Friday Magazine – Volume 14 – Issue 22

Friday Magazine – Volume 14 – Issue 22 02/06/11

Friday June 3, 2011 -Corresponding- to 1 Rajab, 1432 H
–Year: 14 Vol: 14 Issue: 22–



By Doug Saunders – Globe and Mail – May 26, 2011

As Barack Obama described it in London with his British counterpart beside him, it was meant to be another unified mission to storm the beaches of Normandy in the name of peace and democracy. But one of the rare sources of friction has turned out to be the renegade Middle East views of Stephen Harper.

Alone among G8 leaders, Canada’s Conservative PM refuses to embrace the American President’s plan to begin peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis on the basis of  Israel returning to its 1967 borders – a precondition accepted by Arabs and by many previous Israeli leaders and Canadian governments and one that would be necessary to get Palestinians back to the table.

Harper made his opposition clear shortly after Obama’s Middle East speech at a pre-G8 briefing last month, making him the lone leader in the group not backing the U.S. initiatives.

A unified statement on a negotiated path to a Palestinian state had been a key goal of the Deauville summit, in large part because such a statement might have pre-empted a UN resolution that would declare a Palestinian state against Israel’s will.

Some felt that Canada is putting an obstacle in the way of this goal. “Mr. Harper clearly is the odd man out on this one, and it won’t do him any favours,” a British G8 official said.

Indeed, the summit opened Wednesday (May 25) after a day of meetings between Barack Obama and Britain’s Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, in which the two leaders made a bold show of having brought together their positions on Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab revolutions.

Cameron has generally been much tougher in his criticisms of Israel and more hawkish in his support of Arab revolutions than his U.S. counterpart, but Obama said they had “turned a corner” and built a common front. Canada has not been included in such initiatives because of Stephen Harper’s positions.

Harper has sided unilaterally with Israel since his first G8 summit in St. Petersburg, shortly after he became Prime Minister in 2006. There, he shocked delegates by rejecting a resolution calling for restraint in Israel’s attack on Lebanon, instead drafting his own “Canadian resolution” supporting the Israeli cause.

“Canada is clearly at one extreme end of a continuum on the Israel issue, but we are not an outlier,” said John Kirton, director of the G8 Research Group at University of Toronto. “It’s fair to say that they will be able to issue a united statement, perhaps without being specific on the 1967 language that allows Mr. Obama to say he has made progress on this.”

Undeterred, Obama declared this summit a historic event. In fact, he told Britain’s House of Commons, this is a “pivotal moment” in history, in which the death of Osama bin Laden and the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are putting an end to the events that defined the 2000s.

But such a statement will not resonate on the Normandy coast: the majority of the G8 countries are European and are embroiled in an increasingly serious monetary and fiscal crisis. The leaders of the larger G20 group of emerging economies have generally experienced no crisis whatsoever and will be watching, bemused, from a distance.

(This article was edited and slightly abridged for the CIC Friday Magazine.)

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By staff writer — International Islamic News Agency (IINA) — May 28, 2011

WASHINGTON — In a fresh outreach bid by the Obama administration to the Muslim world and America’s eight million Muslims, U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has launched an exhibition on achievements of Muslim civilization through the ages.

The 1001 Inventions “honors the remarkable accomplishments of Muslims throughout history,” Clinton said in a pre-recorded message on the State Department’s website.

The exhibition, which has attracted more than one million over the past year, opened on May 27 for a seven-month run at the California Science Center in Los Angeles.

Clinton said the exhibition aims at “celebrating a millennium of science and innovation in the Muslim world,” which “has a proud history of innovators.” She cited the achievements of prominent Muslim figures like Fatima Al-Fihri who founded the world’s first modern university in the ninth century. She also praised 13th-century mechanical engineer Al-Jazari whose theories on crank mechanisms contributed to the operation of every plane, train and automobile in the world nowadays.

