Archive for Glenn Greenwald

Salon.com, “Militants”: Media Propaganda

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , on May 29, 2012 by loonwatch

 

The uncritical media rarely question or challenge official government assertions that all their drone strikes kill “militants” (h/t: Saladin):

“Militants”: media propaganda

by Glenn Greenwald (Salon.com)

Virtually every time the U.S. fires a missile from a drone and ends the lives of Muslims, American media outlets dutifully trumpet in headlines that the dead were ”militants” – even though those media outlets literally do not have the slightest idea of who was actually killed. They simply cite always-unnamed “officials” claiming that the dead were “militants.” It’s the most obvious and inexcusable form of rank propaganda: media outlets continuously propagating a vital claim without having the slightest idea if it’s true.

This practice continues even though key Obama officials have been caught lying, a term used advisedly, about how many civilians they’re killing. I’ve written and said many times before that in American media discourse, the definition of “militant” is any human being whose life is extinguished when an American missile or bomb detonates (that term was even used when Anwar Awlaki’s 16-year-old American son, Abdulrahman, was killed by a U.S. drone in Yemen two weeks after a drone killed his father, even though nobody claims the teenager was anything but completely innocent: “Another U.S. Drone Strike Kills Militants in Yemen”).

This morning, the New York Times has a very lengthy and detailed article about President Obama’s counter-Terrorism policies based on interviews with “three dozen of his current and former advisers.” I’m writing separately about the numerous revelations contained in that article, but want specifically to highlight this one vital passage about how the Obama administration determines who is a “militant.” The article explains that Obama’s rhetorical emphasis on avoiding civilian deaths “did not significantly change” the drone program, because Obama himself simply expanded the definition of a “militant” to ensure that it includes virtually everyone killed by his drone strikes. Just read this remarkable passage:

Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.

Counterterrorism officials insist this approach is one of simple logic: people in an area of known terrorist activity, or found with a top Qaeda operative, are probably up to no good. “Al Qaeda is an insular, paranoid organization — innocent neighbors don’t hitchhike rides in the back of trucks headed for the border with guns and bombs,” said one official, who requested anonymity to speak about what is still a classified program.

This counting method may partly explain the official claims of extraordinarily low collateral deaths. In a speech last year Mr. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s trusted adviser, said that not a single noncombatant had been killed in a year of strikes. And in a recent interview, a senior administration official said that the number of civilians killed in drone strikes in Pakistan under Mr. Obama was in the “single digits” — and that independent counts of scores or hundreds of civilian deaths unwittingly draw on false propaganda claims by militants.

But in interviews, three former senior intelligence officials expressed disbelief that the number could be so low. The C.I.A. accounting has so troubled some administration officials outside the agency that they have brought their concerns to the White House. One called it “guilt by association” that has led to “deceptive” estimates of civilian casualties.

“It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,” the official said. “They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.”

For the moment, leave the ethical issues to the side that arise from viewing “all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants”; that’s nothing less than sociopathic, a term I use advisedly, but I discuss that in the separate, longer piece I’m writing to be published a bit later this morning. For now, consider what this means for American media outlets. Any of them which use the term “militants” to describe those killed by U.S. strikes are knowingly disseminating a false and misleading term of propaganda. By “militant,” the Obama administration literally means nothing more than: any military-age male whom we kill, even when we know nothing else about them. They have no idea whether the person killed is really a militant: if they’re male and of a certain age they just call them one in order to whitewash their behavior and propagandize the citizenry (unless conclusive evidence somehow later emerges proving their innocence).

Read the rest…

Advertisements

Salon.com: Likely victory for MeK shills

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on May 23, 2012 by loonwatch

MEK fighters in Iraq. (Credit: AP/Brennan Linsley)

MEK fighters in Iraq. (Credit: AP/Brennan Linsley)

We’ve reported on the MeK terrorist organization and the powerful politicians who have lobbied on their behalf to have them de-listed as a terror group. All these politicians are guilty of “material support” but because they come from the privileged and powerful class the rule of law does not apply to them.

Now it seems likely that due to the lobbying efforts of the said politicians, the MeK will be removed from the list. (h/t: JD)

Likely victory for MeK shills

BY 

Former U.S. officials, paid to advocate for a designated Terror group, are now on the verge of succeeding.

(updated below)

bipartisan band of former Washington officials and politicians has spent the last two years aggressively advocating on behalf of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MeK), an Iranian dissident group that has been formally designated for the last 15 years by the U.S. State Department as a “foreign Terrorist organization.” Most of those former officials have been paid large sums of money to speak at MeK events and meet with its leaders, thus developing far more extensive relations with this Terror group than many marginalized Muslims who have been prosecuted and punished with lengthy prison terms for “materially supporting a Terrorist organization.” These bipartisan MeK advocates have been demanding the group’s removal from the Terror list, advocacy that has continued unabated despite (or, more accurately, because of ) reports that MeK is trained and funded by the Israelis and has been perpetrating acts of violence on Iranian soil aimed at that country’s civilian nuclear scientists and facilities (also known as: Terrorism).

Now, needless to say, the State Department appears likely to accede to the demands of these paid bipartisan shills:

The Obama administration is moving to remove an Iranian opposition group from the State Department’s terrorism list, say officials briefed on the talks, in an action that could further poison Washington’s relations with Tehran at a time of renewed diplomatic efforts to curtail Iran’s nuclear program.

The exile organization, the Mujahedin-e Khalq, or MeK, was originally named as a terrorist entity 15 years ago for its alleged role in assassinating U.S. citizens in the years before the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran and for allying with Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein against Tehran.

The MeK has engaged in an aggressive legal and lobbying campaign in Washington over the past two years to win its removal from the State Department’s list. . . . Senior U.S. officials said on Monday that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has yet to make any final decision on the MeK’s status. But they said the State Department was looking favorably at delisting MeK if it continued cooperating by vacating a former paramilitary base inside Iraq, called Camp Ashraf, which the group had used to stage cross-border strikes into Iran.

This highlights almost every salient fact about how Washington functions with regard to such matters. First, if you pay a sufficiently large and bipartisan group of officials to lobby on your behalf, you will get your way, even when it comes to vaunted National Security and Terrorism decisions; if you pay the likes of Howard Dean, Fran Townsend, Wesley Clark, Ed Rendell, Rudy Giuliani, Tom Ridge and others like them to peddle their political influence for you, you will be able to bend Washington policy and law to your will. As Andrew Exum put it this morning: “I guess Hizballah and LeT just need to buy off more former administration officials.”

