Courtesy William Thomas
Despite a just-released U.S. national intelligence consensus that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons, apocalyptic fundamentalists George Bush and Dick Cheney remain intent on ordering an all-out attack against one of the worldâ€™s oldest (and best armed) civilizations. As governments and citizenry protest this folly, an overriding question torments many minds: Will the architects of more than one-million civilian corpses in Iraq choose to go â€œgo nuclearâ€ against Iran?
Many believe they will not dare. If the inhibition against killing is one of the strongest human impulses (just ask a returning veteran), the ethical revulsion and international prohibitions against using nuclear weapons seem strong enough to rule out their first aggressive use since Americaâ€™s atomic attack on Nagasaki.
But what if the post-WWII nuclear Rubicon has already been crossed? According to a U.S. Army veteran with extensive boots-on-the-ground connections, the United States Government has dropped five nuclear weapons on Afghanistan and Iraq.
And gotten away with it.
Shortly after the terror attacks of 9/11, Lt. Colonel Eric Sepp of the USAF Air War College lamented that going after Osama bin Ladenâ€™s granite redoubts in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan presented â€œone of the more difficult operational challenges to confront U.S. military forces.â€
While precision-guided weapons doom above-ground buildings (and any civilians inside or nearby), deeply buried bunkers can be used as â€œan effective sanctuary,â€ declared the USAF Air War College, â€œto manufacture and store weapons of mass destruction.â€ As the Air Force Times pointed out, Osamaâ€™s â€œdifficult to locateâ€ mountain bunkers â€œare often beyond the reach of most conventional weapons unable to survive passing through tens of meters of rock and concrete.â€ [Deeply Buried Facilities Implications for Military Operations USAF Center for Strategy and Technology Air War College May 2000; Air Force Times Apr 14/97]
But it wasnâ€™t for lack of trying. In 1972, Melvin Cook, a professor of metallurgy at the University of Utah and an author of works on explosives and Creationism, had sought to undo Godâ€™s handiwork by developing the ultimate chemical bomb. Professor Cook borrowed aluminized slurries used in mining to fracture, heat and pulverize extremely hard rock. [workingforchange.com Nov 8/01; globalsecurity.org]
Extensively field tested during the Vietnam War, where they raised havoc with the peoples and ecology of Vietnam and Cambodia – and later deployed against terrified Iraqi conscripts and cast-off Soviet armor during the 1991 Gulf war – giant 15,000 pound BLU-82 bombs dubbed â€œDaisy-Cuttersâ€ were next dropped in pallets rolled out the back of C-130 transport planes to seal cave entrances in Tora Bora.
London Daily Mail reporter David Williams witnessed one of those â€œDaisy Cutterâ€ attacks: â€œThe sound split the air. It was like a thunder clap directly overhead at the height of a ferocious storm. I could see the massive oily black cloud of the explosion as it rolled across the hillside, a mixture of thick smoke, chunks of earth and debris.â€ [www.workingforchange.com Nov 8/01; www.commondreams.org]
â€œThe effect of the BLU-82 is astonishing, and rare film shows a detonation, shock wave and subsequent mushroom cloud very similar to a small nuclear weapon,â€ writes Paul Rogers in The Mother Of All Bombs. â€œJournalists who visited areas where the bomb had been dropped reported scenes of extraordinary devastationâ€ from a firestorm that sucked all the oxygen from the air, crushed human organs and incinerated an area the size of five football fields in a single mighty blast. [openDemocracy.net Mar 7/03]
By December 13, 2001 the U.S. Air Force had dropped at least four 17-foot-long â€œDaisy Cutterâ€ bombs on tunnel complexes and Taliban concentrations in Afghanistan. [globalsecurity.org; commondreams.org]
They also began dropping two-and-a-half-ton GBU-28 â€œdense metalâ€ penetrators from B-52s and B-1 Stealth bombers. Exploding deep underground, the bombâ€™s explosive energy â€œcoupledâ€ with bedrock under immense pressure from the weight bearing down on it. The resulting seismic shock wave could crush an underground bunker – or the internal organs of anyone caught in the â€œoverpressureâ€ from a blast wave 20-times stronger than the bomb blast itself. [ucsusa.org May/05]
In order to penetrate rock and concrete, each â€œGreat Big Uraniumâ€ bomb is shaped like a spear tipped with tons of radioactive Uranium-238 nearly twice as dense as lead. Using nuclear waste left over from making atomic bombs and reactor fuel, the amount of radioactive Depleted Uranium (DU) particles spread by each GBU â€œdirty bombâ€ eclipsed any terroristâ€™s fantasy – one-and-a-half metric tons of aerosolized particles capable of causing genetic mutations and death for the next four billion years! [Le Monde March 2002]
The similarities of BLU and GBU detonations to nuclear blasts was not lost on U.S. war planners, who realized that the blast effects and resulting radioactive fallout from conventional bunker-busters could mask the detonation of so-called â€œlow-yieldâ€ B61-11 tactical nuclear bombs.
The Bush administrationâ€™s first U.S. Nuclear Posture Review had already called for fast-track development of new tactical nuclear weapons, a resumption of nuclear tests, and more â€œflexible, adaptable strike plansâ€ – including â€œoptions for variable and reduced yields.â€ Submitted to Congress on December 31, 2001, the neoconâ€™s follow-up CONPLAN 8022 would reverse the decades-old U.S. policy against â€œfirst useâ€ of nuclear weapons by authorizing their rapid deployment to destroy â€˜time-urgent targetsâ€™ anywhere in the world. [ Peopleâ€™s Weekly World Newspaper Mar 16/02]
As the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists jumped the minute hand of their Doomsday Clock forward two minutes to seven minutes to midnight, White House fundamentalists eagerly sought ways to test their new â€œbaby nukesâ€ against real-world targets. Proponents insisted, â€œMany buried targets could be attacked using a weapon with a much lower yield than would be required with a surface burst.â€ [smh.com.au Sept 7/02]
Those buried nuclear targets were specifically located in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As Dr. Mohammed Daud Miraki of the Afghan DU & Recovery Fund observed, â€œThe White House and US-DOD spoke frequently about the development and use of fission, low-yield and non-fission, seismic bunker- and cave-busters,â€ â€œThe US Strategic Military Plan and US Nuclear Posture Review expresses intentions to use new classes of weapons in Afghanistan and other states. This program was known to be accelerating its weapons development and experiments in readiness for a possible Iraqi incursion.â€ [Afghan DU & Recovery Fund]
Soon after commencing aerial bombardment against Afghanistan, Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld told the press â€œhe did not rule out the eventual use of nuclear weapons.â€ [Houston Chronicle Oct 20/01]
Still reeling from the relentlessly televised images of September 11, the American public was told that only nuclear blasts could safely vaporize caches of chemical, nuclear or biological weapons not authorized by Washington, which retained its own banned stockpiles of biological weapons, along with more than five-thousand nuclear warheads. [AP June 11/07]
As I was told by an extremely well-connected Desert Storm veteran, whom I have to call â€œHankâ€ during our 15-year collaboration, pursuing al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters across Afghanistanâ€™s â€œwide flat open spacesâ€ is like target shooting. But the â€œhills that crop out of nowhereâ€ in this desolate region â€œare craggy and rocky with holes in them that we canâ€™t detect. We know they had access to the Russian biologicals. They could have it in the cave. The container could be openâ€¦â€
For this reason, â€œin caves 75 to 89 percent of the time, our guys are wearing an NBC (Nuclear, Chemical, Biological) suit as a precaution,â€ he went on. â€œYou never know what these guys might have in there – Taliban and Al Qaeda. We knew categorically that they had captured a lot of Soviet munitions, so we knew that whatever these guys fielded they captured: last ditch stuff.â€
But blowing up chemical-biological munitions is a really bad idea – as Hank and other coalition forces posted downwind of Iraqâ€™s detonated CBW stockpiles at Khamisiyah learned to their cost following the first Persian Gulf War. As Benjamin Phelan pointed out in Harperâ€™s, â€œA well-designed granite bunker could with-stand four times the shock produced by [a conventional bunker buster]. If the bunker housed weapons of mass destruction, studies have shown that a canister of, say, mustard gas could be insulated from the heat of the blast by a few meters of earth, and thereby escape being vaporizedâ€¦ In the likely event that a canister is ruptured but not destroyed, the chemical agentâ€¦ would be blasted up into the air, carried away in the fallout cloud.â€ [Harperâ€™s Dec 1/04]
Another risk, Hank cautioned, â€œIf you nuke something thatâ€™s already [fissionable], youâ€™ll get a cook off you didnâ€™t expect.â€ Even doing â€œa flash bangâ€ over stockpiled yellow cake, or Depleted Uranium debris â€œcould cause those pieces to reciprocateâ€ by absorbing and then reflecting incoming Alpha, Beta, Delta, Gamma and X-rays from a supposedly low-yield detonation.
Risks are compounded when countries facing Americaâ€™s willingness to use nuclear weapons against them respond by developing their own 4th generation, low-yield nuclear bombs. â€œThe concern is that countries are starting to see these weapons as useable, whereas during the Cold War they were seen as a deterrent,â€ warns Ian Anthony, a nuclear expert at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. [AP June 11/07]
Recognizing that â€œlow-yield nuclear weapons blur the distinction between nuclear and conventional war,â€ a 1994 law banned research and development on nuclear weapons of less than 5-kilotons in the United States.
But Bushâ€™s 2001 Defense Authorization Bill passed by a Republican Congress overturned these earlier restrictions. Just as â€œLittle Boyâ€ and â€œFat Manâ€ were rushed to the Pacific Theater in time to be tested on the starving Japanese citizenry before the emperorâ€™s surrender pleas leaked to the press, the nuclear version of the bunker-busting GBU-28 was rushed to Afghanistan to conduct remote field tests before the Taliban surrendered.
Point Toward Enemy
The nuclear version of the GBU-28 bunker buster is the B61-11. When American forces targeted Tora Bora in 2001, there were 150 B61-11s in the U.S. arsenal. Featuring nuclear warheads that could be dialed from 0.3 to 340 kilotons – equivalent of 300 to 340,000 tons of radioactive TNT – these new Earth Penetrating Weapons were, according to atomic scientists, capable of â€œdestroying the deepest and most hardened of underground bunkers, which the conventional warheads are not capable of doing.â€ [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists May/June 1997; Wired Oct 8/01]
â€œWhen a bunker buster burrows in, the blast is directed downward,â€ Hank explained. â€œItâ€™s a lens and itâ€™s focused straight down instead of outward.â€
Designed to penetrate deep into the earth before detonating, the shaped warhead directs a blast hotter than a thousand suns in a shock-coupled seismic shockwave that shakes several hundred meters of bedrock. â€œEven a short penetration distance accomplishes this goal of â€˜couplingâ€™ the energy of the explosion to the ground,â€ notes the Union of Concerned Scientists. â€Penetration of a few meters increases the underground destructive effects by more than a factor of twenty.â€ [Defense News Mar 2/97; [ucsusa.org May/05]
Stripping away the numbers, Hank summarized the effects of dropping an earth-penetrating nuclear bomb with typical GI directness: â€œDo an overpressure wave in a cave, everything in there is squished.â€
With the resulting hard radiation supposedly sequestered underground, the 1,200-pound B61 was enthusiastically hailed by Bush and his backers as a â€œrelatively safeâ€ atomic bomb that would not kill too many innocent bystanders. [Philadelphia Inquirer Oct 16/00]
Or freak out the world.
