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Archive for the ‘Al Qaeda’ Category

The end of multiculturalism, Islamophobia and the role of NATO

Tuesday, 23 November 2010. 

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel was re-elected last year with a larger majority, which allowed her to form a coalition with the free-market party Free Democratic Party (FDP), or Freie Demokratische Partei in German, more in line with her own conservative political values.

Recently, Frau Merkel has managed to get noticed beyond Germany’s borders and occupy the internatifonal headlines — Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, a senior director at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, even spoke of a “global media tsunami.” In a speech she gave at a meeting of younger members of her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Frau Merkel namely said the unthinkable: “At the start of the ‘60s we invited the guest-workers to Germany. We kidded ourselves for a while that they wouldn’t stay, that one day they’d go home. That isn’t what happened. And, of course, the tendency was to say let’s be ‘multikulti’ and live next to each other and enjoy being together, [but] this concept has failed, failed utterly.”

In spite of the fact that she tried to balance these harsh words with subsequent statements stressing Germany’s openness and its willingness to give people “opportunities,” overnight Frau Merkel’s shrill condemnation of the multicultural experiment became an international sensation. Her words came in the wake of the controversy surrounding former Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin. His book “Deutschland schafft sich ab” (“Germany Does Away With Itself”), appearing at the end of August 2010, caused indignation nationally and internationally. At the time, the BBC reported that in his book “Mr Sarrazin has criticised German Muslims, suggested the existence of a Jewish gene, and warned of ethnic Germans being outnumbered by [Muslim] migrants.” These two high-profile outrages indicate that the guest-workers (gastarbeiter) of yesteryear, who used to do all the heavy and unpleasant jobs unfit for locals, have now assumed an altogether different identity. Whereas previously these immigrants were primarily seen as foreign nationals, mostly from Turkey, but also hailing from Morocco and Algeria, they have now become an altogether different group: They are now seen first and foremost as Muslims.

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Foreigners in Germany

So, how did these foreigners end up in Germany? Following the end of World War II in Europe (May 8, 1945) and the promulgation of the Marshall Plan (April 3, 1948), West Germany went through a time of bustling economic activity. In the ’50s and ’60s, Germany witnessed the so-called “Wirtschaftswunder” (economic miracle) which transformed the war-ravaged country into an economic powerhouse. In order to dispose of sufficient labor forces, the then-West German government signed a number of bilateral recruitment agreements with countries that could supply some much-needed workers to do the job. In 1955 Germany signed a deal with Italy; in 1960 with Greece; in 1961 with Turkey, and two years later with Morocco. But the reality was such that after 1961, Turkish citizens (largely from rural areas) soon became the largest group of gastarbeiter in West Germany. These Turks had at first arrived on their own, single men willing to work and eager to return home laden with money and luxury goods. But, as indicated by Frau Merkel in her notorious speech, these men were soon joined by their wives, established families and subsequently struck deep roots in German soil. Second and third-generation Turkish immigrants grew up in Germany facing racism and discrimination. These German-born Turks met with prejudice and intolerance, based upon their status as foreigners, foreigners from the backward East, speaking a different language and practicing a different religion. But the locals saw them primarily as “Turks,” as individuals belonging to a different ethnic or national group. Back in those good old days of overt xenophobia, brave investigative journalists like Günter Wallraff were able to report on the racism Turks were bound to encounter in the German workplace. In his 1985 book “Ganz unten” (“Lowest of the Low”) Wallraff describes how Turkish workers were routinely mistreated by employers, landlords and the German government. Back then, the racism encountered by the Turkish gastarbeiter was the plain and simple kind that discriminated against the outsider on account of his or her ethnic or national background.

