By M. Shahid Alam – Dissident Voice
More than eight years after dismantling the Taliban, the United States is still mired in Afghanistan. Indeed, last October it launched a much-hyped ‘surge’ to prevent a second Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, not imminent yet, but eminently possible.
The first dismantling of the Taliban was a cakewalk.
In 2001, the United States quickly and decisively defeated the Taliban, killed, captured or scattered their fighters, and handed over the running of Afghanistan to their rivals, mostly Uzbeks and Tajiks from the Northern Alliance.
Unaware of Pashtoon history, American commentators were pleased at the smashing victory of their military, convinced that they had consigned the Taliban to history’s graveyard.
Instead, the Taliban came back from the dead. Within months of their near-total destruction, they had regained morale, regrouped, organized, trained, and returned to fight what they saw as a foreign occupation of their country. Slowly, tenaciously they continued to build on their gains, and by 2008 they were dreaming of taking back the country they had lost in 2001.
Could this really happen? That only time will tell, but prospects for the Taliban today look better than at any time since November 2001.
In 2001, the United States had captured Afghanistan with the loss of only twelve of its own troops. Last year it lost 316 soldiers, and the British lost another 108. The numbers speak for themselves.
The United States had occupied Afghanistan with 9000 troops. When Obama took office in January 2009, these numbers had climbed to 30,000. In October, US troop strength in Afghanistan had more than doubled. This does not include tens of thousands of foreign contractors and some 200,000 Afghan troops armed and trained by the Americans.
Yet, NATO could not deter the Taliban advance.
That is when President Obama ordered a troop surge. US troop strength will soon reach 100,000. At the same time, the United States is inviting Taliban fighters to defect in return for bribes. In tandem, President Karzai – for the umpteenth time – is offering amnesty to defecting Taliban fighters. So far, there have been no high-ranking defections.
Can the United States defeat these men – returned from the dead – it calls terrorists? It is a vital question. It should be, since the United States claims that if the Taliban come back, Afghanistan will again become a haven for Al-Qaida, their training ground and launching pad for future attacks against Western targets.
How did the Taliban stage this comeback?
Simply, the answer is: by finding strength in their handicaps. If you had compared the defeated Taliban in December 2001 to the Mujahidin in 1980, you would conclude that history had closed its books on them irrevocably.
The Mujahidin brought several advantages to their fight. All Afghan ethnicities opposed the Soviet presence in Afghanistan. They had financial, military and political support from all the Western powers. President Reagan honored them as freedom-fighters. They also had support from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iran. In addition, tens of thousands of foreign fighters would join the Afghan Mujahidin.
In comparison, Taliban prospects looked quite dismal after their rout in November 2001. Nearly all the factors that favored the Mujahidin worked against the Taliban. Taliban support was confined mostly to one Afghan ethnicity, the Pashtoons. In the United States and its European allies, they faced a more formidable opponent than the Mujahidin did in the Soviet Union.
There was not a single Muslim country that could support the return of the Taliban: the US forbade it. Worst of all, the Pakistani military, partly for lucre and partly under US pressure, threw its forces against the Taliban. Under the circumstances, few Muslim fighters from outside Pakistan have joined the Taliban.
Their goose was cooked: or so it seemed.
Nevertheless, the Taliban defied these odds, and now, some eight years later, they have taken positions in nearly every Afghan province, with shadow governments in most of them. Is it possible to reverse the gains that Taliban have made in the face of nearly impossible odds?
What can the US do to weaken the Taliban? They have few vulnerabilities because the United States has been so effective in denying them any help from external sources. They have built their gains almost exclusively on their own strengths: and these are harder to take away.
What then are some of these strengths? Unlike the Mujahidin, the Afghan resistance against the United States is less fractious. The Taliban make up the bulk of the resistance. Other groups – led by Haqqani and Hekmatyaar – are much smaller. The Afghan resistance has a central leadership that the Mujahidin never had.
Unlike the Mujahidin, the Taliban do not have the technology to knock out the helicopters, drones or jets that attack them from the air. On the ground, however, they have technology the Mujahidin did not have. They have acquired suicide vests and, more importantly, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) developed by the resistance in Iraq. Indeed, the Taliban claim to have improved upon the IEDs they acquired from Iraq.
Notwithstanding their apparent lack of sophistication, the Taliban leadership have proved to be savvy in their use of videos, CDs, FM radio stations, and the internet to publicize their gains, build morale, and mobilize recruits.
Despite the satellites, drones, spies on the ground, and prize money for their capture, much of the Taliban leadership has evaded capture. In particular, Mulla Omar remains a ghost. He has not been seen or interviewed since 2001. Yet he remains in touch with his commanders through human couriers.
