No Peace Without Hamas

By Mahmoud al-Zahar

GAZA — President Jimmy Carter’s sensible plan to visit the Hamas leadership this week brings honesty and pragmatism to the Middle East while underscoring the fact that American policy has reached its dead end. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acts as if a few alterations here and there would make the hideous straitjacket of apartheid fit better. While Rice persuades Israeli occupation forces to cut a few dozen meaningless roadblocks from among the more than 500 West Bank control points, these forces simultaneously choke off fuel supplies to Gaza; blockade its 1.5 million people; approve illegal housing projects on West Bank land; and attack Gaza City with F-16s, killing men, women and children. Sadly, this is “business as usual” for the Palestinians.

Last week’s attack on the Nahal Oz fuel depot should not surprise critics in the West. Palestinians are fighting a total war waged on us by a nation that mobilizes against our people with every means at its disposal — from its high-tech military to its economic stranglehold, from its falsified history to its judiciary that “legalizes” the infrastructure of apartheid. Resistance remains our only option. Sixty-five years ago, the courageous Jews of the Warsaw ghetto rose in defense of their people. We Gazans, living in the world’s largest open-air prison, can do no less.

The U.S.-Israeli alliance has sought to negate the results of the January 2006 elections, when the Palestinian people handed our party a mandate to rule. Hundreds of independent monitors, Carter among them, declared this the fairest election ever held in the Arab Middle East. Yet efforts to subvert our democratic experience include the American coup d’etat that created the new sectarian paradigm with Fatah and the continuing warfare against and enforced isolation of Gazans.

Now, finally, we have the welcome tonic of Carter saying what any independent, uncorrupted thinker should conclude: that no “peace plan,” “road map” or “legacy” can succeed unless we are sitting at the negotiating table and without any preconditions.

Israel’s escalation of violence since the staged Annapolis “peace conference” in November has been consistent with its policy of illegal, often deadly collective punishment — in violation of international conventions. Israeli military strikes on Gaza have killed hundreds of Palestinians since then with unwavering White House approval; in 2007 alone the ratio of Palestinians to Israelis killed was 40 to 1, up from 4 to 1 during the period from 2000 to 2005.

Only three months ago I buried my son Hussam, who studied finance at college and wanted to be an accountant; he was killed by an Israeli airstrike. In 2003, I buried Khaled — my first-born — after an Israeli F-16 targeting me wounded my daughter and my wife and flattened the apartment building where we lived, injuring and killing many of our neighbors. Last year, my son-in-law was killed.

Hussam was only 21, but like most young men in Gaza he had grown up fast out of necessity. When I was his age, I wanted to be a surgeon; in the 1960s, we were already refugees, but there was no humiliating blockade then. But now, after decades of imprisonment, killing, statelessness and impoverishment, we ask: What peace can there be if there is no dignity first? And where does dignity come from if not from justice?

Our movement fights on because we cannot allow the foundational crime at the core of the Jewish state — the violent expulsion from our lands and villages that made us refugees — to slip out of world consciousness, forgotten or negotiated away. Judaism — which gave so much to human culture in the contributions of its ancient lawgivers and modern proponents of tikkun olam — has corrupted itself in the detour into Zionism, nationalism and apartheid.

A “peace process” with Palestinians cannot take even its first tiny step until Israel first withdraws to the borders of 1967; dismantles all settlements; removes all soldiers from Gaza and the West Bank; repudiates its illegal annexation of Jerusalem; releases all prisoners; and ends its blockade of our international borders, our coastline and our airspace permanently. This would provide the starting point for just negotiations and would lay the groundwork for the return of millions of refugees. Given what we have lost, it is the only basis by which we can start to be whole again.

I am eternally proud of my sons and miss them every day. I think of them as fathers everywhere, even in Israel, think of their sons — as innocent boys, as curious students, as young men with limitless potential — not as “gunmen” or “militants.” But better that they were defenders of their people than parties to their ultimate dispossession; better that they were active in the Palestinian struggle for survival than passive witnesses to our subjugation.

History teaches us that everything is in flux. Our fight to redress the material crimes of 1948 is scarcely begun, and adversity has taught us patience. As for the Israeli state and its Spartan culture of permanent war, it is all too vulnerable to time, fatigue and demographics: In the end, it is always a question of our children and those who come after us.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a surgeon, is a founder of Hamas. He is foreign minister in the government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, which was elected in January 2006.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/16/AR2008041602899_pf.html

10-18

Holy Mosques Presidency Starts Website

Courtesy P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News

JEDDAH, 22 April 2008 — The Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques has launched a website that allows people all over the world to watch prayers and sermons at the two mosques. It also offers access to 45,000 recordings of recitation of the Qur’an and Islamic lectures.

The website (www.gph.gov.sa) provides information about the presidency and its activities. It also contains links to the Agency for the Prophet’s Mosques Affairs, libraries of the two mosques, the Institute of the Haram Mosque and the Kaaba Kiswa Factory in Makkah.

The presidency is now working on the second phase of the project, which will include e-education services. Indices of rare books and calligraphic writings available in the two libraries will serve as a useful reference for researchers. “Services in English and other major languages will be available during the second phase,” said an official source.

The website contains information about how to perform Haj and Umrah, speeches in Arabic, Urdu and English, and prayer times in Makkah and Madinah, recitations of the Qur’an by the imams of the two holy mosques and their Friday sermons and books published by the presidency.

The website will also have radio programs in Arabic, Bahasa Indonesia and Urdu in addition to the programs of Radio Qur’an. “People can also access translations of the Qur’an in different languages,” the source said. The e-library contains pictures of the two holy mosques.

“We have launched this website in order to enlighten the public on our services,” said Saleh Al-Hosain, head of the presidency. He hoped that the website would contribute to spreading the message of Islam among other communities.

He said the presidency would work to make the website’s services available in other major languages for the benefit of more people.

“The website provides a golden opportunity for those who are not able to visit the two holy mosques to watch prayers and sermons there,” said Dr. Muhammad Al-Khozaim, deputy chief of the presidency.

He invited constructive proposals from the public to improve the website and its services.

10-18

Obliterate Iran?

Hillary Clinton issued a stark warning to Iran Tuesday, warning the country would face total annihilation if it launched a nuclear attack on Israel.

Clinton’s forceful rhetoric came on ABC’s Good Morning America as Pennsylvania voters went to the polls. Her opponent, Barack Obama, promised a forceful response but said he wasn’t interested in such “saber rattling” and said diplomacy could prevent an Iranian nuclear program to begin with.

“I want the Iranians to know, if I am president, we will attack Iran,” if they launch nukes against Israel, Clinton said. “I want them to understand that. … We would be able to totally obliterate them. That’s a terrible thing to say, but those people who run Iran need to understand that.”

Clinton said she hoped her stern warning would serve as a deterrent from Iran doing anything “foolish and tragic.”

Obama promised a swift and forceful response to an attack on Israel by Iran, but he said the hypothetical of a nuclear attack “presupposes a failure to begin with.” Iran does not have a nuclear weapon yet and the US should do everything possible to stop that, he said. Obama has said he would open diplomatic channels with Iran, but he has not ruled out the possibility of an attack on the country to prevent its acquisition of nuclear weapons.

He went on to tie Clinton’s comments regarding Iran to the Bush administration’s approach to the rogue regime.

“One of the things that we’ve seen over the last several years is a bunch of talk using words like obliterate doesn’t actually produce good results,” he said. “I’m not interested in saber-rattling.”

10-18

Clarion University Names Ali-Zaidi Nominees

SHIPPENVILLE,PA–The Clarion University Honors Program has completed their nominations of an outstanding graduating senior to the 2008 Syed R. Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence.

Ali-Zaidi, a charter member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Board of Governors and a strong advocate for the universities, established the award to inspire and honor PASSHE students who excel in the pursuit of knowledge.

Dr. Syed Ali Zaidi of Shippenville, PA was appointed to the Council of Trustees in 1980 and reappointed in 1985, 1991, 1997, and 2003. He was a founding member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors, serving from 1984 to 1988 and from 1997 to 2002. In 1998, Dr. Ali-Zaidi chaired the board’s Task Force on Science and Advanced Technology Education, Workforce Development, and Implementation Research. In 2001, he established the Syed R. Ali-Zaidi Award for Academic Excellence, which annually recognizes an outstanding State System graduate. Dr. Ali-Zaidi is the recipient of the System’s 2002 Eberly Award for Volunteerism. He is retired from a 25-year career in research and development with the glass industry. He has a B.S. in Glass Technology from Sheffield University in England, and a M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Ceramic Engineering, both from The Ohio State University.

10-18

Check Out the Real American

Submission to TMO

In 1961, a young African-American man, after hearing President John F. Kennedy’s challenge to, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” gave up his student deferment, left college in Virginia and voluntarily joined the Marines.

In 1963, this man, having completed his two years of service in the Marines, volunteered again to become a Navy corpsman. (They provide medical assistance to the Marines as well as to Navy personnel.)

The man did so well in corpsman school that he was the valedictorian and became a cardiopulmonary technician. Not surprisingly, he was assigned to the Navy’s premier medical facility, Bethesda Naval Hospital, as a member of the commander in chief’s medical team, and helped care for President Lyndon B. Johnson after his 1966 surgery.

For his service on the team, which he left in 1967, the White House awarded him three letters of commendation.

What is even more remarkable is that this man entered the Marines and Navy not many years after the two branches began to become integrated.

While this young man was serving six years on active duty, Vice President Dick Cheney, who was born the same year as the Marine/sailor, received five deferments, four for being an undergraduate and graduate student and one for being a prospective father.

Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both five years younger than the African-American youth, used their student deferments to stay in college until 1968. Both then avoided going on active duty through family connections.

Who is the real patriot? The young man who interrupted his studies to serve his country for six years or our three political leaders who beat the system? Are the patriots the people who actually sacrifice something or those who merely talk about their love of the country?

After leaving the service of his country, the young African-American finished his final year of college, entered the seminary, was ordained as a minister, and eventually became pastor of a large church in one of America’s biggest cities.

This man is Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the retiring pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ.

10-18

Muslim Leaders Protest Against “Fictitious” Terrorism Arrests

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS

NEW DELHI – Alarmed by the alacrity with which Muslims have been arrested in the recent past on mere suspicion of planning major terrorist operations, a delegation of several Muslim leaders called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week (April 15). The delegation included leaders of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH), Jamaat-e-Islami, the Muslim Personal Law Board (MPLB) and the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM).

Prime Minister Singh proposed a joint panel consisting of Muslim leaders and top intelligence and security officials to stop harassment of young Muslims in the name of “fight against terrorism.”

Led by Maulana Qari Mohammad Usman, President JUH, the delegation presented a memorandum to the Prime Minister about the hardships being faced by Muslims in India. “The community continues to face the onslaught not only by the communal forces but the perverted bureaucracy and hesitation of various government agencies to take bold steps,” the memorandum said.

