Archive for Salon

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.

Glenn Greenwald: When Killer is One of Us, We Find Excuses

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 21, 2012 by loonwatch

In this Aug. 23, 2011 Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System photo, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 1st platoon sergeant, Blackhorse Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division participates in an exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif.  (Credit: AP Photo/DVIDS, Spc. Ryan Hallock)

In this Aug. 23, 2011 Defense Video & Imagery Distribution System photo, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, 1st platoon sergeant, Blackhorse Company, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division participates in an exercise at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, Calif. (Credit: AP Photo/DVIDS, Spc. Ryan Hallock)

Discussing the motives of the Afghan shooter

(Salon.com)

Here’s a summary of the Western media discussion of what motivated U.S. Staff Sgt. Robert Bales on March 11 to allegedly kill 16 Afghans, including nine children:

† He was drunk.

† He was experiencing financial stress.

† He was passed over for a promotion.

† He had a traumatic brain injury.

† He had marital problems.

† He suffered from the stresses of four tours of duty.

† He saw his buddy’s leg blown off the day before the massacre.

Et cetera.

Here’s a summary of the Western media discussion of what motivates Muslims to kill Americans: they are primitive, fanatically religious, hateful Terrorists.

Even when Muslims who engage in such acts toward Americans clearlyand repeatedly explain that they did it in response to American acts of domination, aggression, violence and civilian-killing in their countries, and even when the violence is confined to soldiers who are part of a foreign army that has invaded and occupied their country, the only cognizable motive is one of primitive, hateful evil. It is an act of Evil Terrorism, and that is all there is to say about it.

Note, too, that in the case of Sgt. Bales (or any other cases of American violence against Muslims), people have little difficulty understanding the distinction between (a) discussing and trying to understand the underlying motives of the act (causation) and (b) defending the act (justification). But that same distinction completely evaporates when it comes to Muslim violence against Americans. Those who attempt to understand or explain the act — they’re responding to American violence in their country; they are traumatized and angry at the continuous deaths of Muslim children and innocent adults; they’ve calculated that striking at Americans is the ony way to deter further American aggression in their part of the world — are immediately accused of mitigating, justifying or even defending Terrorism.

There is, quite obviously, a desperate need to believe that when an American engages in acts of violence of this type (meaning: as a deviation from formal American policy), there must be some underlying mental or emotional cause that makes it sensible, something other than an act of pure hatred or Evil. When a Muslim engages in acts of violence against Americans, there is an equally desperate need to believe the opposite: that this is yet another manifestation of inscrutable hatred and Evil, and any discussion of any other causes must be prohibited and ignored.

* * * * *

I’ll be speaking at several events over the next few weeks. For now, I’ll note two: (1) this Thursday, March 22, in Philadelphia, I’ll be speaking at the University of Pennsylvania, at 5:00 pm, on “Endless War and the Erosion of Civil Liberties in the Age of Terrorism”; it is free and open the public, and event information is here(2) on Thursday, April 12, in Ottawa, Canada, at 7:00 pm, I’ll be speaking at an event coordinated by long-time commenter Bill Owen, and in attendance will be the heroicMaher Arar; ticket and event information is here. Over the next few weeks, I’ll also be speaking in Seattle, Chicago and Washington, D.C. and will post details as those dates approach. Finally, this Friday night, I’ll be on Real Time with Bill Maher.

 

UPDATE: From today’s issue of Reader’s Express, the Washington Post‘s publication for Metro riders:

Can you even imagine what would happen to someone who wrote or published an article like this about a Muslim killer of Americans?

 

UPDATE II: I have an Op-Ed in The Guardian today about the removal by the U.S. military of the accused shooter from Afghanistan.

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Qur’an Burning: The causes of the protests in Afghanistan

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Media, Loon Politics with tags , , , on February 28, 2012 by loonwatch
Afghan ProtestersAfghans carry a protester injured during an anti-U.S. demonstration in the northern city of Kunduz. (Ezatullah Pamir, Associated Press)

More than 30 people have been killed in the violence that erupted after American personnel burned Qur’ans on a US air base in Afghanistan.

In the wake of the protests, many are asking, “Why are Afghan Muslims so angry over burning the Qur’an?

After all, it’s just a book! Why would Muslims get violent over it!?! 

Glenn Greenwald explains why misleading media coverage leaves the public with a false impression.

The causes of the protests in Afghanistan

by Glenn Greenwald, Salon

(H/T: Saladdin)

Most American media accounts and commentary about the ongoing violent anti-American protests in Afghanistan depict their principal cause as anger over the burning of Korans (it’s just a book: why would people get violent over it?) — except that Afghans themselves keep saying things like this:

Protesters in Kabul interviewed on the road and in front of Parliament said that this was not the first time that Americans had violated Afghan cultural and religious traditions and that an apology was not enough.

This is not just about dishonoring the Koran, it is about disrespecting our dead and killing our children,” said Maruf Hotak, 60, a man who joined the crowd on the outskirts of Kabul, referring to an episode in Helmand Province when American Marines urinated on the dead bodies of men they described as insurgents and to a recent erroneous airstrike on civilians in Kapisa Province that killed eight young Afghans.

“They always admit their mistakes,” he said. “They burn our Koran and then they apologize. You can’t just disrespect our holy book and kill our innocent children and make a small apology.”

And:

Members of Parliament called on Afghans to take up arms against the American military, and Western officials said they feared that conservative mullahs might incite more violence at the weekly Friday Prayer, when a large number of people worship at mosques.

Americans are invaders, and jihad against Americans is an obligation,” said Abdul Sattar Khawasi, a member of Parliament from the Ghorband district in Parwan Province, where at least four demonstrators were killed in confrontations with the police on Wednesday.

The U.S. has violently occupied their country for more than a decade. It has, as Gen. Stanley McChrystal himself explained, killed what he called an “amazing number” of innocent Afghans in checkpoint shootings. It has repeatedly — as in, over and over — killed young Afghan children in air strikes. It continues to imprison their citizens for years at Bagram and other American bases without charges of any kind and with credible reports of torture and other serious abuses. Soldiers deliberately shot Afghan civilians for fun and urinated on their corpses and displayed them as trophies.

Meanwhile, the protesters themselves continue to be shot, although most American media accounts favor sentences like these which whitewash who is doing the killing: “running clashes with the police that claimed the lives of another five Afghan protesters” and “in Nangarhar Province, two Afghans protesting the Koran burning were shot to deathoutside an American base in Khogyani District” and “protesters angry over the burning of Korans at the largest American base in Afghanistan this week took to the streets in demonstrations in a half-dozen provinces on Wednesday that left at least seven dead and many more injured.”Left at least seven dead: as As’ad AbuKhalil observed, “notice that there is no killer in the phrasing.”

It’s comforting to believe that these violent protests and the obviously intense anti-American rage driving them is primarily about anger over the inadvertent burning of some religious books: that way, we can dismiss the rage as primitive and irrational and see the American targets as victims. But the Afghans themselves are making clear that this latest episode is but the trigger for — the latest symbol of — a pile of long-standing, underlying grievances about a decade-old, extremely violent foreign military presence in their country. It’s much more difficult to dismiss those grievances as the by-product of primitive religious fanaticism, so — as usual — they just get ignored.

UPDATE: Beyond all these points, it’s perversely fascinating to watch all of this condescension — it’s just a book: who cares if it’s burned?  – pouring forth from a country whose political leaders were eager to enact a federal law or even a Constutional amendment to make it a criminal offense to burn the American flag (which, using this parlance, is “just a piece of cloth”). In fact, before the Supreme Court struck down such statutes as unconstitutional in 1989 by a 5-4 vote, it was a crime in 48 states in the nation to burn the flag. Here is what Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote in dissent about why the Constitution permits the criminalization of flag burning (emphasis added):

The American flag, then, throughout more than 200 years of our history, has come to be the visible symbol embodying our Nation. It does not represent the views of any particular political party, and it does not represent any particular political philosophy. The flag is not simply another “idea” or “point of view” competing for recognition in the marketplace of ideas. Millions and millions of Americans regard it with an almost mystical reverence, regardless of what sort of social, political, or philosophical beliefs they may have.

Might one say the same for Muslims and the Koran? Along those lines, just imagine what would happen if a Muslim army invaded the U.S., violently occupied the country for more than a decade, in the process continuously killing American children and innocent adults, and then, outside of a prison camp it maintained where thousands of Americans were detained for years without charges and tortured, that Muslim army burned American flags — or a stack of bibles — in a garbage dump. Might we see some extremely angry protests breaking out from Americans against them? Would American pundits be denouncing those protesters as blinkered, primitive fanatics?

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.More Glenn Greenwald

New York Times Article Understates How Overstated Islamic Terrorism Threat Really Is

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2012 by loonwatch

The New York Times recently reported on a study that showed how exaggerated the threat of “Islamic” terrorism is–how “Radical Muslim Americans Pose Little Threat.”  The article is a good one, but in fact, it doesn’t adequately convey how truly minuscule the threat is.  I’ll reproduce the article below and then briefly recount why Americans (and Europeans) shouldn’t fear Islamic terrorism at all:

Radical U.S. Muslims Little Threat, Study Says

WASHINGTON — A feared wave of homegrown terrorism by radicalized Muslim Americans has not materialized, with plots and arrests dropping sharply over the two years since an unusual peak in 2009, according to a new study by a North Carolina research group.

The study, to be released on Wednesday, found that 20 Muslim Americans were charged in violent plots or attacks in 2011, down from 26 in 2010 and a spike of 47 in 2009.

Charles Kurzman, the author of the report for the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security, called terrorism by Muslim Americans “a minuscule threat to public safety.” Of about 14,000 murders in the United States last year, not a single one resulted from Islamic extremism, said Mr. Kurzman, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina.

The report also found that no single ethnic group predominated among Muslims charged in terrorism cases last year — six were of Arab ancestry, five were white, three were African-American and two were Iranian, Mr. Kurzman said. That pattern of ethnic diversity has held for those arrested since Sept. 11, 2001, he said.

Forty percent of those charged in 2011 were converts to Islam, Mr. Kurzman found, slightly higher than the 35 percent of those charged since the 2001 attacks. His new report is based on the continuation of research he conducted for a book he published last year, “The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists.”

The decline in cases since 2009 has come as a relief to law enforcement and counterterrorism officials. In that year, the authorities were surprised by a series of terrorist plots or attacks, including the killing of 13 people at Fort Hood, Tex., by an Army psychiatrist who had embraced radical Islam, Maj. Nidal Hasan.

The upsurge in domestic plots two years ago prompted some scholars of violent extremism to question the conventional wisdom that Muslims in the United States, with higher levels of education and income than the average American, were not susceptible to the message of Al Qaeda.

Concerns grew after the May 2010 arrest of Faisal Shahzad, a naturalized American citizen, for trying to blow up a sport utility vehicle in Times Square. Mr. Shahzad had worked as a financial analyst and seemed thoroughly assimilated. In a dramatic courtroom speech after pleading guilty, he blamed American military action in Muslim countries for his militancy.

The string of cases fueled wide and often contentious discussion of the danger of radicalization among American Muslims, including Congressional hearings led by Representative Peter T. King, a Long Island Republican and chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.

But the number of cases declined, returning to the rough average of about 20 Muslim Americans accused of extremist violence per year that has prevailed since the 2001 attacks, with 193 people in that category over the decade. By Mr. Kurzman’s count, 462 other Muslim Americans have been charged since 2001 for nonviolent crimes in support of terrorism, including financing and making false statements.

The 2011 cases include just one actual series of attacks, which caused no injuries, involving rifle shots fired late at night at military buildings in Northern Virginia. A former Marine Corps reservist, Yonathan Melaku, pleaded guilty in the case last month in an agreement that calls for a 25-year prison sentence.

Other plots unearthed by law enforcement last year and listed in Mr. Kurzman’s report included a suspected Iranian plan to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States, a scheme to attack a Shiite mosque in Michigan and another to blow up synagogues, churches and the Empire State Building.

“Fortunately, very few of these people are competent and very few get to the stage of preparing an attack without coming to the attention of the authorities,” Mr. Kurzman said.

Here are some key points that the article could have included to have truly conveyed how absolutely minuscule the threat of Islamic terrorism is to Americans (and Europeans):

1.  According to the FBI’s own database (available from 1980-2005), less than 6% of terrorist attacks in America were committed by Muslims.

2.  Europol has been documenting terrorism for the last half decade.  Their annual terrorism reports show that less than 1% of terrorism in Europe involves Muslims.

3.  Since 9/11–which was over a decade ago–zero U.S. civilians have been killed by Islamic terrorists.

4.  Similarly, zero European civilians have been killed by Islamic terrorists in the last half decade.  In fact, the only injuries incurred from Islamic terrorism were to a security guard who “was slightly wounded.”  Perhaps the “anti-jihadist” blogosphere should find this one security guard and give him a medal of honor and declare him a martyr for the cause.

Putting this into perspective, you as an American have a much greater chance of being struck or even killed by lightning than being killed by an Islamic terrorist.  Using conservative estimates, at least 300 Americans are struck by lightning every year, and of them, 67 die–way higher than the whopping zero Americans that die every year from Islamic terrorists.

Another way to think of this is that you as an American have a much higher chance of dying from a peanut than an Islamic terrorist: at least 120 Americans die from an allergic reaction to peanuts every year.  Should we wage a War on Peanuts?

The NYT article also fails to mention that many of those people arrested on charges of Islamic terrorism were in fact goaded into terrorism by the FBI, which has a habit of using entrapment as a means to orchestrate–and then foil–its own terrorist plots.  (See Glenn Greenwald’s article: The FBI Thwarts Its Own Terrorist Plot.)  That could explain why the number of arrests for Islamic terrorism do not match up with actual attacks and casualties.

Dr. Charles Kurzman is quoted in the article as saying of the would-be Islamic terrorists: “Fortunately, very few of these people are competent and very few get to the stage of preparing an attack without coming to the attention of the authorities.”  But, it’s not just that they happen to come to the attention of the authorities in the nick of time: it’s the fact that the authorities are the ones who fed them the idea of being terrorists in the first place.  That’s why so “few get to the stage of preparing an attack,” since they are being monitored even before the thought comes to their mind.

Even more worrisome is the fact that the vast majority of Muslims arrested on terrorism-related offenses have been accused of, as the article says, “non-violent crimes in support of terrorism, including financing and making false statements.”  Many of these arrests have been widely criticized by civil rights groups because six-degrees of association are used to incriminate American Muslims.

One other interesting aside: the NYT article mentions the Fort Hood Shooting, which was labeled as an act of Terrorism.  The shooter, Major Nidal Hasan, was charged with 13 counts of premeditated murder and the Army’s prosecutor is seeking the death penalty.  Hasan’s victims were all soldiers (aside from one, who was part of the U.S. Army Reserves).

Meanwhile, Staff Sargent Frank Wuterich was responsible for butchering 24 Iraqi civilians in what is called the Haditha Massacre: under his command, American soldiers systematically exterminated Muslim civilians, killing them execution-style.  This has been corroborated by eyewitness account, forensic and photographic evidence.  Yet, not only did the Army prosecutor not seek the death penalty for this war crime, but instead charged him with “involuntary manslaughter” and sought a maximum penalty of 90 days in the brig.  Even this Lindsay Lohan-style punishment was dropped in a plea bargain, with Wuterich let off with zero jail time and just a pay cut and demotion.  He didn’t even get fired.  Imagine walking into your job and shooting another employee and not getting fired!

Eight U.S. soldiers were charged for the Haditha Massacre.  Charges were dropped for six of them, and the seventh was acquitted.  Only one, Frank Wuterich, was held to account and all he got was a slap on the wrist: a pay cut and demotion.  Meanwhile, when it comes to acts of Islamic terrorism, it’s not just the perpetrators who are sought out and punished, but rather, their financiers, their supposed financiers, those who “harbored” them, those who made “false statements”, those who even gave them a pair of socks to wear or ponchos and raincoats to use, etc. etc.  Whole religions, nations, and civilizations are blamed for such acts.  Countries are bombed because they are held to be responsible.  But, the United States government could not find any responsibility or guilt in the men who actually held guns in their hands as they blasted a couple dozen Iraqi civilians–men, women, and children–to death.

Haditha Massacre

Imagine the comparison between these two men: Hasan is a Muslim and is therefore a Terrorist, even though he only acted against soldiers.  Meanwhile, nobody in the media (or anywhere for that matter) has called Wuterich a Terrorist, even though he slaughtered civilians.  Wuterich committed this act of terrorism ”negligent dereliction of duty” (that’s the euphemism we use to refer to the butchering of 24 Muslim civilians) as a retaliation for the killing of an American soldier (a soldier who was on Iraqi soil and part of an occupying force) by an IED.  If Hasan had killed 24 American civilians in Meriden, Connecticut (Wuterich’s home city) in retaliation for the death of a Muslim civilian from a U.S. drone strike, would anybody be calling this anything other than Terrorism?  Had that been the case, the right-wing and the media would be on a continuous spin cycle talking about how Evil and Dangerous those Moozlums are.   Muslims would be bending over backwards issuing apology after apology and uttering the mandatory serial condemnations of Terrorism.

A friend emailed me a comment made on Facebook by someone in the U.S. military, who said (in defense of Frank Wuterich):

Is it hard for me to believe that a human being lost his mind at the sight of the man fighting to his left being blown to pieces? No. It absolutely is not.

Why is it then so hard for you to believe that a human being lost his mind at the sight of seeing his entire family, neighborhood, village, and country being blown to bits by Americans (or Israelis)?  That he would then want to retaliate by killing Americans (or Israelis) just as Wuterich took his vengeance out on Iraqi civilians?  Palestinians have had their entire villages wiped off the face of the earth, yet I do not think this person (or the average American) would be so forgiving when that Palestinian would then take it out on Israelis.

Nidal Hasan, a Muslim, killed 13 soldiers on a U.S. military base, whom he specifically targeted because they were about to be dispatched to join an occupation force in Iraq and Afghanistan, two Muslim countries that have been savaged by the United States.   Meanwhile, Frank Wuterich was part of an occupying force and killed 24 Muslim civilians–civilians in a country that was occupied and savaged by the United States.  The former is an act of Terrorism; the latter is “negligent dereliction of duty.”  If you’re a Muslim, then it’s Terrorism; if you’re fighting Muslims, then at most it’s “negligent dereliction of duty.”

