More Iran News on a personal level


I received a copy of this interview between two friends, one of whom is an Iranian studying to be a religious scholar.  The interview took place after the elections amidst the turmoil  and furor over the election results.  There are some interesting revelations in this interview which I took the liberty to highlight in bold.  What the interview reveals is the Iranian street’s  perspective to the recent events taking place there and it differs greatly from what we have been told by corporate media.

Q: Based on the media and resources that you have access to, can you give us a general idea about what you think is happening in Tehran ?

Al: There are several factors in this situation that have come together. There is one segment of the population that did want Mousavi to win the election. These people had done some propaganda to make it seem like Mousavi will get most of the votes. In particular, Tehran … because Tehran is a metropolitan city, you have people with all kinds of backgrounds and thinking. In Tehran itself, [Mousavi] had a lot of supporters. Tehran is part of what we call “Ustan-e-Tehran”, where Tehran is the central city and the “ustan” includes the suburbs and smaller towns surrounding Tehran . An ustan is bigger than a district, but smaller than a province. If you look at the election results, in
these suburbs and small towns in Ustan-e-Tehran, Ahmadinejad got more votes than Mousavi. But in the central city of Tehran, Ahmadinejad got fewer votes than Mousavi.

But you see, Tehran isn’t all of Iran . People in Tehran sometimes think that because they are all supporters of Mousavi, all of Iran must be supporters of Mousavi, but this is not true. Overall, in 2
ustans, Azerbaijan-e- Ghardi and Ustan-e-Sistan- e-Balochistan, Mousavi got more votes than Ahmadinejad. In the rest of the ustans … I think Iran has a total of 24 ustans … in the rest of the 22 ustans, Ahmadinejad took more votes. Even in Ustan-e-Tehran, Ahmadinejad has more votes than Mousavi, but in the Tehran city, Mousavi has more votes.

So what happened is that the people in Tehran thought that he would win, Mousavi, because they had created a sort of atmosphere where they thought that the newspapers there, the Western media, and the American media was supporting him. But if you look at the rest of Iran,
Ahmadinejad has done a lot of good work. I mean, there were projects that would take 7 or 8 or 9 years to complete, and he completed these projects in 2 or 3 years. He brought electricity to places that had none, clean water to places where water wasn’t clean, and many things like this. He has greatly helped the poor people of Iran . The majority of Iran, therefore, was with Ahmadinejad.

That leaves Tehran, the Tehran city particularly. Now here there were groups led by important people like Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani [a powerful cleric who chairs Iran’s Assembly of Experts, and a former president] and others who said they would support Mousavi. They said they would protest, but they wanted to protest peacefully. They never had the intention to come to Tehran and damage property, break things, or burn things, because in Iran, overall, this is not something that’s in our history. It’s very rare and even if it happens once in many years, it’s done by small groups and it is considered very bad. Whoever you are protesting against, doing these things, damaging and breaking things is considered very bad.

Now Tehran has millions of people, and bringing out a few thousand to protest is not such a big feat. When some of these people were going back recently, they were arrested by the Iranian intelligence and questioned. They said that they were neither with Ahmadinejad, nor
with Mousavi. In fact, they said they hadn’t even voted at all. They said that they had specifically received orders from a lady in England named Zohra, which I think is a fake name, who had given them orders to do all of this breaking and damaging and violence. They recorded her phone calls, and showed it on TV here. I saw it myself. She would call them and give them orders to go out and destroy things, set fire to gas stations, and so on. And now the foreign minister of Iran has
done a press conference and openly said that these people in England are calling people over here and telling them to go out and commit vandalism and violence. They had all of this planned ahead of time, well before the election.

Q: What are the people you know saying about Ayatollah Khamenei’s sermon on Friday?

A: If you noticed, in the khutba [sermon] by the Rahber [the title used to address the Supreme Leader], he mentioned Rafsanjani by name and criticized him, but he also supported him and said good things about him. He also criticized Ahmadinejad, but also supported him. So after
this, Rafsanjani and the other leaders who were supporting Mousavi withdrew from the protests. They said that after the Rahber’s speech, we don’t think it is right to continue this opposition, and the Rahber has now shown us the right path. But some of the small parties and groups supporting Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi continued their protests.

Another thing that happened was that during the debates, Ahmadinejad accidentally criticized Rafsanjani and portrayed him in a negative light. As a result, some of Ahmadinejad’ s supporters began to have a negative image of Rafsanjani. On the other hand, Rafsanjani’s people also became angry, saying that Ahmadinejad’s people have maligned them. But then, in his khutba on Friday, the Rahber admonished both Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad. He scolded Ahmadinejad for saying negative things about Rafsanjani without any proof. Of course Khamenei and Rafsanjani have differences in their opinions. This is normal in politics. It happens everywhere. It does not discredit the other person entirely. Once the Rahber brought everyone together in this way, Rafsanjani’s group withdrew and decided that they will not continue the protests.

The protests that continued after the speech were not done by people here. They were done by foreign influences, like this woman Zohra in England . I saw on the news that yesterday [Saturday], they even burned a mosque. Can you imagine that? You can completely forget about
the idea that any real Iranian, even a supporter of Mousavi, would ever burn a mosque. Anyone who would burn a mosque … this means that he is not even a Muslim. When this news came out over here, everybody became completely convinced that the people doing all of this have been planted from outside Iran. Nobody burns a mosque! I told you before that even burning a bank or another building is something that is considered very bad over here. People here are very educated and civilized.

Q: What about the reported bombing of Ayatollah Khomeini’s tomb? Do you think that this was also carried out by people planted from outside Iran? Could Mousavi’s supporters have done this?

A: See, this is what I’m telling you. This is not the kind of thing that Mousavi’s supporters could have done. They may have had minor grievances with the other side, like the disagreements between Ahmadinejad and Rafsanjani, but these incidents of bombings and destruction are all being done by people outside Iran that have been planted by foreign powers. They were showing on TV here that these are people who were given training in Iraq and then were sent over here to
do these things. These people have been hired and paid.

What do these people want? They want to delegitimize this record-breaking election we’ve had where 85% of people came out and voted. They want people to think that this report of an 85% turnout is fraudulent, that there is all this infighting going on in Iran and people don’t have faith in the system. But the world has seen on the day of the election here, that there were endless lines at the voting stations before voting had even started … in such a big democracy,
where 85% of people came out to vote.

Look, Ahmadinejad got 24 million votes, and Mousavi got about 13 million, and with the rest of the candidates, it’s a total of 39 million people who came out and participated in the process of democracy. Think about that… why would so many people come out and vote if they did not have any faith in the system? Who votes? It is those people who know that they can get justice and a better life through the process. If a person thinks there is corruption and
deception in the system, he wouldn’t bother to vote, he would just stay home. People participated in this election and came out to vote because they accepted the system and had faith in it.

But there are some parts of the process that are very suspicious. First, by law, the final results of the election cannot be certified by the Supreme Leader for a period of at least three days, in order to allow for any grievances that participating candidates may have.
Second, voting was done on paper ballots and counted by hand. How is it possible that 39 million votes were counted in such a short time, just a few hours?

As far as the three day law goes, I have to look into this myself and see what the methodology was exactly. But I will explain what I know to you about the vote counting. During the election, there were about 47,000 polling stations for voting. [I have independently confirmed that this is accurate.] For each station, every candidate was allowed to have a representative
present to oversee the process. Mir Hossein Mousavi had 47,000 representatives, one at each station, and Ahmadinejad I think had 42,000 or something like that. The other candidates had fewer representatives. When the voting ended at 11 pm, they immediately started counting. Once they had the final tallies at each station, the representatives were made to sign off on them, and the numbers were fed into a centrally computerized system where the tallies were collected.

Now, if you divide 39 million votes by 47,000 stations, it comes to 893 votes per station on average. This is a very small number of ballots that can easily be counted in a short period of time, and the final tally from each station was submitted to the central computerized system immediately. They reported the results live on TV as the final tallies came in. Again, remember that the representatives of both candidates at each polling station were required to sign off
on the final tally at that station.

Also, the ballots were present in a booklet, like a checkbook where you can rip out the checks. This is how the ballots were distributed, and like a checkbook, each booklet had a fixed number of ballots. As soon as a booklet was exhausted, they would enter that record into the
computer, so that the computer would keep track of how many booklets had been used up. Even after all of this, the Guardian Council allowed for people to come forward and report any irregularities in writing so that they could be investigated. This was not done at first, but
later, on prompting, when a complaint was filed, the Guardian Council agreed to a partial recount of 10% of the votes.

Q: Speaking of the Guardian Council, Ali Larijani, the pro-Khamenei Speaker of Parliament, has implied that some members of the Guardian Council are taking sides in the situation, which takes away from Khamenei’s statement that this was a clear victory for Ahmadinejad, and even contradicts it–

A: Ali Larijani said this? Really?

Q: Yes, this is what was reported here on Sunday morning.

