Marjah Offensive Aimed to Shape US Opinion on War

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service

Washington – Senior military officials decided to launch the current U.S.-British military campaign to seize Marjah in large part to influence domestic U.S. opinion on the war in Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported Monday.

The Post report, by Greg Jaffe and Craig Whitlock, both of whom cover military affairs, said the town of Marjah would not have been chosen as a target for a U.S. military operation had the criterion been military significance instead of impact on domestic public opinion.

The primary goal of the offensive, they write, is to “convince Americans that a new era has arrived in the eight-year long war….” U.S. military officials in Afghanistan “hope a large and loud victory in Marjah will convince the American public that they deserve more time to demonstrate that extra troops and new tactics can yield better results on the battlefield,” according to Jaffe and Whitlock.

A second aim is said to be to demonstrate to Afghans that U.S. forces can protect them from the Taliban.

Despite the far-reaching political implications of the story, the Post buried it on page A9, suggesting that it was not viewed by editors as a major revelation.

Jaffe and Whitlock cite no official sources for the report, but the evidence supporting the main conclusion of the article clearly came from information supplied by military or civilian Pentagon sources. That suggests that officials provided the information on condition that it could not be attributed to any official source.

Some advisers to Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the commander of the International Security Assistance Force, told him last June that Kandahar City is far more important strategically than Marjah, according to Jaffe and Whitlock.

Marjah is a town of less than 50,000 people, even including the surrounding villages, according to researcher Jeffrey Dressler of the Institute for the Study of War in Washington, D.C.

That makes it about one-tenth the population of Kandahar City. Marjah is only one of a number of logistical centres used by the Taliban in Helmand province, as Dressler observed in a study of Helmand province published by the Institute last September.

Kandahar, on the other hand, is regarded as symbolically important as the place where the Taliban first arose and the location of its leadership organs even during the period of Taliban rule.

Nevertheless, McChrystal decided to commit 15,000 U.S. troops and Afghan troops to get control of Marjah as the first major operation under the new strategy of the Barack Obama administration.

That decision has puzzled many supporters of the war, such as author Steve Coll, who wrote a definitive history of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and is now executive director of the New America Foundation. Coll wrote in the New Yorker last week that he did not understand “why surging U.S. forces continue to invest their efforts and their numbers so heavily in Helmand.”

Coll pointed to the much greater importance of Kandahar in the larger strategic picture.

The real reason for the decision to attack Marjah, according to Jaffe and Whitlock, was not the intrinsic importance of the objective, but the belief that an operation to seize control of it could “deliver a quick military and political win for McChrystal.”

Choosing Kandahar as the objective of the first major operation under the new strategy would have meant waiting to resolve political rivalries in the province, according to the Post article.

In public comments in recent days, CENTCOM chief Gen. David Petraeus has put forward themes that may be used to frame the Marjah operation and further offensives to come in Kandahar later this year.

Last Thursday, an unnamed “senior military official” told reporters, “This is the start point of a new strategy,” adding, “This is our first salvo.”

On Sunday, Petraeus appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press” and said the flow of 30,000 new troops that President Obama recently ordered to the region is starting to produce “output”. Marjah is “just the initial operation of what will be a 12-to-18-month campaign,” he said, calling it the “initial salvo”.

Petraeus suggested that Taliban resistance to the offensive in Marjah was intense, as if to underline the importance of Marjah to Taliban strategy. “When we go on the offensive,” said Petraeus, “when we take away sanctuaries and safe havens from the Taliban and other extremist elements…they’re going to fight back.”
In fact, most of the Taliban fighters who had been in Marjah before the beginning of the operation apparently moved out of the town before the fighting started.

Petraeus seemed to be laying the basis for presenting Marjah as a pivotal battle as well as a successful model for the kind of operations to follow.

The Post article implies that Petraeus and McChrystal are concerned that the Obama administration is pushing for a rapid drawdown of U.S. forces after mid-2011. The military believes, according to Jaffe and Whitlock, that a public perception of U.S. military success “would almost certainly mean a slower drawdown.”

As top commander in Iraq in 2007-2008, Petraeus established a new model for reestablishing public support for a war after it had declined precipitously. Through constant briefings to journalists and Congressional delegations, he and his staff convinced political elites and public opinion that his counterinsurgency plan had been responsible for the reduction in insurgent activities that occurred during this command.

Evidence from unofficial sources indicates, however, that the dynamics of Sunni-Shi’a sectarian conflict and Shi’a politics were far more important than U.S. military operations in producing that result.

