Thursday, September 30, 2010

Holy War

And the religion-tinged racism of our military occupation is well-documented by conscience-stricken veterans of the war on terror. For instance, Mike Totten, speaking at the 2008 Winter Soldier hearings in Washington, D.C., discussed how the Army twisted the word "hadji," which means an Islamic religious pilgrim, into the "gook" stand-in of the Iraq war.

By Robert C. Koehler
September 17, 2010
Courtesy Of "IslamiCity's iView's"

It took the U.S. secretary of defense, for God's sake, to get a Florida preacher to cancel his plans for pyrotechnic sacrilege on Sept. 11. A few days later, CNN asked some of its blog contributors to reflect on the incident . . . "now that the crisis is over."

We're neck deep in two wars (excuse me, one and a half) and an imploding economy, not to mention global warming, endemic violence and hurricane season, but Terry Jones' creepy publicity stunt has the status of a national crisis: America's close call! We came this closeto offending Muslims!

Oh, we are a sensitive nation.

And Jones was, indeed, dabbling at the margins of holy war, which media coverage managed to turn into a global phenomenon. "... he ignited an international conflagration of outrage," as CNN put it, though he didn't do it by himself.

One of the core paradoxes of our news industry is that it grew in breadth and scope - in its ability to reach billions of people - well ahead of its growth in depth and insightful coverage. It's as sensation-mongering as it was in its penny broadsheet days, and thus a marginal, gun-toting preacher and his obscene little plan to burn several hundred Qurans became capriciously catapulted into an international news story and a "national crisis."

All the while, we press on with our "war on terror," which over the last nine years has managed to become fabulously expensive background noise (except, of course, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other places where it's actually being waged, and among the troops fighting it and their anxious or shattered families). This war of oil and empire presses on in its inevitability, having long ago transcended the original lies that birthed it.

Funny thing is, there's plenty of Terry Jones in our mission (originally it was a "crusade," remember?) in the Middle East, plenty of holy hell and demonizing of Islam. There has always been a shadowy, 12th century edge to the war, which was launched amid serious (and seriously reported) neocon bluster about a "clash of civilizations." And throughout the fighting, high-ranking Evangelical Christians - from Lt. Gen. William Boykin, former undersecretary of defense, to Lt. Col. Gary Hensley, chief of U.S. military chaplains in Afghanistan - have contorted the war into a quest for souls and a clash of deities (our God is the real God).

Before the November 2004 assault on Fallujah, a lieutenant colonel told his troops (as quoted by a BBC reporter): "The enemy has got a face. He's called Satan. He lives in Fallujah. And we're going to destroy him."

And the religion-tinged racism of our military occupation is well-documented by conscience-stricken veterans of the war on terror. For instance, Mike Totten, speaking at the 2008 Winter Soldier hearings in Washington, D.C., discussed how the Army twisted the word "hadji," which means an Islamic religious pilgrim, into the "gook" stand-in of the Iraq war. "The hadji is an obstacle. Get him out of the way," Totten's sergeant major was wont to say. Totten added: "Denying a person their name gave us permission to separate ourselves from the people of Iraq."

Compared to all this, Terry Jones and his erstwhile Quran barbecue plans were chump change - a planned spectacle of his own and his congregation's ignorance. While the burning would have enraged many Muslims and possibly incited some to vengeful violence, it might also have emboldened the religious bigots within the ranks of our own military and among the war's diehard supporters. (And of course there were some copycat Quran burnings reported, even though Jones held off on his own plans.)

So Jones became an official crisis - a PR crisis - who needed to be publicly rebuked and, God willing, stopped. Modern, industrial wars, fought by a modern empire, aren't supposed to be holy wars, even though war itself is a concept steeped in the fanaticism of religion and nationalism. Just as George Bush's PR team had to stifle their crusadin' commander in chief, so the far savvier Barack Obama has to insist on a sober, separation-of-church-and-state war fought only for reasons of national security.

"In a world of global communications, crackpots such as the would-be Quran-burners in Florida can disrupt the U.S. war on terror," Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism research fellow at the New America Foundation, wrote as his contribution to CNN's "lessons learned" blog.

To distinguish the responsible pursuers of the war on terror from crackpots like Jones, Fishman quoted Gen. David Petraeus' words to the troops in Afghanistan: "Live our values. Stay true to the values we hold dear. This is what distinguishes us from our enemies."

