Archive for war on terror

It’s Only Terrorism When Muslims Do It

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 16, 2012 by loonwatch

After an extensive search, I could not locate the names or faces of the victims of the recent American terrorist attack.

On Sunday, a decorated U.S. military officer systematically (and intentionally) slaughtered sixteen Afghan Muslim civilians.   Nine children and three women were among the dead.  It was “a three-hour rampage [that] was allowed to happen”: the perpetrator “walk[ed] from house to house in the quiet of night opening fire on residents…In one house, he piled eleven bodies together and set them on fire…”

Imagine for a moment if the roles had been reversed, if it had been an Afghan Muslim man who set a house of eleven American civilians on fire, killing them inside.  Would there be any doubt that the U.S. media would be labeling this an act of terrorism and the suspect a terrorist?  Would we not be subjected to panel discussions by “terrorism experts” who would remind us of the dangers of Islamic radicalism and of “homegrown extremism”?

Yet, nary a soul in the establishment (the media or the government) has called the slaughter of sixteen Afghan Muslim civilians–of which nine were children and three were women–an act of “terrorism”.  Nobody has called the perpetrator a “terrorist”.  That label is strictly reserved for Muslims, and is completely off-limits to U.S. soldiers and Americans (unless they happen to be American Muslims, in which case they are “homegrown terrorists”).

What is the name of the American perpetrator and what is his religion?  Does anybody know?  In fact, the media has protected his name from disclosure and there is absolutely no mention of his faith whatsoever.  Could he be one of the many Christian extremist nuts in the U.S. military?  Where is the wild speculation by the American media about the looming threat of Christian radicalism and the danger it poses?

Had this been a Muslim, the headlines would blare “TERRORIST”.  Not only is this not the case with our American soldier, but amazingly, there are articles seeking to justify and mitigate his heinous act of terrorism.  The NY Daily News published this article:

Soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan civilians saw his buddy’s leg blown off the day before the massacre, his lawyer says

Suspect is highly decorated combat veteran who lost part of his foot in Iraq last year

The American staff sergeant suspected of gunning down 16 Afghan civilians saw his buddy’s leg blown off the day before the massacre, his lawyer said Thursday.

“We have been informed that at this small base that he was at, somebody was gravely injured . . . and that affected all the soldiers,” lawyer John Henry Browne said.

The New York Times reported–and other media outlets repeated this claim–that the soldier was “suffering from the stress of a fourth combat tour”.  Another explanation given was that the soldier was simply drunk.

If that were not enough, the soldier must have had a “brain injury” and “marital problems”; ABC News reported:

Soldier Held in Afghan Massacre Had Brain Injury, Marital Problems

The Army staff sergeant who allegedly went on a rampage and killed 16 Afghans as they slept in their homes had a traumatic brain injury at one point and had problems at home after his last deployment, officials told ABC News.

The perpetrator’s “buddy”, a military man and member of an occupying force, had his leg injured (how dare the Afghans fight back!), and somehow this explains why the perpetrator killed sixteen Afghan civilians?  Is it even conceivable that such justifications would have been raised had it been an Afghan Muslim who had killed sixteen Americans on the streets of New York?

Afghan Muslims see their children maimed, their entire families exterminated, and whole villages obliterated.  Yet, the U.S. media wouldn’t let any of this mitigate an act of terrorism committed by an Afghan Muslim against Americans.  On the other hand, “marital problems” explains why the American soldier did what he did.

Remember the Fort Hood Shooting?  A Muslim had killed thirteen U.S. soldiers, who were being deployed to join an occupying force in the Muslim world.  That was labeled an act of Terrorism (with a capital ‘T’), unanimously condemned as such in the mainstream media.  Yet, here we have an American soldier targeting and killing sixteen Afghan Muslim civilians, but I have yet to see the U.S. media labeling this an act of terrorism.

The rule is clear: it’s only terrorism when Muslims do it.  It’s certainly never terrorism when America does it.   As George Orwell put it: “Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them.”

When it’s a Muslim perpetrator, the media will interview the victims’ families and eulogize the dead, personalizing them by giving detailed accounts of their life stories, their dreams and aspirations.  Meanwhile, the Afghan dead are nameless and faceless.  The only images available of the attack are of angry Afghans burning U.S. flags in response–look how violent they are! 

If it’s a Muslim crime, the media will quickly link it to other Muslim individuals and organizations using six degrees of associations.  But when an American soldier does it, then the media reassures us, using official government responses as a cue, that this was a lone wolf or rogue soldier.  This, despite the fact that eyewitnesses say that it was a group of U.S. soldiers who did the deed, not just one man.  This, despite the fact that a nearby U.S. military base allowed the rampage to continue for three hours.

If it’s a Muslim crime, we are told that it fits a sustained pattern of Islamic terrorism.  But when the U.S. soldier killed sixteen, we’re told that it’s a one-off rogue attack.  This, even though “[t]he latest killing of civilians by an American soldier isn’t an outlier” at all.  Political commentator Nima Shirazi writes:

Such “isolated incidents” have been obliterating the lives of Afghan civilians for over a decade.  Between January and May 2010, members of a U.S. Army Stryker brigade, who called themselves the “Kill Team,” executed three Afghans — a 15-year-old boy, a mentally retarded man and a religious leader — and then staged combat situations to cover up the killings, snapped commemorative and ghastly celebratory photographs with the murdered corpses, and took fingers and teeth as trophies. Peggy Noonan might say that they thought barbarity was their right.