Second, the application of the term “Terrorist” by the U.S. Government has nothing to do with how that term is commonly understood, but is instead exploited solely as a means to punish those who defy U.S. dictates and reward those who advance American interests and those of its allies (especially Israel). Thus, this Terror group is complying with U.S. demands, has been previously trained by the U.S. itself, and is perpetrating its violence on behalf of a key American client state and against a key American enemy, and — presto — it is no longer a “foreign Terrorist organization.”

Third, this yet again underscores who the actual aggressors are in the tensions with Iran. Imagine if multiple, high-level former Iranian officials received large sums of money from a group of Americans dedicated to violently overthrowing the U.S. government and committing acts of violence on American soil, and the Iranian Government then removed it from its list of Terror groups, thus allowing funding and other means of support to flow freely to that group.

Fourth, the rule of law is not even a purported constraint on the conduct of Washington political elites. Here, the behavior of these paid MeK shills is so blatantly illegal that even the Obama administration felt compelled to commence investigations to determine who was paying them and for what. As a strictly legal matter, removing MeK from the Terror list should have no effect on the criminality of their acts: it’s a felony to provide material support to a designated Terror group — which the Obama DOJ, backed by the U.S. Supreme Court, has argued, in a full frontal assault on free speech rights, even includes coordinating advocacy with such a group (ironically, some of this Terror group’s paid advocates, such as former Bush Homeland Security adviser Fran Townsend, cheered that Supreme Court ruling when they thought it would only restrict the political advocacy of Muslims, not themselves).

The fact that the Terror group is subsequently removed from the list does not render that material support non-criminal. But as a practical matter, it is virtually impossible to envision the Obama DOJ prosecuting any of these elite officials for supporting a group which the Obama administration itself concedes does not belong on the list. The removal of this group — if, as appears highly likely, it happens — will basically have the same effect, by design, as corrupt acts such as retroactive telecom immunity and the shielding of Bush war crimes and Wall Street fraud from any form of investigation: it will once again bolster the prime Washington dictate that D.C. political elites reside above the rule of law even when committing violations of the criminal law for which ordinary citizens are harshly punished.

* * * * *

Speaking of the assault on the free speech rights of Muslim critics of the U.S. under the guise of “material support” prosecutions (an assault which also erodes free speech rights for everyone), Michael May hasa great long article in The American Prospect on the horrendous, free-speech-threatening prosecution of Tarek Mehanna, whose extraordinary sentencing statement I published here.

UPDATE: In 2003, when the Bush adminstration was advocating an attack on Iraq, one of the prime reasons it cited was “Saddam Hussein’s Support for International Terrorism.” It circulated a document purporting to prove that claim (h/t Hernlem), and one of the first specific accusations listed was this:

Iraq shelters terrorist groups including the Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO), which has used terrorist violence against Iran and in the 1970s was responsible for killing several U.S. military personnel and U.S. civilians.

So the group that was pointed to less than a decade ago as proof of Saddam’s Terrorist Evil is now glorified by both political parties in Washington and — now that it’s fighting for the U.S. and Israel rather than for Saddam — is no longer a Terror group.

Salon.com: US attack kills 5 Afghan kids

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics, Loon Violence with tags , , , , , , , , on May 9, 2012 by loonwatch

We didn’t hear much about this in the news media. Not only that we don’t even know the names of these children because their lives aren’t as valuable as “Western lives.” Let the “Greater Islamophobia” march on: (h/t: Saladin)

US attack kills 5 Afghan kids

The way in which the U.S. media ignores such events speaks volumes about how we perceive them

BY , Salon.com

(updated below – Update II)

Yesterday, I noted several reports from Afghanistan that as many as 20 civilians were killed by two NATO airstrikes, including a mother and her five children. Today, the U.S. confirmed at least some of those claims, acknowledging and apologizing for its responsibility for the death of that family:

The American military claimed responsibility and expressed regret for an airstrike that mistakenly killed six members of a family in southwestern Afghanistan, Afghan and American military officials confirmed Monday.

The attack, which took place Friday night, was first revealed by the governor of Helmand Province, Muhammad Gulab Mangal, on Monday. His spokesman, Dawoud Ahmadi, said that after an investigation they had determined that a family home in the Sangin district had been attacked by mistake in the American airstrike, which was called in to respond to a Taliban attack. . . . The victims were the family’s mother and five of her children, three girls and two boys, according to Afghan officials.

This happens over and over and over again, and there are several points worth making here beyond the obvious horror:

(1) To the extent these type of incidents are discussed at all — and in American establishment media venues, they are most typically ignored — there are certain unbending rules that must be observed in order to retain Seriousness credentials. No matter how many times the U.S. kills innocent people in the world, it never reflects on our national character or that of our leaders. Indeed, none of these incidents convey any meaning at all. They are mere accidents, quasi-acts of nature which contain no moral information (in fact, the NYT article on these civilian deaths, out of nowhere, weirdly mentioned that “in northern Afghanistan, 23 members of a wedding celebration drowned in severe flash flooding” — as though that’s comparable to the U.S.’s dropping bombs on innocent people). We’ve all been trained, like good little soldiers, that the phrase “collateral damage” cleanses and justifies this and washes it all way: yes, it’s quite terrible, but innocent people die in wars; that’s just how it is. It’s all grounded in America’s central religious belief that the country has the right to commit violence anywhere in the world, at any time, for any cause.

At some point — and more than a decade would certainly qualify — the act of continuously killing innocent people, countless children, in the Muslim world most certainly does reflect upon, and even alters, the moral character of a country, especially its leaders. You can’t just spend year after year piling up the corpses of children and credibly insist that it has no bearing on who you are. That’s particularly true when, as is the case in Afghanistan, the cause of the war is so vague as to be virtually unknowable. It’s woefully inadequate to reflexively dismiss every one of these incidents as the regrettable but meaningless by-product of our national prerogative. But to maintain mainstream credibility, that is exactly how one must speak of our national actions even in these most egregious cases. To suggest any moral culpability, or to argue that continuously killing children in a country we’re occupying is morally indefensible, is a self-marginalizing act, whereby one reveals oneself to be a shrill and unSerious critic, probably even a pacifist. Serious commentators, by definition, recognize and accept that this is merely the inevitable outcome of America’s supreme imperial right, note (at most) some passing regret, and then move on.

(2) Yesterday — a week after it leaked that it was escalating its drone strikes in Yemen — the Obama administration claimed that the CIA last month disrupted a scary plot originating in Yemen to explode an American civilian jet “using a more sophisticated version of the underwear bomb deployed unsuccessfully in 2009.” American media outlets — especially its cable news networks — erupted with their predictable mix of obsessive hysteria, excitement and moral outrage. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer last night devoted the bulk of his show to this plot, parading the standard cast of characters — former Bush Homeland Security adviser (and terrorist advocate) Fran Townsend and its “national security analyst” Peter Bergen — to put on their Serious and Concerned faces, recite from the U.S. Government script, and analyze all the profound implications. CNN even hauled out Rep. Peter King to warn that this shows a “new level” of Terror threats from Yemen. CNN’s fixation on this plot continued into this morning.

