Category Archives: Middle East

Commentary—Protecting Our Civil Rights — The New Fight Against ISIS and Terrorism

Terror attacks are increasing in intensity and frequency, and it has become obvious that we must increase the invasiveness of our techniques in combating those elements. That, in turn, raises the issues of protecting our civil rights, which might be encroached upon in the process of counterterrorism activity. How we interdict violent terroristic attacks here and abroad and how we simultaneously protect our civil rights is not an easy task, but neither is it impossible. To understand the necessity of revisiting the methods of interdiction and its effects, it becomes important that we have some background in understanding the present nature of terrorism as it has evolved in recent times and as we shortly move into 2018. At the outset in our discussion we must ignore any slippery slope analysis. It does not enhance the depth of the discussion nor advance any meaningful analysis.

We should begin in June 2014. The ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared the establishment of the Islamic Caliphate by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. By that summer, the Islamic State’s territory covered about a third of Iraq and between a quarter and a third of Syria. It has been estimated that ISIS had become the richest terrorist organization in the world. In response to ISIS’s overwhelming territorial capture, and within months, an American-led international coalition was fashioned to attack ISIS. Not surprising, one year later (September 2015), Russia began its military intervention in Syria, initially to prevent the collapse of the Syrian regime and later to support the regime in fighting not only ISIS but other rebel organizations, referred to as “terrorist organizations”. To expand its sphere of influence, Russia has entered into an agreement for air support rights with Egypt.

The ISIS crises came to an head in early 2015, with the commencement of an intense and non-stop military campaign for the next two and half years, up to the time of writing this Commentary ( early December, 2017). It can be said, on the ground the Islamic State no longer exits. Lost are most of its captured territory including the historic cities of Mosul and Raqqa including those areas along the Euphrates River in both Iraq and Syria. It would, however, be a terrible mistake to say we have defeated ISIS and all is well. It is not.

We have recaptured land seized by ISIS, but ISIS, as a terrorist organization (along with its immense wealth), has not been defeated. It remains a real, continuing and enormous danger to our wellbeing. ISIS motivated and inspired attacks here, at home and abroad, will continue, and if history is any judge, they will escalate in intensity and scope with the demise of its territorial loss, and as thousands of their fighters who already have returned will return to their homes with their hatred intact. In addition, there is no longer the question some of those fighters will join or rejoin with some faction of a-Qaeda from which they had initially belonged. As reported, it has already shown its ability to easily function in far-flung places, while openly conscripting new and trained fighters in areas marked by political, social neglect or oppression.

As I have written in the past, our civil rights, protected both at home and abroad, is the cornerstone of our democracy and individual well-being. They must be protected but cannot be used to lesson our ability to defend ourselves and thus be an avenue thru which we are attacked. It is equally essential we not hamper our ability to anticipate and defend against the enemy. ISIS. Not Islam. Not those “dudes”. Not those who create fake shadow targets thru the internet.

There is a subtle but elusive bond and trust between our national government and the population. It is that bond and the trust that has been created that protects our democracy. We must have faith in our government. And in return our government must be “of the people and for the people.” Any concept of a “big brother” government must be rejected; an idea that we merely cede our rights in return for protection must be rejected. Without ceding self to an authority, we at the same moment, must have in place a robust form of law enforcement that protects that fragile structure against internal and external threats. At this juncture it is essential that we have an enhanced counterterrorism mechanism in place, but as I will discuss below, with a respected independent national oversight authority as a counterbalance. Not the Attorney General appointed by a President, not individual state legislatures, not ad hoc civilian groups created for particular contentious events. We must create a congressionally constructed legal body, independent of any presidential control that is funded and answers only to a joint bipartisan congressional committee, with neither political party having a deciding vote.

