Bin Laden: Obama Snatches Defeat from Jaws of Victory

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Yvonne Ridley

As the news of Osama bin Laden’s death filtered out onto the streets of America it triggered unsightly scenes of undiluted hysteria, chest-thumping and back-slapping which has sadly become a trademark of the vengeful ‘hang’em high’ lobby that emerged from the rubble of 9/11.

And just like George W Bush did on that horrific day way back in 2001, US President Barack Obama unashamedly wallowed in a flag-waving, nationalistic wave of emotion, crowing about national unity and everyone pulling together as he revealed the manhunt for the world’s most wanted man had finally been concluded.

It mattered not the al-Qaida leader was unarmed – that detail was kept back as hugely distorted stories zoomed around the globe about how the evil Arab used his wife as a human shield while firing off rounds at the heroic soldiers who risked their all for Uncle Sam.

The naked display of uncontrollable gung-ho emotion was bad enough but then a smug-looking Obama began sounding like Glenn Ford in a scene from High Noon as he lectured the world about “justice being done”.

To quote my favourite journalist Gary Younge: “This was not justice, it was an extra-judicial execution. If you shoot a man twice in the head you do not find him guilty. You find him dead. This was revenge. And it was served very cold indeed.”

Mercifully, in this sea of madness another sane voice in America also drowned out the hate-filled chorus and it came from an unlikely source – 9/11 survivor Harry Waizer.
If anyone had a right to jump up and down like a lunatic at the show of a full moon it was him, but instead of adding to the hatefest he said: “I just can’t find it in me to be glad one more person is dead, even if it is Osama Bin Laden.”

I hope now that America’s Number One Bogeyman is no more the USA returns to some semblance of normality that has been absent from its landscape since the now discredited War on Terror began.
And I hope that the US Administration will stop using the politics of fear on its own people who have been ruthlessly hyped up in to a state of advanced paranoia at every opportunity. High days and holidays have been blighted by accelerated levels of terror alerts while the latest airport scares and the latest suspect parcels have brought major cities and their transport networks to a halt.

While it is always dangerous to generalize the American people appear to have been kept suspended in fear ever since 9/11 – the reality is ordinary citizens have more chance of being shot in their backyard than be killed by a terrorist.

30,000 innocents die every year in gun-related crime – that’s a 9/11 multiplied by ten – but the close relationship with deadly weapons shows no sign of abating in trigger-happy America.

In terms of a violent society and armed citizens, the US is in a league of its own and sadly the state of disregard for the law and justice filters all the way down from The White House.

That the most powerful man in the world can stare straight into the cameras and say: “Justice was done” over Bin Laden’s murder borders on absurdity; it’s almost Pythonesque.

Real justice would have involved an arrest, a trial by jury and a sentence in an international court should the thought of holding him on USA soil prove too frightening.

Real justice would not have involved shooting an unarmed man in front of his wife and children – there were no bodyguards in the house in Abbottabad in Pakistan.

Real justice would not have involved charging into someone else’s country with armed forces unannounced, if indeed that was really the case in Pakistan.

I’m surprised David Cameron, the British Prime Minister and other political leaders went into congratulatory mode in the House of Commons over the whole saga.

Had it not occurred to them that if OBL had chosen to hide out in Didsbury, Tooting or Chipping Norton then US Special Forces would have come into the UK all guns blazing?

I wonder, would Cameron have gushed forth with undiluted praise then?

We don’t know who America’s next Bogeyman is going to be, but what if he does live in Britain or chooses to hide in the UK? What then? Do we sit back and allow America to breach our sovereignty in the name of US justice?

Are there any real guarantees that we won’t have US Navy Seals bursting into our neighbourhoods anytime soon?

OK, it’s highly unlikely but not impossible. This is what happens when there’s total disregard for international law, Vienna and Geneva conventions et al.

Distinguished QC Geoffrey Robertson is a man I’d like to lock in the Oval Office with the Commander in Chief for maybe 30 minutes. A renowned international human rights lawyer, he is not at all impressed by Obama’s interpretation of justice.

