> Population: 355,151
> Violent Crime Per 1,000: 17.5
> 2010 Murders: 144
> Median Income: $34,801 (30.7% below national average)
> Unemployment Rate: 9.3% (0.3% above national average)
Violent crime in St. Louis fell dramatically between 2009 and 2010, and has decreased since 2007. Despite this, crime rates remain extremely high compared with other cities. In 2010, the city’s murder rate and rate of aggravated assault were each the third worst in the country. With regards to both violent and nonviolent crime, St. Louis was rated the most dangerous city based on FBI data released six months ago. As of December 2010, the murder rate in St. Louis was 6.3 times that of the state of Missouri. The city’s gunshot murder rate for residents between 10 to 19 years old is also the second highest in the country, behind only New Orleans, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2. Detroit, Michigan

> Population: 899,447
> Violent Crime Per 1,000: 18.9
> 2010 Murders: 310
> Median Income: $26,098 (48% below national average)
> Unemployment Rate: 12.7% (3.7% above national average)
The city crippled the most in America’s post-industrial era is almost certainly Detroit. The Motor City has suffered from high rates of unemployment, homelessness, and crime. The city has one of the ten highest rates for three of the four types of violent crime identified by the FBI. Detroit has the sixth highest murder rate, the fifth highest robbery rate, and the second highest rate of aggravated assault. In 2005, a major reorganization of the city’s police department took place after a federal investigation identified inefficiencies within the system. According to an article in The United Press, opponents of Detroit Mayor David Bing called for further intervention by the Justice Department in several shootings that occurred last year.

1. Flint, Michigan

> Population: 109,245
> Violent Crime Per 1,000: 22
> 2010 Murders: 53
> Median Income: $27,049 (46.1% below national average)
> Unemployment Rate: 11.8% (2.8% above national average)
The number of violent crimes committed in Flint, MI, increased for all categories considered for this list between 2009 and 2010. Perhaps most notably, the number of murders in the city increased from 36 to 53. This moves the city from having the seventh highest rate of homicide to the second highest. The number of aggravated assaults increased from 1,529 to 1,579, a rate of 14.6 assaults per 1,000 residents, placing the city in the number one rank for rate of assaults. Flint police chief Alvern Lock stated late last year that he believed the city’s violence stemmed from drugs and gangs. Flint has a relatively small median income of about $27,000 per household. The city also has a poverty rate of 36.2%.
Douglas A. McIntyre, Michael B. Sauter, Charles B. Stockdale

13-22

Amnesty: Iran Steps Up Public Executions

April 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

LONDON (Reuters) – Iran has sharply stepped up its use of public executions, hanging 13 men this year, nearly as many as in all of 2010, in an attempt to intimidate its citizens, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.

Eight of the hangings have taken place since mid-April, including two juveniles convicted for a rape and murder committed when they were 17, the human rights group said.

“It is deeply disturbing that despite a moratorium on public executions ordered in 2008, the Iranian authorities are once again seeking to intimidate people by such spectacles which not only dehumanize the victim, but brutalize those who witness it,” said Amnesty official Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui.

Iran executed at least 252 people last year, 14 in public, Amnesty said.

Human rights groups often criticize Iran, saying the Islamic republic has one of the highest execution rates in the world.

Murder, adultery, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking and apostasy — the renouncing of Islam — are all punishable by death under Iran’s Islamic law practiced since the 1979 revolution.

(Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by Maria Golovnina)

13-18

ISNA Commends Efforts of Law Enforcement, Condemns Attempted Bombing at Times Square, and Lauds Alert Citizens

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

“(Plainfield, IN 05/04/2010) – The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) joins the Muslim American community and the rest of our fellow citizens in expressing its appreciation of the outstanding work done by the various law enforcement agencies in investigating and apprehending the alleged perpetrator(s) of the botched attack on New York and its residents.

“At the same time, ISNA condemns in the strongest terms the planned attack on innocent city-dwellers of every race and creed. The attack, described by the alleged sponsors as a sort of “pay-back” or “revenge”, is “inexcusable and without any justification in Islam or authentic Muslim tradition”, said Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president of ISNA. “Even the murder of a single innocent person is abhorrent and in direct contradiction to the clear and unequivocal teachings of our faith (Quran Chapter 5,Verse 32), let alone the mass murder of unsuspecting innocent bystanders in a crowded square”, she added.

