Friday, December 26, 2008

The shoes we longed for - Pakistan must not succumb to blackmail - 9/11 keeps repeating - Demands for war crimes prosecutions growing

The shoes we longed for

Translation: IRAQ

The young journalist who took on Bush has become a unifying Iraqi symbol, a national hero

Sami Ramadani

Within a few unlikely seconds, a pair of size 10 shoes have become the most destructive weapon the people of Iraq have managed to throw at the occupying powers, after nearly six years of occupation and formidable resistance. One Iraqi writer called the shoes, hurled by a journalist at George Bush, "Iraq's weapon of comprehensive destruction".

While the uprisings of Falluja, Najaf, Basra and Baghdad against the occupation will always remain as landmarks of a people resisting occupation, these incredible seconds have united Iraqis in the most dramatic fashion.

Contrary to most media coverage, the 28-year-old TV reporter Muntadhar al-Zaidi made history not by merely throwing a pair of shoes, the highest expression of insult in Iraqi culture, at the US president, but by what he said while doing so and as he was smothered by US and Iraqi security men. He groaned as they dragged him out of the press conference. They succeeded in silencing him - and according to his brother he was beaten in custody - but he had already said enough to shake the occupation and Nouri al-Maliki's Green Zone regime to their foundations.

Strip the words away, and his and the Iraqi people's cry of deep pain, anger and defiance would amount to no more than a shoe-throwing insult. But the words were heard. "This is the farewell kiss, you dog," he shouted as he threw the first shoe. The crucial line followed the second shoe: "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq." Once those words were heard, the impact of a pair of shoes became electrifying. A young journalist has put aside the demands of his profession, preferring to act as the loudest cry of his long-suffering people. If one considers the torture and killings in Iraqi and US jails that Muntadhar often mentioned in his reports for al-Baghdadia satellite TV station, he was certainly aware he risked being badly hurt.

As the Iraqi and Arab satellite stations switched from the live press conference to reporting reaction to the event, the stunned presenters and reporters were swept away by popular expressions of joy in the streets, from Baghdad to Gaza to Casablanca. TV stations and media websites were inundated with messages of adulation. The instant reply to any criticism of "insulting a guest" was: "Bush is a mass murderer and a war criminal who sneaked into Baghdad. He killed a million Iraqis. He burned the country down."

Expressions of support and demands for Muntadhar's immediate release have spread from Najaf and Falluja to Baghdad, and from Mosul in the north to Basra in the south. An impressive show of anti-occupation unity is developing fast, after being weakened by the sectarian forces that the occupation itself has strengthened and nourished, as Muntadhar himself used to stress.

No one asked after Muntadhar's religion or sect, but they all loved his message. Indeed, I have yet to come across an Iraqi media outlet or website that pronounced on his religion, sect or ethnicity. The first I heard of his "sect" was through US and British media.

The reality is that Muntadhar is a secular socialist whose hero happens to be Che Guevara. He became a prominent leftwing student leader immediately after the occupation, while at Baghdad University's media college. He reported for al-Baghdadia on the poor and downtrodden victims of the US war. He was first on the scene in Sadr City and wherever people suffered violence or severe deprivation. He not only followed US Apache helicopters' trails of death and destruction, but he was also among the first to report every "sectarian" atrocity and the bombing of popular market places. He let the victims talk first.

It was effective journalism, reporting that the victims of violence themselves accused the US-led occupation of being behind all the carnage. He was a voice that could not be silenced, despite being kidnapped by a gang and arrested by US and regime forces.

His passion for the war's victims and his staunchly anti-occupation message endeared him to al-Baghdadia viewers. And after sending Bush out of Iraq in ignominy he has become a formidable national hero. The orphan who was brought up by his aunt, and whose name means the longed or awaited for, has become a powerful unifying symbol of defiance, and is being adopted by countless Iraqis as "our dearest son".

• Sami Ramadani, a political exile from Saddam's regime, is a senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University

Pakistan must not succumb to blackmail 

Dr Mubashir Hasan 

Friday December 19, 2008 

The threat of aggression from India, if any, should be faced by Pakistan as a sovereign, self-respecting and independent nation and not as one that can be scared, blackmailed or made to act under pressure.  

I am certain that neither India nor the US want war between India and Pakistan. War will mean ruin for the two countries and defeat of USA in Afghanistan. The perpetrators of Bombay crime must be punished wherever they may be. Pakistan and India should leave no stone unturned to discover the culprits and bring them to trial. At the same time, we must not confuse terrorists with non-terrorists. 

In December 1987, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution condemning the crime of terrorism in strongest terms, calling on all states to work together to eradicate the plague. The resolution was passed by 153 votes to two with one abstention. Pakistan and India voted for it and only the USA and Israel voted against it.  