To date, 11 soldiers have been convicted in connection to the murders. Last year, one of the soldiers, Spc. Jeremy Morlock of Wasilla, Alaska, was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his role in the killings.  One of the leaked Kill Team photos shows “Morlock smiling as he holds a dead man up by the hair on his head.” At the beginning of his court-martial, Morlock bluntly told the judge, “The plan was to kill people, sir.”  He may be eligible for parole in less than seven years.

Then there was the online video showing four giddy U.S. Marines urinating on the bodies of three slain Afghan men while saying things like “Have a good day, buddy” and “Golden like a shower.”  One of the soldiers was the platoon’s commanding officer.  Just a few weeks later, American troops at Bagram Air Base deliberately incinerated numerous copies of the Quran and other religious texts, sparking mass riots across Afghanistan and leading to a rash of killings of U.S. and NATO soldiers by Afghans armed and trained by NATO.  Just two days ago, in the eastern Afghan province of Kapisa, “NATO helicopters apparently hunting Taliban insurgents instead fired on civilians, killing four and wounding three others.”

Shirazi pointed out elsewhere:

Just last month, on Feb. 8, 2012, a NATO airstrike killed several children in the eastern Kapinsa province of Afghanistan, with “young Afghans of varying ages” identified among the casualties.  Similar strikes were responsible for the deaths — no, murder — of nearly 200 civilians last year alone.  In less than 10 months from 2010 to early 2011, well over 1,500 Afghan civilians were killed by U.S. and NATO forces in night raids, a brutal occupation tactic that has been embraced — along with drone attacks — by President Barack Obama.  According to a September 2011 study by the Open Society Foundation, “An estimated 12 to 20 night raids now occur per night, resulting in thousands of detentions per year, many of whom are non-combatants.” These raids produce heavy civilian casualties and often target the wrong people.

The stories of American atrocities are numerous.  Furthermore, the death count from them is astronomically high: “a reasonable upper bound for Muslim fatalities [caused by the United States]…is well over one million.”  Meanwhile, Muslim terrorists have killed zero civilians in the United States in the entire last decade.  Far more Americans die of lightning and peanuts than Islamic terrorism.

The United States has killed “over one million” Muslims, but when an American soldier kills Muslim civilians, it’s a “one-off event” and does not at all reflect the outstanding work of the U.S. military.  Muslims “have killed zero civilians in the United States” but when a Muslim terrorist does something, then the crime fits a well-established pattern of Islamic radicalism.

This is War Propaganda 101.  The threat posed by one’s “enemy” is exaggerated to no end (even though you have a higher chance of dying from lightning or peanuts), whereas the atrocities committed by one’s own country are glossed over or denied altogether (you can’t possibly compare American military intervention to Islamic terrorism!).  (When it comes to the United States, “intervention” is the proper term, not “terrorism.”)

This double standard comes to mind with the recent reporting of a Moroccan man being arrested for allegedly plotting to bomb a synagogue in Italy.  The media used such titles: “Italian police arrest terrorism suspect.”  Compare that title to this one: “After U.S. soldier allegedly kills 16 civilians, Afghans voice rage and Taliban vows revenge.”  Could we ever expect to read a major news outlet using the title “After U.S. terrorist kills…”  It’s simply unthinkable.

Notice too how the latter title makes it sound as if it is the Afghans who are the violent ones: they are in a “rage” and “vow revenge”.  Americans respond with “steadfast resolve” and “demand justice”, but Afghan Muslims respond with “rage” and “vow revenge”.

American coverage of this most recent U.S. atrocity focused on: (a) finding justifications for the attack, and (b) the “violent” reaction of the victim population.  Little attention was given to the act itself, and nowhere was it called terrorism.  The Moroccan suspect killed zero people.  He is from the start a “terrorist”, whereas no body count–no atrocity (other than converting to Islam)–could earn the American soldier that title.

That zero civilians died from this latest (alleged) Islamic terrorist plot is unsurprising: in fact, the vast majority of Islamic terrorist plots are foiled or otherwise unsuccessful.  There have been very few deadly attacks of Islamic terrorism in the West. But, that doesn’t stop the media from talking about them endlessly or hyping their threat.  Meanwhile, American atrocities are very “successful” and result in casualties in the thousands or even hundreds of thousands yet they do not warrant much discussion at all.

We live in a truly Orwellian time: ants are portrayed as menacing beasts, while the elephants that routinely stomp all over them are made to look like their hapless victims.

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

Could The Use Of Flying Death Robots Be Hurting America’s Reputation Worldwide?

Posted in Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , on March 16, 2012 by loonwatch

 

Could The Use Of Flying Death Robots Be Hurting America’s Reputation Worldwide?

FBI Once Again Foils Its Own Islamic Terrorist Plot

Posted in Feature, Loon Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on February 18, 2012 by loonwatch
Amine El Khalifi

The New York Times recently published an article about how exaggerated the threat of Islamic terrorism is.  I pointed out in my own article that in fact the NYT article understated how truly overstated that threat is: in the last half decade, Muslim terrorists have killed a whopping zero civilians in the United States and Europe.

As the war drums beat against yet another Muslim country, the grave and looming threat of Islamic terrorism must be waved before the American public.  And so, Joe Sixpack must never be allowed to realize that he has a higher chance of being struck and killed by lightning–or being killed by a peanut–than being killed by those scary looking Moozlums.  Instead, the threat must be continually drummed up in order to justify America’s multiple wars in the Muslim world.