Afghanistan’s corrupt government is another Taliban asset. They have spawned a tiny class of Afghan nouveau riche battened by drug money, government contracts and cronyism. President Karzai implicates the US occupation in the blatant corruption of his own government.
It appears that there is little that the United States can do to neutralize these elusive advantages. Instead, it tries to blame and shift the burden of the war on Pakistan. It continues to pressure and bribe Pakistan’s rulers to mount full-scale military operations against the Taliban support network in Pakistan.
More and more, Pakistan’s military leaders have been caving under these pressures, escalating their wars against their own population. This has provoked a backlash. A new faction of the Taliban has emerged to launch deadly attacks against military and civilian targets in Pakistan. These attacks are destabilizing Pakistan. In turn, the US uses these attacks to push Pakistani rulers into greater capitulation to its demands.
In addition, President Obama has dramatically escalated drone attacks against the Taliban support network in Pakistan. In tandem, Pakistan too has been launching more massive air and ground attacks against their hideouts. However, none of this has deterred the escalating Taliban attacks against NATO and Afghan forces.
No one suggests that the Taliban can match the credentials of America’s freedom fighters in the late eighteenth century. The latter were committed to the proposition that all men are created equal, barring a few rarely mentioned exceptions. The Taliban are zealots and misogynists, but only a tad more so than the Mujahidin whom the West embraced as freedom fighters.
The West celebrated the Mujahidin’s victory over the Soviets. The same people, fighting under a different name, have now pushed the United States into a costly stalemate. Will the US prolong this stalemate, and push Pakistan too over the brink? Or will it accept the fait accompli the Taliban have created for them, accept its losses, and save itself from greater embarrassment in the future?
Once or twice, the United States has retreated from unwinnable wars and survived. It is likely that the ‘surge’ is primarily a political move to try to pass off the retreat from Afghanistan as another ‘mission accomplished.’ Let’s hope that this stratagem works somehow, because the alternative is likely to be much worse for all parties involved in this unwinnable war.
By Chafiq Jaredah – Conflicts Forum
It is appropriate to adopt caution, and to beware making hasty analysis, when it comes to passing judgment on problematic issues, whose dimensions, meanings and significance are unclear: One such issue that falls into this zone requiring caution and patience is the discourse centred around what is known as Political Islam.
Hence, what do we mean by Political Islam? Is the term exclusively linked to the knowledge derived from Islam as a faith – as distinguished, in its reading and interpretation, from the Islam of worship and Da’wa (Islamic ‘Call’) and another component that is political, and which largely is based on the game of conflicting and common interests? Or, is it a historiography of the era that followed the fall of the Ottoman State, and the outbreak of conflicts in the region between the ruling authorities, and certain ideological and religious trends that led to the broader Islamic rising, represented by the emergence of Islamic movements?
Is Political Islam an expression of severance between the Islamic movements and the traditional religious institutions – be they the scientific universities, or the statutory councils affiliated with the ruling regimes in the region? What is clear is that each explanation and descriptive label has its own distinguishing characteristics; and consequently, carries in its wake, its own special conception that gives definition to its particularity. But in distinguishing between Islam as source of worship and its political orientation is mere superficiality, given that Islam is essentially based on a comprehensive system that incorporates both the personal, as well as the political affairs, of the individual human being and the community of which he is a part. The establishment community and political administration in the Mohammedan Prophetic Message were given a similar status to prayer when The Prophet said: “Those who, if We give them power in the land, establish worship… (Sura Hajj, verse 41).
This is a key concept grasped in the Islamic interpretations of the Holy Qur’an to the extent that the so-called traditional Islamists have dealt with the political dimensions as an Islamic whole, even though they differentiated, at the practical level, between the originality of the theoretical interest in politics in Islam; and on questions of political practice, such as: how should the Muslim deal with the ruler – be he just or unjust? Is the criteria the ruler’s competence at Tashreeh (law making); or the ruler’s quality of justice and his traits? What is the required system? Khilafat? Imamite? Emirate? Sultanate? Or other types?
This debate coincided with a discussion between ‘ends’, which may be described as Islamic, and the ‘means’ that lead to achieving that ‘end’, such as establishing the state, the party or the movement – which constitute temporal issues, rather than religious matters. This distinction, as such, however, does not mean that such temporal issues are unimportant, or do not constitute obligations, for what is meant by the ‘temporal’ here is that which is subject to changes and is adaptable – according to interests, realities and circumstance.
