Sunday, January 28, 2007
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Further evidence of Pakistani support for the Taliban: The beating of Carlotta Gall and Akhtar Soomro of the New York Times
The Times printed an article by her on January 21, more than a month after the event. It not only told the details of the beating and intimidation but also provided more details about the involvement of the Pakistanis – the ISI as well as in particular Hamed Gul and other un-named officials – in the Taliban movement. It is becoming ever more clear that the Taliban movement is by no means spontaneous or even locally inspired but a deliberate creation of at lease some official Pakistanis. Given the way the government is constituted it becomes ever more clear that Musharraf cannot be totally unaware of what is going on in, as in this case,
On December 19, after about “two weeks of reporting” along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, interviewing more than two dozen folks on both sides of the border, Ms. Gall and her photographer, Akhtar Soomro, were attacked in their respective hotels. They seized Mr Soomro’s computer and equipment, held him for five hours. The intruders into Ms Gall’s hotel room twice punched her in the face, knocking her to the floor. The men did not reveal their identity but directed her to the Special Branch of the Interior Ministry to obtain the items they had confiscated. Several hours later their goods appeared but it was clear that all of their notes had been compromised: intelligent agents went around and interviewed the various folks she had interviewed. Intimidation was clearly the intent: They warned Mr. Soomro not to work for the New York Times and told Ms. Gall that she could not visit a certain part of
To strike a woman, to intimidate a reporter and photographer for a newspaper with world-wide readership – this has to be a blunder of colossal proportions. There is no way the event would have been hushed. Why would the
Whatever the reason for their attack, it could hardly improve the situation for
>> Jamiya Islamiya is a religious school in
>> Some of the students in this school have, with “the blessings” of their teachers, gone into
>> But contrary to what has been reported about the families in the Arab world, the families of these boys have not rejoiced at their loss. They are afraid to talk owing to fear of the officials. Dozens of families have lost sons in
>> A former Taliban commander had been jailed by
>> Former Taliban who refused to fight in
>> The intelligence services rigged votes for the militant religious parties because the activities of the parties gave the intelligence services “deniability.” They are fully aware of the training camps of the militant parties where young Taliban recruits are trained.
>> In Pushtunabad, the neighborhood of Quetta Gall had been warned against, Taliban commanders have close contact with members of the intelligence services. Also there is a madrassah where suicide bombers have been trained. Only recently three students were sent into
>> General Hamed Gul, former director of the ISI, publicly supports the Taliban insurgency. He visits the madrassahs producing Taliban fighters, and even speaks in support of jehad at their graduation ceremonies. He has an office in Nowshera from which he “facilitates” the training and logistic support for the Taliban.
>> A number of young men from the district of Pishin, NW of Quetta, have been killed in fighting in
>> The small town of
>> A family in the Pishin area lost one of their sons. They were searching for information about him when they discovered a Taliban propaganda CD showing their son taking an oath before the Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah. The family blames the Pakistan ISI for the recruitment of their son for suicide.
Indeed, one of them believes all of the Taliban are creations of the ISI. “All Taliban are ISI Taliban. It is not possible to go into
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Hrant Dink, editor of the Armenian and Turkish language weekly, Agos, had been in trouble with the Turkish government because of an article in the Armenian Diaspora in which he referred to the genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks in 1915-1917, an event that the Turkish government insists was part of a war in which killing took place on both sides, and in any case, they say, an attempt at genocide of Armenians never took place. [http://www.pen.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/962/prmID/172] Dink had been in court several times, his appearances often disrupted by hecklers supporting the government position. Even though his sentence of six-months in prison (on October 7, 2005) was suspended and he has been able to work, he received many death threats. Today’s New York Times says he recently wrote of the toll that those threats were taking on him: “I do not know how real these threats are, but what is really unbearable is the psychological torture that I’m living in, like a pigeon, turning my head up and down, left and right, my head quickly rotating.”
