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Drive, She Said: Saudi Women Drive In Rolling Protest, Ovaries Fail to Explode October 17, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Religion, Women.
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Roger’s note: I remember, growing up in New Jersey back in the 1950s, that when another car did something untoward or reckless on the road, the reflex reaction was to shout “woman driver!”  So the Muslim clerics take this sentiment to the extreme.  The opinion reported below is so hilariously absurd as to put a five star comedy writer to shame.  But the reality of patriarchal oppression of women under fundamentalist Islamic regimes is not laughing matter.

 

by Abby Zimet

Gearing up for an Oct. 26 protest against their country’s de facto ban on female drivers – there exists no explicit law or Islam ban against it – Saudi women have posted scores of videos of themselves driving, often taken by a female Saudi filmmaker who helped organize the protest and was then briefly detained. In taking the wheel, women are thus defying a conservative cleric who claimed that driving would have “negative physiological impacts (as) medical studies show that it affects the ovaries and pushes the pelvis upwards,” resulting in children “with clinical problems of varying degrees.” Despite these grave if wholly unfounded warnings, over 15,000 people signed an Oct26Driving petition before the website was shut down. Here’s one driving video in which, as expected, no lightning descends from on high, no lady parts disintegrate, and nothing happens – except, charmingly, some drivers in other cars give them thumbs-up.

“Argo” is bad, embarrassing and wrong February 26, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Art, Literature and Culture, Iran.
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Roger’s note: Here is another analysis of Argo.  I am afraid only the critical minded see the pernicious subtext of this movie.  An intelligent and fairly progressive friend said, “what is all the fuss about, it only portrayed what really happened.”  One critic I read alluded to the eerie scene where Michelle Obama appears on a huge screen to award the Oscar, comparing it to Big Brother/Sister watching.  Chilling.

 

The Chronicle

 

By Abdullah Antepli | February 26, 2013

Imam Antepli is the Muslim Chaplain at Duke University. He writes a regular column for the Duke Chronicle.

I wonder if I am the only one deeply disturbed and troubled by the recent Hollywood movie, “Argo.” My increasing sense of loneliness and alienation with “Argo” has been fed by the movie’s overrated fame, its undeserved success in the movie theaters and now more painfully by the multiple Oscars that it has won. To me, “Argo” and the response it has created shed light on larger problems that we face in our society, especially in our movie industry. “Argo” demonstrates how out of touch we are with crucial global realities and how disconnected we are from how we come across to the rest of the human family through these kinds of expressions.

I welcomed the news of “Argo” when I first heard of it, hoping that it would help us face one of the ugliest chapters of our recent U.S. history with Iran. I was misled by the initial publicity of the movie and excited to see how the movie would unveil our government’s miserably failed foreign policies prior to the Islamic revolution in 1979. I was eagerly waiting to see how the movie would enable an honest, self-critical assessment of Uncle Sam’s—especially the CIA’s—shameful involvement in the toppling of the democratically-elected government in Iran in the early 1950s and the empowering of a reprehensibly corrupt and oppressive regime in the country for over four decades. More importantly, I hoped the movie would show how, in part, these ethical and moral failures helped the conception and the birth of the so-called 1979 Islamic Revolution that ruined Iranian society.

After giving a puzzlingly brief lip service to my expectations at the beginning of the movie, “Argo” moved on to be another embarrassing “Rambo III” movie in many despicable ways: an innocent, white, Western David beating up ugly, exotic, monstrous oriental Goliaths and emerging as victor despite all odds. It caters to its home audience’s starvation for self-glory and self-serving, happy endings. More troublingly, the movie does all of that by distorting the obvious facts about one of the most important events in our recent history and dehumanizing a rich civilization irresponsibly. Film critic Kevin B. Lee expressed my heartache best when he recently reviewed “Argo” for Slate:

“Looking at the runaway success of this film, it seems as if critics and audiences alike lack the historical knowledge to recognize a self-serving perversion of an unflattering past, or the cultural acumen to see the utterly ersatz nature of the enterprise: a cast of stock characters and situations, and a series of increasingly contrived narrow escapes from third world mobs who, predictably, are never quite smart enough to catch up with the Americans.”

“Argo” also disturbingly caters to the biased, post-9-11 image of Islam, Muslims and Middle Easterners and effectively serves to re-assert existing stereotypes. The movie skillfully markets once again the newly found international enemy of Western civilization. The movie describes and pictures the monolithic, black-and-white, pejorative, primitive, archaic, vengeful, unforgiving, irredeemably ignorant and forever dangerous nature of this new and scary enemy.

Since the release of the movie, many of my friends from all over the world, both Middle Eastern and otherwise, expressed their dismay and distaste about “Argo.” Much of what they said can be summarized in the following questions: “Who the heck do these people think they are?” “Who will buy this self-serving, biased and inaccurate propaganda in 2013?” “Do they (the filmmakers) not realize they make fools of themselves? For God’s sake give us a break!”

I also wonder how many Americans watched Argo and asked these kinds of questions. My friends’ rightful frustrations over “Argo” mirror certain realities of us as a society. It is no longer the 1980s, the Reagan days where movies like “Rambo” can fly. This kind of self-glorifying distortion of history can no longer go unnoticed or unpunished. What will it take to wake up from our self-delusions and express ourselves as we are, not what we wish to be? Again, Slate’s Kevin B. Lee puts it perfectly:

“We can delight all we like in this cinematic recycling act, but the fact remains that we are no longer living in a world where we can get away with films like this—not if we want to be in a position to deal with a world that is rising to meet us. The movies we endorse need to rise to the occasion of reflecting a new global reality, using a newer set of storytelling tools than this reheated excuse for a historical geopolitical thriller.”

I can’t agree with him more and I fully share his disappointment and deep sense of embarrassment over “Argo.” U.S. society in general and our movie industry in particular have so much to catch up on with modern day realities and global responsibilities. Let’s stop making fools of ourselves.

Abdullah Antepli is the Muslim Chaplain and an adjunct faculty of Islamic Studies. His column runs every other Tuesday. You can follow Abdullah on Twitter @aantepli.

The transformation of Anwar al-Awlaki July 27, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in 9/11, War on Terror.
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Terrorism

Wednesday, Jul 27, 2011 09:28 ET

 

The Washington Post today has the latest leak-based boasting about how the U.S. is on the verge of “defeating” Al Qaeda, yet — lest you think this can allow a reduction of the National Security State and posture of Endless War on which it feeds — the article warns that “al­-Qaeda’s offshoot in Yemen is now seen as a greater counterterrorism challenge than the organization’s traditional base” and that this new threat, as Sen. Saxby Chambliss puts it, “is nowhere near defeat.”  Predictably, the Post‘s warnings about the danger from Yemen feature the U.S. Government’s due-process-free attempts to kill U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, widely believed to be in Yemen and now routinely (and absurdly) depicted as The New Osama bin Laden.