The resolution stated inter-alia:  "Nothing in the present resolution could in any way prejudice the right to self-determination, freedom and independence, as derived from the charter of UN, of peoples forcibly deprived of that right ….. particularly peoples under colonial and racist regimes and foreign occupation or other forms of colonial domination, nor, in accordance with principle of Charter and in conformity with the above-mentioned Declaration, the right of these peoples to struggle to this end and to seek and receive support".  

It is unfortunate that this Government of Pakistan did not avail the opportunity to clarify Pakistan's position on the issue at the recent session of the Security Council. The Council meeting presented a unique platform where Pakistan's case could have been presented in a vigorous way not only to educate the world but also to galvanise the nation.  

We must not forget that in 1966, Pakistan Foreign Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, speaking for only about 16 minutes told the world in no uncertain terms that Pakistan will not submit before any international pressure under any circumstances.  As we all know the UN speech of Z.A Bhutto galvanised the Pakistani nation as never before. Our performance, if any, this time has been miserable.  

The question of retreating before any pressure from the unending visits of self-invited American dignitaries to Pakistan does not arise. We should listen to them with courtesy and patience and firmly state our stance.  Any one suspected of guilt in the Bombay massacre should be tried and dealt with under Pakistani law as a matter of routine.  Those deliberately sabotaging Pakistan's relations with a foreign country should also come under the purview of law.   

Finally, the people of Pakistan and its ruling elite should realise that Pakistan is not a small country nor is it a weak nation unable to defend itself.  

Pakistan has a large area and a large population. It came into being as a result of the strength of its peoples who are ever prepared to make any and all sacrifices to defend it.  

We are not a poor nation.  We are a net exporter of capital for the last 30 years.  Every year, Pakistan's ruling elite, in its own selfish and against the interests of the country has exported billions of dollars abroad by entering into economic relations with imperial countries which have resulted in our unceasing impoverishment. Pakistan stands in the row of those nations who produce surplus wealth but their elites betray the cause of the country, enrich themselves and make the poor poorer.  

Imagine, we will soon be in debt of around $50 billion, but we should realise that nobody lends money to a poor man or a poor nation. Nations lend to Pakistan believing it be a fowl that lays golden eggs. The wealthy people of Pakistan have amassed billions of dollars in cash and assets outside the country. Where did that money come from? It was produced by the working people of Pakistan which was looted and taken away by our elites. 

The carnage at Bombay was a heinous crime, reprehensible and condemnable on all counts. Following the carnage, Indians for domestic reasons, and the USA for its strategic objectives have joined hands to pressure Pakistan's weak minded rulers.  Not withstanding the internal weaknesses, Pakistan can take a stand and hold its own even against the combine of USA with other nations.   

All in all, Pakistan should remain vigilant in its defence. There is hardly any chance of war breaking out, but should one come, it should be fought bravely. The Government and media should refrain from spreading fear among the people.

9/11 keeps repeating


Dr. G.H Ayub

The incident of 9/11 was an unnerving and shocking experience for Americans. They couldn't believe their mainland would be attacked in such a sophisticated way, leaving many theory-generating questions. Prominent among them was the conspiracy theory- a word as allergic to a westerner as paper mulberry flowers are to a common Islamabad dweller. There was a knee jerk reaction by the American public and rightly so. The Bush government was quick to respond and pointed fingers at a group headed by OBL with a past record of doing similar acts. Americans accepted the notion and the government took advantage of their sentiments enforcing semi draconian laws, which were unthinkable in the US. 9/11 became a symbol of change for other civilized countries even if it meant taking uncivilized back steps such as compromising on civil liberties.

The incident divided global society into Muslim and non-Muslim groups; and the Muslim Ummah into traditionalists and spiritualists. Alquaeda headed by OBL became the symbol of traditionalist theology with strong backing from the influential Wahabi Saudis. They were well organized politically and had long been working on spreading Wahabism by methodically taking over mosques and opening Madaris all over the world. Spiritualists, on other hand, had no political aims. They remained indistinct politically and inactive socially. We saw the results; the world turned into an inferno claiming innocent lives. Which group in US became the beneficiary is any body's guess, but in the Muslim world, it provoked the Sufis to come out of their slumber, get activated as a political force, and counter Muslim fanatics to show the world the other face of Islam-the spiritual face.

Meanwhile, the likes of 9/11 kept repeating in other parts of the world. It showed its ugly face in London paralyzing the well-organized transport system. The damage was vast but the psychological response of the traumatized public was not as extreme as was seen in the 9/11 of the US. The mature British public responded prudently with logic dominating their emotions. Their anger was distributed between the one against Muslims and the incumbent government of Mr. Blair and his pro-American policies. In Spain, a similar episode cost the governing party elections and America lost its coalition partner in Iraq. In Pakistan, the Marriot Hotel blast was labeled as 9/11 of the country. Initially, the government pointed fingers in the direction of the Taliban in Waziristan exonerating RAW in India and Alquaeda in Afghanistan. The public and the media acted sensibly accentuating the tragedy without losing a grip on their emotions. America stood by Pakistan in condemning the blast offering FBI support.

