The Face That Launched a Thousand Drones?

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By Anne Holmes


The much talked about August 9 Time magazine cover, unabashed in its aim to shore up support for the war effort in Afghanistan, has left many still shaking their heads in disbelief at such brazen exploitation of a woman?s suffering. It?s not the first time the plight of Afghan women has been used to manipulate public opinion. It?s a narrative we have become so accustomed to since the 2001 invasion, that many of my most intelligent female friends did not recognize it for the subversive emotional blackmail that it is. More important, they said, was the attention it brought to women?s issues. Well, let us talk about those issues in earnest, then.
The picture, by South African photographer Jodi Bieber, shows an 18-year old woman by the name of Bibi Aisha. Her story is tragic, and all too common in places like Afghanistan. Married off at a young age, she was beaten regularly by her in-laws and forced to sleep in the stable among the animals. Aisha decided to flee, but women wandering around on their own don?t go unnoticed in Afghanistan, and before long, she ended up in a prison in Kandahar. While not officially a crime, running away is often treated as such and can receive hefty sentences; in this case three years. But her father found her, and took her back to her in-laws. Her punishment for disgracing the family was decreed: her husband, A Taliban?according to some accounts, should cut off her nose and ears. She was left for dead in the mountains of Oruzgan. As a testament to her fighter spirit, she managed to drag herself to her father?s house, who took her to a US Army hospital where she was cared for until they turned her over to a shelter in Kabul. This was 2009.
After an article about her ordeal appeared in the?Daily Beast in December of last year, the Grossman Burn Foundation in California offered to perform reconstructive surgery on her this past spring, long before her face appeared on Time?s cover. She arrived in the US to begin treatment last week, just as her portrait appeared on newsstands amid the media frenzy surrounding the recent release of some 76,900 classified Afghan war documents. Perfect timing.
Aisha?s story will have a happy ending. America will have done right by her. She will get her nose back and hopefully go on to live a perfectly normal life far away from her abusers. It?s a heart-warming story. But what about the remaining 15 million Afghan women, nearly 90% of whom it is estimated suffer from some form of domestic abuse, and moreover, what does this have to do with America?s war?
Most people will never read the accompanying?article in Time magazine. They will only see the disturbing gaze of a mutilated woman and the message scrawled beneath it ?What Happens If We Leave Afghanistan,? question mark excluded. Most will never examine the mechanisms within them that bring about the deep emotional response. Subliminal advertisers know all too well that a powerful image can make a target audience ignore the caption, all the while absorbing it subconsciously, reducing them to zombie-like consumers ready to do whatever the ad tells them to: buy this car, try this diet, sell your house, dye your hair, get a new phone, support our war. Using emotional triggers like scantily clad women in ads that sell anything from watches to hair-loss treatment, have proven effective time and time again. A strong image can be a thousand times more powerful than the words that accompany it, but words can manipulate the message of an image in far more virulent ways. The photograph alone is subject to interpretation. But in this case, the two combined, we are being sent a clear message that tells us this is what will happen?if we leave Afghanistan. Who among us wants this to happen to another Afghan woman? Guilt is the precise emotional response that makes us suddenly feel that being against the war is somehow a travesty.
Setting aside the obvious (that this is what is happening?now,?today, on?our watch) how can Time editor Rick Stengel be so sure of the future? ?I think we answer questions. I don?t think we ask them,? Mr. Stengel said in an interview with Katie Couric when she pointed out the missing question mark at the end of the headline. It?s one thing to draw conclusions about questions that can actually be answered, like is there undeniable evidence that Bernie Madoff cheated lots of people out of money? It is another to predict the future of a foreign country at war, something analysts, historians and military advisors have been unable to do since time immemorial.
Mr. Stengel?explained his editorial choice in the first pages of the magazine as follows: ?What you see in these pictures and our story is something that you cannot find in those 91,000 documents,? he said, referring to the recent release of leaked classified papers titledThe Afghan War Diaries by whistleblower website Wikileaks. The White House has been struggling desperately to convince the public that we can?t leave Afghanistan amid the fallout following the leak, a trove of documents that reveal the true horrors of the war campaign on the ground, and it seems Mr. Stengel decided to play steward to the Pentagon and help sway public opinion.
In his chosen message, two points of absurdity emerge: when in the history of mankind has a war ever been fought in the name of women?s rights, and how can one justify the murder and mutilation of thousands of innocents in the name of eradicating domestic abuse, never mind the fact that the Pentagon has no vested interest in the said cause. Countries don?t spend billions of dollars to mobilize troops to liberate women from the chains of institutionalized misogyny.
Why then, should we believe that saving the Aishas of Afghanistan is a just cause for war? It?s a narrative we have heard periodically for nine years, though never when it stood to benefit the women in question. In the lead up to the war, we were shown images of Afghan women being beaten and executed by the Taliban at Kabul?s infamous soccer stadium. Stories in the press abounded about the terrible living conditions of women under the Taliban, pulling on the heart strings of the typically more pacifist female demographic, and yet, nary a member of congress brought the matter to the floor prior to 2001. If it was really a just cause for mounting a full-scale invasion, it begs the most conspicuous question: why have we not done so in other parts of the world where our sisters are suffering too?
It?s the same ludicrous line we?ve been fed about wars in the name of democracy and freedom. We went in to Iraq to liberate the people from a terrible dictator. What we ended up doing is ?liberating? well over 4 million people of life, limb, or home, ripping the country asunder, ushering in extremist factions that made some of the once secular nation?s women dress in the code of Hijab or wear a Burqa for the first time in their lives.
So why have we heard this line about the women every time proponents of the war seem to be dwindling? Because it works. Look no further for evidence than a recently leaked?CIA document in March of this year, drawn up after the Dutch decided to pull out of the war. Amid fears that Germany and France, who supply the third and fourth largest contingents to Afghanistan, might follow suit, it suggests pushing stories about abused Afghan women to drum up support for the war:

Afghan women could serve as ideal messengers in humanizing the ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] role in combating the Taliban because of women?s ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory. Outreach initiatives that create media opportunities for Afghan women to share their stories with French, German, and other European women could help to overcome pervasive scepticism among women in Western Europe toward the ISAF mission.

But women in Afghanistan suffer abuse at the hands of Talibs and non-Talibs alike. It?s a social problem, not a Taliban problem. Of course, ousting the Taliban did women a favour in many regards. They regained suffrage, for one. Yes, today women nearly fill the 25% quota for parliamentary seats, and education is no longer officially forbidden. But how many women really benefit from the new constitution? What is written on paper is rarely applied in practice for the vast majority of women, particularly those living in rural areas, which represent about 77% of the population.
According to a?recent survey by the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), ?more than 87 percent of all women suffer from domestic abuse, making the country one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman.? That is today. Are we to believe that 100% of women were being abused under the Taliban, or will be if they return to power? Is that meagre 13% of violence-free women really the result of the ISAF mission?
In 2007 I did a?story on Afghan women who self-immolate. They are so desperate that, one day, something compels them to douse themselves with petrol and strike a match. I listened to their stories with unease. They were beaten, raped, used as prostitutes, molested and enslaved; all by husbands, fathers, cousins, uncles, brothers, or in-laws. Not one of them was from Taliban territory. Though it?s impossible to get a real sense of the numbers, most agree that the phenomenon is on the rise, and yet, we are meant to believe that the war effort is making progress on the front of women?s rights.
Oppression and brutality against women are not endemic to the Taliban alone in Afghanistan. Last year, President Karzai, in a bid to gain votes from the country?s Shia minority (roughly 19%) passed a controversial new law curtailing women?s rights. The Shiite Personal Status Law (SPSL), allows a man to deny his wife food if she does not submit to his sexual will, gives custody of children to fathers and grandfathers, and requires a woman to get permission from her family to work or to travel outside the home without a male escort. ?It also, in effect, enables a rapist to avoid prosecution by paying ?blood money?,? says Human Rights Watch.
It?s worth noting that the Taliban are Sunni, not Shia, and that the US-backed president has enacted a law for the non-Taliban sector of society, rolling back rights for women that were written into the constitution. Before the elections, the?Times Online reported that ?the United States and Britain [were] opposed to any strong public protest [against the law] because they fear[ed] that speaking out could disrupt [the] election.?? The bill was pushed through parliament in February of 2009 and came into effect in July of last year. Afghan women fumed, while US and UK leaders stood by, and where was Time?s cover advocating for women?s rights then? Here are the covers they ran in February 2009.

