Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cunningham: Burma More or Less Needs Help


SEPTEMBER 30, 2007

At first glance, the unfolding crisis in Burma ("Myanmar") offers America a golden opportunity—after four years of bad news from Iraq and Afghanistan, suddenly a popular uprising in a land hungry for the ostensibly American values of freedom, democracy and perhaps even capitalist development.

Problem is, US President George Bush has almost single-handedly frittered away US prestige and credibility to the point where just hearing him mention the word freedom is enough to send the smart, and in some cases shell-shocked, running for cover. Under his watch, an immigrant country that had a not entirely unearned reputation for caring about human rights and humanitarian causes has become a global laughingstock, if not bogeyman.

Bush has dug himself into a diplomatic hole so deep it is beginning to resemble a black hole. That a man at the end of his tether might be desperate for a bit of high ground, something to cling to, something to show he isn't an entirely spent force is understandable, but a Bush intervention in Burma would be an unmitigated disaster.

Anything Bush or his minions have to say is colored by the actions of an arrogant administration that has shamelessly promoted torture, eavesdropping and kidnapping, not to mention a self-serving and totally manipulative war on terror. Bush invaded Iraq for all the wrong reasons, a family vendetta being central among them, and he has continued to shamefacedly lie about it. Unfortunately for the people of Burma in their hour of need, Bush has shot the wad of US credibility, and anything he touches is likely to be contaminated, if not broken and crumbled to bits, by know-nothing neo-con greed.

Had Bush not invaded the wrong country, or had he faced up to his mistakes with at least an ounce of accountability, the US government, as the representative of the American people, might not be hamstrung in its ability to help. Had Bush and the cosseted "chickenhawk" architects of the war in Iraq, the most abjectly craven of whom are now pressing for a war with Iran, shown even a glimmer of humility to atone for setting Iraq on the road to disaster which has cost a million-plus souls, perhaps Uncle Sam could offer a lending hand without scaring the very people he seeks to help. But Bush remains unrepentant and imperious, making the prospect of a ham-fisted US-led intervention in Burma too frightening to contemplate.

Burma needs help, desperately, but with a "friend" like Bush trying to capitalize on his "freedom" agenda, they might do well to look elsewhere.

ASEAN is a good place to start, Burma is a member country and informal personal, cultural and trade links provide intelligence and potential leverage. Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN's new Secretary General is a veteran diplomat who as foreign minister under Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai, chose not lend support to the dictators of Burma, in sharp contrast to the devil-may-care profiteering in Rangoon and elsewhere on the part of the successor government led by Thaksin Shinawatra.

And Japan, the largest aid donor and home to a community of Burmese exiles has a modest role to play.

But the real wild card in the Burma conundrum, with immense leverage for better or worse, is China.

Just as it might be prudent at this checkered moment in US history for the US to tame its impulse to intervene, China conversely, needs to discard its traditional policy of radical non-intervention, the product of a time when China was poor and powerless, to a more responsible global role commensurate to its rising power.

China President Hu Jintao and his foreign minister Yang Jiechi have inherited a seemingly idealistic and lofty model of diplomacy that was only truly lofty in proportion to China's poverty and inability to project power. Even during the heyday of non-intervention under the guidance of Zhou Enlai and Chen Yi, China engaged in significant, albeit largely clandestine, meddling in Southeast Asia and provided some significant development assistance in Africa.

Times have changed and China is neither altogether poor nor powerless, indeed it is a lopsided power in which the supremacy of economic considerations is running havoc with environmental and humanitarian concerns at home and abroad.

For China to now claim fealty to political non-intervention at a time when it is economically active, if not rapacious, as it secures and consumes natural resources across the globe from Burma to Zimbabwe at an unprecedented rate is disingenuous. It's like trumpeting economic reform in the absence of political reform, it's awkward, ungainly and ultimately off-pitch.

What Hu Jintao's foreign policy needs is what pre-Bush America once claimed to possess in spades, a willingness to engage in humanitarian intervention not because it can be commercially profitable or even politically advantageous but simply because it is the right thing to do. China's deaf ear to people crying out for help is the mirror image of the US telling people what they need to do; both extremes overlook the genuine possibility of outreach to the downtrodden, the bullied and disenfranchised.

In recent months, China has made modest adjustments to its Africa policy, recognizing that being "neutral" with respect to cruel and tottering regimes in Zimbabwe and Sudan is not only a public relations failure in the run-up to the Olympics, but endangers long-term stability and interests in the region.

Similarly Beijing, which has enjoyed profitable if not entirely cordial relations with Burma's military dictators, is said to be cultivating some support among opponents of the current regime. In addition to solid trade and military ties, China additionally boasts perhaps a million of its own citizens eking out a living in Burma as a petty bourgeois Peace Corps of sorts, providing an unusual degree of leverage and exposure in both formal and informal terms.

For China's foreign policy to meet the needs of Burma's downtrodden calls for deft, timely intervention, a prudent policy guided by something more than laissez faire trade-at-any-cost and something less than the bombs-and-bullets of military intervention of the sort currently favored by the Bush administration.

A more nuanced and humanitarian thrust from China, effectively unmooring itself from the darkest forces in Burmese society, while putting economic considerations on hold, could prevent things from spiraling out of control and provide a bridge of interregnum stability until a new government can coalesce. The risk of continuing to put one's weight behind the despicable Than Shwe is that China will be a tarnished if not unwelcome player in the inevitable post-Than Shwe Burma that is certain to emerge from the ashes of the current crisis.

The courage of journalists covering the courageous mass demonstrations allows the world to peer into Burma's closed society with compassion and concern. And clearly help is needed. But for now, US governmental help would be as unhelpful as China's unwillingness to engage in truly humanitarian intervention. Read more on this article...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Counter-Narcotics in Afghanistan IV: Beyond Interdiction

This is the fourth of a series of posts in which I present analyses of the main aspects of counter-narcotics policy in Afghanistan, in response to the recently published U.S. Counter-Narcotics Strategy for Afghanistan and the UNODC Afghanistan Opium Survey 2007.

The previous installments were: Counter-Narcotics in Afghanistan (First Installment): Defining the Problem; Counter-Narcotics in Afghanistan II: The Value Chain, The Corruption Chain; and Counter-Narcotics in Afghanistan III: The False Promise of Crop Eradication. I also presented a general memorandum on counter-narcotics strategy: Points on Counter-Narcotics in Afghanistan: A Critique and a Proposal.

As argued in the previous installments, the U.S. (which funds most counter-narcotics activity in Afghanistan) has invested a disproportionate amount of resources in the eradication of the opium poppy crop, which contributes only 20 percent of the value of the opiate industry in Afghanistan. The result has been the migration of cultivation, its concentration in insecure areas, an increase in the value of the opium economy, and closer links among farmers, traffickers, corrupt officials, and the Taliban. In the new U.S. Counter Narcotics Strategy, of the five immediate priorities, three are for eradication: make eradication a counter narcotics priority; encourage (i.e. pressure) the Afghan government to set eradication goals, and; encourage (i.e. pressure) the government of Afghanistan to use non–negotiated eradication (mechanical eradication and spraying). The two other goals are improving the fund for rewarding provinces that are “good performers” (with cultivation being the only measure of performance) and an improved public information strategy, an area where this administration has proved itself uniquely inept. While the report contains sections on alternative livelihoods and interdiction, neither is listed among the immediate priorities.

