US Anger at Election Claims Prompt Karzai Call

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Agencies

2010-04-07T124306Z_01_BTRE63417OR00_RTROPTP_3_INTERNATIONAL-US-AFGHANISTAN-KARZAI

Afghan President Hamid Karzai speaks during a shura, or meeting, in Kandahar city April 4, 2010.

REUTERS/Golnar Motevalli

The United States has rejected President Hamid Karzai’s anti-foreigner outburst as “troubling” and “preposterous”, prompting a hurried effort by the Afghan leader to make amends, Agence France-Presse reported.

Officials said Karzai did not specifically apologise during a telephone conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday, but expressed “surprise” at the furor over his claim that foreigners orchestrated election fraud.

The row came just a few days after President Barack Obama made an unannounced trip to Kabul to press Karzai on tackling corruption and to demand progress on good governance, as Washington’s troop surge strategy unfolds against the Taliban.

The new confrontation will only raise doubts about the fragile relationship between the Obama administration and Karzai, whom Washington is forced to consider a partner despite distaste for his political record.

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs called Karzai’s comments “troubling” and “cause for real and genuine concern”. Gibbs noted the huge US military and political resources – and sacrifices – committed to Afghanistan.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley, meanwhile, described Karzai’s intervention as “preposterous”. US Ambassador to Kabul Karl Eikenberry also met with Karzai in person to seek clarification on his comments on Thursday.

The Afghan leader then initiated the call to Clinton and expressed “surprise that his comments had created what he called a stir,” a US official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

“Generally we were happy with the call and we’re moving on,” the official added.

Crowley called the conversation a “constructive” one as Washington and Kabul seek to defuse tense relations.

“President Karzai reaffirmed his commitment to the partnership between our two countries, and expressed his appreciation for the contributions and sacrifices of the international community,” he said, adding that Karzai and Clinton “pledged to continue working together in a spirit of partnership”. But the Obama administration scrapped a planned Karzai visit to Washington last month after he gave himself full control over the electoral commission. In another snub to the United States, he then invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to visit Afghanistan.

The Afghan leader drew fierce global condemnation for his speech on Thursday.

“There was fraud in presidential and provincial council elections – no doubt that there was a very widespread fraud, very widespread,” Karzai told Afghan election commission workers in Kabul.

“But Afghans did not do this fraud. The foreigners did this fraud,” he added, accusing other countries of interfering in his country’s domestic affairs.

He also claimed that such moves risked the 126,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan being seen as “invaders” – terminology used by the Taliban – and the nine-year insurgency as “a national resistance”. Afghan analysts suggested Karzai had lost control after being criticised by Obama and angered by the Afghan parliament, and noted the statements could signal a shift in foreign policy.

Afghan soldiers killed

German troops based in north Afghanistan mistakenly killed at least five Afghan soldiers, NATO forces said on Saturday, hours after the Germans lost three of their own soldiers in a gunfight with insurgents, Reuters reported.

A statement from NATO said that on Friday evening a unit of German soldiers was approached by two unmarked civilian vehicles which failed to stop when troops signalled them “using a variety of methods” in the northern province of Kunduz.

“The force eventually fired on the vehicles killing at least five Afghan soldiers … Initial reports indicate that the two civilian cars were part of an Afghan national army patrol en route to Kunduz,” NATO-led forces said in a statement.

A NATO spokesman later said it was unclear if the vehicles were civilian and the alliance was investigating the matter.

Hours before the incident, three German soldiers were killed in a gunfight with insurgents. The unit of German troops that killed the Afghan soldiers were on their way to the scene of that gunfight, when they came across the Afghan soldiers, NATO said.

Earlier, the governor of Kunduz province, Mohammad Omar, said he had been to a hospital in the province and saw the bodies of six Afghan soldiers who had been killed in the incident, which happened near Char Dara district.

Opinion polls show most Germans oppose Berlin’s involvement in the Afghan war.

Opposition spiked after a German-ordered US air strike in a village in Kunduz in September killed scores of people, at least 30 of them civilians according to the Afghan government, the deadliest incident involving German troops since World War II.

Germany is the third-largest NATO contributor to the war with some 4,300 troops in Afghanistan, most in northern Kunduz where Taliban attacks and strength have increased over the past year. Germany’s parliament has agreed to send a further 850 soldiers.

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Economist Tallies Rising Cost of Israel on US Taxpayers

April 8, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By David R. Francis, Christian Science Monitor

Since 1973, Israel has cost the United States about $1.6 trillion. If divided by today’s population, that is more than $5,700 per person.

This is an estimate by Thomas Stauffer, a consulting economist in Washington. For decades, his analyses of the Middle East scene have made him a frequent thorn in the side of the Israel lobby.

For the first time in many years, Mr. Stauffer has tallied the total cost to the US of its backing of Israel in its drawn-out, violent dispute with the Palestinians. So far, he figures, the bill adds up to more than twice the cost of the Vietnam War.

And now Israel wants more. In a meeting at the White House late last month, Israeli officials made a pitch for $4 billion in additional military aid to defray the rising costs of dealing with the intifada and suicide bombings. They also asked for more than $8 billion in loan guarantees to help the country’s recession-bound economy.

Considering Israel’s deep economic troubles, Stauffer doubts the Israel bonds covered by the loan guarantees will ever be repaid. The bonds are likely to be structured so they don’t pay interest until they reach maturity. If Stauffer is right, the US would end up paying both principal and interest, perhaps 10 years out.
Israel’s request could be part of a supplemental spending bill that’s likely to be passed early next year, perhaps wrapped in with the cost of a war with Iraq.

Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid. It is already due to get $2.04 billion in military assistance and $720 million in economic aid in fiscal 2003. It has been getting $3 billion a year for years.

Adjusting the official aid to 2001 dollars in purchasing power, Israel has been given $240 billion since 1973, Stauffer reckons. In addition, the US has given Egypt $117 billion and Jordan $22 billion in foreign aid in return for signing peace treaties with Israel.

“Consequently, politically, if not administratively, those outlays are part of the total package of support for Israel,” argues Stauffer in a lecture on the total costs of US Middle East policy, commissioned by the US Army War College, for a recent conference at the University of Maine.

These foreign-aid costs are well known. Many Americans would probably say it is money well spent to support a beleagured democracy of some strategic interest. But Stauffer wonders if Americans are aware of the full bill for supporting Israel since some costs, if not hidden, are little known.

One huge cost is not secret. It is the higher cost of oil and other economic damage to the US after Israel-Arab wars.

In 1973, for instance, Arab nations attacked Israel in an attempt to win back territories Israel had conquered in the 1967 war. President Nixon resupplied Israel with US arms, triggering the Arab oil embargo against the US.

That shortfall in oil deliveries kicked off a deep recession. The US lost $420 billion (in 2001 dollars) of output as a result, Stauffer calculates. And a boost in oil prices cost another $450 billion.

Afraid that Arab nations might use their oil clout again, the US set up a Strategic Petroleum Reserve. That has since cost, conservatively, $134 billion, Stauffer reckons.

Other US help includes:

• US Jewish charities and organizations have remitted grants or bought Israel bonds worth $50 billion to $60 billion. Though private in origin, the money is “a net drain” on the United States economy, says Stauffer.

• The US has already guaranteed $10 billion in commercial loans to Israel, and $600 million in “housing loans.” (See editor’s note below.) Stauffer expects the US Treasury to cover these.

• The US has given $2.5 billion to support Israel’s Lavi fighter and Arrow missile projects.

• Israel buys discounted, serviceable “excess” US military equipment. Stauffer says these discounts amount to “several billion dollars” over recent years.

• Israel uses roughly 40 percent of its $1.8 billion per year in military aid, ostensibly earmarked for purchase of US weapons, to buy Israeli-made hardware. It also has won the right to require the Defense Department or US defense contractors to buy Israeli-made equipment or subsystems, paying 50 to 60 cents on every defense dollar the US gives to Israel.

US help, financial and technical, has enabled Israel to become a major weapons supplier. Weapons make up almost half of Israel’s manufactured exports. US defense contractors often resent the buy-Israel requirements and the extra competition subsidized by US taxpayers.

• US policy and trade sanctions reduce US exports to the Middle East about $5 billion a year, costing 70,000 or so American jobs, Stauffer estimates. Not requiring Israel to use its US aid to buy American goods, as is usual in foreign aid, costs another 125,000 jobs.

• Israel has blocked some major US arms sales, such as F-15 fighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia in the mid-1980s. That cost $40 billion over 10 years, says Stauffer.

Stauffer’s list will be controversial. He’s been assisted in this research by a number of mostly retired military or diplomatic officials who do not go public for fear of being labeled anti-Semitic if they criticize America’s policies toward Israel.

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It’s All in the Bag

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

handbag Already set to celebrate her ten year anniversary, savvy Lebanese businesswoman Sarah Beydoun has dedicated her life creating a happy medium of harmony between her social activism beliefs and her love of fashion. Through her business, “Sarah’s Bags”, she has found a way to use her skills as an artisan to make a difference in the lives of both the rich and the poor, annihilating social stigmas all along the way.

Born and bred in Lebanon, Beydoun’s modus operandi is none other than most women’s most coveted accessory, the handbag. After writing her thesis about the plight of female Lebanese prisoners languishing in prisons for some of the most heinous crimes, Beydoun recognized an opportunity to make an impact in their lives. She spent some time on the ‘inside’ of a rehab center for female convicts and got up close and personal with their daily struggles. It would be that first encounter that would set the future path for Beydoun and what would become her life’s purpose in “Sarah’s Bags”.

Beydoun sought out her own potential seamstresses in some of the toughest prisons and rehab facilities in Lebanon to create the bags, even teaching inmates how to embroider and sew beads herself. She also reached out to the poorest of the poor in Lebanon’s rural areas to give those women a chance to have a better future. “Sarah’s Bags” currently employs 100 designers who create its entire line of haute couture quality purses.

As Beydoun admits herself, each bag carries with it just a little bit of the impoverished or imprisoned woman who created it. The designs range from glittering spectacles of bling wear to socially aware pieces, like the ones featuring high ranking celebrities like Lebanese singers and even a queen or two. And the results have been outstanding and certainly a surprise to Beydoun. Everyone from top celebrities to the richest elite has clamored to have their own bag.

“Sarah’s Bags” can be found all over the Middle East and in Europe gracing the shelves of the most select boutiques. A single bag starts at $400, with more detailed bags fetching a handsome ransom. The company has also expanded over the years to include everything from shoes to belts to custom-designer jewelry and scarves.

Seeking to mark her tenth anniversary in style, Beydoun plans to handpick ten women to use her purses as their own personal canvas. Each woman will be allowed to share her personal trials and tribulations right on the handbag. In some small measure, they can use the power of the purse to let their voices be heard.

