A Political Reality


Those who support democracy must welcome the rise of political Islam

From Tunisia to Egypt, Islamists are gaining the popular vote. Far from threatening stability, this makes it a real possibility

Wadah Khanfar

Andrzej Krauze 2811

Illustration by Andrzej Krauze

Ennahda, the Islamic party in Tunisia, won 41% of the seats of the Tunisian constitutional assembly last month, causing consternation in the west. But Ennahda will not be an exception on the Arab scene. Last Friday the Islamic Justice and Development Party took the biggest share of the vote in Morocco and will lead the new coalition government for the first time in history. And tomorrow Egypt’s elections begin, with the Muslim Brotherhood predicted to become the largest party. There may be more to come. Should free and fair elections be held in Yemen, once the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh falls, the Yemeni Congregation for Reform, also Islamic, will win by a significant majority. This pattern will repeat itself whenever the democratic process takes its course.

In the west, this phenomenon has led to a debate about the “problem” of the rise of political Islam. In the Arab world, too, there has been mounting tension between Islamists and secularists, who feel anxious about Islamic groups. Many voices warn that the Arab spring will lead to an Islamic winter, and that the Islamists, though claiming to support democracy, will soon turn against it. In the west, stereotypical images that took root in the aftermath of 9/11 have come to the fore again. In the Arab world, a secular anti-democracy camp has emerged in both Tunisia and Egypt whose pretext for opposing democratisation is that the Islamists are likely to be the victors.

But the uproar that has accompanied the Islamists’ gains is unhelpful; a calm and well-informed debate about the rise of political Islam is long overdue.

First, we must define our terms. “Islamist” is used in the Muslim world to describe Muslims who participate in the public sphere, using Islam as a basis. It is understood that this participation is not at odds with democracy. In the west, however, the term routinely describes those who use violence as a means and an end – thus Jihadist Salafism, exemplified by al-Qaida, is called “Islamist” in the west, despite the fact that it rejects democratic political participation (Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of al-Qaida, criticised Hamas when it decided to take part in the elections for the Palestinian legislative council, and has repeatedly criticised the Muslim Brotherhood for opposing the use of violence).

This disconnect in the understanding of the term in the west and in the Muslim world was often exploited by despotic Arab regimes to suppress Islamic movements with democratic political programmes. It is time we were clear.

Reform-based Islamic movements, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, work within the political process. They learned a bitter lesson from their armed conflict in Syria against the regime of Hafez al-Assad in 1982, which cost the lives of more than 20,000 people and led to the incarceration or banishment of many thousands more. The Syrian experience convinced mainstream Islamic movements to avoid armed struggle and to observe “strategic patience” instead.

Second, we must understand the history of the region. In western discourse Islamists are seen as newcomers to politics, gullible zealots who are motivated by a radical ideology and lack experience. In fact, they have played a major role in the Arab political scene since the 1920s. Islamic movements have often been in opposition, but since the 1940s they have participated in parliamentary elections, entered alliances with secular, nationalist and socialist groups, and participated in several governments – in Sudan, Jordan, Yemen and Algeria. They have also forged alliances with non-Islamic regimes, like the Nimeiri regime in Sudan in 1977.

A number of other events have had an impact on the collective Muslim mind, and have led to the maturation of political Islam: the much-debated Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979; the military coup in Sudan in 1989; the success of the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front in the 1991 elections and the army’s subsequent denial of its right to govern; the conquest of much of Afghan territory by the Taliban in 1996 leading to the establishment of its Islamic emirate; and the success in 2006 of Hamas in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections. The Hamas win was not recognised, nor was the national unity government formed. Instead, a siege was imposed on Gaza to suffocate the movement.

Perhaps one of the most influential experiences has been that of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey, which won the elections in 2002. It has been a source of inspiration for many Islamic movements. Although the AKP does not describe itself as Islamic, its 10 years of political experience have led to a model that many Islamists regard as successful. The model has three important characteristics: a general Islamic frame of reference; a multi-party democracy; and significant economic growth.

These varied political experiences have had a profound impact on political Islam’s flexibility and capacity for political action, and on its philosophy, too.

