The good news is America can now withdraw from Afghanistan


The reason is the Taliban admit they cannot win the war against the American forces and they are fed up with their alliance with al-Qaida, that is if you believe the word coming from some sources in the Taliban movement. I don’t know why anyone would think that a less than third world country could stand militarily with the largest, strongest military in the world, the Russian war notwithstanding, unless you believed in miracles.  With this admission coming from the Taliban, and I submit they’ve conceded defeat even before the war began back in 2001, the US, if it’s true to its mission of ridding the country of the Taliban and al-Qaida, has a golden opportunity  to end the conflict and withdraw honorably while getting the Taliban and the Karzai government to come to peaceful terms.  Unfortunately, the US’ track record of taking advantage of opportunities offered them by their opponents is less than sterling.

One of the Taliban‘s most senior commanders has admitted the insurgents cannot win the war in Afghanistan and that capturing Kabul is “a very distant prospect”, obliging them to seek a settlement with other political forces in the country.

In a startlingly frank interview in Thursday’s New Statesman, the commander – described as a Taliban veteran, a confidant of the leadership, and a former Guantánamo inmate – also uses the strongest language yet from a senior figure to distance the Afghan rebels from al-Qaida.

“At least 70% of the Taliban are angry at al-Qaida. Our people consider al-Qaida to be a plague that was sent down to us by the heavens,” the commander says. “To tell the truth, I was relieved at the death of Osama [bin Laden]. Through his policies, he destroyed Afghanistan. If he really believed in jihad he should have gone to Saudi Arabia and done jihad there, rather than wrecking our country.”

“The Taliban capturing Kabul is a very distant prospect. Any Taliban leader expecting to be able to capture Kabul is making a grave mistake. Nevertheless, the leadership also knows that it cannot afford to acknowledge this weakness. To do so would undermine the morale of Taliban personnel. The leadership knows the truth – that they cannot prevail over the power they confront,” Mawlvi (the Taliban senior commander) says.

As a result, he says that the Taliban has had to shelve its dream of re-establishing the Islamic emirate it set up when it was in power from 1996 to 2001. “Any side involved in a conflict like this has decided to fight for power. If they fall short of achieving national power, they have to settle for functioning as an organised party within the country,” he admits.

He is scathing about President Hamid Karzai, who the Taliban has consistently derided as a US puppet. “There is little point in talking to Kabul. Real authority rests with the Americans,” he says. “The only other serious political force in Afghanistan is that of the Northern Alliance” – a Tajik-led coalition that led the resistance to Taliban rule and is now a powerful player in Kabul.

That sounds like nothing short of capitulation and America should jump at the chance to embrace it, negotiate and get out.  Campaign rhetoric most likely will make chances of that happening until after the elections, but whoever the winner is in November, his first priority should be getting America out of a quagmire it’s enemy has said it can’t win and with whom it can easily settle.  That the world wide community is fixated on the horrific video taped execution of a woman by a “Taliban” member, who most likely was really a family member of the victim engaged in an honor killing (have we ever maintained forces in a country because of the honor killings of some of that country’s citizens?) would really serve an injustice to the people in the Taliban movement who are clearly signalling their willingness to stand down from hostilities with American forces.  The pessimism in me anticipates seeing  more of that kind of distraction in the international media, away from this peace offering, in order to  prolong the Afghan war.

 

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The Never-ending Terror Threat


By Ivan Eland

Now that the big kahuna — Osama bin Laden — has been killed, the “War on Terror” is much less exciting.

Even before Osama’s demise, experts sent chills through the massive post-9/11 U.S. government anti-terrorism bureaucracies by concluding that the threat from al-Qaeda had been much weakened by the group’ s own bloody excesses against civilians, many of whom were Muslims.

Yet the way government works, every agency needs a threat to hype to keep the cash flowing in from scared taxpayers. So the anti-terrorism agencies need to keep the threat, however declining, fresh in the public mind and publicize their efforts to successfully combat the danger.

Recently, two incidents illustrate the extent of the government’s refrain that the “terrorists are (still) coming, the terrorists are (still) coming!”

As the public has tired of drawn-out, muddled and costly (in blood and treasure) counterinsurgency wars in faraway places that seem to have only a tangential relationship to battling insidious terrorists, technology has ridden to the rescue.