From Guantanamo to Bagram to Baghdad to Fallujah, let us live our values, perpetrating only the torture we allow in our own prisons, only the violence we allow in our own ghettoes, only the toxic horrors we allow in our own soil and water, and only the corruption we allow in our own halls of Congress.
Oh Lord, we pray.
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist, contributor to One World, Many Peaces and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound (Xenos Press) is now available for pre-orders. Contact him at koehlercw [at] or visit his website at 


Jewish Groups Denounce ‘Museum Of Tolerance’

Simon Wiesenthal Center Builder Supports Islamophobia

By Alex Kane
September 17, 2010
Courtesy Of "The Indypendent"

A coalition of four Jewish groups, backed by a wide array of peace and justice organizations, held a demonstration Sept. 16 outside the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Museum of Tolerance in New York, denouncing the organization’s opposition to the Islamic community center in lower Manhattan.
Organized by Jews Say No!, American Jews for a Just PeaceJewish Voice for Peace andJews for Racial and Economic Justice, about 100 demonstrators walked in front of the museum on East 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan, chanting “Islamophobia isn’t pretty, it has no place in New York City” and “Islamophobia is a shame, New Yorkers say not in our name.”
“If you’re going to put tolerance in your name, you got to put it in your game, and the Museum of Tolerance has not done that,” Jon Moscow, an activist with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, told members of the press.  “Statements that its leaders have been making have been feeding this frenzy of Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism.”
As the Cordoba House controversy, manufactured and fueled by far-right blogs and the right-wing press, heated up, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center,appeared on Fox News in early August and criticized the proposed Muslim community center.
“Having a 15-story mosque within 1600 feet of the site is at the very least insensitive,” Hier said.
The Park 51 Muslim community center, of which the Cordoba House interfaith center will be a part, has sparked an acrimonious national debate over Islam and religious freedom, setting the stage for an upsurge in anti-Muslim sentiment across the United States.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center describes itself as an “international Jewish human rights organization” that promotes “human rights and dignity.”
The Wiesenthal Center’s executive director, Rabbi Meyer May, told Crain’s New York that “religious freedom does not mean being insensitive … or an idiot.”
“The museum says its aim is ‘to challenge people of all backgrounds to confront their most closely held assumptions and assume responsibility for change.’  That’s a beautiful vision.  But it’s one that is wholly inconsistent with the actions of the museum’s leadership,” said Hannah Schwarzschild of American Jews for a Just Peace.
Center for Constitutional Right's Richard Levy: Simon Wiesenthal Center has given us 'a new definition of chutzpah.' Photo: ELLEN DAVIDSON
Center for Constitutional Right's Richard Levy: Simon Wiesenthal Center has given us 'a new definition of chutzpah.' Photo: ELLEN DAVIDSON
Demonstrators also harshly criticized the center’s decision to build a Jerusalem branch of the Museum of Tolerance on top of a centuries-old Muslim cemetery, known as the Mamilla cemetery.  They said that the center’s project, which has resulted in the “disinterment of hundreds of graves,” according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, is another example of the center disregarding the rights of Muslims.
“I’m just going to take a minute to tell you a new definition of a Yiddish word called ‘chutzpah.’ … It refers to brazen nerve,” said Richard Levy, a lawyer working with the Center for Constitutional Rights on a petition filed with several international bodies to halt the construction of the museum in Jerusalem. “This cemetery, which stands in West Jerusalem for a thousand years, is now subject to the bulldozer of this organization. So that’s the meaning of the word chutzpah: to say you stand for tolerance, and perform that kind of an act, is the most despicable kind of hypocrisy.”
Debbie Almontaser: 'Be just. Speak to your mission.' Photo: ELLEN DAVIDSON
Debbie Almontaser: 'Be just. Speak to your mission.' Photo: ELLEN DAVIDSON
Also speaking at the demonstration was Debbie Almontaser, herself the victim of a anti-Muslim, anti-Arab smear campaign reminiscent of the controversy over the Park 51 project that ultimately forced her to resign as the founding principal of the Khalil Gibran International Academy, a dual-language Arabic public school in Brooklyn.
“Why are the museum and Simon Wiesenthal leaders not taking a principled stand against the hatred of Islam and Muslims?” Almontaser asked.  “I say to them: Be just. Speak to your mission.”