The Post says Awlaki is “known for his fiery sermons” (undoubtedly the prime — and blatantly unconstitutional — motive for his being targeted for killing).  But what is so bizarre about Awlaki’s now being cast in this role is that, for years, he was deemed by the very same U.S. Government to be the face of moderate Islam.  Indeed, shortly after 9/11, the Pentagon invited Awlaki to a “luncheon [] meant to ease tensions with Muslim-Americans.” But even more striking was something I accidentally found today while searching for something else.  In November, 2001, the very same Washington Post hosted one of those benign, non-controversial online chats about religion that it likes to organize; this one was intended to discuss “the meaning of Ramadan”. It was hosted by none other than . . . “Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki.”

More extraordinary than the fact that the Post hosted The New Osama bin Laden in such a banal role a mere ten years ago was what Imam Awlaki said during the Q-and-A exchange with readers.  He repudiated the 9/11 attackers.  He denounced the Taliban for putting women in burqas, explaining that the practice has no precedent in Islam and that “education is mandatory on every Muslim male and female.”  He chatted about the “inter-faith services held in our mosque and around the greater DC area and in all over the country” and proclaimed: “We definitely need more mutual understanding.” While explaining his opposition to the war in Afghanistan, he proudly invoked what he thought (mistakenly, as it turns out) was his right of free speech as an American:  “Even though this is a dissenting view nowadays[,] as an American I do have the right to have a contrary opinion.”  And he announced that “the greatest sin in Islam after associating other gods besides Allah is killing an innocent soul.”

Does that sound like the New Osama bin Laden to you?  One could call him the opposite of bin Laden.  And yet, a mere nine years later, there was Awlaki, in an Al Jazeera interview, pronouncing his opinion that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow up a civilian jet over Detroit was justified (while saying “it would have been better if the plane was a military one or if it was a US military target”), and urging “revenge for all Muslims across the globe” against the U.S.  What changed over the last decade that caused such a profound transformation in Awlaki? Does that question even need to be asked?  Awlaki unwittingly provided the answer ten years ago when explaining his opposition to the war in Afghanistan in his 2001 Post chat:

Also our government could have dealt with the terrorist attacks as a crime against America rather than a war against America. So the guilty would be tried and only them would be punished rather than bombing an already destroyed country. I do not restrict myself to US media. I check out Aljazeerah and European media such as the BBC. I am seeing something that you are not seeing because of the one-sidedness of the US media. I see the carnage of Afghanistan. I see the innocent civilian deaths. That is why my opinion is different.

Keep in mind that I have no sympathy for whoever committed the crimes of Sep 11th. But that doesn’t mean that I would approve the killing of my Muslim brothers and sisters in Afghanistan.

 

And in his Al Jazeera interview nine years later, he explained why he now endorses violence against Americans, especially American military targets:

I support what Umar Farouk has done after I have been seeing my brothers being killed in Palestine for more than 60 years, and others being killed in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And in my tribe too, US missiles have killed 17 women and 23 children, so do not ask me if al-Qaeda has killed or blown up a US civil jet after all this. The 300 Americans are nothing comparing to the thousands of Muslims who have been killed.

 

A full decade of literally constant (and still-escalating) American killing of civilians in multiple Muslim countries has radically transformed Awlaki — and countless other Muslims — from a voice of pro-American moderation into supporters of violence against the U.S. and, in Awlaki’s case, the prime pretext for the continuation of the War on Terror.  As this blogger put it in response to my noting the 2001 Awlaki chat: “it’s interesting to think about how many other people followed that same path, that we don’t know about it.”  In other words, the very U.S. policies justified in name of combating Terrorism have done more to spawn — and continue to spawn — anti-American Terrorism than anything bin Laden could have ever conceived.  The transformation of Awlaki, and many others like him, provides vivid insight into how that occurs.

* * * * *
It’s equally instructive to note that if the Post were to give Awlaki a venue to express his opinions now — or if the Pentagon were to invite him to a luncheon — those institutions would likely be guilty of the felony of providing material support to Terrorism as applied by the Obama DOJ and upheld by the Supreme Court.

Women Rise to the Challenge in the Arab Spring May 27, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Women.
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  by  Michelle Chen
Published on Friday, May 27, 2011 by Ms. Magazine Blog

The scene would have had most Americans readjusting their television sets—or their preconceived notions about Arab society. In the April sun, throngs of protesters washed over the streets of the southern Yemeni city Taiz, most clad head-to-toe in black, their eyes steely with determination. The crowd was festooned with bright baseball caps and signs bearing English slogans such as, “We want a new Yemen without Saleh” in seeming defiance both of the autocratic regime and of society’s expectations.

It was only a few months ago that demonstrations exploded across the Maghreb and the Middle East. If you trace the sweep of the revolutionary contagion, a trendline emerges: The seedbed of the revolt, Tunisia, may have lacked democracy but was fairly advanced in providing equal rights for women. The next domino to fall, Egypt, could not have toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak without the support of  women activists who took the helm at Tahrir Square. And now Yemen, a relatively conservative and impoverished country, has seen women gathering in a groundswell of resistance–paralleled by increasingly tense uprisings in Syria and Libya.

The BBC recently reported on one of the figureheads of the Yemeni uprising, Tawakul Karman, a former stay-at-home mother whose political passion was galvanized when her husband became a political prisoner:

In the last three months, Mrs Karman has been imprisoned, beaten and humiliated in the state media. As a result, she is a household name in Yemen and an inspiration to many women here. ‘This goes beyond the wildest dream I have ever dreamt,’ she says. ‘I am so proud of our women.’

With Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s regime on the brink of implosion, women’s role in the revolution is coming to the forefront, as Karman and other women become fixtures at the demonstrations in Sana’a‘s Change Square. The outrage flared after Saleh denounced women protesters as violating Islamic law. The attempt at intimidation backfired: One activist told the BBC, “Ali Abdullah Saleh turned me into a stronger woman.”

The outpouring of social and economic frustration has subverted gender hierarchies and stereotypes both in the political establishment and in the opposition. While Yemen’s Western-backed authoritarian regime faces rising public wrath, the opposition Islamist party Islah may actually offer women a greater voice.

According to news reports, Islah activists may not see women’s rights on their main agenda, but they’re keen on engaging women, at least for pragmatic reasons. As anti-government protesters start to envision life after Saleh, each woman will ultimately count as one vote in future elections.

Yet the rising profile of female revolutionaries remains shadowed by the gendered burdens of authoritarian oppression. Terrorized women and children form the bulk of the refugee tide spilling out of Syria over the border to Lebanon in order to escape the crackdown on the roiling uprisings. In Libya, civil war has reportedly spawned an epidemic of rape as a military weapon.

Back in Egypt, the solidarity of the January 25 uprising, which for a moment united people across lines of class, religion and gender, now appears to be ebbing into sectarian and socioeconomic strife. The protests continue, sometimes spilling blood on the streets. Egypt’s struggle for gender justice has followed a similarly precarious trajectory. Although many women activists became icons of the youth-driven revolutionary movement, military rule now threatens to rollback their gains. According to political analyst Valerie M. Hudson, recent stirrings in parliament could effectively squelch women’s participation in government:

Reacting to these reports, women’s organizations in Egypt have called for the quota to either be maintained, or for a 3-3-4 party list system to be instituted. In that system, a woman candidate must figure among the first three listed candidates, among the second three listed candidates and then among the next four listed candidates. As Noha El Khoury of the [Egyptian Center for Women's Rights] has written with great concern, the status of Egyptian women ‘is not getting better’ after the revolution.