The awards and accolades Beydoun has begun collecting have been quite notable. Most recently, Beydoun’s line of socially aware purses were featured in Washington D.C. as part of the Kennedy Center’s International Festival. The future looks bright for Beydoun as an eager buzz, stretching clean across the globe, surrounds her company. However, the designer remains true to her roots promising to make employing less fortunate women the lifeblood of her company.

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Obama Snubbed Netanyahu

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Telegraph UK

The snub marked a fresh low in US-Israeli relations and appeared designed to show Mr Netanyahu how low his stock had fallen in Washington after he refused to back down in a row over Jewish construction in east Jerusalem.

6
File picture:  Bibi Netanyahu and Barack Obama

The Israeli prime minister arrived at the White House on Tuesday evening brimming with confidence that the worst of the crisis in his country’s relationship with the United States was over.

Over the previous two days, he had been feted by senior Republicans and greeted warmly by members of Congress. He had also received a standing ovation from the American Israel Public Affairs Affairs Committee, one of the most influential lobby groups in the United States.

But Mr. Obama was less inclined to be so conciliatory. He immediately presented Mr. Netanyahu with a list of 13 demands designed both to the end the feud with his administration and to build Palestinian confidence ahead of the resumption of peace talks. Key among those demands was a previously-made call to halt all new settlement construction in east Jerusalem.

When the Israeli prime minister stalled, Mr. Obama rose from his seat declaring: “I’m going to the residential wing to have dinner with Michelle and the girls.”

As he left, Mr. Netanyahu was told to consider the error of his ways. “I’m still around,” Mr. Obama is quoted by Israel’s Yediot Ahronot newspaper as having said. “Let me know if there is anything new.”

For over an hour, Mr. Netanyahu and his aides closeted themselves in the Roosevelt Room on the first floor of the White House to map out a response to the president’s demands.

Although the two men then met again, at 8.20 pm, for a brief second meeting, it appeared that they failed to break the impasse. White House officials were quoted as saying that disagreements remained. Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, added: “Apparently they did not reach an understanding with the United States.”

It was the second time this month that Mr Netanyahu has been at the receiving end of a US dinner-time snub.

A fortnight ago, Joe Biden the US vice president, arrived 90 minutes late for a dinner Mr. Netanyahu hosted in Jerusalem after Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new homes in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish settlement in the city’s predominantly Arab east.

Erupting in fury, the United States described the decision to expand Ramat Shlomo as an “insult” that undermined Mr. Biden’s peace making efforts and demanded that it be reversed. Palestinians see east Jerusalem, captured by Israel during the 1967 Six Day War, as their future capital and regard any Jewish building there as a barrier to a peace settlement.

Mr Obama’s mood further soured in the minutes before his meeting with Mr. Netanyahu after it emerged that approval had been given for an even more contentious Jewish building project in the heart of one of east Jerusalem’s Palestinian suburbs.

Sending a clear message of his displeasure, Mr. Obama treated his guest to a series of slights. Photographs of the meeting were forbidden and an Israeli request to issue a joint-statement once it was over were turned down.

“There is no humiliation exercise that the Americans did not try on the prime minister and his entourage,” Israel’s Maariv newspaper reported. “Bibi received in the White House the treatment reserved for the president of Equatorial Guinea.”

It is not the first time that Mr. Netanyahu has been involved in a dinner-time snub, although he is arguably more used to delivering, rather than receiving, them.
In 1998, during his first term as Israeli prime minister, Mr. Netanyahy angrily cancelled a dinner he was due to give with the then Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook.
Mr. Cook had earned his host’s ire after he briefly visited a new Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem with a Palestinian official and called for an end to all settlement construction in the parts of the city Israel occupied after the Six-Day war.

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Thousands Take to the Streets to Demand: U.S. out of Afghanistan and Iraq now…

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

On Saturday, thousands of people converged at the White House for the March 20 March on Washington—the largest anti-war demonstration since the announcement of the escalation of the Afghanistan war. By the time the march started at 2 p.m., the crowd had swelled up to 10,000 protesters.

Transportation to Washington, D.C., was organized from over 50 cities in 20 states. Demonstrators rallied and marched shoulder to shoulder to demand “U.S. Out of Iraq and Afghanistan Now,” “Free Palestine,” “Reparations for Haiti” and “No sanctions against Iran” as well as “Money for jobs, education and health care!”

Speakers at the Washington rally represented a broad cross section of the anti-war movement, including veterans and military families, labor, youth and students, immigrant right groups, and the Muslim and Arab American community.

Following the rally, a militant march led by veterans, active-duty service members and military families made its way through the streets of D.C. carrying coffins draped in Afghan, Iraqi, Pakistani, Somali, Yemeni, Haitian and U.S. flags, among those of other countries, as a symbol of the human cost of war and occupation. Coffins were dropped off along the way at Halliburton, the Washington Post, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and other institutions connected to the war profiteering, propaganda, and human suffering. The final coffin drop-off was at the White House—the decision-making center of U.S. imperialism.

The demonstration received substantial media coverage. It was featured in a major story on page A3 on the Sunday Washington Post (click here to read it). An Associated Press article on the March on Washington was picked up by a large number of newspapers and media outlets in the United States and abroad.

Joint demonstrations in San Francisco and Los Angeles drew 5,000 protesters each.

In San Francisco, the demonstration included the participation of UNITE HERE Local 2 hotel workers, who are presently fighting for a contract; students, teachers and parents who have been organizing against education budget cutbacks; and community members and activists who have been engaged in a struggle to stop fare hikes and service cuts.

In Los Angeles, demonstrators marched through the streets of Hollywood carrying not only coffins but also large tombstones that read “R.I.P. Health care / Jobs / Public Education / Housing,” to draw attention to the economic war being waged against working-class people at home in order to fund the wars abroad. Essential social services are being slashed to pay for the largest defense budget in history.

The March 20 demonstrations mark a new phase for the anti-war movement. A new layer of activists joined these actions in large numbers, including numerous youth and students from multinational, working-class communities. A sharp connection was drawn between the wars abroad and the war against working people at home. Though smaller than the demonstrations of 2007, this mobilization was larger than the demonstration last year—the first major anti-war action under the Obama administration. The real-life experience of the past year has shown that what we need is not a change in the presidency, but a change in the system that thrives on war, militarism and profits.

These demonstrations were a success thanks to the committed work of thousands of organizers and volunteers around the country. They raised funds, spread the word through posters and flyers, organized buses and other transportation, and carried out all the work that was needed on the day of the demonstration. We took to the streets in force even as the government tried to silence us with tens of thousands of dollars in illegal fines for postering in Washington, D.C., and felony charges against activists for postering in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

We want to especially thank all those who made generous donations for this mobilization. Without those contributions, we could not have carried out this work.
March 20 was an important step forward for the anti-war movement. We must continue to build on this momentum in the months ahead. Your donation will help us recover much-needed funds that helped pay for this weekend’s successful demonstration, as well as prepare for the actions to come.

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US Silencing Palestinian Journalist Mohammed Omer

March 25, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Haymarket Books

Effectively canceling a planned speaking tour, the US consulate in the Netherlands has put an extended hold on the visa application of award-winning Palestinian journalist and photographer Mohammed Omer, scheduled to speak on conditions in Palestine, on 5 April in Chicago.

In 2008, Omer became the youngest recipient of the prestigious Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, for his firsthand reportage of life in the besieged Gaza Strip. As his prize citation explained, “Every day, he reports from a war zone, where he is also a prisoner. He is a profoundly humane witness to one of the great injustices of our time. He is the voice of the voiceless … Working alone in extremely difficult and often dangerous circumstances, [Omer has] reported unpalatable truths validated by powerful facts.”

Upon attempting to return to Gaza following his acceptance of the Gellhorn award in London, Omer was detained, interrogated and beaten by the Shin Bet Israeli security force for over 12 hours, and eventually hospitalized with cracked ribs and respiratory problems. He has since resided in the Netherlands and continues to undergo medical treatment there for his subsequent health problems.

The US consulate has now held his visa application for an extended period of time, effectively canceling a planned US speaking tour without the explanation that a denial would require. In recent years, numerous foreign scholars and experts have been subject to visa delays and denials that have prohibited them from speaking and teaching in the US — a process the American Civil Liberties Union describes as “Ideological Exclusion,” which they say violates Americans’ first amendment right to hear constitutionally protected speech by denying foreign scholars, artists, politicians and others entry to the United States. Foreign nationals who have recently been denied visas include Fulbright scholar Marixa Lasso; respected South African scholar and vocal Iraq War critic Dr. Adam Habib; Iraqi doctor Riyadh Lafta, who disputed the official Iraqi civilian death numbers in the respected British medical journal The Lancet; and Oxford’s Tariq Ramadan, who has just received a visa to speak in the United States after more than five years of delays and denials.

Fellow Gellhorn recipient Dahr Jamail, expressed his disbelief at Omer’s visa hold. “Why would the US government, when we consider the premise that we have `free speech’ in this country, place on hold a visa for Mohammed Omer, or any other journalist planning to come to the United States to give talks about what they report on? This is a travesty, and the only redemption available for the US government in this situation is to issue Omer’s visa immediately, and with a deep apology.”

Omer was to visit Houston, Santa Fe and Chicago, where local publisher Haymarket Books was to host his Newberry Library event, “Reflections on Life and War in Gaza,” alongside a broad set of interfaith religious, community and political organizations.

Rather than cancel the meeting, organizers are calling on supporters to write letters and emails calling for the US consulate’s approval of Omer’s visa. They are also proceeding with the event as planned, via live satellite or skype, if necessary.

U.S. consulate information:

Ambassador Fay Hartog Levin
U.S. Embassy in The Hague
Lange Voorhout 102
2514 EJ
The Netherlands
T: +31 70 310-2209
F: +31 70 361-4688

ConsularAmster@state.gov

Background on Mohammed Omer:

Mohammed Omer was born and raised in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He maintains the website Rafah Today and is a correspondent for the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. His home in Rafah was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer while the family was inside, seriously injuring his mother. Yet, as Omer explained in an article he wrote upon winning the award, “My ambition was to get the truth out, not as pro-Palestinian or anti-Israeli, but as an independent voice and witness.” His reportage features interviews with regular Palestinians in Gazan attempting to survive amidst bombing, home demolitions and the crippling economic blockade, which has created devastating shortages of electricity, water, fuel and other necessities for survival.

Omer was to visit Chicago to discuss, with Ali Abunimah, Chicago-based author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, his reportage, personal experience, and the struggle for Palestinian rights. If the delay on his visa continues, he will take part in the event via live satellite connection or Skype.

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Community News (V12-I13)

March 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Sayed Naved appointed to MD Board of Education

BALTIMORE, MD–Sayed Naved has been appointed to the Maryland Board of Education by Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Mr. Naved is a current member and former chair of the Islamic Council of Maryland. He earlier served as the principal of the ICM Sunday School.

