American policy, at the highest levels of state, is specifically and deliberately designed to kill, despoil, dispossess, insult and outrage Muslims, in operations all over the world. That's what the Terror War is all about. We have spent more than $3 trillion burning Korans -- and their readers -- in the last decade. This policy has been pushed, championed and cheered by virtually the entire bipartisan political and media establishments -- and by much of the religious establishment as well.
Yet this week we have been treated to the bleakly comic sight of the avatars of these very establishments expressing their deeply humanitarian concerns -- and their nostril-flaring moral outrage -- over the plans of a Florida religious crank to publicly burn a few Korans on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. These societal leaders -- such as Gen. David Petraeus and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- sternly warn us that such an act will inevitably produce violent blowback, stoke Islamic extremism and exacerbate anti-American feeling in the Muslim world.
“We’re concerned that the images from the burning of a Quran would be used in the same way that extremists used images from Abu Ghraib — that they would in a sense be indelible,” Petraeus told NBC’s Brian Williams. “They would be used by those who wish us ill, to incite violence and to enflame public opinion against us and against our mission here in Afghanistan, as well as our missions undoubtedly around the world.”
These concerns are, of course, pertinent, and it is good to see them aired so prominently. However, one wonders about the ultimate effectiveness of such messages, coming as they do from these particular messengers.
For example, how many Korans have been burned in the countless civilian houses and institutions destroyed in attacks under Petraeus' command in both Iraq and Afghanistan? Hundreds of Korans? Thousands of Korans? Tens of thousands of Korans? (Along with their eviscerated owners, of course.)
How many Korans have been burned in the destruction of civilian houses by missiles fired in the Obama Administration's ruthless, ever-expanding -- and entirely illegal -- drone war in Pakistan?
The attacks destroyed three homes in North Waziristan as well as a car. The children were in a home near one of the targeted homes which was also damaged in the blast. The US has launched a number of drone strikes over the past several days, but there has been no indication that any “high value” targets were killed and most of the dead appear to be local tribesmen who are nominally affiliated with militant factions.
Three homes in this single raid (one of dozens now striking homes in Pakistan every month): how many Korans were burned, do you think? At least three, and probably more. And then there are the dead children, of course. One wonders if the fact (not just the "images") of these dead children -- and the thousands of other innocent children whose bodies have been gutted, beheaded, gashed in or torn to shreds by American missiles, bombs and bullets fired at the order of General David Petraeus and Barack Obama and all their worthy predecessors whose noble work they are so assiduously continuing -- will be "used by those who wish us ill, to incite violence and to enflame public opinion against us and against our mission here in Afghanistan, as well as our missions undoubtedly around the world"?
One wonders if the actual burning and slaughtering of actual human beings in the Muslim world -- covertly and overtly, in country after country, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year -- by the highest, most honored, respected and powerful worthies of American society might, just possibly, incite more violence and ill will against us than the burning of a few books by a marginal, powerless goober down in Florida.
But let us not spoil the nice little moral bubble bath our bloodstained leaders are giving themselves. They do enjoy it so much.
Below we present a short film by the up-and-coming transatlantic auteur Avalon Floyd, with musical accompaniment by a down-and-fading obscurity, singing one of those geometric doxologies just like they did in days of yore.
Mullah Omar of Afghanistan must have been one of the last people in the world with a deep, abiding faith in the lawfulness of the American government. Certainly, the American people had long been accustomed to – and largely approving of – their government bending, twisting and breaking the rule of law, especially in matters of foreign policy and “national security.” And of course, the millions of people around the world on the receiving end of invasions, subversions and coercions from the Potomac potentates were well aware of America’s infinitely elastic notions of law.
Yet in the days after 9/11, there was Mulllah Omar -- the half-blind leader of a group of rural zealots who had stepped into the power vacuum left behind by decades of ruinous Great Gaming by foreign powers and vicious civil war – clinging firmly to the belief that the United States would never attack his country. After all, the Taliban had no prior knowledge of the attacks in New York and Washington – attacks which the Taliban had condemned unequivocally and publicly the next day, while calling for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. If the Americans suspected Osama bin Laden, the former CIA ally living in Afghanistan, then surely they would produce documentary evidence of his guilt. And if such incriminating evidence was forthcoming, then the Taliban, as publicly promised, would cooperate in finding ways to bring bin Laden to trial. Thus, America had no legal reason to attack Afghanistan; and so the country was safe.