The following policy instruments address higher parts of the value chain:

  • Interdiction of the trade, mainly destruction of the product, including raids on opium bazaars, police seizures of drugs found in vehicles or in storage, and destruction of heroin or morphine laboratories. While these actions are carried out by law enforcement institutions, they require more enforcement than law. Once a banned substance is seized, the government can destroy it without additional legal procedure or referral to a court. Needless to say, this is not what always happens. There is a system, varying by region, for how much traffickers must pay the police to recover a portion of their wares. Instead of destroying the captured substance, police sometimes claim they have to transport it to their superiors for “evidence.” What happens to it afterwards is not always well documented. In part because of such problems, NATO is now considering an enhanced role for ISAF in interdiction.
  • Arrest of traffickers. The number of such cases is on the rise according to the US report, but such arrests mainly target small traffickers or smugglers. The incapacity and corruption of the Afghan justice system is such that cases rarely lead to fair trial and conviction. Instead arrests lead to detention and bribery for release. Hence the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is working to compile cases against major traffickers that can be presented for extradition to the U.S. The total number of such cases is 2 or 3 so far and cannot increase quickly enough to make any appreciable impact on the largest sector of the Afghan economy.
  • Arrests of corrupt officials: such arrests are rare in the extreme, since the police and courts that are the main object of corruption. I have been told of, without being able to verify, arrests of officials of the National Directorate of Security, the intelligence agency, for accepting bribes from traffickers. Those arrested were reportedly tried through NDS’s internal courts and punished severely. I am not aware of any such prosecutions in the Ministry of the Interior.
  • Building institutions for interdiction and law enforcement. Just as foreign donors have supported the formation of the Central Poppy Eradication Force, they have also supported the formation of the Counter-Narcotics Police Force (CNPF) for interdiction and law enforcement, part of the pattern of forming special elite units for tasks of particular importance to foreigners. The US is also supporting the creation of special prosecutors, courts, and prisons for drug offenses. These institutions will be resourced and trained better than the rest of the Afghan justice system.
  • Measures against money laundering. These are not mentioned in the public version of the U.S. Counter-Narcotics Strategy, but they are reportedly part of the classified version. A World Bank-UNODC study of money laundering for drug trafficking in Afghanistan estimated (very approximately to say the least) that in 2004-2005 actors in the opium economy imported $1.7 billion into Afghanistan using the informal hawala system of money transfer. The author could not estimate the amount of drug profits transferred out of Afghanistan in the same way, but it is certainly of the same order of magnitude.
  • Removal from or prevention of the appointment to senior positions of officials suspected of drug-related corruption. All ministers and senior officials of the government serve at the pleasure of the President and may (in principle if not in practice) be removed from office at his discretion. Hence counter-narcotics policy is closely related to the benchmark in the Afghanistan Compact requiring that “A clear and transparent national appointments mechanism will be established . . . for all senior level appointments to the central government and the judiciary, as well as for provincial governors, chiefs of police, district administrators and provincial heads of security.”

The Strategy proposes programs to meet all of these objectives. It is based on a model of law enforcement, with military backup where necessary, plus development (“alternative livelihoods,” which will be the subject of a subsequent post). It also contains measures for strengthening institutions through funding, equipment, and training. Properly designed, implemented, and sequenced, these are needed components of a counter-narcotics policy. But they cannot succeed without building a state to implement the policies and exercise command and control over the strengthened institutions. Recommending law enforcement where the state is so weak is reminiscent of the economist who offered an elegant solution to the problem of being stranded on a desert island with only canned food: assume the existence of a can opener.

At a meeting on counter-narcotics that I helped to organize, the Deputy Minister of defense of Colombia, Sergio Jaramillo, emphasized that aligning policies to strengthen the credibility of the government was essential to counter-narcotics. The state is a political organization enjoying a degree of legitimacy and sovereignty, not just a set of technical bodies, however well trained, equipped, and funded. The state is but one of several contending authorities in most of Afghanistan, and its reach is particularly weak in areas where opium production is concentrated. The state’s weakness does not result solely or even primarily from a lack of technical capacities, but from a lack of resources and consent to a common institutional framework on the part of the country’s key power holders. The divergent views and interests of these power holders regarding the drug economy and their relative strength compared to the state are the main reasons that the drug economy has continued to grow. Given that the yearly export value of opiates produced in Afghanistan equals a quarter to a third of the country’s estimated licit GDP, participation in the drug economy is not a “deviant” activity that can be suppressed with law enforcement and some incentives to cooperate. It will require either the military defeat of or a political agreement with key power holders. Ending or reducing both the insurgency and the drug economy (which are linked, though not exclusively) requires a political settlement on how Afghanistan is to be ruled and developed, not just the implementation of policies by a state that still barely exists.

Training people in the technical skills required for counter-narcotics (interdiction, prosecution, law enforcement, and development) is necessary, but it is not a substitute for a state whose power holders and decision makers exercise a degree of autonomy from the socially powerful, who in Afghanistan include drug traffickers. As a result, frustrated foreign advisors increasingly press for more control over operations and autonomy from the governmental apparatus, which leaves power-holders the choice of being seen as foreign puppets or of engaging in some form of resistance, whether covert (corruption) or overt (insurgency). Jon Lee Anderson of the New Yorker observed this first-hand while reporting on a U.S.-supported eradication effort in Uruzgan province. When the Afghan force refused to eradicate a field belonging to a local power holder, the DEA agent accompanying them (Douglas Wankel, a determined and dedicated professional) tried to make counter-narcotics more equitable by forcing the reluctant Afghans to eradicate the field. But even if the field is eradicated, such an operation does not strengthen the authority of the state or prevent future poppy cultivation in any sustainable way.

Hence the problem confronted by the policies labeled as interdiction, law enforcement, or anti-corruption are pieces of the same daunting task: consolidating at least a minimal state structure in the face of enormous resources in the hands of unofficial (and sometimes, but not always, criminal) power holders.

For the foreseeable future, the government and its international supporters will be able to accomplish little in Afghanistan without the support of the de facto power holders. These are local leaders who combine functions as politicians, tribal or ethnic leaders, businessmen, landowners, commanders of armed groups of varying degrees of legality, parliamentarians, and government officials. Many were marginalized under the Taliban regime but returned as the allies of the U.S.-led Coalition and the new government.

The mixture of functions varies among members of this group, as does their political orientation. Most have mastered several rhetorical repertoires for different audiences, and they manifest considerable pragmatism in their actions. These leaders have a healthy respect for the effective use of force, money, and rhetoric. Conversely, nothing more incites their contempt than wasteful and ineffective use of force, money, and rhetoric, which, rightly or wrongly, is what most of them see in the actions of the international community in Afghanistan, especially in counter-narcotics.

Many of them derive much of their resources directly or indirectly from the opiate industry, sometimes without ever actually seeing, handling, or even mentioning the substance in question. An Afghan official once pointed out to me that all Afghan politicians had brothers who were businessmen. Afghan leaders also have half-brothers, stepbrothers, cousins, uncles, and nephews, and so do their (possibly several) wives. During the Taliban period one Afghan leader asked for political asylum for himself and his “family.” When asked how large his family was, he said, “About fifty households.” An average Afghan household has about six members, and those of the wealthy and powerful have more. These extensive, dense, and opaque family networks enable some of the powerful to denounce or oppose the drug economy while simultaneously (and invisibly) benefiting from it.

These leaders, however, are even less committed to narcotics than they are to other allegiances they have made from time to time. They often agree that drugs are harmful and that profiting from the trafficking is not praiseworthy, but they see no alternative way to raise the funds they need to keep up their social and political standing. In several cases, however, members of this group have decided that their interests are served best by banning or preventing poppy growing, and virtually all “successes” in counter-narcotics have been due to their efforts, rather than to the international community’s counter-narcotics programs, which often failed to provide the support that success would have required.

The Taliban’s Emirate in 2001, Nangarhar in 2005, and Balkh in 2006 provide examples of authorities with significant ties to drug traffickers or their protectors who succeeded in suppressing poppy growing for a period of time. These cases illustrate these leaders’ potential and flexibility, but also the limits to their authority. I discussed the case of the Taliban in a previous post. In Nangarhar, the tribal leadership of the Jabbarkhel clan, under heavy pressure from the US, decided to forbid poppy cultivation in 2005. Governor Hajji Din Muhammad promised major development projects, which he was unable to deliver. Instead USAID paid rural Nangarharis $3 a day to dig ditches they did not need. Hence poppy production has rebounded in Nangarhar, especially in remote areas without access to assets or markets and where security is poor.

In 2006 Governor Atta of Balkh, a former regional commander of Jamiat-i Islami, whom other officials had previously accused of involvement in narcotics trafficking, decided to eliminate poppy cultivation. He succeeded (though one of the principal alternative livelihoods turned out to be cannabis sativa). In none of these cases did the authorities touch the traffickers, whose incomes remained stable or rose. In 2005, in fact, Nangarhar traffickers responded to the ban on cultivation by sending their extension and lending agents to other provinces, so that the reduction in Nangarhar was accompanied by the spread of cultivation to new areas. A close relative of Hajji Din Muhammad was recently arrested driving northward through Kabul with a load of heroin.

These powerholders felt insecure in the new power they enjoyed at the start of 2002, as they did not know if the Americans would tolerate their usual mode of operation. The anxiety created by the US intervention manifested itself in a rapid fall of opium prices after the Coalition operation started, as dealers sold off inventories they feared would be destroyed or confiscated. In any case, they hoped to benefit from the promised aid bonanza. As it turned out, there was no aid bonanza, but at least the Americans did not interfere with the drug trade, and prices soon stabilized. Even when some commanders were captured by US troops with vehicles full of heroin, they were let go with a remonstrance.