Now any U.S. president can kill potential terrorists with pilotless drone aircraft much more cheaply and without casualties from putting troops on the ground. For example, the U.S. is using such technology in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen to take out alleged Islamic terrorists.

Recently, an American drone successfully assassinated Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen who spoke fluent English and was inspiring Islamist militants with charismatic speeches. U.S. authorities also made vague allegations that he was operationally involved in the BVD (underwear) bombing and a plot to blow cardboard boxes on cargo planes out of the sky.

Even disregarding the obvious problem of what legal authority the United States used to justify violating the Fifth Amendment’ s prohibition on taking life, liberty or property without due process — the Justice Department’ s legal memo justifying Awlaki’ s killing is classified, and Awlaki doesn’ t seem to be covered by the post-9/11 authorization for war, which only approved military action against those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks or harbored the attackers — the U.S. government clearly hyped the threat that Awlaki posed.

Awlaki was little known in the Middle East, and one knowledgeable scholar termed him “a-dime-a-dozen cleric.” Thus, his importance to the war on terror was largely a creation of the American government and media.

Seeing the opportunity for some free publicity — what terrorists crave — al-Qaeda then pushed Awlaki further into the manufactured limelight.

And now that the U.S. has made him a martyr by assassinating him on the basis of secret criteria, vague allegations, and no due process, the State Department had to put out a worldwide travel alert to American citizens warning of retaliatory attacks to avenge Awlaki’s death.

Also as part of the post-9/11 terrorism hype, the government has created a terrorist watch list containing 420,000 names, with no public disclosure of the criteria used to put that many people on it and no due process for such persons to answer the allegations. If only a fraction of that massive and wildly inflated list is trying to do harm to the United States, we are all in trouble.

In sum, in the war on terror, the U.S. government hypes the threat to justify expanding anti-terrorism efforts and budgets, argues that war is the only means to effectively combat the inflated threat (instead of using low-key intelligence and law enforcement measures, which don’t generate more terrorists by poking the hornet’s nest), and creates a wider retaliatory threat by using such draconian military action.

This wider danger is used to justify the need for even harsher military action, and the action-reaction cycle escalates. In sum, the government is creating the demand for its own services; private businesses should be in awe of such ability.

And not only is the government hyping the terrorist threat, it is creating it.

Like the hapless BVD bomber, who didn’t even have a bomb big enough to bring down the airliner, a graduate student the FBI recently arrested for plotting to blow up the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol with hobbyists’ remote-controlled aircraft would have been foiled by the fact that the planes just couldn’t carry enough explosives to do the job.

The student, a U.S. citizen, got very different treatment than Awlaki. Instead of being assassinated, he was arrested, but before that, the U.S. government purposefully helped him. The government, in order to entrap him, gave him money and grenades, assault rifles, C-4 plastic explosives, and even the remote-controlled aircraft to carry out the attack.

Without all this money and equipment, the student would have likely been no threat at all. In fact, according to The New York Times, Carmen M. Ortiz, the U.S. attorney in Boston, admitted, “The public was never in danger from the explosive devices.”

This is not an isolated case. In similar cases, the FBI has provided the means to carry out terrorist attacks but then arrested the alleged plotter. Such entrapment provides opportunities for people to do what they otherwise would not or could not do.

And Muslims have complained that the FBI is targeting their community with such “gotcha” tactics.

Such governmental hyping of the terrorist threat, or actual creation of it, to justify greater federal coercive action makes one wonder whether to fear more the low probability of a successful terrorist attack or the massive, expensive and intrusive government efforts to combat it.