We have moved far from the time when we made hard distinctions between domestic and international forms of terrorism. The line between legitimate forms of dissent and terrorism is not as ambiguous as in the past. We have come to a time when it is essential that we employ enhanced law enforcement tools to increase our ability to interdict a terrorist before (s)he attacks. Not after the attack. Concurringly, during any ongoing investigation, it is essential that there be in place a process for the civil rights protection for the target. We are long past the time of Hoover’s FBI.

As noted above, with the creation of an independent body of trained lawyers and investigators who will have the appropriate “standing” (notwithstanding not having been retained by the target of any investigation) to appear before a federal court on behalf of these person, and to maintain the necessary secrets of any enquiry will any hearing will take place in camera. The effect is that those persons or entities under scrutiny will then have legal representation without being notified of any ongoing probe. The aim of this approach is that with the risk of terrorist attacks increasing,(yesterday at Times Square in New York City) we require our national defense, to be more robust and intrusive in our terrorist investigation, and that might further encroach upon civil rights. In order to minimize that intrusion and to be as certain as possible that whatever invasive procedure is permitted by court order, there must be evidence that underscores the seriousness of the potential threat and necessitates the need for the enhanced counterterrorism techniques requested. For that we need something more than the Government’s mere unilateral claim and procedural request to a court.

What becomes vital in our democracy is an independent analysis and review of the government’s request. This is accomplished by the creation of an autonomous group of attorneys who would appear before the appropriate court and act on behalf of the targets without the target’s knowledge. A safeguard is thereby created to protect against the government’s potential overreaching and violating the targets civil rights but also to provide the government with the appropriate, more intrusive tools to counteract a potential attack.

Aside from the lone copycat who more often than not flies-under-the-radar, terrorism on a larger scale is becoming more sophisticated and complicated in method and structure. It is essential that we refine and improve our methods of investigation or we will lose in that battle.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

Commentary—Eurabia Revisited: Muslim Surge – Multi-Ethnic vs. Multicultural Society

In 2005, Tony Blankley, a conservative editor at the Washington Times, not the Washington Post, wrote a slim book that caused people to yell: Foul! Discriminatory! Inflammatory! I do not remember if he was a participant on the Sunday morning Mclaughlin Report at the time but I do remember his slight English accent and gracious manner. His political position was very much cutting edge on the far right side of the political spectrum. His book was described as “shocking”. He argued that it was the West’s last chance at survival because the European continent was to become Eurabia.   He argued that the European continent would be overwhelmed by militant Islam, which would pose a greater threat to the United States than Nazi Germany. This, he argued, was the West’s last chance at survival. This was in 2005.

That was eleven years ago. We had lived thru the September 11 2001 attacks –a series of four coordinate attacks by an Islamic terrorist group that killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 and caused billions in property damage. Five years prior to the Blankley book, a book published in the Netherlands had claimed that multiculturalism had failed in that country. That author was viciously attacked, called a racist and bigot. It was against this background and with the then surge of Muslims into Europe, that Mr. Blankley envisioned a continent where Muslims outnumber non-Muslims.

What has happened in Europe? This is 2016, and we will take count in 5 days of the 9/11 attack. Is there a Eurabia? Have the Muslims assumed the mantel of ownership in Europe? Clearly the answer is “no” but with a very large warning asterisk. When one meshes a fine article by Abigail Esman for the IPT News and the work of Conrad Hackett, a demographer focusing on religion at Pew Research Center, we see the formation of a very disturbing trend on the European Continent and England. I had a colleague who was fond of saying: Yes, I have a phobia, but that doesn’t mean someone is not trying to kill me.

Phobia based reasoning, people claim, is not a rational method for discourse, but there is a factual trend unfolding before us that is more than disturbing for the present and the future. Let me explain.

In Britain, Poles constitute the largest number of foreign-born residents, and the Brexit referendum to leave the European Union has unleashed a wave of violent xenophobia. But it is the Muslim population in Western Europe and Great Britain that has caused the greatest amount of fear.