The complex symbolism of women in protest movements is nothing new, not even in the Middle East, as seen in the martyrdom of “Neda” in the Iranian uprising of 2009. But today, some activists in the region fear women risk being co-opted by reactionary agendas. The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights sharply criticized a recent clash between Muslims and Christians at a march that had been billed as a rally against sectarian strife. In a statement [PDF] issued earlier this month, the group said, “The incidents that happened between Muslims and Christians are a clear attempt to abort the 25th of January revolution through the use of women to fuel strife.”

After the overthrow of Mubarak, as Ms. reported earlier, women demanded social and cultural revolution in addition to political change. The reaction was telling: Many felt anxious or threatened by feminist rebellion in the still-fragile democracy. Cairo-based activist Jumanah Younis recalled attacks on women at a Tahrir Square demonstration in March:

As I struggled to stay upright, a hand grabbed my behind and others pulled at my clothes. When, a few minutes later, I found the other women I was with, one told me that a man had put his hand down her top, while another woman had been pushed to the ground and held down by a man on top of her. The police continued to direct traffic around the square as the incident was taking place.

Such outrageous displays of contempt for women cannot be allowed to persist in the new Egypt. Time and time again so-called “women’s issues” have been relegated to the bottom of the agenda: We must end corruption first, we must have political freedom first, etc., etc. On Tuesday, Egyptian women said: ‘Now is the time.’ There is no freedom for men without freedom and equality for women.

The Arab Spring has raised a beacon of democratic change and shattered walls of fear in a region long dominated by tyrants or foreign powers. But the scope of the struggle also complicates the dialogue about gender, social justice and democracy in the communities that are being rapidly reborn. In a climate of militant protest, however principled, warped notions of nationalism and masculine valor tend to surface, and can easily dissolve into violence and chauvinism.

The history is still being written. Back in Tunisia, subtle gender dimensions continue to unfold from the scene that spawned the Arab Spring, the self-immolation of a young street vendor. The common narrative suggested Mohamed Bouazizi had been slapped and humiliated by a female police officer, Fadia Hamdi. But this framing of the events—the indignity suffered by the emasculated jobless youth versus the arrogant aggression of the police woman—has come undone. The legal case was dropped and Hamdi’s name effectively cleared in the media. In the end, the woman held responsible for sparking nationwide revolt was greeted with cheers outside the courtroom hailing her freedom, according to press reports. No longer pressing the case, Bouazizi’s mother reportedly declared, “For me, it is enough that Mohamed’s martyrdom has resulted in freedom and the fall of tyrants.” So it goes with the mercurial politics of revolution.

Women’s voices have carried far and wide on the Arab Spring’s winds of revolution, fading in and out as in the tumult still churning throughout the region. But no matter where women march from here, there’s a recognition that no matter what, there’s no going back to the way things were.

© 2011 Ms. Magazine

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Michelle Chen

Michelle Chen’s work has appeared in AirAmerica, Women’s International Perspective, Extra!, Colorlines and Common Dreams. She is a regular contributor to In These Times’ workers’ rights blog, Working In These Times. She also blogs at Racewire.org.

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Posted by medmedude
May 27 2011 – 9:42am

“When Britain lost control of Egypt in 1956, Prime Minister Anthony Eden said he wanted the nationalist president Gamal Abdel Nasser “destroyed … murdered … I don’t give a damn if there’s anarchy and chaos in Egypt”. Those insolent Arabs, Winston Churchill had urged in 1951, should be driven “into the gutter from which they should never have emerged”.

The language of colonialism may have been modified; the spirit and the hypocrisy are unchanged. A new imperial phase is unfolding in direct response to the Arab uprising that began in January and has shocked Washington and Europe, causing an Eden-style panic. The loss of the Egyptian tyrant Mubarak was grievous, though not irretrievable; an American-backed counter-revolution is under way as the military regime in Cairo is seduced with new bribes and power shifting from the street to political groups that did not initiate the revolution. The western aim, as ever, is to stop authentic democracy and reclaim control.

Libya is the immediate opportunity. The Nato attack on Libya, with the UN Security Council assigned to mandate a bogus “no fly zone” to “protect civilians”, is strikingly similar to the final destruction of Yugoslavia in 1999. There was no UN cover for the bombing of Serbia and the “rescue” of Kosovo, yet the propaganda echoes today. Like Slobodan Milosevic, Muammar Gaddafi is a “new Hitler”, plotting “genocide” against his people. There is no evidence of this, as there was no genocide in Kosovo. In Libya there is a tribal civil war; and the armed uprising against Gaddafi has long been appropriated by the Americans, French and British, their planes attacking residential Tripoli with uranium-tipped missiles and the submarine HMS Triumph firing Tomahawk missiles, a repeat of the “shock and awe” in Iraq that left thousands of civilians dead and maimed. As in Iraq, the victims, which include countless incinerated Libyan army conscripts, are media unpeople. “

john pilger.com

Posted by medmedude
May 27 2011 – 9:48am

” Israel’s Likudnik Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached into his bag of Zionist tricks and pulled out a brand-new demand that had never surfaced before in the history of the Middle East Peace Process going all the way back to their beginning with the negotiation of the original Camp David Accords conducted under the personal auspices of U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1978: The Palestinians must recognize Israel as “the Jewish State.” Not surprisingly, the Zionist controlled and funded Obama administration publicly endorsed this latest roadblock to peace that was maliciously constructed by Israel.

Netanyahu deliberately shifted the goal-posts on the Palestinians. It would be as if the United States of America demanded that Iran recognize it as the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP) State as a condition for negotiating and then concluding any comprehensive peace settlement with it. Of course such demands are racist and premeditated non-starters to begin with.

Netanyahu’s racist ultimatum would lead to the denationalization of the 1.5 million Palestinians who are already less than third-class citizens of Israel and set the stage for their mass expulsion to the Palestinian Bantustan envisioned by Netanyahu as the “final solution” to Zionism’s “demographic problem” created by the very existence of the Palestinians. This racist and genocidal demand would also illegally terminate the well-recognized Right of Return for five million Palestinian refugees living around the world as required by U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194(III) of 1948, by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 13(2) (1948), and by general principles of public international law, international humanitarian law, and human rights law. This would doom all prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians forever, and pave the way for the creation of “Greater Israel” dominating the entire former Mandate for Palestine, both of which objectives have been the intention of Netanyahu and Likud all along.

But if Netanyahu is really serious about Israel being recognized internationally as “the Jewish State” then there is a simple manner by which this universal diplomatic status can instantly be achieved unilaterally and without the consent of the Palestinians. Under basic principles of international law, every state is free to change its own name if it so desires: e.g., from Congo to Zaire then back to Congo. Therefore Israel is free to change its name to Jewistan — the State of the Jews.”

