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Archive for the ‘Sudan’ Category

Human Rights Watch: World Report 2012

World Report 2012: Strengthen Support for ‘Arab Spring’

Governments Should Support Rights, Not Abusive Allies

(Cairo, January 22, 2012) — Many democracies have allowed their ties with repressive allies to temper their support for human rights in the Arab Spring protests, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2012. For reasons of principle and long-term interest, governments should stand firm with the people of the Middle East and North Africa when they demand their basic rights and work to ensure the transition to genuine democracies.

The 676-page report, Human Rights Watch’s annual review of human rights practices around the globe, summarizes major rights issues in more than 90 countries, reflecting the extensive investigative work carried out in 2011 by Human Rights Watch staff. On events in the Middle East and North Africa, Human Rights Watch said that firm and consistent international support for peaceful protesters and government critics is the best way to pressure the region’s autocrats to end abuses and enhance basic freedoms. A principled insistence on respect for rights is also the best way to help popular movements steer clear of the intolerance, lawlessness, and revenge that can threaten a revolution from within, Human Rights Watch said.

“The people driving the Arab Spring deserve strong international support to realize their rights and to build genuine democracies,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “Loyalty to autocratic friends shouldn’t stand in the way of siding with democratic reformers. International influence is also needed to ensure that the new governments extend human rights and the rule of law to all, especially women and minorities.”

The World Report 2012 documents human rights abuses worldwide, including: violations of the laws of war in Libya and Afghanistan; the plight of political prisoners in Vietnam and Eritrea; the silencing of dissent in China and Cuba; internet crackdowns in Iran and Thailand; killings by security forces in India and Mexico; election-related problems in Russia and the Democratic Republic of Congo; mistreatment of migrants in Western Europe; neglectful maternal health policies in Haiti and South Africa; the suppression of religious freedom in Indonesia and Saudi Arabia; torture in Pakistan and Uzbekistan; discrimination against people with disabilities in Nepal and Peru; and detention without trial in Malaysia and by the United States.

 

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Whither Libya??? The Execution of Gadhafi, the NTC, and a New Prime Minister

The future of Libya still seems uncertain following the brutal execution of Colonel Gadhafi, killed by Libyan thugs and instigated by NATO bombs and a lone U.S. drone. According to the ever-contrary broadcaster RT, a “hellfire missile fired by a US drone hovering some five miles above in the skies of Libya made the kill – now, that’s how it’s done in the 21st century – clinically precise and from far away”.[1]  The military intervention did apparently not require foreign boots on the ground, but a UN-mandated resolution to protect civilians lives – “resolution 1973, authorizing its member states to implement a ‘no-fly zone . . . [and] to take all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack in the country, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign
occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory’”.[2]  On 19 March 2011, President Obama authorised the discharge of Operation Odyssey Dawn to implement this resolution, which gave the whole affair the gleam of a Just War, a concept that Barack  Obama likes to bandy about a lot. After all, the NATO military intervention was aimed at preventing the wily colonel from killing his own people, but in the end, NATO bombers and U.S. drones turned out to have been deployed in an operation that was nothing but a veiled remote-controlled invasion to precipitate regime change. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s reaction to the news of Gadhafi’s death was most telling in this respect: “we came, we saw, he died!”.[3]