Enter the FBI.  This organization, tasked with stopping Islamic terrorism in the United States, will serve the purpose of reminding American citizens that they must be afraid–very, very afraid–of the dark threat of Muslim terrorists.

Spencer Ackerman and others have been diligently exposing and documenting the anti-Muslim bias of the FBI.  Not only does the FBI train using anti-Muslim materials, it has been spying on American Muslim communities and even training local police in the art of doing so.

Worse yet, the FBI has been engineering its own Islamic terror plots: the set-up has been repeated numerous times.  First, they find an impressionable young Muslim male angry at U.S. foreign policy, and then, using undercover FBI agents posing as Al-Qaeda, goad him into committing acts of terrorism, only to foil the ginned-up plot at the very last minute.  They then arrest the young Muslim would-be terrorist and announce to the nation that the FBI has successfully thwarted yet another Islamic terror plot.  What is largely ignored by the media is that the plot, from start to finish, was orchestrated by the FBI.

Glenn Greenwald spoke of this long ago in an article, The FBI successfully thwarts its own Terrorist plot:

The FBI is obviously quite pleased with itself over its arrest of a 19-year-old Somali-American, Mohamed Osman Mohamud, who — with months of encouragement, support and money from the FBI’s own undercover agents — allegedly attempted to detonate a bomb at a crowded Christmas event in Portland, Oregon.  Media accounts are almost uniformly trumpeting this event exactly as the FBI describes it.  Loyalists of both parties are doing the same, with Democratic Party commentators proclaiming that this proves how great and effective Democrats are at stopping The Evil Terrorists, while right-wing polemicists point to this arrest as yet more proof that those menacing Muslims sure are violent and dangerous.

[T]he FBI — as they’ve done many times in the past — found some very young, impressionable, disaffected, hapless, aimless, inept loner; created a plot it then persuaded/manipulated/entrapped him to join, essentially turning him into a Terrorist; and then patted itself on the back once it arrested him for having thwarted a “Terrorist plot” which, from start to finish, was entirely the FBI’s own concoction.  Having stopped a plot which it itself manufactured, the FBI then publicly touts — and an uncritical media amplifies — its “success” to the world, thus proving both that domestic Terrorism from Muslims is a serious threat and the Government’s vast surveillance powers — current and future new ones — are necessary.

Such terrorist plots also “prove” the need to bomb, invade, and occupy the Moozlums Over There–we are told that it’s the only way to Keep Us Safe  from Islamic terrorism.

The familiar pattern repeats itself today, as The Washington Post reports:

Federal authorities on Friday arrested a 29-year-old Moroccan man in an alleged plot to carry out a suicide bombing at the U.S. Capitol, the latest in a series of terrorism-related arrests resulting from undercover sting operations.

For more than a year, Amine El Khalifi, of Alexandria, considered attacking targets including a synagogue, an Alexandria building with military offices and a Washington restaurant frequented by military officials, authorities said. When arrested a few blocks from the Capitol around lunchtime on Friday, he was carrying what he believed to be a loaded automatic weapon and a suicide vest ready for detonation.

The gun and vest were provided not by al-Qaeda, as Khalifi had been told, but by undercover FBI agents who rendered them inoperable, authorities said.

ABC 7 notes in passing:

The public nor any members of Congress were ever in danger, police say. Capitol Police say they worked closely with the FBI throughout the entire operation, during which the suspect was closely monitored.

Even though “[t]he public nor any members of Congress were ever in danger”, this same terrorist plot will be used as another proof that Islamic terrorism is a grave danger to Americans.  Indeed, Assistant Attorney General Monaco concluded: “Today’s case underscores the continuing threat we face from homegrown violent extremists.”

Greenwald had written of the 19-year old Somali terrorist arrested in 2010:

Finally, there is, as usual, no discussion whatsoever in media accounts of motive.  There are several statements attributed to Mohamud by the Affidavit that should be repellent to any decent person, including complete apathy — even delight — at the prospect that this bomb would kill innocent people, including children.  What would drive a 19-year-old American citizen — living in the U.S. since the age of 3 — to that level of sociopathic indifference?   He explained it himself in several passages quoted by the FBI, and — if it weren’t for the virtual media blackout of this issue — this line of reasoning would be extremely familiar to Americans by now (para. 45):

Undercover FBI Agent:  You know there’s gonna be a lot of children there?

Mohamud:  Yeah, I know, that’s what I’m looking for.

Undercover FBI Agent:  For kids?

Mohamud:  No, just for, in general a huge mass that will, like for them you know to be attacked in their own element with their families celebrating the holidays.  And then for later to be saying, this was them for you to refrain from killing our children, women . . . . so when they hear all these families were killed in such a city, they’ll say you know what your actions, you know they will stop, you know. And it’s not fair that they should do that to people and not feeling it.

And here’s what he allegedly said in a video he made shortly before he thought he would be detonating the bomb (para. 80):

We hear the same exact thing over and over and over from accused Terrorists — that they are attempting to carry out plots in retaliation for past and ongoing American violence against Muslim civilians and to deter such future acts.  Here we find one of the great mysteries in American political culture:  that the U.S. Government dispatches its military all over the world — invading, occupying, and bombing multiple Muslim countries — torturing them, imprisoning them without charges, shooting them up at checkpoints, sending remote-controlled drones to explode their homes, imposing sanctions that starve hundreds of thousands of children to death  — and Americans are then baffled when some Muslims — an amazingly small percentage — harbor anger and vengeance toward them and want to return the violence.   And here we also find the greatest myth in American political discourse:  that engaging in all of that military aggression somehow constitutes Staying Safe and combating Terrorism — rather than doing more than any single other cause to provoke, sustain and fuel Terrorism.