His four year term on the board begins this April.

Application filed for mosque in Norwalk

NORWALK, CT–The Al Madany Islamic Center of Norwalk has submitted plans to the city’s Department of Planning and Zoning to construct a facility consisting of a prayer hall, classrooms, library and gymnasium. The submitted plans show a 420 seat prayer hall and eighty seven parking spaces.

“Currently Norwalk’s Muslim community has no established house of worship in which to pray or conduct other religious activities. Individuals must meet to worship in private homes without the benefit of an established place of worship where all may gather as a religious congregation,” wrote John F. Fallon, the attorney representing The Al Madany Islamic Center, in a narrative of the proposal “The center has purchased property at 127 Fillow Street in order to address this need and seeks approval to construct a mosque on the property as shown in the plans submitted herewith.”

Madison County mosque plans approved

MADISON COUNTY, MS–County supervisors have approved plans to build a mosque in Madison after a lengthy process, WLBT TV reported.

Earlier attempts to get approval by the Mississippi Muslim Association to build a mosque were stalled by concerns over who would provide utilities for the 9,000 square foot proposed facility.

Supervisor Tim Johnson said the board will ask the Madison County Wastewater Authority to allow the mosque to tap into its sewer line, eliminating the need for a separate septic system.

He said the Mississippi Muslim Association has done all that’s required.

“They have completed all the things that we have asked of them as far as our rules and regulations in regard to the county of Madison and our zoning to we, upon receiving those certificates, we granted them approval to move forward on their building,” said Johnson.

New Jersey Hospital to Receive Diversity Award

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–Saint Peter’s Healthcare System in New Jersey will receive the 2010 Corporate Citizen Award from the American Conference on Diversity at the conference’s Central Jersey Chapter Humanitarian Awards this week.

Tab Chukunta, community outreach director for the healthcare system, said the hospital reaches out to people of a variety of religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds through religious accommodations such as offering halal meals to Muslim patients and through annual celebrations such as an event marking the Hindu festival of Diwali, or an annual Iftar dinner during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Accommodating diversity not only helps the patients but also has immense benefits for the institutions. As the word gets out more and more clients turn to institutions that cater to their needs.

Sec. Clinton Invites CPR to Event

(WASHINGTON, D.C. 3/23/2010) — Reflecting its presence in Washington D.C., the Council on Pakistan Relations has been invited by Secretary Clinton to attend a March 24 reception commemorating the first Ministerial-level U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue.  Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi will co-chair the talks.  

Topics for discussion will include economic development, water and energy, education, communications and public diplomacy, agriculture, and security.  High-level officials from both governments will come to the table to discuss issues of common concern and shared responsibility.

According to Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke, “President Obama and Secretary Clinton have repeatedly stressed the breadth and depth of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, a partnership that goes far beyond security. The Strategic Dialogue represents the shared commitment of both nations to a strengthening the bilateral relationship and building an even broader partnership based on mutual respect and mutual trust.  The United States is supporting Pakistan as it seeks to strengthen democratic institutions, as it seeks to foster more economic development, expand opportunities, deal with its energy and water problems, and defeat the extremist groups who threaten both Pakistan’s security and stability in the larger region, and American national security as well.”

The Council on Pakistan Relations is a pro-America, pro-Pakistan not-for-profit advocacy organization interested in strengthening ties and enhancing mutual understanding between the two nations.

CONTACT: Mahera Rahman, mahera@pakistanrelations.org

SALAM Islamic Center Honored

Sacramento–Mohamed Abdul-Azeez

2009 Director’s Community Leadership Awards

The Sacramento Division has selected Mohamed Abdul-Azeez to receive the Director’s Community Leadership Award.

Mr. Azeez is the religious leader of the SALAM Islamic Center in Sacramento, California, which is a mosque, a community center, an elementary school, a preschool, a weekend school, an educational institution, and a place of spiritual uplifting and personal development. Imam Azeez, through SALAM, strives to present the true essence of the message of Islam and to promote moderation, community service, and interreligious dialogue to build a better society.

Educated in medicine, political science, sociology, Islamic history, and Islamic theology, Imam Azeez holds a Doctor of Medicine degree from Ain Shams University, a Bachelor of Arts from Ohio State University, and a Master of Arts from the University of Chicago. He has been involved in Islamic activism and education for the past 10 years and has worked with numerous institutions from the Midwest to the West Coast. He has taught at some of them.

Imam Azeez is a passionate advocate of interfaith work and dedicates much of his time educating the community about the religion of Islam. In his capacity as the Imam of SALAM, he is a member of the Sacramento Interfaith Services Bureau and participates in most inter-religious dialogue in the area.

SALAM, in its involvement with other faith-based organizations, has been a steady contributor to building and maintaining bridges within the Sacramento community. SALAM believes further understanding and cooperation can be achieved for the betterment of the greater Sacramento area.

SALAM has instituted many outreach activities, including the Children of Abraham program, interfaith prayer services, interfaith tree planting and, with the help of the members of the San Juan School District, the increase of religious sensitivity and awareness in scholastic curricula. Imam Azeez has also been a regular guest speaker at the Sacramento FBI on the topic of Muslim culture and on July 26, 2009, gave a Muslim Cultural Awareness briefing to members of the FBI Sacramento Citizens’ Academy Alumni Association.

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US Hopes Obama Trip Will Boost Trade with Indonesia

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Doug Palmer

2010-03-16T103621Z_11355208_GM1E63G1FMP01_RTRMADP_3_INDONESIA

Barack Obama’s impersonator Ilham Anas of Indonesia poses in front of an image of U.S. President Barack Obama after being interviewed by Reuters TV in Obama’s former school, State Elementary School 01 Menteng, in Jakarta March 16, 2010. Obama is scheduled later this month to visit the world’s most populous Muslim nation, where he is a popular figure. Obama studied at State Elementary School 01 Menteng from 1970-1971.

REUTERS/Dadang Tri

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States hopes President Barack Obama’s visit next week to Indonesia will help spur reforms that boost trade with Southeast Asia’s largest economy and the world’s fourth most populous nation.

“Economic nationalism, regulatory uncertainty and unresolved investment disputes give pause to American companies seeking to do business in Indonesia,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke said in a speech on Wednesday.

To increase trade, “it’s incumbent upon Indonesia to make market-oriented reforms that will make it a more attractive market, not just for U.S. companies but companies all around the world,” Locke said.

“Growing trade with Indonesia is a piece of the president’s broader plan to create jobs here at home by growing market access overseas.”

Obama is returning to the country where he spent part of his youth for talks in Jakarta with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and a stop in Bali to meet civil society groups and urge further progress on democracy.

Indonesia — a majority Muslim nation of 230 million people — and the United States are expected to sign a “comprehensive partnership” agreement, which Locke said would be a “blueprint for cooperation on a whole host of issues.”

Two-way trade between the United States and Indonesia was just $18 billion last year, a tiny chunk of the $788 billion in trade the United States did with all Pacific Rim countries in 2009.

“In fact, Indonesia does less trade with the United States than some of its smaller, less populous ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) neighbors like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand,” said Locke, who will be leading a clean energy trade mission to Indonesia in May.

The United States exported $5.1 billion of goods last year to Indonesia, led by civilian aircraft and farm goods such as soybeans, animal feeds and cotton.

U.S. imports from Indonesia were just $12.9 billion last year, included clothing and textile goods, furniture, electronics, computer accessories and coffee.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will visit Indonesia just weeks after Obama but Locke downplayed the idea that the back-to-back trips were a demonstration of Washington and Beijing vying for influence.

“I don’t think these visits in any way were set up to compete against each other,” Locke said.

But Ernie Bower, director for Southeast Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he did see a healthy competition between the United States and China for “hearts, minds and markets” in Southeast Asia.

China “really picked up its game” in Indonesia with help it provided during the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s and Obama’s trip helps set the stage for more U.S. involvement in a strategically important region, Bower said.

But Indonesia has a long way to go before it is ready to join a proposed regional free trade agreement with the United States, said Mark Orgill, manager for Indonesia at the U.S.-ASEAN Business Council.

A much less ambitious trade deal between ASEAN and China already has raised concerns among Indonesia’s manufacturers, Orgill said.

The United States began talks this week on the proposed Transpacific Partnership pact with Australia, Chile, Singapore, New Zealand, Peru, Vietnam and Brunei. Two other ASEAN countries, Malaysia and Thailand, have expressed interest in joining the talks.

“Indonesia fights battles at home” over moves to open its market, Orgill said.

Editing by John O’Callaghan

12-12

Preconceptions, Misconceptions: Disaster in Afghanistan

March 18, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

PRECONCEPTIONS, MISCONEPTIONS AND “NO FEEDBACK LOOP” LEADS TO AMERICAN DISASTER IN AFGHANISTAN

By Gordon Duff

I have only recently returned from the region where I toured as a journalist and lecturer.  Our group included Jeff Gates, Raja Mugtaba, BG Asif Haroon Raja and BG Ali Raza and me of Veterans Today and Opinion Maker.  We met with some people we will not mention and many we can.  Prince Ali of Afghanistan had a delegation with us headed by Fayyaz Shah,  as advisors.  BG Ali Raza was primary coordinator on the ground for Pakistan during the “Charley Wilson War” against the Soviets.  No person has spent so much time “where he isn’t supposed to be” as General Ali Raza.  BG Asif Haroon Raja is Pakistan’s best known military analyst and author and an invaluable resource.

I would thank the Director General of the ISPR,  Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas and Director BG Syed Azmat Ali for their detailed briefing and great courtesy.

Background on the critical border regions was supplied by the former military head, BG Amir Gulistan Janjua.  His vast experience in the region was an invaluable aid to our understanding.  I would also thank Ahsan Rashid and Col. Javed Mujtaba for their advice, hospitality and analytical skills.

Our primary briefer and advisor for the region and constant correspondent is Admiral I A Sirohey, former Chairman, JCOS of Pakistan.  General Aslam Beg, former Army Chief of Staff and General Hamid Gul, former DG ISI, also briefed us extensively on military affairs.  These three, along with our companions, BG’s Raja and Ali, are the primary experts on regional military affairs and the Taliban.

We also want to thank Tarik Jan of the ISSI for his kind assistance.  I am leaving out two dozen names, some out of kindness.  Many political leaders met with us who normally would never see Americans.  We were treated with more than courtesy and kindness in some of the most unexpected places.

My close friends and personal advisors, Col. James Hanke, USA SF (ret) former Defense Attache to Israel and Fred Coward, former FBI counter-terrorism expert were a continual help.  Their knowledge and extensive contacts in the region were vital.

The question, of course, what did we learn?  Does anyone learn anything if weighed down by prejudiced, misconceptions or military and political theories based on flawed analyses or policies?  Our job is simply to listen, learn and use our best judgment.  Our responsibility is to be honest in our assessments.  The findings in this work are entirely my own.