So far it has worked well for them. The fact that people Afghans believe to be major protectors of and participants in the drug trade still enjoy the apparent respect and support of the international community has undermined the credibility of counter-narcotics policy, which thus far has appeared to punish poor farmers and reward rich traffickers and their political patrons.

State building requires a combination of co-opting or defeating this elite. Some targeted sanctions (removal from office, arrest, exile) against the most recalcitrant of this group are necessary if the effort is to succeed, but such efforts can at most provide pressure for the core task: co-opting as many as possible of this group into the state building and development process. In the long term, social and political change will create different elites as well as the instruments they need to exercise authority.

Whatever scarce enforcement means can be mustered should be concentrated against narcotics trafficking and protection. Intelligence collection should focus on understanding the power relations among drug traffickers and specific power holders. The international community should use this intelligence (which its representatives now often claim to lack) to press for the exclusion of the patrons of traffickers from high office. They need not be arrested or tried; even removing some from office and sending them far from the country would send a clear message.

NATO troops should be authorized to provide needed support to Afghan operations to interdict convoys carrying drugs across the borders and destroy heroin laboratories, while minimizing loss of civilian life. International narcotics police should be embedded with Afghans at border posts and airports. Major traffickers and their protectors, once identified by reliable intelligence, should be subject to travel bans and seizure of assets under sanctions approved by the Security Council, which in December 2006 voted to extend the anti-terrorist sanctions of Resolution 1376 to drug traffickers as well.

But law enforcement cannot defeat an elite consensus. And the elite consensus in Afghanistan right now is that foreigners have offered no credible alternative to the opium economy. Law enforcement works to suppress and control deviant behavior with the consent of the society as a whole, which is expected to cooperate with the law enforcement apparatus by supplying information, testimony, and funding. An activity that constitutes a quarter to a third of the economy, however, is not socially deviant behavior, whatever international agreements may say. While drug trafficking is not honored, people see it as a result of the demand for narcotics from foreign markets, which the developed countries with all their resources are unable to suppress, and an effect of the annihilation of Afghanistan’s former state and economy by decades of war. Counter-narcotics policy has become another risk to be managed by pseudo-compliance and covert (or overt) resistance, above all by maintaining asymmetries in information, which the Afghan elite finds relatively easy to do. The only way to defeat a society’s consensus by force is to wage war against it. But the US and the international community is not in Afghanistan to wage war against the Afghan people. The moment the Afghan people believe that is their goal, we all lose.

One of the leading patrons of trafficking reportedly suggested a way out of this situation. According to one minister, this man, who was at that time governor of a major opium-producing province, suggested that President Karzai negotiate with the major traffickers. He reportedly told the president that he knew who the major traffickers in his province were – not surprising, as they were his business partners. The government could not touch them, as they were too powerful, but these people were not against the government on principle. They might well be interested in discussing a transition to a different economy. Such a transition might provide amnesty for past trafficking while allowing traffickers to invest their money in legal enterprises plus forfeiting some assets to public purposes. The ulama (learned clergy) could be consulted about appropriate forms of restitution.

At present, there is no structure set up to help the major entrepreneurs and power holders in the opiate business in Afghanistan to transition out of the trade. On the contrary, when entrepreneurs grown rich from the trade seek help from aid organizations in creating licit enterprises, they are turned away, told that national laws forbid cooperation or negotiation with drug traffickers. In Helmand, the provincial director of one ministry walked into the USAID-funded Alternative Livelihoods Program compound with $800,000 in cash, offering to share the costs for setting up a wheat mill. USAID overruled local program staff who wanted to accept the offer, on the grounds that it would have constituted negotiation with a trafficker or money laundering. USAID contracts prohibit working with anyone with narcotics history or connections, but the house rented by its major Alternative Livelihoods contractor in Lashkargah was owned by a major drug trafficker, which ensured the staff’s security. Rules could be bent to solve the problems of U.S. contractors, but not those of Afghanistan.

The international community recognizes that after decades of armed conflict in one of the poorest countries of the world, it is not possible to administer justice for all the wrongs that were committed in the past. The process of establishing peace and stability foregoes such justice and seeks, at best, “transitional justice.” Transitional justice may enable a society to confront its past truthfully, perhaps punish a few and make amends with most, while laying the foundation for a system of government and justice that will prevent reversion to armed conflict. Such transitional justice, which has hardly even started in Afghanistan, is difficult enough to administer.

It is no less unrealistic to expect that Afghanistan, whose economy and polity depend more on narcotics than any other state, can move from an illicit to a licit economy without an acknowledged transition, not only for farmers, but also for elites that have sustained their power through the profits of trafficking. Every foreign diplomat in Afghanistan regularly meets people associated with both war crimes and drug trafficking. Those few who have tried to avoid doing so have found it more or less impossible. The only guarantees of clean hands in the past several decades are absence from the country or powerlessness.

A condition for successful negotiations is some leverage. Interdiction aimed at the high end of the value chain plus political measures against traffickers well connected to the state are essential. The government and international community should seek to avoid perverse outcomes by seeking some measure of reparations from those who have accumulated wealth in the trade, such making contributions to the capitalization of rural development banks or micro-credit institutions. Enabling them to bring their funds into the open by investing in financial institutions as well as other programs that produce social good would offer some degree of compensation to those in the society who did not benefit from the drug trade.

There is no more a law enforcement solution to Afghanistan’s narco-polity than there is a military solution to the insurgency. Well-targeted sanctions and enforcement are needed as part of counter-narcotics, just as well targeted military actions are needed as part of counter-insurgency. But a counter-insurgency strategy that targets uncontrolled areas where insurgents hide among the population while providing safe haven to the insurgents’ leaders and financiers would be similar to . . . Pakistan’s policy toward the Taliban. A counter-narcotics policy that replicates that model will achieve similar results.

Read more on this article...

Anidjar: "Columbia at its Best"

Columbia at its Best

by Gil Anidjar

On June 18, 2007, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger informed his “fellow members of the Columbia Community” that the university had just taken an important step, the completion of a formal application, bringing it closer to its planned expansion into Manhattanville in West Harlem. As official statements on the Columbia website have it, the expansion seeks to combine the fulfillment of Columbia’s role as a global university, and its place among a number of “the nation’s universities.”

This expansion, along with Columbia’s much publicized and repeated appearance in the media over a number of years now, perhaps provides an occasion to reflect on the relationship between the principles of education, which guide or should guide an institution of higher learning, and the political commitments of that institution. After all, much of the conversation surrounding universities these days – and Columbia foremost among them – is precisely with regards to this question: what is the nature of the connection between education and politics? This is a local as well as global question, one that is of national and international significance. And though it may have something to do with the much touted notion of “freedom,” we will see that it is hardly about “freedom of speech.”

The Local

Not that they are many, or that they have been able to gather much force, but there are those who oppose the expansion of the university. This, it will be granted, has little to do with freedom of speech; it has to do with a power differential. Insofar as the university intervenes in the environment of the neighborhood – for good or for ill – it is acting politically. It is exercising power. The university is not simply enjoying its right to freedom, much less exercising freedom of speech. As an established and highly recognized institution, it has a freedom which its opponents do not have, namely, the freedom to gather its extensive forces, negotiate with the New York City Council and other political bodies. It wields its legal, financial and political power – forgive me, its freedom – in order to reach its stated goal of expansion. To be on the receiving end of this deployed power means to confront an asymmetry that cannot be denied. It is an experience in powerlessness. The political lesson – for it is a lesson that comes from an institution of higher learning – should be clear. Columbia is a political actor and its actions have political effects as well as a political message (one could argue that this constitutes an ethical message as well): don’t get caught being the little guy. So much for the residents and businesses of Manhattanville.

The Global

One could here find grounds for an analogy when it comes to the “global” university: the role it plays, the actions it takes and the statements it delivers, in international politics. In fact, Columbia and its spokespersons (first and foremost its president, who can only speak the words of the institution, checked and approved by its lawyers and other authorizing forces, those who give the president his legitimacy as chief executive officer) have been quite outspoken about marking the global footprint of the institution: the international dimension of its faculty and student body is one instance, international collaboration of a scientific and financial nature is another. It is this footprint that constitutes one of the main reasons for a still larger campus in the city of New York.