“ISNA is thankful to the vigilance of alert and loyal residents of New York city including Senegalese Muslim Aliou Niasse, who first noticed and pointed out the suspicious smoke coming from the vehicle, Lance Orton, who called the police, and Officers Wayne Rhatigan and Pam Duffy for acting swiftly and courageously to contain the damage and prevent the loss of life and limb of fellow Americans.

“ISNA asks Muslim Americans to stay true to their faith in rejecting any ideas or actions that tolerate or attempt to justify the use of terrorism for any purpose or by any group. ISNA also calls on them to stand with their fellow Americans in securing the homeland against any terrorist acts.”

12-19

ISNA Condemns Gadahn’s Call for Mass Murder in America

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Plainfield, IN – March 7, 2010) Adam Gadahn, a “spokesman” for Al-Qaeda today called for terrorist attacks on American targets, including “mass transportation systems.” 

In response, Dr. Ingrid Mattson, ISNA President issued the following statement:

“It is tragic that this American man has been brainwashed by Al-Qaeda to the point that he would consider the mass murder of innocent people to be in any way justified. Al-Qaeda is an organization whose doctrine and methods have been rejected by Muslim scholars across the world, as well as ordinary Muslim people who have suffered in great numbers from their vicious attacks in many countries.  Al-Qaeda is a terrorist organization that follows the methodology of nationalist terrorist organizations and Marxist-Leninist revolutionaries, rejecting the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. It is only by deviating from the limits set by God that Gadahn and his masters could justify killing children, babies, elderly women, the disabled, and other innocent people who would certainly die in an attack on an American mass transit system.”

“American Muslims, some of whom would most certainly also be killed in such an attack, as they were in the attacks of 9/11, reject al-Qaeda’s attempts to lure our young men and women to their revolutionary fantasies.  Islam requires that Muslims, including those who have volunteered to serve in the military, honor the trust that has been placed in them by their neighbors and fellow citizens.  The Holy Qur’an says, “O you who believe, be true to your covenants” (5:1) and “Do not let any people’s hatred of you lead you to deviate to injustice” (5:8).  Adam Gadahn and his masters have deviated from justice by calling for the indiscriminate murder of vast numbers of people on American soil.”

ISNA calls upon Muslim parents, teachers, leaders and Imams to take time to educate young people and their communities about the danger presented by the deviant teachings of al-Qaeda.

12-11

Two Standards of Detention

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Amy Goodman, Truthdig

Scott Roeder, the anti-abortion zealot charged with killing Dr. George Tiller, has been busy. He called the Associated Press from the Sedgwick County Jail in Kansas, saying, “I know there are many other similar events planned around the country as long as abortion remains legal.” Charged with first-degree murder and aggravated assault, he is expected to be arraigned July 28. AP recently reported that Roeder has been proclaiming from his jail cell that the killing of abortion providers is justified. According to the report, the Rev. Donald Spitz of the Virginia-based Army of God sent Roeder seven pamphlets defending “defensive action,” or killing of abortion clinic workers.

Spitz’s militant Army of God Web site calls Roeder an “American hero,” proclaiming, “George Tiller would normally murder between 10 and 30 children … each day … when he was stopped by Scott Roeder.”

The site, with biblical quotes suggesting killing is justified, hosts writings by Paul Hill, who killed Dr. John Britton and his security escort in Pensacola, Fla., and by Eric Rudolph, who bombed a Birmingham, Ala., women’s health clinic, killing its part-time security guard.

On Spitz’s Web site, Rudolph continues to write about abortion: “I believe that deadly force is indeed justified in an attempt to stop it.”

Juxtapose Roeder’s advocacy from jail with the conditions of Fahad Hashmi.

Hashmi is a U.S. citizen who grew up in Queens, N.Y., and went to Brooklyn College. He went to graduate school in Britain and was arrested there in 2006 for allegedly allowing an acquaintance to stay with him for two weeks. That acquaintance, Junaid Babar, allegedly kept at Hashmi’s apartment a bag containing ponchos and socks, which Babar later delivered to an al-Qaida operative. Babar was arrested and agreed to cooperate with the authorities in exchange for leniency.

While the evidence against Hashmi is secret, it probably stems from the claims of the informant Babar.