The root of the problems in the region are historical in nature.  Unless you go back 200 years or more, something we aren’t doing here, nothing will make sense.  The region, Af-Pak, is a creation, primarily of Britain’s, seemingly created out of a design to stimulate instability and conflict to enable “the great game” Britain is famous for to be played, one side against the other.  In 1893, when Afghanistan and India/Pakistan were split by Durand, dividing tribes and even families, continual war was guaranteed.  In 1947, when Pakistan was created out of a group of peoples, roughly “Islamic” but otherwise unrelated, we were guaranteed even more instability.  Pakistan would be a combination of advanced culture, warlike tribes and resentful quasi-independent regions constantly at odds with their powerful neighbor, India.

The alliances that have defined the region, India and the Soviet Union, Pakistan and the United States (and China) and now, India and Israel and the United States(maybe Russia again and part of Afghanistan) and Pakistan and the United States (and China) have led to continual military buildups, including nuclear weapons and other advanced strategic technologies, all within a framework of acrimony and continual terrorism.

India, Israel, the United States, Afghanistan, China and Britain are all accused, on a daily basis, of coordinating terror attacks inside each country of the region, including Iran.  Accusations of training and arming terrorist groups, numbered in the dozens, perhaps the hundreds, in each of the countries involved, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, are continually voiced.  In the process, everyone denies involvement in the vast drug trade that has reemerged with the American occupation of Afghanistan and the vast network of corruption based primarily on what seems to be an American policy to stimulate waste.

Permanent war, in itself, has become the only business of the region, other than drug trafficking, with endless thousands of “contractors” from around the world flocking to the region to suck down the American dollars carelessly thrown at every imaginable perceived threat or ill, often with little or no consideration for end result or attempt at accounting.

This has brought American war planners to a number of disastrous conclusions about the area, ones that defy any historical or strategic model.  The gutting of the intellectual capabilities of American policy planners during the Bush administration, based on an overlay of an Evangelical Christian model, applied, not only to the Pentagon but intelligence services, State Department and many key decision making environments has left the United States unable to process and respond properly to feedback.  Thus, failed policies are replaced by untested experiments and short term fixes, none based on broad or sound analysis.

All advice comes from groups tied financially to the continuation of the war and even the destabilization of Pakistan.  One major unseen actor is Israel, whose powerful lobby in Washington is capable of making policy for the region.  Israel’s military alliance with India and extensive investment in the regions gas and oil industry is a major driver in, what has become a suicidal American effort.  With Israel benefitting from billions in arms contracts with the United States and India along with becoming a defacto “super power” of the region by proxy, their “special interest” and unique ability to use their control of media, their massive influence over the electoral process in the US and their long relationship with the Pentagon, continual regional conflict may be a hidden agenda.

Current American policies in the region, both military and economic, seem to prove this out.  All are doomed to eventual failure, seemingly purposely so and all are the result of reliance on advice from sectors profiting from war and destabilization, not only of the region, but of the United States itself.  It is a unique possibility that the series of ill conceived wars begun under the Bush administration may eventually bring about the economic collapse of the United States as had happened to the Soviet Union some years before.

Afghanistan

America claimed they came into Afghanistan seeking the terrorists who attacked on 9/11.  This is blatantly dishonest.  Osama bin Laden had been a guest of the Taliban for some time but had been put under severe restrictions by that group.  There is no evidence any terrorist organizations were being run by Bin Laden in Afghanistan and current intelligence has proven, despite “media” coverage to the contrary, that bin Laden had no involvement in 9/11.  Broad evidence exists that bin Laden died during the initial US attack in 2001.  All intelligence and informed opinion leads to this conclusion causing both embarrassment and consternation when “press driven” demands for a continued hunt for bin Laden come from the United States.

Less publicly, the United States has long accepted the death of bin Laden yet has spent millions of dollars and hundreds of lives in a dishonest attempt to keep a “branded” big name terrorist in front of the public. 

This has caused a general distrust of the United States among its military allies who, universally, believe that the phony “hunt for bin Laden” is proof, not of a need to resurrect a phony “boogieman” for public consumption but rather to create an artificial “icon” to cover massive corruption and a history of failure.

At the outset, America’s approach in Afghanistan was flawed.  Our dependence on the Northern Alliance, a group of warlords wishing to restore drug production, prohibited by the Taliban, to assist us led to establishing a regime in Kabul that was never accepted by the people of Afghanistan.  President Karzai, not only notoriously corrupt and weak but closely allied to India, would make an unlikely leader in a war requiring continual coordination with Pakistan, a country nearly as distrustful of Karzai as his own people.

The decision by the US to support Karzai, even after a rigged election and to build an army and national police force primarily out of tribal minorities from the Northern Alliance who are hated by the majority of Afghanis has led to the need for the current increase in American presence and the stalled military operations in Helmand, the nation’s primary opium producing region since 2001.  Current American plans to consider restructuring the massive national police force on regional ethnic lines is encouraging but doomed to failure.

Tribal traditions in Afghanistan are based on a system called Pashtunwali.  All judicial and police functions reside within a long established tribal structure, one that functioned well prior to the Soviet occupation and one which could be restored.  Replacing this with a “northern occupation” will only lead to continual warfare.

Gun Culture

The economy of Afghanistan is almost entirely non-existent.  Warring groups are living off American bribes, payments to allow supplies to pass unharmed to American forces or from taxes on the massive opium harvest.  With the destruction of tribal cohesion under the Russian backed government and the mining of Afghanistan, the traditional yearly migrations of the large pastoral population within Afghanistan has stopped.  This group, numbering as many as 15 million, are a recruiting ground for “gun culture.”

Replacing normal occupations, farming, husbandry or small industries is a vast number of fighters, many simple bandits and criminals but untold thousands fighting out of a belief they are opposing a foreign occupation.  Discerning the difference between the two and restoring a traditional economy to replace warlord-ism, drug production and mercenary activities is the only way of bringing about stability.  The cost of these programs, some of which the USAID is working on now, is low in comparison to military action.

However, too little is being done and, for every successful program, ten “boondoggle” programs are put in place, building useless projects with massive cost overruns and corruption.

Military Action

American military planners are currently trying a variety of approaches, including working with the Afghan army, a vast mercenary group, primarlily of the northern tribes that is, on the whole, both unsupportable economically and totally helpless when used in any independent capacity.  Afghanistan has a tradition of compulsory military service, a “people’s army” of lowly paid but highly motivated soldiers from every area of the nation.  These troops are paid as little as $5 per month but receive food subsidies for their families and extensive training in civilian trades as part of their service.

This successful system has been destroyed by the United States and the Karzai government, replaced with a “paid” professional army untrusted by any group within the country.  Pakistan fears that this army will fall under Indian command and threaten their borders and, perhaps, rightly so.  The model used is based on Blackwater, a private military contractor, not any national army.  The new national army in Afghanistan is quite likely to work for any group capable of paying them.  The nation of Afghanistan itself will never have that capability.

American efforts to occupy destabilized regions thru “civil affairs” operations used in Vietnam with some success can only function as they did in Vietnam, as part of a permanent occupation force which will be immediately replaced by an opposing “occupation force” of domestic fighters, the enemy, when Americans leave.  In fact, Taliban units simply melt into the civilian population when confronted by American forces beyond their capability of defeating.

Only the foreign fighters in Afghanistan, those who came to fight and die, continue action against the US forces under unfavorable conditions.  Others, trained in “irregular warfare” from birth, simply wait out America’s resolve, exactly as had happened in Vietnam.  Pentagon planners understand this, thus making our current efforts by cynical and deceitful.

America is unaware that most of the Taliban live in Pakistan.  The total number of Taliban exceeds 50 million, a number America and Pakistan can never fight successfully nor do they need to.  The vast majority of those the US considers enemy combatants can be rehabilitated, but not under programs currently being initiated by the United States.  The idea of paying “fighters” or members of the “gun culture” to stop resisting is hardly a thoughtful strategy but it is the one the United States has chosen.

There are forces that need to be defeated and that could be defeated by an Afghan army, a traditional force based on compulsory service and fighting for a government with wide support among the tribes, a government Afghanistan currently doesn’t have.

Current military operations are likely to recruit more fighters against the United States and the unpopular Karzai government and, as things are going, eventually lead to a wider conflict in Pakistan and the economic destruction of that nation, a vital US ally.   We are well along that road already and are more than well aware of it despite our protestations to the opposite and the total lack of media attention to any “reality based” assessment.

Economic development programs being enacted in Afghanistan are primarily based on supporting a corrupt culture and maintaining “cover” for the massive drug trade that powerful groups among all the players, Afghanistan, Israel, the United States, India and Pakistan, are growing immensely wealthy and powerful on.  A restructuring of the economies on both sides of the Durand Line separating Pashtun regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan along lines suggested by Imran Khan and Jeff Gates and groups supporting Prince Ali Seraj may be the best solution.

Simple “grass roots” development built on supporting and expanding traditional industries while providing improved delivery of educational and health care services is a start.  Only education of men and women can fight the cycle of extremism, broad public education delivered at village level within a social and economic environment supporting a traditional model.  These plans exist, are inexpensive and have broad support among nearly all tribal leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The only thing stopping their implementation is the current much more profitable and corrupt system that is creating a new ruling oligarchy based on American money and continual chaos.

Solutions?

They have always been there but real solutions have been opposed by those profiting off the war and the environment the war has created.  Too many with too much money and power want the wars to continue for too many reasons, including long term geopolitical goals unfavorable to the United States and Pakistan.  With a lack of strong leadership within the United States compounded by the disastrous policies of the Bush administration, US foreign policy will continue to be a “runaway train.”

The first step toward enacting known solutions would be getting real information to decision makers and keeping the American people properly informed.  Currently, media in the United States is so heavily skewed toward misinformation and propaganda that political accountability has nearly disappeared.  An systematically misinformed populace negates all concepts of democracy and representative government.   There can be no accountability and no national policy as long as the mechanisms for disinformation that have taken control of America’s news media exist.

Defacto control of Americas media by foreign nations and a cabal of corporations tied to the war economy has ended effective public participation in American policy and decision making and, in the process, ended Congress’s ability to oversee policy.  Grassroots movements in Afghanistan, while America remains the “prime mover” depend on restoration of similar authority in the United States.

12-12

Muslims Help Haiti

March 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Letters from Dr. Reshma Vasanwala with International Medical Corps

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President of Haiti Rene Preval (L) shakes hands with U.S. President Barack Obama as they deliver remarks in the Rose Garden after meeting at the White House in Washington, March 10, 2010. 

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

TMO Editor’s note: Here are two emails from Haiti sent by Doctor Reshma Vasanwala. She volunteered her services for Haitian earthquake victims, as has Dr. Khalid Rao from Detroit and other Muslim physicians.

reshma

Hi all,

I arrived in Haiti safely–on a UN plane from Santo Domingo. The airport bar at Port au Prince is buzzing with activity–international NGOs, troops (including the 82nd airborne unit), media, journalists, and aid workers.