McChrystal himself seemed to be hinting at the importance of the Marjah offensive’s potential impact on the domestic politics of the war in remarks he made in Istanbul just before it began.

“This is all a war of perceptions,” McChrystal said. “This is not a physical war in terms of how many people you kill or how much ground you capture, how many bridges you blow up. This is all in the minds of the participants.”

McChrystal went on to include U.S. citizens as well as Afghans among those who needed to be convinced. “Part of what we’ve had to do is convince ourselves and our Afghan partners that we can do this,” he said.

The decision to launch a military campaign primarily to shape public opinion is not unprecedented in U.S. military history.

When President Richard M. Nixon and his National Security Adviser Henry A. Kissinger launched a major bombing campaign against the North Vietnamese capital in late December 1972, they were consciously seeking to influence public opinion to view their policy as much tougher in the final phase of peace negotiations with Hanoi.

The combination of the heavy damage to Hanoi and the administration’s heavy spin about its military pressure on the North Vietnamese contributed to broad acceptance of the later conclusion that Kissinger had gotten a better agreement in Paris in February 1973.

In fact, Kissinger had compromised on all the demands he had made before the bombing began. But the public perception was more important to the Nixon White House.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest book, “Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam”, was published in 2006.

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Community News (V11-I40)

September 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Adnan Zulfiqar hired as UPenn Interfaith fellow

adnan zulfiqar

The University of Pennsylvania has hired a Muslim scholar as its interfaith fellow.Adnan Zulfiqar – a 2008 graduate of Penn Law and a “brilliant scholar,” according to University Chaplain Chaz Howard – will serve as an Interfaith Fellow and Campus Minister to the Muslim community.

“The concept was that our office wanted to provide a fellowship where the campus religious groups who do not have full-time dedicated staff could have that,” Howard told the Daily Pennsylvanian.

So far, Zulfiqar has received a warm welcome.

“Adnan is fantastic not only because he’s very knowledgeable about everything that has to do with Islam, but also because he has tried everything you would want to do after finishing your undergraduate degree,” said Muslim Student Association communications chairwoman and College junior Roxana Moussavian.

Originally from Alexandria, Va., Zulfiqar is currently completing a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Anthropology from Emory University and a Masters from Georgetown University.

His research focuses primarily on Islamic law and history, politics and governance in the Middle East and South Asia, and law in the developing world.  He previously helped draft the Penal Code of the Maldives, serving as a Team Leader helping to synthesis multiplelegal systems into one comprehensive code.  Zulfiqar also served as a legislative staffer and personal aide to U.S. Senator Max Cleland(D-GA) advising him on immigration, education and foreign policy matters.  In addition, he has been an associate at the Legal Resources Center in Pretoria, South Africa, a visiting scholar at the Center for Excellence in Public Law and Human Rights in Tehran, Iran and a presidential fellow at the Salzburg Global Seminar. 

Zulfiqar  serves as an Adjunct Professor at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Arcadia University.  He received his B.A. in Religion and Anthropology from Emory University, M.L.S. in International Affairs (thesispending) from Georgetown University and Juris Doctor (J.D.) from theUniversity of Pennsylvania Law School.  Zulfiqar has spent over 11 years residing inthe Middle East, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa and is proficient in 5 languages including Arabic, Urdu and Farsi.

Class, June 2009

MD Muslims celebrate ‘Eid at Six Flags

ICNA organized a national Muslim day at amusement parks, participated in by several thousand Muslims at six different parks, with halal food, prayer tents, and naats broadcast over the PA speakers. Following is the account of one such event:

UPPER MARLBRO, MD–For the first time, Maryland Muslims were able to reserve the Six Flags in Upper Marlbro for exclusive use. To make the experience even more interesting the day coincided with Eid ul Fitr.

The day, designated Muslim Family Day 2009, featured a bazaar with local vendors and a prayer pavilion and halal food.

“The purpose is to gather Muslims in one place for some good, clean, Islamic fun,” said volunteer organizer Salman Sheikh. “It will bring communities together and you usually you don’t get that chance, so it’s great for the kids.”

New York: Halal food vendor fight

NEW YORK–Halal food business is a lucrative one and the competition can be cut throat. The demand being not only limited to Muslim consumers but also to people of other faith. While the opportunities are vast so is the potential for the competition to get ugly.

The New York Post reported last week that a dispute over sharing territory between two halal hot dog vendors in New York resulted in a slashing of a arm. The story as reported by NBC goes like this”

Walid Osman sold hot dogs out of his cart outside Kings County Hospital until sometime in August; then he thought it would be wise to add chicken to his offerings, reports The New York Post.