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FBI Sent Me To Terrorist Camp In Pakistan

Bomb-Plot Informant Testifies

By Chris Dolmetsch
Sep 16, 2010 5:42 PM ET
Courtesy Of "Bloomberg News"

The confidential informant at the center of the case against four men accused of plotting to bomb New York City synagogues testified that the Federal Bureau of Investigation sent him to Pakistan in 2008 to attend a terrorist training camp.
The informant, Shahed Hussain, told a jury in New York today he went to his native country in December of that year to meet someone at the camp. He didn’t identify the organization running the camp or discuss the result of the investigation.
“Are you a terrorist?” defense lawyer Susanne Brody asked Hussain in cross-examination.
“No ma’am,” he responded.
Hussain was testifying during the second day of cross- examination by Brody, a lawyer with thefederal public defender’s office who is representing defendant Onta Williams.
Defense attorneys have argued that their clients are the victims of entrapment, poor men enticed into the plot with the promise of cars, cash and food by Hussain.
The lawyers for the men have tried to portray Hussain as a habitual liar who misled officials on applications for political asylum, documents relating to his fraud case and statements to parole officers.
Hussain said he comes from a family that owned businesses in Pakistan including restaurant chains and a construction- supply company. One of his cars was a gift from former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in the early 2000s, while she was in exile in the U.S. and staying in Manhattan, he testified.
Gift From Bhutto
Bhutto, a family friend and neighbor in Karachi, invited him to the hotel to meet him and gave him $40,000 cash to buy the car for his son.
The political leader was killed in a suicide bombing at a rally of her Pakistan People’s Party in Rawalpindi on Dec. 27, 2007.
Hussain said he was a member of the MQM party that represents people who emigrated from India at the time of Pakistan’s independence in 1947. He left his native country under the threat of death after being arrested three times, twice for a murder he didn’t commit, he said. He was released when his father bribed a police official, he testified.
The trial of Williams, 34, James Cromitie, 44, David Williams, 29, and Laguerre Payen, 28, all of Newburgh, New York, began Aug. 23 before Judge Colleen McMahon in federal court in Lower Manhattan.
Bombing Plot
The men are accused of plotting to bomb a synagogue and Jewish community center in the Bronx section of New York City and fire heat-seeking missiles at military planes at Stewart International Airport in Newburgh.
The charges include conspiracy and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction in the U.S. They face as long as life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges.
Hussain testified that he left Pakistan with his wife and children with less than $2,000, using fake British passports to go to Moscow and Mexico before entering the U.S. in 1994 through El Paso, Texas.
He made his way to Albany, New York, where he began working at a service station while applying for political asylum, he said. He later bought a station next to a state Department of Motor Vehicles office. He went to work for the department as a translator.
In January 2003 he was arrested in an FBI sting after a friend offered him $1,000 to help obtain an illegal driver’s license.
Guilty Plea
Hussain pleaded guilty to one count of attempted unlawful transfer of an identification document in April 2003 and was sentenced to five years’ probation, he testified. He agreed to work as an informant with federal prosecutors in Albany, helping on about 21 cases including money laundering and credit card fraud, and his probation was later ended, he said.
Hussain said he posed as a member of the Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaishe-e-Mohammad who needed to launder money from weapons sales. The FBI sting in 2004 led to prison sentences for a pizzeria owner and the imam of a mosque in Albany, he testified.
In 2007, he began working with the FBI in White Plains, New York. He said. It sent him to mosques to pose as a wealthy businessman, he said.
At a mosque in Newburgh, he met one of the defendants, Cromitie, in June 2008, he testified. Three months later, the FBI sent him to the training camp in Pakistan, he said. Next he went to mosques in England seeking “people who were expressing radical ideas,” he said.
Back to U.S.
He returned to the U.S. in February 2009 and resumed working on the Cromitie case, which culminated in the arrest of the four men in a coordinated FBI sting outside the Bronx synagogue on May 20, 2009.
Hussain’s father died in 2003 and his mother in 1998, he testified. He said he has received about $500,000 from a family trust fund since 1996, including more than $200,000 in 2003 to pay debts relating to a bankruptcy that year.
The case is U.S. v. Cromitie, 09-cr-00558, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Dolmetsch in New York

Why Certain Lives Become A Weapon

By Riaz Hassan
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Courtesy Of "The Daily Star"

Nine years ago, 19 young Muslims commandeered passenger jets and killed themselves, taking with them 2,973 people to the inferno of fire. Since the 9/11 attacks suicide bombings have become a staple of daily news, although the practice dates back at least two decades. A commonly accepted narrative frames such acts of self-destruction as the action of psychologically impaired, morally deficient, uneducated, impoverished individuals and, most of all, religious fanatics.

But the analysis of information based on 1,597 suicide attacks between 1981 and 2008, which killed more than 21,000 in 34 countries, suggests a more complex set of reasons, an understanding of which is essential if the world is to see an end of such slaughter. My book, “Life as a Weapon,” analyzes suicide bombings as a method of choice among terrorist groups around the world and the motivations.