She also praised Iraqi physician Ali Ibn Nafi who is credited with having diagrammed the human circulatory system in 1242 CE and with being the first to accurately describe the cardiovascular system involving the heart and lungs.

Originally funded by the British government and launched in the United Kingdom in 2006, the “1001 Inventions” is on a five-year global tour. It features exhibits spanning Muslin achievements in different fields of medicine, optics, mathematics, astronomy, higher education, library science, personal hygiene and even the basics of aviation. It also shows the works of some of history’s finest scientists and scholars whose work once extended from Spain to China and enlightened the world from the seventh century on.

For example, at the 13th-century observatory in Maragha, Iran, astronomers developed new models for understanding the universe which helped pave the way for Copernicus’ ideas of a sun-centered solar system in 1543.

“We’re honored that Secretary Clinton agreed to launch our exhibition here at one of the most prestigious science museums in the world,” said Salim Al-Hassani, Chairman of 1001 Inventions. “The goal of 1001 Inventions is to highlight the astounding contribution that Muslim civilization has made in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics and how those advances still affect our lives today.”

Hassani added that the massive turnout reflects a growing interest in Islamic civilization and its achievements throughout history. “More than a million people have already visited the 1001 Inventions exhibition during the first year of its global tour and that is the greatest endorsement we could ever hope for,” he said.

1001 Inventions was recently honored as the “Best Touring Exhibition” of the year at the annual Museums and Heritage Excellence Awards in London, widely considered the “Oscars” of the museum world.

(This article was edited and slightly abridged for the CIC Friday Magazine.)

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By Aleksandar Hemon – Bloomberg — May 30, 2011

In the spring of 1992, at the beginning of the siege of Sarajevo, an exchange between General Ratko Mladic and a Serb artillery colonel commanding positions above the city was intercepted and recorded. “Fire on Velesici and Pofalici,” General Mladic ordered, referring to two Sarajevo neighborhoods. “There aren’t many Serbs there.” A certain glee in his voice is audible as he refines his order: “Don’t let them sleep. Make them lose their minds.”

Later on, he’d claim that the conversation was faked, that the order was given by “a skillful imitator” of his voice. Had he ever existed, the imitator would have been deservedly praised for capturing perfectly a ruthlessness worthy of Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine. For General Mladic, handpicked by former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic to command the destruction of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the price of a few dead fellow Serbs wasn’t too high if he could make Sarajevans lose their minds, before they lost their lives.

But the man who proudly addressed a TV camera on July 11, 1995 — the day the “safe” enclave of Srebrenica fell to Serb forces – was no imitator; he was General Mladic himself, offering the conquered city as “a gift to the Serb people.” Apart from putting himself on the scene of a war crime, Mladic precisely formulated the racist pathology of Serbian nationalism: the uprising against the Dahi — local Ottoman (Turk) overlords — took place in the early 1800s. For the vanquished Turks he substituted Bosnian Muslims, thus fighting imaginary enemies from an uprising of 200 years earlier.

His victims, however, were all too real. In Srebrenica, Mladic oversaw the killing of almost 8,000 Muslim males, the largest mass murder in Europe since World War II. To desperate women and children, he promised passage to safety, suggesting that the men would follow later. He bullied Colonel Thomas Karremans, the commander of the Dutch United Nations battalion, into meekly delivering to their death the men seeking protection in the UN camp. From a position of absolute power over life and death, Mladic made his victims believe he had no reason to lie. He clearly enjoyed offering false choices to the men he was about to exterminate.

A career officer in the Yugoslav People’s Army, he’d commanded a provincial garrison in the Macedonian town of Stip in the late ’80s. After his sociopathic talents were recognized by Milosevic, Mladic was promoted and transferred in 1991 to the Knin garrison in Croatia. In 1992, he was sent to Bosnia to continue establishing Greater Serbia. In 1995 when Bosnian Serb civilian leader Radovan Karadzic tried to remove him from his supreme commanding post, Mladic simply ignored him.