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article28187.htm

Sept. 11: A Day Without War September 8, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in 9/11, History, Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, Peace, War, War on Terror.
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(Roger’s note: It is one thing to oppose terrorism, which is the tactic of attacking civilians.  However, it makes no sense to wage war against a tactic.  What a war on terrorism is in reality is an excuse for permanent war, since a tactic can never be totally erased.  What inspires acts of terrorism is perhaps a more rational target.  And, as Walt Kelly through the voice of Pogo famously said, “we have encountered the enemy, and it is us.”  Any right minded, sane, moral individual will oppose terrorist tactics.  What is insidious are the war mongering political and religious leaders of virtually all nations who play on our repugnance with terrorist tactics to manipulate public opinion and justify their ongoing push for permanent war and domination.)
Published on Wednesday, September 8, 2010 by TruthDig.comby Amy Goodman

The ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States should serve as a moment to reflect on tolerance. It should be a day of peace. Yet the rising anti-Muslim fervor here, together with the continuing U.S. military occupation of Iraq and the escalating war in Afghanistan (and Pakistan), all fuel the belief that the U.S. really is at war with Islam.

Sept. 11, 2001, united the world against terrorism. Everyone, it seemed, was with the United States, standing in solidarity with the victims, with the families who lost loved ones. The day will be remembered for generations to come, for the notorious act of coordinated mass murder. But that was not the first Sept. 11 to be associated with terror:

Sept. 11, 1973, Chile: Democratically elected President Salvadore Allende died in a CIA-backed military coup that ushered in a reign of terror under dictator Augusto Pinochet, in which thousands of Chileans were killed.

Sept. 11, 1977, South Africa: Anti-apartheid leader Stephen Biko was being beaten in a police van. He died the next day.

Sept. 11, 1990, Guatemala: Guatemalan anthropologist Myrna Mack was murdered by the U.S.-backed military.

Sept. 9-13, 1971, New York: The Attica prison uprising occurred, during which New York state troopers killed 39 prisoners and guards and wounded hundreds of others.

Sept. 11, 1988, Haiti: During a mass led by Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide at the St. Jean Bosco Church in Port-au-Prince, right-wing militiamen attacked, killing at least 13 worshippers and injuring at least 77. Aristide would later be twice elected president, only to be ousted in U.S.-supported coup d’etats.

If anything, Sept. 11 is a day to remember the victims of terror, all victims of terror, and to work for peace, like the group September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. Formed by those who lost loved ones on 9/11/2001, their mission could serve as a national call to action: “[T]o turn our grief into action for peace. By developing and advocating nonviolent options and actions in the pursuit of justice, we hope to break the cycles of violence engendered by war and terrorism. Acknowledging our common experience with all people affected by violence throughout the world, we work to create a safer and more peaceful world for everyone.”

Our “Democracy Now!” news studio was blocks from the twin towers in New York City. We were broadcasting live as they fell. In the days that followed, thousands of fliers went up everywhere, picturing the missing, with phone numbers of family members to call if you recognized someone. These reminded me of the placards carried by the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo in Argentina. Those are the women, wearing white headscarves, who courageously marched, week after week, carrying pictures of their missing children who disappeared during the military dictatorship there.

I am reminded, as well, by the steady stream of pictures of young people in the military killed in Iraq and in Afghanistan, and now, with increasing frequency (although pictured less in the news), who kill themselves after multiple combat deployments.

For each of the U.S. or NATO casualties, there are literally hundreds of victims in Iraq and Afghanistan whose pictures will never be shown, whose names we will never know.

While angry mobs continue attempts to thwart the building of an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan (in a vacant, long-ignored, damaged building more than two blocks away), an evangelical “minister” in Florida is organizing a Sept. 11 “International Burn the Koran Day.” Gen. David Petraeus has stated that the burning, which has sparked protests around the globe, “could endanger troops.” He is right. But so does blowing up innocent civilians and their homes.

As in Vietnam in the 1960s, Afghanistan has a dedicated, indigenous, armed resistance, and a deeply corrupt group in Kabul masquerading as a central government. The war is bleeding over into a neighboring country, Pakistan, just as the Vietnam War spread into Cambodia and Laos.

Right after Sept. 11, 2001, as thousands gathered in parks around New York City, holding impromptu candlelit vigils, a sticker appeared on signs, placards and benches. It read, “Our grief is not a cry for war.”

This Sept. 11, that message is still-painfully, regrettably-timely.

Let’s make Sept. 11 a day without war.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.

© 2010 Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on 800 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

Petraeus: Quran Burning Could Endanger US Troops September 7, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel, Gaza & Middle East, Religion, War.
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(Roger’s note: Good start, General Petraeus.  Now, let’s think, what other factors are endangering US troops?  I guess we could start with sending them to invade and occupy sovereign nations in violation of moral and international law and with muderous consequences for the people and their infrastructure.  Then, how about the the US’s arming Israel to the teeth in the midst of the Muslim world, and supporting and abetting its genocidal policy towards the Palestinian peoples?  I could probably think of a few more, but you probably get the picture.  Looking forward to the good general’s continued critique of his country’s unpatriotic behavior towards the members of the armed services.)

AOL News, September 6, 2010

(Sept. 6) — Throughout history, whenever books have been set on fire, passions have been unleashed.

In Gainesville, Fla., a pastor’s plan to hold a public burning of Qurans to mark the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks has already set off angry protests from Afghanistan to Indonesia and elicited a formal response from the U.S. Embassy condemning the plan. Now, the book burning has another high-profile foe: Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of American forces fighting in that country.

“It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort,” Petraeus told The Wall Street Journal. “It is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Not just here, but everywhere in the world we are engaged with the Islamic community.”
Terry Jones, the pastor at Dove World Outreach Center, told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews that his church has declared Sept. 11 as “International Burn a Quran Day,” and added that he hoped the burning of the Muslim religion’s holy text “will be as it is intended, as a warning.”

That the proposed actions of Jones’ church, which counts just 50 members in its congregation, should reverberate so loudly across the world is itself a telling sign of tensions between the West and the Muslim world, as well as what some see as a growing distrust of Islam in the United States.

From the controversy surrounding the so-called “ground zero mosque” in lower Manhattan, to the suspected arson at the construction site of a mosque in Murfreesboro, Tenn., this year’s anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks comes as Americans engage in a vocal debate over the role of Islam in the future of the nation.

While Gen. Petraeus’ fears that “Burn a Quran” day will lead to violence against U.S. forces in Afghanistan and around the world, police in Gainesville are also preparing for possible violence in Florida as a result of the church’s protest.

Why The US Occupation Makes Iraqi Women Miss Saddam March 12, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Religion, Uncategorized, Women.
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(Roger’s note: Iraqi women have lost their rights, the country’s infrastructure, and hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of their fellow Iraqis.  Hard to understand why they may not be grateful for the US invasion and occupation of their country and the corrupt pseudo democracy it has brought?)