This is, as Glenn Greenwald always says, the true definition of the word “Terrorist”:

It means:  anyone — especially of the Muslim religion and/or Arab nationality — who fights against the United States and its allies or tries to impede their will.  That’s what “Terrorism” is; that’s all it means.

I’ve been inspired by an image I saw here to create this image to properly depict the situation:

Wuterich killed 24 Iraqi civilians in retaliation for one U.S. soldier being killed (a soldier, mind you, who was part of an occupying force on Iraqi soil).  Why are we so amazed at how primitive and backwards those Muslims are when they get angry about the over one million civilians we have killed of theirs?

Hasan’s act of violence is troublesome from a moral point of view because it occurred on U.S. soil, but Greenwald points to an example that occurred on Iraqi soil: this is the case of Faruq Khalil Muhammad Isa, an Iraqi born man who was officially accused of “Terrorism” for “the Murder of Five American Soldiers” on Iraqi soil.  Greenwald notes:

Isa is charged with “providing material support to a terrorist conspiracy” because he allegedly supported a 2008 attack on a U.S. military base in Mosul that killed 5 American soldiers. In other words, if the U.S. invades and occupies your country, and you respond by fighting back against the invading army — the ultimate definition of a “military, not civilian target” — then you are a . . . Terrorist.

Putting that in graphic form, we have:

Were the civilians of Haditha not “terrorized” by Frank Wuterich and his men?  Wasn’t that exactly the point of the massacre: to terrorize the Iraqi population to the point where they would no longer resist American soldiers?  Were the Muslim civilians killed in Haditha any less in a state of terror–terrorized–than the soldiers on the Fort Hood base?

One last point: the NYT’s article fails to make the logical conclusion: it’s not enough to say that the threat of Islamic terrorism is overblown.  Rather, the real question is why it is so: it’s to justify our many wars in the Muslim world and our occupations of their lands.  It’s war propaganda.

Addendum I:  

I would like to apologize for comparing Lindsay Lohan to Frank Wuterich: prosecutors sought much longer jail sentences on her than him, and she spent more time in jail than he did.  Does anyone want to create a side-by-side image comparison of Lohan and Wuterich?  I’ll update the article and put it up if it’s worthy enough.

Update I:

Here’s another “fun” graphic I just created:

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: The Growing Iranian Military Behemoth

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on February 4, 2012 by loonwatch

Even as the United States threatens to invade Iran, you must always remember: Iranians/Muslims are the violent, aggressive, and warlike ones.

The growing Iranian military behemoth

By Glenn Greenwald

The tranquility of my Saturday morning was disrupted — and that’s putting it mildly — when I read on Glenn Reynolds’ popular right-wing “Instapundit” blog that we can learn important “Lessons About Iran From Hitler.” To know that we have yet another New Hitler in our midst is alarming indeed. Reynolds’ link takes one to an even more jarring warning about the Persian menace, by David Goldman, that extensively compares the fallen Nazi leader to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and argues that because both figures are maniacal monsters presiding over a dying nation, only a full-scale military attack can stop them. ”However much it costs in Iranian blood and well-being, it’s still worth it,” Goldman casually decrees.

Sociopathic calls for aggressive attacks on other nations and cheap invocations of Hitler are not worth commenting on: neocons churn those out reflexively. But what is worth noting is the event Goldman is flagging as proof of Iran’s aggressive intentions: “Iran is planning to double its defense budget even though its currency is collapsing,” he warns. A doubling of its defense budget! Who among us can remain calm in the face of such naked militarism?

That Ahmadinejad claims that Iran will increase its military budget for next year by 127% was widely reported this week. For a variety of reasons relating to Iran’s economic difficulties, that plan is quite infeasible — typical Ahmadinejad blustering — but let’s assume for the moment that it will actually happen. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Military Expenditure Database, Iran’s total annual military spending is $7 billion; an increase of 127% would take it to $15.8 billion — also known as: less than 2% of total U.S. military spending (which was$698 billion for fiscal year 2010). According to Defense News, Iran’s official military budget for 2011 is actually $12 billion; an increase of 127% would bring it to $27.2 billion, also known as: less than 4% of U.S. military spending. Taking the largest number possible for Iranian military spending (the one provided by Defense News), behold the frightening, Nazi-like military threat Iran poses:

These kinds of scary claims about Iran’s military might have been issuing for years. Back in 2006, Gen. John Abizaid, chief of the U.S. Central Command,announced that Iran has the most powerful military in the Middle East, even though Israel has a large stockpile of nuclear weapons, as many as 200, while Saudi Arabia annually spends almost $60 billion on its military (more than 5 times Iran’s current spending) or “10% of GDP on defence, more than double the proportion spent by America.” Both of those Iranian rivals (Israel and Saudi Arabia), and many others in that region, are recipients of vast amounts of sophisticated military weaponry from the U.S.  Here is a list of 11 extremely sophisticated weapons that the U.S. — and it alone in the world — possesses. And then there’s the fact that the U.S. basically has Iran completely encircled, as demonstrated by this graph from Juan Cole’s blog, showing U.S. military bases near Iran:

As Cole put it: “Each star is a US base. But just to be clear, Iran is the one that is threatening us.” Indeed: imagine if the blue in that map were the U.S. (rather than Iran), and the large red areas were Mexico and Canada (rather than Iran’s neighbors), and the stars represented Iranian military bases. Then further imagine that Iranian political leaders and media figures routinely told their population that it was the U.S. that was an aggressive, threatening power that had to be stopped: the mocking condemnations of that level of propaganda would be endless. Yet American political officials and commentators feel free to insist, with a straight face, that Iran is an aggressor nation posing a serious threat to the U.S.: such a serious threat, in fact, that war may be necessary to stop it. And there is, tragically, little doubt that if there is an attack on Iran by Israel — with direct U.S. involvement or, more likely, U.S. support and approval — there will be little opposition in either American political party, and even less challenge to the ludicrous claims about the Grave Iranian Threat that will be invoked to justify it.

Who are the Victims of Civil Liberties Assaults and Endless War?

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on January 19, 2012 by loonwatch

Opponent of war and advocate of civil liberties  (Credit: AP)

Opponent of war and advocate of civil liberties (Credit: AP)

Who are the victims of civil liberties assaults and Endless War?

BY GLENN GREENWALD

(updated below)

In The Washington Post yesterday, Law Professor Jonathan Turley has an Op-Ed in which he identifies ten major, ongoing assaults on core civil liberties in the U.S. Many of these abuses were accelerated during the Bush administration in the wake of 9/11, but all have been vigorously continued and/or expanded by President Obama.  Turley points out that these powers have long been deemed (by the U.S.) as the hallmark of tyranny, and argues that their seizure by the U.S. Government has seriously called into question America’s status as a free nation: “They form a mosaic of powers under which our country could be considered, at least in part, authoritarian.” All ten of these powers are ones very familiar to readers here: Assassination of U.S. citizens; Indefinite detention; Arbitrary justice; Warrantless searches; Secret evidence; War crimes; Secret court; Immunity from judicial review; Continual monitoring of citizens; and Extraordinary renditions.

I’ve written volumes on all of those powers over the last several years, but — especially today — I want to focus on one narrow but vital question: who are generally the victims of these civil liberties assaults? The answer is the same as the one for this related question: who are the prime victims of America’s posture of Endless War? Overwhelmingly, the victims are racial, ethnic and religious minorities: specifically, Muslims (both American Muslims and foreign nationals). And that is a major factor in why these abuses flourish: because those who dominate American political debates perceive, more or less accurately, that they are not directly endangered (at least for now) by this assault on core freedoms and Endless War (all civil liberties abuses in fact endanger all citizens, as they inevitably spread beyond their original targets, but they generally become institutionalized precisely because those outside the originally targeted minority groups react with indifference).

To see how central a role this sort of selfish provincialism plays in shaping political priorities, just compare (a) the general indifference to Endless War and the massive civil liberties assaults described by Turley (ones largely confined to Muslims)  to (b) the intense outrage and media orgy generated when a much milder form of invasiveness — TSA searches — affected Americans of all backgrounds. The success of Endless War and civil liberties attacks depends on ensuring that the prime victims, at least in the first instance, are marginalized and easily demonizable minorities.

The fundamental interconnectedness between war and civil liberties abuses on the one hand, and the targeting of minorities as part of those policies on the other, is, of course, nothing new. It was most eloquently emphasized in the largely forgotten, deliberately whitewashed 1967 speech about the Vietnam War by Martin Luther King, Jr. (who himself was targeted for years with abusive domestic surveillance by the FBI’s J. Edgar Hoover). Dr. King devoted that extraordinary speech generally to the way in which the war in Vietnam was savaging not only the people of that country but also America’s national character. He specifically sought to answer his critics who were objecting that his increasingly strident opposition to the Vietnam War was a distraction from his civil rights work; instead, he insisted, his war opposition and advocacy of civil rights are, in fact, causes that are inextricably linked:

Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud: Why are you speaking about war, Dr. King? Why are you joining the voices of dissent? Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask? And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live. . . .

It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through [Lyndon Johnson’s] poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war, and I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such . . . .

As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent. . . .

Now, it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam. It can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land. . . .

This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.

King notably added another reason why he felt compelled to prioritize issues of war: “another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964; and I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission.” As he put it: “ This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances.” If only that award were similarly understood today. His essential point was that nothing good could possibly happen in America so long as it continued on its path of warfare and bombing and invading foreign countries, and it was therefore necessary to prioritize protests against the war on at least equal footing with every other issue.

Over the weekend, I recorded a BloggingheadsTV session with The Nation‘s Katha Pollitt in which several of these same themes were discussed; it was a good, civil, constructive discussion, and the video is below. Part of the debate over the last couple weeks among progressives regarding political priorities, the Obama presidency, the Ron Paul candidacy and the like has entailed a litany of accusations — smears — hurled at those of us who insist on the prioritization of issues of war and civil liberties abuses, and who vocally highlight the ways in which the Democratic Party generally and President Obama specifically have been so awful on these matters. Some Democratic loyalists have explicitly argued that contrasting Obama with Ron Paul on these issues is warped because issues of war and civil liberties are, at best, ancillary concerns, while others have gone so far as to claim that only racial and/or gender bias — white male “privilege” — would cause someone to use the Paul candidacy to highlight how odious Obama has been in these areas.

Leaving aside the fact that (as I detail in the discussion with Pollitt),numerous women and people of color have made the same points about the vital benefits of Paul’s candidacy — voices which these accusers tellingly ignore and silence — these accusations are pure projection. Those who were operating from such privilege would not seek to prioritize issues of war and civil liberties; that’s because it isn’t white progressives and their families who are directly harmed by these heinous policies. The opposite is true: it’s very easy, very tempting, for those driven by this type of “privilege” — for non-Muslims in particular– to decide that these issues are not urgent, that Endless War and civil liberties abuses by a President should not be disqualifying or can be tolerated, precisely because these non-Muslim progressive accusers are not acutely affected by them. The kind of “privilege” these accusers raise would cause one to de-prioritize and accept civil liberties abuses, drone slaughter, indefinite detention and the like (i.e, do what they themselves do), not demand that significant attention be paid to them when assessing political choices.

As I noted the other day,  it isn’t white males being indefinitely detained, rendered, and having their houses and cars exploded with drones — the victims of those policies are people like Lakhdar Boumediene, or Gulet Mohamed, or Jose Padilla, or Awal Gul, or Sami al-Haj, or Binyam Mohamed, or Murat Kurnaz, or Afghan villagers, or Pakistani families, or Yemeni teenagers. In order to get the full depth of the oppression and injustice of these ongoing War on Terror policies, one has to do things like listen to this amazing — and tragically rare — interview conducted by Chris Hayes this weekend with Boumediene, as the former GITMO detainee explained in Arabic how his life was devastated by indefinite detention. It’s easy to convince yourself that these abuses are not an urgent priority if, like those above-linked accusers, your non-Muslim privilege (to use their accusatory terminology) enables you to be shielded from their harms.

This is the primary point made so brilliantly by Falguni Sheth, the Political Theory and Philosophy Professor, in arguing that white progressives throwing around these accusations are themselves the ones guilty of it by virtue of their willingness to subordinate these issues to partisan gain — in other words, no longer desiring that these abuses be vested with prime political priority now that it’s their Party and their President guilty of them:

But HERE FOLKS! I am a brown woman (in case my bio didn’t clue you into that), and I am downright livid at policies passed during the Obama administration (which a number of folks will attest that I anticipated before the 2008 election), which are even worse than expected. I am as livid with progressives who affect a casual? studied? indifference to the Administration’s repeated support for warrantless wiretapping (remember Obama’s vote during the 2008 election season when he took a break in campaigning to return to Washington to vote for the renewal of FISA; for his support of the Justice Department’s withholding of evidence (and even habeas corpus) from detainees on grounds of national security; his commitment to indefinite detention (NDAA was not the first time it’s arisen. We saw his support in the gesture to move Gitmo detainees to a federal prison in Illinois—with only a casual suggestion that they might receive civilian trials—only to watch it die quickly under even modest resistance. Guantanamo is still open with detainees languishing); the expansion of troops into Afghanistan in the first part of his term; the unceasing drone attacks in Pakistan, etc. . . .

Here’s my other question: Why does this have to turn into a “guilt by association” debate? Why can’t we discuss the questions that are being raised as serious and important questions, rather than referendums on voters’ or pundits’ moral character? I don’t have to like Ron Paul (and why do we need to LIKE our politicians?). I don’t have to have dinner with him. He doesn’t need to be a friend. He is raising the questions that every other liberal and progressive and feminist (yes, including you, Katha) should be raising and forcing the Democrats to address. As Greenwald has pointed out, these issues only become outrage-worthy when the Republicans are spearheading human rights violations, because it gives the libs and progs a lever by which to claim political superiority. The silence on the Democrats’ record of human rights violations is deafening. And they’re more than cherries on a blighted tree. They’re dead bodies on the blighted conscience of Americans.

As I said the other day, I don’t run around accusing progressives who have different political priorities than I do of being driven by racial and religious bias. I genuinely recognize that there are all sorts of benign and even noble reasons why one might have different political priorities or might even value partisan loyalty more than I do. But there is one thing I know for certain: to smear with this kind of innuendo those insisting on the prioritization of war and civil liberties issues or devoting oneself to these causes is indescribably irrational and reckless. One driven by racial or other forms of privilege would seek to de-prioritize or ignore these issues, not highlight them. Indeed, a primary reason why these fully bipartisan policies of Endless War and civil liberties assaults largely go unchallenged is precisely because their primary victims are anything but privileged. That’s exactly why these issues are not a distraction from the cause of equality; they are an embodiment of it.

* * * * *

On a related note, International Law Professor Kevin Jon Heller reviewsthe debate raised here and elsewhere last week about the murder of Iranian scientists and argues that these acts, definitively and without question, are acts of Terrorism.

Here is the 55-minute discussion I had with Pollitt this weekend, one which, as I indicated, I thought was quite constructive and helpfully illuminated the key points:
ttp://bloggingheads.tv/videos/8737?in=00:00&out=54:55
UPDATE: The always smart Freddie De Boer has some poignant insights on all of this – on progressives, war and civil liberties — that are well worth reading.

The scandal that isn’t on the video

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on January 15, 2012 by loonwatch

I was going to write an article about this topic, but then Prof. Saree Makdisi beat me to it on Salon.  Although I find U.S. Marines urinating on dead Afghans to be morally repugnant, it is not as morally repugnant as the killing of said Afghans.  The desire to distance themselves from the former is born out of the fact that it would hamper doing more of the latter.  It’s bad publicity and takes away from the very important work of killing, bombing, and occupying Afghans.

The scandal that isn’t on the video

Is it worse to desecrate a few corpses than to mass produce a lot of them?

BY SAREE MAKDISI

The United States and its allies were quick to go into damage control mode to try to contain the political and diplomatic fallout from a video posted on YouTube apparently showing US Marines urinating on the mangled corpses of dead Afghans,

A Pentagon spokesman, Captain John Kirby, told CNN: “Regardless of the circumstances or who is in the video, this is egregious, disgusting behavior. It’s hideous. It turned my stomach.”  Afghan President Hamid Karzai agreed.“This act by American soldiers is simply inhuman and condemnable in the strongest possible terms.”.

It ought to go without saying that urinating on  corpses, whether of Taliban fighters or Afghan civilians (or any one else for that matter), is disrespectful and degrading and ought to be condemned. What is interesting, and somewhat unsettling, about the outpouring of sentiment following this new scandal, however, is that it raises more questions than it answers.

Isn’t it odd, for example, that there seems to be more concern about urinating on these bodies than there is about the actual killing that transformed them from living human beings to splayed-out corpses in the first place? Is it really possible that peeing on dead bodies is seen as horrific, but killing people is perfectly acceptable? Isn’t something missing from this picture?

This seems an especially pressing question given that much of the US military (and related CIA) effort in Afghanistan and Pakistan so often seems to involve simply killing—or, to use the rather more circumspect military term, “degrading”—as many militants as possible, not necessarily in actual combat operations, but by twos and threes and tens and dozens, in bombings and air raids and drone attacks, as they sleep or drive or eat or pray or brush their teeth. Day after day we read reports of 8 militants being killed here, 5 being killed there , and 6 somewhere else. It is as though the earth keeps vomiting forth “militants,” who then simply need to be mown down like so much vermin in a “war” reduced to its lowest common denominator—killing for the sake of killing, without any kind of strategic aim or vision or logic, much less a sense of when it might end.

Sure, every now and then someone (very rightly) raises a question about how many civilians are being killed in air raids or drone attacks in Afghanistan or Pakistan; not that it makes any difference. There is even the occasional report about the “vast drone/killing operation” being conducted by the Obama Administration, and a few people, including Glenn Greenwald, have been warning of the menace that an unchecked, unregulated, program of extrajudicial executions means, or ought to mean, to Americans and others alike.