Surprisingly, altruism emerges as a major factor in the complex set of causes behind the suicide attacks. In its most fundamental character, altruism can be defined as costly actions that confer benefits on other individuals. Altruism is fundamental to human cooperation for organization of society and its cohesiveness. In the conceptual map of French sociologist Emile Durkheim, suicide bombings would fall in the category of altruistic suicidal actions – distinct from other types of suicidal actions caused by personal catastrophes, hopelessness and psychopathologies that lead people to believe life is not worth living. Altruistic suicides, on the other hand, involve valuing one’s life as less worthy than the group’s honor, religion or other collective interests.

The genesis of suicide bombings is rooted in intractable asymmetrical conflicts pitching the state against non-state actors over political entitlements, territorial occupation and dispossession. Invariably such conflicts instigate state-sanctioned violence and repressive policies against weaker non-state parties causing widespread outrage and large-scale dislocation of people, many of whom become refugees in makeshift camps, in or outside so-called war zones.

Carolyn Nordstrom captured the mood in Sri Lanka during the recent civil war: “In the war zones, violence and war permeated all aspect of daily life. It was not certain a person going for work would return in the evening. A home could be suddenly searched, someone brutally killed, a mother raped or father taken away. A shell could land anywhere destroying everything around … This kind of pervasive atmosphere of violence, rather than breaking down the resistance and spirit of population, in times creates resistance and defiance, particularly in the youth.” Other contributing factors include incarceration and dehumanizing treatments of insurgents in state custody and mutual dehumanization of the “other.”

Suicide bombing, rarely the strategy of first choice, is selected by terrorist organizations after collective assessments, based on observations and experience, of strategies’ relative effectiveness to achieve political goals. The decision to participate is facilitated by suicide bombers’ internalized social identities, their exposure to asymmetric conflict and its costs, their exposure to organizations that sponsor such attacks as well as membership in a larger community where sacrifice and martyrdom carry high symbolic significance.

From sociological and economic perspectives, suicide bombings can be linked to altruism as a form of intergenerational investment or an extreme form of saving in which the agent gives up current consumption for the sake of enhancing probability of descendants enjoying benefit of some future public good.

Analysis of Hizbullah suicide bombers in Lebanon shows that attacks increased with current income and degree of altruism toward the next generation. Hizbullah bombers came from above-average wealthy families and had above-average levels of education. The willingness of more educated people to engage in suicide missions suggests that education affects one’s world view, enhancing sensitivity to the future.

Altruism is not antithetical to aggression. In war soldiers perform altruistic actions by risking lives for comrades and country and also killing the enemy.

Altruism can also be socially constructed in communities that have endured massive social and economic dislocations as a result of long, violent and painful conflict with a more powerful enemy. Under such conditions people react to perceived inferiority and the failure of other efforts by valuing and supporting ideals of self-sacrifice such as suicide bombing. Religiously and nationalistically coded attitudes toward acceptance of death stemming from long periods of collective suffering, humiliation and powerlessness enable political organizations to give people suicide bombing as an outlet for feelings of desperation, deprivation, hostility and injustice.

The evidence, however, also shows that such personal and collective sufferings motivating suicide bombers coexist with their inner feelings of altruism and sense of fairness. An Iraqi suicide bomber, Marwan, prayed that “no innocent people were killed in his mission.” Shafiqa, an incarcerated failed Palestinian suicide bomber in Israel, did not detonate her device after seeing “a woman with a little baby in her carriage. And I thought, why do I have to do this to that woman and her child? … I won’t be doing something good for Allah. I thought about the people who loved me and about the innocent people in the street … It was a very difficult moment for me.”

For his film “Suicide Killers,” filmmaker Pierre Rehov interviewed Palestinians in Israeli jails, arrested following failed suicide-bombing missions or for aiding and abetting such missions. Every one of them tried to convince him that that the action was the right thing to do for moralistic reasons. According to Rehov, “these aren’t kids who want to do evil. These are kids who want to do good …” The result – young people who had previously conducted their lives as good people believe that a suicide bombing represented doing something great.

The everyday degradations of Israeli occupation had created collective hatred, making the interviewees susceptible to indoctrination to become martyrs. As Stanford University psychologist Philip Zimbardo puts it, “It is neither mindless nor senseless, only a very different mind-set and with different sensibilities than we have been used to witnessing among young adults in most countries.”

Suicide bombings invariably provoke a brutal response from authorities. By injecting fear and mayhem into rhythms of daily life, such bombings undermine the state’s authority in providing security and maintaining social order. Under such conditions the state can legitimately impose altruistic punishments to deter future violations of security and social order, including punishments meted out to perpetrators and supporters. Military actions against Palestinians, Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers, Iraqi insurgents and the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan are examples.