Published on Friday, March 12, 2010 by Inter Press Service

by Abdu Rahman and Dahr Jamail

BAGHDAD – Under Saddam Hussein, women in government got a year’s maternity leave; that is now cut to six months. Under the Personal Status Law in force since Jul. 14, 1958, when Iraqis overthrew the British-installed monarchy, Iraqi women had most of the rights that Western women do.

Now they have Article 2 of the Constitution: “Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation.” Sub-head A says “No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam.” Under this Article the interpretation of women’s rights is left to religious leaders – and many of them are under Iranian influence.

“The U.S. occupation has decided to let go of women’s rights,” Yanar Mohammed who campaigns for women’s rights in Iraq says. “Political Islamic groups have taken southern Iraq, are fully in power there, and are using the financial support of Iran to recruit troops and allies. The financial and political support from Iran is why the Iraqis in the south accept this, not because the Iraqi people want Islamic law.”

With the new law has come the new lawlessness. Nora Hamaid, 30, a graduate from Baghdad University, has now given up the career she dreamt of. “I completed my studies before the invaders arrived because there was good security and I could freely go to university,” Hamaid tells IPS. Now she says she cannot even move around freely, and worries for her children every day. “I mean every day, from when they depart to when they return from school, for fear of abductions.”

There is 25 percent representation for women in parliament, but Sabria says “these women from party lists stand up to defend their party in the parliament, not for women’s rights.” For women in Iraq, the invasion is not over.

The situation for Iraq’s women reflects the overall situation: everyone is affected by lack of security and lack of infrastructure.

“The status of women here is linked to the general situation,” Maha Sabria, professor of political science at Al-Nahrain University in Baghdad tells IPS. “The violation of women’s rights was part of the violation of the rights of all Iraqis.” But, she said, “women bear a double burden under occupation because we have lost a lot of freedom because of it.

“More men are now under the weight of detention, so now women bear the entire burden of the family and are obliged to provide full support to the families and children. At the same time women do not have freedom of movement because of the deteriorated security conditions and because of abductions of women and children by criminal gangs.”

Women, she says, are also now under pressure to marry young in family hope that a husband will bring security.

Sabria tells IPS that the abduction of women “did not exist prior to the occupation. We find that women lost their right to learn and their right to a free and normal life, so Iraqi women are struggling with oppression and denial of all their rights, more than ever before.”

Yanar Mohammed believes the constitution neither protects women nor ensures their basic rights. She blames the United States for abdicating its responsibility to help develop a pluralistic democracy in Iraq.

“The U.S. occupation has decided to let go of women’s rights,” Mohammed told reporters. “Political Islamic groups have taken southern Iraq, are fully in power there, and are using the financial support of Iran to recruit troops and allies. The financial and political support from Iran is why the Iraqis in the south accept this, not because the Iraqi people want Islamic law.”

“The real ruler in Iraq now is the rule of old traditions and tribal, backward laws,” Sabria says. “The biggest problem is that more women in Iraq are unaware of their rights because of the backwardness and ignorance prevailing in Iraqi society today.”

Many women have fled Iraq because their husband was arbitrarily arrested by occupation forces or government security personnel, says Sabria.

More than four million Iraqis were estimated to have been displaced through the occupation, including approximately 2.8 million internally. The rest live as refugees mainly in neighbouring countries, according to a report by Elizabeth Ferris, co-director of the Brookings Institution-University of Bern Project on Internal Displacement.

The report, titled, ‘Going Home? Prospects and Pitfalls For Large-Scale Return Of Iraqis’, says most displaced Iraqi women are reluctant to return home because of continuing uncertainties.

The Washington-based Refugees International (RI) says in a report ‘Iraqi Refugees: Women’s Rights and Security Critical to Returns’ that “Iraqi women will resist returning home, even if conditions improve in Iraq, if there is no focus on securing their rights as women and assuring their personal security and their families’ well-being.”

The RI report covered internally displaced women in Iraq’s semi-autonomous northern Kurdish region and female refugees in Syria. “Not one woman interviewed by RI indicated her intention to return,” the report says.

“This tent is more comfortable than a palace in Baghdad; my family is safe here,” a displaced woman in northern Iraq told RI.

The situation continues to be challenging for women within Iraq.

“I am an employee, and everyday go to my work place, and the biggest challenge for me and all the suffering Iraqis is the roads are closed and you feel you are a person without rights, without respect,” a 35-year-old government employee, who asked to be referred to as Iman, told IPS.

“To what extent has this improved my security,” she asked. “We have better salaries now, but how can women live with no security? How can we enjoy our rights if there is no safe place to go, for rest and recreation and living?”

Abdu, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who reports extensively on the region.

© 2010 Inter Press Service

Blasphemy is a Victimless Crime: a Book Review February 25, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in About God, About Religion, Religion.
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Roger Hollander

www.rogerhollander.com, February 24, 2010

The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, Transworld Publishers (Random House), London, Black Swan edition, 2007.

If it didn’t go against the very spirit of the author’s work, it would be tempting to call Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” the Atheist’s Bible.  Dawkins is no fan of Bibles, Korans, or scriptures of any sort.  He is a fan of science; he is a renowned evolutionary biologist; but he does not make a religion of it.  That is an important point because many of his critics have accused him of just that.

For Dawkins the dichotomy is not the religion of God versus the religion of Atheism, rather it is belief based upon evidence (science) versus belief that is founded upon faith (religion).  He argues passionately and, in my opinion effectively, against those who say the two spheres are mutually exclusive; that faith has nothing to say about science and, more to the point, that science has nothing to say about faith.  If there is a God, for example, as millions of believers believe, who can simultaneously enter into the mind of every human being on earth and listen to prayers and communicate back, then scientists who study the human mind surely would be interested to explore, understand and evaluate the phenomenon.  Dawkins shows how “faith heads” are quick to discount science when it contradicts belief but jump on any shred of scientific evidence that might verify a Biblical notion.  The case study of religious “scientists” who with diligence attempted (using double blind studies, control groups, etc.) to prove that God answers prayers (the result: He doesn’t) is both humorous and grotesque.  I am reminded of an experiment I once read about where religious “scientists” took the weight of dying individuals just before the moment of death and just after, in order to determine the weight of the human soul (which they presumed left the physical body at the moment of death).

If you appreciate the scientific mind, you will love Dawkins.  Along with a comprehensive and penetrating knowledge, not only of his own field of Darwinian studies, but in many other areas of science, Dawkins has the gift of explanation, he is lucid and logical to a fault, and he writes with equal doses of humour and passion.  He is highly opinionated, and that offended many of his wishy-washy post-modernist critics, but his opinions are painstakingly based upon careful and reproducible experimentation, analysis and sound reasoning.

I will not attempt here to review the entire work for it is of epic proportions, but rather to underscore what I consider to be some of its most salient points.  I urge you to read it for yourself.