Fahad Hashmi was extradited to New York, where he has been held in pretrial detention for more than two years. His brother Faisal described the conditions: “He is kept in solitary confinement for two straight years, 23- to 24-hours lockdown. … Within his own cell, he’s restricted in the movements he’s allowed to do. He’s not allowed to talk out loud within his own cell. … He is being videotaped and monitored at all times. He can be punished … denied family visits, if they say his certain movements are martial arts … that they deem as incorrect. He has Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) … against him.”

Hashmi cannot contact the media, and even his lawyers have to be extremely cautious when discussing his case, for fear of imprisonment themselves. His attorney Sean Maher told me: “This issue of the SAMs … of keeping people in solitary confinement when they’re presumed innocent, is before the European Court of Human Rights. They are deciding whether they will prevent any European country from extraditing anyone to the United States if there is a possibility that they will be placed under SAMs … because they see it as a violation … to hold someone in solitary confinement with sensory deprivation, months before trial.”

Similarly, animal rights and environmental activists, prosecuted as “eco-terrorists,” have been shipped to the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ new “communication management units” (CMUs). Andrew Stepanian was recently released and described for me the CMU as “a prison within the actual prison. … The unit doesn’t have normal telephone communication to your family … normal visits are denied … you have to make an appointment to make one phone call a week, and that needs to be done with the oversight of … a live monitor.”

Stepanian observed that up to 70 percent of CMU prisoners are Muslim—hence CMU’s nickname, “Little Guantanamo.” As with Hashmi, it seems that the U.S. government seeks to strip terrorism suspects of legal due process and access to the media—whether in Guantanamo or in the secretive new CMUs. The American Civil Liberties Union is suing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the Bureau of Prisons over the CMUs.

Nonviolent activists like Stepanian, and Muslims like Hashmi, secretly and dubiously charged, are held in draconian conditions, while Roeder trumpets from jail the extreme anti-abortion movement’s decades-long campaign of intimidation, vandalism, arson and murder.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 750 stations in North America. She is the co-author of “Standing Up to the Madness: Ordinary Heroes in Extraordinary Times,” recently released in paperback.

11-50

Growing Questions on Death of Benazir Bhutto

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Bruce Loudon, The Australian

Capture9-23-2009-6.36.04 PM UNITED Nations investigators are preparing to question former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, amid mounting doubts over official versions of how she died and claims of a cover-up.

The Weekend Australian Magazine reveals today evidence that a bullet – probably sniper fire from a high-velocity rifle – killed the former prime minister.

The Musharraf regime said a “bump on the head” resulting from a Taliban or al-Qa’ida suicide bomber killed Bhutto on December 27, 2007, shortly before an election she was expected to win.

This evidence contradicts the regime’s claim that the murder was the work of the Pakistan Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US unmanned drone attack.

There is no history of the militants using sniper fire – or even regular gunfire – in any of the hundreds of suicide attacks they have mounted in Pakistan.

Also revealed in The Weekend Australian Magazine is detail of the cover-up that followed Bhutto’s murder. The crime scene in Liaquat Bagh, a park in Rawalpindi, was washed with high-pressure hoses within 45 minutes of the blast, destroying almost all forensic evidence.

Naheed Khan, Bhutto’s political secretary for 23 years, who cradled her head as she died, told The Weekend Australian Magazine: “There were bullets coming from different directions. There are lots of high buildings overlooking the area. This was a typical intelligence (agency) operation.”

Ms Khan’s husband, senator Safdar Abbasi, who is also a doctor, was in the Toyota Landcruiser when Bhutto was attacked. “The way she died – her instant death – suggests very sharp sniper fire. A typical intelligence (agency) operation.”

The Weekend Australian Magazine reveals that, despite the law in Pakistan mandating autopsies in all cases of murder, and doctors attending Bhutto telling police that one should be carried out, none was performed on her or others who died in Liaquat Bagh.

Within hours, her body had been flown to Sindh province for burial, without a full forensic examination.

There is no suggestion of any involvement by Mr Musharraf in her murder. But the UN investigators want to question the former general. Given the authority he wielded in Pakistan, including over the army and its agencies, Mr Musharraf, 66, is thought to be in a better position than most to cast light on events surrounding the assassination.