A: No, no. It’s not true. I watched Ali Larijani on TV just last night [Saturday] and he said that the Western media wants to take our great success in this election with record turnout and portray it in a negative light. He said to the public of Iran that we should be celebrating our wonderful success as a democracy. I saw this myself, on TV, and everyone in Iran saw it, so no one here will ever believe this report. I think the Western media may have taken his words and edited them to quote them out of context.

Q: I also wanted to ask you about your access to the media. Apart from state-run television broadcasts, do you have complete access to the internet, sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter for instance?

A: Yes, we have complete access.

Q: Well, over here, because of the ban on foreign journalists covering the events in Tehran, a lot of the major media outlets have started to broadcast web-based images and videos that are being sent in by people on the ground in Iran . There are literally hundreds of videos and pictures that have come in this way showing large numbers of people protesting, and many of them show brutal violence, home invasions, and so on. There is one particularly gruesome video of a woman named Neda who was shot and killed on camera by paramilitary forces, and it has evoked widespread reaction. Are you familiar with these kinds of events?

A: Look, in Iran, we have a few sources. We have two TV channels, radio, and then we have the newspapers, which are particularly popular among Iranians. Now, we also have the internet, and yes, we are familiar with these videos showing the murders of these people and the violence against them. I can tell you the impression of the people here… they believe that it is the people who are damaging and vandalizing, these planted forces from outside, that are committing these murders. This is what people believe in Iran . You know, one of the biggest pieces of propaganda is that the forces here are allowed to use firearms. They’re not. If you look closely at
these videos, you’ll notice that the legitimate police and officers are using clubs, tear gas, and water canons to control the crowd, not firearms. If you are seeing people using guns and firearms, these are the rogues from outside Iran who are terrorizing the people and vandalizing property. I’m telling you, all of Iran is against these people who are committing these acts of violence and vandalism.
I’ll tell you something which I’m not sure you know. Last week, the
office of the Rahber called on hundreds of thousands of people to celebrate at a place called Meydan-e-Wali- Asr, not because Ahmadinejad won, but to celebrate Iran’s democratic process, to
celebrate our momentous election with a record-breaking turnout. A few days later, people were called out again to demonstrate against these people who were committing acts of violence and vandalism in the protests, and again hundreds of thousands of people came out for that
demonstration. But the international media never covers these kinds of things. Instead, the media is taking a few protests with a few hundred or a few thousand people in Tehran and making them out to be much more significant than they are. And then you have seen the huge crowd that attended the Rahber’s speech at Friday prayers. Again, there were hundreds of thousands of
people who came to hear him and support him, from all over the country. You have seen them on TV. People were so energized and so excited to see the Rahber that the first twenty minutes were just them cheering and chanting slogans praising him.

Who are these people? Are they not Iranians? Just because the media never shows this side of things, everyone thinks that these protesters committing violence is all that is going on here, while the rest of Iran is silent, and there is no other point of view. In fact, most Iranians are upset with the government for not being more aggressive in cracking down on these people.

Q: In that case, why do you think the government isn’t cracking down on these people more aggressively?

A: Because they are mixed in with the normal people. If you know 100% that the people standing in front of you are your enemy, you can be aggressive. But these people are in regular clothing, they are in the middle of the city, where there are also regular people mixed in, working, in the shops, walking around. So you have to be careful in how you go about tackling the situation. This is also why the government forces are not allowed to use firearms. If they fire at them, the rogues will fire back, and they won’t care if the public is in the way. So you have to be careful.

Q: You’re speaking a lot about these videos on the internet that are being exaggerated to mean more than what they are, and you’re also complaining that the media is not covering your side of the situation. However, if the government bans all foreign media outlets as they have, it forces them to rely on these videos, images, blogs, and Tweets as their primary source of information, which you claim are misrepresentative. Does the government understand that this works
against them? Also, why hasn’t your side organized events and made their own videos to present your side of the story?

A: This thing that you’re saying is absolutely right. This is something that is lacking on our side. The supporters on our side should do this more of this kind of work. The people who are supporting Ahmadinejad, our government, and our police force need to express what they think, make videos, and send them out so that people can see the other side. We were discussing this among ourselves the other day. It has been shocking to us to see that what we are witnessing here is so different from what the international media is showing.

Q: There are two websites you should read and let me know what you think, pakalert.wordpress.com and prisonplanet.com. On the second one, there is an article about how the BBC took a picture from a pro-Ahmadinejad rally and claimed that it was a Mousavi rally.  In past protests like the one in 1999, the establishment in Iran was united. However, now there are reports of powerful figures like Rafsanjani and Khatami moving away from Khamenei. Neither of the two was present at the Friday sermon even though they were summoned by Khamenei to attend. Also, on Sunday morning Ayatollah Montazeri declared a period of mourning for those killed in the protests from Wednesday to Friday. Rafsanjani has made a statement saying that the protests and the voice of the people should be respected and supported. Mousavi has also reportedly declared that he is ready for martyrdom. Do you believe that there is a genuine rift in the clerical
establishment?

A: [Expresses surprise at statements from Montazeri and Rafsanjani.] Look, there is no doubt that there are disagreements among some of these men. They are nothing new. Montazeri, although he is respected because he is a mujtahid [the highest rank achievable in Shia religious training], does not have much of a following here. As you know, he was originally selected by Imam Khomeini as his successor, but later the Imam denounced him because of a corruption scandal. It was a dark spot on his character, and although he is learned and respected, he was not qualified to become the next Rahber. He is a controversial figure who gets a lot of attention from the foreign media, but the media and the people here consider him insignificant.

Q: But what about Rafsanjani? There are reports that Jawad Shahristani, the representative and son-in-law of Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq, met secretly with Rafsanjani and the Assembly of Experts in Qom to consider redrafting the system of clerical rule in Iran by establishing a collective ruling body instead of a single Supreme Leader. Are you familiar with this? [Note: Sistani, based in Iraq, is one of the most influential Shia spiritual leaders in the region.]

A; Well, yes, we have heard something like this, that they are considering introducing the system of shoora-e-rahbariya, or a council of mujtahids that act as a supreme authority instead of one supreme leader. But you see, this is nothing new. The late Shaheed Muttahari, who was considered to be … well, you can think of him as number 2 to Imam Khomeini, also suggested the idea of having a mujtahid council. But this idea was not welcomed or accepted among the people. We do have a report from authentic sources that Rafsanjani, on his last trip to Iraq, met with Ayatollah Sistani, who advised him to obey Khamenei. He said that it was not in the interest of Iran to not obey the Rahber, who provides excellent leadership for the country.

The second thing is that if several people get together to float ideas … well, that is the job of the Assembly of Experts, which Rafsanjani is the chairman of. These are people who are mujtahids and are elected by the people of Iran . They keep watch over the supreme leadership, and God forbid if the Rahber makes a mistake or makes a wrong decision, they have the authority to replace him. So there already is a body that oversees these things. If there was a council of people to issue fatwas and edicts, without a singular figure of authority, it would not have as much authenticity and credibility among the people.

At our institution in Qom, in the Imam Khomeini Madrassa, we have many seminars, where ulema [scholars] from around the world come to speak and debate. They disagree very often and have open debates, where they sometimes have completely antithetical views on things. Open academic
discussion and debate are very normal and encouraged here. This does not mean that there are any serious enmities within the clerical establishment.

Q: Do you think, then, that despite their differences, eventually Rafsanjani and Khatami will end up supporting Khamenei?

A: Look, all of these men understand, accept, and revere the system. This is not something they disagree on. They’re united on this. The difference is in their preference of methodology in order to get things done. For example, they often discuss how we should deal with the Western world. One group says that we should be firm and outspoken in our approach. The other says that we should be softer and more diplomatic. For example, Mohammad Khatami may be more open to engaging
in talks and making concessions with the West about Iran’s nuclear program to avoid sanctions and other headaches. Others believe that we should take a harder stance and stand our ground. These disagreements on policy are very normal. They happen in every country in the world.
Remember, even when Mohammad Khatami was president, it was still Khamenei who was the Supreme Leader. Khatami did try his soft approach on the nuclear issue. The Rahber told him to make concessions, but if there is no response or accommodation on the other side, he should go
back to being aggressive. So at the end of his presidency, after Ahmadinejad was elected, Iran returned to the aggressive stance.

Q: Regarding the nuclear issue, Ahmadinejad has said that he wants to develop the nuclear program for energy, not to make a bomb. Khamenei has also issued a fatwa against building a nuclear bomb. Why should the rest of the world believe them?

A: You know, there is one fundamental thing that people in the West don’t understand about Iran, and if they can understand this one basic concept, they will understand many other things. Look, the government of Iran is an Islamic government. Their view is, if there is something that isn’t even allowed in Sharia, something that Islam does not allow us to do, how can we even think of doing this thing? The Rahber has said this many times, and as you said, issued a fatwa against making a nuclear bomb. He has said that if this is something I give permission for, it can jeopardize my own faith and my own stature as a Muslim. It’s against our moral and religious beliefs. America looks at this issue according to their own mentality. They think, we’re lying, so they must be lying too. You can look through all of the speeches of the Rahber, and you will not find a single instance of deception or lying. He cannot do it. If he lies or does something wrong, he cannot stay the Supreme Leader. The Assembly of Experts would have to replace him.