Nuclear explosions are also handy for locating buried bunkers. Ground Penetrating Radar can â€œseeâ€ through only about 15 feet of sand. But in a process called â€œecho-rangingâ€, oil prospectors hoping to detect underground deposits at depths greater than 300-feet routinely bounce shockwaves from small explosions to reveal underground objects and cavities. Recorded by sensors fitted with precise Global Positioning Satellite locators, reverberating echoes can be computer-plotted to create precise, three-dimensional maps of deeply buried features, similar to a submarine â€œpingingâ€ a target. [USAF Air War College May 2000]
Except in this case, each â€œpingâ€ is a nuclear detonation.
â€œYou get a 3-D map of the area,â€ Hank confirmed. After a nuclear blast â€œrings the mountains like a bell, you know where the holes are; where the people are.â€
But the air force was worried. In June 2001, its study on using even the smallest nuclear bombs concluded: â€œThe political repercussions of employing nuclear weapon may be greater than the United States would want to contemplate, and the environmental consequences of potentially spreading a warehouse full of potentially deadly biological or chemical agents would be unacceptable.â€ [USAF Air War College May 2000]
The political fallout could be as bad as the â€œlarge area of lethal falloutâ€ scientists warned would follow â€œ the large amount of radioactive dirt thrown out in the explosionâ€ from a weapon as â€œsmallâ€ as 5-kilotons. [Philadelphia Inquirer Oct 16/00]
This dust would be deadly. In Yugoslavia, where 30,000 radioactive uranium projectiles fired by NATO warplanes had released thousands of tons of easily inhaled or ingested microscopic particles, medical doctors were already reporting â€œmultiple unrelated cancersâ€ in families with no previous history of cancer, who lived in highly contaminated areas.
A previously unknown phenomenon, these â€œvery rare and unusual cancers and birth defects have also been reported to be increasing, not only in war torn countries, but also in neighbouring countries from transboundary contamination,â€ the European Parliament found. [ Global Research July 8/04; American Free Press Aug 27/04; European Parliament Verbatim Report of Proceedings Apr 9/02; Bundesforschungsanstalt fÃ¼r Landwirtschaft Nov 8/05]
The tonnages of radioactive Uranium-238 and toxic heavy metals detonated in hundreds of cruise missiles fired into neighborhoods in Afghanistan and Iraq was never tabulated. But after conducting extensive research on DU weapons, former Naval officer Daniel Fahey declared, â€œYouâ€™re talking about something that should be stored as a radioactive waste, and [instead theyâ€™re] spreading it around other countries. [Mother Jones June 23/99]
Just as veterans of Desert Storm came to call their mysterious maladies â€œGulf War Syndrome,â€ soldiers posted to Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s began referring to the â€œBalkans Syndrome.â€ By January 2001, more than a quarter of the more than 1,400 Greek troops stationed in Kosovo were demanding to depart due to the increased risk of cancer.
United States law and U.S. Army Regulations AR 700-48 and TB 9-1300-278 require the army to â€œClean and Treatâ€ all persons affected and all areas contaminated by the radioactive uranium munitions. But Lt. Col. Mike Milord confirmed that the Pentagon had zero plans to clean up radioactive contamination in Kosovo – or anywhere else . [Vanity Fair Nov/04; Daily Telegraph Jan 15/01]
The ability of Depleted Uranium missiles and shells to burn through the densest concrete and armor made these weapons too useful to give up. DU attacks could also be used to mask the cancers and leukemia incurred downwind of a low-yield nuclear detonation.
If the â€œDepleted Uranium explanationâ€ somehow failed in the Tora Bora region, Hank told me, â€œwe could blame radiation on the terrorists.â€
Why not? The United States of America had already dropped a nuclear bomb on Iraq.
Courtesy New America Media, Russell Morse
Editorâ€™s Note: The unrest among French youth raises obvious parallels about xenophobia with the anti-immigrant fervor being whipped up in the United States. But there is one big difference, says Russell Morse who covered the French riots as a reporter. Americans, even hardened Minutemen, still hold onto a romantic notion of the United States as a country built by immigrants.
I realized I needed to go back to France while having lunch with my mother on her birthday.
I brought up the situation in France, which sparked a conversation about immigration here in the United States. I mentioned some of my observations from my coverage of the uprising there in 2005 and she made the obvious (if clumsy) parallel to the oddball xenophobic immigration debate raging this election cycle. I expressed to her that Iâ€™m not terribly concerned about the crisis here (if it can be called that) because of Americaâ€™s tendency to eventually embrace the â€œscourgeâ€ of each immigration wave.
She told me the story of her Mexican grandfatherâ€™s Odyssean trek through the desert and eventually to a factory in Racine, Wis., where he worked three jobs and stole sleep when he could.
Through a fruit stand and some scrap metal hustling, he sent five kids to college. (At this point, I was trying to decide between a NiÃ§oise or Waldorf salad. Sickly ironic, maybe. Comforting, yes.)
The Arab kids I met in the suburban ghettos of France two years ago have no such finish line to dream of. In 2005 they told me stories of their grandparents immigrating to France, but thatâ€™s where the hope ended.
The French government brought people from North Africa and the Middle East to rebuild the country after World War II. When the work was done, however, there was no romantic American mythology of the immigrant for them to pin their dreams on.
The kids I met were unemployed, but not for a lack of effort. They know that they have no chance of getting an interview because the name on their application is not French. All of them consider themselves French. They have no connection to their grandparentâ€™s home country because theyâ€™ve never been there and they donâ€™t speak the language. The only job they can get is working security, policing their brothers and sisters in the ghettos.
All of this is not to negate the crisis in the United States. In the Canal neighborhood of San Rafael, where the Latino gardeners and janitors of Marin County live, ICE came and stole people in the night. Children became parentless, women lost their husbands, churches lost their congregations. It is a sick and tragic phenomenon taking place all over the country. But I would venture to say that it is very different from being pushed into a corner and forgotten, unwanted for generations.
My mother reminded me that as bad as it may get here, as it did for the Italians, Irish and Jews before them, America puts the idea of our immigrants on a pedestal. Itâ€™s sweet, noble and romantic in our eyes to float here on a raft or crawl through the desert to escape persecution and poverty in the search of something greater. This is true even for the fiercely anti-immigrant Minutemen Iâ€™ve interviewed. They love a hardworking legal immigrant.
The main group of Americans this romance does not apply to is the only group here who I would say are comparable to the Africans and Arabs of France: black Americans.
The timelines are scrunched and the details fudged, but both countries ended up with a population of people they felt embarrassed about and wished would disappear.
I make this fast and loose comparison because I heard it first from the French youth themselves. As an American journalist trying to find a cultural connection with these kids, the one thing I shared with every young person I talked to there was an appreciation for and admiration of rap music and more specifically, Tupac Shakur.
Tupac is an icon of struggle for them, a â€œrose that grew from concrete,â€ as they call him. Most of the young people I met were rappers themselves and told the story of their struggle and persecution to me through their rhymes. One of them was named Dopey and he rapped to me:
Born on this soil Iâ€™ve got French citizenship
But on French land they consider me an immigrant
And in my ancestorâ€™s land, Iâ€™m just a tourist
I was telling a friend of mine about the situation in France with the uprisings, and he just smiled in admiration. His father is black and his mom is first-generation Filipino and he understood their struggle. He held his pit bull puppy on its leash, lit his weed up and laughed. â€œTheyâ€™re shooting at the police in the street? Shit, theyâ€™re ahead of us. Thatâ€™s what we need to do out here.â€
I hate to contradict my militant-minded friend, but we donâ€™t have to shoot the police here. Oddly enough, democracy still works in America and public assembly can send a powerful message.
Last spring, I was in Los Angeles to cover the Mayday immigrant rights marches and gawk at the spectacle of a million people draped in American flags. They announced their presence, asked for inclusion and respect and went home. Not a single immigrant went to work in L.A. that day and the economy grinded to a halt. The message was clear.
So I bought four hot dogs wrapped in bacon from a street vendor, thought about my great grandfather and realized that thereâ€™s a bit of a fight left, but weâ€™ll be okay.
I donâ€™t think any Arab kid in France right now can say that.
Citigroup is in the process of assessing the impact of the credit crunch
US bank Citigroup has agreed to sell shares worth $7.5bn (Â£3.6bn) to an Abu Dhabi-owned investment company.
The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority will become the largest shareholder in Citigroup with a stake of up to 4.9%.
Citigroup has been hit hard by US mortgage-market problems and needs a fresh injection of capital to expand its business, the bank explained.
The problems led to the resignation of Citigroupâ€™s chief executive this month, and a slump in the bankâ€™s share price.
Citigroupâ€™s cash reserve has suffered after it had to write down the value of its loans made in the US sub-prime market by $7bn, and the potential for between $8bn and $11bn of further losses.
This investment reflects our confidence in Citiâ€™s potential to build shareholder value
ADIAâ€™s managing director Sheikh Ahmed Bin Zayed Al Nahayan
â€œThis investment, from one of the worldâ€™s leading and most sophisticated equity investors, provides further capital to allow Citigroup to pursue attractive opportunities to grow its business,â€ said Win Bischoff, Citigroupâ€™s acting chief executive officer.
The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) has agreed not to own more than a 4.9% stake, and will have no special rights of ownership and no role in the management or governance of the bank, Citigroup said.
Citigroup is one of the financial companies that have been worst affected by a crisis in global credit markets, which stemmed from a meltdown in the US sub-prime mortgage market.
The sub-prime sector lends money to people on low incomes or with poor credit ratings, and has suffered record defaults as a result of successive interest rate rises.
Banks had been heavily issuing these loans over the past few years when interest rates in many of the worldâ€™s main economies were at historic lows.
But the current higher borrowing costs and increased loan defaults have brought this lending to a sudden halt, and banks have been left with billions of dollars of debt that has lost most of its value.
Citigroupâ€™s boss Charles Prince was forced to quit his post shortly after the bank revealed a 57% drop in profits during its third quarter because of massive write-downs.
