Roundup: Historian's Take
This is where we place excerpts by historians writing about the news. On occasion this page also includes political scientists, economists, and law professors who write about history. We may from time to time even include English profs.
SOURCE: Dissident Voice (9-3-07)
On the morning of August 28, Dutch plainclothes police raided the home of exiled Filipino revolutionary leader Jose Maria Sison in Utrecht, the Netherlands, arrested him and charged him with ordering the murder of two persons in the Philippines in 2003. According to his wife, they broke down the front door without bothering to ring or knock, bruising her arm as they prevented her from making a phone call. They carted away computers, documents, CDs, and other files, remaining until the evening while she was instructed to sit in a corner. Eight other locations were simultaneously raided. Sison was not at home the time. Luis Jalandoni, the chief peace negotiator for the Filipino Maoist rebels in their talks with the Government of the Philippines, details what happened:
“The Dutch Police called up Prof. Sison to invite him to the police station because according to them there were new developments on the complaint that Prof. Sison had filed in 2001. Thinking that it was about the complaint he filed on an assassination plot that was hatched by the then incumbent [Joseph] Estrada government against him, Prof. Sison brought with him some documents pertinent to the said complaint.
“But when he arrived at the police station, he was separated from his three companions that included his lawyer. They learned later that Prof. Sison had been whisked away to a jail complex in Scheveningen formerly used by the Nazis for detaining Dutch resistance fighters on the patently spurious charge of ordering the murder of [Arturo] Kintanar and [Romulo] Tabara.”
Sison remains in the National Penitentiary in Scheveningen in The Hague where the judge before whom he appeared August 31 states he will remain in solitary confinement for up to 14 days. According to his lawyer, Jan Fermon, the official charge against him is “incitement to murders” in the Philippines. Its proximate cause, according to the Philippines mainstream press, was affidavits filed with the Philippines Department of Justice last year by the wives of Kintanar and Tabara (themselves former communists expelled from the movement) followed by visits to the Dutch Embassy in Manila.
Sison has lived in Holland since 1987. The 68-year-old former professor of English literature and accomplished poet headed the newly refounded Communist Party of the Philippines from 1968 to 1977. During these years the party’s military arm, the New People’s Army (NPA), made extraordinary advances in its People’s War to topple the U.S.-backed dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Captured by Marcos’ troops in 1977, Sison spent years in prison, including a year and a half strapped to a cot, in solitary confinement before he was released in 1986 by President Corazon Aquino following the “People Power” revolution that drove Marcos and his notorious wife Imelda out of the country. Since then he has served as chairman of the International League of Peoples Struggle, and Chief Political Consultant to the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in its off-again on-again peace talks with the Manila government.
The CPP has stated for 20 years that Sison is no longer involved in operational decisions and serves from Europe in an advisory role. In 1986, after he was freed from prison, Sison embarked on a world lecture tour. In October he accepted the Southeast Asia WRITE award for a book of his poems from the Crown Prince of Thailand in Bangkok. While visiting the Netherlands three months later, he was informed that his passport had been revoked and that charges had been filed against him under the Anti-Subversion Law of the Philippines. Those charges were later dropped, as have subsequent charges filed by authorities in the Philippines.
But meanwhile the New People’s Army has acquired control of about 8000 villages and perhaps 20% of the Philippines countryside. (It claimed as of 2003 to have 128 guerrillas zones, covering 60% of the villages in the country.) Since 2004, the Armed Forces of the Philippines have designated the NPA “Number One security threat” to the nation (i.e., greater than the Muslim secessionist forces or the allegedly al-Qaeda-linked puny bandit group Abu Sayyaf). The U.S. government, alarmed by communist advances, moved immediately after 9-11 (which helped justify moves against any kind of “terrorism” anywhere in the world) to dispatch troops to the Philippines in what was briefly billed as the “second front” in the “War on Terror.” The ostensible target was Abu Sayyaf, although the Filipino Maoists suggested that U.S. forces (expelled by an act of the Philippines Senate in 1992 but now invited back by Macapagal-Arroyo) might ultimately be deployed against them.
In August 2002, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell announced with some fanfare that it had decided to declare Sison a “terrorist.” The CPP as well as the NPA were already on the list of “foreign terrorist organizations” prepared by the State Department and rubber-stamped by Congress every two years.
To make the list one has to (1) be foreign, (2) engage in terrorist activity, and (3) threaten the security of U.S. citizens or U.S. “national security.” “Terrorist activity” according to Section 212(a)(3)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 defines this as “any activity which is unlawful under the laws of the place where it is committed (or which, if committed in the United States, would be unlawful under the laws of the United States or any State)” involving hijacking or sabotage of any aircraft, vessel, or vehicle; kidnapping; violent attacks on “internationally protected” persons; assassination; use of biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons; use of explosives or firearms “with intent to endanger, directly or indirectly, the safety of one or more individuals or cause substantial damage to property;” and/or the threat, attempt or conspiracy to do any of the above, or to incite people to do so, or to collect information on potential terrorist targets, or to collect funds for terrorist attacks.
