DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: October 26, 2006, 08:28:53 AM
Uno mas con el mismo tema. Es del NY Times hoy.
URUAPAN, Mexico ? Norte?o music was blaring at the Sol y Sombra bar on Sept. 6 when several men in military garb broke up the late night party. Waving high-powered machine guns, they screamed at the crowd to stay put and then dumped the contents of a heavy plastic bag on the dance floor. Five human heads rolled to a bloody stop.
?This is not something you see every day,? said a bartender, who asked not to be named for fear of losing his own head. ?Very ugly.?
An underworld war between drug gangs is raging in Mexico, medieval in its barbarity, its foot soldiers operating with little fear of interference from the police, its scope and brutality unprecedented, even in a country accustomed to high levels of drug violence.
In recent months the violence has included a total of two dozen beheadings, a raid on a local police station by men with grenades and a bazooka, and daytime kidnappings of top law enforcement officials. At least 123 law enforcement officials, among them 2 judges and 3 prosecutors, have been gunned down or tortured to death. Five police officers were among those beheaded.
In all, the violence has claimed more than 1,700 civilian lives this year, and federal officials say the killings are on course to top the estimated 1,800 underworld killings last year. Those death tolls compare with 1,304 in 2004 and 1,080 in 2001, these officials say.
Mexico?s law enforcement officials maintain that the violence is a sign that they have made progress dismantling the major organized crime families in the country. The arrests of several drug cartel leaders and their top lieutenants have set off a violent struggle among second-rank mobsters for trade routes, federal prosecutors say. The old order has been fractured, and the remaining drug dealers are killing one another or making new alliances.
?These alliances are happening because none of the organizations can control, on its own, the territory it used to control, and that speaks to the crisis that they are in,? said Jos? Luis Santiago Vasconcelos, the top federal prosecutor for organized crime.
Attorney General Daniel Cabeza de Vaca said a steadily rising tide of drug addiction within Mexico had spurred some of the murders, as dealers fought for local markets. At the same time, more and more honest police officers are trying to enforce the law rather than turn a blind eye to drug traffickers, often paying with their lives, prosecutors say.
But those assessments, other authorities say, are overly rosy and may explain only part of the picture. Some experts say the Mexican police forces, weakened by corruption and cowed by assassinations, are simply not up to the task of countering the underworld feuds unleashed by the arrests of cartel leaders over the last six years.
Many of the dead made their living in the drug trade and perished in a larger struggle for territory between a federation of cartels based in Sinaloa, on the Pacific Ocean, and the Gulf Cartel from the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, federal prosecutors say.
The five men beheaded in Uruapan, in Michoac?n, were street-level methamphetamine dealers, addicted themselves to the synthetic drug. They were linked loosely to the Valencia family, which once controlled most of the drug trade in the state and is a part of the Sinaloa group, the police say. The killers came from a gang called The Family, believed to be allied with the Gulf Cartel.
A day before, the killers had kidnapped the five men from a mechanic?s shop they had been using as a front for selling ?ice,? as crystal methamphetamine is called on the street. They sawed their victims? heads off with a bowie knife while they were still alive shortly before going to the bar, law enforcement officials said.
?You don?t do something like that unless you want to send a big message,? said one United States law enforcement official here, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The beheadings, in fact, have become a signature form of intimidation aimed at both criminal rivals and federal and local authorities. In the tourist town of Acapulco, killers from one drug gang decapitated the commander of a special strike force, Mario N??ez Maga?a, in April, along with one of his agents, Jes?s Alberto Ibarra Vel?zquez.
They jammed the heads in a fence in front of the municipal police station. ?So you will learn to respect,? said a red note next to them.
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?This year has been one to forget, a black year,? said Jorge Valdez, a spokesman for the Acapulco police. ?It?s the most violent year in the last 50 years, and the acts are barbaric, bloody, with no trace of humanity.?
The dumping of five men?s heads last month at Sol y Sombra, a club in Uruapan, was just another grisly turn in the drug wars raging in Mexico.
The violence is by no means limited to Acapulco. In mid-July, about 15 gunmen attacked a small-town police station in Tabasco State at dawn with grenades, a bazooka and machine guns in an attempt to liberate two of their gang members, who were arrested after a bar fight the night before.
Two police officers died in the assault. The authorities said the attackers were dressed in the commando outfits of federal agents and belonged to the Zetas, former soldiers who work for the Gulf Cartel.
One reason for the wave of law enforcement killings is that the Mexican police do a poor job of protecting their own. Arrests have been made in only a handful of the assassinations of police officers this year. The overwhelming majority remain unsolved because witnesses fear testifying against drug traffickers. Even seasoned investigators are afraid to dig too deep into the murders.
?There is an atmosphere that affects us, of distrust, of terror inside the police force,? said Jes?s Alem?n del Carmen, the head of the state police in Guerrero, where 22 law enforcement officials have been brutally assassinated this year.
One of the officers killed was Gonzalo Dom?nguez D?az, the state police commander in P?tzcuaro, Michoac?n. In February, he received a death threat from a local businessman who law enforcement officials say has links to the Valencia crime family.
The threat came just minutes after Commander Dom?nguez arrested two men on weapons possession charges. He arrived home that night pale and shaken, said his widow, Fanny Carranza Dom?nguez. His anxiety grew over time, after prosecutors released the men he had arrested, for a lack of evidence, his wife said.
In early May, he told his wife that he had heard on the street that gunmen were looking for him. ?He said, ?I know that if I arrest them I am risking my life,? ? she recalled. ? ?I bring them to the capital, and they let them go.? ?
On May 8, a car cut off Commander Dom?nguez?s police car as he was driving home alone about 6:30 p.m. Within minutes, he was shot point blank in the head with a 12-gauge shotgun and twice in the chest with an AK-47. He never unholstered his sidearm. So far, prosecutors have made no progress in solving his murder. He was 47, the father of three.
?I think the commanders that haven?t been killed are in the game, and the ones that have been killed, it is because they attacked crime,? Mrs. Carranza Dom?nguez said.
?The prosecutor seems asleep here,? she added. ?He doesn?t do anything but collect his salary and go home.?
Commander Dom?nguez was one of 16 state and federal police commanders assassinated this year across Mexico, along with 2 judges handling drug cases and 2 federal prosecutors. Local police chiefs have also been targets. Eight have been murdered, most of them in Michoac?n.
Most were ambushed in their cars or outside their homes by men with machine guns. A few were kidnapped by men posing as federal agents. In these cases, the bodies were found later, shot full of holes, often showing signs of torture.
Commander C?ndido Vargas, 40, the second in command of the state police in Uruapan, died that way in August. Prosecutors say he was walking to his car when he was surrounded by about 15 heavily armed men dressed in black commando outfits like those used by federal agents. It was 3:30 in the afternoon, and he was just 100 yards from the police headquarters.
The men hustled him into one of their vehicles and sped off. He was found the next day on a nearby ranch, shot 25 times. A sign next to his body read: ?For playing with two bands.?
No one from the police department visited his wife and three children, who live in another town, to tell them of his death. ?We found out through the newspaper,? said Paula Vargas, his wife of 23 years. ?It was as if the whole world fell down on me.?
The state prosecutor in Uruapan, Ram?n Ponce, says he has found no evidence of Commander Vargas?s being corrupt. Neither does he have any leads, he said. ?The atmosphere is very tense,? Mr. Ponce said. ?It?s very difficult.?
While attacks on the police have risen, they have been far outpaced by grisly gangland killings. In Michoac?n, The Family is believed to be responsible for the beheadings of a dozen people besides the ones they delivered to the Sol y Sombra bar. The heads have often been accompanied by cryptic messages declaring the killings divine justice, accusing the victims of crimes, or daring their rivals to send more henchmen.
Nearly every day, new victims are found in states along the major drug shipment routes, especially Quintana Roo, Michoac?n, Guerrero, Tamaulipas and Baja California. Most are bound, gagged and shot to death, their bodies dumped on lonely roads.
In the towns hardest hit by the gangland warfare, the fear is palpable. For two years now, Nuevo Laredo has been the main battleground for a fight between gunmen loyal to Joaqu?n (Chapo) Guzm?n of Sinaloa and the remnants of the Gulf Cartel, whose leader, Osiel C?rdenas, is in prison awaiting trial.
?I wouldn?t be human if I said I wasn?t afraid,? acknowledged Elizabeth Hern?ndez Arredone, a state prosecutor in Nuevo Laredo who has taped to her door a photograph of a female judge who recently disappeared.
The effects are everywhere. Many local journalists have stopped covering drug violence for fear they may become targets themselves. Tourists used to spill across the border from Laredo, Tex., to swig tequila, buy trinkets and run wild. Not anymore.
Church attendance is down, said the Rev. Alberto Monteras Monjar?s of Santo Ni?o Church, because even a Sunday morning can be dangerous.
?People used to sleep outside on the porch if it got too hot,? he said. ?Not anymore. You stay inside, and you put three or four locks on the door.?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lung Cancer
on: October 26, 2006, 08:22:47 AM
Second post of the morning
Study Says Better Scans May Discover Lung Cancer Sooner
By GINA KOLATA
Published: October 26, 2006
Researchers in New York report that millions of lives could be saved by detecting lung cancer early with annual CT scans and treating it immediately, when it can still be cured.
Survival of Patients with Stage I Lung Cancer Detected on CT Screening (NEJM)The stakes are high: while death rates for other cancers have fallen, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in this country, killing more than 160,000 people a year.
For years, doctors have thought there was little they could do for lung cancer, but now with more sensitive scans, many are rethinking that view.
?You could prevent 80 percent of deaths,? said the study?s lead author, Dr. Claudia Henschke, a professor of radiology and cardiothoracic surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College.
But the report is controversial. Some medical experts and a patient advocacy group say that because this study is so much bigger than previous studies and so carefully done, it should change the testing landscape, while others say that it did not include comparison groups to demonstrate clearly that there is any benefit from annual CT exams.
The study, by researchers at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital and published today in The New England Journal of Medicine, involved more than 31,000 people in seven countries. The participants included smokers and former smokers, but also included people in Japan who had never smoked but had the scans as part of annual physical exams.
The scans found 484 lung cancers, 412 of which were at a very early stage. Then the researchers tracked those cancer patients for an average of about three years after the cancer was detected. After three years, most patients were still alive. The researchers projected that more than 80 percent of those with early-stage cancer would live at least 10 years after their cancer was diagnosed.
Supporters of the findings include Dr. James Mulshine, a professor of internal medicine at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The study design may not have been perfect, he said, and there is more to be learned from other studies that are now under way, but he said the data from this one was convincing.
?This is a profoundly important report,? Dr. Mulshine said. ?It is a remarkable result.?
Members of an advocacy group for lung cancer patients, the Lung Cancer Alliance, agreed. ?This is the most important breakthrough for the lung cancer community,? Laurie Fenton, the group?s president, said in a news release.
And, says Dr. Henschke?s colleague Dr. David Yankelevitz, it makes sense that early detection can save lives. Lung cancer screening is analogous to screening for breast cancer, Dr. Yankelevitz said. In both situations, he added, ?treatment is easier and the outcomes are better when the tumor is small.?
But mammograms are endorsed by many national groups, whereas lung cancer screening is not. And while praising the new study?s careful accumulation of data, representatives of groups like the American Cancer Society, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, say the study is unlikely to persuade them to recommend screening as a public policy.
One reason is that everyone in Dr. Henschke?s study had CT scans. And so, researchers say, with no comparison group of people who did not have scans, they are left wondering: Does screening, in the end, save lives?
?Intuitively, it makes sense,? said Dr. Stephen Swensen, a professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic who conducted a study that was similar to Dr. Henschke?s but smaller.
Dr. Swensen added, ?It makes sense that if you find a cancer earlier you will save lives.?
But ?the science hasn?t backed that up yet,? he said.
Cancer specialists have long known that there are cancers of all types ? and lung cancers are no exception ? that stop growing on their own, or that grow so slowly that they never cause problems. So, some ask, how many of the people said to be cured were never in danger? And how often will people have operations that can involve removing part of a lung, which is risky in itself, when their cancer was not lethal?
The problem, as with other cancer scans, is that science cannot always tell the difference between cancers that will stop and those that will not.
The researchers also ask another question: How often did the scans find cancers early but without affecting the person?s life expectancy?
?Everyone knows we can pick up things better with screening,? said Dr. Elliott Fishman, a professor of radiology and oncology at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. ?But is picking up the same thing as curing? If I pick up a tumor that is one centimeter today and you live five years or I pick it up four years later and you live one year, it?s the same thing.?
Even evaluating patients with suspicious CT results can be risky, more dangerous, say, than evaluating women with suspicious lumps on a mammogram, said Dr. David Johnson, deputy director of the cancer center at Vanderbilt University and a past president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
In Dr. Henschke?s study, doctors investigated more than 4,000 nodules in patients, finding about 400 early-stage cancers.
?This is not sticking a needle in a breast,? Dr. Johnson said. ?It is sticking a needle in the chest, where it can collapse a lung.? In some cases, that is followed by surgery to further evaluate a lump. ?How many people do we subject to needless evaluations?? Dr. Johnson asked.
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It is not even clear, some researchers said, whether the patients in Dr. Henschke?s study really would survive 10 years on average. The investigators used a statistical model to estimate how long patients would be expected to live after most had survived about three years.
Survival of Patients with Stage I Lung Cancer Detected on CT Screening (NEJM)?Ten years should be 10 years,? Dr. Fishman said. ?It?s being guesstimated out. Let?s look in 10 years and see what happens.?
More definitive answers about the value of CT testing may come in a few years when another study, by the National Cancer Institute, is over. It randomly assigned its nearly 55,000 participants, smokers or former smokers, to have annual CT scans or, for comparison, chest X-rays. Based on previous studies, many researchers consider chest X-rays largely ineffective for early diagnosis of the cancer, so it can serve as a placebo control in this study.
Another institute study is assessing chest X-rays by randomly assigning participants to have an annual X-rays or to have no screening.
In the meantime, cancer specialists say doctors and their patients must decide, on an individual basis, what to do. They could wait for the clinical trials to be completed, or they could decide to have scans now, while the data may not be ideal.
And the scans can be expensive. Dr. Howard Forman, a professor of diagnostic radiology at Yale, says that Yale charges $802.39 for the scan and the doctor?s interpretation.
And while many insurers do not pay for CT lung cancer screening tests, that may change, Dr. Forman said. He said he did not find this study to be convincing ? like others, he said he needed to see control group data. But Dr. Forman, who is on the Medical Policy and Technology Assessment Committee for Wellpoint, an insurance company, said it would be hard to deny paying for the test now that the data were in The New England Journal of Medicine.
?The New England Journal of Medicine is a de facto Good Housekeeping seal of approval,? Dr. Forman said.
?It is not proof that screening saves lives,? he said. But, he added, ?proof for a lot of medicine is not there.?
For now, said Dr. Robert Smith, director of cancer screening at the American Cancer Society, it may make sense for smokers or former smokers to have scans for early lung cancer detection.
Patients, Dr. Smith added, should discuss the test with their doctors first, going over potential benefits and potential dangers. And they should be careful to go to a center that has the expertise and experience to do the scans and any follow-up medical procedures properly.
But, he said, the new study adds to the information that CT scans might save lives.
?There is a lot of promise here,? he said. And so, he said, ?it is not at all unreasonable for individuals at high risk of lung cancer to seek testing on their own.?
Others, like Dr. Ned Patz, a professor of radiology, pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke University Medical Center, say they suspect that patients? desire for the tests may cool once they know of the risks.
?A lot of patients ask about it,? Dr. Patz said. ?We counsel them and tell them what the data are. Then they are not interested.?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: October 25, 2006, 10:40:41 PM
Although the website from which this piece comes is sometimes guilty IMHO of hyper-ventilating, here's this:
BRAVE NEW SCHOOLS
Georgetown gets $20 million from prince promoting Islam
Just months later, university ejects evangelical Christians from campus
Posted: October 25, 2006
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Bob Unruh
? 2006 WorldNetDaily.com
The Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University has been renamed after Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal donated $20 million to its projects. And while that may be just the tail, the dog appears to be moving away from its historic Catholic and Jesuit teaching philosophy too.
The Center's leaders say it now will be used to put on workshops regarding Islam, fostering exchanges with the Muslim world, addressing U.S. policy towards the Muslim world, working on the relationship of Islam and Arab culture, addressing Muslim citizenship and civil liberties, and developing exchange programs for students from the Muslim world.
The "Christian" part of the center's projects at the university that has a history of 200 years of higher education following its Christian founding, is conspicuous by its absence in its website plans for its 10-year future.
But that won't be a surprise to leaders of a number of Christian evangelical groups whose leaders recently were told to leave the campus and not list Georgetown University as a site for operations in the future.
That story, reported by WND earlier, still has folks wondering what happened to cause Georgetown officials to ban InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and others. InterVarsity spokesman Gordon Govier said the organization still doesn't know why the move was announced by university officials, who did not return WND messages left inquiring about the situation.
"We still are a little bit confused about what happened," he told WND. "We haven't been able to identify clearly what happened."
He said Christians in the InterVarsity organization still are meeting at Georgetown, but they have no official sanction and are meeting without recognition, much as many Christian churches in nations where religion is regulated meet.
He said there is a committee meeting that is supposed to hear concerns from Christians, and InterVarsity is hopeful there will be a positive outcome, but there's no time frame set.
But the time frame for other interests that have become relevant to Georgetown are a little more apparent. The school's Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding confirmed several months ago that the $20 million donation was made by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and a short time later the Center was given the added moniker as Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding.
The organization now features a number of pro-Muslim statements and articles, with little reference to any Christian statements or understandings. It even has co-sponsored events with CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
CAIR is a spin-off of the Islamic Association for Palestine, identified by two former FBI counterterrorism chiefs as a "front group" for the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. Several CAIR leaders have been convicted on terrorism-related charges.
The center's chief, John L. Esposito, summarizes the goals of the organization clearly: "The Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding is concerned with Islam and the West and Islam in the West. The Center, since its creation in 1993, has built bridges of understanding between the Muslim world and the West, addressing stereotypes of Islam and Muslims and issues and questions such as the clash of civilizations, and the compatibility of Islam and modern life ? from democratization and pluralism to the status of women, minorities and human rights ? and American foreign policy in the Muslim world."
The Center says it recognizes the increasing demands because of the world's "critical turning point in the history of Muslim-Christian relations" so it will expand its expertise base and operations, "as well as strengthen the website as a source of critical information about Islam and the Muslim world."
The Center's assistant director, Huma Malik, told WND that the $20 million came from the prince because the center is working on projects that interest him, but she could not comment on the influence of the donation or why the evangelical Christians were barred from campus.
The center was founded in 1993 in cooperation with the Fondation pour L'Entante entre Chretians at Musulmans in Geneva "to build strong bridge of understanding between the Muslim world and the West as well as between Islam and Christianity."
The message of acting as an information source for Islam was reinforced in the fact that while the Center's website includes a link for Islamic Resources, there is none for Christian resources.
It also takes a distinct policy stance, with Esposito noting in a recent posting that "despite 'HAMAS' victory in free and democratic elections, the United States and Europe failed to give the party full recognition and support," he wrote.
That type of behavior, he said, provides reasons for "many Muslim autocratic rulers' to retreat from democratization, and he cited a Gallup World Study that says it is the policies of the U.S. that generate hurt in the Muslim world.
"One billion Muslims from Morocco to Indonesia ? tell us that U.S. policies, not values, are behind the ire of the Arab/ Muslim world," he wrote.
Those voices, he wrote, say that while America and the United Kingdom are disliked, other Western nations such as France and Germany are not. He also wrote that the U.S. is suspected because of its relationship to Israel.
"The United States failed to support UN mediation in the face of clear violations of international law, refused to heed calls for a ceasefire and UN intervention, and continued to provide military assistance to Israel," he said of the recent conflict, triggered by a military attack on Israeli soldiers.
"America?s unconditional support of Israel cast it in the eyes of many as a partner, not simply in military action against HAMAS or Hizbollah militants, but in a war against the democratically elected Palestinian government in Gaza and the government of Lebanon, a long-time US ally," he said.
"The primary victims in Gaza and Lebanon were hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, not terrorists. In Lebanon, more than 500 were killed, 2,000 wounded, and 800,000 displaced. Israeli?s military destroyed the civilian infrastructures of both Gaza and Lebanon."
He said "HAMAS and Hizbollah" both are elected political parties, even though the U.S. and others have labeled them "terrorist organizations."
The Center, on a daily news clip posting, highlighted stories quoting a Mecca Imam saying non-Muslims are attacking Muslims out of fear of being over-run by Muslims and the London mayor noting that Muslims in Britain are being "demonized," comparing their recent treatment in London to the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany.
Faculty members also are being interviewed by al-Jazeera, a network with sources in many terrorist camps.
The prince, who controls tens of billions of dollars in investments in Morgan Stanley, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Deutsche Bank, Apple Computer, Hewlett-Packard, Kodak, The Walt Disney company and ebay, works through the Kingdom Holdings company.
He also had given a similar $20 million gift to Harvard, which sponsors a Harvard Law School Islamic Legal Studies Program, and the Islamic Finance Project, which looks at the legal and sharia points of view of situations, officials said.
The Alliance Defense Fund earlier wrote a letter to Georgetown asking for reconsideration of its ban on several Christian groups. Officials said no response was received.
Those in a position to know have reported that the Christian groups were booted from campus for being too evangelical, because student clubs promoting Muslim and Jewish beliefs were allowed to continue existing with the formal campus structure.
The Christian groups' brush-off letter from the university starts: "Blessings and may God's peace be upon you!" but deteriorates shortly later to: "Protestant Ministry has decided to move in another direction."
As a result, Georgetown said, "Your ministries will no longer be allowed to hold any activity or presence (i.e. bible (sic) studies, retreats with Georgetown students, Mid-week (sic) worship services, fellowship events, move-in assistance, SAC Fair, etc.) on campus."
Further, the school told the ministry organizations, "All websites linking your ministries to a presence at Georgetown University will need to be modified to reflect the terminated relationship. Your ministries are not to publicize in any literature, media, advertisement, etc. that Georgetown University is or will be an active ministry site for your ministry/church/denomination."
Kevin Offer, who worked with the InterVarsity program at Georgetown, said something had been developing, because the university also recently had started requiring student ministry leaders to meet for formal meetings with the school. "School officials asked questions about what they 'tell students behind closed doors,'" he said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct
on: October 25, 2006, 10:30:22 PM
A Monument to Correctness
A controversial memorial to the victims of 9/11 has become a campaign issue in next month's elections in Arizona. When the memorial was unveiled on Phoenix's Capitol Mall on the fifth anniversary of the attacks, its "moral equivalence" message sparked immediate protests.
Members of the committee that approved the memorial insist it honors those who died on 9/11 in an "even-handed" way. But critics say it's inappropriate that among the memorial's 54 inscriptions are such statements as "You don't win battles of terrorism with more battles." Other messages feature a discussion of an "erroneous U.S. air strike" and the "fear of foreigners" that is prevalent in America. Perhaps most controversial of all was the fact that the signature phrase uttered by passengers on United Flight 93 as they charged the pilots' cabin on 9/11 -- "Let's roll" -- was rejected as a possible inscription.
"As an American, I am disgusted by this memorial," says Mike Broomhead, whose brother was killed in a checkpoint shooting in Iraq. Tom Smith, a former state senator who chairs the Capitol Mall Commission, is calling for the memorial to be covered up until the committee that designed it can meet again to reconsider revising the most controversial inscriptions. Unfortunately, committee members, with the support of Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano, are refusing to reconvene or make any decision about the monument until after the November elections. Meanwhile, state legislators are being put on the spot by questions about where they stand on the memorial, and GOP gubernatorial candidate Len Munsil says he will tear down the monument if elected.
Some legislators privately admit the memorial's inscriptions are needlessly polemical. The northern Arizona town of Winslow had a better idea. Its 9/11 memorial is a twisted 20-foot steel beam that was pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center. It contains no inscriptions.
"That's how a 9/11 memorial should be," said Michael Herald, a Phoenix resident, whose brother was killed in the World Trade Center attack. "All we wanted was a stone in the ground."
WSJ's Opinion Journal Political Diary
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: October 25, 2006, 10:21:19 PM
One of FBI's 'Most Wanted Terrorists' confirmed dead
From Henry Schuster
(CNN) -- An al Qaeda operative wanted in connection with the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings was killed in April in Pakistan, American officials have confirmed.
Pakistani officials had said that Muhsin Musa Matwalli Atwah was killed in North Waziristan during an airstrike by Pakistani forces near the border with Afghanistan.
DNA testing confirmed the Pakistani government's claim, U.S. officials said, and Atwah's name was removed from the FBI's list of Most Wanted Terrorists.
Atwah, 42, was born in Egypt. He was indicted in connection with al Qaeda's suicide bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.
There was a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.
Atwah, who also went by the alias Abdel Rahman al-Muhajer, had been a member of al Qaeda since at least 1990 and provided explosives training in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan, according to his indictment.
The indictment also charged that Atwah had been part of an al Qaeda cell operating in Somalia in the early 1990s that provided training to Somali tribesmen who attacked U.S. forces in that country.
DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
on: October 25, 2006, 08:36:16 PM
Mexico's Cartel Wars: The Threat Beyond the U.S. Border
October 25, 2006 20 52 GMT
By Fred Burton
The U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security subcommittee recently issued a report on the increasing security risks along the U.S.-Mexican border. The report, which focuses on the Mexican drug cartels and the threat they pose to citizens and law enforcement on the U.S. side of the border, cites the cartels' use of military weapons and mercenaries with advanced military training, as well as their affinity for brutality and gratuitous violence.
Violence stemming from the drug cartels has existed for decades in many parts of Mexico. What is new is the fact that cartel violence is now spilling over onto the U.S. side of the border. However, although the House report -- by the Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Investigations -- focuses on the current risks in the border area, the threat posed by the cartels already is making its way farther north. If left unchecked, the fighting can eventually be expected to erupt more widely in nonborder areas, affecting unprepared law enforcement agencies and even civilians.
Much of the violence is a result of the ongoing struggle between the three main drug cartels -- Gulf, Tijuana and Sinaloa -- for control of lucrative narcotics- and human-smuggling routes stretching from Mexico into the United States. Although the Mexican government has made efforts to stem the bloodshed, two main factors have impeded any major progress in this area. First is internal police corruption. Beyond the police commanders and officers who gladly accept money in exchange for providing the cartels with protection are those who face the choice between "plata o plomo," -- "silver or lead" -- meaning take a bribe or take a bullet. Second is the fact that federal and local security services are way outgunned -- both in terms of the types of weapons used and the training level of the people using them.
President-elect Felipe Calderon has vowed to end corruption in Mexico, but his administration will face the same issues as did its predecessors, and there is no indication it will have any more success at stemming the escalating violence. Indeed, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City issued a statement Sept. 15 warning U.S. citizens of the rising level of "brutal violence in areas of Mexico," specifically the persistent violence along the U.S. border in Nuevo Laredo.
In one recent and particularly gruesome incident that illustrates the current level of violence in Mexico, a group of masked gunmen entered the Light and Shadow nightclub in Uruapan, Michoacan state, on Sept. 6, fired weapons into the air and then tossed five severed human heads onto the dance floor. Beheadings had already reached the U.S. border in June, when Mexican authorities recovered four beheaded bodies from a vacant lot in Tijuana, and then pulled the heads from the nearby Tijuana River. The victims were three local police officials and a civilian.
Mexican drug gangs, who used the beheadings tactic for the first time in April, are sending a clear message that they are willing to go to any lengths to get what they want -- and that anyone who gets in their way is doomed. This same message also has been delivered via a number of attacks using grenades and assault rifles in other parts of Mexico, including the U.S. border cities of Nuevo Laredo, Tijuana and Juarez.
Another example of the escalation in violence is the Sept. 22 firefight in an upscale neighborhood of Nuevo Laredo between enforcers for the Gulf cartel and the security forces of an assassination target (presumably from the Sinaloa cartel). The engagement, which raged on for some 40 minutes and involved anti-tank weapons, hand grenades and automatic weapons fire, reportedly resulted in the deaths of five Gulf cartel enforcers and five other people.
The Mexican government has tried various tactics throughout the years to stem the violence and corruption associated with cartels, including dispatching military troops to Nuevo Laredo and other border cities. In June 2005, a string of events in Nuevo Laredo -- including the killing of two police chiefs in the city, the second of which occurred only a few hours after he was sworn into office -- prompted the Mexican government to dispatch army troops and federal agents to the town. The army and federal agents detained all 700 officers of the Nuevo Laredo police force and temporarily assumed their duties until some semblance of order could be restored. Following interviews and drug tests, only 150 of the police officers retained their jobs; the rest were terminated or arrested. More recently, in March, the Mexican government assigned an additional 600 members of the Federal Preventative Police to Nuevo Laredo as part of another program to fight increased violence related to the drug trade. Such solutions, however, have failed to stem the corruption and violence. As evidenced by the major firefight Sept. 22, Nuevo Laredo remains a hotbed of cartel activity.
The Ongoing Cartel Wars
Because of its geographical position beneath the United States, Mexico long has been used as a staging and transshipment point for narcotics, illegal aliens and other contraband destined for U.S. markets from Mexico, South America and elsewhere. Turf battles have flared up as various criminal organizations have moved to take control of smuggling routes, or "plazas," that lead into the United States. Over time, the balance of power between the various cartels has shifted as new cartels emerge or older organizations weaken, shrink or collapse -- creating temporary power vacuums that competitors rush to fill. Vacuums sometimes are created by law enforcement successes against a particular cartel; indeed, cartels will often attempt to use law enforcement against each other, either by bribing Mexican officials to take action against a rival or by leaking intelligence about a rival's operations to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
These kinds of tensions and frictions often can lead to inter-cartel warfare. The February 2002 death of Tijuana cartel leader and chief enforcer Ramon Arellano Felix, who was killed in a shootout with police in Mazatlan, and the March 14, 2003, capture of Gulf cartel leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen in Matamoros sparked the current period of particularly brutal warfare among the three cartels, which aim to take territory from one another. This war is being waged not only for control of Mexico's incoming drug shipments, in cities such as Acapulco and Cancun, but also for control of the outgoing network, where border towns have been focal points for violence.
The New Enforcers
The likely reason for the most dramatic changes between the drug wars of the past and the current intra-cartel violence is the makeup of the enforcing teams and the weapons they use. Though the cartels historically did their own dirty work, they now have started subcontracting out the violence to enforcers who apparently know no boundaries when it comes to who, how or where they strike.
This escalation has an obvious root cause: Some cartel leaders (notably from the Tijuana cartel) use active or retired police against their enemies, which has forced the targeted cartels to find enforcers capable of countering this strength. As a result, the Gulf cartel hired Los Zetas, a group of elite anti-drug paratroopers and intelligence operatives who deserted their federal Special Air Mobile Force Group in 1991. The Sinaloa cartel, meanwhile, formed a similar armed force called Los Pelones, literally meaning "the baldies" but typically understood to mean "new soldiers" for the shaved heads normally sported by military recruits. Because of attrition, the cartels have recently begun to reach out to bring in fresh muscle to the fight. Los Zetas has expanded to include former police and even motivated civilians. The group also has formed relationships with former members of the Guatemalan special forces known as Kaibiles and with members of the brutal Mara Salvatrucha street gang.
Though cartel enforcers have almost always had ready access to military weapons such as assault rifles, Los Zetas, Los Pelones and the Kaibiles are comprised of highly trained special forces soldiers who are able to use these weapons with deadly effectiveness. Assault rifles in the hands of untrained thugs are dangerous, but if those same rifles are placed in the hands of highly trained special forces soldiers who can operate as a fire team, they can be overwhelmingly powerful -- not only to enemies and other intended targets but also to law enforcement officers who attempt to interfere with their operations.
In addition to powerful handguns and assault rifles (which are frequently smuggled into Mexico from the United States), Los Zetas and Los Pelones are also known to possess and employ rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and improvised explosive devices, and have used them in attacks in several parts of Mexico. Such weapons are not confined to the Mexican side of the border, though. On Feb. 3, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced that government agents operating in Laredo seized a large cache of weapons that included dynamite, grenades and materials for making improvised explosive devices. These weapons were associated with the drug cartels.
The various enforcer groups have targeted Mexican government officials protecting rival cartels, the leadership of the rival cartels and members of those cartels' enforcement arms. Some extremely brutal executions of members of Los Zetas and Los Pelones by their contemporaries have occurred, including not only beheading but also a tactic called "necklacing," in which a tire is placed around a victim's neck and set ablaze. (The tactic was made famous by the African National Congress in South Africa).
The drug cartels also conduct intimidation campaigns and reprisal attacks against noncriminal groups such as police, government security forces and journalists -- anyone who is seen as a threat to their business. Such attacks are quite significant, and gruesome executions are often the norm. That said, the crime gangs are not always precise in their targeting. At times, they have mowed down police on the streets with assault rifles or attacked police stations with grenades and other heavy weapons, causing considerable collateral damage.
In addition to their network of tactical operators, Los Zetas and Los Pelones also have provided the cartels with an advanced intelligence and surveillance capability. This network operates on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border and has been used to protect drug shipments from law enforcement interdiction and the forces of competing cartels. They also are accomplished at countersurveillance operations and at avoiding the countersurveillance activities of their rivals.
Law enforcement officers along the U.S. border have reported many encounters with armed smugglers who do not hesitate to shoot. In one encounter last summer, two deputy sheriffs in Hidalgo County, Texas, were attacked as they patrolled the north bank of the Rio Grande. They reported that their assailants fired 300 to 400 rounds from automatic weapons at them before withdrawing.
To date, the violence associated with this intra-cartel warfare has been much more severe in Mexico than on the U.S. side of the border. Although this trend will continue, violence can be expected to increase on the U.S. side as targeted criminals and others search for safe hiding places. Perhaps as a sign of problems to come, the Los Angeles Times reported Oct. 23 that cartel-related corruption has been "rising dramatically" on the U.S. side of the border. With corruption spreading north, it is only a matter of time before more violence follows -- particularly because the cartels are especially adept at parlaying their power to corrupt into opportunities to commit violence.