This was the reasoning that Mullah Omar expressed to one of his top foreign affairs advisers, Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, as Jonathan Steele recounts in an excellent article in the latest London Review of Books. Omar simply could not conceive that the United States would simply shred all notions of law and due process to launch a devastating attack on an entire country, in order – ostensibly – to get revenge on handful of men: men whom the Taliban were more than willing to give up – in accordance with the rule of law and due process. But the dossier of “hard proof” of bin Laden’s guilt promised by Colin Powell in the few remaining days of peace after 9/11 never materialized (and still has not materialized). And so, despite Mullah Omar’s touching faith in the American system, the war came. -- Omar escaped the American onslaught (as did bin Laden, of course); but Zaeef was captured. Steele recounts his story:
The only detailed insider account of the Taliban is a memoir by Abdul Salam Zaeef, the movement’s former ambassador to Pakistan. ... My Life with the Taliban usefully shows that its leaders saw themselves as nationalists, reformers and liberators rather than Islamist ideologues.... Arrested after the Taliban collapse in 2001, Zaeef was sent to Guantánamo. On the way he spent time in US custody in Kandahar and Bagram, where he was kept in solitary confinement with his hands and feet tied for 20 days. In Kandahar – shades of the abuse in Abu Ghraib – Zaeef says he was stripped naked and mocked by male and female US troops, one of whom took photos. After three years in Guantánamo, he was offered release on condition he signed a statement that he had been a member of al-Qaida and the Taliban and would cut all ties with them. ‘I was a Talib, I am a Talib and I will always be a Talib, but I have never been part of al-Qaida,’ he retorted. Eventually they allowed him to go after signing a declaration: ‘I am writing this out of obligation and stating that I am not going to participate in any kind of anti-American activities or military actions.’
Zaeef maintains that he was shocked by al-Qaida’s attack on 9/11, of which he had no foreknowledge. He says he wept when he watched TV pictures of the burning buildings and people throwing themselves out and falling to the ground like stones: ‘I stared at the pictures in disbelief.’ He immediately saw the likely repercussions. ‘I knew that Afghanistan and its poverty-stricken people would ultimately suffer for what had just taken place in America. The United States would seek revenge.’ He admits that some of the Taliban watching the scene were jubilant and thought the US was too far away to retaliate. ‘How could they be so superficial?’ he asks.
Mullah Omar rang to consult Zaeef about how to react. Next morning Zaeef called a press conference in Islamabad and read a statement condemning the attacks. ‘All those responsible must be brought to justice. We want them to be brought to justice and we want America to be patient and careful in their actions,’ it said. Zaeef returned to Kandahar, where he found Mullah Omar blindly sure that the US was unlikely to attack. He tried to warn the Taliban leader. He told him Pakistan was urging the US to launch air strikes on Afghanistan and had already started talks with the Northern Alliance in the expectation that they would be the leaders of a post-Taliban government. But Omar claimed America could not attack Afghanistan without valid reason. He had asked Washington to deliver proof incriminating bin Laden and said the Taliban would take no further action until it was given hard evidence. Zaeef’s account seems plausible given that the Taliban made no preparations for war, but it shows how out of touch Omar had become.
Out of touch indeed. Scarcely two years before, the United States had launched a devastating – and patently illegal – war on a European nation, deliberately targeting its civilian infrastructure (which was expressly against the laws of war), unleashing chaos and ruin that led to the deaths of thousands and the suffering of hundreds of thousands. If it would do this to Serbia, to white Christian Europeans, what wouldn’t it do to swarthy exotic Muslims in the back of beyond? And for ten years before 9/11, the United States had been inflicting a genocidal stranglehold of sanctions on Iraq, leading directly to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children and other innocents, while constantly bombing the country in flagrant violation of any law.
Yet poor unlearned Omar actually thought the Americans would not attack his country “without a valid reason” – and of course no such a valid reason existed. – Nor does any valid reason exist today for the continuing – and expanding, and ever-more destructive – American operation in Afghanistan. The only thing the American presence is doing is delaying the start of what is sure to be a long and difficult process of national reconciliation. Yet almost every sector of Afghan society is calling for the beginning of such a process. As Steele reports:
Recent reports suggest that most Afghans, tired of the all-pervasive insecurity, want negotiations with the Taliban. A survey of 423 men in Helmand and Kandahar, carried out in May by the International Council on Security and Development, found that 74 per cent were in favour of negotiations. In Kabul in March, I interviewed several women professionals, the people who suffered most from the Taliban’s restrictions on girls’ education and women working outside the home. To varying degrees they all supported the idea of dialogue with the Taliban. They felt the top priority was to end what they saw as a civil war – not an insurgency, as Nato calls it. They saw the Taliban as authentic nationalists with legitimate grievances who needed to be brought back into the equation. Otherwise, Afghans would go on being used as proxies in a long battle between al-Qaida and the US. It was time to break free of both sets of foreigners, the global jihadis and the US empire. Shukria Barakzai, an MP and women’s rights campaigner, put it like this: ‘I changed my view three years ago when I realised Afghanistan is on its own. It’s not that the international community doesn’t support us. They just don’t understand us. The Taliban are part of our population. They have different ideas but as democrats we have to accept that.’
Yes, but there are other Democrats – and Republicans as well – who will not accept that. This is the bipartisan American foreign policy establishment, addicted to war and domination, and to their own pathetically inflated self-image as movers and shakers of the world. (Oh yes, and the power and privilege and loot that accrues to the leaders and lickspittles of empire, of course.) All-party negotiations are the only way forward, Steele notes. Straining to end on a note of optimism, Steele holds out the wan hope that Barack Obama – whose embrace of militarism has been as ardent and aggressive as any of his predecessors (and has outstripped many of them) – might recognize this reality and make the choice to “go into the 2012 campaign as a president who has started the endgame” of accommodation and negotiation.