Needless to say, the fact that the U.S. has spent years and years killing innocent adults and children in that part of the world — including repeatedly in Yemen — was never once mentioned, even though it obviously is a major factor for why at least some people in that country support these kinds of plots. Those facts are not permitted to be heard. Discussions of causation — why would someone want to attack a U.S. airliner? – is an absolute taboo, beyond noting that the people responsible are primitive and hateful religious fanatics. Instead, it is a simple morality play reinforced over and over: Americans are innocently minding their own business — trying to enjoy our Freedoms — and are being disgustingly targeted with horrific violence by these heinous Muslim Terrorists whom we must crush (naturally, the solution to the problem that there is significant anti-American animosity in Yemen is to drop even more bombs on them, which will certainly fix this problem).

Indeed, on the very same day that CNN and the other cable news networks devoted so much coverage to a failed, un-serious attempt to bring violence to the U.S. — one that never moved beyond the early planning stages and “never posed a threat to public safety” — it was revealed that the U.S. just killed multiple civilians, including a family of 5 children, in Afghanistan. But that got no mention. That event simply does not exist in the world of CNN and its viewers (I’d be shocked if it has been mentioned on MSNBC or Fox either). Nascent, failed non-threats directed at the U.S. merit all-hands-on-deck, five-alarm media coverage, but the actual extinguishing of the lives of children by the U.S. is steadfastly ignored (even though the latter is so causally related to the former).

This is the message sent over and over by the U.S. media: we are the victims of heinous, frightening violence; our government must do more, must bomb more, must surveil more, to Keep Us Safe; we do nothing similar to this kind of violence because we are Good and Civilized. This is how our Objective, Viewpoint-Free journalistic outlets continuously propagandize: by fixating on the violence done by others while justifying — or, more often, ignoring — the more far-reaching and substantial violence perpetrated by the U.S.

(3) If one of the relatives of the children just killed in Afghanistan decided to attack the U.S. — or if one of the people involved in this Yemen-originating plot were a relative of one of the dozens of civilians killed by Obama’s 2009 cluster bomb strike — what would they be called by the U.S. media? Terrorists. Primitive, irrational, religious fanatics beyond human decency.

* * * * *

This point cannot be emphasized enough.

UPDATEFrom the comments:

I was just sitting here thinking “I love reading GG, but I think he is being quite harsh here, it was only 5 kids that died, and that happens in war – its hardly as if it was some really major tragedy”.

And this is despite the fact that I would describe myself as a staunch anti-Imperialist who shuns the MSM – yet still I seem to be getting conditioned that the killing of these 5 kids is “normal”. Scary. Very scary.

We’re all subject to that conditioning, which is why it’s so necessary to pause every now and then to realize what a “really major tragedy” it actually is: one that could be easily avoided with different choices.

UPDATE II: It is now confirmed that the would-be bomber of the civilian jet was, in fact, a double agent working for the CIA and Saudi intelligence. So just as virtually every “domestic Terror plot” is one conceived, directed, funded and controlled by the FBI, this new Al Qaeda plot from Yemen was directed by some combination of the CIA and its Saudi partners. So this wasn’t merely a failed, nascent plot which is causing this fear-mongering media orgy: it was one controlled at all times by the U.S. and Saudi Governments.

Glenn Greenwald: More Federal Judge Abdication

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , on May 7, 2012 by loonwatch

More federal judge abdication

The branch designed to be insulated from political pressures has been the most craven of all in the post-9/11 era

BY , Salon.com

The abdication of U.S. federal judges in the post-9/11 era, and their craven subservience to Executive Branch security claims, has been a topic I’ve written about several times over the past couples of weeks. Yesterday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals adopted the argument of the Obama DOJ that John Yoo is — needless to say — fully immune from any and all liability for having authorized the torture of Jose Padilla, on the ground that the illegality of Yoo’s conduct was not “beyond debate” at the time he engaged in it. Everything Iwrote a couple of weeks ago about the identical shielding of Donald Rumsfeld by federal courts and the Obama DOJ from similar claims applies to yesterday’s ruling, and The New York Times has a good editorial today condemning this ruling as “misguided and dangerous.”

In sum, this yet again underscores that of all the American institutions that have so profoundly failed in the wake of 9/11 to protect the most basic liberties — Congress, both political parties, the establishment media, the Executive Branch, the DOJ specifically — none has been quite as disgraceful as the federal judiciary, whose life tenure is supposed to insulate them from base political pressures that produce cowardly and corrupted choices. And yet, just consider these two facts:

(1) not a single War on Terror victim — not one — has been permitted to sue for damages in an American court over what was done to them, even when everyone admits they were completely innocent, even when they were subjected to the most brutal torture, and even when the judiciary of other countries permitted their lawsuits to proceed; and,

(2) not a single government official — not one — has been held legally accountable, either criminally or even civilly, for any War on Terror crimes or abuses; perversely, the only government officials to pay any price were the ones who blew the whistle on those crimes.

That is how history will record the behavior of American federal judges in the face of the post-9/11 onslaught of anti-Muslim persecution and relentless erosions of core rights.

Even worse, if you’re a Muslim accused of any Terror-related crime, your conviction in a federal court is virtually guaranteed, as federal judges will bend the law and issue pro-government rulings that they would never make with a non-Muslim defendant; conversely, if you’re a government official who abused or otherwise violated the rights of Muslims, your full-scale immunity is virtually guaranteed. Those are the indisputable rules of American justice. So slavish and subservient are federal judges when it comes to Muslim defendants that if you’re a Muslim accused of any Terror-related crime, you’re probably more likely at this point to get something approximating a fair trial before a Guantanamo military tribunal than in a federal court; that is how supine federal judges have been when the U.S. Government utters the word “terrorism” in the direction of a Muslim or any claims of “national security” relating to 9/11.

Just to underscore the point a bit further: the Justice Department fileda report this week setting forth its 2011 eavesdropping activities under FISA. Here’s the summary (h/t EPIC):

# of DOJ requests to the FISA court to eavesdrop on and/or physically search Americans/legal residents: 1,745

# of FISA court denials:  0

The DOJ filed close to 1,800 requests for FISA court permission to eavesdrop on the electronic communications of Americans or legal residents or to physically search their property (the vast majority, more than 90%, were for eavesdropping), and the FISA court did not deny a single request, though they did “modify” 30. This is a perfect expression of how the federal judiciary, in general, behaves in the face of claims of National Security from the Executive Branch: as an impotent, eager rubber-stamping servant.