Traditionally, when violence has spiked, cartel figures have used U.S. cities such as Laredo and San Diego as rest and recreation spots, calculating that the umbrella of U.S. law enforcement would protect them from being targeted for assassination by their enemies. This is beginning to change, however, as the bolder Mexican cartel hit men carry out assassinations on the U.S. side of the border in places such as Laredo, Rio Bravo and even Dallas, where law enforcement contacts indicate Los Zetas members are believed to have assassinated at least three people.
This change will likely cause high-value cartel targets to move even deeper into the United States to avoid attack, though their enemies' brazen and sophisticated assassins will likely follow. Judging from their history in Mexico and along the border, these assassins will have no qualms about engaging law enforcement personnel who get in their way, or about causing collateral damage. Their intelligence network will be bolstered by their alliances with street gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha and Calle 18, which have affiliates in many large cities throughout the United States. These allies can either provide them with intelligence or, in some cases, be contracted to conduct assassinations.
Though the House report warns of the dangers to law enforcement and civilians on the border, the spread of this cartel violence beyond the border region could catch many law enforcement officers by surprise. Patrol officers conducting a traffic stop on a group of Los Zetas members who are preparing to conduct an assassination in, say, Los Angeles, Chicago or northern Virginia could quickly find themselves heavily outgunned and under fire. Additionally, because of their low regard for human life and disdain for innocent bystanders, any assassination attempts cartel members do manage to launch might be very messy and could result in collateral deaths of innocent people and responding law enforcement officers.
U.S. law enforcement officers along the border are aware of the problem of Mexican cartel violence and have made efforts to mitigate it, though they have found they cannot completely prevent it or root it out. This same reality will apply to the violence that will soon be seen farther inside the United States. The roots of this problem lie in Mexico, and the solution will also need to be found there.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: October 25, 2006, 08:21:57 PM
Iraq: A Sunni Shift Against the Jihad
Sunni nationalists in Iraq who recently expressed an interest in negotiating a settlement with the United States want Washington to eject transnational Islamist militants from their midst. Though mainstream Sunni elements have been exploiting jihadist activity for years, they now face a threat from the jihadists, who could try to fill a leadership vacuum as crucial negotiations with the Shia and the Kurds approach and as pressure intensifies for the Bush administration to pull troops out of Iraq. The Sunni shift against the jihadists might seem like a positive development, but given the sectarian and political complexities in the country, such a move will only lead to more violence and instability.
Iraq's largest Sunni nationalist insurgent group, the Islamic Army of Iraq, as well as Baathists, tribal leaders and other mainstream Sunnis have recently expressed an interest in negotiating a settlement with the United States. One of their key conditions is that U.S. forces must rid central Iraq of transnational jihadists.
Stratfor recently discussed how al Qaeda's ability to penetrate Sunni areas of Iraq by forging alliances with like-minded Iraqi militant groups and tribal elders would elicit a strong reaction from mainstream Sunnis. That the Sunnis now want the United States to annihilate the jihadists shows that the anti-jihadist trend is gaining momentum. Not only do the Sunnis now feel threatened by the jihadists, but they also realize that the Bush administration is under intense pressure on the home front to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq, and that negotiations with the Shia and Kurds are reaching a key impasse.
The jihadists, already marginally useful to the Sunnis, are quickly becoming even less useful -- the latter simply does not want to share power with the former. But desiring something is one thing and actually attaining it is another. The Sunnis allowed the jihadists to operate within their midst for more than three years, which has allowed jihadists to make significant inroads in the Sunni community. Not wanting the blood of fellow Sunnis -- albeit foreigners and extremists -- on their hands, Sunni nationalists now demand that U.S. forces take the jihadists out.
Washington, the Shia and the Kurds have long waited for such a turnover, but they will not agree to the deal without exacting a price from the Sunnis -- in the form of political concessions on other issues such as federalism and the sharing of oil revenues. In return for their cooperation, the Sunnis expect security guarantees from the Shia, and these do not seem likely any time soon considering the complications involving U.S.-Iran dealings and the intra-Shiite struggle over the issue of disbanding the militias.
Regardless of how things work out in terms of a jihadist purge, one thing is clear: The country is on the cusp of yet another violent struggle.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: October 24, 2006, 05:53:27 PM
AFGHANISTAN: Taliban fighters are planning attacks on civilians in Europe in retaliation for the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan by a U.S.-led coalition, Taliban commander Mullah Amin said Oct. 23 on Sky television, Pakistani newspaper The News reported. Amin added that ordinary people in Europe are acceptable targets because they voted for their governments. He also said tactics used by Iraqi insurgents, such as suicide bombers, land mines and remote-detonated bombs, inspired the Taliban.www.stratfor.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Open Letter to Muslims, Liberals, Democrats, et al
on: October 24, 2006, 12:30:47 PM
I want to make it clear that this forum is open to a very wide range of views. At the moment, the posts are overwhelmingly of a certain tendency, but please do not be discouraged. We seek Truth, not to have a bunch of echoes. So please read the Rules of the Road thread and come to play.
The Adventure continues,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Muslim for Democracy; American Muslim soldiers give all
on: October 24, 2006, 12:26:42 PM
New Muslim leader wants Mideast democracyhttp://ads.thestar.com/image.ng/site...esc=w
indowadBy Jon Wells
The Hamilton Spectator
(May 1, 2006) The new president of the Muslim Association of Hamilton is showing that he's not afraid to wade in on controversial topics.
In an interview with The Spectator yesterday, Ejaz Butt indicated he supports replacing dictatorships with democratic regimes in the Middle East.
"If (U.S. President George W. Bush) really went into Iraq to bring democracy, I would like him to go into other countries, too, if that is the real intention," he said. "Dictators are in most of our countries, and democracy should be brought to every Muslim country, and as a matter of fact the whole world."
When asked for his views on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Butt supports Israel's right to exist as a sovereign country.
"I have a lot of respect for the Israelis, and they have a right to defend their own country. But I also want to have an independent state of Palestine -- a democratic one."
Butt was acclaimed yesterday by the association as its new president. The challenges are considerable for the association in the post 9/11 world.
"I'm an ex-military man, I can face any challenge," said Butt with a chuckle.
"I'm ready for it."
Prior to coming to Canada in 1987, Butt was a soldier in the Pakistani army for 12 years. There, as a major, he worked for a time with a lieutenant named Pervez Musharraf -- now president of Pakistan.
Javid Mirza recently stepped down as association president. Butt plans to carry on Mirza's legacy of trying to build better relations and understanding between religious faiths in the community.
He is also determined to have the first traditionally designed mosque built in the city. The mosque where he was to be acclaimed was once a racquet club.
Butt, 53, is married and has two sons -- Atis is a soldier in the Canadian army and Asim is a Hamilton police officer. He said if Atis is called on to serve with Canadian troops in Afghanistan, he will support it.
"That's why you put the uniform on, you do not disobey orders when the crucial time comes. But Afghanistan is a very dangerous place, it's a very difficult mission ... When I hear of a Canadian soldier's death, they are like my own children, it brings tears."
(This Muslim American did not harbor any mental reservations about defending America and its Constitution from all enemies, domestic and foreign)
Army Pfc. Angelo Zawaydeh, 19, San Bruno; Killed in Iraq
From the Associated Press
April 23, 2006
When Angelo Zawaydeh of San Bruno, Calif., first told his parents that he wanted to join the military, they refused.
Not only were they worried about the dangers of their teenage son going to war, but they also had concerns about Zawaydeh, whose father is Jordanian, participating in a Middle Eastern war.
When Zawaydeh first brought up the idea to his parents when he was 16, the answer was simple, said his mother, April Bradreau. But two years later, he made his own decision. When he joined the Army, she said, "we asked, 'Why didn't you go to college?' And he said, 'I can't sit in the classroom anymore. I need to get up and do something.' "
Zawaydeh, 19, was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry, 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Ft. Campbell, Ky., and sent to Iraq in September.
On March 15, the private first class was manning a machine gun atop a tank at a Baghdad traffic control point when he was killed by a mortar shell that struck him in the neck.
Kevin Campos said his best friend, a graduate of Terra Nova High School in Pacifica, Calif., and others had vowed to enlist after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "We decided that America was worth fighting for," Campos said. "We thought if we're going to live in this country and raise our families here, we had to do something before we started our lives."
But Bradreau, who with her husband, Akram Zawaydeh, received the news of their son's death on the eve of their 21st wedding anniversary, said her son had grown disillusioned with the war over time. "He thought we could let them [the Iraqis] fight their own battles from now on over there," she said.
Bradreau remembered her son as a respectful young man who always was willing to lend a helping hand.
"He died like he lived," she said. "He gave his life for others."
(Another Muslim American who harbored no mental reservations)
Serving Was Soldier's Mission
Sudan Native Killed in Iraq Did 'Good Deeds'
By Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 4, 2006; A13
Ayman Taha, a Berkeley graduate who was described as athletic, a speaker of many languages, and a friend to all who met him, had only to write his dissertation to earn his PhD, his father said.
But three years ago, Taha, a budding economist and the son of a Northern Virginia couple, Abdel-Rahman and Amal Taha, joined the Army to serve in the Special Forces. About a year ago, he was sent to Iraq.
On Friday, as Staff Sgt. Ayman Taha, 31, was preparing a cache of munitions for demolition in the town of Balad, the explosives detonated and he was killed, the Pentagon said yesterday.
It is "a very terrible thing," Abdel-Rahman Taha said. "He was a son, and a very special son."
The father added: "If you believe in God and you realize that this is God's will . . . it makes it a lot easier."
There is also consolation, the father said, in feeling that "this is something Ayman wanted to do."
A family friend, Nada Eissa, agreed. "No, he didn't have to do it," she said. "This is something he wanted to do."
Ayman Taha was born in Sudan, into an academically accomplished international family. Both parents hold doctorates. When his father worked for the World Bank, Ayman attended elementary school in McLean. He went to secondary school in England, then received a bachelor's degree from the University of California at Berkeley and a master's in economics from the University of Massachusetts, where he was working toward a PhD.
"He lived in many cultures," his father said, and spoke English, Arabic, Spanish and Portuguese. More important, his father said, were his personality and character.
"If he has a five-minute conversation with you, that would be the beginning of a lifetime relationship," the father said. "I never heard anybody who ever complained that Ayman did something wrong to him.
"He was just that type of character," the father said.
About three years ago, Ayman Taha told his father, "Dad, I have been going to school since I was 5 years old. I want to take a break."
The father said he suggested that his son "try something in the World Bank . . . or Merrill Lynch." But one day, "out of the blue," his son told him that he had signed the papers that would take him into the Special Forces.
He said his son was "definitely" patriotic and believed "in the mission."
"He strongly agreed that what they were doing is good and that they were helping people in the Middle East to get out of the . . . historic bottleneck" that had confined them.
Since boyhood, those who knew him recalled, Ayman Taha had taken an interest in military matters, which showed itself in the books he read and the toys he played with.
Joining the Special Forces was "something he felt compelled to do," said a friend, Hisham Eissa, who lives in Los Angeles and is Nada Eissa's brother.
In economics, Taha's interest was in development. "He felt very strongly about making a difference," and "I think he felt that people like him" were needed for it, Eissa said.
"Everyone whose life he touched loved this guy," Hisham Eissa said. "There isn't a single person who knew him who isn't torn up about this."
The Pentagon said Taha was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, based at Fort Campbell, Ky.
His wife, Geraldine, and child Sommer live near the base. One sister, Rabah, is a special education teacher in Fairfax County, and another, Lubna, attends Marymount University.
His father said Taha was a devout Muslim who believed that "the message of Islam is very simple . . . to believe in God and do good deeds."
"He believed that what he was doing were the good deeds Islam is asking for."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: October 24, 2006, 12:21:41 PM
Cancer in its midst'
By M. Zuhdi Jasser
March 30, 2006
During the dark days of our Revolution, Thomas Paine wrote, "That these are the times, that try men's souls." As an American Muslim, I feel the sentiment of these words like a red-hot brand on my brain.
? ?I have watched horrified as assassins have read out the words from my Holy Koran before slitting the throats of some poor innocent souls. To my non-comprehending eyes, I have seen mothers proudly support their sons' accomplishment of blowing up innocent people as they eat or travel. It shatters some part of me, to see my faith as an instrument for butchery.
? ?It makes me hope and pray for some counter-movement within my faith which will push back all this darkness. And I know that it must start with what is most basic -- the common truth that binds all religions: "Do unto others, as you would have them do onto you." The Golden Rule.
? ?But that is not what I am seeing taught in a great deal of the Muslim world today, and, unfortunately, in America it's just not much better.
? ?Night after night, I see Muslim national organizations like the Council for American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, cry out over and over about anecdotal victimization while saying and doing absolutely nothing about the most vile hate-speak and actions toward Jews and Christians in the Muslim world. It is the most self-serving of outrage.
? ?The question I ask myself in the darkness of my own night is, "How did my beautiful faith become so linked with such ugliness." To me, the answer is both deep and simple. A spiritual path must be only about the spiritual while a worldly path must be about this world. When the two get mixed together, it brings out the very worst in both.
? ?Much of what passes today for religious thought and action is actually political. When I hear a sermon in a mosque about the horrors of Israeli occupation, I know that the political arena has taken over the spiritual one. When I see the actions of suicide bombers praised or excused by religious leaders, I know that this politicization is complete. But the current Muslim leadership in groups like CAIR and others want only to talk of victimization. So, it is now high time for a new movement by Muslims in America and the West.
? ?We in the Muslim community need to develop a new paradigm for our organizations and think tanks which holds Muslims publicly accountable for the separation of the political from the spiritual. Gone should be the day where individuals and their organizations can hide behind the cloak of victimization as a smoke screen for what they really believe.
? ?I do believe that religions have cycles that they go through. Christianity was once a highly intolerant faith. Jews were labeled as "Christ killers" and the colored peoples of the Third World were people whose native faith was like ragged clothes to be torn off their bodies.
? ?Thank God those days are over. Now my faith community must do the same. It should be the true test of a Muslim, not so much how he treats a fellow Muslim but how he treats someone of another faith.
? ?Time is not on our side and the volatile radical minority of Muslims could strike again at any time. But, while true change among Muslims may take generations, our history teaches us that once we start the ideological battle, nothing can counter the power of freedom, pluralism and the desire for human rights.
? ?There are some small signs that my community is finally beginning to wake up to the cancer in its midst. We are learning something that was the central lesson of World War II -- that once aroused, evil never stays self-contained.
? ?For many in my faith, it was all right to blow up innocent Israelis as they sat in their cafes and pizza parlors. Through some tortured act of logic, these suicide bombings were seen as some sort of legitimate religion-sanctioned acts. (All the while, notice how few Muslim organizations like CAIR will denounce Hamas by name). But, as evil always does, it migrates, and soon radical Muslims were blowing up little children in Russia, commuters in Spain and worshippers in one of Iraq's holiest mosques.
? ?Maybe our first true wake-up call was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's homicide attack on the wedding party in Jordan. Because now, the evil unleashed on the occupying Jews had landed on the doorstep of Muslims as they partook in a joyous wedding day.
? ?That is the lesson that we in the Muslim community are now learning. Do evil to anyone and eventually it will boomerang on you. Perhaps, that's a good place to start. Let the barometer of our faith be how we treat our Jewish friends, because in the end, that is how we will eventually treat ourselves.
? ?M. Zuhdi Jasser is chairman of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy. A former Navy lieutenant commander, he currently is an internist in private practice in Phoenix. http://www.aifdemocracy.org/
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion
on: October 24, 2006, 12:17:41 PM
I think the following piece from the highly respected British magazine ?The Economist? gets the big picture right.
May 29, 2005
'No god but God': The War Within Islam
By MAX RODENBECK
THESE are rough times for Islam. It is not simply that frictions have intensified lately between Muslims and followers of other faiths. There is trouble, and perhaps even greater trouble, brewing inside the Abode of Peace itself, the notional Islamic ummah or nation that comprises a fifth of humanity.
News reports reveal glimpses of such trouble -- for instance, in the form of flaring strife between Sunni and Shiite Muslims in places like Iraq and Pakistan. Yet the greater tensions, while similarly rooted in the distant past, are less visible to the wider world. The rapid expansion of literacy among Muslims in the past half-century, and of access to new means of communication in the last decade, have created a tremendous momentum for change. Furious debates rage on the Internet, for example, about issues like the true meaning of jihad, or how to interpret and apply Islamic law, or how Muslim minorities should engage with the societies they live in.
What is unfolding, Reza Aslan argues in his wise and passionate book, ''No god but God,'' is nothing less than a struggle over who will ultimately define the sweeping ''Islamic Reformation'' that he believes is already well under way across much of the Muslim world. The West, he says, is ''merely a bystander -- an unwary yet complicit casualty of a rivalry that is raging in Islam over who will write the next chapter in its story.''
Amid the surge of Western interest in Islam since 9/11, other quiet voices have argued similarly that the historical process we are witnessing is less a clash of civilizations than a working out of suppressed internal conflicts. Aslan's contribution to this line of thought is threefold. He traces the dogmatic splits in Islam to their historical origins. He provides a speculative but well-reasoned look at how Muslim beliefs are likely to evolve. And he does all this beautifully, in a book that manages to be both an incisive, scholarly primer in Muslim history and an engaging personal exploration.
Aslan does not shy from controversy. Conservative Muslims will certainly challenge some of his bold assertions -- among them, that there is scant support in authentic Islamic tradition for the veiling of women; that laws are created by people, not God; and that, as he puts it, ''the notion that historical context should play no role in the interpretation of the Koran -- that what applied to Muhammad's community applies to all Muslim communities for all time -- is simply an untenable position in every sense.''
Yet even the most hidebound traditionalists would find it hard to refute the main thrust of his argument, which is that the original message of Islam, egalitarian, inclusive, progressive and liberating, has been twisted and diminished over time. Aslan is at his best in trying to explain and recapture what was initially inspiring about Islam and what remains powerful -- things that can be hard for outsiders to see these days because of what some do in the name of their faith.
By carefully drawing in the social and political setting from which Islam emerged, Aslan presents a persuasive case for viewing the religion as very much a product of its age. He notes the appearance in the region of Mecca, during the prophet's youth, of religious fashions like iconoclasm and the fusing of faiths into one embracing doctrine, ideas that were to become central to Muhammad's message. Not just outsiders but Muslims themselves need reminding that during Islam's first centuries, the Torah was often read alongside the Koran. Both Muslims and their detractors also often forget that the Koran calls specifically on Jews, Christians and Muslims to ''come to an agreement on the things we hold in common.''
Aslan's wish to emphasize the tolerant, merciful side of Islam can lead to pitfalls. It is not particularly comforting to learn that when the prophet triumphantly returned to Mecca, the city of his birth that had rejected him, there were no forced conversions and ''only'' six men and four women were put to the sword. The killing and enslavement of Jewish tribes at Medina receives a similarly light gloss, although Aslan may be right to point out that their ''Jewishness'' may have been rather vaguely defined.
Whatever the case, he is clearly correct in stating that the more damaging influences on the faith were yet to come. Over the 14 centuries that followed Muhammad's 22 years of revelation, Muslim kings and scholars distorted its tenets to serve their own narrow interests, and then cast these accretions in stone. Not only were the words of the Koran reinterpreted, but so were the hundreds of thousands of traditions and sayings collected by the prophet's contemporaries. As one example, Muhammad's comment that the ''feebleminded'' should not inherit was taken by some to mean that women should be excluded from inheritance, despite the clear Koranic injunction to grant women half the portion of male inheritors.
Immediately after Islam's glorious early years of expansion, a great intellectual clash pitted rigid literalists against more rationalist interpreters. That the rationalists essentially lost is a subject of lament for Muslim modernists, particularly Western-educated intellectuals like Aslan, an Iranian-American scholar of comparative religion. His arguments for reintroducing rationalism, for accepting the utility of secularization and for contextualizing the historical understanding of the faith all put him in distinguished company among contemporary Muslims.
The Syrian reformist Muhammad Shahrour, for instance, proposes an elegant solution to the question of how to apply the controversial corporal punishments specified by most understandings of Islamic law, or Shariah. Instead of taking what some see as God's rules literally, he suggests that things like hand-chopping should be viewed as the maximum possible penalty. Anything more severe would contravene Islam, but it would be up to a secular, elected legislature to determine what lesser level of severity to apply.
Sadly, the dominant voices in Islam are still those that see the faith not simply as a path of moral guidance but as a rigidly prescriptive and exclusive rule book. Ferment is certainly in the air. If the Osama bin Ladens of the world have achieved one thing, it is to force Muslims to confront some of their demons. Even archconservative Saudi Arabia is slowly evolving. In April, its top religious authority declared that forcing a woman to marry against her will was an imprisonable offense. A full-blown ''reformation'' in the heartlands of Islam, however, is still a long way off.
Max Rodenbeck is the Middle East correspondent for The Economist.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran
on: October 24, 2006, 07:54:25 AM
U.N. Official Says Iran Is Testing New Enrichment Device
By DAVID E. SANGER
Published: October 24, 2006
WASHINGTON, Oct. 23 ? The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday that Iran had begun testing new uranium enrichment equipment that could double the capacity of its small research-and-development facilities.
The action appears to be a signal to the United Nations Security Council that Iran would respond to sanctions by speeding ahead with its nuclear program.
Since February, when Iran publicly celebrated its first production of enriched uranium, progress at its main nuclear complex at Natanz has reportedly been slow. Iran has sporadically operated a single ?cascade? of 164 centrifuges, the devices that spin at high speed and turn ordinary uranium into a fuel usable for nuclear power plants ? or, at higher enrichment levels, nuclear weapons.
Those reports had prompted speculation that Iranian engineers had run into considerable technical difficulties.
But in an interview on Monday, Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the I.A.E.A., said that ?based on our most recent inspections, the second centrifuge cascade is in place and ready to go.? He said that no uranium had yet been entered into the new system, but could be as early as next week.
Even with two cascades running, it would take Iran years to enrich enough uranium to produce a single nuclear weapon.
The United States director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte, has said repeatedly that he believes Tehran is 4 to 10 years away from developing a weapon, even though its technology base is far more advanced than that of North Korea, which conducted a nuclear test 15 days ago.
Unlike North Korea, Iran has insisted that it does not intend to build a weapon. Nonetheless, Iran ignored an Aug. 31 deadline, set by the Security Council, to stop enriching uranium.
Since then, European nations, China, Russia and the United States have been debating what sanctions, if any, should be imposed. China and Russia have resisted, and in a speech on Monday at Georgetown University?s School of Foreign Service, Dr. ElBaradei made clear that he believes sanctions are unlikely to work.
?Penalizing them is not a solution,? he said. ?At the end of the day, we have to bite the bullet and talk to North Korea and Iran.?
Unlike American officials, he says that he remains unpersuaded that Iran?s ultimate goal is to build a weapon, though I.A.E.A. officials say they believe that Iran wants to have all of the major components of a weapon in hand so that it is clear that it could build one in weeks or months.
?The jury is still out on whether they are developing a nuclear weapon,? Dr. ElBaradei said at Georgetown, after meeting earlier in the day with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
After the meeting, Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said there was now ?widespread agreement, although not total agreement,? on elements of an initial sanctions package. He did not speculate about when the sanctions might come to a vote; at the end of the summer, administration officials insisted that the Security Council would act in September.
Mr. McCormack said the Iranians seemed to be moving ahead ?inexorably at this point,? so that at some point ?you will have industrial-scale production.?
?You don?t want that,? he said.
Some European diplomats have expressed concern that, should the Security Council act, the moderates in the Iranian government who have been involved in negotiations over the nuclear program could be shoved aside, and that some combination of military leaders and hard-line mullahs would push the country to speed its nuclear production.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: October 24, 2006, 07:46:44 AM
CAIR is often a go-to "moderate Muslim" group for MSM pieces, but there are substantial questions about the sincerity of the group or whether it is a taqiya (sp?) front for nefarious groups. Here is a piece from a group which strongly believes CAIR to be a front for nefarious elements:
In Defense of the Constitution
News & Analysis
042/06 October 23, 2006
CAIR'S Bedier: Doing The "Transparency" Bob And Weave
Replying to a recent viewer comment in the YouTube comments section of a video post on the Pope from Ahmed Bedier, CAIR's Florida communications director, Mr. Bedier stated that CAIR is "as transparent as you get, my friend".
Well, not really. It seems to us that whenever a CAIR officer is confronted with a direct question about CAIR, the officer will go out of his (or her) way to dodge the question, or throw it back on the questioner.
(This is anything but "transparent", Mr. Bedier.)
For example, CAIR sued Anti-CAIR's director, Andrew Whitehead, for defamation. But when it came time for CAIR to be "transparent," it cut and ran. The CAIR vs Anti-CAIR court documents show CAIR was afraid to answer questions regarding:
- CAIR's financial ties to the terrorist-financing groups Holy Land Foundation, Global Relief Foundation, and Hamas. (Fearful of admitting in court CAIR's support for these terror groups, they refused to be "transparent" regarding these relationships).
- CAIR's relationship to the Islamic Association of Palestine [former employers of Awad, Ahmad, and Hooper]. The IAP was found civilly liable for murder. Also refused were questions of CAIR's relationship with InfoCom, which was run by convicted CAIR board member Ghassan Elashi.
- CAIR's connections to individuals associated with Saudi Arabia. [Now what could CAIR possibly have to hide here? Mr. Bedier, care to answer?]
- CAIR's connections to terrorist Musa Marzook of Hamas. [We'd love to hear CAIR's explanation on this one.but, once again, only silence from the CAIR troika.]
- CAIR's financial relationship with an identified Saudi prince known for financing Islamic Fundamentalism and supporting terror.
- CAIR's financial relationship with a known Saudi Islamic fundamentalist group that was formed and operating for the purpose of converting non-believers, by whatever means necessary, and who agreed to underwrite CAIR's activities in the United States.
- CAIR's "key personnel" who were identified by FBI surveillance in a meeting with Hamas leadership right here in the USA. [Now why would CAIR officials want to meet with Hamas?]
- CAIR's position regarding Israel's right to exist as a nation.
- CAIR's position regarding the Hamas Charter, [of which CAIR's officers translated into English while working for the Islamic Association for Palestine, a terror front group].
CAIR would not even admit that Hamas was responsible for the murder of innocent civilians.
If CAIR's is so transparent, as Mr. Bedier insists, then why all the bobbing and weaving with discovery requests regarding CAIR'Ss history, ideology, and financial ties?
It is because CAIR is quite transparent, as Anti-CAIR'S has always insisted:
"Let there be no doubt that the Council on American-Islamic Relations is a terrorist supporting front organization that is partially funded by terrorists, and that CAIR wishes nothing more than the implementation of Sharia law in America."
Care to put up, or would you prefer to shut up, Mr. Bedier?
Below is a comment exchange from Ahmed Bediers' YouTube space: http://www.youtube.com/comment_servlet?all_comments&v=_aBiPuUwPHs&fromurl=/watch%3Fv%3D_aBiPuUwPHs
bassizzzt42 (1 day ago)
Islam is NOT a religion. It is a political ideology based on lies, intolerance, and hate. Look at how Muslim women are treated - like sub-humans. Islamofascism is alive and well and living in America. Do you know that several CAIR employees have been arrested for terrorism and are doing time in prison? Do not trust Bedier nor CAIR; they are professional liars. CAIR's goal is the eradication of the Constitution of the United States and they wish to establish an Islamic theocracy.
bedier (1 day ago)
Oh yeah, and you want us to trust a screen name bassizzzt42 real reliable source there. We're as transparent as you get my friend, but people like you only hide behind screen names.
(Note: Bedier deleted the above exchange, and several others, on 10/19/06 around 7:30 pm EST - Anti-CAIR wonders why? Could it be that he realized what a fool he was making of himself and his masters at CAIR?)
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DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA
on: October 23, 2006, 08:16:05 PM
Any comments on Pride?
I have not seen it yet, but Hot Dog tells me Erik Paulsen was in Josh Barnett's corner and that Rigan Machado was in Vitor Belfort's corner.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries:
on: October 22, 2006, 01:24:28 PM
A very nice piece , , ,
THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ: A VOLUNTEER GROUP AND U.S. CASUALTIES
The selfless and the dead
An Iraqi burial society pays its respects to unclaimed war victims.
By Raheem Salman and Doug Smith, LA Times Staff Writers
October 22, 2006
Twice a week, the large delivery truck from Baghdad rolls into the vast cemetery in this holy Shiite Muslim city. A bus follows, bearing wooden caskets on its roof. Half a mile beyond the cemetery gates, at the edge of the desert, the passengers get out of the bus and set to work unloading the truck's grim cargo. On an average trip, there will be 70 to 100 bodies, victims of the sectarian bloodletting that has gripped Iraq.
The men belong to a word-of-mouth burial society for the unclaimed dead, formed during the 1980s war with Iran, starting small and growing with the need. Today, about 500 men ? laborers, professionals, clerics and tribal leaders ? are members of the legation of the dead in this country where deep piety and terrible brutality have repeatedly intertwined.
The society has no name and no officers. It adheres to no religious sect or political agenda. Thirty to 60 men make each trip. Some go every time; those who have to take time off from work may go only once every few weeks. They pay their own expenses and have rejected government compensation.
"We told them that if there will be money for this work we withdraw, as an act cannot be evaluated with money," said taxi driver Hashim Saadi, 53. "We want the blessing of God only."
Many who belong were drawn to it by their own experiences.
"When I look at them, I feel deeply sad," Saadi said. "Each one of them I see as my son, who was kidnapped five months ago. He was in his last year in the college of economy and administration at Baghdad University. I expect to see his body any time with any group we are bringing."
Mohammed Sabbar, an official with the Iraq Board of Tourism, said he joined the society after his brother disappeared about a year ago and later turned up in the morgue. The family suffered for weeks not knowing his fate.
"I did not go to my work today, preferring to join this act, which is filled with human feelings," Sabbar said. "We feel sad for them. Sometimes I weep. Repeatedly doing this has elicited a sort of acceptance of the sight, but feelings of sadness are still there."
The depth of his commitment is astonishing.
Each two-day trip begins at 4 a.m. after morning prayers. Sabbar walks three-quarters of a mile from the Ur neighborhood of Baghdad to a mosque in Sadr City, where several of the men converge. At the mosque, they pick up two or three caskets, which they tie to the roof of the bus. The bus drives to the Baghdad morgue, an impersonal building of yellow brick, where other men arrive in their cars. They load the truck with bodies that have been unclaimed for two weeks ? at that point, the morgue has to clear them out to make room new ones. Leaving Baghdad at 7 a.m., they must traverse Latifiya, an insurgent stronghold and one of the most dangerous places in Iraq. Kidnappings, shootings and roadside bomb attacks occur there almost daily.
The caskets on the bus could be a liability in the Sunni Arab city, giving the impression that the men are Shiites on the road to Najaf. But they also ensure speedier passage through the many checkpoints on the 110-mile highway. Mourning parties are less likely to be stopped for identity checks.
About noon, the bus arrives at the cemetery. The men say their midday prayers before they unload the bodies on stretchers into the desert heat, loudly chanting, "There is no God but God, and Muhammad is the prophet of God." They remove the bodies from black nylon sacks. To each they attach a tag bearing all that is known about the deceased.
Some are headless, some bloated and purple. If the body is too decomposed to wash, the men perform what is called the tayamum, rubbing the face and hands with clean sand, in accordance with Islamic tradition.
They return the body to a sack sprinkled with camphor and pungent leaves. Then they wrap the body with a white cloth. They lower bodies into double graves according to their morgue numbers, odd on one side, even on the other. The graves are marked with flat stones that say "Unclaimed."
"When I look at any one of these victims, we feel that he is my brother or father," said Abu Muntadhar, 44, who receives a government salary to drive one of the delivery trucks but has volunteered for this job. "We cry as if they are our relatives. I imagine how their wives will behave if they see them, or their children."
Caring for the unclaimed began as a charity supported by wealthy residents of Baghdad to provide proper burials for the indigent, said Sheik Mehdi Abdul Zahara, one of about 100 burial brokers who work out of tiny offices at the cemetery. Paid by families of the dead, they acquire plots, hire gravediggers and maintain monuments.
The numbers of dead have grown with each traumatic turn in Iraq's course.
During Saddam Hussein's brutal repression after the failed 1991 Shiite uprising, 30 to 40 bodies arrived each month. After the overthrow of Hussein, the number jumped to 30 a week and kept climbing. Now a truck carrying 70 to 100 bodies comes twice a week, and a separate truck carries as many to Karbala, another holy city. Traditionally, charitable donations paid for burials of the unclaimed. With the increasing numbers, the Health Ministry recently took over. Zahara and his gravediggers do the work for reduced pay. Bodies go unclaimed mostly because the morgue can't identify them. Relatives may check with police and hospitals or wait for a ransom note, hoping for any information that their loved one is alive. Even when family members go to the morgue, the deteriorated condition of some bodies may give them reason to delay positive identification in the hope that it is someone else.
Zahara does a little detective work of his own, hoping to relieve families of the pain of not knowing. Once, he received a beheaded man and found an address book in his shoe. He telephoned someone who turned out to be a brother.
"He was afraid, thinking that I was a terrorist or a kidnapper," Zahara said.
The brother called back several times before deciding to trust Zahara. The sibling came at night, accompanied by three carloads of family and friends, who were there to provide support, but also protection in the event of a trap.
"They were too sad for the killing of their son, but at least this put an end to their suffering and searching," Zahara said.
The unofficial leader of the group, Sheik Jamal Soodani, has been going on the burial trips since their outset. He is responsible for the roster of volunteers and attends every journey. Although he has been accused of having political or sectarian motives, he and other members of the group have no aim but getting closer to God, Soodani said.
"We bury the Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Muslim and non-Iraqi," he said. "We deal with the human being as a human being, regardless of considerations like color and religion."