But altruistic punishments are only effective when they do not violate the norms of fairness. Punishments and sanctions seen as unfair, hostile, selfish and vindictive by targeted groups tend to have detrimental effects. Instead of promoting compliance, they reinforce non-compliance. Counter-insurgency operations are aimed at increasing the cost of insurgency to insurgents, and invariably involve eliminating leaders and supporters who plan suicide bombings, destroying insurgents’ capabilities for mounting future attacks, and restrictions on mobility and other violations of civil liberties.

But there is mounting evidence that such harsh measures reinforce radical opposition and even intensify it. This is now happening in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Palestinian territories and has also been the case in Sri Lanka and Iraq and other conflict sites.

Riaz Hassan is emeritus professor at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia, and global professor of social research and public policy at New York University Abu Dhabi. This commentary is reprinted with permission from YaleGlobal Online ( Copyright © 2010, Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, Yale University.

Elections Are A Waste Of Time -- If...

"Elections are a waste of time if you don’t realize or care that the powerful forces behind Wall Street and the warfare state are thrilled if progressives retreat from electoral battles."

By Norman Solomon
(Thursday, September 16, 2010)
Courtesy Of "Media Monitors"

A pithy idea -- now going around in some progressive circles -- is that elections are a waste of time.
The idea can be catchy. It all depends on some tacit assumptions.
For instance: elections are a waste of time if you figure the U.S. government is so far gone that it can’t get much worse.
Elections are a waste of time if you’ve given up on grassroots organizing to sway voters before they cast ballots.
Elections are a waste of time if you think there’s not much difference on the Supreme Court between Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, or Sonia Sotomayor and Samuel Alito.
Elections are a waste of time if you’re so disgusted with Speaker Pelosi that you wouldn’t lift a finger to prevent Speaker Boehner.
Elections are a waste of time if you don’t see much value in reducing -- even slightly -- the extent of injustice and deprivation imposed on vulnerable people.
Or, if you see the organizing of protests, community groups, unions and the like as “either/or” in relation to working for the election of better candidates.
Or, if you think the goal of those who struggled and suffered for the right to vote -- seeing the ballot as an essential component of democracy -- is outdated and rendered moot by present-day frustrations and outrages.
Elections are a waste of time if you think corporate power has grown so immense that state power has become irrelevant.
Or, if you still believe it was smart when some of us progressives figured we had no stake in efforts to defeat Ronald Reagan in 1980 or George W. Bush in 2000.
Or, if you think it doesn’t much matter whether Californians elect to make possible Senator Carly Fiorina and Governor Meg Whitman, or whether Wisconsin voters remove Russ Feingold from the Senate.
Or, if you’d just as soon bypass any plausible path for electing more genuine progressives like Dennis Kucinich or Barbara Lee to government positions.
Or, if you see the raising of political awareness as an alternative to -- rather than intertwined with -- the building of progressive electoral power to challenge corporate power.
Elections are a waste of time if you don’t realize or care that the powerful forces behind Wall Street and the warfare state are thrilled if progressives retreat from electoral battles.
Elections are a waste of time if you conclude -- due to chronic suppression of electoral democracy -- that the ideal of electoral democracy should be discarded rather than pursued.
Elections are a waste of time if you think progressives should opt out of electoral struggles for government power, leaving it to uncontested dominance by the heartless and the spineless.

Pentagon Revives & Expands Cold War Military Blocs

"Not having a serious adversary, active or fancied, has never been an impediment to American military expansion throughout the Asia-Pacific region and indeed the rest of the world. In fact the lack of a credible challenger allows for accelerating the pace of the expansion. Never more so than now."

By Rick Rozoff
(Saturday, September 18, 2010)
Courtesy Of "Media Monitors"