We are staying at one of the few standing hotels in Port au Prince–a five star hotel that hosted Angelina Jolie, Sean Penn, Anderson Cooper, and the like.  There are still a lot of CNN folks here and media from all over the world staying at the same hotel. To my surprise, I’m in the lap of luxury—buffet meals, swimming pool,. Its weird that just across the street hundreds of thousands of people are living in tents and slums.

We are not allowed to leave the hotel and we take a private bus everyday to our place of work. Driving just these short distances, one can see the devastation caused by the earthquake and the suffering of the Haitian people.

We passed some tent cities that were said to have 40,000 people living there! There is a lot of unrest on the streets as gangs are fighting each other for territories.

Our group has tents set up in the hospital compound, since the buildings are unsafe to work in. The hospital grounds have been transformed into an entire campus of tents-each providing a different type of specialized medical care. There is a pediatric and neonatal ICU, a regular ICU, HIV and TB tents, general surgery, OB, and ER. However, in most of these tents the doctors only come by every few days, and no one to cover at night, so people simply die.

Our group, IMC, provides Emergency care on this campus and we provide coverage 24hours a day.  I am assigned to the ER–which has been awesome.There are literally hundreds of patients (600-800)  each day, and there is a line several blocks long every morning.  I have never quite experienced anything like this. The tents are like 100 degrees, it smells, there are rats and  it is complete chaos–but its a blast!

I am doing things here that I have never done, simply because there is no one else to call, or everyone else is too busy. I have never provided such substandard care in my life, because we don’t have the tool and resources to provide good care. However, the reality is that for most of these people, this is the best care they have ever received.

A word about the people on the IMC team…there are about 30 volunteers here, and I am so impressed by these people. They are brilliant, passionate, interesting and loads of fun.

I am working the night tonight so I have the day off, but I wish I was back at the ER tent rather than the swimming pool–its been that much fun so far.

Reshma

Sent: Monday, March 08, 2010 8:16 AM:

Working with the IMC group has continued to be a blast. Its really amazing that when people come together for a common purpose, there is a unique bond. Our lives have become really integrated and routine. It sometimes feels like summer camp or a travel experience where you don’t have the tedious routines of running errands or the tending to of details that take up so much time back home– so that you can stay focused on purpose. 

I am getting used to the work in the ER and really like it. Its really frustrating however, because everyday people die and often it feels like we are running a hospice service because there is not much we can offer–especially when we don’t have a full laboratory or radiology service.  The medicine wards, where there seems to really be no medical care going on, seem more like a support group—”Hey, I’m sick, you’re sick–lets hang out together”

Yesterday was especially hard yesterday when a 2 year old died from an unknown cause and we watched the mother cry and scream inconsolably. This really got to me.

It was the first time I had seen such a reaction. I was beginning to think, that the Haitian people, having been through so much, had become stoic or emotionally shut down. Before yesterday, I had not really seen emotion expressed in a way that I might expect when a death occurred or when they heard bad news.

On a more random note, a couple of days ago there was some film people from LA who are starting a reality/documentary series about international community development and they filmed all day at our ER. They got me on camera as they followed me and another doctor deal with a sick kid who needed surgery and the surgeons here did not want to operate. We called the 82nd airborne to get the kid transferred to another facility where the surgery took place and the kid survived.

We’ll see if that scout footage makes it on their first show.

Its hard to believe that I just have a few days left. I think I may come back again very soon.

Reshma

12-11

Celebrating Extraordinary Muslim Women

March 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Salma Hasan Ali

Washington, DC – On 10 March, three Muslim women will be honoured alongside philanthropist Melinda French Gates and human rights activists Panmelo Castro from Brazil and Rebecca Lolosoli from Kenya, by Vital Voices Global Partnership, a Washington, DC-based organisation that works to empower women around the world.

The need to recognise the work of Muslim women is important. Type the search terms “Muslim women” or “women in Islam” online and chances are that a majority of English-language hits will consist of stories relating to what Muslim women wear on their heads or how women in Muslim-majority countries are subjected to physical abuse, or subjugated under the false pretext of religious principle.

But there is another side to Muslim women that is too infrequently recognised, reported or discussed. The Vital Voices Global Partnership awards ceremony, taking pl ace two days after International Women’s Day, provides an opportunity to celebrate this not uncommon, yet too frequently overshadowed, side to Muslim women.

Andeisha Farid grew up in a refugee camp outside Afghanistan. As a teenager, she lived in a Pakistani hostel for six years, where she studied and tutored others. In 2008, at the age of 25, she started her own non-profit organisation, the Afghan Child Education and Care Organization (AFCECO), in Kabul. Today, AFCECO runs ten orphanages in Afghanistan and Pakistan for over 450 children of diverse ethnic backgrounds.

In a country where non-governmental organisations that work with women and girls are frequently targeted by religious extremists, Andeisha is constantly on guard. But she remains committed to providing Afghan children not only with food and shelter, but with a sense of mutual respect, regardless of ethnic differences, a feeling of khak – connection to the earth as their homeland – and a s ense of empowerment to shape their own future, and that of their country.

“The happy faces of these children give me hope,” she says. “It helps me conquer fear.”

Afnan Al Zayani is a wife, mother, social activist, television personality and CEO of a multi-million dollar business. It’s no wonder that Forbes and Arabian Business magazine call her one of the most powerful women in the Middle East. In addition, she helped ensure the first written personal status law that protects the rights of Muslim women in cases of divorce and child custody was passed in Bahrain.

She attributes her ability to juggle so many responsibilities to her strong faith. “God will judge us on whether we use our gifts of life and health towards good or evil,” she says. Immaculately dressed in her hijab, or headscarf, she shatters the Western stereotype of the downtrodden Muslim woman. Her guiding philosophy: “Live your life as if you will live forever; live yo ur day as if you will die tomorrow.”

Then there is Roshaneh Zafar. While studying development economics at Yale University in the United States, she came across the story of Khairoon, a woman in Bangladesh who owned only one sari. Khairoon borrowed $100 from the microfinance organisation Grameen Bank to invest in a business, and now owns a sweetshop, a poultry farm, a call centre – and a collection of colourful saris.

Roshaneh met Khairoon many years after her initial loan, and saw firsthand the miracle of microfinance in changing women’s lives. She decided to start a microfinance organisation in Pakistan called Kashf, which means “miracle”. It is now the third largest microfinance organisation in Pakistan, with 300,000 clients and a goal to reach more than half a million in the next four years.

Roshaneh’s message encapsulates the sentiment of many: “Women matter to the world. We need not accept the status quo. Freeing the world of poverty and disenfranchisement of women is possible. But it will only happen when 50 per cent of the world’s population is allowed to recognise its latent strength.”

It is these stories that must be reported, not only to herald the achievements of remarkable women, but to dispel falsely created perceptions of the role of Islam in defining the fate of Muslim women.

###

* Salma Hasan Ali is a Washington, DC-based writer focusing on promoting understanding between the West and the Muslim world. This article first appeared in Washington Post/Newsweek’s On Faith and was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

12-11

Is Israel Controlling Phony Terror News?

March 4, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

By Gordon Duff and Brian Jobert, www.opinion-maker.org

 

Who says Al Qaeda takes credit for a bombing? Rita Katz. Who gets us bin Laden tapes? Rita Katz. Who gets us pretty much all information telling us Muslims are bad? Rita Katz? Rita Katz is the Director of Site Intelligence, primary source for intelligence used by news services, Homeland Security, the FBI and CIA. What is her qualification? She served in the Israeli Defense Force. She has a college degree and most investigative journalists believe the Mossad “helps” her with her information. We find no evidence of any qualification whatsoever of any kind. A bartender has more intelligence gathering experience.

Nobody verifies her claims. SITE says Al Qaeda did it, it hits the papers. SITE says Israel didn’t do it, that hits the papers too. What does SITE really do? They check the internet for “information,” almost invariably information that Israel wants reported and it is sold as news, seen on American TV, reported in our papers and passed around the internet almost as though it were actually true. Amazing.

Do we know if the information reported comes from a teenager in Seattle or a terror cell in Jakarta? No, of course not, we don’t have a clue. Can you imagine buying information on Islamic terrorism from an Israeli whose father was executed as a spy by Arabs?

It is quite likely that everything you think you know about terror attacks such as the one in Detroit or whether Osama bin Laden is alive or dead comes from Rita Katz. Does she make it all up? We don’t know, nobody knows, nobody checks, they simply buy it, print it, say it comes from Site Intelligence and simply forget to tell us that this is, not only a highly biased organization but also an extremely amateur one also.

Is any of this her fault, Ritas? No. She is herself, selling her work. The blame is not Site Intelligence, it is the people who pass on the information under misleading circumstances.

Imagine if a paper carried a story like this:

Reports that Al Qaeda was responsible for bombing the mosque and train station were given to us by an Israeli woman who says she found it on the internet.

This is fair. Everyone should be able to earn a living and information that comes from Israel could be without bias but the chances aren’t very good. In fact, any news organization, and most use this service, that fails to indicate that the sources they use are “rumored” to be a foreign intelligence service with a long history of lying beyond human measure, is not to be taken seriously.

Can we prove that SITE Intelligence is the Mossad? No. Would a reasonable person assume it is? Yes.

Would a reasonable person believe anything from this source involving Islam or the Middle East? No, they would not.

SITE’s primary claim to fame other than bin Laden videos with odd technical faults is their close relationship with Blackwater. Blackwater has found site useful. Blackwater no longer exists as they had to change their name because of utter lack of credibility.

What can be learned by examining where our news comes from? Perhaps we could start being realistic and begin seeing much of our own news and the childish propaganda it really is.

Propaganda does two things:

1. It makes up phony reasons to justify acts of barbaric cruelty or insane greed.

2. It blames people for things they didn’t do because the people doing the blaming really did it themselves. We call these things “false flag/USS Liberty” incidents.

Next time you see dancing Palestinians and someone tells you they are celebrating a terror attack, it is more likely they are attending a birthday party. This is what we have learned, perhaps this is what we had best remember.

From an AFP article on Site Intelligence:

Rita Katz and S.I.T.E. are set to release yet another “aL-Qaeda” tape

WASHINGTON (AFP) The head of the Al-Qaeda network Osama bin Laden is expected to release a taped message on Iraq, a group monitoring extremist online forums said Thursday. The 56-minute tape by the hunted militant is addressed to Iraq and an extremist organization based there, the Islamic State of Iraq, said the US-based SITE monitoring institute, citing announcements on “jihadist forums.”

It said the release was “impending” but did not say whether the message was an audio or video tape. Despite a massive manhunt and a 25-million-dollar bounty on his head, he has evaded capture and has regularly taunted the United States and its allies through warnings issued on video and audio cassettes.

