Those Bushism Lies Keep Getting Refuted-Another One Bites the Dust!


by Jason Leopold
Truthout

The Justice Department has quietly recanted nearly every major claim the Bush administration had made about “high-value” detainee Abu Zubaydah, a Guantanamo prisoner who at one time was said to have planned the 9/11 attacks and was the No. 2 and 3 person in al-Qaeda.

Additionally, Justice has backed away from claims intelligence officials working in the Clinton administration had also leveled against Zubaydah, specifically, that he was directly involved in the planning of the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa.

Zubaydah’s name is redacted throughout the 109-page court document, but he is identified on the first page of the filing by his real name, Zayn Al Abidin Muhammad Husayn. He was the first detainee captured after 9/11 who was subjected to nearly a dozen brutal torture techniques, which included waterboarding, and was the catalyst, the public has been told, behind the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation” program. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has publicly admitted that personally approved of Zubaydah’s waterboarding.

His torture was videotaped and the tapes later destroyed. The destruction of 90 videotapes of his interrogations is the focus of a high-level criminal investigation being conducted by John Durham, a federal prosecutor appointed special counsel in 2008 by then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey.

In recent months, former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen has been on a public relations campaign promoting his book, “Courting Disaster,” in which he defended the torture of Zubaydah, claiming, among other things, that he reviewed classified intelligence that revealed Zubaydah’s torture produced actionable intelligence that thwarted imminent plots against the United States.

But court documents unclassified last week debunk Thiessen’s assertions as well as those made by, among others, George W. Bush, who said Zubaydah was one of al-Qaeda’s “top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.”

For the first time, the government now officially admits that Zubaydah did not have “any direct role in or advance knowledge of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,” and was neither a “member” of al-Qaeda nor “formally” identified with the terrorist organization.

The government has a new set of eharges it is leveling against Zubaydah and claims he is being detained by the United States based on his “actions” as an “affiliate” of al-Qaeda that may have included the planning of a counterattack against US forces after the US invaded Afghanistan in November 2001 and a “thwarted” attack at the time of his arrest.

“The Government’s accounts frequently have been at variance with the actual facts, and the government has generally been loath to provide the facts until forced to do so,” said Zubaydah’s attorney, Brent Mickum, in an interview. “When the Government was forced to present the facts in the form of discovery in Zubaydah’s case, it realized that the game was over and there was no way it could support the Bush administration’s baseless allegations. So it changed the charges.”

The government wants the judge presiding over the habeas case to deny defense requests for evidence that would “undermine” government claims that Zubaydah worked in Bin Laden’s “military and security plan to confront an American counterattack” in Khost, Afghanistan, after 9/11.

“The Government does not rely on any contention that [Zubaydah] did this work as an ‘al-Qaida’ deputy or because he was subject to al-Qaida command,” according to the court document.

But the exact charges the government appears to be making here is unknown because the information is classified.

“Evidence suggesting that [Zubaydah] lacked knowledge of plans by other persons or groups would not undermine the Government’s allegations about [Zubaydah’s] own thwarted plans, or any other allegations” against him, according to the Justice Department’s filing.

The government acknowledges that it’s case against Zubaydah is based entirely on the first six volumes of his diaries that he wrote beginning in 1992 [Please see this report for details about Zubaydah’s diaries.] In the court filing, the government says that it filed a “factual return” on April 3, 2009, which included “six volumes of diaries written by REDACTED” and “an undated “propaganda video [Zubaydah] recorded before his capture in which [he] appears on camera expressing solidarity with Usama Bin Laden and al-Qaida.” The government further says that it does not rely on “any statements [Zubaydah] made after his capture” in Pakistan in March 2002.

But later in the filing, however, the government concedes that Zubaydah was not aligned with or directly associated with Bin Laden or al-Qaeda.

The government “does not contend that [Zubaydah] was a ‘member’ of al-Qaida in the sense of having sworn bavat (allegiance) or having otherwise satisfied any formal criteria that either [Zubaydah] or al-Qaida may have considered necessary for inclusion in al-Qaeda. Nor is the government detaining [Zubaydah] based on any allegation that [Zubaydah] views himself as part of al-Qaida as a matter of subjective personal conscience, ideology or worldview.