At the end of each day's work, the men are tired and it is too late to return to Baghdad. They retire instead to a rented two-room house at the edge of the cemetery. They sleep on mattresses spread across the floor like gravestones. Others sleep on the porch outside ? they prefer the fresh air.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: October 22, 2006, 07:16:15 AM
Page 9 of 10)
One afternoon, in the midst of a monsoon, I sought out one of the founders of the pro-jihadi strategy, the retired general Mirza Aslam Beg. He lived in Rawalpindi, the military capital half an hour from Islamabad, in a brick and tile-roofed mansion with a basketball hoop, flowing greenery and Judy, his one-eyed cocker spaniel. The house was immaculate, with marble floors, rugs, fine china and porcelain on display behind glass and an amusing portrait of Aslam Beg as a young, Ray-Banned, pommaded officer. His mansion sits across the street from Musharraf?s.
Aslam Beg played a leading role in the military?s creation of ?asymmetrical assets,? jargon for the jihadis who have long been used by the military as proxies in Kashmir and Afghanistan. He was chief of the army staff from 1988 to 1991, while the Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan was selling the country?s nuclear technology to Iran, Libya and North Korea. Beg held talks with the Iranians about exchanging Iranian oil for Pakistani nuclear skill.
Aslam Beg likes to remind visitors that he was one of a group of army officers trained by the C.I.A. in the 1950?s as a ?stay-behind organization? that would melt into the population if ever the Soviet Union overran Pakistan. Those brigadiers and lieutenant colonels then trained and directed the Afghan jihadis.
In the 1980?s, ?the C.I.A. set up the largest support and administrative bases in Mohmand agency, Waziristan and Baluchistan,? Aslam Beg told me. ?These were the logistics bases for eight long years, and you can imagine the relations that developed. And then Chechens, Uzbeks, Tajiks, Saudis developed family relations with the local people.? The Taliban, he said, fell back after 2001 to these baselines. ?In 2003, when the U.S. attacked Iraq, a whole new dimension was added to the conflict. The foreign mujahedeen who?d fought in Afghanistan started moving back to Afghanistan and Iraq.? And the old Afghan jihadi leaders stopped by the mansion of their mentor, Aslam Beg, to tell him they were planning to wage war against the American occupiers.
As the rain outside turned to hail, banging against the windows, Aslam Beg ate some English sandwiches that had been wheeled in by a servant. ?As a believer,? he went on, ?I?ll tell you how I understand it. In the Holy Book there?s an injunction that the believer must reach out to defend the tyrannized. The words of God are, ?What restrains you from fighting for those helpless men, women and children who due to their weakness are being brutalized and are calling you to free them from atrocities being perpetuated on them.? This is a direct message, and it may not impact the hearts and minds of all believers. Maybe one in 10,000 will leave their home and go to the conflicts where Muslims are engaged in liberation movements, such as Chechnya, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kashmir. Now it?s a global deterrent force.?
The Authentic Jihad
The old city of Lahore, with its broad boulevards and banyan-tree canopies, remains the cultural and intellectual heart of Pakistan. It is home to a small elite of journalists, editors, authors, painters, artists and businessmen. Najam Sethi, editor in chief of The Friday Times, and his wife, Jugnu Mohsin, the publisher, are popular fixtures among this crowd. Like so many of Pakistan?s intellectuals, they have had their share of run-ins with government security agents. For pushing the bounds of press freedom, Sethi was dragged from his bedroom during Nawaz Sharif?s reign, beaten, gagged and detained without charge. Musharraf, in his new autobiography, claims that Nawaz Sharif wanted him to court-martial Sethi for treason, an act that seemed ludicrous to him, and he refused.
I met him one afternoon at the newspaper?s offices as he was preparing his weekly editorial. He is a tall, affable man with smiling eyes and large glasses. And he got right down to business, providing an analysis of why Pakistan had decided to bring its ?assets? ? by which he meant the Taliban and Kashmiri jihadis ? off the shelf.
In the days following 9/11, when Musharraf gathered together major editors to tell them that he had no choice but to withdraw his support for the Taliban, Sethi raised the touchy issue of the other jihadis. He said that if Musharraf was abandoning the Taliban, he would have to abandon the sectarian jihadis (fighting the Shiites), the Kashmir jihadis, all of the jihadis, because they were all trained in mind by the same religious leaders and in body by the same Pakistani forces.
In January 2002, Musharraf gave an unusually long televised speech to the nation. He reminded the people that his campaign against extremism was initiated years before and not under American pressure. He vowed that Pakistan would no longer export jihadis to Kashmir, that he was again placing a ban on several jihadi organizations, that camps would be closed and that while the madrasas were mostly educating the poor, some were centers of extremist teaching and would be reformed. A month later, Musharraf was at the White House next to President Bush, who praised him for standing against terrorism.
Page 10 of 10)
Sethi characterized Pakistani authorities as believing that the U.S. in Iraq ?will be a Vietnam.? He said: ?Afghanistan will be neither here nor there. So we cannot wrap up our assets. We must protect them.? The I.S.I. realized it could help deliver Al Qaeda to the U.S. while keeping the Taliban and the jihadis on the back burner. At the same time, Musharraf?s moderate advisers were telling him that holding on to those assets would eventually boomerang. And soon enough, the assets began to come after Musharraf ? while the people of Pakistan were turning against him for being pro-American. ?So going after jihadis who were protecting the Taliban came to a halt,? Sethi said.
Meanwhile the landscape next door in Afghanistan was changing. The warlords were back in action. The drug economy was surging. By 2003 and 2004, Musharraf?s men were becoming hysterical about what they saw as a growing Indian presence in Afghanistan, particularly the Indian consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad, the Pashtun strongholds that Pakistan considered its own turf. Karzai was doing business with Indians and Americans and was no longer a Pashtun whom Pakistanis would want to do business with.
As Sethi spoke, I recalled a meeting I had with one of Kandahar?s prominent tribal leaders. He recounted a visit from a former Pakistani general who had been active in the I.S.I. The general invited Kandahar?s leaders to lunch and warned them not to let the Indians put a consulate in Kandahar and to remember who their real benefactors were. Today there is a consulate there, and Indian films and music are sweeping through the Pashtun lands. What is more, many Pakistanis believe India is backing the Baluch insurgency in Pakistan?s far south, clouding the prospects for the new, Chinese-built port in Gwadar. The port is Pakistan?s single largest investment in its economic future and has been attacked by Baluch rebels.
In many ways, Pakistani policy is already looking beyond both Karzai and the Americans; they believe it is prudent to imagine a future with neither. That future will be shaped by the past: the past with India, the past with the Soviet Union, the past with America. For Pakistan?s hard-liners, at least, the obvious choice was to take their assets off the shelf and restart the jihad.
A Difficult Choice
On the wall outside the Eid Ga madrasa, in Kuchlak, a parched town near Quetta, Afghan students and teachers were debating the merits of jihad. One boy had just fled an American assault on Day Chopan in Zabul Province. He had never been to Pakistan before. He was frenzied, in shock. As a student from Kandahar led the others in dusk prayer, a young boy whispered to me, ?I like America.? They were hardly a unified group. One young Helmandi told me, ?We want our traditions of Islam and Sharia, not your democracy,? while another argued for peace. Then the Helmandi asked, with genuine confusion: ?Why are Muslims being tortured everywhere in the world, and no one is there to stand up for them? But if you touch one Westerner, the sky is on your head??
Most madrasas in Pakistan are run by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, the religious-party alliance that has joined with Musharraf to keep the popular parties of Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif from regaining power. The J.U.I. madrasas usually endorse jihad, although even here I met madrasa students who were against the war. They subscribed to a vision of jihad as a struggle for self-improvement and the improvement of society. Mawlawi Mohammadin, a cleric from Helmand, went so far as to tell me that these are the true roots of jihad, though he confessed that his is a lonely voice. He was afraid of everyone ? Taliban, Pakistani intelligence, even his pupils. ?If we start openly supporting Karzai, we could be killed by our own students,? he told me with nervous laughter. Only a month earlier, a Taliban official from Helmand who had reconciled with Karzai?s government was gunned down by assassins on a motorbike in Quetta.
Mohammadin said that it is now open season for jihad in Afghanistan under J.U.I. guidance. Government ministers were even attending funerals to praise Pakistani Pashtuns who had died fighting in Kandahar. He estimates that there are some 10,000 Taliban fighters in Baluchistan. Despite the intimidation, he says he feels that his mission is to steer his students away from war.
One of these was Mohamed Nader, who had just attended a cousin?s funeral and was wondering what it all meant. His cousin?s family was poor, and without their knowledge, he had gone to earn money first by harvesting poppies in Helmand and then by fighting for the Taliban. Finally he was killed. Among the biggest problems, Nader told me, was that the cohesion of the Afghan family has been shredded by decades of poverty and refugee life in Pakistan. In a typically strong Afghan family, young adults obey their parents, even asking for permission to go fight. But here, boys just run off.
Rahmatullah was one of those who had run off and returned. He was skinny and disheveled, having just faced heavy fighting in Kandahar. Though an Afghan, he had grown up in Baluchistan, near the border, in an area where he said 200 fighters were now living. The mullah at his madrasa told all the students that it was time for jihad. And the I.S.I. was paying cash. But his father was old and against the war; he pleaded with him to abandon fighting. So he sent Rahmatullah to his friend Mohammadin, hoping he might open another path for his son. Rahmatullah told me that he wasn?t sure yet which mullah he would listen to.
(Next week, Part 2: How U.S. and NATO forces have been battling the Taliban and fighting for hearts and minds.)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: October 22, 2006, 07:14:58 AM
(Page 7 of 10)
It was a perfect job for Dadullah, whose reputation for bravery was matched by his savagery and his many war wounds, collected in more than 25 years of fighting. In 1998, his fighters slaughtered hundreds of Hazaras (Shiites of Mongol descent) in Bamiyan Province, an act so brutal it was even too much for Mullah Omar, who had him disarmed at the time. Dadullah?s very savagery, filmed and now often circulated on videotape, coupled with his promotional flair, were just the ingredients Omar needed to put the Taliban back on the map.
Today, Quetta has assumed the character of Peshawar in the 1980?s, a suspicious place of spies and counterspies and double agents. It is not just the hundreds of men in typical Afghan Pashtun clothing ? the roughly wound turbans, dark shalwar kameez, eyes inked with kohl ? who squat on Thursday afternoons outside the Kandahari mosque in the center of town, comparing notes on the latest fighting in Helmand or the best religious teachers. Rather, as I wandered the narrow alleyways of the Afghan neighborhoods, my local guides would say, ?That?s where Mullah Dadullah was living? or ?That?s where Mullah Amir Khan Haqqani is living.? (Haqqani is the Taliban?s governor in exile for Zabul Province.) Mullah Dadullah is now a folk hero for young Talibs like A. And all the Taliban I met told me that every time Dadullah gives another interview or appears on the battlefield, it serves as an instant injection of inspiration.
By 2004, A. said, he was meeting a lot of Arabs ? Saudis, Iraqis, Palestinians ? who taught the Afghans about I.E.D.?s (improvised explosive devices) and suicide bombings. ?They taught us how to put explosives in plastic,? he told me. ?They taught us wiring and triggers. The Arabs are the best instructors in that.? But now the Afghans are doing fine on their own. Pakistani jihadis in Afghanistan received their training, they told me, from Pakistani officers in Kashmir.
The southerners have also forged ties with the Pakistani Taliban in Waziristan. There is a free flow of arms and men between Waziristan and the Afghan provinces across the border. According to A., even Uzbeks from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan have joined some of the fighters now in A.?s home mountains in Day Chopan.
It was disheartening to hear A. describe his first encounter with Americans, who were trying to set up a base in a remote region of Zabul. Though they were building a road where no roads had gone before, he could perceive that asphalt only as a means for the Americans to transport their armored vehicles and occupy Muslim lands. A friend of his joined us as we were talking. He had just arrived in Pakistan from the Day Chopan region and said that the Americans were like a cyclone of evil, stealing their almonds and violating their Pashtunwali (the Pashtun tribal laws). In this instance, he meant the law by which even a cousin will not enter your house without knocking first.
A. is now a media man in Pakistan, coordinating the editing of films for discs, censoring them in case there are commanders who don?t want their faces seen and distributing them. He proudly offered me the latest disc of Mullah Dadullah beheading some ?spies for the Americans.? He said he had sold 25,000 CD?s about the fighting in Waziristan.
He was full of contradictions. He said that if he didn?t have a house in Day Chopan, he would never spend a single night there because there was no education, no electricity, no power, nothing, just a heap of stones. Yet he did not want America to change all that. ?We don?t like progress by Americans,? he declared. ?We don?t like roads by Americans. We would rather walk on tired feet as long as we are walking in an Islamic state.?
Was it all just bravado speaking? Was an opportunity to build bridges to young men like A. somehow lost or just neglected? It was hard to tell. But when the I.S.I. subject came up again, his tone changed. ?They are snakes,? he told me. He said that they were trying to create a new, obedient leader and oust the independent-minded Mullah Omar, and for that, the real Taliban hated them. Then he said: ?I told you that we burn schools because they?re teaching Christianity, but actually most of the Taliban don?t like this burning of schools or destroying roads and bridges, because the Taliban, too, could use them. Those acts were being done under I.S.I. orders. They don?t want progress in Afghanistan.? An Indian engineer was beheaded in Zabul in April, he said, and that was also ordered by Pakistan, which, from fear of the influence of its enemy, India, was encouraging attacks on Indian companies. ?People are not telling the story, because no one can trust anyone, and if I.S.I. knows I told you,? he said, he would be dead.
There are many theories for why Pakistan might have wanted to help the Taliban reconstitute themselves. Afghan-Pakistani relations have always been fraught. One among the many disputes has to do with the Durand Line, the boundary drawn up by the British in 1893 partly to divide the Pashtun tribes, who were constantly revolting against the British. The Afghan government has never recognized this line, which winds its way from the Hindu Kush mountains of North-West Frontier Province 1,500 miles down to the deserts of Baluchistan, as its border. Nor have the Pashtun tribes. The Pakistanis may hope to force Karzai to recognize the Durand line in exchange for stability.
(Page 8 of 10)
Another theory is that Musharraf must appease the religious parties whom he needs to extend his power past the end of his term next year. Musharraf bought them off, gave them control of the North-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan and let them use the Taliban. And finally, the Pakistanis see Afghanistan as their rightful client. They want an accommodating regime, not Karzai, whose main backers are the U.S. and India, Pakistan?s nemesis.
Pakistan?s well-established secular Pashtun nationalist political leaders remain distraught that their lands have again become sanctuaries for the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani religious parties, which, since elections in 2002, rule these provinces and are completing a Talibanization of the region. The secular leaders point to another layer in Pakistan?s games: keeping the tribal areas autonomous enables Pakistan?s intelligence services to ward off the gaze of Westerners and keep their jihadis safely tucked away.
One thing you notice if you visit the homes of retired generals in Pakistan is that they live in a lavish fashion typical of South America?s dictatorship-era military elite. They control most of the country?s economy and real estate, and like President Musharraf, himself a former general, they do not want to relinquish power.
Although there is a secularist strain in the Pakistani military, it has been aligned with religious hard-liners since the army?s inception in 1947. Many officers still see their duty as defending the Muslim world, but their raison d??tre has been undermined by the fact that though Pakistan was founded as a refuge for South Asia?s Muslims, more Muslims today live in India. They seem to envy the jihadis? clarity. The militants had no identity crises. According to Najim Sethi, a prominent Pakistani journalist, military officers often have ?a degree of self-disgust for selling themselves? to the Americans, and they still bear a grudge against the United States for abandoning them after the Afghan jihad and, more recently, for sanctioning Pakistan over its nuclear program. The standard army phrase about the Americans was, he said, ?They used us like a condom.?
Officers spoke to me as if they were simply translating the feelings of the jihadis for a tone-deaf audience, but they sounded more like ventriloquists. One retired colonel I spoke to was a relative of a Taliban leader from Waziristan, Abdullah Massoud, who had earned both sympathy and reverence for his time in Guant?namo Bay. Massoud was captured fighting the Americans and the Northern Alliance and spent two years there, claiming to be a simple Afghan Talib. Upon his release, he made it home to Waziristan and resumed his war against the U.S. With his long hair, his prosthetic limb and impassioned speeches, he quickly became a charismatic inspiration to Waziristan?s youth.
Since 2001, some of Waziristan?s tribes have refused to hand over Qaeda members living among them. Under intense American pressure, Pakistan agreed for the first time in its history to invade the tribal areas. Hundreds of civilians and soldiers were killed. American helicopters were seen in the region, as were American spies. The militants (with some army accomplices) retaliated with two assassination attempts against Musharraf late in 2003. He struck back, but as the civilian casualties mounted and the military began to balk at killing Pakistanis, Musharraf agreed to a deal in the spring of 2004 whereby the militants would give up their guests in return for cash. Pakistani officers and the militants hugged and shed tears during a public reconciliation. But the militants did not relinquish their Al Qaeda guests, and they took advantage of the amnesty to execute tribal elders they said had helped the Pakistani military. The tribal structure in Waziristan was devastated, and the Taliban took to the streets to declare the Islamic emirate of Waziristan. Since Musharraf signed a truce with the militants last month, attacks launched from Waziristan into Afghanistan, according to NATO, have risen by 300 percent.
?Muslim governments are not able to face the Americans,? the retired colonel from Waziristan said, explaining the mujahedeen mind-set. ?If Muslim governments should stand up against duplicity and foreign hegemonic designs, and they don?t, who will? Someone has to stand up to defend the Muslim countries, and it?s this that gives the jihadis the courage and zeal to stand up to the worst atrocities. This is the core issue of the mujahedeen movement. You call it the war on terror. The mujahedeen call it jihad.? And so, essentially, did he.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: October 22, 2006, 07:13:21 AM
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?The Taliban are using rivalries and enmities between people to get soldiers, the same tactics as the mujahedeen used against the Russians,? the engineer continued. ?Just like in Russian times they come and say, ?We are defending the country from the infidels.? They start asking for food. Then they ask the people for soldiers and say, ?We will give you weapons.? And that?s how it starts. And the emotions are rising in the people now. They are saying, ?Kaffirs have invaded our land.??
Qayum Karzai, the president?s older brother and a legislator from Kandahar, seemed utterly depressed when I met him. ?For the last four years, the Taliban were saying that the Americans will leave here,? he said. ?We were stupid and didn?t believe it. Now they think it?s a victory that the Americans left.?
With the Americans on their way out and the NATO force not yet in control, the Kandahar Police were left on the front line: underfinanced, underequipped, untrained ? and often stoned. Which is perhaps what made them so brave. One afternoon I ran into a group who said their friends had just been killed when a Talib posing as a policeman served them poisoned tea. A shaggy-haired officer in a black tunic was standing by his pickup, freshly ripped up by a barrage of bullets, and staring at my feet. ?I envy your shoes,? he said, looking back at his own torn rubber sandals. ?I envy your Toyota,? he said and laughed. And then looking at my pen and notebook, he said, ?I envy you can read and write.? It?s not too late, I offered feebly, but he tapped his temple and shook his head. ?It doesn?t work anymore,? he said. ?I smoke hash. I smoke opium. I?m drinking because we?re always thinking and nervous.? He was 35. He had been fighting for 20 years. Four of his friends had been killed in the fighting the other night. He had to support children, a wife and parents on a salary of about $100 a month. And, he said, ?we haven?t been paid in four months.? No wonder, then, that the population complained that the police were all thieves.
At Kandahar?s hospital I met a 17-year-old policeman (who had been with the police since he was 14) tending to his wounded friend. He was in a jovial mood, amazed he wasn?t dead. He said they had been given an order to cut the Taliban?s escape route. Instead they were ambushed by the Taliban, ran out of bullets and had no phones to call for backup. ?We ran away,? he said with a nervous giggle. ?The Taliban chased us, shouting: ?Hey, sons of Bush! Where are you going? We want to kill you.??
Last month, NATO forces struck back around Panjwai with artillery and aerial bombardments, killing an estimated 500 Taliban fighters and destroying homes and schools. But unless NATO can stay for years, create a trustworthy police force and spend the millions necessary to regenerate the district, the Taliban will be back.
Deciding to Fight
Inside the old city walls of Peshawar, Pakistan, a half-hour drive from the Afghan border, in a bazaar named after the storytellers who enthralled Central Asian gold and silk merchants with their tales of war and tragic love, sits the 17th-century Mohabat Khan Mosque. It is a place of cool, marble calm amid the dense market streets. Yousaf Qureshi is the prayer leader there and director of the Jamia Ashrafia, a Deobandi madrasa. He had recently announced a pledge by the jewelers? association to pay $1 million to anyone who would kill a Danish cartoonist who caricatured the Prophet Muhammad. Qureshi himself offered $25,000 and a car. I found Qureshi seated on a cushion behind a low glass desk covered with papers and business cards ? ambassadors, N.G.O. workers, Islamic scholars, mujahedeen commanders: he has conversed with them all. His office resembles an antiques shop, the walls displaying oversize prayer beads, knives inlaid with ivory and astrakhan caps. It was day?s end, and Qureshi was checking the proofs for his 51st book, called ?The Benefits of Koran.?
Qureshi told me that he meets with Pakistan?s president, Pervez Musharraf, about twice a year. Qureshi understands Musharraf?s predicament: ?The heart of this government is with the Taliban. The tongue is not.? He didn?t claim total insider knowledge, but he said, ?I think they want a weak government and want to support the Taliban without letting them win.? Why? ?We are asking Musharraf, ?What are you doing,? and he says: ?I?m moving in both ways. I want to support the Taliban, but I can?t afford to displease America. I am caught between the devil and the deep sea.??
Not long ago, Qureshi said, he received three emissaries from Mullah Omar who wanted Qureshi to warn another religious leader to stop preaching against the Taliban. ?I refused,? he said. Later Sheikh Yassin, one of the messengers, was arrested by the I.S.I., Pakistan?s military intelligence service. So why, I asked, does Qureshi say the I.S.I. is supporting the Taliban? ?That is the double policy of the government,? he replied. Even in the 1990?s, he said, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was supporting the official Afghan government of Burhanuddin Rabbani while the I.S.I. was supporting his opponent, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, as he rained thousands of rockets upon Rabbani?s government and the citizens of Kabul. Qureshi told me that if he and local traders didn?t want Al Qaeda or the Taliban to flourish, then they wouldn?t. ?We are supporting them to give the Americans a tough time,? he said. ?Leave Afghanistan, and the Taliban and foreign fighters will not give Karzai problems. All the administrators of madrasas know what our students are doing, but we won?t tell them not to fight in Afghanistan.?
The new Taliban fighters in Afghanistan are of three basic types. There are the old war-addicted jihadis who were left out of the 2001 Bonn conference, which determined the postwar shape of Afghan politics and the carve-up of the country. There are the ?second generation? Afghan refugees: poor, educated in Pakistan?s madrasas and easily recruited by their elders. And then there are the young men who had jobs and prestige in the former Taliban regime and were unable to find a place for themselves in the new Afghanistan.
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Coincidentally, there are also now three fronts. One is led by Mullah Omar?s council in Quetta. The second is led by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a hero of the jihad against the Soviets who joined the Taliban. Although well into his 80?s, he orchestrates insurgent attacks through his sons in Paktia, Khost and Paktika, the Afghan provinces close to Waziristan, where he is based. Finally, there is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the former leader of Hezb-i-Islami, the anti-Soviet fighters entrusted with the most money and arms by the U.S. and Pakistan. He had opposed the Taliban, living in uneasy exile in Iran until the U.S. persuaded Tehran to boot him out; he sneaked into the mountainous eastern borderlands. Since the early days of Karzai?s government, he has promised to organize Mullah Omar?s followers with his educated cadres and finance their jihad against Karzai and the American invaders. Old competitors are coming together in much the way the mujahedeen factions cooperated to fight the Russians. Hekmatyar adds a lethal ingredient to this stew: his ties and his followers extend all through Afghanistan, including the north and the west, where he is exploiting factional grievances that have nothing to do with the Pashtun discontent in the south.
An Afghan I met outside Peshawar ? for his safety he asked me not to use his full name ? was typical of the 20-something Talibs who had flourished under the Taliban regime. He was from Day Chopan, a mountainous region in Zabul Province, northeast of Kandahar. When the Northern Alliance and the Americans took Afghanistan, he escaped through the hills on an old smuggling route to the North-West Frontier Province.
It was familiar terrain. A.?s father had been a religious teacher who studied in Sami ul-Haq?s famous Haqqaniya madrasa near the Khyber Pass and preached jihad for Harakat, one of the southern mujahedeen parties whose members filled Mullah Omar?s ranks. Those old ties still bind and have provided a network for recruiting. A. grew up in madrasas in the tribal Pashtun lands of Waziristan, where he learned to fire guns as a child in the American-financed mujahedeen camps. As a teenage religious student in Wana, the capital of South Waziristan, he would go door to door collecting bread for his fellow Talibs. Behind one of those doors, he saw a girl and fell in love. When his father wouldn?t let him marry the girl, he threatened to go fight in Afghanistan. His father would not relent, and A. signed up at the local Taliban office in Peshawar. ?We got good food, free service, everything was Islamic,? he told me. ?It was the best life, rather than staying in that poor madrasa.? His father soon did relent, and A. became engaged, but he was only 15 and had no money. So he went back to the Taliban and was soon working beside the deputy defense minister. ?Of course, then there were bags of money,? he said.
A., now 28, was living in an Afghan refugee village that used to belong to Hekmatyar?s group. Weak with malaria, he was nevertheless plump and jovial, even funny at times. Only when the Pakistani intelligence services came up did his already sallow hues pale to old bone.
After fleeing the American bombardment in 2001, he told me, the Taliban arrived in Pakistan tattered, dispersed and demoralized. But in the months after the collapse, senior Taliban leaders told their comrades to stay at home, keep in touch and wait for the call. Some Taliban told me that they actually waited to see if there was a chance to work with Karzai?s government.
?Our emir,? as A. referred to Mullah Omar, slowly contacted the commanders and told them to find out who was dead and who was alive. Those commanders appointed group commanders to collect the underlings like A. Weapons stashed away in Afghanistan?s mountains were excavated. Funds were raised through the wide and varied Islamic network ? Karachi businessmen, Peshawar goldsmiths, Saudi oil men, Kuwaiti traders and jihadi sympathizers within the Pakistani military and intelligence ranks.
Mullah Omar named a 10-man leadership council, A. explained. Smaller councils were created for every province and district. Most of this was done from the safety of Pakistan, and in 2003 Mullah Omar dispatched Mullah Dadullah to the madrasas of Baluchistan and Karachi to gather the dispersed Talibs and find fresh recruits. Pakistani authorities were reportedly seen with him. Still, neither Musharraf nor his military men in Baluchistan did anything to arrest him.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: October 22, 2006, 07:12:12 AM
Page 3 of 10)
When I asked Manan Farahi, the director of counterterrorism efforts for Karzai?s government, why the Taliban were so strong in Helmand, he said that Helmandis had, in fact, hated the Taliban because of Mullah Omar?s ban on poppy cultivation. ?The elders were happy this government was coming and they could plant again,? Farahi told me. ?But then the warlords came back and let their militias roam freely. They were settling old scores ? killing people, stealing their opium. And because they belonged to the government, the people couldn?t look to the government for protection. And because they had the ear of the Americans, the people couldn?t look to the Americans. Into this need stepped the Taliban.? And this time the Taliban, far from suppressing the drug trade, agreed to protect it.
A Dealer?s Life
The Continental Guest House in Kandahar, with its lovely gardens, potted geraniums and Internet access in every room, was mostly empty when I arrived, a remnant of the city?s recently stalled economic resurgence.
To find out how the opium trade works and how it?s related to the Taliban?s rise, I spent the afternoon with an Afghan who told me his name was Razzaq. He is a medium-level smuggler in his late 20?s who learned his trade as a refugee in Iran. He was wearing a traditional Kandahari bejeweled skull cap, a dark blazer and a white shalwar kameez, a traditional outfit consisting of loose pants covered by a tunic. He moved and spoke with the confident ease of a well-protected man. ?The whole country is in our services,? he told me, ?all the way to Turkey.? This wasn?t bravado. From Mazar-i-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan, he brings opium in the form of a gooey paste, packaged in bricks. From Badakhshan in the northeast, he brings crystal ? a sugary substance made from heroin. And from Jalalabad, in the east on the road to Peshawar, he brings pure heroin. All of this goes through Baramcha, an unmanned border town in Helmand near Pakistan. Sometimes he pays off the national soldiers to use their vehicles, he said. Sometimes the national policemen. Or he hides it well, and if there is a tough checkpoint, he calls ahead and pays them off. ?The soldiers get 2,000 afghanis a month, and I give them 100,000,? he explained with an angelic smile. ?So even if I had a human head in my car, they?d let me go.? It?s not hard to see why Razzaq is so successful. He has a certain charm and looks like the modest tailor he once was, not a man steeped in illegal business.
Razzaq?s smuggling career began in Zahedan, a remote and unruly Iranian town near the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is filled with Afghan refugees who, like Razzaq and his family, fled after the Russian invasion in 1979. Razzaq apprenticed as a tailor under his father and eventually opened his own shop, which the Iranians promptly shut down. They said he had no right as a refugee to own a shop. He began painting buildings, but that, too, proved a bureaucratic challenge. He was paid in checks, and the bank refused to cash them without a bank account, which he could not get.
Razzaq was newly married with dreams of a good life for his family. So one day he took a chance. ?I had gotten to know smugglers at my tailoring shop,? he told me over a meal of mutton and rice on the floor of my hotel room. ?One of them was an old man, so no one ever suspected him. The smugglers asked me to go with him to Gerdi Jangel? ? an Afghan refugee town in Pakistan ? ?and bring back 750 grams of heroin to Zahedan. The security searched us on the bus, but I?d hidden it in the heels of my shoes, and of course they didn?t search the old man. I was so happy when we made it back. I thought I was born for the first time into this world.?
So he took another chance and managed to fly to Tehran carrying four kilos in his bag. Each time he overcame another obstacle, he became more addicted to the easy cash. When the Iranian authorities imported sniffing dogs to catch heroin smugglers, Razzaq and his friends filled hypodermic needles with some heroin dissolved in water and sprayed the liquid on cars at the bus station that would be continuing on to Tehran, Isfahan and Shiraz. ?The dogs at the checkpoint went mad. They had to search 50 cars. They decided the dogs were defective and sent them back, and that saved us for a while.? Eventually, he said, they concocted a substance to conceal the heroin smell from the new pack of dogs.
After the fall of the Taliban, Razzaq moved back to Helmand, built a comfortable house and began supporting his extended family with his expanding trafficking business. Razzaq?s main challenge today is Iran. While the Americans have turned more or less a blind eye to the drug-trade spree of their warlord allies, Iran has steadily cranked up its drug war. (Some 3,000 Iranian lawmen have been killed in the last three decades battling traffickers.) To cross the desert borders, Razzaq moves in convoys of 18 S.U.V.?s. Some contain drugs. The rest are loaded with food supplies, antiaircraft guns, rocket launchers, antitank missiles and militiamen, often on loan from the Taliban. The fighters are Baluch from Iran and Afghanistan. The commanders are Afghans.
Razzaq?s run, as he described it, was a scene out of ?Mad Max.? Three days were spent dodging and battling Iranian forces in the deserts around the earthquake-stricken city of Bam. Once they made it to Isfahan, however, in central Iran, they were home free. They released the militiamen, transferred the stuff to ordinary cars and drove to Tehran, where other smugglers picked up the drugs and passed them on to ethnic Turks in Tabriz. The Turks would bring them home, and from there they went to the markets of Europe.
Should he ever run into a problem in Afghanistan, he told me, ?I simply make a phone call. And my voice is known to ministers, of course. They are in my network. Every network has a big man supporting them in the government.? The Interior Ministry?s director of counternarcotics in Kabul had told me the same thing. Anyway, if the smugglers have problems on the ground, they say, they just pay the Taliban to destroy the enemy commanders.
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Razzaq has at times contemplated getting out of the smuggling trade, he said, but the easy money is too alluring. Depending on the market, he can earn from $1,500 to $7,500 a month. Most Afghans can?t make that in a year. Besides, he said, ?all the governors are doing this, so why shouldn?t we??
Losers Become Winners
In December 2001, not long after the Taliban were routed, I visited the Shah Wali Kot district, several hours? drive on unpaved roads from Kandahar, a Mordor land of rock mountains shaped like sagging crescents and mud-baked houses melting into the dunes. The Taliban leaders had fled, mostly to Pakistan. Gul Agha Shirzai, formerly a local warlord and soon-to-be new governor, and his soldiers had swarmed into power while the Americans set up their operations base in Mullah Omar?s Xanadu-like residence. I was with a large group of Populzai, the clan of the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.
We were in a big guest room with more than a dozen men gathered in a circle, all wearing the kind of turbans that look like gargantuan ice-cream swirls. The ones in black turban swirls were giggling, chatting and slapping one another on the back. The ones in white turban swirls were sulking, grumbling or mute. In this group, the miserable white turbans were Taliban men. They had just lost their pickup trucks, weapons, money, prestige and jobs, all of which had gone to the gleeful black turbans.
Today those miserable white turbans have taken to the mountains to fight. The gleeful black turbans are under siege. I saw one of the black turbans this summer, the Shah Wali Kot district leader, in the garden of the Kandahar governor?s palace. He was a mess. He chuckled loudly when I asked him how it was back in Shah Wali Kot. ?Frankly, we are just defending ourselves from the Taliban,? he said. ?Our head is on the pillow at night, but we do not sleep.?
That small division among the Populzai in Shah Wali Kot echoes the larger division of the Pashtun into two main branches: the Durrani and the Ghilzai. The Durrani, Karzai?s tribe, have dominated for the last two centuries in Afghanistan and regard themselves as the ruling elite. In the south, the Ghilzai were often treated as the nomadic, scrappy cousins. With the exception of Mullah Omar, who had been a poor Ghilzai farmer, the leaders of the Taliban tended to be Durrani. These days, the perception among the southern Ghilzai is that they are persecuted, that the jails are filled with their people, while the Durrani in the south received all the Japanese, U.S. and British contracts and jobs. From what I could gather during my weeks in Afghanistan, these perceptions were mostly true. But even if they were exaggerated, such perceptions, in an illiterate society, have a way of quickly morphing into reality.