Mohamed Hanafi and Abdelrao Akl Hamdy, who had always sold poultry out of the cart on the same corner – Clarkson and E. 37th Street – were miffed that Osman, 32, was luring away their customers with the scent of succulent chicken.

So they did what any New Yorker would do – they relocated their cart right next to Osman’s and slashed their prices in half, reports the Post.

The simmering food fight boiled over on Wednesday, when Hamdy and one of his workers, Farajat Yehiak, allegedly took a butcher knife to Osman’s arm, reports the Post.

The two foodies were charged with assault, menacing and criminal possession of a weapon, and were released without bail after arraignment in Brooklyn court, according to the paper.

Osman, an Egyptian immigrant with two daughters, was treated at the scene for non life-threatening injuries, reports the Post. But that may not be the last he hears from Hanafi.

“He said, ‘If you don’t move your cart to another area, I will kill you,’” Osman told the Post. “He wants to kill my business. I have kids and a family.”

The alleged menacing won’t keep Osman from doing what he has to do to provide for his family, however; he plans to be back at his cart today, reports the Post.

Hanafi argues that Osman is to blame for the feud. The vendor says Osman used to work for him and signed a non-compete agreement of sorts – promising not to manage a chicken cart – and alleged Osman slashed himself and he had nothing to do with it, reports the Post.

The above incident is unfortunate. There is enough room for all to grow in the Halal market. Instead of feuding over territories the halal vendors of New York should venture out for new areas. They should also honor their contracts and respect the rights of others.

Buffalo Muslim women to hold seminar on domestic violence

BUFFALO, NY–Muslim women leaders of Buffalo area are holding a seminar to provide a deeper understanding of the roles and rights of Muslim women.

The event to be held on Sunday September 27, will feature presentations by some of the most accomplished Muslim women in the United States.

The first annual seminar, “Wives of the Prophet Muhammad (s),” will be held on Sunday, September 27, from 1:00 PM until 4:00 PM at the Millennium Hotel in Cheektowaga. It’s free, but reservations are requested. To register or for more information contact Tahmina Rehman by email at tahminarehman@yahoo.com

NHK Labs, Inc. Recertified ISO 9001

NHK Laboratories, Inc. announced that it has been recertified ISO 9001:2008 by NSF International Strategic Registrations. The ISO 9001:2008 standard is an internationally recognized quality management system. The certification process required a multi-day independent audit of the company’s facilities, personnel, and procedures.

M. Amirul Karim, Chief Executive Officer of NHK Laboratories, Inc. said, “Our continued compliance with the ISO 9000 guidelines is a testament to our commitment to an internationally recognized quality management system.”  Mr. Karim added, “Our private label clients can be rest assured that we have super-adequate procedures and protocols in place designed to manufacture quality into the product, instead of solely relying on post-production testing.”

NHK Laboratories, Inc. is an NPA/NSF/FDA CGMP, ISO 9001:2008, CCOF & QAI Organic, and ISNA Halal certified custom formulator, contract manufacturer, and contract packager of private label dietary supplements, functional foods, and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.  Established in 1987, the company operates two state-of-the-art facilities in Santa Fe Springs, California on more than 90,000 square-fee and also has an office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

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Modern DC Corruption … from “the select few”

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Truthout

greedy

If you want to know what really matters in Washington, don’t go to Capitol Hill for one of those hearings, or pay attention to those staged White House “town meetings.” They’re just for show. What really happens – the serious business of Washington – happens in the shadows, out of sight, off the record. Only occasionally – and usually only because someone high up stumbles – do we get a glimpse of just how pervasive the corruption has become.

Case in point: Katharine Weymouth, the publisher of The Washington Post – one of the most powerful people in DC – invited top officials from the White House, the Cabinet and Congress to her home for an intimate, off-the-record dinner to discuss health care reform with some of her reporters and editors covering the story.

But CEOs and lobbyists from the health care industry were invited, too, provided they forked over $25,000 a head – or up to a quarter of a million if they want to sponsor a whole series of these cozy get-togethers. And what is the inducement offered? Nothing less, the invitation read, than “an exclusive opportunity to participate in the health-care reform debate among the select few who will get it done.”

The invitation reminds the CEO’s and lobbyists that they will be buying access to “those powerful few in business and policy making who are forwarding, legislating and reporting on the issues …

“Spirited? Yes. Confrontational? No.” The invitation promises this private, intimate and off-the-record dinner is an extension “of The Washington Post brand of journalistic inquiry into the issues, a unique opportunity for stakeholders to hear and be heard.”