Does the war in Libya represent the future of warfare in this century, remote-controlled arms that kill and local proxies doing the dirty handy-work???  And, as it turns out, there were nevertheless some foreign boots on the ground but they were not American or European. Instead two unlikely players have contributed to the Libyan war effort: Sudan and Qatar – the BBC notes that ‘Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir says his country gave military support to the Libyan rebels who overthrew Col Muammar Gaddafi’,[4] and ‘Qatar has revealed for the first time that hundreds of its soldiers had joined Libyan rebel forces on the ground as they battled pro-Gaddafi troops’, as reported by the news agency AFP.[5]  For one thing, it seems more that ironic President Bashir, who is wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in The Hague (ICC), in this instance assisted NATO and its Assisted Rebellion against Gadhafi and his troops. He explained that the Darfuri Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) succeeded in attacking the Sudanese capital three years ago as a result of Libyan aid and assistance, and that providence had now offered him the opportunity to reciprocate in kind. Addressing a crowd in the eastern Sudanese town of Kassala, Bashir stated: “Our God, high and exalted, from above the seven skies, gave us the opportunity to reciprocate the visit. The forces which entered Tripoli, part of their arms and capabilities, were 100% Sudanese”.[6]  As for the Qatari involvement, from Tripoli the Guardian’s Ian Black reports that “Qatari special forces are reported to have provided infantry training to Libyan fighters in the western Nafusa mountains and in eastern Libya. Qatar’s military even brought Libyan rebels back to Doha for exercises. And in the final assault  on Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya compound in Tripoli in late August, Qatari special forces were seen on the frontline. Qatar also gave $400m to the rebels, helped them export oil from Benghazi and set up a TV station in Doha”.[7]

In the early years of the 20th century Italy invaded Libya, forcing the Ottoman authorities in Istanbul to direct their attention to that faraway Ottoman province in Africa. Subsequently, the outbreaks of the Balkan Wars (1912-13) and the Great War (1914-18) meant that the Ottomans were in no position to oppose Italian control of the oil-rich coastal land became Rome’s colony between 1911 and 1947. And now that Colonel Gadhafi has been eliminated, will the different tribal groups that make up Libya unite under NTC leadership and allow for a peaceful transition to representative democracy???  The NTC has already indicated that previously agreed oil deals would be honoured, so that turning Libya into a de facto colony seems quite unnecessary. On the other hand, if civil strife and tribal rivalry were to usher in an all-out civil war would the U.S. and its NATO allies leave well enough alone, or would they become part of the civil war, as has been the case in Afghanistan???  Britain’s new Defence Minister, Philip Hammond declared that “Libya is a relatively wealthy country with oil reserves, and I expect there will be opportunities for British and other companies to get involved in the reconstruction of Libya . . .  I would expect British companies, even British sales directors, [to be] packing their suitcases and looking to get out to Libya and take part in the reconstruction of that country as soon as they can”. [8]  And U.S. Ambassador, Gene Cretz turned out to be equally forthright, saying “We know that oil is the jewel in the crown of Libyan natural resources, but even in Qaddafi’s time they were starting from A to Z in terms of building infrastructure and other things. If we can get American companies here on a fairly big scale, which we will try to do everything we can to do that, then this will redound to improve the situation in the United States with respect to our own jobs”.[9]

Iran’s state-sponsored English-language broadcaster Press TV notes that ‘Gaddafi and his son Mo’tassim were buried in a secret location in the country’s Sahara desert [on Tuesday, 25 October 2011], Abdel Majid Mlegta, a senior National Transitional Council military official, said. Saif al-Islam is reportedly making his way towards Niger in an attempt to flee the country after the victory of the revolution. Former Tuareg leader Rissa ag Boula said on Tuesday that he is being ferried by Tuareg tribesmen’.[10]  The report goes on to say that ‘South African mercenaries who allegedly participated in Muammar Gaddafi’s failed escape bid are now providing protection for his influential second son, Saif al-Islam. According to a report published by the Afrikaans-language Beeld newspaper on Thursday [, 27 October], the South Africans were hired by a company with close ties to the slain Libyan ruler, and were involved in training his presidential guard and handling some of his offshore financial dealings, AFP reported. They reportedly played a major role in helping Gaddafi’s wife Safia, his daughter Aisha, and sons Hannibal and Mohammed, flee Tripoli battle. Beeld said that the group of mercenaries was also was engaged in transporting Gaddafi’s gold, jewelry and foreign currency to the Western African country of Niger. The group is said to include former South African soldiers and policemen’.[11]

And finally, Al Jazeera reports that ‘Libya’s National Transitional Council has named Abdurrahim El-Keib as the country’s a new interim prime minister to replace Mahmoud Jibril. He won 26 out of 51 votes, and said that he expected to choose his cabinet ministers within two weeks. El-Keib is an award-winning electrical engineering professor who has taught at the University of  Tripoli as well as numerous US universities. He most recently worked at the Petroleum Institute in the United Arab Emirates. Jalal el-Gallal, an NTC spokesman, said the council wanted to form a new interim government after the fall of Gaddafi because its initial members started out as an impromptu group. Hashem Ahelbarra reports from Tripoli’.