One of the problems with this murder is that besides the government, and presumably many people in the wider Turkish community, he has enemies in the Armenian community. They believed he should have insisted that
The problem for journalists – and anthropologists and other social scientists – is that they are supposed to represent the world as they find it, not as politicians want it or as the public imagines it. So there are risks, especially for journalists, because they are the individuals on the streets and in homes trying to report on events as they take place. (Anthropologists have a similar problem, but usually they take too long to get anything written; by the time they publish their results the world is no longer interested in the topic. When I first went to
In the present world journalists are getting mauled because of their quest for specific and accurate information. For all the talk about a free press in the West, it is no less resented by those in power. The Bush administration has spent most of its time in office dismissing most reports on what was going on in the Middle East and
That’s the problem for journalists. Often good journalists get in trouble with everyone, because they want to talk about the world as they find it, not as those in power would like to represent it and most of us would like to imagine it. And as it turns out, the closer to the ground folks are the more difficult it is to be sure of what is going on. Last year Dexter Filkins wrote a piece in the New York Times about how difficult it was to actually find out what happened in a specific situation. He had just gone to the location of an intense fire-fight, but when he began to ask what happened he got four different stories. The reporter on the ground could not be sure what actually had taken place, whereas in the mean time, there were folks in
So the journalists that seek to expose the truth as they best can find it – knowing of course that certainty will elude them – are in danger of rejection by a public already sure of "the truth" and by officials who need to make sure the public gets only a certain view of it. We lament the loss of a courageous man who, doing a service of desperate importance to his world, could not be borne by those who regarded his reports as threatening. And because they took brutal means to silence him, concealing their identity, they again fulfilled the ancient judgement of the wicked: “Men loved darkness because their deeds were evil; they would not come into the light lest their deeds be exposed.”
In some places it is still dangerous to expose the world as it is.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Misrepresentation of the truth is not limited to Pakistan officials, however, as we well know. This is the way of governments: They have to distort the truth in order to maintain the fiction of rectitude, to retain their legitimacy. The Bush administration has misrepresented the truth many times ("Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attack"; "Saddam has weapons of mass destruction"; "The CIA does not "remand" prisoners to other countries to be tortured"; "We do not torture prisoners", etc. [See my note on December 17.]).
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Among the more than 250 college professors who have been killed since 30 April 2003 in Iraq are the following historians:
**Khalid M. al-Janabi, PhD. in Islamic history, faculty member at the College of Art, Babylon University. Date of assassination unknown.
**Essam Sharif Mohammed (also spelled Hissam Sharif), Ph.D in History, assistant professor at the College of Art, Baghdad University. Date of assassination: 25 October 2003.
**Mahfoudh al-Qazzaz, PhD. in Islamic history; faculty member at the College of Art, Mosul University. Killed by a death squad in front of his family at his home in Mosul on 20 December 2004.
**Jamhour Karim Kammas Al Zargani, PhD. in History; department head at the College of Education at Al- Basrah University. Abducted for two days, tortured, and killed. His family found the dead body with broken arms and legs in a nearby street in Basra on 19 August 2005.
**Kemal Nassir, professor of history, lecturer in Mustansiriya and Kufa. Date of assassination: 1 October 2006.
**In addition, Abd-Asalam Ali Hussein, PhD. in Islamic History, was arrested on 22 May 2005.
But where were these folks four years ago, the time when the boondoggle of the Bush administration policy could have been exposed. There was so much to be questioned. Shifting attention from Afghanistan before Osama and his people had been caught and punished: what did they say then? Preemptive war: what did they say then? Phony claims that Saddam was involved in the attack on 911: what did they say then? Removing General Shenseki, who said they would need 200,000 troops to manage Iraq after they had taken over the country: what did they say then? Sending in too few troops, with scarcely any meaningful plan, and with insufficient armament: What did they say then?