However, political Islam has also faced enormous pressures from dictatorial Arab regimes, pressures that became more intense after 9/11. Islamic institutions were suppressed. Islamic activists were imprisoned, tortured and killed. Such experiences gave rise to a profound bitterness. Given the history, it is only natural that we should hear overzealous slogans or intolerant threats from some activists. Some of those now at the forefront of election campaigns were only recently released from prison. It would not be fair to expect them to use the voice of professional diplomats.

Despite this, the Islamic political discourse has generally been balanced. The Tunisian Islamic movement has set a good example. Although Ennahda suffered under Ben Ali’s regime, its leaders developed a tolerant discourse and managed to open up to moderate secular and leftist political groups. The movement’s leaders have reassured Tunisian citizens that it will not interfere in their personal lives and that it will respect their right to choose. The movement also presented a progressive model of women’s participation, with 42 female Ennahda members in the constitutional assembly.

The Islamic movement’s approach to the west has also been balanced, despite the fact that western countries supported despotic Arab regimes. Islamists know the importance of international communication in an economically and politically interconnected world.

Now there is a unique opportunity for the west: to demonstrate that it will no longer support despotic regimes by supporting instead the democratic process in the Arab world, by refusing to intervene in favour of one party against another and by accepting the results of the democratic process, even when it is not the result they would have chosen. Democracy is the only option for bringing stability, security and tolerance to the region, and it is the dearest thing to the hearts of Arabs, who will not forgive any attempts to derail it.

The region has suffered a lot as a result of attempts to exclude Islamists and deny them a role in the public sphere. Undoubtedly, Islamists’ participation in governance will give rise to a number of challenges, both within the Islamic ranks and with regard to relations with other local and international forces. Islamists should be careful not to fall into the trap of feeling overconfident: they must accommodate other trends, even if it means making painful concessions. Our societies need political consensus, and the participation of all political groups, regardless of their electoral weight. It is this interplay between Islamists and others that will both guarantee the maturation of the Arab democratic transition and lead to an Arab political consensus and stability that has been missing for decades.

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Muslims are the most loyal American religious group, new poll says


Bet you didn’t know this did you?

Muslim Americans are loyal to the US and optimistic despite facing high levels of discrimination, a Gallup poll on American religious groups finds.

A poll released Thursday revealed curious contradictions in the Muslim-American community, which is more enthused about its country and president than any other religious group, yet is the least politically active and faces the greatest discrimination.

The Gallup poll on American religious groups offers a counterpoint to the stereotype that Muslims in the US lead isolated lives because they do not feel comfortable fitting in or associating with mainstream American culture. Moreover, it also offers insights into the Muslim-American experience – from how dramatically the election of President Obama affected them to how little they trust the activists who work on their behalf.

In total, the poll paints a picture of a community characterized by optimism but still seeking acceptance among its fellow citizens.

For instance, 93 percent of Muslim Americans say they are loyal to America. They have the highest confidence in the integrity of US elections (57 percent), and they are the most hopeful about their lives over the next five years, compared with other groups.

Yet 48 percent of Muslim Americans report they experienced some kind of racial or religious discrimination, a finding that places them far ahead of Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Mormons, and atheists/agnostics.

One reason for the optimistic outlook despite discrimination could be that Muslim Americans see their financial fortunes improving. Some 64 percent of Muslim Americans in 2011 reported their standard of living got better, compared with 46 percent in 2008.

But the presidency of Mr. Obama has arguably had an even more powerful affect on Muslim Americans. Muslim Americans give him the highest approval rating – 80 percent – of any religious group. American Jews are a distant second, giving Obama a 65 percent approval rating.

The number is even more striking when compared with Muslim American support for George W. Bush in 2008, which was 7 percent.

The shift in leadership in Washington was “truly transformational” for US Muslims in how they viewed their loyalties to democratic institutions and the nation at large, says Dalia Mogahed, director and senior analyst of the Abu Dhabi Gallup Center, based in the United Arab Emirates.

After the 9/11 attacks, Muslim Americans faced intense scrutiny, both individually and from federal agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Obama is credited with helping smooth tensions through his outreach to the US Muslim community and his effort to end the Iraq war responsibly. The poll shows that 83 percent of Muslim Americans – more than any other religious group – say the war was a “mistake.”

Despite the positive signs, “there are still obstacles” for Muslim Americans, Ms. Mogahed says.

“They embrace American values and democratic principles but aren’t sure if the rest of American embraces them,” she says.