None of his heroic ruthlessness, however, was visible in the footage broadcast on Bosnian television in 2009, in which Mladic was featured in a series of home movies at parties and weddings, singing loudly out of tune, as well as enjoying downtime in the idyllic surroundings of military barracks somewhere in Serbia. If it weren’t for the images from his suicide daughter’s funeral, where he kisses the little window on her coffin the footage would be practically a commercial for comfortable retirement.

For years after the war ended in 1995, Mladic moved freely between the Bosnian Serb territories and Serbia proper. Only after the fall of Milosevic in 2000 did he go into hiding, even though Serbian security forces seem to have known where he was all along. He continued receiving his Serbian military pension until 2005.

The 69-year-old who emerged from a house in Lazarevo in northeastern Serbia, looks nothing like the Mladic of Srebrenica, whose sleeves were rolled up to get to the business of revenge. Now a spent man, he has outlived Milosevic, his project of Greater Serbia and the fanatical loyalty of many Serbs. And there is a happy consensus in Serbia and Europe that it is time to drop the stinking weight of the Yugoslav wars and proceed to Greater Europe.

But the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina today ought to be part of Mladic’s indictment. Srebrenica is still under Serb control; the families of the murdered men dare not return. The politicians of “Republika Srpska” — a Serb enclave built by Mladic and his killers, but nominally part of Bosnia — participate in Bosnian political institutions only to block their functioning. Europe is closed to Bosnia, partly because there aren’t any Bosnian war criminals that could be traded in for prosperity. General Mladic’s project of Greater Serbia failed, but his goal of destroying Bosnia looks as if it could succeed.

(Aleksandar Hemon, a Bosnian-American writer, is author of a recent novel “The Lazarus Project,” as well as “Love and Obstacles,” a collection of short stories. This article was edited and slightly abridged for the CIC Friday Magazine.)

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By Conn Hallinan — Counter Punch — May 27, 2011

The assassination of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden did more than knock off America’s Public Enemy Number One; it formalized a new kind of warfare, where sovereignty is irrelevant, armies tangential, and decisions are made in secret. It is, in the words of counterinsurgency expert John Nagl, “an astounding change in the nature of warfare.”

It is also one that requires a vast intelligence apparatus, which now constitutes almost a fourth arm of government of which most Americans are completely unaware. According to the Washington Post, this empire includes some 1,271 government agencies and 1,931 private companies in more than 10, 000 locations across the country, with a budget last year of at least $80.1 billion.

“At the heart of this new warfare,” notes the Financial Times,” is high-tech cooperation between intelligence agencies and the military” that blurs the traditional borders between civilians and armed forces. It fits in with the American penchant for waging war with robots and covert Special Forces.

By definition, secrecy at the core of the “new warfare” removes decisions about war and peace from the public realm and relegates them to secure rooms in the White House or clandestine bases in the Hindu Kush. When Blackhawk helicopters slipped through Pakistani airspace, they did more than execute one of America’s greatest bugbears; they essentially said another country’s sovereignty was no longer relevant and consigned Congress to the role of spectator.

Over the past several decades, U.S. military theorists have clashed over how to use the armed forces, a debate that gets distorted by the requirements of industry: the U.S. does not really need 11 immense Nimitz class aircraft carriers. But the Newport News Shipbuilding Company — and the aerospace giants that fill the flattops with fighter bombers — do.

The arguments have revolved around three different approaches, the Powell Doctrine, the Rumsfeld Doctrine, and the Petraeus Doctrine.

The Powell Doctrine is essentially conventional warfare a-la-World War II: massive firepower, lots of soldiers, clear goals. This was the formula for the first Gulf War which, after a month of bombing, lasted only four days. But it is a very expensive way to wage war.