The God whose existence Dawkins undertakes to disprove is the God of Abraham, the founder of three of the world’s greatest religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam; the alleged Creator of the Universe.  By giving the reader what amounts to a mini-course in Darwinian evolutionary biology, he shows the high degree of improbability that such a deity could have done what He is alleged to have done.  Along the way he dissects, excoriates, and destroys the arguments and theories of those latter day Creationists, who have come up with a false science called “Intelligent Design” in their weasely attempt to introduce Biblical “science” into the science curriculum of public schools through the back door.

Dawkins makes the distinction between agnosticism and atheism, and his major reason for opting for atheism is that agnosticism as he understands it posits an equal possibility of the existence or non-existence of God, whereas he believes the probability is almost nil.  From my perspective it is not that important a distinction; but after having read his entire argument, I tend to agree, especially in this era of the resurgence of totalitarian religious fundamentalism at a global level, that it is important to counteract vigorously and mercilessly conclusions about the reality of our universe that are based upon faith or revelation rather than scientific observation.

It should be noted that this work is not so much an assault on the belief in God as much as it is an attack on religion itself.  When criticized for concentrating on the more extreme fundamentalists, he counters by demonstrating how to a large extent fundamentalist based totalitarian theocracy has moved into the mainstream.  But more fundamentally, he demonstrates that the kind of moderate religion that sees the Bible as metaphoric, for example, rather than literal, nonetheless is telling us to base belief on faith as opposed to evidence, a notion that makes us vulnerable to deception and manipulation.

He bemoans the fact that we tend to treat faith-based notions with kid gloves, that we bend over backwards not to offend religious belief in a way that we would not allow, for example, for political ideas.  Evolutionary cosmology, for example, tells us that our earth is millions of years old, whereas the Bible tells us it is some six thousand years old.  He cites respected scientists who accept the Biblical version “on faith” when forced to choose between science and faith.  Kurt Wise, an American geologist, for example, “… if all the evidence in the universe turns against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate.”

Dawkins would ask us not to credit, in the name of religious tolerance, such deliberate blindness (to give an idea of proportion, believing the Biblical data on the age of the earth would be like believing that New York is about seven yards from San Francisco).

Dawkins is perhaps most passionate when it comes to children.  He asserts, for example, that there is not such thing as a Catholic child, rather a child of Catholic parents.  He sees the indoctrination of children, who are incapable of weighing the evidence and making judgments for themselves, as tantamount to child abuse, an assault on the development of their critical faculties.  He cites Victor Hugo: “In every village there is a torch – the teacher: and an extinguisher – the clergyman.”

In an interesting section of the book, one where is scientific evidence and reasoning is more speculative and open to different interpretation, he gives theories on why religion is so universal and all pervasive from a Darwinian evolutionary standpoint.  To survive the evolution process of natural selection, one must have positive, advantageous characteristics; so if religion is so destructive, how come it has survived and prospered?  One theory is that at one point in human evolution the need to trust (especially parental) authority without question was necessary for survival; organized religion based upon unquestioned belief then is an aberration,  a left-over from an earlier evolutionary stage.

From Thomas Jefferson to Bertrand Russell, Dawkins cites respected sceptics who have chosen reason over faith.  Let us here give the final word to Thomas Jefferson:

“The priests of the different religious sects … dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight, and scowl on the fatal harbinger announcing the subdivision of the duperies on which they live.”

Religion and Women January 19, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Religion, Women.
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NYT  – January 10, 2010
Op-Ed Columnist
By NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF

Religions derive their power and popularity in part from the ethical compass they offer. So why do so many faiths help perpetuate something that most of us regard as profoundly unethical: the oppression of women?

It is not that warlords in Congo cite Scripture to justify their mass rapes (although the last warlord I met there called himself a pastor and wore a button reading “rebels for Christ”). It’s not that brides are burned in India as part of a Hindu ritual. And there’s no verse in the Koran that instructs Afghan thugs to throw acid in the faces of girls who dare to go to school.

Yet these kinds of abuses — along with more banal injustices, like slapping a girlfriend or paying women less for their work — arise out of a social context in which women are, often, second-class citizens. That’s a context that religions have helped shape, and not pushed hard to change.

“Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths, creating an environment in which violations against women are justified,” former President Jimmy Carter noted in a speech last month to the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Australia.

“The belief that women are inferior human beings in the eyes of God,” Mr. Carter continued, “gives excuses to the brutal husband who beats his wife, the soldier who rapes a woman, the employer who has a lower pay scale for women employees, or parents who decide to abort a female embryo.”

Mr. Carter, who sees religion as one of the “basic causes of the violation of women’s rights,” is a member of The Elders, a small council of retired leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela. The Elders are focusing on the role of religion in oppressing women, and they have issued a joint statement calling on religious leaders to “change all discriminatory practices within their own religions and traditions.”

The Elders are neither irreligious nor rabble-rousers. They include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and they begin their meetings with a moment for silent prayer.

“The Elders are not attacking religion as such,” noted Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and United Nations high commissioner for human rights. But she added, “We all recognized that if there’s one overarching issue for women it’s the way that religion can be manipulated to subjugate women.”

There is of course plenty of fodder, in both the Koran and the Bible, for those who seek a theology of discrimination.

The New Testament quotes St. Paul (I Timothy 2) as saying that women “must be silent.” Deuteronomy declares that if a woman does not bleed on her wedding night, “the men of her town shall stone her to death.” An Orthodox Jewish prayer thanks God, “who hast not made me a woman.” The Koran stipulates that a woman shall inherit less than a man, and that a woman’s testimony counts for half a man’s.

In fairness, many scholars believe that Paul did not in fact write the passages calling on women to be silent. And Islam started out as socially progressive for women — banning female infanticide and limiting polygamy — but did not continue to advance.

But religious leaders sanctified existing social structures, instead of pushing for justice. In Africa, it would help enormously if religious figures spoke up for widows disenfranchised by unjust inheritance traditions — or for rape victims, or for schoolgirls facing sexual demands from their teachers. Instead, in Uganda, the influence of conservative Christians is found in a grotesque push to execute gays.

Yet paradoxically, the churches in Africa that have done the most to empower women have been conservative ones led by evangelicals and especially Pentecostals. In particular, Pentecostals encourage women to take leadership roles, and for many women this is the first time they have been trusted with authority and found their opinions respected. In rural Africa, Pentecostal churches are becoming a significant force to emancipate women.

That’s a glimmer of hope that reminds us that while religion is part of the problem, it can also be part of the solution. The Dalai Lama has taken that step and calls himself a feminist.

Another excellent precedent is slavery. Each of the Abrahamic faiths accepted slavery. Muhammad owned slaves, and St. Paul seems to have condoned slavery. Yet the pioneers of the abolitionist movement were Quakers and evangelicals like William Wilberforce. People of faith ultimately worked ferociously to overthrow an oppressive institution that churches had previously condoned.

Today, when religious institutions exclude women from their hierarchies and rituals, the inevitable implication is that females are inferior. The Elders are right that religious groups should stand up for a simple ethical principle: any person’s human rights should be sacred, and not depend on something as earthly as their genitals.