Nowadays, however, commentators and politicians alike tend to forget national or ethnic identifiers, instead opting for religious markers, and thus speaking about the Muslim other present in Germany (and by extension, Europe), the Muslim other whose presence and actions are incompatible with Western civilization and alien to the Judeo-Christian tradition which provides the framework for much, if not all, of Europe’s culture and identity. The professor of sociology, scholar and expert in Islamic matters, Stefano Allievi rightly remarks that the “immigrant … has progressively become ‘Muslim,’ both in his/her perception by the host societies and in his/her self-perception.” Nowadays, Europeans express their dislike of the “other” in religious and/or cultural terms. This has led to the creation of a new term that is oftentimes not even associated with racist sentiments and/or reflexes: Islamophobia. But we should be clear about this: Islamophobia is nothing but a new name given to the age-old reflex of racism. I can already hear some people objecting and uttering the phrase, “But Islam is not a race.” In fact, some scientists have argued over the past years that the mere concept of race as a distinguishing factor between humans does not really exist. Scientists like C. Loring Brace, Steve Jones, Nina Jablonski and Norman Sauer have made their case on more than one occasion. Rather than claiming racial differences between individual humans, they suggest that the criterion of race is as much a cultural artifact and a social construct as it is reflective of real differences between individuals and/or social groups. In that sense, racism is the term we use to describe the act of discriminating against an individual or a group of people based on certain traits (held in common) that are seen as undesirable, unwelcome and alien. On the BBC World Service, Professor Jones declared that “races are really in the eye of the beholder” and not necessarily a biological reality. As a result, the term Islamophobia suggests that the trait held in common by the people deserving discrimination and exclusion is their religious affiliation rather than their skin color or physiology, and thus we could term Islamophobia a clear form of “cultural racism.”

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Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All’

In 1997, the Runnymede Trust, “the UK’s leading independent race equality think tank,” issued an influential report in this respect: “Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All.” In the report one can read that the term Islamophobia is “the shorthand way of referring to the dread and hatred of Islam — and, therefore, the fear or dislike of all, or most Muslims.” Additionally, the report claims that this “fear or dislike of all, or most Muslims” first appeared in the mid-’70s. Today, Islamophobia as a social phenomenon is all but commonplace all over Europe: in the UK, the racist British National Party (BNP) is steadily gaining in force and popularity; in the Netherlands, the Islamophobic hate-monger Geert Wilders has booked an expected electoral victory for his Party For Freedom (PVV), or Partij voor de Vrijheid; neighboring Belgium also recently saw a good showing for the separatist and xenophobic Flemish Interest (VB), or Vlaams Belang, while in Sweden, prior to last September’s elections, Björn Söder, a member of the far-right Sweden Democrats (SD), or Sverigedemokraterna, claimed that an “Islamic revolution akin to the one that swept through Iran in 1979 could easily take place in Sweden.” Söder’s statement is particularly revealing of the current mood not just in Sweden but in the whole of Europe. Let us put his statement into a bit of context. In 2009, a report on migration in Sweden established that there were about 450,000 to 500,000 Muslims in Sweden, which translates to around 5 percent of the total population. Yet Söder felt completely at ease to warn his fellow Swedes of impending doom and gloom, as these 5 percent of the total population were about to unleash an “Islamic revolution akin to the one that swept through Iran” in Scandinavia. Southern European countries are not immune, either. In Italy, the Northern League (LG), or Lega Nord, is particularly vociferous in its condemnation of Muslim immigrants. And now Germany’s centrist Christian-Democrat Angela Merkel also seems to be pandering to populist Islamophobic sentiment by declaring the death of multiculturalism.

How did this happen?

The continent of Europe had in the post-World War II era decisively moved towards a secular society, a society where one’s religious beliefs and cultural preferences were increasingly confined to one’s private life and where multiculturalism was thus allowed to bloom and prosper. Racism, xenophobia and sheer chauvinism were supposed to be traits of the past in Europe. In reality, however, the population of Europe has never really been able to suppress its covert “racist” instincts and distrust of the “other.” But nowadays these atavistic sentiments receive a religious label, which is no doubt linked with 9/11 and the subsequent “war on terror.” In fact, ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall religion has been making a comeback in Europe — at first in the former communist countries and now also in Western Europe. In Europe, more and more people appear to rediscover their Christian roots. The present pope, Benedict XVI, is currently cunningly tapping into that well of resurgent Christianity and has openly declared his hostility towards “aggressive forms of secularism” and “atheist extremism.” These trends feed into the age-old rivalry between Islam and Christianity. On a political level, such a development had been sanctioned as long ago as February 1995. Then, Willy Claes, NATO secretary-general from 1994-95, said, “Islamic militancy has emerged as perhaps the single gravest threat to the NATO alliance and to Western security” in the aftermath of the fall of communism. Claes added that extremist Muslims oppose “the basic principles of civilization that bind North America and Western Europe.” The then-NATO secretary-general was nevertheless diplomatic enough to remark that his declaration should not be seen as a call for “a crusade against Islam.” Nevertheless, Claes had let the genie out of the bottle, and here we are today, in a world where racism in the form of Islamophobia is rampant and on the rise. The situation has become even more volatile and combustible now, in the aftermath of 9/11 and the US-led “war on terror,” which some see as a thinly veiled “war on Islam.” Is it any wonder that Claes’ words have turned out to be prophetic? In view of Europe’s now sizeable Muslim population, it is imperative that the multicultural experiment be continued to achieve a future of peace and prosperity. But the fact that Germany’s chancellor can now recklessly declare the failure of multiculturalism in Germany (and Europe) appears to indicate the absence of the political will to oppose the creeping trend towards open hostility against Islam and Muslims. Instead, politicians increasingly pander to the whims of an electorate that has been manipulated into viewing Islam as a threat and danger to the “basic principles of civilization.” Will the future see a revival of open hostility between Islam and Christianity? Will Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” become a political and possibly even military reality in years to come? Only time will tell . . . 