Then, India was added in the loop and 9/11 was born on November 26th 2008. The carnage hit Indians in a big way. Without a second thought Pakistan became the target. The government, the public and the media joined hands and started prosecuting Pakistan, ISI and rogue elements in the country. To make things worse, the president and the prime minister of Pakistan gave statements, which could only make the Indian case stronger. America was quick to respond by sending Ms Rice to the country showing its solidarity. She, at the end of her tour, urged (not requested) Pakistan to do more. If she did not fear exposing American forces to the Taliban on the western border of Pakistan, she might as well have accused Pakistan of the blasts. The footage of her expressionless naked gaze in response to the wide smile of President Zardari was nothing less than that in body language.

In the case of the original 9/11, America accused OBL and Alqueda within 24 hours of the attack because they had been following the group's anti-American activities for decades.  In contrast, according to news report, the top brass of RAW was in Islamabad just a few weeks earlier sharing intelligence with ISI. In the initial days of the American 9/11, OBL refused to take the blame; while president Zardari was 'bold' enough to accept the blame on behalf of 'stateless actors' within Pakistan. Similarly, Mr Gilani's response to his Indian counterpart for sending ISI chief to India should have been taken as confusing rather than accepting the blame. So, how could India blame Pakistan or ISI within a few hours of the carnage is beyond any comprehension. To make the situation more confusing, an apparent hoax call by the foreign minister of India was put through to president Zardari on 28th threatening Pakistan with dire consequences. This could only mean a nuclear threat. In panic, the president called the foreign minister of Pakistan back from India on a special plane. Why was the call put through to the president and why did the president accept the call is beyond any diplomatic wisdom and skill-related grasp. According to reliable sources once a similar call by the foreign secretary of America was put to the then Prime Minister Mr. Nawaz Sharif. The PM did not accept it directing his subordinates to politely direct the call to the foreign minister. 

The small group of 10-15 that took part in the carnage must have had local backing and were trained by a group with; organizational capabilities; training facilities; equipping powers; and funding potentials. The assumption is based on the way they executed the given task with precise accuracy. Such a job could only be carried out by any organization with capabilities mentioned above. The question is which organisation could have done it;   

  1. Alquaeda; Kashmir has been the core foreign policy of Pakistan and pivotal issue between Pakistan and India. Alquaeda, up until recently (that too by Aiman Alzawahiry and not Osama), has never publicly supported the Kashmir cause. It means the policies of Pakistan and Alquaeda diversify in principle on this issue. So, Alquaeda can become the major beneficiary, as in the event of war, Pak army will be withdrawn from Afghan border, giving it breathing space to regroup; a position most damaging to the US interests. 
  2.  Mossad; to pitch India against Pakistan as a short-term strategy by putting pressure on Obama as he is getting ready to take oath in the next few weeks. One should remember that Obama publicly talked about tackling the Kashmir issue. In the short term, Mossad's interests equate to the interests of RAW and CIA vis-à-vis nuclear Pakistan.
  3. CIA; to bring India and America closer and uplift India as a political power in the region vis-à-vis China.
  4. RAW; to defame the incumbent Indian government on the face of the inquiry held against serving Indian army officers and make the field ready for BJP to win the coming elections. It is believed that strong elements in RAW have affiliation with the BJP.
  5. Taliban; there are Afghan Taliban and Pak Taliban. The former has Pak sympathizers in its ranks and files and would not want to take actions, which would weaken Pak army or ISI. They are fighting a war against foreign infiltration of their motherland. The latter, as records indicate, is primarily supported by CIA/RAW and has major recruits from Punjab. They would not like to see Pakistan caught in a war that might result in a change of its geographical borders.
  6. ISI; might not be happy with democratic government headed by Asif Ali Zardari but would not take such a drastic step to bring nuclear Pakistan against nuclear India with disastrous results for both the countries.

There might be a large number of other reasons and even other actors, but under such a confusing dilemma, the Mumbai carnage can turn into a Pandora's Box; the opening of which will light a fire burning not only the subcontinent but its flames shall engulf the far flung continent where 9/11 was originated eight years ago. Let us hope, we do not see a repeat of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in multiplied form at a global level bringing Armageddon at the doorstep of human race

The end

Demands for war crimes prosecutions are now growing in the mainstream

For obvious reasons, the most blindly loyal Bush followers of the last eight years are desperate to claim that nobody cares any longer about what happened during the Bush administration, that everyone other than the most fringe, vindictive Bush-haters is eager to put it all behind us, forget about it all and, instead, look to the harmonious, sunny future.  That's natural.  Those who cheer on shameful and despicable acts always want to encourage everyone to forget what they did, and those who commit crimes naturally seek to dismiss demands for investigations and punishment as nothing more than distractions and vendettas pushed by those who want to wallow in the past.