By this definition, any violent rebellion against any government—however oppressive and illegitimate—anywhere is “terrorist,” or can be so defined at the whim of a State Department the entire world associates with lawless violence. (It would have criminalized the American Revolution, for god’s sake, and smeared the Founding Fathers as “terrorists.”) But Powell’s explanation for the blacklisting of the CPP and Sison was specifically as follows: “The CPP, a Maoist group, was founded in 1969 [sic] with the aim of overthrowing the Philippine government through guerrilla warfare. CPP’s military wing, the New People’s Army strongly opposes any U.S. military presence in the Philippines and has killed U.S. citizens there.” (These allegedly include a U.S. Army colonel, a military intelligence agent, two U.S. Air Force airmen, and two Ford Corporation employees over many years during which the U.S. stationed military forces in the Philippines and actively aided the Marcos regime and its successors in efforts to crush the insurgency.)
Taking their cue from the U.S. State Department, the Council of the European Union (comprised of the E.U. foreign ministers) added the CPP and Sison to their own terror lists. On September 10, 2002 Sison was informed that in accordance with the Netherlands’ “sanction regulation against terrorism” his benefits had been terminated and his bank account frozen. He was also ordered to report weekly to a government office, where he had reported monthly for over a decade. This despite the fact that there were no pending criminal charges against him anywhere in the world. The city of Utrecht, in which he resides, offered resumption of his stipend on “humanitarian” grounds, but only if he implicitly accepted the designation of “terrorist” applied to himself.
The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs explained the decision. “The U.S. regards the activities of the CPP/NPA and Sison as a threat for American citizens and for the national security of the American foreign policy. The CPP is characterized by a strong anti-American attitude. The organization is a fervent opponent of the pro-American policy of the current Philippine government and the presence of American troops in the country. In the 80s and 90s, six Americans died in NPA attacks.” In other words, the U.S. was applying strong pressure on Amsterdam to demonize and punish Sison for his “attitude,” his opposition to the government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and his association with an organization accused of killing members of the U.S. military supporting the Manila regime.
In a stunning setback to U.S. vilification efforts, that decision was annulled by the European Court of First Instance (ECFI)—the EU’s Supreme Court—just a month and a half ago (on July 12). The Luxemburg-based ECFI concluded that Sison had never undergone any criminal investigation by any competent judicial authority concerning any terrorist act. It stated that EU Council decisions regarding Sison up to June 29, 2007 were “violative of the rights of Professor Sison,” and even ordered the EU to shoulder Sison’s legal costs.
In a statement issued on July 13, Sison noted that in “the Philippines, I have been repeatedly cleared of criminal charges. At the fall of the Marcos fascist regime in 1986, I was cleared of the charges of rebellion and subversion. In 1992 the charge of subversion that had been trumped up in 1988 was nullified. In 1994 the charge of multiple murder arising from the Plaza Miranda bombing [in 1971, in which 8 members of the Liberal Party were killed, and which was used by the Marcos government as the pretext to declare martial law] was dismissed by the Manila prosecutors as something based on speculation. In 1998 the Philippine secretary of justice issued a certification that there were no pending criminal charges against me.
“In 2003, the Arroyo regime started to fabricate charges of rebellion and common crimes against me. But in a recent decision in early this month, the Philippine Supreme Court has rendered null and void the identical false allegations of rebellion against more than 50 accused, including the Batasan 6, some NDFP [National Democratic Front of the Philippines] legal consultants and myself.”
These legal defeats of the Philippines government headed by the grotesquely corrupt President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and of the U.S.-orchestrated attack on Sison in Europe form the backdrop of this latest move against the Maoist leader. This time he’s accused of responsibility for the killings of Tabara and Kintanar, two former Maoists (expelled from the CPP in the early 1990s) killed in 2003 and 2004 by the NPA in actions for which the guerrillas indeed take responsibility. They were proponents of a strategy of urban guerrilla warfare, especially in Davao City, using NPA “Sparrows” to attack military and police personnel during the 1980s. The urban guerrilla strategy was predictably condemned in the harshest terms by the Filipino and western governments at the time, and it is curious to see them bemoaning the fate of the deceased whom they would surely at the time have denounced as terrorists. All the more curious because the CPP seem to agree with that assessment.
Gregorio Rosal, spokesperson for the Communist Party of the Philippines, stated in a five-page statement to the Philippines media in 2004 that the NPA metes out the death penalty “only on those found guilty beyond reasonable doubt” of having committed heinous crimes. He said that a People’s Court had tried Kintanar in 1993 and declared him guilty of several crimes and listed them as follows:
1. Masterminding, launching and propagating gangster operations, including kidnap-for-ransom, bank holdups, and dollar-counterfeiting operations while still in the CPP. He cited as examples the kidnapping of Japanese businessman Noboyuki Wakaoji in 1986 and Bombo Radyo-Philippines owner Roger Florete in 1989 where Kinatanar and his men allegedly earned $10 million and P15 million in ransom, respectively.