Central to the debate about the message the Time cover sends, is the question are we really making progress for women ? and if so, why should we believe that a good reason to continue fighting? While many people were moved by the cover, some things just don?t add up. After nine years of war, the public has grown wary of these kinds of media stunts. We are not so dumb anymore. The Bush years are over. Challenging our leaders is no longer tantamount to a capital offence. Not ?supporting the troops? is no longer suggestive of treason, since so many of them are returning home to join the growing anti-war movement. Support for the war has plunged to an all-time low (36%). Too many US soldiers have committed suicide or come home suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). People are starting to feel uncomfortable about the number of Afghan civilian casualties, which sadly should have been an issue long ago, but what the Wikileaks documents show us is that the army has been cooking the numbers. All those deaths of ?enemy combatants? were in reality far too often civilians. Such facts Americans are not happy to learn. The truth is coming out, though the editors of Time, like the Pentagon, obviously want to deflect our attention from it by shoving our faces in another gruesome reality that somehow makes even the staunchest pacifist wonder if maybe we?should soldier on.
In my discussions with friends about the cover, I was amazed how many educated, sharp women couldn?t see how they were being manipulated. Many felt it was much more important to shed light on the plight of women, and missed the absurdity of the message attached to it. Some of them were Iranian expats, for whom the subject of women?s rights is all too close to home. But then I asked, what if Time magazine were to run a cover like this one?

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Land of the Free

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The?Russian, Eastern & Oriental Fine Art Fair, an annual summer event in London?s Mayfair, displays fine art spanning the last 1,000 years. This year, works from Iran, India, China, Korea and Vietnam will be on display for the first time.

Among the more striking contemporary works is a set of photographs by Dhaka-born?Shumon Ahmed. Ironically entitled Land of the Free, it comprises seven images detailing the experience of Mubarak Hussain, the only Bangladeshi to have returned from Guantanamo Bay.

The fair takes place on June 9-12 at the?Park Lane Hotel. All images copyright of Shumon Ahmed, courtesy of the fair.

The story of Guantanamo Bay?s prison camp is as a horrifying one. In this place of torture, people became guinea pigs in a vast experiment of methods to crack the human soul. Mubarak Hussain Bin Abul Hashem is the only Bangladeshi to have returned from Guantanamo, after five years of imprisonment. ??Shumon Ahmed

Whilst under US army custody, Mubarak was known as ?Enemy Combatant Number 151?. ??Shumon Ahmed

Mubarak still remembers how the US army brutalised him with the aid of an attack dog over and over again, while his hands were chained behind his back. : ??Shumon Ahmed

Deeply traumatised from his experience in Guantanamo, Mubarak kept silent most of the time after returning home; to help him resettle into a normal life his family insisted he marry. He became the father of a baby girl in 2008. ??Shumon Ahmed

There have been allegations of torture, sexual degradation, forced drugging and religious persecution committed by U.S. forces at Guant?namo Bay. Former Guant?namo detainee Mubarak Hussain was freed without charge on December 17, 2006, after five years internment. Mubarak has claimed that he was the victim of repeated torture while he was in Guantanamo Bay. ??Shumon Ahmed

The abuse was ?systematic?, with frequent beatings, choking, and sleep deprivation for days on end. Religious humiliation was also routine. ??Shumon Ahmed

?On 17th of December, 2006, a special US Air Force plane flew Mubarak back to Bangladesh after failing to get any evidence of his alleged terror links. Bringing the story of his shattered past into life visually for the first time was an extremely difficult yet critical challenge for me. But it was crucial to vividly exhibit the human cost of the ?Land of the Free?s? ill-conceived and violently executed ?War on Terror?. Which, like for so many others, changed the life of a Bangladeshi named Mubarak Hussain forever.? ??Shumon Ahmed

9/11, Mossad, and a super 9-11 in the offing

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By Rahnuma Ahmed

Anti-Semite, Jew hater, Holocaust denier are the epithets one is bound to gather if one voices criticism of Israel. Of Zionism.
Historian Tony Judt, of Jewish background himself, had written on Israel’s 58th birthday, Israel is like an adolescent. It is convinced that it can do as it wishes. That it is immortal. That no one understands it. Everyone is against it. It is unique (`The country that wouldn’t grow up,’ Haaretz, May 2, 2006).
And after all, as God’s “chosen people” how can they be blamed? Self-deluded into thinking that they are distinct?especially from their Arab neighbours who are barbaric, fanatics, dirty, smelly?imagine their shock when a research aimed at studying genetic variations in immune system genes among Middle Eastern people discovered otherwise, that Jewish people are genetically not distinct from their neighbors. What was to happen now to the Jewish claim that they are special? That Judaism can only be inherited? (`Mideast Jews, Palestinians Virtually Genetically Identical,’ The Observer, November 25, 2001).
And how did the scientific community react? Did members scratch their heads and say, Oh good, now the Israelis will realise that it was all a big mistake. They’ve been slaughtering and grabbing land from people who’re actually their brothers… All this horror can stop. We can have peace. Finally!
No. The paper was pulled from Human Immunology, the American journal in which it’d just been published. It was removed from the journal’s website. Academics who had already received journal copies were urged to rip out the offending pages. Libraries and universities throughout the world were asked to either ignore it or “preferably to physically remove the pages.” The author, Spanish geneticist professor Antonio Arnaiz-Villena was sacked from the journal’s editorial board.
If Arnaiz-Villena had found evidence that instead of being “ordinary,” Jewish people were genetically “very special,” wrote a fellow scientist, “you can be sure no one would have objected.”
Israel, as we can all see, has refused to grow up. If it had, it would have, at the very least, done what Judt had advised 4 years earlier: dismantle the major settlements. Open unconditional negotiation with Palestinians. Offer Hamas leaders something serious in return for recognition of Israel and a cease-fire.
It would have realised that it cannot count indefinitely upon the unquestioning support of the United States. That the worldwide scrutiny of its everyday behaviour towards the Palestinians, only a TV button or a mouse click away?curfews, checkpoints, bulldozers, home destructions, land grabbings and settlements, slaughter in Gaza dubbed the world’s largest open-air prison, apartheid wall, targeted assassinations, theft of western passports?would eventually lead to a situation where, as Judt puts it, “the fact that the great-grandmother of an Israeli soldier died in Treblinka,” or Auschwitz, is no excuse for his own abusive treatment of a Palestinian woman waiting to cross a checkpoint. That it would lead to a situation where Israel would no longer be able to cash in on the Holocaust.
It will be most unfortunate. Zionism will provide the excuse for the rise of genuine anti-Semitism, for exacting the price?from both Zionist, and non-Zionist Jews?for not having learnt lessons from history.
Judt had issued a warning: “something is changing in the United States.” Ten years ago, he said, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt’s The Israel Lobby would possibly not have been published. Not even from London. A sea-change is taking place. It is leading prominent thinkers, including erstwhile neo-conservative interventionists like Francis Fukuyama to hard-nosed realists like Mearsheimer and Walt (“prominent senior academics of impeccable conservative credentials”) to voice the concern that Israel is “a liability.” If America is to regain her “foreign image and influence” the umbilical cord which ties US foreign policy to the needs and interests of Israel must be severed.

Mossad logo: `By way of deception, thou shalt do war'