“Rather, [the government’s] detention of [Zubaydah] is based on conduct and actions that establish [Zubaydah] was ‘part of’ hostile forces and ‘substantially supported’ those forces,” states the Justice Department’s point-by-point response to 213 discovery requests Zubaydah’s attorneys made in connection with his habeas corpus case, which sought evidence to support the government’s position that Zubaydah was a top al-Qaeda official.

The Justice Department declined to comment on what appears to be contradictory claims in its court filing.

The Bush administration claimed in April 2002, days after Zubaydah was captured in Afghanistan and moved to a CIA-operated black site prison in Thailand that he was a top al-Qaeda official.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld described Zubaydah on April 1, 2002, as a “close associate of [Osama Bin Laden], and if not the number two, very close to the number two person in the organization. I think that’s well established.”

Nor did the Bush administration deviate from that position after Zubaydah was transferred to Guantanamo in 2006 and declared an “enemy combatant” in 2007 following a Combatant Status Review Tribunal.

John Bellinger, former legal adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said during a June 2007 briefing on Guantanamo Bay that Zubaydah helped plan the 9/11 attacks and was “extremely dangerous.”

The Justice Department’s response to discovery request “No. 21” says that “the Government has not contended in this [habeas] proceeding that [Zubaydah] had any direct role in or advance knowledge of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, so [to] the extent that this request seeks information ‘tending to show … that [Zubaydah] did not know of the planned attacks of 9/11’, the request seeks evidence about contentions the Government has not made.”

The government’s new position is significant because one of the August 2002 torture memos prepared for the CIA and signed by former Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel attorneys Jay Bybee, now a Ninth Circuit Appeals Court judge, that described the torture techniques interrogators could use against Zubaydah, asserted that he “is one of the highest ranking members of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization,” “has been involved in every major terrorist operation carried out by al-Qaeda,” and was “one of the planners of the September 11 attacks” and that his torture was necessary in order to thwart pending attacks on US interests, which the CIA claimed Zubaydah knew about.

Exactly what Zubaydah’s attorneys had requested from the government in their discovery filing is unknown as the document has not been cleared for release. The Justice Department asked the judge presiding over the case to deny virtually every discovery request sought by his attorneys, explaining, in some instances, that the government no longer relied upon the explosive allegations the Bush administration made about Zubaydah when he was captured and subsequently tortured.

At the time the response to the discovery requests was filed in the fall of 2009, the government argued that the court should “stay further evidentiary proceedings” because it could interfere with Durham’s criminal probe into the destruction of the torture tapes. Durham filed a motion under seal thereafter that said as much. A report published in the Washington Post last week said Durham’s probe is now winding down.

According to Mickum, the government’s “entirely new position” about Zubaydah was revealed late last year in a 50-page Factual Return that included 2,500 pages of exhibits.

“I’m not surprised at all that the Government has dropped the old charges against our client and is alleging new charges against him,” Mickum said in an interview. “That is their tried and true modus operandi. That’s exactly what they did with my client Bisher al Rawi. He was initially charged with associating with a known al-Qaeda figure in London. Unfortunately, Bisher was associating with him at the express request of Britain’s MI5 [intelligence service]. After we established that he worked for MI5, the US simply changed the charges against him, alleging that he had terrorist training in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

“Once again, we were able to show those charges were utterly bogus when we proved that Bisher had never left England from 1998 until his fateful business trip to Africa, where he was arrested by the CIA, rendered to the ‘Dark Prison’ in Afghanistan and tortured, tortured at Bagram Air Force base and tortured in Guantanamo. What all these cases have in common is torture, and [Zubaydah’s] case has that in spades. Given, the government’s history, it is not likely they would simply let him go and apologize. No, when their case falls apart, they rejigger the evidence, and come up with new charges and we will defend the new charges with the same zeal we defended the earlier bogus charges.”