Take Panjwai, a district just outside Kandahar, where hundreds of Taliban massed this summer, taking advantage of the changeover from American soldiers to a NATO force of Canadian troops. One afternoon I met a red-haired propagandist and writer for the Taliban in a Kandahar office building. With his slight lisp, chain-smoking habit and eclectic reading ? French novelists and Arabic philosophers ? he seemed more a tormented graduate student than the landless villager from Panjwai he was. Panjwai is a mishmash of tribes, and the Taliban were exploiting the grievances of the Nurzai, a tribe that has felt persecuted and unfairly targeted for poppy eradication. Traders in Kandahar, he said, were donating money to the Taliban. Landowners were paying them to fight off eradicators. The Taliban were paying poor, unemployed men to fight. And religious scholars were delivering the message that it was time for jihad because the Americans were no different from the Russians. Just a few weeks earlier, the Taliban went on a killing spree in Panjwai. They beheaded a tribal leader in his home, shot another in the bazaar and hanged a man near a shrine with a note tacked on his body: ?SPY.?
The Taliban were feeling bold enough that one afternoon Mullah Ibrahim, a Taliban intelligence agent, dropped by my hotel for lunch. He was a Ghilzai, from Helmand, and told me he had tried to lead a normal life under the official amnesty program. Instead, he was locked up, beaten and so harassed by Helmandi intelligence and police officers that his tribal elders told him to leave for Pakistan and join the Taliban there. Then, about a year ago, he decided that he was tired of fighting and living as a fugitive and accepted a reconciliation offer from an Afghan general. Pakistani intelligence got wind of this and imprisoned him; upon his release, the Pakistanis gave him money and a motorbike and pressured him to go back to war. He is still tired of war, but the Pakistanis won?t let him live in peace, and now if he tries to reconcile with the Kabul government, he told me, the Taliban will kill him.
When fighting broke out on the main highway near Kandahar, I saw that the police had tied up a group of villagers ? but the Taliban had all escaped. One of those village men, his hands bound behind his back, told me that he had peeped out from his house earlier that day and saw some 200 Taliban with new guns and rocket launchers. They wanted food and threatened him and other villagers. ?But I am not afraid of them,? he said loudly. ?I am only afraid of this government.? Why? ?Look at what they do. They can?t get the Taliban, so they arrest us. We have no hope from them anymore. And when we call and tell them Taliban are here, no one comes.? As an engineer from Panjwai who had been an Afghan senator during the Communist era told me: ?We are now like camels. In Islam, a camel can be slaughtered in two different ways.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: October 22, 2006, 07:10:24 AM
In the Land of the Taliban
By ELIZABETH RUBIN
Published: October 22, 2006
One afternoon this past summer, I shared a picnic of fresh mangos and plums with Abdul Baqi, an Afghan Taliban fighter in his 20?s fresh from the front in Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan. We spent hours on a grassy slope under the tall pines of Murree, a former colonial hill station that is now a popular resort just outside Pakistan?s capital, Islamabad. All around us was a Pakistani rendition of Georges Seurat?s ?Sunday on La Grande Jatte? ? middle-class families setting up grills for barbecue, a girl and two boys chasing their errant cow with a stick, two men hunting fowl, boys flying a kite. Much of the time, Abdul Baqi was engrossed in the flight pattern of a Himalayan bird. It must have been a welcome distraction. He had just lost five friends fighting British troops and had seen many others killed or wounded by bombs as they sheltered inside a mosque.
He was now looking forward to taking a logic course at a madrasa, or religious school, near Peshawar during his holiday. Pakistan?s religious parties, he told me through an interpreter, would lodge him, as they did other Afghan Taliban fighters, and keep him safe. With us was Abdul Baqi?s mentor, Mullah Sadiq, a diabetic Helmandi who was shuttling between Pakistan and Afghanistan auditing Taliban finances and arranging logistics. He had just dispatched nine fighters to Afghanistan and had taken wounded men to a hospital in Islamabad. ?I just tell the border guards that they were wounded in a tribal dispute and need treatment,? he told me.
And though Mullah Sadiq said they had lost many commanders in battles around Kandahar, he and Abdul Baqi appeared to be in good spirits, laughing and chatting loudly on a cellphone to Taliban friends in Pakistan and Afghanistan. After all, they never imagined that the Taliban would be back so soon or in such force or that they would be giving such trouble to the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai and some 40,000 NATO and U.S. troops in the country. For the first time since the fall of 2001, when the Taliban were overthrown, they were beginning to taste the possibility of victory.
As I traveled through Pakistan and particularly the Pashtun lands bordering Afghanistan, I felt as if I were moving through a Taliban spa for rehabilitation and inspiration. Since 2002, the American and Pakistani militaries have focused on North Waziristan and South Waziristan, two of the seven districts making up Pakistan?s semiautonomous tribal areas, which are between the North-West Frontier Province and, to the south, Baluchistan Province; in the days since the 9/11 attacks, some tribes there had sheltered members of Al Qaeda and spawned their own Taliban movement. Meanwhile, in the deserts of Baluchistan, whose capital, Quetta, is just a few hours? drive from the Afghan city of Kandahar, the Afghan Taliban were openly reassembling themselves under Mullah Omar and his leadership council. Quetta had become a kind of free zone where strategies could be formed, funds picked up, interviews given and victories relished.
In June, I was in Quetta as the Taliban fighters celebrated an attack against Dad Mohammad Khan, an Afghan legislator locally known as Amir Dado. Until recently he was the intelligence chief of Helmand Province. He had worked closely with U.S. Special Forces and was despised by Abdul Baqi ? and, to be frank, by most Afghans in the south. Mullah Razayar Nurzai (a nom de guerre), a commander of 300 Taliban fighters who frequently meets with the leadership council and Mullah Omar, took credit for the ambush. Because Pakistan?s intelligence services are fickle ? sometimes supporting the Taliban, sometimes arresting its members ? I had to meet Nurzai at night, down a dark lane in a village outside Quetta.
My guide was a Pakistani Pashtun sympathetic to the Taliban; we slipped into a courtyard and behind a curtain into a small room with mattresses and a gas lamp. In hobbled a rough, wild-looking graybeard with green eyes and a prosthetic limb fitted into a permanent 1980?s-era shoe. More than a quarter-century of warring had taken its toll on Nurzai?s 46-year-old body but not on his spirit. It was 10 at night, yet he was bounding with energy and bombast about his recent exploits in Kandahar and Helmand. A few days earlier, Nurzai and his men had attacked Amir Dado?s extended family. First, he told me, they shot dead his brother ? a former district leader. Then the next day, as members of Dado?s family were driving to the site of the first attack, Nurzai?s men ambushed their convoy. Boys, cousins, uncles: all were killed. Dado himself was safe elsewhere. Nurzai was mildly disappointed and said that they had received bad information. He had no regrets about the killings, however. Abdul Baqi was also delighted by the attack. He would tell me that Dado used to burn rocket casings and pour the melted plastic onto the stomachs of onetime Taliban fighters he and his men had captured. Abdul Baqi also recalled that during the civil war that ended with the Taliban?s seizure of Kabul, Dado and his men had a checkpoint where they ?grabbed young boys and robbed people.?
Mullah Omar and his followers formed the Taliban in 1994 to, among other things, bring some justice to Afghanistan and to expel predatory commanders like Dado. But in the early days of Karzai?s government, these regional warlords re-established themselves, with American financing, to fill the power vacuum that the coalition forces were unwilling to fill themselves. The warlords freely labeled their many enemies Al Qaeda or Taliban in order to push the Americans to eradicate them. Some of these men were indeed Taliban. Most, like Abdul Baqi, had accepted their loss of power, but they rejoined the Taliban as a result of harassment. Amir Dado?s own abuses had eventually led to his removal from the Helmand government at United Nations insistence. As one Western diplomat, who requested anonymity out of personal safety concerns, put it: ?Amir Dado kept his own prison, authorized the use of serious torture, had very little respect for human life and made security worse.? Yet when I later met Amir Dado in Kabul, he pulled out a letter that an officer in the U.S. Special Forces had written requesting that the Afghan Ministry of Defense install him as Helmand?s police chief and claiming that in his absence ?the quality of security in the Helmand Province has dramatically declined.?
One Place, Two Stories
I went to Afghanistan and Pakistan this summer to understand how and why the Taliban were making a comeback five years after American and Afghan forces drove them from power. What kind of experience would lead Afghans to reject what seemed to be an emerging democratic government? Had we missed something that made Taliban rule appealing? Were they the only opposition the aggrieved could turn to? Or, as many Afghans were saying, was this Pakistan up to its old tricks ? cooperating with the Americans and Karzai while conspiring to bring back the Taliban, who had been valued ?assets? before 9/11?
And why has the Bush administration?s message remained that Afghanistan is a success, Iraq a challenge? ?In Afghanistan, the trajectory is a hopeful and promising one,? Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld wrote on the op-ed page of The Washington Post earlier this month. Afghanistan?s rise from the ashes of the anti-Taliban war would mean that the Bush administration was prevailing in replacing terror with democracy and human rights.
Meanwhile, a counternarrative was emerging, and it belonged to the Taliban, or the A.C.M., as NATO officers call them ? the Anti-Coalition Militia. In Kabul, Kandahar and Pakistan, I found their video discs and tapes in the markets. They invoke a nostalgia for the jihad against the Russians and inspire their viewers to rise up again. One begins with clattering Chinooks disgorging American soldiers into the desert. Then we see the new Afghan government onstage, focusing in on the Northern Alliance warlords ? Abdul Rashid Dostum, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Karim Khalili, Muhammad Fahim, Ismail Khan, Abdul Sayyaf. It cuts to American soldiers doing push-ups and pinpointing targets on maps; next it shows bombs the size of bathtubs dropping from planes and missiles emblazoned with ?Royal Navy? rocketing through the sky; then it moves to hospital beds and wounded children. Message: America and Britain brought back the warlords and bombed your children. In the next clip, there are metal cages under floodlights and men in orange jumpsuits, bowed and crouching. It cuts back to the wild eyes of John Walker Lindh and shows trucks hauling containers crammed with young Afghan and Pakistani prisoners ? Taliban, hundreds of whom would suffocate to death in those containers, supposedly at the command of the warlord and current army chief of staff, General Dostum. Then back to American guards wheeling hunger-striking Guant?namo prisoners on gurneys. Interspliced are older images, a bit fuzzy, of young Afghan men, hands tied behind their backs, heads bowed, hauled off by Communist guards. The message: Foreigners have invaded our lands again; Americans, Russians ? no difference.
During the period from 1994 to 2001, the Taliban were a cloistered clique with little interest in global affairs. Today they are far more sophisticated and outward-looking. ?The Taliban of the 90?s were concerned with their district or province,? says Waheed Muzhda, a senior aide at the Supreme Court in Kabul, who before the Taliban fell worked in their Foreign Ministry. ?Now they have links with other networks. Before, only two Internet connections existed ? one was with Mullah Omar?s office and the other at the Foreign Ministry here in Kabul. Now they are connected to the world.? Though this is still very much an Afghan insurgency, fueled by complex local grievances and power struggles, the films sold in the markets of Pakistan and Afghanistan merge the Taliban story with that of the larger struggle of the Muslim umma, the global community of Islam: images of U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Israelis dragging off young Palestinian men and throwing off Palestinian mothers clinging to their sons. Humiliation. Oppression. Followed by the same on Afghan soil: Northern Alliance fighters perching their guns atop the bodies of dead Taliban. In the Taliban story, Special Forces soldiers desecrate the bodies of Taliban fighters by burning them, the Koran is desecrated in Guant?namo toilets, the Prophet Muhammad is desecrated in Danish cartoons and finally an apostate, Abdul Rahman, the Afghan who was arrested earlier this year for converting to Christianity, desecrates Islam and is not only not punished but is released and flown off to Italy.
It is not at all clear that Afghans want the return of a Taliban government. But even sophisticated Kabulis told me that they are fed up with the corruption. And in the Pashtun regions, which make up about half the country, Afghans are fed up with five years of having their homes searched and the young men of their villages rounded up in the name of counterinsurgency. Earlier this month in Kabul, Gen. David Richards, the British commander of NATO?s Afghanistan force, imagined what Afghans are thinking: ?They will say, ?We do not want the Taliban, but then we would rather have that austere and unpleasant life that that might involve than another five years of fighting.?? He estimated that if NATO didn?t succeed in bringing substantial economic development to Afghanistan soon, some 70 percent of Afghans would shift their loyalty to the Taliban.
In the middle of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, a metal sign tilts into the road advertising the New York English Language Center. It is a relic of the last American nation-building scheme. Half a century ago, this town, built at the confluence of the Arghandab and Helmand Rivers, was the headquarters for an ambitious dam project partly financed by the United States and contracted out to Morrison-Knudsen, an engineering company that helped build Cape Canaveral and the Golden Gate Bridge.
Lashkar Gah (literally, ?the place of soldiers?) was to be a model American town. Irrigation from the project would create farms out of the desert. Today you can still see the suburban-style homes with gardens open to the streets, although the typical Afghan home is a fort with walls guarding the family?s privacy. Those modernizing dreams of America and Afghanistan were eventually defeated by nature, culture and the war to drive the Russians out of Afghanistan in the 1980?s. What remains is an intense nostalgia among the engineers, cooks and farmers of Lashkar Gah, who remember that time as one of employment and peace. Today, Lashkar Gah is home to a NATO base.
Down the road from the base stands a lovely new building erected by an N.G.O. for the local Ministry of Women?s Affairs. It is big, white and, on the day I visited, was empty except for three women getting ready to leave. ?It?s so close to the foreigners, and the women are afraid of getting killed by car bombs,? the ministry?s deputy told me. She was a school headmistress and landowner, dressed elegantly in a lime-colored blouse falling below the knees and worn over matching trousers. She weighed the Taliban regime against this new one in terms of pragmatic choices, not terror or ideology. She said that she had just wrapped up the case of a girl who had been kidnapped and raped by Kandahari police officers, something that would not have happened under the Taliban. ?Their security was outstanding,? she said.
Under the Taliban, she said, a poppy ban was enforced. ?Now the governors tell the people, ?Just cultivate a little bit,?? she said. ?So people take this opportunity and grow a lot.? The farmers lease land to grow poppies. The British and the police eradicate it. The farmer can?t pay back the landowner. ?So instead of paying, he gives the landowner his daughter.?
A few weeks before I arrived in Helmand, John Walters, the director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, told reporters that Afghan authorities were succeeding in reducing opium-poppy cultivation. Yet despite hundreds of millions of dollars being allocated by Congress to stop the trade, a United Nations report in September estimated that this year?s crop was breaking all records ? 6,100 metric tons compared with 4,100 last year. When I visited Helmand, schools in Lashkar Gah were closed in part because teachers and students were busy harvesting the crop. A prosecutor from the Crimes Department laughed as he told me that his clerk, driver and bodyguard hadn?t made it to work. They were all harvesting. It requires a lot of workers, and you can earn $12 a day compared with the $2 you get for wheat. Hence the hundreds of young, poor Talibs from Pakistan?s madrasas who had flocked to earn that cash and who made easy converts for the coming jihad.
Walters had singled out Helmand for special praise. Yet just a short drive from the provincial capital, I was surrounded by poppy farmers ? 12-year-old boys, 75-year-old men ? hard at work, their hands caked in opium paste as they scooped figlike pulp off the bulbs into a sack tied around their waists. One little boy was dragging a long poppy stem attached to a car he had made out of bulbs. Haji Abdul, a 73-year-old Moses of a man, was the owner of the farm and one of those nostalgic for the heyday of the Helmand Valley project. He had worked with Americans for 15 years as a welder and manager. He was the first to bring electricity to his district. Now there was none.
?Why do you think people put mines out for the British and Italians doing eradication when they came here to save us?? He answered his own question: ?Thousands of lands ready for harvest were destroyed. How difficult will it be for our people to tolerate that! You are taking the food of my children, cutting my feet and disabling me. With one bullet, I will kill you.? Fortunately he didn?t have to kill anyone. He had paid 2,000 afghanis per jerib (about a half acre) of land to the police, he told me, adding that they would then share the spoils with the district administrator and all the other Interior Ministry officials so that only a small percentage of the poppy would be eradicated.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our new forum name
on: October 22, 2006, 06:41:42 AM
We will be re-naming the forum to something reflects the true range of our interests. My friend from OP Gene suggests "Culture, Economics, Investing, Politics, Religion, Science, Technology, and More" which, although a tad unweildy, does communicate the gist of it
Anyone have something to suggest which would convey this a bit more concisely?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Face Reading-Part Three
on: October 22, 2006, 06:36:38 AM
A decade ago, Ekman joined forces with J. J. Newberry?the ex-A.T.F. agent who is one of the high-scorers in the Diogenes Project? to put together a program for educating law-enforcement officials around the world in the techniques of interviewing and lie detection. In recent months, they have flown to Washington, D.C., to assist the C.I.A. and the F.B.I. in counter-terrorism training. At the same time, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has asked Ekman and his former student Mark Frank, now at Rutgers, to develop experimental scenarios for studying deception that would be relevant to counter-terrorism. The objective is to teach people to look for discrepancies between what is said and what is signalled?to pick up on the difference between Philby's crisp denials and his fleeting anguish. It's a completely different approach from the shouting cop we see on TV and in the movies, who threatens the suspect and sweeps all of the papers and coffee cups off the battered desk. The Hollywood interrogation is an exercise in intimidation, and its point is to force the suspect to tell you what you need to know. It does not take much to see the limitations of this strategy. It depends for its success on the co?peration of the suspect?when, of course, the suspect's involuntary communication may be just as critical. And it privileges the voice over the face, when the voice and the face are equally significant channels in the same system.
Ekman received his most memorable lesson in this truth when he and Friesen first began working on expressions of anger and distress. "It was weeks before one of us finally admitted feeling terrible after a session where we' d been making one of those faces all day," Friesen says. "Then the other realized that he'd been feeling poorly, too, so we began to keep track." They then went back and began monitoring their body during particular facial movements. "Say you do A.U. one, raising the inner eyebrows, and six, raising the cheeks, and fifteen, the lowering of the corner of the lips," Ekman said, and then did all three. "What we discovered is that that expression alone is sufficient to create marked changes in the autonomic nervous system. When this first occurred, we were stunned. We weren't expecting this at all. And it happened to both of us. We felt terrible . What we were generating was sadness, anguish. And when I lower my brows, which is four, and raise the upper eyelid, which is five, and narrow the eyelids, which is seven, and press the lips together, which is twenty-four, I' m generating anger. My heartbeat will go up ten to twelve beats. My hands will get hot. As I do it, I can't disconnect from the system. It's very unpleasant, very unpleasant."
Ekman, Friesen, and another colleague, Robert Levenson, who teaches at Berkeley, published a study of this effect in Science. They monitored the bodily indices of anger, sadness, and fear?heart rate and body temperature?in two groups. The first group was instructed to remember and relive a particularly stressful experience. The other was told to simply produce a series of facial movements, as instructed by Ekman? to "assume the position," as they say in acting class. The second group, the people who were pretending, showed the same physiological responses as the first. A few years later, a German team of psychologists published a similar study. They had a group of subjects look at cartoons, either while holding a pen between their lips?an action that made it impossible to contract either of the two major smiling muscles, the risorius and the zygomatic major? or while holding a pen clenched between their teeth, which had the opposite effect and forced them to smile. The people with the pen between their teeth found the cartoons much funnier. Emotion doesn't just go from the inside out. It goes from the outside in. What's more, neither the subjects "assuming the position" nor the people with pens in their teeth knew they were making expressions of emotion. In the facial-feedback system, an expression you do not even know that you have can create an emotion you did not choose to feel.
It is hard to talk to anyone who knows FACS without this point coming up again and again. Face-reading depends not just on seeing facial expressions but also on taking them seriously. One reason most of us?like the TV cop? do not closely attend to the face is that we view its evidence as secondary, as an adjunct to what we believe to be real emotion. But there's nothing secondary about the face, and surely this realization is what set John Yarbrough apart on the night that the boy in the sports car came at him with a gun. It's not just that he saw a microexpression that the rest of us would have missed. It's that he took what he saw so seriously that he was able to overcome every self-protective instinct in his body, and hold his fire.
Yarbrough has a friend in the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, Sergeant Bob Harms, who works in narcotics in Palmdale. Harms is a member of the Diogenes Project as well, but the two men come across very differently. Harms is bigger than Yarbrough, taller and broader in the chest, with soft brown eyes and dark, thick hair. Yarbrough is restoring a Corvette and wears Rush Limbaugh ties, and he says that if he hadn't been a cop he would have liked to stay in the Marines. Harms came out of college wanting to be a commercial artist; now he plans to open a bed-and-breakfast in Vermont with his wife when he retires. On the day we met, Harms was wearing a pair of jean shorts and a short-sleeved patterned shirt. His badge was hidden inside his shirt. He takes notes not on a yellow legal pad, which he considers unnecessarily intimidating to witnesses, but on a powder-blue one. "I always get teased because I'm the touchy-feely one," Harms said. "John Yarbrough is very analytical. He thinks before he speaks. There is a lot going on inside his head. He's constantly thinking four or five steps ahead, then formulating whatever his answers are going to be. That's not how I do my interviews. I have a conversation. It's not "Where were you on Friday night?' Because that's the way we normally communicate. I never say, "I'm Sergeant Harms.' I always start by saying, "I'm Bob Harms, and I'm here to talk to you about your case,' and the first thing I do is smile."
The sensation of talking to the two men, however, is surprisingly similar. Normal conversation is like a game of tennis: you talk and I listen, you listen and I talk, and we feel scrutinized by our conversational partner only when the ball is in our court. But Yarbrough and Harms never stop watching, even when they're doing the talking. Yarbrough would comment on my conversational style, noting where I held my hands as I talked, or how long I would wait out a lull in the conversation. At one point, he stood up and soundlessly moved to the door? which he could have seen only in his peripheral vision?opening it just before a visitor rang the doorbell. Harms gave the impression that he was deeply interested in me. It wasn't empathy. It was a kind of powerful curiosity. "I remember once, when I was in prison custody, I used to shake prisoners' hands," Harms said. "The deputies thought I was crazy. But I wanted to see what happened, because that's what these men are starving for, some dignity and respect."
Some of what sets Yarbrough and Harms and the other face readers apart is no doubt innate. But the fact that people can be taught so easily to recognize microexpressions, and can learn FACS, suggests that we all have at least the potential capacity for this kind of perception. Among those who do very well at face-reading, tellingly, are some aphasics, such as stroke victims who have lost the ability to understand language. Collaborating with Ekman on a paper that was recently published in Nature, the psychologist Nancy Etcoff, of Massachusetts General Hospital, described how a group of aphasics trounced a group of undergraduates at M.I.T. on the nurses tape. Robbed of the power to understand speech, the stroke victims had apparently been forced to become far more sensitive to the information written on people's faces. "They are compensating for the loss in one channel through these other channels," Etcoff says. "We could hypothesize that there is some kind of rewiring in the brain, but I don't think we need that explanation. They simply exercise these skills much more than we do." Ekman has also done work showing that some abused children are particularly good at reading faces as well: like the aphasics in the study, they developed "interpretive strategies"?in their case, so they could predict the behavior of their volatile parents.
What appears to be a kind of magical, effortless intuition about faces, then, may not really be effortless and magical at all. This kind of intuition is a product of desire and effort. Silvan Tomkins took a sabbatical from Princeton when his son Mark was born, and stayed in his house on the Jersey Shore, staring into his son's face, long and hard, picking up the patterns of emotion?the cycles of interest, joy, sadness, and anger?that flash across an infant's face in the first few months of life. He taught himself the logic of the furrows and the wrinkles and the creases, the subtle differences between the pre-smile and the pre-cry face. Later, he put together a library of thousands of photographs of human faces, in every conceivable expression. He developed something called the Picture Arrangement Test, which was his version of the Rorschach blot: a patient would look at a series of pictures and be asked to arrange them in a sequence and then tell a story based on what he saw. The psychologist was supposed to interpret the meaning of the story, but Tomkins would watch a videotape of the patient with the sound off, and by studying the expressions on the patient's face teach himself to predict what the story was. Face-reading, for those who have mastered it, becomes a kind of compulsion; it becomes hard to be satisfied with the level and quality of information that most of us glean from normal social encounters. "Whenever we get together," Harms says of spending time with other face readers, "we debrief each other. We're constantly talking about cases, or some of these videotapes of Ekman's, and we say, "I missed that, did you get that?' Maybe there's an emotion attached there. We're always trying to place things, and replaying interviews in our head."
This is surely why the majority of us don't do well at reading faces: we feel no need to make that extra effort. People fail at the nurses tape, Ekman says, because they end up just listening to the words. That's why, when Tomkins was starting out in his quest to understand the face, he always watched television with the sound turned off. "We are such creatures of language that what we hear takes precedence over what is supposed to be our primary channel of communication, the visual channel," he once said. "Even though the visual channel provides such enormous information, the fact is that the voice pre?mpts the individual's attention, so that he cannot really see the face while he listens." We prefer that way of dealing with the world because it does not challenge the ordinary boundaries of human relationships. Ekman, in one of his essays, writes of what he learned from the legendary sociologist Erving Goffman. Goffman said that part of what it means to be civilized is not to "steal" information that is not freely given to us. When someone picks his nose or cleans his ears, out of unthinking habit, we look away. Ekman writes that for Goffman the spoken word is "the acknowledged information, the information for which the person who states it is willing to take responsibility," and he goes on:
When the secretary who is miserable about a fight with her husband the previous night answers, "Just fine," when her boss asks, "How are you this morning?"?that false message may be the one relevant to the boss's interactions with her. It tells him that she is going to do her job. The true message?that she is miserable?he may not care to know about at all as long as she does not intend to let it impair her job performance.
What would the boss gain by reading the subtle and contradictory microexpressions on his secretary's face? It would be an invasion of her privacy and an act of disrespect. More than that, it would entail an obligation. He would be obliged to do something, or say something, or feel something that might otherwise be avoided entirely. To see what is intended to be hidden, or, at least, what is usually missed, opens up a world of uncomfortable possibilities. This is the hard part of being a face reader. People like that have more faith in their hunches than the rest of us do. But faith is not certainty. Sometimes, on a routine traffic stop late at night, you end up finding out that your hunch was right. But at other times you'll never know. And you can't even explain it properly, because what can you say? You did something the rest of us would never have done, based on something the rest of us would never have seen.
"I was working in West Hollywood once, in the nineteen-eighties," Harms said. "I was with a partner, Scott. I was driving. I had just recently come off the prostitution team, and we spotted a man in drag. He was on Sunset, and I didn't recognize him. At that time, Sunset was normally for females. So it was kind of odd. It was a cold night in January. There was an all-night restaurant on Sunset called Ben Franks, so I asked my partner to roll down the window and ask the guy if he was going to Ben Franks? just to get a reaction. And the guy immediately keys on Scott, and he's got an overcoat on, and he's all bundled up, and he starts walking over to the car. It had been raining so much that the sewers in West Hollywood had backed up, and one of the manhole covers had been cordoned off because it was pumping out water. The guy comes over to the squad car, and he's walking right through that. He's fixated on Scott. So we asked him what he was doing. He says, "I was out for a walk.' And then he says, "I have something to show you.'"
Later, after the incident was over, Harms and his partner learned that the man had been going around Hollywood making serious threats, that he was unstable and had just attempted suicide, that he was in all likelihood about to erupt. A departmental inquiry into the incident would affirm that Harms and his partner had been in danger: the man was armed with a makeshift flamethrower, and what he had in mind, evidently, was to turn the inside of the squad car into an inferno. But at the time all Harms had was a hunch, a sense from the situation and the man's behavior and what he glimpsed inside the man's coat and on the man's face? something that was the opposite of whatever John Yarbrough saw in the face of the boy in Willowbrook. Harms pulled out his gun and shot the man through the open window. "Scott looked at me and was, like, "What did you do?' because he didn't perceive any danger," Harms said. "But I did."
Copyright 2002, Malcolm Gladwell
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Face Reading- Part Two
on: October 22, 2006, 06:35:26 AM
The two men, prot?g? and mentor, sat at the back of the room, as faces flickered across the screen. Ekman had told Tomkins nothing about the tribes involved; all identifying context had been edited out. Tomkins looked on intently, peering through his glasses. At the end, he went up to the screen and pointed to the faces of the South Fore. "These are a sweet, gentle people, very indulgent, very peaceful," he said. Then he pointed to the faces of the Kukukuku. "This other group is violent, and there is lots of evidence to suggest homosexuality." Even today, a third of a century later, Ekman cannot get over what Tomkins did. "My God! I vividly remember saying, "Silvan, how on earth are you doing that?' " Ekman recalls. "And he went up to the screen and, while we played the film backward, in slow motion, he pointed out the particular bulges and wrinkles in the face that he was using to make his judgment. That's when I realized, "I've got to unpack the face.' It was a gold mine of information that everyone had ignored. This guy could see it, and if he could see it, maybe everyone else could, too."
Ekman and Friesen decided that they needed to create a taxonomy of facial expressions, so day after day they sat across from each other and began to make every conceivable face they could. Soon, though, they realized that their efforts weren't enough. "I met an anthropologist, Wade Seaford, told him what I was doing, and he said, 'Do you have this movement?'" ?and here Ekman contracted what's called the triangularis, which is the muscle that depresses the corners of the lips, forming an arc of distaste? "and it wasn't in my system, because I had never seen it before. I had built a system not on what the face can do but on what I had seen. I was devastated. So I came back and said, 'I've got to learn the anatomy.' " Friesen and Ekman then combed through medical textbooks that outlined each of the facial muscles, and identified every distinct muscular movement that the face could make. There were forty-three such movements. Ekman and Friesen called them "action units." Then they sat across from each other again, and began manipulating each action unit in turn, first locating the muscle in their mind and then concentrating on isolating it, watching each other closely as they did, checking their movements in a mirror, making notes of how the wrinkle patterns on their faces would change with each muscle movement, and videotaping the movement for their records. On the few occasions when they couldn't make a particular movement, they went next door to the U.C.S.F. anatomy department, where a surgeon they knew would stick them with a needle and electrically stimulate the recalcitrant muscle. "That wasn't pleasant at all," Ekman recalls. When each of those action units had been mastered, Ekman and Friesen began working action units in combination, layering one movement on top of another. The entire process took seven years. "There are three hundred combinations of two muscles," Ekman says. "If you add in a third, you get over four thousand. We took it up to five muscles, which is over ten thousand visible facial configurations." Most of those ten thousand facial expressions don't mean anything, of course. They are the kind of nonsense faces that children make. But, by working through each action-unit combination, Ekman and Friesen identified about three thousand that did seem to mean something, until they had catalogued the essential repertoire of human emotion.
On a recent afternoon, Ekman sat in his office at U.C.S.F., in what is known as the Human Interaction Laboratory, a standard academic's lair of books and files, with photographs of his two heroes, Tomkins and Darwin, on the wall. He leaned forward slightly, placing his hands on his knees, and began running through the action-unit configurations he had learned so long ago. "Everybody can do action unit four," he began. He lowered his brow, using his depressor glabellae, depressor supercilli, and corrugator. "Almost everyone can do A.U. nine." He wrinkled his nose, using his levator labii superioris, alaeque nasi. "Everybody can do five." He contracted his levator palpebrae superioris, raising his upper eyelid.
I was trying to follow along with him, and he looked up at me. "You've got a very good five," he said generously. "The more deeply set your eyes are, the harder it is to see the five. Then there's seven." He squinted. "Twelve." He flashed a smile, activating the zygomatic major. The inner parts of his eyebrows shot up. "That's A.U. one? distress, anguish." Then he used his frontalis, pars lateralis, to raise the outer half of his eyebrows. "That's A.U. two. It's also very hard, but it's worthless. It's not part of anything except Kabuki theatre. Twenty-three is one of my favorites. It's the narrowing of the red margin of the lips. Very reliable anger sign. It's very hard to do voluntarily." He narrowed his lips. "Moving one ear at a time is still the hardest thing to do. I have to really concentrate. It takes everything I've got." He laughed. "This is something my daughter always wanted me to do for her friends. Here we go." He wiggled his left ear, then his right ear. Ekman does not appear to have a particularly expressive face. He has the demeanor of a psychoanalyst, watchful and impassive, and his ability to transform his face so easily and quickly was astonishing. "There is one I can't do," he went on. "It's A.U. thirty-nine. Fortunately, one of my postdocs can do it. A.U. thirty-eight is dilating the nostrils. Thirty-nine is the opposite. It's the muscle that pulls them down." He shook his head and looked at me again. "Oooh! You've got a fantastic thirty-nine. That's one of the best I've ever seen. It's genetic. There should be other members of your family who have this heretofore unknown talent. You've got it, you've got it." He laughed again. "You're in a position to flash it at people. See, you should try that in a singles bar!"
Ekman then began to layer one action unit on top of another, in order to compose the more complicated facial expressions that we generally recognize as emotions. Happiness, for instance, is essentially A.U. six and twelve? contracting the muscles that raise the cheek (orbicularis oculi, pars orbitalis) in combination with the zygomatic major, which pulls up the corners of the lips. Fear is A.U. one, two and four, or, more fully, one, two, four, five, and twenty, with or without action units twenty-five, twenty-six, or twenty-seven. That is: the inner brow raiser (frontalis, pars medialis) plus the outer brow raiser (frontalis, pars lateralis) plus the brow-lowering depressor supercilli plus the levator palpebrae superioris (which raises the upper lid), plus the risorius (which stretches the lips), the parting of the lips (depressor labii), and the masseter (which drops the jaw). Disgust? That's mostly A.U. nine, the wrinkling of the nose (levator labii superioris, alaeque nasi), but it can sometimes be ten, and in either case may be combined with A.U. fifteen or sixteen or seventeen.