Source: ME Times

Yes, despite a massive manhunt by the world’s intelligence agencies, BL seems to evade their combined efforts, staying on the run. But he still has time to drop into his recording studio and cook up a fresh tape for the likes of Rita Katz and her outfit called S.I.T.E. SITE is staffed by TWO people, Katz and a Josh Devon.

Yet these two individuals manage to do what the ENTIRE combined assets of the world’s Western intelligence can’t:

Be the first to obtain fresh video and audio tapes from Al-Qaeda with Bin Laden making threats and issuing various other comments. If BL appears a bit “stiff” in the latest release, that’s because he is real stiff, as in dead.

How is it that a Jewish owned group like S.I.T.E. can outperform the world’s best and brightest in the intelligence field and be the first to know that a group like al-Qaeda is getting ready to release another tape?

How is it possible that Rita Katz and S.I.T.E. can work this magic? Maybe looking at Katz’s background will help:

Rita Katz is Director and co-founder of the SITE Institute. Born in Iraq, her father was tried and executed as an Israeli spy, whereupon her family moved to Israel [the move has been described as both an escape and an emigration in different sources]. She received a degree from the Middle Eastern Studies program at Tel Aviv University, and is fluent in Hebrew and Arabic. She emigrated to the US in 1997.

Katz was called as a witness in the trial, but the government didn’t claim she was a terrorism expert. During the trial it was discovered that Katz herself had worked in violation of her visa agreement when she first arrived in America in 1997.

She also admitted to receiving more than $130,000 for her work as an FBI consultant on the case.

12-10

China Accuses US of Online Warfare in Iran

March 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Iran election unrest an example of US ‘naked political scheming’ behind free speech facade, says Communist party editorial

A protest over the Iranian election in Washington last June. Photograph: Molly Riley/Reuters

The United States used “online warfare” to stir up unrest in Iran after last year’s elections, the Chinese Communist party newspaper claimed today, hitting back at Hillary Clinton’s speech last week about internet freedom.

An editorial in the People’s Daily accused the US of launching a “hacker brigade” and said it had used social media such as Twitter to spread rumours and create trouble.

“Behind what America calls free speech is naked political scheming. How did the unrest after the Iranian election come about?” said the editorial, signed by Wang Xiaoyang. “It was because online warfare launched by America, via YouTube video and Twitter microblogging, spread rumours, created splits, stirred up and sowed discord between the followers of conservative reformist factions.”

Washington said at the time of the unrest that it had asked Twitter, which was embraced by Iranian anti-government protesters, to remain open. Several social media sites, including YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, have been blocked in China in the last year.

The editorial asked rhetorically whether obscenity or activities promoting terrorism would be allowed on the net in the US. “We’re afraid that in the eyes of American politicians, only information controlled by America is free information, only news acknowledged by America is free news, only speech approved by America is free speech, and only information flow that suits American interests is free information flow,” it added.

It attacked the decision to cut off of Microsoft’s instant messaging services to nations covered by US sanctions, including Cuba, Iran, Syria, Sudan and North Korea, as violating America’s stated desire for free information flow. Washington later said that such services fostered democracy and encouraged their restoration.

China initially gave a low-key response to Google’s announcement that it was no longer willing to censor google.cn. The internet giant said it had reached its decision following a Chinese-originated cyber attack targeting the email accounts of human rights activists, and in light of increasing online censorship.

Clinton’s direct challenge to China, in a speech that had echoes of the cold war with its references to the Berlin wall and an “information curtain”, led Beijing to warn that US criticism could damage bilateral relations. Clinton called on China to hold a full and open investigation into the December attack on Google.

In an interview carried by several Chinese newspapers today, Zhou Yonglin, deputy operations director of the national computer network emergency response technical team, said: “Everyone with technical knowledge of computers knows that just because a hacker used an IP address in China, the attack was not necessarily launched by a Chinese hacker.”

US diplomats sought to reach out to the Chinese public by briefing bloggers in China on Friday. They held a similar meeting during Barack Obama’s visit in November.

12-10

Iran, Syria Leaders Brush Aside US Call to Weaken Ties

March 4, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Two countries scrap visa requirements

By Roueida Mabardi, Agence France Presse (AFP)

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DAMASCUS: The presidents of Syria and Iran signed a visa-scrapping accord on Thursday, signaling even closer ties and brushing aside United States efforts to drive a wedge between the two allies.

“I am surprised by their call to keep a distance between the countries … when they raise the issue of stability and peace in the Middle East, and all the other beautiful principles,” Syrian President Bashar Assad told a news conference in Damascus with his Iranian counterpart, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“We need to further reinforce relations if the true objective is stability. We do not want others to give us lessons on our region, our history,” the Syrian president said.

Ahmadinejad, who flew in to Damascus earlier in the day and later met exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, stressed that ties between the two Muslim states, both outspoken critics of US ally Israel, were as “solid” as ever. “Nothing can damage these relations,” he said.

On the same day in occupied Jerusalem, the United States and Israel resumed an annual “strategic dialogue” for the first time since US President Barack Obama assumed office in 2009, with Iran prominent on the agenda.

US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg met Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

Assad said his country was always on the alert against Israel.

“We are always preparing ourselves for an Israeli aggression whether it is small or big scale,” he said.

Afterward, Ahmadinejad met Meshaal, Ahmed Jibril – leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – and other Palestinian leaders critical of the peace process for talks focused on “the Israeli threats made against Syria, Iran, the Palestinians and Lebanon,” a participant in the meeting said.

Ahmadinejad told the Palestinian leaders that “Iran places itself solidly beside the Palestinian people, until their land is liberated,” the participant said, and that resistance was the “likeliest path to liberation.”

On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Washington has been pressing Damascus to move away from Iran

Questioned on Clinton, Assad adopted an ironic tone.

“We met today to sign a ‘separation accord’ between Syria and Iran, but because of a bad translation we ended up signing an accord on scrapping visas,” he quipped.

Assad said the agreement would serve “to further reinforce relations in all fields and at all levels” between the two countries, which have been close allies for the past three decades.

In the face of US-led efforts to slap new sanctions on the Islamic Republic over its controversial nuclear program, he also defended Iran’s right to pursue uranium enrichment.

“To forbid an independent state the right to enrichment amounts to a new colonialist process in the region,” he said.

The visit came after Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said Syria was determined to help Iran and the West engage in a “constructive” dialogue over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Western governments suspect that the program in Iran is cover for a drive to produce a bomb.

Tehran vehemently denies the allegation.

On the eve of Ahmadinejad’s visit, Clinton was blunter than ever about the bid to drive a wedge between Syria and Iran.

Testifying in the Senate, she said William Burns, the third-ranking US diplomat, “had very intense, substantive talks in Damascus” last week on what was the highest-level US mission to the Syrian capital in five years.

Syria is being asked “generally to begin to move away from the relationship with Iran, which is so deeply troubling to the region as well as to the United States,” Clinton said.

12-10

A New Battle Begins in Pakistan

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Syed Saleem Shahzad

ISLAMABAD – Despite serious reservations, Pakistan’s military at the weekend began an all-out offensive against the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda in the tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.

The deployment of about 30,000 troops in South Waziristan, backed by the air force, shifts the main theater of the South Asian battlefield from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

That Pakistan has become a focal point was underscored on Sunday when six Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps commanders were killed, as well as 37 other people, in an attack in Iran’s restive Sistan-Balochistan province.

Iranian state television said the Foreign Ministry summoned a senior Pakistani diplomat in Tehran, saying there was evidence

“the perpetrators of this attack came to Iran from Pakistan”. The Pakistani government was asked not to delay “in the apprehension of the main elements in this terrorist attack”.

The attack has been blamed on the group Jundallah, which is believed to operate from Pakistan’s Balochistan province and which recently established a link with al-Qaeda. (See Al-Qaeda seeks a new alliance Asia Times Online, May 21, 2009.)

On Monday, clashes between the Pakistan military and the militants continued for the third day in South Waziristan. Islamabad says that 60 militants have been killed, with 11 soldiers dead.

The army had serious reservations about sending ground troops into South Waziristan, firstly for fear of a strong militant backlash in other parts of the country and secondly because there is no guarantee of success. However, under pressure from the United States, and with the carrot of US$1.5 billion a year for the next fives years in additional non-military aid, Pakistan’s political government has bitten the bullet. The timing might have been influenced by a string of militant attacks in the country over the past few days.

The offensive is concentrated in the areas of the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan, which is also the headquarters of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

In preparation for the assault, the army made ceasefire deals with several influential Taliban warlords who run large networks against coalition troops in Afghanistan. They include Mullah Nazir, the chief of the Taliban in Wana, South Waziristan, who operates the largest Taliban network in the Afghan province of Paktika. Mullah Nazir is neutral in this Pakistani conflict and agreed to allow passage to the army to enter Mehsud territory.

In North Waziristan, two top Taliban commanders, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Moulvi Sadiq Noor, also agreed to remain neutral. They are members of the Shura of the Mujahideen and a main component of the Taliban’s insurgency in the Afghan province of Khost.

This leaves a few thousand Mehsud tribal fighters along with their Uzbek and Punjabi militant allies to fight against the military. Thousands of civilians have fled the area.

However, Hakimullah Mehsud of the TTP, according to Asia Times Online contacts, has apparently adopted a strategy that will not expend too many resources on protecting the Mehsud area. Instead, he aims to spread chaos by attacking security personnel in the cities. Hakimullah was the architect of successful attacks on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s supply lines in the Khyber Agency, which began in 2007.

The same contacts say that when thousands of people left South Waziristan last week under the military’s directives, a majority of the militants melted away to the Shawal region, situated at the crossroads of South Waziristan, Afghanistan and North Waziristan, besides going to Pakistani cities.

A very limited force is entrenched in the Mehsud tribal area, and by all accounts it is putting up fierce resistance.

In the cities, the TTP will be assisted by Punjabis, who will aim to replicate the audacious and well-planned attack on the Pakistani military headquarters in Rawalpindi on October 10.

This attack and subsequent siege in which a number of hostages were held exposed loopholes in the security mechanisms of the armed forces as well as the deep penetration of militants in the security forces.

A transcript of the militants’ calls, intercepted by the security forces and read by Asia Times Online, shows that the militants had noticed a damaged wall at General Headquarters Rawalpindi. They therefore engaged security personnel at the main gate, while at the same time sending about 10 men through the breach in the wall. These militants were given support by insiders.

The attackers made directly for the barracks of Military Intelligence and took several senior officials hostage, including the director general of Military Intelligence. They then presented a list of demands. According to some reports which have not been authenticated by independent sources, six prisoners were released on the militants’ demands before the hostages were released after a commando operation on October 11.