A: One of the biggest problems that people here have with Ahmadinejad is his stance on Israel and his denial of the Holocaust. It is one thing to be critical of Israeli policy, but what purpose does denying the Holocaust and holding conferences dedicated to Holocaust denial serve
in helping Iran’s interests and relations with the rest of the world?

A: Look, if you listen to his words carefully, he doesn’t say that he accepts or denies the Holocaust. He is a university professor, an academic. He looks at it as a historical event, like any other. He doesn’t understand why each event in recorded history is subjected to research and re-evaluation except for this one. In Denmark, they can make cartoons insulting the Holy Prophet and this is defended as freedom of opinion. But in this case, it is taboo to have any opinions
on this issue.

Q: You do see, though, that there are parallels in the way Muslims feel about the Danish cartoons and the way Jews feel about the Holocaust? It is a very personal, emotional issue for them. Academic debate is one thing, but do you think it serves any kind of purpose when people
in powerful political positions express these opinions? If the goal is to try and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian issue, why should people in political positions highlight an unnecessary issue that would only inflame the other side and complicate the potential for a solution? Wouldn’t it be more effective to put the Holocaust issue aside and just focus on the Israeli-Palestinian issue?

A: Again, many of Ahmadinejad’s statements have been misunderstood. He does not reject the Holocaust. Okay, suppose he says the Holocaust happened just as it is recorded in history, without challenging it. It still happened in Europe, right? Why then are the Palestinian people being punished for it? That is the real question.
Also remember, we have 30,000 Jews living in Iran very peacefully. They like the Iranian government. We have always made a clear distinction between Judaism and Zionism. This is very important. Our opposition is to the Zionists, not to the Jews. We have a lot of respect for Judaism … it is also a religion of God, from Abraham.

Q: What kind of approach do you think the people of Iran want to see from President Obama and the United States during this time?

A: The Iranians have always maintained that that the United States should communicate with them at a level of equality, with mutual respect. They should remember that just as they are a nation, we are also a nation. If the United States talks down to Iran like they are our boss, and want to tell us what to do, we will not listen to a word they say. The same goes for Obama. Obama needs to be more honest.. One one hand, he says that we should improve our relations with Iran, and
on the other, he comes out and says he is very upset with the unjust treatment of these people who are committing violence and vandalism in Tehran. He should open his eyes and see how many supporters there are of the government and the Supreme Leader. These 85% that came out to
vote … whoever they voted for, they are still supporters of the Rahber and the government. They vote because they have faith in the system. He should look in the United States . When has the United States had an 85% voter turnout? What do you have, maybe 40%?

Q: Last year, it was around 60%.

A: Okay, 60%. Why was it higher than usual last year? Because people in America had some hopes and expectations in the last election. They had faith in the system and thought that Obama would come and change things. Iranians have the same support for their system. This is why there was such a high turnout. So Obama needs to be more honest, especially with his own people. He is taking their taxes and sending American soldiers into different countries where they are dying for no
reason, to protect the interests of the rich people in the United States. If Obama can stop this and just take good care of his own people, that is good enough, we will not have any problems with him. The American government spends more time protecting the interests of Zionism than it does the interests of its own people. We have never been against the people in America, just the policies of its government.

Q: My last question is a personal one. You still enjoy a very close relationship with your brother, who lives in the West, is non-religious, and has strong secular beliefs. You on the other hand
live in Qom, and are a few years shy of being a religious scholar at the highest (mujtahid) rank. To what extent, if any, have your stark ideological differences had an effect on your relationship?

A: You know, as I’ve lived and studied here, I have learned many things. My faith teaches me that human beings are the creations of God, and God has created this world and everything in it for human beings. This is very important. God has given human beings a great stature, and thus humanity is of great importance. If there is any ideology that is against this universal concept of humanity … this is what we are at war with. This concept is present in all belief systems. These other systems and religions only differ in how they translate this concept of humanity. We may try to help them understand our beliefs and they will try to help us understand theirs, but we will never fight them. We will only fight those who are enemies of humanity, those who humiliate others, abuse them, make mental and physical slaves of them, or think of them as lesser beings.

I believe that as human beings, we should worship and praise our Creator. But this service to God shouldn’t be of the kind that harms others. For example, you can say that you’re secular, that you don’t believe in a god, and you don’t believe in worship. You don’t think it’s required of you. So your ideology is different. But based on this, we will never clash with each other. Whoever truly understands Islam will never wage war against you for not believing. This is why I will never have a conflict with my brother.
However, if someone’s ideology says that I am a lesser person, that he rules over me, or he’s my boss, we will probably clash with each other. This is what I mean when I say our conflict is not with Jews or Judaism, but with Zionism. We place great importance on this difference.

Q: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.

A: Thank you. Read more of this post

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A Muted Sentence


granvilleYou won’t hear very much about this sentence handed down by a court in Sudan.  I wonder what would be the outcome if it was anything less than this, but a court has sentenced four men charged with killing an American AID worker to death by hanging for their part in the murder of John Granville. I did notice the slant in the article against the current government not contacting the family of the deceased, something I admit they should have done perhaps, but then when did the American government contact the family of anyone imprisoned in Guantanamo.  Nonetheless, social graces are not a part of the Sudanese system it appears, but in this case justice was served and you should know that.

A big deal was made about an English teacher who was threatened with punishment by the Sudanese government because she named a child’s toy Muhammad, at the suggestion of that child.  Bad news travels fast; the Islamophobes roundly condemned the Sudanese and articles appeared all over the world highlighting the case of Gillian Gibbons the teacher charged.

Perhaps this news balances out the disgraceful treatment Ms. Gibbons rececived at the hands of the Sudanese, if barely at all.  It does do justice for John Granville.   Hat tip to The Sudanese Thinker.

More Iranian, US intrigue


I strongly encourage you to run over to Consotiumnews. com to read the article, Iran Divided & the ‘October Suprise.  Niqnaq’s blog also carries it here.  It contains some interesting observations about today’s major players on the Iranian scene, as well as revelations that there was an October surprise meeting between the at the time aspiring Reagan administration and Iranians officials.  These  Reagan officials wanted to thwart the Carter reelection in 1980 while at the same time appearing to be hawks when it came to Iran, a typical neocon ‘slight of hand’ deception. There is also the explicit charge that George H.W. Bush did indeed meet with the Iranians in Paris, despite constant denials to the contrary.

While the article  covers “old news” it gives insight into why some people in Iran think and react the way they do to today’s events unfolding in Iran.

The French Government and Hypocrisy- One and the same


lorealLet me see if I understand this correctly, the French government can impose limits on what a hijab-demo-17jan04-741person can wear or not wear in order to attend government schools, yet a private company cannot say who it can hire to be sales staff for its products, even when the people appearing in those products are people of color?

France can ban the wearing of religious symbols even when those wearing them are doing so of their own free will in an expression of their religious beliefs in a society thatsupposedly  promotes, liberty, fraternity and equality, while insisting at the same time that companies do not have the right to determine who they can  employ in selling their products?  No one sees the slightest bit of hypocrisy in the French position?

People, who of their own free will,  practice a faith that may be different and not customary to the wider society  and choose to wear clothes that express themselves in ways different than the majority, but who are at the same time law abiding citizens who do not  frighten or intimidate others, should not have laws legislated which seek to limit or curtail that expression.  In fact the beauty of liberty and freedom means acts of social interaction are interpreted based on the law, which should should not be enacted to deny expression, but rather the acts of illegality that expression may or may not encourage.  Therefore, if a school girl walking down a French street is the victim of sexual harassment or assault it is the perpetrator of that action who should be limited not the girl wearing an article of clothing.   What the French want to do is take the act of discipline off their hands by removing the object of people’s ire, and in the process limit the freedom of its citizens.

Likewise, companies who have broadly used women of color in their advertising campaigns but choose to hire a sales staff they think may be able to sale their product to a broad based clientele should not have the weight of the State descend on them in a punitive way.  L’Oreal in France has to have the support of a majority of women of color in order to be profitable.  If hiring people that reflect a certain demographic will give them that market, how can the State justify changing that dynamic and jeopardizing the viability of the Company?  Will the State then say that the public MUST buy certain products in order to insure the success of a company so that it doesn’t go under because of the financially oppressive measures of the State?  Don’t be surprised if that happens next.

For now, France is following in the tradition of other western countries that seek to use expressions of liberty and freedom as slogans  which fall quickly when government wants to intervene in the lives of its citizens.  The tools the state uses for this intervention are usually fear and loathing of opponents who are unknown or unfamiliar.  Civilized people should recognize such tactics for what they are.  Ignorant people are too easily persuaded and succomb to the deceit.  The two cases above highlight how France is counting on the latter with its citizens!  Que sera, sera!