The Rumsfeld Doctrine merged high tech firepower and Special Forces with a minimal use of Army and Marine units. It also relies on private contractors to do much of what was formerly done by the military. This doctrine routed the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 and quickly knocked out the Iraqi Army in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Once the shock and awe wore off, however, the weaknesses of the Rumsfeld Doctrine became obvious. It simply didn’t have the manpower to hold its ground against a guerrilla insurgency. The 2007 “surge” of troops in Iraq, like last year’s surge in Afghanistan, was an admission that the doctrine was fundamentally flawed if the locals decided to keep fighting.

The Petraeus Doctrine is old wine in a new bottle: counterinsurgency. In theory, it puts boots on the ground to win hearts and minds. It draws heavily on intelligence — what Gen. David Petraeus calls “bandwidth” — to isolate and eliminate any insurgents and attempts to establish trust with the locals. It is cheaper than the Powell and Rumsfeld doctrines, but it almost never works. Eventually the locals get tried of being occupied, and then counterinsurgency turns nasty. Building schools and digging wells give way to night raids and targeted assassinations that alienate the local population. According to U.S. intelligence, the current counterinsurgency program in Afghanistan is failing.

So, what is this “astounding change” that Nagl speaks of? If you want to put a name to it, “counter-terrorism” is probably the most descriptive, although it comes with a new twist. Like counterinsurgency, counter-terrorism has been around a long time. The Phoenix Program that killed some 40,000 South Vietnamese was a variety of this doctrine; it also paid no attention to sovereignty. During the Vietnam War, Long Range Reconnaissance Patrols secretly went into Cambodia and Laos. In recent years, the U.S. clandestinely sent Special Forces into Syria and Pakistan in a sort of shadow war against “insurgents.” A number of other countries have done the same.

But the Obama administration openly admits to sending a Special Forces Seal team into Pakistan to assassinate bin Laden, and it was prepared to fight Pakistan’s armed forces if they tried to intervene. And when Pakistan asked the U.S. to curb its use of armed drones in Pakistani airspace, the Central Intelligence Agency said it would do nothing of the kind.

It is as if counter-terrorism reconfigured that classic line from the movie, Treasure of the Sierra Madre: “We don’t need no stinkin’ badges, we got drones and Seals.”

The principle behind counter-terrorism is eliminating people you don’t like. There is no patina of “hearts and minds” and the strategy makes no effort to practice the subterfuge of “plausible deniability” that has deflected the ire of target countries in the past.

While clandestine warfare is not new, the boldness of the bin Laden hit is. Certainly the people who planned the attack wanted to make a statement — we can get you anywhere you are, and impediments like international law, the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Charter be damned.

“Targeted assassinations violate well-established principles of international law,” says law professor Marjorie Cohn. “Extrajudicial executions are unlawful, even in armed conflict.”

From the U.S.’s point of view, the doctrine has a number of advantages. It is cheaper, and its expenses are generally hidden away in a labyrinth of bureaucracy. For instance, the $80.1 billion figure is only an estimate and does not include the cost of the CIA’s drone war in Pakistan, or Homeland Security.

Recent moves by the White House suggest the administration is putting this new strategy in place. “Petraeus’s appointment to head the CIA is an important indication that the U.S. wants to fuse intelligence and military operations,” according to a senior figure at the British Defence Ministry.

In the past the division between military and civilian intelligence agencies allowed for a range of opinions. While the U.S. military continues to put a rosy spin on the Afghan War, civilian intelligence agencies have been much more sombre about the success of the current surge. That division is likely to vanish under the new regime, where intelligence becomes less about analysis and more about targeting.

The new warfare opens up a Pandora’s Box whose implications are only beginning to be considered. What would be the reaction if Cuban armed forces had landed in Florida and assassinated Luis Posada and Orlando Bosch, two anti-Castro militants who were credibly charged with setting bombs in Havana and downing a Cuban airliner? Washington would treat it as an act of war. The problem with a foreign policy based on claw and fang is that if one country claims the right to act independently of international law and the UN Charter, all countries can do so.