The analogy between the local and the global is thus much more than a mere analogy. Turning our attention to a third dimension of Columbia’s political activities will in fact reveal the difficulty of fully distinguishing local from global in terms of political significance and effects. The word in vogue to signify this lack of distinction is, if I am not mistaken, “glocal.”

The Glocal

Now, it is important to remark that Columbia University has made perfectly clear that it is by no means a democratic institution (its decisions may be made in consultation, but there is no democratic commitment, nor a democratic obligation on these decisions or on any other matter pertaining to the university). Of course, we might want to recall once again that it is an educational institution. And it is indeed. But the meaning of that assertion must be related to an additional fact. The university is also a private corporation run by a board of trustees, most of whom have long and impressive affiliations with the corporate world (lawyers, bankers and business executives), with the political world (most often the federal government, but also state government) and with the medical world (doctors and nurses). The distinction between these three “worlds,” as can be gathered from the biographical data for each of the trustees, is not a categorical or hermetic one. And it should be noted that the two primary functions of an institution of higher learning, namely research and education, are not overwhelmingly represented. Of course, the other, if less important, governing body (namely, the Senate of the university) does have faculty and student representation. But what about freedom of speech?

Insofar as the chief executive officer of the university, designated by the trustees, speaks, he does so with the voice of the university, and justifiably so. This is why it is important to recognize that, despite statements to the contrary, an individual occupying an official (or simply, institutional) position is less exercising freedom of speech than enjoying both the privilege and the responsibility bestowed upon him by the institution of which he is the voice. In contrast to the speech of private individuals, here it is only the power invested in the institutional person (not the private individual) that authorizes and enables his capacity to speak. President Bollinger’s communications over the years must therefore be taken as statements of the university that have little to do with personal convictions or overstepping of boundaries (whatever these might be). They do not testify to personal opinions or to his right to freedom of expression (and let me add that insofar as they are posted on the university’s website, accessible and publicized as such, they receive additional material force from the university per se). When President Bollinger speaks, it is the university that speaks (even if dissenting voices might express themselves, might have the freedom – rather than the power and official, authorizing seal – to do so).

On the glocal scene, then, what has Columbia been saying? It has issued statements of compassion at national and international disasters (Katrina, the 2004 Tsunami) and disseminated news about its activities, particularly those of Jeffrey Sachs’ Earth Institute in the fight against poverty and disease. What the university has emphatically not done is express political judgments, taken explicit political action for or against any side involved in a conflict, against or on behalf of any partisan activity or expression of opinion in such conflicts.

But for one exception.

Western Asia.

From the outset, the new administration (Bollinger’s inaugural speech is dated October 3rd, 2002) had made clear that it was pursuing a policy of explicitness when it comes to Western Asia, whether on the divestment campaign (November 7, 2002), his statements on academic freedom (and accusations of political harassment and anti-Semitism made against Middle East studies faculty, March 29 2003, October 22, 27 and December 8, 2004; March 23, 31 and April 11, 2005), on the decision not to invite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (September 21, 2006), on the detainment of Iranian-American scholars (May 31, 2007), on the British Teachers Union’s proposal to discuss a boycott of Israeli academics (June 12, 2007), and more recently on the President of Iran.

Although it can be granted that a number of these statements have a local dimension, it is also the case that they have had Western Asia in their proximate background. It is simply a fact that no other region of the world has attracted the explicit, political attention of the university in its public statements. It should moreover be noted that words like “obscene,” “offensive,” “heinous,” “odious,” and “repugnant” (to mention but a few) have not been used in other contexts. It is in this peculiar context in fact that the university, deploying its commitment to global issues, has publicly claimed: “This is America at its best” (September 19, 2007), or, in a more elaborate version: “The kind of freedom that will be on display at Columbia has always been and remains today our nation’s most potent weapon against repressive regimes everywhere in the world. This is the power and example of America at its best” (September 24, 2007). What is freedom then? As I was suggesting earlier and as is explicitly argued here, it is a weapon and a power. It is asymmetric. It is the differential capacity to exercise one’s power and to extend one’s pedagogical light to those who do not enjoy the same privilege, the same institutional authorization, the same power (whether they are guests, heads of states increasingly targeted for war, or individual faculty members like Joseph Massad or Nadia Abu el-Haj) To be on the receiving end is hardly an exercise in freedom. It is an exercise in powerlessness.

But it does teach us something. On the question of what should be the connection between education and politics (local and global), this must be the answer. Freedom – for the institution (or the country?) that wields it – is the exercise of political power and self-righteous pedagogy. This is, this must be, Columbia at its best.

And don’t get caught being the little guy.

Gil Anidjar is Associate Professor in the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University. All the information mentioned here was gathered exclusively from the Columbia University, and most particularly from this site(accessed September 26, 2007). Read more on this article...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Bhutto Complex

I have led an unusual life. I have buried a father killed at age 50 and two brothers killed in the prime of their lives. I raised my children as a single mother when my husband was arrested and held for eight years without a conviction -- a hostage to my political career. I made my choice when the mantle of political leadership was thrust upon my shoulders after my father's murder. I did not shrink from responsibility then, and I will not shrink from it now.
- When I Return to Pakistan, September 20, 2007

Why do you think that the U.S. seems to have a harder time with women at the highest level of power than other countries?

In a country like Pakistan or India, when a charismatic leader dies, people are not sure that the traditions he symbolized will continue—there’s a lot of illiteracy and there isn’t the same access to information. So they tend to transfer allegiance from a male leader to a female descendant, in the hope that his policies will be continued. But in Westernized societies, it’s a little different, because people have greater education and greater access to information—they don’t have the same need to be sure of the message of the leader.
- Nurturer-in-Chief: Advice for Hillary Clinton from the former prime minister of Pakistan, October 1, 2007.

On April 4th, 1979, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the overthrown Prime Minister of Pakistan and the father of Benazir Bhutto, was hanged by the State of Pakistan under the military dictator Zia ul Haq.

Zulfiqar Bhutto was an incredibly charismatic and popular leader [known for his fiery presence at the U.N. as Pakistan's Foreign Minister] but he was filled with contradictions. He was an intellectual who came from landed elite. He was schooled in the best of places and was bourgeoisie yet claimed to speak for the people with socialist convictions. He rose to prominence not from the mass politics but from the inner halls of bureaucratic power under the dictator General Ayub. When he became the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, in 1963, he wanted Pakistan on the forefront of Islamic countries and South Asia instead he stoked the fires in Kashmir. He hated the military but all of his best friends were military men. He was the most trusted man Ayub had but, in 1969, his own political ambition led him to create the political party [PPP - Pakistan's People Party] and, subsequently, topple Ayub. He instituted industrial and land reform but the only beneficiaries were landlords and industrialists. He gave speech after speech on the terrors of landholding exploiters of the people but he remained a landholder and courted the landed elite as his base. He promised 18 acres of land to each peasant and they got, well, nothing. From 1972 to 1977, he shaped Pakistan in his fractured image. More than anything, it was his death which came to symbolize the end of civil power in Pakistan.

Zulfiqar Bhutto was a popular PM. Perhaps, the most popular figure in the history of the nation. After his execution and Zia's long tenure of military dictatorship, Benazir Bhutto emerged as the hope of millions and the spearhead for democracy. The day she returned to Pakistan for the first time in 1986, those millions turned out to welcome her. The cult of personality that had built up around her father, herself, her brothers, her uncles, grew larger and larger but her tenure was just as maddenigly contradictory as her fathers. She courted the Islamists as much as she let the Army dictate her government. She tried to be the voice of feminism and modernity yet failed to do anything substantial for the rights of women and minority in her nation.

Benazir Bhutto is reportedly working on a deal that will bring her to power in Pakistan in companionship with Pervez Musharraf. Read more on this article...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bush-Cheney Threaten U.S. Security: Where's the Accountability?

I know that I am supposed to be writing here as a "highly respected," "wonky, moderate, and thoroughly analytical" scholar, not just another partisan blogger. But sometimes it's hard to make the distinction.

Last June 29, I was in Ohrid, Macedonia for a conference of the NATO Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, which brought together delegations from all members of NATO and the Partnership for Peace to discuss current issues, including the NATO mission in Afghanistan. (Left- Hekmat Karzai, Director of the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies in Kabul, poses with me in front of the ancient Greco-Roman Theater in Ohrid). After the closing plenary, a U.S. NATO official came over to offer some friendly advice. I was losing credibility in international meetings, he suggested, because my (see adjectives above) expertise on Afghanistan was being colored by my domestic political agenda. I thanked him for his constructive criticism and began to consider whether he might be right. After all, the administration had changed many (though hardly all) of the policies I had been criticizing since 2001. Couldn't I take yes for an answer?