In France, Belgium, Germany, the UK and Netherlands there is mounting concern because of the ever increasing Muslim population. Germany and France have the greatest number of Muslims. In approximate numbers, Germany has 4.8 million Muslims or about 5.8 percent of its population. Germany has roughly the same number but constituting 7.5 percent of its population. The UK has 3 million Muslims or 4.8 percent of its population. Last, the Netherlands has only 1 million Muslims but 6 percent of its population.

When viewed as a whole, Europe’s total Muslim population has been increasing steadily and consistently from 4 percent in 1990 to 6% in 2010, and should reach well above 8 percent, because of the extreme violence now in play in the mid-East and the rush of immigration fleeing to Europe. In 2015 alone the number of refugees escaping to Europe pushed to an astounding 1.3 Million people. While in the small and progressive nation, Denmark, the more than 36,000 mostly Muslim asylums seekers who had arrived in the last year has created a backlash. Bo Lidegaard, a prominent Danish historian, as reported in the New York Times, voiced the issue most profoundly:” we are a multi-ethnic society. We are not and should never become a multicultural society.”

These numbers are a haze to digest. But important as they are, they create a troubling picture for the future. The Muslims who have endured extreme hardship and arrive in Europe are younger than all other people in Europe, and thus it is expected they will reproduce at a greater rate than their older European neighbors. In 2011, it was predicted that the world Muslim population will grow twice as fast as non-Muslim s over the next 20 years. They have the highest fertility rate well above replacement levels and, thus, become the fastest growing religion worldwide.

Within the last 15 months I have felt the increased tension while visiting in the UK and France. Taxi drivers, without request, are indicating which streets and cafés were bombed; there is a palpable tension and one feels the quiet sense of possible danger. Since my visit in January of 2015 to London, with a cancelled trip to France because of the bombings, over 275 have been killed at the hands of Islamic terrorists. The youth are racializing and communities across Europe are in the midst of heated discussion regarding the strict control of immigration, reviewing counterterrorism strategies, increased surveillance and tighter control of currency exchange that have provided clandestine help to the potential terrorist.

I have written previously of much needed programs to coordinate intelligence gathering and data within EU partners. And that has come to fruition. Most important, beside the regularly scheduled meetings of the EU partners which I have called for is the present sharing of databases pinpointing not just groups but individuals whose potential for terrorism is demonstrable.

With the intensity of the data and intelligence sharing process we are faced with the concerns for individual privacy and the ability to have sufficient resources to conduct the most crucial aspects of counterterrorism intrusion. There is also the necessity to appreciate the macro picture –considering the effect on the general well-being of the European population with the arrival of thousands of fleeing refugees. “What now that that Europe is close to its limit on accepting refugees,” EU President Donald Tusk (the former president of Poland) said on Sunday, 4 September, as he urged the international community to do more to step up resettlement of those seeking refuge.

Taking the problem one set further, a major consideration in Ms. Esman’s article is how to combat/prevent radicalizing of the non-terrorist persons within the prison populations by the terrorist in the next cell. Equally important in the total fight against terrorism is the aggressive surveillance of those places that advertise themselves as cultural or religious centers but serve yet another purpose. Too many years ago, Steve Emerson of IPT came to my home and showed Yigal Carmon (who was then the advisor to the PM of Israel and now the founder and president of MEMRI) and me the first cut of a documentary he produced that was to be shown on PBS-Television: “A Jihad in America”. You were taken—with the use of hidden cameras– into mosques across America that were openly utilized as recruiting and training grounds for future terrorists. I remember clearly when the video print came to an end, I sat silent and stunned. I could only mutter: Please play it again. I watched it three times before I was able to discuss its content. Today, I would not be shocked.