This apart, politics stands as a norm expressing Islamic principles within current historical ‘time’: any flaw in this norm will deeply affect the other doctrinal, ethical, and legal aspects – for it is not possible, according to Islam, for the individual to become ‘perfect’ outside of the framework of the community and the administrative, political and ethical order. More than that, the Sharia cannot be complete; nor can worship be ‘perfect’ unless they march in step with the system of political governance. Aspects of financial giving, such as zakat (almsgiving) and khoms (fifth), should be seen as a political system whose intent is the fulfilling of both society’s civil and humanitarian needs. In addition, the verdicts of the judiciary are legal rulings that cannot be appropriately implemented unless there is an administrative procedure that possesses authority and therefore has a political existence.
Thus, the followers of traditional or official Islam would not deny the role of politics and worldly affairs as being of an interest to Islam; they may, nevertheless, argue that in the manner and timing of political activity, Islamic movements have tended to pursue their interest in politics firstly; and, only later, and secondly, have focussed on actualising the political work, action and commitment within their own movements. This has extended even – in their charting their course – to believing that worshipping Allah cannot be perfect, until and unless, these movements establish a state of divine justice on earth.
This latter notion underlies the theory of divine governance, which was based on several concepts:
A. Authority rests with Allah alone; Allah is the source of law-making, and He, be He exalted, is the only source of legitimacy.
B. Any ruling made – other than which Allah has revealed – has no legitimacy.
C. Acquiescence to any ruling – whether or not it is just – coming from outside of the religious legitimacy amounts to tacit acceptance of despotism.
D. Accordingly, any link to corrupt society or an illegitimate system must be rejected: It demands that we should rebel against such a society and system.
E. The only possible solution is to exert efforts to establish an Islamic state – even if by force. Any political or Da’wa (Proselytising) activity, other than for this objective, is a waste of time. Silence in the face of injustice, is tantamount to acquiescence of a corrupted and corrupting system.
This theory has influenced the Sunni Islamic movements such as Muslim Brotherhood, Hizbu-Tahrir (Liberation Party), Al-Jamaa al-Islamia (Islamic Group), along with their offshoots in Islamic countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan and Turkey, or Arab countries like Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. It has, furthermore, influenced Shi’a Islamic movements such as Hizbu Dawa al-Islami (the Islamic Call Party), Monazamat al-Amal al-Islami (Islamic Action Organization) and other groups in Gulf and Arab countries such as Iraq, Lebanon and others.
This theory has come to distinguish between what we can call the Islamic revival era and its reformist thought which was inaugurated by Jamal-Deen al-Afghani, Mohammed Abdo, Rasheed Rida and their disciples, in addition to the era of the Islamic movements or what some like to call the Haraki (Activist) Islam which was initiated in 1929 with martyr Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt, whose though was extended by two key intellectual figures:
The first of which was Sayed Qutb, who was hanged following an order from Jamal Abdel Nasser. It was his book Maalem fi Tariq (‘Milestones’), in which Qutb underlined the need to establish an Islamic society and governance combined with his rejection of all un-Islamic models that was extensively quoted at his trial. As usual, such ideas have deep impact when coupled with sacrifice, blood and martyrdom: They turn from ideas into schools of thinking that become the models for later generations. Later, Qutb’s ideas were extended by Abu al-A’la al-Mawdudi of Pakistan, al-Mustalahat al-Arbaa fil-Quran el-Karim (the Four Terms in the Holy Quran) in which he dealt with the meaning of the Divine governance in a way that intersected with Ma’lem fi Tariq.
This established the idea of Islamic governance stimulating fierce debate, until events intervened:
1. The 1967 war, and the spread of frustration in the Arab street – coupled with the concern over the nationalist and leftist influence in the region. These two elements fuelled scepticism of the nationalist and leftist currents, which increasingly were seen to be either conspiracies; or the ‘games’ of nations.
2. The loss of prestige of nationalism in Arab states after the war and a return to the Za’im (traditional leader) model of despotism directed against one’s own people. This led people to look for genuine choice in their lives: one of the most important of these choices was to turn to Islam.
3. The impact of the Palestinian cause on the Arab and Islamic conscience which led to a greater awareness of the conflict as a cause for the entire Arab World – especially after Israel’s invasion of Lebanese territories and its occupation of the capital Beirut.
The Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 prompted some Islamic movements or groups to engage in serious armed resistance, which demanded real sacrifice, and which did not hesitate to spare the Occupation Forces. Later – 1987 – the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, emerged in Palestine. Although the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon was Shi’i; whereas, the Islamic Resistance in Palestine was Sunni, the unity of cause, the closeness of the geography, the common history and a shared enemy, created the catalyst towards a trans-sectarian experience. It launched a new consciousness based on this shared resistance experience, rather than on prior conceptions and prejudices.