Day of Destruction, Decade of War – US military increasingly privatized


More death and destruction for profit
Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

An update on the “American Taliban”


John Walker Lindh, the American who was taken prisoner by US forces in Afghanistan at the very beginning of the Afghan/Iraq war and his subsequent mistreatment both by the Bush Administration and corporate media, which marked the beginning of America’s decent into lawlessness and criminality has always had a stalwart defender in his father Frank Lindh.  The senior Lindh wrote a lengthy, detailed piece for The Guardian newspaper earlier this summer  asserting his son’s  innocence against the charges of terrorism leveled by Bush’s justice department and proclaiming that the son, John met bin laden at some point BEFORE 911 but wasn’t impressed with him and felt no desire to do whatever it was bin laden wanted done in the way of terror.  He also says John was in Afghanistan to fight the Northern Alliance who at one point was even at odds with the Bush Administration, the implication being Lindh was doing America’s dirty work in fighting the NA until 911 happened.  Below is an excerpt; the entire article is linked above

As they moved among the prisoners, they singled out captives for interrogation. They never identified themselves as American agents, and so they appeared to John and the other prisoners to be mercenaries working directly for General Dostum.

John was spotted and removed from the body of prisoners for questioning. The moment was recorded on video and later seen by millions on television.

In the video, John sits mutely on the ground as he is questioned about his nationality.

“Irish? Ireland?” Spann asks.

John remains silent.

“Who brought you here?… You believe in what you are doing that much, you’re willing to be killed here?”

Still no reply.

Tyson to Spann [for John’s benefit]: “The problem is, he’s got to decide if he wants to live or die, and die here. We’re just going to leave him, and he’s going to [expletive] sit in prison the rest of his [expletive] short life. It’s his decision, man. We can only help the guys who want to talk to us. We can only get the Red Cross to help so many guys.”

I think it was apparent that Spann and Tyson were American agents, but because they were in the company of Dostum’s forces, unaccompanied by American troops, it clearly was not safe for John to talk to them. They meant business when they said John might be killed by Dostum, and that the Red Cross could only “help so many guys”. John was in extreme peril at that moment, and he knew it.

John was then returned to the main body of prisoners, while others were still being brought out of the basement and forced to kneel in the horse pasture. Then, there was an explosion at the entrance to the basement, shouts were heard, and two prisoners grabbed the guards’ weapons. According to Guardian journalist Luke Harding’s account: “It was then… that Spann ‘did a Rambo’. As the remaining guards ran away, Spann flung himself to the ground and began raking the courtyard and its prisoners with automatic fire. Five or six prisoners jumped on him, and he disappeared beneath a heap of bodies.”

Spann’s body was later recovered by US special forces troops. He was the first American to die in combat in the American–Afghan war. He was buried with full military honours at Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington.

There were two groups of Taliban prisoners in the fortress: those who chose to fight and those who hunkered down in the basement of the pink building and tried to survive. John was in the latter group.

By Wednesday, the last of the resisting Taliban fighters had been killed, and Dostum’s soldiers were once again in full control of the fortress. Luke Harding was allowed into the compound along with some other journalists, and he found a horrific scene: “We had expected slaughter, but I was unprepared for its hellish scale… It was hard to take it all in. The dead and various parts of the dead… turned up wherever you looked: in thickets of willows and poplars; in waterlogged ditches; in storage rooms piled with ammunition boxes.” Harding observed that many of the Taliban prisoners had died with their hands tied behind their backs.

On Saturday 1 December, the Red Cross arrived at the fortress and the survivors, who for several days had been trying to surrender, were finally allowed to exit the basement. When they emerged into the bright sunlight, they encountered a confusing horde of journalists, Red Cross workers, Dostum’s soldiers, and British and American troops.

That evening John and the other survivors were taken to a prison hospital in Sheberghan. Although wet and cold from the flooding of the basement, they were transported in open bed trucks in the frigid night air. At Sheberghan, John was carried on a stretcher and set down in a small room with approximately 15 other prisoners. CNN correspondent Robert Pelton came in accompanied by a US special forces soldier and a cameraman. Despite John’s protests, Pelton persisted in filming John and asking questions as an American medical officer administered morphine intravenously. By the time he departed a short time later, Pelton had captured on videotape an interview in which John said that his “heart had become attached” to the Taliban, that every Muslim aspired to become a shahid, or martyr, and that he had attended a training camp funded by Osama bin Laden.

The CNN interview became a sensation in the US. By mid-December, virtually every newspaper in America was running front-page stories about the American Taliban, and the broadcast media were saturated with features and commentary about John. Here was a “traitor” who had “fought against America” and aligned himself with the 11 September terrorists. Newsweek magazine published an issue with John’s photograph on the cover, under the caption “American Taliban”.