Celebrityhood and Michael Jackson


michaelIt’s said it takes a village to raise, educate, give meaning to a child; it also takes a village to do the same thing to raise, educate, give meaning to an idiot.  The village idiot was Michael Jackson.  I remember the young man when he was a part of the Jackson 5 and even went to see his act when it came to my local concert venue back in the late 60s.  It was good music at the time, but it was just that, music, without the Michael Jackson persona and I could take it or leave it.

Somewhere along the time continuum that changed so that it became all about Michael Jackson, “it” being entertainment and music, and he took on a god-like dimension he didn’t deserve, was not prepared for and which doomed him to this inevitable conclusion.  Along the way, from that late 60’s concert to 40 years later, the public imbued Jackson with powers and qualities he didn’t possess, so like most every one else who preceded him, he did  what was necessary to live up to the standards of an idolizing public, even if that sealed his doom.  Why we wanted him to come to this conclusion in order to satisfy our desire  for celebrity worship is beyond me, but it was our attitude that killed him just as much as the alleged pain killers he took to perform in order to meet our expectations.

It is the sign of the times that the public is much more interested in celebrity than in substance.  In the case of music, groups are destroyed by solo careers  where a stand out member of a famous group decides to leave it and go solo for reasons of personal gratification and  material enrichment.  The result is that person becomes the focal point of our idolatry and thrives or dies by it according to how well grounded they may be.  Michael wasn’t well grounded.  Weren’t the signs there very early on?  Changing his physical appearance so drastically, behavior that was suspect at best, predatory or criminal at worse?  Yet we still have people eulogizing him today as their soul mate and dearest companion.

A day or two before Jackson’s death, Farrah Fawcett died with the same adulation from a sycophantic nation and swooning press, suffering from a disease whose cause and treatment deserve far more attention than what Farrah got.  The public’s obsession with personality is what drives those personalities to superhuman acts of inhuman imperfection.  Jackson couldn’t look any better than he was created, but in his attempts to perfect himself he became hideous and subhuman.  Still we cheered.  Why?  The record moguls knew what was wrong with Jackson and yet he was promoted as a pop “icon” and still we cheered.  And now he’s dead.

Quite frankly the solution is this: when aberrant behavior is clearly demonstrated it should not be the cause for overwhelming adulation on the part of an informed public.  We should demand more from people who govern, entertain and inform us; if we don’t we get wars of aggression, disinformation or lies  and people who die a premature death because we both cheered and looked the other way.  They are our village idiots and we deserve one another.

Neo-Conservatives are bad for America


neocons+straussIt’s been extraordinary watching how neocons have made everything up, down, everything black, white and everything evil, good and back again.  In the process they have managed to weaken America, tarnish her image in the world community and imperil the world.  In my wildest of conspiratorial dreams, I surmise they are responsible for the election of Barack Obama in order to undo some of the damage they have done, but they have not kept themselves out of the policy making apparatus of government; they are rather firmly entrenched there and have installed gate keepers at every door of the branches of government.  Rahm Emmanuel in the executive, and policy wonks at State, two previously mentioned here on the pages of Miscellany101.  They are not working in the best interests of the US; American interests take a back seat to interests feuled by tribalism and history they want to rewrite in order settle old scores at the expense of an unconcerned and uninitiated American public.  Sure most of it is based on OIL, oil, Israel and logistics, but personal aggrandizement and wealth also play a part in their deception.

So while going through my daily reading I wandered on this article which reinforced these notions above.  What picqued my interest and aggravated my anger was the explicit statement that Saddam wanted the help of America and would have entered into a defense pact with the US in order to defend him against Iran.  That’s not altogether surprising since Saddam fought the Iranians before in the 80s for eight years, at no expense to US personnel or materiel.  Saddam wanted to talk to Bush about that and if he had been successful in pitching the idea all the American lives killed and money wasted at great expense to the country could have been avoided with an even better policy result!  But Bush was convinced to ignore Saddam’s overtures, no doubt with the blessings of the many neocons entrenched in his government who advised against such acceptance.  Instead these people using fascist tactics of deception and the increased powers of the state  got Bush to promote the lie of WMDS and consequently,  America has  installed  a pro-Iranian regime, and destabilized one of the largest Arab speaking countries of the region.  All this happened because neocons have been pitching the idea of regime change to Democrats and Republicans alike since the mid 90s.

They have managed to pitch war at the expense of peace before, when they similarly got Bush to ignore Iranian attempts at rapprochement with America in 2003.  Now a second US administration is being led by the nose with the help of a belligerent ally, Israel, that wants a war and ostensibly drag America into it, with a country that wants peace and is willing to  make major concessions towards that aim.  Such a war would not be in the interests of America and could prove to be more costly than even the Iraq debacle.  The authors of American government advised this country in its infancy from foreign entanglements and that advice still reverberates throughout time but there are few in government who are able to hear it because of the noise being made by neoconservatives and their spin doctors.  The fact that Obama has further embraced them, making government positions a revolving door for the enemies of America to spin, deceive and escalate and involve this country in military adventures means there isn’t much that has changed with his election.  It’s time for Americans to show neocons the door.

Iran-Debunking the Lie


iranian_flagSay what you want about Iran, they had an election where 85% of the people who could vote did and where the candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who has now garnered the sympathy of the West is acknowledged by those in the “know” as being one of the prime movers of Iranian terrorism in the past.

What the disputed results do show is there is a vibrant electoral and democratic process going on in Iran that equals or exceeds anything else going on in the Middle East, our petulant ally Israel included, in spite of the intricate back stage maneuvering going on between the West and some of Iran’s faces and voices from the past, particularly the son of the late Shah, Reza Pahlavi.

For the West  this controversy couldn’t come at a better time.  With the Israel lobby pushing for intervention into Iranian affairs and regime change amid President Obama’s call for rapproachment with Iran, the election results are being used to influence US policy, and sometimes in ways that resemble the disinformation passed out during the lead up to the Iraq war.  There’s no doubt the neocons have their sights set on regime change for Iran and will use every pretense available to achieve that.  What’s curious is they are even using someone like Mousavi for that purpose and his allowing himself to be used  only begs the question how long has he been a tool of the same forces who now tout his legitimacy.  Was he acting on the behests of those same forces when he negotiated terror on American personnel in Lebanon during the Reagan administration’s misguided adventure in that country as he is now?

Finally, I am more than amused at the reaction of some in the West to the Iranian government’s attempt to regain control of its population.  Iran has always been ruled by the street and when demonstrators  protested  American imperialism the hue and cry for the Iranian state to control its population was raised to the heavens by America.  Now when its  state control is exerted against American interests the cries for the state to intervene are replaced with protests that it is doing too much of that. The American objection to Iranian state control of its streets is taking place at the same time Chicago police are celebrating their blood fest against protesters during the 1968 Democratic Convention, in what this observer considers  a slap in the face to the current occupant of the White House.  It would be appropriate for President Obama to direct his comments about consequences for continued threats, beatings and imprisonment  towards the CPD as well, wouldn’t it?

The Dance of Denial


danceIt has been very revealing watching members of the Right deny the responsibility of their ideology for two tragic murders that have recently occurred which captured the attention of the Nation.  First came the cold blooded slaughter of an abortionist, Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kansas followed up shortly by the brutal killing of a security guard at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC.

Dr. Tiller’s death is troubling because he had been the target of anti-abortionists’ rage before. The person charged with his murder had been known to stalk and even vandalize  the clinic where Tiller worked in the days preceding his death.  Several people in the clinic have gone on record saying they knew about Scott Roeder’s attempts at disrupting the operation of the clinic and notified the proper authorities yet nothing was done to apprehend Roeder which could have possibly prevented  Dr. Tiller’s death.  Such ineptness on the part of the federal bureaucracy does not mean that even more layers of government are necessary to protect the citizens but rather irresponsible civil servants need to be replaced with more diligent and efficient ones.

The death of Stephen Jones at the National Holocaust Museum at the hands of a white supremacist is a tragedy underscored by the fact his murderer had a long history, easily documented that could have possibly pointed to such a heinous crime being committed by his hand, age notwithstanding, yet he very easily walked down a metropolitan city street with a .22 caliber rifle and shot and killed an armed federal agent.  The reason why I mention again both of these crimes is because of the contortions those on the right are taking to distance their ideology from these two men who claimed to hold that ideology near and dear to them.

Political pundits are taking great lengths to say that these murderers aren’t from the right at all but rather from the left of the political spectrum, despite the fact they, the perpetrators clearly identify with the Right.  Punditry has managed to make actions a mark of political persuasion and not words.  Pundits have told their admirers that death and killing are marks of the political left, terrorism is identified with Muslims and Islam.  The Right claims  any action that is noble and necessary to save America from its enemies upto and including wholesale slaughter and invasion of countries like Iraq and Afghanistan as virtuous, and therefore worthy of being called conservative.