Writing about the OBL killing he said the law “permits criminals to be shot in self-defence. They should, if possible, be given the opportunity to surrender, but even if they do not come out with their hands up, they must be taken alive, if that can be achieved without risk. Exactly how Bin Laden came to be shot (especially if it was in the back of the head, execution-style) therefore requires explanation. Why the hasty “burial at sea” without a post-mortem, as the law requires?”

Why indeed? The trouble is various US Administrations have lied to the world – lied about the reasons for going to war in Iraq, lied about the existence of WMD, lied about Saddam being in league with al-Qaida.

And the problem with serial liars is that when they do tell the truth no one believes them.

Once again America has managed to shoot itself in the foot in the name of justice – a justice that has earned the admiration and praise of the chairman of the Israeli parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs and Security.

Shaul Mofaz of the right wing Kadima is now urging the Zionist Government to assassinate Palestinian leaders like the “US did with Osama bin Laden”.

He seems to have overlooked the fact that Israel has been “doing an Obama” for years as the leadership of Hamas can testify.

Nevertheless, it seems that even though international law prohibits the use of extra judicial assassination policies, various states of terror may now starting “Doing an Obama”.

After bringing an end to the biggest manhunt in US history, the US President has managed to snatch a defeat from the jaws of victory.

British journalist Yvonne Ridley is a patron of the London-based NGO Cageprisoners – www.cageprisoners.com

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Gaza Freedom Marchers vs Egyptian Police

March 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

Gaza has become the central focus of the human rights struggle. Many groups have called for its liberation, and many are striving to bring aid to that beleaguered area. This concern has accelerated since the launching of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead last year and the devastation that this operation wrought.

A coalition led by Code Pink had announced plans to enter Gaza through Rafah during a three week period which would coincide with the first anniversary of Israel’s destructive campaign. While in Gaza the group planned to march from Rafah to the Eretz crossing – the entry into Gaza from Israel – and symbolically link there with marchers from Israel.

Mary Hughes-Thompson, familiar to readers of The Muslim Observer and to activists worldwide, was a participant in the planned Gaza Freedom March. Ms Thompson is a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and has travelled to the Occupied Palestinian Territories several times. She  is co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement and was on the first ship to reach Gaza in August 2008, breaking a decades long siege. She has given The Muslim Observer an interview.

The story of the Gaza Freedom March (GFM) and its failure to achieve its announced goal is a story whose central factor and key players are Egyptian collaboration. The Egyptian police used an intimidating physical presence to thwart the peaceful demonstrators.

In late December some 1400 international activists assembled in Cairo prepatory to travelling to El Arish and then on to Rafah.  On arriving in Cairo they were told by the Egyptian authorities that they would not be permitted to assemble or to travel to Gaza.

Code Pink as speaker for the Gaza Freedom Marchers announced a press conference. Immediately after the announcement they were told by Egyptian authorities that they could not hold a press conference.

TMO:  Am I correct that the Gaza Freedom Marchers went to Cairo with the expectation that the proper protocol had been observed and that they would be permitted to travel to Rafah?

Ms Thompson:  The Egyptian authorities had agreed to facilitate our travelling to Gaza.  They had asked that the names and passport information for all participants be provided to them by November 30th, and this was done.

TMO:  What reason did the Egyptian authorities give for disallowing a press conference?

Ms Thompson:  I do know they had originally granted permits for both the press conference and for the orientation meeting which was scheduled to be held December 27th.  A few days earlier Egypt suddenly withdrew the permits which meant we could not hold either event.

TMO:  Could you tell us what threats were made to taxi cab drivers and/or bus drivers to prevent the group from using these means of transportation?

Ms Thompson:  They were told their licenses would be revoked.

TMO:  Could you tell us the behavior of the Egyptian police when they blocked the exits from a number of hotels where activists were staying?

Ms Thompson:  They blocked exits from a number of the hotels where activists were staying.  We had several policemen stationed outside our hotel at all times, and every time we left we were asked where we were going and when we would be back.  The first couple of days a policeman came with us in our taxi and stayed with us all day.  Each time we took a taxi from our hotel, a policeman questioned the driver, took his license number and ID, and, on one occasion, sat on the hood of our taxi refusing to let us leave.

TMO:  Did the GFM group at any time engage in or threaten violence?

Ms Thompson:  I would definitely say no to that. There was not a great deal of violence at all but what there was was on the part of the Egyptian police trying to control the crowds and trying to lock us into our hotels to prevent us from assembling.

