Saturday, November 21, 2009

Guantanamo's Evil Twin, Facing Divorce with Pakistan, King Abdullah To The Rescue

William Greider
Kathleen Parker
Heather Sharp

"Members of Congress who bailed out the bankers with public money are quite terrified of voter retribution in the next election."  - William Greider
"And we're supposed to defend/feel sorry for/protect Sarah from . . . what? Wild success, popularity and riches? You must be joking."  - Kathleen Parker
"Westerners need to stop thinking they are celebrities living out pop-modern lives for us on a stage for all their eastern fans to wish they were them." - Jihad Hashim Brown

While Barack Obama is still dithering on the amount of new troops to send to Afghanistan, and roundly being criticized by impatient hawks who prefer to go with their gut feelings than study the situation, nobody knows where these new troops would be staying. Bagram Air Force base, which we took over from the Soviets and is the largest military facility in the country, is already crowded despite the $60 million just spent on upgrading the detention center alone. Another $23 million is proposed to build new housing.

The detention center, called by human rights activists as "Guantanamo's Evil Twin," also has 700 current detainees, and officials are describing it "... is meant to be part of a new era of openness and transparency," although no-one has defined what is meant by that phrase. Journalists given the grand tour of the place were not allowed to see the prisoners, and one ex-detainee described treatment as: "People were beaten, dragged, tortured in it. There were high places where guards stood with guns. It was a hard, difficult place,I don't think it's the facilities which make the difference, it's the treatment of people inside."

That is supposed to change, under the new rules, and "General Mark Martins, who runs detention operations at the airbase, said the US military was improving its treatment of detainees and had learnt many lessons since occupying the country in 2001.

"Detention, if not done properly, can actually harm the effort. We are a learning organisation ... we believe transparency is certainly going to help the effort, and increase the credibility of the whole process,"

Unfortunately, the prisoners, er detainees, are still being held indefinitely without being charged or given access to a lawyer, just like in all our other military detainee camps. A human rights activist said: "All this talk about transparency, and the US government still won't release a simple list of names of prisoners who are in Bagram," Perhaps the new transparency is that you cannot see the prisoners...
"Perhaps hoping to combat the widespread discontent and months of unrest that followed Iran’s disputed presidential election, the Tehran city council has announced the start of laughter classes." - Robert Mackey

And our allies over in Pakistan are worried that if we send more troops, we will just invade their country over the border and scurry around on military missions without their permission. A recent poll taken in Pakistan shows that they see the US as more of a threat to them than the Talibans are. Their President is seen as sucking up to the US and certainly won't get re-elected... They recently touted on radio and television that they were going to send many troops into South Waziristan, attacking the heart of the Pashtun Taliban stronghold. When they got there, it was pretty much all abandoned, and they took pictures and held press conferences showing what a success it all had been...

Like all Muslim countries, the problem with extremists and the Taliban is really their own problem. It's awfully nice that we fight them, though what they really have to do with our so called war on terror I have no idea. When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan they actually offered to give up al Qaeda members because they liked that barbecue in Texas that we had invited them to, when an oil company wanted to build a pipeline through to Turkey... But Bush would rather invade and get bin Laden, and we see the results of his success. Maybe we should appoint George Bush or Donald Rumsfeld to be the ambassador to Afghanistan instead of Karl Eichenberry, it would be poetic justice...

is education the way...

Saudi Arabia is the home of the extremist brand of Wahabism, seen to be the influence behind al Qaeda and various Taliban movements. The major percentage of 9/11 hijackers also came from Saudi Arabia, and funding for these type of activities still comes from here, it is a chaotic mixture of century-old traditions and the best western culture that lots of money can buy.

The monarch of Saudi Arabia just spent $10 billion building the brand new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, whose: "Stated goal is to take a country that consistently ranks among the poorest performing nations in education and, with all the brain power and high-tech equipment oil money can buy, build a world-class research center and university."

The experiment here is: "... a less discussed, yet no less consequential, objective: Can the university help this tradition-bound society become more open to new ideas? Can it help Saudi Arabia stamp out the kind of homegrown extremism that has spawned terrorism?

“We wouldn’t see change without having more things like this,” said Awadh al-Badi, a political scientist at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh. “My thought is that they are trying to create a parallel system, that with time would take from others or balance what exists.”

One problem is that the king is 85 years old, and the next in line is one of the extremists, so kiss good-bye this noble experiment in a few years time. One a much lesser scale, a Riyadh film festival was cancelled on opening night because it was deemed too much of a western influence. To the King's credit, he fired a vocal critic who said that the students should not be allowed to mingle and that the curriculum should adhere to the tenets of Islam, or at least his interpretation of it. One wonders though, if anywhere in the Middle East they can combat what British journalist Brian Whitaker describes as: "... stultifying atmosphere where change, innovation, creativity, critical thinking, questioning, problem-solving… are all discouraged... The systematic denial of rights that impinge on the lives of millions: discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality or family background; inequality of opportunity, impenetrable bureaucracies, arbitrary application of the law; and the lack of transparency in government." Ah, jeez, this sounds like someone criticizing the problems we have in the US, doesn't it? The struggle against right wing conservatism is a universal problem, part of the human condition...

A cleric in Abu Dubai, Jihad Hashim Brown, says the only way to change has to come from within, if you don't mind what sounds like New Age talk:
"At the other end, for a person without much to lose, it is easier to have a clear conscience and a pure heart. With an illuminated and polished heart he is able to be a healer. With a balanced spiritual constitution his response to social ills is constructive, positive, valuable. He sees that where need be, the application of sufficient force must be governed by the rule of law; and only to the extent that it can prevent harm. He knows that vigilantism is forbidden in Islam."

One, two, three, what are we fighting for...

Yippee! We're all going to die...

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