US military circles apparently are not far removed from these changing concerns. As Dr Alan Sabrosky, former director of studies of the American War College said in a recent interview, his article, in which he alleges that 9/11 was a Mossad-CIA operation, is being read by people in the Headquarters Marine Corps, the Army War College. At first it is met with disbelief. But once people get convinced, they get angry. Very angry, he said. That’s because the military, unlike the Congress, the White House, and the media, has not been bought (see last week’s column, The `Mad Dog’ in the Middle East).
It is a conviction that seems to be shared by Gordon Duff, a Marine Vietnam veteran, and a widely published expert on military and defense issues. Israel’s powerful group around Bush ?the PNAC-ers, the neo-cons?is not present in the current administration, but the idea, as Duff explains, had been that regardless of who was voted to power, whether it was John McCain or Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel would be there, “to pull his strings” ?(Emanuel is the White House chief of staff at present). And they still have the Clintons, both Bill and Hillary, the State department, and “AIPAC’s ability to put 75% of the members of congress around anything from a resolution that the moon is made of green cheese to `National Have Sex With Your Child Day.’ Equally importantly, the media giants controlled by Israeli assets and Christian Zionist allies are in position in Germany, the UK and the US, and along with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, these assets are quick in “suppressing news, running any story and manipulating the masses.”
Things started to go wrong for Israel, writes Duff, when top military leaders increasingly became suspicious of 9/11 (April 24, 2010). Of the possibility that Israel was involved in 9/11. It is a suspicion which has festered like an open wound. General Petraeus, the senior operational commander, the person really in charge of the US military, has told Admiral Mullen that Israel is not subjected to any foreign threat. That it has become “a massive liability.” Obama, writes Duff, was confronted with a choice. He was told that neither the military nor the intelligence services are prepared to participate in attacks on Iran “under any imaginable circumstances.” That, if the US wanted to attack Iran, “he and Emanuel Rahm would have to invade Iran personally” (and I cannot help think who’d blame them with 18 attempted suicides per day among American war vets?).
As Israel lined up its collaborators in the US, Obama went after “Israel’s biggest prize in America, Goldman Sachs,” its prime asset for controlling America. For looting America. According to Duff, the alliance between the US and Israel has totally broken down. The most liberal and the most conservative members of congress have signed up in support of Goldman Sachs, and lined up against the President and Pentagon, who are are aligned together. In support of his argument, he asks: why [else would] extreme liberals and conservatives all attacking President Obama and, less visibly, our military leaders, all at the same time? Who is orchestrating this oddest turn of political events in recent history?
And in this oddest of situation backroom chatter has increased: a terror attack is imminent. Iran will be blamed for it. The primary suspect is Israel since “only a new 9/11 can bail Israel out,” writes Duff. According to rumors, the weapons are in place in Europe and the US. Arabs, Iranians, Pakistanis, some kind of Islamic terrorist group, have already been recruited. Or invented. News stories have already been drafted (I’d like to remind skeptics of 9/11, when BBC news correspondent Jane Standley had reported the collapse of Building 7, a good 23 minutes before the actual collapse time). Film crews are on alert. Witnesses will be briefed, they will say, Yes, it was an Arab dirty bomb. We saw them. Middle Eastern-looking. They must have bought the bomb from North Korea. After the story has hit the news, these stunned survivors will suddenly disappear. We all know where.
A super 9-11. But will this one, now that suspicions have been raised, now that Israel’s cover has been blown, will it generate `super’ sympathy for Middle East’s `mad dog’?
May be not. Once bitten, twice shy.
Published in New Age

The `Mad Dog' in the Middle East

By Rahnuma Ahmed

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What Dr Alan Sabrosky has done is bell the cat. Except that it’s a dog, and not a cat.One that’s utterly mad. Insane.
In the words of late General Moshe Dayan, who went on to become Israel’s defense minister, and later foreign minister, Israel’s security depended on its being viewed by others as a mad dog.
Dr Sabrosky, who has been calling for a new investigation on 9/11 for some time, said in a recent radio interview (March 19), it would have been impossible to stage 9/11 without the full resources of both the CIA and Mossad. Nine-eleven, he said, served the interests of both the agencies. “They did 9/11. They did it.”
“..it is 100% certain that 9/11 was a Mossad operation. Period.” (Full transcript). Now if Dr Sabrosky had been let’s say, a Pakistani, or worse still, an Iranian, one could have pooh-poohed. A loony, like all mollahs are. If he’d been Muslim, one could have labelled him an anti-Semite. After all, the Iranian president denied the holocaust. That’s what the western media said and they’d never lie, would they? Crazy dictator with nuclear weapons. Will deny being from his mother’s womb next. Pathetic.
But unfortunately Alan Sabrosky (Ph.D, university of Michigan) is a ten year US Marine Corps veteran. A Vietnam war vet. An American of Jewish ancestry. He’s not only a graduate of the US Army War College, he was director of studies there. For five and a half years. Now if he says he’s convinced the Israelis did it… it’s to say the least, pretty difficult to ignore. Although the mainstream western media, the beacons of the free world, are doing their darndest best. Do a google search on Dr Sabrosky plus any of these beacons New York Times, Washington Post, The Guardian… BBC, CNN websites, your search will come to nought. It’s only in the alternative press. A few blogs. Pravda online. Less than a handful of 9-11 truth websites (no, not all, interesting, eh?). It’s only in these places that you’ll come across links to his interview. And his recent article, `The dark face of Jewish nationalism’ (March 12, 2010).
Jewish nationalism is unique, he writes. Prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu had said at a Likud gathering “Israel is not like other countries.” For once, he was speaking the truth. What makes its nationalism distinct to that of other countries?all the rest have both positive and negative aspects, both unifying and extremist features?Jewish nationalism is extremist per se. Among both secular and practising Jews. It is a real witches brew of xenophobia, racism, ultra-nationalism and militarism, a mixture that cannot be contained within a `mere’ nationalist context. Its `others’ have to be pushed out. Either into camps, or out of the country. Second, Zionism undermines civic loyalty among its adherents in other countries. Loyalty to Israel supersedes the loyalty to the country to which one belongs. Whether US or UK, or any other. For instance, Rahm Emanuel. He’s the White House chief of staff. The second most powerful person in the US. He served in the Israeli army but not in the US armed forces. Once independence is achieved, and this is the third feature of Jewish nationalism, it’s not unusual to have normal relations with the former occupying power. But no, not in the case of Israel. It has a long list of enemies. They have become America’s enemies too. Lastly, nationalist movements usually don’t displace the indigenous population wholesale, instead, they incorporate. They accommodate. The Americans are an exception, look what they did to the Indians/native Americans. Maybe that’s why most of them don’t care about what the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians.


In his radio interview with Mark Glenn and Phil Tourney (USS Liberty survivor), Sabrosky explains, most Americans don’t care much about what happened to the USS Liberty. For those who don’t know, I add, Israel attacked the US Naval ship USS Liberty in 1967 during the Six Day war. It was a false flag operation (like 9-11), the plan was to blame the attack on Egypt, to drag the US into the war. President Johnson seems to have known about it in advance; 34 Americans were murdered, 173 were wounded. Sabrosky says, That’s history. But 9-11 isn’t.
It has led directly to 60,000 Americans dead and wounded. In other countries, “hundreds of thousands of people.” Killed, wounded, made homeless. Tourney is sore about the Liberty, while Sabrosky himself is sore about Vietnam. But Americans are sore about 9-11 which is an “open wound.” He says, If Americans ever know that Israel did this, they’re gonna scrub them off the Earth, and they’re not gonna give a rat’s ass?forgive my language?what the cost is. They are not going to care. They will do it. And they should.
When Glenn asks Dr Sabrosky what is the reaction in US army circles (his work is being read by people in the Headquarters Marine Corps and at the Army War College) to his conviction that 9-11 was a Mossad operation, he answers, at first, astonishment. Disbelief. He does not get into arguments, he says. Who was flying what, who was where, whether there was nano-thermite (high-tech energetic materials prepared under military contracts in the USA, part of secret military research) or not, “those things are true, but they’re incidental.” What is necessary is to tell people that three buildings went down, the third was not hit by a plane. He then shows them an interview with a Danish demolitions expert, Danny Jowenko. It shows WTC7 going down. I tell them, “Now you understand that if one of the buildings was wired for demolition, all of them were wired for demolition.” And that, says Sabrosky, is the tipping point. At that point, people get angry. Really angry. And they say, “They did it, didn’t they.” He replies, “Yep?they did it.
” While asking Dr Sabrosky what he thinks is going to happen, Glenn says he himself thinks that Israel is going to pull off another 9-11, “sooner than any of us realize or would like to envision.” That powerful people think so too, such as the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen who cut short a trip to Europe several years ago (July 2008), quickly flew to Israel, to warn them that there should not be “another USS Liberty part two.” That a part two would already have occurred if increasing numbers of people had not been talking about 9-11. He adds, “I think that Israel has been watching all of this and has been saying, “We need to kind of let things cool a little bit for now?if we try to pull another one off right now then that’s it: we’re going to blow our cover.”
Sabrosky butts in saying, If Americans ever truly understand that they’ve been had, Israel will be history. “It’ll be a bloody, brutal war.” Israeli leverage, he explains, is confined to political appointments?to the Congress, to the White House. And to the media (“the mainstream media have paid more attention to Sarah Palin’s wardrobe than they have to dissecting blatant falsehoods”). But “the military has not been bought.” It is loyal. If it ever really, really deeply understands this, that they did 9-11, that the US government could in any way be involved in high crimes and treason against the people of the United States, “Israel’s going to disappear. Israel will flat-ass disappear from this Earth.”
And what does he think is going to happen soon? “We’re going to have a war with Iran.” The Arab street is going to explode. There are American forces, American units, like the 5th fleet headquarters in Bahrain, there’s going to be a long casualty list. If the Iraqi resistance had not been so strong, the attack on Iran, which was the “big prize” all along, would have happened in the second Bush administration. The pattern, he’s convinced, was: Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq 2003, Iran 2005, Syria 2007. The time frame now is a bit different, and although he’s not sure as to how it’s playing out, they are trying to “create an excuse for a war.”
I myself find it interesting that the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently wrote a letter to Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General (April 13, 2010) urging him to appoint an independent fact-finding team, a trustworthy one, to launch a comprehensive investigation into the “main culprits” behind the September 11 attacks since that is the “principal excuse” for attacking the Middle East. For NATO’s military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. For making policies and launching military actions on the “pretext of fighting terrorism.
” Israel is a “monster,” Dr Sabrosky has written elsewhere (`I Express My Jewish Identity in Cuisine, Not in Foreign Policy’ July 9, 2009). And although more and more American Jews are speaking out, it might be too little too late. “Excising this ultra-Zionist/neo-con cancer is not going to be easy.” Maybe what needs to be done, an option that general Dayan had neglected to note, is to “kill that mad dog before it can decide to go berserk and bite.”
Extreme nationalism begging extreme solutions.
Published in New Age, April 26, 2010
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Padded Underwear