* * * * *

Just by the way: the 1978 FISA law that required court approval before the U.S. Government could eavesdrop on Americans has produced this sort of blindly accepting rubber-stamping from the FISA court since its inception. Nonetheless, it was this FISA process that the Bush administration claimed was too significant of an obstacle to its eavesdropping powers when it decided to violate the law by eavesdropping without asking for FISA court permission, and it’s the same claim which the Democratic-led Congress and then-Sen. Obama made in 2008 when they enacted a new FISA law that dramatically expanded the U.S. Government’s warrantless eavesdropping powers. A 100% victory rate in court is apparently too low for those who see presidential powers as monarchical, and our nation’s federal judges seem all the time to be eagerly attempting to increase that rate.

Personalizing civil liberties abuses

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2012 by loonwatch

(cross-posted from Salon)

By Glenn Greenwald

It’s sometimes easy — too easy — to think, talk or write about the assault on civil liberties in the United States, and related injustices, and conceive of them as abstractions. Two weeks ago, the Editorial Page Editor of The New York Times, Andrew Rosenthal, wrote that ever since the 9/11 attacks, the United States has created “what’s essentially a separate justice system for Muslims.” That should be an extraordinary observation: creating a radically different — and more oppressive — set of rules, laws and punishments for a class of people in the United States based on their religious affiliation is a disgrace of historic proportion. Yet here we have someone occupying one of the most establishment media positions in the country matter-of-factly observing that this is exactly the state of affairs that exists on American soil, and it prompts little notice, let alone protest.

There are many factors accounting for the willingness to tolerate, or even approve of, this systematic persecution, most of which I’ve written about before. But one important reason I want to highlight here is that — as is true of America’s related posture of endless wars — its victims, by design, are so rarely heard from. As is true for most groups of humans who remain hidden, they are therefore easily demonized. This invisibility also means that even those who object in principle to what is being done have difficulty apprehending in a visceral way the devastation that is wreaked in the lives of these human beings who have done nothing wrong. Their absence from our discourse can confine one’s understanding of these issues to the theoretical realm, and thus limit one’s ability to truly care.

I spent the last week traveling to several cities where, without planning to do so, I met dozens of people whose lives have been seriously impeded or fully wrecked by the abuses carried out in the name of the War on Terror. This happens whenever I travel to speak at events, and it’s one of the reasons I do it. Meeting such people isn’t the reason for my travel. These meetings usually are unplanned. But the decade-long abuses carried out in the post-9/11 era are so pervasive, so systematized, that no matter what city I visit, it’s very common for me to end up meeting people — usually though not always Muslims — whose lives have been unjustly and severely harmed by these state actions. And it’s not only the targeted individuals themselves, but entire communities of people, whose lives are substantially damaged. Being able to meet and speak with people directly affected personalizes the issues for me that are most frequently written about here, and so I want to describe several of those encounters I had just in the last week.

* * * * *

On Thursday, I was in Ottawa to speak at St. Paul University on civil liberties, secrecy and militarism as it affects the U.S. and Canada. Ottawa happens to be the long-time home of Maher Arar. Arar is the Canadian-Syrian citizen who was abducted by the U.S. Government (with the help of Canada) in September, 2002, at JFK Airport, when he was about to board a connecting flight back home to Ottawa after a vacation. After being held for two weeks in solitary confinement and denied access to a lawyer by the U.S., they “rendered” him not back to his home in Canada, but to Syria (where he hadn’t lived for 15 years). He was imprisoned in Syria for the next year, ten months of which was in extreme solitary confinement. As the U.S. knew would happen, he was continuously interrogated, beaten and tortured. Because (as everyone now admits) Arar had no involvement of any kind with Terrorism, he had nothing to tell his Syrian captors, which caused them to beat him ever more harshly. Once even the Syrians concluded that he was innocent, they released him back to Canada.

While the Canadian government publicly accounted for its role in this travesty, apologized to Arar, and paid him a substantial monetary sum for what was done to him, all of Arar’s efforts to obtain justice from the U.S. Government in American courts have been denied. The Bush and the Obama DOJ both insisted that allowing Arar’s claims to be heard in a U.S. court would risk disclosure of vital “state secrets,” and American federal judges — as they almost always do in cases involving Muslim defendants — meekly complied with the government’s directives. Arar continues to be banned from entering the U.S., thus ensuring he cannot travel to this country to speak about what was done to him.

When I met with him, Arar explained to me the lingering effects of being snatched away from your own life for no reason and being shipped halfway across the world to be brutalized and tortured without any charges of any kind and without any end in sight. At the time that happened, Arar was working as an engineer — he has a Masters degree in engineering from the University of Quebec — and he lived with his wife, a Ph.D in Finance who works as a college professor, along with their two small children. His wife, Monia Mazigh, wrote an incredibly moving book about the devastation this “rendition” wreaked on their lives and her battle to free him.

Since then, the stigma of what happened to him follows him wherever he goes. He found it difficult to resume his engineering career. He was reluctant to speak in any detailed way, but was clear that this horrific experience, even nine years later, affects him emotionally and psychologically in all sorts of profound ways. He spends most of his time working on an excellent online political journal he founded in 2010, Prism Magazine, where he and a group of writers report and comment on civil liberties and foreign policy.

He’s extremely smart, knowledgeable, articulate, passionate and engaged. He attempts to direct the anger over what was done to him into constructive causes: in particular, using his platform to highlight the dangers of untrammeled government power and the ongoing erosion of core liberties in the name of Terrorism. But it’s not hard to see that the severe abuse he suffered at the cooperative hands of the U.S., Canadian and Syrian governments — the complete loss of one’s sense of security from being arbitrarily snatched out of one’s life by unaccountable forces which, in the case of the U.S., continue to view him as some sort of threat — will be a central part of his identity and internal life probably forever.

* * * * *

On Saturday, I was at the University of Chicago for an event to discuss humanitarian intervention and empire. One of my fellow speakers was Tariq Ramadan, the highly regarded Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford. He’s one of the world’s most accomplished scholars in his field. For almost six years — from 2004 until 2010 — Ramadan was banned from entering the U.S. In 2004, he had accepted a tenured position at Notre Dame University, but was forced to resign it when, nine days before he was to move with his family to Indiana, his visa was suddenly revoked by the State Department pursuant to the “ideological exclusion” provision of the PATRIOT Act. Ramadan had been an outspoken critic of violence carried out by Muslims against civilians in the name of the Koran, as well a vigorous opponent of violence carried out by the U.S. Government in the Muslim world; for the latter act, he was accused by the U.S. Government, with no charges or trial, of being a Terrorist sympathizer and a threat to national security. Only once the ACLU sued for years on his behalf and the State Department was ordered by a federal court to more fully justify the exclusion in 2010 was he granted a visa. After years of living with the cloud of “Terrorist sympathizer” over his head, he is now finally able to enter the U.S. again to speak and attend academic conferences.