This was the kind of meme advanced by Dick Cheney, more recently, and the entire Bush administration before which reduced all argument to ‘with us or against us’ sloganeering.  In that small universe built by the likes of the triumphant Right there wasn’t anything that we did to  those ‘against us’ that could be considered illegal or immoral behavior.   The concept of “exceptionalism” had been developed to the point that meant even the boundaries of legality didn’t apply to our behavior, or we made every attempt to legalize illegal behavior in order to legitimize our unlawful actions.  This flouting of the law for suspect political aims is a vicious circle we continue to go around when we obscure  the motives of these latest criminals for their criminal behavior.

News accounts and political commentators have taken great pains to classify these murderers as lone gunmen who are completely separate and detached from the environment which they have enveloped themselves.  By doing so they hope to further distance themselves from the effect their rhetoric has on the people who listen, subscribe and eventually act on  it.

In our system of law as it pertains to capital crimes unless there is a conspiracy there is no guilt by association. Conversely there is also no innocence by association. Christian leaders and conservative citizens in general have jumped at the chance to label Mr. Roeder a vigilante, a monster and things far worse.

Regrettably this tactic is only applied to people from the right who spent an entire two terms of a right leaning Republican administration painting with the broadest of brushes entire groups of people based on the actions of individual(s).  This has been a common practice of demagoguery; the politics of the many condensed into the actions of the lone individual.  Cries, which were raised at the turn of the century, of bombing the institutions that are symbolic of political ideology have given way to the absolute negation of ideology and their import on an individual’s actions.   Murderers on the right have suddenly appeared on our political and national landscape to kill their perceived foes because these killers were inherently defective and acting completely on their own.  Conversely the last eights years of a Republican administration were spent literally trying to root out whole communities of conspirators who lurked in every corner of our country waiting for a chance to reap their collective death and destruction at the earliest possible moment on an unsuspecting public that need the invasive protection of a government bureaucracy, because of the actions of a few.

Finally the absence in many cases of condemnation from the people who claim allegiance with right leaning philosophy  for the  murderous tendencies of their co-ideologues is another characteristic of the sudden revisionism going on in Obama’s America.  During the Bush years people were always challenged to condemn the acts of coreligionists or fellow party members whereas today’s America sees there is no need for condemnation because such doing so rarely accomplishes anything and not worth the time spent.

Condemning Roeder doesn’t add anything to the pro-life cause. Pro-abortionists are always quick to remind the Christians of Christ’s rule of not judging or condemning. Why add fuel to the fire by condemning Mr. Roeder, isn’t it just a matter of six of one and a half dozen of the other? Both Tiller and Roeder have One that will be their final judge and he is neither hot under the collar, biased or partial. Why don’t we leave all that to Him?

In many ways such ideas mirror the current glossing over done by the Obama administration vis-a-vis Bush Administration crimes.  The motivation for such an attitude is clear; it absolves ideologues from the  responsibility of their actions of the past or the future while still holding on, in their own minds at least, to a perceived higher moral ground. Gone are the litmus  tests that were applied to every ethnicity before which required a strict adherence to the law on the part of every member of a political, ideological group or the utter abandonment and banishment of that group in the absence of a vociferous outcry and condemnation of any of its members, however tangential that connection may be.

Finally, there is the absence of a cry for governmental insertion in the settlement of accounts for anti-social behavior.  Instead, the right has resume its position they so recklessly abandoned during the 911 era and want no government interference at all in protecting society.  Instead of wanting the affairs of the country to be overseen by a white haired Bush, the right blames a black haired Obama, as if he were the trigger puller of these two most recent attacks on the national consciousness.  The turnaround of the right on a dime as it were, is one more indication of the bankrupt philosophy it harbors.  That no one from that side of the political spectrum can see the sudden hypocrisy of their positions is another indication of just how low they have sunk in abandoning principle.  There is no indication that the Left is or will be any better; their actions to date have only enabled the right to the detriment of us all.

The beginnings of an heroic decision


RF247546Jose Padilla, a half deranged, tortured individual taken to the brink of insanity by the sole super power left in the world, has managed to muster courage that an entire nation of mentally sound people could not come up with to begin the process of bringing Bush Administration officials to justice!

Mr. Padilla was held as an “enemy combatant” in solitary confinement for more than three years in the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. Mr. Padilla, who was convicted of supporting terrorism and other crimes, demands that Mr. Yoo be held accountable for actions that Mr. Padilla claims led to his being tortured.

During the time Mr. Padilla was held in the brig, according to his filings in the case, he “suffered gross physical and psychological abuse at the hands of federal officials as part off a systematic program of abusive interrogation intended to break down Mr. Padilla’s humanity and his will to live.”

In the 42-page ruling, Judge Jeffrey S. White of Federal District Court in San Francisco characterized the conflict as one that embodies the tension “between the requirements of war and the defense of the very freedoms that war seeks to protect.”

Let’s not overlook the courage of Judge White, a Bush appointee who some are lauding as delivering a pretty legally sound opinion to allow Padilla proceed with his action. Of course there are all sorts of other legal hurdles this decision has to face, appellate and possibly a Supreme Court review; the neocons will not allow the precedent of one of their own be tried, much less found guilty, for torture and no doubt the disposition of this case is a long way off, but at least it has started, and it took a man huddling in a cell somewhere to get the process started.  How brave and noble!

No comment


waterboarding lady liberty

Disgraceful


larry_franklinLarry Franklin committed espionage against the US and has gone free!

A former Pentagon analyst who pleaded guilty to passing secret information to two former AIPAC staffers had his sentence drastically reduced.

Larry Franklin was sentenced to probation and 10 months of “community confinement,” or a halfway house, along with 100 hours of community service. In 2005 he had received a sentence of 12 1/2 years in prison but was free pending his cooperation with prosecutors in the case against the two formers AIPAC staffers, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman.

Federal prosecutors dropped the charges last month against Rosen and Weissman for passing classified information, saying that restrictions the judge had placed on the case made the government unlikely to prevail.

In a Thursday afternoon hearing in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., prosecutors asked Judge T.S. Ellis to reduce Franklin’s sentence to eight years, saying he played an important role in the case but was “not what you’d call an ideal cooperator.” Franklin attorney, Plato Cacheris, said Franklin had “paid his penalty and suffered greatly,” and should not have to serve any time in prison.

People sit in Gitmo Bay for years and years and are denied access to the judicial system and their only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time!  If America doesn’t right the mis-application of justice so that those who are guilty get justice, and those who are innocent are expeditiously given recourse to the legal system and released, then there will continue to be chaos on the national and international fronts which will see America becoming more deeply entrenched in its militancy and isolation.

Reliving the sins of our (fore)fathers


gitmo detaineeSecurity subsists, too, in fidelity to freedom’s first principles. Chief among these are freedom from arbitrary and unlawful restraint and the personal liberty that is secured by adherence to separation of powers. . . .

The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our system, they are reconciled within the framework of law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of first importance, must be a part of that framework, part of that law.

So said the US Supreme Court in its decision, BOUMEDIENE ET AL. v. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE
UNITED STATES, ET AL. where it ruled the Military Commissions Act’s Section 7 was unconstitutional and that Lakhdar Boumediene had a right to a habeas corpus hearing to decide whether he should face charges the US military said he was guilty. Lakhdar Boumediene’s case is a shining example of what American forefathers went through in their escape from an imperial England which brought them to the shores of America. Fleeing repressive government which arbitrarily meted out justice without any regard for the rule of law, even though there was some semblance of British common law in the magna carta, America’s founders established the right to habeas corpus for its citizens, which in turn the Supreme Court expanded to those present day America swooped up in its farcical war on terror.

Boumediene was one such casualty. Working in Sarajevo, Bosnia he was accused by the US of plotting to commit acts of terror against the US embassy there and arrested by Bosnian authorities who using their own judicial means established there was no merit to the charge. However, after being released by Bosnian authorities he was re-arrested by American forces and rendered to Guantanamo Bay where he was held for 7.5 years, without access to a legal system. Kept in isolation and tortured his only request was to know why he was being held.  Finally when his case went before the Supreme Court it was ruled he had a right to  habeas corpus review, which in turn quickly adjudicated him  innocent, by a Bush appointee federal judge no less, of the charges levied against him by America just as he was in a Bosnian court.

What possessed America to hold him another 8 months after he was ordered release shows the contempt the Bush administration had for the very judicial process it abused in order to justify it’s WOT. One can only imagine how many others, similarly innocent languish in places like Gitmo Bay, Bagram, or any other base set up to house people deemed terrorist by an abusive and imperial executive out of control. Why this should even matter to the average American on the street is simple: the country has built up over a long history a very precise, intricate and detailed system of law to avoid the mistakes of the English who chased its downtrodden all over the world to deny them their rights and inevitably fight them when they asserted them. We should not and cannot sit by and watch them discarded by an abusive executive who decides unilaterally what laws it wants to abide by and which ones it doesn’t. The Supreme Court decision was clear in that regard.