When I got back to the hotel, I found an e-mail from Juan Cole inviting me to join this group blog, which he was just setting up. Before answering, I glanced over at Informed Comment, to see what Juan was writing about. I found this:
Bush said in a speech on Thursday that he hopes Iraq will be like Israel, a democracy that faces terrorist violence but manages to retain its democratic character:
' In Israel, Bush said, "terrorists have taken innocent human life for years in suicide attacks. The difference is that Israel is a functioning democracy and it's not prevented from carrying out its responsibilities. And that's a good indicator of success that we're looking for in Iraq." '
These words may be the stupidest ones ever uttered by a US president. Given their likely impact on the US war effort in the Middle East, they are downright criminal.
Juan noted that telling Middle Easterners that the U.S. wants Iraq to be just like Israel was not an effective way to build regional support for our effort. He archived this story under the tag, "Monumental stupidity."

I answered Juan, gladly accepting the invitation, and added a note telling him about the NATO official's comment. I concluded:
I thought maybe he was right. Then I went back to the hotel and read your post from today. I think my domestic political agenda is the result of my knowledge of the rest of the world.
In this spirit, I would like to draw readers' attention to the following bizarre fact: The Bush-Cheney administration still enjoys some vestige of credibility when claiming that its policies defend the national security of the United States, and the Democratic Party presidential candidates and Congressional Leadership sometimes seem afraid of challenging the administration too directly for fear of being seen as soft on terrorism.

As a wonky, moderate, highly respected, and thoroughly analytical scholar, I do not express myself in simplistic partisan formulae. But politicians do. That's their job. If I were a politician, for instance, I might say something like this:
The Bush-Cheney administration has surrendered much of Afghanistan to the Taliban and much of Pakistan to al-Qaida. They have turned most of Iraq over to Iran, creating the very danger over which they now threaten another disastrous war; they have strained the U.S. Armed Forces to the point of exhaustion, turned the Defense Department over to private contractors, the Justice Department over to the Republican National Committee, and the national debt over to foreign creditors, while leading a party whose single most basic belief is supposed to be that individuals must take personal responsibility for their actions. And they dare to lecture us on national security?
Allow me to illustrate these (slight) overstatements with a few current reports.

On Afghanistan, I have already commented on recent analyses of how the Bush-Cheney adminstration fecklessly under-invested in Afghanistan, assuring that the weak government of Hamid Karzai would lack the resources needed to establish itself throughout the country. Since the recent New York Times report was based on interviews with most of the U.S.'s former ambassadors and military commanders in Afghanistan, I won't bother to re-argue the point here. Especially since a former CIA counter-terrorism official (who led the team that captured Abu Zubayda) and a former State Department official (now working for Kissinger Associates, not observe in Sunday's LA Times:
Afghanistan -- former Taliban stronghold, Al Qaeda haven and warlord-cum-heroin-smuggler finishing school -- feels more and more like Sept. 10, 2001, than a victory in the U.S. war on terrorism.

The country is, plain and simple, a mess. Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies have quietly regained territory, rendering wide swaths of the country off-limits to U.S. and Afghan forces, international aid workers and even journalists. Violent attacks against Western interests are routine. Even Kabul, which the White House has held up as a postcard for what is possible in Afghanistan, has become so dangerous that foreign embassies are in states of lockdown, diplomats do not leave their offices, and venturing beyond security perimeters requires daylight-only travel, armored vehicles, Kevlar and armed escorts.
For more of the same, see Jim Rupert's report from the remote province of Nuristan in the northeast. Of course the administration has changed so much of its original policy on Afghanistan that its claims to have done the right thing there are in their last throes, supported by only a few dead-enders such as the delusional Donald Rumsfeld.

Pakistan? Here's another article from Sunday's L. A. Times:
Political turmoil and a spate of brazen attacks by Taliban fighters are forcing Pakistan's president to scale back his government's pursuit of Al Qaeda, according to U.S. intelligence officials who fear that the terrorist network will be able to accelerate its efforts to rebuild and plot new attacks.

The development threatens a pillar of U.S. counter-terrorism strategy, which has depended on Pakistan to play a lead role in keeping Al Qaeda under pressure to reduce its ability to coordinate strikes.
It just gets better from there; you should read the whole article. As I noted previously, the legitimacy of the government is collapsing in Pakistan, the result of a fully predictable (and predicted) political crisis that has been gathering steam for over a year. How did the Bush administration respond? By announcing in January that Ambassador Ryan Crocker would be transferred from Islamabad to Baghdad and then by not replacing him until July. And by fully supporting General Musharraf's contempt for rule of law and democracy until he had provoked much of Pakistan's middle class to take to the streets against him.

Ambassador Crocker now has the demanding task of trying to nudge the Iranian backed Iraqi Shi'a factions that the U.S. installed in power to reconcile with the Sunni Ba'athi factions that the U.S. removed from power (but whose willingness to take arms and money from the U.S. is now cited as the main indicator of U.S. success). And good luck to him.

Meanwhile, back at the war on those who attacked us on 9/11 (not Iraqi Shi'a militias, Iran, or Ba'athists, as far as I know): according to the National Intelligence Estimate on "The Terrorist Threat to the U.S. Homeland," which was prepared while the ambassador's residence in Islamabad was vacant:
Al-Qa’ida is and will remain the most serious terrorist threat to the Homeland, as its central leadership continues to plan high-impact plots, while pushing others in extremist Sunni communities to mimic its efforts and to supplement its capabilities. We assess the group has protected or regenerated key elements of its Homeland attack capability, including: a safe haven in the Pakistan Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), operational lieutenants, and its top leadership.
In the past few weeks, a reinvigorated Bin Laden has released both a video aimed at asserting his leadership of the global struggle against U.S. dominance, promising that "Islam" would solve the crises of imperialism, high taxes, and sub-prime mortgages, and an audio tape aimed at al-Qa'ida's most strategic target market, the population of Pakistan, where Bin Laden and his senior advisors are now safely ensconced. In the audio tape Bin Laden fulsomely praises the "tribes of Waziristan" and several Pakistani Taliban leaders, while omitting support for any Afghan group. This indicates where his real sanctuary in the region lies.

Iraq and Iran? I cede to Juan Cole, Scott Horton, and numerous others the thankless labor of documenting the administration's crimes and blunders in Iraq, a task I would compare to trying to convince a skeptical audience that water is wet. But since the administration (now abetted by CBS's 60 Minutes) is furiously accusing Iran of support for Shi'a militias in Iraq, it seems appropriate to recall a few basic facts about the situation in Iraq, helpfully laid out by Peter Galbraith in the New York Review of Books. Peter first visited Iraqi Kurdistan in, I think, 1989. He was one of the first outsiders to document the atrocities of Operation Anfal, at a time that the first Bush administration was giving Saddam a pass on killing Kurds, as long as he stood against Iran. At that time Peter was a senior staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Since then he has been Ambassador to Croatia and held a senior U.N. post in East Timor. I last saw Peter in Heathrow airport just before Thanksgiving last year, when we crossed paths as he returned from Iraq and I from Afghanistan.

An Afghan friend once remarked that Americans, unlike Afghans, seemed to require "memory facilitation," which Peter's article helpfully provides:
Iraqi forces [in the south] are dominated by the Badr Organization, a militia founded, trained, armed, and financed by Iran. When US forces ousted Saddam's regime from the south in early April 2003, the Badr Organization infiltrated from Iran to fill the void left by the Bush administration's failure to plan for security and governance in post-invasion Iraq.

In the months that followed, the US-run Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) appointed Badr Organization leaders to key positions in Iraq's American-created army and police. At the same time, L. Paul Bremer's CPA appointed party officials from the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) to be governors and serve on governorate councils throughout southern Iraq. SCIRI, recently renamed the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC), was founded at the Ayatollah Khomeini's direction in Tehran in 1982. The Badr Organization is the militia associated with SCIRI.

In the January 2005 elections, SCIRI became the most important component of Iraq's ruling Shiite coalition. In exchange for not taking the prime minister's slot, SCIRI won the right to name key ministers, including the minister of the interior. From that ministry, SCIRI placed Badr militiamen throughout Iraq's national police.

In short, George W. Bush had from the first facilitated the very event he warned would be a disastrous consequence of a US withdrawal from Iraq: the takeover of a large part of the country by an Iranian-backed militia.