One of the sponsors of that University of Chicago event was the school’s Muslim Students Association, and one of the undergraduate student leaders of that group is Ali Al-Arian. Ali is the son of Dr. Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian whose ongoing persecution by the U.S. Government is one of the most repellent and unjust of any in the post-9/11 era. I can’t begin to convey all or even most of the extreme injustices that have been imposed on him.

In 2003, while working as an engineering professor at the University of South Florida, he was indicted by the Ashcroft DOJ on multiple counts of “material support for Terrorism.” Al-Arian was an outspoken advocate for Palestinians and a steadfast opponent of the Israeli occupation. The U.S. government had been monitoring all of his telephone communications for more than a full decade, yet obtained no evidence that he was involved in any way in plotting any sort of violence. The indictment was all based on his alleged support for Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian group that has nothing to do with the U.S. or Americans, but is instead focused exclusively on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. While awaiting his trial, he was held for almost three years in extreme solitary confinement.

When his trial finally took place in 2006, the government’s evidence against him consisted almost entirely of his speeches, the list of books he read, the websites he visited, the magazines he edited, the rallies he attended: in sum, the U.S. Government — as it so often does with Muslims — tried to prosecute him as a Terrorist by virtue of his political views and activities. Even with a judge extremely hostile to his defense, the Central Florida jury acquitted him on half of the counts, and deadlocked on the other half (10 out of 12 jurors wanted to acquit him on all charges). This was one of the very, very few times a Muslim in the U.S. has been acquitted when accused of Terrorism. Rather than be subjected to a new trial that could send him to prison for life, he pled guilty to a single count of “contributing services” for the benefit of a designated Terrorist group (far, far less than what is being provided right this moment by a glittering bipartisan cast of Washington officials to the MEK, also a designated Terrorist group). In an extremely unusual move, the federal judge presiding over the case disregarded the prosecutor’s sentencing recommendations and sentenced him to a longer prison term than what the plea agreement called for: the maximum permitted by law.

That prison sentence was to end in 2007, after which he would be deported. Yet al-Arian was never released from prison. He continues, nine years later, to be denied his liberty by the U.S. Government, with no end in sight. Shortly before he was to be released and deported, he was subpoenaed to testify in a separate criminal case — one involving an Islamic think tank in Northern Virginia — by Gordon Kromberg, an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Virginia who is notorious for his bigoted anti-Islamic zealotry. Fearful that any testimony he gave would be seized on by Kromberg to prosecute him again, al-Arian refused to testify, and was then imprisoned on civil contempt charges for the maximum 18-month period permitted by law. Once that 18-month period ended, Kromberg, in 2008, indicted him on criminal contempt charges.

In response to this new criminal indictment, al-Arian’s lawyers, in 2009, asked the federal district judge to dismiss the criminal indictment. While the motion was pending, the judge ordered him confined to house arrest. That was 3 years ago. But the judge has simply never decided the motion. It just sits there, for years now, undecided. And al-Arian thus continues to be confined to house arrest, not permitted to leave without express permission of the court, which is rarely granted (he has left his small apartment only twice in the last 3 years, to attend the weddings of his two daughters). In the meantime, the criminal case for which he was subpoeaned to testify has been dismissed. But no matter. Al-Arian is in a frozen zone: denied his most basic liberties but without any ability to contest the charges against him. He’s now been imprisoned in one form or another since 2003, all stemming from extremely dubious charges that the U.S. Government, less than two years after the 9/11 attack, could not even get a Central Florida jury — with a very hostile judge — to convict him on. In reality, al-Arian has been persecuted for one reason only: because he’s a Palestinian activist highly critical of the four-decade brutal Israeli occupation.

It was al-Arian’s son, Ali, who drove me back to my hotel after the University of Chicago event was concluded. He recounted the harrowing details of his father’s plight, much of which I knew, but also explained, in stoic though very affecting tones, the ways in which the lives not only of his father but also his own and his brothers and sisters have been torn asunder by the ongoing persecution taking place. Dr. al-Arian’s five college-age children, all highly accomplished and educated in their own right, have worked steadfastly on the injustices to which their father is still being subjected, but there’s little they can do: each time it appears that his plight will finally be over, the U.S. Government concocts a new process to ensure that he remains a prisoner.

* * * * *

Last night, I spoke in Washington at the annual event for the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, a group formed in late 2010 to work against these Terrorism-justified travesties that are now embedded in the American judicial system. Seated at my table was James Yee, the Muslim chaplin at Guantanamo who complained in 2003 about the treatment of detainees, and shortly thereafter was arrested, charged with sedition and espionage, and held in intense solitary confinement: in other words, subjected to the very same treatment as the Guantanano detainees to whom he had been ministering. Ultimately, the U.S. military decided to suddenly drop all charges against him, though to date has never apologized for what was done to him. He described the ongoing psychological harm from this ordeal, and the battery of medication needed to treat it. Adorning the wall of the event was an exhibit showing the names of dozens of people — mostly, though not all, Muslims — who have been prosecuted overwhelmingly due to their political views, not because of any violent acts they undertook. For the entire three-hour event, a Muslim male dressed in an orange jump suit sat alone in a tiny makeshift cell at the front of the room as a reminder of the hundreds of prisoners, held in indescribably oppressive conditions, who have been prosecuted “pre-emptively” in the post-9/11 era: due to their political beliefs.

On the afternoon before the event, I met with Gulet Mohamed’s brother, Liban. Gulet is the Somali-American who last year, at the age of 19, was detained in Kuwait at the behest of the U.S. Government, beaten and tortured while interrogated, and then blocked from returning home to the U.S. I still vividly recall, as though it were yesterday, calling Gulet on his illicitly obtained cell phone while he was in Kuwaiti detention and hearing the extreme levels of fear and confusion in his voice over why this was happening to him. His brother described to me the numerous ways that Gulet continues to be affected by that experience: all ones you would expect if you put yourself in the position of being 19 years old and having that happen to you. I then had the pleasure to meet Gulet himself at the event that evening, and he appears to be a normal now-20-year-old — except that he was detained without charges and beaten and tortured at the behest of his own government.

In both Chicago and Washington, I also spoke with several people, all American Muslims, who have been placed by the U.S. Government on its no-fly list. That means they are barred from boarding an airplane. None has been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime. They were never notified that they were being placed on the list. They learned of it when they tried to fly and were denied boarding at the airport. They are unable to obtain any explanation for why they have been so barred. They have no idea who made the decision to place them on this list, what the basis was for that decision, or when they might be removed. For many of them, it means they cannot visit family members in other countries. They have simply been decreed as Security Threats by their own government with no explanation or transparency of any kind, and have no recourse to challenge the designation.