The companyâ€™s share price dropped below $30 in New York on Monday, almost half the value of their 12-month peak of $57 set on 28 December last year.
ADIA will buy securities in Citigroup, which will offer an annual yield of 11%.
The bonds will eventually be converted into shares between March 2010 to September 2011, at a price of between $31.83 and $37.24 each.
This suggests Abu Dhabi is enthusiastic about the bankâ€™s long-term future prospects, expecting the share price to climb back to its previous heights, analysts said.
ADIAâ€™s managing director Sheikh Ahmed Bin Zayed Al Nahayan said: â€œThis investment reflects our confidence in Citigroupâ€™s potential to build shareholder value.â€
Abu Dhabiâ€™s move is the latest example of the financial muscle of the oil-rich Gulf states, which have benefited enormously from booming energy prices and are now looking for new homes for their wealth.
Earlier this week, Dubaiâ€™s investment arm took a â€œsubstantial stakeâ€ in Japanese electrical giant Sony, which is nearing the end of a three-year restructuring process.
Courtesy David Knowles
Dec 24th–This weekend, the mood inside a Pleasantville, Iowa coffee shop was decidedly warmer than the frigid temperatures just outside. Barack Obama (a press entourage in tow) had stopped by to rub elbows with potential voters. Given his strengthening poll numbers of recent weeks, the candidate had reason to feel good about his prospects for winning the first two electoral contests, Iowa and New Hampshire, and he worked the room with what has been described as a newly-found authority. As CNN describes it, Obama joined four women in their booth and was promptly asked how his â€œMuslim backgroundâ€ would influence decisions should he become president.
No, Obama didnâ€™t choke on a bite of pumpkin pie, or spit his hot tea out all over the Christmas sweaters of the good ladies of Pleasantville. Instead, he seemed happy to have an opportunity to set the record straight.
â€œThis is something that keeps on being misreported, so Iâ€™m glad you asked me,â€ Obama, who is Christian, said.
He told them his father had lived in a Muslim-dominated village in Kenya, but â€œdidnâ€™t practice Islam.â€
â€œThe truth is, he wasnâ€™t very religious,â€ said Obama. â€œHe met my mother. My Mother was a Christian from Kansas, and they married, and then divorced. I was raised by my mother. So Iâ€™ve always been a Christian.â€
In tsunami-affected countries, governments and individuals stay focused on the future
An unprecedented $13.6 billion in aid has boosted rebuilding, but political and economic challenges remain three years later.
Courtesy Simon Montlake, The Christian Science Monitor
Bangkok, Thailand–Three years ago, a towering wave swept aside the flimsy home of A. Muttama in Nagapattinam, India, and stole away her three children. Together with her husband, Selvaraj, a fisherman, she turned her back on the sea. After two years in shelter, they moved to Madras, where he found work as a rickshaw driver.
The memory of that day still brings tears to Ms. Muttamaâ€™s eyes, but the horror of the past is yielding to thoughts of a better tomorrow. â€œThe wounds were deep, but life doesnâ€™t stop for anyone,â€ she says.
Across the Indian Ocean, where a Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami scoured coastal communities and displaced 2 million people in 12 countries, an unprecedented aid effort has repaired much of the physical damage. The world dug deep into its pockets and pledged $13.6 billion for the survivors of a disaster that claimed 230,000 lives. That money has fed, housed, and employed the afflicted, while governments and humanitarian agencies focused on rebuilding schools, houses, and hospitals and restoring shattered ports and waterlogged farms.
Some countries have moved forward: Resorts in Thailand are packed this season with foreign tourists seeking winter sunshine. Several low-key ceremonies to remember the dead will be held there today. In the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, where Muttama lives, more than 1,800 self-help groups have sprung up to grant small loans to survivors and give them better access to jobs, education, and healthcare, in some cases for the first time among underprivileged groups.
Other nations have grappled with tensions that predated the tsunami and became woven into the recovery effort. Insurgents in Aceh, the Indonesian province at the tip of Sumatra Island, signed a landmark peace deal and were elected to office. Sri Lanka saw its olive branch wither as fighting with ethnic-Tamil rebels escalated, hampering reconstruction projects.
For survivors, itâ€™s been a long road. But massive aid has mostly reached its target, defying skeptics who foresaw roadblocks to delivering services to marginalized communities in graft-ridden developing nations.
The next major challenge, say aid workers and government officials, is to avoid a hard landing as the reconstruction winds down. The fear is that economies fueled by aid dollars will deflate after international agencies pack up. Indonesian officials have warned of mass layoffs in Aceh in 2009 when BRR, the donor-funded national reconstruction agency, is due to close. A government survey found that at least 40,000 may be left jobless by the drawdown in foreign aid.
â€œA lot has been rebuilt, but what will happen when all the money has gone?â€ asks Yusuf Irwan, a self-employed mechanic in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital and aid hub.
Another challenge is preparing coastal communities for possible future natural disasters. A UN-led multidonor effort has begun to install tsunami warning systems in the Indian Ocean, similar to those used in the Pacific Ocean. These include undersea sensors and buoys linked to national centers that can issue warnings and share data with other countries.
Had a warning system existed in 2004, authorities would have had time to evacuate coastal areas. Today, countries are better prepared to cope with a tsunami, says Orestes Anastasia, a project manager for USAID, which supports the UN initiative.
That was borne out by a deadly Sept. 24 earthquake in West Sumatra that damaged thousands of homes and triggered a small tsunami. Indonesian authorities issued a tsunami warning within five minutes of the 8.4-magnitude quake, allowing coastal villages to respond ahead of the waves.
To avoid a post-aid bump, planners in Aceh are looking to investors to help revive a private economy that was based on agriculture, fishing, and revenues from a depleted gas field operated by ExxonMobil. But investors are waiting for signs that a landmark 2005 peace deal with the armed Free Aceh Movement, or GAM, that has devolved power to the province, wonâ€™t sour.
The deal ended three decades of fighting and led to the demobilization of thousands of combatants and the election of a GAM member as provincial governor. Many Acehnese fear a return to conflict as GAM fighters turn to petty extortion and factions battle over the spoils of peace, warns the International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank.
That view is shared by Iqbal, a farmer and drugstore owner who spent two years living in a refugee camp. â€œNothingâ€™s changed,â€ he complains. â€œRebels still ask for money.â€
Yet such gloom overlooks the sense of renewal in Aceh, says Damien Kingsbury, an associate professor at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, and an adviser to GAM on peace negotiations. Acehnese are finally exercising political freedoms in a post-tsunami atmosphere of opportunity, despite hardships. â€œThe people of Aceh appear to feel as though they have recaptured some of their pride. They have survived a devastating tsunami and a horrible and destructive war and have come out on top,â€ he says.
A sense of renewal is also palpable in Tamil Nadu, though the pace of rebuilding is slow and dogged by controversy over where survivors should live. Of the 53,323 houses due to be built during the first phase, only 29,446 have been completed, and thousands of families are stuck in temporary relief camps.
Much of the new stock is going up away from the coast where survivors made their living. State authorities have designated a half-mile exclusion zone from the sea on grounds of safety. Some aid agencies call this a ploy to grab beachfront land for resorts and hotels.
â€œRemoving people from their original habitation will negatively impact livelihoods of people,â€ says Babu Matthew, director of Action Aid India. â€œThe safety of people can be assured through better early-warning systems and other disaster risk-reduction measures.â€
Other countries have backed off similar proposals. In Thailand, that spurred hoteliers to rebuild resorts. The province of Phang-Nga, where foreign vacationers were among more than 8,000 dead, expects tourist income to return to pre-2004 levels within three years.
In Aceh, 100,000-plus homes have been built, along with 1,240 miles of road, 800 schools, and 600 hospitals and clinics, according to the agency BRR. But some 3,000 families still live in shelters around Banda Aceh, and some international agencies have drawn flack for building substandard houses. In areas, homes stand empty as recipients have gone elsewhere, a symbol of wasted resources.
In Sri Lanka, a government reconstruction agency has wound down operations, falling short of a target of more than 100,000 new homes. Rising military spending on the civil war is inflating prices for cement and other materials. A local newspaper reported Sunday that only $1.7 billion of $3.1 billion pledged by foreign donors had been dispersed.
Tom McCawley in Jakarta, Indonesia, and Anuj Chopra in Madras, India, contributed.
By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS
NEW DELHI/AHMEDABAD â€“ It is celebration time for Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party who have defeated speculations and predictions to return to power in Gujarat. While BJP is at the helm for the fourth time, without a break, Modi has taken over as the chief minister for the third consecutive term. The results announced last Sunday (December 23) indicate that this electoral battle was not a neck-to-neck fight between the BJP and its main rival Congress. In the 182-member assembly, BJP has won 117 seats, Congress 59, Nationalist Congress Party 3, Janata Dal-United (JD-U) one and independents two. The 2002-mandate helped BJP win 127 seats, Congress 51, JD-U two and independents two.
Expressing satisfaction with BJPâ€™s electoral victory, Modi (57) said: â€œThe BJP fought the elections only on the development plank and had only explained the partyâ€™s position when faced with attacks from the opposition.â€ Thanking the people for this mandate, he said: â€œThe credit for this victory goes to 55 million people of Gujarat. The hard work of our workers and the guidance from our central leadership has led to this victory.â€ Describing it as positive vote, he said: â€œPeople of Gujarat have discarded negativity. Anti-Gujarat forces have been defeated in this election.â€ The Congress leaders had failed to turn the tide in their favor as in Modiâ€™s opinion: â€œSonia Gandhi (Congress chief) and (Prime Minister) Manmohan Singh had campaigned for her party and tried to win, but they could not manage as the people of Gujarat did not accept them.â€
â€œIt is a very satisfactory result. After 17 years of anti-incumbency, if a party gets back to power then it is very good,â€ Modi said. As soon as the counting indicated that he was heading for a comfortable win, Modi sent out an SMS message saying: â€œI was the CM, I will remain the CM. For me CM means Common Man.â€ Modi defeated Congress leader Dinsha Patel by 87,000 votes in Maninagar constituency.
Prime Minister Singh called up Modi to congratulate him soon after BJP emerged victorious.