But, these exceptions aside, the routine, hum-drum slaughter of “militants” slips by far too readily without sufficient questioning, without enough people pausing to ask who these people are, what they want, what threat they really pose to the US with their AK-47s and RPGs, what plan, if any, there is to do something to stop their seemingly autochthonous emergence (by addressing its causes, for example) rather than merely mowing them down by the dozen after they emerge–or whether the plan really is simply to go on killing as long as there is a supply of living bodies to soak up our ordnance. After all, President Obama has deliberately chosen to kill rather than capture people because he knows that pictures like those that emerged from Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are bad news—but that there will be few pictures and fewer questions about the endless slaughter of anonymous militants in the dusty backwaters of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

For all the furor, the current scandal proves that point all too grimly, precisely because the scandal consists in the urination rather than the killing itself.

Marine Commandant Gen. James Amos called the act of urinating on the corpses “wholly inconsistent with the high standards of conduct and warrior ethos that we have demonstrated throughout our history.” A NATO spokesman added, “This disrespectful act is inexplicable and not in keeping with the high moral standards we expect of coalition forces.”

But what does it mean to speak of a “warrior ethos” and “high moral standards” in a war when most of the killing is being done by remote control—and not in the heat, intensity and sweaty, adrenaline-driven fear of battle (which the very concept of a “warrior ethos” is supposed to describe), but rather clinically, in air-conditioned comfort, from the safe distance of 20,000 feet—or, rather, 10,000 miles?

It is all too easy to look at the young Marines urinating on the corpses in that video and condemn them (rightly) for their callous brutality. It is far more difficult, however, to put their adolescent action back in its fuller and more meaningful context and ask ourselves what it means that we hardly seem to attach more value to a human life than they do, and that we have come to accept the “reaping” of human lives—for it is not without reason that one of the biggest drones is called Reaper—as a matter to be dismissed with a careless flick of the morning newspaper or click of the mouse.

Saree Makdisi is a professor of English and Comparative Literature at UCLA and the author of, among other books, “Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation.” Follow him @sareemakdisi on Twitter.

Glenn Greenwald: The real definition of Terrorism

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2011 by loonwatch

(cross-posted from Salon)

The FBI yesterday announced it has secured an indictment against Faruq Khalil Muhammad ‘Isa, a 38-year-old citizen of Iraq currently in Canada, from which the U.S. is seeking his extradition. The headline on the FBI’s Press Release tells the basic story: “Alleged Terrorist Indicted in New York for the Murder of Five American Soldiers.” The criminal complaint previously filed under seal provides the details: ‘Isa is charged with “providing material support to a terrorist conspiracy” because he allegedly supported a 2008 attack on a U.S. military base in Mosul that killed 5 American soldiers. In other words, if the U.S. invades and occupies your country, and you respond by fighting back against the invading army — the ultimate definition of a “military, not civilian target” — then you are a . . . Terrorist.

Here is how the complaint, in the first paragraph, summarizes the Terrorism charge against ‘Isa:

By “outside of the United States,” the Government means: inside Iraq, ‘Isa’s country. The bulk of the complaint details conversations ‘Isa allegedly had over the Internet, while he was in Canada, with several Tunisians who wanted to engage in suicide attacks aimed at American troops in Iraq; he is not alleged to have organized the Mosul attack but merely to have provided political and religious encouragement (the network of which he was allegedly a part also carried out a suicide attack on an Iraqi police station, though ‘Isa’s alleged involvement is confined to the attack on the U.S. military base that killed the 5 soldiers along with several Iraqis, and the Terrorism indictment is based solely on the deaths of the U.S. soldiers).

In an effort to depict him as a crazed, Terrorist fanatic, the complaint includes this description of conversations he had while being monitored:

Is that not exactly the mindset that more or less anyone in the world would have: if a foreign army invades your country and proceeds to brutally occupy it for the next eight years, then it’s your solemn duty to fight them? Indeed, isn’t that exactly the mentality that caused some young Americans to enlist after the 9/11 attack and be hailed as heroes:they attacked us on our soil, and so now I want to fight them?

Yet when it’s the U.S. that is doing the invading and attacking, then we’re all supposed to look upon this very common reaction with mockery, horror, and disgust– look at these primitive religious fanatic Terrorists who have no regard for human life — because the only healthy, normal, civilized reaction someone should have to the U.S. invading, occupying, and destroying their country is gratitude, or at least passive acquiescence. Anything else, by definition, makes you a Terrorist. That’s because it is an inherent American right to invade or occupy whomever it wants and only a Terrorist would resist (to see one vivid (and darkly humorous) expression of this pathological, imperial entitlement, see this casual speculation from a neocon law professor at Cornell that Iran may have committed an “act of war” if it brought down the American drone that entered its airspace and hovered over its soil without permission: “if it is true, as the Iranians claim, that the drone did not fall by accident but was brought down by Iranian electronic means, then isn’t that already an act of war?”).

It’s one thing to condemn ‘Isa’s actions on moral or ethical grounds: one could argue, I suppose, that the solemn duty of every Iraqi was to respectfully treat the American invaders as honored (albeit uninvited) guests, or at least to cede to invading American troops the monopoly on violence. But it’s another thing entirely to label someone who does choose to fight back as a “Terrorist” and prosecute them as such under charges that entail life in prison (by contrast: an Israeli soldier yesterday killed a Palestinian protester in a small West Bank village that has had much of its land appropriated by Israeli settlers, by shooting him in the face at relatively close range with a tear gas cannister, while an Israeli plane attacked a civilian home in Gaza and killed a father and his young son while injuring several other children; acts like that, or the countless acts of reckless or even deliberate slaughter of civilians by Americans, must never be deemed Terrorism).

Few things better illustrate the utter meaninglessness of the word Terrorism than applying it to a citizen of an invaded country for fighting back against the invading army and aiming at purely military targets (this is far from the first time that Iraqis and others who accused of fighting back against the invading U.S. military have been formally deemed to be Terrorists for having done so). To the extent the word means anything operationally, it is: he who effectively opposes the will of the U.S. and its allies.

This topic is so vital because this meaningless, definition-free word — Terrorism — drives so many of our political debates and policies. Virtually every debate in which I ever participate quickly and prominently includes defenders of government policy invoking the word as some sort of debate-ending, magical elixir: of course President Obama has to assassinate U.S. citizens without due process: they’re Terrorists; of course we have to stay in Afghanistan: we have to stop The Terrorists; President Obama is not only right to kill people (including civilians) using drones, but is justified in boasting and even joking about it, because they’re Terrorists; of course some people should be held in prison without charges: they’re Terrorists, etc. etc. It’s a word that simultaneously means nothing and justifies everything.

(Continues here).

The Greater Islamophobia: Bombing, Invading, and Occupying Muslim Lands (II)

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 10, 2011 by loonwatch

This article is part II of The Greater Islamophobia: Bombing, Invading, and Occupying Muslim Lands (I).  

Read Part I first.

The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg is a prominent establishment journalist who helped push the country to war against Iraq: he famously claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, was on the verge of going nuclear, and was linked to Al-Qaeda and 9/11.  These were all lies, nothing short of alarmist war-propaganda.

Jeffrey Goldberg is at it again, but this time against Iran and Pakistan.  This is part of his overall warmongering ideology, one that involves advocating what I call the Supreme Islamophobic Crime: bombing, invading, and occupying Muslim lands.  The justifications used to wage war against Muslims are steeped in hypocrisy and double standards, which are very prevalent in Goldberg’s articles.

In part I, I responded to Goldberg’s claims that Iran should be attacked because it is supposedly on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons.  I pointed out the hypocrisy of the U.S. and Israel in this regard, both of which also have nuclear weapons and are either in violation of the NPT (the U.S.) or refuse to sign it (Israel).  As George Orwell famously said in his critique of nationalism: “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.”

For the record, I am a strong believer in complete nuclear disarmament.  However, either all countries should get rid of nuclear weapons or all countries have the right to acquire them.  There cannot be a double-standard in this regard.  If the United States and Israel possess them, then Iran–which is under constant American and Israeli threat of not just conventional warfare but nuclear strike–not only has the right to obtain them, but–as Glenn Greenwald notes–“nothing is more rational than Iran’s wanting a nuclear weapon” (note: that is, if Iran secretly wanted to do so).

*  *  *  *  *

Here in part II, I will tackle the rest of Goldberg’s article, which is filled with typical Zionist, neoconservative, and warmongering rhetoric.  Each of his pro-war arguments can be equally applied to America and/or Israel, reinforcing Orwell’s statement.

First, Goldberg writes:

The leaders of Iran are eliminationist anti-Semites; men who, for reasons of theology, view the state of the Jews as a “cancer.” They have repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction… Iran’s leaders are men who deny the Holocaust while promising another.

Goldberg is repeating multiple falsehoods against Iran.  Here, he is referring to an infamous statement that was uttered by the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in which he supposedly said “Israel must be wiped off the map.”  In fact, this was a case of blatant mistranslation by the Western media: what he really said was:

The Imam said this regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time.

Ahmadinejad was calling for regime change, not for Israel’s destruction or the annihilation of Jews.  Certainly, the two greatest proponents of regime change–the United States and Israel–should be the last to equate regime change with genocide.

In fact, the Iranian leadership, while reserving the right to defend itself if Iran is attacked, has never threatened to initiate an attack against Israel, let alone “repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction” as Jeffrey Goldberg imagines.  Once again, quite ironically, it is Israel that has repeatedly threatened to initiate an attack against Iran.  Remember: actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

Goldberg’s claim that the Iranian government has “promised another [Holocaust]” is absolutely bogus; therefore, his claim that “[t]he leaders of Iran are eliminationist anti-Semites” is also completely contrived.  They are anti-Semites, but they are not eliminationist anti-Semites.  Do we bomb people for being anti-Semites?  To put the shoe on the other foot, would any sane person call to bomb Israel for their leaders being anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, and/or Islamophobic?  One cannot help but reiterating the Orwellian mantra: actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

Meanwhile, it is Israeli leaders who have not just endorsed but actively enacted a policy of “driving the Palestinians out of Palestine.”  The Israeli leadership has, for well over half a century, supported the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, euphemistically called “forced transfer.”  For example, the current prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, expressed support for ethnic cleansing by famously saying that Israel should “carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs of the territories.”  (In fact, a majority of Israelis support the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians.)  Worse yet, Netanyahu has not just supported ethnic cleansing by mere words, but is right now engaged in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

In a previous article, I pointed out how misleading it is to focus on Iranian rhetoric over Israeli action.  While the Western media obsesses over whether or not Hamas or Iran may have called to wipe Israel off the map (mere rhetoric), Israel has literally wiped Palestine off the map (actual action)–it has been and is currently in the process of wiping the land of pesky Palestinians as well.  This is the difference then between word and deed: if one looks at a map, Israel is on it and Palestine is not.  Who has wiped out whom?  That this obvious absurdity is not ever pointed out in the Western media speaks volumes.

Yes, the Iranian leadership has called “the Zionist regime” a “cancer.”  So, now we are invading countries for simple name-calling?  If the Venezuelan government calls the United States and everything it represents a “fulminating disease” or even a “pile of human feces,” are we justified in attacking it?  If that is the case, then would Iran be justified in attacking the United States and Israel for all the things it has been called?   We dubbed Iran to be part of the “Axis of Evil.”  That’s just as bad as being called a “cancer.”  Can Iran attack us on that basis?  Here exists another double standard: we freely label Iran with the label of “Axis of Evil” but if Iran did the same to us, that would be proof of their innate belligerence.  This is because actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

There is no doubt that denying or downplaying the Holocaust is morally repugnant, but how could such a person as Jeffrey Goldberg, who throughout his career has justified, downplayed, and denied the Palestinian suffering, be up in arms about Iranian leaders doing the same with the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust?  More importantly, would any sane person apply the logic to Israel, arguing that denial of the Palestinian Nakba (Catastrophe)–the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948-1949–is reason to attack Israel?  Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them. (Note: Denying either the Holocaust, the Catastrophe, or any other such crime against humanity should be considered completely unacceptable.)

*  *  *  *  *

Then, Jeffrey Goldberg uses every Zionist’s favorite go-to trump card: “Hamas and Hezbollah!”  He writes that Iran has been

providing material support and training to two organizations, Hamas and Hezbollah, that specialize in the slaughter of innocent Jews.

Prof. William Beeman of Brown University argues that the Iranian links to Hamas and Hezbollah are exaggerated.  Aside from this, however, there is a profound double standard at play here: Israel supports Mujahedin-e Khalq, a militant group inside Iran that even the U.S. State Department designates a “terrorist organization”:

It is widely known within intelligence circles that the Israelis use the MEK for varied acts of espionage and terror…

If it is justified to attack Iran on the grounds that Iran supports Hamas and Hezbollah which in turn commit acts of terrorism against Israel, then would our opponents argue that it is justified for Iran to attack Israel because Israel supports the MEK which engages in terrorism against Iran?  Such double standards are never pointed out in the U.S. media, but they certainly do not go unnoticed in the Muslim world and elsewhere.  Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.  

If Iran is to be attacked for its “material support” of groups that commit acts of terrorism, then wouldn’t the Iranians be more justified in attacking Israel, which has committed not just “material support” but actual acts of terrorism within Iran?  Israel has been implicated in several terrorist acts within Iran, including “bombings” and “assassinations” of Iranian scientists.  Just a couple weeks ago, the Israeli intelligence agency orchestrated a terrorist bombing within Iran, “in which 17 people were killed” including a prominent Iranian scientist.

One can only imagine the reaction within pro-Israeli circles–and the absolute indignation of the American media–if “stealth jihadists” of Iranian descent bombed an MIT lab and killed a dozen and a half civilians along with a prominent research professor.  Do you think the mainstream media would be silent about this string of terrorist attacks if they were against American targets and perpetrated by Muslims?  Remember:  Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.  (This media double standard explains why most Americans believe the lie that nearly all terrorist attacks are committed by Muslims.)

The Guardian reports:

Israel has been linked to several previous incidents in Iran similar to Saturday’s explosion, including an explosion at a Shahab facility in south-western Iran in 2010 and a bomb attack earlier that year in Tehran, in which Iranian physicist Masoud Ali Mohammadi was killed.

One need not look back to two weeks ago to prove Israeli terrorism in Iran: just a few days ago it was reported that an Iranian power plant was bombed in an Israeli terrorist attack JihadWatch’s Robert Spencer rejoiced, calling this terrorist attack “good news” and saying that “[t]his calls for some champagne.”  Similarly, Jeffrey Goldberg gleefully reported the news that Iran is under attack, showing once again how the Goldbergs and Gellers (in this case, Geller’s partner-in-crime) agree on advocating the Supreme Islamophobic Crime of bombing, invading, and occupying Muslim countries.

What do you think Spencer or Goldberg’s reaction would have been had it been a “stealth jihadist” who bombed an American power plant?  Recall the absolute rage of Islamophobes, neoconservatives, Goldbergs, and Gellers–as well as Americans in general–over the Fort Hood Shooting.  In that incident, Nidal Hasan killed U.S. soldiers on a military base as they were about to be deployed to go to war against Muslim countries.  At that time, it was wondered: how could Muslims be so bloodthirsty that they would do such a thing?  Yet, when Americans or Israelis kill Iranian scientists, then this is either brushed off as a necessary casualty in the War on Terror or even gleefully rejoiced over as yet another “success” in the War on Terror.

Of course, such double standards abound in our national discourse, without anyone pointing out the obvious.  This is because, repeat after me, actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

*  *  *  *  *

Goldberg then tries throwing the kitchen sink at Iran, arguing that we should attack Iran because it is lead by a “messianic, apocalyptic cult”:

[I]t isn’t too much to imagine that some of Iran’s more mystically minded leaders, mesmerized by visions of the apocalypse, would actually consider using a nuclear weapon on Israel — a country so small that a single detonation could cripple it permanently.

The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who once told me he believes that Iran is led by a “messianic, apocalyptic cult,” is correct to view Iran as a threat to his country’s existence.

Here, we see another example of Goldberg’s double standards.  While it is true that some Iranian leaders dabble in “messianic, apocalyptic” dribble, there is an equally pernicious ”messianic, apocalyptic” impulse among Israelis, which Jeffrey Goldberg himself acknowledges.  Should this be legitimate grounds for another country to attack Israel?  Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

The only recognized sect of Judaism in Israel is Orthodox Judaism, the most prominent sect of which is Religious Zionism.  Rabbi Abraham Kook, considered the father of modern Religious Zionism, argued that “Zionists were agents in a heavenly plan to bring about the messianic era.”  According to this messianic group, the congregating of the Jews in Israel will bring about the end times, meaning the wheels are already in motion.

Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, doesn’t seem to have a problem with “messianic, apocalyptic” Religious Zionists; in fact, Netanyahu proclaimed:

The religious Zionist public is part of every major way of life in Israel and it is time it was part of the ruling party

Netanyahu not only reached out to put such messianic Jews in “the ruling party”  but also “affirm[ed] Christian Zionists”, a nutty “the End is Near” Christian group.  He has himself engaged in messianic babble, and the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published an article entitled “Netanyahu’s messianism could launch attack on Iran“.

There is another underlying irony here.  As noted above, Israel supports Mujahedin-e Khalq, which is a “revolutionary cult.”  Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

*  *  *  *  *

Jeffrey Goldberg gives four more reasons why President Obama should lob missiles at Iran.  The first:

First, Iran and the U.S. have been waging a three- decade war for domination of the Middle East. If Iran goes nuclear, it will have won this war. American power in the Middle East will have been eclipsed, and Obama will look toothless.

This is a complete non-sequitur.  How does Iran having nuclear weapons in the region equate to “domination of the Middle East”?  Israel would still have tens or hundreds of times as many nuclear weapons as Iran, and the United States would have Iran surrounded.  What it would do is even out the scales of power a bit, making Israel think twice before nuking any of its neighbors.  What Zionists like Goldberg do not want, and will seek to prevent at any cost, is Iran to balance out the scales of power.  Goldberg et al. want American and Israeli “domination of the Middle East.”

Goldberg’s statement is very telling, because he accidentally reveals what every Arab and Muslim in the region knows: “[T]he U.S. [has] been waging a three-decade war for domination of the Middle East.”  Hmm….I wonder why do Arabs and Muslims in the region hate us?  It’s such a big mystery to me.