At his apartment off London’s Edgeware Road, living under the protection of the British government, Mr Musharraf has appeared untroubled by demands to bring him back to Pakistan. He has played bridge with friends and eaten out during the holy month of Ramadan.

An internationally brokered secret deal allowed Mr Musharraf to step down and assured his future security.

After long delays in getting Security Council approval for its mission, the UN investigators started looking into Bhutto’s death in July and are expected to report to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this year.

The investigators are reported to be preparing to talk to people in London and Washington, including CNN presenter Wolf Blitzer. On October 20, 2007, Bhutto sent Blitzer an email, through a friend, reading: “If it is God’s will, nothing will happen to me. But if anything happened to me, I would hold Pervez Musharraf responsible.”

Investigations into Bhutto’s killing are the subject of controversy in Pakistan.

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Two Murdered Women

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Walid El Hourican

* Neda and Marwa: One becomes an icon, the other is unmentioned

2009-07-17T180457Z_01_BER104_RTRMDNP_3_GERMANY

A girl holds a picture of murdered Marwa El-Sherbiny during a memorial in front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin July 17, 2009.

REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

On June 20th 2009, Neda Agha Soltan was shot dead during the post-election protests in Iran. The protests occupied the largest news segments around the world, with analysts and commentators predicting the fall of the Iranian regime and the dawn of freedom breaking in “the axis of evil.”

Neda’s death became an icon of the Iranian opposition and a symbol for millions of people of the injustice of the Iranian regime and the defiance of the protesters. Neda’s death was put in context. It was taken from the personal realm of the death of an individual to the public realm of the just cause of a whole society.

On July 1st Marwa El Sherbini, an Egyptian researcher living in Germany, was stabbed to death 18 times inside a courtroom in the city of Dresden, in front of her 3-year-old son. She had won a verdict against a German man of Russian descent who had verbally assaulted her because of her veil. Her husband, who rushed in to save her when she was attacked in the courtroom, was shot by the police. Marwa’s death was not reported by any Western news media until protests in Egypt erupted after her burial. The reporting that followed focused on the protests; the murder was presented as the act of a “lone wolf,” thus depriving it of its context and its social meaning.

The fact that media are biased and choose what to report according to their own agenda is not the issue in this case. What the comparison of the two murders shows, is that European and Western societies have failed to grasp the significance and the importance of the second murder in its social, political, and historical context.

The “lone wolf” who stabbed Marwa 18 times inside the courtroom is the product of the society he lives in. If anything, the murder of Marwa should raise the discussion about the latent (perhaps not so latent anymore) racism against Muslims that has been growing in European societies in the last few decades, and noticeably so since the mid-90s.

It would be difficult to avoid relating the crime to the discussions about the banning of the Niqab, or the previous discussions about the wearing of the veil. These issues and others pertaining to the Muslim immigration in Europe have been occupying large parts of the public debates in several European countries. It would also be difficult not to notice the rapid rise of right wing populist parties to power in several European countries in the last decade, all of which have built their discourse on the fear of Islam and the “immigration problem.”

The absence of reporting, or adequate reporting of the murder, and the alarm bells that did not ring after this murder, reflect the denial in which European societies and public discourse are immersed.

While Europe preaches freedom of expression and the need to accept otherness, and while Europe preaches about the dangers of racism and sectarianism in third world countries, and while Europe warns about hate speech and anti-Semitism, we see race-driven crime, prejudice, and hate speech gaining both legitimacy and power in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Denmark and other democracies in the old continent. Race-driven crimes are constantly presented as exceptions within a tolerant society. However, the recurrence of exceptions puts in question their exceptional nature.

The absence of Marwa’s story from the mainstream media and the failure to start a debate about the immediate dangers of present European anti-Muslim racism shows the depth of the problem and draws us to expect a gl oomy future for Muslims in Europe. Muslims like Neda only get to the news if their story serves the dominant narrative that presents Islam as the primary threat to freedom, while Muslims like Marwa who expose the pervasive racism of the West and challenge the existing stereotypes fail to get their story told.

What is significant to note is that in Neda’s case the media accused the Iranian regime as the authority responsible for the context in which the crime was committed rather than looking for the person who actually shot her. The accused is the establishment or the institution rather than the individual shooter. However, in the case of Marwa’s murder the media were persistent in stressing on the individuality of the murderer, calling him a “lone wolf”, implying that he is a social outcast who holds no ties to the society he lives in. The murderer was given a name “Alex W.” and the institution, the society, and the establishment he lives in were taken away from the picture.