TMO:  Did you have an opportunity to interact with the Egyptian people?

Ms Thompson:  While in Egypt we met several high profile people who were actively engaged in protesting. In fact, we went to the courthouse one day to support a local lawyer who was part of a group trying to challenge the Egyptian government’s building of the wall along the Rafah border. At the end of our trip Yvonne Ridley hired a van to take us to the pyramids (so she could videotape Hedy). {TMO: Hedy Epstein, an 85 year old Holocaust survivor and a Palestinian activist}, and our driver pointed to the spot on which we had been roughed up a few days earlier and said:  “The other day there was a revolution there.”

TMO:  Would you describe for our readers the details of the Egyptian police activity vis a vis your group at Tahrir Square?

Ms Thompson:  We decided that on the day we had planned to march to Erez crossing, we would hold a symbolic march in Cairo, and go as far as the Egyptian police would let us.  We started in Tahrir Square, opposite the Museum, and we ended there.  We came in small groups of two or three, from all directions, and the police were waiting for us.  They stopped my group (me, Hedy, and her two friends from St Louis, Sandra and J’Ann) and wouldn’t let us go to the meeting point.  We refused to leave, and insisted we were tired and needed to sit on a bench on the sidewalk.  Suddenly we saw a swarm of people crossing the street, and we ran to join them.  We were immediately surrounded by policemen three deep, and they wouldn’t let anyone in or out.

Generally the police didn’t use rough tactics, and I think my grey hair and cane might have helped me.

Even assembly in small groups was not permitted and any such gatherings were quickly surrounded by Egyptian police in riot gear.

Eventually through the intervention of Susan Mubarak, the head of the Egyptian Red Crescent Society, 100 of the Gaza Freedom marchers were told they could travel to Gaza and bring with them the supplies they wanted to provide to the people there. This happened before the event at Tahrir Square.

TMO:  Thank you Ms Thompson on behalf of The Muslim Observer. You have given us an insight into events in Cairo, an insight not readily accessible in the media.

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American Justice?

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Yvonne Ridley

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Many of us are still in a state of shock over the guilty verdict returned on Dr Aafia Siddiqui.

The response from the people of Pakistan was predictable and overwhelming and I salute their spontaneous actions. From Peshawar to Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore and beyond they marched in their thousands demanding the return of Aafia.

Even some of the US media expressed discomfort over the verdict returned by the jurors … there was a general feeling that something was not right. Everyone had something to say, everyone that is except the usually verbose US Ambassador Anne Patterson who has spent the last two years briefing against Dr Aafia and her supporters.

This is the same woman who claimed I was a fantasist when I gave a press conference with Tehreek e Insaf leader Imran Khan back in July 2008 revealing the plight of a female prisoner in Bagram called the Grey Lady.

She said I was talking nonsense and stated categorically that the prisoner I referred to as “650” did not exist. By the end of the month she changed her story and said there had been a female prisoner but that she was most definitely not Dr Aafia Siddiqui.

By that time Aafia had been gunned down at virtually point blank range in an Afghan prison cell jammed full of more than a dozen US soldiers, FBI agents and Afghan police.

Her Excellency briefed the media that the prisoner had wrested an M4 gun from one soldier and fired off two rounds and had to be subdued. The fact these bullets failed to hit a single person in the cell and simply disappeared did not resonate with the diplomat.

In a letter dripping in untruths on August 16 2008 she decried the “erroneous and irresponsible media reports regarding the arrest of Ms Aafia Siddiqui”. She went on to say: “Unfortunately, there are some who have an interest in simply distorting the facts in an effort to manipulate and inflame public opinion. The truth is never served by sensationalism…”

When Jamaat Islami invited me on a national tour of Pakistan to address people about the continued abuse of Dr Aafia and the truth about her incarceration in Bagram, the US Ambassador continued to issue rebuttals.

She assured us all that Dr Aafia was being treated humanely had been given consular access as set out in international law … hmm. Well I have a challenge for Ms Patterson today. I challenge her to repeat every single word she said back then and swear it is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

As Dr Aafia Siddiqui’s trial got underway, the US Ambassador and some of her stooges from the intelligence world laid on a lavish party at the US Embassy in Islamabad for some hand-picked journalists where I’ve no doubt in between the dancing, drinks and music they were carefully briefed about the so-called facts of the case.

