Osama Bin Laden

In case you were wondering what kinds of books Bin Laden was reading, at least in his Pakistan compound before his demise, the U.S. Government has provided a list. This is at http://www.dni.gov/index.php/resources/bin-laden-bookshelf?start=3 Some 75 of over 400 items listed were publicly available U.S. Government reports; it seem he could have written a thesis in International Relations while in hiding. It is an odd collection, from current political accounts to the bizarre. I am sure that finding Bloodlines of the Illuminati by Fritz Springmeier will spring several new conspiracy theories. I just wonder how far Bin Laden read into a book of 624 pages…

So here is the story. A plumber in Texas (some of the least rosy redneck territory out there where they gulp down tequila or whiskey with their tea partying) sells his old Ford truck and forgets to remove his logo. The auction house sends it along the chain of used cars and trucks, not knowing where it might end up. This is the automotive counterpart of banking derivatives and we know how great that was. Then one day there is a tweet from the Ansar al-Jil terrorist faction in Syria showing a new use for the old leaky-faucet-repair truck: a large gun mounted and firing (probably at nothing in particular and not hitting anything, but it makes a great propaganda shot). And there is the Texan Mark-1 plumbing logo for all to see in the twittering world and beyond. Forget the Alamo, this is really bad news.

This being Texas, the phones start ringing back at the plumbing office and this is a leak that is about as bad as any sewer overflow you can imagine in this redneck part of the woods… Damn terrorists no doubt causing true-blooded Americans’ pipes to get clogged. Terrorists in your bathroom no less… (more…)

This photograph taken on May 2, 2013 shows Pakistan man, Abdul Razzaq holding the national identity card of his brother Amanatullah Ali, who has been detained for the last nine years in Bagram jail in Afghanistan, in Faisalabad. Guillaume Lavallee/AFP/Getty Images

Abu Zubaydah and the banality of ‘jihadism’

by Terry McDermott, al-Jazeera,December 19, 2013

The world is full of dangerous goofballs, but we can’t treat them all as threats to civilization

The Abu Zubaydah diaries recently made available to the public by Al Jazeera America might seem interesting only to security officials or 9/11 obsessives. To regard them as such would be a mistake, for they contain the most detailed portrait of the interior life of a dedicated jihadi that we have ever seen, and that we might ever see. They also help substantiate what should by now be clear: The U.S. has made significant, basic errors in its response to 9/11 and the threat of radical Islam.

Zubaydah, born in Palestine and raised in middle-class comfort in Saudi Arabia, rose through the 1990s — by what abilities it is not clear — to a position of some stature within radical Islam. He recorded his rise in hundreds of diary entries addressed to his future self. Written over two decades, the diaries track him from an early adulthood spent studying computer programming at a technical college in India through early 2002. Further diaries, written while he has been in U.S. custody, including at Guantánamo, have yet to be revealed.

Zubaydah was captured in the spring of 2002, the first significant Al-Qaeda-linked terrorist to be caught after 9/11. It turned out the link to Al-Qaeda was more tenuous than the U.S. government had imagined. For years, the U.S. government had viewed him as a major figure within the group, at one point even elevating him to the No. 3 position on what turned out to be a fanciful Al-Qaeda organizational chart. (more…)

The moral ambiguity of Homeland or Argo is a fitting tribute to the reality of US Middle East policy

by Rachel Shabi, The Guardian, Monday 14 January 2013

America’s Middle East policy has been enthusiastically endorsed. Not at the UN or Arab League, however, but by the powerbrokers of Hollywood. At the Golden Globes, there were gongs for a heroically bearded CIA spook saving hostages and American face in Iran (the film Argo); a heroically struggling agent tracking down Bin Laden (Zero Dark Thirty) and heroically flawed CIA operatives protecting America from mindless, perpetual terror (TV series Homeland).

The three winners have all been sold as complex, nuanced productions that don’t shy away from hard truths about US foreign policy. And liberal audiences can’t get enough of them. Perhaps it’s because, alongside the odd bit of self-criticism, they are all so reassuringly insistent that, in an increasingly complicated world, America just keeps on doing the right thing. And even when it does the wrong thing – such as, I don’t know, torture and drone strikes and deadly invasions – it is to combat far greater evil, and therefore OK.

When I saw Argo in London with a Turkish friend, we were the only ones not clapping at the end. Instead, we were wondering why every Iranian in this horribly superior film was so angry and shouty. It was a tense, meticulously styled depiction of America’s giant, perpetual, wailing question mark over the Middle East: “Why do they hate us?” Iranians are so irked by the historically flimsy retelling of the hostage crisis that their government has commissioned its own version in response.