Looking at Europe from afar, from the safety of my home, what I see is in some quarters is a culture that evokes hate and fear. There is so much more fear in Europe and the UK than in the United States. And the reason is obvious. 9/11 has become a memory to most of us in this Country—almost a symbol with little or no personal pain; the terrorist attacks in Europe are in the present, unrelenting, personal and with no understanding why the locations or the persons chosen to be attacked are determined—other than, in some instances, mere convenience. There is no place to hide. And so the rapid influx into Europe, first gradual and now in torrents, of Muslims bringing their traditions, culture and religion create a sense of being overwhelmed.

There is no Eurabia today and maybe not tomorrow, but there will be a massive change in the complexity of Europe’s character in our lifetime as the flow of large numbers of people rush from the Mid- East to Europe. Some to merely escape violence and they will be content to find peace anywhere. There will be some who will seek to impose their lifestyle on their host nation—and there will be conflict; there will be some who come not to escape violence but to vent through violence their religious hatred toward their host.

It is unfortunate, but the terrorists will, in the short run, outpace their pursuers. It is unfortunate, in the macro world, that the process thru which these refugees must be processed and their acceptance into our community will require enhanced surveillance. This will require the surrender of some of those civil rights we cherish until we find a method that truly balances those rights with providing for our individual safety. Pragmatically that is possible. There is always a price – a price for living in an open multi-cultural society.

Blankley was right. This is the West’s last chance to maintain its heritage—but only if we do deal humanely with those who flee from violence. In the process of recognition we must accept the concepts of religious freedom and deal simultaneously and pragmatically with terrorism –in one integrated bundle. One must understand that these are not separate issues; each forms an important part of the mosaic that will keep the continent European and embracing. France cannot be only for the French and Muslims cannot superimpose their will on the French –their culture or heritage. The EU must be in lock-step, united in one common goal. We, in the United States, learned that lesson when 13 very independent states formed one union, no physical barriers, accepting of diverse religions, no competing tariffs, and one nation-wide set of legal principals — all embedded in what became our Constitution.

Richard Allan

The Editor

 

Commentary–the Fate of Luca

On a day that we have been introduced to Luca—you don’t know Luca? The New York Times tells us that we have been provided with a “surprising specific genetic portrait of the ancestor of all living things…” Its name is Luca. Luca, the living thing that started the ball rolling until we stand tall on two hind legs throwing bombs at each other. That news stopped me dead in my tracts. Not that I am in any fashion a science buff, but that fact –Luca–examined by itself –is startling when juxtaposed to the chaos surrounding us at all levels today.

We are now learning how we started out on this planet-earth at the same moment we are in the process of self-destroying our very being. It is not some massive volcano whose fumes are blocking the sun; nor is it an alien planet that will slam into us and take us back to the time of the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Nineteen are killed and twenty-nine are injured by a man wielding a knife, not at some military installation, but a facility for the disabled In a Tokyo suburb. Long from the center of Paris, a terrorist attacks a village catholic church, takes hostages and kills a priest. And half-way round the world the President of Turkey is moving further and faster in destroying the democratic fiber of his country in the name of restoring order. If that Country were not vital in the multiple wars in Syria and against ISIS, I doubt if we would tolerate his moving the clock back in a part of the world that should be moving forward. This democratically elected president has begun a witch-hunt, a systematic campaign of violence against those who hold a different view from his own. Not only has he arrested thousands accused of having a connection, however tenuous, to the conspiracy to overthrow his non-democratic regime, but he has fired tens of thousands of teachers, bankers police officers, soldiers and others. Now his vile conduct is directed against journalists for possible criminal conduct allegations. That could only mean: to curtail their writing the truth.

Turkey, under his autocratic leadership has moved to crack down on the freedom of expression, and to do that one announces a state of emergency for however long one wants to reign in the usual civil rights of citizens. When one announces a state of emergency one provides an unbound hand to a handpicked government to create whatever legislation its autocratic leader demands. There is no oversight and there is no democracy. This is Turkey today. And more than likely this is Turkey for tomorrow because of its linchpin status in the Mid-East.