The Joys of Airstrikes and Anonymity December 30, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan, War.
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Published on Sunday, December 27, 2009 by Salon.comby Glenn Greenwald

Each time the U.S. bombs a new location in the Muslim world, the same pattern emerges.  First, officials from the U.S. or allied governments run to their favorite media outlet to claim — anonymously — that some big, bad, notorious, “top” Al Qaeda leader “may have been” or “likely was” killed in the strike, and this constitutes a “stinging” or “devastating” blow against the Terrorist group.  These compliant media outlets then sensationalistically trumpet that claim as the dominant theme of their “reporting” on the attack, drowning out every other issue. 

As a result, and by design, there is never any debate or discussion over the propriety or wisdom of these strikes.  After all, what sane, rational, Serious person would possibly question a bombing raid or missile strike that “likely” killed a murderous, top Al Qaeda fighter and struck a “devastating blow” to that group’s operationg abilities?   Having the story shaped this way also ensures that there is virtually no attention paid to the resulting civilian casualties (i.e., the slaughter of innocent people); most Americans, especially journalists, have been trained to ignore such deaths as nothing more than justifiable “collateral damage,” especially when a murderous, top Al Qaeda fighter was killed by the bombs (besides, as Alan Dershowitz once explained, “civilians” in close enough proximity to a Top Terrorist themselves may very well bear some degree of culpability).  The adolescent We-Got-the-Bad-Guy! headline also ensures there is no attention paid to the radicalizing effect of these civilian deaths and our attacks for that country and in the region.

Yet over and over and over, it turns out that these anonymous government assertions — trumpeted by our mindless media — are completely false.  The Big Bad Guy allegedly killed in the strike ends up nowhere near the bombs and missiles.  Sometimes, the very same Big Bad Guy can be used to justify different strikes over the course of many years (we know we said we killed him four times before, but this time we’re pretty sure we got him), or he can turn up alive when it’s time to re-trumpet the Al Qaeda threat (we said before we killed him in that devastating airstrike, but actually he’s alive and more dangerous than ever!!).  Just like the “we killed 30 extremists” claim or the we got Al Qaeda’s Number 3″ boast, this is propaganda in its purest form, disseminated jointly by the U.S. Government and American media, and it happens over and over, compelling a rational person to conclude that it’s clearly intentional by both parties.

In the last week alone, this pattern just asserted itself — twice — with regard to the air strikes in Yemen.  The first set of strikes, it was immediately leaked, was allegedly aimed atthe presumed leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, Qaaim al-Raymi,” yet it turned out he was not among the dozens of people killed, though “U.S. officials believe one of his top deputies [unnamed] may have been killed.”  Then, after a second set of strikes on Thursday, it was claimed that “a Yemeni air raid may have killed the top two leaders of al Qaeda’s regional branch,” and an American Muslim preacher linked to Nidal Hasan, “the man who shot dead 13 people at a U.S. army base [Anwar al-Awlaki] may also have died.”  

But while ABC News had identified “the presumed leader of al Qaeda in Yemen” as “Qaaim al-Raymi” when he was the target of last week’s strikes, Reuters decided that the “top two leaders of al Qaeda’s regional branch” were completely different people — “Nasser al-Wahayshi, the Yemeni leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and his Saudi deputy, Saeed al-Shehri” — and then excitedly announced that they “may have been killed” by this week’s air strikes.  Whoever we claim we kill is the “key leader of Al Qaeda’s operations”– and it can change from day to day.  And now, it turns out, the “radical cleric” who reportedly spoke at length with the accused Fort Hood shooter and thus packs the most emotional punch for Americans is not dead at all, but “is alive and well following reports he may have been killed in a Yemeni airstrike against suspected al-Qaida hideouts.”

Just watch how this obvious propaganda tactic works again and again:

Last week’s Yemen strike – ABC News, December 18, 2009:

The presumed leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, Qaaim al-Raymi, has frequently appeared on internet videos, . . . Qaaim al-Raymi was considered a prime target of the attack Thursday but was reported to have escaped the attack. However, U.S. officials believe one of his top deputies may have been killed.

This week’s air strikes in Yemen, Reuters, December 24, 2009:

A Yemeni air raid may have killed the top two leaders of al Qaeda’s regional branch on Thursday, and an American Muslim preacher linked to the man who shot dead 13 people at a U.S. army base may also have died, a Yemeni security official said. Nasser al-Wahayshi, the Yemeni leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and his Saudi deputy, Saeed al-Shehri, were believed to be among more than 30 militants killed in the dawn operation in the eastern province of Shabwa, said the official, who asked not to be identified.

U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki may also have died in the air strike which targeted a meeting of militants planning attacks on Yemeni and foreign oil and economic targets, he said. If all the deaths are confirmed, the air strike would appear to have struck a severe blow against AQAP, seen as the most dangerous regional offshoot of Osama bin Laden’s network.

False – Associated Press, December 25, 2009:

A U.S.-born radical cleric is alive and well following reports he may have been killed in a Yemeni airstrike against suspected al-Qaida hideouts . . .

In addition to al-Awlaki, the top leader of al-Qaida’s branch in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, Naser Abdel-Karim al-Wahishi, and his deputy Saeed al-Shihri were also believed to be at the meeting, Yemen’s Supreme Security Committee said. But Yemeni officials still have no access to the area, which is controlled by armed gunmen and supporters of al-Qaida, and could not confirm for certain who was killed in the attack.

______________

CNN – January, 2006 U.S. airstrike in Pakistan:

Ayman al-Zawahiri — Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in the al Qaeda terrorist network — was the target of a CIA airstrike Friday in a remote Pakistani village and may have been among those killed, knowledgeable U.S. sources told CNN. . . . the sources said there was intelligence suggesting he was in one of the buildings hit during the strike.

False – Fox News, January 31, 2006 – “Zawahiri, in New Videotape, Says He Survived Airstrike:

Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri said in a videotape aired Monday that President Bush was a “butcher” and a “failure” because of a deadly U.S. airstrike in Pakistan targeting the bin Laden deputy, and he threatened a new attack on the United States. A U.S. counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity in compliance with office policy, said there was no reason to doubt the authenticity of the tape.

_____________

CBS News, July, 2008 U.S. airstrike in Pakistan:

Ayman al-Zawahiri – the second most powerful leader in al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden’s No. 2 – may be critically wounded and possibly dead, CBS News chief foreign affairs correspondent Lara Logan reports exclusively. . . . CBS News has obtained a copy of an intercepted letter from sources in Pakistan, which urgently requests a doctor to treat al-Zawahiri. . . . The letter is dated July 29 – one day after a U.S. air strike that killed al Qaeda weapons expert Abu Khabab al-Masri, and five other Arabs in South Waziristan. . . . a counter-intelligence expert and other U.S. officials confirmed to CBS News that the U.S. is looking into reports that al-Zawahiri is dead.