Zubaydah’s attorneys argued in his initial petition for habeas corpus filed in February 2008 that he was not a member of al Qaeda, that he had no knowledge of any terrorist operations, and that the military camp he was alleged to be affiliated with, Khaldan, was closed by the Taliban after it refused repeated demands that it fall under the formal control of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.

“We have never deviated from that position, and now the government admits that we were correct all along,” Mickum said.

Indeed, the Justice Department’s response agrees with Zubaydah’s attorneys that Khaldan was “organizationally and operationally independent” of al-Qaeda’s camps and backed off of other claims made by Bush administration officials that Zubaydah knew the identities of specific individuals who trained at Khaldan and later went on to al-Qaeda-operated camps and allegedly took part in terrorist activities.

“The Government has not contended in this proceeding that petitioner selected or knew the identities of specific persons who were selected to leave Khaldan for training at al-Qaida camps,” the filing states.

Nor does the government contend that Zubaydah was responsible for paying Khaldan’s “expenses” or that he financed specific terrorist operations that may have had ties to Khaldan. Therefore, the Justice Department said, evidence Zubaydah’s attorneys requested to support these earlier claims should be denied.

The government’s new position also dramatically changes the substance of the final contents of the 9/11 Commission’s report, as it relates to Zubaydah. The report said he was the leader of Khaldan.

When she revealed last year that Zubaydah had been waterboard 83 times in August 2002, blogger Marcy Wheeler noted that the 9/11 Commission had obtained “just ten pieces of information are sourced to Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation reports.”

“…There are several other damning details that come from this analysis,” Wheeler wrote. “One of the ten pieces of intelligence that appears in the 9/11 Report–regarding Abu Zubaydah’s role running terrorist training camps–came from July 10, 2002, before the CIA first received oral authorization to use torture. Thus, it either came from persuasive, rather than coercive, techniques. Or it came from treatment that had not been legally approved.”

The 9/11 report also said Zubaydah was a “major figure” in the “Millennium plot,” claiming he was one of the masterminds behind a plan to blow up a hotel in Jordan and the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). The 9/11 report cited several intelligence memoranda from then-counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke that Zubaydah was planning “a series of major terrorist attacks” on Israeli and possibly US targets and was working closely with Bin Laden.

Clarke declined numerous requests for comment.

But the Justice Department no longer supports any of those claims, according to the court document.

When asked about what the 9/11 Commission was told, Mickum suggested that the panel was lied to by the CIA.

“After torturing our client, the CIA knew he was never a member of al-Qaeda and that he had no knowledge of any al-Qaeda terrorist activities,” Mickum said. “And this fact was confirmed after other members of al-Qaeda like [self-professed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] and the [alleged mastermind of the USS Cole bombing] al Nashiri were tortured.”

Zubaydah was also identified as Bin Laden’s “lieutenant” in the infamous August 6, 2001, Presidential Daily Brief titled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US, ” which alleged that he “helped facilitate” the plot to detonate a bomb LAX. FBI officials obtained that information from Ahmed Ressam, who was actually convicted for the crime in April 2001.

In exchange for a lenient sentence he made up stories about Zubaydah’s connections to Bin Laden and his role at Khaldan, which Ressam attended for five to six months in 1998). Ressam also said Zubdaydah told him in 1998 that, independent of Bin Laden, he was preparing his own attack against the United States. He later recanted those claims.

In an exclusive interview last year, Jack Cloonan, a former FBI special agent assigned to the agency’s elite Bin Laden unit, said the CIA and the Bush administration were flat wrong in designating Zubaydah as a top official in al-Qaeda.

“To cast him and describe him as the al-Qaeda emir or leader for the subcontinent or worse … I think was a mistake… . Based on his age and ethnicity, [he] would [n]ever be brought into the inner circle of al-Qaeda,” Cloonan said.

There was also the question of Zubaydah’s personality. “My partner had a chance to look at a lot of Abu Zubaydah’s diaries [which forms the basis of the government’s case], poems and other things that he has written and he said that after reading this you just come away with the feeling that this is a guy who can’t be trusted or be given huge amounts of responsibility.”