Once again, our Muslim would-be terrorist’s motivations revolve around his anger over U.S. military actions in the Muslim world.  The ABC report notes–once again something that is only mentioned in passing (with very little no critical analysis):

In January 2011, he first met with an undercover agent and stated the “war on terror” was a “war on Muslims,” court records show.

Why on earth would Amine El Khalifi or another Muslim from that part of the world think that the U.S. is waging a “war on Muslims”?  It is so utterly baffling to me.  I mean, why would any Muslim think that?  Is it just because the U.S. is bombing, invading, and occupying multiple Muslim countries?  It couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that the U.S. and its stalwart ally Israel have bombed Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Iran, Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Tunisia, right?

Also of interest is the fact that Amine El Khalifi, at least initially, didn’t want to kill American civilians.  The ABC report says:

El Khalifi told undercover agents that he originally wanted to target a building in Alexandria that contained U.S. Military personal but later changed that plan because he found out the building had non-military civilians.

He then discussed killing U.S. generals and would research where they lived, according to court documents, that added he introduced the idea of targeting a restaurant in D.C. that military officials would frequent.

Were the undercover FBI agents responsible for convincing him to attack civilians instead?  In the end, El Khalifi’s target was the U.S. Capitol, federal employees he believed were responsible for ordering and orchestrating the “war on Muslims.”

It is interesting that even a Muslim would-be terrorist like Amine El Khalifi expressed a dislike for attacking American civilians, even though the United States bombs and kills Muslim civilians with impunity, without a second thought or national discussion, and on an order of magnitude that El Khalifi could never even imagine to have done himself.  Indeed, as Foreign Policy Magazine calculated:

[T]he United States has killed nearly 30 Muslims for every American lost. The real ratio is probably much higher, and a reasonable upper bound for Muslim fatalities (based mostly on higher estimates of “excess deaths” in Iraq due to the sanctions regime and the post-2003 occupation) is well over one million, equivalent to over 100 Muslim fatalities for every American lost.

It goes without saying that Amine El Khalifi’s actions are morally repugnant.  But, to put this into perspective: whereas El Khalife had said he “would be happy killing 30 people”, the United States has killed “well over one million” Muslim civilians.  As George Orwell wrote:

Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them. There is almost no kind of outrage—torture, imprisonment without trial, assassination, the bombing of civilians—which does not change its moral color when it is committed by ‘our’ side. The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.

*  *  *  *  *

The FBI needs to engineer and then thwart these terrorist threats because there is not enough real “Islamic terrorism” in the United States to justify the War on Terror.  Such FBI-generated terror scares enable not just the stripping away of civil liberties at home, but more importantly, serve to justify America’s wars abroad.  There is a need for Americans to fear being attacked by Muslims in order for them to go along with waging wars of aggression against various Muslim countries.

The media has been beating the drums of war against yet another Muslim country: Iran.  Glenn Greenwald has dubbed CNN’s Erin Burnett the “worst of the worst” in this regard.  (Greenwald’s article and his earlier piece on the subject are must reads.)  Burnett’s reporting on the issue is nothing short of war propaganda.  In it, she warns of “Iran’s threat to the United States in the United States–right here at home.”  Her report asks: “Is Iran planning an attack in America?”

Without any evidence whatsoever, Burnett looms: “[On a] much more real and frightening scale, Iran could attack the United States in a much more fearsome way…Iran’s next target could be here in the nation’s largest city.”  Egypt could attack the United States; South Africa could attack the United States; Canada could attack the United States; does that mean we bomb any of these countries?  Martians could attack the United States–let’s nuke Mars before they get a chance to do that!

American hawks are clearly looking for a smoking gun–an attack on U.S. soil that could justify launching a war against Iran.  There are so few real Muslim terrorists, as Prof. Charles Kurzman argues in his book The Missing Martyrs: Why There Are So Few Muslim Terrorists, that the FBI needs to generate Muslim terror plots.

There is another related point I’d like to address here: Erin Burnett had on her show the fervently anti-Muslim bigot Peter King, who led the congressional hearings against Muslims.  Rep. King warned of the grave Iranian threat and made the case for war against Iran.

From time to time, a few readers have complained that our site, which is designed to expose Islamophobia, has turned “too political”–that we talk about America’s foreign policy too much instead of simply documenting the Islamophobia of the nation’s leading anti-Muslim loons.  I take the full “blame” for this: the Erin Burnett segment shows how intrinsically connected Islamophobia and America’s wars are.  Peter King, a classic anti-Muslim loon, is on a “respectable” news channel–CNN–to discuss why we need to attack another Muslim country.  America’s war cheerleaders and Islamophobes work hand-in-hand.

There is an undeniable link between Islamophobia and American foreign policy: indeed, it is the latter which gave birth to the former, and the former that feeds the latter.  Quite simply, America’s wars are Islamophobic in and of themselves.  Documenting Islampohobia without mentioning the wars would be like talking about American racism against blacks in the 1800′s without ever mentioning the institution of slavery.