Those I spoke with were unwilling, at least for now, to speak out publicly by name out of fear that the U.S. Government will retaliate against them if they do. This fear is well-grounded given how many Muslims who have protested the government’s treatment of them have ended up being accused of unrelated crimes, or have had close family members similarly targeted. Just this week, a Pittsburgh resident, Kalifah Al-Akili, was scheduled to hold a press conference to complain that the FBI had introduced a dangerous and unstable person into his life in order to entrap him into joining an FBI-created Terrorist plot; once al-Akili refused, and sought to complain publicly, the FBI — on the day before he was to hold his Press Conference — arrested him on a completely unrelated and old firearm violation, thus ensuring his silence.

Then there’s the systematic infiltration of American Muslim communities, mosques and other groups by the U.S. Government. Just today, the Associated Press won a well-deserved Pulitzer Prize for exposing the pernicious surveillance program of the NYPD aimed at Muslims suspected of no wrongdoing whatsoever (except for being Muslim). Also today, The Washington Post has a very good article detailing the FBI’s chronic use of informants to target young Muslims and use every conceivable inducement — money, psychological manipulation, peer pressure — to cajole them into joining the FBI’s manufactured Terrorist plots. This is all done so that the FBI can swoop in at the last minute, praise themselves for stopping a Terror attack, keep fear levels among the American population high, and then send the targeted Muslim to prison for decades (and not just any prison, but usually to the uber-repressive wing at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana — “GITMO North” — a living, inhumane hell). The federal judge who presided over the most recent of these FBI-concocted cases — the tough-on-crime, former federal prosecutor Colleen McMahon — said in open court: “I believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that there would have been no crime here except the government instigated it, planned it and brought it to fruition.”

This constant government surveillance, infiltration, and use of informants — many who are paid large sums of money by the FBI and who themselves have a history of violent behavior and lying — predictably create extreme levels of fear and suspicion in American Muslim communities. They are instantly suspicious of any new person they meet. Because so many of these prosecutions have relied on the political statements and views of the accused Terrorist supporters, they are petrified to express their views about American foreign policy, let alone to engage in meaningful activism around those views. They fear speaking out when they are targeted or otherwise victimized by state injustices.

* * * * *

In sum, these are American citizens whom the rest of us have allowed to be subject to such an intense, limitless climate of fear and intimidation that any Constitutional guarantees are purely illusory for them. And they know it: they know that if the U.S. Government acts unjustly against them — if government agents even utter the word Terrorist in their direction — huge numbers of their fellow citizens will automatically assume that there must be some justification for the accusations. As Mother Jones‘ Kevin Drum recently explained, he simply assumes that when the Obama administration accuses someone of involvement in Terrorism that there must be some solid basis for the accusation — even if they don’t reveal what that basis is — because President Obama is too good of a person to be involved in the baseless, bad faith punishment of someone on Terrorism allegations.

Many of the Muslims with whom I spoke know that many of their fellow citizens — the ones who are never subjected to these abuses — “reason” in a similar manner. Most are wallowing in the authoritarian assumption that the U.S. Government, while not infallible, is well-motivated and honest. Many Muslims thus know that they will stand almost entirely vulnerable if they are so targeted; few others will object or even care. That the Obama administration — in concert with Peter King — has been repeatedly insistingthat the primary threat is now “homegrown Terrorism,” and has thus been importing War on Terror framework onto U.S. soil, means that citizenship is no longer any shield from even the most egregious abuses. So they are afraid, and are tempted to avoid doing anything, including exercising their most basic rights of free speech and assembly, to avoid attracting attention.

As is always the case, the government abuses justified in the name of Terrorism have expanded far beyond the Muslim community to which they were first applied. Domestic peace activists have been targeted by abusive applications of the Patriot Act; American advocates of WikiLeaks have been legally harassed in all sorts of ways; and just last week I detailed the persecution of filmmaker Laura Poitras for the crime of producing documentaries that reflect poorly on U.S. policy.

But American Muslims have borne the brunt of these assaults for a full decade now, and — more than a full decade after 9/11 — continue to bear them in increasingly oppressive ways. And it’s worthwhile, really necessary, to be reminded of the very personal ways that these actions harm the lives of innocent human beings. Blame undoubtedly lies first and foremost with the U.S. Government for perpetrating these attacks. But it lies as well with the American citizenry that — convinced that they will not be affected — permits and even cheers them.

How the Government Smeared Tarek Mehanna

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on April 14, 2012 by loonwatch

 

(updated below)

Tarek Mehanna, a twenty-nine year old American Muslim pharmacist, was sentenced a few days ago to 17.5 years of incarceration.  Much has been said in the mainstream media about this young man, but few people have taken the time to go through Mehanna’s statements over the years to understand his world view and ideology.

Fortunately, Mehanna has a digital footprint that goes back several years.  Long before he was arrested, Tarek Mehanna operated under the user name Abu Sabaya, posting on internet discussion forums and his own blog.  These postings are of critical (but overlooked) importance, because the government’s case rests on them.  After all, Mehanna was accused of “conspiring to support Al Qaeda” by “taking to the Internet to try to spread the terror group’s message.”

I have browsed Tarek Mehanna’s blog and internet postings, and my conclusion is that the government has smeared this young man in what can only be called defamation of the worst sort.  The three central lies levied against him include:

1) the claim that he justified (and called for) the killing of American civilians;

2) the claim that he plotted to “shoot[] people at a shopping mall.”

3) and the claim that he expressed support for Al-Qaeda, wanted to join Al-Qaeda, and/or was an Al-Qaeda operative.

Going through Mehanna’s statements over the years, which are preserved by the world wide web, I am highly skeptical of the government’s claims against him.  Not only did I not find any postings justifying or calling for the killing of American civilians, I found the exact opposite.  In 2008, long before he was arrested, Mehanna translated and published a fatwa (religious verdict) that categorically forbids the targeting and killing of civilians.

The ruling starts off by noting that Islam forbids punishing a person for the sins of another, and argues that the Prophet Muhammad forbade the targeting and killing of women and children.  It also specifically rejects the argument, raised by none other than Al-Qaeda and her supporters, that it is permitted to kill enemy civilians in retaliation when the enemy (i.e. America and Israel) kills Muslim civilians.  Mehanna’s translation then states that such “extremist” beliefs can neither be rationalized from a religious standpoint nor a military one.  It concludes by claiming that there is a unanimous consensus (ijma) among religious scholars with regard to this prohibition, which all Muslims must consider religiously binding.