Willy Willy

 

 

Ali al-Omar: Message on the Occasion of “Eid Al-Fitr Day 2017”

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Ali al-Omar (a.k.a. Abu Ammar or Babi Ammar Taftanaz) is is the general commander of the Harakat Ahrar al-Sham al-Islamiyya (Movement of the Free Ones of the Levant, more commonly referred to as Ahrar al-Sham) . . . ‘Al-Omar and his family come from the area around the large market town of Taftanaz, located 11 miles northeast of the city of Idlib in Syria’s northwestern governorate of Idlib . . . Taftanaz has historically been a site for the recruitment and mobilization of militant Islamist organizations that seek to overthrow the al-Assad government by force, both under Hafez al-Assad and Bashar al-Assad. Further, al-Omar has a longstanding familial connection to the militant Islamist movement against the Assad regime. Reportedly, his family was associated with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood that actively contested the government of Hafez al-Assad in the 1970s and early 1980s’.(1)

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(1) Nicholas A. Heras, “In Brief: A Snapshot of Two Rebel Commanders Vying for Survival in Damascus Governorate (Free)” Militant Leadership Monitor ,volume: 7, issue: 12 (11 Jan 2017). https://jamestown.org/brief/brief-snapshot-two-rebel-commanders-vying-survival-damascus-governorate-free/.

The Manchester Bombing and Libya

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Posting on his Facebook page, on 27 May 2017, the intrepid Pepe Escobar this time gives his readers and followers the lowdown on the Libyan backstory to the suicide attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester:

THE MANCHESTER-LIBYA CONNECTION IN FIVE MINUTES

Let’s focus on Ramadan, father of the Manchester “martyr” Salman Obeidi; now that’s a nasty piece of work. He hails from the al-Obeidi tribe, from al Gubbah in eastern Libya. Under Gaddafi he was a Sgt. Major, very pious and Islamist-connected. He left Libya in 1991 and settled down in the Saudi Wahhabi paradise where – crucially – he trained mujahideen fighting in Afghanistan against the Najibullah government, after the Soviet retreat. In 1992 the mujahideen enter Kabul, as in bomb it to death, including the recently ‘normalized’ Hekmatyar. Ramadan goes to London and then Manchester, joining the Libyan Islamist diaspora that coalesces around the Libya Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). Ramadan connects with none other that Abu Anas Al-Libbi – who also lives in Manchester – and will become the brains behind the al-Qaeda attacks on Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Ramadan also connects with the infamous Abdelhakim Belhaj – former mujahid in Afghanistan and VERY close to… Osama Bin Laden. Belhaj convinces Ramadan to go back to Libya. After the Cameron/Sarkozy/NATO “liberation” of Libya, Ramadan joins the Al Umma party, whose leader is Sami al Saadi, one of the LIFG’s top commanders, and gets very close to the Grand Mufti Sadeq al-Ghariani, the spiritual guide of hardcore Islamist militias linked to Belhaj. Three years ago Ramadan was part of the Islamist militia raid that re-conquered Tripoli’s airport; son Salman flew from Manchester for this one, was shot, and treated in Turkey. Ramadan was also part of the Benghazi Defense Brigades; a mish mash of Islamists from Katiba 17 (financed by Qatar and instrumental in the Benghazi revolt against Gaddafi) and Ansar al Sharia. You all remember what happened on 9/11, 2012; it was Ansar al Sharia operatives who attacked the US consulate in Benghazi. Arguably the key point in all this mess is that Ramadan profited from the MI5 rat line transporting Libyans back to the home country to fight Gaddafi. The minister in charge of authorizing this ‘policy’? Theresa May. MI5 and the British government always knew, all along, what Ramadan was all about. He was certainly an asset; the Brits were heavily involved in eastern Libya from the start. He has not been arrested; he’s now under protection, Mafia-style. His ‘arrest’ took place – how lovely! – just as a shadow flight carrying US Special Forces landed in Misrata. The only missing link is why son Salman ‘betrayed’ his al-Qaeda Dad by converting to Daesh. This is just an ultra-concise summary of the whole stinking-to-high-heavens scam. But you get the drift”. (1)