By Rahnuma Ahmed

It seems that 23 year old Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s underwear was padded with more than just a six inch long packet containing nearly 80 grams of a powdery substance known as PETN (chemical pentaerythritol tetranitrate). But I will turn to `deeper’ layers of padding later. First, what is generally known.
Abdulmutallab reportedly used a syringe to inject liquid into the packet which was sewn close to his groin, to set off the PETN, known to be a very powerful explosive belonging to the same chemical family as nitroglycerin. But popping noises, like firecrackers, alerted other passengers of Northwest flight 253 as the plane, which had taken off from Schipol airport in Amsterdam, was in its final descent toward Detroit.
Jasper Schuringa, a fellow passenger, described what happened, “He was holding the object which was on fire and smoke was coming out of it and I really had to pull it out of his hands because he kind of resisted and it was also kind of stuck in his underwear so I really had to rip the whole object out of his pants.” Schuringa grabbed the syringe which had partially melted, shook it to stop it from smoking, and threw it to the floor.
Passengers and crew members subdued Abdulmutallab. Using blankets and fire extinguishers, they put out the fire on his trouser legs, and a wall of the airplane. Had he been successful, the explosive would have blown a hole in the side of the airplane, causing it to crash.
It was 25 December, Christmas 2009.
The White House termed it an “attempted act of terrorism.” Abdulmutallab was soon discovered to have received training in Yemen “visiting various al Qaeda operatives including a notorious radical cleric.” US politicians, media, and experts quickly jumped into the fray calling for an expansion of the war on terror. President Barack Obama obliged by declaring that the US would strike anywhere to prevent another attack. These calls, as Mark LeVine points out, were unnecccesary since the US is already involved in Yemen, supervising attacks on militants there.
He was also discovered to have been a student of University College London, where he had enrolled in September 2005, to graduate with a degree in mechanical engineering in June 2007. Finger-wagging soon ensued: liberal colleges and universities in England were a `breeding ground’ for jihadists, they `groomed’ Islamic radicals etc. etc. ?But no one, of course not, called for a US bomb attack on UK. Or on London. To make the world safer.
On December 29, the US put Abdulmutallab’s underwear on display.
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UNDERWEAR AND EXPLOSIVE PACKET

A grim-faced president?leading some analysts to comment, rather admiringly, that Obama was not a man known to “anger easily” ?declared that there had been a deep failure of? national intelligence. That the government had enough information to thwart potential disaster but had failed to “connect those dots” (January 5, 2010). Although no new steps to improve the intelligence or security systems were announced, enhanced airport screening and a review of the US watch-list system was ordered. Dozens of names were added to the US’ 550,000 strong list of `suspected’ terrorists, they would be subjected to extra scrutiny before being allowed to enter the US; those on the 4,000 strong no-fly list were barred from boarding aircraft in or headed for the United States. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was instructed to give full-body, pat-down searches to US bound travellers from Yemen, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and 11 other countries. The transfer of Guantanamo prison detainees was suspended (about half of the near-200 currently detained are from Yemen). The US embassy in Yemen was closed down for several days.
According to the unclassified summary of the review into intelligence failures released by the White House, “The U.S. Government had sufficient information prior to the attempted December 25 attack to have potentially disrupted the AQAP plot?i.e., by identifying Mr. Abdulmutallab as a likely operative of AQAP [al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] and potentially preventing him from boarding flight 253.” After all, as the review says, Abdulmutallab’s father, had met with US embassy officers on November 18, had expressed his concern that his son may have come under the influence of “unidentified extremists,” and planned to travel to Yemen. And what did those august officials do? They marked his file for a full investigation should he re-apply for a visa after his current one to the US expired in June 2010, and passed on this information to officials in Washington. Meanwhile the latter added his name to 550,000 suspected terrorist list, but not to the no-fly one, which meant no alarms were raised when he bought his one-way ticket to US using cash, checking in without any baggage.
Since the US ruling establishment consistently portrays itself as a hapless victim of irrational violence unleashed upon it by dark, evil and religious forces out there, public discussion in the US soon enough latched on to shrill cries of more security, to what LeVine has termed the “$30 billion underpants.” To a prevention strategy which means new technologies, added law enforcement and security personnel on and off planes, lost revenues for airline companies, more expensive plane tickets. And, of course, inevitably, to an expansion of the `war on terror.’
It turned to talk of X-ray backscatters which reveal chalk etching images, to Millimeter wave screening which reveal fuzzy photo negative images. Amid all the security paranoia and fear-mongering, one did come across traces of humor. A commentator on a blog wrote, “I figure I?ll just show up at the airport naked carrying a vial of Propofol so that I can knock myself out before the colonoscopy.” A CNN political strategist reportedly said on the radio that he’d be willing to allow the TSA to measure his penis before the flight to dispense with full body scans. This might work for white penises, not for `colored’ ones. Iris scannings of transit passengers deemed to be `Aliens’ by the US government are taken and re-taken at US airports. Has been so, post 9/11.
Other paddings have since emerged, hinting at something deeper. At dots that are `not’ meant to be connected.
It seems that Abdulmuttalab boarded the flight to Detroit without a passport. According to Kurt Haskell, a fellow passenger, a lawyer who worked for the US federal government for 6 years, a “wealthy-looking Indian man” accompanied Abdulmuttalab to the counter before boarding, saying that Abdulmuttalab needed to board the plane, that he didn’t have a passport, and was? from Sudan. Haskell remembers the incident because the two of them had looked “strange together,” and remembers Abdulmuttalab as there were very few black men on the flight. Dutch counter-terrorism authorities have dismissed the claim: ?He had a passport and a valid visa for the United States and KLM had clearance on the passenger list to carry him to the US.? It remains to be seen whether FBI refutes the claim. And, as Alexia Parks? writes in The Huffington Post (January 6, 2010), if the plane had exploded over Detroit as planned, we would never have learned what Haskell had to say. ?In response to Park’s piece, this is what a contributor wrote: any passenger coming in on a KLM flight from Nigeria at Schipol usually has to go through US Passport Control, a place where “They interview each passenger individually, and you HAVE to present a passport at the very beginning of the interview. They scan your passport and ask you a bunch of questions, then you go through a metal detector and have any carry-on items scanned.”
I remember having gone all the way to Bangkok four years ago, to get a Mexican visa, of getting my visa but not being allowed to board the flight at Bangkok airport because I didn’t have a Dutch visa, an absolute necessity for Bangladeshis. So what if I was only a transit passenger?
Gordon Duff, senior editor of Veterans Today (an American Military Veterans and Foreign Affairs journal), connects `other’ dots, more sinister ones : (1) The senior Muttalab, back in Nigeria, “ran the national arms industry (DICON) in partnership with Israel, in particular, the Mossad.” Muttalab, though a Muslim, was a close associate of Israel, which runs “everything in Nigeria, from arms production to counter-terrorism.” (2) The two al-Qaeda leaders released by Bush from Guantanamo, although two of the highest ranking known terrorists there, had been “released without a trial.” (3) According to the Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, security forces had arrested a group of alleged Islamist militants linked to Israeli intelligence (BBC news report, 7 October 2008). (4) CBS News had learnt as early as August 2009 that the CIA had picked up information on a person dubbed “The Nigerian,” suspected of meeting with “terrorist elements” in Yemen. And (5) Airport security in Amsterdam is contracted to an Israeli controlled company which not only has the most sophisticated technologies, but is the one to have developed the concept of security profiling. There is no reason to think that al-Qaeda would be operating in Yemen without American or Saudi help, or, possibly, without direct material assistance from Israel, writes Duff, adding, the game seems to be falling apart.
If larger numbers of people are able to see the game for what it is, it can only mean that we are inching closer to a showdown.
Published in New Age 11 January, 2010