2. Stealing massive amounts of funds from the Party.
3. Instigating factionalism and attempts to destroy the revolutionary movement.
The CPP has further charged that Kintanar was an “intelligence agent of the [Manila] government’s military and police since 1992,” and was a “project officer in an assassination plot against Prof. Jose Maria Sison in the Netherlands” in 2000 (to which Jalandoni alludes above, and to which Sison has brought Dutch authorities’ attention).
Tabara, according to the Maoists, was apprehended by CPP officials in a parking lot on Sept. 26, 2004. He pulled a gun when they attempted to arrest him for murdering an elderly peasant leader and they shot him to death. This happened in a society in which the regime in power employs death squads. The human rights group Karapatan states that more than 800 left-wing activists have been extra-judicially killed since 2001. The Bush administration makes no fuss about that, or the fact that there were 1200 people on death row in the Philippines in June 2006 when the Philippines Congress passed a law banning the death penalty. The official justice system in the Philippines is widely perceived as fraudulent. But the U.S. and its allies validate it while treating the people’s courts as illegitimate and tools of terrorists answering to Sison in his Utrecht exile.
This is the context of Sison’s arrest. It is not about some “murders” in the Philippines. It’s about cracking down on the People’s War in the Philippines, which has made some major strides in the last few years. It’s about U.S. pressure on Europe to kowtow to its broad concept of “terrorism” and to exhaust the potential of the paranoia it’s whipped up to demonize any “anti-American” target anywhere. I suggested as early as June 2002 that there would be “red targets in the Terror War” and Sison has been for some time a high-profile target.
His arrest in Holland, surely with the encouragement of the Bush administration, is not just an attack on a distinguished leader but a warning to all who sympathize with the global revolutionary left and its armed struggles. Meanwhile the “terrorist” designation can be flexibly applied to anyone Washington wants to set up. The State Department is reportedly about to declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guards—a whole branch of a country’s military—a “terrorist organization.” This is a huge leap from targeting violent non-state organizations with the label. Reportedly the Europeans regard this step as provocative and worrisome. (It paves the way, among other things, for U.S. forces to treat the Revolutionary Guards as “illegal combatants” not covered by the Geneva Conventions, hence subject to torture in the event of war with Iran.) But it’s the natural culmination of the Bush/Cheney fear-mongering, blackballing strategy.
What’s next? Declaring the Cuban militia “terrorist”? The whole Venezuelan or Russian or Chinese Army? One recalls the medieval Church declaring this or that “anathema” or heretical, marked by Satanism or witchcraft. Such verdicts were intended to spell death for those so marked, and to intimidate and silence any inclined to defend them if they stubbornly resisted the legitimacy of the judge. Sometimes they were applied to whole nations. One would think such pontifical arrogance had died centuries ago. But here we have it again in the thuggish U.S. administration trying yet failing to secure the world’s obedience using tactics resembling both those of the Inquisition and those of the terror-inflicting fascists in the 1930s.
As Maoists movements press on, especially in South Asia, Marxists of all stripes may increasingly come into Washington’s crosshairs, alongside those that it chooses to term “Islamist terrorists.” The U.S. government continues to categorize the Nepali Maoists as terrorists, even though they have laid aside their arms for the time being and assumed posts in the new Nepali government. It must note with alarm news of a Maoist People’s War unfolding in the small but strategically located country of Bhutan. While it coddles the Cuban anti-Castro terrorist Luis Posada Carriles, supports Jundallah (God’s Brigade) in attacks on Iran, and continues a long tradition of support for other pro-U.S. terrorists including the notorious Contras of Nicaragua, Washington zeroes in revolutionaries like Sison, enraged that they with their undying rebellious spirit still exist in this world it feels it owns, in which it demands the right to monopolize terror.
* * * * *
Several Filipino Congressmen have rallied to Sison’s defense. Rep. Satur Ocampo of the Bayan Muna Party (himself arrested on bogus, decades-old murder charges in March but then released) has suggested that the Arroyo government wants to sabotage the peace talks. His colleague from the same party, Rep. Teddy Casiño, agreed. The arrest “will result in an all-out war and lead to the end of peace negotiations,” he declares. Ocampo charges that the Dutch and Philippine governments are “conniving” against Sison, and that “[t]here seems to be an irregularity in the arrest, although I’m not familiar with their procedures. But it looks like from our practice here, it only means they are looking for evidence when they also raided his office and confiscated all the materials there.” Rep. Crispin Beltran said the Dutch government erroneously arrested Sison on “preposterous” charges designed “to sabotage the chances of peace talks and attack the NDF.”
Meanwhile Dutch and Filipino supporters are organizing a petition campaign. Hastily arranged demonstrations have occurred in the Philippines, Netherlands, U.S. (New York and L.A.) and Hong Kong. Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark has offered his services as an attorney, describing Sison as “a gentle person… and inspiring leader” and “great man.” “Everyone who is concerned about peace and freedom has to be greatly distressed over the arrest of Joma Sison,” he told members of the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines last week. “Sison is a great spirit that the world needs to know about, a great voice that the world needs to hear. The demonization will destroy us if we permit it to continue.”