The year before the Korean War began the United States established the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Western and Southern Europe to contain and confront the Soviet Union and its Eastern European allies. NATO opened the door for the Pentagon to maintain, expand and upgrade, and gain access to new, military bases in Europe from Britain to Turkey, Italy to Norway, West Germany to Greece.
During the Korean War and after its end in 1953 (with Greece and Turkey having been absorbed into NATO), the U.S. replicated the NATO model to varying degrees throughout the Asia-Pacific region.
The Australia, New Zealand, United States (ANZUS) Security Treaty was set up in 1951 as troops from all three nations were fighting in Korea. Australian and New Zealand troops would also fight under American command in the Vietnam War under ANZUS obligations.
In 1954 the U.S. and fellow NATO founders Britain and France created the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) with Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines and Thailand as members and South Korea and South Vietnam as Dialogue Partners.
With U.S. encouragement and support, the next year Britain oversaw the creation of the Middle East Treaty Organization (METO), also known as the Baghdad Pact Organization, which included Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Pakistan. In 1958 the METO/Baghdad Pact supported the U.S.'s deployment of 14,000 troops to Lebanon under the so-called Eisenhower Doctrine.
After the anti-monarchical revolution in Iraq of the preceding year led to that nation leaving the bloc in 1959, METO was renamed the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO): There could be no Baghdad Pact without Baghdad itself where its headquarters had been. (Half a century later the Iraqi capital is home to United States Forces – Iraq headquarters.)
METO/CENTO, like SEATO before it, was modeled after NATO and served the same purpose as the original: To encircle the Soviet Union and its allies and, in the first-named instance, allow the Pentagon to penetrate the USSR's southern flank as NATO did its extended western one. CENTO was dissolved in 1979 after the revolution in Iran and the withdrawal of that country.
All Asia-Pacific SEATO members and partners except for Pakistan - Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and South Vietnam - provided the U.S. with troops for the war in Vietnam, but Pakistan withdrew in 1973 because SEATO hadn't supported it in its 1971 war with India. France followed suit in 1975 and SEATO was disbanded two years later, three years after the U.S.-Chinese rapprochement formalized by Richard Nixon and Mao Zedong in Beijing in 1972.
With China the U.S.'s regional and global ally against the Soviet Union, the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization served no further purpose.
ANZUS was weakened in 1984 when a new government in New Zealand forbade all nuclear weapons-capable and nuclear-powered ships from entering its ports. Two years later the Pentagon suspended security guarantees to New Zealand under the ANZUS Treaty, though Australia has maintained its obligations to both the U.S. and New Zealand.
The end of the Cold War and the break-up of the Soviet Union a generation ago eliminated any conceivable rationale for the continuation of Cold War-era military blocs, but instead NATO has expanded from 16 to 28 full members in the interim and has also gained forty new cohorts under several partnership programs. NATO members and partners now account for over a third of the nations in the world.
The North Atlantic bloc, for example, includes Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia in its Mediterranean Dialogue program; Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in its Istanbul Cooperation Initiative; Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea as NATO Contact Countries; and Afghanistan and Pakistan are subsumed under the Alliance-led Tripartite Commission, which met again in Kabul last month. NATO and U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan is now 150,000-strong.
All eight former Soviet republics in the South Caucasus and Central Asia are members of NATO's Partnership for Peace transitional program. Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Kazakhstan also have Individual Partnership Action Plans and Georgia a specially designed Annual National Program.
NATO has expanded into former and current territory and integrated past and present members of SEATO, CENTO and ANZUS.
What has also been underway over the past eight years is the consolidation of what is referred to as an Asian NATO which ultimately will include most all members of CENTO, SEATO and ANZUS and dozens of other nations as well.
Australia has the largest contingent of troops - 1,550 - serving under NATO command in Afghanistan of any non-member state and New Zealand has over 200 doing the same with more on the way. Other Asia-Pacific states that have provided NATO with troops for the Afghan war are South Korea, Singapore, Mongolia and Malaysia.
The U.S. is using a 21st century expeditionary - a global - NATO as its meta-military bloc.
It is also developing closer bilateral military ties with every nation in Asia except China, North Korea, Myanmar, Bhutan, Iran and Syria.
During the last month and a half alone U.S. troops and warships have participated in military exercises in and off the shores of Cambodia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Vietnam and Nepal.
In the broader Asia-Pacific region, the U.S. led the biggest-ever biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) war games, the world's largest multinational naval exercise, from June 23-August 1, with an estimated 22,000 troops, 34 ships, five submarines and over 100 aircraft involved.
RIMPAC military maneuvers were begun in the Cold War period (1971) and initially consisted of three nations: The U.S., Australia and Canada.