Interesting that some of the potentially incriminating pictures taken at the private party managed to find the Ambassador was probably hoping to minimize the impact the trial would have on the streets of Pakistan proving that, for the years she has been holed up and barricaded behind concrete bunkers and barbed wire, she has learned nothing about this great country of Pakistan or its people.

One astute Pakistani columnist wrote about her: “The respected lady seems to have forgotten the words of her own country’s 16th president Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865): “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

And the people of Pakistan proved they are nobody’s fool and responded to the guilty verdict in New York in an appropriate way.

When injustice is the law it is the duty of everyone to rise up and challenge that injustice in any way possible. The response – so far – has been restrained and measured but it is just the start. A sentence has yet to be delivered by Judge Richard Berman in May.

Of course there has been a great deal of finger pointing and blame towards the jury in New York who found Dr Aafia guilty of attempted murder.

Observers asked how they could ignore the science and the irrefutable facts … there was absolutely no evidence linking Dr Aafia to the gun, no bullets, no residue from firing it.

But I really don’t think we can blame the jurors for the verdict – you see the jury simply could not handle the truth. Had they taken the logical route and gone for the science and the hard, cold, clinical facts it would have meant two things. It would have meant around eight US soldiers took the oath and lied in court to save their own skins and careers or it would have meant that Dr Aafia Siddiqui was telling the truth.

And, as I said before, the jury couldn’t handle the truth. Because that would have meant that the defendant really had been kidnapped, abused, tortured and held in dark, secret prisons by the US before being shot and put on a rendition flight to New York. It would have meant that her three children – two of them US citizens – would also have been kidnapped, abused and tortured by the US.

They say ignorance is bliss and this jury so desperately wanted not to believe that the US could have had a hand in the kidnapping of a five-month -old baby boy, a five-year-old girl and her seven-year-old brother.

They couldn’t handle the truth … it is as simple as that.

Well I, and many others across the world like me, can’t handle any more lies. America’s reputation is lying in the lowest gutters in Pakistan at the moment and it can’t sink any lower.

The trust has gone, there is only a burning hatred and resentment towards a superpower which sends unmanned drones into villages to slaughter innocents.
It is fair to say that America’s goodwill and credibility is all but washed up with most honest, decent citizens of Pakistan.

And I think even Her Excellency Anne Patterson recognizes that fact which is why she is now keeping her mouth shut.

If she has any integrity and any self respect left she should stand before the Pakistan people and ask for their forgiveness for the drone murders, the extra judicial killings, the black operations, the kidnapping, torture and rendition of its citizens, the water-boarding, the bribery, the corruption and, not least of all, the injustice handed out to Dr Aafia Siddiqui and her family.

She should then pick up the phone to the US President and tell him to release Aafia and return Pakistan’s most loved, respected and famous daughter and reunite her with the two children who are still missing.

Then she should re-read her letter of August 16, 2008 and write another … one of resignation.

Yvonne Ridley is a patron of Cageprisoners which first brought the plight of Dr Aafia Siddiqui to the world’s attention shortly after her kidnap in March 2003. The award-winning, investigative journalist also co-produced the documentary In Search of Prisoner 650 with film-maker Hassan al Banna Ghani which concluded that the Grey Lady of Bagram was Dr Aafia Siddiqui

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Who is Aafia Siddiqui?

December 10, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Mauri’ Saalakhan

As someone who has been a human rights advocate for most of his adult life, I have seen many cases come and go; few have been as heart rending and consequential as the mysterious case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.

More than six years into this saga there still remain many unknowns. What brought the US government’s attention to this soft-spoken, unassuming woman? Why was she abducted and secretly held for five years? Why did Pakistan hand over one of its citizens to the US? And given the nature of the allegations that were being made by US authorities around the time of Aafia’s disappearance, why have none of those terrorism-related innuendos found their way into the criminal indictment that was finally brought against Aafia in a US federal court?

Dr. Siddiqui and her three children (two of whom are American born) disappeared in March 2003 following their abduction from a taxicab in Karachi Pakistan. No one would know of their whereabouts for the next five years. As time passed, however, and tales began to spread about a mysterious woman being held at Bagram (Afghanistan), identified only as Prisoner 650, pressure began to build toward indentifying who that mysterious woman was.