It’s heartening that a former U.S. attorney general, predecessor to the unsavory likes of John Mitchell, Edwin Meese, John Ashcroft, and Alberto Gonzales, can still say such things openly in these proto-fascist times. It suggests that the lawlessness infecting our own legal system (especially since 9-11, and justified by carefully fanned “terrorism” fears)—a bullying lawlessness that infects allies’ legal systems and the operations of a compromised UN—is not unchallengeable or needs to intimidate all who feel disgusted by the demonization and lies. Clark (79) who once served President Lyndon Johnson at the height of the Vietnam War somehow evolved into a trenchant critic of imperialism. That gives his word all the more weight for anyone concerned about peace and freedom and inclined to listen.
Posted on: Wednesday, September 5, 2007 - 21:57
SOURCE: Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) (Click here for embedded links.) (9-5-07)
It is a pleasure to respond to E.J. Dionne Jr.'s essay now that it can truly be said that liberals and the left face the greatest political opening since the 1960s. We ought to be in for a time when civil discussion about our nature and principles can proceed without being mistaken for self-flagellation or for the giddy presumption that liberalism is bound to prevail. The world is in too much jeopardy for the latter and the dilemmas too difficult for the former.
The easy part for liberals now, intellectually, at least, is that George W. Bush has concentrated our attention on what happens in the world when governments both fail and overreach. As partisans of the Party of Reason, liberals start in a strong position now that the conservative movement, which thrives on rancor against the brie-Chablis-Volvo-latte crowd, has painted itself into a corner, a Confederate corner at that, by trying, as the Columbia University journalism dean Nicholas Lemann noted in a recent New Yorker article, to repeal the gains of the Progressive Era.
The Christian right's contempt for reason found a counterpart in the Republicans' contempt for government except as an occasion for plunder. Stanley B. Greenberg, the Democratic pollster, is surely right that Democrats have to push for accountability along with good governance. But liberals also have to fight back against the demonization of government. Bill Clinton did that more effectively than generally recognized, and it can be done again.
So we liberals are now poised to present ourselves as we are -- to start with, as pragmatic advocates of intelligence and thoughtfulness. As Dionne points out, that is more a continuation of Clinton's 1990s self-presentation as an opponent of the "brain-dead policies of both parties" than a radical departure. But it ought to be no small element of the liberal counteroffensive.
That said, it's worth restating the Princeton sociologist Paul Starr's point that "the exhaustion of conservatism is not tantamount to a liberal revival." The country is not conservative in the Bush-Karl Rove sense, but neither (excepting a scatter of ZIP codes) is it liberal in the Dennis Kucinich sense....
Posted on: Wednesday, September 5, 2007 - 19:28
SOURCE: New York Sun (9-5-07)
New York City's Arabic-language public school, the Khalil Gibran International Academy, opens its doors this week, with special security, for 11- and 12-year-old students. One hopes that the prolonged public debate over the school's Islamist proclivities will prompt it not to promote any political or religious agendas.
Count me as skeptical, however, and for two main reasons. First is the school's genesis and personnel, about which others and I have written extensively. Second, and my topic here, is the worrisome record of taxpayer-funded Arabic-language programs from sea to shining sea.
A class at the Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.
Amana Academy, Alpharetta, Georgia, near Atlanta: A charter school that requires Arabic-language learning, Amana boasts of its"institutional partnership" with the Arabic Language Institute Foundation (ALIF). But ALIF forwards the learning of Arabic as a means"to convey the message of Qur'an in North America and Europe" and thus to"help the Western countries recover from the present moral decay."
Carver Elementary School, San Diego: A teacher, Mary-Frances Stephens, informed the school board that she taught a"segregated class" of Muslim girls and that each day she was required to release them from class for an hour of prayer, led by a Muslim teacher's aide. Ms. Stephens deemed this arrangement" clearly a violation of administrative, legislative and judicial guidelines." The school's principal, Kimberlee Kidd, replied that the teacher's aide merely prayed alongside the students and the session lasted only 15 minutes. The San Diego Unified School District investigated Ms. Stephens's allegations and rejected them, but it nonetheless changed practices at Carver, implicitly substantiating her critique. Superintendent Carl Cohn eliminated single-gender classes and reconfigured the schedule so that students can pray during lunch.
Charlestown High School, Massachusetts: The school's summer Arabic-language program took students on a trip to the Islamic Society of Boston, where, the Boston Globe reports, students"sat in a circle on the carpet and learned about Islam from two mosque members." One student, Peberlyn Moreta, 16, fearing that the gold cross around her neck would offend the hosts, tucked it under her T-shirt. Anti-Zionism also appeared, with the showing of the 2002 film Divine Intervention, which a critic, Jordan Hiller, has termed an"irresponsible film,""frighteningly dangerous," and containing"pure hatred" toward Israel.
Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, Inver Grove Heights, Minn.: Islamic Relief Worldwide, an organization that allegedly has links to jihadism and terrorism, sponsored this charter school, which requires Arabic as a second language. The academy's name openly celebrates Islamic imperialism, as Tarek ibn Ziyad led Muslim troops in their conquest of Spain in 711 A.D. Local journalists report that"a visitor might well mistake Tarek ibn Ziyad [Academy] for an Islamic school" because of the women wearing hijabs, the carpeted prayer area, the school closing down for Islamic holidays, everyone keeping the Ramadan fast, the cafeteria serving halal food, classes breaking for prayer, almost all the children praying, and the constant use of"Brother" and"Sister" when adults at the school address each other.
Only in the case of the Iris Becker Elementary School in Dearborn, Michigan, is the Arabic-language program not obviously pursuing a political and religious agenda. Its program may actually be clean; or perhaps the minimal information about it explains the lack of known problems.
The above examples (and see my Web log entry"Other Taxpayer-Funded American Madrassas" for yet more) are all American, but similar problems predictably exist in other Western countries.
This troubling pattern points to the need for special scrutiny of publicly funded Arabic-language programs. That scrutiny should take the form of robust supervisory boards whose members are immersed in the threat of radical Islam and who have the power to shut down anything they might find objectionable.
Arabic-language instruction at the pre-collegiate level is needed, and the U.S. government rightly promotes it (for example, via the"National Security Language Initiative" on the national level or the"Foreign Language in Elementary Schools" program on a local one). As it does so, getting the instruction right becomes ever more important. Citizens, parents, and taxpayers have the right to ensure that children attending these publicly funded institutions are taught a language skill—and are not being recruited to anti-Zionism or Islamism.
- Other items in category Academia
- Other items in category Muslims in the United States
- Other items in category Radical Islam
This article is reprinted with permission by Daniel Pipes. This article first appeared in the New York Sun.
Posted on: Wednesday, September 5, 2007 - 16:19
SOURCE: WSJ (9-4-07)
The initial concept of the"surge" strategy in Iraq was to secure Baghdad and its immediate environs, which is why its proper name was the"Baghdad Security Plan." But as President Bush pointed out during his surprise trip to Iraq, operations and events on the ground are already showing successes well beyond Baghdad in Anbar, Diyala and Salahaddin provinces -- formerly al Qaeda strongholds and hotbeds of the Sunni insurgency.
Considering the speed with which these successes have developed, and the rapidly growing grass-roots movement among Iraqis to support the effort, there is every reason to be optimistic about the prospects for establishing security in Iraq, and every reason to continue supporting the current strategy.
The first major combat operation of the surge, Operation Phantom Thunder, began on June 15 and accomplished its primary objectives. American troops and Iraqi Security Forces eliminated all of al Qaeda's sanctuaries in the Baghdad belts, including its urban stronghold in Baqubah. U.S. forces cleared Dora, al Qaeda's stronghold in western Baghdad. They established an extensive net of outposts in former enemy safe havens, degraded the capabilities of Shiite militias, and dramatically reduced sectarian violence and spectacular attacks in and around the capital.
Phantom Thunder was the first coherent campaign aimed at all of the major al Qaeda strongholds at once. As a result, terrorists could not move from one safe haven to another. Iraqi and Coalition forces killed, wounded and captured thousands of them.
Six months ago, insurgents operated freely around Baghdad's belts. Now U.S. and Iraqi forces limit them to discrete areas, more distant from urban centers, where they cannot easily defend themselves, or support one another or their vehicle-bomb network.
Smaller groups who escaped from their safe havens during combat operations generally fled along the Tigris and Diyala River valleys. The remnants of al Qaeda in western Baghdad can no longer quickly reinforce their positions from outside or within the city.
Gens. David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno followed up Phantom Thunder with Phantom Strike. The new campaign, launched on Aug. 13, aims to prevent terrorists and militias from reconstituting their forces in Baghdad, its belts or elsewhere. U.S. and Iraqi forces are moving along the river valleys to destroy the remnants of enemy groups and eliminate any new safe havens they try to establish. Their operations are also preventing Shiite militias from taking over territory al Qaeda once controlled....
Significant challenges remain in establishing security, building up Iraqi forces capable of maintaining it and helping the Iraqi government achieve reconciliation and unity. But few expected the progress made so far. The tide in Iraq is clearly turning, as the Iraqi people are voting with their lives to fight with us against terrorists and militias. Now is not the time to give up the fight.
Posted on: Tuesday, September 4, 2007 - 19:12
SOURCE: Weekly Standard (9-4-07)
Al Qaeda In Iraq is part of the global al Qaeda movement. AQI, as the U.S. military calls it, is around 90 percent Iraqi. Foreign fighters, however, predominate in the leadership and among the suicide bombers, of whom they comprise up to 90 percent, U.S. commanders say. The leader of AQI is Abu Ayyub al-Masri, an Egyptian. His predecessor, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, was a Jordanian.