Taking objection to “community profiling” by security agencies and the media, the memorandum said: “Innocent Muslims are being picked up across the country on flimsy grounds and even initial investigations are being leaked to the press in a way that brings entire community to shame.”

Expressing that the Home Ministry must stop “witch hunting,” the delegation said that initial investigation must not be published in a manner, which would tarnish the image of entire community. There was the need to work out a mechanism for confidence building with the community.

During their meeting, the delegation also drew Prime Minister’s attention to non-implementation of Srikrishna Commission report on 1993 Mumbai riots. Besides, they asked for an alternative banking system for the community and its classification as socially the most backward group in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) list.

Though the Prime Minister heard the delegation’s grievances and expressed sympathy, the delegation members did not seem too impressed by his suggestion of forming a joint panel. Even if the idea is implemented with the formation of such a panel, Zafar-ul-Islam Khan (AIMMM) voiced skepticism about it being effective. Given that next general elections are due in about a year’s time, prospects of constructive moves being taken in this direction appear to be limited.

Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that Indian Muslim leaders are making constructive moves to have their voices heard. There is no denying that arrests of several young and bright Muslims in the recent past followed by arrests of members of banned group – Students of Islamic Organization (SIMI)- has received substantial media coverage but practically no analysis.

It may be pointed out, there is a difference in arrests taking place after a terrorist operation has taken place with their being substantial evidence against the arrested people and the arrests taking place merely on ground of suspicion. The arrest of young Muslim techies has taken place simply on ground of their being suspected to be planning major terrorist operations. It has not yet been fully revealed by concerned authorities as to what was the nature of terrorist activities, the arrested people were suspected to be planning. This only raises questions on credentials of the claims being made about the arrested people being terrorists without their having yet committed any such crime. Even if they were caught at a site after a terrorist operation or later with substantial evidence against them, technically each individual is supposed to be regarded as innocent till proven guilty judicially. Once they are proven guilty, under no circumstances can they be held to be representative of the entire religious community they belong to. The tragedy is, without the arrested Muslims yet having been proved guilty of being terrorists, they have been labeled as such.

With the parliamentary elections scheduled to be held in about a year’s time, there is the nagging concern that this drive targeting Muslims may be a part of the campaign to create communal division within the country and play upon exploiting religious sentiments to gain votes.

The AIMMM, also known as umbrella body of Indian Muslim organizations, held a meeting before calling on the Prime Minister and, among other national and international issues, took note of young Muslims being arrested in the name of SIMI. It passed a resolution stating: “The Muslim community is unaware of any particular activity by this banned outfit and firmly believes that the sudden flurry of arrests, raids and investigations involving former SIMI cadres and Muslim youths, in general, has political connotations as local and national elections draw close. Communal and fascist forces are trying to polarize the society using these high-profile arrests trying to repeat ‘Gujarat’ in one way or another.”

Describing the attempt being made to “implicate” educated Muslim youths in “fictitious terrorism cases,” the resolution noted with “with deep concern the attitude of the mainstream media” in presenting these reports with “almost no scrutiny” even though it is the duty of the press to do so.

The resolution laid stress that civil society and human rights groups should form “fact-finding committees to probe into the recent spate of arrests and claims in order to unearth the facts.”

10-18

Some 9 million Muslims live in Russia – research

Courtesy Interfax News Agency

Moscow, April 22, Interfax – 6 per cent or about 8.7 million Russians consider themselves the followers of Islam, sociologists from the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center stated in compliance with the polls conducted among 1600 people in 153 cities and towns of 46 country’s regions, districts and republics.

This number significantly differs from the one cited by some Russian Muslim leaders who claim that minimum 20 million Muslims reside in Russia.

The highest percent of Muslims, about 17 per cent, live in the Povolzhye Region. Russia’s South holds the second place with it 9 per cent of Muslims. Central Russia and the Far East have about 1 per cent of Muslim population.

73 per cent of Russians call themselves Orthodox.

According to the research, followers of other religious traditions total to less than 1 per cent in Russia.

10-18

The New Walls of Baghdad

Courtesy Steve Niva, Foreign Policy In Focus

The new “surge” strategy in Iraq, led by General David Petreaus, has been heavily marketed as an example of the U.S. military’s application of the “lessons of history” from previous counterinsurgencies to Iraq, foremost among them the need to win the population over from insurgents through cultivating human relationships, addressing popular grievances and providing security.

Yet one glance at the realities on the ground in Iraq today reveal that the cornerstone of current U.S. military strategy is less about cultivating human relationships than about limiting them, primarily through concrete walls and checkpoints. And it has been less about minimizing violence than containing Iraq’s population and redirecting the battlefield from the streets to the skies above Iraq.

While the coffee klatches between Marine commanders and Sunni tribal sheikhs may garner all the publicity, the real story on the ground in Iraq is that from Baghdad to Mosul, the U.S. military has been busy constructing scores of concrete walls and barriers between and around Iraqi neighborhoods, which it terms “Gated Communities.” In Baghdad alone, 12-foot-high walls now separate and surround at least eleven Sunni and Shiite enclaves. Broken by narrow checkpoints where soldiers monitor traffic via newly issued ID cards, these walls have turned Baghdad into dozens of replica Green Zones, dividing neighbor from neighbor and choking off normal commerce and communications. Similar walls are being erected in other Iraqi cities, while the entire city of Falluja remains surrounded by a razor-wire barrier, with only one point of entry into the city. Moreover, the U.S. military has doubled its use of unmanned aerial drones and increasingly relies upon aerial strikes to quell insurgent activities, often through bombings and targeted assassinations.

While there is no question that overall levels of violence have temporarily decreased, Iraq has become virtually caged in a carapace of concrete walls and razor wire, reinforced by an aerial occupation from the sky. Reporting from a recent visit to the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad, the seasoned journalist Nir Rosen noted in Rolling Stone (March 6, 2008) that:

“Looming over the homes are twelve-foot-high security walls built by the Americans to separate warring factions and confine people to their own neighborhood. Emptied and destroyed by civil war, walled off by President Bush’s much-heralded “surge,” Dora feels more like a desolate, post-apocalyptic maze of concrete tunnels than a living, inhabited neighborhood.”

The Israeli Laboratory

The explosion of walls and enclaves reinforced by aerial violence across Iraq suggest that the primary counterinsurgency lessons being followed by the U.S. military in Iraq today derive less from the lessons of “Lawrence of Arabia” than from Israel’s experiences in the Occupied Palestinian Territories over the past decade.

Over the past decade, Israel has developed a pacification strategy against Palestinian resistance to its military occupation by erecting separation walls and checkpoints across Palestinian territory that has enclosed Palestinians within a proliferating archipelago of ethnic enclaves to separate them from each other and from illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. This wall and enclave strategy is maintained under a blanket of aerial Israeli surveillance and deadly unmanned drones, which target the frequent airborne assassinations and strikes. This strategy reached its apotheosis in Gaza following Israel’s withdrawal of its soldiers and settlements in 2005. In Gaza, 1.5 million Palestinians are now living within an enclosed cage, while Israel controls access to the essentials of life through high-tech border terminals and unleashes “penetration raids” and airborne “targeted killings” when resistance is offered.

Iraq, it seems, is surging towards Gaza.

This fact is not missed by average Iraqis. Visiting the Sunni bastion of Amriya in Baghdad, Nir Rosen in The Nation (April 3, 2008) recounts how his Iraqi driver pointed to a gap in the concrete walls with which the U.S. occupation forces have surrounded Amriya: “We call it the Rafah Crossing.” He was referring to the one gate from besieged Gaza to Egypt that the Israeli army occasionally allows to open.

The U.S. military’s virtual reproduction of distinctively Israeli counterinsurgency tactics in Iraq reveals that claims about applying the “lessons of history” of counterinsurgent warfare to Iraq are largely beside the point. The actual application of counterinsurgency on the ground in Iraq has a distinctly Israeli DNA, born of very recent lessons from Israel’s own urban warfare laboratory in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

This should not be surprising. The Israeli DNA in the new “surge” strategy is only the latest manifestation of a widely overlooked but unmistakable American predilection to increasingly draw from Israel’s urban warfare laboratory and its flawed efforts to devise fresh tactics in the service of rebooting its own military occupation of Palestinian lands. What we are seeing in Iraq today has much less to do with the declared shift in U.S. military doctrine than with a deeper and more far-reaching “Israelization” of U.S. military strategy and tactics over the past two decades that was only heightened by America’s misadventures in the Middle East after September 11, 2001. In the search for new means to confront urban insurgencies in predominately Arab and Muslim lands, there has been a complex institutional and cultural harmonization between these two militaries under the banner of fighting “the war on terror,” though the traffic is mostly in one direction. In light of the real lessons of counterinsurgency history, however, mimicking Israel is a recipe for failure.

The “Israelization” of US Military Doctrine and Tactics

This “Israelization” of U.S. military doctrine and tactics can be traced back to the early 1990’s, especially the “Black-hawk down” debacle of 1993 in Somalia, which led U.S. military strategists to rethink their approach to fighting urban warfare in poor Third World “battle spaces.” In the following years, according to urban theorist Mike Davis in his 2004 article “The Pentagon as Global Slum Lord,” Israeli advisors were brought in to teach Marines, Rangers and Navy Seals the state of the art tactics against urban insurgencies that Israel was using to ruthlessly suppress Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

This tactical “Israelization” of U.S. combat doctrine was accompanied by what Davis terms a deeper strategic “Sharonization” (referring to Israeli militarist and later Prime Minister Ariel Sharon) of the Pentagon’s worldview in which U.S. military strategists began to envision the capacity of high-tech warfare to contain and possibly defeat insurgencies rooted in third world urban environments. Sharon is known to have kept by his bedside a well-thumbed Hebrew edition of Alistair’s Horne’s A Savage War of Peace, an account of the failed French effort to defeat the Algerian insurgency against French colonial occupation. While many viewed the French defeat as proof of the futility of military solutions to anti-colonial insurgencies, Sharon’s belief was that Israel could learn from Algeria to get right what the French did not. In 2001, the journalist Robert Fisk reported, Sharon told French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac in a phone conversation that the Israelis were “like you in Algeria,” the only difference being that “we [the Israelis] will stay.”

The “Israelization” of U.S. military doctrine and tactics since the attacks on September 11, 2001, has gone so far as to create what the Palestinian academic Marwan Bishara, writing in Al-Ahram Weekly (April-May, 2002), has termed a new “strategic cult” in which Israel’s “asymmetrical war” against the Palestinians became seen as a continuation of the U.S. “war on terrorism” in both theory and practice. Learning from Israel’s experiences centered on the need for new precision weaponry and a tactical emphasis on aerial assassinations and armored bulldozers, as well as other elements of Israel’s fighting style in the new “asymmetrical” and urban battle spaces. According to The Independent’s Justin Huggler (March 29, 2003) Israel’s unprecedented assault on Palestinian cities and the refugee camp in Jenin during “Operation Defensive Shield” in April 2002 was keenly observed by foreign militaries, particularly the United States and UK as they geared up to invade and occupy Iraq.