Peter notes, as seems obvious but is ignored by most discussion in the U.S., that the Bush administration's stupendous blunders in Iraq have handed Iran a "far-reaching" "strategic victory." He illustrates his claim that "the scale of the American miscalculation is striking" with one of the by-now familiar astoundingly wrong quotations from the administration's strategic thinkers, in this case Paul Wolfowitz confidently asserting that a Shi'a-led Iraq will undermine Iran.

On the exhaustion and depletion of the U.S. Army, see this, this, and many other stories, including the recent ones explaining how the post-"surge" troop reduction is required regardless of "success" in order to keep the Army from collapsing. Scott Horton at Harpers provides complete coverage (and original investigation) of both the privatization of the U.S. Defense Department and the transformation of the Justice Department into a branch of the RNC. On the financing of the debt caused by the combination of tax cuts and uncontrolled spending on everything but social services for those who really need them, see this table of foreign holders of U.S. Treasury Securities.

Accountability, anyone? Read more on this article...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Hamas Truce?

An exchange of signals, including indirect contacts, between Israel and Hamas this past week offer an opportunity to examine both the balance of forces and each side’s current aspirations.

On September 16th, 2007, Hamas spokesman Taher al Nunu suggested that Hamas will implement the truce with Israel as part of the (no longer existing) unity government’s decisions. The rationale given for the (belated) truce was the desire to improve conditions during the month of Ramadan. Maybe the successful rocket attack on an Israeli military base outside Gaza in which about 60 soldiers, were wounded - most lightly, provided a ‘high note’ before a new course. The next day, Matan Vilnai, Israel’s Deputy Minister of Defense, (who was head of Southern Command when the IDF pulled out of the Strip in 1994) suggested that if Hamas stopped rocket fire against Israel for one to two weeks, than Israel should study the possibility of a truce with Hamas. Hamas called on Islamic Jihad to stop firing rockets, though it seems only in the area of the border crossings between Gaza and Israel.

Then, yesterday Hamas leaked to Reuters that Ghazi Hamad, the Hamas’s spokesman, contacted Vilnai through an intermediary. Hamas offered a truce in return for Israel’s agreement to open the crossings between Gaza and Egypt and Gaza and Israel. The Israeli government not only rejected the proposal, but on September 19th declared Gaza an “enemy entity,” a legal designation that it could use to further limit supplies to Gaza.

Though Hamas is adamant on not recognizing Israel’s right to exist, it expressed in the past a willingness to negotiate with it over practical issues such as trade and traffic. The new initiative, however, is different: it would involve negotiations over the resistance to Israel, that is over security issues. Such willingness seems to signal a sense of weariness and point to chinks in Hamas’ armor in the wake of the June putsch and Gaza’s subsequent isolation.

The Israeli rejection of the truce indicates that the crude home made Qassam rockets from Gaza are viewed at this stage mostly as an irritant. The Israel government is utilizing the Hamas takeover to keep the crossing into Egypt closed, since it is worried about weapons smuggling from Egypt which would arm Hamas with the kinds of long range rocket launchers that Hizballah used so successfully in the 2006 Lebanon War. Further, the Israel government feels emboldened in its attempts to choke Gaza by the tacit support of Egypt and Abbas himself. Read more on this article...

Bin Laden Slams Musharraf

The USG Open Source Center comments on and translates an audiotape of Usama Bin Laden condemning Pakistani Gen. Pervez Musharraf as an apostate for his crackdown on the Red Mosque in June.

Bin Ladin Calls For 'Armed Rebellion' Against Pakistani President . . .
Jihadist Websites -- OSC Summary
Friday, September 21, 2007

Terrorism: Bin Ladin Calls for 'Armed Rebellion' Against Pakistani President in Video Statement On 20 September, a jihadist website posted a message entitled, "Remove the Apostate, Al-Sahab Production Presents 'A Call for Jihad' by the Lion, Shaykh Usama Bin Ladin," which included several links to a 23-minute 36-second message from the leader of Al-Qa'ida Organization Usama Bin Ladin. The video, which contained still pictures of Bin Ladin, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and a number of Pakistani and Afghani jihad leaders, contained a message from Bin Ladin in which he praised a number of Pakistani clerics, including Abd-al-Aziz Ghazi who was killed in the attacks on the Red Mosque, and urged the Pakistanis to rise against President Pervez Musharraf. In the message, Bin Ladin explained that Musharraf's decision to attack the Red Mosque last July proved his submissiveness to the US, which in turn makes his removal obligatory. . .

A description of the video follows:

The video begins with the recitation of a Koranic verse and the following caption: "Come to Jihad - A Speech to the People of Pakistan, Shaykh Usama Bin Ladin (May Allah protect him), September 2007/Ramadan 1428."

The rest of the video contains Bin Ladin's message, accompanied by an old picture of his as well as the images of four jihad leaders that appear in the four corners of the screen, including that of Abd-al-Aziz Ghazi, who was killed in the Red Mosque attacks in Pakistan. Throughout the video, various still images and excerpts from previously processed old videos of Bin Ladin and Al-Zawahiri are displayed.

The full text of Bin Ladin's message as transcribed from the English subtitles follows:

"All praise is due to Allah. We praise Him and seek His aid and forgiveness, and we seek refuge in Allah from the evil in ourselves and from our bad deeds. He whom Allah guides cannot be led astray, and he who is led astray cannot be guided. I bear witness that there is no God other than Allah alone, without partners, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger. As for what comes after: To my Muslim brothers in Pakistan: Peace be upon you and the mercy of Allah and His blessings. Allah, the Most High says, 'O Prophet, strive hard against the disbelievers and the Hypocrites, and be harsh against them. Their abode is Hell and an evil destination it is' (9:73) (Koranic verse; Al-Tawbah 9:73). And the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, says, 'There is no one who abandons a Muslim in a place where his honor is violated and his sanctity is infringed upon except that Allah, the Most High abandons him in a place in which he would like His aid, and there is no one who aids a Muslim in a place where his honor is violated and his sanctity is infringed upon except that Allah aids him in a place in which he would like His aid' (Narrated by Ahmad) (Hadith). Pervez's invasion of Lal Masjid in the city of Islam, Islamabad, is a sad event, like the crime of the Hindus in their invasion and destruction of the Babari Masjid. And this event has crucial and critical connotations, most important of which are: First, this event demonstrated Musharraf's insistence on continuing his loyalty, submissiveness and aid to America against the Muslims, and this is one of the ten nullifiers of Islam, as the people of knowledge have determined, and makes armed rebellion against him and removing him obligatory.

"Allah, the Most High, says, 'O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guides not a people unjust' (5:51) (Koranic verse; Al-Ma'idah 5:51). And His statement, 'And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them,' means that he is of them in Kufr (unbelief), as the people of Tafseer (explanation) have said. This ruling was the one given and confirmed by Mufti Nizammuddin Shamzai, may Allah have mercy on him, in his famous Fatwa following the raids on New York, and among the things which he said: 'If any ruler of an Islamic state provides aid to an infidel state in its aggression against the Islamic states, it is the legal obligation of the Muslims to remove him from power and consider him to be legally a traitor to Islam and Muslims.' People of Islam in Pakistan: Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, may Allah have mercy on him, discharged a great duty which was upon him, and declared the word of truth and didn't care about the anger of the creation. He endangered himself and his wealth and made clear the ruling of Allah regarding Pervez: that he is a traitor to Islam and Muslims and must be removed.

This Fatwa enraged Pervez and enraged his masters in America, and it is my opinion that the murder of the Mufti - may Allah have mercy on him - was at their hands. And Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai died without having replaced the word of truth with falsehood, in contrast to what many of the 'Ulama of vice do. And the obligation on us remains, and we have been extremely late in carrying it out, six years having passed, so we should make up for lost time. May Allah forgive me as well as you.

"Second, the government's showing of Maulana Abd al-Aziz Ghazi in women's clothing in the media is clear evidence of the extent of the great hostility, hatred and contempt held by Pervez and his government towards Islam and its sincere 'Ulama, and that is greater Kufr which takes one out of Islam. Allah, the Most High, says, 'And if you question them, they will most surely say, "We were only talking idly and jesting." Say, Was it Allah and His Signs and His Messenger which you were mocking? Make no excuses. You have certainly disbelieved after believing. If we forgive a party from among you, a party We shall punish, for they are criminals' (9:65-66) (Koranic verses; Al-Tawbah 9:65-66). And read, if you wish, the Tafseer of Ibn Katheer - may Allah have mercy on him - regarding this Ayat.