Some 56 percent of Protestants said American Muslims had no sympathy for Al Qaeda, the lowest number of any faith group. By comparison, 63 percent of Catholics and 70 percent of Jews thought Muslim Americans had no sympathies for Al Qaeda.

“That’s certainly a challenge for the [US Muslim] community – to have their loyalty questioned by such a large number of their fellow Americans,” Mogahed says.

Those challenges, however, have not led Muslim Americans to try to affect change at the ballot box. They are the least likely religious group to vote, with just 65 percent of Muslims in America are registered. One reason is age: The average age of a Muslim-American is 35, while the average American Protestant is 55. Younger people tend to be less politically active, Mogahed says.

Another reason is affiliation: Poll findings show that the majority of Muslim Americans say that none of the leading Muslim organizations in the US, such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations or the Islamic Society of North America, represents their interests.

With the 2012 election around the corner, Mogahed says political parties that want to reach out to Muslim-American voters might be better off establishing partnerships with local mosques than focusing on winning endorsements from national advocacy organizations. This is especially relevant considering that Muslim Americans who attend a religious service once a week are two times more likely to be politically active than those who attend less frequently, the poll found.

“The mosque should be more the mobilization engine” for get-out-the-vote drives than it has been in the past, she says.

The poll surveyed 2,482 adults, 475 of whom were Muslim. For Muslims, there was a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 7 percentage points.

Which begs the question, where does everyone else rank in comparison?  This article addresses that with respect to Christian evangelicals, one of the groups largely responsible for the current Islamophobic public attacks going on in America today.  Citing a Pew Research Center poll the article makes the point that Christian evangelicals are far less patriotic than American Muslims

Among Christians in the U.S., white evangelicals are especially inclined to identify first with their faith; 70 percent in this group see themselves first as Christians rather than as Americans, while 22 percent say they are primarily American.

so the upshot of this is the next time you hear someone ranting about the Muslim fifth column or taqiyah or any other cliches used by people on the right to justify casting suspicion of members of the Islamic faith remind them that they are more a threat to the national security than the Muslims against whom they rail.

Keith Ellison has it right


In an interview with the BBC, US congressman from Minnesota, Keith Ellison said ‘those spearheading the effort against the Park51 project were not adequately represented as families of 9/11 victims rejecting the proposal on emotional ground, and were rather anti-Obama, xenophobic types who wanted to suppress Islam throughout the country.’

The real driver of it are people who openly proclaim that Barack Obama is not a citizen. The real organizers of this thing are people who are just proponents of religious bigotry. Nothing more, nothing less.

Around the country, this thing is emblematic of a larger issue… There have been anti-mosque efforts in Kentucky, one gentleman who wants to burn a Qur’an in Florida, there have been efforts in Wisconsin and in the Chicago area and others.

It’s not difficult to know who these proponents of religious bigotry are; and Ellison should be the keenest among us in knowing who they are for they launched personal attacks against him. Indeed they are people who openly oppose every Muslim/Islamic attempt at engagement in American public life using the tactic of linking American Muslims to any and every terrorist incident that has taken place on the world’s stage. Their rhetoric is easy to spot, ‘not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims’, or this time worn phrase of ‘radical Islam’ and equating even the most passive of Muslims, such as Faisal Abdur Raouf as a follower of “radical Islam”.  So let’s spotlight some of these useful idiots and hang their names and photos on America’s wall of racist shame, who have plagued our history.

Martin Peretz, the editor of  The New Republic actually had the following words attributed to him

But, frankly, Muslim life is cheap, most notably to Muslims. And among those Muslims led by the Imam Rauf there is hardly one who has raised a fuss about the routine and random bloodshed that defines their brotherhood. So, yes, I wonder whether I need honor these people and pretend that they are worthy of the privileges of the First Amendment which I have in my gut the sense that they will abuse.

It should be apparent to all that Peretz is in the throes of Alzheimer’s or has succumbed to it completely. He is supposed to be one of the more intelligent among American voices having taught at Harvard University, with scores of honorary degrees, but that just goes to underscore the difference between book sense and common sense is sometimes as stark as night and day. He is somewhat well connected however, among Democrats, which might be the reason why both Harry Reid and Howard Dean have taken more subdued positions than Peretz’s but with the same outcome, the demonization or marginalization of American citizens. Oh, and I neglected to mention how Peretz, a Jew, making statements that sound so like those made against his fellow coreligionists over the centuries  now using the same diatribe is the height of chutzpah/hypocrisy. Peretz is a self-admitted racist however so having his name on the racist wall of shame is a no brainer, in my opinion.   And we think we don’t have a racial problem in this country or that it was solved with the election of Obama? Think again America!