It is remarkable to note when considering these two movements that:
A. They have not become involved in conflict with their own communities; but rather have remained focussed on Israel. This suggests that their cause is not one of confronting injustice – as is the case with most movements – but to resist occupation. This has given them the characteristic of national liberation movements.
B. They have sought, through resistance, to couple Islam to a nationalist project. The experience of the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon has enjoyed an additional factor – its adaptation to the pluralist reality that distinguishes Lebanon as a country.
C. The two movements have been able to present a unity of cause, whilst maintaining organizational diversity and whilst exercising a national role.
D. The movements have become windows into the Islamic world – including countries such as Iran, Turkey, Malaysia, and Pakistan. In order to do this, they have disregarded the confessional [Sunni-Shi’i] divide; indeed, one can even say that they have managed to step past regimes and establish relationships with the peoples in the region.
E. They represent the rare example of movements that have ignored confessional and sectarian differences,
F. And which have achievements in battles, liberation of land in 2000, and victories over the Israeli invasions of 2006 and 2008, to their credit. These successes have spread a positive culture of achievement, self-confidence and a rehabilitation of the history of resistance such that the Arab and Islamic street has recovered much of its self-confidence and therefore its readiness to place trust in these movements.
4. The 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran: It is widely-known that Iran adopts Shi’i Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence), a fiqh that has for a long time been absent, due to pressures and crises, from the work of constructing a state and a society – until, that is, Imam Khomeini (may Allah sanctify his soul) came with the Wilayatul-Faqih (the Jurist’s Guardianship) doctrine, which proposed:
First: Although the Sharia is the source of governance – legitimacy of that governance cannot be assured unless the people’s consent also is obtained. This is so, because the will of people is the religious and natural doorway to the establishment of Islamic governance. In this aspect, there is a deliberate coupling of the sacred and the temporal in the principles underpinning an Islamic state.
Second: The notion of the Ummah (Community of Believers) as the frame-work in which the political structures are built, does not invalidate commitment to national borders; rather, effective law-making is seen to be one that respects the national characteristics and aspirations – provided that this nationalist particularity does not begin to mould the religious interest. This is because the apostolic vision in Islam extends to the human being in his or her capacity as a human, rather than as a representative of any one nation.
Third: The criterion by which society, life and states is viewed, is founded on the basis of seeing the ‘good’ in them. It is not to label them as Jahilia (pre-Islamic society) or Takfir (to label as infidel); rather it affirms that true infidelity, at the political level, is injustice and aggression. Therefore, there can be no objection to openness to international relations – provided these relations are based on the interests of nations and peoples. This contrasts with the principles on which many Islamic movements and parties were founded.
5. A few months after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, an incident occurred in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, when Juhaiman al-Utaibi led a revolt against the king and against the regime of Saudi Arabia. This act of defiance opened a window – for general Sunni Islamic movements, as well as some Salafi movements, to act outside of the legal framework of order in consequence to the introduction of the US army into Saudi Arabia, and the regime’s subsequent silence on this event. For certain of these movements, matters came to a head when the US occupied the state of Iraq.
6. Then we have the events of September 11 2001, when al-Qaeda, which is led by Saudi Osama bin Laden and his right-hand man, the Egyptian Ayman A-Zawaheri launched the attack on the US. The Afghanistan-based organization was under the protection of Mulla Omar, the leader of the Taliban movement that observed the Hanafi Fiqh (jurisprudence) while adopting, as al-Qaeda, the Salafi vision that understood politics, as well as Jihad, within a specific and defined meaning, based on:
– The frustration arising from the experience of the Islamic Brotherhood movements: This has paved the way for movements, in Egypt and elsewhere, to adopt armed action – by movements such as al-Jamaa al-Islamiya in Egypt, Pakistan and Algeria; the Egyptian Islamic Jihad movement that executed Anwar a-Sadat; the Takfir and Hijra (immigration) movements and many others. Ayman a-Zawaheri has lived the experiences of these movements. He met bin Laden in Afghanistan. It is known that the latter was a student of the Salafi leader and theorist Abdallah Azzam, who led the Arab groups in the Afghanistan war against the Soviets and who was martyred in mysterious circumstances.
All this has paved the way for a compound vision emerging that has mixed Salafism with the revisionist thought of the movements emerging from the Brotherhood, which was already committed to the notion of Islamic governance.