Pentagon's Prayers

By Rahnuma Ahmed

As more US troops surge into Afghanistan, as Predator drone attacks on Pakistan’s north-western villages increase, as news of operations by killing squads of US Special Forces on the Afghanistan side of the border intensifies, as yet another `front,’ a fifth one, opens up in the US-led war on terror, this time in Yemen?under the presidency of a Nobel Peace laureate?I return yet again to the day which supposedly re-wrote US history, which schematised history anew, into two distinct periods: Life Before, and Life After 9/11. How can I not? Unabated vengeance. More wars. To kill, loot and plunder….
That the prayers of those dubbed as representing the forces of `evil’ i.e., the “al Qaeda terrorists”?practitioners of a “fringe form of Islamic extremism” whose “directive commands them to kill Christians and Jews” (George Bush, September 21, 2001 )?were fulfilled on 9/11, seems to be obvious.
But the prayers of forces representing `good,’ that these too were met on 9/11, is not thought to be similarly obvious. Or, even if it is, it’s not similarly acknowledged. Not by western politicians. Nor by military leaders, defence analysts, security experts, writers, journalists?all those who speak in the name of the west. Who cling to the idea that it was a “surprise attack.” That it was carried out by “a collection of loosely affiliated terrorist organizations known as al Qaeda” who hate “our freedoms.” That it was an “act of war,” not only against the US, but against “civilization.” And that?since these terrorists number thousands and are spread in? “more than 60 countries”?America must declare war against “terror,” one which must be global, the likes of which have never ever been seen before. One that “begins with al Qaeda, but.. will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”
And thus we see newer fronts open up as the niceties of awarding Barack Obama the Nobel peace prize are endlessly talked about in polite circles, ooh, what a sweet gentle hint, ooh these Norwegians are so subtle…
Wars, however, are not subtle. As for the forces of `good,’ unlike those deemed evil, these do not? belong to the fringes. Neither of the American state, nor of western civilisation. They occupy its centre. Which is possibly why `their’ having prospered due to 9/11, is a heretical idea.
But only in the west. Outside its bounds, in the rest of the world, people talk about it. Freely.

Accounting. Before and after

In a speech to Pentagon employees on September 10, 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld disclosed that over $2,000,000,000,000 (yes, twelve zeroes) in Pentagon funds could not be accounted for. “According to some estimates,” he said, “we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions.”
His statement didn’t make world headlines the next day. The 9-11 attacks had reduced its colossal significance to dust. As it had, the Twin Towers. But news of Pentagon’s “financial disarray” has never been headlined in western mainstream media. Strange, considering its scale, its enormity. It’d have made many third world governments?often enough unhappy recipients of lectures on good governance, elimination of corruption, accountability?ecstatically happy. May be, that’s why. It’d have undermined the west’s moral authority and of course, you can’t allow the plebs to laugh at the emperor’s nakedness.

Rumsfeld saving Pentagon copy

Almost $7 trillion has been adjusted in the Department of Defense’s (DOD) financial ledgers, said a report released by the inspector general of Pentagon in 2000, “to make them add up.” Of this amount, no “receipts” were available for $2.3 trillion (presumably the sum Rumsfeld mentioned) (Associated Press, 03.03.2000). An investigative report published a week before 9/11 cites an 8 page summary of the DOD’s deputy inspector general. To compile the required financial statements, it says, $4.4 trillion had to be “cooked”; of this amount $1.1 trillion couldn’t be supported by reliable information. Another $1 trillion, at the end of Bill Clinton’s last full year in office, “was simply gone and no one can be sure of when, where or to whom the money went” (Insight, 03.09.2001 Rumsfeld_Inherits_Financial_Mess[1].pdf ).
Rumsfeld had promised reforms which would help transfer billions of dollars from the “bloated” bureaucracy to the battlefield. But 9/11 happened the next day. Spurred by anthrax fears, Congress soon approved a $40 billion (this has nine zeroes) emergency measure; a year later, the national defense budget totalled $400 billion, biggest since the cold war. It didn’t include Iraq’s occupation costs, covered by a $35 billion supplemental bill. Interestingly enough, the budget was accompanied by a bill, Defence Transformation for the 21st Century, which significantly lessened congressional oversight on military spending (Guardian, 22 May 2003).
So, where did all those trillions go? In this age of euphemism, writes Kelly Patricia O’Meara, the government has its own words for “missing” money. Unsupported entries. Material-control weakness. Adjusted records. Unmatched disbursements. Abnormal balances. Unreconciled differences. Rumsfeld had his own explanation, too. It was because of “gridlock” and not “greed.” “We cannot share information from floor to floor in this building because it’s stored on dozens of technological systems that are inaccessible or incompatible.” DOD, it seems, has hundreds of computer systems which run varied accounts?health care, payroll, inventory,? ones that are not integrated.
Scoffing at what she terms the `computers don’t talk to each other’ explanation, Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, one of the few truly people’s representative in the US legislature says, when they tell us the money was lost, what it really means is that the money went some place, but they don’t want to tell us where it went.
Business analyst Joshua Daniels adds up the figures and points his fingers elsewhere. The entire US defense budgets from 1996 to 2001, says Daniels, add up to $1.6 trillion. To reach the $2.3 trillion figure, one would have to go further behind, to 1991. Now, its not possible, he says, that the Pentagon spent hundreds of billions and didn’t get a single receipt. Or, that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) failed to notice that the entire defense budget went missing for ten years. After all, soldiers and sailors were paid, tanks and missiles were bought etc. “The missing money wasn’t on the books to begin with. It couldn’t have been; it’s more money than we gave them.” Where could it have come from then? Only the Federal Reserve, says Daniels, has such colossal sums at its disposal, and we should be asking: who hired the Pentagon to do whatever they hired it to do? What are they paying for? Who is its target?
One may not know where the missing trillions went, but that the US military-industrial complex rewards those responsible for the (mis)deed is pretty clear. Comptroller Dov Zakheim (a signatory also to the Project for a New American Century) left Pentagon in March 2004 and joined Booz Allen Hamilton ?the “most prestigious management firm in the world”(Time), which works on defense and homeland security matters?and is now vice-president there. Two former DOD officials, William J Lynn III (chief financial officer, 1997-2001) and Robert Hale (assistant secretary of the Air Force, Financial Management and Comptroller, 1994-2001) were brought back to the Pentagon by Obama, while president-elect, in January 2009, to the posts of deputy secretary of defense, and undersecretary of defense (comptroller), respectively. Hale had been working as chief lobbyist for Raytheon, a major American defense contractor.
Coincidentally, when the Pentagon was hit on 9/11, the “plane” hit an office of the Army where an investigation of the of the $2.3 trillion missing was taking place. The office lost 34 of its 45 employees, most of whom were civilian accountants, bookkeepers and budget analysts?officials who were reportedly working on the investigation. I will not go into the details of why believing the government’s account of what happened at the Pentagon on 9/11 is intellectually demeaning, but quickly quote Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski who writes, “the secretary of defense… in an unfortunate slip of the tongue referred to the aircraft that slammed into the Pentagon as a missile…”

After Christ. Atoning for the sins of others

To put the missing trillions of taxpayers money into perspective, O’Meara writes, it would have bought
(a)?? nearly 14 million accounting degrees from any four year state college, estimating the cost at $20,000 per year. Or,
(b)?? about $8 million single family houses costing $140,000 per home.
A far lesser sum, only US$22.6 billion per year, would provide access for all to improved water and sanitation services.
Another way of putting Pentagon’s missing trillions into perspective, one that I read somewhere on the internet, was: if Christ had spent a million dollars a day for two thousand years, by now he’d only have spent three-quarters of one trillion dollars.
He, of course, would have spent it differently.

The West's Immortal `Terrorist'

By Rahnuma Ahmed

Who else…, but Osama bin Laden?
He’s alive. Not only in the western imagination which needs an unlimited supply of bogeymen as its alter. To create and re-create myths of its innocence which serve to justify the waves of death and destruction that it wreaks on the `rest.’ In earlier times, to civilise savages and barbarians. And later, in the last couple of decades, to spread progress and democracy. As the Berlin wall tumbled down, the earlier bogeyman ? the communist ? was soon enough replaced by `blood-thirsty’ Islam, and its `jihadis’. The `rest’ of the world knows this.
But surely not only in the western imagination, surely he’s alive in a real-time sense too? After all, we see videos cropping up now and then showing us the bogeyman threatening vengeance on the west for killing `our people.’ The battle will continue until victory is acheived. Till then, believers will die for the cause.
Actually, ahem there is reason to believe that he’s ahem dead. Yes. For the last nearly-eight years.

Osama bin Laden: Dead or Alive?