Let that sink in. In this case, the “stakeholders” in health care reform do not include the rabble – the folks across the country who actually need quality health care but can’t afford it. If any of them showed up at the kitchen door on the night of this little soiree, the bouncer would drop kick them beyond the Beltway.

No, before you can cross the threshold to reach “the select few who will actually get it done,” you must first cross the palm of some outstretched hand. The Washington Post dinner was canceled after a copy of the invite was leaked to the web site Politico.com, by a health care lobbyist, of all people. The paper said it was a misunderstanding – the document was a draft that had been mailed out prematurely by its marketing department. There’s noblesse oblige for you – blame it on the hired help.

In any case, it was enough to give us a glimpse into how things really work in Washington – a clear insight into why there is such a great disconnect between democracy and government today, between Washington and the rest of the country.

According to one poll after another, a majority of Americans not only want a public option in health care, they also think that growing inequality is bad for the country, that corporations have too much power over policy, that money in politics is the root of all evil, that working families and poor communities need and deserve public support if the market system fails to generate shared prosperity.

But, when the insiders in Washington have finished tearing worthy intentions apart and devouring flesh from bone, none of these reforms happen. “Oh,” they say, “it’s all about compromise. All in the nature of the give-and-take-negotiating of a representative democracy.”

That, people, is bull – the basic nutrient of Washington’s high and mighty.

It’s not about compromise. It’s not about what the public wants. It’s about money – the golden ticket to “the select few who actually get it done.”

When Congress passed the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, “the select few” made sure it no longer contained the cramdown provision that would have allowed judges to readjust mortgages. The one provision that would have helped homeowners the most was removed in favor of an industry that pours hundreds of millions into political campaigns.

So, too, with a bill designed to protect us from terrorist attacks on chemical plants. With “the select few” dictating marching orders, hundreds of factories are being exempted from measures that would make them spend money to prevent the release of toxic clouds that could kill hundreds of thousands.

Everyone knows the credit ratings agencies were co-conspirators with Wall Street in the shameful wilding that brought on the financial meltdown. But when the Obama administration came up with new reforms to prevent another crisis, the credit ratings agencies were given a pass. They’d been excused by “the select few who actually get it done.”

And by the time an energy bill emerged from the House of Representatives the other day, “the select few who actually get it done” had given aw ay billions of dollars worth of emission permits and offsets. As The New York Times reported, while the legislation worked its way to the House floor, “It grew fat with compromises, carve-outs, concessions and out-and-out gifts,” expanding from 648 pages to 1,400 as it spread its largesse among big oil and gas, utility companies and agribusiness.

This week, the public interest groups Common Cause and the Center for Responsive Politics reported that, “According to lobby disclosure reports, 34 energy companies registered in the first quarter of 2009 to lobby Congress around the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. This group of companies spent a total of $23.7 million – or $260,000 a day – lobbying members of Congress in January, February and March.

“Many of these same companies also made large contributions to the members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the legislation and held a hearing this week on the proposed ‘cap and trade’ system energy companies are fighting. Data shows oil and gas companies, mining companies and electric utilities combined have given more than $2 million just to the 19 members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee since 2007, the start of the last full election cycle.”

It’s happening to health care as well. Even the pro-business magazine The Economist says America has the worst system in the developed world, controlled by exe cutives who are not held to account and investors whose primary goal is raising share price and increasing profit – while wasting $450 billion dollars in redundant administrative costs and leaving nearly 50 million uninsured.

Enter “the select few who actually get it done.” Three out of four of the big health care firms lobbying on Capitol Hill have former members of Congress or government staff members on the payroll – more than 350 of them – and they’re all fighting hard to prevent a public option, at a rate in excess of $1.4 million a day.

Health care policy has become insider heaven. Even Nancy-Ann DeParle, the White House health reform director, served on the boards of several major health care corporations.

President Obama has pushed hard for a public option but many fear he’s wavering, and just this week his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel – the insider di tutti insiders – indicated that a public plan just might be negotiable, ready for reengineering, no doubt, by “the select few who actually get it done.”

That’s how it works. And it works that way because we let it. The game goes on and the insiders keep dealing themselves winning hands. Nothing will change – nothing – until the moneylenders are tossed out of the temple, the ATM’s are wrested from the marble halls, and we tear down the sign they’ve placed on government – the one that reads, “For Sale.”

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