 

 

 


[1] “US drone kills Gaddafi” RT (21 October 2011). http://rt.com/usa/columns/namenotfound/us-drone-kills-gaddafi/.

[2] “Libya: Assisted Rebellion or a Just War?” A Pseudo-Ottoman Blog (31 March 2011). https://sitanbul.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/libya-assisted-rebellion-or-a-just-war/.

[3] Colby Hall, “‘We Came, We Saw, He Died’ Hillary Clinton Reacts To Confirmed News Of Gaddafi’s Death” Mediaite (21 October 2011). http://www.mediaite.com/tv/we-came-we-saw-he-died-hillary-clinton-reacts-to-confirmed-news-of-gaddafis-death/.

[4] James Copnall, “Sudan armed Libyan rebels, says President Bashir” BBC News (26 October 2011). http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-15471734.

[5] “Wed, 26 Oct 2011, 11:17 GMT+3 – Libya” AFP (26  October 2011). http://blogs.aljazeera.net/liveblog/libya-oct-26-2011-1117.

[6] James Copnall, “Sudan armed Libyan rebels, says President Bashir”.

[7] Ian Black, “Qatar admits sending hundreds of troops to support Libya rebels” The Guardian (26 October 2011). http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/oct/26/qatar-troops-libya-rebels-support.

[8] Aijaz Ahmad, “Libya recolonised” Frontline, Volume 28 – Issue 23 ::(05-18 Nov. 2011). http://www.frontline.in/stories/20111118282300900.htm.

[9] Aijaz Ahmad, “Libya recolonised”.

[10] “’S. African mercenaries help Gaddafi son’” Press TV (27 October 2011). http://www.presstv.ir/detail/206929.html.

[11] “’S. African mercenaries help Gaddafi son’”.

Inaugural Arab Spring Conference in Tehran

As noted in a previous entry, ‘The leaders of Britain and France were given an enthusiastic welcome in Libya this week. David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy were welcomed as heroes for leading the NATO initiative that led to the exit of Colonel Gaddafi. But not everyone shares that opinion. The inaugural international conference on the Arab Spring, has opened in Iran’.

 

The Islamic Republic would very much like to appropriate the Arab Awakening as an Islamic Resurgence inspired by the Iranian Revolution of 1979. Here is Iran’s Press TV’s broadcast to the world: ‘The Leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution has described the movements in the Arab world as Islamic awakening. A conference on the same theme started today, 18 September 2011, in Tehran. In this edition of News Analysis we will be talking to some of the guests’.

‘During the ending ceremony of the two-day Tehran conference on Islamic awakening in the Middle East and North Africa, Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calls on revolutionary nations not to let the US and Israel return to their policies’.

On Sunday, 18 September, the Conference issued this statement: “Unity of the entire Muslim Ummah (Nation) is necessary for returning to national and Islamic dignity and independence of Muslim nations from the political, economic and ideological dominance of oppressive powers”.

Tahrir Square in Israel: a ‘Protest of Privileged’???

The Russian state-sponsored international news broadcaster RT reports that ‘[l]eaders of social protests in Israel are calling for people to bolster demonstrations across the country. Over the last month up to three hundred thousand people in Tel Aviv have been demanding cheaper housing and social justice. But as RT’s Paula Slier reports there are outsiders in the Jewish state fighting a much tougher battle’.