At least that’s what David Ray Griffin, professor of theology, political analyst and foremost in the 9/11 truth movement, thinks. In his Osama bin Laden; Dead or Alive, a little book that was published recently, he puts forth two types of evidence, objective evidence, and that based on testimonies.
Five objective facts are laid out to convince readers. First, the CIA had regularly intercepted messages between bin Laden and his people, but this stopped on December 13, 2001. No messages, no CIA interception. Second, a Pakistani daily published a report on December 26, 2001 which said, “A prominent official in the Afghan Taleban movement…stated…that he had himself attended the funeral of bin Laden and saw his face prior to burial.” Third, he suffered from kidney disease. In July 2001, he had been treated in the American Hospital in Dubai, and had later ordered two dialysis machines. According to a CBS news report, the night before 9/11, he was receiving kidney dialysis treatment in a hospital in Pakistan. Dr Griffin writes, on the basis of a video of bin Laden made in either late November or early December of 2001, Dr? Sanjay Gupta thinks that he was probably in the last stages of kidney failure.
The details of what Dr Gupta (CNN’s medical correspondent and a brain surgeon) said can be? found on the CNN website’s Health section. Pictures of bin Laden show a “sort of a frosting over of his features — his sort of grayness of beard, his paleness of skin, very gaunt sort of features.” Symptoms that are associated with chronic kidney failure, renal failure. Through the entire length of the video, says Dr Gupta, bin Laden did not move his arms. Not once his left arm; his right side, only a little. These speak of a stroke. If he was not receiving proper medical treatment, and this means not being separated from his dialysis machine (which requires electricity, clean water, a sterile environment), a kidney specialist, and a technician, “it’s unlikely that you’d survive beyond several days or a week at the most.”
According to a July 2002 CNN report, bin Laden’s bodyguards had been captured in February that year. If the bodyguards were captured “away from bin Laden,” argues Dr Griffin, it was very likely that the man himself was dead. The fifth reason is the $25 million reward announced by the US government since 2001, for any information that will lead to the capture or killing of bin Laden. It has produced no results “even though Pakistan has many desperately poor people.” As I read this I cannot help thinking, Enron, American economy in tatters, surely not because of poor people…? Anyway, to get back to the bin Laden story, the testimonial evidence which Dr Griffin advances is from people who are in a “position to know,” people like president Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, president Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Iran-Contra figure Col Oliver North. It includes sources within Israeli intelligence who say that any new messages from bin Laden are “probably fabrications.” Whereas sources within Pakistani intelligence “confirm the death of…Osama bin Laden” and go on to add, “the reasons behind Washington’s hiding news on the death of Osama bin Laden to the desire of hawks of the American administration to use the issue of al-Qaida and international terrorism to invade Iraq.”

The `Fatty’ bin Laden Tape, and others

Some of the videos are obvious fakes. One of these is known as the Confession tape, in which bin Laden contradicts what he had said earlier, on four separate occassions, that he was not responsible for 9/11. In this, reportedly found by US troops in a house in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, while talking to a visiting sheikh bin Laden says that he had not only known about the 9/11 attacks but had personally overseen every detail.

osamafakeosamareal

1) Fatty bin Laden/Jalalabad video (being dated November 9 and released December 13).

2) Gaunt, tired and thin bin Laden, tape made?between November 16 (on which occurred an event mentioned on the tape) and December 27 (the date on which the tape was released).

Osama has a much taller and narrower nose.

Osama has a less rounded brow ridge.
Osama is less well nourished.
Osama has lower and less full cheeks.
Osama’s forehead slopes back more.
Osama’s face is wider at the level of his eyes.
Dr Griffin lists even more differences, a black beard, not a grey one. A darker skin, and not bin Laden’s pale self. His slim, pianist fingers had turned short, stubby. More like those of a boxer. Although left-handed, he is seen writing a note with his right hand. Most telling however, are these words, “‘Due to my experience in this field, I was thinking that the explosion from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building and collapse the area where the plane hit and all the floors above it only. That is all we had hoped for.” But the real bin Laden, who has a civil engineering degree, would have known that a building fire cannot melt steel.
Did the American ruling class bother with such trivial details? But of course, not. Quoting US officials Washington Post said, the video “offers the most convincing evidence of a connection between Bin Laden and the September 11 attacks.” Whereas president Bush ecstatically crowed, “For those who see this tape, they realise that not only is he guilty of incredible murder, but he has no conscience and no soul.”
Another video, known as the “October Surprise” video appeared in end-October 2004, timed to help George Bush win the presidential election. This bin Laden, had turned secular. Where bin Laden’s own messages had been full of references to Allah and the Prophet Mohammad, the only Mohammad mentioned here was the 9/11 `terrorist’ Mohammad Atta.
While some critics of America’s imperial wars think that Dr Griffin’s question is irrelevant, that the “war policy makers in the US government can easily deal with a bin Laden death,” and can “find ways to justify their never ending war on terror” (Maher Osseiran), it is nonetheless true that bin Laden was called upon by president Barack Obama in his March 27 address, which announced the extension of the Afghanistan war beyond its borders:
?[A]l Qaeda and its allies – the terrorists who planned and supported the 9/11 attacks – are in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Multiple intelligence estimates have warned that al Qaeda is actively planning attacks on the U.S. homeland from its safe-haven in Pakistan. . . . [A]l Qaeda and its extremist allies have moved across the border to the remote areas of the Pakistani frontier. This almost certainly includes al Qaeda’s leadership: Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri.?
America, it seems, needs bin Laden more than he needs them. After all, the evidence presented seems to indicate he’s dead. Has been, for quite some time.
Published in New Age, December 21, 2009

Is your liberation, also mine?

Rahnuma Ahmed


“If you have come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together”

– Lisa Watson, aboriginal activist

1971

‘No, I don’t want to remember ’71,’ she blurted. It had sounded like a half-cry.
I did not ask my friend why she wanted to forget, there was a fraction of a pause, I rushed on, `But I can’t. I don’t want to. I live by `71. It gives me strength. It gives me a sense of direction.’
A campaign of genocide against defenseless people by the Pakistan army, the smell of burning flesh as settlements were encircled and fired upon in Dhaka city on March 25th, the horror of villages being razed to the ground, long lines of people fleeing in hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands to India, people who turned into refugees overnight, living in refugee camps and shelters provided by sewage pipes in Kolkata city. My friend and I share memories of death and destruction. Of fractured lives that have remained thus, forever.
We also share the indignity of betrayals by national leaders immediately after independence, and later, by successive military and civilian governments, by uninvited guests to dinner who have overstayed by nearly two years. Also, the indignity of being graced by a spineless president, installed specifically because of that defective streak by a government that was voted to power.
We share the indignity of growing economic disparities, of revolting displays of mindless consumption impervious to processes of impoverishment, and those impoverished. Of forcibly containing popular protests against the closure of mills, factories, and other avenues of employment, of long lines of cultivators waiting for fertilisers, spirited away by traders intent on getting-rich-quicker. Of Bengalis and indigenous peoples being uprooted from the land to serve the energy, and profit, needs of multinationals. Of caving in to World Bank and IMF instructions that go against national interests, and introducing legislation providing them immunity from legal action. Of the indignity of military occupation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts for more than thirty years, to ‘pacify’ its indigenous inhabitants, and displaying the successes of these military policies to army visitors from abroad. Of strengthening forces intent on securing particular forms of patriarchal power and control over women, in modes unknown in the Quran (‘there can be no compulsion in religion’).
We share the indignity of seeing hundreds of thousands of poor people, fallen on the wayside to the road of `national’ development every year. Of garments workers being beaten to death on accusations of pilferage, of dead bodies being concealed, of ill-built factories collapsing, of earned wages not being given, of workers protests being fired on as expensively suited, coiffured-hair factory owners hold press conferences in their expansive, air-conditioned offices. Of swearing-in ceremonies by men, publicly-known to be war criminals of 1971, as government ministers.
We share the indignity of seeing crippled freedom fighters being wheeled-in and put on display at government functions, every independence and victory day. The indignities of rampant corruption, political squabbling and cronyism, of violence unleashed on civilian populations by civilian governments. Of stereotypical elisions concocted by rulers and their dim-witted intellectuals, 1971 forces=pro-Indians=lovers of Hindus vs Islam=Jamaat=rajakars, created to cement their strangle-hold on political power, concoctions that have resulted in making a mess of the nation’s history, making it more difficult to write other histories, histories that place peoples interests and common dreams at the centre.
These indignities and others, born of the political opportunism of both military and civilian rulers of Bangladesh have whittled away the magnitude of the truths of 1971. It has made it difficult for us to critically appreciate the value of national culture — simultaneously `the fruit of a people’s history and a determinant of history’ — in our liberation struggle. For national culture is, as Amilcar Cabral, poet and revolutionary leader of the national liberation movement of Guinea Bissau stresses, `an element of resistance to foreign domination.’
If one wishes, one can take solace from the fact that these indignities are not unique to Bangladesh, one can take solace from reading Frantz Fanon, psycho-analyst and revolutionary theorist of anti-colonial struggles, who had pointed out long ago that the interests of the new rulers in ex-colonies is not compatible with those who seek greater social change. That independence does not better the lives of the majority of the people. That the new national bourgeoisie is no different from any other bourgeoisie since it’s mission has ‘nothing to do with transforming the nation’.
So how can I blame my friend for wanting to forget 1971?
But I remember reading somewhere, the more one can dream, the more one can do. So we must hold on to the dreams of 1971, we must re-create them, to be able to dream anew. To be able to do.
Values and ideals, regardless of how just they are, when bandied repetitively become formulaic, they lose meaning, they lose the capacity to inspire, to provide direction. History and historic struggles can be the present only if one draws new meanings, meanings that are based on contextualised readings of the past. Martyred Intellectuals day was observed yet again this year, on December 14th, with calls for prosecuting war criminals responsible for the killings of intellectuals. But, as Nurul Kabir, the editor of New Age pointed out on Bangla Vision, that is not enough. Intellectuals were killed in the early stages of the liberation struggle to quell and contain popular revolt, they were killed at the eve of independence to cripple the nation intellectually, from its very birth. These courageous men and women, he said, had been a threat to the state of Pakistan from the 1960s onwards. If they had lived, it is unlikely that they would have turned into supplicants of the state. Our tragedy is that none of the intellectuals today are a threat to the state, a threat necessitating the need to silence.
And, I add, the sub-text of reading-history-made-safe is based on certain assumptions, namely, that liberation has already-been achieved, that ’71 is not the present but the past, that we should be disposed towards martyred intellectual men and women as objects of veneration, and definitely not as living sources of inspiration for continuing struggles, struggles that are relevant to, and forged from, new political realities.