This year's war games, 20 years after the end of the Cold War, featured the participation of five times as many countries: The U.S. and NATO allies Canada, France and the Netherlands. Asia-Pacific nations Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Tonga, and South American states Chile, Colombia and Peru. In addition, Brazil, India, New Zealand and Uruguay were invited to send teams of observers.
The quintupling of the number of nations participating in RIMPAC war games indicates the degree to which the Pentagon is integrating bilateral military partners into broader regional formations and ultimately into a global network, nowhere more so than with the war in Afghanistan. The majority of the Asia-Pacific nations in this year's RIMPAC exercise - Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea and Tonga (which recent reports document will provide several hundred marines) - have assigned troops to serve under NATO's International Security Assistance Force in the South Asian country.
Last month's Khaan Quest military exercise in Mongolia, the latest in a series of what until recently had been bilateral U.S.-Mongolian affairs, included troops from, in addition to the U.S. and the host nation, Canada, France, Germany, India, Japan, Singapore and South Korea.
The 19-day Angkor Sentinel 2010 command post and field exercises in Cambodia ending on July 30 were led by U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Army Pacific and included in all over 1,000 troops, including contingents from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines.
The U.S. is currently conducting the large-scale, 10-day Valiant Shield exercises on and near Guam, the new hub for the Pentagon's operations in the Asia-Pacific region, with an aircraft carrier, amphibious ships and an Air Force expeditionary wing. On September 1 a Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle was flown from California to the Andersen Air Force Base on Guam.
The Pentagon is planning a $278 million program to expand interceptor missile testing on the Hawaiian island of Kauai for ship-based Standard Missile-3 (and soon land-based versions of the same in the Baltic and Black Seas regions) and Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-ballistic missiles. Washington's strategy for a layered, global missile shield system already includes the participation of Australia, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan in the Asia-Pacific area, with India soon to be included.
In a revival of ANZUS emblematic of the reactivation of U.S. Cold War military alliances, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell recently revealed that the U.S. and New Zealand will soon resume military training and joint exercises after a 26-year suspension of both.
U.S. military activity in Northeast and Southeast Asia has raised tensions with China to an intensity not seen since the first decade of the Cold War.
In late July the U.S. and South Korea held war games codenamed Invincible Spirit in the Sea of Japan with 8,000 troops, 20 ships and submarines - led by the USS George Washington nuclear-powered supercarrier - and 200 aircraft, including U.S. F-22 Raptors.
Last month USS George Washington and the USS John S. McCain guided missile destroyer led the first-ever joint naval exercises with Vietnam, in the South China Sea.
Shortly after those maneuvers ended the U.S. and South Korea began 11 days of war games in the second country, the latest of annual Ulchi Freedom Guardian exercises, this one featuring 27,000 American military personnel and 500,000 from South Korea.
USS George Washington is to head to the Yellow Sea in waters close to those claimed by China as part of its exclusive economic zone for more military exercises with South Korea, including anti-submarine warfare drills. The exercises were planned for September 5-9, but postponed because of a tropical storm. Last week Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell insisted that "The USS George Washington will indeed exercise in the Yellow Sea."
Admiral Robert Willard, chief of U.S. Pacific Command, the largest of the Pentagon's Unified Combatant Commands, was in South Korea in late July, in the Philippines in mid-August and in Japan the following week. The focus of his visits was China.
Last week Willard spent two days in India, a nation that until now has remained outside regional military blocs and that with its 1.1 billion citizens has a population larger than those of all SEATO, ANZUS and CENTO nations combined, the U.S., Britain and France included. Since then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee signed the New Framework for the U.S.-India Defense Relationship in 2005, the Pentagon has strengthened ties with one of Asia's two largest states.
While in New Delhi Admiral Willard met with Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, Admiral Nirmal Verma and General V.K. Singh, respectively the heads of India's air force, navy and army. Later this month Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony and navy chief Verma will travel to Washington, D.C., and Verma will also visit U.S. Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii.
India under Jawaharlal Nehru was a founder of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961. Throughout the 40 years of the Cold War it never joined a military bloc.
Now, however, it is being recruited by Washington as both a bilateral strategic military ally and as a - as the largest and most decisive - partner in a U.S. organized Asia-Pacific military alliance that dwarfs in comparison the Pentagon's earlier efforts in that direction from 1951 onward.
Not having a serious adversary, active or fancied, has never been an impediment to American military expansion throughout the Asia-Pacific region and indeed the rest of the world. In fact the lack of a credible challenger allows for accelerating the pace of the expansion. Never more so than now.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