While Neda’s death enjoyed wide arrays of interpretations and readings in context, Marwa’s death was deprived of its context and was presented as a personal tragedy, featuring a madman and his victim. Meanwhile Europe keeps shifting to the right at an accelerating pace, and cultural stereotypes, failure to integrate (read: social and political alienation), miscommunication, and a growing financial crisis only nourish this trajectory and support the populist and chauvinistic discourse of various newborn and resurrected right wing parties.

In the 1930s, following the big economical crisis of the 1920s, a young populist right wing party suddenly rose to power in Germany and few predicted what was to follow. There is no realistic proof to say that Europe is a more tolerant society than any other, or to say that people necessarily learn from their history, or even that some societies are exempt from racist behavior. All the evidence points to the end of the European myth of post-war tolerance; and the media have yet to connect the dots before history repeats itself.

– Walid El Hourican be reached at: walid@menassat.com. This article appeared in CounterPunch.org.

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.

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Iran Summons German Envoy for ‘Veil Martyr’

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Flag-Pins-Iran-Germany

Iran’s Foreign Ministry has summoned the German Ambassador to Tehran over the brutal murder of a Muslim Egyptian woman in a Dresden court.

Herbert Honsowitz was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry to hear the strong objection of the Islamic Republic to the brutal murder of Marwa el-Sherbini.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hassan Qashqavi on Thursday condemned el-Sherbini’s murder as a despicable act in violation of “all human rights and values.”

El-Sherbini, dubbed the “veil martyr,” was involved in a court case against her neighbor, Axel W., who was found guilty last November of insulting and abusing the woman, calling her a “terrorist.”

She was set to testify against Axel W. when he stabbed her 18 times inside the Dresden court in front of her 3-year-old son.

El-Sherbini’s husband, Elvi Ali Okaz, came to her aid but was also stabbed by the neighbor and shot in the leg by a security guard who initially mistook him for the attacker, German prosecutors said. He is now in critical condition in a German hospital.

Pointing to the German government’s delayed response to the incident, the Iranian Foreign Ministry said that it was Berlin’s responsibility to ensure the rights and security of minorities, especially Muslims, living in Germany.

The Muslim population of Dresden condemned el-Sherbini’s killing, expressing concern about the consequences of such terrorist attacks against Muslims.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry also blamed Western countries for their “double-standard” and “news boycott” regarding the case.

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Convoy of Corpses

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, TMO Editor in Chief

What happened in 2001 in Afghanistan is still recounted in tiny Afghan villages whose residents taken as prisoners by the US-supported Afghan war lords were tortured and murdered. it was a massacre on the verge of almost mass murder in the presence of US. The bullets used to kill the Afghans were American, the orders to kill the prisoners came from the US commanders, and the blueprint to torture the prisoners was planned by CIA operatives in Afghanistan, many of whom were religious zealots working to eliminate the hostile Muslim infidels from the earth. More than 2,000 Afghan prisoners were killed. They were transported from one location to another in containers with no ventilation where they stayed for days.

No investigation was ever ordered. The Bush and Cheney Administration never agreed to one.

The media kept a lid on the story as many of its correspondents were friendly with CIA operatives or Pentagon officials. In the process the truth was lost for ever.
Now the Obama Administration for the time has given an indication that an investigation is possible. The is a positive step and it would determine the level of the US involvement in the killing of 2,000 prisoners against all human rights conventions and above all against the mandate that the taxpayers give to their government.

As taxpayers we have every right to question this undeclared policy of our intelligence agencies to kill and murder those whom they don’t like. But, our opinions and perspectives are shaped by a media that reports events on the basis of the interests of those who own it. It has less concern for justice and it raises cries for justice only to serve its own interests.

This once again brings the issue of a fair and balanced media to the forefront of our discussion. The fact is that Muslims, regardless of their political and ideological orientation, have no free media–and whatever they have is driven by the interests of a narrow few who are not always committed to truth and objectivity.

We hardly have a well documented media report in any Muslim media on either Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq or Pakistan. Most of the reports that we see are motivated by political interests. Most of the time these reports are more like a sermon or an emotional outburst then actual reporting of what happened.