Describing the Gujarat-mandate as â€œa historic day for Indian democracy,â€ senior party leader L.K. Advani â€œThe BJPâ€™s spectacular victory in Gujarat is indeed a turning point because it signals BJPâ€™s comeback as the frontrunner in the next parliamentary elections.â€ Had Congress won elections, than it may have headed for parliamentary polls on Gujarat-plank. Now, according to Advani: â€œThis victory has certainly put off the possibility of mid-term polls.â€
Crediting partyâ€™s win to Modiâ€™s â€œimmense credibility,â€ BJP in-charge of Gujarat Arun Jaitley said: â€œModi provided the necessary edge to BJPâ€™s campaign.â€ On BJPâ€™s plans for taking Modi at the national level, Jaitley said: â€œAs for a role for him in the national party is concerned, certainly he is one of our foremost leaders in the country… But as of today, I am reasonably certain he is committed to the people of Gujarat. He has secured for the second time a very respectable mandate and therefore he is committed to serve the people of Gujarat.â€
Stunned by faring poorer than they had expected, Congress leaders have been left deliberating on what went wrong with their strategy. â€œWe have to really study the causes of why this has happened. The Congress was all for development. Our publicity campaign ran well and our electoral management was not bad,â€ Congressâ€™ main election manager Bharatsinh Solanki said.
Expressing disappointment with his partyâ€™s defeat, Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal said: â€œWe are deeply disappointed with the Gujarat results.â€ â€œWe will have to analyze (what went wrong). (Our) confidence was misplaced. While we have made no substantial gains, Modi has held on to its lead, almost held on to its lead, which is a remarkable achievement,â€ he said.
The five Muslim candidates fielded by Congress who have won are: Javed Pirzada (Wankaner), Gyasuddin Sheikh (Wankaner), Faruque Sheikh (Kalupur), Sabir Kablivala (Jamalpur) and Iqbalbhai Patel (Vagra). In the 2002 Assembly elections, Muslim candidates had registered victory from Kalupur, Jamalpur and Vagra constituencies.
There is a view that impact made by Sonia Gandhiâ€™s â€œmaut ka saudagarâ€ (merchants of death) remark while campaigning in Gujarat is responsible for the Congress losing 30 seats in Saurashtra and Central Gujarat belt. The Congress was hoping on playing its trump card here. â€œThese are the primary constituencies which the Congress lost because of the maut ka saudagar effect. There could have been some more seats as well,â€ a Congress leader said.
Besides, failure of Congress to put up a strong, Gujarati leader as a challenge to Modi has further prompted the average Gujarati to display their support for him. In addition to anti-incumbency having failed, Modiâ€™s aggressive posture targeting only Gujarat and the stateâ€™s economic development have helped him return to power. Though the 2002-carnage, in which more than 1,000 Muslims were killed, still prevails as a stigma where Modiâ€™s credentials at the national and international level are concerned, it failed to have a negative impact in Gujarat for two reasons. First, the Muslims constitute less than ten percent of Gujaratâ€™s population. Secondly, the state-politics remains a fight between two parties, the Congress and the BJP. From this angle, without any regional party standing a challenge to Gujarati appeal of Modi, he has emerged the winner.
There has been a mixed reaction to Modiâ€™s victory from other parties, owing to the role he played in 2002 Gujarat-carnage. While Left parties have expressed concern at the results indicating prevalence of communal divide in Gujarat, the anti-Congress parties are counting on this to enhance return of BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in parliamentary elections scheduled for 2009. â€œThe results show that where the impact of communal politics is deep electoral efforts alone are insufficient to defeat communal forces,â€ according to Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M). â€œGujarat election results show that secular forces would have to unitedly intensify the struggle against communal fascism, the danger of which continues,â€ Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D. Raja said.
Extending congratulations to BJP, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Sukhbir Singh said: â€œThis is peopleâ€™s rebuff to Congressâ€™ attempts to communalize polity.â€
Among the many who called up Modi to congratulate him was All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) chief Jayalalitha. In her message, she said: â€œYour spectacular victory has brought hope and cheer to the vast majority of people in this nation who now believe that all is not lost and that India can still be saved from the clutches of unscrupulous power mongers.â€
Even anti-Modi noise made by several BJP rebels failed to create a dent in partyâ€™s return to power. Only one of the seven BJP rebels, Bauku Unghad from Babra who crossed over to Congress has won. â€œThe claim of the rebels that they will be able to take away large chunk of Patel and Koli votes from the BJP has not proved to be true. They have no public support in Saurashtra,â€ a BJP leader said. The two Congress leaders who had crossed over to the BJP –Neema Acharya and Pabubha Manek– have won the elections from Anjar and Dwarka respectively. Though shocked, rebel BJP leader Keshubhai Patel is now apparently revising his earlier plans to remain against Modi. Congratulating Modi, Patel said in a statement: â€œI congratulate Narendra Modi for BJPâ€™s victory. For the interests of the people, both the ruling and opposition parties should work together to take Gujarat forward on the road of development.â€
By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS
One of the last places you would expect hip-hop and rap music to thrive is in the Middle East. Especially since most countries in the Middle East are Muslim nations and music is generally frowned on.
However, just about anywhere you go in the GCC you can hear Arabic music, like Nancy Ajram, warbling loudly from places like taxicabs and public buses. And Western music, like Kanye West and The Black-Eyed Peas, can be heard even more prominently emanating obnoxiously from cars, shopping malls, restaurants and private homes. There is just no way to escape the music!
Even though most Muslims may adhere to the Quran and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (s) and not allow music in their homes or cars, there is little chance to escape the all-intrusive nature of music lovers and their â€˜vibeâ€™ when you are out on the town in the Middle East. From Kuwait to Dubai to Saudi Arabia, music has a way of always being there whether you are shopping for a new outfit or attempting to enjoy a meal with your family. Music is an annoyance that just will not go away!
â€œI find that music is more prevalent in private stores situated in malls rather than the malls themselves,â€ states Balqees Mohamed who is a Muslimah housewife in Saudi Arabia. Bushra Saaed, who is a Muslimah housewife in Kuwait says, â€œYou cannot even enjoy a meal without having rock music infiltrate your senses. I cannot even hear the dinner conversation and the restaurant staff simply refuse to turn it down.â€ Fiza Atif, who is also a Muslimah housewife in Kuwait, says, â€œKuwait is supposed to be a Muslim country.Â To be a Muslim, is to follow Islam.Â I canâ€™t find anywhere in Qurâ€™an or in Hadith anything that speaks about listening to music. I moved here to get AWAY from that!â€
These daysâ€™ music shops and mega stores have infiltrated the Muslim landscape as peskily as unwelcome insects and pests enter the home. Whereas there use to be more mosques on the corners than anything else, music stores are slowly pushing their way into the Muslim world much to the delight of so-called music aficionados. In Kuwait, for example, the British Tycoon Richard Branson opened up a Virgin Mega store a couple years ago in a brand new mall. The place is always packed with the latest and greatest musical â€˜hitsâ€™ from all over the World. Kids can be seen obliviously walking around the mall and the street all hooked up to their Mp3 players. Youths on the road often pack their trunks with subwoofers to make their cars jump to the beat. These teens get so caught up in the rapturous tunes that they often stop their cars in the middle of the road so that they can, literally, â€˜dance in the streetsâ€™ which is most unwelcome in a country where traffic jams are already a problem.
But I think what is most reprehensible is that many a Muslim strives and struggles to make Hijrah for the sake of Allah and all that is good in this World.
They toil and overcome innumerable hardships to settle down in a Muslim land only to find that the same evils they just abandoned in their previous non-Muslim homeland exists in their new Muslim home sometimes to a greater degree.
There may be no way to escape the music, or other vices, but as Muslims we should always try to support businesses and proprietors with Islamic values.
So, unless you want to invest in some high-quality earplugs, you should spend your money in stores that perhaps play the Holy Quran instead of the latest from Beyonce.
By Imam Abdullah El-Amin
â€œBeing in the right place at the right timeâ€ is one of the oldest clichÃ©s known to man, and one that we all wish to find ourselves in as we go about our daily excursions. It is also possibly one of the least understood. Being in the right place at the right time is not waking up to your lucky day. It is a God-engineered intervention in your life. It is a Divine Connection.
How do we know if the Divine Connection we run into is best for us? All sorts of situations and people come into our lives on a daily basis. Are we supposed to take each encounter as something we are automatically supposed to respond to and act upon? I think not. ALLAH might be showing us something we are supposed to avoid.
I watched a documentary movie called â€œDaddy Hungry.â€ It was about children who have come up without knowing their father or not having the presence of a father in the home. The devastating effects of these fatherless homes produced results that were not productive to the society. Boys whose fatherâ€™s were imprisoned oftentimes followed their fathers into the prison. So sometimes you might have three generations of males in prison at the same time.
The movie also showed success stories of people coming from the same type of environment. Boys had grown up to be lawyers and lived in middle and upper-middle class communities. In most of these cases the boys and girls expressed their love for the absent parent, but also focused on what not to do. One fellow said, â€œMy dad is messed up. Iâ€™m going to make sure my kid does not go through what he put me through.â€
In all of us there is a â€œquiet little voiceâ€ in our gut that can guide us to make the right decisions in life. A Divine Connection can come to us, whether we perceive it to be positive or negative, and if we pray and reflect on ALLAH and why He sent us this message, we will be guided right. If we observe and think, we can actually see what we are supposed to avoid. Have you ever noticed how bad-spirited people have the same type of person as their peers? Take a look around and see who hangs out together. If you see someone constantly complaining and finding fault with everything â€“ look at their peers. They act and think alike. These are the people to avoid.
On the other hand, look at the people that are making positive change in our society. Look at the ones who are using their God-given talents to better society and then look who their companions are. They are just like them. Steel sharpens steel and man sharpens man. So it all depends on what type of men you are around as to what type of sharp person you get.
Each of us can do the same. In all of our daily connections, use your life experiences as reflective tools then listen to your gut feelings and, most probably, you will make the right decision.
ALLAH gives us instruction in Qur`an to warn us about unscrupulous people where He says, â€œIf an unsavory person brings you some news, first ascertain the truth of the message lest you unknowingly hurt someone who is innocent.â€
So listen to that â€œquiet little voiceâ€ telling us to listen to that Giant Voice of Instruction, Almighty ALLAH through His directives in Qurâ€™an.
Itâ€™s simple, Just Do It.
With ALLAHâ€™S name, the Merciful Benefactor, Merciful Redeemer
As Salaam alaikum
(Al Hajj) Imam Abdullah Bey El-Amin
By Elder George
In my first article I indicated that I would eventually discuss the principle of gender and the patriarchal nature of the universe, and judging from the response to my articles it appears the need for this discussion has already come.
The term gender comes from the Latin root meaning to produce, and for any production or movement to take place anywhere in the universe an assertive influence must act upon a receptive entity. The assertive influence is called the masculine principle and the receptive entity is called the feminine principle. The union of the two principles creates a pregnancy, and everything seen in the universe resulted from a pregnancy.
Everything seen in the universe is also the feminine principle, and the unseen force behind it is the masculine principle. The Qur`an states up front that, â€œThis book if for those who know with a certainty the existence of the unseen.â€ It is the unseen that controls the seen. Everything that is seen emanated from that which is unseen.