Ekman and Friesen ultimately assembled all these combinations?and the rules for reading and interpreting them? into the Facial Action Coding System, or FACS, and wrote them up in a five-hundred-page binder. It is a strangely riveting document, full of details like the possible movements of the lips (elongate, de-elongate, narrow, widen, flatten, protrude, tighten and stretch); the four different changes of the skin between the eyes and the cheeks (bulges, bags, pouches, and lines); or the critical distinctions between infraorbital furrows and the nasolabial furrow. Researchers have employed the system to study everything from schizophrenia to heart disease; it has even been put to use by computer animators at Pixar ("Toy Story"), andat DreamWorks ("Shrek"). FACS takes weeks to master in its entirety, and only five hundred people around the world have been certified to use it in research. But for those who have, the experience of looking at others is forever changed. They learn to read the face the way that people like John Yarbrough did intuitively. Ekman compares it to the way you start to hear a symphony once you've been trained to read music: an experience that used to wash over you becomes particularized and nuanced.
Ekman recalls the first time he saw Bill Clinton, during the 1992 Democratic primaries. "I was watching his facial expressions, and I said to my wife, 'This is Peck's Bad Boy,' " Ekman says. "This is a guy who wants to be caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and have us love him for it anyway. There was this expression that's one of his favorites. It's that hand-in-the-cookie-jar, love-me-Mommy-because-I'm-a-rascal look. It's A.U. twelve, fifteen, seventeen, and twenty-four, with an eye roll." Ekman paused, then reconstructed that particular sequence of expressions on his face. He contracted his zygomatic major, A.U. twelve, in a classic smile, then tugged the corners of his lips down with his triangularis, A.U. fifteen. He flexed the mentalis, A.U. seventeen, which raises the chin, slightly pressed his lips together in A.U. twenty-four, and finally rolled his eyes?and it was as if Slick Willie himself were suddenly in the room. "I knew someone who was on his communications staff. So I contacted him. I said, 'Look, Clinton's got this way of rolling his eyes along with a certain expression, and what it conveys is "I'm a bad boy." I don't think it's a good thing. I could teach him how not to do that in two to three hours.' And he said, 'Well, we can't take the risk that he's known to be seeing an expert on lying.' I think it's a great tragedy, because . . ." Ekman's voice trailed off. It was clear that he rather liked Clinton, and that he wanted Clinton's trademark expression to have been no more than a meaningless facial tic. Ekman shrugged. "Unfortunately, I guess, he needed to get caught?and he got caught."
Early in his career, Paul Ekman filmed forty psychiatric patients, including a woman named Mary, a forty-two-year-old housewife. She had attempted suicide three times, and survived the last attempt?an overdose of pills?only because someone found her in time and rushed her to the hospital. Her children had left home and her husband was inattentive, and she was depressed. When she first went to the hospital, she simply sat and cried, but she seemed to respond well to therapy. After three weeks, she told her doctor that she was feeling much better and wanted a weekend pass to see her family. The doctor agreed, but just before Mary was to leave the hospital she confessed that the real reason she wanted to go on weekend leave was so that she could make another suicide attempt. Several years later, a group of young psychiatrists asked Ekman how they could tell when suicidal patients were lying. He didn't know, but, remembering Mary, he decided to try to find out. If the face really was a reliable guide to emotion, shouldn't he be able to look back on the film and tell that she was lying? Ekman and Friesen began to analyze the film for clues. They played it over and over for dozens of hours, examining in slow motion every gesture and expression. Finally, they saw it. As Mary's doctor asked her about her plans for the future, a look of utter despair flashed across her face so quickly that it was almost imperceptible.
Ekman calls that kind of fleeting look a "microexpression," and one cannot understand why John Yarbrough did what he did on that night in South Central without also understanding the particular role and significance of microexpressions. Many facial expressions can be made voluntarily. If I' m trying to look stern as I give you a tongue-lashing, I'll have no difficulty doing so, and you' ll have no difficulty interpreting my glare. But our faces are also governed by a separate, involuntary system. We know this because stroke victims who suffer damage to what is known as the pyramidal neural system will laugh at a joke, but they cannot smile if you ask them to. At the same time, patients with damage to another part of the brain have the opposite problem. They can smile on demand, but if you tell them a joke they can't laugh. Similarly, few of us can voluntarily do A.U. one, the sadness sign. (A notable exception, Ekman points out, is Woody Allen, who uses his frontalis, pars medialis, to create his trademark look of comic distress.) Yet we raise our inner eyebrows all the time, without thinking, when we are unhappy. Watch a baby just as he or she starts to cry, and you'll often see the frontalis, pars medialis, shoot up, as if it were on a string.
Perhaps the most famous involuntary expression is what Ekman has dubbed the Duchenne smile, in honor of the nineteenth-century French neurologist Guillaume Duchenne, who first attempted to document the workings of the muscles of the face with the camera. If I ask you to smile, you' ll flex your zygomatic major. By contrast, if you smile spontaneously, in the presence of genuine emotion, you' ll not only flex your zygomatic but also tighten the orbicularis oculi, pars orbitalis, which is the muscle that encircles the eye. It is almost impossible to tighten the orbicularis oculi, pars lateralis, on demand, and it is equally difficult to stop it from tightening when we smile at something genuinely pleasurable. This kind of smile "does not obey the will," Duchenne wrote. "Its absence unmasks the false friend." When we experience a basic emotion, a corresponding message is automatically sent to the muscles of the face. That message may linger on the face for just a fraction of a second, or be detectable only if you attached electrical sensors to the face, but It's always there. Silvan Tomkins once began a lecture by bellowing, "The face is like the penis!" and this is what he meant?that the face has, to a large extent, a mind of its own. This doesn't mean we have no control over our faces. We can use our voluntary muscular system to try to suppress those involuntary responses. But, often, some little part of that suppressed emotion?the sense that I' m really unhappy, even though I deny it?leaks out. Our voluntary expressive system is the way we intentionally signal our emotions. But our involuntary expressive system is in many ways even more important: it is the way we have been equipped by evolution to signal our authentic feelings.
"You must have had the experience where somebody comments on your expression and you didn't know you were making it,"Ekman says. "Somebody tells you, "What are you getting upset about?' "Why are you smirking?' You can hear your voice, but you can't see your face. If we knew what was on our face, we would be better at concealing it. But that wouldn't necessarily be a good thing. Imagine if there were a switch that all of us had, to turn off the expressions on our face at will. If babies had that switch, we wouldn't know what they were feeling. They' d be in trouble. You could make an argument, if you wanted to, that the system evolved so that parents would be able to take care of kids. Or imagine if you were married to someone with a switch? It would be impossible. I don't think mating and infatuation and friendships and closeness would occur if our faces didn't work that way."
Ekman slipped a tape taken from the O.J. Simpson trial into the VCR. It was of Kato Kaelin, Simpson's shaggy-haired house guest, being examined by Marcia Clark, one of the prosecutors in the case. Kaelin sits in the witness box, with his trademark vacant look. Clark asks a hostile question. Kaelin leans forward and answers softly. "Did you see that?" Ekman asked me. I saw nothing, just Kato being Kato? harmless and passive. Ekman stopped the tape, rewound it, and played it back in slow motion. On the screen, Kaelin moved forward to answer the question, and in that fraction of a second his face was utterly transformed. His nose wrinkled, as he flexed his levator labii superioris, alaeque nasi. His teeth were bared, his brows lowered. "It was almost totally A.U. nine," Ekman said. "It's disgust, with anger there as well, and the clue to that is that when your eyebrows go down, typically your eyes are not as open as they are here. The raised upper eyelid is a component of anger, not disgust. It's very quick." Ekman stopped the tape and played it again, peering at the screen. "You know, he looks like a snarling dog."
Ekman said that there was nothing magical about his ability to pick up an emotion that fleeting. It was simply a matter of practice. "I could show you forty examples, and you could pick it up. I have a training tape, and people love it. They start it, and they can't see any of these expressions. Thirty-five minutes later, they can see them all. What that says is that this is an accessible skill."
Ekman showed another clip, this one from a press conference given by Kim Philby in 1955. Philby had not yet been revealed as a Soviet spy, but two of his colleagues, Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess, had just defected to the Soviet Union. Philby is wearing a dark suit and a white shirt. His hair is straight and parted to the left. His face has the hauteur of privilege.
"Mr. Philby," he is asked. "Mr. Macmillan, the foreign secretary, said there was no evidence that you were the so-called third man who allegedly tipped off Burgess and Maclean. Are you satisfied with that clearance that he gave you?"
Philby answers confidently, in the plummy tones of the English upper class. "Yes, I am."
"Well, if there was a third man, were you in fact the third man?"
"No," Philby says, just as forcefully. "I was not."
Ekman rewound the tape, and replayed it in slow motion. "Look at this," he said, pointing to the screen. "Twice, after being asked serious questions about whether he's committed treason, he's going to smirk. He looks like the cat who ate the canary." The expression was too brief to see normally. But at quarter speed it was painted on his face?the lips pressed together in a look of pure smugness. "He's enjoying himself, isn't he?" Ekman went on. "I call this?duping delight? the thrill you get from fooling other people." Ekman started the VCR up again. "There's another thing he does." On the screen, Philby was answering another question. "In the second place, the Burgess-Maclean affair has raised issues of great"? he pauses? "delicacy." Ekman went back to the pause, and froze the tape. "Here it is,"he said. "A very subtle microexpression of distress or unhappiness. It's only in the eyebrows? in fact, just in one eyebrow." Sure enough, Philby's right inner eyebrow was raised in an unmistakable A.U. one. "It's very brief," Ekman said. "He's not doing it voluntarily. And it totally contradicts all his confidence and assertiveness. It comes when he's talking about Burgess and Maclean, whom he had tipped off. It's a hot spot that suggests, 'You shouldn't trust what you hear.' "
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Face Reading
on: October 22, 2006, 06:33:25 AM
August 5, 2002, The New Yorker
ANNALS OF PSYCHOLOGY
The Naked Face
Can you read people's thoughts just by looking at them?http://www.gladwell.com/2002/2002_08_05_a_face.htm
Some years ago, John Yarbrough was working patrol for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. It was about two in the morning. He and his partner were in the Willowbrook section of South Central Los Angeles, and they pulled over a sports car. "Dark, nighttime, average stop," Yarbrough recalls. "Patrol for me was like going hunting. At that time of night in the area I was working, there was a lot of criminal activity, and hardly anyone had a driver's license. Almost everyone had something intoxicating in the car. We stopped drunk drivers all the time. You're hunting for guns or lots of dope, or suspects wanted for major things. You look at someone and you get an instinctive reaction. And the longer you've been working the stronger that instinctive reaction is."
Yarbrough was driving, and in a two-man patrol car the procedure is for the driver to make the approach and the officer on the passenger side to provide backup. He opened the door and stepped out onto the street, walking toward the vehicle with his weapon drawn. Suddenly, a man jumped out of the passenger side and pointed a gun directly at him. The two of them froze, separated by no more than a few yards. "There was a tree behind him, to his right," Yarbrough recalls. "He was about seventeen. He had the gun in his right hand. He was on the curb side. I was on the other side, facing him. It was just a matter of who was going to shoot first. I remember it clear as day. But for some reason I didn't shoot him." Yarbrough is an ex-marine with close-cropped graying hair and a small mustache, and he speaks in measured tones. "Is he a danger? Sure. He's standing there with a gun, and what person in his right mind does that facing a uniformed armed policeman? If you looked at it logically, I should have shot him. But logic had nothing to do with it. Something just didn't feel right. It was a gut reaction not to shoot? a hunch that at that exact moment he was not an imminent threat to me." So Yarbrough stopped, and, sure enough, so did the kid. He pointed a gun at an armed policeman on a dark street in South Central L.A., and then backed down.
Yarbrough retired last year from the sheriff's department after almost thirty years, sixteen of which were in homicide. He now lives in western Arizona, in a small, immaculate house overlooking the Colorado River, with pictures of John Wayne, Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, and Dale Earnhardt on the wall. He has a policeman's watchfulness: while he listens to you, his eyes alight on your face, and then they follow your hands, if you move them, and the areas to your immediate left and right? and then back again, in a steady cycle. He grew up in an affluent household in the San Fernando Valley, the son of two doctors, and he is intensely analytical: he is the sort to take a problem and break it down, working it over slowly and patiently in his mind, and the incident in Willowbrook is one of those problems. Policemen shoot people who point guns directly at them at two in the morning. But something he saw held him back, something that ninety-nine people out of a hundred wouldn't have seen.
Many years later, Yarbrough met with a team of psychologists who were conducting training sessions for law enforcement. They sat beside him in a darkened room and showed him a series of videotapes of people who were either lying or telling the truth. He had to say who was doing what. One tape showed people talking about their views on the death penalty and on smoking in public. Another featured a series of nurses who were all talking about a nature film they were supposedly watching, even though some of them were actually watching grisly documentary footage about burn victims and amputees. It may sound as if the tests should have been easy, because we all think we can tell whether someone is lying. But these were not the obvious fibs of a child, or the prevarications of people whose habits and tendencies we know well. These were strangers who were motivated to deceive, and the task of spotting the liars turns out to be fantastically difficult. There is just too much information?words, intonation, gestures, eyes, mouth?and it is impossible to know how the various cues should be weighted, or how to put them all together, and in any case it's all happening so quickly that you can't even follow what you think you ought to follow. The tests have been given to policemen, customs officers, judges, trial lawyers, and psychotherapists, as well as to officers from the F.B.I., the C.I.A., the D.E.A., and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms? people one would have thought would be good at spotting lies. On average, they score fifty per cent, which is to say that they would have done just as well if they hadn't watched the tapes at all and just guessed. But every now and again? roughly one time in a thousand?someone scores off the charts. A Texas Ranger named David Maxwell did extremely well, for example, as did an ex-A.T.F. agent named J.J. Newberry, a few therapists, an arbitrator, a vice cop? and John Yarbrough, which suggests that what happened in Willowbrook may have been more than a fluke or a lucky guess. Something in our faces signals whether we're going to shoot, say, or whether we're lying about the film we just saw. Most of us aren't very good at spotting it. But a handful of people are virtuosos. What do they see that we miss?
All of us, a thousand times a day, read faces. When someone says "I love you," we look into that person's eyes to judge his or her sincerity. When we meet someone new, we often pick up on subtle signals, so that, even though he or she may have talked in a normal and friendly manner, afterward we say, "I don't think he liked me," or "I don't think she's very happy." We easily parse complex distinctions in facial expression. If you saw me grinning, for example, with my eyes twinkling, you'd say I was amused. But that's not the only way we interpret a smile. If you saw me nod and smile exaggeratedly, with the corners of my lips tightened, you would take it that I had been teased and was responding sarcastically. If I made eye contact with someone, gave a small smile and then looked down and averted my gaze, you would think I was flirting. If I followed a remark with an abrupt smile and then nodded, or tilted my head sideways, you might conclude that I had just said something a little harsh, and wanted to take the edge off it. You wouldn't need to hear anything I was saying in order to reach these conclusions. The face is such an extraordinarily efficient instrument of communication that there must be rules that govern the way we interpret facial expressions. But what are those rules? And are they the same for everyone?
In the nineteen-sixties, a young San Francisco psychologist named Paul Ekman began to study facial expression, and he discovered that no one knew the answers to those questions. Ekman went to see Margaret Mead, climbing the stairs to her tower office at the American Museum of Natural History. He had an idea. What if he travelled around the world to find out whether people from different cultures agreed on the meaning of different facial expressions? Mead, he recalls, "looked at me as if I were crazy." Like most social scientists of her day, she believed that expression was culturally determined? that we simply used our faces according to a set of learned social conventions. Charles Darwin had discussed the face in his later writings; in his 1872 book, "The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals," he argued that all mammals show emotion reliably in their faces. But in the nineteen-sixties academic psychologists were more interested in motivation and cognition than in emotion or its expression. Ekman was undaunted; he began travelling to places like Japan, Brazil, and Argentina, carrying photographs of men and women making a variety of distinctive faces. Everywhere he went, people agreed on what those expressions meant. But what if people in the developed world had all picked up the same cultural rules from watching the same movies and television shows? So Ekman set out again, this time making his way through the jungles of Papua New Guinea, to the most remote villages, and he found that the tribesmen there had no problem interpreting the expressions, either. This may not sound like much of a breakthrough. But in the scientific climate of the time it was a revelation. Ekman had established that expressions were the universal products of evolution. There were fundamental lessons to be learned from the face, if you knew where to look.
Paul Ekman is now in his sixties. He is clean-shaven, with closely set eyes and thick, prominent eyebrows, and although he is of medium build, he seems much larger than he is: there is something stubborn and substantial in his demeanor. He grew up in Newark, the son of a pediatrician, and entered the University of Chicago at fifteen. He speaks deliberately: before he laughs, he pauses slightly, as if waiting for permission. He is the sort to make lists, and number his arguments. His academic writing has an orderly logic to it; by the end of an Ekman essay, each stray objection and problem has been gathered up and catalogued. In the mid-sixties, Ekman set up a lab in a ramshackle Victorian house at the University of California at San Francisco, where he holds a professorship. If the face was part of a physiological system, he reasoned, the system could be learned. He set out to teach himself. He treated the face as an adventurer would a foreign land, exploring its every crevice and contour. He assembled a videotape library of people's facial expressions, which soon filled three rooms in his lab, and studied them to the point where he could look at a face and pick up a flicker of emotion that might last no more than a fraction of a second. Ekman created the lying tests. He filmed the nurses talking about the movie they were watching and the movie they weren't watching. Working with Maureen O'Sullivan, a psychologist from the University of San Francisco, and other colleagues, he located people who had a reputation for being uncannily perceptive, and put them to the test, and that's how Yarbrough and the other high-scorers were identified. O'Sullivan and Ekman call this study of gifted face readers the Diogenes Project, after the Greek philosopher of antiquity who used to wander around Athens with a lantern, peering into people's faces as he searched for an honest man. Ekman has taken the most vaporous of sensations? the hunch you have about someone else? and sought to give them definition. Most of us don't trust our hunches, because we don't know where they came from. We think they can't be explained. But what if they can?
Paul Ekman got his start in the face-reading business because of a man named Silvan Tomkins, and Silvan Tomkins may have been the best face reader there ever was. Tomkins was from Philadelphia, the son of a dentist from Russia. He was short, and slightly thick around the middle, with a wild mane of white hair and huge black plastic-rimmed glasses. He taught psychology at Princeton and Rutgers, and was the author of "Affect, Imagery, Consciousness," a four-volume work so dense that its readers were evenly divided between those who understood it and thought it was brilliant and those who did not understand it and thought it was brilliant. He was a legendary talker. At the end of a cocktail party, fifteen people would sit, rapt, at Tomkins's feet, and someone would say, "One more question!" and they would all sit there for another hour and a half, as Tomkins held forth on, say, comic books, a television sitcom, the biology of emotion, his problem with Kant, and his enthusiasm for the latest fad diets, all enfolded into one extended riff. During the Depression, in the midst of his doctoral studies at Harvard, he worked as a handicapper for a horse-racing syndicate, and was so successful that he lived lavishly on Manhattan's Upper East Side. At the track, where he sat in the stands for hours, staring at the horses through binoculars, he was known as the Professor. "He had a system for predicting how a horse would do based on what horse was on either side of him, based on their emotional relationship," Ekman said. If a male horse, for instance, had lost to a mare in his first or second year, he would be ruined if he went to the gate with a mare next to him in the lineup. (Or something like that? no one really knew for certain.) Tomkins felt that emotion was the code to life, and that with enough attention to particulars the code could be cracked. He thought this about the horses, and, more important, he thought this about the human face.
Tomkins, it was said, could walk into a post office, go over to the "Wanted" posters, and, just by looking at mug shots, tell you what crimes the various fugitives had committed. "He would watch the show "To Tell the Truth,' and without fault he could always pick the person who was lying and who his confederates were," his son, Mark, recalls. "He actually wrote the producer at one point to say it was too easy, and the man invited him to come to New York, go backstage, and show his stuff." Virginia Demos, who teaches psychology at Harvard, recalls having long conversations with Tomkins. "We would sit and talk on the phone, and he would turn the sound down as Jesse Jackson was talking to Michael Dukakis, at the Democratic National Convention. And he would read the faces and give his predictions on what would happen. It was profound."
Ekman's most memorable encounter with Tomkins took place in the late sixties. Ekman had just tracked down a hundred thousand feet of film that had been shot by the virologist Carleton Gajdusek in the remote jungles of Papua New Guinea. Some of the footage was of a tribe called the South Fore, who were a peaceful and friendly people. The rest was of the Kukukuku, who were hostile and murderous and who had a homosexual ritual where pre-adolescent boys were required to serve as courtesans for the male elders of the tribe. Ekman was still working on the problem of whether human facial expressions were universal, and the Gajdusek film was invaluable. For six months, Ekman and his collaborator, Wallace Friesen, sorted through the footage. They cut extraneous scenes, focussing just on closeups of the faces of the tribesmen, and when the editing was finished Ekman called in Tomkins.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: October 22, 2006, 06:10:32 AM
Hat tip to GM for this one too:
The West's Self-Imposed Censorship
By Amir Taheri
Gulf News | October 13, 2006
In Communist-ruled East Germany, they had a term for it: pre-emptive obedience. This meant guessing the future orders of the politburo and obeying them before they were issued. East Germany was thrown into the dustbin of history a long time ago. However, "pre-emptive obedience" is making a comeback in re-unified Germany and several other European countries.
It was based on "pre-emptive obedience" that the German Opera in Berlin decided to cancel its production of Mozart's Idomeneo after the managers decided that it might anger Muslims. The opera had already been shown in 2003 without incident and no Muslim group had called for it to be withdrawn. Thus, the managers were obeying orders that had not been issued.
A few days after the Idomeneo scandal it was the turn of French philosopher Robert Redecker to do a bit of "pre-emptive obedience" by going into hiding after publishing a newspaper column that some of his friends feared might anger Muslims. The fact is that quite a few Muslim writers have published essays more daring than Redecker's without going into hiding under police protection, thus resisting "pre-emptive obedience" of orders that might come from "Islamofascist" groups.
"Pre-emptive obedience" was also at work when the Whitechapel Art Gallery, one of London's major art exhibition venues, decided to withdraw a number of paintings by the surrealist Hans Bellmer. The reason? The management decided that the erotic paintings might "hurt the sensibilities of the Muslim community" which is strongly present in London's East End of which Whitechapel is a part. Again, no Muslim had seen the paintings or would have been able to interpret them as "an erotic assault on the Quran", let alone demand that they be withdrawn.
Thanks to "pre-emptive obedience", a wave of self-censorship has also hit the traditionally bawdy world of German carnivals. The Dusseldorf carnival, for example, has banned any gear that might appear "Islamic" and thus designed to "hurt Muslim sensibilities". A work by the Swiss sculptor Fleur Boecklin was also withdrawn from public view in Dusseldorf after it was branded "a misrepresentation of Islam as an aggressive faith".
Self-censorship for alleged fear of Islamic revenge has hit other areas of life in Europe.
In Spain, folkloric ceremonies and carnivals marking the expulsion of the Moors from Andalusia have been cancelled in all but a handful of villages, ending a 400-year old tradition.
In Germany, France and Britain numerous illuminated manuscripts of Persian poetry and prose have been withdrawn because they contained images of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and other historic figures of Islam.
In most European countries, an official black of list of books has emerged, containing works deemed to be "hurtful to Muslim sentiments". The list includes the names not only of such major European authors as Voltaire and Thomas Carlyle but also of Muslim writers whose work has been translated into European languages. For example, the novel Haji Agha by Sadeq Hedayat, translated into French and published in the 1940s, is no longer available. The novel Four Pains by Cyrus Farzaneh has also disappeared from French bookshops and libraries along with The Master by Darvish.
Last month a British publisher, acting on "pre-emptive obedience", cancelled plans to publish the translation of Twenty Three Years, a controversial biography of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) by the late Iranian author Ali Dashti. Literary agents and book publishers have no qualms about admitting that they would not touch any manuscript that "smells like stirring the Muslims into a rage". One editor tells me that he has rejected at least 10 manuscripts in the past year alone because he did not wish to "risk controversy or worse" with Muslims. "I don't want to live under police escort," he says.
The American author and feminist Phyllis Chesler is still trying to find a British publisher, while her colleague Nancy Korbin has just lost her American publisher. In both cases, fear of angering Muslims is cited as the excuse for what is, in fact, "pre-emptive obedience".
The practitioners of "pre-emptive obedience" often claim they are acting in accordance with the best principles of multiculturalism.
"We wish to show respect for our Muslim neighbours," says a spokesperson for the Whitechapel Art Gallery.
While museums in Germany and Britain are hiding works that show images of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), Turkish and Iranian museums continue to display their tableaux containing his images.
Sometimes the imagined threat of "Islamic anger" is used for settling of scores that have nothing to do with Islam. In the Russian city of Volgograd (former Stalingrad), for example, there are no more than a few hundred Muslims. And yet the Russian government has just closed down the local newspaper based on the claim that it had hurt "Muslim sensibilities" by publishing a cartoon that shows Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) along with Moses and Jesus, watching some people fighting on television. The truth is that the local branch of the United Russia Party, the political mouth piece of President Vladimir Putin, had been trying to shut the newspaper for years. The supposed feeling of "Muslim sensibilities" is nothing but an excuse for an attack on media freedom.
The truth, however, is that blaming Muslims for censorship, one of the ugliest evils in any civilised society, is an insult to a majority of Muslims. The adepts of "pre-emptive obedience" see Muslims as childish, irrational and incapable of responding to works of literature and art in terms other than passion and violence.
The party of "pre-emptive obedience" violates one of the basic principles of the western societies, that is to say freedom of expression. And, that makes it harder for Muslim democrats to persuade their co-religionists that, rather than fear freedom, they should learn to benefit from it.
The party of "pre-emptive obedience" hurts Muslim interests in another way. By presenting Muslims as agents of censorship and intolerance, it incites the non-Muslim majority against them while presenting the most reactionary fundamentalists as the sole legitimate representatives of Islam.
Self-censorship in Europe also provides the despotic regimes in Muslim countries with an excuse for their systematic violation of the right to free expression. While Muslim writers and artists are fighting and, in some cases, even dying to defend their freedom of creation it would be a sad irony to see that same freedom undermined by the party of "pre-emptive obedience" in the West.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / North Korea
on: October 22, 2006, 06:00:40 AM
We need a thread dedicated to NK. So here it is, started with yet another post pilfered from GM
The Sunday Times October 22, 2006
Kim tested by rise of armed resistance
Michael Sheridan, Far East Correspondent
AN underground resistance movement in North Korea, capable of smuggling out videos of executions and staging violent acts of defiance, has emerged as the Kim Jong-il dictatorship faces international sanctions for testing a nuclear bomb.
The latest evidence of North Koreans willing to risk their lives to tell their story is a video showing the execution by firing squad of a woman convicted of murder committed in the course of stealing food last July.
Captured by a bystander with a tiny camera, it shows the victim being tied to a stake, watched by other convicts, in a field next to the Juyi River in the north.
There are sounds of people muttering in Korean, ?See, that?s how they blindfold them,? as three executioners prepare to fire. Shouted commands are then heard.
As a ragged series of 12 shots resounds, blurry clouds of smoke break out around the distant figure, which slumps in its bonds. The body is then wrapped in what appears to be a plastic bag for burial.
The video was aired by Japan?s Asahi Television, which said the dead woman was named Yoo Bun Hee, but gave no details of how it obtained the pictures. North Korean exiles said they believe it is authentic.
The footage provides a clue to an unexplained series of border incidents earlier this year which North Korean officials blamed on a shadowy ?resistance?.
In one clash North Korean border guards confronted three men creeping at night across the frozen Tumen River from China. In the ensuing fight the intruders stabbed several soldiers and escaped, leaving a bag containing three guns, ammunition, a video camera and a phone.
On the same night in late January men opened fire on a frontier post at the town of Huiryeong, causing an unknown number of casualties before escaping.
Chinese witnesses and foreign diplomats say there have been repeated outbreaks of gunfire, usually at night, along the mountainous barren borderlands. Lim Chun Yong, a former North Korean special forces officer who has defected, claimed that four or five groups of an ?armed resistance? were in the area.
?The people say among themselves that the regime is worse than the Japanese colonists,? he told South Korea?s Dong-A Ilbo newspaper.
The constant traffic of traders and escapees along the 850-mile border has eroded totalitarian controls to the point where clandestine goods and ideas now thrive in the frontier provinces. Smuggled mobiles allow North Koreans to make calls on Chinese networks by capturing their signals at the border.
Because there are no barriers to calling South Korea or the United States from China, they can talk to family members and enemies of the regime.
The latest video is proof that Chinese currency and DVDs are in circulation, because some witnesses to the execution had been forced to watch as punishment for possessing such things.
People smugglers and black-marketeers are rife. Chinese sources said some North Korean border guards could be bribed to turn a blind eye.
When the rivers freeze or dry to a trickle, it is almost impossible to seal the frontier. Chinese travellers report that in some areas North Korean officials are too nervous to go out at night and military reinforcements have been brought in from politically reliable units.
Experts on the regime do not expect it to fold quickly or easily. The exiled Hwang Jang-yop, 83, who was the chief ideologue in Pyongyang before his astonishing defection to the South in the late 1990s, says only the overthrow of Kim Jong-il could end its nuclear ambitions.
Kim could also easily withstand the envisaged United Nations sanctions, he added.
The next step in the crisis is still in doubt after Condoleezza Rice, the US Secretary of State, cast doubt on reports that Kim had expressed regrets and promised no more tests. Instead, she said, North Korea seemed bent on escalation.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: October 22, 2006, 05:49:54 AM
You raise a sound question.
A partial answer:
1) Things move faster now. It took a goodly amount of time for a letter to get from one state to another in those days-- today we have the internet.
2) The dynamics with neighboring countries was different--e.g. a Islamofascist whacko nuclear wannabe regime was not next door trying to steer things its way.
3) The dynamics amongst ourselves was different. We weren't death squading, kamikazi killing women and children, killing the members of the Constitutional Convention etc.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere
on: October 22, 2006, 05:43:04 AM
An Islamic TV Channel Expands Its U.S. Audience
The MEMRI Report
BY STEVEN STALINSKY
October 19, 2006
Bridges TV, an American-Islamic TV channel "seeking to improve the image of Muslims in the United States" and to "offer a unique perspective on the Middle East and the war on terrorism," has extended its availability into six states, creating a potential audience of nearly 2 million.
The network's programming includes a mix of entertainment, sports, news, documentaries, and advertisements from companies like Ford, with an emphasis on religious programs.
The channel says it has been endorsed by "top American [Islamic] scholars and community leaders," whose representatives appear on many of its programs, including one called "Prominent Scholars."
Some speakers openly criticize Islamic extremists. An imam from Los Angeles, Sheik Tajuddin Bin Shuaib, appeared on the channel on October 8 and denounced Osama bin Laden and the September 11, 2001, hijackers.
Some guests, however, are extremists. One religious figure who appeared October 3 said Muslims have a duty to change America and to increase their numbers to 50% of the population from 2%. He recommended that Shariah, or Islamic law, be implemented in American courts.
During a roundtable discussion on the Arab-Israeli conflict on October 5, one participant offered a solution: "For the Jews to leave and return to Europe."
Bridges TV aired a speech by the influential Muslim scholar Jamal Badawi on October 4. Mr. Badawi, who teaches Islam throughout North America, gave an interview to the Saudi Gazette on June 24, 2005, in which he raised questions about who was behind the September 11 attacks and suggested that Americans could be behind the car bombings of Iraqi markets.
Every night, Bridges TV shows a news program, "Talking Points." Its guest on October 4 was Imam Mohammad Alo Elahi, whom it described as a leading "interfaith figure." According to his Web site, Imam Elahi was a spiritual leader in Ayatollah Khomeini's Iranian navy and also is the leader of "one of the largest mosques in the U.S.," in Dearborn, Mich.
The Web site describes his meetings with world leaders and shows photographs of him with the spiritual adviser of Hezbollah, Ayatollah Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah; Ayatollah Khomeini; Presidents Khatemi and Rafsanjani of Iran; Secretary-General Annan of the United Nations; and Minister Louis Farrakhan.
Throughout the day, Bridges TV airs segments of Koranic verses, quite a few of which denounce "unbelievers." One notable verse that aired October 9 praised martyrdom.
Since the Islamic holy month of Ramadan began, the channel has been showing official, Saudi government-controlled Wahhabi sermons from Mecca's holiest mosque, Al-Haram. The sermons stream live via Saudi TV Channel one every day at 4 p.m., and Bridges TV adds its own English subtitles.
An anti-Jewish, anti-Christian sermon from October 5 included the call, "May God destroy them!"
Bridges TV's Web site, bridgestv.com, features a weekly poll. Notable questions and results include 59% calling for Hezbollah to continue as a military force in Lebanon, 73% in agreement with the American policy of withholding funds to the Hamas-led Palestinian Arab government, and 63% believing that the Iranian government's nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
One of the stars of Bridges TV is a cofounder and vice chairman of the international health care company CBay Inc., Donald "Skip" Conover, who hosts and produces a show called "Words Matter." He was the subject of a gushing article in the Saudi daily Arab News on September 27.
In the article, Mr. Conover expressed "his disgust" at what he called inflammatory statements about Arabs and Muslims in the press.
He also discussed the power of the "Jewish lobby" and called on all Muslims to vote for the Democratic Party. "Every American politician is in lockstep with Israel. ? If they vote against, then the Jewish lobby will put a lot of money behind the candidate against them in their districts in the future. I have news for the Muslim community. All American politicians are in the pocket of the Jewish lobby today because they control a lot of money, and they spend a lot of money in politics."