Here are key parts of the translation, which Mehanna translated in full on his blog:

A Discussion Regarding the Targeting of Women and Children

“1 – The principles of the Shar’i texts indicate that a man is not to be taken to account for the sins of others, as in the Saying of Allah: {“…and none shall carry the burdens of another…”} [al-An’am; 16]

2 – The Shar’i texts have stringently forbidden targeting the children and women of the polytheists with any type of killing or fighting, no matter what the reasons and causes for doing so, as in the hadith reported by al-Bukhari and others, and narrated by Ibn ‘Umar, that a killed woman was found by the Prophet in one of the battles, and the Prophet forbade the killing of women and children.

And Handhalah said: “We went out for battle with the Messenger of Allah, and we came by a killed woman, and the people had gathered around her. They made way for the Prophet, who said: “This woman was not fighting amongst those who were fighting.” He then said to a man: “Go to Khalid bin al-Walid, and say to him that the Messenger of Allah orders you to say: ‘Do not kill a child, and do not kill the weak.’”“

So, his saying: ‘orders you’ confirms the clearcut prohibition of killing children, and his saying: ‘This woman was not fighting amongst those who were fighting’ is the understanding of opposites, meaning: if she had been fighting, and was amongst those who were fighting, it would be allowed to fight and kill her.

3 – Despite the numerous wars and battles that were fought by the Prophet, his Companions, the Tabi’in who followed them in good from the first three generations – whose virtue was borne witness to by the Prophet – and despite the many wrongdoings and oppressions that the Muslims of these blessed early generations faced, it is not known that either the Prophet, his Companions, or the Tabi’in ever intentionally killed the children or women of the polytheists!

4 – Children are not to be killed, because according to the Shari’ah, they are pure souls…

5 – The noble verse that was used as proof: {“…So, whoever transgresses against you, transgress in a similar manner against him…”} [al-Baqarah; 194] does not contain evidence for what it was being used for [by extremists]

…[I]t is not allowed to steal from someone simply because they stole from you, and it is not allowed to insult the father of someone simply because he insulted yours. And it is not allowed to respond to the one who violates your honor with false accusations and insults by doing the same to him, etc. If you were to do this, you would have exceeded your bounds, and would be considered a wrongdoer, and would have punished someone with the sins of someone else.

Likewise, it is not allowed to respond to one who has killed your child by killing his child. Rather, you are to kill the killer, because if you were to kill his child, you would have killed an innocent life based on the mistake of a completely different person, and this has nothing to do with the legislated form of revenge and retaliation. Rather, it is nothing but excessiveness and oppression! With this, you would have exceeded the limits in revenge and retaliation, and would end up punishing with more than you were punished with!

And there is not a single scholar who permits the killing of the children of a killer in retaliation for his own oppression and killing of the children of others. Rather, there is consensus that only the killer is to be killed.

6 – Regarding this statement that has been put forth [i.e. the extremist ruling permitting the killing of civilians] despite its strangeness and weakness: it is not from proper wisdom or the politics of the Shari’ah to act upon it in our times, or to circulate it. And this is for two reasons:

First: even if it had the Shar’i factors in place that would justify it, if this door were to be opened, the enemy – with its massive military equipment that the Muslims lack – is the one more capable of aggression, and is more capable of bringing down harm upon the Muslims, their children, and their women!

Second: the enemy possesses massive media influence that the Muslims lack…How would [the Muslim] reputation and image be in front of the public [if they killed women and children]? How would the people look at them and their religion? …

In the comments section, someone (let’s call him e-jihadi #1) protested the ruling by reproducing a hadith (Prophetic tradition) in which Muhammad supposedly permitted the killing of civilians.  Tarek Mehanna himself rebutted this argument, saying:

These ahadith are in regards to accidental deaths (i.e. collateral damage). This is quite different from deliberately targeting them, which is expressly forbidden in Islam.

When e-jihadi #2 expressed support for killing civilians, Mehanna not only rebuffed him but expressed frustration:

My friend, no matter how you try to justify it, the Prophet expressed in crystal clear terms that it is strictly forbidden to target women and children in war. This is not Abu Basir’s “unrestricted application,” and is not his opinion. This is a divinely revealed rule that originated from Allah and was relayed by His Messenger, and nobody’s opinion – Mujahid or no Mujahid – overrides that.

I don’t know why that is so difficult to understand…

Then, e-jihadi #1 came back to give another piece of evidence in support of his view, which Mehanna then negated.  Interestingly enough, e-jihadi #1 found himself properly refuted, and conceded the debate.

E-jihadi #3 stepped up to the plate by claiming that the translated fatwa “is just one opinion”, to which Mehanna concluded by saying: “Yes, it also happens to be the opinion of the Prophet.”

Reading Tarek Mehanna’s blog and internet posts, it becomes apparent that he considers these e-jihadis to be misguided hotheads.  Although in several posts he criticizes American foreign policy, he also spends considerable amount of ink refuting the hotheads he feels have gone “too far”.

The major sticking point between Tarek Mehanna and the hotheads is the principle of distinction, i.e. the targeting and killing of civilians.  Mehanna posts multiple translations from religious figures considered highly regarded in the “jihadi community” in order to bolster his viewpoint and also to undermine the hotheads.

For example, Mehanna translated an Arabic tract by a senior religious figure, who says the hotheads are “the ones whom I fear for the Jihad and the Mujahidin” because they are a “group that harms the Jihad and the Mujahidin, and severely damages the Jihadi manhaj [methodology].”  Their failing is that they support “every [religious] opinion–even if it is wrong–that leads to extremism, harshness, and the spilling of blood–even if that blood was forbidden [i.e. innocent civilians]!”  They end up “distort[ing] the manhaj [methodology] of Jihad, as well as the image that the Jihad must remain upon”, and “give others a very bad and inaccurate picture of Jihad and the Mujahidin!”

Mehanna’s frustration with the hotheads becomes apparent in another translation that impugns the “mistaken attitude held by some of the youth who carry zeal and enthusiasm for the affairs of Jihad…[and] out of emotion, fanaticism, and ignorance” they reject the clear statement of Islam forbidding those actions committed by “the people of the frontlines” (i.e. Al-Qaeda).

*  *  *  *  *

Based on his steadfast rejection of targeting civilians, it seems improbable to me that Tarek Mehanna ever considered shooting American civilians in a shopping mall.  Another translation Mehanna provided on his website gives one more reason to be doubtful of this dubious government claim; the fatwa reads:

If you are given a visa to any country in the world, it is not allowed for you to partake in any action that breaks its laws. This is not allowed, unless this would contradict something from Islam, such as the prayer, fasting, etc. It is not allowed for you to cheat them [non-Muslims] or take from their wealth. It is not allowed, for example, for you to take one of their daughters, and marry her without the permission of her father. It is not allowed for you to rip up a telephone bill. It is not allowed for you to harm the state, and it is not allowed for you to place a magnet on the electric meter of your home [to steal electricity]… As for coming to kill him [non-Muslim] while he is secure and under a pact of security [visa], this is not allowed.