How would Americans feel if some other country was “waging a three-decade war” to dominate them?  But, of course, such comparisons–putting the shoe on the other foot–must never be discussed in the national discourse–and anyone who does so should be ignored, marginalized, and vilified.

Then, Goldberg says:

Second, every U.S. ally in the Middle East — Israel, the Gulf countries and Turkey, especially — fears a nuclear Iran. The president would have their complete support.

Here, we have another glimpse into the imperialist mind.  The reality of Arab street is thus:

According to the Brookings Institution’s 2010 Arab Public Opinion Poll, 77 percent regard Israel as the biggest threat, 80 percent regard the United States as the biggest threat, and only 10 percent regard Iran as the biggest threat. Fifty-seven percent think the region will be better off if Iran had nuclear weapons.

The same is the case in Turkey:

Turks see US as biggest external threat, poll results show

Some 43 percent of Turks perceive the United States as the country’s biggest threat, followed by Israel, according to a broad survey carried out in December…

The survey asked “From which country does the biggest threat come?” with 43 percent of Turks saying the U.S., followed by 24 percent who indicated Israel, 3 percent for Iran…

The percentage of Arabs, Muslims, and Turks who would support an American or Israeli attack on Iran would be, one can reasonably assume, even lower.

What Goldberg is saying then is that the American-supported stooge dictatorships–those same ones that the democratic Arab Spring has been shaking off–would support such a move against Iran.  To any good colonialist, what the people of a nation want does not matter: simply install a subservient client regime and through it thwart the will of the people.  I wonder why they hate us?  It is an absolute mystery to me.

Goldberg goes on:

Third, the president is ideologically committed to a world without nuclear weapons. If Iran gets the bomb, it will set off an arms race in the world’s most volatile region. At the very least, Saudi Arabia and Turkey will seek nuclear weapons. It would mark a bitter defeat for Obama to have inadvertently overseen the greatest expansion of the nuclear arms club in recent history.

The irony of the president of the United States–leader of a country that has the most nuclear weapons in the world, the only one to have ever used them (not once, but twice), one that is in violation of the NPT, one that still actively plans on how to use nuclear weapons in future wars, and one that comes to the swift defense of Israel when it opposes a nuclear free Middle East (see part I of my article)–claiming to be “ideologically committed to a world without nuclear weapons” should not be lost.

In fact, President Barack Obama–unlike Iran’s leaders who have steadfastly pledged never to use nuclear weapons against anyone–came up with a list of conditions under which the U.S. could use nuclear weapons (see this article by The New York Times).  Obama argued that any restrictions on nuclear weapons would simply not apply to “outliers like Iran and North Korea.”  He also reserved the right to use “nuclear retaliation against a biological attack” by any country (or even by a non-state actor, one assumes).  Obama refused to issue a “blanket statement that the country would never be the first to use nuclear weapons.”  Therefore, the United States effectively rejects a “no-first use” policy.

To be sure, the NYT article article mentions that Bush had an even more militant position; he “reserved the right to use nuclear weapons ‘to deter a wide range of threats,’ including banned chemical and biological weapons and large-scale conventional attacks.”  In other words, the Republican party is even more militant than Obama in this regard, giving an almost carte blanche to use nuclear weapons.

To sum it up: America reserves the right to use nuclear weapons, but is dedicated to restricting nuclear arms to, in Goldberg’s words, “the nuclear arms club”–with the U.S. being the leader of this exclusive club.  Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

Goldberg’s obsession with Iran’s supposed nuclear weapons contrasts sharply with his indifference or acceptance of Israel’s known nuclear program.

Goldberg’s last reason to attack Iran uses typical Zionist exploitation of Jewish suffering coupled with alarmist fear-mongering to justify war:

Finally, the president has a deep understanding of Jewish history, and is repulsed by Iranian anti-Semitism. He doesn’t want to be remembered as the president who failed to guarantee Israel’s existence.

Does Israeli bigotry towards Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims give Iran the justification to attack Israel?  Or does this, like all of Goldberg’s other reasons, apply only one way?  Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

Jeffrey Goldberg completes his pro-Israel propaganda by invoking the mandatory Hitler reference, arguing that a “nuclear Iran poses the gravest threat since Hitler to the physical survival of the Jewish people.”  As Greenwald noted:

No discussion of any of this is complete without noting that it was endlessly claimed that it was Saddam who was the New Hitler in order ratchet up fear levels and justify an attack that country, too. How many times can we be persuaded to attack the New Hitler?

*  *  *  *  *

Glenn Greenwald’s recent article, George Orwell on the Evil Iranian Menace, is an absolute must read.  The United States has been hard at word portraying the Iranians as “the Aggressor, the Modern Nazis, a True Menace” and itself (and Israel) as Iran’s “innocent peace-loving victims.”  This is of course placing reality on its head, which is completely obvious if one puts the shoe on the other foot.

Imagine, for instance, if Iran militarily occupied Canada and Mexico, if Cuba and other islands near the U.S. mainland were Iranian client regimes, if a massive Iranian naval fleet were stationed nearby on both East and West Coasts, if Iranian sky robots were flying over American soil targeting and killing U.S. citizens, if Iran committed acts of terrorism on U.S. soil such as blowing up power plants, if Iran assassinated American scientists, if Iran launched sophisticated cyber-attacks against the U.S., if Iran lobbied for crippling sanctions against America, and if Iranian leaders routinely called for war against America–what do you think the American reaction to all this would be?

After noting that the U.S. has done all this whereas “Iran has not invaded, occupied or air attacked anyone”, Greenwald writes:

Given the extensive violence and aggression the U.S. has perpetrated, and continues to perpetrate, on numerous countries in that region, one might think that not even our political culture could sustain the propagandistic myth that it is Iran that is the aggressor state and the U.S. that is its peace-loving victim. But, of course, one who thought that would be completely wrong. Not only is it a widespread belief, but it’s virtually mandated orthodoxy. But none of that should be at all surprising or confusing, given that 66 years ago, George Orwell — in his 1945 Notes on Nationalism— explained exactly the warped form of thinking that creates this mindset:

All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side. . . . The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

This is not to say that the Iranian regime is benevolent; there is no question that it is domestically oppressive.  Oppression of Bahais and other minorities is something that should not be downplayed.  (This is why I hope that, like other Arab dictatorships that have been toppled by the people themselves, the same happens in Iran.  This is also the reason I supported the Iranian Green Movement against the Iranian regime and ayatollah-ruled theocracy.)

But, as Greenwald pointed out:

Iran, to be sure, is domestically oppressive, but no more so — and in many cases less — than the multiple regimes funded, armed and otherwise propped up by the U.S. during this period.

I would also point out that this line of argumentation cannot reasonably be used by Goldberg and other Israeli apologists because Israel itself is domestically oppressive to its significant Arab, Palestinian, and Muslim population.  This, as we see, is another argument that seems to only work one way, because the moral of the story is that actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

*  *  *  *  *

In conclusion, every single one of Jeffrey Goldberg’s reasons to go to war against Iran are hypocritical.  He, like Islamophobes everywhere, uses profound double standards, applying one standard to Muslims (Iranians, in this case) and another for America and Israel.  This is the Greater Islamophobia, which revolves around the Supreme Islamophobic Myth: radical Islam is the greatest threat to world peace.  This is something that both Jeffrey Goldberg and Pamela Geller strongly agree with, and they advocate the Supreme Islamophobic Crime: bombing, invading, and occupying Muslim lands.

The disagreement between Jeffrey Goldberg and Pamela Geller just has to do with a difference of opinion with regard to P.R.: Goldberg believes that the Lesser Islamophobia gives the Greater Islamophobia “a bad name”, whereas Geller believes it helps create popular support for it.  In reality, both of them are correct:  Goldberg gives the Supreme Islamophobic Myth the Seriousness it needs in order to be taken Seriously by policy-makers and Serious People, whereas Geller helps create popular support for such warlike policies among the masses.  The Goldbergs and Gellers of the world work hand in glove.

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

The Greater Islamophobia: Bombing, Invading, and Occupying Muslim Lands (I)

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 6, 2011 by loonwatch

Jeffrey Goldberg, an establishment journalist, has made a career out of shilling for Israel and war-cheerleading against various Muslim countries.  Goldberg’s polite, professional, and mainstream expression of Islamophobia is far more pernicious than the rude, amateurish, and fringe Islamophobia of Pamela Geller.

This Thanksgiving, Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic and Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs crossed swords over Butterball’s halal turkeys; the animosity between the two has reached the point where Goldberg refers to Geller as his “arch-nemesis” and Geller calls Goldberg a “Jewicidal Jihadi” (whatever in the world that means).

But while Jeffrey Goldberg and Pamela Geller may disagree over such silly matters as “stealth halal” turkeys (which I call the “Lesser Islamophobia”), Goldberg and Geller are guilty of advocating the “Supreme Islamophobic Crime”: bombing, invading, and occupying Muslim lands.  With regard to this “Greater Islamophobia”, establishment journalists like Jeffrey Goldberg have a lot more influence than the Pamela Gellers of the world in promoting the war hysteria necessary to sustain the political and popular support for American wars against an increasingly long list of Muslim countries.

The Crusades that ravaged the Muslim world centuries ago were fueled by mindless hatred of the Other, a hatred without which it is unlikely that a whole civilization could have been successfully mobilized against another.  Similarly, the United States of America has taken up the sword against the Muslim world, something that simply would not be possible without large segments of the society accepting an anti-Muslim worldview as axiomatic.

Islamophobia is necessary to wage war against the Muslim world but it is also the inevitable result of such wars.  There is a need to spread the Supreme Islamophobic Myth that radical Islam is the greatest threat to world peace and must be fought.  This need exists (1) in order that nobody, especially the American population itself, realizes that the opposite is true (that it is the United States–not any Muslim country–that is committing the “supreme international crime” of waging aggressive wars in foreign lands), and (2) in order to justify endless war and military occupations.

It is important to understand that one reason Jeffrey Goldberg rejects the Lesser Islamophobia such as Pamela Geller’s silly “stealth halal” turkey nonsense is because, in his own words, “Pamela Geller…gives the fight against Islamist terrorism a bad name.”  In other words, the Lesser Islamophobia gives the Greater Islamophobia “a bad name” and might turn people away from bombing, invading, and occupying Muslim lands.

We saw a similar dynamic earlier this year when Harry Reid, Lindsey Graham, and others suggested that formal action be taken against the Quran-burning Florida preacher Terry Jones.  Jones was vilified as an Islamophobic bigot (and there is no doubt that he is one), whose (Lesser) Islamophobia was supposedly placing U.S. troops in Afghanistan at risk.  Yet, these same individuals are among the greatest defenders of the Greater Islamophobia, which is the real cause behind Muslim anger: the bombing, invading, and occupying of Muslim lands.  In fact, their opposition to Pastor Jones was that he was making it more difficult to sustain the military campaign against Muslims.  As Salon’s Glenn Greenwald wrote:

[T]here is an extreme irony in Harry Reid and Lindsey Graham, of all people, suddenly worrying about actions that trigger anger and violence in the Muslim world. These two Senators, after all, have supported virtually every one of America’s actions which have triggered vastly more anti-American anger, vengeance and violence in the Muslim world than anything Pastor Jones could dream of spawning — from the attack on Iraq to the decade-long occupation of Afghanistan to blind support for Israel to the ongoing camp at Guantanamo.

Similarly, war-cheerleading journalist Jeffrey Goldberg supports the Supreme Tenet of Islamophobia: seemingly endless war against the Muslim world.  Even before the blood of Afghan and Iraqi citizens dried from the American sword, U.S. war rhetoric against two other Muslim countries–Iran and Pakistan–has ratcheted up.  Just like in the lead up to the Iraq War, the Jeffrey Goldbergs of the mainstream media have been furiously at work making the case for war.

To understand the war-obsessed brain of Jeffrey Goldberg it would be worthwhile to look back to his 2008 article Re-Thinking Jeffery Goldberg.  In it, he reveals the interesting fact that not even Jeffrey Goldberg can keep track of how many Muslim countries Jeffrey Goldberg has called to attack.  He writes:

Last year…I called for the immediate invasion of Yemen (or possibly Oman)…

Was it Yemen or Oman?  Goldberg can’t remember–surely, we can’t expect him to remember such a long list of countries to invade.  The article reveals how flippantly Goldberg discusses such matters; it’s just table talk for him.  Bomb Yemen?  Oman?  Iraq?  Iran?  They all sound so similar!

It would also be worthwhile to take into account his ideological background:  Jeffrey Goldberg, like Pamela Geller, is a militant Zionist extremist.  He “moved to Israel while still a college student” where he served “as a military policeman in the Israeli army”, earned the rank of corporal in the Israel Defense Forces, and served as a prison guard in “the Ketziot military prison camp”, the conditions of which Defence for Children International called “truly appalling”; Human Rights Watch declared the Ketziot prison camp a “clear violation of the IV Geneva Convention.”

Glenn Greenwald wrote of Jeffrey Goldberg so:

[Jeffrey] Goldberg[‘s …]devotion to Israel is so extreme that he served in the IDF as a prison guard over Palestinians and was described last year as “Netanyahu’s faithful stenographer” by The New York Times’ Roger Cohen…

The link between Zionism and Islamophobia has been investigated before; the connection between Zionism and warmongering is even clearer.  So, it is no surprise that Jeffrey Goldberg is a war-cheerleader.  The Institute for Policy Studies calls him “a hawkish ‘pro-Israel’ commentator[]” whose “articles have often seemed to parallel efforts by hawks to push the United States into war.”

His most recent war-cheerleading articles have been against Iran and Pakistan, which is what I will focus on here.  Goldberg is not the only journalist beating the drums of war, but he is one highly prominent figure in the establishment media who serves as a quintessential example of the typical hypocrisy, profound double standards, and bloodthirsty warmongering that permeates the national discourse.

America’s Hypocrisy toward Iran

Jeffrey Goldberg urges President Barack Obama to launch “missile strikes” against Iran for its supposed nuclear weapons program:

The International Atomic Energy Agency is set to release a report today offering further proof that the Iranian regime is bent on acquiring nuclear weapons.

No intelligence is entirely dispositive, but the evidence on hand about Iran’s nuclear activities, even before the release of the latest report, is fairly persuasive, and the IAEA isn’t known to be a den of neoconservative war-plotting. It isn’t interested in giving Israel a pretext for a preemptive attack on Iran unless it has to.

The question now is what Israel — or the U.S. — will do about it.

The Israeli case for preemption is compelling, and has been for some time.

Notice that Goldberg doesn’t even care what the IAEA report would say: he wrote this article before the report was published.  Either way for him, the Iranian regime is producing nuclear weapons and should be attacked.

Goldberg fails to mention what The New Yorker’s Seymour Hersh pointed out in an excellent article explaining why the IAEA’s change in leadership from the respectable Mohammed ElBaradei to Yukiya Amano gives reason to doubt its impartiality: according to leaked cables obtained by Wikileaks, the American permanent representative to the IAEA commented that “[Amano] was solidly in the U.S. court in every strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.”  

Furthermore, despite all the war-cheerleading from America’s propaganda press, “there is nothing [in the report] that indicates that Iran is really building a bomb.”

In any case, Jeffrey Goldberg’s article on Iran in 2011 should evoke in the reader feelings of deja vu: in the run up to the Iraq War, Goldberg published a very similar article against Saddam’s Iraq.  Then, Goldberg had written:

“It is our estimate that Iraq will have an atomic bomb in three years,” [a German official] said.

There is some debate among arms-control experts about exactly when Saddam will have nuclear capabilities. But there is no disagreement that Iraq, if unchecked, will have them soon, and a nuclear-armed Iraq would alter forever the balance of power in the Middle East. “The first thing that occurs to any military planner is force protection,” Charles Duelfer told me. “If your assessment of the threat is chemical or biological, you can get individual protective equipment and warning systems. If you think he’s going to use a nuclear weapon, where are you going to concentrate your forces?”

There is little doubt what Saddam might do with an atomic bomb or with his stocks of biological and chemical weapons.

Simply exchange “Iraq” for “Iran” and we now have Goldberg’s 2011 article.  Goldberg was one of the key journalists who played a part in pushing the case for war against Iraq, by spreading the lie that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (on the verge of becoming nuclear) and that he was somehow connected to Al-Qaeda and 9/11.  Goldberg even repeats the claim that “Iraq will have an atomic bomb in three years”: he says bombing Iran will have a “reasonable chance of delaying the Iranian nuclear program for at least three to five years.”

Goldberg and his ilk had succeeded in misleading the American public with regard to Iraq, pushing the nation to war and leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. He served an important role in spreading the government’s propaganda in order to justify the “supreme international crime”: initiating a war of aggression.

And now Goldberg et al. are at it again, this time against Iran.  The image at the top of this article really speaks to the “now serving bombing customer #224″ mentality that permeates the American military juggernaut.

In addition to being a hyper-aggressive superpower that bombs countries left and right (which, for Iran, is literally the case: countries neighboring it on both sides have been bombed, invaded, and occupied by America), the U.S. obliviously engages in the most egregious of hypocrisies.  It simply does not enter into polite discussion in Western media–but it does in Iran, Pakistan, and the rest of the Muslim world–how hypocritical it is of the United States, the country with the most nuclear weapons in the world, to vilify a country for (allegedly) trying to build a single such bomb.  The forbidden question to ask is: what moral right does the United States, the greatest nuclear power in the world, have to stop other countries from pursuing the same course of action?

Other absurdities include the fact that Israel, America’s closest ally, also has a secret (not so secret) nuclear weapons program, possessing “over 400 nuclear and hydrogen weapons.” Why can Israel have so many nuclear weapons, yet Iran cannot have a single one?

Furthermore, in the words of FAIR, “[t]he U.S. is violating the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).”  As Jimmy Carter wrote:

While claiming to be protecting the world from proliferation threats in Iraq, Libya, Iran and North Korea, American leaders not only have abandoned existing treaty restraints but also have asserted plans to test and develop new weapons.

Former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara issued an unusually honest assessment, saying:

I would characterize current U.S. nuclear weapons policy as immoral, illegal, militarily unnecessary and dreadfully dangerous.

FAIR notes further:

The NPT’s preamble calls on nuclear weapons states “to facilitate the cessation of the manufacture of nuclear weapons, the liquidation of all their existing stockpiles, and the elimination from national arsenals of nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery.” Article VI of the NPT explicitly obliges signatories “to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.”