At his Combatant Status Review Tribunal in March 2007, Zubaydah said that his torturers eventually apologized to him and told him they concluded he was not a top al-Qaeda lieutenant as the Bush administration and intelligence officials had claimed (h/t Marcy Wheeler).

“They told me sorry we discover that you are not number three [in al-Qaeda], not a partner, even not a fighter,” Zubaydah said during his tribunal hearing.

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‘Nuff said!

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.

Close but no cigar


omar_bashirI’m still waiting for the indictment to come down against George W. Bush just as it did with Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir. What Bashir was indicted for pales in comparison to the crimes committed by Bush under the full might and services of the US government and its military.  The only similarity between the two countries is that both of them have not signed  the International Criminal Court treaty and therefore refuse to recognize its jurisdiction; other than that Bush’s invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, his rendition (read that kidnapping) of foreign and American citizens to prisons all over the world and their subsequent subjugation to torture and the over one million Iraqi and Afghani refugees brought about because of Bush’s madness, far exceed anything Bashir could ever do with his third world economy, military and infrastructure.

Sudan is the cause celebre of the rich and famous;  a bone tossed to them by policy makers who wanted to give influential people something to assuage their conscience.  It is a rallying point for people who are for change from heavy handed militarism and want to see the rule of law and diplomacy restored to the settling of conflicts.  I admire that spirit; it has been missing for far too long.  America has decided, lately, that the only way to settle conflict is through superior military might, and all other avenues aren’t worth discussing.  Some of us have grown tired of seeing the country through its weight around like a bull in a china shop, destroying everything it says it wants to save or rescue.  However, those who are for saving Darfur are themselves a pawn in the geopolitical game of oil and strategic alliances that have been going on for over 30 years in Sudan.  After settling a decades old conflict with the south, whose leaders are against the ICC arrest warrant for Bashir, Sudan was tagged with the bin laden fantasy, the chemical weapons falacy, oil and now the Darfurian fable with an Israeli interjection that’s sure to raise more than a few eyebrows about Israeli/zionist machinations in Sudan’s internal affairs.

Bush should also be indicted along with Bashir; and Bush’s trial should preceed Bashir’s, but the foundation for a Bush trial is already crumbling, with the news the Obama administration doesn’t want John Yoo prosecuted for his memos inciting the Bush administration to torture.  Such a position by Obama only makes me think that perhaps he will institute some form of torture during his term in office.  Change indeed…

The war on terror+humanitarian relief=the war on Islam and chaos of muslim societies


I have always been perplexed by the war, either militarily or psychologically the US is waging in places like Somalia and Sudan. Two of the poorest countries in Africa and the world, I just can’t understand what threat these two pose to the greatest military power in the world. I have heard the rhetoric, ‘America is fighting the terrorists over there so we don’t have to fight them here’, kind of explanation, but what terrorists are they talking about? Shadowy ‘al-Qaeda’ figures seem to be all they can come up with in the assault on Somalia. Take this for instance.

The US has been engaged in a long, low-profile struggle with Islamist forces in Somalia, reported The Christian Science Monitor. A March 3 missile strike against the southern Somali town of Dobley was aimed at preventing violent Islamist militants from taking root in Somalia and spreading through East Africa. Some observers are concerned such efforts could generate greater anti-US sentiment. Islamist groups are regrouping in Somalia, some with more formal ties to al-Qaeda than in the past, says one security observer on the Counterterrorism Blog. The most important group, says Douglas Farah, is Al Shabab. Mr. Farah, citing a US State Department statement. Al-Shabaab is a violent and brutal extremist group with a number of individuals affiliated with Al Qaeda. Many of its senior leaders are believed to have trained and fought with Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Somalia has seen intermittent conflict since two separate colonies gained independence from Britain and Italy in 1960, uniting into one country. Historians say tribal and ethnic conflicts fought over access to resources, including water and pastoral country, once fought with bows and spears are now fought with AK-47s.