Nationalism in Times of War on Terror

Contemporary history-writing, particularly some of those belonging to the post-modern genre, regard the nation state as being always, and in every case, oppressive. National liberation, in the words of some, is ‘a poisoned gift’. As I write these lines, I remember how a younger faculty member at Sussex university, had chided me when I stood chatting with him on a March 26th day, when I told him of how I missed home, and recounted to him Bangladesh’s struggle for national liberation. He belonged to a European nation, an older nation-state. For him, struggles of national liberation were over.
But since it is nations that are targeted, whether it be Afghanistan or Iraq, since it is powerful western nations that prevent Palestinians from forming one in order to advantage the security interests of another, i.e., Israel, when the US war on terror expands into Afghanistan’s neighbouring nation, Pakistan, when one hears talk of building Bangladesh as a base of counter-terrorism, maybe we need to turn to Cabral, maybe we need to examine ’71 minutely, in order to understand what it is that had made `the element of resistance to foreign domination’ possible
————
First published in New Age on 16th December 2008
Related links:
Remembering December 1971
1971 as I saw it
Bangladesh 1971
The month of victory
Jahanara Imam
1971 show in London

Of pet dogs (and bitches)

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rahnuma ahmed

Last year, in June, she had left Dhaka and her pet dogs to take up her new assignment in Baghdad. Patricia Butenis has returned, this time on a private visit, to fetch her dogs, and to visit her old workplace.?Amader Shomoy, March 3, 2008??

Political speculation was rife. Was she on a special assignment? Was her visit timed to coincide with the ex-president of Pakistan Wasim Sajjad?s visit to Dhaka? Had Sajjad gone to Geeta Pasi?s home, the US charge d?affaires, where Butenis was staying, to meet with the latter? After all, Butenis had earlier been posted in Pakistan. Was she here to hold meetings with the opposition party leaders of Bangladesh? Or was it secret meetings with top military and civilian officials?

Not many newspapers had reported the pet dog story. US embassy sources had stressed that it was strictly a private visit, that she was not here on any special assignment, that her itinerary had not been made public out of security considerations. That she would return directly to Baghdad.

I read and re-read the newspaper reports. Butenis, it seems, had attended both private and official programmes. She had gone to a dinner given in her honour by the Canadian high commissioner. She had gone to a US embassy organised lunch at Dhaka?s Westin hotel. She had gone to the UNDP-organised ?Celebrating the Halfway Mark of Voter Registration? programme, attended by top Election Commission officials, senior-most military and civilian officers, political party leaders, heads of diplomatic corps, and foreign diplomats. I read the newspaper reports carefully. Renata Dessallien, the UNDP resident representative, had profusely thanked both the Election Commission and the army for the progress made. Bangladesh, she had said, was on its way to rescuing democracy, to putting it back on track. The UNDP would advise other countries to follow Bangladesh?s example, to make a similar ?golden voter list,? complete with voter photographs and national ID cards. Interesting. I returned to tracking Butenis, and found that she had also attended a meeting with US embassy officials in Dhaka. She had spoken of her seven-month-long experiences as the deputy chief of the Baghdad mission.?

But it was the pet dog story that intrigued me. I carefully went through some more newspapers. According to a high-up government source, before leaving Dhaka middle of last year Butenis had said she was leaving her ?pet dogs? behind. She would return to fetch them after she had settled down in Baghdad. Could this be the reason for her visit??The reporter didn?t seem convinced?(Shamokal, March 2, 2008).??

It seemed trivial, but I was piqued. One dog? Or two? Some reports had said ekta kukur (Jaijaidin, March 3, 2008). Others did not mention numbers. They used kukur, which is a collective noun. It could well mean several. A couple of other reports, these were later ones, made specific mention of two, duti posha kukur (Amader Shomoy,?Jaijaidin).???

Were they she-dogs? Or, he-dogs? Maybe one of each? I remembered Butenis had been a strong advocate of gender equality. I remembered the introductory words of her 2007 International Women?s Day speech, ?As we celebrate International Women?s Day this month, I hope everyone will take the time to recognise that women are uniquely valuable and productive members of our society?? I remembered her condemnation of economic discrimination against women, her stand against women?s trafficking, against domestic violence. But then I thought, surely this was stretching it too far? One may well be pro-women, but does that necessarily mean, one of each, in selecting pet dogs? And of course, pet-lovers have to take other things into account (whether they want their pets to have puppies, or get them neutered, a whole load of things).???

I was also worried over my choice of words. The female of the canine species? Terribly outdated. She-dogs? Clumsy. And then I remembered, the word ?bitch? is thought to be less offensive nowadays. I remembered that earlier meanings of malicious, spiteful, domineering have given way to feminist attempts to appropriate the word. Such as?Bitch magazine?(1996), billed as a feminist response to pop culture. I remembered third wave feminist attempts to inscribe new meanings. Bitch, as in women who are strong-minded. Assertive. In total control.??

But I speak of she-dogs. Not women.

Loving dogs

?

I grew up watching Lassie, an American TV serial in the mid- to late-sixties. Lassie, a Yorkshire collie, had seemed incredibly beautiful. Very dignified. Almost human.

It was later, much later that I tried to develop a critical appreciation of modern pet-hood as a western cultural phenomenon. As a kinship phenomenon. I thought of what Marc Shell, an anthropologist, had said. Pets in the west give their owners, ?pleasure, companionship, and protection, or the feeling of being secure.? Shell was writing of the mid-1980s. But was it always like this in western culture? From time immemorial??Jenkins?says, no. Lassie, says Jenkins, was a creation of 19th-century bourgeois imagination, of those who viewed the onset of modernity with a sense of nostalgic loss. As old social commitments gave way to ?alienated and individualistic urban life,? a dog became a ?man?s best friend.? Eric Knight?s Lassie, says Jenkins, stands at the nexus of two new ideas. Children, no longer sources of productive labour, are re-imagined as sacred and innocent. As repositories of parental affection. Dogs are also re-imagined. They are no longer domesticated animals valued for their productive labour, or their exchange prices. They are transformed into pets. Into repositories of sentimental value.?

I am still curious. Of course, I have nothing against pets, I have nothing against dogs, but I fee
l there is more to know. What about today, the 21st century? The love for pets, for dogs seems to have grown more intense, deeper. I want to know what western scholars, those who examine their own social and cultural practices, think. I want to know how intense love and murderous rage can coexist in the modern subject.?