"Third, in such events, the people are tested and the friends of the Most Merciful are separated from the friends of Satan. The 'Ulama who are from the friends of the Most Merciful declare the truth, and if they are unable or are weak, they observe silence and don't help falsehood with their words or actions. As for the friends of Satan, they are led by Pakistani military intelligence to speak falsehood and help its people. Some of them deem it obligatory to unite with Pervez and his army, while others deem as Haraam martyrdom-seeking fedayee operations against the soldiers of the Taghut (idol-king), while still others assail the Mujahideen, slandering and defaming them. And this is the way of the Munafiqeen (Hypocrites). Allah, the Most High, says, 'They are stingy (in helping) you. And when danger comes, you see them looking towards you, their eyes rolling like one fainting as death approaches. But when the fear has passed away, they assail you with sharp tongues, being stingy will good deeds. Those have never believed, so Allah has rendered their works null and void. And that is easy for Allah' (33:19) (Koranic verse; Al-Ahzab 33:19). So everyone who refrained from helping the Imam Maulana Abd al-Rashid Ghazi is from the sitters, whereas those who attacked him to help Pervez claiming that Islam isn't established through fighting and calling fighting in the path of Allah 'terrorism' - in the context of invective - and saying that the way is through peaceful demonstrations and democratic methods are from those who have gone astray and followed the path of the Munafiqeen. Nearly two decades ago, the soil of Pakistan saw and was watered by the blood of a great Imam of the Imams of Islam - i.e. the Mujahid champion Imam Abdullah Azzam, may Allah have mercy on him - and today, we have seen another great Imam, not at the level of Pakistan alone, but at the level of the entire Islamic Ummah: i.e. the Imam Maulana Abd al-Rashid Ghazi - may Allah have mercy on him.

"He, his brothers, his students and female students of Jami'ah Hafsa demanded the application of the Shari'ah of Islam, as the reason for our creation is that we worship Allah the Most High through His religion, al-Islam, and they were killed because of this great objective. Allah, the Most High, says, 'And I have not created jinn and men but that they may worship Me' (51:56) (Koranic verse; Al-Zariyyat 51:56).

"They sacrificed the great thing they owned: they sacrificed themselves for their religion. I ask Allah to accept them among the martyrs. They were killed treacherously and treasonously at the hands of the apostate infidel Pervez and his aides. The purpose of the army - or so they say - is to protect the Muslims against the Kuffaar, but now we see the armies becoming tools and weapons in the hands of the Kuffaar against the Muslims. Pervez threw away the cause of Kashmir and restrained those fighting to liberate it, in accordance with the wishes of the Hindus and Nazarenes. Then he opened his bases and airports to America for invading the Muslims in Afghanistan, and as you've seen before, the army attacked the people of Swat who also demanded the rule of Shari'ah, and attacked the people of Waziristan, in addition to betraying and extraditing hundreds of Arab Mujahideen from the grandsons of the Sahabah (Companions), with whom Allah was pleased, to the head of Kufr, America. So Pervez, his ministers, his soldiers and those who help him are all accomplices in the spilling the blood of those of the Muslims who have been killed. He who helps him knowingly and willingly is an infidel like him, and as for he who helps him knowingly and under compulsion, his compulsion isn't legally valid, as the soul of the one forced to kill isn't better than the soul of the one killed, and the Messenger of Allah - peace and blessings of Allah be upon him - said, 'Were all the inhabitants of the heavens and earth to participate in the spilling of a believer's blood, Allah - the Great and Glorious - would throw them into the Fire' (Hadith).

"So I tell the soldiers who perform the Salaat (prayer) in the military organs: you must resign from your jobs and enter anew into Islam and disassociate yourself from Pervez and his Shirk (polytheism).

"Some of the Munafiqeen among the 'Ulama of vice and others may say that Islam orders us to stay together and the people to unite with the army and government to stand in the face of the enemies and avoid Fitnah (strife).

"I say: the one who says this is creating lies about Allah. The government and the army have become enemies of the Ummah, after becoming a weapon in the hands of the Kuffaar against the Muslims. And they refuse to rule by the religion of Islam in all of life's affairs, like politics, economy, social life and other matters. Allah has ordered these and their like to be fought, not to be united with and hung onto, as those hypocrites claim. Allah, the Most High, says, 'And fight them until there is no Fitnah (polytheism), and religion is wholly for Allah' (8:39) (Koranic verse: Al-Anfal 8:39).

"So if some of the religion is for Allah and some of it is for other than Allah, fighting is obligatory to make the religion entirely for Allah, the Most High. By the grace of Allah, the Most High, we preformed Jihad with the Afghan Mujahideen against the Russians, and the Afghan army was a weapon in their hands against us. They would pray and fast, but despite that, the senior 'Ulama of the Islamic world, including the 'Ulama of Pakistan, ruled that they are to be fought. And after the exit of the Russians, the 'Ulama of Pakistan also supported Taliban against the Northern Alliance, although they also pray and fast. So is there any difference between Pervez and his soldiers and Ahmad Shah Massoud, Rabbani and Sayyaf and their soldiers? There is no difference at all. All of them have pledged to the Crusaders to fight true Islam and its people, and those who say it is forbidden to fight Pervez and his soldiers and exclude him from the general ruling have an illness in their hearts: they prefer this life to the next. Allah, the Most High, says, 'Are your unbelievers better than those or have you an immunity (from punishment) in the sacred books?' (54:43) (Koranic verse; Al-Qamar 54:43)

"I tell Pervez and his army: your betrayal of your nation and people has been exposed, and the people are no longer fooled by your showing off militarily by launching some missiles after every disaster and massacre you commit against the populace, as has occurred repeatedly in the border regions, or after the biggest massacre in Lal Masjid most recently. How is the nation benefited by these weapons and tests of yours? The same goes for the nuclear bomb itself. When the American foreign minister Powell came to you, you cowered, bowed and submitted to him like a lowly slave, and you permitted the American Crusader forces to use the air, soil and water of Pakistan, the country of Islam, to kill the people of Islam in Afghanistan, then in Waziristan. So woe to you and away with you.

"'Against the peoples attacking lions, and against the enemy rabbits and ostriches?' (Poetry)

"And your going to Makkah and performing the Tawaaf (circling) of the Ka'aba won't benefit you when combined with Kufr and combating of Islam and its people. Were it to benefit anyone in combination with Kufr, it would have benefited Abu Lahab, the uncle of the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

"Then someone might say that armed rebellion against Pervez will lead to the spilling of blood. But I say: were the order to fight the apostate ruler from the people, like 'Amr and Zyad, then it would be permissible for minds and opinions to intervene and discuss what they should do or not do. However, as you know, the order to fight the apostate ruler is an order in the Shari'ah of Allah, and it is not permissible for the Muslim to make his opinion a rival to the order of Allah and order of His Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Allah, the Most High, says, 'And it is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, to exercise their own choice in the matter concerning them. And whoso disobeys Allah and His Messenger goes manifestly astray' (33:36) (Koranic verse; Al-Ahzab 33:36).

"So when the capability is there, it is obligatory to rebel against the apostate ruler, as is the case now. And the one who believes that the strength required to rebel has not yet been completed must complete it and take up arms against Pervez and his army without procrastination. Pervez and most of the Muslim's rulers jumped to power and usurped it and ruled us by other than what Allah sent down by force of arms, and the situation will not return to normal through elections, demonstrations and shouting. So beware of the polytheistic elections and futile actions, for iron is only dented by iron, and it is through fighting in Allah's path and exhorting of the believers that the might of the Kuffar is restrained. Allah, the Most High, said, 'So fight in Allah's Cause - you are held responsible only for yourself - and rouse the believers. It may be that Allah will restrain the might of the unbelievers. And Allah is strongest in might and strongest in punishment' (4:84) (Koranic verse; Al-Nisa 4:84).