The New Face of American Emperialism


Jeffrey Goldberg has written a piece , full of all the usual shtick, to call for the US to engage in a war with Iran.    The piece contains the normal false premises and bravado used by Goldberg and other neocons in the past; how the United States should spare Israel the  pain of an attack against Iran, because of its nuclear weapons potential, by attacking Iran itself or how the American president can’t possibly understand the gravity of a situation faced by the Israelis or doesn’t have the ‘balls’ to act proactively for the commonly shared interests of the two countries, America and Israel, and so on and so on.

Two glaring items stand out concerning Goldberg’s piece.  First and foremost is why should anyone take any stock in what he has to say given his dismal record of fact based reporting and his background?!   Goldberg agitated for the Iraqi war/invasion using  information he either knew was faulty or simply didn’t care enough to confirm its veracity and we all know where that led us.  That embarrassment didn’t make him go away or remain in the background of agenda driven media reporting, rather he’s back and asking for more war and destruction based on a premise he knows to be doubtful at best or simply untrue………..again.

Meanwhile one of the reasons why he’s on this personal crusade against Iran, his intimate involvement in the Israeli government because of his service in the IDF goes unmentioned.  It’s really no secret why, in my opinion; Goldberg isn’t the only prominent American-Israeli to serve in the IDF and then return to influence American policy vis-a-vis Israel.  Rahm Emmanuel, President Obama’s chief of staff is another as well as Ethan Bronner of the New York Times, whose son reportedly serves in the IDF are two more examples of people in high profile, influential positions with close ties to Israeli concerns who are able to influence American public opinion and policy with regards to the Middle East.   The Israeli desire/need  to expand their borders at the expense of other sovereign states,  unilaterally use such states’ natural resources without resorting to negotiations and changing their security requirements  based on the needs of “zionism” which may or may not have anything to do with the needs of modern day statehood  are things Americans might not see as a cause to go to war .  Hence the need for people like Goldberg whose job is to make just that case.

In this context of Goldberg’s IDF service it is simply not possible for him to be objective in his role as a reporter, and let’s be honest he’s not reporting anything rather he’s presenting the Israeli view on their need to destroy Iranian nuclear technology,  because it is “known” he, Goldberg, shares this view. A journalist’s biases and agendas all too often DO get in the way of  good reporting on issues of the day, and some expect and want that.   Otherwise how do you account for the dearth of Arab/Muslim reporters on the pages of the NYT, or WaPo backed by editors who think their ethnicity won’t affect their ability to elucidate clearly the talking points of main stream media and its supporters in governmnet, American or Israeli?  Those editors know the experiential and cultural  filter such people might bring to the job will not make it possible for them to slant the news in the direction editors would want it to go for a territorially expansive and militarily aggressive state that encroaches on its neighbors sovereignty.

In fact that is exactly why people like Goldberg are prominently displayed throughout media to make the case for whatever administration or regime, American or Israeli, is in power at the moment because given access to the holders of power they are expected to make the case for policy being touted by those officials  whereas  Arab/Muslim reporters are not  privileged with that access because it is known they are generally not disposed to be tools for political Zionism.

However, the theme that really is provocative and reminiscent of moving the goal posts to constantly justify the raison d’etre of Israel is the notion buried deep in Goldberg’s piece that although a nuclear Iran poses no existential threat to  Israel, the mere fact that notion is intimidating means it would convince enough Israelis not to live there, contribute to an accelerated brain drain of Israeli settlers moving to other places in the world and somehow diminish Israel’s existence.

The real threat to Zionism is the dilution of quality,” Barak tells Goldberg. “Jews know that they can land on their feet in any corner of the world. The real test for us is to make Israel such an attractive place, such a cutting-edge place in human society, education, culture, science, quality of life, that even American Jewish young people want to come here … Our young people can consciously decide to go other places [and] stay out of here by choice.”

……..