We Can Survive 2014

Caliphal Origins: THE ORIGINS OF DAESH IN ONE MINUTE

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On his facebook account the intrepid Roving Eye that is the world-renowned journalist and commentator Pepe Escobar posted the following interesting tidbit on Wednesday, 22 March 2017:

‘James Shea, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Emerging Threats at NATO – how lovely is that title? – recently gave a talk at the Liberal Club in London on Daesh. Shea, as you all remember, was NATO’s spokesman during the NATO war on Yugoslavia in 1999.

After his talk Shea engaged in a debate with a source I very much treasure. The source later gave me the lowdown.

According to Saudi intel, Daesh was invented by the USG – in Camp Bacca, remember? – to essentially get rid of the Shi’ite-majority Maliki government.

But then there’s the juicy issue of Daesh routing the Iraqi Army on its way to Mosul. The Iraqi Army fled. Daesh operatives then took over ultra-modern weapons that took US instructors from six to twelve months to train the Iraqis in and…surprise! They incorporated the weapons in their arsenals in 24 hours.

So yes, Shea frankly admitted that Petraeus had trained these Sunnis now part of Daesh in Anbar Province in Iraq.

Saudi intel still maintains that these Iraqi Sunnis were not US-trained – as Shea confirmed – because the Shi’ites in power in Baghdad didn’t allow it. Nonsense. The Daesh hard core is indeed a US-trained militia.

True to form, at the end of the debate, Shea went on to blame Russia for absolutely everything that’s happening today’.i

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“Jamie Shea is Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges” is what it says on his requisite NATO website.ii In 2015, at a conference entitled ‘NATO-Turkey relations’ in Bahçeşehir University, Mister Shea was able to pronounce the following with a straight face and full of conviction: “We need very good cooperation with Turkey . . . much better quality of dialogue between Turkey and Europe. That’s actually very critical [n the fight against Daesh or IS/ISIS or the Caliph and his Merry Men] . . . It is not just Turkey’s question. Everybody has to accept the responsibility . . . What we all have to do is do a better job by understanding the complexity of the situation in the reality“.iii

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ii “Jamie Shea” NATO. (Last updated: 27 Jul. 2012 16:00). http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/who_is_who_50159.htm.

iii “NATO, Turkey cooperation vital to tackle Daesh: official” AA (11 March 2015). http://aa.com.tr/en/turkey/nato-turkey-cooperation-vital-to-tackle-daesh-official/67758.

AKP Turkey’s Favourite Terrorists in Syria: Ahrar al-Sham

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The Berlin-based SWP (or Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik or German Institute for International and Security Affairs)’s Dr Guido Steinberg relates that “Ahrar al-Sham belongs to the Islamist/Salafist part of the rebel spectrum. It aims to topple Asad and replace his regime with an Islamic state based on sharia. While its leadership has never spelled out in detail what the political system of such a state would look like, it is sure to be strongly authoritarian”.(1) Founded by “by Hassan Aboud (aka Abu Abdullah al-Hamawi) [died on 16 March 2016 “from wounds received in a battle near Aleppo”],(2) the group is a coalition of Islamist and Salafist units fighting to unseat Bashar al-Assad. Over time, Hassan Aboud’s outfit even became the ‘principal constituent force’ of the Syrian Islamic Front (or SIF), set up in December 2012 as a ‘Salafi umbrella formation, which is arguably the best fighting force within the opposition’ to the Assad regime in Damascus, in the words of the Richard Borow Fellow at the Washington Institute and founder of the website Jihadology, Aaron Zelin and Charles Lister, the Visiting Fellow, Brookings Doha Center”.(3)