Because the members of AQI are overwhelmingly Iraqis--often thugs and misfits recruited or dragooned into the organization (along with some clerics and more educated leaders)--it is argued that AQI is not really part of the global al Qaeda movement. Therefore, it is said, the war in Iraq is not part of the global war on terror: The "real" al Qaeda--Osama bin Laden's band, off in its safe havens in the Pakistani tribal areas of Waziristan and Baluchistan--is the group to fight. Furthermore, argue critics of this persuasion, we should be doing this fighting through precise, intelligence-driven airstrikes or Special Forces attacks on key leaders, not the deployment of large conventional forces, which only stirs resentment in Muslim countries and creates more terrorists.
Over the past four years, the war in Iraq has provided abundant evidence to dispute these assertions.
AL QAEDA WORLDWIDE
Al Qaeda is an organization pursuing an ideology. Both the organization and the ideology must be defeated. Just as, in the Cold War, the contest between the United States and its allies and the Soviet Union and its captive nations was the real-world manifestation of an ideological struggle, so today, the global war on terror is a real-world contest between the United States and its allies and al Qaeda and its enablers. We can hope to defeat the ideology only by defeating its champion, al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda's ideology is the lineal descendant of a school of thought articulated most compellingly by the Egyptian revolutionary Sayyid Qutb in the 1950s and 1960s, with an admixture of Wahhabism, Deobandi thought, or simple, mainstream Sunni chauvinism, depending on where and by what group it is propounded.
Qutb blended a radical interpretation of Muslim theology with the Marxism-Leninism and anticolonial fervor of the Egypt of his day to produce an Islamic revolutionary movement. He argued that the secularism and licentious (by his extreme standards) behavior of most Muslims was destroying the true faith and returning the Islamic world to the state of jahiliyyah, or ignorance of the word of God, which prevailed before Muhammad. The growing secularism of Muslim states particularly bothered him. According to his interpretation, God alone has the power to make laws and to judge. When men make laws and judge each other according to secular criteria, they are usurping God's prerogatives. All who obey such leaders, according to Qutb, are treating their leaders as gods and therefore are guilty of the worst sin--polytheism. Thus they are--and this is the key point--not true Muslims, but unbelievers, regardless of whether they otherwise obey Muslim law and practice.
This is the defining characteristic of al Qaeda's ideology, which is properly called "takfirism" (even though al Qaeda fighters do not use the term). The word "takfir" designates the process of declaring a person to be an unbeliever because of the way he practices his faith. Takfir violates the religious understanding of most of the world's Muslims, for the Koran prescribes only five requirements for a Muslim (acknowledgment of the oneness of God, prayer, charitable giving, the fast, and the pilgrimage to Mecca) and specifies that anyone who observes them is a Muslim. The takfiris insist that anyone who obeys a human government is a polytheist and therefore violates the first premise of Islam, the shahada (the assertion that "There is no god but God"), even though Muslims have lived in states with temporal rulers for most of their history. The chief reason al Qaeda has limited support in the Muslim world is that the global Muslim community overwhelmingly rejects the premise that anyone obeying a temporal ruler is ipso facto an unbeliever.
Today's takfiris carry Qutb's basic principles further. Some pious Muslims believe that human governments should support or enforce sharia law. This is why Saudi Arabia has no law but sharia. But to Osama bin Laden and his senior lieutenant, Ayman al Zawahiri, it is not enough for a state to rule according to sharia. To be legitimate in the eyes of these revolutionaries, a state must also work actively to spread "righteous rule" across the earth. This demand means that only states aligned with the takfiris and supporting the spread of takfirism--such as the Taliban when it was in power--are legitimate, whereas states aligned with unbelievers, like Saudi Arabia, are illegitimate even if they strictly enforce sharia law. Some takfiris, particularly in Iraq as we shall see, argue in addition that all Shia are polytheists, and therefore apostates, because they "worship" Ali and Hussein and their successor imams. This distorted view of Shiism reflects the continual movement of takfiri thought toward extremes.
These distinctions are no mere theoretical niceties. The Koran and Muslim tradition forbid Muslims from killing one another except in narrowly specified circumstances. They also restrict the conditions under which Muslims can kill non-Muslims. Takfiris, however, claim that the groups and individuals they condemn are not really Muslims but unbelievers who endanger the true faith. They therefore claim to be exercising the right to defend the faith, granted by the Koran and Muslim tradition, when they endorse the killing of these false Muslims and the Westerners who either seduce them into apostasy or support them in it. This is the primary theological justification for al Qaeda's terrorism.
Takfirism is a radical reinterpretation of Islam that discards over a thousand years of Islamic scholarship and cautious tradition in favor of a literal reading of the Koran and Hadith that allows any layman--such as Osama bin Laden, who has no clerical standing--to usurp the role of Islam's scholars and issue fatwas and exercise other such clerical prerogatives. ...