I come across an article by?Heidi Nast, a critical animal geographer. Nast speaks of the here-and-now. She says pet animals have emerged in the 1980s, and more so in the 1990s, as ?highly commodified and valued objects of affection and love.? This, she says, coincides with the rise of post-industrial spaces, and with intense consumption, in the US, and other western countries (spreading outside the west too, in Hong Kong, China, Mexico, South Korea). She writes, the allure of pet animals resides in part ?because they can be anything and anyone you want them to be.? Pets, specially dogs, supersede children as ?ideal love objects.? They are more easily mobilised, need less investment, and to quite an extent, can be shaped into whatever you want it to be, a best friend, an occasional companion. Nast speaks of new shared-experience activities that bond pets and their owners (some prefer the word ?guardians?): dog yoga (or doga), which started in the US, in 2001. And, formal dancing with dogs, this began in Canada and England in the late 1980s. Nast agrees that pet-animal ownership is not radically new. That elites have pampered pet-animals for millennia. But, what is new is the degree of financial, emotional and cultural investment in pet-animals, its geographical scale, and the level of intensity. Things unheard of even twenty years ago.???

Reading Nast I learn that popular support for a national ?No-Kill? movement in US pet shelters emerged in the 1990s (where four million animals are annually killed). That the movement aims to stop euthanising adoptable dogs and cats, by spaying and neutering animal-pets, and working towards greater pet health and adoption rates. I learn that these social tendencies have led to a much greater popular interest in animal rights, a much broader popular participation in animal rights activities. And that this broadened interest has used the rights of animals to treat cultural groups with different sensibilities about the animal world, as the ?other.? Nast reminds us of Bridget Bardot, ex-actress, later a celebrity animal rights activist, who had spoken hatefully of the savagery of Muslims. Because of their slaughtering practices. All in the name of animal rights.???

Nast does not think that the affection-love with which pet-animals are treated is unproblematic. She thinks that the ?escalation in human cruelty to, and dominance over, humans? that the 21st century is witnessing is not un-connected to intense pet-love. She thinks, it derives from, it operates together with ideologies and logics of violence toward humans.??

I return to tracking the former US ambassador Patricia Butenis, but this time in Iraq. Tracking is now virtual, made much easier by the internet and its search engines.

Killing Iraqis

?

Baghdad – Mohammed Hafidh says he refused to accept an envelope filled with $12,500 in cash from Patricia Butenis, deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Baghdad, as compensation for the death of his 10-year-old son, Ali.?

?I told her that I want the courts to have their say,? says Mr. Hafidh, whose son was among 17 Iraqi civilians killed in a Sept 16 shooting involving Blackwater USA security guards ? private contractors who were escorting a US diplomat at the time.???

Haythem al-Rubaie, who lost his son and wife in the same shooting, says he won?t even meet with Ms. Butenis, who offered cash compensation on Wednesday to seven of the victims? families, including Hafidh (The Christian Science Monitor, October 25, 2007).

I wasn?t sure I had read it right. I rubbed my eyes. Ms Butenis herself going round offering cash compensation? The deputy head of mission herself? And I, in my utter na?vet?, had thought suchlike duties were performed by CIA officials. A?Washington Post?story helped explain matters: the Nisoor Square massacre had sparked outrage in Iraq. The embassy offers were unusual but reflected ?the diplomatic and political sensitivities raised by the shootings.? Hmm, I thought, rather quaint language. You wouldn?t think they were talking of massacres.

The Post story provided further information. A State Department official had asked Haitham (name differently spelt) what he thought was fair compensation for his wife and son. He had replied, ?They are priceless.? On being pressed, he had said, ?Like Lockerbie.? The families of victims of the Pan American bombing over Scotland had reportedly received $8 million dollars in compensation from the Libyan government. He had added, ?And you would have to deliver the criminals to an Iraqi court just like Libya delivered the criminals to the British.???

Being appointed the second-in-command of the Baghdad mission was undoubtedly a promotion. But being there sounds rather wretched, what is the English phrase? It?s a dog?s life

War diplomats

?

US diplomats would seem to agree.

?State Department employees serving in Iraq get their full salary plus 70% differentials for danger and hardship service. Got a family living in, say, western Europe as part of your last assignment? No problem. The State Department says they can stay there in housing provided by the government as you serve in Iraq. Or, if you like, move the family to a U.S. location of your choice with an allowance that comes on top of the other financial incentives. And for those Foreign Service strivers thinking of a posh future post in some place like London, Paris or Madrid, keep in mind that State Department employees who volunteer for Iraq are now guaranteed one of their five top picks for the next assignment following Iraq. And the U.S. embassy and Baghdad definitely wants you to know that Iraq duty will do you well in promotion consideration down the road? (Times, November 5, 2007).

But the perks were not enough. Forty-eight positions remained vacant. Late last year, the State Department was forced to issue a warning to more than 200 officers. Unless they volunteered, they would be forced into ?compulsory Iraq se
rvice.? Since then, 15 individuals have come forward, but 33 spots still remain vacant.?

I was amused. Not many seem to have been taken in by the US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice?s idea of??transformational diplomacy??(January 18, 2006). ?We must begin to lay new diplomatic foundations to secure a future of freedom for all people.?

Wanted: dogs of war

The United States has always wished that Bangladesh take part in the Multi-National Force in Baghdad. We have always welcomed Bangladesh?s participation. But, [Butenis] added, the people internal to Bangladesh, the common people of Bangladesh are against the idea. It is a difficult decision for Dhaka. Had Dhaka been asked? Butenis did not give any clear-cut answer (Manab Zamin, March 4, 2008).?

In English, ?dogs of war? is an archaic term for soldiers, coined by Shakespeare. ?Cry ?Havoc!?, and let slip the dogs of war? (Julius Caesar, Act III, scene 1, line 270).???

The US needs dogs of war. Bangladeshis will not agree to their armed forces joining American-led occupiers in Iraq. Not in their name, no. But there may be other ways. Talk of?setting up a Muslim UN peacekeeping force?has been gently circulating for the?last couple of years. At some stage, that will probably be voiced as a compromise solution. Everybody will heave a sigh of relief. US forces will hunker down in?US mega-bases in Iraq, they will lead safe lives of occupation. Less body bags to be shipped home, while UN peacekeepers from moderate Muslim countries like Bangladesh maintain peace above ground.

If it so happens, they will be the dogs of war in an imperial occupation that has ravaged the cradle of civilisation.

First published in New Age 17th March 2008

I can kill any Muslim

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Year end play: The Nuculier God
Theatre: The World
Set Design: Tony Blair
God: George Bush
Sacrificial Lamb: Saddam Hussein
Slaves: Saudi Royal Family and cohorts
Extras: The United Nations
Theme song: I can kill any Muslim
I can kill any Muslim
Any day I choose
It?s all for the cause of freedom
I can kill any Muslim
Wherever I choose
It is cause we?re a peace lovin? nation
So we egged him on
When he attacked Kuwait
And the trial may have been harried
So we supplied him arms
To gas the Kurds
With him dead, that?s one story buried
Violence in Iraq
Has been on the rise
The US can hardly be blamed
Our interest was oil
And we stuck to our goal
Why must my cronies be named
Saddam?s emergence
As Arab resistance
That wasn?t part of the plan
Had Amnesty and others
Kept quiet when it matters
We?d have quietly gone on to Iran
Asleep I was
When he hanged on the gallows
Well even presidents need to sleep
Oblivious I was
When the planes hit the towers
I had other ?pointments to keep
More Iraqis dead
More ?mericans too
OK they warned it would happen
Why should I listen
When I rule the world
No nation?s too big to flatten
The Saudi Kings
They know their place
At least they?ll know by now
Muslim?s OK
If you tow the line
Out of step, off you go, and how
Tony and me
We keep good company
Dictators know when it matters
Regardless of crimes
And religious inclines
Safe if you listen or its shutters
I can kill any Muslim
Wherever I choose
I choose quite often I know
I can kill any Muslim
Any day I choose
I did it so now they will know
Similar to Rumsfeld’s concern that the Abu Ghraib pictures coming out, and not about the events themselves, the Iraqi government worries about the footage of Saddam being taunted, getting out. The fact that the taunting took place doesn’t appear to be an area of concern. With the US government stifling Al Jazeera, and increasing censorship in mainstream media, citizen journalism appears to be the only way people can get past the PR camouflague.
With all political parties of Bangladesh, as well as most Muslim leaders around the world, choosing to remain silent at the execution of Saddam Hussein, it is left to human rights organizations to remind us, that despite his atrocities, Saddam will be remembered for his defiance. The butcher of the Kurds will go down in history as a victim of flawed justice. The guns are now clearly turned against Iran, but the Saudi rulers, as well as the Egyptians and the Jordanians would do well to ponder, ?Who is next??