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According to the journalist and freelance writer Aron Lund, “the Ahrar el-Sham Brigades are made up of nearly fifty jihadi groups, such as the Qawafil el-Shuhada (Idleb), Ansar el-Haqq (Idleb), and Salaheddine Brigade (Hama). They exist in most of Syria’s Sunni-populated governorates, but are particularly concentrated in the Idleb Governorate (half of the brigades listed), with Hama a distant second. [In 2012 p]ress reports appear to confirm that the group has a strong foothold in the Sunni countryside stretching from the northern Ghab Plain west of Hama, towards Idleb and the Turkish border, east of the Alawite mountains. Also judging from its own website, the Ahrar el-Sham Brigades are conspicuously weak in some Sunni-majority governorates otherwise known for intensive rebel activity: Homs (only two brigades, in the Houla region and Tel-Kalakh respectively), Deraa (one brigade, no location specified) and Deir el-Zor (no presence)”.(4) On a dedicated website, the group itself posits that “The Islamic Movement of Free Men of the Levant [or Ahrar al-Sham] is an Islamist, reformist, innovative and comprehensive movement. It is integrated with the Islamic Front and is a comprehensive and Islamic military, political and social formation. It aims to completely overthrow the Assad regime in Syria and build an Islamic state whose only sovereign, reference, ruler, direction, and individual, societal and nationwide unifier is Allah Almighty’s Sharia (law)”.(5)

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In spite of the above-quoted programmatic statement, “the movement is generally not seen by the Syrian public as fame or power-hungry, and Syrian activists’ comments on social media often describe the movement as working quietly and in an organised manner”, as expressed by Al Jazeera’s Malak Chabkoun.(6) Ahrar al-Sham’s supposed moderate character also seems to have induced AKP Turkey’s then-Prime Minister Ahmed Davutoğlu to utilize the groups as a middleman in negotiations between the National Intelligence Organization (or MİT) and the Islamic State (or ISIS or the Caliph and his Merry Men) in 2014.(7)

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(1) Guido Steinberg , ‘Ahrar al-Sham: The “Syrian Taliban”’ SWP Comments, 27 (May 2016). file:///C:/Users/K55V/Desktop/Ahrar%20al-Sham.pdf.

(2) C. J. Chivers and Karam Shaoumali, “Hassan Aboud, an ISIS Commander, Dies From Battlefield Wounds” New York Times (17 March 2016). https://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/18/world/middleeast/hassan-aboud-an-isis-commander-dies-from-battlefield-wounds.html?_r=0.

(3) C. Erimtan, “Turkey between rock and a hard place in US fight against ISIS” RT Op-Edge (18 September 2014). https://www.rt.com/op-edge/188796-turkey-isis-usa-conflict-syria/.

(4) Aron Lund,, “Syrian Jihadism” UIBrief, 13 (14 September 2012). file:///C:/Users/K55V/Desktop/Syrian%20Jihadism%20(012).pdf.

(5) Ahrar al-Sham official webpage: http://ahraralsham.net/?page_id=4195. Translated and quoted by Malak Chabkoun, “Syrian Revolution’s Path after Attacks on Ahrar al-Sham” Al Jazeera English (17 September 2014). http://studies.aljazeera.net/en/reports/2014/09/2014“Syrian Revolution’s Path after Attacks on Ahrar al-Sham” . 9147499306405.html#a2.

(6) Malak Chabkoun, “Syrian Revolution’s Path after Attacks on Ahrar al-Sham” .

(7) C. Erimtan, “Turkey between rock and a hard place in US fight against ISIS”.

The War in Afghanistan (2011)

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Originally published on 25 January 2011

A Frontline in the New Cold War against Islamic Extremism or

Crucial Part of the oddly shaped Eurasian chessboard?

Last week, the new U.S. Congress convened for its first session. The newly-elected Republicans and Tea Party favourites started the new year with a stunt: reading the complete U.S. Constitution, that semi-sacrosanct document of yesteryear many swear by but few appear to know . . . On the sidelines, another somewhat overlooked speech took place as well. California Democrat Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey took the floor for a short address. Woolsey is the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, and gained notoriety as a result of her outspoken stance on the war in Iraq. She was one of the 133 members of the House who voted against authorizing the invasion of Iraq on October 10, 2002. Since then Woolsey has taken an active role in urging U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, and has been a vocal critic of the Bush administration’s foreign policy. Last week, however, Lynn Woolsey showed that she was beyond party politics in criticising America’s active military involvement in the Hindu Kush mountains and Afghanistan: “This war represents an epic failure, a national embarrassment, and a moral blight on our nation”.