"Fighting in Allah's path is an act of worship, and it is based on sacrifice of selves. Muslim blood is spilled and poured out to protect the religion, which only reached us after his (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) cuspid tooth was broken, his head cut open and his noble face bloodied, and after the blood of the best of people, like Hamza, Mus'ab, Zaid and Ja'afar (with whom Allah was pleased), was poured out. This is the path, so follow it. The people have forgotten the path of victory. They think it comes easily or without blood running. Where is the Jihad of the Messenger of Allah? (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him)

"So to sum up: It is obligatory on the Muslims in Pakistan to carry out Jihad and fighting to remove Pervez, his government, his army and those who help him. And it is obligatory on them to pledge allegiance to an Amir of the Believers who observes the rule of Shari'ah rather than Pervez's polytheistic positive-law constitution. And the Muslims will not be successful in liberating themselves from slavery to Pervez and to his polytheistic laws until they are successful in liberating themselves from many of the leaders and 'Ulama falsely affiliated with Islam, who are in fact the first line of defense for Pervez and his government and army. You have seen with your own eyes the stances they took previously, when, rather than moving to break the siege placed on the Muslims of Afghanistan, they moved to break the siege placed on the bases and airports which Pervez gave to America and from which the planes were taking off to pound us in Tora Bora, Kabul, Kandahar, Paktia, Nangarhar and other places. And for your information, Pervez only dared invade Lal Masjid and Jami'ah Hafsa after he was satisfied that most of the 'Ulama and leaders of the Jama'ats (groups) had renounced the Jihad which Allah the Most High legislated to enforce the truth and whose banner was tied by the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), and replaced it with polytheistic democratic solutions and with peaceful demonstrations and bogus threats to absorb the anger of the masses. Pervez had tested them before, when he broke the back of the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan, after which they came to him voluntarily and of their own accord to participate in the polytheistic parliament, as if nothing had happened.

"So O people of Islam in Pakistan: the truth is greater than everyone, and if truth is not greater than everyone and if we don't apply the Hudood (punishments) to both the nobleman and weak, that is the road to ruin, as the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) informed, 'Those before you were ruined because when the nobleman among them stole, they would let him go, but when the weak one among them stole, they would execute on him the Hadd (punishment). And by He in whose Hand is my soul, were Fatima, daughter of Muhammad, to steal, I would cut off her hand' (Agreed upon) (Hadith).

"O youth of Islam in Pakistan: the Pen is writing what is for you and what is against you, and it won't benefit you to make excuses by saying that many of your 'Ulama and leaders have allied themselves to the infidel rulers and that the rest have failed to speak the truth and declare it out of fear of the ruling Taghuts (idols), except those on whom Allah has had mercy, and these are either in prison or on the run. This huge disaster - i.e. the marching of the 'Ulama of vice in line with the apostate ruler and their currying favor with him and attacking of the sincere Mujahid 'Ulama - isn't peculiar to Pakistan, but rather, is a disaster covering the entire Islamic Ummah. And there is no power nor might except with Allah.

"So O people of Islam in Pakistan: every one of you will come alone to Allah, the Most High, and be held accountable for his own actions, so discharge your duty. The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) has said, 'The smart one is he who subdues his self and works for what comes after death, and the feeble one is he who lets his self chase after his desires and (then) hopes from Allah' (Hadith). And be aware that if Jihad becomes an individual obligation, as is the case today, there are only two ways with no third: either Jihad, which is the way of the Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, and those who believed with him, or sitting, which is the way of the disobedient ones and Munafiqeen. So make your choice. Allah, the Most High, says, ' They prefer to be the womenfolk who remain behind at home, so their hearts are sealed so they understand not. But the Messenger and those who believe with him strive (in the cause of Allah) with their wealth and their persons, and it is they who shall have good things, and it is they who shall prosper ' (9:87-88) (Koranic verses; Al-Tawbah 9:87-88). And we in al-Qaida Organization call on Allah to witness that we will retaliate for the blood of Maulana Abd al-Rashid Ghazi and those with him against Musharraf and those who help him, and for all the pure and innocent blood, foremost of which is the blood of the champions of Islam in Waziristan both north and south - among them the two noble leaders, Nek (Taqi) Muhammad and Abdullah Mahsud. May Allah have mercy on them all.

"The tribes of Waziristan have made a great stand in the face of international Kufr - America, its allies and its agents - and the major states have been unable to make the stands they have made. They have been made resolute in this stance by their Iman (faith) in Allah, the Most High, and their Tawakkul (reliance) on Him, and they have withstood huge sacrifices of souls and wealth. We ask Allah to compensate them well. And the Muslims shall not forget these magnificent stances, and the blood of the 'Ulama of Islam and leaders of the Muslims and their offspring will not be spilled in vain or neglected as long as there remains in us a pulsing vein or a blinking eye. We ask Allah to help us to fulfill that.

"O Allah, our Lord, accept those of our brothers and sisters who have been killed among the martyrs and heal the wounded; O Allah, make their graves spacious for them, and take care of their families and raise their grades in 'Illiyeen (Heaven); O Allah, Pervez, his ministers, his 'Ulama and his soldiers have been hostile to your friends in Afghanistan and Pakistan, especially in Waziristan, Swat, Bajaur and Lal Masjid: O Allah, break their backs, split them up and destroy their unity; O Allah, afflict them with the loss of their dear ones as they have afflicted us with the loss of our dear ones; O Allah, we seek refuge in You from their evilness and we place You at their throats; O Allah, make their plotting their destruction; O Allah, suffice for us against them with whatever You wish; O Allah, destroy them, for they cannot escape You; O Allah, count them, kill them, and leave not even one of them; O Allah, our Lord, give us in this world goodness and in the last goodness, and protect us from the torment of Fire; O Allah, send prayers and peace on our Prophet Muhammad and on all his family and Companions."

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Kian is Free!

At midnight tonight (September 19) Tehran time, Kian Tajbakhsh was released from Evin Prison on bail and is at home with is wife Bahar, who is expecting their first child in a few weeks.

Robin Wright has more at the Washington Post. Read more on this article...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Afghans React to Iranian Warning

As I noted on September 16, Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (Sepah-e Pasdaran) Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari stated that Iran has prepared a "crushing" (literally "teeth-breaking") response against the weak points of those who had occupied Afghanistan and Iraq.

Today members of Afghanistan's Wolesi Jirga (lower house of the National Assembly) addressed this statement. Dr. Abdul Kabir Ranjbar, representative of Kabul and head of the Democratic Party of Afghanistan, is reported to have stated that attacking U.S. interests in Afghanistan from abroad would be a violation of the territorial integrity of Afghanistan and a breach of international law. Several other deputies made similar statements, though I do not yet have the texts. I would welcome help from anyone who can get them.

So far I have found no comment from the National Front, a group in the Afghan National Assembly that has received some assistance from Iran. The Afghan government and the Iranian embassy in Kabul declined to comment. The Ambassador of Iran to Afghanistan, Muhammad Reza Bahrami, was removed from his post by Tehran soon after General Jafari's statement. Bahrami has represented Iran in Afghanistan in various capacities for twenty-three years.

Update: I received from Kabul the text in English of a Tolo TV broadcast on this subject:

Text of report by Afghan independent Tolo TV on 18 September 2007

[Presenter] Iran has warned that it will target US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq if America attacks Iran.

[Passage omitted: comments by a senior commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps]

[Correspondent] A number of MPs describe as irresponsible the recent remarks by the commander of the Revolutionary Guards Corps, saying that it is an excuse for Iran to interfere in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and help the Afghan armed insurgents.

[Kabir Ranjbar, MP from Kabul Province] [The military forces of] any other country present in Afghanistan act in line with the constitution and other laws of Afghanistan. Attacking those [foreign] forces means invading Afghan soil. I do not consider this an attack on the Americans. From the legal point of view, it is an absolute violation of inter-governmental relations, and of good neighbourly values and principles with Iran.

[Ahmad Shah Khan Achakzai, MP from Kandahar Province, in Pashto] Relations between Iran and America have been bad for a long time. I believe this is only an excuse by the Iranians.

[Jamil Karzai, MP from Kandahar Province, in Pashto] First, if we take a look back, relations between Iran and America have not been good for the past 15 to 20 years, since the establishment of the Islamic government in Iran. They are not on good terms. The president of Afghanistan has offered to mediate between the two countries, if possible.

[Correspondent] America has stressed diplomatic ways of addressing the Iranian nuclear problem, but has not ruled out the possibility of resorting to military options. We tried to contact the Afghan Foreign Ministry and the Iranian embassy in Kabul for their comments on the issue, but they were not available for comments.

Further update from the comments: On September 19, Iranian Ambassador to Kuwait Ali Jannati stated that "in case of any military attack on Iran, the country will target all U.S. military bases used for Washington's attack." He called such an attack "unlikely," and added:
Iran only attacks those military bases used for launching military assault against it. Tehran believes that the countries of the region would never let the U.S. use their soil to attack Iran.
This appears to mean that, if the U.S. uses bases in Iraq or Afghanistan to attack Iran, Iran will retaliate against U.S. bases in those countries, but that otherwise it will respond in other ways.
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