Far more likely, however, is Steele’s alternative scenario: that Obama will instead “play the tough guy even though he must know any hope of defeating the Taliban militarily is doomed.” And why not? As we’ve noted here for years, the Terror War is a win-win situation for America’s militarists, among whom Obama now stands foremost: whether they defeat the designated enemy of the day or not, the aforementioned accrual of power, privilege, loot and self-aggrandizement that attends the imperial project remains the same.
Days are grim, nights are hard, the road keeps spiraling down ... let's lighten our load for just a while.
Imagine leaving something like that off your album .... !
UPDATE: Oh dear, it looks like our party got raided by the Web Sheriff! I suggest you click on the video anyway, then drop down to the little number in the line-up below by the unfortunately late and immensely great Doug Sahm, and let's carry on....
The GI in question is, of course, Bradley Manning, the young soldier charged with leaking the video of American gunships killing civilians in Iraq, and suspected of involvement in passing thousands of war-related secret documents to Wikileaks.
Manning has been quoted by friends (and the false friend who betrayed him to the authorities) about his motives for his actions. He has said quite plainly that he wanted to show the American people the true nature of the hideous Terror War operations being carried out around the world by their government -- "incredible things, awful things." One of his genuine friends said: "He wanted to do the right thing." Concerning the video of the gunship atrocity, the friend, who had been in contact with Manning, said: "He didn’t want to do this just to cause a stir…. He wanted people held accountable and wanted to see this didn’t happen again."
These motives are entirely clear, understandable, and imminently sane. In fact, Manning's actions reflect a mind far more healthy and stable than the diseased brains in charge of the War Machine, who compulsively, continually distort reality to an extreme, pathological degree in order to justify -- to others and, presumably, to themselves -- their own murderous, brutal depravity.
Yet it is Bradley Manning who must be examined to see if he is mentally "unstable." Yes, of course, that's it: he must be crazy. Why else would anyone -- especially an American (and a real American, not one of those with, you know, funny names or dark skin), especially a soldier -- want to challenge the authority and embarrass the benevolent leaders who protect us and care for us? To those pathetic wretches afflicted with the pathologies of power, Manning's actions -- courageous, noble, humane -- literally make no sense. Therefore, he must be mentally diseased.
There are also some practical considerations at play here, of course. If Manning were to be declared criminally insane, he could be locked up indefinitely, right away -- no need for a messy trial that might cause more embarrassments for our imperial minders.
In any case, it's good for the prosecutors -- or shall we say, the persecutors -- of Bradley Manning to have the "nuthouse option" in hand among the vast array of "legal" weaponry they are bringing to bear against the young man. And even if the matter proceeds to trial, these stories about Manning's "shaky mental health" will help immunize any unseemly testimony he might give in the dock. Official shoulders will merely shrug at new revelations: "Well, what do you expect? He's crazy, isn't he? He'll say anything." And the corporate media will doubtless shrug along with them.
As the Guardian notes, the Chinese elite -- following the model of the old Soviet Union in its later years -- take the same approach to troublemakers:
They snatched Liao Meizhi on her birthday, dragging her off the street and into a dirty blue van as others held back her husband.
It was only two months later, when a stranger knocked on the door, that her family learned where she had been taken. The man said he had just been discharged from a nearby mental hospital – and that Liao was being held there against her will. Her husband insists she has no psychiatric problems ...
Researchers believe she is among a growing number of people wrongly detained in psychiatric institutions after clashing with local officials. One activist has compiled a database of more than 500 such cases.
Some victims have been held for a decade. Those freed describe being forcibly treated – with electro-convulsive therapy and powerful anti-psychotic drugs – for health problems they never had.
"In the last few years you have been seeing more and more cases involving petitioners and whistle blowers – 'the awkward squad' – [often when] the authorities have tried other punishments or sanctions to make them stop and nothing else has worked," said Robin Munro, author of China's Psychiatric Inquisition and a research associate at SOAS law school. "Finally they really try to scare them to hell by putting them in mental hospitals."
Well, it worked for Jose Padilla, the American citizen snatched, without charges, on American soil, and held, without charges, for years, while being subjected to mind-breaking tortures for his alleged terrorist activities. The charges against him began with dramatically broadcast claims of nuclear terrorism aimed at the US and ended with the broken man's conviction on lesser charges of aiding foreign groups involved in foreign conflicts, far from American shores. Yet even here, the judge in the case declared that "there was no evidence linking [Padilla] to specific acts of terrorism anywhere or that their actions had resulted in death or injury to anyone" -- even as she handed the torture victim a 17-year prison sentence, as Winter Patriot reports.
Manning will perhaps escape the extremities of torture doled out to Padilla; he has at least been formally charged and has access to legal counsel -- something denied to Padilla for years during this torment. But make no mistake: the depraved minds in charge of our morally insane empire seek to break him, one way or another -- as an example to us all.