*  *  *  *  *

Lastly, I’d like to comment on the ever evolving threat of Islamic terrorism.  First, we were told that Afghanistan was the epicenter of Islamic terrorism.  Then, it was Iraq.  Then, Barack Obama reminded us that it was in fact Afghanistan after all.  Then, the “experts” started saying that “everyone knows that Pakistan is the center of Islamic terrorism.”  For some time, Syria and Yemen were also considered candidates for this title.  And remember when even many anti-war liberals would (ignorantly) argue that in reality it is Saudi Arabia that is the source of Islamic terror (because most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi)?  Now, it seems Iran is back at the top of the list.

The target of American belligerence keeps changing from one Muslim country to another–it’s a Madlibs with the blank reading “name a Muslim country”:  so far, fourteen different Muslim countries have been used to fill in the blank (Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Iran, Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Tunisia).  But why on earth would Amine El Khalifi or other Muslims come up with the absolutely crazy idea that America is at “war with Muslims”!?

Each time the threat changes and a new Muslim country is named the “center of Islamic terrorism” (everyone knows XYZ country is the real source of Islamic terrorism!), few stop to think or ask “wait, wasn’t it ABC country, not XYZ, that was the ‘epicenter of Islamic terrorism’?”  Most Americans acknowledge the War on Iraq was a “mistake” (that’s what it’s called when Western countries commit war crimes–these are “mistakes”–like how failing to stop at a stop sign for a full three seconds is a “mistake”–everyone makes mistakes!–hundreds of thousands of Muslim civilians die and this is called a “mistake”).  Even though the exact same process unfolds against Iran as it did against Iraq just a few short years ago, Americans continue to impress the world with their goldfish-like memories, with a majority of Americans supporting a military strike on Iran.

We will be told that it is all the media’s fault, and yes, the media has the lion’s share of the blame.  But, isn’t there something to be said of the jingoist, nativist, and belligerent attitude that is prevalent among us Americans in general?  One can convince our fellow Americans to bomb just about any country on earth–certainly a Muslim-sounding country.  And yet, at the same time, we are told how warlike those Moozlums over there are.

One thing is for certain: while we Americans continue to expand our knowledge of geography by targeting and bombing various Muslim countries –Muslims in the Muslim world are unified in their belief that it is the United States and Israel that are the greatest threats to their safety and world peace.  It is, I think, difficult to argue otherwise.

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

Amnesty International: Happy World Travel

Posted in Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , on December 15, 2011 by loonwatch

Amnesty International: Happy World Travel


Indefinite detention, torture, Islamophobia, Guantanamo, the “war on terror”. Ten years after 9/11 this remains the new normal that we live in, and there’s nothing funny about it.

But humor can be powerful — so we at Amnesty International USA invite you to check out our new short video “Happy World Travel”, featuring Dileep Rao (Avatar, Inception). What happens when a normal dude named Rob (or is it Raj?!) heads to a travel agency looking for a relaxing vacation? Will he be eligible for the “Not-so Geneva Package”? Could Rob’s story be yours if we continue to allow the US to flout the rule of law?

What can you do? Join us on January 11th in Washington, DC for a day of action to close Guantanamo. http://www.amnestyusa.org/jan11

And visit Amnesty International USA’s Security with Human Rights campaign to learn more about ending torture and indefinite detention, once and for all.
http://www.amnestyusa.org/security

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Terror-Free All American Muslim

Posted in Anti-Loons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2011 by loonwatch

Jon Stewart

Terror-Free All American Muslim

On tonight’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart took a look at the controversy surrounding TLC’s new show, All American Muslim, and the Tampa-based group that hates it. Because the Muslims depicted in the show aren’t shown to be terrorists bent on destroying America, the Florida Family Association can’t abide it. Like most zealots, all they want is their stereotypes reinforced. Is it too much to ask for Bravo to whip up a season of the The Real Martyrs of Jalalabad? Sheesh.

http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:cms:video:thedailyshow.com:404235

The Daily Show
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Reply to Prof. Juan Cole

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 14, 2011 by loonwatch

Prof. Juan Cole was kind enough to link to my article Eye-Opening Graphic: Map of Muslim Countries that the U.S. and Israel Have Bombed.

He reproduced this image I created:

(Note: Image quality has improved, thanks to a reader named Mohamed S.)

However, he wrote:

(I generally agree, but there are a couple of problems here, see below)

Prof. Cole’s first problem with my article was with regard to shading Iran red (red = countries the U.S. or Israel have bombed):

I may be having a senior moment, but I actually don’t think the US has bombed Iran. It shot down an Iranian civilian air liner in 1988 and has backed the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK) or People’s Jihadis to blow things up in Iran. It also gave tactical support to Saddam Hussein’s military in the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988, and so bombed Iran by proxy. But I can’t remember any direct US military strike on the country.

In my article, I explained why I shaded Iran red.  I wrote:

Under Barack Obama, the U.S. is currently bombing AfghanistanIraqPakistanYemenSomalia, and Libya.  According to some reports (see here and here), we can add Iran to this ever-expanding list.

There have been a series of explosions in Iran which many believe to be linked to America and/or Israel.  For example:

Iranian nuclear scientist killed in bomb attack

Bomb attacks have killed a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist and wounded another in Tehran, state TV reported today.

To me, a bomb is a bomb is a bomb–no matter how it is delivered.