Less than ten days ago a young man stormed through a train outside of Wurzburg, Germany. Crying “Allahu Akbar,” (God is greatest) he brandished an axe high into the air, then slashed at the men and women seated around him. Within minutes, the car,” looked like a slaughterhouse.” Then he fled. In a 2007 report from the Council on Foreign Relations it was noted that “security professionals see trains as some of the likeliest targets.”

And to close the circle, the Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas has issued a formal request asking his neighboring Arab states to help in the preparation of a lawsuit against the UK over the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which established Britain’s support for a “national home for the Jewish people”. His goal is simple and direct: to delegitimize the State of Israel.

To discuss the possible success of such a move is wasted energy, but it does underscore the hypocrisy of Abbas and those around him who speak for “freedom” and the brutality of those he so violently opposes. His call for the callous attacks on civilians or those teens sleeping in their beds at night is beyond imagination. Beyond imagination because silently, unheard, he wishes the people and, in particular, the health workers of Israel good health and good hunting in their war against cancer. In recent years and until this past week, Omar, Abbas’ brother, traveled not to Iran, not to Syria, not to Egypt, not to the Saudis, not to any other Arab country in the Mid-East, but he traveled on a regular basis to the enemy of his people and his country—Israel. For medical treatment that was never denied to him.

Richard Allan,

The Editor

Comment: Terrorism and Coups

Terrorism and Coups

On the morning of Bastille Day (July 14th) I sat in a meeting with our children and wanted to complain that instead of bottled water on the conference table there should have been champagne in celebration of the French holiday. We are not French; I am a Francophile. By the end of the day the celebration and fireworks turned horrific and deadly — not in Paris but on the idyllic coast of the Mediterranean Sea in Nice. And, days later there was an attempted coup in Turkey. Unlike early commentators, to me this was not unexpected if you had studied the last months of the present regime and its ever increasing curtailment of anything resembling democratic rights and open voices. But more of that later.

These two incidents – terrorism in one country and the violation of civil rights in another– while in some instances are not related, do form a scenario. They provide us with a picture that the world is becoming edgier, angrier and employing extreme violence as a mode of expression. Years ago I would write that I fear for my children. Now I am much more concerned with the life my grandchildren will face. I am not optimistic.

A boyhood friend of mine, and no friend of Obama, believes the President is a failure when it comes to our national security. He asks in an accusatory tone: “Why hasn’t he stopped terrorism? And usually follows that with: you’re the expert; what should we do? In a New York Times op-ed article some days ago, the author, a former F.B.I special agent, writes that when “the Islamic State and Al Qaeda are finally defeated” we can prevent the next attack.

Two thoughts come to mind: Both my friend and the former FBI agent are denying reality, and equally important, ignore history and a world that has changed drastically in the last twenty-five years.

Terrorism has been with us for more than multiple decades, well before any present day mid-East conflicts, civilian revolutions and revolts in multiple countries across the globe and before the “dreaded” creation of the State of Israel. Terrorism and its operations are not new. The only thing that is new is their message, methods of operation and their targets.

Technology and history bring new methods, new goals and objectives and different issues. From the terrorist who initiated the fight against the Russian monarch in 1917 to today, there is a long list of terrorist groups around the world each holding a different banner and ideology.

So let us stop all the finger pointing, hype and chest thumping and false promising and understand the basic fact: No country can stop either the scope or depth of terrorism. Terrorism is a fact of life. To think otherwise is foolish and dangerous. The best we can accomplish is to interdict any attempt at its inception or to blunt its impact. You cannot wish terrorism away. You cannot legislate it away. You cannot bomb it away.

Most of us are locked in a memory curve of the past — attempting to understand the present. And this is true regardless of one’s age. I used a typewriter when I was twenty years old and it took me fifteen hours to fly to Paris; my grandsons use the most advanced forms of communication and fly around the world without thought of distance or time.