But the most direct application of the Israeli tutorial took place in Iraq, particularly after the U.S. found itself mired in a growing insurgency in an occupied country, confronting urban guerilla warfare and suicide bombings in Fall, 2003. Having banished counterinsurgency doctrine from its own playbook after Vietnam, the Pentagon turned to Israel. According to the investigative journalist Seymour Hersh writing in The New Yorker (December 15, 2003),

“One step the Pentagon took was to seek active and secret help in the war against the Iraqi insurgency from Israel, America’s closest ally in the Middle East. According to American and Israeli military and intelligence officials, Israeli commandos and intelligence units have been working closely with their American counterparts at the Special Forces training base at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and in Israel to help them prepare for operations in Iraq. Israeli commandos are expected to serve as ad-hoc advisers – again, in secret – when full-field operations begin.”

Hence, American forces increasingly used a new set of tactics that appeared to have come straight out of the Israeli playbook from the occupied Palestinians territories, including physically enclosing villages within razor-wire fences, bulldozing homes of suspected insurgents, destroying irrigation systems and agricultural fields, taking civilian hostages and using torture to extract intelligence. Seymour Hersh claims that the U.S. was told it had to “go unconventional” like the Israelis – to use harsh tactics to counter the harsh insurgency such as deploying assassination squads. As he summarized it: “The American-Israeli liaison on Iraq amounts to a tutorial on how to dismantle an insurgency.”

According to Julian Borger at the Guardian (December 9, 2003) one former senior American intelligence official raised serious concerns about the dangers of adopting Israel’s “hunter-killer” teams, and the political implications of such an open embrace of Israel: “It is bonkers, insane. Here we are – we’re already being compared to Sharon in the Arab world and we’ve just confirmed it by bringing in the Israelis and setting up assassination teams.”

The “Surge”: Shifting Tactics in Iraq, Israeli-Style

The Israeli tutorial, as we know, was nothing less than a complete failure, as Iraq slipped into anarchy and then raging civil war in large part as a result of the destructive tactics deployed the U.S. military.

As a consequence, the failures in Iraq forced the U.S. military to reconsider the pre-eminence of harsh Israeli-style tactics. And so in late 2006, Gen. David Petraeus and his highly touted cadre of counterinsurgency (COIN) experts, fresh from a six-month command and staff course at Fort Leavenworth that according to The Independent’s Robert Fisk (April 11, 2007) included at least four senior Israeli officers, ushered in a heavily marketed new counterinsurgency strategy that reduced the reliance upon brute military force in favor of creating alliances with former insurgents, building intelligence capacity, and restoring a semblance of security for the population, particularly in Baghdad.

But it would be a mistake to read this new “hearts and minds” counterinsurgency strategy as a full-scale retreat from “Israelization” in two important respects, both of which illustrate how remarkably similar American and Israeli strategic and tactical frameworks have become at this point in time.

First, it is striking how much the new U.S. approach in Iraq mirrors Israel’s own tactical response to its failed attempt to use harsh and brutal tactics to crush the renewed surge of Palestinian resistance between 2001 and 2004. In 2004, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon unveiled a new strategy – what he termed “disengagement” – as a new way to “shift the narrative.” This strategy included the tactical withdrawal of Israeli settlements and soldiers from the Gaza Strip to be replaced by its complete encirclement and economic strangulation, while further enclosing Palestinians in the West Bank within separation walls, barriers and checkpoints. Whereas the previous approach relied upon aggressive Israeli military incursions within Palestinian areas, the new strategy seeks to control Palestinians from beyond their walled-off enclosures by selectively controlling access to life essentials and relying on air-strikes to quell resistance.

Similarly, in response to the chaos in Iraq and the growing popular demand for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in late 2006, President Bush and the U.S. military adopted the “surge” strategy as its own way to “change the narrative.” As in the Israeli case, the “surge” has shifted techniques of domination across Iraq from the direct application of violence against insurgents to indirect spatial incarceration, multiplying archipelagos of externally alienated and internally homogenous ethno-national enclaves through walls and checkpoints, under a blanket of aerial surveillance.

Secondly, the tactical shift towards walls, enclaves and aerial domination is still rooted in the “Sharonization” of U.S. strategic doctrine mentioned earlier; that is, the belief that one can use military force to defeat an insurgency by reformulating one’s military tactics. Neither Israel nor the United States are willing to countenance a serious political solution to either occupation, which would entail addressing the core political issue that is driving each insurgency: ending the foreign occupation. As it happens, Henry Kissinger is reported to have given President Bush a copy of Horne’s A Savage War of Peace to read in the winter of 2006, and the U.S. military frequently uses the Algerian case as one its primary lessons in most COIN training. They appear to have learned the same faulty lessons as Sharon.

Both Israel and the U.S. are seeking to replace direct military occupation with a form of occupation management in order to preserve the fruits of their respective occupations.

Israel has simply shifted tactics to achieve its original goal of securing its illegal settlements and land confiscations in the West Bank to maintain “greater Israel.” Since it is unwilling to accept a withdrawal to the 1967 borders and allow for a fully sovereign Palestinian state, its strategy is to pacify Palestinians through ever confining walls and enclaves until Palestinians accept their fate living in splintered enclaves under complete Israeli control.

Similarly, since the U.S. is unwilling to negotiate with the insurgency or consider a timetable for withdrawal, it is clear that the new counterinsurgency plan is an effort to pacify Iraq into accepting a form of “soft partition” into ethno-political enclaves to enable the U.S. to secure its original goals of establishing permanent military bases, securing access to Iraq’s vast oil fields, and installing an Iraqi central government to pass laws to ensure these aims. Like the Palestinians, Iraqis will be sequestered within walled enclaves so that the political and economic occupation can remain in place.

The Real “Lessons of History” for Iraq

Needless to say, all this amounts to trying to find new ways to do the impossible. The bottom line is that both Israel and the U.S. will be losers in their quest for military solutions to fundamentally political insurgencies against a foreign military occupation. Framing an occupation as “liberation” or “counter-terrorism” does not make it any less a foreign occupation.

One of the great ironies in all of this is the willful failure of both Israel and the United States to learn the fundamental historical lesson of the French in Algeria: that they could have negotiated a withdrawal far earlier and spared all this bloodshed and violence.

Militarily, the French army did not lose – they certainly won the Battle of Algiers and had pacified the country by late 1958. But the military victory was hollow. The French achieved pacification only, which simply meant that the number of violent incidents per month was at a tolerable level. But this came at the price of herding over a million Algerians into fortified villages, extensive torture, and millions killed. This was a situation that could not be sustained and it unraveled as open warfare broke out between settlers and Algerians with the French army caught in the middle, battling both. All of this looks very much like Iraq today with Americans caught between Shia and Sunni militias, battling both in an effort to achieve pacification on behalf of an ineffective puppet government associated with its occupation. There are also obvious parallels to Israel’s predicament in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The primary reason why the French military victory was hollow was because the French offered no political solution that met the core aspirations of Algerian nationalism, which should be clear to anyone who reads the second half of A Savage War of Peace. They only offered a flimsy notion of “self-determination” and “democracy” that De Gaulle called “association,” which we recognize today as a neo-colonial relationship. France sought to maintain exterritorial control through military bases and dominion over Algerian oil resources, including a permanent French settler presence. The Algerians rejected this and fought until the French were forced to leave entirely. The parallels with U.S. plans for Iraq hardly need to be elaborated.

Instead of learning from the French experience, the U.S. has naively looked to the Israeli experience as a training manual for counterinsurgency. The U.S. continues to be mesmerized by a mythical version of Israel that is based more on savvy marketing than demonstrated performance. Israel’s responses to unconventional war has never been well developed or very successful; it was defeated by Hezbollah in South Lebanon not once but twice, and its attempt to crush the Palestinian uprising through force actually led to further suicide bombings, while its destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure has left the political field open to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Mimicking Israel is a recipe for failure. Martin Van Creveld, an Israeli military historian who had lectured U.S. military officials on Israeli military strategy in late 2003, warned in an Associated Press article (December 12, 2003) that just as Israel had been unsuccessful in eliminating militant groups and suicide bombers, the United States cannot expect to be victorious in Iraq. “The Americans are coming here to try to mimic all kinds of techniques, but it’s not going to do them any good,” he reportedly warned. “I don’t see how on earth they (the U.S.) can win. I think this is going to end the same way Vietnam did. They are going to flee the country hanging on the strings of helicopters.”

Whether or not this happens will be the subject of future “lessons of history.” But by following the Israeli model rather than the actual lessons of counterinsurgency history, the U.S. appears trapped by the logic of its own image co-dependency with Israel as a state now permanently at war with much of the Arab and Muslim world, with history’s lessons decidedly not on its side. Read correctly, A Savage War of Peace is less a user’s manual for counterinsurgency than a warning about the futility of fighting colonial wars in the first place.

Dr. Steve Niva is a professor of Middle East Studies and International Politics at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA and is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus. He is currently writing a book on the relationship between Israeli military violence and Palestinian suicide bombings.

The Plight of Orphans

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS

Big beautiful brown eyes, curly brown hair that tumbles to the tips of her shoulders and the innocence of only 1 and a half years of life best describe the little girl that was recently found abandoned outside a beauty parlor in Kuwait. Her name is unknown even to herself, however authorities have loving named her Alaa, which means ‘nobility’.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) estimates that millions of children are abandoned on a global scale each year. The approximate figure is conservatively set at 60 million, however experts agree that the true number is much higher than that. According to HRW, countries with the most heinous record of social care for abandoned and neglected children include Russia, Brazil, China and Romania. Abandoned children in these countries often do not obtain proper education, nutrition or even the basics needed for life. They are often isolated and do not receive the vital human contact, like a gentle hug or kiss, needed to fully develop into social beings. Quite often, children institutionalized will die in the same institutions in which they are raised. Many countries have a social stigma attached to abandoned children and the public is often resistant to adopting discarded kids although some infants do make their way into private homes because there is a higher demand for newborns than there is for older children.

The plight of abandoned children is a worldwide epidemic and exists in all countries around the globe for a wide array of reasons whether they are economic or social. Each country has its own set of criteria for dealing with the social epidemic of unwanted children. Many countries fail in their attempt to provide abandon kids with the quality of life that children with homes have. However, a handful of Middle Eastern countries are making great strides in providing abandoned children with the best life possible. Leading the path in the development of extensive social care facilities within their countries are Kuwait and Dubai.