Thirty-seven years after agreeing to these conditions, the U.S.—the only nation to have ever used nuclear weapons against human beings—spends $40 billion a year to field, maintain and modernize nuclear forces, including an arsenal of 10,000 warheads, 2,000 of which are on hair-trigger alert.

Meanwhile, Israel refuses to even sign the NPT.  Why aren’t the war drums beating against Israel for its reticence in this regard?  In fact, “[n]early 200 nations, signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), backed plans” to hold a conference to achieve a nuclear-free Middle East.  The only country in the region refusing to hold such talks?  Israel.

I’m sure the United States of America condemned Israel for this, and threatened sanctions and war.  The President of the United States supported Israel in its decision and claimed that such a conference “singles out Israel.”  Well, yes, I guess one might think it “singles out Israel” since Israel is the only country in the region to have nuclear weapons, the irony of which should not be missed considering Israel pushed war on Iraq and is now doing the same with Iran for trying to produce nuclear weapons.

But such ironies do not get discussed in America, only in the rest of the world.  In the Muslim world, it is clearly understood that the United States and Israel are not against nuclear weaponry nor do they ever want a nuclear free Middle East–instead, they simply want to hold a nuclear monopoly.  We get nukes; you don’t; if you break this “fair” agreement, then we’ll bomb you, on the grounds that you have nukes–we might even nuke you for having nukes, because nukes are bad, except when we have and use them.  As George Orwell said: “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.”

Some Israeli apologists have argued that there is no equivalence between Iran and Israel since the former is a signatory of the NPT and the latter is not.  This is a purposefully deceitful argument: can anyone imagine the sort of pressure (sanctions, military force, war, and/or occupation) that would await Iran had it refused to sign the NPT or now withdrew from it?  (It is legal to withdraw from the treaty after giving three months notice.)  If Iran weren’t a signatory of the NPT, we all know that the entire premise of sanctions and military action would be: Iran must sign the NPT!  If Iran withdrew from the NPT, the entire premise would be: Iran withdrew from the NPT!  Furthermore, proponents of the “Iran signed the NPT, Israel didn’t” defense should be asked: What about the United States, which signed the NPT and is in violation of it?  Can Iran legally bomb the U.S. now?

Another counter-argument raised is the claim that the United States and Israel cannot possibly be equated with countries such as Iran.  The implication here is that Iran is just so absolutely warlike that it cannot be trusted with nuclear weaponry.  Meanwhile, the U.S. and Israel are peace-loving democracies and can be trusted never to use them.  Orwell’s quote–and Glenn Greenwald’s recent article on Orwell and Iran–come to mind.

There is the obvious absurdity that the United States is the only country to have used nuclear weapons against human beings (not once, but twice).  Not only this, but the U.S. has never apologized for doing so; quite the opposite: Americans have always claimed that incinerating two civilian cities saved millions of lives, a morally repugnant lie that lives on.  Only the most brainwashed mind could understand such depraved logic: bombing and killing thousands of people actually saves lives.  In the words of George Orwell: war is peace.

Imagine if Nazi Germany had produced the atomic bomb first–and had nuked Great Britain or the United States (not once, but twice).  The dastardly act would be remembered by the Western powers as the ultimate act of Nazi depravity; the atomic bomb would be viewed as the most Nazi-like of weapons, one that wantonly and indiscriminately incinerates civilian populations.  In such a scenario, Nazi propaganda that such an act was noble because it “saved millions of German lives” would be scoffed at and not taken seriously.  Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.

If Americans still engage in the morally atrocious act of justifying the mass murder of Japanese civilians from the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (even though Japan had been ready to surrender long before it was nuked), one shouldn’t be surprised that the United States continues to ponder the use of nuclear weapons in the near future.  Leaked documents have shown that the U.S. government has

outlined a broad array of contingencies under which the U.S. might use nuclear weapons. Among these contingencies: using nuclear weapons against countries with no nuclear weapons capacity, such as Iran, Iraq and Syria.

Here, we see the profound hypocrisy of the U.S. government on full display: while using the threat of Iranian nuclear attack as a moral pretense to wage war against Iran, the United States itself has long been planning “a broad array of contingencies” under which Iran may be nuked.  Is this not a case of mind-boggling projection?

From this, it is clear that the U.S. government does not desire nuclear disarmament, but nuclear monopoly: this unequal balance of nuclear power leaves open the nuclear option against its non-nuclear enemies without fear of nuclear retaliation.

The same is the case with Israel, which has issued contradictory statements about the use of nuclear weapons.  Yes, Israel has said “it would not be the first country in the Middle East to formally introduce nuclear weapons into the region”, but what does this vague statement mean?  Do Israelis think Iran has now “introduced” nuclear weapons into the region?  In fact, Israel “reject[s] no first use because they believe that there may be circumstances in which they would initiate use of nuclear weapons.”

Indeed, Israel endorses the Samson Option, whereby Israel will respond with “massive retaliation” (including the use of nuclear weaponry) if it feels threatened.  What policy could be more maniacal than this?  Here, we have Israel endorsing a policy of nuclear Armageddon, yet on the other hand we are constantly told that Iran, unlike Israel, might use the bomb–a bomb it doesn’t even have.

Meanwhile, the truth is that the Supreme Leader of Iran has rejected the use of nuclear weaponry  because it is “forbidden in Islam”:

Nuclear weapons unholy, Iran says / Islam forbids use, clerics proclaim

In a surprising development, Iran’s hard-line clerical establishment, which had bitterly resisted American pressure to open the country’s nuclear facilities to inspection, is using its religious influence to rally support for an agreement with the West to foreswear the development of nuclear weapons.

Led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the nation’s “supreme leader,” Iranian clerics have repeatedly declared that Islam forbids the development and use of all weapons of mass destruction.

The Islamic Republic of Iran, based on its fundamental religious and legal beliefs, would never resort to the use of weapons of mass destruction,” Khamenei said recently. “In contrast to the propaganda of our enemies, fundamentally we are against any production of weapons of mass destruction in any form.”

The ironies just keep adding up: the United States–a country that has used nuclear weapons in the past, possesses the most nuclear weapons in the world, and actively makes plans on how to use nuclear weapons against its enemies–is threatening to take action against Iran for its alleged nuclear weapons program–a country that has never used them, does not have them, and has sworn never to never use them (not even in self-defense or retaliation).  Only in the U.S. media could such absurdities go largely unchallenged.

If anyone tries to mention that the United States and Israel are far more warlike than Iran, he must be quickly shut up.  One recalls the debate Ahmed Rehab had with Bill O’Reilly; asked Rehab: “How many countries has Iran attacked in the past 50 years?”  The answer: zero.  Meanwhile, the United States and Israel have attacked dozens and dozens of countries (in a future article, I will compile the lengthy list of nations that have been attacked by the U.S. and Israel.)

O’Reilly couldn’t give a straight answer to the question (the answer is zero–Iran has never initiated a war against another country) so he brought up the Iran-Iraq War and the current Iraq War.  Yet, the Iran-Iraq War was not initiated by Iran–rather, Iraq attacked Iran.  There is no debate about this fact, so either (1) O’Reilly is ignorant of the facts he cites, or (2) he is using a misleading argument, which really speaks volumes about how few countries Iran has ever invaded (zero) that he was forced to make one up.  Worse yet, the example O’Reilly cited is an example of Iran being attacked by a country that received the military backing to do so by the United States.  In fact, “the CIA authorized, approved and assisted…in the manufacture and sale of cluster bombs and other munitions to Iraq” for use against Iran.

The second example O’Reilly cited was of the current Iraq War.  Once again, O’Reilly reverses reality: Iran did not invade Iraq.  He must have mistaken the United States for Iran.  Both examples O’Reilly used show America’s belligerency, not Iran’s.

The other examples O’Reilly gave, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, also show that he simply cannot answer the question in a straight manner.  The reason he can’t do so is because the answer is zero. Neither Hamas or Hezbollah is Iran.  At most one could argue that Hezbollah operates as a proxy for Iran.  In that case, we should compare the number of countries that the United States has not only attacked but how many the U.S. has done so by proxy.  That list would certainly dwarf Iran’s.

The double standard is well-understood by Iranians and Muslims living in other countries: nuclear weapons are OK for America and Israel, but off limits to countries like Iran.  Yet, it is exactly such countries that would most need nuclear weapons to act as deterrence against American and Israeli threats of military action, belligerence, and propensity toward aggression.

Part 2 of this article to be published within 24-48 hours.

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

Are evangelicals a national security threat?

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 30, 2011 by loonwatch

(cross-posted from Salon)

A new poll suggests that American Christians (unlike Muslims) are likely to put their faith before their country

By David Sirota

If you have the stomach to listen to enough right-wing talk radio, or troll enough right-wing websites, you inevitably come upon fear-mongering about the Unassimilated Muslim. Essentially, this caricature suggests that Muslims in America are more loyal to their religion than to the United States, that such allegedly traitorous loyalties prove that Muslims refuse to assimilate into our nation and that Muslims are therefore a national security threat.

Earlier this year, a Gallup poll illustrated just how apocryphal this story really is. It found that Muslim Americans are one of the most — if not the single most — loyal religious group to the United States. Now, comes the flip side from the Pew Research Center’s stunning findings about other religious groups in America (emphasis mine):

American Christians are more likely than their Western European counterparts to think of themselves first in terms of their religion rather than their nationality; 46 percent of Christians in the U.S. see themselves primarily as Christians and the same number consider themselves Americans first. In contrast, majorities of Christians in France (90 percent), Germany (70 percent), Britain (63 percent) and Spain (53 percent) identify primarily with their nationality rather than their religion. Among Christians in the U.S., white evangelicals are especially inclined to identify first with their faith; 70 percent in this group see themselves first as Christians rather than as Americans, while 22 percent say they are primarily American.

If, as Islamophobes argue, refusing to assimilate is defined as expressing loyalty to a religion before loyalty to country, then this data suggests it is evangelical Christians who are very resistant to assimilation. And yet, few would cite these findings to argue that Christians pose a serious threat to America’s national security. Why the double standard?

Because Christianity is seen as the dominant culture in America — indeed, Christianity and America are often portrayed as being nearly synonymous, meaning expressing loyalty to the former is seen as the equivalent to expressing loyalty to the latter. In this view, there is no such thing as separation between the Christian church and the American state — and every other culture and religion is expected to assimilate to Christianity. To do otherwise is to be accused of waging a “War on Christmas” — or worse, to be accused of being disloyal to America and therefore a national security threat.

Of course, a genuinely pluralistic America is one where — regardless of the religion in question — we see no conflict between loyalties to a religion and loyalties to country. In this ideal America, those who identify as Muslims first are no more or less “un-American” than Christians who do the same (personally, this is the way I see things).

But if our politics and culture are going to continue to make extrapolative judgments about citizens’ patriotic loyalties based on their religious affiliations, then such judgments should at least be universal — and not so obviously selective or brazenly xenophobic.

Ten Years After 9/11 Attacks, Exploitation of “Patriot Day” Continues

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2011 by loonwatch

(Update I below)

Disclaimer:  I would like to point out that the views expressed below are mine alone and do not necessarily represent or reflect the official views of LoonWatch or any of its writers aside from myself (Danios).

Salon’s indefatigable Glenn Greenwald recently wrote (emphasis added):

Worship of the American military and all that it does — and a corresponding taboo on speaking ill of it except for tactical critiques (it would be better if they purchased this other weapon system or fought this war a bit differently) is the closest thing America has to a national religion.

If worship of the military is America’s national religion, then the U.S. soldier is this religion’s holy warrior.  Greenwald noted that the Navy Seals are “a member of the most sacred and revered religious order.”  Those who die in “the line of duty” are martyrs who must be remembered for all “they have done for this country.”  Any criticism against the rank-and-file holy warrior is considered blasphemous.

There can be no possible profession that is more highly praiseworthy to the American than soldier in the military.  Many U.S. airlines will let soldiers board the plane even before women with children and the disabled.  Being part of the war machine is more respectable than being a doctor, a social worker, a teacher for the disabled, or a volunteer at the local orphanage.  Saving people (what a physician does) can in no way, shape, or form be considered better than killing people (what a soldier does).

A person foolish enough to say that “a soldier kills people” will be beaten into submission and subservience by jingoist mantras such as “you should be thankful that you are able to express such views, because it is only due to the sacrifices of those in uniform–who protect your freedoms–that you are free to say what you want.”  This, even though no rational mind could possibly believe this: how does bombing, invading, and occupying Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, or Yemen “protect my freedoms?”  That is, unless one is naive enough to think that any of these Evil, Foreign Brown People were about to conquer the United States, topple its government, and take away my freedoms.

In any case, I have my own government to do that for me.  Far from “fighting for my freedoms,” the military-industrial complex and those in authority who wage these wars are responsible for clamping down on my civil liberties.  With the rise of the Orwellian-named Patriot Act and its like, there has been a sustained war waged not just against Al-Qaeda but against civil liberties, with dedicated assaults on the First and Fourth Amendments.

Worship of the military and the holy warrior runs so deep that even the most ardent critic of the war must never utter a single word against those who wage it.  Such a common sense thing to do is completely off-limits and beyond the scope of decency and propriety.  To do so would be to open oneself up to the criticisms of being “unpatriotic” and “disloyal.”  Criticism of the war must be couched in “patriotic language:” war critics must ceremoniously acknowledge their support for U.S. troops, arguing that I support the troops which is why I want to bring them home.  It is simply unacceptable to just clearly say: I don’t support the troops because they are shooting at, bombing, and killing people.  To do such a thing would be to commit the highest of sins in the American national religion.

The fact that even war critics would hush you up for saying something against America’s cherished holy warriors says something of how deeply ingrained militarism is in our society.  How can it be that opponents of America’s wars will criticize the war as unjust on the one hand but not be anything but absolutely reverent towards those who wage it?  The United States, after all, uses an all-volunteer military; by joining the military is not one making an active choice to take part in these unjust wars?  And certainly, one can choose not to fight, as many brave soldiers and ex-soldiers have done.

Noting with what absolute reverence Americans speak of their soldiers of war, one wonders how it is that they are simultaneously amazed at how unbelievably warlike those Foreign, Other People are for revering their own men of war.  We are taken aback by how “primitive” the North Koreans are when they mindlessly revere their soldiers, yet somehow mystified when we do the same with our troops.  The North Korean soldiers have certainly killed far fewer and waged far fewer wars than our own military.  But alas, those North Koreans are so primitive, whereas we are so advanced, civilized, and peaceful.

I don’t malign or vilify soldiers in the military (as I partially do accept the idea that “they are just doing their job”), but must we continue to speak of our holy warriors with such absolute reverence, awe, and worship?  Our mindless idolization of the military profession is what is to blame for so many of our impressionable youth choosing to join the military to kill people abroad instead of spending those years going to college to expand their minds.  Placing the military and its soldiers on a pedestal is the only way a society can convince its young boys to risk their lives to go to war for the country–something so illogical, so contrary to the biological drive to save oneself from harm or death, that absent the most compelling of reasons one can hardly find it worthwhile to do so.

Interestingly, even that religious and ethnic minority that is the target of America’s wars is itself affected by this national religion.  Muslim-Americans will often bend over backwards to point out that they too “proudly serve this country” by being a part of the military.  (Even the phrase “serve this country” can only mean one thing: soldiering.)  In order to be accepted as Full Citizens, Muslim-Americans must prove their dedication to America’s war machine.

And so, Muslim-Americans–many of them immigrants or children of immigrants–beg to be included in the same institution that wages endless wars in their ancestral homelands.  It is that same institution that is rife with racism and bigotry against Arabs and Muslims, yet so desperately do Muslim-Americans want to be included in it.

*  *  *  *  *

In this national religion, 9/11 is America’s Karbala.  The Battle of Karbala involved the slaughter of the Prophet Muhammad’s descendants by a tyrannical government–an event that is religiously commemorated each year by Shia Muslims, who will often make a religious pilgrimage (ziyarat) to the site of the battle or to the graves of the victims.  With vigor just short of this, Americans commemorate Patriot Day, the holy day of the American national religion.

Ground Zero, meanwhile, is the “hallowed ground”–a trip here is the ziyarat (religious pilgrimage) of the American religion.  The American flag becomes a symbol not to be disrespected, our nation’s holy book, waved high by people chanting “USA! USA! USA!”, which can only mean one thing: war!  The flag has become a raised symbol of war.

The military is our national religion, its soldiers are our holy warriors, the Navy Seals are our highest religious order, those soldiers who died in war are our martyrs, 9/11 was our Karbala, Patriot Day is our annual holy day, the flag is our holy book and symbol, Osama bin Laden is Lucifer, Terrorism is the greatest Evil, supporting the troops is our greatest religious obligation, and failure to do so is the greatest blasphemy and the highest of sins.

*  *  *  *  *

The problem I have with the cult-like remembrance of 9/11 is that it was the devotion to this day that was used to launch wars of vengeance that killed ten times as many people.  This date, 9/11, has been militarized.  It is a memory we are told that we must never forget lest we slacken in our resolve to wage war against the Forces of Evil, the Satan of our religion: radical Islam and Terrorism.  It is a memory that is invoked to remind the American people why they need to spend more of their taxpayer money to sustain their country’s illegal occupations and immoral wars.

Furthermore, the singling out of this day above all others (including days on which worse acts of violence were perpetrated by the United States), exudes the tribalistic mentality that infects people with strong feelings of national or religious identity–wherein only blood shed against one’s own national or religious group is remembered (and in fact, it is obsessed over), whereas that shed by one’s own national or religious group against others is ignored, denied, or justified.

Lastly, one cannot help but feel that 9/11 would hardly have been considered as important to the national religion had it not been Muslims who were implicated in the attack.  They attacked us.  The deaths of the victims of 9/11 are less relevant than the fact that they–those Foreign, Dark-Complexioned Moozlums–are the ones who caused these deaths.  The horrendous attacks of 9/11 have special significance due to the fact that the perpetrators were radical Muslims, an Existential Threat to our Safety and Freedoms.