The feminine principle materializes and personalizes the impersonal concepts of the masculine principle. I am repeating the last statement–ï€the feminine principle materializes and personalizes the impersonal concepts of the masculine principle–ï€because it is fundamental to the relationship between the two genders.
The masculine principle initiates, the feminine principle responds to what was initiated. The masculine principle can be identified as the one creating a pregnancy and the feminine principle can be identified as the one becoming pregnant. There is but one assertive influence in the entire universe and that is the masculine principle. One of the allegorical meanings of the story of Adam and Eve in which Eve comes from Adamâ€™s rib illustrates that there is no place else for Eve to come from.
An example of gender in action in the natural universe occurs when the masculine assertive North Pole sends a charge to the feminine receptive South Pole, which gets pregnant and produces magnetism. An example of gender in action in man-made products occurs when the masculine assertive anode in a storage battery sends a charge to the feminine receptive cathode, which gets pregnant and produces electrons. Bees pollinating flowers also exemplify the receptive feminine principle becoming impregnated by the masculine principle.
The masculine principle initiates everything that happens in the universe. Man initiates everything that happens in the world of humans. Everything. The feminine principle produces everything. To remove the masculine influence from society as the Western culture is attempting to do is the equivalent of removing the Sun from the solar system; the earth will not be able to nurture and the solar system will fall apart. Our society is falling apart and fewer and fewer children receiving nurturing due to its ignorance of the universal principle of gender and especially due to its focus on what is seen and ignorance of what is unseen.
Once the masculine and feminine principles became manifest they took on certain characteristics that enabled them to accomplish their joint task of propagating and preserving the species. The importance of understanding these characteristics cannot be overstated for the interdependence of the universe and the manner in which we relate with one another, depends upon this understanding. Next week I will describe the masculine and feminine attributes and will illustrate that working in harmony they produce all that is good. The structure that makes this harmony possible is called patriarchy.
Elder Georgeâ€™s website is www.mensaction.net and he can be reached at 212-874-7900 ext. 1329.
By Masood Rab, MMNS
Dr. Abdul Raheman Nakadar, publisher and founder of The Muslim Observer and Muslim Media Network, early this year issued an invitation to community activists in the Detroit Metropolitan Area for a meeting to discuss the Muslim Communityâ€™s activities for the approaching national elections.
He told the meeting attendees about the lack of scientific data regarding the issues that the Muslim Community considers critical for the forthcoming presidential elections. There is no Muslim organization in the US that has taken up the issue of providing political education to American Muslims on the issues near and dear to their hearts and the position of presidential candidates on these issues to enable American Muslim voters to rationally decide on the best use of their votes.
In the past elections, some organizations came up with their recommendations to vote for given candidates just before elections, without considering the relevancy of the primary elections in the process of recommending the candidates or relevant community issues. Some non-Muslim organizations also speak on behalf of the American Muslims and thus confuse a community struggling to start understanding the American political process.
The Muslim Observer (TMO) as a weekly reports on Muslim issues–local, national and global. With this background, TMO is eager to take on the big challenge of political education of American Muslims to understand and impact the political process for improving the status of Muslim community in America. TMO will provide the needed financing by requesting the community members to subscribe to the weekly TMO. An initial budget of $50 K is targeted to fund the studies, analyses and other related activities; however, a large effort for the AMPEC work will be volunteer based.
After due deliberations among a wide cross-section of ages and ethnicities of local American Muslim activists, it was decided to start the American Muslim Political Education Committee – AMPEC. A community survey was prepared by inputs of many community members for engaging the local Muslim Community to identify the major pressing issues the community is facing. A survey form is available on the Muslim Media Network website for TMO readers to provide their input.
AMPECâ€™s major objectives are:
1. Prepare a list of community issues through surveys.
2. Conduct research to educate the community on candidatesâ€™ positions on those issues.
3. Educate community on the political system and best ways to get involved.
4. Inform political candidates about the major community issues.
5. Prepare a voters guide for Election 2008.
TMO will be printing a weekly column that will be dedicated to the forthcoming elections, American Muslim Community issues, and positions of the candidates on these issues.
In this Issue:
Primary Elections and What is at Stake
The primary elections and caucuses are starting in a week–in them US voters will choose their preferred presidential nominees for the general election in 2008.
The state of Iowa traditionally kicks off the primary season with its presidential nominating caucuses, followed a week later by New Hampshireâ€™s primary elections. The primary contests continue over several months, with the winner for each party often apparent before many states have even voted. Each partyâ€™s nominee is then formally chosen at the partyâ€™s national convention at the end of the summer. That sets the general election campaign by each partyâ€™s candidate for a face off in November 2008.
Why are states shifting the primary calendar?
The scramble over the calendar is the result of a number of states seeking to move their dates forward in 2008 in order to increase their influence over the nominating process.
That in turn has put the traditionally early primary states under pressure to advance their contests to early January if they want to protect their status.
For example, the tiny state of New Hampshire with a population of 1.3 million is fiercely proud of its status as â€œfirst in the nationâ€ – and its state law requires that its primary be held at least a week before any other stateâ€™s.
Iowa, with a population of 3 million, similarly has a state law that it must be the first to hold any kind of voting procedure, is also very protective of its status.
The parties in the two states argue that voters there, because of their traditional early position, are much more politically educated than those in other states.
In practical terms, the early states have historically placed themselves in position of disproportionate clout in the nominating process and voters there receive far more face-time and often much more personal contact with candidates than the statesâ€™ size alone would warrant. That translates into greater focus on issues important to their voters–not to mention the economic windfall brought by extra TV advertising and frequent visits by candidates and the media.
What are the consequences of the scramble?
The process that is in place now places other states like Michigan with a population (according to the 2000 US census) of 10 million and with an industrial base of national importance almost no clout in the selection of presidential nominees.
Not to remain in this position, Michigan and Florida defied the express wishes of Howard Dean and the DNC and moved their primaries before the February 5 â€œSuper Tuesdayâ€ date, to jump the schedule and hold the primary in January.
This move has created an uproar in the political machinery and has sparked the threat of sanctions from the national party leadership.
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) had set rules that allowed only Nevada and South Carolina to join New Hampshire and Iowa in the â€œwindowâ€ before February 5.
In a bid to restore discipline, the DNC has threatened to punish Michigan and Florida Democrats by stripping them of their delegates at the national convention. This would deny them a say on who should be the nominee, since delegates must be seated at the convention to vote.
The state party has responded by promising to bar all Michigan delegates to the national convention, and to file a lawsuit saying the move would cause the â€œwholesale disenfranchisementâ€ of the Democrats registered to vote in the state.
Meanwhile, in obedience to the DNCâ€™s forceful reaction, five major Democratic candidates pulled out of the Michigan primary race completely, and all 8 were forced by the DNC not to campaign in Michigan – leaving only Hillary Clinton as a major contender in the Michigan Democratic primary, and reducing Democratic Michiganâ€™s national clout to zero.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) has also threatened not to seat delegates from Michigan and other states which have broken party rules by scheduling their primary elections ahead of February 5. However, all nine Republican candidates are on the primary ballot in Michigan.
Caucus or primary – whatâ€™s the difference?
In Iowaâ€™s caucuses, voters meet in private homes, schools and other public buildings in more than 2,000 districts, or precincts, across the state to discuss the candidates and the issues.
They then elect delegates to the county conventions. County convention delegates elect delegates in turn to state conventions, where delegates to the national conventions are chosen.
At Iowaâ€™s Democratic caucuses, the voters publicly divide into groups, gathering in different corners of a room to show their support for the different candidates, and delegates are allocated accordingly.
Voters at the Iowaâ€™s Republican caucuses take part in a secret ballot, the results of which inform the allocation of delegates.
Other statesâ€™ caucus procedures may vary according to state law.
Primary elections in Michigan, allow all registered voters to vote for their preferred candidate either Democratic or Republican – irrespective of the party affiliation.
Next Week – Why We Should Vote in the Primary on January 15, and Our Strategy.
Tortureâ€™s defenders insist that the rough stuff gets results, but evidence suggests itâ€™s hard to get anything under torture, true or false.
Courtesy Darius Rejali, Washington Post
Sunday, December 23, 2007
So the CIA did indeed torture Abu Zubaydah, the first al Qaeda terrorist suspect to be waterboarded. So says John Kiriakou, the first former CIA employee directly involved in the questioning of â€œhigh-valueâ€ al Qaeda detainees to speak publicly. He minced no words recently in calling the CIAâ€™s â€œenhanced interrogation techniquesâ€ what they are.
But did they work? Tortureâ€™s defenders, including the wannabe tough guys who write Foxâ€™s â€œ24,â€ insist that the rough stuff gets results. â€œIt was like flipping a switch,â€ said Kiriakou about Zubaydahâ€™s response to being waterboarded. But the al Qaeda operativeâ€™s confessions â€” descriptions of fantastic plots from a man whom journalist Ron Suskind has reported was mentally ill â€” probably didnâ€™t give the CIA any actionable intelligence. Of course, we might never know the whole truth, because the CIA destroyed the videotapes of Zubaydahâ€™s interrogation. But here are some other myths that are bound to come up as the debate over torture rages on.
1. Torture worked for the Gestapo.
Actually, no. Even Hitlerâ€™s notorious secret police got most of its information from public tips, informers and interagency cooperation. That was still more than enough to let the Gestapo decimate anti-Nazi resistance in Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Denmark, Norway, France, Russia and the concentration camps.
Yes, the Gestapo did torture people for intelligence, especially in its later years. But this reflected not tortureâ€™s efficacy but the loss of many seasoned professionals to World War II, increasingly desperate competition for intelligence among Gestapo units and an influx of less disciplined younger members. (Why do serious, tedious police work when you have a uniform and a whip?) Itâ€™s surprising how unsuccessful the Gestapoâ€™s brutal efforts were. They failed to break senior leaders of the French, Danish, Polish and German resistance. Iâ€™ve spent more than a decade collecting all the cases of Gestapo torture â€œsuccessesâ€ in multiple languages; the number is small and the results pathetic, especially compared with the devastating effects of public cooperation and informers.
2. Everyone talks sooner or later under torture.
Actually, itâ€™s surprisingly hard to get anything under torture, true or false. For example, between 1500 and 1750, French prosecutors tried to torture confessions out of 785 individuals. Torture was legal back then, and the records document such practices as the bone-crushing use of splints, pumping stomachs with water until they swelled and pouring boiling oil on the feet. But the number of prisoners who said anything was low, from 3 percent in Paris to 14 percent in Toulouse (an exceptional high). Most of the time, the torturers were unable to get any statement whatsoever.
And such examples could be multiplied. The Japanese, no strangers to torture, said it best in their field manual, which was found in Burma during World War II: They described torture as the clumsiest possible method for gathering intelligence. Like most sensible torturers, they preferred using torture for intimidation, not information.