Notwithstanding Mr. Trump’s claims, we cannot control what occurs beyond our boarder, even as those events have a direct effect upon our lives. We cannot control the quiet, lonely, angry person who seeks any cause to elevate their psyche; we cannot control the small groups of people within the U.S. who feel the government conspires against their individual rights; we cannot regulate the fear or stupidity of those who need an AK45 to protect their home and, last, we cannot build a wall around our apartment and grow tomatoes in our window boxes to sustain ourselves.

What occurred in Nice was shocking only because it occurred in an unexpected place. But that is where the lone terrorist lived, and his anger evolved. What occurred in Paris earlier in the year was not shocking because that City, as is New York and London, is a natural “target” for any terrorist. By their very nature they invite the terrorist to demonstrate their skills.

What is playing out in Turkey is not unexpected. Not terrorism but because what might have started out as a democratic election process that elected its President he has turned that nation into a budding dictatorship that is stifling all forms of civil rights and dissent. It ceased being a democratic country after its most recent election and after its president began his dismantling of its democratic structures. When it comes to silencing the press, Turkey lands third place after Russia. In the latest move, after the mid-level military coup was brought to heel, the government has arrested 6000 people. You need a stadium to contain that many people and under what conditions?  President Erdogan’s swift roundup of judges and prosecutors (along with nearly 3,000 military plotters) after the failed coup indicated to the EU commissioner reviewing Turkey’s bid to membership that the government had a prepared a roundup list prior to the upheaval.

And the president of Turkey now publically demanded that U.S. merely “handover” a cleric who resides in the United States and, who he “believes” instigated the attempted coup. And Erdogan would like to bring back the death penalty. The failed, poorly executed coup will only lead to greater authoritarian control with the autocratic President Erdogan pushing his nation to a more Islamist position both locally and internationally.

Today, Turkey is an ally of convenience, because we need to have an airbase on its territory as close as possible to launching our air-strikes against ISIS. Our relations with that country will begin to slide toward its negative side with the failed coup. Last evening, one expert told me that he believes Erdogan orchestrated the failed coup to gain greater control of his country in the guise of attempting to protect his country in a state of a national emergency. You can be sure that greater reins will evolve and be imposed with the crushing of the coup and the massive arrest of suspects.

Obama cannot stop “Terrorism”, and Trump cannot seal us off from the rest of the world, because there are persons born within this Country who will commit acts of violence to express their anger. We, as a nation, cannot dictate the rule of law in other sovereign states. We can support the attempt at true democratic rule, we can’t impose it. But we must act honestly. As the Turkish coup initially unfolded, there were American diplomats who referred to Turkey as a democratic country. Clearly, today and the day before the failed coup it was not. And it will not be for the foreseeable future.

The inquiry then facing all sides to this conversation– from the time of the French Revolution until today: Who are we attempting to protect– the state or the individual? And my response is: wrong question! The question is how are we to protect both the state and the individual simultaneously in response to threats and acts of terrorism or infringements upon our individual civil rights. There is a method to balance the integrity of each without the usual cries of “slippery slope” legislation. [Terrorism: Pragmatic International Deterrence and Cooperation. Institute for East-West Security Studies, Occasional Paper Series #19, 1990] The ideas proposed in an important section of that paper are pragmatic and possible. They require only the will of Congress to enact them.

If there is one clear lesson today, and clearly it has not been learned, the death of one violent movement (and this is true in all countries) does not put an end to all violence but often inspires a successor that is more often much deadlier.

Richard Allan

The editor

 

Deceit and Fact

Much of life depends upon which end of the binoculars you view the world; which talking heads provide you with your bible lessons; and which news print you wrap your fish. In other words, what is it that forms your perception of anything? A dear friend once said to me, in half-jest, that he reads only one newspaper so that he doesn’t get confused by the facts. I have one relative who gets his news by listening to talk radio, and hasn’t read a newspaper in years. His reason he gets his news at no cost.