The victims of 9/11 certainly ought to be remembered, as should all the victims of war and terrorism (whether the culprit be our enemies or our own country and whether the victims be American or not), but should their memory really be exploited to feed the national religion of warmongering?  Is it not deeply disturbing that an act of violence and the deaths of three-thousand innocents are being used to justify even greater acts of violence and even more civilian deaths?

Disclaimer: I would like to point out that the views expressed above are mine alone and do not necessarily represent or reflect the official views of LoonWatch or any of its writers aside from myself (Danios).

Update I: An interesting Facebook status that is making the rounds:

On 9/11, I’ll mourn the nearly 3,000 lives lost, over 6,000 injuries, the infrastructural carnage and devastation in NYC, and the humiliation of my country, all perpetrated ignorantly in the name of my religion

On 9/12, I’ll mourn the nearly 1,000,000 lives, the 10′s of millions of injuries, the infrastructural decimation in 3 countries, and the humiliation of my religion, all perpetrated ignorantly in the name of my country.

Update II:  Many readers and fellow LoonWatch writers have pointed out that many young people join the military due to financial reasons.  Additionally, many of them are “trying to serve their country” and “are just following orders.”  I do not completely disagree with these statements.  As I said, I do not malign or vilify soldiers, nor encourage that.  What I am opposed to is the glorification of what they do.

The DOJ’s escalating criminalization of speech

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2011 by loonwatch

BY GLENN GREENWALD

Over the past several years, the Justice Department has increasingly attempted to criminalize what is clearly protected political speech by prosecuting numerous individuals (Muslims, needless to say) for disseminating political views the government dislikes or considers threatening.  The latest episode emerged on Friday, when the FBI announced the arrest and indictment of Jubair Ahmad, a 24-year-old Pakistani legal resident living in Virginia, charged with “providing material support” to a designated Terrorist organization (Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT)).

What is the “material support” he allegedly gave?  He produced and uploaded a 5-minute video to YouTube featuring photographs of U.S. abuses in Abu Ghraib, video of armored trucks exploding after being hit by IEDs, prayer messages about “jihad” from LeT’s leader, and — according to the FBI’s Affidavit – “a number of terrorist logos.”  That, in turn, led the FBI agent who signed the affidavit to assert that ”based on [his] training and experience, it is evident that the video . . . is designed as propaganda to develop support for LeT and to recruit jihadists to LeT.”  The FBI also claims Ahmad spoke with the son of an LeT leader about the contents of the video and had attended an LeT camp when he was a teenager in Pakistan.  For the act of uploading that single YouTube video (and for denying that he did so when asked by the FBI agents who came to his home to interrogate him), he faces 23 years in prison.

Let’s be very clear about the key point: the Constitution — specifically the Free Speech clause of the First Amendment — prohibits the U.S. Government from punishing someone for the political views they express, even if those views include the advocacy of violence against the U.S. and its leaders.  One can dislike this legal fact.  One can wish it were different.  But it is the clear and unambiguous law, and has been since the Supreme Court’s unanimous 1969 decision inBrandenburg v. Ohio, which overturned the criminal conviction of a Ku Klux Klan leader who had publicly threatened violence against political officials in a speech.

In doing so, the Brandenberg Court struck down as unconstitutional an Ohio statute (under which the KKK leader was prosecuted) that made it a crime to “advocate . . . the duty, necessity, or propriety of crime, sabotage, violence, or unlawful methods of terrorism as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform.”  Such advocacy — please read the part in bold — cannot be a crime because it is protected by the First Amendment.  The crux of the Court’s holding: ”the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force“ (emphasis added; for more on the First Amendment law protecting this right to advocate violence, see my discussion here).

To put this less abstractly, and as I’ve noted before, a person has — and should and must have — the absolute free speech right to advocate ideas such as this:

For decades, the U.S. Government has been engaging in violence and otherwise interfering in the Muslim world. Hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslim men, women and children have died as a result. There is no end in sight to this American assault on the Muslim world and those of its client states. Therefore, it is not only the right, but the duty, of Muslims to engage in violence against Americans as a means of self-defense and to deter further violence against Muslims. That is the only available means for fighting back against the world’s greatest military superpower. The only alternative is continuing passive submission to this onslaught of violence aimed at Muslims.

One may find that idea objectionable or even repellent, but does anyone believe that someone should be prosecuted for writing that paragraph?  Anyone who would favor prosecution for that doesn’t understand or believe in the Constitution, as those ideas are pure political speech protected by the First Amendment, every bit as much as: the climate crisis now justifies violent attacks on polluting corporations; or capitalism is so destructive that the use of force in service of a Communist Revolution is compelled; or “if our President, our Congress, our Supreme Court, continues to suppress the white, Caucasian race, it’s possible that there might have to be some revengeance taken” (Brandenberg); or such is the tyranny of the Crown that taking up arms against it is not merely a right but the duty of all American patriots (The American Revolution).  The Jerusalem Post justfired one of its columnists, a Jewish leftist who wrote that Palestinian violence against Israel is ”justified” because they have the “right to resist” the occupation; is he guilty of a crime of materially supporting Terrorism?  Should Ward Churchill, widely accused of having justified the 9/11 attack (or Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who did the same) have been indicted?

Judging from the description of Ahmad’s video in the FBI Affidavit (Ahmad’s YouTube account has been removed), the video in question does not go nearly as far as the clearly protected views referenced in the prior paragraph, as it does not explicitly advocate violence at all; indeed, it appears not to advocate that anyone do anything.  Rather, the FBI believes it is evocative of such advocacy (“designed as propaganda to develop support for LeT”), which makes this prosecution even more troubling.  Apparently, if you string together video and photographs (or words) in a certain way as to make the DOJ think that you’re implicitly trying to “develop support” for a Terrorist group — based on the political ideas you’re expressing — you risk decades of imprisonment.  Is it possible to render the ostensible right of “free speech” more illusory than this?

This case is not an aberration; as indicated, prosecuting Muslims for pure political speech is an increasing weapon of the DOJ.  In July, former Obama OLC official Marty Lederman analyzed the indictment of a 22-year-old former Penn State student for — in the FBI’s words – “repeatedly using the Internet to promote violent jihad against Americans” by posting comments on a “jihadist” Internet forum including “a comment online that praised the [October, 2010] shootings” at the Pentagon and Marine Corps Museum and ”a number of postings encouraging attacks within the United States.”  He also posted links to a bomb-making manual.

Regarding the part of the indictment based on “encouraging violent attacks,” Lederman — who, remember, was an Obama DOJ lawyer until very recently — wrote: it “does not at first glance appear to be different from the sort of advocacy of unlawful conduct that is entitled to substantial First Amendment protection under the Brandenburg line of cases.”  As for linking to bomb-making materials, Lederman wrote: ”the First Amendment generally protects the publication of publicly available information, even where there is a chance or a likelihood that one or more readers may put such information to dangerous, unlawful use.”  Lederman’s discussion of the law and its applicability to that prosecution contains some caveats (and also raises some other barriers to these kinds of prosecutions), but he is clear that the aspect of the indictment based on the alleged advocacy and encouragement of violence in the name of jihad “would appear to be very vulnerable to a First Amendment challenge.”  That’s government-lawyer-ese for: this prosecution is attempting to criminalize free political speech.

Perhaps the most extreme example of this trend is the fact that a Pakistani man in New York was prosecuted and then sentenced to almost six years in prison for doing nothing more than including a Hezbollah news channel in the package of cable channels he offered for sale to consumers in Brooklyn.  On some perverse level, though, all of these individuals are lucky that they are being merely prosecuted rather than targeted with due-process-free assassination.  As I documented last month, that is what is being done to U.S. citizen Anwar Awlaki due — overwhelmingly if not exclusively — to the U.S. Government’s fear of his purely political views.

If the First Amendment was designed to do anything, it was designed to prevent the government from imprisoning people — or killing them — because of the political ideas they promote.  Yet that is clearly what the Obama administration is doing with increasing frequency and aggression.

There is one last point that bears emphasis here.  Numerous prominent politicians from both political parties — Michael Mukasey, Howard Dean, Wes Clark, Tom Ridge, Ed Rendell, Fran Townsend, Rudy Giuliani, and many others — have not only been enthusiasticaly promoting andadvocating on behalf of a designated terrorist organization (MEK of Iran), but they have been receiving substantial amounts of cash from that Terrorist group as they do so.  There is only one list of “designated Terrorist organizations” under the law, and MEK is every bit as much on that list as LeT or Al Qaeda are.  Yet you will never, ever see those individuals being indicted by the Obama DOJ for their far more extensive — and paid – involvement with MEK than, for instance, Ahmad has with LeT.  That’s because: (1) the criminal law does not apply to politically powerful elites, only to ordinary citizens and residents (indeed, many of those MEK-shilling politicians cheer on broad and harsh application of the “material support” statute when applied to others), and (2) MEK is now devoted to fighting against a government disliked by the U.S. (Iran), so they’ve become (like Saddam Hussein when fighting Iran and bin Laden when fighting the Soviet Union) the Good Terrorists whom the U.S. likes and supports.

Nonetheless, MEK remains on the list of the designated Terrorist groups, and lending them material support — which certainly includes paid shilling for them — is every bit as criminal (at least) as the behavior in the above-discussed indictments.  As usual, though, “Terrorism” means nothing other than what the U.S. Government wants it to mean at any given moment.  The evisceration of the rule of law evidenced by this disparate treatment is as odious as the First Amendment assault itself.

(source: Salon)

Salon’s Justin Elliott Rattles the Cage, Poking the Anti-Muslim Beast Inside the Republican Circus Tent

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2011 by loonwatch

GOP presidential hopefuls have been falling all over themselves to please anti-Muslim elements within the party, each trying to outdo the other in this regard.  From Herman Cain of “Muslims must take a special loyalty oath” fame to Michele Bachmann who signed an “anti-Sharia pledge,” it’s a close call who’s truly in the lead.

To gain his street cred on Anti-Muslim Street, Texas Governor Rick Perry started “palling around” with anti-Muslim influentials.  All was going as planned, until Salon’s Justin Elliott entered the scene.  For those of you who haven’t been following Elliott’s excellent work, he’s become a very quiet yet forceful and consistent voice against anti-Muslim hatred.

Elliott decided to throw a wrench into the Perry presidential machine after he dug up an interesting tidbit about the governor: Perry has had very cordial relations with the Aga Khan, an influential Muslim spiritual leader.  Don’t worry, you wouldn’t be blamed for not knowing who the Aga Khan is.   To make a long story short, the Aga Khan refers to Karim al-Husseini, who is the 49th Imam (leader) of the Shia Ismaili sect of Islam.

Lest you begin to imagine a bearded mullah or angry ayatollah, be advised: the Aga Khan would fit in more with Donald Trump than Ayatollah Khomeini.  I’ve reproduced his picture above: notice the expensive suit and tie; the guy is as GQ Muslim as you can get.  The Aga Khan is a billionaire, lives in Europe, and jet-sets around the world.  He married a British fashion model, and in spite of the Islamic prohibition on gambling, owns some of the finest thoroughbred race horses in the world.

If you’ve been disabused of the notion that the Aga Khan is some Islamic fundamentalist, be rest assured too that he’s quite a pacifist as well.  The Evangelical Academy of Tutzing in Germany awarded him the Tolerance Prize, just one of the many awards he’s been given.  The Aga Khan heads notable humanitarian efforts throughout the world.

From a theological perspective, you should know that the Shia Ismailis (the sect to which the Aga Khan belongs to) are considered by many elements within the Islamic orthodoxy to be heterodox (even “heretical” by some).  They are to Islam what Mormons are to Christianity.  They don’t pray five times a day, they don’t fast during Ramadan, etc.  Far from calling to jihad and the imposition of “dhimmitude,” the Shia Ismailis are usually on the receiving end of religious discrimination and sometimes even persecution.  So if there were Muslims who “counter-jihadists” could tolerate these would be it!

But Justin Elliott predicted that the Islamophobes wouldn’t care: any Muslim is unacceptable.  You know how there was a saying that the only good Indian is a dead Indian (or, alternatively, the only good nigger is a dead nigger)?  Well, Islamophobes adhere to the following axiom: the only moderate”Muslim” is an ex-Muslim. So to them, the Aga Khan is not acceptable: the Aga Khan hasn’t publicly repudiated and renounced Islam.  He certainly hasn’t written a book about what’s wrong with Islam, so he must be a stealth-jihadist!

Less than a week ago, Elliott posted an article entitled “Rick Perry: the pro-Sharia Candidate.” It was certainly tongue-in-cheek, almost spoofing right-wing nut jobs.  Bellowed Elliott:

Rick Perry has made a name for himself in the last few weeks by palling around with some radical evangelical Christian figures who are openly hostile to Islam, and have even, in one notable case, called for a ban on Muslim immigration to the U.S. Perry also raised eyebrows in his decidedly unecumenical exhortation for all Americans to pray to Jesus Christ.

But it turns out that the Texas governor has had surprisingly warm, constructive relations with at least one group of Muslims over the years.

Perry is a friend of the Aga Khan, the religious leader of the Ismailis, a sect of Shia Islam…

Elliott also dug up the fact that Perry cooperated with the Aga Khan in a couple educational projects.  In high school world history, for example, students learn about various world cultures, including Islamic civilizations.  Perry and the Aga Khan worked together improving the standard of teaching in this regard, and Perry himself said: “I have supported this program from the very beginning, because we must bridge the gap of understanding between East and West if we ever hope to experience a future of peace and prosperity.”

Here’s where Justin Elliott decided to rattle the cage (to make a political point but also for sh**s and giggles) and poke the anti-Muslim beast in the Republican circus tent.  Elliott quipped:

It’s not beyond the realm of possibility that right-wing bomb-throwers will use this as a line of attack against Perry.

Elliott predicted that his article would create a political maelstrom for Perry.  And he was right. As if on cue, the mindless drones and brainless sharia-zapping zombies of the Islamophobic cyber-world marched in lockstep, honing their taqiyya-radars on Rick Perry and setting their jihad-phazers to kill mode.

Just a few short days after his piece, Elliott published a follow-up article, documenting the hyper-exaggerated response from the anti-Muslim right-wing.  Humorously, one prominent “anti-Sharia” figure quoted in Elliott’s article defiantly said (emphasis added):

This story tells us more about Salon, Politico and other left-of-center media outlets than about Perry. Rather than engage on the substantive issues as regards to Islamism and the extent of the threat of groups with political motivations and histories of terrorist links, Elliott and Smith refuse to take their opponents seriously, thinking they’re ‘poking the cage’ of a Republican base too unsophisticated to know the difference between the Ismaili sect and, say, the Muslim Brotherhood.

What’s humorous is that in fact Elliott’s “poking the cage” worked “like clockwork.”  Elliott effectively became a puppet-master, adequately demonstrating to us how easy it is to stir up a fake anti-Muslim controversy.  Just yell any variation of Muslim, Sharia, and stealth jihad loud enough, link them to your opponent, and voila!, the anti-Muslim cyber-world will inject into the issue a life of its own, amplifying it a hundred-fold.

Justin Elliott has successfully made fools out of the right-wing anti-Muslim nutters, who took the bait.  I want to laugh, but perhaps I’m too scared to.  This is a well-oiled machine, an echo chamber of anti-Muslim madness, a Frankenstein that even the creators cannot contain.

Here is Elliott’s article:

Shariah foes seize on Perry’s ties to Muslims

By: Justin Elliott

It looks like my story last week about Rick Perry’s cordial relations with a group of Muslims has, as expected, generated alarm within the anti-Shariah wing of the Republican Party.

My piece explored Perry’s long-standing friendship with the Aga Khan, the wealthy, globe-trotting leader of the Ismaili Muslim sect, which has a small but significant population in Texas. Perry and the Aga Khan have launched two joint projects, including a program to educate Texas schoolchildren about Islamic culture and history. I noted that this relationship set Perry apart from those members of the GOP field who consistently demonize Islam, and that some anti-Shariah/anti-Muslim activists might be skeptical of his ties to the Aga Khan.

Like clockwork, two anti-Shariah figures have now penned columns attacking Perry on exactly these grounds. But one anti-Shariah group, Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, has dissented and says it has no problem with Perry’s relationship with the Ismailis. The group’s spokesman, Dave Reaboi, emailed Commentary’s Alana Goodman:

Politico’s Ben Smith amplified a Salon report about Perry’s relationship with Aga Khan of the Ismaili sect of Shia Islam. As Salon’s in-house apologist for Islamism and crusader against conservatives, Justin Elliott clearly believed such a story, breathlessly told, would cause a great deal of friction between the Texas governor and the GOP base—who are rightfully concerned about the anti-Constitutional aspects of Shariah law in our own country, and are watching as Shariah is the rallying-cry of jihadists around the globe. That said, Perry’s relationship to Khan and the Ismaili’s, I predict, will not cause much of a stir. The Islamailis are a persecuted Shia minority in Saudia Arabia; indeed, Perry’s meeting with Khan could not have won him many friends there. Rather than reaching out– as both presidents Bush and Obama mistakenly did—to problematic organizations associated with the Muslim Brotherhood’s expressly political agenda, Perry’s choice to engage with a more ‘progressive’ group is a good sign.

And:

This story tells us more about Salon, Politico and other left-of-center media outlets than about Perry. Rather than engage on the substantive issues as regards to Islamism and the extent of the threat of groups with political motivations and histories of terrorist links, Elliott and Smith refuse to take their opponents seriously, thinking they’re ‘poking the cage’ of a Republican base too unsophisticated to know the difference between the Ismaili sect and, say, the Muslim Brotherhood.

As it turns out, Reaboi’s predictions — that Perry’s associations “will not cause much of a stir” and that anti-Shariah activists are too sophisticated to demonize the Ismailis — have already been proven wrong.

The blogger and activist Pamela Geller wrote a column for the American Thinker today declaring that “Rick Perry must not be President. Have we not had enough of this systemic sedition?”

But Perry has been sucked into the propaganda vortex, and is now wielding his enormous power to influence changes in the schoolrooms and in the curricula to reflect a sharia compliant version of Islam.  He is a friend of the Aga Khan, the multimillionaire head of the Ismailis, a Shi’ite sect of Islam that today proclaims its nonviolence but in ages past was the sect that gave rise to the Assassins.