– Salafism has also been defined by a deviation from the authority of the religious or legitimate establishment and by the emergence of individuals who embarked on fatwa (religious rulings) which issued in a arbitrary, and sometimes even whimsical, fashion – thus making some of these movements form what (it has been agreed amongst them to be called) ‘fatwa councils’. This has made it possible to create new religious marjaiat (religious authorities) outside the framework of the historic ones, thus allowing, some chaos which has been amply demonstrated in Iraq – through the correspondence between Abu Mus’ab a-Zarqawi, Samir al-Maqdisi and Ayman a-Zawaheri. The latter two – as may be recalled – condemned a-Zarqawi’s behavior for failing to submit his actions to a fatwa council. There were even cases in which a group had two authorities: the emir, and the Faqih (jurist). We might observe in a city or a village, or even a neighbourhood in Iraq more than one group having its own emir and faqih.
– Salafism has also been characterised by violent acts emanating from a severe confessional (Sunni-Shia) mentality, and the extreme whimsical attitudes that we observed earlier that recognised neither pact nor honour – so that the norm, as far as they are concerned, has become one that anyone who disagreed with them, is against them, – be he Muslim or non-Muslim; unjust or just; ruler or ruled. The entire social, civil and religious structure was targeted as the intention became manifest: the use force and slaughter against all infidels. And people were labelled as ‘infidels’ merely for disagreeing with the emir or his particular group.
– It has also been identified by its propensity to attract bands of immigrants from the west in order to benefit from their scientific expertise. These immigrants lived in isolation in the western societies from which they came. They have proved unable, due to their upbringing, to adapt to life in the west; or to be in reconciliation with it: therefore they have used their scientific and technical minds and skills to create terror in western countries. This is an outlook which they have brought with them to Arab and Islamic countries, and which was turned against western interests – until finally agreement emerged, amongst Salafists, that the conflict must be focused on:
– either confronting the west and its worldwide interests, for it represented the origin of the problem,
– establishing the khilafat state. If the concept had not succeed in Afghanistan, it was to be established in one of the Arab countries. This was justified on the grounds that the establishment of a khilafat in the Arab world would topple other Arab regimes in favour of the khilafat state. This state would then launch a conflict against the west. This is the reason behind the large-scale security and military shift of Salafi movements into Iraq.
– or; it should be focused on confronting the sectarian [Sunni-Shia] and religious obstacles to the achievement of a khilafat. Hence were the horrible acts carried out by a-Zarqawi and his followers against the Shia, certain Sunnis, and Christians.
Here we are, today, facing three different classifications of Islamic movements:
Type one: the traditional institutions, especially those affiliated with the authority and that regard that submission to the ruler as a necessary issue. These have become institutions with marginal influence their peoples, and on the conscience of Islamic movements.
Type Two: the political Islamist movement, which I believe, applies most to the Islamist Salafi and Dawa (call unto Islam) movements that consider seizing power as their ultimate norm and objective. These are movements that have turned, in a great deal of their activism, into violent movements that adopt the policy of force as their chosen methodology, and,
Type Three: the Islamic resistance: these are movements concerned with rejecting and resisting occupation. As far as they are concerned, the objective framework is social activism, not power. Consequently, they are more of liberation movements than revolutionary, or ones committed to the overthrow of established order.
The importance of recognising the characteristics of the three principal types is essential and necessary. In my opinion these three currents will see a great deal of friction and reconciliation efforts before they can settle on common convictions. Finally, I do believe that tyranny and occupation represent the ultimate justification for using, and resorting to violence, in order to resolve problems.
The captured ringleader of the Jundallah terrorist group, Abdolmalek Rigi, has confessed that the US administration had assured him of unlimited military aid and funding for waging an insurgency against the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The following is the detailed transcript of Rigi’s confession, stated in Farsi, as broadcasted on Press TV.
“After Obama was elected, the Americans contacted us and they met me in Pakistan.They met us after clashes with my group around March 17 in (the southeastern city of) Zahedan, and he (the US operative) said that Americans had requested a meeting.”
“I said we didn’t have any time for a meeting and if we do help them they should promise to give us aid. They said they would cooperate with us and will give me military equipment, arms and machine guns. They also promised to give us a base along the border with Afghanistan next to Iran.”
“They asked to meet me and we said where should we meet you and he said in Dubai. We sent someone to Dubai and we told a person to ask a place for myself in Afghanistan from the area near the operations and they complied that they would sort out the problem for us and they will find Mr. Rigi a base and guarantee his own security in Afghanistan or in any of the countries adjacent to Iran so that he can carry on his operations.
“They told me that in Kyrgyzstan they have a base called Manas near Bishkek, and that a high-ranking person was coming to meet me and that if such high-ranking people come to the United Arab Emirates, they may be observed by intelligence people but in a place like Bishkek this high-ranking American person could come and we could reach an agreement on making personal contacts. But after the last major operation we took part in, they said that they wanted to meet with us.