The Framers’ inherent distrust of government power was the driving force behind the constitutional plan that allocated powers among three independent branches. This design serves not only to make Government accountable but also to secure individual liberty. . . .

Where a person is detained by executive order rather than, say, after being tried and convicted in a court, the need for collateral review is most pressing. . . . The habeas court must have sufficient authority to conduct a meaningful review of both the cause of detention and the Executive’s power to detain. . . .

We haven’t begun to address the issue of Boumediene’s treatment while in captivity in Gitmo Bay and his assertion that he was tortured. Indeed the biggest torture of all was his unlawful imprisonment and isolation from the legal redress he was found by US authorities to be clearly entitled too but which he was denied for so very long. The fact that his imprisonment could not stand judicial review from TWO separate courts continents removed from one another is why the will of a whimsical executive must be challenged by the judicial checks and balances embedded in our system of government. Check out Boumediene’s interview with ABC news below. This should be one more nail in the coffin for the indictment of any and all officials in the Bush administration for international war crimes.

Terrorism-The unequal treatment of two religiously motivated crimes


lady-justiceTwo men, one Christian and the other Muslim, commit murder just one day apart in the United States. Both appear to have been motivated by their religious beliefs. The Christian murderer is Scott Roeder and his victim is Dr. George Tiller, a physician from Wichita, KS who performed late term abortions. The Muslim murderer is Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad and his victims are Pvt. William Long and Pvt. Quinton Ezeagwula who were new U.S. Army recruiters.

These two murder cases expose the media’s and our legal system’s bias against Muslims. Both crimes seem to fit the definition of terrorism motivated by religious extremism. The media and the legal system, however, are treating these alleged murderers and their crimes very differently.

The Muslim murder suspect, Mr. Muhammad, is charged with terrorism along with first degree murder. Mr. Muhammad’s faith has been front and center from the very earliest news reports. The American-Muslim community’s almost immediate repudiation of Mr. Muhammad’s murder was and still is largely ignored.

On the other hand, the Christian murder suspect, Mr. Roeder, is not being charged with terrorism. His faith has not been the focus of news reports even though there seems to be ample evidence to suggest that Mr. Roeder espouses extreme, right-wing Christian beliefs. And lastly, the media is giving anti-abortion groups ample opportunity to distance themselves from the murderous actions of one of their own.

Let’s start with the terrorism charges. Domestic terrorism is defined as an act that is dangerous to human life (guns were fired in the direction of the victims – this requirement is met) and which is a violation of the criminal laws of the U.S. or any State (both shootings fulfill this requirement) and which appears to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion or to affect the conduct of a government by, among other things, assassination (an argument for this element can be made in both shootings).

Mr. Muhammad is charged with 15 counts of engaging in a terrorist act. This is in addition to the murder charge. Mr. Roeder is charged with murder but there are no terrorism charges. On the face of both cases there seems to be ample indications that these men committed murder with the objective of intimidating a civilian population or with the intention to influence a government policy.

So, why a terrorism charge in one case but not the other? Both cases are heinous. Both local communities surely want to send the strongest message possible to the public that these crimes will be punished to the greatest extent of the law. And ultimately a judge or jury will decide whether the charges are proven beyond a reasonable doubt so the prosecutor runs little risk by adding the appropriate terrorism charge.

The disparate treatment of these two murder cases began right from the first media reports. Most major newswires and major newspapers focused heavily on Mr. Muhammad’s religion very early on.

The Associated Press reported on Mr. Muhammad’s crime by stating that a “Muslim convert with political and religious motives” shot two uniformed soldiers. The New York Times described Mr. Muhammad as “an American convert to Islam.” CNN reported that Mr. Muhammad is a “Muslim convert”.

Let’s compare the reporting by these same news sources on Mr. Roeder’s murder. The Associated Press is mum on Mr. Roeder’s Christian faith. Ditto for the New York Times and CNN. None of theses same news sources make any mention of Mr. Roeder’s religious affiliation or the obvious role his extremist religious beliefs may have played in the killing of Dr. Tiller.

What exacerbates this obvious bias in reporting is the willingness of the media to offer the anti-abortion groups immediate opportunities to distance themselves from Mr. Roeder’s murder while none of them provided a similar opportunity for the American-Muslim community even as they reported that Mr. Muhammad is a Muslim. Major national and regional American-Muslim organizations issued almost immediate statements condemning Mr. Muhammad’s murderous actions so the excuse cannot be a lack of public condemnation of the murder from the American-Muslim community.

To the American-Muslim community this unequal treatment is at the very least annoying and more likely very troubling. The bad news is that this situation is not going to change in the immediate future.

Not enough Americans know what real Muslims are like. There are up to 7 million Muslims living in America. By contrast there are a few hundred million Christians in America. Suffice to say that Americans feel more familiar with Christian values than they do with Muslim values. They don’t realize just how similar these values are – both faith traditions abhor the killing of innocents and neither faith condones the actions of Mr. Muhammad or Mr. Roeder. Plus, the steady stream of news about Muslim extremists killing others and themselves in suicide missions overseas certainly doesn’t help.

There is only one way for American-Muslims to sway Americans’ opinion of Islam. More Americans need to know what real Muslims are all about. While the media can do its job better by giving a voice to the American-Muslim community, American-Muslims need to take matters into their own hands.

American-Muslims need to become civically engaged. They need to get involved on issues of the common good and not just special interest issues. It has to be at the grassroots level with one on one interactions predicated on substantive work that gives non-Muslim Americans a chance to see firsthand what American-Muslims are all about.

President Obama’s message to the Muslim world, including his numerous nods to American-Muslims was great, but American-Muslims need to do some serious, old school, grassroots relational work of their own.

Hat tip to AltMuslim comment.

The Saboteurs in the Obama Adminstration


rossThis is really a no brainer.  Why would the President of the United States embark on a policy of rapprochement with Iran, declare they have a right to peaceful nuclear technology and appoint someone, nay rather create a position called special adviser for the Persian Gulf and Southeast Asia and give it to someone who is expressly against your stated goals?  Doesn’t anyone see that as grooming a policy to fail?  Well that’s what has taken place in the appointment of Dennis Ross to the above mentioned position.  Ross’ name is also prominently displayed here on the website of a group called United Against Nuclear Iran where he, along with Richard Holbrooke, is even congratulated on being appointed to the Obama administration.    It really makes one wonder if all this talk of change is so much window dressing, when the real nuts and bolts of policy is still being decided by the Democrats‘ answer to the neocons of the Bush administration.

Widely viewed as a cog in the machine of Israel’s Washington lobby, Ross was not likely to be welcomed in Tehran–and he wasn’t. Iran’s state radio described his appointment as “an apparent contradiction” with Obama’s “announced policy to bring change in United States foreign policy.” Kazem Jalali, a hardline member of the Iranian parliament’s national security committee, joked that it “would have been so much better to pick Ariel Sharon or Ehud Olmert as special envoy to Iran.” More seriously, a former White House official says that Ross has told colleagues that he believes the United States will ultimately have no choice but to attack Iran in response to its nuclear program.

One has to shake one’s head at Obama’s inability to distance himself from the perpetual forces for war in order to implement the progressive initiatives articulated in his Cairo speech.  It is quite possible such key appointments like the Ross and Holbrooke appointments will lead America into another war, abroad and on the political front at home.  Why this is apparent to everyone but Obama is simply incredible! This isn’t change, this is business as usual.

The Darfur Deception


by Muhammad Idris Ahmed
Darfur ProtestIn Errol Morris’s 2004 film The Fog of War, former US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara recalls General Curtis LeMay, the architect of the fire-bombings of Japan during WWII, saying that “if we’d lost the war, we’d all have been prosecuted as war criminals.” LeMay was merely articulating an unacknowledged truism of international relations: power bestows, among other things, the right to label. So it is that mass slaughter perpetrated by the big powers, from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, is normalized through labels such as “counterinsurgency,” “pacification” and “war on terror,” while similar acts carried out by states out of favor result in the severest of charges. It is this politics of naming that is the subject of Mahmood Mamdani’s explosive new book, Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror.

Like the Middle East, parts of Africa have been engulfed in conflict for much of the post-colonial period. While the media coverage in both cases is perfunctory, in the case of Africa it is also sporadic. To the extent that there is coverage, the emphasis is on the dramatic or the grotesque. When the subject is not war, it is usually famine, disease or poverty — sometimes all together, always free of context. The wars are between “tribes” led by “warlords,” that take place in “failed states” ruled by “corrupt dictators.” Driven by primal motives, they rarely involve discernible issues. The gallery of rogues gives way only to a tableau of victims, inevitably in need of White saviors. A headline like “Can Bono save Africa?” is as illustrative of Western attitudes towards the continent as the comments of Richard Littlejohn, Britain’s highest-paid columnist, who wrote at the peak of the Rwandan genocide “Does anyone really give a monkey’s about what happens in Rwanda? If the Mbongo tribe wants to wipe out the Mbingo tribe then as far as I am concerned that is entirely a matter for them.”