"If the Muslims of America believe that they don't want Bush to have a free hand for the next two years, then the Muslims of America need to get organized and make sure they get out to vote for Democrats for both the House and the Senate," Mr. Conover added. "Every Muslim in the Middle East who has a relative in the U.S. should get the message across to their relatives. They need to make sure that all their friends vote against Bush."
Bridges TV claims that its "major purpose" is "to build bridges between American Muslims and other Americans." After viewing the channel, I find this highly unlikely.
Mr. Stalinsky is the executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why
on: October 22, 2006, 05:42:12 AM
Folks, I think he is giving my tail a yank because it comes from a post he made on another forum
But I must go to post on another thread , , , another article posted elsewhere by GM
More seriously now, GM, I like a lot of what you post , , , elsewhere but am too impatient to wait to find out if you are going to post ones that I particularly like here.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why
on: October 22, 2006, 12:25:31 AM
Second post of the evening:http://www.directionsmag.com/article.php?article_id=2071
The Challenge of Unrestricted Warfare - A Look Back and a Look Ahead
By Kevin Coleman
(Jan 11, 2006)
Let's take a trip back in time. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created in the spring of 2003. Their sole mission focuses on protecting the United States from threats on the domestic front. So, how well have they done? Excluding the Katrina abomination, DHS has had a very successful year. The most critical measure of their success is, of course, the presence or absence of domestic terrorist attacks. When you use that as the measure, it has been a great year for the DHS. There were no major attacks on U.S. soil and only a handful of minor incidents were reported.
Even though DHS was successful in preventing domestic terrorist attacks, that does not mean that 2005 was a total success for DHS and their battle to keep all of us safe from terrorism. Domestic intelligence and surveillance are critical to prosecuting the war on terrorism. The multiple leaks of information that have taken place regarding classified programs have the entire intelligence community deeply concerned. It is unclear how the publicizing of this information has and will affect the efforts of DHS. It is difficult for people outside the security and intelligence communities to comprehend just how significantly we are exposed because of the lack of confidence in the ability of the government to keep classified data and programs secret. This is a challenge that must be addressed if DHS is to be successful in keeping us safe from the threats we face today.
DHS is combating a threat that is significantly different from any faced throughout history. The nature of conflict has changed. In order to understand the challenges DHS faces, you must first understand the evolving concept of Unrestricted Warfare (URW). Many of you may not be familiar with this term. When examining DHS closely, you begin to see that there are significant issues and challenges that must be addressed immediately. One core challenge is to recognize the significant differences in the threats we have faced in the past, the reality of the threats we face currently, and the threats we will face in the future. It is not just attacks from terrorist and radical nation states that pose threats.
The U.S. faces a new threat environment unlike any we have previously experienced. This multi-faceted threat has several unique characteristics in addition to a highly dynamic environment that seems to change on a daily, if not hourly, basis. These changes in traditional conflicts were recognized and given the name "Unrestricted Warfare." Colonels Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui of China first identified this new style of conflict in their book, Unrestricted Warfare. They were the first to voice concerns about the use of unconventional attacks. This book was written in 1999, three years before the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. These concepts were further expanded by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab and have been discussed within the Department of Defense.
Awareness of this multi-faceted threat is growing. Much more attention is being given to threat analysis and to new strategies and technologies needed to address this threat. In March of this year, The Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory and Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies are sponsoring a Symposium on Meeting the Unrestricted Warfare Threat. However, the nature of the URW threat mandates new tactics, approaches, and a new mindset in the effort to combat this threat. The U.S. must adopt a new National Security Strategy that is designed based on the unique attributes of URW.
High Level Attributes Comparison
Surprise attacks Declaration of war
Ill-defined field of battle Battle field with defined boundaries
Obscure targets Definable targets
Multi-faceted battlefronts Military battlefronts
Highly dynamic Low dynamics
What it takes to be successful in the era of Unrestricted Warfare is radically different than that which determined success in asymmetric warfare. When we look at conflict, we tend to look at land, sea and air combat. URW is different. The physical aspects of conflict are obscured. The battlefield now includes the minds of people.
The threats we face represent a new way of thinking about conflict and warfare. It is a battle for the minds of individuals, as well as for influence over culture, values and beliefs. With this dramatic change in the essence of the threats we face, the impact on the way we secure our country and wage war will be equally as significant.
Multiple aspects of life are attacked in an effort to influence and bring about change rather than focusing on attacking life itself. These tactics include disruption in the way of life and destruction of cultural symbols that are core to the opponent's way of life.
The Fourteen Facets of URW
Economic aid warfare
Illegal drugs warfare
Information and media warfare
Telecommunication and network warfare
It is important to note that traditional forms of warfare will not disappear anytime soon. Most likely, any conflict will include tradition and URW techniques. In this context, nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons fall under the definition of traditional warfare.
Let's look at each of these fourteen areas of URW and assess the risk, potential impact, current defense capabilities, and magnitude of change required to address the threat. Using Trans-disciplinary Intelligence Engineering (TIE) techniques I have used in past DHS scenario development and risk analysis, I created the following high-level threat matrix. A numeric value between 1 (or low) and 5 (or high) has been assigned to each evaluation aspect within the matrix. It is important to keep in mind that this is based on the estimated capabilities, motivation, and resources of our adversaries in each of the fourteen facets of URW. This is, of course, based on open source intelligence and does not reflect any classified intelligence.
This is global warfare in the age of technology and information. Creating the capacity to address these threats is arguably the biggest challenge for DHS. Our defenses must be transformed to meet the threat of URW. Perhaps the area that will experience the most time-critical change is that of global intelligence. For the most part, every one of these types of warfare can be planned and launched from anywhere in the world. When all we had to worry about was conventional warfare, the intelligence community concentrated their efforts on a handful of countries. They knew the major suppliers of weapons and monitored them. They also created early warning and surveillance systems to alert them to an attack. They do not have the same capabilities with respect to URW. The information sources required to defend against URW necessitate significant business knowledge and intelligence. This requires collaboration. Previously, the intelligence community operated independently. In URW, they will need a strategic partnership with the private sector.
The change in almost every aspect of conflict and warfare creates the need to redefine success. There is no switch that, when flipped, ends the war- no single battle that brings the conflict to an end.
Winning = Mindset Change Winning = Overpowering Force and Power
Measured by Influence Measured by Control
A critical success factor will be the ability of the U.S. federal government to educate the masses on the new reality of unrestricted warfare and what changes are necessary to safeguard our way of life.
As we explore URW, our understanding of these threats will continue to evolve. With this evolution comes change. At issue is the fact that there is a limited amount of change that can be absorbed by any individual, group, or organization. When the amount of change exceeds the ability of an individual, group, or organization to adapt, it creates resistance and delays in transformation. Delays are unacceptable in this venue.
This is a battle for the minds of people. Winning the minds of people brings with it power and influence. To win the minds of a targeted audience requires capabilities that are not in our current complement of weapons. We must create new capabilities, like "Digital Warriors," to combat the threat of electronic warfare and information weapons. In addition, our arsenal requires reengineering of our global intelligence resources. New intelligence sources, expansion of our intelligence gathering capabilities, and closer cooperation between intelligence organizations around the world are just a few of the changes required to address these new threats.
For these reasons, technology will become even more important. Just consider the vast amount of intelligence required to monitor specific threats along the 14 facets of URW. Given that backdrop, consider the significant amount of information about what we call the 5Ws (who - what- where- when "? why) about specific plots and clandestine efforts to wage URW. Then dive down to the next level of detail, the data supporting the 5Ws. You begin to consider the time and location based intelligence maps that will need to be created in near real time to defend against these threats. The database, GIS, visualization and other requirements will drive the advancement of information technology for decades to come. We are truly moving from Guns, Guards and Gates to Information, Intelligence and Integration as the deciding factor in the conflicts yet to come.
In the coming year, this column will focus on the fourteen facets of URW. We will examine the threats, challenges, and technologies that need to be deployed to fight this type of war. This article will also serve as a foundation for understanding the remaining three parts of counter-terrorism for corporations and why business is such a critical component in our war on terrorism as well as the other 13 facets of unrestricted warfare.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War
on: October 21, 2006, 11:48:24 PM
Sorry for lack of URL,? but this internet friend has a long and solid track record with me.
This story from Haaretz, indirectly supports that contention...namely that the French would approve the sale of missiles to Lebanon...
French forces: Stop Lebanon overflights or we'll open fire
By Gideon Alon
The commanders of the French contingent in UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) have warned that if Israeli warplanes continue their overflights in Lebanon, they may have to open fire on them, Defense Minister Amir Peretz told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee yesterday.
Peretz told members of the committee that despite the warnings, Israel would continue to patrol the skies of Lebanon as such operations were critical for the country's security. Over the past few days, Peretz said, Israel had gathered clear evidence that Syria was transfering arms and ammunition to Lebanon, meaning that the embargo imposed by UN Resolution 1701 was not being completely enforced.
Israel plans to inform the joint committee of representatives of UNIFIL, the Israel Defense Forces and the Lebanese Army that unless the arms transfers are stopped, Israel will be forced to take independent action, Peretz said.
Turning to the situation in the Gaza Strip, Peretz said that Israel could under no circumstances allow the Strip to be turned into a second South Lebanon. According to Peretz, the time when Israel used to check who was sending every missile is over, and the IDF is intent on striking at every terrorist no matter what organization he belongs to.
The defense minister said that the current ground operations underway in the Gaza Strip were much more extensive than before. But, he said, "No one is hankering for ground action deep inside the entire Gaza Strip."
Another friend comments:
Looks like Israel was screwed once again by the "international community".
Disarming Hizballah was part of the peace deal - but now, no one even talks
about that. And now, the French are threatening to shoot at Israeli planes.
What about shooting at those who are delivering arms to Hizballah?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why
on: October 21, 2006, 11:41:51 PM
U.S.: Al Qaeda and the U.S. Midterm Elections
With U.S. midterm elections set for Nov. 7, some observers are speculating about the possibility of an al Qaeda attempt to influence the outcome by staging a major attack on U.S. soil or against U.S. interests overseas. Although another al Qaeda attack can never be ruled out, the jihadist network is unlikely to stage one for the purpose of influencing this election -- largely because such a timed attack would not serve its purposes.
Al Qaeda's overall strategy against the United States is to force Washington to expend as many resources as possible to fight the jihadists -- which ostensibly would prove the network's long-stated charge that the United States is at war against Islam in general. By keeping the United States overextended across the globe, al Qaeda hopes to stretch the U.S. economy to the breaking point -- essentially to bleed the United States dry. The massive U.S. military commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan serves this strategy. The longer U.S. troops stay in the Middle East and Central Asia, the more al Qaeda perceives this strategy as working.
Should an attack before the election further erode public confidence in the Bush administration and its policies, the United States could become less willing to commit itself as heavily around the world. Therefore, staging an attack to influence this election would not serve al Qaeda's strategy of keeping the U.S. overextended. From al Qaeda's perspective, the longer the current administration remains in power -- using pre-emptive force and waging its war against militant Islam globally -- the better.
Although more Americans continue to believe the Republicans are better able than the Democrats to deal with the U.S.-jihadist war, the number has declined in the two years since the presidential election. An attack now could be interpreted as an indication that the Bush administration has mismanaged the war against militant Islam in the five years since 9/11, and that President George W. Bush's policies, particularly invading Iraq and inspiring widespread anti-U.S. sentiment among Muslims and Washington's allies, have made the United States less -- not more -- secure.
An attack before the elections could strengthen opposition to Bush and his party, and increase the demand for an end to U.S. involvement in Iraq. A U.S. departure from Iraq, however, would not serve al Qaeda's strategy of bleeding the United States dry. Although this election will not affect the duration of the current administration, a shift to a Democratic-controlled Congress could impede its programs and the war effort via the purse strings.
Al Qaeda has tried to influence elections before, but not on a legislative level. The 2004 attacks by an al Qaeda-linked cell against commuter trains in Madrid caused former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's ruling Popular Party to lose. His successor, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, subsequently made good on his campaign pledge to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq. In October 2004, bin Laden did refer to the U.S. presidential election in a video statement, although that election determined whether leadership of the government would change hands.
Although al Qaeda would have no incentive to manipulate the midterm elections, the organization does have a need to prove that it remains a strong enough force to pull off a major attack against the United States. This is evident in the foiled plots since 9/11, such as the Library Tower plot, the al-Hindi cell's financial centers plot and the London liquid explosives plot directed against U.S. airliners, as well as plots involving Richard Reid and Jose Padilla. Historically, major al Qaeda attacks on a scale similar to 9/11 have been staged based on operational considerations, not on whether they were likely to influence contemporary events.
With intelligence and law enforcement agencies around the world actively hunting for al Qaeda operatives and attacking the jihadist network wherever it can be found, the al Qaeda operational considerations for an attack are even more important than timing it to coincide with an election. If there is a major attack currently in the works, it probably was not conceived with the U.S. midterm elections in mind.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: October 21, 2006, 10:45:19 PM
Remember Oriana Fallaci? She had a hard time with the "politically correct" crowd with her last book, because it didn't toe the liberal line. Here's an excerpt from an interview with her on the occasion of her new book "The Force of Reason" (from http://www.nationalreview.com/comment/vidino200405040834.asp
In 1974, former Algerian President Houari Boumedienne said in a speech at the U.N.: "One day millions of men will leave the southern hemisphere to go to the northern hemisphere. And they will not go there as friends. Because they will go there to conquer it. And they will conquer it with their sons. The wombs of our women will give us victory." In other words, says Fallaci, what Islamic armies have not been able to do with force in more than 1,000 years can be achieved in less than a century through high birth rates. She cites as evidence a 1975 meeting of Islamic countries in Lahore, in which they announced their project to transform the flow of Muslim immigrants in Europe in "demographic preponderance."
The "sons of Allah," as Fallaci calls them, do not make a secret of their plans."A respected Muslim cleric told the crowd: "Thanks to your democratic laws we will invade you. Thanks to our Islamic laws we will conquer you." The full interview follows: May 04, 2004, 8:34 a.m.
Fallaci issues a wake-up call to Europe.
By Lorenzo Vidino
"Oriana Fallaci" is not a household name in the United States, but it cannot be uttered in Europe without generating a heated reaction. Even though her 2002 book, The Rage and the Pride, was translated into English (by Fallaci herself) and sold many copies in the U.S., it was on the other side of the ocean that intellectuals, politicians, and ordinary citizens passionately debated the views of the celebrated Italian journalist.
The Rage and the Pride is either loved or hated; the positions Fallaci takes in it leave no middle ground. Outraged by the events of 9/11, Fallaci criticizes both Muslims (bent, according to her, on conquering the West and annihilating its culture) and Europeans (described as spoiled, hypocritical, and blind to the mortal threat represented by Islamic expansionism). Fallaci's views as expressed in the Rage and the Pride caused an uproar in politically correct Europe, death threats and lawsuits included. Now, two years later, Fallaci has published a new book, entitled La Forza della Ragione (The Force of Reason), which continues the discourse she began in The Rage and the Pride.
As its title suggests, The Force of Reason is not dictated by the (sometimes excessive) fury that inspired The Rage and the Pride, but it gives a more accurate explanation of why Europe has decided not to defend its identity and to surrender to what she calls the "Islamic invasion." With the sarcasm and uniquely direct style that characterizes her work, Fallaci carefully examines the historic and political reasons that have led Europeans to vilify their own culture, consistently embrace anti-Americanism, and pander to every request from the increasingly powerful Muslim communities that populate the dying Old
Continent. Her analysis does not leave much hope for the future of Europe, although she takes a far more optimistic position on her adoptive country, the United States (Fallaci currently lives in New York).
The long introduction to The Force of Reason recounts the intellectual lynching to which Fallaci was subjected following the publication of The Rage and the Pride. The PC establishment, which she refers to as the "Modern Inquisition," crucified her, submerging her with lawsuits and accusations of being racist and fomenting a religious war. But all of this publicity just played into Fallaci's hands, as sales of The Rage and the Pride soared into the millions. But what has really struck Fallaci in the wake of The Rage and the Pride are the letters she has received from readers throughout the world.
One of the most significant was written by an Italian, who thanked her for "helping me to understand the things I thought without realizing I was thinking them." And this is Fallaci's goal: provoking Europeans into realizing what is going on right under their noses and getting rid of their fear to say something that goes against the PC dogma. According to Fallaci, the "Modern
Inquisition" has managed to keep individuals in fear of expressing what they believe: "If you are a Westerner and you say that your civilization is superior, the most developed that this planet has ever seen, you go to the stake. But if you are a son of Allah or one of their collaborationists and you say that Islam has always been a superior civilization, a ray of light...nobody touches you. Nobody sues you. Nobody condemns you."
Fallaci has her own interpretation of the massive Islamic immigration that is rapidly changing the face of European cities. She sees it as part of the expansionism that has characterized Islam since its birth. After reminding the reader how Islamic armies have aimed for centuries at the heart of Europe (a part of history that is not taught anymore in Europe, since it would offend
the sensitivity of Muslim pupils), reaching France, Poland, and Vienna, she lays out her case, claiming that the current flood of immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa is part of a carefully planned strategy. Fallaci uses the words of Muslim leaders to support this thesis.
In 1974, former Algerian President Houari Boumedienne said in a speech at the U.N.: "One day millions of men will leave the southern hemisphere to go to the northern hemisphere. And they will not go there as friends. Because they will go there to conquer it. And they will conquer it with their sons. The wombs of our women will give us victory." In other words, says Fallaci, what Islamic armies have not been able to do with force in more than 1,000 years can be achieved in less than a century through high birth rates. She cites as evidence a 1975 meeting of Islamic countries in Lahore, in which they announced their project to transform the flow of Muslim immigrants in Europe in "demographic preponderance."
The "sons of Allah," as Fallaci calls them, do not make a secret of their plans. A Catholic bishop recounted that, during an interfaith meeting in Turkey, a respected Muslim cleric told the crowd: "Thanks to your democratic laws we will invade you. Thanks to our Islamic laws we will conquer you." But what really makes Fallaci's blood boil is the West's inability to even
acknowledge this aggression. A large part of her book is dedicated to analyzing how the main European countries pander to the arrogant demands of radical Muslim organizations, how they are unable to defend their Jewish citizens from acts of Islamic militant violence (often blamed on neo-Nazis and almost never on the Muslim perpetrators, even when the evidence clearly proves otherwise), and said countries' unwillingness to be proud of their cultures and identities.
Amid Fallaci's bleak vision for Europe, however, a ray of hope comes from America. In a very emotional last chapter, Fallaci describes her admiration in witnessing the 2004 New Year's Eve celebrations in Times Square. In a sharp contrast with the fear-constrained Europeans, thousands of New Yorkers decided to defy the Code Orange terror alert and party hard in the face of the terrorists. Proud to honor itself, young and determined, America is perceived by Fallaci as the only hope for the West. In this unprovoked cultural war that has been waged on the West, America should lead the way, but it cannot do it alone. According to Fallaci, the West has not realized that it is under attack, and that this war "wants to hit our soul rather than our body. Our way of life, our philosophy of life. Our way of thinking, acting and loving. Our freedom. Do not be fooled by their explosives. That is just a strategy. The terrorists, the kamikazes, do not kill us just for the sake of killing us. They kill us to
bend us. To intimidate us, tire us, demoralize us, blackmail us."
Movingly passionate, The Force of Reason is a desperate wake-up call for the West and for Europe in particular. In Italy, despite a complete silence from the media (who have decided not to make the same mistake they made with The Rage and the Pride, when their criticism made the book's sales skyrocket) the book has sold a half million copies in just two weeks. A translation into English is imminent, making The Force of Reason readily accessible for those in the U.S. who want to learn more about the dire situation Europe faces.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movies of interest
on: October 20, 2006, 11:00:14 PM
Tony Jaa simply is one of the most impressive screen fighters I have ever seen. The quality of the movement, the coordination and timing, the grace, the athleticism, the apparent martial arts skills, the aura he projects are all outstanding.
I've never seen his movies with/in English-- doesn't matter. The opening scene of Ong Bak (the tree climb competition) is a remarkable piece of film.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes
on: October 20, 2006, 08:02:24 PM
Myths of the Nanny State
by Radley Balkohttp://www.cato.org/research/articles/cpr28n5-1.html
The late economist Julian Simon was libertarianism's great optimist. Classical liberals are naturally cynical about government and, as Jefferson famously put it, its natural tendency to grow and for liberty to lose ground. The "upside" of libertarianism, however, has always been the philosophy's ability to see the potential in individuals and in people's proclivity to make good decisions about their own well-being and, in the process, better the plight of humankind.
No one put humanity's explosion of wealth and prosperity into better perspective than Simon. Simon's targets were the doom-and-gloom environmentalists and zero-population-growth activists who in the last half of the 20th century peddled dire predictions of the coming cataclysm they said would be wrought by free markets and American consumerism. Using a wealth of economic, demographic, health, and consumer data, Simon showed how capitalism has made us more prosperous, healthier, better educated, longer lived, and generally better off than we've ever been. Furthermore, he demonstrated how prosperity and technology tend to make scarce resources more abundant, not less.
Though Malthusian prophets still pop up from time to time, Simon seems to have largely won that debate. Today's critics of free markets don't invoke Armageddon as their predecessors did. Nor do they declare that prosperity will be our undoing. Rather, today they argue that we simply aren't equipped to handle our freedom and our success. Instead of invoking government to heavily regulate the economy and redistribute wealth, they now argue that we need government to make many of our personal decisions for us, because individual Americans can't be trusted to make them on their own.
The Rise of Parentalism
In a recent paper published in the journal Public Choice, "Afraid to be Free: Dependency as Desideratum," Nobel Prize?winning economist James Buchanan composes a new taxonomy of socialist threats to liberty. Buchanan argues that the conventional threats to freedom from managerial socialism (central planning) and distributionist socialism (the welfare state) are today joined by paternalistic socialism and "parental socialism," which Buchanan describes as the willingness among many to allow the government to take control of their lives.
The emerging threat to American liberty today, then, is a combination of these latter two forms of socialism?the desire among some in government to interfere in nearly every aspect of our lives, and the lack of concern on the part of many Americans that this is happening. And while conventional critics of capitalism came primarily from the left, the parentalist-paternalist movement isn't as easily marginalized.
From the left, for example, a new class of critics has emerged under the banner of "public health." True public health is, of course, a perfectly legitimate function of government. The collective nature of the threats posed by highly communicable diseases, for example, makes protection from them a legitimate public good, deliverable by government. Today one might also include the threats posed by biological or chemical terrorism.
But modern "public-health" initiatives have moved well beyond what could reasonably be classified as public goods. Today, government undertakes all sorts of policies in the name of public health that are aimed at regulating personal behavior. It began in the 1970s and 1980s with anti-smoking initiatives and today includes a wide range of programs, including efforts aimed at reducing alcohol consumption, encouraging seatbelt and motorcycle helmet use, regulating diet and lifestyle in the name of curbing obesity, federalizing local issues like speed limits and the minimum drinking age, and generally using the power of the state to regulate away lifestyle risk.
But the American right, which has traditionally claimed to favor limited government, is no better. The Republican-led Congress is attempting to prohibit Internet gambling. That same Congress wants to expand the FCC's regulatory power beyond broadcast television to include cable television and satellite radio. President Bush's Department of Justice has declared prosecuting pornography a "top priority." And of course, the Bush administration has enforced the nation's drug laws with particular vigilance, paying little heed to traditional conservative notions of state sovereignty. The White House has vigorously defended the federal government's authority to regulate medical marijuana, physician-assisted suicide, and prescription painkillers, for example, even in states where voters have explicitly indicated their preference for laxer enforcement. In the case of medical marijuana, White House efforts may have resulted in the final deathknell for federalism.
Though the public health movement seems to have come largely from the left, and the "culture war" crusades against gambling, pornography, pop culture, and drugs largely from the right, it's important to point out that there is significant convergence between the two. Fervent anti-alcohol activists such as former Carter administration official Joseph Califano, for example, are every bit as active in promoting drug prohibition. National Review contributing editor David Frum has called for a "fat tax" on high-calorie foods, joining more left-oriented organizations like the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Family values advocates like William Bennett and John DiIulio and Republican Congressmen like Tom Osborne and Frank Wolf have joined with liberal organizations like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in calling for heavy government regulation of alcohol. And there seems to be wide, bipartisan support for a powerful state on issues like continuing the drug war, instituting smoking bans in private bars and restaurants, the aforementioned ban on Internet gambling, and increased government scrutiny over pop culture media such as rap music and violent video games.
On the right, movements like National Review contributor Rod Dreher's "crunchy conservatism" borrow bons mots from Marx in denigrating wealth, consumption, and consumerism. Meanwhile, the left-leaning editorial boards at the Washington Post and New York Times abandoned traditional civil liberties concerns in supporting the Supreme Court's ruling upholding the federal ban on medical marijuana, because a ruling the other way might have adversely affected the federal government's massive regulatory state.
As Reason magazine's Jesse Walker has put it, "There is no party of tolerance in Washington?just a party that wages its crusades in the name of Christ and a party that wages its crusades in the name of Four out of Five Experts Agree."
The lack of a clear ideological affiliation makes today's paternalism-parentalism increasingly resemble the early 20th century's progressive movement. Both are comprised of a motley mix of values crusaders and "nanny staters." Both value the "collective good" over personal choice, precaution over risk, and the community over the individual.
Perhaps it's not surprising, then, that the public discourse of late has been rife with nostalgia for progressivism. People on the left, having sullied the good word "liberal," now call themselves "progressives." Republicans from George W. Bush, the current president, to Sen. John McCain, who some see as a leading candidate to be the next, have publicly expressed their fondness for Theodore Roosevelt, the first president of the Progressive Era.
New America Foundation fellow Joel Kotkin explicitly called for a return to Progressive Era politics in a Washington Post essay, while Michael Gerson, who served as President Bush's chief speechwriter the last six years, recently named progressive icon William Jennings Bryan one of his personal heroes. Perhaps most bizarrely, the Drug Enforcement Administration has recently taken the position that alcohol prohibition? the crown jewel of Progressive Era reforms, and one of the most catastrophic experiments in American history?was in fact a success.
As Buchanan points out, parentalism and paternalism are at heart merely new forms of socialism. They value community and the collective good over choice and individual freedom. Public policy recommendations aimed at curbing alcoholism or obesity, for example, are rarely aimed at alcoholics or obese people themselves. Rather, they're usually aimed at taming "the environment" of alcohol or obesity, code for the food and alcohol industries. Specific recommendations inevitably target marketing and advertising, the tools free markets use to distribute information.
When policies are aimed at individuals, they're generally redistributionist in nature?sin or vice taxes, for example. Proposals like the "fat tax" tax all users of high-calorie foods, with proceeds going to obesity treatment and prevention programs? meaning they redistribute wealth from people who consume calorie-dense foods responsibly to those who don't.
Which brings us back to Julian Simon. Simon used empirical data to deflate claims that capitalism and industry were making us sick, irreparably damaging the earth, and bringing about the end of humanity. Simon instead showed how free markets and liberal institutions ushered in health, wealth, and longevity unprecedented in the history of man.
The emerging paternalist-parentalistsocialist threat to liberty, then, is in many ways the same old threat dressed up in new clothes. Critics of capitalism and consumerism can no longer credibly predict that free markets will eradicate the world's food supply. So today they argue that the food industry has created a nation of gluttons (which, considering that the bulk of human history has been a struggle against starvation, isn't such a bad problem to have). Of course, only a society prosperous enough to do away with child labor can worry about its children having too much to eat. The proliferation of Internet pornography or online gambling isn't of much concern in countries where less than 5 percent of the population has Internet access.
The "problems" this latest form of socialism attempts to solve, then, are afflictions of prosperity. They're problems much of the world would still consider itself fortunate to have.
It's also not clear that they're really problems at all.
Getting Better All the Time
Consider America's "cultural decay"? something conservatives are fond of invoking. Implicit in calls for government regulation of pornography, obscenity, gambling, alcohol, and the like is the assumption that cable television, pop music, the mainstreaming of pornography, and other cultural pariahs are breaking down America's important social institutions. But there's little data to suggest that's the case. In fact, nearly every social indicator is trending in a direction most of us would consider positive.
Here are just a few examples, culled from government agencies and advocacy groups: Teen pregnancy is at its lowest point since government researchers have been keeping statistics. Juvenile crime has been falling for 20 years (though there was, admittedly, a slight uptick last year). Crimes against children are down. The number of reported rapes has dropped dramatically over the last two decades, even as social stigma against rape victims has subsided. Despite a negligible increase last year, overall crime in the United States has also been in decline for 15 years.
There's more: Divorce is down. Teens are waiting longer to have sex. High school dropout rates are down. Unemployment remains low. And over the past decade, the overall abortion rate has dropped significantly. If Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction," Internet porn, and violent video games are indeed inducing a nationwide slouch toward Gomorrah, as conservative icon Robert Bork once put it, it's difficult to discern from those statistics.
What's most intriguing is that all of these trends have been taking place since at least the mid-1990s?a period during which technology has given us more freedom to indulge in sin and vice than ever before, and an era in which Americans have become markedly less judgmental. The last 15 years have seen more tolerance for gay lifestyles, with shows like Will and Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy finding mainstream audiences. The 1990s also saw the rise of the Internet, which has given Americans private, unfettered access to gambling and pornography; enabled the anonymous purchase of alcohol, cigarettes, and prescription drugs; and given even the oddest and most bizarre of subcultures the opportunity to find others just like them, and to create communities. The 1990s also saw the rise of gangsta' rap, violent video games, Howard Stern, and South Park.
In 2004, the conservative magazine City Journal reported on a series of polls showing that when it comes to issues of vice, personal behavior, and morality, Americans aged 30 and under are more conservative than several prior generations. Yet they're also more tolerant of other lifestyles, less judgmental, and heavy consumers of the pop culture conservative opinion leaders tell us is so corrupting.
Interestingly enough, the one statistic that bucks these trends is drug use. Drug use among adults is actually up over the past 20 years. But drug use is one area of personal liberty the government has gotten more aggressive about policing, which suggests that government efforts to control our decisions not only stifle individual freedom, they aren't very effective, either.
But even with drug use, there's some evidence that Americans are behaving responsibly. Though recreational use is up among adults, it's actually down over the same period among people under 18. So while people old enough to make their own decisions about their lives might be more likely to relax with the occasional marijuana cigarette, they're also making more of an effort to steer their kids clear of what are clearly adult activities.
Similarly, empirical data strongly suggests that despite claims from the public health alarmists that obesity, smoking, alcoholism, and any other number of ailments are wreaking a health care catastrophe in America, America is actually healthier than it's ever been.
Life expectancy in the United States reached an all-time high last year. Americans at every age can expect to live longer than ever before. The gap in life expectancy between blacks and whites is closing, too. Heart disease is in sharp decline since the early 1990s, as is stroke. Deaths from and incidence of cancer are also in retreat, including all but one of the 10 types of cancer most associated with obesity. The absolute number of deaths due to cancer also fell by 50,000 in 2004, a remarkable feat considering that America's population continues to grow. Yet these heartening trends have persisted despite the fact that, over the same period, many Americans have put on weight. Certainly, advances in medical technology, improvements in screening and treating diseases, and miracle drugs like statins deserve much of the credit (though it's worth pointing out that many of the same public health groups oppose the very free market aspects of U.S. health care that made these advances possible). No one would argue that excessive obesity is something to strive for. But if America's thickening waistline really were the looming disaster it's made out to be, we should at least be seeing the early signs of the cataclysm. That hasn't happened.
Like the doom-and-gloomers Simon fought, then, there simply isn't much evidence to support the sky-is-falling scenarios offered up by proponents of modern paternalism. Just as Americans are wiser, savvier, and more responsible with their own money than the government is, they also seem to be doing just fine when making their own decisions about virtue, vice, and lifestyle. Of course, even if they weren't, there are philosophical objections to government meddling in personal affairs.
The early 20th century journalist H. L. Mencken, a fierce critic of the original progressives, wrote, "the urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it." That was true last century, when humanity's saviors were central planners who marched much of the developing world into starvation. And it's true today, when our "saviors" want laws, regulations, and government "awareness campaigns" pushing the hand of government into nearly every facet of our lives.
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2006 edition of Cato Policy Report
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / America's Accupuncture points: Part Three
on: October 20, 2006, 01:04:32 PM
4 Attack on US's command and control
C4ISR stands for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. In a war situation, C4ISR is a prime target because therein lies the center of gravity of one's adversary. Neutralizing C4ISR is like cutting off the head of a chicken. It can run around in circles for a while, but will soon collapse and die. The same is true in warfare.
Having the mightiest and most modern armed forces in the world, America prides itself with having the most sophisticated and advanced C4ISR. US military spy satellites can gather intelligence data and disseminate it on a real time basis. US surveillance and reconnaissance satellites are so sophisticated that their sensors can detect objects on Earth as small as one-tenth of a meter in size, from several hundred miles up. Satellite sensors can also penetrate clouds and bad weather or see in the night. Some of these spy satellites can also monitor radio or telephone conversations.
Aside from communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, satellites are also used for navigation, most especially in guiding ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, aircraft and other smart weapon systems to their targets. Without satellite guidance, such "smart" and precision weapons turn into "dumb" bombs and directionless missiles.
The advances in C4ISR are rapidly revolutionizing warfare. Gathering, processing, disseminating, and acting on intelligence is now made possible on a real-time or near real-time basis on a global or regional level. Because of these developments, a new war principle is emerging in the modern battlefield: "If the enemy sees you; you are dead."
The US is far advanced in its C4ISR compared with, for instance, China. China cannot hope to catch up and match the American system anytime soon. So in order for China to survive in the event of a major conflict with the US, China has to resort to asymmetric means. This means that China has to develop effective means of countering and neutralizing America?s C4ISR. And that is what China had been working on for more than two decades now.
The heart of America?s C4ISR lies in its technologically sophisticated satellites. But this seeming strength is also an Achilles' heel. Neutralize or destroy the key satellites, and America?s major forces, such as aircraft carrier battle groups, are blinded, muted, and decapitated. This concept is part of China?s strategy for "defeating a superior with an inferior" called shashaojian, or "assassin?s mace". It is like the mace kept by ladies in their bags, which they use when attacked by a mugger or rapist. They squirt the mace into the eyes of an attacker to temporarily blind him, giving the intended victim time to escape.