“[Israelis] are good citizens, and brave citizens, but the dynamics of life are such that if … someone finishes a Ph.D. and they are offered a job in America, they might stay there … The bottom line is that we would have an accelerated brain drain.”

In other words a threat to Israel is anything that causes its intelligentsia to leave that country to look for greener pastures and the fact Iran might possess nuclear weapons could possibly frighten Israelis now or in the future  to live elsewhere.  Job/educational opportunities in other countries that are inviting enough to Israelis to make them leave the state of Israel are a threat, which begs the question, how would Israel deal with such a “threat”?

In other words, Israeli elites want the United States to attack Iran’s nuclear program — with the potentially negative repercussions that Goldberg acknowledges — so that Israel will not experience “a dilution of quality” or “an accelerated brain drain.”

……….

Israeli elites want to preserve a regional balance of power strongly tilted in Israel’s favor and what an Israeli general described to Goldberg as “freedom of action” –the freedom to use force unilaterally, anytime, for whatever purpose Israel wants. The problem with Iranian nuclear capability — not just weapons, but capability  — is that it might begin constraining Israel’s currently unconstrained “freedom of action.”

The aforementioned ‘freedom of action’ is just a euphemism for the ability of the Israeli government to invade, trespass upon the territorial sovereignty of its neighbors without any repercussions, much like what it has done in Gaza, Lebanon and the aerial attack against Syria a few short years ago. In other words those conditions that Israel wants extended to it as a state in the region it is not in any way considering giving to its neighbors because of the very basic  principle of ‘might makes right’. Israel is not willing to live by any internationally accepted code of conduct that does not allow it to persecute its neighbors in order to meet its constantly changing ideas of what constitutes existential threats and because Goldberg is able to make the case persuasively enough in American circles,  so prominently displayed on the pages of The Atlantic or even considered is an indication of how important people like him are to American imperialism.

Systemic, American torture against Muslims


We declared a war on terrorism, and then allowed those in right wing land and the press to state that it was also a war against Muslims, since as the nonsensical logic goes, ‘all terrorists are Muslims’, even though to assuage their guilt the proponents went on to conclude equally ridiculously, ‘not all Muslims are terrorists’.  So this stinging editorial should come as no surprise.

According to Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen raised in Germany and defamed as “the German Taliban,” torture at the several prisons in which he was held was frequent, commonplace, and committed by many guards.

In his book, Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo,” he writes that his beatings began in 2001 on the flight from Pakistan (where he was pulled off a public bus and sold by Pakistani police for $3,000) to his first imprisonment in Afghanistan. Kurnaz wrote:

“I couldn’t see how many soldiers there were, but to judge from the confusion of voices it must have been a lot. They went from one prisoner to the next, hitting us with their fists, their billy clubs, and the butts of their rifles.”

This was done to men who were manacled to the floor of the plane, Kurnaz said, adding:

“It was as cold as a refrigerator; I was sitting on bare metal and icy air was coming from a vent or a fan. I tried to go to sleep, but they kept hitting me and waking me. … They never tired of beating us, laughing all the while.”

On another occasion, Kurnaz counted seven guards who were beating a prisoner with the butts of their rifles and kicking him with their boots until he died. At one point, Kurnaz was hung by chains with his arms behind his back for five days.

“Today I know that a lot of inmates died from treatment like this,” he wrote.
When he was finally taken down and needed water, “they’d just pour the water over my head and laugh,” Kurnaz wrote. The guards even tortured a blind man who was older than 90 “the same way the rest of us were,” he wrote.

At Camp X-Ray, Guantanamo, Cuba, Kurnaz said, “During the day, we had to remain seated and at night we had to lie down. If you lay down during the day you were punished. … We weren’t allowed to talk. We weren’t to speak to or look at the guards. We weren’t allowed to draw in the sand or whistle or sing or smile. Every time I unknowingly broke a rule, or because they had just invented a new one … an IRF (Immediate Reaction Force) team would come and beat me.”

Once when he was weak from a hunger strike, Kurnaz wrote, “I was beaten on a stretcher.”

During his earlier imprisonment at Kandahar, Pakistan, Kurnaz writes, “There were weaker, older men in the pen. Men with broken feet, men whose legs and arms were fractured or had turned blue, red, or yellow from pus. There were prisoners with broken jaws, fingers and noses, and with terribly swollen faces like mine.”