Darfur is the conspicuous exception to this trend, though Rwanda did enter Western vocabulary after the 1994 genocide. This, Mamdani argues, is primarily due to the efforts of one organization — the Save Darfur Coalition (SDC) — whose advocacy has been central to turning this into the biggest mass movement in the United States since the anti-Vietnam mobilization, bigger than the anti-apartheid movement. While the mobilization did have the salutary effect of raising awareness about an issue otherwise unknown to the majority of US citizens, its privileging of acting over knowing renders this less meaningful. Indeed, the campaign’s shunning of complexity, its substituting of moral certainty for knowledge, and its preference for military solutions, precludes the very end that it purports to strive for. Invoking what it claims are lessons of the Nazi Holocaust and the Rwanda genocide, it combines slogans such as “never again” with the battle cries of a new “good war”, such as “boots on the ground”, and “out of Iraq and into Darfur”. Mamdani contends that SDC is not a peace movement, it is a war movement.

The SDC was established in July 2004 through the combined efforts of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Jewish World Service. It has since been joined by a broad spectrum of political and religious organizations, a gaggle of celebrities and prominent intellectuals. It has spawned student chapters all across the country that range from the high school to university levels. Led by an advertising executive, it is the only organization capable of bringing together such unlikely partners as the Reverend Al Sharpton and author Elie Wiesel, actor George Clooney and former US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton. If the signature activity of the anti-Vietnam war movement was the teach-in, for the SDC it is the advertising campaign. The expert has been replaced by the celebrity, the campaigner by the advertising agent. With an annual budget of $14 million the SDC employs the DC-based PR firm M+R Strategic Services (M&R) for its publicity. While M&R boasts a clientele comprising mainly green and humanitarian non-profits, in 2002 it was exposed by PR Watch for using its progressive credentials to greenwash DuPont, one of the world’s leading polluters. The centrality of propaganda to the SDC’s success was underscored by the fact that in the period between Spring 2007 and January 2008, the president of M&R Bill Wasserman also served as Save Darfur’s executive director.

The apparent diversity of the SDC’s affiliates also obscures the fact that its agenda is mainly driven by Zionist organizations and the Christian Right. However, Mamdani pays scant attention to the composition of the SDC even though he devotes a whole chapter to its politics and methods. As The Jerusalem Post reported ahead of the SDC’s rally in Washington on 30 April 2006, it is “[l]ittle known … that the coalition, which has presented itself as ‘an alliance of over 130 diverse faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations’ was actually begun exclusively as an initiative of the American Jewish community.” It noted that even in 2006 that coalition was “heavily weighted” with a “diverse collection of local and national Jewish groups.” The Washington Post reported the same day that “[k]eeping the peace within the diverse Save Darfur Coalition has not been easy” due to tensions, in particular, between evangelical Christians and the mostly Muslim Darfuri immigrants. The Sudanese immigrants also objected to the lineup of speakers which, according to the paper, included “eight Western Christians, seven Jews, four politicians and assorted celebrities — but no Muslims and no one from Darfur” (two were eventually added at the last minute). Ned Goldstein has suggested in his investigation of the Zionist interests behind the SDC that Darfur is being deployed as a strategic distraction from Israeli crimes against the Palestinians (most recently at the UN anti-racism conference). The salient feature of the SDC propaganda is to paint the conflict as war between “Arabs” and “Africans” and to label the violence “genocide.”

The genocide debate hinges on two factors: numbers and identity. For mass violence to qualify as genocide the killing has to be on a large enough scale, and the intent to eliminate a discrete racial, ethnic, or religious group has to be established. Mamdani argues that in order to sustain its claim of genocide, the SDC has inflated casualty figures and racialized the conflict.

The mortality figure of 400,000 has become a staple of SDC propaganda even though it has been repeatedly discredited. In 2007, the British Advertising Standards Authority chided the SDC (and the Aegis Trust) for breaching “standards of truthfulness” in its use of the figure for its UK advertising campaign. The number had already been challenged when a panel convened by the US Government Accountability Office in collaboration with the National Academy of Sciences concluded that of the six estimates they studied, the figures presented by the SDC were the least reliable. The most reliable estimate was the study carried out by the World Heath Organization-affiliated Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) that had recorded 131,000 excess deaths at the peak of the conflict of which only 30 percent were due to violence. The violence had dropped sharply after January 2005; this, Mamdani avers, was due mainly to the intervention of African Union peacekeepers. By 2008, the total deaths for the whole year had dropped to 1,500. These numbers are far lower than what constitutes an emergency according to the UN, let alone genocide.

The conflict began as a civil war in 1987-89, driven less by race or ethnic rivalries than by a struggle for land and resources — it pitted the mostly nomadic landless Arabs against the mostly sedentary Fur peasants. Compounded by Khartoum’s botched attempt at land reform during the 1990s, turning it into a party to the civil war, the simmering conflict erupted into a full-scale insurgency in 2003. This eventually led to the government’s brutal counterinsurgency campaign where it turned to nomadic tribes from Darfur and Chad to serve as proxies.

Mamdani identifies three causes as having contributed to the conflict. First, is the history of colonial rule wherein the British went about a project of retribalizing Darfur through a system of native administration which created tribal homelands and introduced a principle of discrimination that privileged “natives” over “settlers.” This led to the dispossession of nomadic tribes, especially the camel nomads of the north. The tribal identities were further solidified through a census that required each registrant to choose a “race”; a written history that presented Arabs as “settlers” from the Middle East; and laws that gave preferential treatment to whoever was deemed a “native”. This narrative also allowed the British colonizers to present themselves as merely following the precedent of an earlier Arab colonization.

Drought and desertification was the second contributing factor. The Sahara’s southern rim expanded by 100 kilometers, forcing nomadic tribes further south and eventually to encroach on the lands of the sedentary Fur tribes.

Finally, the civil war in neighboring Chad where opposition groups armed by Cold War rivals — the US, France and Israel on one side, and Libya and the Soviet Union on the other — had frequently taken refuge in Darfur, leading to a proliferation of weapons and militias. Mamdani explains that the Western powers were involved in the conflict long before the Sudanese government was; and Omar al-Bashir’s Islamist regime wasn’t even in power at the time.

The Arab-versus-African narrative obscures the fact that since at least the British colonial era, Arabs have been Darfur’s most deprived constituency. “If Darfur was marginal in Sudan,” writes Mamdani, “the Arabs of Darfur were marginal in Darfur.” Contrary to the British historiography — whose assumptions have since been reproduced in 20th century nationalist writings — most Arabs arrived in Sudan as refugees fleeing persecution in Mamluk Egypt. Moreover, the diffusion of Arab culture was more a consequence of commerce than of conquest. Mamdani demonstrates that “Arab” is not a racial, ethnic, or cultural identity. It is an assumed political identity that is more a reflection of preference and power than of genealogy. For example, former slaves once freed would become Fur in Darfur, and Arab in Funj, the Sultanate in riverine Sudan where Arabs dominated. To be an Arab in Darfur therefore signifies nothing so much as weakness. The conflict in Darfur today is as much between Arabs (the Abbala camel nomads against the Baggara cattle nomads) as it is against the relatively privileged Fur and Massalit, and the less privileged Zaghawa. The SDC however emphasizes the north-south axis of the conflict that pits Arab against Fur and ignores the south-south Axis which pits Arab against Arab.

The Darfuri rebels likewise defy easy classification. When the insurgency began in 2003, there were two major groups — the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) — they have now split into 26. JEM, which is the largest rebel organization, has an Islamist orientation and draws its inspiration from Hassan al-Turabi, the influential Sudanese Islamist and one time ally of Omar al-Bashir. In contrast, the SLA is secular-Africanist with ties to the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in the South (led by the late John Garang). Before the split between the Islamists in Khartoum, the government had employed Darfuri Islamists led by future JEM founder Khalil Ibrahim for its counterinsurgency in the south. (Ibrahim opposed the power-sharing agreement that ended the war in the south.) However, according to Sudan scholar Alex de Waal, both organizations learned “to characterize their plight in the simplified terms that had proved so effective in winning foreign sympathy for the south: they were the ‘African’ victims of an ‘Arab’ regime.” The government’s response to the insurgency was at first a half-hearted attempt at reconciliation, followed by the arming of a proxy force comprising nomadic militias, many of them from Chad, who have come to be known as the Janjawid. The consequences were devastating, with large-scale bloodletting and the displacement of 2.5 million people.