China now has the capability to identify and track satellites. And for more than two decades they have been busy developing anti-satellite weapons. China has been developing maneuverable nano-satellites that can neutralize other satellites. They do their work by maneuvering near a target satellite and neutralizing the target by electronic jamming, electro-magnetic pulse generation, clinging to the target and physically destroying it, bumping the target out of orbit, or simply exploding to bring the target satellite down with it. Such nano satellites can be launched in batches on demand by road-mobile DF21 or DF31 booster rockets.
Another anti-satellite weapon in the works is a land-based laser that blinds the sensitive sensors of satellites or even destroys them completely. Of course, if worse comes to worst, China can always use its weapon of last resort, destroying adversary satellites with a high-altitude nuclear burst. But this will only be used if China has not yet fully developed the other options when major hostilities start. With the neutralization of its C4ISR, America would be like "a blind man trying to catch fish with his bare hands", to quote Mao Zedong. In short, America would be brought to its knees.
5 Attack on US aircraft carrier battle groups
Aircraft carrier battle groups are the mainstay of US military supremacy. They serve as America?s chief instrument for global power projection and world dominance. In this category, the US has no equal. At the moment, the US maintains a total of 12 aircraft carrier battle groups. In comparison, China has none.
From June to August 2004, the US, for the first time in its naval history, conducted an exercise involving the simultaneous convergence of seven of its 12 aircraft carrier battle groups to within striking distance of China?s coast. This was the biggest and most massive show of force the world has ever seen. It was to remind China that if it uses force against Taiwan, China will have to contend with this kind of response.
It was mentioned earlier that China?s strategy in defeating the superior by the inferior is shashaojian or the "assassin?s mace". "Mace" is not only a blinding spray; it is also a meaner and deadlier weapon, a spiked war club of ancient times used to knock out an adversary with one blow. The spikes of the modern Chinese mace may well spell the end for aircraft carriers.
The first of these spikes consists of medium- and short-range ballistic missiles (modified and improved DF 21s/CSS-5 and DF 15s) with terminally guided maneuverable re-entry vehicles with circular error probability of 10 meters. DF 21s/CSS-5s can hit slow-moving targets at sea up to 2,500km away.
The second spike is an array of supersonic and highly accurate cruise missiles, some with range of 300km or more, that can be delivered by submarines, aircraft, surface ships or even common trucks (which are ideal for use in terrain like that of Iran along the Persian Gulf). These supersonic cruise missiles travel at more than twice the speed of sound (mach 2.5), or faster than a rifle bullet. They can be armed with conventional, anti-radiation, thermobaric, or electro-magnetic pulse warheads, or even nuclear warheads if need be. The Aegis missile defense system and the Phalanx Close-in Defense weapons of the US Navy are ineffective against these supersonic cruise missiles.
A barrage of these cruise missiles, followed by land-based intermediate- or short-range ballistic missiles with terminal guidance systems, could wreak havoc on an aircraft carrier battle group. Whether there are seven or 15 carrier battle groups, it will not matter, for China has enough ballistic and cruise missiles to destroy them all. Unfortunately for the US and British navies, they do not have the capacity to counter a barrage of supersonic cruise missile followed by a second barrage of ballistic missiles.
The first and second spikes of the "assassin?s mace" are sufficient to render the aircraft carrier battle groups obsolete. But there is a third spike which is equally dreadful. This is the deadly SHKVAL or "Squall" rocket torpedo developed by Russia and passed on to China. It is like an under-water missile. It weighs 6,000lbs and travels at 200 knots or 230mph, with a range of 7,500 yards. It is guided by autopilot and with its high speed, makes evasive maneuvers by carriers or nuclear submarines highly difficult. It is truly a submarine and carrier buster; and again, the US and its allies have no known defense against such a supercavitating rocket torpedo.
The "assassin?s mace" has still more spikes. The fourth spike consists of extra-large, bottom-rising, rocket-propelled sea mines laid by submarines along the projected paths of advancing carrier battle groups. These sea mines are designed specifically for targeting aircraft carriers. They can be grouped in clusters so that they will hit the carriers in barrages.
The final spike of the mace is a fleet of old fighter aircraft (China has thousands of them) modified as unmanned combat aerial vehicles fitted with extra fuel tanks and armed with stand-off anti-ship missiles. They are also packed with high explosives so that after firing off their precision-guided anti-ship missiles on the battle group, they will then finish their mission by dive-bombing "kamikaze" style into their targets.
If we now combine the mace as a means of blinding an adversary and the mace as a spiked war club, one can see the complete picture of how China will use the "assassin?s mace" to send America?s aircraft carrier battle groups into the dustbin of naval history. Although China does not possess a single operational aircraft carrier, it has converted the entire China mainland into a "virtual aircraft carrier" that is unsinkable and capable of destroying all the aircraft carrier battle groups that the US and its allies can muster.
The sad part for the US Navy is that even if American leaders and naval theorists realize the horrible truth that aircraft carriers have been rendered obsolete in modern warfare by China?s "assassin?s mace", the navy cannot just change strategy or discard its carriers. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been poured into those weapon systems and hundreds of thousands of jobs would be affected if such behemoths are turned into scrap. Besides, even if US Navy authorities wanted to change strategy, the all-powerful and influential military-industrial complex lobby would not allow it.
So, if and when a major conflict between the US and China occurs, say over the issue of Taiwan, pity those thousands of American sailors who are unfortunate enough to be in one of those aircraft carrier battle groups. They won't stand a chance.
A challenge to America
The 10 "acupuncture points" mentioned in this article are like a 10-stage riddle. It is an "assassin's mace" or war club of olden times with 10 deadly spikes. Any one of those spikes can bring America to its knees. I therefore throw this riddle to the think tanks in the Pentagon, to the US Congress, to the president's men, to US academe, and to every concerned American.
America is in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter of the "great game", and it is behind in points. If America can solve the riddle in time, it wins the game, it can seize global leadership, and the 21st century will truly be the American Century.
On the other hand, failure to solve the riddle will shake America to its very foundation and cause this great nation to collapse - just like that vivid image of the collapsing Twin Towers familiar to each and every American. America loses, and it will be down and out for the rest of this century.
Wake up, America!
Victor N Corpus is a retired brigadier general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP); former chief of the Intelligence Service, AFP; and holds a master's degree in public administration from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Part Two
on: October 20, 2006, 01:03:25 PM
PART 2: The assassin's mace
If America ever goes to war with China, Chinese military doctrine suggests the US should expect attacks on a number of key points where it is particularly vulnerable - where a single jab would paralyze the entire nation. China would aim at targets such as the US electricity grid, its computer networks, its oil supply routes, and the dollar. Other vital "acupuncture" points are outlined below.
1 A powerful triumvirate
No one ever imagined before 1991 that China and Russia would come together to form a close-knit alliance politically, diplomatically and, most important of all, militarily. For more than three decades before the break-up of the Soviet Union, China and the USSR had been bitter rivals, even going into a shooting war with each other along their common border.
But now the picture has changed completely. China and Russia have embraced one another and help each other ward off the military advances of the lone superpower in their respective backyards. In fact, it was a series of strategic blunders by the superpower that forced China and Russia into each other's arms. How so?
When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, it would have been the best time for the US to use soft power to win over Russia into the Western fold. Russia at that time was an economic basket case, with the price of oil at $9 per barrel. But the promises of economic assistance from the US and Europe proved empty, and the Russian oligarchs were the main beneficiaries of relations with the Western powers.
NATO and EU then slowly advanced eastward, absorbing many of the countries making up the former Warsaw Pact alliance. Serbia, a close ally of Russia, was subjected to 78 days of continuous air bombardment. Regime changes were instigated by US and Western-financed non-governmental organizations in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan - all former Soviet republics and considered Russia?s backyard - giving Russia a feeling of strategic encirclement by the US and its allies. There was also the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, followed by the establishment of US bases and deployment of troops in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
These aggressive geopolitical moves by the US pushed Russia into the waiting arms of China, which badly needed Russian energy resources, modern weapon systems and military technology as a consequence of the US-led arms embargo imposed after the Tienanmen incident. Furthermore, China also needed a reliable and militarily capable ally in Russia because of the perceived threat of the US.
Reinforcing this Chinese perception was the outrageously wanton bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade by US-led NATO forces in 1999; the spy plane incident in 2001; the unilateral withdrawal of the US from the ABM Treaty in 2002; the enhanced military cooperation between the US and Japan; the inclusion of Taiwan in the Theater Missile Defense program.; the setting up of a military base in Kyrgyzstan which is only some 250 miles from the Chinese border near Lop Nor, China?s nuclear testing ground.
Add to that the announcement of President George W Bush that the US would come to the aid of Taiwan in the event that China uses force against it; the sending of two aircraft carrier battle groups to waters near Taiwan in 1995-1996; and the naval show of strength of seven aircraft carrier battle groups converging off the China coast in August 2004. All these aggressive moves by superpower America pushed China to embrace its former bitter rival, Russia.
Both China and Russia needed a secure and reliable rear; and both are ideally positioned to provide it. Moreover, their strengths ideally complement each other. It must be borne in mind that both are nuclear powers. The abundant energy resources of Russia ensures that China will not run out of gas in a major conflict - a strategic advantage over the US and its key allies.
Russia is also supplying China with many of the modern armaments and military technology it needs to modernize its defense sector. This effectively militates against the arms embargo imposed by the US and the EU on China. Russia in turn needs the increased trade with China, China?s financial clout and assistance, and manufactured goods.
The coming together of China and Russia was one of the most earth-shaking geopolitical events of modern times. Yet hardly anyone noticed the transition from bitter enemity to a solid geopolitical, economic, diplomatic and military alliance. The combined strengths of the two regional powers surely surpass that of the former Warsaw Pact. If we add Iran to the equation, we have a triumvirate that can pose a formidable challenge to the lone superpower. Iran is the most industrialized and the most populous nation in the Middle East. It is second only to Russia in terms of gas resources and also one of the largest oil producers in the world. It is also one of the most mountainous countries in the world, which makes it ideal for the conduct of asymmetric and guerrilla warfare against a superior adversary.
Iran borders both the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, two of the richest oil and gas regions of the world. Most importantly, it controls the gateway to the Persian Gulf - the Strait of Hormuz. Modern bottom-rising, rocket propelled sea mines and supersonic cruise missiles deployed along the long mountainous coastline of Iran, manned by "invisible" guerrillas, could indefinitely stop the flow of oil from the Gulf, from which the US gets 23% of its imported oil.
Japan also derives 90% of its oil from the Persian Gulf area, and Europe about 60%. In a major conflict, Iran can effectively deprive the US war machine and those of its key allies of much needed energy supplies.
Imagine the war machine of the superpower running out of gas. Imagine also a US economy minus 23% of its imported oil. This 23% can rise considerably once Chinese and Russian submarines start sinking US-bound oil tankers. The triumvirate of China, Russia, and Iran could bring the US to its knees with a minimum of movement.
2 The US's geopolitical disadvantage
Another "acupuncture point" in America?s anatomy in the event of a major conflict with China (and Russia) is its inherent disadvantage dictated by geography. Being the lone superpower, any major conventional conflict involving the US will necessitate its bringing its forces to bear on its adversaries. This means that the US must cross the Pacific, Indian, and/or Atlantic Oceans in order to bring logistics or troop reinforcements to the battlefield.
In so doing, the US will be crossing thousands of miles of sea lanes of communication (SLOC) that can easily become a gauntlet of deadly Chinese and Russian submarines lying in ambush with bottom-rising sea mines, supercavitating rocket torpedoes, and supersonic cruise missiles that even aircraft carrier battle groups have no known defense against. Logistic and transport ships and oil tankers are particularly vulnerable.
The air corridors above these sea lanes will also be put at great risk by advanced air defense systems aboard Sovremenny destroyers or similar types of warships in Chinese and Russian inventories. In short, the US will be forced by geography to suffer all the disadvantages of conducting offensive operations against adversaries in Eurasia.
Of course, the US has "forces in being" and "logistics in place" in numerous military bases scattered around the world, especially those strategically encircling China, Russia, and Iran. But when the shooting war starts, these bases will be the first to be hit by barrages of short- and medium-range ballistic missiles and long-range land-attack cruise missiles armed with electro-magnetic pulse, anti-radar, thermobaric, and conventional warheads.
Following the missile barrages, the remnants of such weakened US military bases will easily be overwhelmed by blitzkrieg assaults from Russian and Chinese armored divisions in the Eurasian mainland. China, for instance, has four large armored units constantly on standby, poised to cross the Yili Corridor in Xinjiang province at a moment?s notice. The US base in Kyrgyzstan near the Chinese border would not stand a chance.
China, Russia and/or Iran, on the other hand, will operate on interior lines within the Eurasian mainland. When they move troops and logistics to meet any threat on the continent, they will have relatively secure lines of communication and logistics, using inland highways, railways and air transport.
Since the US cannot correct the dictates of geography, it and its main allies Japan and the UK will have to live and fight with this tremendous geopolitical disadvantage. Of course the US can bypass this geographic obstacle if it attacks China and Russia with its intercontinental ballistic missiles, sea-launched ballistic missiles and strategic bombers in a nuclear first strike, but China and Russia have the means to retaliate and obliterate the United States and its allies as well.
There are some among the leading neo-conservatives in the US who believe that a nuclear war is winnable; that there is no such thing as mutually assured destruction (MAD). Well, that truly mad way of thinking may well spell the end of planet earth for all of us.
3 Asymmetric attack
Superpower America is particularly vulnerable to asymmetric attack. A classic example of asymmetric attack is the September 11, 2001, attack on America. Nineteen determined attackers, armed with nothing but box cutters, succeeded in toppling the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and causing the death of some 3,000 Americans. Notice the asymmetry of casualty ratio as well - the most lopsided casualty ratio ever recorded in history.
China, Russia, and Iran also possess asymmetric weapons that are designed to neutralize and defeat a superpower like America in a conventional conflict. Supersonic cruise missiles now in their inventories can defeat and sink US aircraft carriers. The same is true for medium- and short-range ballistic missiles with independently targetable warheads, extra-large bottom-rising, rocket-propelled sea mines (EM52s), and supercavitating rocket torpedoes (SHKVAL or "Squall"). The US Navy has no known defense against these weapons.
Iraqi insurgents are conducting a form of asymmetric warfare. They use improvised explosive devices, car bombs, booby traps and landmines against the most modern army the world has ever seen. The US's huge advantage in weaponry is negated by the fact that its soldiers cannot see their adversary. They are fighting against a "phantom" enemy - an invisible army.
And how can you win against an enemy you cannot see? This may be one reason why reports of massacres of Iraqi civilians by US soldiers have been increasing lately. But turning sophisticated weapons against civilians will never win wars for America. It will only heighten the rage of the victimized population and increase suicide bombings against US forces.
Connected to asymmetric warfare is asynchronous warfare, where the weaker side bides its time to strike back. And it strikes at a time and place where the adversary is totally unprepared.
For example, if the US were to strike Iran?s underground nuclear facilities with bunker-busting tactical nuclear warheads, Iran could bide its time until it develops its own nuclear weapons. It could then use its Kilo class submarines, equipped with supersonic "moskit" cruise missiles armed with Iran?s own nuclear warheads, to hit New York, or Washington, DC as a payback to the US for using nuclear weapons against Iran. Or the Iranians could infiltrate nuclear scientists into the US, where they would fabricate a "dirty" bomb to be detonated near the US Congress, in full session while the president is making his annual state of the nation address.
The possibilities for asymmetric and asynchronous warfare are limitless. Various weapons are available to the asymmetric or asynchronous attacker. If a simple box cutter produced such devastating results on September 11, 2001, imagine what chemical or biological weapons dropped from a private aircraft could do to a crowded city; or trained hackers attacking the US banking system and other key infrastructure and basic services; or man-portable surface-to-air missiles attacking US airlines taking off or landing in various airports around the globe; or non-nuclear electromagnetic pulse weapons hitting New York City or the US Capitol. No amount of even the best intelligence in the world can totally guard against and stop a determined asymmetric attacker.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters
on: October 20, 2006, 12:59:38 PM
AMERICA'S ACUPUNCTURE POINTS
PART 1: Striking the US where it hurts
By Victor N Corpus
A noted Chinese theorist on modern warfare, Chang Mengxiong, compared China's form of fighting to "a Chinese boxer with a keen knowledge of vital body points who can bring an opponent to his knees with a minimum of movements". It is like key acupuncture points in ancient Chinese medicine. Puncture one vital point and the whole anatomy is affected. If America ever goes to war with China, say, over Taiwan, then America should be prepared for the following "acupuncture points" in its anatomy to be "punctured". Each of the vital points can bring America to its knees with a minimum of effort.
I Electro-magnetic Pulse (EMP) attack
China and Russia are two potential US adversaries that have the capability for this kind of attack. An EMP attack can either come from an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), a long-range cruise missile, or an orbiting satellite armed with a nuclear or non-nuclear EMP warhead. A nuclear burst of one (or more) megaton some 400 kilometers over central United States (Omaha, Nebraska) can blanket the whole continental US with electro-magnetic pulse in less than one second.
An EMP attack will damage all electrical grids on the US mainland. It will disable computers and other similar electronic devices with microchips. Most businesses and industries will shut down. The entire US economy will practically grind to a halt. Satellites within line of sight of the EMP burst will also be damaged, adversely affecting military command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR). Land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles will be rendered unserviceable in their silos. Anti-ballistic missile defenses will suffer the same fate. In short ? total blackout. And American society as we know it will be thrown back to the Dark Ages.
Of course, the US may decide to strike first, but China and Russia now have the means of striking back with submarine-launched ballistic missiles with the same or even more devastating results. But knowing China's strategy of "active defense", when war with the US becomes imminent, China will surely not allow itself to be targeted first. It will seize the initiative as mandated by its doctrine by striking first.
China has repeatedly announced that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons. But as an old Chinese saying goes: "There can never be too much deception in war." If it means the survival of the whole Chinese nation that is at stake, China will surely not allow a public statement to tie its hands and prevent it from seizing the initiative. As another saying goes: "All is fair in love and war."
2 Cyber attack
America is the most advanced country in the world in the field of information technology (IT). Practically all of its industries, manufacturing, business and finance, telecommunications, key government services and defense establishment rely heavily on computers and computer networks.
But this heavy dependence on computers is a double-edged sword. It has thrust the US economy and defense establishment ahead of all other countries; but it has also created an Achilles' heel that can potentially bring the superpower to its knees with a few keystrokes on a dozen or so laptops.
China's new concept of a "people's war" includes IT warriors coming, not only from its military more than 2-million strong, but from the general citizenry of some 1.3 billion people. If we add the hackers and information warriors from Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, Syria and other countries sympathetic to China, the cyber attack on the US would be formidable indeed.
So, if a major conflict erupts between China and America, more than a few dozen laptops will be engaged to hack America's military establishment; banking system; stock exchange; defense industries; telecommunication system; power grids; water system; oil and gas pipeline system; air traffic and train traffic control systems; C4ISR system, ballistic missile system, and other systems that prop up the American way of life.
America, on the whole, has not adequately prepared itself for this kind of attack. Neither has it prepared itself for a possible EMP attack. Such attacks can bring a superpower like America to its knees with a minimum of movement.
3 Interdiction of US foreign oil supply
America is now 75% dependent on foreign imported oil. About 23.5% of America's imported oil supply comes from the Persian Gulf. To cut off this oil supply, Iran can simply mine the Strait of Hormuz, using bottom-rising sea mines. It is worthwhile to note that Iran has the world's fourth-largest inventory of sea mines, after China, Russia and the US.
Combined with sea mines, Iran can also block the narrow strait with supersonic cruise missiles such as Yakhonts, Moskits, Granits and Brahmos deployed on Abu Musa Island and all along the rugged and mountainous coastline of Iran fronting the Persian Gulf. This single action can bring America to its knees. Not only America but Japan (which derives 90% of its oil supply) and Europe (which derives about 60% of its oil supply from the Persian Gulf ) will be adversely affected.
In the event of a major conflict involving superpower America and its allies (primarily Japan and Britain) on the one hand and China and its allies (primarily Russia and Iran) on the other, Iran's role will become strategically crucial. Iran can totally stop the flow of oil coming from the Persian Gulf. This is the main reason why China and Russia are carefully nurturing intimate economic, cultural, political, diplomatic and military ties with Iran, which at one time was condemned by US President George W Bush as belonging to that "axis of evil", along with Iraq and North Korea.
This is also the reason why Iran is so brave in daring the US to attack it on the nuclear proliferation issue. Iran knows that it has the power to hurt the US. Without oil from the Gulf, the war machines of the US and its principal allies will literally run out of gas.
A single blow from Iran or China or Russia, or a combination of the three at the Strait of Hormuz can paralyze America. In addition, Chinese and Russian submarines can stop the flow of oil to the US and Japan by interdicting oil tanker traffic coming from the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. On the other hand, US naval supremacy will have minimal effect on China's oil supply because it is already connected to Kazakhstan with a pipeline and will soon be connected to Russia and Iran as well.
One wonders: what will be the price of oil if Iran blocks the Strait of Hormuz. It will surely drive oil prices sky high. Prolonged high oil prices can, in turn, trigger inflation in the US and a sharp decline of the dollar, possibly even a dollar free-fall. The collapse of the dollar will have a serious impact on the entire US economy.
This brings us to the next "acupuncture point" in the US anatomy: dollar vulnerability.
4 Attack on the US dollar
One of the pillars propping up US superpower status and worldwide economic dominance is the dollar being accepted as the predominant reserve currency. Central banks of various countries have to stock up dollar reserves because they can only buy their oil requirements and other major commodities in US dollars.
This US economic strength, however, is a double-edged sword and can turn out to be America's economic Achilles' heel. A run of the US dollar, for instance, which would cause a dollar free-fall, can bring the entire US economy toppling down.
What is frightening for the US is the fact that China, Russia and Iran possess the power to cause a run on the US dollar and force its collapse.
China is now the biggest holder of foreign exchange reserves in the world, accumulating $941 billion as of June 30 and expected to exceed a trillion dollars by the end of 2006 - a first in world history. A decision by China to shift a major portion of its reserve to the euro or the yen or gold could trigger other central banks to follow suit. Nobody would want to be left behind holding a bagfull of dollars rapidly turning worthless. The herd psychology would be very difficult to control in this case because national economic survival would be at stake.
This global herd psychology motivated by the survival instinct will be strongly reinforced by the latent anger of many countries in the Middle East, Eurasia, Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America that silently abhor the pugnacious arrogance displayed by the lone Superpower in the exercise of its unilateral and militaristic foreign policies. They will just be too happy to dump the dollar and watch the lone Superpower squirm and collapse.
The danger of the dollar collapsing is reinforced by the mounting US current account deficit, which sky-rocketed to $900 billion at an annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2005. This figure is 7% of US gross domestic product (GDP), the largest in US history. The current account deficit reflects the imbalance of US imports to its exports. The large imbalance shows that the US economy is losing its competitiveness, with US jobs and incomes suffering as a result.
These record deficits in external trade and current accounts mean that the US has to borrow from foreign lenders (mostly Japan and China) $900 billion annually or nearly $2.5 billion every single day to finance the gap between payments and receipts from the rest of the world. In financial year 2005, $352 billion was spent on interest payment of national debt alone - a national debt that has ballooned to $8.5 trillion as of August 24.
The International Monetary Fund has warned: "The US is on course to increase its net external liabilities to around 40% of its GDP within the next few years - an unprecedented level of external debt for a large industrial country."
The picture of the US federal budget deficit is equally grim. Dennis Cauchon, writing for USA Today said:
The federal government keeps two sets of books. The set the government promotes to the public has a healthier bottom line: a $318 billion deficit in 2005. The set the government doesn't talk about is the audited financial statement produced by the government's accountants following standard accounting rules. It reports a more ominous financial picture: a $760 billion deficit for 2005. If social security and medicare were included - as the board that sets accounting rules is considering - the federal deficit would have been $3.5 trillion. Congress has written its own accounting rules - which would be illegal for a corporation to use because they ignore important costs such as the growing expense of retirement benefits for civil servants and military personnel. Last year, the audited statement produced by the accountants said the government ran a deficit equal to $6,700 for every American household. The number given to the public put the deficit at $2,800 per household ... The audited financial statement - prepared by the Treasury Department - reveals a federal government in far worse financial shape than official budget reports indicate, a USA Today analysis found. The government has run a deficit of $2.9 trillion since 1997, according to the audited number. The official deficit since then is just $729 billion. The difference is equal to an entire year's worth of federal spending.
The huge US current account and trade deficits, the mounting external debt and the ever-increasing federal budget deficits are clear signs of an economy on the edge. They have dragged the dollar to the brink of the precipice. Such a state of economic affairs cannot be sustained for long, and the stability of the dollar is put in grave danger. One push and the dollar will plunge into free-fall. And that push can come from China, Russia or Iran, whom superpower America has been pushing and bullying all along.
We have seen what China can do. How can Russia or Iran, in turn, cause a dollar downfall? On September 2, 2003, Russia and Saudi Arabia signed an agreement on oil and gas cooperation. Russia and Saudi Arabia have agreed "to exercise joint control over the dynamics of prices for raw materials on foreign markets". The two biggest oil and gas producers, in cooperation, say, with Iran, could control oil production and sales to keep the price of oil relatively high. Sustained high oil prices, in turn, could trigger a high inflation rate in the US and put extreme pressure on the already weak dollar to trigger a more rapid decline.
Russia is now the world's biggest energy supplier, surpassing Saudi Arabia in energy exports measured in barrel oil equivalent or boe (13.3 million boe per day for Russia vs 10 million boe per day for Saudi Arabia). Russia has the biggest gas reserves in the world. Iran, on the other hand, runs second in the world to Russia in gas reserves, and also ranks among the top oil producers. If and when either Russia or Iran, or both, shift away from a rapidly declining dollar in energy transactions, many oil producers will follow suit. These include Venezuela, Indonesia, Norway, Sudan, Nigeria and the Central Asian Republics.
There is a good chance that even Saudi Arabia and the other oil-exporting countries in the Middle East may follow suit. They wouldn't want to be left with fast-shrinking dollars when the shift from petro-dollar to euro-dollar occurs. Again, the herd psychology will come into play, and the US will eventually be left with a dollar that is practically worthless. Considering the strong anti-American sentiments in the world caused by American unilateralism, especially in the Middle East, a concerted effort to dump the dollar in favor of the euro becomes even more plausible.
When the dollar was removed from the gold standard in August 1971, the dollar gained its strength through its use as the currency of choice in oil transactions. Once the dollar is rejected in favor of the euro or another currency for global oil transactions, the dollar will rapidly lose its value and central banks all over the world will be racing to diversify to other currencies. The shift from petro-dollar to petro-euro will have a devastating effect on the dollar. It could cause the dollar to collapse; and the whole US economy crushing down with it - a scene reminiscent of the collapse of the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. But this one will be a thousand times more devastating.
A successful assault on the US dollar will make America crawl on its knees with a minimum of movements. And this assault can come from China, Russia or Iran - or a combination of the three - if they ever decide that they have had enough of US bullying.
5 Diplomatic isolation
In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed from its own weight, the US emerged as the sole superpower in the world. At that crucial period, it would have been a great opportunity for the US to establish its global leadership and dominance worldwide. With the world's biggest economy, its control of international financial institutions, its huge lead in science and technology (specially information technology) and its unequaled military might, America could have seized the moment to establish a truly American Century.
But in the critical years after 1991, America had to make a choice between two divergent approaches to the use of its almost unlimited power: soft power or hard power. The exercise of soft power would have seen America leading the world in the fight against poverty, disease, drugs, environmental degradation, global warming and other ills plaguing humankind.
It would have pushed America in leading the move to address the debt burden of poor, undeveloped or developing countries; promoting distance learning in remote rural areas to empower the poor economically by providing them access to quality education; and helped poor countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America build highways, railways, ports, airports, hospitals, schools and telecommunication systems.
Unfortunately, such was not to be. If there was any effort at the exercise of soft power at all, it was minimal. In fact, it is not America which is practicing soft power in diplomacy but a rising power in the East - China. China has been busy in the past decade or so exercising soft power in almost all countries in Africa, Latin America, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East, winning most of the countries in these regions to its side. Through the use of soft power, China has created a de facto global united front under its silent, low-key leadership.
The US, on the other hand, decided to employ mainly hard power in the exercise of its global power. It adapted the policy of unilateralism and militarism in its foreign policy. It discarded the United Nations and even the advice of close allies. It unilaterally discarded signed international treaties (such as the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty). It adapted the policy of regime change and preventive war. It led the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the 78-day bombing of Serbia purportedly for "humanitarian" reasons. It invaded Afghanistan and Iraq without UN sanctions and against the advice of key European allies like France and Germany.
The US-led war in Iraq was a tactical victory for the US initially, but has resulted in strategic defeat overall. The Iraq war caused the US to lose its principal allies in Europe and be isolated, despised and hated in many parts of the world. Without too many friends and allies, the US is likened to an "emperor with no clothes".
So in a major conflict between America and China, isolated America cannot possibly win against a global united front led by China and Russia.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Part Three
on: October 20, 2006, 09:36:38 AM
Akyol: Thanks for the feedback from Mr. Spencer, Mr. Aikman and Mr. Bostom. Let me respond.
First, Mr. Spencer's comment about the attacks against Muslims who "turned renegade" is true, but it also points to an important fact: In the early Muslim state, apostasy became regarded as a crime because it was seen as a rebellion against the state. In other words, the real consideration was political and, by time, this turned into a religious rule as well. This is, of course, a deviation we Muslims should rid ourselves today.
Don't take my word for this, if you will, take a look at what Dr. David Forte, professor of law at Cleveland State University, says on the origin the ban on apostasy in Islam:
?Three institutions have deflected the trajectory of Mohammed's original message: the law, the empire, and the tribe. Let us take apostasy as an example. The Quran condemns the apostate to damnation but imposes no earthly penalty. The death penalty arose later, in the law. It was the traditions of the Prophet, known as the Sunna, developed and codified later during a drive for the Islamicization of the early Islamic empire, that required putting the apostate to death...
The primary justification for the execution of the apostate is that in the early days of Islam, apostasy and treason were in fact synonymous. War was perennial in Arabia. It never stopped. To reject the leader of another tribe, to give up on a coalition, was in effect to go to war against him. There was no such thing as neutrality. There were truces, but there was never a permanent neutrality. It is reported, for example, that immediately after the death of Mohammed, many tribes apostatized. They said in effect, "The leader whom we were following is gone, so let's go back to our own leaders." And they rebelled against Muslim rule. The first caliph, Abu Bakr, ordered such rebels to be killed.
Many scholars argue that the tradition that all apostates had to be killed had its origin during these wars of rebellion and not during Mohammed's time. In fact, many argue that these traditions in which Mohammed affirmed the killing of apostates were apocryphal, made up later to justify what the empire had been doing.?
We Muslims should get rid of those politically needed but religiously irrelevant rules that still persist in the religious texts of Islam. We should also see that the Koran took the conditions of the 7th century Arabia as a given and established just norms according to those conditions. The dhimma was one of them. Based on the Koran (Sura 9:29), and the needs of the Islamic state, Muslim jurist developed the whole idea of what Bat Yeor calls "dhimmitude." She and others criticize this pretty harshly but they should see that the dhimma was just and humane according to the political realities of the seventh century. In Christian Europe, religious minorities were not tolerated at all. In Islamic lands, they were tolerated as second-class citizens.
Europe, and the West, of course progressed since then and embraced the principle of equal citizenship. But this is not alien to the Islamic world, too: The dhimma was abolished by the Islamic Ottoman Empire in 1859. (This is long before Mustafa Kemal Atat?rk was even born.) Ottomans gave equal citizenship rights to all the Jews and Christians on their land. This was debated and found some support among the "ulema", Islamic scholars of the time. There were many Jewish and Christian parliamentarians in the Ottoman Parliament, which was established by the constitution of 1876, and the Muslim ulema had no problem with that.
Therefore, I don't think that dhimma is a legitimate institution today. Nor is slavery, which is also mentioned in the Koran. But I don't think that because I am a radical secularist, but because I am a Muslim who recognizes the impact of historical conditions in the formation of his religion. And my "humane disgust with conversion at the end of a gun-barrel" does not come from the fact I have been living in a secular state ? it is, unfortunately, not truly secular by the way; it is dominant on religious practice ? but because I stick to the core principles of Islam. Those principles have been against forced conversion all along. Just one example: When the Ottoman Sultan Yavuz Selim thought of converting the Christians in his empire to Islam, the Sheik-ul Islam (the top ulema that looked over state policies) objected and showed the Koranic verse, "there is no compulsion in religion." The Sultan listened to him. There are of course bad episodes in Islamic history, too, but the general opinion was that forced conversion is unaccepted.
Mr. Bostom has written, "there is no reciprocal free marketplace of religious ideas anywhere in the Islamic world, including Turkey." That's unfortunately true but, if we speak about Turkey, there is an interesting fact worth noting. As I have explained, the lack of religious freedom in Turkey is due to the intolerant nationalism of the secular establishment. Turkey's Muslims themselves have been the victims of the same secular authoritarianism.
Mr. Bostom also quotes the Koranic verse, "slay the idolaters wherever ye find them." Yet he fails to note that this verse addresses a specific group of pagans, who had made a peace treaty with Muslims and then broke that treaty by attacking them. The whole Sura 9 ? the only sura in the Koran which does not start with the phrase, "In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful" ? is about the war conditions on those pagans who broke the treaty and attacked Muslims in the first place.
Later on, when Islamic jurisprudence developed, these war verses were taken to be the norm and other verses, such as, "Fight in the Way of Allah against those who fight you, but do not go beyond the limits" (2:190), which suggest that only defensive wars are allowed, were abandoned by the doctrine of abrogation, which many contemporary Muslims, including myself, reject.