Not only were the wounds of such men ignored by guards but complicit doctors would examine him and other prisoners and advise guards as to how much more they could stand before they died. On one occasion, he saw guards beating a prisoner with no legs.

Still worse, Kurnaz said doctors participated in the tortures. A dentist asked to pull out a prisoner’s rotten tooth pulled out all his healthy ones as well, he wrote, adding that another prisoner who went to the doctor to treat one finger with severe frostbite had all his other fingers amputated.

“I saw open wounds that weren’t treated. A lot of people had been beaten so often they had broken legs, arms and feet. The fractures, too, remained untreated,” Kurnaz wrote. “I never saw anyone in a cast.”

Prisoners were deliberately weakened by starvation diets, he said. Meals at Guantanamo consisted of “three spoonfuls of rice, a slice of dry bread, and a plastic spoon. That was it,” he wrote, adding that sometimes a loaf of bread was tossed over a fence into their compound.

Prisoners who should have been in hospital beds instead were confined to cells purposefully designed to increase their pain, Kurnaz wrote. He described his experience this way: “Those cells were like ovens. The sun beat down on the metal roof at noon and directly on the sides of the cage in the mornings and afternoons.

“All told, I think I spent roughly a year alone in absolute darkness, either in a cooler or an oven, with little food, and once I spent three months straight in solitary confinement.”

Prisoners could be put in solitary confinement for the tiniest infractions of the most ridiculous rules, such as not folding a blanket properly, Kurnaz said. “I was always being punished and humiliated, regardless of what I did,” he wrote., noting that once, he was put in solitary for 10 days for feeding breadcrumbs to an iguana that had crawled into his cage.

Besides regular beatings from the Immediate Reaction Force, which commonly entered cells with clubs swinging, Kurnaz received excruciating electroshocks to his feet and was waterboarded in a 20-inch diameter plastic bucket filled with water, he said.

He described the experience as follows:  “Someone grabbed me by the hair. The soldiers seized my arms and pushed my head underwater. … Drowning is a horrible way to die. They pulled my head back up [and asked], ‘Do you like it? You want more?’

“When my head was back underwater, I felt a blow to my stomach…. ‘Where is Osama?’ ‘Who are you?’ I tried to speak but I couldn’t. I swallowed some water. … It became harder and harder to breath, the more they hit me in the stomach and pushed my head underwater. I felt my heart racing.

“They didn’t let up. … I imagined myself screaming underwater. … I would have told them everything. But what was I supposed to tell them?”

It should be noted that U.S. and German authorities had decided as early as 2002 that Kurnaz was innocent, that he really was a student of the Koran in Pakistan when he had been seized by bounty hunters and sold to the Americans as a “terrorist.” Yet they continued his abuse for years.

On yet other occasions, Kurnaz, like so many other prisoners, was hung from chains backwards so that “it felt as though my shoulders were going to break,” he said, adding: “I was hoisted up until my feet no longer touched the ground. … After a while, the cuffs seemed like they were cutting my wrists down to the bone.

“My shoulders felt like someone was trying to pull my arms out of their sockets. … When they hung me up backwards, it felt as though my shoulders were going to break. … I was strung up for five days. … Three times a day soldiers came in and let me down (and) a doctor examined me and took my pulse. ‘Okay,’ he said. The soldiers hoisted me back up.

“I lost all feeling in my arms and hands. I still felt pain in other parts of my body, like in my chest around my heart.”

A short distance away Kurnaz said he could see another man hanging from chains, dead.

When Kurnaz was transferred within the Guantanamo prison system to “Camp 1,” he was put in a maximum security cage inside a giant container with metal walls, he wrote, adding:

“Although the cage was no smaller than the one in Camp X-Ray, the bunk reduced the amount of free space to around three-and-a-half feet by three-and-a-half feet. At the far end of the cage, an aluminum toilet and a sink took up even more room. How was I going to stand this? …

“I hardly saw the sun at all. They had perfected their prison. It felt like being sealed alive in a ship container.”

Although some U.S. politicians and right-wing radio talk show hosts ridiculed the harm of sleep deprivation against prisoners, this techniques was an insidious practice used earlier in Bolshevik Russia to torture enemies, a method known as “the conveyor belt.”

In 2002, Kurnaz wrote, when General Geoffrey Miller took over command of Guantanamo, “The interrogations got more brutal, more frequent, and longer.”