Investigative journalist and human rights activist Yvonne Ridley – who produced an excellent documentary on the subject (“In Search of Prisoner 650”) – dubbed her “The Grey Lady of Bagram.” Shortly after Ridley traveled to Pakistan to build mass support for an investigation into who the grey lady really was, a disheveled and degraded Aafia Siddiqui reappeared on the streets of Ghazni, Afghanistan in July 2008, only to be drawn back into a deadly web of intrigue.

One of the most riveting parts of “In Search of Prisoner 650,” for this writer, was Ridley’s interview of Ghazni Counter-Terrorism Police Chief Abdul Qadeer. The chief recounted that on the day of Aafia’s re-arrest 12 to 13 Americans were given permission to interview her. After one went behind the curtain where she was being held, all of a sudden there was gunfire. Aafia was shot and seriously wounded.

The official story was that Aafia had tried to pick up a rifle to fire upon the investigators, but ended up being shot in the stomach herself. According to the report, she received emergency treatment only because Afghan authorities insisted on it. In the documentary, Abdul Qadeer expressed suspicion about why she was removed from their (Afghan) custody. When the Governor of Ghazni Province, Dr. Usman Usmani, was confronted with this question by Yvonne Ridley, he gave a rather confused and clearly uncomfortable response.

Who is Dr. Aafia Siddiqui?

Aafia Siddiqui is a 37 year old Pakistani national who did her graduate and post-graduate work in the United States, graduating from MIT and Brandeis University, where she received her PhD. Those who knew her in Boston (who this writer has spoken to) have had nothing but glowing things to say about her. Quiet, soft-spoken, focused; a devoted mother, excellent student, and committed muslimah who was known for her charitable work in the Boston community, is how she is invariably described.

She was married to a Pakistani doctor, but they were divorced (under acrimonious circumstances) by the time of her abduction. The two youngest children from this marriage are still missing to this day. The oldest, a now 12 year old son, was returned to his family just this past summer and now resides with Aafia’s sister, Fauzia.

What brought this young mother to the attention of U.S. authorities remains a mystery. Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, in a press conference years ago, described her as an “al-Qaeda facilitator.” And yet, now in custody awaiting trial, Aafia Siddiqui does not face even one terrorism related charge! 

What we can do

This case involving Dr. Aafia Siddiqui is one of the most important precedent-setting cases confronting the Muslim-American community post 9/11. (Laws are established on the basis of precedent.)

In 2002, Deputy Attorney General Viet Dinh – a prominent member of the Justice Department’s “cartel of conservative lawyers” – was the first high level official in the Bush-Cheney administration to openly admit the government’s use of “profiling” (both racial and religious) in the so-called “war on terrorism.” When questioned on the criteria employed, his response was, “The criteria Al-Qaeda itself uses; eighteen to 35 year old males who entered the country after the start of 2000 using passports from countries where Al-Qaeda has a strong presence.”

In his address to the American Bar Association conference in Naples, Florida earlier that year (Jan. 2002) he stated quite emphatically: “We are reticent to provide a road map to Al-Qaeda as to the progress and direction of our investigative activity. We don’t want to taint people as being of interest to the investigation simply because of our attention. We will let them go if there is not enough of a predicate to hold them. But we will follow them closely, and if they so much as spit on the sidewalk we’ll arrest them. The message is that if you are a suspected terrorist, you better be squeaky clean. If we can we will keep you in jail.”

Clearly this has been the policy of the U.S. government for Muslim males post 9/11. With the case of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, that policy was expanded to include Muslim females as well. If they can get away with what they’re doing to Aafia today, it will be others tomorrow.

A demonstration is being planned for the courthouse on the day of opening arguments in January 2010. The two most important things we can do for Aafia at this point are to keep her in our prayers, and show up on the date of this mobilization. As our beloved Prophet (pbuh) said: “Tie your camel, and have trust in ALLAH.”

Mauri’ Saalakhan serves as Director of Operations for The Peace And Justice Foundation. For more information on the upcoming mobilization call (301) 762-9162 or E-mail peacethrujustice@aol.com.

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