Beginning in early December, President Bush, vice-president Dick Cheney, members of the cabinet and other officials then embarked on a series of truly extraordinary public statements about John, referring to him repeatedly as an “al-Qaida fighter”, a terrorist and a traitor. I think it fair to say there has never been a case quite like this in the history of the US, in which officials at the highest levels of the government made such prejudicial statements about an individual citizen who had not yet been charged with any crime.

I will offer only a small sample of these statements. In an interview at the White House on 21 December 2001, President Bush said John was “the first American al-Qaida fighter that we have captured”. Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of defence, told reporters at a press briefing that John had been “captured by US forces with an AK-47 in his hands”. Colin Powell, secretary of state, said John had “brought shame upon his family”. Rudy Giuliani, New York mayor, remarked: “I believe the death penalty is the appropriate remedy to consider.”

John Ashcroft, the US attorney general, staged two televised press conferences in which he accused John of attacking the US. “Americans who love their country do not dedicate themselves to killing Americans,” he declared.

A federal judge took the unusual step of writing to the New York Times criticising the attorney general for violating “Justice Department guidelines on the release of information related to criminal proceedings that are intended to ensure that a defendant is not prejudiced when such an announcement is made”.

Even the ultra-conservative National Review thought Ashcroft had gone too far in making such prejudicial comments about a pending prosecution. It criticised the comments as “inappropriate” and “gratuitous”, stating that in the future “it would be better for the attorney general simply to announce the facts of the indictments, and to avoid extra comments which might unintentionally imperil successful prosecutions”.

Once John was in the custody of the US military, the US government had to decide what to do with him. The FBI has estimated that during the 90s as many as 2,000 American citizens travelled to Muslim lands to take up arms voluntarily, and that as many as 400 American Muslims received training in military camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. None of these American citizens was indicted, or labelled as traitor and terrorist. They were simply ignored by their government, which made no attempt to interfere with their travel. But the 9/11 attacks changed everything, and it was the timing of John’s capture that contributed to his fate. It soon became apparent to me that, rather than simply repatriate my wounded son, the government was intent on prosecuting him as a “terrorist”.

In the days and weeks that followed, John endured abuse from the US military that exceeded the bounds of what any civilised nation should tolerate, even in time of war. Donald Rumsfeld directly ordered the military to “take the gloves off” in questioning John.

On 7 December, wounded and still suffering from the effects of the trauma at Qala-i-Jangi, John was flown to Camp Rhino, a US marine base approximately 70 miles south of Kandahar. There he was taunted and threatened, stripped of his clothing, and bound naked to a stretcher with duct tape wrapped around his chest, arms, and ankles. Even before he got to Camp Rhino, John’s wrists and ankles were bound with plastic restraints that caused severe pain and left permanent scars – sure proof of torture. Still blindfolded, he was locked in an unheated metal shipping container that sat on the desert floor. He shivered uncontrollably in the bitter cold. Soldiers outside pounded on the sides, threatening to kill him.

In June 2002, Newsweek obtained copies of internal email messages from the justice department’s ethics office commenting on the Lindh case as the events were unfolding in December 2001. The office specifically warned in advance against the interrogation tactics the FBI used at Camp Rhino, and concluded that the interrogation of John without his lawyer present would be unlawful and unethical. This advice was ignored by the FBI agent who conducted the interrogation.

Interestingly, in an 10 December email, one of the justice department ethics lawyers noted: “At present, we have no knowledge that he did anything other than join the Taliban.”

John’s lawyers filed a motion to “suppress” the statements that had been extracted him under duress at Camp Rhino. A hearing was scheduled in July 2001, which would have included testimony by John and others about the brutality he had suffered at the hands of US soldiers. On the eve of the hearing, the government prosecutors approached John’s attorneys and negotiated a plea agreement. It was apparent they did not want evidence of John’s torture to be introduced in court.