 

 The topic of African and other non-Jewish refugees in Israel is not very media-friendly, but still in 2004, a refugee from Ethiopia, Yohannes Bayu, was able to set up the African Refugee Development Center (ARDC), a non-profit organisation seeking to help those forgotten victims . . . How could a refugee be able to do such a thing??? The ARDC’s dedicated website informs that Mister Bayu, who is at present still the Center’s Executive Director, is ‘a recognized refugee, [who] received his undergraduate degree in Social Sciences from the University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, specializing on HIV/AIDS prevention and counselling. Before he was forced to leave Ethopia in 1997 because of political persecution and government harassment, he worked for various non-governmental organizations in HIV/AIDS counselling and prevention programs. He also worked two years for Doctors without Borders as a special advisor on a HIV/AIDS prevention project in Addis Ababa. Mr. Bayu was only granted political asylum in Israel, however, some five years after his arrival following a 23-day hunger strike on the steps of the Refugee Commissioner’s office and an order of Israel’s Supreme Court. Driven by such experiences, Mr. Bayu resolved to help the thousands of other asylum seekers escaping to Israel and founded ARDC the following year in 2004’.[1]

In 2008, the then-head of the Interior Ministry’s Population Administration, Yaakov Ganot, who has recently been appointed Director General of the Ministry of Public Security in Bibi’s government, declared openly that “The refugees must be stopped, or Israel will be overrun”.[2]  In the paper Haaretz, Bari Weiss opines that “[m]ost of the time, these asylum seekers, nearly all from the African continent, are portrayed as a burden on Israeli society, yet [constitutes] another demographic problem the Jewish state must face. Not wanting them here, [Israel] treats them as criminals. At best, this position smacks of paranoia. At worst, it’s cruel”. [3]  In general, these unwanted refugees come “from southern Sudan, Eritrea, the Ivory Coast, Somalia, Ghana and Nigeria”.[4]  In other words, the Jewish nation state proves to be just another nation state, after all nation states are entities prone to endow their citizens with feelings of xenophobia, racism (now also known as Islamophobia in the West), and plain old  chauvinism.


[2] Bari Weiss, “Knocking on haven’s door” Haaretz (29 February 2008). http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/knocking-on-haven-s-door-1.240395.

[3] Bari Weiss, “Knocking on haven’s door”.

[4] Bari Weiss, “Knocking on haven’s door”.

Al Jazeera, Empire – Egypt: The Unfinished Revolution

The world’s attention may have shifted but Egypt is still on the march, with revolutionaries determined to maintain the momentum amid the on-going political tussle. What has become of the Egyptian revolution after the initial euphoria of Tahrir Square? (15 July 2011).

Obama’s Middle East Speech 2011

Secretary of State Clinton introduces President Obama to give his speech on the current events in the  Middle East in the Benjamin Franklin Room in the State Department, as a kind of  up-to-date counter-piece to his 2009 Cairo speech. Quite naturally, the President at first deals with the execution of Bin Laden and the fate of that shadowy organisation known as Al Qaeda, before delving into the recent events in the Middle East and North Africa that have now been termed the Arab Awakening or Arab Spring. Barack Obama employs these events as a way to reiterate his theme of change and hope, and  how America will now deal with the rest of the world in the multi-polar world of the 21st century.

 

“There must be no doubt the U.S. welcomes change that advances self-determination and opportunity. . . . We have a chance to pursue the world as it should be .  . . It was the people themselves who launched these movements, and it’s the people who must ultimately determine their outcome”.

And here is Megan Murphy presenting multiple-sourced stories on the Obama speech and other relavent events occurring simultaneously.

 

 