In contrast to Woolsey’s words, the White House appears to view the war in Afghanistan in quite different terms. In the first half of December 2010, it released a new report on America’s war in the Hindu Kush mountains, publishing a 5-page summary for public consumption: Overview of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review. The short document shows that the Obama administration remains beholden to the Bush rationale for the war saying that the “core goal of the U.S. strategy in the Afghanistan and Pakistan theater remains to disrupt, dismantle, and eventually defeat al-Qa’ida in the region and to prevent its return to either country”. Repeating President Obama’s alliterative mantra, the White House presents the hostilities in Afghanistan as part of the War-on-Terror meant to safeguard the U.S. homeland as well as the rest of the Free World. Rather than taking account of the reality on the ground that sees U.S. and ISAF troops battling “insurgency” or rather resistance fighters known as Taliban, the White House document continues to portray the enemy as al-Qa’ida, a shadowy network of Islamist terrorists bent on destroying the Free World. But already in December 2009, a senior U.S. intelligence official told ABC News that there were only about 100 al-Qa’ida members left in Afghanistan, basing himself on the conclusions of American intelligence agencies and the U.S. Defense Department. In June 2010, CIA director Leon Panetta went a step further, telling ABC News: “I think at most, we’re looking at maybe 50 to 100, maybe less. It’s in that vicinity. There’s no question that the main location of al-Qaeda is in tribal areas of Pakistan”. As a result, the Overview of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review now confidently talks of the “Pakistan-based leadership and cadre of al-Qa’ida”, thereby offering justification for the U.S. drone attacks in Pakistani territory. But the Pakistani army has for the past years been fighting the Pakistani Taliban (TTP or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan) in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan who, in response, have unleashed a campaign of terror throughout the whole country.

The Obama administration seems adamant to stay the course, having recently committed “1,400 more Marine combat forces to Afghanistan”, as reported by the Associated Press on 6 January. In a way, the War-on-Terror, renamed the Overseas Contingency Operations, is the 21st-century incarnation of the 20th-century Cold War that saw many proxy conflicts and an escalating nuclear arms’ build-up (the could only have led to MAD or Mutually Assured Destruction). As I have indicated in an earlier piece, the NATO establishment already predicted, or maybe rather presaged, such a development in the mid-1990s. Then-NATO secretary-general Willy Claes at the time said that “Islamic militancy has emerged as perhaps the single gravest threat to the NATO alliance and to Western security”.

In the absence of a Soviet threat, the Obama administration has now declared al-Qa’ida and its by now more than legendary and possibly defunct leader Osama bin Laden to be America’s main military adversary. While making sure not to declare an outright Crusade against Islam and Muslims worldwide, President Obama continues Cold War policies that ensure that the “military-industrial complex”, to use President Eisenhower’s famous 1961 phrase, is kept busy, happy, and well-fed. Quite some time ago, the independent journalist Pepe Escobar declared that “Osama bin Laden may be dead or not. ‘Al-Qa’ida’ remains a catch-all ghost entity”. In other words, his contention is that the name al-Qa’ida is used by the U.S. to suggest the presence of a threat that is then employed to justify military intervention. The flipside of that stance is now that terrorists and like-minded individuals opposing U.S. dominance and interventionism equally cite the name al-Qa’ida to gain credibility, notoriety, and media exposure.

But does al-Qa’ida as a worldwide terrorist network aiming to deceive, disrupt and destroy the Free World really exist? Already in 2004, the British film-maker and writer Adam Curtis suggested in his documentary The Power of Nightmares that al-Qa’ida as an international terrorist network was basically an American invention to secure the prosecution and conviction of guilty parties and individuals in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. As such, even the guilt of Osama bin Laden, as the true instigator of the “9/11” attacks, arguably also remains a somewhat open question. On 28 September 2001, Bin Laden was interviewed by the Urdu-language Pakistani daily Ummat: “I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children and other humans as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children and other people. Such a practice is forbidden even in the course of a battle . . . Whoever committed the act of 11 September are not the friends of the American people. I have already said that we are against the American system, not against its people, whereas in these attacks, the common American people have been killed”. Was Osama bin Laden merely trying to deflect attention and building up an alibi against a possible U.S. attack? As for the famous video confession so conveniently stumbled upon in the Afghan city of Jalalabad in November 2001, the theologian-turned-9/11-debunker Prof. David Ray Griffin maintains that “bin Laden experts have called this later video a fake, and for good reasons. Many of the physical features of the man in this video are different from those of Osama bin Laden (as seen in undoubtedly authentic videos)”. The fact that the FBI last year used an image of the Spanish lawmaker Gaspar Llamazares to create an up-to-date picture of an aging Osama bin Laden proves that U.S. institutions do indeed dabble in creating fakes and make-believes. The incredible story of the digitally enhanced image of Bin Laden using Llamazares’ “hair and facial wrinkles” was broken by the Associated Press.

