Category Archives: News & Politics

Chomsky: A Free Global South?

Latin America and Asia are at last breaking free of Washington’s grip

The US-dominated world order is being challenged by a new spirit of independence in the global south

Noam Chomsky
Wednesday March 15, 2006
The Guardian

The prospect that Europe and Asia might move towards greater independence has troubled US planners since the second world war. The concerns have only risen as the “tripolar order” – Europe, North America and Asia – has continued to evolve.

Every day Latin America, too, is becoming more independent. Now Asia and the Americas are strengthening their ties while the reigning superpower, the odd man out, consumes itself in misadventures in the Middle East.

Regional integration in Asia and Latin America is a crucial and increasingly important issue that, from Washington’s perspective, betokens a defiant world gone out of control. Energy, of course, remains a defining factor – the object of contention – everywhere.

China, unlike Europe, refuses to be intimidated by Washington, a primary reason for the fear of China by US planners, which presents a dilemma: steps toward confrontation are inhibited by US corporate reliance on China as an export platform and growing market, as well as by China’s financial reserves – reported to be approaching Japan’s in scale.

In January, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah visited Beijing, which is expected to lead to a Sino-Saudi memorandum of understanding calling for “increased cooperation and investment between the two countries in oil, natural gas and investment”, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Already much of Iran’s oil goes to China, and China is providing Iran with weapons that both states presumably regard as deterrent to US designs. India also has options. India may choose to be a US client, or it may prefer to join the more independent Asian bloc that is taking shape, with ever more ties to Middle East oil producers. Siddharth Varadarjan, the deputy editor of the Hindu, observes that “if the 21st century is to be an ‘Asian century,’ Asia’s passivity in the energy sector has to end”.

The key is India-China cooperation. In January, an agreement signed in Beijing “cleared the way for India and China to collaborate not only in technology but also in hydrocarbon exploration and production, a partnership that could eventually alter fundamental equations in the world’s oil and natural gas sector”, Varadarjan points out.

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Furor Over Cartoons Pits Muslim Against Muslim

Furor Over Cartoons Pits Muslim Against Muslim

February 22, 2006
NY Times


AMMAN, Jordan, Feb. 21 — In a direct challenge to the international uproar over cartoons lampooning the Prophet Muhammad, the Jordanian journalist Jihad Momani wrote: “What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras, or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony??

In Yemen, an editorial by Muhammad al-Assadi condemned the cartoons but also lamented the way many Muslims reacted. “Muslims had an opportunity to educate the world about the merits of the Prophet Muhammad and the peacefulness of the religion he had come with,? Mr. Assadi wrote. He added, “Muslims know how to lose, better than how to use, opportunities.?

To illustrate their points, both editors published selections of the drawings — and for that they were arrested and threatened with prison.

Mr. Momani and Mr. Assadi are among 11 journalists in five countries facing prosecution for printing some of the cartoons. Their cases illustrate another side of this conflict, the intra-Muslim side, in what has typically been defined as a struggle between Islam and the West.

The flare-up over the cartoons, first published in a Danish newspaper, has magnified a fault line running through the Middle East, between those who want to engage their communities in a direct, introspective dialogue and those who focus on outside enemies.

But it has also underscored a political struggle involving emerging Islamic movements, like Hamas in Gaza and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and Arab governments unsure of how to contain them.

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Torture in the Name of Freedom


Torture in the Name of Freedom

The new pictures from Abu Ghraib provide the most recent evidence: America’s moral bank account is empty — and it has lost the image wars. The entire Muslim world no longer trusts the world’s most powerful nation.

Some quotes (full article below):

From the perspective of the Middle East, the freedom and human rights the Americans profess to be bringing to an oppressed world are nothing more than a front, Washington’s false alibi in pushing its agenda of globalization. And for many in the Arab world, they are merely the sinister elements of a slick and even fraudulent marketing campaign aimed at humiliating Muslims.”

The crimes committed by US soldiers in the name of freedom and human rights, documented in unalterable photographs, appear to confirm the suspicion that America’s true aim is something entirely different — that the US is primarily interested in imposing its own world order and preserving its dominance.

In short, for the United States, the most powerful and influential global power ever, the images from Abu Ghraib — and the ongoing debate over the legality of its prison camp at Guantanamo — have produced a moral catastrophe that’s likely to endure for a very long time.

The battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqis can likely already be penciled into the loss column — the inability to provide such basic necessities as electricity and drinking water for everyone represents a major strike against the US military. The daily suicide bombings and kidnappings mostly hit ordinary Iraqis. For many of them, life is now more difficult than it was under Saddam. The American military, too, is suffering. Losses mount almost daily; the death toll had reached 2,272 by last Friday.

And now the Americans have also lost the battle of images.

The images from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib will endure, and they will haunt America for decades to come. A global power can make mistakes and give in to folly, but when its moral foundation begins to crumble, it is constantly forced to deal with the images of its own humiliation and disgrace.

Anything goes once islands have been created outside the rule of law. If Guantanamo is elevated to the status of acceptability — if those in detention are granted neither the presumption of innocence nor the protections of the Vienna Convention — isn’t Abu Ghraib simply the logical and foreseeable end of this long chain? Does it not become the innate product of a new system the government has inaugurated in its war against terror?

Nowhere is the fallout from the images more dramatic, the resignation greater, than among those in the Islamic world who had disdained the extremists and had truly believed that the Islamic world stands a chance of being reformed.

There are those in the Arab world who have welcomed the Iraq war and America’s project of democratizing the Middle East. “The fall of Saddam established a fundamental moral concept in our political culture,” says Egyptian telephone magnate Naguib Sawiris: “responsibility.” Despite its many shortcomings, says Shibli Mallat, a Beirut attorney and democratic challenger of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, the war in Iraq did put an end to appeasement in dealing with the despots.