False – NY Daily News, April 30, 2009 – “Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri calls the shots, says State Department”:

Al Qaeda’s No. 2 thug has “emerged” as its operational leader after seven years on the run with the same $25 million bounty on his head as Osama Bin Laden. Despite years of Bush administration claims that Ayman al-Zawahiri – an Egyptian doctor turned Bin Laden deputy – was on the lam with his boss and unable to exert control, the opposite is now true, a State Department report said Thursday. . . .”Although Bin Laden remains the group’s ideological figurehead, Zawahiri has emerged as Al Qaeda’s strategic and operational planner,” the report added.

 ________________

January, 2006 missile strike in Pakistan, New York Times:

Two senior members of Al Qaeda and the son-in-law of its No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, were among those killed in the American airstrikes in remote northeastern Pakistan last week, two Pakistani officials said here on Wednesday. . . .If any or all were indeed killed, it would be a stinging blow to Al Qaeda’s operations, said the American officials, who were granted anonymity because they were not authorized by their agencies to speak for attribution. . . . The airstrikes, which killed 18 civilians, among them women and children, have caused anger across the country . . . At least one of the men believed by the Pakistani officials to have been killed, an Egyptian known here as Abu Khabab al-Masri, is on the United States’ most-wanted list with a $5 million reward for help in his capture. His real name is Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar, 52, who according to the United States government Web site rewardsforjustice.net, was an expert in explosives and poisons. . . . The target of the raid, American officials have said, was Al Qaeda’s No. 2, Mr. Zawahiri, but they have acknowledged that he was not killed in the attack and Pakistani officials say that Mr. Zawahiri failed to show up for the dinner that night.

January, 2006 missile strike in Pakistan, ABC News:

ABC News has learned that Pakistani officials now believe that al Qaeda’s master bomb maker and chemical weapons expert was one of the men killed in last week’s U.S. missile attack in eastern Pakistan. Midhat Mursi, 52, also known as Abu Khabab al-Masri, was identified by Pakistani authorities as one of four known major al Qaeda leaders present at an apparent terror summit in the village of Damadola early last Friday morning. 

False –  LA Times, February 3, 2008:

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials now believe that the Egyptian, Abu Khabab Masri, is alive and well — and in charge of resurrecting Al Qaeda’s program to develop or obtain weapons of mass destruction.

 ____________

January, 2006 airstrike in Pakistan, New York Times:

Another Egyptian, known by the alias Abu Ubayda al-Misri, was also believed killed, the Pakistani officials said. He was the chief of insurgent operations in the southern Afghan province of Kunar, which borders Bajaur in Pakistan, the area where the airstrikes occurred, according to one of the Pakistani officials.

False – Fox News, April 9, 2008:

Abu Ubaida al-Masri, one of Al Qaeda’s top operatives and the mastermind behind a plot to use liquid explosives to blow British passenger jets out of the sky, is dead, a U.S. official confirmed to FOX News Wednesday.  The unidentified official said it is believed that al-Masri died of natural causes, possibly hepatitis, in Pakistan, and are staying away from a report that he was killed in a January CIA predator strike.

 ______________

Summer, 2008 Predator strikes in Pakistan, Telegraph - “Al-Qa’eda’s American-born propaganda chief may have died in predator attack”:

Months of attacks by unmanned US predator aircraft have caused carnage among the middle ranks of terrorist leaders in the lawless lands along the border with Afghanistan . . . Their victims have included experienced Arab leaders and, it is now thought, Adam Gadahn, a former heavy-metal fan and so-called “killer computer nerd” originally from California. Nothing has been heard from him for months, leading intelligence experts to conclude that he may be dead.

False — LA Times, June 14, 2009:

Adam Gadahn, a Southern California-raised man self-described as American Al Qaeda has released a new video in which he talks about his Jewish ancestry.

______________

July, 2009 airstrike in Pakistan, Fox News:

U.S. officials believe Usama bin Laden’s son, Saad bin Laden, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Pakistan. Sources confirmed to FOX News late Wednesday that officials believe the younger bin Laden was killed by hellfire missiles from a U.S. Predator drone strike earlier this year.

Highly questionable – Middle East News:

A close friend of Osama bin Laden told Al Arabiya that he thought the al-Qaeda mastermind’s son was probably still alive casting doubt on reports by American media that he was killed in Pakistan. Yemeni national Rashad Saied, who stayed with bin Laden in Afghanistan before the September 11, 2001 attacks, said there is no proof to U.S. media reports last week that Saad bin Laden was killed in an American airstrike on Pakistan earlier this year.  “If Saad had been killed, al-Qaeda would have announced that,” Saied told Al Arabiya. “They announced the death of many key figures in the organization before. It is considered a source of pride for them.”

New York Times, December 23, 2009:

A teenage daughter of Osama bin Laden, who has lived with at least five of her siblings in a guarded compound in Iran since 2001, took refuge last month in the Saudi Embassy in Tehran . . . The status of another son, Saad, remained uncertain. American officials said last summer that they believed that Saad bin Laden had traveled from Iran to Pakistan and had been killed by an American missile fired from a drone. Omar and Zaina bin Laden said Saad was still in the Tehran compound when the missile attack was said to have occurred, but they said that they did not know where he was now or whether he was still alive.

_____________

I could literally spend the rest of the day chronicling events very similar to these.  A few caveats are in order.  It’s not surprising that facts are sometimes difficult to obtain in the immediate aftermath of a strike, particularly in remote areas such as Western Pakistan and Yemen.  Sometimes, these air strikes do actually result in the death of the specific targets alleged to lead various Islamic radical groups

But far more often, these boasting claims regarding a controversial U.S. air attack or missile strike turn out to be completely false.  It’s painfully obvious that these assertions are made to overwhelm, distort and suppress any discussions of the actual effects of the attack — who the strike really killed, whether it was justified, legal or wise, whether we should continue to drop bombs in more and more Muslim countries.  Yet no matter how many times these claims prove to be false, American media outlets not only dutifully and mindlessly print them without challenge or skepticism, but also allow these claims to dictate their headlines and the overwhelming focus of their “reporting” on the attacks (U.S. Air Strike Said to Kill Top Al Qaeda Leaders).  As a result, Americans are innundated with false claims about things that never actually happened — pure myths and falsehoods — while the actual consequences of our actions (the corpses of innocent Muslim men, women and children being pulled from the rubble) are widely disseminated in the Muslim world, yet are barely mentioned by our media.  And then we walk around, confounded and confused, about how there could be such a grave disparity in perception among our rational, free and well-informed selves versus those irrational, mislead, paranoid, and primitive Muslims.

Because it’s all done under the corrupt cover of anonymity, there’s never any accountability (reporters will simply say that they printed this because their government sources whispered it in their ears — so what choice did they have? — and they’ll keep the government officials’ identity concealed to ensure they can never be questioned).  The whole process is blatantly designed not to convey what happened, but to obscure what happened and to prevent any discussion of its consequences.

Copyright ©2009 Salon Media Group, Inc.

Glenn Greenwald was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. He is the author of the New York Times Bestselling book “How Would a Patriot Act?,” a critique of the Bush administration’s use of executive power, released in May 2006. His second book, “A Tragic Legacy“, examines the Bush legacy.

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