Obama Administration


confessions

Al-Jazeera has recently published an article on an American serviceman who helped design the drone program in Afghanistan. The article is online here.

I published my critique of the drone policy in Yemen for the Gulf Studies Center of Qatar University. This is available in pdf here.

salman

This blog post is also available in Swedish

Check out the blog post by Eric Davis of Rutgers University on the need to take out Da’ash now.

This stupidity needs to end: Why the Atlantic & NY Post are clueless about Islam

Pundits claiming that ISIS is emblematic of Islam ignore the intellectual traditions at the heart of the religion
by H.A. Hellyer, Salon, Februrary 20, 2015

This week, President Obama hosted a summit on countering “violent extremism,” where he received criticism from some on the rightwing over his refusal to call such violence “Islamic.” American media outlets, particularly the Atlantic and the New York Post, have struck a similar chord of late. All of this happens against a rather poignant backdrop: Only a few days ago, ISIS released a video showing the killing of 21 Coptic Egyptians in Libya. The group expressed what it considered to be Islamic justification for its actions. Long after the summit, specialists in the field of counter-extremism will continue to ask the question: Is ISIS actually representative in some way of Islam? And what, really, is the relationship between the group that calls itself the “Islamic State” and the world’s second largest religion?

There will be those that will insist that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam or religion in general — that ISIS is primarily a social and political phenomenon, bereft of ideology entirely, or simply using Islam as a superficial justification. Counterterrorism studies indicate that for very many people in the broader radical Islamist universe, non-ideological factors certainly play magnificently important roles. At the same time, it is also the case that for radical Islamists, an ideological component not only exists, but is crucial in understanding their world views. In some shape or form, for ISIS supporters, religion certainly plays a role. But what religion, precisely?

The easy answer is to say “Islam” – but it is also a rather lazy answer. There are around 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. The vast, overwhelming majority of them, needless to say, are not members of ISIS — and, in fact, Muslims actually make up the majority of ISIS’s victims, its most active enemies on the battlefield, and its most prominent detractors. (more…)

Faux News expanded its crusade against President Obama (who is reduced to POTUS in their pseudo-news hocus pocus) and Islam (which is only newsworthy when it is called extreme) with a line right out of Monty Python. At the White House Prayer Breakfast (which Fox seems to think only included “evangelicals”) the president made a simple moral point that we should get off our “high horse” and remember that atrocious acts have been committed in the past by Christians in the Crusades and Inquisition. He might have added that “witches” were routinely burned at the stake in Christian Europe. The response from the right was that the president must hate Christianity if he compares the horrific acts of ISIS to marauding Crusaders and Torquemada. Some have such vitriol for Obama that they claimed the Crusaders were acting in self-defense.

I do not have the stomach to watch Faux News (and mercifully I choose not to have a cable connection in Qatar), but the tidbits that float through Facebook and Youtube cannot be easily avoided. (more…)

Is it hard to image what President Obama has not been called. The tea party partisans say he is not an American; many Republicans think he is a Muslim (or Arab as though there is any difference). And he has let Muslim Brothers take over the government. He is obviously a socialist, if not a communist. And then there is what the Bible has to say about this American president (not to mention several others before him and quite a few defunct world leaders). So some prophecy sites on Youtube say he is the Beast of Revelation. After all, the secret service calls his presidential limousine “the beast.” Or the Antichrist. If he had a sex change operation, he would no doubt be a candidate for the “Whore of Babylon.” But then where would that leave Hilary Clinton? And now that we know that Michelle Obama is a man, it is really hard to find a revelation role for her or him.

(more…)

When I first arrived in Yemen, early in 1978, I found a virtual janna, a country building itself up by the sandalstraps, people who were welcoming, tribesmen who did more than wear their honor on their sleeves, a sense that the future would bring good things. It was not a land frozen in time, despite the lack of infrastructure and Western amenities, but a force for change as Yemenis took to entrepreneurship as second nature (which it, of course, always was). Development was in the air and on the ground, as bilateral and United Nations agencies poured money into Yemen, much of it ineffectual and wasted. In 1978 USAID was sponsoring a major sorghum improvement project in Yemen, a boondoggle that did little more than collect seeds for the University of Arizona’s seed bank. Given what I learned about Yemeni farmers’ knowledge, they should have been giving advice to the United States on how to grow sorghum. Much ado was made about building up the capacity of the central government, although the money flowing in through the various programs invited corruption rather than sustainable growth. Still, I have felt over the years that Yemenis, by and large, have the resolve and grit to persevere.

In the past three and a half decades Yemen has experienced ups and downs. A population estimated around 6 million or less back then has skyrocketed to some 24 million today. With the decline in subsistence agriculture, which at least filled stomachs, poverty and malnutrition are greater today than they were in 1978. The devastating loss of remittance wealth, which fueled Yemen’s grass-roots development in the 1980s, has led to chronic unemployment. The much touted unification in 1990, a kalashnikov wedding in hindsight, could not overcome the power politics and regional rivalry that have played out in the last two decades. The removal, or at least side-lining, of Ali Abdullah Salih has thus far not resulted in progress towards a peaceful solution to Yemen’s agonizing conflicts. The problem is not so much the inability of Yemen to renew itself, but the continual interference from outside forces. (more…)

YEMENIS AFFECTED BY U.S. DRONE STRIKES TO LAUNCH VICTIMS’ UNION

by Amel Ahmed, Al Jazeera, March 31, 2014

Friends and family members of victims of U.S. drone strikes in Yemen are launching a national drone victims’ organization Tuesday to support affected communities and lobby for a change in Yemeni government policy regarding the covert program.

The National Organization for Drone Victims (NODV), with the assistance of UK-based legal charity Reprieve, will conduct investigations of drone strikes and highlight the civilian impact of the U.S.’ controversial drone program in Yemen.

Baraa Shiban, the project coordinator for Reprieve, told Al Jazeera that the constant presence of drones in Yemen is devastating communities. “We are talking almost 50 percent of the country — ten provinces in total — who suffer from the constant hovering of drones.”

Shiban said that NODV will assist affected communities in the aftermath of drone strikes by focusing on the economic impact of the loss of families’ primary bread-winners, psychological trauma and physical injuries. (more…)

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