Just today Haaretz is reporting:

Seven killed in explosion at Iranian steel mill linked with nuclear program

Explosion follows two blasts that occurred in Iran in recent weeks at sites linked to Tehran’s nuclear program.

At least seven people were killed Sunday night in an explosion at a steel mill in the Iranian city of Yazd. Foreign nationals, possibly North Korean nuclear arms experts, are believed to be among the dead.

The explosion follows two blasts that occurred in Iran in recent weeks at sites linked to Tehran’s nuclear program…

The explosions in the past few months join a series of assassination attempts on Iranian nuclear scientists over the past two years…

The Los Angeles Times writes:

Mysterious blasts, slayings suggest covert efforts in Iran

Attacks targeting nuclear scientists and sites lead some observers to believe that the U.S. and Israel are trying to derail Iran’s programs…

However, many former U.S. intelligence officials and Iran experts believe that the explosion — the most destructive of at least two dozen unexplained blasts in the last two years — was part of a covert effort by the U.S., Israel and others to disable Iran’s nuclear and missile programs. The goal, the experts say, is to derail what those nations fear is Iran’s quest for nuclear weapons capability and to stave off an Israeli or U.S. airstrike to eliminate or lessen the threat.

Therefore, I did not feel it unreasonable to include Iran in countries that America/Israel have bombed, although I did preface it with “[a]ccording to some experts…”

Then, Prof. Cole wrote:

Also, the US has had no base in Uzbekistan since 2005.

In my article, I hyperlinked to this BBC News article:

US troops returning to Uzbek base

Uzbekistan is once again allowing the US to use a base in the south of the country for operations in Afghanistan…

US troops were evicted from Uzbekistan in 2005 after the US condemned it for shooting protesters in Andijan city.

However, Prof. Cole is correct: these U.S. troops are using an Uzbek, not American, base.  This is something I should have pointed out and is an error on my part for which I thank Prof. Cole for pointing out.

Nonetheless, this error makes little substantive difference: there is still a U.S. military presence in that country, regardless of if they are stationed on a U.S. base, an Uzbek one, a farm house, or a dog house.

In retrospect, perhaps I should have entitled the image “Countries the U.S. and Israel Have Bombed and Have Troops Stationed in,” (which doesn’t flow from the tongue as easily).

Then, Prof. Cole wrote:

I also questioned Turkmenistan but found this.

In my article, I linked to this.

Lastly, Prof. Cole said:

Finally, there is a logical fallacy because having a US base in a country is the result of a bilateral agreement and it isn’t always unpopular, even at the level of the person on the street. In the Cold War, Turks were very happy to have the US presence to deter the Soviets.

I humbly disagree that this was “a logical fallacy” on my part.  I never denied that there was a substantial difference between a military base resulting from “a bilateral agreement” and one resulting from a military occupation.

However, there is also a difference between (say) “a bilateral agreement” with the U.K. on the one hand and Pakistan on the other.  The former is treated as an ally, whereas the latter is treated as a vassal state.  The U.S. strong-armed the Pakistani leadership into acquiescing to American demands (do what we want or else “we will bomb you back to the Stone Age”) even though it was clearly not in their national interest to do so (well, not being bombed back to the Stone Age made it their national interest).

This leads to the second issue: these “bilateral agreements” are often highly unpopular among the people of such countries.  As a democratic country, shouldn’t we care about the will of the people?  Or do we follow a long tradition of colonialism and make deals with the elite crony leadership that has ingratiated itself to us at the expense of their people?

Prof. Cole goes on to argue that U.S. military bases arranged through bilateral agreements aren’t “always unpopular, even at the level of the person on the street.”  He gives the example of Turkey in the Cold War.  However, there is a greater issue at stake here: even if a U.S. military base is popular in one particular country, we must consider its popularity in neighboring countries and the region overall.  If the Soviet Union had created a military base in Cuba (which the Cubans may have very much liked), would we have liked it?  Or would we have (rightfully) considered it threatening?

So, even if a U.S. base in (say) Saudi Arabia was arranged through “bilateral agreement” and was (let’s pretend) popular with the Saudi people, this would still be problematic since its presence is threatening to other countries in the region, whose people view the United States and Israel as the two greatest threats to their safety.

The bottom line is that the overwhelming military presence of the United States in the Greater Middle East is responsible for creating resentment in those people who are either living in lands we occupy, station our troops in, or whom we surround.

*  *  *  *  *

I should mention that I hold Prof. Juan Cole in very high regard.  He is a respected expert in the field, and I issue my response only very timidly.  Furthermore, I welcome the very real possibility that I am mistaken.

Update I:

Prof. Cole just added:

Still, that there are a lot of resentments because of knee-jerk US backing (since the late 1960s) for Israeli hawks and because of the way the US and its ally have sought hegemony in the region, so the mapmaker has a point.

I agree, but would just add that it adds resentment not just in people who live in Turkey but those who live in the region in general.

Lastly, I should point out that I doubt Turks still view the U.S. bases in their country positively, based on the fact that a plurality of Turks view America as the greatest threat to their national security (not surprisingly, Israel comes in at number 2).

Update II:

An Informed Comment reader named Shannon pointed out that in fact the United States bombed Iran in 1988 during Operating Praying Mantis, an act that “cannot be justified” according to the International Court of Justice.