The US has had a rather undistinguished history with Sudan as well, having attacked Sudan during the Clinton administration for what was later found to be a mistake, when the pharmaceutical plant Al-Shifa was bombed in 1998.

Kroll Associates’ investigation of the U.S. missile attack had apparently demonstrated the sheer vacuum of evidence allegedly linking the facility or its owner to international terrorism, chemical weapons production, and Osama Bin Laden. As the Washington Post reported: “Because of a cupful of soil, the U.S. flattened this Sudanese factory. Now one of the world’s most respected labs, and some of Washington’s most expensive lawyers, say Salah Idris wasn’t making nerve gas for terrorists, just ibuprofen for headaches.”According to the New York Times although “senior national security advisers [had] described Al Shifa as a secret chemical weapons factory financed by bin Laden”, “State Department and CIA officials [now] argue that the government cannot justify its actions.” Rather than manufacturing chemical weapons, the al-Shifa plant “made both medicine and veterinary drugs, according to U.S. and European engineers and consultants who helped build, design and supply the plant.”

At first glance one might think such actions were/are being undertaken by a federal government which seeks to divert public attention from more pressing issues with regard to its policies, foreign or domestic. In the Sudan incident, many critics on the right and the left cried immediately that the bombing in Sudan was undertaken at a time when Clinton was dealing with the Monica Lewinsky scandal and this was his attempt to relieve himself from that spotlight. Today the US is upset with the way the Sudan is handling its domestic policy in Darfur, a western province of that country, and wants to intervene. The way US officials and others are doing that is quite amusing; claiming they have the best interests of the black, African, Muslim people of Darfur, Sudan the US wants humanitarian aid delivered even under force of arms. By raising the specter of “genocide” which means countries can respond militarily without violating treaties, laws or international agreements, to save the lives of those threatened, the US is insisting on a military presence in the Sudan. But what’s the point of it all? In a word, OIL with a twist. Oil, Israel and Logistics= OIL.

Sudanese oil is found in areas not affected by the conflict in Darfur, notably the southern region of Sudan. That part of the country was plagued with a civil war with the central government for over 20 years, but now there is peace in south Sudan, so what happens after that? Fighting breaks out in the western province of Darfur and with it cries by governments and celebrities alike, people on the right and on the left of the political spectrum to “intervene” to stop the fighting, and with force if necessary. Nevermind that the humanitarian crisis in Sudan doesn’t really exist, or that such calls to action in support of Darfur weren’t made during the 20+ years of the southern Sudanese conflict, what’s important is an excuse is needed to justify a military presence which like the one in Iraq is designed to worsen an already bad crisis, and allow for the eventual exploration of OIL under western auspices. Because of it’s strategic location on the “horn of Africa”, USAFRICOM, responsible for U.S. military operations in and military relations with 53 African nations – an area of responsibility covering all of the African continent was formed on the initiative of the African Oil Policy Initiative Group in or about the same time as cries for intervention in Darfur were raised in the corporate media. At the same time, civil war in Somalia and the US backing of Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia took place to the south of Sudan. None of this is coincidental.

The timeline under which these things happened is clear when viewed against the backdrop of what’s happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, two places where large, vast oil reserves have been the target of large oil companies for a very long time. Current US policy in those two places of the world is also driven by oil interests. The reason for “picking” on these two poor, underdeveloped countries is quite simply about the natural resources that lie underneath their territory. That has always been the dilemma between the west and the east since the development of the modern west; how to meet its growing demands for the earth’s natural resources controlling and dominating those resources in faraway lands while appearing to all concerned to be benign about such manipulation. The pretext for war, i.e. fighting terrorism, or providing humanitarian relief, whereby the citizens of the “west” are made to feel the necessity of sacrificing their sons and daughters to go fight and die in these distant lands has been the job of spokespersons (in and out of government), celebrities and the corporate media. Such lies have done a lot to incite fervor and support for this ideal. It is still inexcusable that the largest and mightiest military power in the world sees the need to destroy underdeveloped countries and essentially defenseless people under such transparent guises.