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President Obama entered the world stage on an unprecedented wave of goodwill and optimism, relying on his message of “change we can believe in” to affect a serious alteration in the way the U.S. conducts foreign policy and treats other nations. Now that he has been in office for two years, disappointment and disillusion in his actual track record seem widespread. Obama’s continuation of the Bush administration’s championing of the TAPI pipeline project, that would Turkmenistan and India, and his seeming reliance upon Brzezinski’s legacy in pursuing the New Great Game on the “oddly shaped Eurasian chessboard” have transformed him into a proponent of a New Cold War against Islamic Extremism, as personified by al-Qa’ida. Even though many Conservative and Tea Party Obama opponents have cast doubt upon the U.S. President’s religious and political affiliation, referring to him variously as a Nazi-Socialist-Communist-Muslim, his grounding in the Christian faith remains beyond doubt. In particular, Barack Obama is much attached to the work of the American Protestant exponent of “Christian realism,” Reinhold Niebuhr’ (1892-1971). Back in April 2007, then-Candidate Obama told the New York Times columnist David Brooks: “I take away [from Niebuhr’s work] the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away . . . the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naïve idealism to bitter realism”. And now in 2011, Obama is not wavering in the face of evil as personified by al-Qa’ida, present in the Af-Pak Theatre and providing the U.S. with a pertinent reason to stay the course.

During the Cold War, Niebuhr was a public intellectual, or rather theologian, who took an active part in the fight, as a virulent defender of the U.S. and an outspoken opponent of the Communist threat. He regarded Communism as a position claiming “to embody a social system in which [the] miracle [of achieving an ideal society] has actually taken place”, a society where a “’vanguard’ of ‘class-conscious’ workers, the members of the Communist Party, whose purposes were so identical with the very purposes of history that every weapon became morally permissible to them and every vicissitude of history was expected to contribute to the inevitability of their victory”. Niebuhr’s words appear easily applicable to the 21st century, one would only need to replace the words Communist Party and Communism with the terms al-Qa’ida and Muslim extremism. Politicians and newscasters alike continuously remind the public that al-Qa’ida wants to turn the world into an Islamic welfare state ruled by a new and all-encompassing Caliphate, “a social system in which [the] miracle [of Islamic providence or Shariah] has actually taken place”. Al-Qa’ida operatives are 21st-century versions of “members of the Communist Party”, who were bent on undermining and ultimately destroying the Capitalist world in the 20th century.

President Obama proves to be a crafty proponent of ‘Niebuhrianism’, which Harry R. Davis and Robert C. Good define as a “constellation of perspectives, Biblically derived and validated by experience”. As a Christian Realist, the U.S. President is fighting the “good fight” in the Af-Pak Theatre, while keeping a close eye on China, the new superpower in the making. On Monday, 10 January, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates went to Beijing to “begin regular strategic security talks” between the U.S. and China, a year after the latter cut military ties in protest to American arms sales to Taiwan. Gates stated that military relations between the world’s two biggest economies shouldn’t be “subject to shifting political winds”. Even while the U.S. is busy opposing China on the “oddly shaped Eurasian chessboard”, pitching the TAPI natural gas pipeline project against the Kazakhstan–China oil pipeline connecting the Caspian shore to Xinjiang in Wild West China, President Obama is easing the climate for Chinese President Hu Jintao’s planned trip to Washington, D.C. later this month.

<> on January 19, 2011 in Washington, DC.

 

The War in Afghanistan: Jihad, Foreign Fighters and al Qaeda

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Originally published on 18 September 2010

This year, on the momentous date of 11 September, the English-language section of the Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera aired a report on foreign fighters joining the Jihad against U.S. and ISAF forces in Afghanistan. The report showed exclusive footage of a Taliban group in northern Afghanistan where foreign fighters, whom Al Jazeera’s Sue Turton called al-Qaeda, are bolstering the local forces. Turton interviewed the ISAF Spokesperson, Brigadier-General Chris Whitecross. Upon being queried about the identity of the outsiders strengthening the Taliban in Afghanistan’s north – a clear tactical counter-weight to ISAF’s presence in the south – Whitecross spoke without hesitation: “That means al-Qaeda and foreign fighters”.

Given that the current war in the Hindu Kush was supposedly caused by “9/11” and that allied action in Afghanistan still aims to “disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda”, to use President Obama’s alliterative war mantra, it is interesting to note the ease with which foreigners joining the Taliban Jihad against the ISAF occupation are termed “al-Qaeda”. As such, this recent development, arguably scooped by Al Jazeera, shows the way in which the war effort in Afghanistan has come full circle in the space of 30 years.