Killing a Monster: OBL and the War on Terror

In the wee hours of 2 May 2011 (or late 1 May in the U.S.), the world was shaken by the news that the U.S. had finally made good on its promise to rid the world of Public Enemy #1. President Obama proudly announced to the world that he had previously given the order to pursue the high value target of Usamah bin Laden into Pakistani territory. The President recalled the “worst attack on the American people in our history” on 11 September 2001. He dramatically declared that “The images of 9/11 are seared into our national memory”. In fact, months of painstaking intelligence work led the U.S. to track down Al Qaeda’s elusive leader in the unassuming city of Abottabad, at not that great a distance from Islamabad, the capital of the Land of the Pure. Back in the fall of 2001, in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, when George W. Bush had declared his unending war on terror, some voices, such as that of Tariq Ali, pointed out the folly of the Bush plan. Instead, these reasonable people argued that the best way to counter a terrorist threat is by means of good old fashioned police work and intelligence gathering. Still, following the end of the Cold War and high on the surplus of the Clinton years, America did not listen to reason and subsequently dragged the world into a war with no end in sight. Still, the amorphous enemy was given a tangible shape in the form of the Saudi financier of the eighties’ Jihad against the Soviets-turned-sponsor of a global war-on-the-West in the 21st century, Usamah bin Laden, looking quaintly-Japanese in print spelled as Osama and abbreviated as OBL. Subsequently, what the BBC following ABC had termed Terror, Inc. became Al Qaeda, and the West led by the U.S. had a new enemy. Bush then made the appropriate noises: “The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him” (13 September 2001); followed four days later by “I want justice . . .There’s an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive”. As Clinton’s actions had already pointed the way in 1998, Usamah bin Laden, or OBL, was hiding in the mountains of the Hindu Kush within the borders of Afghanistan, the battlefield that had determined the outcome of the Cold War in the view of Zbigniew Brzezinski. And as a result, the invasion of Afghanistan, apparently pre-planned during a four-day meeting under the heading “brainstorming on Afghanistan” held in July, went ahead to public acclaim and universal approval. The world-at-large was outraged by the wanton killing of innocents in New York, Washington and in a field in Pennsylvania and supported the U.S. in an unprecedented show of solidarity and good-will. Moreover, as Afghanistan was ruled by the “the perfidious Taliban — oppressors of women and growers of beards”, other nations willingly joined the American forces in their quest for justice, retribution, and good-old-fashioned revenge. The invaders joined the Afghan Northern Alliance and quickly defeated the Taliban, capturing Kabul on 13 November and pushing south into Kandahar – homeland of the Taliban and their Pashtu constituency. Three days prior to the fall of Kabul, , in the words of two tribal leaders present at the event, Public Enemy #1 Usamah bin Laden apparently told a crowd in Jalalabad that the “Americans had a plan to invade, but if we are united and believe in Allah, we’ll teach them a lesson, the same one we taught the Russians”. In spite of his boisterous words, resistance was futile and OBL had to run away and apparently ended up hiding in the Tora Bora mountains. The invaders’ progress had been momentous, and nothing seemed able to stop them. But suddenly, in the Tora Bora mountains, the U.S.-led invasion seemed to falter and the high value target was allowed to get away . . .Usamah bin Laden escaped and nobody was able to track him down. In spite of his earlier assurances, President Bush suddenly changed tone and told the public the following: “I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority . . . I am truly not that concerned about him” (13 March 2002). What had happened?  How did, in the space of but a few months, Public Enemy #1 suddenly become an irrelevant person?

Hindsight, as documented by Bob Woodward, tells us now that the Bush Administration had other fish to fry. The newly-appointed Enemy #1 moved to the backburner and his place was taken up by another enemy, Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi Baath party regime. In the Washington Post, Woodward and Dan Balz state that, following the 9/11 attacks, Bush “said, ‘Terrorism against our nation will not stand’. It was an echo of ‘This will not stand’, the words his father, President George H.W. Bush, had used a few days after Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990” (27 January 2002). In his Plan of Attack (2004), Woodward argues that President Bush, Army Gen. Tommy R. Franks and the war cabinet started their meetings on the invasion of Iraq in late December 2001. Throughout the year 2002, intensive war planning created its own momentum towards invasion and occupation. In the run up to and during the execution of Operation Desert Storm (1990-91), Bush, Sr. had vilified the Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein, effectively turning the Middle East dictator into a new Hitler. Bush, Jr. eagerly took up his father’s legacy and started planning the invasion of Iraq while Bin Laden fled the Tora Bora mountains. Rather than pursuing Bin Laden, exacting retribution and seeing that justice was served, Bush, Jr., as expressed by the ever-perceptive Naomi Klein, dedicated himself to “[p]illaging Iraq in pursuit of a neocon utopia”.