3. People will say anything under torture.
Well, no, although this is a favorite chestnut of tortureâ€™s foes. Think about it: Sure, someone would lie under torture, but wouldnâ€™t they also lie if they were being interrogated without coercion?
In fact, the problem of torture does not stem from the prisoner who has information; it stems from the prisoner who doesnâ€™t. Such a person is also likely to lie, to say anything, often convincingly. The torture of the informed may generate no more lies than normal interrogation, but the torture of the ignorant and innocent overwhelms investigators with misleading information. In these cases, nothing is indeed preferable to anything. Anything needs to be verified, and the CIAâ€™s own 1963 interrogation manual explains that â€œa time-consuming delay resultsâ€ â€” hardly useful when every moment matters.
Intelligence gathering is especially vulnerable to this problem. When police officers torture, they know what the crime is, and all they want is the confession. When intelligence officers torture, they must gather information about what they donâ€™t know.
4. Most people can tell when someone is lying under torture.
Actually, no â€” and we know quite a bit about this. For about 40 years, psychologists have been testing police officers as well as normal people to see if they can spot lies, and the results arenâ€™t encouraging. Ordinary folks have an accuracy rate of about 57 percent, which is pretty poor considering that 50 percent is the flip of a coin. Likewise, the copsâ€™ accuracy rates fall between 45 percent and 65 percent â€” sometimes less accurate than a coin toss.
Why does this matter? Because even if a torturer breaks a person, the torturer has to recognize it, and most of the time they canâ€™t. Torturers assume too much and reject what doesnâ€™t fit their assumptions. For instance, British physician Sheila Cassidy cracked under electric shock torture by the Chilean secret service in the 1970s and identified priests who had helped the countryâ€™s socialist opposition. But her devout interrogators couldnâ€™t believe that priests would ever help the socialists, so they tortured her for another week until they were convinced. By that time, she was so damaged that she couldnâ€™t remember the location of the safe house.
In fact, most torturers are nowhere near as well trained for interrogation as police are. Torturers are usually chosen because theyâ€™ve endured hardship and pain, fought with courage, kept secrets, held the right beliefs and earned a reputation as trustworthy and loyal. They often rely on folklore about lying behavior â€” shifty eyes, sweaty palms and so on. Unsurprisingly, they make a lot of mistakes.
5. You can train people to resist.
Supposedly, this is why we canâ€™t know what the CIAâ€™s â€œenhanced interrogation techniquesâ€ are: If Washington admits that it waterboards suspected terrorists, al Qaeda will set up â€œwaterboarding-resistance campsâ€ across the world. Be that as it may, the truth is that no training will help the bad guys.
Simply put, nothing predicts the outcome of oneâ€™s resistance to pain better than oneâ€™s own personality. Against some personalities, nothing works; against others, practically anything does. Studies of hundreds of detainees who broke under Soviet and Chinese torture, including Army-funded studies of U.S. prisoners of war, conclude that before, during and after torture, each prisoner displayed strengths and weaknesses dependent on his or her own character. The CIAâ€™s own â€œHuman Resources Exploitation Manualâ€ from 1983 and its so-called KUBARK manual from 1963 agree. In all matters relating to pain, the KUBARK manual says, the â€œindividual remains the determinant.â€
Whatâ€™s most clear from studies of torture victims is that you canâ€™t train for the ordeal. There is no secret knowledge out there about how to resist torture. There are manuals such as the Irish Republican Armyâ€™s â€œGreen Book,â€ the anti-Soviet â€œManual for Psychiatry for Dissidentsâ€ and â€œTorture and the Interrogation Experience,â€ an Iranian guerrilla manual from the 1970s. But none of these contain specific techniques of resistance, just general encouragement to hang tough. Even al Qaedaâ€™s vaunted terrorist-training manual offers no tips about how to resist torture, and al Qaeda was no stranger to the brutal methods of the Saudi police.
And yet these myths persist. â€œThe larger problem here,â€ one active CIA officer observed in 2005, â€œis that this kind of stuff just makes people feel better, even if it doesnâ€™t work.â€
Darius Rejali is a professor of political science at Reed College. He is the author of the recently published â€˜Torture and Democracy.â€™
Courtesy Lawrence Carrel
TheStreet.com Senior Writer
12/24/2007–Islamic law prohibits the collection and payment of interest. That means mutual funds aimed at Muslim investors must avoid financial services stocks.
This proved to be a winning formula in 2007, when Wall Street finally paid the price for several yearsâ€™ worth of predatory lending to financially strapped homeowners.
During the long housing boom, mortgage banks loosened their lending criteria, making it possible for people with poor credit to buy homes they ultimately couldnâ€™t afford. Many of these mortgages had low introductory rates that reset after several years, pushing monthly payments up. Some sported onerous prepayment penalties.
Doesnâ€™t sound very halal.
As long as housing prices kept rising, many borrowers were able to refinance before rates reset, keeping payments low. But as the real estate market softened, more and more fell behind on their payments, ultimately defaulting.
The rising number of bad loans spread like a contagion across Wall Street and the broader stock market. The mortgages were purchased by investment banks that repackaged them into securities and sold them to all kinds of investors — including other banks, brokerages, mutual funds and pension funds. As defaults spiraled, demand for this paper evaporated, and investors were forced to mark the value down on their books.
The investment banks stopped buying new mortgages, depriving lenders of the funds they had relied on to make new loans and putting some out of business.
Muslim fundsâ€™ aversion to the financial sector largely inoculated them from the mortgage crisis, keeping them healthy as the contagion spread across broad swathes of domestic stock and bond funds.
While the S&P 500 remained up 4.9% for the year through Friday, three funds that invest according to the Koran have significantly outperformed the benchmark. The Amana Trust Income Fund (AMANX) return of 13.3% through Dec. 21, beating the S&P 500 by 8.4 percentage points, while its sibling, the Amana Trust Growth Fund (AMAGX), gained 11.7%.
And the Dow Jones Islamic Index Fund (IMANX) climbed 14.7% so far this year. It is run by Allied Asset Advisors of Burr Ridge, Ill.
Among other Muslim funds, the Azzad Ethical Mid Cap Fund (ADJEX) gained 11.95% so far this year, and the Azzad Ethical Income (AEIFX) rose 8%. Both are managed out of Falls Church, VA.
The Amana funds, managed by Saturna Capital of Bellingham, Wash., are also ahead of the S&P 500â€™s annualized return for the past three and five years, earning them five-star ratings from Morningstar.
The Amana Trust Income Fund, with $339 million in assets, posted the fourth highest return this year of large-cap value funds tracked by Morningstar, helped by its large holdings of technology, healthcare, and commodity stocks.
Monem Salam, Amanaâ€™s deputy portfolio manager, says a lot of the money coming out of financials is entering technology. And Amana has been building this position all year long. Apple (AAPL) is the largest holding of the Amana Trust Growth Fund.
â€œWe donâ€™t think itâ€™s overvalued,â€ says Salam. â€œThey have a lot going for them with new products like the iPhone and a deal with China Mobile (CHL) . There is a halo affect from the iPod and Notebooks. We would buy on 10% pullbacks.â€
The fund manager also likes Seagate Technology (STX) which is posting double-digit revenue growth on surging demand for more memory, both flash and RAM, which is used in hard drives. Salam says memory demand will keep increasing.
Commodities make up a large part of the Amana Trust Income fund. Freeport-McMoran Copper & Gold (FCX) is the top holding. Salam also likes natural resource company EnCana (ECA) , one of the largest Canadian natural resource companies. The company extracts oil from the sands of Saskatchewan, and as long as oil stays above $50 itâ€™s worth it for them to continue, says Salam.
In addition to financials, Muslim funds also avoid stocks of pork producers, but this hasnâ€™t had a noticeable effect on their performance.
Some funds that invest according to Christian principals havenâ€™t been so blessed. The New Covenant Trust funds, were created in 1971 to give the Presbyterian Foundation a place to invest while staying true to church doctrine. Not wanting to invest in companies harmful to mankind, they avoid companies related to alcohol, tobacco, gambling and weapons. After receiving the list of no-nos, the fund managers are allowed to invest in anything else that strikes their fancy.
It just so happens that financials struck their fancy.
At around 18%, financial services is the largest sector in the companyâ€™s $981 million flagship fund, the New Covenant Growth Fund (NCGFX). The fund is up 3.0% year to date, lagging the S&P 500 by a full a percentage point. Itâ€™s also lagging the average performance of its large-blend fund peers by 1.2 percentage points, according to Morningstar.
New Covenant Growthâ€™s top holding is Bank of America (BAC) , along with Citigroup (C) and General Electric (GE) , the latter of which receives a large share of revenue from commericial finance.
The best performer of this four-fund family is the New Covenant Balanced Income Fund , up 4.6% year to date. Morningstar gives it three stars and classifies it as a conservative allocation fund. In this case, conservative refers to risk aversion, not political leanings. All four funds failed to meet their benchmarks last year. They appear on target to continue the trend in 2007.
For portfolios with Catholic values, look to the Ave Maria funds. These funds screen out all companies with any connection to abortion. This includes pharmaceuticals, hospitals and even health insurance companies, because they offer abortion-inducing drugs. Not surprising, pornography is also a no-no. So is investing in companies that provide benefits, such as health insurance, to non-married couples.
George P. Schwartz, portfolio manager of Ave Maria Catholic Values (AVEMX), says the church believes marriage is a sacrament and that to offer these benefits is a slap in its face. While some might view this as an anti-gay investment screen, the funds donâ€™t discriminate. They donâ€™t want to support male-female couples living in sin either.
Since smoking, drinking and environmental destruction arenâ€™t outlawed by the church, the fund doesnâ€™t screen out those companies.
Still, this investment strategy severely narrows the population of possible holdings. Nearly 200 companies in the S&P 500 fail to pass muster. This has led the fund to invest in a lot of small-cap and value-oriented stocks. These two groups have provided a lethal combination of underperformance this year.
Three of the familyâ€™s four stock funds are underwater this year. The flagship $257 million Ave Maria Catholic Values has skidded 5.7% year to date. However, the Ave Maria Growth Fund (AVEGX) has posted a nice gain of 11.4% in 2007.
Among Catholic Values Fundâ€™s top holdings are Legg Mason (LM) , Pulte Homes (PHM) and Citizens Republic Bancorp (CRBC) .
ACCESS Welcomes Hassan Jaberâ€™s Appointment as Executive Director
The ACCESS Board of Directors officially appointed Hassan Jaber executive director of the organization effective December 17, 2007. Mr. Jaber, who was formally chief operating officer, was appointed acting executive director in September 2007 after co-founder and Executive Director, Ismael Ahmed resigned to lead the State of Michigan Department of Human Services.