Khartoum’s use of proxies to quell an insurgency and the resulting death and displacement parallel US policies in Iraq, where ethnic-sectarian militias have been deployed against the mostly-Sunni insurgency. Yet, unlike Iraq, where in excess of a million have died according to the lates ORB poll, and five million displaced, the violence in Darfur has been labeled a genocide. Darfur has also spawned domestic mobilization in the US on a scale for which there is no parallel in the case of Iraq. Mamdani argues that this is due to the fact that Iraq requires Americans to act as citizens, with all the responsibility and complicated political choices it entails, whereas Darfur only requires them to act as humans where they choose to take responsibility out of a sense of philanthropy. He notes that “In Darfur, Americans can feel themselves to be what they know they are not in Iraq: powerful saviors.” As the Nigerian writer Uzodinma Iweala observed, “It seems that these days, wracked by guilt at the humanitarian crisis it has created in the Middle East, the West has turned to Africa for redemption.” In adopting the language of good and evil, Mamdani observes, the SDC has acted as “the great depoliticizer” in precluding political reconciliation in favor of a moral (read military) solution.

In Saviors and Survivors, Mamdani emphasizes regional over international solutions. Western modes of conflict resolution in Africa resemble nothing so much as the International Monetary Fund’s Structural Adjustment Programs: “Those who made decisions did not have to live with their consequences, nor pay for them.” The Western emphasis on the humanitarian crisis in lieu of a political solution merely prolongs the conflict. By contrast, the AU’s approach is both humanitarian and political. The African Union’s (AU) intervention in Darfur had been largely successful in reducing the violence, yet its operation was undermined by Western powers that failed to deliver the support they had pledged when the AU brokered the N’DJamena ceasefire agreement in April 2004. It was also vilified in SDC propaganda. Mamdani asserts that much of the foot-dragging was to discredit the AU so that the notion of an African solution for an African problem could be discredited. The aim was to “blue hat” the AU forces and bring them under Western command. In a Washington Post op-ed pointedly titled “Stop Trying To ‘Save’ Africa,” Iweala asked, “How is it that a former mid-level US diplomat receives more attention for his cowboy antics in Sudan than do the numerous African Union countries that have sent food and troops and spent countless hours trying to negotiate a settlement among all parties in that crisis?”

The recent International Criminal Court case has further entrenched the Khartoum government in its defiant stance. Criminal prosecutions during an ongoing conflict merely exacerbate matters, Mamdani argues. More so when the adjudicating body has a demonstrable record of bias. The model for justice must be the post-Apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission rather than Nuremberg — survivors’ justice rather than victors’ justice. The well-being of surviving multitudes must not be subordinated to the imperative of punishing individual perpetrators. Mamdani offers a trenchant critique of what he calls the “New Humanitarian Order,” which has supplanted traditional colonialism and turned human rights into the new pretext for intervention. The “international community”, which Mamdani argues is nothing more than a “post-Cold War nom de guerre for the Western powers”, has created “a bifurcated system whereby state sovereignty obtains in large parts of the world but is suspended in more and more countries in Africa and the Middle East” reducing citizens to wards in “an open-ended international rescue operation”.

The Obama Administration already appears to be making a break with its predecessor’s approach and has ordered a review of its Sudan policy. Scott Gration, the new envoy, has already visited Khartoum and Darfur, as has John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. In the case of the Bush Administration, the SDC was able to mobilize Congress against the State Department that was seeking a political resolution modeled on the power-sharing agreement that ended the longstanding conflict in the south. It remains to be seen how much the Obama Administration is able to resist the formidable lobbying power of the SDC. While Mamdani maintains that the aim of the SDC is to induce the US government to intervene militarily in Sudan, it appears that the real interest of its core organizations is to perpetuate the conflict so as to continue using the image of the Arab as the perpetrator to distract from the regional reality of the Arab as the victim.

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The shape of things to come


Israel is NOT a democratic state, and the people who live there are not interested in democracy.  In the “old days” saying that made one an enemy of America, or at the least, a place to be colonized and brought democracy, but our special relationship with Israel simply doesn’t allow such solutions be applied to the Israeli problem.  What is surely a sign of things to come is this news coming from that troubled country

A community in northern Israel has changed its bylaws to demand that new residents pledge support for “Zionism, Jewish heritage and settlement of the land” in a thinly veiled attempt to block Arab applicants from gaining admission.   Critics are calling the bylaw, adopted by Manof, home to 170 Jewish families in Galilee, a local “loyalty oath” similar to a national scheme recently proposed by the far-Right party of the government minister Avigdor Lieberman.   Other Jewish communities in the central Galilee — falling under the umbrella of a regional council known as Misgav — are preparing similar bylaws in response to a court petition filed by an Arab couple hoping to build a home in Misgav.

Reading the article at the link above is like being taken back into the early 1900s in American history.  The language used to justify such racist actions is steeped in fear and bigotry from a group of people who promised, at least indirectly, never to be apart of such action and or speech again.  How quickly they’ve forgotten and how pathetic their reality has become.  America should not enable such “hate speech” any longer.

The Republican Party-Uncle Tom’s Cabin


uncle-tom-cabinThe political movement of the Right is showing itself to be increasingly a party of irrelevance and antiquity.  Whereas once, it’s titular head, President George W. Bush made such proclamations against all who opposed the ideas coming from that Party, the party’s ideas themselves have cast it in the very same light, a party that is not progressive, has nothing to offer but fear of the exaggerated differences in people within its own country.  The latest ramblings of its head, Michael Steele are indicative of the direction of the party.  In one of those, ‘I can’t believe he just said that’ moments, Steele made this assertion

And apparently, the comments that she made that have been played up about, you know, the Latina woman being a better judge than the white male is something that she has said on numerous occasions. So this was not just the one and only time it was said. They’ve now found other evidences and other speeches, Trip, that she has made mention of this, this fact that her ethnicity, that her cultural background puts her in a different position as a judge to judge your case. And God help you if you’re a white male coming before her bench.

This was an obvious reference to Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Why an African-American head of the Republican Party would utter a remark like that is astonishing at best, racist and pandering to the racist element which he heads, at worst! It might have very well been the same thing said about his selection to be the Party head, and was certainly said about the success of the Obama candidacy by some of the people of the party Steele now represents. On its face it is abhorrent and a page from the play book of FEAR, but it is also untrue.

In sum, in an eleven-year career on the Second Circuit, Judge Sotomayor has participated in roughly 100 panel decisions involving questions of race and has disagreed with her colleagues in those cases (a fair measure of whether she is an outlier) a total of 4 times. Only one case (Gant) in that entire eleven years actually involved the question whether race discrimination may have occurred. (In another case (Pappas) she dissented to favor a white bigot.)  She participated in two other panels rejecting district court rulings agreeing with race-based jury-selection claims. Given that record, it seems absurd to say that Judge Sotomayor allows race to infect her decision making.

It’s unfortunate an African American male, one some have considered at one time in American history at the very bottom of the social hierarchy in America, would resort to the very rhetoric that was used to deny him equal opportunity, especially when that rhetoric is so blatantly  misleading and incorrect. To do it in today’s America when symbolically speaking such outbursts give meaning to movements of hatred and violence between Americans is irrational and petty.  Steele should know better and because he doesn’t that  makes him irrelevant along with his Party.

Escort Services and the FBI


sexLaw enforcement in this country is getting increasingly bizarre.  First we had the FBI deciding they wanted to invade the religious houses of worship of Muslims with informants who offered drugs and money to desperate, illiterate, down on their luck marginal followers of Islam all in order to make sensational busts with outrageous claims of terror, murder and mayhem.

Now we have a branch of the federal government in the call girl business.

One “hobbyist” described “Michelle” as having a “really great body, beautiful face and (being) dressed to kill.”

Another said “Monique” was into “water fun (and) slip sliding bodies” and charged about $160 for a one-hour session.

Both statements, posted on a Web site that rates escorts, describe in more explicit terms the experiences of customers — or “hobbyists” — with women of Executive Playmates, an escort service suspected by the San Antonio Police Department of generating about $150,000 a month from prostitution between 2005 and 2007.

The department raided the escort service’s central location and one of its hubs in October 2007 and found Executive Playmates employed more than 300 women who serviced about 2,000 customers, law enforcement sources said.

The list of customers includes doctors, lawyers and others of important social standing, but the names are being withheld because of the ongoing investigation.

Many found the service online or in newspaper ads. Its operations extended into Austin and briefly into the Rio Grande Valley.

The department has described the prostitution case as the largest in San Antonio since the 1980s.

The raid drew headlines and was the leading story on local television newscasts when it happened. But authorities have since been silent.

Because the case involves money laundering and organized crime, police turned over their findings months ago to federal prosecutors. But the information has sat at the U.S. attorney’s office with little movement.

A San Antonio Express-News investigation found fewer than 10 people — including the suspected operator, Samuel “Sammy” Flores Jr. — may end up being charged later this year.

Federal law enforcement sources said the case could be complicated because Flores, 38, was working as an informant for the FBI at the time of the bust. The sources said they suspect that has delayed charges in the escort-service case.

Can we get the government to defend and protect the Constitution for a change?  Hat tip to Xymphora.