As for the overall assessment of the Koranic chapters on war, I agree with the comment by Dr. Michael Cook, professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. He says:
"In the Koran, it?s hard to figure out whether the text refers to defensive or offensive warfare. There are certain passages the medieval scholars always cite, saying they show jihad should be offensive. But if you look at the passages carefully, it?s not that obvious. On the basis of the Koran alone you could mount a decent argument for saying offensive jihad is never a duty. In Islamic law, it?s different. From things the prophet said or is said to have said, Islamic law develops the doctrine that it is a duty..."
Thus, on the basis of the Koran, I argue that Islam should bring no "compulsion in religion" and jihad should only be a defensive doctrine; protect yourself if you are attacked. Throughout history not all Muslims have thought acted according to these principles, but this had and still has many different motives behind it. Most "jihad"s in history were actually expansionism for political and economic gains. Yet sometimes people tend to label the most profane acts of violence by nominal Muslims as jihad. I remember, for example, that Mr. Bostom had portrayed the sacking of Thessaloniki in 904 by Muslim pirates as a "jihad campaign," in his long rebuttal against me published again on FPM and which I have responded to.
Spencer: Mustafa Akyol is correct that ?in the early Muslim state, apostasy became regarded as a crime because it was seen as a rebellion against the state.? However, when he asserts that ?the real consideration was political and, by time, this turned into a religious rule as well,? he seems to be assuming a distinction between the political and religious spheres that never existed in the Islamic world until it was introduced from the West in relatively modern times. This distinction is still strenuously rejected by most Islamic authorities. Because Sharia, including its political and societal aspects, is considered to be the very law of God, all too many Islamic scholars share the view of Tunisian theorist Mohamed Elhachmi Hamdi: ?Islam should be the main frame of reference for the constitution and laws of predominantly Muslim countries.? [iii]
Thus Muslims may be unmoved by Akyol?s argument that the death penalty for apostasy be rejected because it was originally instituted on political, not religious grounds. I share his hope that in the future this may provide peaceful Muslims a pathway to rejecting the death penalty for apostasy, but a great deal of work would first have to be done to secure widespread acceptance among Muslims of a Western-style distinction between the sacred and secular spheres ? a distinction that, under pressure from jihadists, is in fact in retreat everywhere in the Islamic world today.
Unfortunately, even Dr. Forte?s assertion that ?the Quran condemns the apostate to damnation but imposes no earthly penalty? is not assured. As I pointed out above, some Muslim authorities even argue that, aside from the Hadith, the Qur?an itself mandates death for apostates (4:89). Thus I hope that Muslim reformers like Mr. Akyol will succeed in constructing a firm rejection of Qur?anic literalism on this and every other point where jihadists point to the text of the Qur?an to justify violence and the subjugation of infidels. It is true that ?the dhimma was abolished by the Islamic Ottoman Empire in 1859,? but this was accomplished mainly due to Western pressure, and cultural hangovers of the dhimma continue to plague non-Muslims throughout the Islamic world. Hence I hope that Western awareness of and pressure against the denial of equality of rights for non-Muslims in Muslim countries continues to increase, and again applaud Mr. Akyol for his rejection of such measures. May his influence continue to grow in the Islamic world.
Aikman: I, too, applaud Mr. Akyol's humane interpretation of how Islam should be lived out and how it should co-exist with other faiths. Would that his assertion of this right of religious freedom of conscience, his denunciation of dhimma conditions of non-Muslim faiths, his repudiation of slavery, became the norm throughout the Islamic world. Would that there were 100,000 Mustafa Akyols busily active in reforming Islam, from Bradford, England to Bali, Indonesia.
But there aren't. We are, in fact, left with two dismaying aspects of the global situation in which Muslims on four or five continents are striving either to oppress non-Muslims, or to attain a political situation where they can do so.
The first is that, all of us know fine, upstanding, and honorable Muslim individuals who would no more think of blowing up a bus full of children than we ourselves would. The overwhelming reality, however, is that moderate Muslims like Mr. Akyol seem perpetually drowned out by Islamic mobs all over the world who fasten upon every criticism of their faith in every format ? cartoons, to novels, to academic speeches -- from every prominent person as license to go on a violent rampage.
Even when they are not rampaging, Muslim protesters can be counted upon to impose their often ugly religious sentiments on practitioners of other faiths whose leading adherents may have said or written things critical of Islam. There was something close to the manner of Hitler's Brownshirts in the Islamic protesters who barracked with shouted slogans and offensive placards ("May Allah Curse the Pope") innocent church-going Roman Catholics in London outside Westminster Cathedral because of their anger at the words of Pope Benedict XVI.
If Catholic Protesters in Washington similarly harassed Muslims about to enter the Islamic Center with slogans and placards, would there not be a howl of protest throughout the Islamic world? (And not just howls of protest: probably massive property destruction and bodily injury as well). Where are the millions of moderate Muslims anywhere in the world rising up against these new Brownshirts, demanding an apology for the forced conversion of Centanni and Wiig, joining the chorus for an end to the killings in Darfur, Sudan? Where, in short, is the authentic humane center of the Islamic world?
It doesn't appear to exist, or if it does, its voice has not been audible and its protests not visible. Of course there are wonderful Turks, Pakistanis, Malaysians ? who knows? ? perhaps even Muslim Britons who genuinely desire a global discourse among religions where reason and mutual tolerance prevail. But they seem to be either too busy or too disorganized to make their presence heard. Of course, it may also simply be that they are all simply scared. Muslims who criticize in public fellow-religionists of extremist viewpoint face the ever-present danger of becoming the targets of death-threats.
The second dismaying aspect of the whole issue of Islamic coercion of non-Muslim faiths, of dhimmitude, is that the concept of "humane" doesn't seem to exist today within the closed circle of Islam. "Compassionate" exists. "Merciful" exists. These are two descriptions attributed to Allah in the Koran. But the very concept of "humanity" grew out of a Christianized worldview in which communities, governments, and individuals were thought to have an obligation to be compassionate and merciful as well. Of course, "humanity" quickly became a concept that could stand on its own, without any reference to a religious point of view. Indeed, one may say that "humanity" has risen to an ideal of human conduct that has transcended most secular ideologies. A Cuban Communist and a Texas Republican probably both would agree on what constituted "humanity" when they saw it.
Does the concept of "humanity" have any traction at all today within fervent Islamic communities. Can one imagine Ahmadinejad or Ayman al-Zawahiri using the term?
Probably not. And therein, it seems to me, lies one of the greatest challenges to the possibility that Muslim communities can recognize basic human rights like freedom of conscience and the freedom ? Heaven forfend ? to be an apostate.
Bostom: The notion that the multiple timeless war proclamations in sura (chapter) 9 of the Koran?once again the ?uncreated word of Allah? for Muslims?are somehow circumscribed, or even more fanciful, specific to certain ?pagans?, or ?Jews?, or ?Christians?, is mere apologetic propaganda disproved by the evolution of the jihad as a uniquely Islamic institution in both theory and resultant ugly (but faithfully adherent) historical practice. The classical (and authoritative modern) Koranic commentaries on sura 9 (and other jihad verses in the Koran), and the germane hadith?both requisite to interpreting these verses?in conjunction with the earliest Muslim biographies of Muhammad, clarified these aggressive warlike motifs which the greatest luminaries of Islamic Law formulated (in countless volumes of dry juridical texts) into the living Muslim institution of jihad war. And for more than a millennium pious Muslim historians celebrated the actual conduct of these brutal jihad campaigns?replete with their sanctioned MPE
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Part Two
on: October 20, 2006, 09:35:07 AM
After these and other rules are fully laid out, the agreement concludes: ?These are the conditions that we set against ourselves and followers of our religion in return for safety and protection. If we break any of these promises that we set for your benefit against ourselves, then our Dhimmah (promise of protection) is broken and you are allowed to do with us what you are allowed of people of defiance and rebellion.?[ii]
All this does not add up to forced conversion, but many times in Islamic history it has made living as a non-Muslim so burdensome and onerous that conversion to Islam became the only path to a better life. Coerced? Perhaps not. But the line between coercion and free choice is in this case exceedingly fine.
FP: David Aikman?
Aikman: I applaud Mustafa Akyol's denunciation of the forced conversion of Fox newsmen Centanni and Wiig, but I fear that Mr. Akyol's humane disgust with conversion at the end of a gun-barrel is largely because he has benefited from having grown up in modernTurkey, which, since its founding in the 20 th. century by Attaturk, has been blessed by a secular state and not an Islamic one. If Mr. Akyol were resident in many other Muslim countries around the world, he would at best be repudiated for the un-shariah approach to the issue he expressed in this forum, at worst threatened with physical harm or death.
Mr. Robert Spencer, a specialist on Islamic attitudes in history towards people of non-Islamic faith, has put the case expertly and eloquently that the overwhelming weight of the Islamic tradition in practice has been to subject conquered non-Muslims to unconscionable humiliations in the way they are permitted to practice their faiths, humiliations that amount to coercion to convert to Islam. I certainly have nothing to add to his historical arguments. I think they are very persuasive.
What I do wish to address is what this new, threatening component in the discourse of Islamic militants means for the whole of the human race. It amounts to a war for a totalitarian control not just of its adversaries all over the world, but of the world as a whole. It aspires to coerce the entire world into conversion to Islam or into the humiliating acceptance of "dhimmi" status. In effect, Al Qaeda and all who support it are waging a war not just on the West, not just on the remains of a Christendom almost fatally weakened by political correctness and notions of moral equivalence, but on global civilization itself. Terrorist strikes and plots by advocates of global jihad have been committed or plotted in a variety of countries that makes little sense from the perspective of their various political positions. From England to Indonesia, from Canada to India, from the US to Spain, there have been terrorist plots and outrages, even though in regard to policies towards the Middle East, many of these states have been at odds with each other. But that has not protected them from the jihadist scourge. The reason is that their governments have all shared the view that in the modern world civilized life requires the free movement of commerce and people, of communications and ideas. All of these nations, indeed, except Indonesia, have been signatories of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations in 1948. Even Indonesia, however, is not an officially Islamic state. Article 18 of the Universal Declaration states that "everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, or religion." By extension that has been accepted by signatory states as implying also the freedom of their citizens to change religious belief without penalty or punishment.
In our modern world even those countries still ruled by one-party political systems such as China or Cuba had paid lip-service to the view that freedom of conscience and religious belief is inviolable. China itself has flatly repudiated that period of its recent history when, during the Cultural Revolution of 1966-1976, a nation-wide attempt was made to suppress all manifestations of religious faith. Though China is not fully free by most criteria of political democracy, it is no longer a totalitarian society and has already moved far away from totalitarian state control of all areas of private life. Other countries have problems of pressure on ordinary citizens by adherents of one religion or another not to change religion (India and Sri Lanka, among others) but the overwhelming direction of global civilization is away from religious coercion, not towards it.
It is only in the Islamic world that there is broad sympathy for a point of view that the individual conscience is not a sacred thing at all and does not even belong to the individual, but to the Muslim-controlled community in which the individual is located. This is at odds with the entire direction in which, by overwhelming broad consensus, human civilization as a whole is moving. In effect, Islamic coercion of personal religious conscience is not an example of the "clash of civilizations," but of a war waged by desperate fanatics upon civilization itself. I will leave it to scholars of the early years of Islam to debate whether this war upon the human conscience was the intention of early Islam or not. But that it is the goal of Al Qaeda and practitioners of Islamofascism around the world, there can be no doubt. Mr. Gadahn, the Californian voice of Al Qaeda, may issue his sneering threats to President Bush, or Dr. Daniel Pipes, or to my forum colleague Mr. Robert Spencer and others. But I predict that, when this new totalitarian challenge to global civilization has been overcome, Mr. Gadahn's blustering will be recalled as a historical footnote, like the blusterings after the defeat of Japan during World War 2 of "Tokyo Rose".
Bostom: Mustafa Akyol maintains?citing Koran 2:256? that forced conversion ?is in opposition to the basic principles of the Qur'an?There is nothing in the Qur'an which would justify a forced conversion to Islam?. The latter assertion is patently false, and the former is dubious at best, as I will demonstrate. I also object to Mr. Akyol?s invocation of peaceful da?wa (setting up Islamic centers for proselytization) given that there is no reciprocal free marketplace of religious ideas anywhere in the Islamic world, including Turkey. The sad reality is that circa 2006 Islamic proselytization is entirely unidirectional, apparently by design, as Christian missionary activity, for example, is opposed without exception, and often brutally, throughout the Islamic world. But let me make clear?at this critical juncture in history?I cherish Akyol?s unequivocal personal condemnation of forced conversion, despite finding his theological arguments wanting.
Robert Spencer has focused on the hadith and sira, laying out elegantly the coercive elements intrinsic to those foundational Muslim texts which were incorporated permanently into Islamic Law, the Sharia. His illustration of the so-called Pact of Umar, and its modern invocation by Saudi Sheikh Marzouq Salem Al-Ghamdi, provides additional edification. David Aikman highlights a critical and disturbing contemporary phenomenon, noting ??there is broad sympathy for a point of view that the individual conscience is not a sacred thing at all and does not even belong to the individual, but to the Muslim-controlled community in which the individual is located.?. I will expand upon this point in my own reference to the Cairo Declaration of 1990, the so-called Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Islam.
Although Mustafa Akyol acknowledges the forced conversion of pagans in Arabia, he ignores its Koranic source(s), in particular the timeless war proclamation (the Koran being the ?uncreated word of Allah? for Muslims) on generic pagans (not simply Arabian pagans), Koran 9:5, which offers pagans the stark ?choice? of conversion or death: ?Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.? . Thus for the idolatrous Hindus (and the same applies to enormous populations of pagans/animists wherever Muslim jihadist armies encountered them in history, including, sadly, contemporary Sudan) for example, enslaved in vast numbers during the waves of jihad conquests that ravaged the Indian subcontinent for well over a half millennium (beginning at the outset of the 8th century C.E.), the guiding principles of Islamic law regarding their fate ?derived from Koran 9:5?were unequivocally coercive. Jihad slavery also contributed substantively to the growth of the Muslim population in India. K.S. Lal elucidates both of these points:
The Hindus who naturally resisted Muslim occupation were considered to be rebels. Besides they were idolaters (mushrik) and could not be accorded the status of Kafirs, of the People of the Book - Christians and Jews? Muslim scriptures and treatises advocated jihad against idolaters for whom the law advocated only Islam or death? The fact was that the Muslim regime was giving [them] a choice between Islam and death only. Those who were killed in battle were dead and gone; but their dependents were made slaves. They ceased to be Hindus; they were made Musalmans in course of time if not immediately after captivity?slave taking in India was the most flourishing and successful [Muslim] missionary activity?Every Sultan, as [a] champion of Islam, considered it a political necessity to plant or raise [the] Muslim population all over India for the Islamization of the country and countering native resistance.
The late Rudi Paret was a seminal 20th century scholar of the Koran, and its exegesis. Paret?s considered analysis of Koran 2:256, puts this verse in the overall context of Koranic injunctions regarding pagans, specifically, and further concludes that 2:256 is a statement of resignation, not a prohibition on forced conversion.
After the community which the Prophet had established had extended its power over the whole of Arabia, the pagan Arabs were forcefully compelled to accept Islam stated more accurately, they had to choose either to accept Islam or death in battle against the superior power of the Muslims (cf. surahs 8:12; 47:4). This regulation was later sanctioned in Islamic law. All this stands in open contradiction to the alleged meaning of the Quranic statement, noted above: la ikraha fi d-dini. The idolaters (mushrikun) were clearly compelled to accept Islam - unless they preferred to let themselves be killed. [Note-Koran 9:5];
In view of these circumstances it makes sense to consider another meaning. Perhaps originally the statement la ikraha fi d-dini did not mean that in matters of religion one ought not to use compulsion against another but that one could not use compulsion against another (through the simple proclamation of religious truth).
Lest one think such coercion applies only to ?pagans?, Princeton scholar Patricia Crone makes the cogent argument that coercion may apply during any act of jihad resulting in captivity (i.e., jihad as the institution for extension of Islamic suzerainty, including, for our example, the jihad kidnapping of the two Fox reporters). Dr. Crone, in her recent analysis of the origins and development of Islamic political thought, makes an important nexus between the mass captivity and enslavement of non-Muslims during jihad campaigns, and the prominent role of coercion in these major modalities of Islamization. Following a successful jihad, she notes:
Male captives might be killed or enslaved, whatever their religious affiliation. People of the Book were not protected by Islamic law until they had accepted dhimma. Captives might also be given the choice between Islam and death, or they might pronounce the confession of faith of their own accord to avoid execution: jurists ruled that their change of status was to be accepted even though they had only converted out of fear.
An unapologetic view of Islamic history reveals that forced conversions to Islam are not exceptional?they have been the norm, across three continents?Asia, Africa, and Europe?for over 13 centuries. Orders for conversion were decreed under all the early Islamic dynasties?Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids, and Mamluks. Additional extensive examples of forced conversion were recorded during the jihad campaigns and rule of the Berber Almoravids and Almohads in North Africa and Spain (11th through 13th centuries), under both Seljuk and Ottoman Turkish rule (the latter until its collapse in the 20th century), the Shi?ite Safavid and Qajar dynasties of Persia/Iran, and during the jihad ravages on the Indian subcontinent, beginning with the early 11th century campaigns of Mahmud of Ghazni, and recurring under the Delhi Sultanate, and Moghul dynasty until the collapse of Muslim suzerainty in the 18th century following the British conquest of India.
Moreover, during jihad?even the jihad campaigns of the 20th century [i.e., the jihad genocide of the Armenians during World War I, the Moplah jihad in Southern India , the jihad against the Assyrians of Iraq [early 1930s], the jihads against the Chinese of Indonesia and the Christian Ibo of southern Nigeria in the 1960s, and the jihad against the Christians and Animists of the southern Sudan from 1983 to 2001], the dubious concept (see Paret, above) of ?no compulsion? (Koran 2:256; which was cited with tragic irony during the Fox reporters ?confessional?!), has always been meaningless. A consistent practice was to enslave populations taken from outside the boundaries of the ?Dar al Islam?, where Islamic rule (and Law) prevailed. Inevitably fresh non-Muslim slaves, including children (for example, the infamous devshirme system in Ottoman Turkey, which spanned three centuries and enslaved 500,000 to one million Balkan Christian adolescent males, forcibly converting them to Islam), were Islamized within a generation, their ethnic and linguistic origins erased. Two enduring and important mechanisms for this conversion were concubinage and the slave militias?practices still evident in the contemporary jihad waged by the Arab Muslim Khartoum government against the southern Sudanese Christians and Animists. And Julia Duin reported in early 2002 that murderous jihad terror campaigns?including, prominently, forced conversions to Islam?continued to be waged against the Christians of Indonesia?s Moluccan Islands.
My concern, despite Mr. Akyol?s noble personal views, is that the Muslim ulema know what Paret and Crone have explained is true: there was nothing ?Un-Islamic? about the forced conversions of Centanni and Wiig. This is how, in the main, Islam spread in the first place: conquest, forced conversion, concubinage, and enslavement, with the slaves ultimately converting to Islam (their only route to manumission)?followed by the conversion of dhimmis, to escape their own grinding oppression, or during paroxysms of violent persecution of the dhimmis, which also included bouts of forced conversion.
Thus, there has been utter silence on the Centanni-Wiig forced conversions from Muslim clerical and religio-political elites?Sunni and Shi?ite?across the Muslim world. No denunciations, and no formal fatwas have been issued invalidating the forced conversions, or making clear in advance that any Muslim who attacks Centanni and Wiig for not behaving as Muslims ?post-conversion?, i.e., for ?apostasy?, will be condemned and prosecuted, with full religious sanction. Contrast this silence from those clerical elites who were so quick to denounce factitious Koran flushings, banal Danish cartoons of Muhammad, and just this past week, Pope Benedict?s honest, reasoned critique of the living, genocidal institution of jihad war. I ask Mustafa Akyol why has the same Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate head Ali Bardakoglu, who within hours issued a hair-trigger denunciation of Pope Benedict?s September 12, 2006 Remengsburg lecture, remained mum for weeks now on the forced conversions of Centanni and Wiig, and likely will never publicly denounce their conversions?
The forced conversions of Centanni and Wiig illustrate clearly the basic rejection of freedom of conscience in the Islamic world which derives from Islam?s core texts?Koran, hadith, and sira?is enshrined in Islamic Law, and been applied incessantly throughout the entire history of Islam, into the contemporary era. The pervasiveness of this rejection, even at present, was alluded to by David Aikman, and is perhaps best demonstrated by the Cairo Declaration of 1990. Referring to the Cairo Declaration, the Shari?a-based ?Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Islam (UDHRI)?, which subordinates the UN?s own Universal Declaration of Human Rights to Sharia Law, Muslim Senegalese jurist Adama Dieng (while serving as secretary-general to the International Commission of Jurists) declared in 1992 that, the UDHRI,
...gravely threatens the inter-cultural consensus on which the international human rights instruments are based; introduces, in the name of the defense of human rights, an intolerable discrimination against both non-Muslims and women; reveals a deliberately restrictive character in regard to certain fundamental rights and freedoms..; [and] confirms the legitimacy of practices, such as corporal punishment, that attack the integrity and dignity of the human being.
ALL (now 57)member states of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)?including Turkey?have signed on to this Sharia-based document. And now even the Cairo Declaration appears to have been deemed inadequate to fulfill the global Shari?a-based needs of the 57 OIC states who are considering the establishment of their own international ?world court? in order to ??try and condemn all those nations and individuals who have instigated or committed crimes against the Muslims.?
Ultimately, the forced conversions of Centanni and Wiig represent an ominous continuum (clearly accentuated in our era if only by contrast with Western ideals) of Islam?s denial of, and assault upon, basic freedom of conscience.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion
on: October 20, 2006, 09:32:40 AM
Symposium: Convert or Die
By Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com | October 20, 2006
Last month, American al-Qaeda operative Adam Gadahn issued a ?convert-to-Islam-or-die message to U.S. President George W. Bush, Daniel Pipes, Michael Scheuer, Steve Emerson and Robert Spencer. This attempt at forced conversion to Islam followed the ?conversion? at gunpoint of the two kidnapped Fox News reporters Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig.
What exactly was the significance of these events?
On the one hand, these attempts at forced conversion were in clear continuity with Islam?s long history of calling people to convert before waging war on them. But how exactly does this tradition and practise in Islam square with the Qur?an?s verse ?There is no compulsion in religion? (2:256)? If Gadahn and the kidnappers of the Fox reporters consider themselves Muslims, what was their rationale for their actions in this context? Also: if forced conversion is anti-Islamic, where were, and are, all the Muslims furiously protesting Gadahn?s threats and the treatment of Centanni and Wiig?
To discuss these issues with us today, we are joined by:
Mustafa Akyol, a Muslim journalist and author from Istanbul, Turkey. He has written extensively in the Turkish and international press, including many American publications, about Islam and the current Muslim world. His writings are available at www.thewhitepath.com
David Aikman, a former senior correspondent and foreign correspondent with Time Magazine, an author (see www.davidaikman.com
for his books), and currently writer in residence and associate professor of history (History of Islam, Ages of Revolution) at Patrick Henry College in Purcelville, VA. He recently wrote a column for the Houses of Worship section of the Wall Street Journal on religious conversion in the US and overseas.
Robert Spencer, Director of Jihad Watch who, last month, was offered by Al-Qaeda the same 'invitation to Islam' that Centanni and Wiig received: convert or face the consequences.
Andrew Bostom, M.D., M.S. (Providence, RI), an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Renal Diseases of Rhode Island Hospital. He has published articles and commentary on Islam in the Washington Times, National Review, Revue Politique, FrontPage Magazine.com, The American Thinker, Investor?s Business Daily, and other print and online publications. He is the author of The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims.
FP: Mustafa Akyol, David Aikman, Robert Spencer and Andrew Bostom, welcome to Frontpage Symposium.
Mustafa Akyol, let me begin with you. What do you make of the forced conversions of the two Fox journalists and with the Gadahn calls for the conversions of the people he named?
As a Muslim, how do you regard these events?
Akyol: First, greetings to all participants and readers of this symposium. And thanks for having me.
This is an important topic and, as a Muslim, my position is clear: I am absolutely against the concept of forced conversion, which I believe is in opposition to the basic principles of the Qur'an. The verse you mentioned -- ?There is no compulsion in religion? (2:256) -- is very clear and there are also other ones, such as, "It is the truth from your Lord; so let whoever wishes have faith and whoever wishes be unbeliever." (18:29) There is nothing in the Qur'an which would justify a forced conversion to Islam. Indeed a purely Qur'anic Muslim view should cherish full religious freedom.
However, the post-Qur'anic Islamic literature is not so friendly to religious freedom. The hadiths and the jurists' opinions based on them added a lot of extra rules and regulations due to the political needs of the early Islamic empire. The ban on apostasy was such a post-Qur'anic rule that I think we Muslims should abandon right away. People should have the right to leave Islam and choose other religions if they decide to do so.
However, forced conversion is something that goes even beyond the mainstream post-Qur'anic orthodoxy, whether it is Sunni or Shiite. Although pagan Arabs weren't tolerated and were forced to convert, the Sunni orthodoxy accepted that Christians and Jews (and later, Hindus and Buddhists) had the right to keep their faith by accepting the dhimmi ("protected") status.
Therefore I think the Palestinian militants who forced those two kidnapped Fox News reporters Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig did something terribly wrong. From a purely Qur'anic point of view, that's totally unacceptable. Even from a Sunni Orthodoxy view, that's very hard to justify. It is also stupid: How can you think that you can make someone a sincere Muslim by pointing a gun at him?
Or maybe it was not that stupid. Those militants might have been seeking not a genuine conversion, but a political show. They might have wished to give the message that they are powerful and they can force Westerners to accept what they want, and even transform their identity. In other words, their focus seems not to direct people to what we Muslims believe to be a path to God, but to recruit them into their tribe. This tribal mentality lies beneath much of the assaults against religious freedom in the Muslim world, but it is not what the Qur'an commends.
The al-Qaeda call to American writers like Mr. Spencer seems to be a political show of the same sort. It is in fact a good thing to invite people to Islam from my point of view, but hearing a call to Islam directed to Americans by al-Qaeda, a terrorist organization which has killed thousands of innocent Americans up to now, is like a joke. If they were serious about it, what they should have done was to establish an Islamic cultural center in the Twin Towers -- not to blow them up.
FP: Robert Spencer?
Spencer: While I applaud Mustafa Akyol?s endeavor to construct an Islam free from ?hadiths and the jurists' opinions,? unfortunately those traditions and rulings are normative for the overwhelming majority of Muslims worldwide. Since many of these ahadith are attributed to Muhammad himself and are found in hadith collections generally considered reliable by Muslims (such as Bukhari?s), it is extremely difficult to convince orthodox Sunni and Shi?ite Muslims to dismiss them. For them, the ban on apostasy from Islam is not just a ?post-Qur'anic rule,? but a supreme evil, as it was regarded, according to many ahadith, by Muhammad himself.
When he was master of Medina, some livestock herders came to the city and accepted Islam. But they disliked Medina?s climate, so Muhammad gave them some camels and a shepherd; once away from Medina, the herders killed the shepherd, released the camels and renounced Islam. Muhammad had them pursued. When they were caught, he ordered that their hands and feet be amputated (in accord with Qur?an 5:33, which directs that those who cause ?corruption in the land? be punished by the amputation of their hands and feet on opposite sides) and their eyes put out with heated iron bars, and that they be left in the desert to die. Their pleas for water, he ordered, must be refused (Bukhari 8.82.794-797; 9.83.37).
The traditions are clear that one of the main reasons that the punishment was so severe was because these men had been Muslims but had ?turned renegade.? Muhammad legislated for his community that no Muslim could be put to death except for murder, unlawful sexual intercourse, and apostasy (Bukhari 9.83.17). He said flatly: ?Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him? (Bukhari 9.84.57). These words are obviously taken with utmost seriousness around the Islamic world, as we saw in Afghanistan during the Abdul Rahman case ? which was by no means an isolated incident. Some Muslim authorities even argue that, aside from the Hadith, the Qur?an itself mandates death for apostates when it says: ?if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them? (4:89).
As for forced conversion, it is likewise unfortunately unclear among Muslims that what happened to Centanni and Wiig was, in Akyol?s optimistic words, ?from a purely Qur'anic point of view?totally unacceptable? and ?from a Sunni Orthodoxy view?very hard to justify.? Islamic law forbids forced conversion, but in Islamic history this law has all too often been honored in the breach. More significantly, Islamic law regarding the presentation of Islam to non-Muslims manifests a quite different understanding of what constitutes freedom from coercion and freedom of conscience from that which prevails among non-Muslims. Muhammad instructed his followers to call people to Islam before waging war against them ? the warfare would follow from their refusal to accept Islam or to enter the Islamic social order as inferiors, required to pay a special tax:
Fight in the name of Allah and in the way of Allah. Fight against those who disbelieve in Allah. Make a holy war?When you meet your enemies who are polytheists, invite them to three courses of action. If they respond to any one of these, you also accept it and withhold yourself from doing them any harm. Invite them to (accept) Islam; if they respond to you, accept it from them and desist from fighting against them?.If they refuse to accept Islam, demand from them the Jizya [the tax on non-Muslims specified in Qur?an 9:29]. If they agree to pay, accept it from them and hold off your hands. If they refuse to pay the tax, seek Allah?s help and fight them. (Sahih Muslim 4294)
There is therefore an inescapable threat in this ?invitation? to accept Islam. Would one who converted to Islam under the threat of war be considered to have converted under duress? By non-Muslim standards, yes, but not according to the view of this Islamic tradition. From the standpoint of the traditional schools of Islamic jurisprudence such a conversion would have resulted from ?no compulsion.?
Muhammad reinforced these instructions on many occasions during his prophetic career. Late in his career, he wrote to Heraclius, the Eastern Roman Emperor in Constantinople:
Now then, I invite you to Islam (i.e., surrender to Allah), embrace Islam and you will be safe; embrace Islam and Allah will bestow on you a double reward. But if you reject this invitation of Islam, you shall be responsible for misguiding the peasants (i.e., your nation). (Bukhari, 4.52.191).
Heraclius did not accept Islam, and soon the Byzantines would know well that the warriors of jihad indeed granted no safety to those who rejected their ?invitation.?
Muhammad did not limit his veiled threat only to rulers. Another hadith records that on one occasion he emerged from a mosque and told his men, ?Let us go to the Jews.? Upon arriving at a nearby Arabian Jewish community, Muhammad told them: ?If you embrace Islam, you will be safe. You should know that the earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle, and I want to expel you from this land. So, if anyone amongst you owns some property, he is permitted to sell it, otherwise you should know that the Earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle? (Bukhari, 4.53.392). In other words, if you accept Islam, you may keep your land and property, but if not, Muhammad and the Muslims would confiscate it.
Would someone who converted in the face of such a threat be considered to have been forced by Islamic jurists? No ? and therein lies the reason why the conversions of Centanni and Wiig could be presented by their captors as uncoerced, in the teeth of the evidence.
This, too, has a foundation in the Qur?an. Sura 9:29 says: ?Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book [that is, Jews and Christians], until they pay the Jizya [a special tax levied only on non-Muslims] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.? This verse does not force conversion, but it did in Islamic history become the foundation of an elaborate legal system, the dhimma (to which Akyol refers). This system ensured that non-Muslims would ?feel themselves subdued? by mandating a series of humiliating and discriminatory regulations that institutionalized second-class status for non-Muslims in Islamic societies. As the schools of Islamic jurisprudence developed, they constructed upon various ahadith and passages of the Qur?an a legal structure for the treatment of non-Muslims.
The features of this remained remarkably consistent across the centuries, and among all the legal schools. Consider the contemporary Saudi Sheikh Marzouq Salem Al-Ghamdi, who several years ago explained in a sermon the terms in which an Islamic society should tolerate the presence of non-Muslims in its midst:
If the infidels live among the Muslims, in accordance with the conditions set out by the Prophet ? there is nothing wrong with it provided they pay Jizya to the Islamic treasury. Other conditions are . . . that they do not renovate a church or a monastery, do not rebuild ones that were destroyed, that they feed for three days any Muslim who passes by their homes . . . that they rise when a Muslim wishes to sit, that they do not imitate Muslims in dress and speech, nor ride horses, nor own swords, nor arm themselves with any kind of weapon; that they do not sell wine, do not show the cross, do not ring church bells, do not raise their voices during prayer, that they shave their hair in front so as to make them easily identifiable, do not incite anyone against the Muslims, and do not strike a Muslim?.If they violate these conditions, they have no protection.
In this the Sheikh is merely repeating the classic terms of Islamic jurisprudence for the treatment of non-Muslims in Islamic societies ? and he explicitly links these terms to Muhammad?s example. The second-class status for Christians and Jews, mandated by Qur?an 9:29?s stipulation that they ?feel themselves subdued,? was first fully articulated by Muhammad?s lieutenant Umar during his caliphate (634 to 644), in terms strikingly similar to those used by Sheikh Marzouq. The Christians making this pact with Umar pledged:
We made a condition on ourselves that we will neither erect in our areas a monastery, church, or a sanctuary for a monk, nor restore any place of worship that needs restoration nor use any of them for the purpose of enmity against Muslims?.We will not . . . prevent any of our fellows from embracing Islam, if they choose to do so. We will respect Muslims, move from the places we sit in if they choose to sit in them. We will not imitate their clothing, caps, turbans, sandals, hairstyles, speech, nicknames and title names, or ride on saddles, hang swords on the shoulders, collect weapons of any kind or carry these weapons?. We will not encrypt our stamps in Arabic, or sell liquor. We will have the front of our hair cut, wear our customary clothes wherever we are, wear belts around our waist, refrain from erecting crosses on the outside of our churches and demonstrating them and our books in public in Muslim fairways and markets. We will not sound the bells in our churches, except discreetly, or raise our voices while reciting our holy books inside our churches in the presence of Muslims. . . .