28 January 2010

Howard Zinn passed away today, aged 87...

Just found out that Howard Zinn died today. For those who don't know, Zinn was professor emeritus of history at Boston University, and is most known for his landmark million-plus bestselling A People's History of the United States, which can be read online in full here.

Lots of obituaries and other info can be found on his homepage here.

The Nation has also put up a small obituary, and ZNet currently has a few pieces lamenting the passing away of this great man, and celebrating his work, which will remain with us.

I'm proud to say that some years back Zinn endorsed my second book, Behind the War on Terror: Western Secret Strategy and the Struggle for Iraq.

26 January 2010

Bin Laden - Dead or Alive? Threats, Lies and Videotapes

Former assistant director of FBI’s counter-terrorism division Dale Watson; former Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf; current Pakistani President Asif Zardari; Afghan President Hamid Karzai; late Benazir Bhutto; Israeli intelligence sources; Pakistani and Afghan sources, including Taliban leaders – all have reported Osama bin Laden to be “probably dead” since December 2001.

Several independent experts - including former US foreign intelligence officer Angelo M. Codevilla and renowned bin Laden specialist Professor Bruce Lawrence - agree with this assessment, as reported by the Daily Mail last year. In the words of Codevilla, a professor of international relations at Boston University: “All the evidence suggests Elvis Presley is more alive today than Osama Bin Laden.”

From the Mail:

“Prof Codevilla pointed to inconsistencies in the videos and claimed there have been no reputable sightings of Bin Laden for years (for instance, all interceptions by the West of communications made by the Al Qaeda leader suddenly ceased in late 2001).

Prof Codevilla asserted: 'The video and audio tapes alleged to be Osama's never convince the impartial observer,' he asserted. 'The guy just does not look like Osama. Some videos show him with a Semitic, aquiline nose, while others show him with a shorter, broader one. Next to that, differences between the colours and styles of his beard are small stuff.'”

Lawrence, who heads the religious studies department at Duke University and who examined bin Laden’s speeches in detail, “argues that the increasingly secular language in the video and audio tapes of Osama (his earliest ones are littered with references to God and the Prophet Mohammed) are inconsistent with his strict Islamic religion, Wahhabism.” The Mail reports that “on one video” – the famous post-9/11 ‘confession’ one - “Bin Laden wears golden rings on his fingers, an adornment banned among Wahhabi followers.”

In summary, most of these reports suggest that bin Laden died by December 2001 in Afghanistan. However, in November 2002, when al-Jazeera aired a new bin Laden audiotape, it was widely reported that he was, in fact, alive and well, and personally planning fresh terrorist attacks. Bush administration officials confirmed that the tape was “almost certainly” authentic on the basis of technical analyses by CIA and NSA experts.

In contrast, Swiss scientists at the Dalle Molle Institute for Perceptual Artificial Intelligence analysed the tape and concluded, after comparing it to 20 previous bin Laden recordings, that its authenticity could not be corroborated. The study found that there was “serious room for doubt, and that it is also difficult to agree with some US officials saying that it is 100% sure that it is bin Laden.”

A January 2004 audio tape of bin Laden was described by physicist and US national security consultant Professor Richard Muller of the Berkeley National Laboratory as most likely a fake. Muller did not cite technical evidence, however, but focused on the multiple accounts of bin Laden’s death around December 2001, and outlined a plausible technical account of how the tape could have been doctored.

According to computer security consultant Dr Neal Krawetz, the 2007 video of bin Laden has undergone a variety of “visual and audio splices” of low quality. So frequent were the modifications, he concluded that the splicing of words and phrases together and even the use of a vocal imitator could not be ruled out. Yet Krawetz’s analysis of the video is disputed by Hany Farid, a digital forensics researcher at Dartmouth College. Farid agrees that there are “quirky” aspects of the video, although he is unconvinced that this proves that it is doctored.

In summary, we cannot know for sure whether bin Laden is dead or alive, although multiple credible sources from the region arguably give strong reason to doubt that he is indeed alive. In any case, at this stage, the audio and video recordings attributed to him over the years are simply too fraught with unresolved anomalies to count as serious proof that he remains alive.
The latest bin Laden tape to emerge on Sunday 24th January arrived just over 48 hours away from President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address.

Unlike the Bush administration, which has frequently jumped to confirm the authenticity of previous bin Laden recordings, White House advisor David Axelrod stated that they could not “confirm that (al Qaeda’s responsibility for the attack) nor can we confirm the authenticity of the tape.”

Given that there is no way to independently confirm the source of the tape, it is difficult to draw any serious conclusions from it. The statements in the tape that have received most attention include the vague claim of responsibility for the attempted but failed Christmas Day crotch-bombing, as well as the focus on the Israel-Palestine conflict: “The message sent to you with the attempt by the hero Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is a confirmation of our previous message conveyed by the heroes of September 11”; and “Our attacks against you will continue as long as U.S. support for Israel continues... It is not fair that Americans should live in peace as long as our brothers in Gaza live in the worst conditions.”