Eye-Opening Graphic: Map of Muslim Countries that the U.S. and Israel Have Bombed

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

(updated – see below)

Pro-Israel propagandist Jeffrey Goldberg made an inadvertent but profound admission the other day when he said: “[T]he U.S. have been waging a three-decade war for domination of the Middle East.”

This “three-decade war for domination of the Middle East” becomes apparent when we consider how many Muslim countries the peace-loving United States and her “stalwart ally” Israel have bombed:

During Bill Clinton’s presidency, the U.S. bombed Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sudan.

In the time of George Bush, the U.S. bombed Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, and Somalia.

Under Barack Obama, the U.S. is currently bombing Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya.  According to some reports (see here and here), we can add Iran to this ever-expanding list. [Update: An Informed Comment reader named Shannon pointed out that in fact the United States bombed Iran in 1988 during Operating Praying Mantis, an act that “cannot be justified” according to the International Court of Justice.]

Thanks to American arms and funding, our “stalwart ally” Israel has bombed every single one of its neighbors, including Palestine, LebanonSyria, Jordan, and Egypt.  Israel has also bombed Tunisia and Iraq (how many times can Americans and Israelis bomb this country?).

The total number of Muslim countries that America and Israel have bombed comes to fourteen: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Iran, Sudan, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, and Tunisia.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has military bases in several countries in the Greater Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Turkey, Pakistan, UAE, Yemen, Iraq,  AfghanistanDjiboutiKyrgyzstan, SomaliaEthiopiaTurkmenistanUzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Chad. The U.S. also used to have a base in Eritrea and demanded another one in 2010. [Update: There is a minor error here pointed out to me by Prof. Juan Cole: the U.S. troops stationed in Uzbekistan are using an Uzbek, not American, base.  However, this makes little substantive difference: there is still a U.S. military presence in that country, which was my point.]

Here’s what that looks like on a map of the Greater Middle East:

(Note: Image quality improved thanks to a reader named Mohamed S.)

I wonder where those silly Muslims come up with the conspiratorial, absolutely irrational idea that the U.S. is waging war against the Muslim world?

If you haven’t already seen this video, I strongly suggest you watch it:

With seven active wars in seven different Muslim countries, it is quite an amazing thing that Americans can have the audacity to ask: “why are Muslims so violent and warlike?”

But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  The New York Times reports that President Barack Obama “widened” the war, which is now being waged across “two continents” in “roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics,” using “robotic drones and commando teams” as well as “contractors” and “local operatives.”

Even more worrisome, the Washington Post reports that America’s “secret wars” are waged by “Special Operations forces” in “75 countries” (and “that number will likely reach 120″); in other words, the United States will have engaged in military acts in over 60% of the world’s nation-states.  After all of this, Americans will turn around and ask: “why are Muslims so violent and warlike?”

Could it possibly be more obvious that the War on Terror is just a pretext for global domination?

*  *  *  *  *

Every four years, Americans get the illusion of choice: the choice between Democrat and Republican.  In terms of foreign policy, the difference is like the difference between Coke and Pepsi.  In the last election, John McCain sang a variation of the famous Beach Boys song “Barbara Ann,” changing the lyrics to “bomb, bomb, bomb Iran!”; meanwhile, Barack Obama hinted at expanding the war to Pakistan.  The American voter was given the choice not between war and peace, but between war against Iran or war against Pakistan.

In the national discourse, there exists a bipartisan consensus on the need for perpetual war: both candidates agreed on the need to expand the War on of Terror and attack more Muslim countries.  There was no confusion about whether or not to bomb, invade, and occupy–the question was only where to do this.  If the Muslim world were imagined to be a turkey, the question was then only whether to begin munching on the leg first or to start with the breast.

President Barack Obama may have disagreed with his predecessor’s tactics, but he agreed with the Bush/Cheney world view.  Obama may have thought we could move around troops here and there–let’s move some of these troops from Iraq to Afghanistan–but he did not disagree with the basic premise, overall methods, and goals of the Bush/Cheney War on of Terror.

Interestingly, Obama was considered to be “the peace candidate”; even more absurd of course was that he ended up winning the Noble Peace Prize.  While it is true that the Democratic Obama has tended to use less hawkish language, in terms of actions Obama has a worse record than Bush: Obama has expanded the War on of Terror, both in terms of covert and overt wars.

Why did a “liberal” Democrat (Barack Obama) end up being more warlike than a “hawkish” Republican (George Bush)?  There is of course the obvious explanation of war inertia.  But aside from this, there must be something deeper, which is apparent if we look at the situation between what were historically the two large parties in Israel.

Western media (see Time Magazine, for example), portrays the Labor Party as “dovish” and Likud as “hawkish”.  Certainly, in terms of rhetoric this is true.  But, is it really true?  According to experts in the field–such as Prof. Noam Chomsky and Dr. Norman Finkelstein–Labor has had a far worse track record toward Palestinians than the Likud.  Labor and Likud play good cop, bad cop toward Palestinians–or rather bad cop, badder cop.  But while the two parties disagree on rhetoric and tactics, they share similar overall goals.

The same is the case with Democrats and Republicans.  The Democrats use softer rhetoric, whereas the Republicans continually push the national discourse (the “center”) rightward.  But, because a Democratic president must counter the accusation that he is “weak” on matters of “defense” (Orwell: offense is defense), he must be Strong and Tough against Terrorism.  Effectively this means that his war policy becomes virtually indistinguishable from that of the political right.