“The Americans said Iran was going its own way and they said our problem at the present is Iran… not al-Qaeda and not the Taliban, but the main problem is Iran. We don’t have a military plan against Iran. Attacking Iran is very difficult for us (the US). The CIA is very particular about you and is prepared to do anything for you because our government has reached the conclusion that there was nothing Americans could do about Iran and only I could take care of the operations for them.
“One of the CIA officers said that it was too difficult for us to attack Iran militarily, but we plan to give aid and support to all anti-Iran groups that have the capability to wage war and create difficulty for the Iranian (Islamic) system. They reached the conclusion that your organization has the power to create difficulties for the Islamic Republic and they are prepared to give you training and/or any assistance that you would require, in terms of telecommunications security and procedures as well as other support, the Americans said they would be willing to provide it at an extensive level.”
Iran’s security forces arrested Rigi on Tuesday by bringing down his plane over the Iranian airspace, as he was onboard a flight from the United Arab Emirates to Kyrgyzstan.
By Bouthaina Shaaban – Daily Star Lebanon
The report of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon caused a shock to all those concerned about justice and human rights. In his report to the UN General Assembly on February 5, 2010, on the Israeli war on Gaza, he says: “No determination can be made on the implementation of resolution 64/10 by the parties concerned,” pointing out that he has “called upon all of the parties to carry out credible domestic investigations into the conduct of the Gaza conflict.” Ban does not live on the moon, of course; and, unlike American officials, he visited Gaza and saw for himself the hundreds of homes and schools, some of which are UN schools, shelled by the missiles and phosphorus bombs fired by Israeli warplanes.
TV screens all over the world had shown the dead bodies of children, women and unarmed civilians killed by Israeli bombs. He saw for himself the smoke of white phosphorus in the sky over Gaza. In order to ascertain himself of the credibility of the Palestinian narrative, he only has to look at the disabled people who lost their limbs, eyes and members of their families. Putting the Israelis and the Palestinians in the same category implies a great deal of injustice; and ignoring the tragic conditions imposed on the Palestinians for 60 years as a result of occupation and blockade is an injustice and a shame that will haunt those who committed it and those who condone it.
Although human life is sacred and must not be subject to the litany of figures, it might be useful to remind Western politicians who ask idiotically “Why do they hate us?” that Gaza was destroyed a year ago, not by earthquake as in Haiti, but by a war launched by Israel that killed over 1,400 Palestinian civilians and wounded over 8,000 other civilians, most of them seriously. The war destroyed the infrastructure; agricultural land was flooded by sewage water; and Israel continues to use collective punishment and blockade on over 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza where over 300 civilians have died as a result of the blockade. Still, Western officials ignore this horrible tragedy. The same is done by the UN secretary general, who is supposed to represent international conscience. He equates Israeli generals with their unarmed civilian victims. He and Western officials ignore the testimony of Israeli soldiers who revealed that they were ordered not take any account of the life of Palestinian civilians. The Israeli organization “Breaking the Silence” has revealed new facts about Israeli practices in the West Bank and Gaza. So, why this cover up of the crimes of those generals and why equating criminals with their victims by politicians and journalists who repeat the question: “Why do they hate us?”
Ban’s report, which reveals the international community’s failure to condemn war criminals if they were not Muslim or African, came days after US President Barack Obama made the State of the Union address, in which he ignored the Middle East completely.
The fact is that hundreds of millions of Muslims all over the world have for decades been watching the reactions of Western leaders toward tragedies caused by their policies, particularly their support for the Israeli occupation, settlements and blockade. They see that international institutions dominated by the West do not care about the killing and displacement of their brothers and sisters and the deprivation of their freedoms and human rights. If anyone makes a move to insure that justice takes its course, the American veto is there to thwart this effort. After all this, Western politicians still ask: “Why do they hate us?”
Even news of what is happening to Arabs and Muslims in terms of injustice, imprisonment, starvation and torture have been prevented from reaching international conscience. Here is the US, which boasts about the freedom of the press, banning satellite TV stations en masse if they try to uncover the depth of the human suffering of a people under occupation, while the occupiers enjoy unprecedented international immunity. They commit war crimes, and no one has the right to demand that they should be deterred and punished, as if the lives of Arabs and Muslims are not equal to the lives of other humans in Western standards.
Indifference to human suffering caused by occupation, injustice and oppression increases indignation against this gap between this painful reality and the double standards of the powers which control international media and politics.