Washington has been keen to extend the war into Pakistan since early 2008. To reflect this, this year it coined “AfPak”, and even appointed a special representative, Richard Holbrooke, to handle this portfolio. The focus in Pakistan was to be the militant bases in the tribal areas which feed directly into the insurgency across the border.

The aim was to create breathing space for coalition troops in Afghanistan and eventually pave the way for an honorable exit strategy after initiating talks with sections of the Taliban.

This year, the US also stepped up its presence in Pakistan by acquiring new bases and the Americans developed a joint intelligence mechanism with Pakistan to hit al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Pakistan with Predator drones. These missile attacks have proved particularly successful in taking out key targets, including Baitullah Mehsud, the TTP leader.

The US also coordinated ground military operations such as Lion Heart, which saw coalition troops on the Afghan side working with Pakistani troops on the other side to squeeze militants. (Asia Times Online documented this last year – see US forces the terror issue with Pakistan September 16, 2008.)

There are parallels in what the US is doing with Pakistan to what happened during the Vietnam War, when that war was extended into Laos and Cambodia.

Beyond the South Waziristan operation

Washington is watching developments in Waziristan with keen interest. Both General Stanley A McChrystal, the top US general in Afghanistan, and US Central Command chief, General David Petraeus, are currently in Pakistan.

They will be pleased that Pakistan has committed its biggest-ever force for such an operation – 30,000 troops with another 30,000 in reserve. Yet the chances of a decisive military victory remain remote.

Given the nature of the opposition and the tough territory, there is a high probability of extensive casualties in the army, with resultant desertions and dissent. There is also no guarantee that if the conflict drags on, the warlords with whom ceasefires have been agreed will not go back on their deals.

At the same time, there are signals that the Taliban in the Swat area in North-West Frontier Province are regrouping after being pushed back by the army this year. It is likely that by the time the snow chokes major supply routes, the Taliban will have seized all lost ground in the Swat Valley. By marching into South Waziristan, the military has taken something of a gamble as it is highly unlikely to eliminate the militant threat. Indeed, the past seven or so years have shown that after any operation against militants, the militants have always gained from the situation. By the same token, the militants don’t have the capacity to permanently control ground beyond their areas in South Waziristan and North Waziristan.

In this situation, in which the militants and the military can’t defeat one another, and if the fighting continues, a political crisis could be provoked. This would weaken the state of Pakistan and its institutions. Alternatively, the authorities could accept the fact that Pakistan is a tribal society which always operates through bargains and deals, and move quickly to contain this conflict.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online’s Pakistan Bureau Chief.

12-9

Two Years After: the Independence of Kosovo

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

San Francisco–Your reporter has held up writing the particulars of this speech by the current President of Kosovo for a month and a half to wait for that democracy’s second anniversary of their independence from Serbia (on February 17th) of the largely (ethnically Albanian) and (religiously) Islamic nation in the Southern Balkan Range of the Southeast Europe).

About two to three years ago, personalities from that greater area were making themselves available to American opinion makers quite regularly – including journalists, but after the freedom of Pristina (the Kosovar capital), interest waned in North America.  Yet, his Excellency, the President, (Doctor) Fatmir Sejidu spoke here on the Pacific Coast of the United States of America during January.

The Delaware-sized Republic of Kosovo is (politically) considered the world’s latest nation.  Currently, sixty-four countries have recognized the Republika Kosovo (Kosoves) as sovereign including Washington, NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the European Union (EU) plus the continued fiscal support of the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank.  Despite the dire warnings of twenty-four months ago, Kosovo has become a stable political entity over the past two years.

American citizens failed to recognize the complexity of the struggle partially because of the failure of U.S. media outlets to explain the historical roots of the conflict: 

In the Seventh Century, the ancestors of the modern (now Orthodox) Serbs (Kososki) immigrated into the region, but were to be replaced by a branch of the Albanians, the Kosovars (now 88% of the population) who were eventually subsumed into the Medieval Serbian Empire, but were later incorporated into the Ottoman (Turk) State as a result of the Battle of Kosovo fought in 1389.  The modern history of the Kosovans began after the First Balkan War (1912) which was fought just before the First World War.  At first it was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia founded in 1922; then, the Federal People’s Republic of Yugoslavia as a result of the Second World War (established in 1946).  The great tragedy of the federation of Yugoslavia was that the former State Executive, General Tito, did not build the political basis for the union of States after his presence; so, this country degenerated into its constituent warring factions.  Under the Former Yugoslavia, the Kosovar’s territory was an autonomous Province within Serbia itself, but its self-government was revoked by Belgrade in 1989.  On February 17th of 2008, Pristina declared itself independent.

Although it is the 168th largest country the world in land mass (10,887 sq. km.), it is miniscule in compassion even to most U.S. States.   The Kosovars border three countries that block its access to the sea, and is poor in natural resources.  The demographic ratios show promise for the future, though, (highly tilting towards people in their mid-20s).    The majority of the citizenry are Albanian Muslims with the (Christian) Orthodox weighing in at fewer than 10% with six negligible minorities over three Muslim and Christian groups.

The host of this program of the World Affairs Council of Northern California and the Commonwealth Club of California that had invited Sejdiu to San Francisco, surprisingly, stressed that there were “Many strong views on Dr. Sejdiu’s subject.  Threateningly, the host stated that “Disrupters will be ejected and cited!  Join me in deference to a head of State!”

Fatmir stated on this the second anniversary of the success of our struggle to join the community of nations; we should remember our horrific (epic) battle with (our neighbors,) the Serbs.  It was a conflict for the indigenous Kosovars to reclaim their birthright (terrain) from ethnic cleansing.  He claimed it was the first incidence of a foreign intervention for human rights.  (Your author disputes this, but the interventions by the West against the reactionary and repressive forces in the Former Yugoslavia were one of the more noble ventures in the latter part of the Twentieth Century.)

Sedjiu asserted we could not succeed through negotiations alone with Serbia.  Thus, the international community of peoples supervised the talks.  We now have military co-operation with your country (the U.S.A.) as well as cordial relations with our neighbors.  A state of peace presently exists!

We are having good economic growth despite previous predictions.  Doing what heads of States often do, he “made a pitch” for the Republic’s financial prospects:  We have minerals (unfortunately not strategic ones), and the basis for energy (again, unfortunately, it is coal which adds to Global warming).  Our most valuable asset is our well-educated youth (who are leaving Kosoves in droves because of the lack of opportunity in their native land).

A severe strain upon the commonweal is the fact that the Serbians were stole well-earned pensions from the Kosovans before they left.  The new Administration in the Capital, Pristina had to “pick up the pieces,” and had to devote much needed legal tender to maintain the hard-earned social safety net of the workers!

Concluding the Doctor-President stated “Kosovo is…committed to a peaceful society…Kosovo is committed to integration with Europe,” and friendship with the United States!

12-9

Thoughts on Aafia Siddiqui’s Conviction

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Barrister Jafree’s Open Letter

By Barrister Jafree

I have been dismayed to read the article by Ms.  Rafia Zakaria  from Ohio (otherwise, one of the very few Indic-diaspora lawyer-columnists I have admired and praised) in the Dawn [February 17]. Since July 2008 I had kept her informed about the suffering, dilemmas and predicaments of Dr. Aafia  Siddiqui who was actually brutally kidnapped and ruthlessly-illegally Renditioned (along with her three perfectly innocent infant children) from  Karachi (she was proceeding by taxi to the Saddar  Railway Station on way to Islamabad due to horrendous harassment/ untold persecution from  her former husband as well as  the CIA functionaries and indigenous Khufia, and in the capitol-city of Pakistan she intended to take up employment at The Al-Shifa Hospital, and raise her three children) in 2003; and not arrested from Ghazni in 2008 as has been scurrilously and systemically  claimed by CIA/FBI functionaries and aficionados/bounty-hunters.

Aafia’s  helpless family consists of an elder  sister, a brother, and an old, God-fearing  mother. For six calendar years the  unfortunate, law-abiding Family  could not  even have a First Information Report  (F.I.R.) registered because of the Outreach and overreaction of the Powers That Be (read Unjustified Enrichment wonderboys) in Pakistan.  Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. 

Finally, only late in 2009 a wishy-washy FIR was registered (without mentioning who  had kidnapped Aafia and under whose patronage/sponsorship). That FIR  is being investigated ahista-ahista by SSP Investigator Alhajj Niaz Khosa of Karachi while water has virtually crossed over the heads. This is no cause for applause except for the  Made-in-America Military Industrial Complex!

Mid-July 2008 while  visiting Islamabad  (in connection with my Habeas Writs regarding outrageously wrongful confinement of Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan by General Pervez Musharraf) I was shocked to learn from a mysterious,trembling  phonecall  that Aafia was being detained/abused  in a dungeon jail in Kabul (“and was likely to be shot dead”). Immediately I made the best inquiries I could muster, and  I filed a hand-written  Writ Habeas Corpus in the Islamabad High Court . I did, for example,  ask U.S. Ambassador , Miss Ann Patterson if she denied that the Embassy remained  curiously (and coyly/smugly)  silent so did our  then Interior Secretary, Alhaj Syed Kamal Shah (who was Inspector General of Sindh in 2003). and our Minitry of Law, Justice  and Human Rights. Such silence (indifference+apathy) is deafening, disgraceful and dreadful nonsense of arrogance. 

Concerning my Habeas Writs, the Interior/ Foreign Affairs Ministries and Attorneys-General for Pakistan, (Qayyum and Khosa) wasted time of the Court and showed no concern for a fellow-citizen and human being. I made desperate efforts that the Attorney-General for Pakistan write a letter to United States District Judge Richard Berman (copying it to the United States Attorney  in New York, 20005) that Aafia was illicitly kidnapped from Karachi in 2003. This was not done, sinisterly so,  in spite of  helpful directions from the Lahore High Court which have been openly flouted.

The reprehensible maltreatment of Aafia is a felony of  designer Bait ‘N Switch. The most pressing question here  is  simply not  concerning what is happening  (regretably so!) in Pakistan to other oppressed women and repressed men.  More immediately relevant is the fact that Rafia Zakaria who is on the Board of the American Civil Liberties Union never protested the gravely  ill-treatment that has been accorded to Aafia who was transferred without any cause or judicial/extradition proceeding to the Death-penalty jurisdiction of New York.

The Afghan Government as well as the United States Officialdom violated, inter alia, the Geneva/Vienna Conventions and Treaty of Friendship and Commerce between Pakistan and USA [1959] by not immediately  informing Pakistan Embassy in Kabul (his would have been the case had she been arrested  actually in Ghazni); rather the  Pakistani Embassy in Washington was intimated MUCH  AFTER  my Writ and  only after Aafia had been cruelly lodged in  a New York’s Brooklyn  Detention Center where she has been  violated, physically harmed and variously humiliated and is being  grossly inhumanly maltreated.  Her son, Ahmed has told our illustrious  Interior Minister (Government of Pakistan)  that he never saw nor encountered  his mother after being grabbed and separated from his nuclear family in 2003. in  Karachi. This should make some lice to crawl over the ears of our Establishment! 