In Kuwait, children who are abandoned are sent by the Ministry of Social Affairs to social care facilities where they are placed for 30 days while the Ministry attempts to locate their parents. In the event that the parents are not found, the abandoned child will become a ward of the State which entitles them to receive the Kuwaiti nationality which is full of benefits like free health care, monetary gifts for life, free housing and more. The Kuwaiti nationality is a blessing given to abandoned children who would otherwise live a substandard life unable to otherwise arise above their life circumstances.

Dubai has a similar model that is followed for the social care of abandoned children within the Kingdom. It is known only as “Ward 16” and is located at Al Wasl hospital. All children abandoned in Dubai first receive immediate pediatric care and then are admitted to the ward. Authorities will search for the parents for a limited amount of time. And if no one comes forward then abandoned children will be naturalized as citizens of the UAE.

Both Kuwait and Dubai do allow the nationals of their countries to adopt abandoned children. In Islam, rescuing an orphaned child is a guaranteed way to receive salvation on the Day of Judgment and be near to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s) who said:

“The best house among the Muslims is the house in which orphans are well treated. The worst house among the Muslims is the house in which orphans are ill-treated. I and the guardian of the orphan will be in the Garden like that,” indicating his two fingers. (Abu Huraira)

However, expatriates in both Gulf States are forbidden from adopting abandoned children irrespective of their race, socio-economic standing or religion. Once an abandoned child is made a Ward of the State it can only be adopted by parents with the same nationality. As a result, many children will never be adopted but will be forced to grow up in an institutional environment. And no matter how hi-tech the institution maybe there is nothing on Earth that can take the place of a loving embrace from a mother or father.

Many expatriates have tried to get special permission to adopt abandoned children in the countries in which they currently reside; however the attempt has been futile to say the least. Manal Ahmed, a childless wife in Kuwait, recently was moved by pictures in the local press about a 3 year old boy and his day-old sister who were abandoned near a running track in Khalidiya. “I would adopt both children as my husband has a very good paying job,” laments Manal, “and I went to the Ministry of Social Affairs. I was rejected before they even looked at my husband’s salary certificate simply because I am not a Kuwaiti.”

The weakest members of any society are children. To even ponder that any human, who is capable of even the tiniest degree of love, could turn their back on such a vulnerable creature is reprehensible. However, the plight of abandoned children is not one that is likely to go away by itself and its up to governments to find better ways to cope with unwanted kids and bring the parents who abandoned them to justice.

10-18

Zionist Israel at 60–Joel Kovel’s “Buried” Book

By Dr. Mohamed Elmasry

In May of this year, Zionists the world over will celebrate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of a state-for-Jews-only in Palestine.

A recent book by Joel Kovel,

    Overcoming Zionism – Creating a Single Democratic State in Israel/Palestine

, is must-read for this difficult and bitter-sweet occasion.

Kovel is an American Jew, an author, activist, and successful professional with dual careers in medicine and psychiatry to his credit. He was a Professor of Psychiatry and Director of Residency Training at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. He was also nominated as a Green candidate in the 2000 U.S. presidential race. He is currently editor-in-chief of Capitalism, Nature, Socialism.

In his book, he suggests convincingly that the inner contradictions of Zionism led Israel to develop its “state-sponsored racism” and that Zionism and democracy are essentially incompatible. He also believes that a two-state solution is hopeless because “it concedes too much to the regressive forces of nationalism, wherein lie the roots of continued conflicts.”

He illuminates as well the drawbacks of a one-state concept which some Palestinians and many Zionists oppose, but for different reasons. Zionists oppose a single state on ideological and philosophical grounds, believing that the only-for-Jews character of Israel will be greatly compromised with Palestinians living side-by-side and that more than a century of hard work by former generations of Zionists would be wasted.

Many Zionists would consider a two-state solution only with a long list of conditions, including never having to give up valuable lands in the West Bank and Occupied Arab East Jerusalem and not allowing diaspora Palestinians to return to their ancestral homes.

Those Palestinians who oppose the one-state solution are those who believe the illusion (promoted by U.S. president George W. Bush, for example) that a two-state solution is just around the corner, if not this year, then maybe next.

Kovel dedicates his book to his aunt and to Rachel Corrie, the 23-year-old American university student and International Solidarity Movement volunteer, who was murdered on March 16, 2003 by an Israeli bulldozer in the city of Rafah, Gaza while peacefully protesting the destruction of Palestinian homes.

To show the hate that drives Zionist attitudes toward Palestinians, Kovel quotes Tanya Reinhart’s interview with another bulldozer driver. The driver, who received medals for his work in the Jenin Refugee camp in 2002, revealed that had been on duty for 75 hours straight and was drunk most of that time. He recalled that “for three days I just destroyed and destroyed

… I would just ram the house with full power, to bring it down as fast as possible … I didn’t give a damn about the Palestinians … It was all under orders … If I am sorry for anything, it is [for] not tearing the whole camp down.”

Kovel also comments on the sanctification of American-born Zionist Baruch Goldstein, a former Israeli military physician who in 1994 entered the Abraham Mosque in Hebron and shot dead 29 Palestinian Muslims, wounding another 150 before he was overcome by other worshippers and killed. Goldstein was buried with great ceremony very near the scene of his grisly crime and the inscription on his gravestone reads: “Here lays the saint, Doctor Baruch Kapal Goldstein. Blessed be the memory of the righteous and holy man, may the Lord revenge his blood, who devoted his soul for Jews, Jewish religion and Jewish land. His hands are clean and his heart is clear. He was killed as a martyr of God on the 14th of Adar, Purim, in the year 5754.”

I visited Hebron in 1995 and found that the Goldstein tomb is guarded 24/7 by Israeli military personnel and half of the Abraham Mosque has been forbidden to Muslims; it is now used as synagogue for Jews.

Kovel states wisely that no American president can do much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict due to massive “Zionist political/financial muscle and manipulation of Holocaust guilt.”

He recounted his early experience with a private tutor of Hebrew in Brooklyn who “intoned about the Torah and the Covenant through which God had made the Jews special among the nations … [His] words were positively spat out, bearing hatred for Goyim [Gentiles, or non- Jews] who had persecuted our superior people, and Chosen Ones of God. And for what? ‘I’ll tell you what,’ said the tutor, with blazing eyes and Old Testament wrath:

‘For a savior who wasn’t even born legitimate! That’s right! His parents weren’t married. The so-called god of the Christians was a bastard!’”

The experience has lingered in the adult memory of Kovel, who wonders in his book how many people with the same obsessive wrath as his tutor “would immigrate to Israel from our neighborhood and come to play an important role in the future Jewish state?”

You’d think that a man as versatile and gifted as Kovel would receive front page coverage in American and Canadian media about his book, which was published in 2007.

But this did not happen in our so-called “free” press and broadcasting networks, because these systems are free only to those who own them and use their power to express their own views. And that is a sad loss for everyone.

(Dr. Mohamed Elmasry is national president of the Canadian Islamic Congress. He can be reached at np@canadianislamiccongress.com)

10-18

Patriarchy in El Dorado

By Elder George

By now we have all seen or read about the Church of the Latter Day Saints and their compound at the Year for Zion Ranch in El Dorado, Texas. The Texas authorities have removed 416 children from their parents with the consideration of placing them in foster care. This action came from a call made to authorities by a 16 year-old girl claiming to be at the compound who said her husband had abused her. The call turned out to be a hoax, but by then the authorities had raided the compound.

The media will do its utmost to ferret out what it perceives as suppression of women and children by the sect (the treatment of boys has not even been mentioned). However, let’s compare their conduct to the normal state of girls in our society. Below is an edited excerpt from an article titled Girl Sex that I wrote for Muslims Weekly four years ago.

On Sunday May 23, 2004 The New York Post in a front-page story broke the news that schoolgirls wore sex bracelets that advertised the type of sexual activity that they would perform and in which they would participate. A whole menu exists of the sexual activities the girls offer. The term girls is quite literal, they are 11 years old! Girls in public schools, private schools, and religious schools wear these sex bracelets; the democratic nature of immorality does not show preferences.

The above illustrates the moral decadence of our society as in relates to girls. Posters on public transportation promote sexual activity and the Mayor of New York had city employees distribute 2.6 million condoms to our school children. In all likelihood the girls did not have an adequate male presence at home. Now lets return to the compound and see how those girls behave.

The girl’s bodies are covered from neck to ankles with clothes that appear to be clean and in good repair. The hair on their heads seemed clean and well groomed. The children live with their parents in a cohesive secure community. In every way these girls live in a better environment than the girls of the broken families of New York and of every major city in America. They certainly live in better conditions than are usually offered in foster care. What issue does the Texas government have with the religious sect?

The sect is a current example of patriarchy, the natural insulator against government intrusion into the private lives of individuals. Neither the Texas government nor any state government tolerates patriarchy; they consider children to be their property. If a parent does not raise the child the way the government dictates, the child is taken away from the parent and given to someone who will raise it according to state directions.

The El Dorado incident cannot be covered in one 500-word article as it has many ramifications; perhaps I will comment on it again, but in the interim I leave you with this thought. Those same governments that believe in putting the children of that sect in foster care would like to get their hands into the madrasas as well, and to also get Muslim women out of the hijab. They want to eliminate the patriarchal way of life, cultural practices, and religious influence. Then they will be in complete control of your life.

Elder George’s website is www.mensaction.net and he can be reached at 212-874-7900 ext. 1329.

Pope: To Meet or Not to Meet

By Dr. Aslam Abdullah, Editor-in-chief of The Muslim Observer

We Muslims are good at making a mountain out of a molehill. We expend a lot of our energy in discussing non-issues. Take for example, the question of meeting with Pope Benedict who was on a tour in North America. Muslim leaders are now divided on the issue to meet or not to meet the Pope. There is very little relevance if Muslims, Jews or Buddhist meet the Pope or choose not to meet him. On the one hand are those who believe that Muslims must meet the Pope in the spirit of interfaith harmony and on the other hand are those who strongly argue that Muslims must not meet the Pope because of the controversial statements Pope Benedict has made in the past.

I believe in either case, no one would even notice one way or the other. People will go about their lives as usual. Muslims will continue to practice their faith without the intervention of a clergy and Catholics will continue practicing their faith according to the dictates of the Vatican. However, controversy over this issue will give Muslims one more opportunity to create more distance among them selves and others.

Meetings such as these are ceremonial and offer good photo opportunities. But hardly anything substantial is discussed in these meetings. If Muslims were to go to these meetings, they will not resolve the issue of the divinity of Jesus or the Catholic Church’s clandestine conversion movement in the Muslim world. They will not raise the issue of Spanish inquisition and certainly they will not ask the Pope to return all the books stolen from Muslim Libraries of Spain in the fifteenth centuries by the Church or its agents.

Similarly, the Pope will not tell Muslims that their salvation does not lie in Islam. They have to convert to Catholicism in order to make their lives meaningful.