â€œHassanâ€™s unique mix of strategic vision, passion and discipline, combined with his intimate understanding of ACCESS, makes him the right person to become ACCESSâ€™ next executive director,â€ said Fawwaz Ulaby, president, ACCESS Board of Directors.
ACCESS Health Director Visits the White House
Dr. Adnan Hammad, Director of the ACCESS Community Health and Research Center was received at the White House in Washington, DC on Wednesday December 12. He was invited to attend the Roundtable on Faith-Based and Community Solutions to Combat HIV/AIDS to speak on behalf of ACCESS regarding this global battle.
The White House Faith Based and Community Initiatives is a project put together by the President and flows from the belief that the most effective way to address the communitiesâ€™ deepest needs is to work in partnership with every willing community and faith-based partner.
Bloomfield Muslim Unity Center (BMUC) Board of Directors Election Results
The election committee announced the result of the Unity Center Board of Directors (BOD) elections. In alphabetical order, Dr Abdulsalam Al-Kassab, Dr Ammar Hatahet, Sr. Leana Salka and Sr. Asma Siddiqui were elected to the BOD. They will serve for two years. They will join Dr. Riad Dali, Dr. Fadi Demashkia, Br. Talha Haris, Dr. Mouhamad Kashlan and Sr. Ghada Siada who will serve for one year.
The Unity Center would like to thank Br. Mohamad Fawzi, Sr. Roze Kadri, Sr. Ayesha Khan and Sr.Gigi Salka who are leaving the BOD for their service to the community and their hard work. And we pray to God to reward them generously.
BMUC Substance Abuse issues. Dec. 28th, 2007 for parents and youths
By Rashid Flewylynn, MSW/MPH
Learn about the many substances that are illegal; why they are illegal and considered â€œharamâ€; and prevention and intervention and treatment.
Where & When
Muslim Unity Center
1830 W Square Lake Rd
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 48098
Starting 7:15 PM
BMUC Activities Restart Dates
All activities will resume in the new year according to the following schedule. Happy New year every body
Quraan classes for kids: Thursday January 3rd.
MYNA: Friday, January 4th.
Boys and Girls group: Friday, January 4th.
High school boys Halaqa: Wednesday, January 7th
Tafseer and Ibadat for women: Tuesday, January 8th.
Middle school boys Halaqa: Not Specified yet.
Sunday School will open on January 6th for parents conferences only (No Students). Classes will resume normally on January 13th 1:00-12:00 followed by School Pot Luck Eid Party 12:00-2:45.(please bring a dish and Happy Eid)
Important notice regarding the Friday youth program. Due to the overwhelming success and large enrollment. the Unirty center had to hire more supervisors, which putting a financial burden on the center budget. To help reduce the financial burden and sustain the program at its current level the board of directors instituted a modest fee of $100 per child for 5 months from January to the end of May 2008. If you feel such a fee will cause you a financial hardship and can cause you not to bring your kids to the program. Please speak with brother Hossam Musa, the youth leader and special arrangement to reduce or waive the fee could be granted on case by case basis. Please visit our website to download the application.
BMUC–Steroids use in our youth. January 4th, 2008
Join us for this eye opener by Yasser Haq
Where & When
Muslim Unity Center
1830 W Square Lake Rd
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 48098
Starting 7:15 PM
BMUC Donate your Blood on January 4, 2008
The American Red Cross is challenged with increasing the blood supply daily. People throughout Southeastern Michigan are counting on The American Red Cross every day to help them feel well again. You can help save up to 3 lives when you donate blood.
The MuslimUnityCenter wants to help do our part to help with the blood shortage by hosting a blood drive on Friday, January 4, 2008 from 1pm to 7pm . In order to do that we need at least 30 commitments. Please contact the office as soon as possible to sign up your name to donate. At that time you will be asked to schedule the time you prefer to come in.
Where & When
Muslim Unity Center
1830 W Square Lake Rd
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 48098
Friday January 4, 2007.
1:00- 7:00 P.M
Monthly Pot Luck. January 4th, 2008
Please bring a dish and share it with the rest of the Unity Center family.
There will be a $10 charge per family to help cover the cost of set up, cleaning and drinks.
Where & When
Muslim Unity Center
1830 W Square Lake Rd
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 48098
Courtesy Jewish Journal, Brad A. Greenberg
Mejgan Afshanâ€™s father warned her about the danger of discussing religion and politics, but as a girl, she couldnâ€™t resist the two things she thought mattered more than anything else. Now 28 and watching the 2008 presidential campaign closely, Afshan sees how uncomfortable those topics can be when they intersect.
While an unholy amount of campaigning has been in the form of Godtalk — former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee talking about how much he loves Jesus, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney swearing thereâ€™s nothing wrong with being Mormon and Sen. Barack Obama reminding potential voters that heâ€™s not Muslim — Afshan feels like the greatest effort candidates are making with Muslim Americans like her is to distance themselves.
â€œItâ€™s like when you are a kid, and everybody is getting a piece of candy, and you donâ€™t get one,â€ said Afshan, who spent the past three years as a field representative for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and recently left to join the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC). â€œI want some attention, too.â€
That is a sentiment shared by many Muslim Americans, including many of the 1,000 who came to the Long Beach Convention Center last Saturday for MPACâ€™s annual convention.
â€œToday in the country,â€ said Shakeel Syed, executive director of the Islamic Shura Council, a federation of Southern California mosques and nonprofits, â€œMuslims are treated as some permanent foreigner who by mistake landed in America.â€
That was echoed by an absence of candidates at the convention. Speaker invitations were sent both to the Republicans and Democrats running for president; only Mike Gravel, the former Democratic senator from Alaska who is considered a fringe candidate, accepted, and he cancelled his keynote address the night before because of pneumonia.
And a few missed R.S.V.P.s isnâ€™t the only reason Muslim Americans feel snubbed by some of the presidential candidates.
Last month, Romney irked many when he reportedly said at a Las Vegas fundraiser that there arenâ€™t enough Muslims in America to warrant a position in his Cabinet. (Exact numbers are disputed: A nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center pegged the population at about 2.35 million, while Muslim organizations have claimed it is closer to 7 million.)
In September, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told the Beliefnet Web site that he believes the Constitution established the United States as a Christian nation, and he thinks a Muslim would be less fit to lead it.
And 45 percent of Americans agree on the latter point, according to a Pew poll in August, compared to 25 percent who said they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon presidential candidate and 11 percent who would be less likely to vote for a Jew.
â€œBefore Sept. 11, the Muslim community was getting very involved in politics,â€ said John C. Green, a senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. â€œThey were out endorsing candidates and signing up voters and taking positions. Then Sept. 11 happened, and many Muslim organizations, as well as many individual Muslims, withdrew from politics. They felt targeted by the Patriot Act and other government actions. But that is changing. They are talking about a renewed interest in politics, a real opportunity to be part of the process.â€
This is a familiar pattern for immigrant communities. Only last fall, when Keith Ellison was elected to represent the Fifth District of Minnesota in Congress, did Muslim Americans break into elected office at the federal level.
â€œOf course, people still have misgivings about the community, but Muslims feel that Keith Ellisonâ€™s election was a landmark that has opened an opportunity for them to seek office at various levels,â€ said Aslam Abdullah, founder of the Muslim Electoratesâ€™ Council.
According to the Pew survey, Muslim American are a diverse group — 65 percent born in at least 68 foreign countries, 20 percent African American, 65 percent U.S. citizens — and when it comes to politics, their leanings defy classification. Most are conservative on social values, liberal on social welfare and frustrated with American foreign policy.
Muslims strongly supported George W. Bush in 2000, in part because during the first presidential debate he condemned ethnic profiling and the use of secret evidence against terror suspects.
The Republican alienation of Muslims began in the immediate wake of Sept. 11, 2001, when FBI investigators questioned thousands of foreign-born Muslims. It accelerated with the indefinite detention of immigrants, the Iraq War and reports of warrantless wiretapping. And 93 percent voted for Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in 2004, according to exit polls by the American Muslim Taskforce.
Some 63 percent are registered Democrats and 11 percent Republican. They are expected to vote heavily Democrat in 2008.
â€œI truly do not want to abandon the Republican Party, but unless things change,â€ Hesham Hassaballa, a physician and author of â€œThe Beliefnet Guide to Islam,â€ wrote in a recent column for Religion News Service, â€œI cannot keep from asking if the party has already abandoned me.â€
Though initially Sept. 11 caused Muslim Americans to recede from the public place, it has since forced them to speed up the immigration evolution.
â€œBefore Sept. 11, many immigrants used to live here only physically. Mentally and spiritually they lived outside. That changed after Sept. 11,â€ said Zahid Bukhari, director of the American Muslim Studies program at Georgetown University. â€œThey realized they have to live here mentally and spiritually, too; they have to be involved in American society.â€
Syed of the Shura Council said this is the best way to influence American politics and to defend against the â€œMuslim bashingâ€ of presidential candidates.
â€œThis can change; this must change,â€ he said. â€œBut this will never change unless we make an unconditional commitment to civic engagement at all levels and at all times.â€
I send holiday greetings to all Muslims celebrating Eid al-Adha.
During Eid al-Adha, Muslims around the world reflect on Abrahamâ€™s unwavering faith and his trust in God when asked to sacrifice his son. These four days are a time for Muslims to honor Abrahamâ€™s obedience by celebrating with family and friends and showing gratitude for the many blessings bestowed by God. This holiday also helps ensure the important values of compassion and devotion are passed on to future generations.
America is a land of many beliefs, and our society is enriched by our Muslim citizens. The kindness, generosity, and goodwill displayed by American Muslims during this special occasion and throughout the year have contributed to the strength and vitality of our Nation. May all those observing Eid al-Adha find love and warmth during this joyous holiday.
Laura and I send our best wishes for a memorable celebration.
GEORGE W. BUSH
By Leila Fadel, McClatchy Newspapers
Baghdad – When Leila Nasser was six months pregnant, U.S. soldiers burst into her house and wrestled away her husband, Mohammed Amin, who was asleep on the roof, trying to escape the summer heat.
This week, Nasser waited outside whatâ€™s now called the â€œreconciliation hallâ€ in Baghdadâ€™s Jihad neighborhood for Amin to appear. In her arms she cradled her year-old son, whom sheâ€™d named Moubin, the Iraqi word for apparent.
â€œI called him Moubin hoping that his father would appear for his eyes,â€ she said. Moubin had never met his father.
Now Amin was one of 15 detainees whoâ€™d be released as part of a reconciliation program that the U.S. militaryâ€™s 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment put together in hopes of easing tensions in this divided neighborhood. But the release showed how far reconciliation has to go.