Zero Dark Thirty, another blanked-out, glossed-up portrayal of US policy, seems to imply that America’s use of torture – sorry, “enhanced interrogation” – is legitimate because it led to the capture of Osama bin Laden (something that John McCain and others have pointed out is not even true). Adding insult to moral bankruptcy, the movie has been cast as a feminist film, because it has a smart female lead. This is cinematic fraud: a device used to extort our approval. (more…)

Tribesmen from Yemen´s Bakil tribal confederation waiting for a decision at a tribal law-based conflict resolution session (Mikael Strandberg)

by Khaled Fattah, opencanada.org, October 18, 2012

With the recent stepping up of controversial U.S. drone attacks in tribal areas of Yemen, and post-Arab Spring confrontations with militant jihadist groups in tribal areas of Egypt, Libya, and North Africa, a number of misconceptions surrounding the links between tribes and terrorism in the Arab Middle East continue to plague press coverage and policy reports. The first of these misconceptions is that tribal areas are lawless, ungoverned spaces – a modern-day Wild West. Another misconception is that the ultra-conservative culture of Arab tribes is fertile ground in which to root the violent ideology of transnational terror cells. The truth is that much of the current commentary about tribes and tribalism in the Arab Middle East reflects the Pentagon’s experiences so far in the American-led “War on Terror.” This war has now shifted from boot-heavy invasions to ghost wars in which drones hover over countries with significant tribal populations: Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya, and Mali. The War on Terror is now primarily carried out via “open secret” predator drone missions that increasingly target exclusively tribal areas.

Tribal Areas Today Are Not the Wild West

Over the last 10 years, many comparisons have been drawn between the fabled “Wild West” of America toward the end of the 19th century, and present-day tribal areas of the Middle East. The “Wild West” conjures up images of adventurous cowboys facing off in a dusty street in front of a gambling den or brothel, pistols drawn. The image suggests a lawless era in U.S. history, where violence prevailed in American frontier towns, might made right, and the weak were punished for crimes they did not commit. The Wild West was an anarchic social world shaped by outlawed individuals and their henchmen. This period in American history bares little resemblance to life in the tribal areas of the Arab world today, which are highly socialized, with clear normative controls. The association of tribal areas in the Middle East with the Wild West is simply an attractive analogy to intermittent foreign observers and army generals. (more…)

by Juan Cole, History News Network, May 7, 2012

Mitt Romney said Monday that of course he would have taken out Osama bin Laden and that “even Jimmy Carter would have made that call.”

Since Jimmy Carter ordered a brave and risky but failed military mission into Iran, that was a cheap shot on the part of someone who has never had anything to do with the military. Moreover, Jimmy Carter made peace between Egypt and Israel and played a major role in reducing the number of Africans stricken by the Guinea worm from 3.5 million to 1,100. So Romney, who has mainly been sending our jobs overseas, isn’t good enough to shine Carter’s shoes.

Moreover, Romney is forgetting what he said about Obama when bin Laden was killed:

“I think the president deserves credit for approving a relatively high-risk entry into the country with helicopters and special operations personnel, Navy SEALs,” Romney said. “That was the thing that proved to be successful.”

So at the time, Romney acknowledged that Obama made the decision, and that it was a high-risk strategy that he approved (advisors such as Joe Biden preferred a missile strike). (more…)

The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point has just issued a report on the letters found at Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. This is: Letters from Abbottabad: Bin Ladin Sidelined?
The authors are Don Rassler, Gabriel Koehler-Derrick, Liam Collins, Muhammad al-Obaidi, and Nelly Lahoud. Here is the description and it can be downloaded here.

This report is a study of 17 de-classified documents captured during the Abbottabad raid and released to the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC). They consist of electronic letters or draft letters, totaling 175 pages in the original Arabic and 197 pages in the English translation. The earliest is dated September 2006 and the latest April 2011. These internal al-Qa`ida communications were authored by several leaders, most prominently Usama bin Ladin. In contrast to his public statements that focused on the injustice of those he believed to be the “enemies” of Muslims, namely corrupt “apostate” Muslim rulers and their Western “overseers,” the focus of Bin Ladin’s private letters is Muslims’ suffering at the hands of his jihadi “brothers”. He is at pain advising them to abort domestic attacks that cause Muslim civilian casualties and focus on the United States, “our desired goal.” Bin Ladin’s frustration with regional jihadi groups and his seeming inability to exercise control over their actions and public statements is the most compelling story to be told on the basis of the 17 de-classified documents. “Letters from Abbottabad” is an initial exploration and contextualization of 17 documents that will be the grist for future academic debate and discussion.

I find myself finally in agreement with a slogan coined by the effervescent Newt Gingrich: America is at risk. But unlike the fear-mongering in his DVD (buy a copy to share with fellow Islamophobes at an afternoon Tea Party hate session), he himself and his shameless self-promotion are what put that which America stands for at greatest risk. The political opportunists (and anyone who is polling as appallingly low as Newt in the polls is an opportunist extraordinaire) have always stretched and even obliterated reality to suit their egos and their dreamed-for political fortune (in more ways than the ideological). There are terrorists in the world; some of them happen to be Muslim; most have grievances that have little to do with religious principles. The suicide bomber who screams Allahu Akbar is not a substitute for the devout Muslim who faithfully follows the pillars and values of his or her religion and who remembers that first and foremost Allah is merciful and compassionate (bi-ism-allah-ar-rahman-al-rahim). The Catholic mob which sawed Huguenots in half in France a few centuries ago, and so revolted Voltaire, is hardly created in the image of the Jesus of the Gospels. The risk to America is not from any military power or futile terrorist plot, but from the demise of the values that made America a beacon of freedom rather than a superpower flexing its muscles globally.

I have not padded the Gingrich Productions empire by buying his “Citizens United” (but only the right, White kind of citizens) DVD, but I did take a look at the slick (I am tempted to leave the letter “l” out of that last word) trailer. (more…)

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