Surprisingly, though, demands that Bush officials be held accountable for their war crimes are becoming more common in mainstream political discourse, not less so.  The mountain of conclusive evidence that has recently emerged directly linking top Bush officials to the worst abuses -- combined with Dick Cheney's brazen, defiant acknowledgment of his role in these crimes (which perfectly tracked Bush's equally defiant 2005 acknowledgment of his illegal eavesdropping programs and his brazen vow to continue them) -- is forcing even the reluctant among us to embrace the necessity of such accountability. 

It's almost as though everyone's nose is now being rubbed in all of this:  now that the culpability of our highest government officials is no longer hidden, but is increasingly all out in the open, who can still defend the notion that they should remain immune from consequences for their patent lawbreaking?  As Law Professor Jonathan Turley said several weeks ago on The Rachel Maddow Show:  "It's the indictment of all of us if we walk away from a clear war crime."  And this week, Turley pointed out to Keith Olbermann that "ultimately it will depend on citizens, and whether they will remain silent in the face of a crime that has been committed in plain view. . . . It is equally immoral to stand silent in the face of a war crime and do nothing."

That recognition, finally, seems to be spreading -- beyond the handful of blogs, civil liberties organizations and activists who have long been trumpeting the need for this accountability.  The New York Times Editorial Page today has a lengthy, scathing decree demanding prosecutions:  "It would be irresponsible for the nation and a new administration to ignore what has happened . . . . A prosecutor should be appointed to consider criminal charges against top officials at the Pentagon and others involved in planning the abuse."  Today, Politico -- of all places -- is hosting a forum which asks:  "Should the DOJ consider prosecuting Bush administration officials for detainee abuse as the NYT and others have urged?"  Even Chris Matthews and Chris Hitchens yesterday entertained (albeit incoherently and apologetically) the proposition that top Bush officials committed war crimes.

Perhaps most notably of all -- and illustrating the importance of finally having someone like Rachel Maddow occupy such a prominent place in an establishment media venue -- Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, one of the Senate's most restrained, influential and Serious members, was prodded by Maddow last night into going about as far as someone like him could be expected to go, acknowledging the necessity of appointing a Prosecutor to investigate top Bush officials for the war crimes they committed and to determine if prosecutions are warranted:

To be sure, the political class still desperately wants to avoid meaningful investigations and prosecutions, in no small part because every key component of it -- including the leaders in both parties -- are implicated by so much of it.   But as more undeniable evidence emerges of just how warped and criminal and heinous the conduct of our top political leaders has been -- and the more Dick Cheney and comrades resort to openly admitting what they did and proudly defending it, rather than obfuscating it behind euphemisms and secrecy claims  -- the more difficult it will be to justify doing nothing meaningful.  That is why, even as the desire to forget about the Bush era intensifies with the Promise of Obama ever-more-closely on the horizon, the recognition continues to grow of the need for real accountability.

VIDEO: Sen Levin speaks out on torture accountability

The weapons used to prevent such accountability are quite familiar and will still be potent.  Those who demand accountability will be derided as past-obsessed partisans who want to impede all the Glorious, Transcendent Gifts about to be bestowed on us by our new leaders.  The manipulative claim will be endlessly advanced that our problems are too grand and pressing to permit the luxury of living under the rule of law.  When all else fails in the stonewalling arsenal, impotent "fact-finding" commissions will be proposed to placate the demand for accountability but which will, in fact, be designed and empowered to achieve only one goal:  to render actual prosecutions impossible.

But with these new, unprecedentedly stark revelations, this facade will be increasingly difficult to maintain.  It is already the case, as the Times Editorial today notes, that "all but President Bush's most unquestioning supporters [i.e., this] recognized the chain of unprincipled decisions that led to the abuse, torture and death in prisons run by the American military and intelligence services."  That leaves only two choices:  (1) treat these crimes as the serious war crimes they are by having a Prosecutor investigate and, if warranted, prosecute them, or (2) openly acknowledge -- to ourselves and the world -- that we believe that our leaders are literally entitled to commit war crimes at will, and that we -- but not the rest of the world -- should be exempt from the consequences.  The clearer it becomes that those are the only two choices, the more difficult it will be to choose option (2), and either way, there is great benefit just from having that level of clarity and candor about what we are really doing.

-- Glenn Greenwald

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