However, based on what the Pope has said about Islam in the past, the Pope might advise Muslims to reign in terrorists among them. He would ask them to pressurize Saudi Arabia to open up the Kingdom for Catholic Churches and other such issues.

In fact, such interfaith meetings have only ceremonial significance for those who attend them. Every one feels good at the end of the meeting claiming that his or her group is the most tolerant among all religions. There is hardly any substantive issues discussed in these gatherings. Rarely, one finds issues pertaining to justice, human rights, poverty, immigration and exploitation of unskilled labor. Hardly, anyone talks about the work needed by all religious groups in order to bring human beings to a level of dignity that would not contradict the purpose of his creation. Hardly, anyone talks about the real issues, ordinary and average people face in their daily lives.

Such superficial interfaith forums serve good public relation purpose. They also provide a basis for low level cooperation on issues that are not theological. Interestingly, all major religious groups not only have a big budget but also a well defined agenda for these interfaith forums. Muslims, on the other hand, lack both an agenda and a budget. There are many probationers of interfaith dialogue among Muslims. However, a few of them could spell out clearly the objectives of these forums. Each one has a different perspective each one is in these dialogues for different reason.

Obviously, if Muslims attend these forums without an understanding of what is happening, they are not only wasting their time but the time of others as well.

Perhaps for this reason, a few Muslims who are associated with the Parliament of World Religions have called for a meeting of Muslim interfaith probationers in the month of August. The meeting is likely to place in Las Vegas and it would be hosted by the Islamic Society of Nevada. The purpose of this meeting as explained by its organizers including Dr. Rao Irfan Khan, a prominent member of the World Parliament of Religions is to develop a common understanding on the goals and objectives of interfaith faith dialogue from a Muslim perspective. “So far, we do not have an agenda and we have not clearly spelled out our goals in these forums, added Dr. Ahmadullah Siddiq, a communication professor Western Illinois University and a prominent participant in international interfaith forums.

Obviously, such a meeting is long needed. Once, we Muslims, develop a common understanding on our objectives in interfaith forums, meeting with the Pope or other religious leaders would have some meaning. Until then, many of us can keep arguing that it was wrong to have met with the Pope or it was right to have met the Pope.

10-18

Noise

By Bob Wood, MMNS

As I write this column, the stock market is enjoying a wonderful rally with the Dow up almost 300 points for the day. This market advance is in response to positive earnings announcements from several large companies whose shares trade in large volume each trading day. Last week, the market ended on a sour note with a big one-day drop, due, in large part, to disappointing earnings from General Electric. Is this the environment envisioned by long term investors?

Can news from one company such as G.E. really give investors meaningful information about the overall stock markets and the larger economy? I really don’t think so, yet the crowd — many of them professional money and fund managers — seems to react aggressively to what will almost inevitably be seen later as nothing but “noise.”

I am continually amazed with how much money flows into and out of stocks based on temporary events such as one company’s earnings announcements. And sometimes, it’s worse than that! Last week the market was cheered by the earnings announcement from tech bellwether Intel, which not only met its earnings expectation but also noted that gross margins would be slightly higher in the coming quarter.

How can anyone look at such a small data point — one company’s gross margins — and infer that conditions will be better across the board for all domestic companies? Of course, we shouldn’t, but, all too often, investors do just that. Amazing!

I wonder how investors can react so strongly to Intel’s gross margin story as though that one point overrides the massive structural problems our economy now faces. Will Intel’s gross margin improvement offset the damage done in our housing and mortgage markets? If Citigroup loses only $5 billion for the quarter, when analysts estimated it could have lost more, is that really a good sign and enough to offset damage caused by steep rises in our energy costs?

These reactions to bits of data happen almost daily and make investing very confusing for investors. The stock markets shoot higher for a day, based on information that is subject to change or revision — within weeks, if not days.

If you spend any time watching financial news programming, you know what I am talking about. On Wednesday mornings, we can watch a “live update” on energy inventories. One week will show an unexpected build in crude oil stocks that surprises analysts, who had anticipated less. On this news, oil prices will fall somewhat to reflect the increase in available supply. A week later, the inventory number may come in with lower supplies than expected, and oil prices will rise in response to the new news.

Do these fluctuations change long-term trends in the price of energy products? Heck no! But they certainly keep investors trading — in and out. Increased trading activity occurs in other sectors of the stock market, too, based on morning announcements about which stock was “upgraded” or “downgraded” by one of the big Wall Street firms.

You may recognize the patter: the reporter alerts us that Merrill has added Intel to its top buy list, adding that they like the company’s valuation and the way reports of higher computer sales will positively affect its stock price. Am I the only one wondering how many times one broker or another has upgraded that stock in the past 10 years? In the past 10 years, that stock has gone nowhere, yet it is almost universally admired by the analysts covering it.

In recent weeks, our stock markets were flying higher on days when rumors were circulating about the credit ratings of monoline insurers like MBI and Ambac. Supposedly, they faced possible downgrades by rating agencies, but bailout schemes were in progress and would soon be announced. Days later, those rumors proved unfounded, and the markets sold off again.

To emphasize how bad these reactions are getting, consider this past April 1st, when stock markets rocked higher, due in part to a research note issued by noted hedge fund manager Doug Kass, who has been famously bearish for quite some time. Kass put out an alert of sorts, saying he had become wildly bullish and was now buying stocks in earnest. His comments later proved to be nothing more than a good old fashioned April Fool’s joke, yet few bothered to question them before rushing to buy stocks!

As I write today, while keeping an eye on my TV screen, I see a CNBC graphic showing performance of the stock market in the months following a reading on the VIX, a measure of volatility, when it falls below 20. Honestly, I don’t know where they find this kind of stuff, but they do — in never ending supplies.

So what exactly happens when the VIX suddenly rises above 20? What happens when the next large company misses its earnings estimates? What happens when one of those monoline insurers is downgraded, which could happen any day now? Should investors just forget the data points of the previous few days — and reverse their course again?

Yet each week, investors sit on the edges of their seats, waiting for announcements of transitory data points coming from jobless claims, CPI readings on inflation, speeches from Fed officials, analyst upgrades, trade deficit figures, retail sales numbers, etc. That each and every one of these points is subject to revision or change within days or weeks seems lost to so many who put their savings at risk in the markets.

How can so much information of such transitory nature have so much meaning to so many? It does, though it really should not. This type of information constitutes nothing more than “noise” in too many instances. None of the weekly or monthly data points are significant enough to offset the structural mess in our economy, which gets worse as time passes.

None of them offsets the massive losses incurred by so many of our largest financial companies. None offsets the debilitating effects of rapidly rising energy and food prices. And the news would have to be stunningly perfect to justify buying stocks with the S&P 500 sporting an average P/E of close to 20, as it does now.

If you are willing to put some real effort into your investing activities, I suggest that you read the book Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. The same author has now written another excellent book worth reading, The Black Swan.

In Fooled by Randomness, he writes about ‘’breaking news’’ and cites an appreciation for ‘’distilled thinking, by which I mean the thinking based on information around us that is stripped of meaningless but diverting clutter.’’ He continues with this:

“The problem with information is not that it is diverting and generally useless, but that it is toxic… if there is anything better than noise in the mass of ‘’urgent’’ news hounding us, it would be like a needle in a haystack. People do not realize that the media is paid to get your attention. For journalists, silence rarely surpasses any word.

“On the rare occasions when I boarded the 6:42 train to New York I observed with amazement the hordes of depressed business commuters (who seemed to prefer to be elsewhere) studiously buried in the Wall Street Journal, apprised of the minutiae of companies that, at the time of writing now, are probably out of business…

“But while early on in my career such focus on noise would have offended me intellectually, as I would have deemed such information as too statistically insignificant for the derivation of any meaningful conclusion, I currently look at it with delight. I am happy to see such a mass scale idiotic decision-making, prone to overreaction in their post-perusal investment orders – in other words I currently see in the fact that people read such material an insurance for my continuing in the entertaining business of option trading against the fools of randomness…

“Like a health club membership taken out to satisfy a New Year’s resolution, people often think that it will surely be the next batch of news that will really make a difference to their understanding of things.’’

Taleb certainly sums up what I think about breathlessly reported bits of information that pass for news in the financial media. But such “news” does help to explain why so many shares trade daily in a stock market that has gone nowhere for the past eight years.

Few, if any, have made money investing in domestic markets during this decade, but great volumes of trading go on anyway, and trading volume increases by the year. But at least the brokers are making money! Hey, you don’t suppose that’s why … nah. That would be too obvious, wouldn’t it?

Have a great week.
Bob

Bob Wood ChFC, CLU Yusuf Kadiwala. Registered Investment Advisors, KMA, Inc., invest@muslimobserver.com.

10-18

Spreading Wings at the Islamic Institute of Knowledge

By Adil James, MMNS

Dearborn–April 20–Perhaps it is hard to imagine 62 religious Muslim girls from traditional families laughing and splashing around in an Olympic-sized pool, but indeed 62 normally-hijab-wearing girls from the IIK community did just that this past Sunday in Dearborn. This is the first follow-up to a similar event last year. Last time the group was smaller, and Hajja Khalida Beydoun, in cooperation with Imam Abdul Latif Berry of IIK, plans to do girls-only swimming events at the large public swimming pool throughout the summer.

The event will be open to girls only, and the pool will be closed to men during the sessions, and the event will cost $15 per person.

Asked about how the swimming went, Ms. Beydoun explained, “Believe it or not I’m a pro, my mother always used to take us swimming.”

“I was certified as a lifeguard,” she explained.

She explained that her facility in the water was somewhat of a shock to the girls in the class who were not used to seeing their teacher in such a light. Some of them, she explained, said to her somewhat incredulously, “You’re so cool.”

“Community members had been excited about the event but worried the pool might be visible to the public,” said Ms. Beydoun, and so she, with Imam Berry, double- and triple-checked to confirm that the pool could not be seen from outside.

Speaking of all of the group activities the mosque has done with the girls, Hajja Khalida explained that “We’re like an extended family now–these girls unfortunately don’t have a venting place,” so through the girls’ activities they are given a place to unwind somewhat while still being in a Muslim environment.

The pool the girls will be using through the summer is fully equipped, with a diving board, a slide, a basketball rim, and a jacuzzi for girls and mothers 18 and older.

The dedication of the mosque to the girls has really opened a door to them into a wider world–one girl, explained Hajja Khalida, said to her that “Before, my dad never let me wear a bathing suit outside my back yard, but now he’s letting me go swimming in public.” Of course the parents can feel safe because they know that the girls will be protected by the chaperones that at once keep them sheltered from the anti-Islamic influences their families want to avoid, give them a broader and deeper understanding of Islam, and also give them a fun way to relax and vent with other girls and ladies from the community.