Commentary’s Goodman suggests that, compared to Gaffney’s think tank, Geller is a fringe figure in the anti-Shariah movement. In fact, Geller is one of the primary ideological and organizational leaders of the movement: she devotes numerous posts to the issue on her influential blog; she regularly gives speeches on Shariah and discusses it on TV; and she founded a group, Stop Islamization of America, that names stopping Shariah as one of its primary goals.

And it gets better: Both Geller and Gaffney are apparently on the eight-member steering committee of a coalition called the “Sharia Awareness Action Network.”

Another sponsor of that coalition is WorldNetDaily, which yesterday published an attack on Perry by Joel Richardson, author of “The Islamic Antichrist: The Shocking Truth About the Real Nature of the Beast” (WND Books). He argues that Perry has been fooled by the Aga Khan, who is part of the relentless Islamic quest to conquer “the West”:

It should also be mentioned that one of the doctrines espoused by Ismaili Muslims is the doctrine of Taqiyya. In simple terms, the doctrine of Taqiyya allows Muslims to purposefully hide or lie about their true religious beliefs to “unbelievers” or even Muslims of different sects. Of course, it is doubtful that the children of Texas will learn anything of Taqiyya in their Perry-sponsored education concerning Islam.

Of course, while lying in the name of religion may seem like a foreign concept to most, it is the principle of “the ends justify the means” that underscores many aspects of the Islamic approach to win the West.

One can only hope that such is not the principle driving Gov. Perry’s campaign for the presidency.

None of this is particularly surprising. As I noted in my original piece, the Muslim education program previously generated a bit of controversy in a state board of education campaign in Texas. (“I think Islamic curriculum is about the furthest thing that we need to be introducing into Texas classrooms,” said the Republican candidate in that race.)

To be clear, I have absolutely no problem with the Aga Khan-Perry partnership, and the effort to educate Texas schoolchildren about Muslim culture and history is to all appearances a positive and constructive thing. I think Perry’s relationship with the Ismailis in Texas makes for an interesting and relevant contrast to the Santorums and Cains of the GOP field.

But here’s the bottom line: My prediction that anti-Shariah activists would be troubled by Perry’s associations was borne out in the space of just a few days.

Pakistani belief about drones: perceptive or paranoid?

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2011 by loonwatch

By: Glenn Greenwald

Two weeks ago, President Obama’s former Director of National Intelligence, Adm. Dennis Blair, excoriated the White House for its reliance on drones in multiple Muslim nations, pointing out, as Politico put it, that those attacks “are fueling anti-American sentiment and undercutting reform efforts in those countries.”  Blair said: ”we’re alienating the countries concerned, because we’re treating countries just as places where we go attack groups that threaten us.”  Blair has an Op-Ed today in The New York Times making a similar argument with a focus on Pakistan, though he uses a conspicuously strange point to make his case:

Qaeda officials who are killed by drones will be replaced. The group’s structure will survive and it will still be able to inspire, finance and train individuals and teams to kill Americans. Drone strikes hinder Qaeda fighters while they move and hide, but they can endure the attacks and continue to function.Moreover, as the drone campaign wears on, hatred of America is increasing in Pakistan. American officials may praise the precision of the drone attacks. But in Pakistan, news media accounts of heavy civilian casualties are widely believed. Our reliance on high-tech strikes that pose no risk to our soldiers is bitterly resented in a country that cannot duplicate such feats of warfare without cost to its own troops.

Though he obviously knows the answer, Blair does not say whether this widespread Pakistani perception about civilian casualties is based in fact; if anything, he insinuates that this “belief” is grounded in the much-discussed affection which Pakistanis allegedly harbor for fabricated anti-American conspiracy theories.  While the Pakistani perception is significant unto itself regardless of whether it’s accurate — the belief about drones is what fuels anti-American hatred — it’s nonetheless bizarre to mount an anti-drone argument while relegating the impact of civilian deaths to mere “belief,” all while avoiding informing readers what the actual reality is.  Discussions of the innocent victims of American military violence is one of the great taboos in establishment circles; that Blair goes so far out of his way to avoid discussing it highlights how potent that taboo is.

Last month, I interviewed Chris Woods of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which had just published a report conclusively documenting the falsity of John Brennan’s public claim that “in the last year, ‘there hasn’t been a single collateral death‘” from U.S. drone attacks.  Last week, the Bureau published an even more detailed report focusing on the number of Pakistani children killed by American drone attacks:

The Bureau has identified credible reports of 168 children killed in seven years of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. These children would account for 44% of the minimum figure of 385 civilians reported killed by the attacks. . . .The highest number of child deaths occurred during the Bush presidency, with 112 children reportedly killed. More than a third of all Bush drone strikes appear to have resulted in the deaths of children. . . . President Obama, too, has been as Commander-in-Chief responsible for many child deaths in Pakistan. The Bureau has identified 56 children reported killed in drone strikes during his presidency . . . .

The report indicates that the number of Pakistani children dying from drone attacks has decreased substantially over the past several months — since September, 2010, when one man’s son, two daughters and nephew were all killed by a single U.S. strike — but such deaths nonetheless continue (including one in April of this year, in which a 12-year-old boy, Atif, was killed).  These facts make John Brennan’s blatant lie particularly disgusting: it’s one thing to kill children using remote-controlled weaponized air robots in a country in which we’re not formally at war, but it’s another thing entirely to stand up in public and deny that it is happening.

In several ways, the Bureau’s study significantly understates the extent of U.S.-caused civilian deaths in the region.  As Woods told me, the Bureau uses such a rigorous methodology — counting civilian deaths only when they can be definitively confirmed up to and including the victims’ names — that some deaths almost certainly go uncounted in the notoriously inaccessible Waziristan region.  Other credible reports provide an even starker assessment of the number of innocents killed.  Moreover, this latest report from the Bureau counts only child deaths, not those of innocent adult men and women in Pakistan, nor does it discuss the large number of civilian deaths from drones outside of Pakistan (Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq), nor the U.S.-caused deaths of civilians from means other than drones (such as the “amazing number” of innocents killed at checkpoints in Afghanistan).

Adm. Blair’s Op-Ed may have had a much greater impact had it included a discussion of these facts, rather than implying that the problem with American drone attacks is Pakistani paranoia.  That’s precisely why the Op-Ed — like most discussions in establishment venues of this topic — didn’t include those facts.

Salon: Iraq foots the bill for its own destruction

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 15, 2011 by loonwatch

Some people have wondered why I focus so much on America’s many wars: isn’t this site about Islamophobia, not U.S. foreign policy? Although it is true that LoonWatch is primarily a site documenting and refuting Islamophobia, I strongly believe that there exists an intimate link between Islamophobia and America’s Endless Wars.

For one, America’s foreign policy is itself Islamophobic.  Our wars are launched thanks to Islamophobia within the most jingoist elements of American society, the neoconservatives, the Zionists (both Jewish and Christian), etc.  It finds an audience within the general public, which has a very poor opinion of Islam.  Our wars can only be sustained by ratcheting up fear-mongering and Islamophobia.  Our wars conveniently serve to complete the loop by feeding Islamophobia itself, as Muslims are Other-ized as the enemy.

Islamophobia operates under the assumption that it is Islam itself that makes Them Hate Our Freedoms.  They hate us (and some of them attack us) because we are the Infidels.  The reality, of course, is that they hate us not for our freedoms or the fact that we are infidels, but the fact that we bomb them, invade them, and occupy them.  As the article below shows, we also make them foot the bill for their own destruction:

Iraq foots the bill for its own destruction

By Murtaza Hussain

When considering the premise of reparation being paid for the Iraq War it would be natural to assume that the party to whom such payments would be made would be the Iraqi civilian population, the ordinary people who suffered the brunt of the devastation from the fighting. Fought on the false pretence of capturing Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, the war resulted in massive indiscriminate suffering for Iraqi civilians which continues to this day. Estimates of the number of dead and wounded range from the hundreds of thousands into the millions, and additional millions of refugees remain been forcibly separated from their homes, livelihoods and families. Billions of dollars in reparations are indeed being paid for the Iraq War, but not to Iraqis who lost loved ones or property as a result of the conflict, and who, despite their nation’s oil wealth, are still suffering the effects of an utterly destroyed economy. “Reparations payments” are being made by Iraq to Americans and others for the suffering which those parties experienced as a result of the past two decades of conflict with Iraq.

Iraq today is a shattered society still picking up the pieces after decades of war and crippling sanctions. Prior to its conflict with the United States, the Iraqi healthcare and education systems were the envy of the Middle East, and despite the brutalities and crimes of the Ba’ath regime there still managed to exist a thriving middle class of ordinary Iraqis, something conspicuously absent from today’s “free Iraq.” In light of the continued suffering of Iraqi civilians, the agreement by the al-Maliki government to pay enormous sums of money to the people who destroyed the country is unconscionable and further discredits the absurd claim that the invasion was fought to “liberate” the Iraqi people.

In addition to making hundreds of millions of dollars in reparation payments to the United States, Iraq has been paying similarly huge sums to corporations whose business suffered as a result of the actions of Saddam Hussein. While millions of ordinary Iraqis continue to lack even reliable access to drinking water, their free and representative government has been paying damages to corporations such as Pepsi, Philip Morris and Sheraton; ostensibly for the terrible hardships their shareholders endured due to the disruption in the business environment resulting from the Gulf War. When viewed against the backdrop ofmassive privatization of Iraqi natural resources, the image that takes shape is that of corporate pillaging of a destroyed country made possible by military force.

Despite the billions of dollars already paid in damages to foreign countries and corporations additional billions are still being sought and are directly threatening funds set aside for the rebuilding of the country; something which 8 years after the invasion has yet to occur for the vast majority of Iraqis. While politicians and media figures in the U.S. make provocative calls for Iraq to “pay back” the United States for the costs incurred in giving Iraq the beautiful gift of democracy, it is worth noting that Iraq is indeed already being pillaged of its resources to the detriment of its long suffering civilian population.

The perverse notion that an utterly destroyed country must pay reparations to the parties who maliciously planned and facilitated its destruction is the grim reality today for the people [of] Iraq. That there are those who actually bemoan the lack of Iraqi gratitude for the invasion of their country and who still cling to the pathetic notion that the unfathomable devastation they unleashed upon Iraqi civilians was some sort of “liberation” speaks powerfully to the capacity for human self-delusion. The systematic destruction and pillaging of Iraq is a war crime for which none of its perpetrators have yet been held to account (though history often takes[though history often takes time to be fully written] time to be fully written), and of which the extraction of reparation payments is but one component.

The Rush to Blame Muslims and the Meaningless Term “Terrorism”

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 25, 2011 by loonwatch

Glenn Greenwald on point as always:

The omnipotence of Al Qaeda and meaninglessness of “Terrorism”

(updated below – Update II)

For much of the day yesterday, the featured headline on The New York Times online front page strongly suggested that Muslims were responsible for the attacks on Oslo; that led to definitive statements on the BBC and elsewhere that Muslims were the culprits.  The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin wrote a whole column based on the assertion that Muslims were responsible, one that, as James Fallows notes, remains at the Post with no corrections or updates.  The morning statement issued by President Obama — “It’s a reminder that the entire international community holds a stake in preventing this kind of terror from occurring” and “we have to work cooperatively together both on intelligence and in terms of prevention of these kinds of horrible attacks” — appeared to assume, though (to its credit) did not overtly state, that the perpetrator was an international terrorist group.

But now it turns out that the alleged perpetrator wasn’t from an international Muslim extremist group at all, but was rather a right-wing Norwegian nationalist with a history of anti-Muslim commentary and an affection for Muslim-hating blogs such as Pam Geller’s Atlas Shrugged, Daniel Pipes, and Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch.  Despite that,The New York Times is still working hard to pin some form of blame, even ultimate blame, on Muslim radicals (h/t sysprog):

So if this is somehow not considered “terrorism”, are we admitting that whether something is “terrorism” is solely a function of who did it?

That Terrorism means nothing more than violence committed by Muslims whom the West dislikes has been proven repeatedly.  When an airplane was flown into an IRS building in Austin, Texas, it was immediately proclaimed to be Terrorism, until it was revealed that the attacker was a white, non-Muslim, American anti-tax advocate with a series of domestic political grievances.  The U.S. and its allies can, by definition, never commit Terrorism even when it is beyond question that the purpose of their violence is to terrorize civilian populations into submission.  Conversely, Muslims who attack purely military targets — even if the target is an invading army in their own countries — are, by definition, Terrorists.  That is why, as NYU’s Remi Brulin has extensively documented, Terrorism is the most meaningless, and therefore the most manipulated, word in the English language.  Yesterday provided yet another sterling example.

One last question: if, as preliminary evidence suggests, it turns out that Breivik was “inspired” by the extremist hatemongering rantings of Geller, Pipes and friends, will their groups be deemed Terrorist organizations such that any involvement with them could constitute the criminal offense of material support to Terrorism?  Will those extremist polemicists inspiring Terrorist violence receive the Anwar Awlaki treatment of being put on an assassination hit list without due process?  Will tall, blond, Nordic-looking males now receive extra scrutiny at airports and other locales, and will those having any involvement with those right-wing, Muslim-hating groups be secretly placed on no-fly lists?  Or are those oppressive, extremist, lawless measures — like the word Terrorism — also reserved exclusively for Muslims?

UPDATE:  The original version of the NYT article was even worse in this regard.  As several people noted, here is what the article originally said (papers that carry NYT articles still have the original version):

Terrorism specialists said that even if the authorities ultimately ruled out terrorism as the cause of Friday’s assaults, other kinds of groups or individuals were mimicking al-Qaida’s signature brutality and multiple attacks.

“If it does turn out to be someone with more political motivations, it shows these groups are learning from what they see from al-Qaida,” said Brian Fishman, a counterterrorism researcher at the New America Foundation in Washington.

Thus: if it turns out that the perpetrators weren’t Muslim (but rather “someone with more political motivations” — whatever that means: it presumably rests on the inane notion that Islamic radicals are motivated by religion, not political grievances), then it means that Terrorism, by definition, would be “ruled out” (one might think that the more politically-motivated an act of violence is, the more deserving it is of the Terrorism label, but this just proves that the defining feature of the word Terrorism is Muslim violence).  The final version of the NYTarticle inserted the word “Islamic” before “terrorism” (“even if the authorities ultimately ruled out Islamic terrorism as the cause”), but — as demonstrated above — still preserved the necessary inference that only Muslims can be Terrorists.  Meanwhile, in the world of reality, of 294 Terrorist attacks attempted or executed on European soil in 2009 as counted by the EU, a grand total of one — 1 out of 294 — was perpetrated by “Islamists.”

UPDATE II:  This article expertly traces and sets forth exactly how the “Muslims-did-it” myth was manufactured and then disseminated yesterday to the worldwide media, which predictably repeated it with little skepticism.  What makes the article so valuable is that it names names: it points to the incestuous, self-regarding network of self-proclaimed U.S. Terrorism and foreign policy “experts” — what the article accurately describes as “almost always white men and very often with military or government backgrounds,” in this instance driven by “a case of an elite fanboy wanting to be the first to pass on leaked gadget specs” — who so often shape these media stories and are uncritically presented as experts, even though they’re drowning in bias, nationalism, ignorance, and shallow credentialism.

Glenn Greenwald: The true definition of “Terrorist”

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , on June 22, 2011 by loonwatch

(cross-posted from Salon)

In late May, two Iraqi nationals, who were in the U.S. legally, were arrested in Kentucky and indicted on a variety of Terrorism crimes.  In The Washington Post today, GOP Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — writing under the headline:  “Guantanamo is the place to try terrorists” –castigates Attorney General Eric Holder for planning to try the two defendants in a civilian court on U.S. soil rather than shipping them to Guantanamo.

To make his case, the war-loving-but-never-fighting McConnell waves the flag of cowardly manufactured fear that is both his hallmark and the hallmark of uniquely American political rhetoric on Terrorism (“my constituents do not think that civilian judges and jurors in their community should be subjected to the risk of reprisal for participating in a terrorist trial“); relies on the ignoble example of Chuck Schumer and other New York Democrats who demanded that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed not be tried in Manhattan; and, as usual, issues vacant cries of war-uber-alles to justify abandonment of basic legal safeguards (“our top priority in battling terrorism should be to find, capture and detain or kill those who would do us harm”).  Along the way, McConnell — as most right-wing politicians are now forced to do given the continuity with Bush 43 — praises Obama’s overall national security approach:

The administration has shown admirable flexibility in making decisions concerning national security and has shown that it is willing, on occasion, to put safety over ideology. President Obama launched a counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, ignored calls to hastily withdraw from Iraq and recently agreed to extend the Patriot Act without weakening its provisions or making them harder to use.

Indeed, the Kentucky Republican ends his Op-Ed with an appeal to Obama’s “flexibility”; the President, he urges, should “let Holder know that our civilian courts are off-limits to foreign fighters captured in the war on terrorism.”

McConnell’s criticism of Holder is patently absurd; the very idea that we should start rounding up people who are legally on U.S. soil and shipping them to Guantanamo — rather than trying them in a real court — is menacing, and the fear he invokes (they’ll kill us if we put them on trial) is as fictitious as it is cowardly.  But far more interesting than McConnell’s trite fear-mongering is the notion that these two individuals are “Terrorists.”  Just as McConnell’s Op-Ed did, in all the reporting thus far on this case, the fact that their alleged acts constitutes Terrorism has been tacitly assumed (AP: ”2 Iraqis charged in Ky. with terrorism plotting”; ABC News: “Kentucky Terror Case”; PoliticoMcConnell:  Get Terror Case out of Kentucky”).

But look at what they’re actually accused of doing.  Those above-linked news reports as well as the unsealed indictment make clear that there are two separate categories of acts forming the basis for these allegations.  The first is that one of the men, Waad Ramadan Alwan, admitted to working with the “Iraqi insurgency” to attack American troops during the first three years of the war.  From the indictment:

It was that activity which the FBI trumpeted when announcing the indictments:

WASHINGTON—An Iraqi citizen who allegedly carried out numerous improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and another Iraqi national alleged to have participated in the insurgency in Iraq have been arrested and indicted on federal terrorism charges in the Western District of Kentucky. . . .