The 9/11 attacks provided the “new Pearl Harbor”, that had been suggested as a necessary pre-condition for reaffirming U.S global dominance by the PNAC, and helped bolster the Military-Industrial Complex, in the process making some individual very rich while killing others in the hundreds, thousands, and hundreds of thousands. One could argue that ‘Usamah bin Laden and Al Qaeda’ had delivered the preamble to the full-blown text of the NeoCon takeover of the U.S. Even though, on an intellectual plane, Junior was but a lightweight, his administration operated on a purely ideological basis that took scant account of real world events and public opinion, other than providing the justification needed to implement otherwise unpopular policies and military actions. The Bush Administration’s ideological concerns had strong ties to commercial success however. While Bin Laden was slowly making his way to Abbottabad, the Bush team launched a concerted campaign to convince the U.S. and world public about “Iraq’s alleged ties to Al Qaeda and its alleged weapons of mass destruction”, to justify military intervention in Iraq and withdrawal from Afghanistan. A year later, on 20 March 2003, Bush, Jr. ordered his troops to invade Iraq in a fury of “Shock & Awe”. The war was quickly won and Iraq was duly occupied by U.S. and allied forces. A year after the invasion, Naomi Klein went to Iraq to witness the “construction boom [supposedly rebuilding the sanction-affected and war-torn nation], but after weeks of searching I had not seen a single piece of heavy machinery apart from tanks and Humvees”. She continues matter-of-factly: “Then I saw it: a construction crane. It was big and yellow and impressive, and when I caught a glimpse of it around a corner in a busy shopping district I thought that I was finally about to witness some of the reconstruction I had heard so much about. But as I got closer I noticed that the crane was not actually rebuilding anything – not one of the bombed-out government buildings that still lay in rubble all over the city, nor one of the many power lines that remained in twisted heaps even as the heat of summer was starting to bear down. No, the crane was hoisting a giant billboard to the top of a three-story building. SUNBULA: HONEY 100% NATURAL, made in Saudi Arabia”. The Bush Administration was thus not interested in capturing Bin Laden nor was it concerned with reviving the Iraqi people and economy. The Bush agenda was much more brazen than that. Again quoting Klein, abandoning Afghanistan and invading Iraq was beneficial to such American companies like “the Halliburtons and Bechtels, as well as the venture capitalists who flocked to Iraq in the path cleared by Bradley Fighting Vehicles and laser-guided bombs. The honey that drew them was not just no-bid contracts and Iraq’s famed oil wealth but the myriad investment opportunities offered by a country that had just been cracked wide open after decades of being sealed off, first by the nationalist economic policies of Saddam Hussein, then by asphyxiating United Nations sanctions”. Moreover, there is also the fact that Iraq has the largest proven stocks of oil in its underground, plentiful and easily extractable. Access to resources is after all what drives most if not all conflicts: “American bestselling author and academic Michael T. Klare coined the term “resource wars” in 2001, indicating that in his opinion most wars of the future, like many of those of the past and present, will be caused by conflicts over access to natural resources, particularly oil, natural gas and water”. But in the end, this manifestation of NeoCon greed let to a numbers of unwanted consequences. The Bush-declared War-on-Terror turned into a quagmire that contributed to the loss of prestige on the part of the U.S. While the amounts of money spent reached staggering heights and the ostensible culprit remained out of reach. In the aftermath of the fall of the Twin Towers, Bush introduced the Patriot Act, curtailing the freedom of U.S. citizens and turning every global individual into a potential terrorist suspect liable to become the subject of “extraordinary rendition” to be tortured by proxy.