One of the most costly features of the Bush decision to invade Iraq was the abandonment of the war in Afghanistan. They had not caught either Osama Bin Laden head of Al Qaeda or Mullah Muhammad Omar, head of the Taliban. And in 2002 the best American military assets were being redeployed elsewhere to prepare for the assault on Iraq. The failure -no, refusal - to catch and try the key figures who had killed nearly 3000 people on American soil was simply a betrayal of the American people and even of the administration's stated goals. And since then the preoccupation has continued to be elsewhere, Iraq. What that means is that, for all the expense of human life and wealth now wasted in Iraq, the group that attacked the United States in September, 2001, are still at large. They are still heroes to some militants. And their eminence has swelled in the last five and a half years. The original project was abandoned and, even when the fiasco in Iraq is resolved - very likely in humiliation for proud Americans - it still has to be resumed. The Reagan administration requited no cost on those who killed 241 Marines in Lebanon; the Clinton administration reacted ineffectually to the dual bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; now, the Bush administration has embarrassed itself in Iraq rather than confronting the aggressive elements that attacked our country in 2001. This is a record that the militants elsewhere have taken careful note of. This is the legacy of the Bush administration.
Some of the experts have already noted that the Bush administration's new accusations against Iran and Syria will provide the administration with an excuse for failing in Iraq. Let us watch how they deflect attention elsewhere, apparently in hope they won't be blamed for their unfathomable folly.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
http://www.globalterroralert.com/pdf/1206/iraqinsurgency1206.pdf. However, it seems totally unrecoverable on the NYTimes web site; the web version doesn't admit to the existence of the page in front of me [Week in Review, p 5].
In fact, the information comes from Evan F. Kohlmann’s website [above] which describes the several militant organizations that joined the Al Qaeda network in 2006. It seems ever more clear that the core of Al Qaeda is a mere small group but the organization has grown in influence and numbers by the accretion of other groups, presumably because of a desire to gain legitimacy or perhaps to get help and money, and to gain collective strength by becoming part of a single larger organization. In any case the web sites indicated above reveal that a group formed in January 2006 calling itself the “Mujahedeen Shura Council” and became a core of a larger movement that is allied with Al Qaeda. on March 23 an organization calling itself the “Society of the True Believers” joined them. On Oct 12 two other groups merged with this group, “Supporters of Monotheism” and “Our Creed.” Only 3 days later they were joined by two other groups, the “Army of the Prophet’s Companions” and the “Army of the Conquerors”. The new organization now called itself “The Islamic State of Iraq” and claimed responsibility for managing eight largely Sunni provinces bordering on Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Syria. On November 29 two other groups joined them, “The Knights of Monotheism” and the “Army of the Abrahamic Tradition.” There are other groups said to be loosely allied with Al Qaeda: “Mujahedin Army,” “Ansar Al-Sunnah Army,” which is said to be Kurdish (all the others are Arab). Virtually all of these organizations are described as “brutal.” The commander of Al Qaeda’s Islamic State claims that scores of fighters have sworn allegiance to his group, including members of another group calling itself “1920 Revolution Brigades.”
The zeal to join together in a common organization indicates that there is a broad social movement afoot. Militant Islamism is a social movement in the sense that there are large, broad social conditions at work, setting a context that favors this kind of behavior. What those social conditions are, and the contexts in which individuals find a way to join a radical organization are matters that still need to be better specified. [Sageman, Understanding Terrorist Networks, is very good on this; other good sources can be found on my “Terrorism” site (Go to artsci.wustl.edu/~canfrobt/home.html and click on AN4243 “Terrorism…”)]. Perhaps the militant Islamism of our times is driven by similar forces as those of the Ghost Dance of the Great Plains, a movement that took form as some Native Americans sought a way to recover the world of social relationships and opportunity that they had lost because of the overwhelming advance of the whites. Al Qaeda, at least, claims that the state of Muslims is indeed desperate. Islam is at risk, they say. Such claims have an influence on how some radical Muslims (not all, however) are reacting to the dramatic changes in their world as well as to the abuses of the local autocratic regimes that most of them have to deal with.