I do ask why is  Miss Rafia Zakaria silent about the violence and inhumanity accorded by   the U.S. officialdom to Aafia within United States of America itself. The truth of the matter is that CIA needed some highly-educated person to  ‘credibly’ blame for  the consequences of 9-11; they catapulted  (and are victimizing) America-educated Aafia to fit that  Negative Sum Mentality Purpose. Then, to add/ ‘justify’ insidious  insult to injury (to Aafia as well as  the Occidental image of Islam)  finding no evidence for six  long years  artfully arranged  A-to-Z,

Aafia’s predetermined trial in God-forsaken New York where no civilized country even allows proper Extradition. This is  a crying shame! Aafia was regretably denied  threshold access to  even choose her own lawyers or defend herself of her own. This mischievous misconduct offends all notions of process that was due  and is now Overdue!!
By the way, Dr Aafia Siddiqui never re-married anyone as was wrongfully touted and spinned globally  by FBI. Aafia is victim of that fascist syndromme: “Call a person a dog and then shoot her” . The Neo-Improvisation and Restatement of that Syndrome is that before-predetermined-shooting-an-innocent-lady – - just  have three or four  heavy-weight American soldiers  falsely claim that the chosen victim-to-be-blamed shot at them first by grabbing their gun which was lying on the floor of their overseas dungeon. As a former Assistant Attorney-General in the USA, I know that laying-down the heavy-gun on the floor is never  dared and never done in  suchlike circumstances. Additionally,  no DNA or other physical evidence was discovered to that  alleged-effect. The Jury returned the verdict of “Guilty” based on verbal evidence of Aafia versus four  bought (and brought) witnesses. Law will accept the impossible but not the improbable and unreasonable. Let us not be somnobulant about that.  I spent quater of a century in the USA learning and not-earning dollars.

In a nutshell,  I must  respectfully and  conscientiously ask American bureaucrats  that they should stop maltreating minorities and try to understand Islam in the proper light so that past wrongs and blunders can be rectified and only thus the Day Shall Dawn.

It is a long shot! But where there is will there is a way.

Yours sincerely,

SYED MOHAMMED JAWAID IQBAL JAFREE OF PACIFIC PASLISADES,

MA Illinois LLM Harvard PhD Read  FRSA London  SASC PC, ATTORNEY AT LAW, ADMITTED IN PAKISTAN AND USA

12-9

Community News (V12-I9)

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Duke’s Muslim chaplain to give opening prayers at US house

4E90 DURHAM –- Duke University’s Muslim chaplain, Abdullah T. Antepli, will deliver the opening prayer for the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., at 10 a.m. March 3.

Antepli is serving as guest chaplain at the invitation of U.S. Rep. David Price.

“I am deeply humbled and honored to be asked to give this opening prayer. It is a great honor for me and for Duke University,” Antepli said in a news release. “It’s wonderful that Congress, through their invitation, is acknowledging Duke’s commitment to diversity and a pluralistic society.”

Antepli, who joined Duke in July 2008, is one of only a handful of full-time Muslim chaplains at U.S. colleges and universities. He is the founder and executive board member of the Muslim Chaplains Association and a member of the National Association of College and University Chaplains. He also serves as an adjunct faculty member in the Duke Divinity School and Duke Islamic Studies Center, where he teaches courses on Islam.

The guest chaplain program is sponsored by the Office of the Chaplain of the House of Representatives. Guest chaplains must be recommended by current members of Congress, and each member is allowed to recommend only one religious leader per session. Opening the House of Representatives in prayer is a tradition that began in 1789 with the first Continental Congress.

Columbia MSA discusses Sunni-Shia unity

NEW YORK, NY–The Muslim Student Association of Columbia University held a lecture by Imam Ammar Nakshawani on the importance of uniting Sunni and Shia Muslims.

“There needs to be dialogue in order to bridge the gap,” Nakshawani said in his lecture on Thursday. The word “dialogue,” he added, stems from the Greek word “dia,” which means “to see through the lens of another person.” “For so many years, when Shiites and Sunnis tried to bridge the gap, the Shiite would look through his lens. The Sunni would look through his.”

In his address, Nakshawani asked the audience to put aside political and theological differences between Sunnis and Shiites and focus on the group’s shared fundamental beliefs, such as the oneness of Allah, Muhammad’s (s) role as the prophet of Allah, and the five pillars of Islam.

“Take off your lenses and see through the eyes of someone else,” Nakshawani said.

He criticized he speeches of Sunni and Shiite clerics who use negative phrases, such as “atheist sinners” and “infidels,” to incite hatred of the other sects.

Muslim cemetery proposed in Connecticut

CANTERBURY,CT–The Connecticut Council of Masajid is planning to establish a Muslim cemetery in Canterbury. They have identified a 11 acre site which was recently toured by the area residents and the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Commission.

Abdul Hamid, president of Council of Masajid, has been in Connecticut since 1966 and lives in Hampton. He said he has always found a friendly mix of people in the state.

“This is an opportunity to get to know people,’’ he said of the walk through the woods.

The group has an option to purchase the Canterbury property for $300,000 from Daniel M. Cymkow. According to the wetlands application, a 12- to 15-foot wide driveway would wind through the land. The first and second phases of the cemetery would be four acres each, and the third phase would be 17 acres. The land would not be clear cut, Hamid said.

If a wetlands permit is approved, the group would still need a special exception permit from the Planning & Zoning Commission.

First Halal Meals on Wheels Program Introduced in US

DETROIT, MI–The Arabic Community Center for Economic and Social Services has launched what is the first Halal  Meals on Wheels program in the US. The program delivers hot Halal meals to seniors who require care and was launched last month in Dearborn.

Amne Darwish Talab of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services told the Detroit News that  there has been a need for this type of service for a long time.

“There are a lot of people who don’t have the same living conditions as they did before this economic crisis,” said Talab, ACCESS’s social services. “A lot of seniors have no family or no kids or their kids are in another state.”

The program currently has about 20 recipients and is expected to grow.

Muslim students help the homeless in Orlando

ORLANDO, FL–The Muslim Student Association at the University of Central Florida has launched a program which not only provides food for the homeless but also gives then clean , new socks.

Project Downtown is a part of MSA National that was started by students in Miami who wanted to give the homeless more than food, the Central Florida Future reported.

The project is founded on the idea that people should not only give food but also whatever modest, unconditional gifts they can offer, according to Project Downtown’s Web site.

Huma Khan, a mechanical engineering major and the Director of Project Downtown, Orlando, said that the sock donation was one way to give more to the community.

“It’s just a random thing we picked out that homeless people do need,” she said. “Socks, underwear, stuff like that. Just little things that we look over that people in the streets actually do need and that they appreciate a lot more than we do.”

Khan added that the members of Project Downtown, Orlando give the homeless someone to talk to.

“Us being here kind of just gives them something to look forward to,” she said. “I build relationships with people. I know who they are, I know them by face…if you have a good conversation with someone one week, it’ll kind of make your day a little bit better and you’ll look forward to speaking to that person again.”

12-9

The Iranian Greens and the West: A Dangerous Liaison

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sasan Fayazmanesh

In the 1979 Revolution in Iran the liberal forces made a fatal mistake: they adopted the old dictum of the enemy of my enemy is my friend and allied themselves with just about every force that opposed the tyrannical rule of the shah. The result was helping to replace one form of despotism for another: monarchy for theocracy. A similar mistake seems to be made today. Many liberal elements are once again allying themselves with anyone who opposes the current regime in Iran, including the same Western countries that nourished the despotic rule of the shah in the first place.

For decades these countries, particularly the US and Israel, helped the shah to deprive Iranians of their most basic rights and freedoms. With the assistance of these countries, the demented despot silenced all opposition to his rule, built and expanded his notorious secret police, made his opponents disappear, and filled Irans dungeons, particularly the infamous Evin prison that is still in use, with political prisoners. He had them tortured, mutilated, and executed. The US, Israel and their allies, had no problem with these violations of basic human rights in Iran as long as the son of a bitch was their son of a bitch and made them a partner in the plunder of the wealth of the nation.

Afterward, these same countries gave us the dual containment policy that helped Saddam Hussein start one of the longest wars in the 20th century, the Iran-Iraq War. They closed their eyes to Saddams crimes and even assisted him in his criminal acts. With their help, the butcher of Baghdad killed and maimed hundreds of thousands of people by deploying chemical agents in the war, bombing civilians and laying cities to waste. The West had no problem with Saddam Hussein as long as he was their son of a bitch. But once the Iraq-Iran War ended and Saddam tried to become a free agent, the US, Israel and their allies gave us the first invasion of Iraq and the subsequent inhumane sanctions against the country, which resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Then they brought about the second invasion of Iraq, the shock and awe, indiscriminate bombing of the civilians, sadistic and horrendous treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the savagery in Fallujah, more death, destruction, and mayhem. Then Israel, that only democracy in the Middle East, and its Western allies, gave us the brutal war against the helpless Lebanese and the massacre in Gaza.

Has all this been forgotten? Have the liberal Iranian forces lost their memory? Are they suffering from historical amnesia? Indeed, the behavior of some of the supporters of the Iranian Greens leaves one with no choice but to conclude that they are either experiencing a memory loss or are amazingly ignorant. For example, according to The Washington Post, on November 2, 2009, Ataollah Mohajerani, who has been a spokesman in Europe for presidential candidate-turned-dissident Mehdi Karroubi, came to Washington to address the annual conference of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. True, according to the report, Mr. Mohajeranis talk, which included such things as a rehashing of U.S. involvement in the 1953 coup in Tehran, did not exactly please his audience. But why would a supporter of the Iranian Greens appear before the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) crowd in the first place? Doesnt he know what WINEP represents? Has he no idea that this institute is a think tank affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)? Is he not aware that AIPAC is the Israeli fifth column in the US, which, in spite of formulating US foreign policy in the Middle East, is caught every few years in the act of espionage? Is he ignorant of the fact that AIPAC-WINEP has been underwriting every sanction act against Iran since the early 1990s? Is he unaware that AIPAC-WINEP gave us Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and associates, the Bush era architects of the genocidal war in Iraq? Does he not know that AIPAC-WINEP has brought us Dennis Ross and associates, the architects of the Obama era policy of tough diplomacy, a policy that was intended to bring nothing but more sanctions against Iran and, possibly, a war? Is he not aware that AIPAC-WINEPs interest in Iran stops at the doorstep of Eretz Israel and has nothing to do with democracy or human rights in Iran? How forgetful or ignorant can a supporter of the cleric Karroubi be?

Many supporters of Mir Hussein Mossavi have also shown either memory lapses or complete ignorance. . . .

12-9

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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