On 25 December 1979, Soviet forces officially entered Afghanistan in an effort to support the Communist regime led by the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). The Communists had seized power in April 1978, during the so-called Saur Revolution when Afghanistan’s first President Mohammed Daud Khan, who had himself seized power in a bloodless coup in 1973, was killed. The Communist government in Kabul was highly unpopular in the conservative countryside, and prone to fall prey to yet another coup or even an armed insurrection.

As a result, the Soviets deployed their troops to support a friendly regime in its southern neighbour. The Director of Studies at the Center on International Cooperation Barnett Rubin argues in his book “The Fragmentation of Afghanistan” (1989) that the Soviets had primarily entered Afghanistan with the aim of establishing a key position in Asia, one with trade possibilities and access to Gulf oil. But, once the Soviets had installed themselves in the country, they “imposed military and social reforms that began to make enemies within different sectors of the indigenous population”, as related by the Reuters Multimedia journalist Sehrish Shaban. Afghanistan as a land-locked country in the Hindu Kush mountains is home to a whole host of different ethnic groups professing adherence to Islam. Islam thus really functions as the single unifying factor in Afghanistan, and as a benchmark of Afghan identity.

The type of Islam practiced in the Afghan mountainside tends to be rather conservative and grounded in local tribal traditions and attitudes. As a result, the Soviets’ proposed “military and social reforms” could not but engender hostility among “different sectors of the indigenous population”. This resentment grew and grew into a fully-fledged call for a jihad against the unbelievers – the Soviets being notoriously atheist.

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Nowadays the term jihad is much bandied about and used and/or abused at will by Muslims as well as non-Muslims the world over. The historian and Islam specialist Mark Sedgwick maintains that the concept of jihad was developed in the 8th century, when it basically functioned as a “mixture of the Army Regulations and the Geneva Conventions, appropriate for the circumstances of the time”. At the time of the Islamic conquests (7-8th centuries), the world was divided between a House of Islam (Darülislam) and the House of War (Darülharb) and international relations between both spheres were primarily military in nature. But as the centuries progressed and relations between Muslims and the outside world achieved a quasi-peaceful status quo, punctuated by commercial exchanges and trade links, the idea of jihad changed as well. There is the well-known distinction between the greater jihad (al-jihād al-akbar) and the lesser jihad (al-jihād al-asghar), between a personal struggle in the way of Allah (crf. Surah 29:69) and an armed struggle to protect believers against oppression and violence perpetrated by unbelievers. In other words, jihad evolved from a code of war into a defensive mechanism, tantamount to a religious duty leading to religious rewards. In Afghanistan during the 1980s, the protection of the land from Soviet occupation warranted the execution of a jihad by locals and other sympathetic believers willing to participate in a meritorious act proving one’s commitment in the way of Allah (al-jihād al- asghar).

But what about the Soviets’ main rival, the United States? Were they but passive observers of these weird scenes in the mountains? A few years ago, Hollywood reminded the world of the activities of U.S. Congressman Charles Wilson, whom the New Yorker’s foreign correspondent Mary Anne Weaver called “one of he most enthusiastic supporters of the jihad on Capitol Hill”. The Hollywood movie detailed Wilson’s role in organising and financing the Afghan Mujahedeen against the Soviets throughout the 1980s.The Reagan administration, in conjunction with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the ISI (the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency), actively supported the Mujahedeen fighting the Evil Empire. In 1985, U.S. President Ronald Reagan even entertained the notorious Gulbudin Hikmatyar as well as other Mujahedeen in the White House, calling them “valiant and courageous Afghan freedom fighters”. At the moment, still leading the Hezb-i-Islami, Hikmatyar continues to fight – this time, his enemies are U.S. and ISAF forces, however. Back in the 80s, in struggling for their country’s freedom, not just Afghans volunteered freely, but also militants from nearly thirty counties participated in this jihad, these foreigners were collectively known as “Afghan Arabs”. And now apparently, the unending war in Afghanistan has come full circle. Today’s Mujahedeen, known as Taliban, again seem to enjoy the support and fighting power of non-Afghan militants. The Taliban and these non-Afghan militants, whom ISAF refers to as “al-Qaeda and foreign fighters”, are once again engaged in a jihad to drive an occupying force of unbelievers from Afghan soil – but this time, these unbelievers are Americans and their allies.

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