The enquiry involving former British Premier Tony Blair shows the fragility of the logic which turns the lives of millions into a daily tragedy. But if Blair, like the prime minister who did not notice the racial segregation wall which is destroying the life of the Palestinians because he does not care about them, cannot see the millions of orphans, widows and handicapped produced by the war on Iraq, how is he supposed to regret supporting that disastrous war on the whole Iraqi people? Such trials have no significance and are no longer able to polish the image of Western democracy which has revealed its reality through its stances regarding the events in the Middle East.
Violence is the result of using unjust force instead of trying to achieve justice in Palestine. And whether Western politicians understand that or not, Palestine, the cradle of Jesus Christ, is the bleeding wound which will never be healed until the US, Europe and international bodies take a just position which restores to the Palestinians their freedom, rights and dignity. These countries and bodies, by funding and arming Israel, are responsible for depriving the Palestinians of their freedom and human rights; and when they grant immunity to its war criminals, they become accomplices in Israeli wars and blockades. When the American administration, and with it Europe and the highest international body, ignore atrocious documented war crimes committed by the occupation forces, only because the war criminals are Israeli, and turn a blind eye to the cruelest forms of suffering imposed on a whole people, only because they are Muslim, there will always be Jews, Christians and Muslims in America, Europe and even in Israel who will support the oppressed against their oppressors.
By Gareth Porter – Inter Press Service
Evidence now available from various sources, including recently declassified U.S. State Department documents, shows that the Taliban regime led by Mullah Mohammad Omar imposed strict isolation on Osama bin Laden after 1998 to prevent him from carrying out any plots against the United States.
The evidence contradicts the claims by top officials of the Barack Obama administration that Mullah Omar was complicit in Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the al Qaeda plot to carry out the terrorist attacks in the United States on Sep. 11, 2001. It also bolsters the credibility of Taliban statements in recent months asserting that it has no interest in al Qaeda’s global jihadist aims.
A primary source on the relationship between bin Laden and Mullah Omar before 9/11 is a detailed personal account provided by Egyptian jihadist Abu’l Walid al-Masri published on Arabic-language jihadist websites in 1997.
Al-Masri had a unique knowledge of the subject, because he worked closely with both bin Laden and the Taliban during the period. He was a member of bin Laden’s Arab entourage in Afghanistan, but became much more sympathetic to the Afghan cause than bin Laden and other al Qaeda officials from 1998 through 2001.
The first published English-language report on al-Masri’s account, however, was an article in the January issue of the CTC Sentinal, the journal of the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC) at West Point, by Vahid Brown, a fellow at the CTC.
Mullah Omar’s willingness to allow bin Laden to remain in Afghanistan was conditioned from the beginning, according to al-Masri’s account, on two prohibitions on his activities: bin Laden was forbidden to talk to the media without the consent of the Taliban regime or to make plans to attack U.S. targets.
Former Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil told IPS in an interview that the regime “put bin Laden in Kandahar to control him better.” Kandahar remained the Taliban political headquarters after the organisation’s seizure of power in 1996.
The August 1998 U.S. cruise missile strikes against training camps in Afghanistan run by bin Laden in retaliation for the bombings of two U.S. Embassies in East Africa on Aug. 7, 1998 appears to have had a dramatic impact on Mullah Omar and the Taliban regime’s policy toward bin Laden.
Two days after the strike, Omar unexpectedly entered a phone conversation between a State Department official and one of his aides, and told the U.S. official he was unaware of any evidence that bin Laden “had engaged in or planned terrorist acts while on Afghan soil”. The Taliban leader said he was “open to dialogue” with the United States and asked for evidence of bin Laden’s involvement, according to the State Department cable reporting the conversation.
Only three weeks after Omar asked for evidence against bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader sought to allay Taliban suspicions by appearing to accept the prohibition by Omar against planning any actions against the United States.
“There is an opinion among the Taliban that we should not move from within Afghanistan against any other state,” bin Laden said in an interview with al Jazeera. “This was the decision of the Commander of the Faithful, as is known.”
Mullah Omar had taken the title “Commander of the Faithful”, the term used by some Muslim Caliphs in the past to claim to be “leader of the Muslims”, in April 1996, five months before Kabul fell to the Taliban forces.
During September and October 1998, the Taliban regime apparently sought to position itself to turn bin Laden over to the Saudi government as part of a deal by getting a ruling by the Afghan Supreme Court that he was guilty of the Embassy bombings.
In a conversation with the U.S. chargé in Islamabad on Nov. 28, 1998, Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, Omar’s spokesman and chief adviser on foreign affairs, referred to a previous Taliban request to the United States for evidence of bin Laden’s guilt to be examined by the Afghan Supreme Court, according to the U.S. diplomat’s report to the State Department.
Muttawakil said the United States had provided “some papers and a videocassette,” but complained that the videocassette had contained nothing new and had therefore not been submitted to the Supreme Court. He told the chargé that the court had ruled that no evidence that had been presented warranted the conviction of bin Laden.