The swimming trip is the first of many events that the extremely active IIK program has planned for the summer, including a camping trip, a canoeing trip, graduation ceremonies, and more. The camping trip will be at a private beach and private house in northern Michigan for two days and three nights–48 girls have already signed up for this event, which was a lot of fun last year for the girls. As last year, there will be campfires, hiking through sand dunes, riding on a ferry, sightseeing, and of course Islamic lectures sprinkled in between.

“On May 7,” explained Ms. Beydoun, “We’re having a graduation celebration for the girls’ class at Byblos Hall.” The end of classes for the girls will be May 2. The girls will be arranging with some parents a dinner with Mawlid and games and prizes and gifts and some mention of Mother’s Day.

This summer at some point they hope to go even farther afield than last year. “We might also take them on an island somewhere in Ohio,” explained Hajja Khalida.

Many of the IIK girls’ activities are open to the public. For more information, please call IIK’s Public Relations Director Hajja Khalida Beydoun at 313-529-0247.

10-18

Community News (V10-I18)

FBI meets with Rio Grande Valley Muslims

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TX– Local FBI officials met with the Rio Grande Valley’s Islamic community Saturday night to assuage their fears about the agency’s investigations into the community and to discuss how the two groups can better work together, the Monitor reported.

While an FBI official explained the agency’s work and how it changed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, local Muslims asked questions about its investigation of Muslims’ donations to charities, wiretapping and agents’ treatment of Muslim women.

John Johnson, the FBI special agent in charge of the Valley, addressed the crowd of more than 100 at al-Ridwan mosque, 910 Elsham Ave. The meeting followed other informal talks with members of the mosque starting last fall during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

“After 9/11, things changed in the U.S., especially for Muslims,” said Amin Ibrahim, a member of the mosque’s board. “Everybody here in the Valley, we reaffirm our condemnation of such an attack.”

During Johnson’s nearly 20-minute speech, the FBI agent urged the Islamic community to have better communication with his agency and said the FBI is committed to protecting all Americans from threats to life and civil liberties.

His speech was followed by Maghrib prayers. Afterward, worshipers submitted anonymous questions on index cards, which a moderator then read aloud.

“What does the FBI expect from us?” one card read.

Johnson responded by repeating his call for good communication. He said the agency has to investigate all potential terrorist leads, even those that turn out to be unfounded. Recalling an actual situation, he said the FBI must even follow up on “ridiculous” charges lobbed by someone with a petty grudge against a Muslim man.

“The vast majority don’t really have any basis,” he said. “All we want is some kind of dialogue.”

Arkansas students organize lecture on Islam and Democracy

The Al-Islam Students Association and the University of Arkansas’ Multicultural Center sponsored a seminar on democracy and Islam Friday in the Arkansas Union, the Traveler reported.

Najib Ghadbian, associate professor of political science and Middle East studies, and Mubasher Ahmad, imam of baitul Jami’a Mosque in Chicago, spoke about the pursuit of democracy in Middle Eastern nations.

“The question of democracy is one of the most debated topics in Muslim countries, but what is important to realize is that Muslims want democracy to be embedded in their own values and religion,” Ghadbian said. “Most Muslims do not see the two as contradictory.”

“The general perception of Islam in the West at this point is negative,” he said. “It is a common misconception.”

It is important to place the issues of democracy into a socioeconomic context, Ghadbian said.

“We want to correct the misunderstandings about Islam, and we feel like the universities are a good place to start talking about these topics,” Ahmad said.

Both speakers stressed the compatibility of Islamic culture and democratic forms of government.

“In Islamic countries, the political system of democracy is not yet established,” Ahmed said. “There is a question of whether a European form of democracy should be implemented or if a new form should be used.

“Islam is not against democracy. Islam and democracy are compatible, but democracy has many different forms,” he said.

Ghadbian hopes people “will understand the complexity of the issue and how Muslims look at the issues, he said. Most Muslims want what most of us want. They want a good life.”

Canadian Royal Mounted Police Ordered to Pay Muslim Cadet

TORONTO– The Royal Canadian Mounted Police must retrain a Toronto-area Muslim man who was kicked out as a cadet nine years ago and pay him $650,000 in lost wages.

A Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruled Iranian-born Ali Tahmourpour, 35, was discriminated against in 1999 when he was discharged from training because he refused to remove a religious pendant, the Toronto Sun reported Thursday.

He was in his 14th week of training, which lasts 22 weeks in Regina, Saskatchewan, when the incident occurred, the report said. The RCMP also said at the time Tahmourpour had failed to clean his rifle properly, the tribunal heard.

The tribunal’s 65-page ruling ordered the RCMP to offer a spot to Tahmourpour in the next cadet training program, along with the lost wages and other compensation, the Sun said.

“This is a feeling of vindication for me,” Tahmoupour said. “I have always said I can become a Mountie if I was given a fair chance.”

UT partners with Aga Khan university, expands Muslim Histories Programs

AUSTIN, TX–The University of Texas has established a five-year exchange agreement with Aga Khan University in Pakistan.

The agreement will expand UTeach-Liberal Arts’ Muslim Histories and Cultures Program, a training program for Texas high school teachers. The program offers seminars and workshops on Muslim history and cultures. More than 80 secondary school teachers from school districts in Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston have participated in the program.

Under the agreement with AKU, the program will train additional Texas teachers from an expanded number of districts during the next three years.

“The agreement formalizes many relationships that are already in place between our two universities,” says Richard Flores, senior associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “Our hope is that the collaborations will help to dispel many of the myths and stereotypes about Islam that persist, and foster greater understanding between Texas and the Muslim world.”

AKU has 11 campuses in eight countries, including Afghanistan, Kenya, Pakistan, Tanzania, Uganda, Syria, Egypt and the United Kingdom.

PBS documentary examines Muslim American comedians, premieres May 11

Since April 2007, PBS has been airing its documentary series, America at a Crossroads, which examines the effects of 9/11 on the world. On May 11, Stand Up: Muslim American Comics Come of Age premieres at 10 pm EST as a continuing part of the series.

Stand Up features the stories of five Muslim American comics: Ahmed Ahmed was born in Egypt and raised in California; Tissa Hami, who was born in Iran and grew up outside Boston Dean Obeidallah who is New Jersey-raised and is of Palestinian descent; Azhar Usman, who is of Indian descent from Chicago and Maysoon Zayid, a Jersey-born Palestinian.

The film deftly captures each comic’s unique take on the problems post 9/11, onstage and off. Zayid, for instance, who has cerebral palsy, founded an organization in 2001 to help disabled Palestinian children. Check out the video below.

College panel discusses American perceptions of Islam

RIPON, WI — A panel comprised of Muslims and Ripon College students will aim to separate fact from myth about the Islamic faith during a discussion scheduled this week Theatre at Ripon College.

Topics will include the common religious beliefs that Christians and Muslims share, the truth about Muslims perceived support of violence, common cultural and political values Muslims around the world share with Americans, and Islam’s compatibility with democracy, according to a college press release.

Five students in Brian Smith’s course titled Religion and Politics in Comparative Perspective will make presentations. In addition, two Muslim students will give responses to the presentations, along with Nihal Shahbandar, a Muslim woman from the Fox Valley Islamic Society in Neenah.

Smith said he finds that many Americans do not understand the Islamic faith, including some on the Ripon College campus.

“There will be no peace in the world,” he said, “if there is poor understanding and a lack of respect among religions.”

10-18

Houstonian Corner (V10-I18)

Its’ Early Voting Time in the City of Sugar Land Elections

S. B. Gaddi is the First Muslim & Pakistani Candidate in the Elections

Early Voting for the City of Sugar Land Council begins this coming Monday, April 28th, 2008 and will continue till Tuesday, May 06th, 2008. At the same time, there will be Fort Bend County Bond Election and Fort Bend School District Trustees Elections. Main Election Day is Saturday, May 10th, 2008 (http://www.sugarlandtx.gov/ – Look for Elections)

In these elections, S. B. Gaddi is the first Muslim & Pakistani candidate (check his website at http://www.gaddiforsugarland.com/)

In the City of Sugar Land, other than Mayor, there are two at-large (for the whole of the city) councilpersons positions and four district (1 to 4) positions: Mayoral and at-large city councilpersons positions elections are held every second year during the even year (like we have Year 2008 at this time), while the four district councilpersons are elected during the odd years.

Present Mayor David Wallace had the option to re-run one last fourth time, but he has opted out of the mayoral race, giving opportunity to three candidates to vie for this position. One of those candidates is Daniel Wong, who is leaving his at-large city council 2 position to run for mayor. Another city councilperson Russell Jones of district 3 is as well running for the mayor. If Mr. Jones wins, there will be a special election to fill the district 3 position. If Mr. Jones does not become mayor, he still will continue as city councilperson in district 3.

One of the stronger candidates Mr. Wong if looses in the mayoral elections, it would mean his tenure at the City of Sugar Land will be over for the time being, since at-large two position is being contested by Jacquie Chaumette and S. B. Gaddi (first Muslim and Pakistani candidate).

As such on the ballot for the City of Sugar Land Elections 2008 will be these candidates (in this order):

Mayor: Russell Jones – James “Jimmy” Thompson – Daniel Wong

Council Member At-Large 1: Tom Abraham (he is incumbent and will need at least one vote to win the elections, since there is nobody running against him)

Council Member At-Large 2: Jacquie Chaumette – S. B. Gaddi

Those, who are interested in early voting by mail, can send to the Early Voting Clerk their requests for applications for a ballot by mail until the close of business on Friday, May 02, 2008. Requests for applications should be mailed to: Early Voting Clerk – Office of Elections Administration – 4520 Reading Road – Rosenberg – Texas 77471-2133. One needs to mail back the ballot to the same address, so that it reaches the Voting Clerk by Wednesday May 07th, 2008.

Early Voting Schedule

Early Voting Clerk has submitted the schedule in three different parts (or can be called zones). Since there are Fort Bend County and Scholl District Elections happening at the same time, these locations have places in cities like Richmond, Rosenberg, Stafford, etc.