For instance, what happened in Afghanistan came to the surface not because any Muslim media reported on the tragedy in an objective manner, but the world came to learn about it only when Physicians for human rights and other non-Muslim human rights activists decided to go to Afghanistan to investigate the event. It was the consistent pressure of these groups that led Obama to concede that an investigation might be needed to determine the role of CIA in the tragedy.

While we must support the president in this endeavor, we must also devote our efforts to strengthening the existing Muslim media that shows the potential of investigating the truth regardless of the consequences.

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A Muslim’s Murder: Double Standards, Crude Generalizations

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Why we must work harder to bridge the gulf between the culture of fear and the culture of humiliation

By Sheema Khan

The stabbing death of Marwa al-Sherbini in a German courtroom will have ramifications in the months to come. Already, there is palpable anger in Egypt, where she was buried this week. That anger will most likely spread to other parts of the Middle East and South Asia and amongst Europe’s Muslim minorities.

The Egyptian blogosphere is filled with outrage – outrage at the vicious murder of a pregnant woman in a court of law and, most notably, at the lack of attention given to this hate crime by political institutions and European media. Many note the double standard: The ghastly murder of Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam in 2004 was used as a pretext to cast suspicion on Dutch Muslims, whereas Marwa’s murder in Dresden last week is the work of a “lone wolf,” an immigrant from Russia (and thus not “really” German).

The muted reaction to the killing of a woman, in the heart of Europe, for wearing her hijab, also galls. No need to imagine the outrage if a woman is killed for not wearing a hijab – just look to the visceral reaction at the killing of Mississauga teenager Aqsa Parvez in 2007.

And while German authorities investigate whether Marwa’s murder was a hate crime, they might also want to focus on the reaction of court security. As Marwa was being stabbed, her husband tried to intervene. A court officer, apparently assuming the man with the Middle Eastern features to be the attacker, shot Marwa’s husband. He is now in critical condition.

Many do not see Marwa’s fate in isolation. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, in its 2004 annual report, said “Islamophobia continues to manifest itself in different guises. Muslim communities are the target of negative attitudes, and sometimes, violence and harassment. They suffer multiple forms of discrimination, including sometimes from certain public institutions.” The London-based Runnymede Charity, in its 2004 report Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All, found that Muslims were seen by Europeans as the “other” and as lacking in values held by Western cultures, that Islam was violent, aggressive and terroristic, and that anti-Muslim hostility was natural or normal.

So, no surprise that European Muslims are increasingly seen as “outsiders,” with a monolithic, rigid culture that’s antithetical to that of Europe. Amidst sagging popularity and a recession, French President Nicolas Sarkozy redirected attention to the burka, saying it’s not welcome in his country. Even Muslims who don’t support the burka felt uncomfortable with Mr. Sarkozy’s spotlight on their community.

And so the double standards abound. As do the crude generalizations. When the perpetrator happens to be a Muslim, reports are sensationalistic, and Muslims, along with their faith, are cast in a negative light. In the Dresden case, the mirror reaction is happening in Egypt: All Germans are somehow complicit in Marwa’s fate. In the wake of horrific violence, the primal instinct is to blame all, to cast suspicion on those we don’t know.

Yet, in the wake of such episodes, we must work even harder to bridge the gulf between what Dominique Moisi calls the culture of fear and the culture of humiliation. Otherwise, the perpetrators of hate will achieve their goal of driving people apart. As Mariane Pearl, the widow of Daniel Pearl, wrote: “They try to kill everything in you – initiative, hope, confidence, dialogue. The only way to oppose them is by demonstrating the strength they think they have taken from you. That strength is to keep on living, to keep on valuing life.”

Let’s remember that the enemy is xenophobia, which can metastasize like cancer unless society is on guard against the pernicious tendency to view others as less human. We have seen the ugly spectre of racism at Keswick High School and in Courtenay, B.C. We have our own painful history of wrongs committed against ethnic groups and indigenous communities. Yet, the better part of the human spirit tries to overcome these dark episodes with the light of justice and restitution.

Marwa’s murder cannot be in vain. She took on her perpetrator in a court of law after he called her a terrorist. Some would say she lost. It is up to us to carry on the larger quest of fighting racism and building bridges, so her son – and all children – can grow up without fear and prejudice.

sheema.khan@globeandmail.com

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