Miller commenced “Operation Sandman,” in which prisoners were moved to new cells every hour or two “to completely deprive us of sleep, and he achieved it,” Kurnaz said. “I had to stand and kneel twenty-four hours a day,” often in chains, and “I had barely arrived in a new cell and lay down on the bunk, before they came again to move me. …

“As soon as the guards saw me close my eyes … they’d kick at the door or punch me in the face.” In between transfers, “I was interrogated … I estimated the sessions lasted up to fifteen hours” during which the interrogator might disappear for hours at a time.

“I sat chained to my chair or kneeling on the floor, and as soon as my eyelids drooped, soldiers would wake me with a couple of blows. … Days and nights without sleep. Blows and new cages. Again, the stabbing sensation of thousands of needles throughout my entire body.

“I would have loved to step outside my body, but I couldn’t. … I went three weeks without sleep. … The soldiers came at night and made us stand for hours on end at gunpoint. At this point, I weighed less than 130 pounds.”

Finally, in August 2006, Kurnaz was released to Germany and testified by video-link in 2008 to the U.S. Congress. During his five years of confinement, he was never charged with a crime.

And so it happened that, during the presidency of George W. Bush, tens of thousands of innocent human beings, Kurnaz among them, were swept up in dragnet arrests by the invading American forces or their allies and imprisoned without legal recourse, the very opposite of what America’s Founders gifted to humanity in the Constitution.

Yet, pretty much the only people implicated in these human rights crimes to face any punishment were a handful of low-ranking guards at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib’s prison whose true crime — in the eyes of Official Washington — apparently was to allow photographs of their actions to reach the public.

After the photographs of sadism at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in May 2004, shocked the world, President George W. Bush called the revelations “a stain on our country’s honor and our country’s reputation.”

He told visiting King Abdullah of Jordan in the Oval Office that “I was sorry for the humiliation suffered by the Iraqi prisoners, and the humiliation suffered by their families.” Bush told the Washington Post, “I told him (Abdullah) I was equally sorry that people who have been seeing those pictures didn’t understand the true nature and heart of America.”

A year later, Private Lynddie England and 10 others from the 372nd Military Police Company were convicted of abusing Abu Ghraib prisoners. But the truth was that their actions followed in the footsteps of “war on terror” prison guards across the spectrum of Pentagon and CIA detention camps, often following direct orders from Bush’s White House.

Although President Bush made the Abu Ghraib revelations sound like an aberration that inflicted some un-American acts of “humiliation” on a small groups of detainees, the Abu Ghraib photos actually gave the world a glimpse into far greater crimes of every sordid type.

While a handful of guards like Ms. England — notorious for posing with naked Iraqi prisoners — were convicted and jailed, the many other hundreds or thousands of military guards, interrogators and doctors and dentists involved in widespread tortures have never been prosecuted for their crimes.

Beating the War Drums


Those nutty neocons are at it again, calling for the US to enter into a war with Iran, on behalf of Israeli hegemony.  It matters not to them that America is undergoing one of the worst financial crisis in modern history, unemployment is at double digits, foreclosures at an all time high, and the war effort, especially in Afghanstan has been rocked by scandal and even charges of war atrocities, neocons don’t care about any of that, or about their pretty disastrous track record on the wars they have called for in the not too distant past with predictions that weren’t even close.  These people think Americans are dumb enough to forget all that and believe anything they say. 

Daneil Pipes’ interview with the oddly named Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, whose ministry has been pretty much disavowed by the churches in Israel/Palestine makes the point that negotiations, diplomacy, sanctions are meaningless; he will accept nothing short of all out annihilation

DP: If Iran gets a nuclear bomb, it changes the dynamics – not just in the Middle East, but worldwide. If the Obama administration has in mind to do something, it’s not about to broadcast it. So we don’t know. But I’m not optimistic. But I also would not conclude at this date that the Iranians will get the bomb. There is still pressure that can be brought.

EMQ: Can sanctions really accomplish anything?

DP: I don’t think so. I don’t think sanctions have any value beyond window dressing. I don’t think agreements have any value. I don’t think threats have any value. It boils down to whether we accept the Iranian nuclear program or we destroy it.

EMQ: How should Israelis feel about this?