Muttawakil said the court trial approach had “not worked” but suggested that the Taliban regime was now carrying out a strategy to “restrict [bin Laden’s] activities in such a way that he would decide to leave of his own volition.”
On Feb. 10, 1999, the Taliban sent a group of 10 officers to replace bin Laden’s own bodyguards, touching off an exchange of gunfire, according to a New York Times story of Mar. 4, 1999. Three days later, bodyguards working for Taliban intelligence and the Foreign Affairs Ministry personnel took control of bin Laden’s compound near Kandahar and took away his satellite telephone, according to the U.S. and Taliban sources cited by the Times.
Taliban official Abdul Hakeem Mujahid, who was then in the Taliban Embassy in Pakistan, confirmed that the 10 Taliban bodyguards had been provided to bin Laden to “supervise him and observe that he will not contact any foreigner or use any communication system in Afghanistan,” according to the Times story.
The pressure on bin Laden in 1999 also extended to threats to eliminate al Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan. An e-mail from two leading Arab jihadists in Afghanistan to bin Laden in July 1999, later found on a laptop previously belonging to al Qaeda in and purchased by the Wall Street Journal , referred to “problems between you and the Leader of the Faithful” as a “crisis”.
The e-mail, published in article by Alan Cullison in the September 2004 issue of The Atlantic, said, “Talk about closing down the camps has spread.”
The message even suggested that the jihadists feared the Taliban regime could go so far as to “kick them out” of Afghanistan.
In the face of a new Taliban hostility, bin Laden sought to convince Mullah Omar that he had given his personal allegiance to Omar as a Muslim. In April 2001 bin Laden referred publicly to having sworn allegiance to Mullah Omar as the “Commander of the Faithful”.
But al-Masri recalls that bin Laden had refused to personally swear such an oath of allegiance to Omar in 1998-99, and had instead asked al-Masri himself to give the oath to Omar in his stead. Al-Masri suggests that bin Laden deliberately avoided giving the oath of allegiance to Omar personally, so that he would be able to argue within the Arab jihadi community that he was not bound by Omar’s strictures on his activities.
Even in summer 2001, as the Taliban regime became increasingly dependent on foreign jihadi troop contingents, including Arabs trained in bin Laden’s camps, for its defence against the military advances of the Northern Alliance, Mullah Omar found yet another way to express his unhappiness with bin Laden’s presence.
After a series of clashes between al Qaeda forces and those of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Taliban leader intervened to give overall control of foreign volunteer forces to the Tahir Yuldash of the IMU, according to a blog post last October by Leah Farrall, an Australian specialist on jihadi politics in Afghanistan.
In Late January, Geoff Morrell, the spokesman for Defence Secretary Robert Gates, suggested that the United States could not negotiate with Mullah Omar, because he has “the blood of thousands of Americans on his hands,” implying that he had knowingly allowed bin Laden’s planning of the 9/11 attacks.
Talk by Dr. Azmi Bishara at UC Berkeley after collapse of Baghdad.
US exaggerates Al-Qaeda Threat in YemenThe US exaggerates the al-Qaeda threat in Yemen as the group’s members are too few to turn it into a global threat, a report says.
The report in Le Figaro says that US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s remark regarding al-Qaeda being a threat to world security is an exaggeration.
According to the report, there are an estimated 200 to 300 alleged al-Qaeda members in southern Yemen.
The Yemeni president is seemingly playing up the threat to receive the utmost financial aid from an upcoming London meeting, according to Le Figaro.
Unlike the US and Britain, Le Figaro says France, Italy and Spain have been reluctant to join in the media hype.
The report has also criticized Saudi raids against Houthi fighters over the past months. It says the attacks have only worsened the war in northern Yemen.
Civilians have been the main victims of the all-out war which has been fueled by foreign military intervention in the poor Arab country.
The conflict in North Yemen began in 2004 between Sana’a and Houthi fighters. Relative peace had returned to the region until August 11, 2009 when the Yemeni army launched a major offensive, dubbed ‘Operation Scorched Earth’, against Sa’ada Province.
The government claims that the fighters, who are named after their leader Abdul Malik al-Houthi, seek to restore the Shia imamate system, which was overthrown in a 1962 military coup.
The Houthis, however, say they are defending their people’s civil rights, which the government has undermined because of pressure from Saudi-backed Wahhabi extremists.
Shia citizens of Yemen form a clear majority in the north and make up approximately half of the overall population.
The United Nations, which according to its charter is set up “to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace,” has failed to adopt any concrete measures to help end the bloody war.