Furthermore, President Barack Obama has done something that no Republican could do: he has brought bipartisan consensus to the state of perpetual and global war.  During the reign of George Bush, prominent liberal progressives criticized his warlike policies.  In fact, this was one of the motivating factors behind electing Obama, who would bring “Change.”  Yet, when Obama brought more of the same, most liberal progressives fell silent, a hypocrisy that did not go unnoticed by conservatives.

It took a “liberal” Democrat to expand the War on of Terror and give it bipartisan consensus, just as it took a conservative Republican (Richard Nixon) to make peace with Communist China.

Under the two-party system, it really does not matter which side wins.  A Republican candidate might sound more warlike than a Democrat, but once in office, he softens his position somewhat due to Democratic opposition (even though most of the Democrats won’t vote against war resolutions).  Meanwhile, a Democrat president must prove that he is Strong and Tough against Terrorism, so he hardens his position.  In the end, Democratic and Republican presidents are moved to the political “center” (which keeps getting pushed ever more to the right), so that the two are virtually indistinguishable from each other.  Perhaps Barack Obama was onto something when he said:

There’s not a liberal America or a conservative America; there’s the United States of America.

It is true: America’s politicians are united in their endorsement of perpetual and global war.

The United States has a long history of bipartisan consensus when it comes to waging wars of aggression.  In 1846, the country was divided between the hawkish Democratic party led by President James K. Polk and the supposedly dovish Whig party.  Polk’s administration saber-rattled against Mexico in order to justify invading and occupying their land.  Meanwhile, “[t]he Whig party was presumably against the war,” but “they were not so powerfully against the military action that they would stop it by denying men and money for the operation” (p.153 of Prof. Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States). In fact, the “Whigs joined Democrats in voting overwhelmingly for the war resolution, 174 to 14.”  They did so, because “[t]hey did not want to risk the accusation that they were putting American soldiers in peril by depriving them of the materials necessary to fight.”  The only dissenters were “a small group of antislavery Whigs, or a ‘little knot of ultraists,’ as one Massachusetts Congressman who voted for the war measure put it.”  Perhaps among them was Ron Paul’s great grandfather.

The measure passed the Congress (174 to 14) and the Senate (40 to 2), “Whigs joining Democrats.”  The Whigs “could only harry the administration with a barrage of verbiage while voting for every appropriation which the military campaigns required.”  In any case, “the United States would be giving the blessings of liberty and democracy” to the Mexicans.  Any of this sound familiar?

Flash forward to today and we see the establishment left consistently supporting America’s wars of aggression.  Even while these avowed liberals criticize right-wingers for warmongering against Iran, they themselves often saber-rattle against Pakistan and even Saudi Arabia.  The right thinks we’re doing something great in Iraq and wants to expand the war to Iran (which we may already have done).  Meanwhile, the left thinks we were right to bomb Afghanistan and that we should expand the war to Pakistan (which we’ve already done).  Neither left or right opposes foreign wars altogether.  The difference is only with regard to the names of the countries we bomb, which doesn’t really matter since the truth is that we are bombing all of them now.

This is because both left and right agree with the Supreme Islamophobic Myth: that Islam (or radical Islam) is the greatest threat to world peace.  This inevitably leads to the central tenet of Islamophobia, which is to endorse the Supreme Islamophobic Crime: bombing, invading, and occupying Muslim lands.

Peace can only be attained when one is disabused of this mother of nationalistic myths.  This can only be done by realizing that it is the United States that is the greatest threat to peace in the region (look at the map!).  Consider that the U.S. has bombed at least a dozen Muslim countries in recent history, whereas zero Muslim countries have bombed the U.S.  If “wars of aggression” constitute “the supreme international crime”–as decided during the Nuremberg Trials–then what does it say about the situation when America has initiated multiple wars of aggression against the Muslim world whereas no single Muslim country has done so against the United States?

No Muslim country has attacked us because the risks of doing so are far too great; it would mean almost certain destruction.  This is why, even though the map of the Middle East in the image above looks like it does, no Muslim country has the audacity to retaliate.  Meanwhile, the U.S.–as the world’s only superpower–can attack multiple smaller countries without fear of significant retaliation to the American heartland.  Therefore, it only makes sense for people of conscience, especially Americans, to be highly critical of U.S. foreign policy.

*  *  *  *  *

Something else troubling I’ve noticed about the national discourse is how even those opposed to war (or at least one set of wars) will frame their opposition in financial terms.  The primary argument to convince Americans against war seems not to be the fact that war is immoral, that bombing countries and killing so many countless civilians is morally repugnant, but rather that it’s just too costly to do so.  It’s our wallets, not our soul, that is at stake.

Another argument that takes precedence over the moral argument includes the idea that too many of our troops are dying (victim inversion); alternatively, it is argued (rightfully) that such wars increase the likelihood of terrorism against us (another example of victim inversion).

During the Nuremberg Trials, it was decided that initiating a war of aggression constituted “the supreme international crime”:

To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.

Of what moral character would you consider a Nazi official if he argued against Hitler’s wars on the basis of “it will cost too much German tax payer money” or “it will kill too many German soldiers” or “it may result in retaliation against Germany?” (Refer to Glenn Greenwald’s article on Godwin’s law.)

Would it not be better to use as one’s central argument against America’s wars that it is morally repugnant to bomb and kill people?

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

Update I:

Prof. Juan Cole was kind enough to reproduce the image and link to our article.  He had some minor issues with the map, to which I responded here.