DP: I think it’s realistic for the Israelis to attack and do real damage. Now, what constitutes success, I’m not exactly sure. There are many, many questions. If I were [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin]Netanyahu, I would say to [U.S. President Barack] Obama, “Why don’t you take out the Iranian nukes? Or else we will And we will not do it by trying to fly planes across Turkey and Syria or Jordan or Saudi Arabia. We will do it from submarine-based, tactical nuclear weapons. You don’t want that; we don’t want that; but that’s the way we can do this job for sure. You do it your way so we don’t have to escalate to that.” That would be a way of applying pressure. There are so many details which I’m not privy to. But that would be my kind of approach if I were the Israelis.

It’s too bad the leader of the ‘only superpower’ left in the world today….I like how neocons like to build up US presidents in order to get America to do the dirty work for Israel, doesn’t have the courage to say to any Israeli leader acting out Pipes’ scenario, ‘go right ahead and attack Iran with your sub based tactical nukes…you’re on your own, while we try to work out details through negotiations’, because the Iranians have been signaling since 2003 their willingness to negotiate with America.  Pipes almost seems to threaten the US…..we don’t want that and you don’t want that (i.e. a sub based strike on the part of Israel) so why don’t you do it your way’.

The other chest beating neocon is Sir John Bolton who likes to use the neocon meme of questioning the manliness of American presidents; something is wrong with them, they lack the courage to stand up to an intractable foe if they don’t do the neocon shuffle.

As Tehran and Pyongyang can plainly see, President Obama’s nonproliferation strategy is intellectually and politically exhausted. But U.S. exhaustion will not lead to stasis. North Korea and Iran will continue their nuclear and ballistic missile programs in the face of our feeble policy.

So are we consigned to two more years of growing danger? Not if Congress and opinion leaders take steps without White House leadership, beginning with these three initiatives:

First, they must demand increased intelligence collection on the North Korea-Iran connection……..

Although North Korea and Iran may be slipping off the front page, their nuclear and ballistic missile cooperation is almost certainly progressing….. Stepped up intelligence gathering and enhanced congressional and public discussion might even awaken the Obama administration.

A second step is to increase political support for an Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear and ballistic missile facilities…. Arab states have understood this for some time and have hoped for a pre-emptive U.S. strike. But that will not happen under Mr. Obama absent a Damascene conversion in the Oval Office.

What outsiders can do is create broad support for Israel’s inherent right to self-defense against a nuclear Holocaust and defend the specific tactic of pre-emptive attacks against Iran’s Esfahan uranium-conversion plant, its Natanz enrichment facility, and other targets. Congress can make it clear, for example, that it would support immediate resupply and rearming to make up for Israeli losses in the event of such an attack. Having visible congressional support in place at the outset will reassure the Israeli government, which is legitimately concerned about Mr. Obama’s likely negative reaction to such an attack.

There you have it, America’s problem is an intellectual midget occupies the White House who is usually asleep and not aware of the threat a non nuclear possessing country now poses to our client state Israel, so Bolton and other like minded neocons along with those members in Congress who are agreement must  sidestep the President and take the bull by the horns to rectify this situation. During the days of the GW Bush administration there was a word tossed around a lot for people who went against the grain of a sitting US president during America’s time of war. That word was ‘traitor’. I think it’s appropriate for the two gentlemen mentioned above. Anyone?

Another One Bites the Dust


The British Ambassador to Lebanon has been forced to remove, from her website and which we linked to here at Miscellany101, the remarks she made about Lebanese cleric Mohammad Fadlallah; this after the heavy handed Israeli government complained to the British government about Guy’s remarks. No doubt similar arrogant and illicit entreaties were made by the Israeli government to CNN as well; the similarities of both cases can only lead to the regrettable conclusion that either Guys’ resignation or firing is next.

What I find interesting however is that secular women from both east and west, Nasr and Guy expressed regret over Fadlallah’s death and even a passing interest in this Lebanese cleric would reveal why.  Taking a very strong stand against honor killings, female genital mutilation and violence against women in general along with being a nationalist and not an expansionist/imperialist endears one with such positions more easily than most but because of his opposition to the heavy handedness of Israel and especially vis-a-vis his own country, Fadlallah must be an anathema to all who expect to keep their jobs or careers. Towing the line is something Israel expects everyone to do even if it’s not in their best interest.