Within the three so-called zones, there are 6 early voting locations in the City of Sugar Land:

ZONE 1

Location A: Garcia Middle School – 18550 Old Richmond Road, Sugar Land, Texas

Schedule

Monday – to – Friday: April 28th – till – May 02nd, 2008 – 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Saturday – May 03rd, 2008 – 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Sunday – May 04th, 2008 – CLOSED

Monday – & – Tuesday – May 05th – & – 06th, 2008 – 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

ZONE 2

Location A: Lost Creek Park – 3703 Lost Creek Boulevard, Sugar Land, Texas

Location B: Fort Bend Independent School District Administration Building – 16431 Lexington Boulevard, Sugar Land, Texas

Location C: Sugar Land City Hall – 2700 Town Center Boulevard. North, Sugar Land, Texas

Schedule

Monday – to – Friday: April 28th – till – May 02nd, 2008 – 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Saturday – May 03rd, 2008 – CLOSED

Sunday – May 04th, 2008 – CLOSED

Monday – & – Tuesday – May 05th – & – 06th, 2008 – 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

ZONE 3

Location A: First Colony Conference Center – 3232 Austin Parkway, Sugar Land, Texas

Location B: Townewest Town Hall – 10322 Old Towne Lane, Sugar Land, Texas

Schedule

Monday – to – Friday: April 28th – till – May 02nd, 2008 – 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Saturday – May 03rd, 2008 – 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Sunday – May 04th, 2008 – CLOSED

Monday – & – Tuesday – May 05th – & – 06th, 2008 – 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

10-18

It’s (Really) the Economy, Stupid

The worst Wall Street turmoil in a generation is going to wipe every other issue off the table for the next president.

Courtesy Jesse Eisinger

Lose billions of dollars as a result of bad loans? Get a bigger bonus. Negotiate a dumb mortgage for that house you can’t afford? Get bailed out by the Fed. These are heady days in the No-Consequences Economy.

The presidential campaign has gone on for so long that it feels like one of those bad dreams in which you run in slow motion but never get anywhere. When you wake up, though, the dream dissipates into a haze almost immediately. And that’s just what will happen with the campaign: Forget everything you’ve heard and everything you’ve tried to ignore. It has all been made irrelevant.

From the moment the next president takes office, one issue will overwhelm all others: the American financial crisis. The Federal Reserve has been taking extraordinary measures for more than half a year to contain the spreading misery, including recently brokering the bailout of Bear Stearns. But the damage continues to spread.

Is it that bad? Well, yes. The threat now is to the foundation of our economic structure. Faith in the financial system is crumbling. Because of the scope of the problem, dealing with its aftermath will dominate the next president’s entire agenda.

Other concerns will still draw attention. But they will come in second. Health-care reform? Not going to happen anytime soon. Immigration overhaul? Pay no attention. Global warming? Iraq? By necessity, these issues will recede from view (though they will obviously remain problems).

The next president will take office during what may well come to be known as the Great Recession, the worst financial crisis of the post-World War II era, worse than the savings-and-loan mess and worse than the stagflation of the 1970s. It’s not just a Wall Street problem, nor does it encompass only housing (which would be bad enough). This is a lending bubble, abetted by people who borrowed against their homes, racked up credit-card debt, and loaded up with possessions. And it extends far beyond that, to indebted commercial-real-estate companies, Wall Street firms, and banks. It’s increasingly looking like the economic revival of the past few years—once celebrated on the right as the “Bush boom”—was a mirage, conjured up by excessive borrowing and irresponsible lending.

There will be blood. In March, the markets got a reprieve, as hope rose that the crisis had passed. Unlikely. Over the next year, we will continue to see home-price depreciation. And much worse. We will have more failures similar to that of Bear Stearns. Since the banking system is pulling back, it will be much less willing to lend to consumers and, more significantly, to companies, which won’t have the money to invest in new plants and research and development. That means layoffs are just beginning. Personal bankruptcy is rising, and corporate bankruptcies are starting to go up. State and local governments will enter financial crises. The future holds massive pension shortfalls and retirement agonies. The problem is that the Fed has fired most of the bullets from its six-shooter, yet the enemy advances. The next president may well be dealing with markets in a continued free fall and a Fed that’s out of ammo and suffering serious damage to its reputation.

The landscape has been utterly transformed, yet the political establishment has barely grasped the enormity of the crisis. Washington isn’t solely to blame—all the supposed financial wizards on Wall Street missed it too. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson has announced a regulatory overhaul, but it hardly addresses any of the sources of the problem. President Bush has given a handful of typically tone-deaf speeches about the economy. But the proposals from this administration have been characteristically slow, myopic, and nowhere near ambitious enough to address the problem.

Certainly, voters have told pollsters that the economy is their No. 1 concern. But the candidates have addressed the crisis in piecemeal fashion. Only Barack Obama has shown hints of seeing the full panorama. They have advocated middle-class tax cuts, and the Democrats have talked about rolling back the Bush tax cuts. Obama and Hillary Clinton have made much of the loss of manufacturing jobs. All have beaten their chests over the high price of gas. Trade and immigration have figured in the campaigns. And of course, health-care reform has been a major issue for the Democrats. But health care is an economic challenge that has beset the country for years, and immigration and trade are not close to the heart of what has caused the current economic woes. Increasingly, such issues will be shoved to the sidelines.

Clinton raised an early alarm on the housing issue, and Obama followed. Their housing-market proposals, both calling for multibillion-dollar programs, sound big but are inadequate to address the size and scope of the disaster. And neither candidate has anything substantial to say about reforming the financial system. Obama and Clinton made statements the week of the Bear Stearns collapse, which was a start, but neither made mention of reshaping the system. John McCain is particularly out of his depth. Do I expect Obama, Clinton, and McCain to drop everything and talk only about structured finance, rating agencies, and banks’ capital requirements? Well, no.

But a federal bailout of big financial entities is a certainty—indeed, the Federal Reserve has already guaranteed billions of complex Bear Stearns loans. To the extent that those loans go bad, taxpayers are on the hook. There are billions more to come. Bush will not have the political will or firepower to set a bailout in motion, meaning the task will fall to the next president. What shape will the bailout and banking overhaul take? How will the government help underwater homeowners? Can we fix a broken Wall Street? The candidates need to start addressing this.

A great recession—and a New New Deal? There just might be reason for a sliver of cheer, however. Crises create opportunities for political realignment. After years of chasing the New New Thing, we now need, in the phrase of the moment, a New New Deal. We have had our decades of celebrating financial deregulation and a Federal Reserve chairman, Alan Greenspan, who genuflected at the altar of the free market. But now Big Government has rushed to bail out banks and investment institutions. Free-market ideology is in the process of imploding. Liberals have longed for an opening to roll back what political scientist Jacob Hacker has called the “great risk shift.”

As we have heard ad nauseam, the next president must be ready on day one. But we’ve been talking about the wrong kind of preparation. The candidates must prove they are ready for the economic crisis. Terrorism and threats from outside are not the gravest problems facing America. It’s the collapse from within.

10-18

The Next President’s First Task:A Manifesto

Courtesy Robert F. Kennedy Jr. , Vanity Fair, May 2008

Last November, Lord (David) Puttnam debated before Parliament an important bill to tackle global warming. Addressing industry and government warnings that we must proceed slowly to avoid economic ruin, Lord Puttnam recalled that precisely 200 years ago Parliament heard identical caveats during the debate over abolition of the slave trade. At that time slave commerce represented one-fourth of Britain’s G.D.P. and provided its primary source of cheap, abundant energy. Vested interests warned that financial apocalypse would succeed its prohibition.

That debate lasted roughly a year, and Parliament, in the end, made the moral choice, abolishing the trade outright. Instead of collapsing, as slavery’s proponents had predicted, Britain’s economy accelerated. Slavery’s abolition exposed the debilitating inefficiencies associated with zero-cost labor; slavery had been a ball and chain not only for the slaves but also for the British economy, hobbling productivity and stifling growth. Now creativity and productivity surged. Entrepreneurs seeking new sources of energy launched the Industrial Revolution and inaugurated the greatest era of wealth production in human history.

Today, we don’t need to abolish carbon as an energy source in order to see its inefficiencies starkly, or to understand that this addiction is the principal drag on American capitalism. The evidence is before our eyes. The practice of borrowing a billion dollars each day to buy foreign oil has caused the American dollar to implode. More than a trillion dollars in annual subsidies to coal and oil producers have beggared a nation that four decades ago owned half the globe’s wealth. Carbon dependence has eroded our economic power, destroyed our moral authority, diminished our international influence and prestige, endangered our national security, and damaged our health and landscapes. It is subverting everything we value.

We know that nations that “decarbonize” their economies reap immediate rewards. Sweden announced in 2006 the phaseout of all fossil fuels (and nuclear energy) by 2020. In 1991 the Swedes enacted a carbon tax – now up to $150 a ton – and as a result thousands of entrepreneurs rushed to develop new ways of generating energy from wind, the sun, and the tides, and from woodchips, agricultural waste, and garbage. Growth rates climbed to upwards of three times those of the U.S.

Iceland was 80 percent dependent on imported coal and oil in the 1970s and was among the poorest economies in Europe. Today, Iceland is 100 percent energy-independent, with 90 percent of the nation’s homes heated by geothermal and its remaining electrical needs met by hydro. The International Monetary Fund now ranks Iceland the fourth most affluent nation on earth. The country, which previously had to beg for corporate investment, now has companies lined up to relocate there to take advantage of its low-cost clean energy.

It should come as no surprise that California, America’s most energy-efficient state, also possesses its strongest economy.

The United States has far greater domestic energy resources than Iceland or Sweden does. We sit atop the second-largest geothermal resources in the world. The American Midwest is the Saudi Arabia of wind; indeed, North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas alone produce enough harnessable wind to meet all of the nation’s electricity demand. As for solar, according to a study in Scientific American, photovoltaic and solar-thermal installations across just 19 percent of the most barren desert land in the Southwest could supply nearly all of our nation’s electricity needs without any rooftop installation, even assuming every American owned a plug-in hybrid.

In America, several obstacles impede the kind of entrepreneurial revolution we need. To begin with, that trillion dollars in annual coal-and-oil subsidies gives the carbon industry a decisive market advantage. Meanwhile, an overstressed and inefficient national electrical grid can’t accommodate new kinds of power. At the same time, a byzantine array of local rules impede access by innovators to national markets.

There are a number of things the new president should immediately do to hasten the approaching boom in energy innovation. A carbon cap-and-trade system designed to put downward pressure on carbon emissions is quite simply a no-brainer. Already endorsed by Senators McCain, Clinton, and Obama, such a system would measure national carbon emissions and create a market to auction emissions credits. The supply of credits is then reduced each year to meet pre-determined carbon-reduction targets. As supply tightens, credit value increases, providing rich monetary rewards for innovators who reduce carbon. Since it is precisely targeted, cap-and-trade is more effective than a carbon tax. It is also more palatable to politicians, who despise taxes and love markets. Industry likes the system’s clear goals. This market-based approach has a proven track record.

There’s a second thing the next president should do, and it would be a strategic masterstroke: push to revamp the nation’s antiquated high-voltage power-transmission system so that it can deliver solar, wind, geothermal, and other renewable energy across the country. Right now, a Texas wind-farm manager who wants to get his electrons to market faces two huge impediments. First, our regional power grids are overstressed and misaligned. The biggest renewable-energy opportunities – for instance, Southwest solar and Midwest wind – are outside the grids’ reach. Furthermore, traveling via alternating-current (AC) lines, too much of that wind farmer’s energy would dissipate before it crossed the country. The nation urgently needs more investment in its backbone transmission grid, including new direct-current (DC) power lines for efficient long-haul transmission. Even more important, we need to build in “smart” features, including storage points and computerized management overlays, allowing the new grid to intelligently deploy the energy along the way. Construction of this new grid will create a marketplace where utilities, established businesses, and entrepreneurs can sell energy and efficiency.