Posted on: Tuesday, September 4, 2007 - 19:07
SOURCE: Informed Comment (Blog) (9-3-07)
The debate over al-Anbar province is driven by the Bushies' desire to find any 'good news' to grasp at. Indeed, from 2003 forward, their criterion for objective reporting on Iraq was that it gave the 'good news.' When there obviously wasn't any good news, they started ignoring Iraq, as at Fox [Republican TV] Cable News.
Now the 'good news' appears (I swear to God) to be that you can"walk" in Iraq. That's the good news. The 8 billion people in the world walk every day, in most of the world's locales. Now it is an achievement to walk. That's good news of the highest order. Only, if you are American in Fallujah you might need a company of Marines with you so that you can . . . walk. (See below).
Is al-Anbar Province really paradise, as Bush suggested?
Al-Anbar residents killed 20 US troops in July. The total US fatalities in July were 79 according to icasualties.org, and some of those were presumably from accidents, etc. So al-Anbar, despite being reduced to the stone age, managed to kill a fourth or more of all US troops killed in combat in July. Al-Anbar is roughly 1/24 of Iraq by population. So it killed six times more US troops than we would have expected based on its proportion of the Iraqi population.
That's what the Bushies are celebrating, that the deadly al-Anbar has been wrestled down to only killing a fourth of the US troops killed in a month. It used to be more.
In mid-July, There were about 100 violent attacks in a single week in al-Anbar. That's a bright spot. That's progress. Since the year before, there were 400 violent attacks in that same period.
Well, yes, that's a relative improvement. But a hundred violent attacks in a week? That's being touted as good news to be ecstatic over? There were probably on the order of 1100 attacks that week in all of Iraq. So al-Anbar generated nearly one-tenth of all attacks. But it is only 1/24 of Iraq by population, so it is more than twice as dangerous with regard to the number of attacks than you would expect from its small population.
Fallujah, of course, was a trouble spot for the US military. I entertain dark suspicions that Bush had it destroyed for reasons of revenge. The November 2004 US assault damaged 2/3s of the buildings. Tens of thousands of former residents are still refugees.
One of the ways" calm" has been produced in the city is to simply forbid vehicular traffic. Since May, if you wanted to get somewhere in Fallujah, you have had to walk. So when the National Review tells us things are suddenly miraculously" calm" in al-Anbar, this is being produced artificially. Things would be calm in most hot spots if you could ban all forms of locomotion save walking.
The problem with producing calm by banning traffic is that it leaves you with a Somalia level of economic activity. IPS notes,
' Residents say unemployment is above 80 percent. Most of the rest who have some work are government employees. The huge industrial area has been closed by U.S. and Iraqi Army units '
80 percent unemployment? Now that is calm.
"Calm" has also been produced by death squad activity. IPS notes,
' Hundreds of suspected resistance fighters are now held at the Fallujah police station. Many have been killed on the streets; the police speak of finding"unidentified bodies". Several of those found dead had been arrested earlier, eyewitnesses and families of several of the men killed have said.'
So obviously if you round up a lot of young men and hold them without charge, and if you wipe out some others," calm" is produced.
Another way of producing" calm" is to silence local journalists. Some have been arbitrarily arrested and then let go, with instructions to report the news as the Iraqi police tell them to. So we don't really know much about what is actually happening in Fallujah.
IPS quotes a local Sunni cleric:
'"To say Fallujah is quiet is true, and you can see it in the city streets," said Shiek Salim from the Fallujah Scholars' Council."The city is practically dead, and the dead are quiet.'
So, all these measures-- banning traffic, rounding up young men, silencing the journalists, etc.-- have at least ended the attacks on US troops, right? Wrong.
It was only last week; I mean, August 28 was not that long ago, but this one is already forgotten:
"BAGHDAD -- A suicide bomber detonated a vest packed with explosives in a Sunni Arab mosque in Fallujah yesterday, killing 10 worshipers, including the imam, and shattering what had been a period of relative calm for a region once the most volatile hotbed of Iraq's insurgency."
Now, if ten worshippers were killed in a church just last week in a small US city of 200,000, would Congressmen be flocking there to proclaim how wonderful the security situation was?
Just a month before, a bomber killed two policemen in Fallujah and wounded 11 others.
On July 23, a female suicide bomber killed 7 policemen at a checkpoint in downtown Ramadi.
On July 8, a truck bomb killed 23 persons at a police recruiting center in Haswa, al-Anbar province.
On Monday there was this in Ramadi:
' A suicide car bomb attacked an Iraqi security checkpoint on highway near the city of Ramadi in the western province of Anbar on Monday, killing two security members and wounding three others, a provincial police source said. '
Think Progress noticed this exchange between CNN's Wolf Blitzer and starry-eyed returnee from Fallujah, Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA).
"BOUSTANY: We’re clearly seeing some major improvements. Clearly in the Anbar Province, we’ve seen significant improvement. We were able to walk the streets of Fallujah. Sectarian deaths are down.