More than 25,000 Iraqis are now in U.S. detention facilities. The Jihad reconciliation committee of Sunni and Shiite Muslims had requested that 562 men be released. Last month, 48 people were released, but 40 more were detained.
Most of those held are never charged with crimes. Sometimes Iraqis are detained because of a tip from a neighbor or because a few cables and cleaning agents are mistaken for bomb-making material.
Nasser said that there was no evidence linking her husband to Shiite Muslim militias. â€œThey destroyed the house with us in it,â€ she said of the U.S. soldiers. â€œThe reason? Because he has a revolver, a revolver that he puts under his pillow to defend me and my daughter.â€
A member of the reconciliation committee, eavesdropping interrupted her.
â€œTalk about reconciliation,â€ he instructed.
â€œReconciliation? Which reconciliation? What did we understand from the reconciliation?â€ Nasser asked. â€œItâ€™s been one year and three months and he did nothing.â€
Nasser counts Aminâ€™s detention in more than just time – one year, three months and four days. She also counts it in the days sheâ€™s had to be a single mother to her daughter, Banin, now 3. She counts it in the joy she couldnâ€™t share with her husband when their son was born. He wasnâ€™t there as security in Jihad deteriorated and Sunnis and Shiites separated into their own enclaves. When a tenuous stability returned, she couldnâ€™t celebrate with her husband.
â€œHe never prayed in a Husseiniyah,â€ she said, referring to Shiite places of worship, â€œor in a mosque, and he doesnâ€™t get involved in anyoneâ€™s business.â€ The tears began to flow. The Americans divided Iraqis, she said, by accusing all Sunnis of being insurgents and all Shiites of being aligned with militias. â€œI swear to God I didnâ€™t recognize people as Sunni or Shiite until after the collapse,â€ she said, referring to the fall of Saddam Husseinâ€™s regime.
â€œOur lives are full of injustice. …God willing all the detainees will be released,â€ she said. â€œWe tasted bitterness, no salaries – we have nothing. We suffered so much.â€
As his wife wept outside, Amin was inside, preparing to be released. U.S. soldiers cut the plastic cuffs from his wrists. He and the other detainees were asked to sign a â€œreconciliation oath.â€ Behind each detainee sat a relative or friend whoâ€™d promised that heâ€™d honor the oath. Aminâ€™s brother put his hand on Aminâ€™s right shoulder and Amin recited the oath.
â€œI, Mohammed Amin, acknowledge the recent signing of the reconciliation agreement, have ushered in an era of peace and partnership between Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish, Christian, Jaysh al Mahdi (the Mahdi Army of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr), Iraqi security forces and American forces,â€ he said. â€œBased on a review of my arrest record, Iraqi government and coalition force leaders have agreed that my immediate release would be beneficial to the reconciliation process. I pledge not to commit any violation of the reconciliation agreementâ€™s 12 points, violate Iraqi law or attack coalition forces.â€
Amin said heâ€™d never been a threat to security. He thought about his children waiting for him outside.
â€œIt was a lot of suffering and I lived with very little hope,â€ he said. â€œI always hoped to hug my son and daughter and to raise them with the right principles. …I depended on God to get through and now I forget it. Itâ€™s only a page in my past.â€
He went to collect his personal items from a U.S. soldier, but before he could shake hands with the soldier, Nasser pulled him away.
â€œThey might take you again,â€ she said.
By Sherko Raouf, Reuters
SULAIMANIYA, Iraq–Turkish planes bombed an area of Iraq near the border with Turkey on Tuesday to attack Kurdish separatists and the army said it had killed at least 150 guerrillas in its air offensive earlier this month.
A Turkish military source said warplanes launched the limited strike on Tuesday after spotting Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas during a reconnaissance flight. He said the strike was smaller than others in recent weeks.
Colonel Hussein Tamar, director of Iraqâ€™s border guard command in the northern Kurdish province of Dahuk, said villages near the border were hit but nobody was hurt.
The area was depopulated because residents had fled earlier attacks, he said.
The Turkish military also said it killed five members of the PKK on Tuesday in an attack on the outlawed group within Turkey.
Turkey has repeatedly bombed areas of northern Iraq in pursuit of PKK rebels over the past few weeks. Ground troops have also made occasional cross-border raids, although a large-scale assault is seen as unlikely, especially in winter.
The Turkish general staff said on Tuesday that a strike it had launched on December 16 had killed between 150 and 175 PKK fighters.
PM Defends Strikes
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan defended the strikes, which he said targeted only PKK separatist guerrillas.
â€œNo matter who says what, we are using and continue to use air and land operations within the framework of authority granted by international law,â€ he said in a speech to his political party, without referring directly to Tuesdayâ€™s strike.
â€œNobody can object to that if Turkey is responding to attacks against its unity, citizens and soldiers.â€
The Turkish cross-border strikes have forced Washington to walk a careful line between the interests of two close allies.
U.S. military spokesman Rear Admiral Greg Smith said Turkish authorities had informed U.S. forces in advance of plans to fly a reconnaissance mission over Iraq, but U.S. forces were not immediately aware of whether the aircraft had opened fire.
Turkey says it has the right to pursue PKK guerrillas after the rebels carried out a string of deadly attacks in Turkey.
U.S. and Iraqi leaders say they support Turkeyâ€™s right to hit back at the separatists, but want action to be limited in scale and coordinated to avoid destabilizing northern Iraq.
Iraq complained earlier this month that Turkish forces had killed a civilian in an air strike. The leader of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region cancelled a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week, accusing Washington of condoning Turkish attacks.
By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS
Washington, DC–December 12–This was a briefing of the one-day Annapolis Conference last (month â€“ the 27th). It was part of a teleconference call that I took at my office, but originated in the District of Columbia by the End the Occupation Organization a pro-Palestine assemblage.
The Annapolis Conference discussed was held at the U.S. Naval Academy grounds in the small capital (35,838) of the American State of Maryland, but was close enough to Washington to make it practical for our governmentâ€™s close involvement. It was to find a solution to this unacceptable and intractable situation.
The first speaker was Phyllis Bennis, a Jewish American scholar, who has studied the conflict systematically, and is thoroughly behind a two State resolution! She is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies here in D.C. â€“ a writer and an analyst on Middle Eastern and United Nations affairs.
Annapolis was not grounded in International Law. It was an American initiative, and is one of the reason it will probably have a minor impact. Thus, there are innate International problems to the Conference! Israel does not feel it has to follow Arab requirements. An â€œInternational flavor with a Global hype has [merely] been createdâ€ lacking a legitimate grounding in reality.
Iranâ€™s aid to Palestine has not amounted to much. Ramallah is not overly hopeful of transnational acceptance either, although the $8 billion dollars recently pledged to it, is an appreciated shot in the arm. We shall see if it is delivered in a timely manner, for such international pledges have been ignored by loaner nations too often in the past.
The Settler Jewish populationsâ€™ growth has jumped by leaps and bounds despite International Treaties, U.N. Resolutions and informal agreements. There is a desperate need for bi-lateral negotiations between Tel Aviv and the Palestinian nation!
Samar Assad, fielded many of the questions, and made many comments as a younger Palestinian. She is the Director of the District of Columbiaâ€™s Palestine Center think tank. She is noted for her analysis of U.S. policy towards the Middle East and, especially, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Prior, she had served as Senior Analyst at the same Washington Palestine Center.
Israel still has not discredited the PLO (the Palestine Liberation Army) as the sole spokesman for the Palestinian Arabs people in the Holy Land. Yet they are weak organization.
(For those American-Palestinians reading this, there will be a Conference held exclusively for Palestinians in Chicago during 2008. I hope the Muslim Observer can be there to document the proceedings!)
â€œThere is a gap between the promises made [in Maryland], for there is already 300 more Jewish units for Arab land!â€ The expansion of Israel is continuing! The Palestinian leadership at Annapolis even lacked the moral fortitude to defend their civiliansâ€™ interests!
Hamas opposes any agreement made with the United States. The lack of follow up with Hamas and Gaza has made Annapolis almost unworkable on the ground.
â€œOur work is here!â€ because our (U.S.) policy has not changed toward the Middle East.
Washington and Tel Aviv believe Tehran and Damascus are the true â€œenemies.â€
â€œIsrael has become an Apartheid State [in its treatment of the territories!]â€ Also, Syria is too weak to break from the more moderate policies of the Arab League, and intervene for the Levant Arabs.
The enforcement of International Law is essential for the two-state resolution to succeed! Since, more than ever, American aid has been extending the Occupation against the Law of the Nations!
Samar Assad held that an effective Palestinian police Force should be in place for the safety and security of the people there before total Independence! Further, in Gaza the great majority of the people are below the poverty line encouraging a criminality in desperation!
Abbas is a weak leader. He believes that the U.SA. will be the salvation of the nation(sic!)
Here in the Metropole (i.e., the capital of the American â€œEmpireâ€), we should discourage aid for Judaic Jerusalem, for Israel is the seventeenth richest country in the world, and is self-supporting!
At the moment, a letter is circulating around Congress to curtail military aid to Israel. Support from Muslim is a must!
By Kamran Haider, Reuters
ISLAMABAD–The leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan vowed on Wednesday to boost intelligence cooperation to meet the menace of terrorism that was destroying both countries, Pakistanâ€™s President Pervez Musharraf said.
Relations between Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai have at times over recent years virtually broken down over Afghan complaints that Taliban insurgents operate from the Pakistani side of their common border.
But the two leaders appeared relaxed and amicable at a news conference after talks in Islamabad and they both referred to their countries as twins.
Musharraf said Pakistanis and Afghans were suffering from extremism and terrorism.
â€œThe key in fighting and enhancing the capability against terrorism and extremism is intelligence cooperation,â€ he said.
â€œThe two intelligence agencies, on both sides, must cooperate more strongly if we are to deal with terrorists and extremists more effectively,â€ he said.
Afghanistan is grappling with an intense Taliban insurgency while Pakistani forces are battling pro-Taliban militants in different parts of the northwest, near the Afghan border.
Suicide bombers regularly strike in both countries.
Karzai referred to Musharraf as his brother and said they had discussed issues of vital importance.
â€œThe people of both countries are suffering a lot and it is incumbent upon us, the leadership of the two governments, to find ways to bring peace and stability,â€ Karzai told the news conference.
The two countries, both U.S. allies, have in the past vowed to work together against militancy but have taken few concrete steps.
Karzai, who has often spoken of the need for tackling militant training camps in Pakistan, said militant attacks had declined along the border with Pakistan.
Karzai also said their talks had covered a shortage of wheat flour plaguing both countries and boosting trade and the transit of goods through Pakistan.
He said he hoped the talks would result in action and the fruition of what they had agreed.
(Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by David Fogarty)