According to the charging documents, the FBI has been able to identify two latent fingerprints belonging to Alwan on acomponent of an unexploded IED that was recovered by U.S. forces near Bayji, Iraq. . . . Alwan had also allegedly told the CHS how he had used a particular brand of cordless telephone base station in IEDs. Alwan’s fingerprints were allegedly found on this particular brand of cordless base station in the IED that was recovered in Iraq.

The second set of acts involves a plot apparently concocted by the FBI, and then presented to Alwan through the use of an informant, to ship weapons and money to “Al Qaeda in Iraq.”  I realize that the very mention of the phrase “Al Qaeda” is supposed to stop the brain of all Decent People, but as even AP acknowledges, that group is little more than an insurgency group specific to Iraq, devoted to attacking foreign troops in their country:

Neither is charged with plotting attacks within the United States . . . . Their arrests come after FBI Director Robert Mueller said in February that his agency was taking a fresh look at Iraqi nationals in the U.S. who had ties to al-Qaida’s offshoot in Iraq. The group had not previously been considered a threat in the U.S.

Indeed, the FBI — in touting the plot they created and induced Alwan to become part of — acknowledged that the plot was devoted exclusively to attacking U.S. troops in Iraq, not civilians:

Over the course of roughly eight years, Waad Ramadan Alwan allegedly supported efforts to kill U.S. troops in Iraq, first by participating in the construction and placement of improvised explosive devices in Iraq and, more recently, by attempting to ship money and weapons from the United States to insurgents in Iraq. His co-defendant, Mohanad Shareef Hammadi, is accused of many of the same activities, said Todd Hinnen, Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security.

According to the charging documents, beginning in September 2010, Alwan expressed interest in helping the [confidential human source] CHS provide support to terrorists in Iraq. The CHS explained that he shipped money and weapons to the mujahidin in Iraq by secreting them in vehicles sent from the United States. Thereafter, Alwan allegedly participated in operations with the CHS to provide money, weapons — including machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, Stinger missiles, and C4 plastic explosives — as well as IED diagrams and advice on the construction of IEDs to what he believed were the mujahidin attacking U.S. troops in Iraq.

There is no suggestion in any of these reports or documents, not even a hint, that either of the accused ever tried to stage any attacks in the U.S. or target civilians either in the U.S. or Iraq.  Leaving aside the fact that this seems to be yet another case where the FBI manufacturers its own plotswhich they entrap people into joining, and then praises itself for stopping them, the alleged crimes here are confined entirely to past attacks on U.S. invading forces in their country and current efforts to aid those waging such attacks now.

One can have a range of views about the morality and justifiability of Iraqi nationals attacking U.S. troops in their country.  One could say that it is the right of Iraqis to attack a foreign army brutally invading and occupying their nation, just as Americans would presumably do against a foreign army invading their country (at least those who don’t share Mitch McConnell’s paralyzing fears and cowardice).  Or one could say that it is inherently wrong and evil to attack U.S. troops no matter what they’re doing or where they are in the world, even when waging war in a foreign country that is killing large numbers of innocent civilians.  Or one could say that the American war in Iraq in particular was such a noble effort to spread Freedom and Democracy that only an evil person would fight against it.  Or one could say that it’s always wrong for a non-state actor to engage in violence (a very convenient standard for the U.S., given that very few nations around the world could resist U.S. force without reliance on such unconventional means).  And one can recognize that most nations, not only the U.S., would apprehend those engaged in attacks against their troops.

But whatever one’s views are on those moral questions, in what conceivable sense can it be called “Terrorism” for a citizen of a country to fight against foreign invading troops by attacking purely military targets?  This is hardly the first case where we have condemned as Terrorists citizens of countries we invaded for fighting back against invading American troops.  The U.S. shipped numerous people to Guantanamo, branded them Terrorists, and put them in cages for years without charges for doing exactly that (indeed, the Obama administration prosecuted at Guantanamo the first child soldier tried for war crimes, Omar Khadr, for throwing a grenade at U.S. troops in Afghanistan).

I’ve often written that Terrorism is the most meaningless, and thus most manipulated, term in American political discourse.  But while it lacks any objective meaning, it does have a functional one.  It means:  anyone — especially of the Muslim religion and/or Arab nationality — who fights against the United States and its allies or tries to impede their will.  That’s what “Terrorism” is; that’s all it means.  And it’s just extraordinary how we’ve created what we call ”law” that is intended to do nothing other than justify all acts of American violence while delegitimizing, criminalizing, and converting into Terrorism any acts of resistance to that violence.

Just consider:  in American political discourse, it’s not remotely criminal that the U.S. attacked Iraq, spent 7 years destroying the country, and left at least 100,000 people dead.  To even suggest that American officials responsible for that attack should be held criminally liable is to marginalize oneself as a fringe and unSerious radical.  It’s not an idea that’s even heard, let alone accepted.  After all, all Good Patriotic Americans were horrified that an Iraqi citizen would so much as throw a shoe at George Bush; what did he do to deserve such treatment?  The U.S. is endowed with the inalienable right to commit violence against anyone it wants without any consequences of any kind.

By contrast, any Iraqi who fights back in any way against the U.S. invasion — even by fighting against exclusively military targets — is not only a criminal, but a Terrorist: one who should be shipped to Guantanamo.  And this notion is so engrained that no media account discussing this case would dare question the application of the “Terrorism” label to what they’ve done, even though it applies in no conceivable way.

One sees the same manipulative dynamic at play in how the U.S. freely tries to kill foreign leaders of countries it attacks.  The U.S. repeatedly tried to kill Saddam at the start of the Iraq War, and — contrary to Obama’s early pledges — has done the same to Gadaffi in Libya. NATO has explicitly declared Gadaffi to be a “legitimate target.”  But just imagine if an Iraqi had come to the U.S. and attempted to bomb the White House or kill George Bush, or if a Libyan (or Afghan, Pakistani, or Yemeni) did the same to Obama.  Would anyone in American political circles be allowed to suggest that this was a legitimate act of war?  Of course not:  screaming “Terrorism!” would be the only acceptable reaction.

It’s hardly unusual that an empire declares that its violence and aggression are inherently legitimate, and that any resistance to it — or the very same acts aimed at it — are inherently illegitimate.  That double-standard decree, more or less, is a defining feature of an empire.  But the nationalistic conceit that all of that is justified by coherent, consistent principles of “law” — or can be resolved by meaningful application of terms such as “Terrorism” – is really too ludicrous to endure.

UPDATE:  Bolstering the definition of Terrorism I provided above, Jonathan Schwarz several years ago documented how establishment political and media circles in the U.S. routinely referred to the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks in Lebanon as “Terrorism.”   As Schwarz wrote:

Whatever else you might say about those bombings, they weren’t terrorism, at least if words have any meaning. They were attacks on military targets.

But this goes really, really deep in U.S. political culture. The basic idea is: we are allowed to send our military anywhere on earth to do anything to anyone. And if someone tries to fight back—even by targeting our military when it’s stationed in their country and killing them—that is fundamentally AGAINST THE RULES.

Propping up that warped mindset is the central purpose of the term Terrorism.

Robert Spencer: Anthony Weiner is Most Likely a Secret Muslim

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2011 by loonwatch

JihadWatch‘s Robert Spencer, who has absolutely no academic qualifications that would make him so, has always tried to posit himself as a serious expert on Islam.  As time went by, Spencer’s hatred for Islam bubbled to the surface and he could no longer help himself from partaking in kooky conspiratorial talk.

Spencer sees a “secret Muslim” behind every corner.  We have him on record saying that he thinks President Obama may in fact be a secret Muslim.  Now, he’s saying that Anthony Weiner, a Jewish congressman who recently admitted to ethically suspect behavior, may in fact be a secret Muslim too.  (This, despite Anthony Weiner’s well-known pro-Israel, pro-Zionist, and anti-Palestinian views.)  Spencer tried, with little success, to walk back his statement.

So, President Obama is a secret Muslim, Anthony Weiner is a secret Muslim, and oh yeah, don’t forget that Spencer has linked Adolf Hitler and Nazism to Islam too!  Spencer, is the boogieman also Muslim?

After this, should anybody take Robert Spencer seriously?

Here’s Justin Elliott’s piece on Salon:

Anthony Weiner-converted-to-Islam meme spreads

A prominent right-wing Islam expert believes the Jewish congressman “most likely” converted in secret

BY JUSTIN ELLIOTT

This interview with Robert Spencer, the go-to Islam expert for the right wing, offers a taste of the worldview of the Shariah fear-mongering set:

Frontpage: I would like to talk to you today about Anthony Weiner’s marriage to his Muslim Brotherhood wife, Huma Abedin.

How is it exactly that a Muslim woman connected to the Muslim Brotherhood is married to a Jewish man? Something is not fitting here, right?

Spencer: Jamie, Islamic law prohibits a Muslim woman from marrying a non-Muslim man. A Muslim man may marry a non-Muslim woman, but not the other way around. This is yet another manifestation of Islamic supremacism: the idea is that a wife will become a member of her husband’s household, and the children will follow the religion of the father. Thus, Muslim men marrying non-Muslim women ultimately enriches the Islamic community, while the non-Muslim community must forever be made to diminish.

Consequently, when a non-Muslim man begins a relationship with an observant Muslim woman, he is usually pressured to convert to Islam, and such conversion is made a condition of the marriage. Of course, laws are often honored in the breach, and this is not always true. So while we know that Huma Abedin’s parents were devout and observant Muslims — indeed, her father was an imam — we don’t know what exactly is going on with her marriage to Anthony Weiner.

Certainly the most likely scenario is that Weiner did convert to Islam, as Abedin’s mother, a professor in Saudi Arabia, would almost certainly have insisted that he do so. Weiner has made no public statement of this conversion, but since it would almost certainly have cost him politically if he had announced it, this silence is not any indication that he didn’t actually convert.

However, it is also possible, given the recent scandal involving Weiner’s apparently frequent and sexually charged contact with other women, that the rumors that the Abedin/Weiner union is a political marriage of convenience are true. After all, in 2008, Hillary Clinton was running for president. There were widespread insinuations that she was involved in a romantic and/or sexual relationship with Abedin, her ever-present personal assistant. Those whisperings persisted into Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State. Abedin’s 2010 marriage to Weiner, at which Bill Clinton presided, put those rumors to rest.

In Islamic law, a Muslim must officiate a marriage ceremony; hence if Bill Clinton was the only one officiating, the marriage was not valid according to Islamic law. Huma Abedin would undoubtedly have known that. Thus, if no Muslim was officiating along with Clinton, Weiner would not have had to convert to Islam, as the whole thing was a charade from the outset, apparently entered into with the full awareness of all parties concerned.

Emphasis added.

This is the second time we’ve heard the baseless claim that the very Jewish Weiner might have converted to Islam when he married Huma Abedin.

The important point here is that Spencer is no fringe figure; he’s at the very center of the anti-Muslim movement in the United States. His bio describes the impressive access he has to both mainstream and right-leaning media sources:

His articles on Islam and other topics have appeared in the New York Post, the Washington Times, the Dallas Morning News, the UK’s Guardian, Canada’s National Post, Middle East Quarterly, WorldNet Daily, First Things, Insight in the News, National Review Online, and many other journals.

Spencer has discussed jihad, Islam, and terrorism at a workshop sponsored by the U.S. State Department and the German Foreign Ministry. He has also appeared on the BBC, ABC News, CNN, FoxNews’s O’Reilly Factor, the Sean Hannity Show, the Glenn Beck Show, Fox and Friends, and many other Fox programs, PBS, MSNBC, CNBC, C-Span, France24 and Croatia National Televison (HTV), as well as on numerous radio programs including Bill O’Reilly’s Radio Factor, The Laura Ingraham Show, Bill Bennett’s Morning in America, Michael Savage’s Savage Nation, The Sean Hannity Show, The Alan Colmes Show, The G. Gordon Liddy Show, The Neal Boortz Show, The Michael Medved Show, The Michael Reagan Show, The Rusty Humphries Show, The Larry Elder Show, The Barbara Simpson Show, Vatican Radio, and many others. He has been a featured speaker at Dartmouth College, Stanford University, New York University, Brown University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, Washington University of St. Louis, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, and many other colleges and universities.

I asked Spencer about his claim, and he emailed: “If [Weiner] converted, it was almost certainly for convenience, not out of conviction.” Spencer also amended his statement that Weiner “most likely” converted to “most immediately obvious”:

“‘Most likely’ is a bit overstated. That is the most immediately obvious scenario, given Abedin’s background and self-identification as a Muslim. It is, as is obvious from the rest of what I said, not the only possible scenario,” he wrote.

Justin Elliott is a Salon reporter. Reach him by email at jelliott@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @ElliottJustin More:Justin Elliott

Evolutionary Psychologist Says Black Women are Scientifically Ugly, Advocates Muslim Holocaust

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2011 by loonwatch

The internet is abuzz with this recent controversy: Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics, recently published an article on Psychology Today entitled “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?”  In this racist pseudo-scientific piece, Kanazawa tries to explain why black women are, on average, scientifically uglier than women of other races.  Public outrage forced Psychology Today to remove the article from its website.  (It is still available to view here.)  For a response to the article and why it’s a load of crock, check out Salon’s article here.  (Never does it cross Kanazawa’s mind that perhaps people often tend to be more attracted to people of their own ethnicity, and that therefore if one uses majority white men to rank women that this may influence the outcome?)

This is the same Kanazawa who earlier published articles against Muslims.  In an article entitled“What’s Wrong with Muslims” the crazy psychologist claims that there are “about 120 million ready suicide bombers worldwide”, or about 30% of the world’s Muslim population.  Is it not strange that this comment did not receive even close to the outrage that the “black women are ugly” claim?  He is effectively saying that 3 out of 10 Muslims you meet in your day to day life are soon-to-be suicide bombers.  [See Update I below for issues with the math.]  Imagine if someone said that 3 out of 10 black men are criminals, murderers, or rapists.  Surely, being a suicide terrorist bomber is worse than any of these.

It is strange that a “scientist” like Kanazawa would routinely rely on his own bigoted opinions as opposed to facts.  His writings are full of wild presumptions, devoid of any scientific method.  Even when he states objective “facts”, they are nothing but falsities.  For example, in the same article Kanazawa stupidly says that “most Muslims speak the same language – Arabic – but not all.”  This laughable claim exudes profound ignorance, and places his awareness of Islam and the Muslim world to less than the level of an eighth grader.  After all, isn’t it in junior high or high school that students study world history and find out that “only about 12 percent of Muslims worldwide are Arabs.” With blatant errors like this, one wonders what sort of standards Psychology Today has?

Not only is Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa a racist and bigot: he is a genocidal maniac.  In an article urging Americans to hate Muslims (“the enemy”), Kanazawa argues that it is justified to target civilians including women and children because our enemies are not nation-states:

We have always hated our enemies purely and intensely. They were “Japs,” they were “Krauts,” they were “Gooks.” And we didn’t think twice about dropping bombs on them, to kill them and their wives and children. (As many commentators have pointed out, the distinction between combatants and civilians does not make sense in World War III, and the Geneva Convention — an agreement among nations — is no longer applicable, because our enemies are not nation states.)

(Maybe you didn’t know but we’re actually in World War III already.)

Kanazawa then approves of nuking 35 Muslim countries and killing women and children:

Here’s a little thought experiment. Imagine that, on September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers came down, the President of the United States was not George W. Bush, but Ann Coulter. What would have happened then? On September 12, President Coulter would have ordered the US military forces to drop 35 nuclear bombs throughout the Middle East, killing all of our actual and potential enemy combatants, and their wives and children. On September 13, the war would have been over and won, without a single American life lost.

Yes, we need a woman in the White House, but not the one who’s running.

(That’s the last sentence in the entire article, in case you are wondering if I took that out of context.)

Naturally, Ann Coulter would want to nuke the most well-known cities in the Islamic world, so we could estimate about 10 million per city.  So, Kanazawa is approving of killing 350,000,000 Muslim men, women, and children–almost sixty times as many Jews that died in the Holocaust.  He is advocating for a Muslim Holocaust.

Public pressure forced Psychology Today to remove the “black women are ugly” article from its website, but to this day the articles labeling 3 out of 10 Muslims as “terrorists”–and advocating nuclear annihilation of Muslim cities–continue to grace their website with hardly a peep from the internet world.

Can one imagine the reaction if some prominent Muslim had advocated nuking 35 Israeli cities?  It would be social and career suicide to say such things against Jews (rightfully so) and against black people (again, rightfully so), yet one can say almost anything against Muslims with almost no repercussions.  Muslims are at the absolute bottom of the totem pole of social hierarchy.

Wasn’t it after all Bill O’Reilly who said many years ago that the most attractive women in the world are from Norway and Thailand and the least attractive are women in Muslim countries?  His career did not take any hit from this comment, unlike Kanazawi who is now considered an absolute clown.  Saying black women are ugly is unacceptable, but saying the same for Muslim women is perfectly fine–at least, it is worthy of serious discussion by Serious Pundits.

I’d absolutely hate to be a black woman who is Muslim.  Then I couldn’t attract the stunningly beautiful specimens, those gifts to womankind and Adonis incarnates: Bill O’Reilly and Satoshi Kanazawa.

Update I:

Readers have pointed out some problems with the math above: after rereading Kanazawa’s article, it seems that he meant 30% of 50% of the Muslim population (i.e. the men only)–not 30% of the totalMuslim population (as I originally thought he was saying)–are suicide bombers.  So, let me reword what I wrote above: Kanazawa is saying that 3 out of 10 Muslim men are suicide bombers, not Muslims overall.  This hardly mitigates the atrociousness of his claim.

Additionally, he uses an incorrectly low estimate for the total number of Muslims in the world, something that Islamophobes tend to do.

Lastly, I was off by an order of magnitude with regard to the 35 million number–it should be 350 million.  Having said that, one reader pointed out that there are only a few Muslim majority cities in the world that have a population of 10 million or more.  Therefore, let’s ballpark and say something like 150 million people–more than 25 times the number of people killed in the Holocaust.

As readers may have figured out, math is not my strong suit.  The last time I ever studied math was back in the first couple years of college, and it bored the living daylights out of me.  But in all seriousness, it hardly makes any difference to the point of the article whether the number is 35 million or 350 million or somewhere in between: it’s millions of innocent civilians we’re talking about and that’s the bottom line.