BLITZER: And Congressman Boustany, you say that the number of casualties is going down. But we took a closer look — and The Los Angeles Times did as well — citing Iraqi Health Ministry numbers. In June, it was 1,227 civilian deaths in Iraq. In July, it went up to 1,753 civilian deaths in Iraq. And in August, the month that just ended, 1,773 civilian deaths in Iraq. Those numbers are going in the wrong direction.
BOUSTANY: Well, I think what I mentioned earlier, Wolf, was the number of attacks. And, clearly, we have to look at all the metrics very carefully.
BLITZER: But statistics — you can play a lot of room with statistics. In terms of dead people, civilians, Iraqi dead people, those numbers are high and they’re getting worse, despite the increased military troop levels of the United States, the so-called surge having been in effect over the past couple of months.
BOUSTANY: Well, Wolf, I want to point out that just two or three months ago, I would have never thought that four members of Congress would be able to walk through the streets of Fallujah. That’s a major…
BLITZER: But you had a lot of security with you. You had a lot of U.S. military protection.
BOUSTANY: We had a platoon of Marines.
BLITZER: Yes, well, a platoon of Marines is a lot of Marines to walk through Fallujah. . .
Good for Wolf!
As for Bush,he knows that good news would be the Sunni Arabs in al-Anbar gladly signing on to the al-Maliki government.
Posted on: Tuesday, September 4, 2007 - 14:51
SOURCE: Guardian (9-3-07)
As we look ahead this Labour Day to the elections of 2008, those of us who call ourselves progressives should hope not only that the Democrats recapture the White House and additional congressional seats, but that those Democrats advance the memory and legacy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Why Roosevelt? While it's true that most Americans continue to consider FDR the greatest president of the 20th century, three decades of conservative ascendance have taken their toll on our political and historical imaginations. And just as their ideological ancestors did in the 1930s, today's rightwingers continue to accuse Roosevelt and his New Dealers of not simply failing to end the Great Depression, but prolonging it; of hijacking and trampling on the constitution; and of suppressing individual liberty and free enterprise in favour of bureaucratic collectivism.
This very summer - presumably seeking some reason to feel good in the face of the disastrous Bush tenure and dreading the possibility of a Democratic presidency that may bring with it a host of liberal initiatives - conservatives have been hyping Amity Shlaes' The Forgotten Man, the latest literary assault on Roosevelt's presidency.
In fact, the effusiveness of their praise leads one to imagine they fantasise about being in the vanguard of a joint Wall Street and Cato Institute "free market" expeditionary force marching through Washington to the FDR Memorial and toppling the statue of Roosevelt in his wheelchair while chanting Shlaes' fallacious claim that he and his famous Brain-Trusters modelled the New Deal after Mussolini's fascism and Stalin's communism....
Progressives should applaud [[Jonathan] Alter and [Cass] Sunstein [who have recently published books about FDR's personal leadership abilities] . And yet, we should not fail to see how these liberal writers, too, end up contributing to our amnesia, for they often ignore how the American people themselves encouraged and instigated their president to pursue the New Deal's grand experiments of recovery, reconstruction and reform. They fail to address how working people - labour unionists in particular - actually pushed FDR toward social democracy....
Posted on: Monday, September 3, 2007 - 15:50
SOURCE: WaPo (9-1-07)
... Craig's case apparently was handled according to the book. But the use of everyday gestures that fall short of sex to mete out punishment for sexual misconduct illustrates a revealing departure from methods that investigators used to carry out sting operations nearly a century ago. Courts used to require a lot more than the tapping of a toe to sustain a conviction for a morals crime.
In 1919 the Navy hired "decoys" to frequent the lobby of the YMCA in Newport, R.I. Orchestrated by officers at the local Naval Training Station, the cleanup campaign sought to eliminate gay men from the ranks. Following an introduction, decoys would accompany their suspects to a hotel room and then have sex. At least three dozen sailors and civilians were arrested, and many ended up in jail.
According to conventions of the day, if men confined themselves to masculine behaviors and sex roles, they could engage in sex with other men without inviting accusations of being gay. Because perversion was seen primarily as a function of effeminate mannerisms and passive sexual tastes, government decoys could have sex with gay men with impunity as long as they assumed the active position during those encounters. Or so the Navy assumed.
When the 1919 sting operation ensnared a local minister, the Episcopal Church fought back, and what had been a local operation became a national scandal that almost ended the burgeoning political career of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was then assistant secretary of the Navy.
The church persuaded the Navy and the Senate to investigate the sting operation, and when it became apparent that the military had enlisted heterosexuals to engage in sex with other men, there was a public outcry.
Thus began the shift away from sting operations involving sex acts with government agents, and a recognition by military and other investigators that they would have to rely on evidence short of actual sexual conduct as the basis for convictions. Historian David Johnson has shown that under the Pervert Elimination Campaign in the late 1940s, U.S. Park Police agents in the District of Columbia charged hundreds of men in gay cruising areas with disorderly conduct, indecency and other crimes, even though many had done nothing explicit.
Craig joins the growing list of people who have been charged with morals crimes for innocuous behavior....
Posted on: Monday, September 3, 2007 - 11:05