What’s interesting is that the prosecution not only failed to convict Tarek Mehanna for planning a shopping mall shooting spree, but never even charged him with this.  This is something that Mehanna himself noted, saying in an interview:

You asked me to summarize my court experience, and I wish to conclude it by mentioning that it has been nearly a year since I was last arrested, two years since I was first arrested. I have read through countless court documents handed over by the government during the year that I’ve been sitting here in prison. And to this day—after all this time—I have yet to come across even a single shred of evidence whatsoever that even remotely relates to the supposed “shopping mall” plot that I was initially accused of (but until now have not even been charged with). Nothing at all—there’s simply no trace of it, as if the accusation itself never existed in the first place. I think that in and of itself summarizes my court experience.

Why did the government not pursue this charge?  Certainly, this would be Mehanna’s most egregious misdeed if it were true.  Yet, the accusation simply disappeared from existence.

One can only conclude that this was a baseless accusation, one that was so weak that there was not even enough evidence to charge him with it, let alone convict him of it.  Yet, very early on it was thrown into the mix of accusations against Tarek Mehanna in order to smear him, as well as to instill fear into a post-Columbine American public.

Shouldn’t the government be held to account for such dishonest tactics?

*  *  *  *  *

As for the third smear, i.e. his connection to Al-Qaeda, I can find no evidence from Tarek Mehanna’s digital record for this claim.  He has dozens upon dozens of blog posts and internet comments, but not a single time do I see an endorsement, either direct or indirect, of Al-Qaeda.  In fact, he does not seem to mention the group at all.  If he was lobbying on their behalf, I think Al-Qaeda should ask for its money back.

Bloomberg Business Weekly ran the blaring headline “Terror Defendant Mehanna Backed Bin Laden Online, Jury Told.”  Yet, I have not been able to locate any such statement by Mehanna.  If “Mehanna backed Bin Laden online”, then surely we should be able to retrieve such a statement, since, as you may well know, the internet never forgets.

Yes, it’s true that Tarek Mehanna supports jihad, but his own blog clarifies what he thinks the word means: “The Purpose of Jihad…is to repel the aggression of the aggressors against Islam and the Muslims”; “the goal of the Jihad in this religion is not simply to control people or bring them under the submission of others, nor is the goal death and destruction, nor is it oppression under the guise of justice”, but rather it is “the spreading of justice and mercy…”

During his trial, Tarek Mehanna rejected the claim that he supports Al-Qaeda or that he condones their terrorist tactics of targeting civilians.  The evidence, i.e. his internet postings from years prior, is consistent with this.  Mehanna does support the mujahideen (holy warriors), but by this, he does not seem to be referring to Al-Qaeda or terrorists.  Instead, he is using this epithet for (what he, and I would argue many people, consider to be) legitimate “freedom fighters” who are fighting American soldiers in the streets of Iraq and Afghanistan.  But, the government has purposefully made “anyone who resists the U.S. occupation” to be synonymous with “Al-Qaeda” and “terrorist”.

The translations (above) are mostly from a religious cleric named Abu Basir al-Tartusi, who resides in London.  Abu Basir has been a vocal critic of Western military occupations of Muslim lands, but he strongly condemned acts of terrorism like the 7/7 bombing in London.  Mehanna’s views seem in line with Abu Basir’s, not Bin Laden’s.

*  *  *  *  *

Something else that Tarek Mahanna’s internet postings reveal is a certain fascination with Muslim prisoners.  He had numerous posts about prominent figures in Islamic history who were unjustly jailed, such as Ibn Taymiyyah and Ahmed Ibn Hanbal.  Closer to home, Mehanna had written passionately and repeatedly about Aafia Siddiqui, a Muslim woman who is being held in an American prison.  Tarek Mehanna had organized a letter writing campaign to boost her spirits in prison, but now it seems that he himself has joined her behind bars.  In doing so, the United States government has not only fulfilled his desire to become a martyr, but proved that he was right: the U.S. does jail Muslims unjustly.

It is true that Tarek Mehanna’s views, as expressed on the internet over the years, reveal that he was a religious extremist in many ways (and certainly a hothead in his own right).  But, there does not seem to be any evidence from his internet record (which is on what basis he stands convicted) to prove that he supported terrorism.  Instead, he rejected terrorism.  His other views may well be offensive, but they are not illegal to hold, and are Constitutionally protected.

One of Mehanna’s most disturbing beliefs is his adherence to a “clash of civilizations” worldview, or at least its Muslim equivalent.  In this paradigm, the Muslim community will forever be under attack by the disbelievers, specifically the West.  Thus, there will exist a permanent state of animosity between the two sides.  In the end, it is the United States that has reinforced this belief in Tarek Mehanna (and countless other Muslims) more than any radical preacher could ever hope to do.

*  *  *  *  *

I strongly encourage readers to check out Glenn Greenwald’s piece on the topic, which includes a transcript of Tarek Mehanna’s sentencing statement.

Also read Carol Rose’s excellent article, It’s Official. There is a Muslim Exception to the First Amendment.

Update I:

A reader quipped:

So you folks know everything about Tarek Mehanna? Everything. How? “Because we read his blog.Yeah!!”

I did not claim to know everything about Tarek Mehanna. I simply went through his blog posts and internet comments, which are on what basis he was convicted for, i.e. online advocacy of terrorism.

Danios was the Brass Crescent Award Honorary Mention for Best Writer in 2010 and the Brass Crescent Award Winner for Best Writer in 2011.

Glenn Greenwald: Debating Assassinations on Bill Maher’s “Real Time”

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 26, 2012 by loonwatch

Greenwald was on Real Time discussing the dangerous implications of Obama’s “assassination” program:

Debating assassinations on “Real Time”

by Glenn Greenwald (Salon.com)

I was on Real Time with Bill Maher last night and the most contentious debate occurred over the claimed power of the Obama administration to target American citizens for assassination without due process, as it did with Anwar Awlaki. Below is the clip of that discussion. One irony is that it was preceded by a discussion of hate crimes prosecutions (in the context of the Trayvon Martin and Tyler Clementi cases) in which both Maher and Andrew Sullivan insisted that Americans have the inviolable right to express even the most hateful and repellent opinions without being punished for it by the state, yet were both supportive of the Awlaki killing, an act grounded overwhelmingly if not exclusively in the U.S. government’s hatred and fear of his political speech. The discussion also included Brown University’s Wendy Schiller:

[The video can be seen here, at the bottom of the page]