While the Bush Administration was busy plundering Iraq, the war in Afghanistan continued largely unnoticed and severely underreported. But, opposed to George W., his eventual successor appeared to care a lot more about the land in the Hindu Kus: “[a]lready in 2007, then-candidate Obama unequivocally stated that when president his ‘first step must be to get off the wrong battlefield in Iraq and take the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan’. At the time, Obama also hinted at the threat posed by an al-Qaeda presence in the so-called Af-Pak theatre”. But Adam Curtis’ documentary The Power of Nightmares (2004) convincingly argues that the U.S. authorities fabricated a terrorist organisation named Al Qaeda based on the testimony of a former associate of Bin Laden, Jamal al-Fadl. The 1998 U.S. Africa embassy bombings had made Bill Clinton aware of Bin Laden, which led to the unsuccessful air strikes on targets in Sudan and Afghanistan. Subsequently, in order to prosecute Bin Laden in absentia, U.S. prosecutors had to prove he was the head of a criminal organisation responsible for the bombings – Al Qaeda, the global terror network bent on destroying the West and its way of life. The Bush Administration wholeheartedly appropriated the idea of a Muslim extremist terror network to launch its global war efforts. In hindsight, the veracity of claims relating to Al Qaeda as a SPECTRE-like network appears to be a shaky proposition. As I wrote in Today’s Zaman at the end of January: “the independent journalist Pepe Escobar declared that ‘Osama bin Laden may be dead or not. Al-Qaeda remains a catch-all ghost entity’. In other words, his contention is that the name al-Qaeda is used by the US 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 US dominance and interventionism equally cite the name al-Qaeda to gain credibility, notoriety and media exposure”. This assertion cannot but lead to the question, “does al-Qaeda, as a worldwide terrorist network aiming to deceive, disrupt and destroy the Free World, really exist?, which seems to have been answered satisfactorily by Adam Curtis and his The Power of Nightmares.

But the U.S. and ISAF forces are in Afghanistan, fighting the Taliban and providing support for Hamid Karzai and his government. In spite of this reality on the ground, President Obama continues the Bush legacy and keeps reiterating his alliterative mantra, which was also repeated in the Overview of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review (December 2010) to justify the continued occupations of Afghanistan: the “core goal of the US strategy in the Afghanistan and Pakistan theater remains to disrupt, dismantle and eventually defeat al-Qaeda in the region and to prevent its return to either country”. But even U.S. experts admit that Al Qaeda poses but a minor threat in Afghanistan proper. In December 2009, a senior US intelligence official told ABC News that there were only about 100 al-Qaeda members left in that country, while six months later, 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”. And as it turns out now, Al Qaeda’s legendary leader wasn’t even there. Instead he was hiding in plain sight, in the city of Abbotabad. Even the just-quoted Overview of the Afghanistan and Pakistan Annual Review confidently talks of the “Pakistan-based leadership and cadre of al-Qaeda,” thereby offering justification for the US drone attacks in Pakistani territory. But the Pakistani army has for the past several 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. While just now, more “than 80 paramilitary soldiers were killed when at least one suicide bomber blew himself up Friday morning [, 13 May] at a military training center in northwest Pakistan, a commander of the Frontier Constabulary said. The bombing was the first major terrorist attack since the American raid in Abbottabad on May 2 that killed Osama bin Laden”, as reported by Jane Perlez in the New York Times.

Given that Al Qaeda appears to be a U.S.-engineered figment of the imagination, that has now taken the shape of numerous independent terrorist cells inflicting harm in such varied geographic locations as Yemen and North Africa, the matter of the actual guilt that should be attributed to the recently killed Usamah bin Laden (OBL) crops up. Again quoting my January op-ed, “On Sept. 28, 2001, Bin Laden was interviewed by the Urdu-language Pakistani daily Ummat: ‘I have already said that I am not involved in the Sept. 11 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 acts of Sept. 11 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, common American people have been killed’. Was bin Laden merely trying to deflect attention and building an alibi against a possible US attack? As for the famous video confession so conveniently stumbled upon in the Afghan city of Jalalabad in November 2001, theologian-turned-Sept. 11 debunker Professor David Ray Griffin maintains that ‘Osama 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 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 bin Laden proves that US 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”. Now that Bin Laden has been killed in cold blood, his testimony in a court of law will never become available. Why was an unarmed man crawling out of bed shot in the head???  U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder nevertheless declared somewhat disingenuously: “If the possibility had existed, if there was the possibility of a feasible surrender, that would have occurred . . . But their protection, that is the protection of the force that went into that compound, was I think uppermost in our minds”. After all, dead men tell no tales . . .  and monsters need to be killed.