Taken at face value, this would indicate firstly a desire to capitalize on what was in fact a spectacular failure by insisting that future attacks are being planned; and secondly a desire to capitalize on the continued and growing entrenched political grievances among Muslims regionally and globally about Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine, exemplified in the brutal 2008-9 attack. The issue is not simply the continued exploitation of “hollow justifications” to quote the White House spokesman, but the continuing centrality of the Middle East conflict to terrorist recruiting strategies. Israel’s siege and subjugation of Gaza, more than ever, is acting as a ‘recruiting sergeant’ for Islamist terrorist networks, and whoever is behind the release of this tape knows it, and wishes to make the most of it.

Unfortunately, neither the US nor the UK governments appear to be taking this issue seriously. Judge Richard Goldstone’s UN Human Rights Council report on the Gaza conflict, which concluded that Israel committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, has been marginalized by both the US and UK. The US House of Representatives rejected the report in a non-binding resolution as “irredeemably biased” – although the report also condemned armed militant groups in Gaza. Britain has similarly prevaricated. UK Ambassador to the UN Peter Gooderham declared: “We cannot fully endorse the report and cannot vote for the resolution as tabled.” The UN News Centre summarizes as follows:

“‘The mission finds that the conduct of the Israeli armed forces constitute grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of wilful killings and wilfully causing great suffering to protected persons and as such give rise to individual criminal responsibility,’ the report’s executive summary said. ‘It also finds that the direct targeting and arbitrary killing of Palestinian civilians is a violation of the right to life.’

“It went on to criticize the ‘deliberate and systematic policy on the part of the Israeli armed forces to target industrial sites and water installations,’ and the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields.

“On the objectives and strategy of Israel’s military operation, the mission concluded that military planners deliberately followed a doctrine which involved ‘the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations.’

“On the firing of mortars from Gaza, the mission concluded that they were indiscriminate and deliberate attacks against a civilian population and ‘would constitute war crimes and may amount to crimes against humanity.’ It added that their apparent intention of spreading terror among the Israeli civilian population was a violation of international law.”

Independent human rights groups like Human Rights Watch support the Goldstone report’s findings and call for the establishment of independent investigations by Israel and Hamas into the allegations.

Ongoing US-UK attempts to defend the indefensible in the Israel-Palestine conflict fatally undermine their credibility in the region, and lend fuel to the efforts of terrorists to recruit. The new tape, whatever its origin, only confirms further that the failure of American and British governments to fundamentally re-evaluate their unconditional support for Israel only exacerbates the dangers of terrorism.

25 January 2010

Muslims, Politics, and Britain Ten Years On - The Platform

The MCB Youth Committee launched its innovative new blog project last Friday. It's a great new initiative soliciting blogs by leading experts and commentators to provoke debate and discussion on the question of a vision for Britain in ten years. Once the blogs go up, the real work will be in the discussions provoked by the blogs.
They've just put up the first blog, and... it turns out to be mine!
Check it out here.
It argues, very briefly, that the idea of an Islamic 'state' is a historical and theological innovation - the Prophetic model established in the 'Covenant of Medina' was certainly a socio-political one, but it did not involve a monolithic territorial bureaucratic state-structure (the likes of which only came to exist many centuries later). Instead, the Islamic political model involved a mutual framework established by social contract between different communities for grassroots, community self-governance.
Therefore, the idea of the Islamic 'state' is in fact a superimposition of the modern conception of the 'state' onto the original Prophetic model which long preceded it, a democratic and pluralist political model which was radically egalitarian and participatory.

23 January 2010

Interview with Sibel Edmonds and Peter B Collins

Podcast show



"Dr. Nafeez Ahmed provides us with an overview of the role played by US military and intelligence practices in the creation of terrorism, particularly Al-Qaeda. He tells us about the status of investigations into the Blair government’s complicity with the Bush administration in supporting the invasion of Iraq. He discusses possible factors behind Americans’ long-held denial and dismissal of dark US foreign policy practices as conspiracies. Mr. Nafeez talks about the Obama administration, the ongoing posture of US corporate interests and the desire to dominate world energy supplies, the so-called liquid bombing plot and how it was mythologized in the US, and more."

13 January 2010

Yemen, Energy Crisis and the Crotch Bomber - first piece on Sibel Edmond's Boiling Frogs Post

I am pleased to say that I recently joined The Boiling Frog Post as a partner contributor, an outstanding investigative news and analysis online resource founded and published by Sibel Edmonds, the former FBI translator who blew the whistle on the US administration's pre-9/11 shenanigans with Islamist terrorists, narco-traffickers, criminals and corrupt states - among other issues - and who has been gagged by the US government's invocation of 'State Secrets Privilege'.

For those that don't know, Sibel's revelations have been covered widely in the press, and are absolutely essential reading to get a glimpse of the 'deep political' underbelly of criminalization that now characterizes the international system. Check out, for instance, in the UK, The Independent, The Times; in the US, Vanity Fair, American Conservative, New York Times, to name a few.

I did a radio interview with her and her co-producer Peter B. Collins last December which will be podcast at Boiling Frog Post on Friday. Will post notice of that when it happens.

In the meantime, my first piece on the Boiling Frog has gone live and you can check it out on the homepage, or go direct at this link. The piece is called "Yemen, Energy Crisis and the Nigerian Crotch Bomber". It's the first in a three-part series, with the second and third parts going up on Thursday and Friday.

Pleasant (or not) reading...

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