9/11: The Day Racists Burn God's Book

"What is happening to Muslims throughout the world today is more dangerous than the cold war which preoccupied the world for decades. The West has declared – through actions, measures and laws - that Islam is the enemy, and that Muslims are the target. Muslims have been blamed for the 9/11 attack, despite the large number of questions raised about the event, its objectives and the credibility of what has been published about it. The only constant element in this event is that its objective was launching a long war against Islam and Muslims and making the 9/11 attacks a justification for every war, law or measure against Muslims. The first response to such a claim is that the law in these democratic countries has essentially changed to allow for arresting and torturing ‘suspects’ without the need for any evidence to prove such accusations or even charging the suspects. Other laws have been passed to allow for treating ‘suspects’ as convicted criminals."

By Bouthaina Shaaban
(Thursday, September 16, 2010)
Courtesy Of "Media Monitors"

It is said that people in the Arab region never wake up to an old worry; because every morning brings them new worries. That is because of the plethora of disasters, wars, blockades, invasions and sanctions which have targeted this region because of its geographical location, natural resources and rich heritage. The wars, attacks and violation of sanctities which Muslims face in the United States, Europe and the world at large, brings this idea to my mind because the brutality of the enemies of Muslims outclasses itself everyday by inventing battles to undermine Islam and Muslims while using ‘democracy’, ‘freedom of speech’, and ‘religious freedom’, as a cover to justify carefully planned and financed campaigns. Such attacks have been hatched since the dark ages by people who have deeply rooted hatred for us; and it seems that Western racists still have inexhaustible funds of hatred for Islam and Muslims.
What is happening to Muslims throughout the world today is more dangerous than the cold war which preoccupied the world for decades. The West has declared – through actions, measures and laws - that Islam is the enemy, and that Muslims are the target. Muslims have been blamed for the 9/11 attack, despite the large number of questions raised about the event, its objectives and the credibility of what has been published about it. The only constant element in this event is that its objective was launching a long war against Islam and Muslims and making the 9/11 attacks a justification for every war, law or measure against Muslims. The first response to such a claim is that the law in these democratic countries has essentially changed to allow for arresting and torturing ‘suspects’ without the need for any evidence to prove such accusations or even charging the suspects. Other laws have been passed to allow for treating ‘suspects’ as convicted criminals.
Assaults against Muslims and their sanctities persist because Muslim countries have not taken any deterrent measure. Cartoonist Kurt Westergaard mocked prophet Mohammad and Pastor Terry Jones threatened to burn the Quran publicly on the anniversary of 9/11, while Western ‘democracies’ and ‘democrats’ are encouraging and protecting them under different names like ‘freedom of expression’. What has been said about the unprecedented plan of a clergyman to burn a holy book is unacceptable under any justification; yet, no Western official expressed a real intention or wish to prevent him from going ahead with a hateful racist plan which would offend more than 1.3 billion people throughout the world.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the plan as a ‘disgrace’; but what is the significance of such a statement considering that she took part in honoring another racist, cartoonist Westergaard who offended with his cartoons more than a billion Muslims in 58 countries. Merkel praised the courage of this cartoonist while condemning the plan to burn the Quran as “insulting, disgraceful and wrong”. Based on this precedent, Jones will no doubt be honored in five years times, and maybe a statute will be made of him as Israel has made of mass murderer Goldstein, who committed al-Haram al-Ibrahimi (cave of the patriarchs) massacre in Hebron which claimed the lives of tens of Muslims.
One is justified in raising the question: does the West allow an objective and honest study of the holocaust, or even discuss it in the media? Is not the holocaust a historical event which can be discussed and written about? Don not the laws of ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom of opinion’ throughout the world ban even mentioning the holocaust? Would the West limit itself only to ‘condemnation’ and ‘expressing concern’ if someone intended to burn the Bible or the Torah? Of course, no Muslim would think of doing such a truly disgraceful act, because it runs counter to Islam’s spirit of tolerance and its teachings which respect all religions indeed. The evidence is that Muslims in the United States decided to hold the Eid prayers in the Martin Luther King church as a civilized response to the hatred of Pastor Terry Jones and all the racist forces which encouraged him and claimed not to be able to prevent or stop him. Not stopping him means implicit sympathy with him and blessing of his act despite pretending to condemn him in public; because voicing opposition without taking any decisive action to prevent him is worthless and does not express a true condemnation of this attack on Muslims’ feelings and sanctities.
Compare this disgraceful act by Pastor Jones with the news of ‘trying’ eleven American soldiers who killed Afghani civilians for fun and collected their fingers as a hobby, in the same way some people collect stamps!
Choosing 9/11 for burning the Quran is a new date for Muslims, which is no less dangerous than the 9/11/2001 attack for the United States. It even threatens of leading the world to unprecedented tragedies and dangers, because those who do not value the life, dignity, feelings and sanctities of Muslims do not think of the safety and security of their societies. Turning a blind eye to the racist offences against Muslims and their sanctities today will disturb them in the future and will have an impact on all of them, not only on their Muslim citizens, but on Christians and Jews as well. That is why Western officials have a responsibility to put an end to these campaigns of hatred against their Muslim citizens, not as a favor to Muslims, but as an urgent need to maintain security, peace and coexistence in their cities, villages, universities and institutions. If a small minority of haters have an interest in stirring internal conflict between Muslims in the West and their Christian and Jewish compatriots, Western people have no interest in allowing such disgraceful acts, because they will discover later that honoring Westergaard and ignoring Terry Jones’s actions will have indelible scars and dire consequences, not only for Muslims in the West but for Western societies in their entirety.