In the plea agreement John acknowledged that by serving as a soldier in Afghanistan he had violated the anti-Taliban economic sanctions imposed by President Clinton and extended by President Bush. This was, as John’s lawyer pointed out, a “regulatory infraction”. John also agreed to a “weapons charge”, which was used to enhance his prison sentence. In particular, he acknowledged that he had carried a rifle and two grenades while serving as a soldier in the Taliban army. All of the other counts in the indictment were dropped by the government, including the terrorism charges the attorney general had so strongly emphasised and the charge of conspiracy to commit murder in the death of Mike Spann.

At the insistence of defence secretary Rumsfeld, the plea agreement also included a clause in which John relinquished his claims of torture.

The punishment in the plea agreement was by any measure harsh: 20 years of imprisonment, commencing on 1 December 2001, the day John came into the hands of US forces in Afghanistan. The prosecutors told John’s attorneys that the White House insisted on the lengthy sentence, and that they could not negotiate downward.

On 4 October 2002, the judge approved the plea agreement as “just and reasonable” and sentenced John to prison. Before the sentence was pronounced, John was allowed to read a prepared statement, which provided a moment of intense drama in the crowded courtroom. He spoke with strong emotion. He explained why he had gone to Afghanistan to help the Taliban in their fight with the Northern Alliance, saying it arose from his compassion for the suffering of ordinary people who had been subjected to atrocities committed by the Northern Alliance. He explained that when he went to Afghanistan he “saw the war between the Taliban and the Northern Alliance as a continuation of the war between the mujahideen and the Soviets”.

John strongly condemned terrorism. “I went to Afghanistan with the intention of fighting against terrorism and oppression.” He had acted, he said, out of a sense of religious duty and he condemned terrorism as being “completely against Islam”. He said: “I have never supported terrorism in any form and never would.”

After a brief recess, the judge granted a request by John Spann, the father of Mike Spann, to address the court and express his dissatisfaction with the plea agreement. He began by saying that he, his family, and many other people believed that John had played a role in the killing of Mike Spann. Judge Ellis interrupted and said: “Let me be clear about that. The government has no evidence of that.” Spann responded: “I understand.” The judge politely explained that the “suspicions, the inferences you draw from the facts are not enough to warrant a jury conviction”. He said that Mike Spann had died a hero, and that among the things he died for was the principle that “we don’t convict people in the absence of proof beyond a reasonable doubt”.

Osama bin Laden is dead. John Lindh, now 30 years old, remains in prison. He spends most of his time pursuing his study of the Qur’an and Islamic scholarship. He also reads widely in a variety of nonfiction subjects, especially history and politics. He remains a devout Muslim.

NOW, they say bin laden wasn’t all that important so does that mean 10 more years of war until we get the REAL leader of al-qaeda? I’m just saying…


A still of 2004 Osama bin Laden video

Image via Wikipedia

We’ve seen his picture blasted across TV screens and computer monitors the world over for the last ten years; we’ve heard his speeches speak of the doom our civilizations would suffer at the hands of his followers and the humiliation we would face at their victory and our defeat, and we watched as two presidents decided their political fate based on his words, but never mind.  Seems Usama bin Laden wasn’t the real deal after all if this article is to be believed.

Osama bin Laden was out of touch with the younger generation of al Qaida commanders, and they often didn’t follow his advice during the years he was in hiding in northern Pakistan, U.S. and Pakistani officials now say…..bin Laden clearly wasn’t in control of al Qaida, though he was trying to remain involved or at least influential.

“He was like the cranky old uncle that people weren’t listening to,” said a U.S. official, who’d been briefed on the evidence collected from the Abbottabad compound and who spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “The younger guys had never worked directly with him. They did not take everything he said as right.”

What does it mean for the greatest power in the world to spend all of the manpower and money it did  over the last 10 years to bring to justice a man who it turns out was not really the leader of the most despised movement known to man after all? Opps, my bad.  Does that also mean we’ll have to spend another decade hunting down the REAL leader of al-Qaeda?

 

The bin laden hit


It is official, or for now, until the history revisionists get through with it all; torture or enhanced interrogation had nothing to do with locating bin laden and killing him.  In fact, some assert torture hindered the investigation into bin laden’s whereabouts and were it not for neo-con cold warrior chicken-hawks who it seems insisted on some misplaced notion of masculinity that got in the way of national security.

What are Muslims saying


Here it is without the filter; Muslims in the West commenting on the Osama bin laden execution