The other obstacle is the web of arcane and conflicting state rules that currently restrict access to the grid. The federal government needs to work with state authorities to open up the grids, allowing clean-energy innovators to fairly compete for investment, space, and customers. We need open markets where hundreds of local and national power producers can scramble to deliver economic and environmental solutions at the lowest possible price. The energy sector, in other words, needs an initiative analogous to the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which required open access to all the nation’s telephone lines. Marketplace competition among national and local phone companies instantly precipitated the historic explosion in telecom activity.

Construction of efficient and open-transmission marketplaces and green-power-plant infrastructure would require about a trillion dollars over the next 15 years. For roughly a third of the projected cost of the Iraq war we could wean the country from carbon. And the good news is that the government doesn’t actually have to pay for all of this. If the president works with governors to lift constraints and encourage investment, utilities and private entrepreneurs will quickly step in to revitalize the grid and recover their investment through royalties collected for transporting green electrons. Businesses and homes will become power plants as individuals cash in by installing solar panels and wind turbines on their buildings, and by selling the stored energy in their plug-in hybrids back to the grid at peak hours.

Energy expert and former CIA director R. James Woolsey predicts: “With rational market incentives and a smart backbone, you’ll see capital and entrepreneurs flooding this field with lightning speed.” Ten percent of venture-capital dollars are already deployed in the clean-tech sector, and the world’s biggest companies are crowding the space with capital and scrambling for position.

The president’s final priority must be to connect a much smarter power grid to vastly more efficient buildings and machines. We have barely scratched the surface here. Washington is a decade behind its obligation, first set by Ronald Reagan, to set cost-minimizing efficiency standards for all major appliances. With the conspicuous exception of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s California, the states aren’t doing much better. And Congress keeps setting ludicrously tight expiration dates for its energy-efficiency tax credits, frustrating both planning and investment. The new president must take all of this in hand at once.

The benefits to America are beyond measure. We will cut annual trade and budget deficits by hundreds of billions, improve public health and farm production, diminish global warming, and create millions of good jobs. And for the first time in half a century we will live free from Middle Eastern wars and entanglements with petty tyrants who despise democracy and are hated by their own people.

Environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, a non-governmental organization that promotes clean water throughout the world.

10-18

What the Iraq War Is About

Courtesy Paul Craig Roberts

[Paul Craig Roberts is a former editor and columnist for The Wall Street Journal. He served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy during the Reagan administration.]

The Bush regime has quagmired America into a sixth year of war in Afghanistan and Iraq with no end in sight. The cost of these wars of aggression is horrendous. Official U.S. combat casualties stand at 4,538 dead. Officially, 29,780 U.S. troops have been wounded in Iraq.

On April 17, 2008, AP News reported that a new study released by the RAND Corporation concludes that “some 300,000 U.S. troops are suffering from major depression or post-traumatic stress from serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and 320,000 received brain injuries.”

On April 21, 2008, OpEdNews.com reported that an internal e-mail from Gen. Michael J. Kussman, undersecretary for health at the Veterans Administration, to Ira Katz, head of mental health at the VA, confirms a McClatchy Newspaper report that 126 veterans per week commit suicide. To the extent that the suicides are attributable to the war, more than 500 deaths should be added to the reported combat fatalities each month.

Turning to Iraqi deaths, expert studies support as many as 1.2 million dead Iraqis, almost entirely civilians. Another 2 million Iraqis have fled their country, and there are 2 million displaced Iraqis within Iraq.

Afghan casualties are unknown.

Both Afghanistan and Iraq have suffered unconscionable civilian deaths and damage to housing, infrastructure, and environment. Iraq is afflicted with depleted uranium and open sewers.

Then there are the economic costs to the U.S. Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates the full cost of the invasion and attempted occupation of Iraq to be between $3 trillion and $5 trillion. The dollar price of oil and gasoline have tripled, and the dollar has lost value against other currencies, declining dramatically even against the lowly Thai baht. Before Bush launched his wars of aggression, one U.S. dollar was worth 45 baht. Today the dollar is only worth 30 baht.

The U.S. cannot afford these costs. Prior to his resignation last month, U.S. Comptroller General David Walker reported that the accumulated unfunded liabilities of the U.S. government total $53 trillion. The U.S. government cannot cover these liabilities. The Bush regime even has to borrow the money from foreigners to pay for its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no more certain way to bankrupt the country and dethrone the dollar as world reserve currency.

The moral costs are perhaps the highest. All of the deaths, injuries, and economic costs to the U.S. and its victims are due entirely to lies told by the president and vice president of the U.S., by the secretary of defense, the national security adviser, the secretary of state, and, of course, by the media, including the “liberal” New York Times. All of these lies were uttered in behalf of an undeclared agenda. “Our” government has still not told “we the people” the real reasons “our” government invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.

Instead, the American sheeple have accepted a succession of transparent lies: weapons of mass destruction, al-Qaeda connections and complicity in the 9/11 attack, overthrowing a dictator and “bringing democracy” to Iraqis.

The great, moral American people would rather believe government lies than to acknowledge the government’s crimes and to hold the government accountable.

There are many effective ways in which a moral people could protest. Consider investors, for example. Clearly Halliburton and military suppliers are cleaning up. Investors flock to the stocks in order to participate in the rise in value from booming profits. But what would a moral people do? Wouldn’t they boycott the stocks of the companies that are profiting from the Bush regime’s war crimes?

If the U.S. invaded Iraq for any of the succession of reasons the Bush regime has given, why would the U.S. have spent $750 million on a fortress “embassy” with anti-missile systems and its own electricity and water systems spread over 104 acres? No one has ever seen or heard of such an embassy before. Clearly, this “embassy” is constructed as the headquarters of an occupying colonial ruler.

The fact is that Bush invaded Iraq with the intent of turning Iraq into an American colony. The so-called government of Maliki is not a government. Maliki is the well paid front man for U.S. colonial rule. Maliki’s government does not exist outside the protected Green Zone, the headquarters of the American occupation.

If colonial rule were not the intent, the U.S. would not be going out of its way to force Sadr’s 60,000-man militia into a fight. Sadr is a Shi’ite who is a real Iraqi leader, perhaps the only Iraqi who could end the sectarian conflict and restore some unity to Iraq. As such he is regarded by the Bush regime as a danger to the American puppet Maliki. Unless the U.S. is able to purchase or rig the upcoming Iraqi election, Sadr is likely to emerge as the dominant figure. This would be a highly unfavorable development for the Bush regime’s hopes of establishing its colonial rule behind the facade of a Maliki fake democracy. Rather than work with Sadr in order to extract themselves from a quagmire, the Americans will be doing everything possible to assassinate Sadr.

Why does the Bush regime want to rule Iraq? Some speculate that it is a matter of “peak oil.” Oil supplies are said to be declining even as demand for oil multiplies from developing countries such as China. According to this argument, the U.S. decided to seize Iraq to ensure its own oil supply.

This explanation is problematic. Most U.S. oil comes from Canada, Mexico, and Venezuela. The best way for the U.S. to ensure its oil supplies would be to protect the dollar’s role as world reserve currency. Moreover, $3-5 trillion would have purchased a tremendous amount of oil. Prior to the U.S. invasions, the U.S. oil import bill was running less than $100 billion per year. Even in 2006 total U.S. imports from OPEC countries was $145 billion, and the U.S. trade deficit with OPEC totaled $106 billion. Three trillion dollars could have paid for U.S. oil imports for 30 years; $5 trillion could pay the U.S. oil bill for a half century had the Bush regime preserved a sound dollar.

The more likely explanation for the U.S. invasion of Iraq is the neoconservative Bush regime’s commitment to the defense of Israeli territorial expansion. There is no such thing as a neoconservative who is not allied with Israel. Israel hopes to steal all of the West Bank and southern Lebanon for its territorial expansion. An American colonial regime in Iraq not only buttresses Israel from attack, but also can pressure Syria and Iran not to support the Palestinians and Lebanese. The Iraqi war is a war for Israeli territorial expansion. Americans are dying and bleeding to death financially for Israel. Bush’s “war on terror” is a hoax that serves to cover U.S. intervention in the Middle East on behalf of “greater Israel.”

10-18

Demonstration Against War in Iraq

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

As the occupation of Iraq continues and the death toll rises, another voice at the Los Angeles campus of the University of California (UCLA) has been added to the list of anti war activists. While the voice may be relatively new to the students, it is a voice from the past for their parents and grandparents.

Students for A Democratic Society (SDS) is composed of undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and allied personnel. During the 1960’s and 1970’s SDS was one of the primary voices to speak out against United States involvement in Vietnam.

This past Thursday the campus SDS sponsored a march and rally to protest the unjust war in Iraq with its corollary death toll and destruction of Iraqi infrastructure and civilian property.

The rally took place at UCLA’s Bruin Plaza, a centrally located outdoor meeting place and eating area. Bruin Plaza is often the site of recruiters and campus activists.

Meeting at Bunche International Hall, the demonstrators marched through campus often joined by other students and even more frequently receiving cheers from passersby. As they marched they chanted “What do We Want – Peace; When do we Want it – Now” and “Occupation is a Crime, from Iraq to Palestine”. After marching through the school cafeteria, the demonstrators began their rally on the McClure Stage in Bruin Plaza.

Those already in the square turned their attention to the speakers while others soon joined them.

The demonstrators held signs with such messages as: “Stay out of Iran”, “Five Years too many”, and “War is not the Answer”.

The speakers detailed the death and destruction caused by the American occupation. One speaker held up a military issue backpack and told his audience of the weapons carried by soldiers in that type of pack. This backpack, he said, belongs to a soldier who had four deployments. On his last deployment he left behind a two year old child.

Another speaker called this war a “Green Card War”. Many Americans do not realize, she continued, that in 2002 President George Bush signed into law a fast track bill that grants a Green Card as a path to citizenship to any immigrant who enlists. Military recruiters station themselves in America’s poorest neighborhoods to prey on young men and women. At present some 30,000 troops are “Green Card” troops.

There were gasps from the audience upon hearing this aspect of the war. “I didn’t know about this” said one young woman. “These immigrants must feel trapped”.

A speaker asked Iraqi war veterans to speak out. Another read a moving poem.

The Muslim Student Association (MSA) worked with SDS in preparing this event. One of their members spoke at the rally. In referring to the length of the war and the actions that have taken place in opposition, he asked where our sense of urgency had gone to. “Anyone with an ounce of humanity should be against the war.”

10-18