But who wants to listen to it anymore?

“The second group of Abu Ghraib images spells the preliminary end to liberalism in the Arab world, ” says Mohammed al-Sayyid Said of the Ahram Center for Strategic Studies in Cairo. The secular, leftist and moderate wings of all political groups, Said believes, launched a faint-hearted attempt to take advantage of the new freedom last fall. But, he adds, “it’s over.”

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The Mirage of Empire

The New York Review of Books covers the American Empire and reviews Robert D. Kaplan’s Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground and Michael Mandelbaims’s The Case for Goliath: How America Acts as the World’s Government in the 21st Century in this piece by John Gray.

This reference to the Wild West is not an insignificant detail. It is central to Kaplan’s picture of American Empire. He writes: “‘Welcome to Injun Country’ was the refrain I heard from troops from Colombia to the Philippines, including Afghanistan and Iraq…. The War on Terrorism was really about taming the frontier.”

I guess this blog is most likely “Injun Country.”

Ed: The article in full below

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Middle East News Guides

The Guardian provides an excellent media guide to “to major news sources from the Middle East.”

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Why are all al-Qaida captives “No. 3”?

How many “No.3″s are there in al-Qaida? Apparently the media stopped counting a while back as Timothy Noah writes in this article.
Al-Qaida’s Rule of Threes
Why are all al-Qaida captives “No. 3”?
By Timothy Noah
Updated Monday, Dec. 5, 2005, at 7:07 PM ET
Some jobs just seem impossible to keep filled. Hollywood studio head. United States ambassador to Iraq. Editor of the New York Daily News. Defense Against the Dark Arts professor at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
To these we must now add “al-Qaida’s No. 3 official.” John Crimmings, proprietor of the New York-based Blogenlust, has been keeping track of al-Qaida third-in-commands captured or killed by our side, and counts no fewer than four.

There’s Hamza Rabia, reportedly killed Thursday by an American missile. According to MSNBC, Rabia is said by two unidentified counterterrorism officials to be

head of al-Qaida’s foreign operations, possibly as senior as the No. 3 [italics Chatterbox’s] in the terrorist group, just below al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahri. They are believed to be hiding in a rugged area along Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan.

Before Rabia there was Abu Farraj al-Libbi, who as of May 5 was reported by Fox News to be held in Pakistani custody. Libbi (no relation to the recently indicted White House aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby) was said not to be “head of foreign operations,” as Rabia reportedly was, but rather to be plotting attacks on the United States. Perhaps it amounts to the same thing. At any rate, al-Libbi, Fox reported, was “believed by U.S. counterterrorism officials to be Usama bin Laden’s No. 3 man.”

Before al-Libbi there was Abu Zubaida, whom Ruth Wedgwood of Yale Law School called “the number three in al-Qaida” on PBS’s NewsHour. We don’t seem to know much about Zubaida’s job description beyond the fact that he was, as the Washington Post put it, “involved with the Sept. 11 plot,” which is a bit circular; of course the No. 3 guy in al-Qaida would be involved in the Sept. 11 plot.

Before Abu Zubaida there was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the “alleged mastermind” of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to Fox News, and also “Al Qaeda’s No. 3 figure.” Mohammed is also apparently al-Qaida’s treasurer, having disbursed cash to Mohammed Atta. In one respect, Mohammed’s job description is identical to Zubaida’s: It apparently requires that the employee be subjected by Central Intelligence Agency interrogators to “water boarding,” a form of torture—ahem, I mean interrogation—in which the subject is made to think he is drowning. No doubt the pension benefits have been adjusted upward to compensate.

The obvious question here is whether these four people successively held the position of No. 3 in al-Qaida—in which case, as Jon Stewart has observed on The Daily Show, the job would appear to be “sort of a raw deal”—or whether counterterrorism officials are inclined to call any reasonably high-ranking Tom, Dick, or Harry “al-Qaida’s No. 3” simply for the purposes of propaganda. Another possibility is that our side does this for the purposes of psy-ops, to create confusion among the al-Qaida rank and file about their own organization’s true hierarchy. (It isn’t like you can get Bin Laden to adjudicate turf wars every time confusion arises over the chain of command.) Yet another possibility is that al-Qaida’s management hierarchy is ludicrously top-heavy, and that “No. 3” is a position held simultaneously by many people who in a similarly top-heavy corporation would be labeled “vice president.” No matter what the explanation, it’s clear that the sweet spot in al-Qaida management is No. 1 and No. 2. After that, job security seems only slightly better than that enjoyed by suicide bombers. My advice: Go with Procter & Gamble instead.

Timothy Noah writes “Chatterbox” for Slate.

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In the Muslim World Blame Israel

In the Muslim world it has become an unfortunate wont to blame Israel for its follies; the New York Times examines this sentiment in Jordan in light of the bombings.  

Many in Jordan See Old Enemy in Attack: Israel
By Michael Slackman
New York Times
November 12, 2005

ZARQA, Jordan, Nov. 11 – The Maktoum Mosque was crowded with worshipers for Friday Prayer as the imam sharply criticized the suicide attacks on three hotels in Amman, saying those who committed the crimes were not Muslims, no matter what they called themselves.

Afterward, on the street, people agreed that whoever committed such an act could not be a Muslim. But many meant this literally, that the attack must have been carried out by outsiders, namely Israeli agents.

“Who said it is them?” asked Ahmed al-Zawahrah, referring to claims that members of a radical Islamic group were behind the blasts. “It could be Israel.”

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