Once an enormous intelligence bureaucracy is created — it will be damned hard to dismantle it. And, since the very nature of the endeavour removes it from public oversight, it is a formula for a massive and uncontrolled expansion of the national security state.

(This article was edited and slightly abridged for the CIC Friday Magazine.)

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By staff writer, Editorial – Charleston Gazette – May 19, 2011

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – While a few fanatic Christians have murdered doctors and nurses at abortion clinics no thinking person would blame all of Christianity for the crazed acts of a tiny fringe.

However, some people try to blame America’s millions of peaceful Muslims for suicide massacres by a minuscule number of fanatical “martyr” volunteers. Accusers portray all Islamic believers as dangerous – even as secret holy warriors programmed to undermine U.S. democracy.

Republican presidential aspirant Newt Gingrich boosted this alarm when he denounced plans for a Manhattan mosque, and when he said Muslims want America to adopt the “Sharia” religious law that (in his view) requires stoning and chopping off hands and feet.

Rep. Peter King, N.Y., fanned the flames when he held congressional hearings in April into allegations that terrorists are recruited in U.S. mosques. Currently, conservatives in 20 states are backing laws to forbid courts to employ Sharia, although no U.S. judge ever considered such a thing.

In Texas, the far-right state board of education voted to ban textbooks that include “pro-Islamic, anti-Christian half-truths and selective disinformation.” Good grief — what school publisher would issue such a book?

In Detroit, two groups attempted to buy bus ads denouncing Muslim “honor killings.” When the bus line refused, the groups sued and won the right to display their message. Detroit appealed the verdict.

In Temecula, California protesters picketed a high school that taught about Islam in a social studies class. Opponents called the class “brainwashing.”

In South Dakota, a Homeland Security conference featured a speech by Walid Shoebat, who claims he was a Palestinian terrorist as a youth, but was converted to Christianity. Shoebat now says Islam comes from the Antichrist, and President Obama is “definitely a Muslim.” Shoebat addresses many such Homeland Security seminars.

A Maine think-tank, Political Research Associates, issued a report titled “Manufacturing the Muslim Menace.” It says various anti-Islam groups provide paid speakers for Homeland Security assemblies, warning police of a “stealth jihad” threat in America.

The report says:

“Public servants are regularly presented with misleading, inflammatory and dangerous information about the nature of the terror threat. A vocal and influential subgroup of the private counterterrorism industry markets conspiracy theories about secret jihadi campaigns to replace the U.S. Constitution with Sharia law, and effectively impugns all of Islam … as inherently violent and even terroristic.”

In Washington State, Everett Community College scheduled lectures on “Islam in America.” The first session included a leader of the pro-Muslim Council on American Islamic Relations — which triggered national protests from anti-Islam groups. The second session featured Raymond Ibrahim of the Muslim-hating Middle East Forum, who says all Muslims are pledged to seek Islamic control of the world and to hide their intentions. An even-worse national protest arose. MSNBC said all these clashes reveal “a kind of holy war for American hearts and minds.”

What a mess. Can’t we all just get along? America is a melting pot of many different peoples, and all must learn to coexist. Smearing one religious group is a formula for hate and trouble.

(This article was edited and slightly abridged for the CIC Friday Magazine.)

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As the founder of the Islamic History Month in Ottawa and an active participant with great satisfaction, may I recommend that an activity or two be exposed in the month that clearly demonstrates joint action by the Muslim and non-Muslims communities to respect Canadian diversity and the underlying citizenship values?

Here in Ottawa, there is a regular Ottawa Citizen article on how various faiths respond to issues that include the Muslim perspective in full sharing. In the schools, the young act jointly in a wide range of activities in class and outside; this child and youth aspect must be projected.

And in the National Defense Chaplaincy there is joint Christian, Muslim and Jewish religious leadership. We must repair the damage done by National Defense in this past (2010) Islamic History Month in Ottawa. One could find similar actions that are fully inclusive of Muslims and others.


Roman Mukerjee

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