And then there are those of us who surf the web for whatever options are available. Some of us are more additive to surfing than others. And in surfing I ran across a news items posted by the Dailey Alert, a site I often glance at. It wrote of a “High Level Military Group” (HLMG) report that triggered no memory. So I googled HLMG and that in turn led to other sites and to a widely different perception of Israel’s 2014 Gaza campaign. Again, it is which end of the binoculars you employ to view events. And it is disturbing.

Three bench marks then came into clear focus for me in reviewing the responses to the 2014 Gaza campaign: “perception”, “how” you view an “event”, and “facts”. The first two are easily manipulated; it’s the third factor that gives one pause.

As a former litigator and Assistant District Attorney, and then professor of law, I am only too aware of how facts can be viewed, presented and interpreted to fit one’s own agenda. In other words: how facts can be distorted; what facts you include and what facts you exclude to create your own narrative.

Part of the overall problem in reading a report or analysis is having some understanding of the background of the authors of a study, or “findings of fact”. The first thing that must be done is to target the author, his or her experience, training and most important his agenda. I am not inferring that we are all inherently liars, but we do slice and paste to fit the world to the mold we want to create.

And so we return to the international flurry over the 2014 Israeli Gaza campaign and the uproar and bias created. It all began shortly before the UN’s Human Rights Council began their inquiry into the actions of both Hamas and Israel during that conflict and immediately thereafter. The United Nation’s Human Rights Council immediately appointed their three hearing commissioners. What is incomprehensible is that the United Nation’s HRC appointed as their Chair, to conduct this type of highly sensitive inquiry into the conduct of these two fierce advisories, a person who had publically declared, well before the inquire ever began to hear any evidence, that it was his personal desire to see the prime minister of Israel in the criminal docket at the International Court of Justice. He also admitted that he, William Schabas, had been on the payroll of the Palestinian liberation Organization!

That is perfect justice through the wrong end of the telescope. Unbiased? Due process? Let’s all forget about “the facts” and get right to the guilty verdict, and, also, let’s save some time and garden some headlines in the process. We know “they” are guilty—it’s Israel. Obscene!

This gives you some idea of why the United States refused, for so many years, to be a member of the United Nations Council on Human Rights. The Gatestone Institute described the council’s work most apply: “Expecting the UNHRC to carry out a fair, balanced or accurate investigation of anything involving the State of Israel is rather like expecting the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to carry out investigations into persecution of Christians in Muslim countries. “ And, indeed, one need not wonder why the Human Rights Council’s work is so suspect. And, conversely, it is why so many people in the Mid-East laud their work and distort their own work to fit their agenda and passion.

The 200-plus page report of the Council was ultimately submitted to the United Nations, through their two remaining commissioners. It held they could not find clear evidence of why Israel targeted residential buildings in Gaza late at night, risking mass civilian casualties. By the way, no evidence was provided by the Israeli government to this inquiry. Where then did they get their information/facts? Obviously, it was from Palestinian sources.

Before moving on to the work of the High Level Military Group, I would like to focus for one short moment on a popular voice of the British press.
The UK Media Watch has reported that the Guardian’s Jerusalem correspondent was not only interviewed at great length on his biased reporting on the war from Jerusalem, but on the in-depth analysis of his articles which were even more disturbing.

In his writing from the area during the Gaza conflict (some twenty reports and many thousands of words back to his London readers) he detailed in horrific detail the death of Gaza citizens, but not once did he comment, analyze or criticize Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields. To be clear, and this is uncontroverted, the use of human shields is not merely morally reprehensible; it is a war crime punishable under international law.

Let us turn to a less publicized report, and less publicized for obvious reasons: It does not fit the agenda of The Guardian and UN Council on Human Rights and persons of that “persuasion.”

The High Level Military Group was formed in the aftermath of the Gaza conflict. It consisted of retired generals and defense officials from Germany, Colombia, India, Spain, Australia, the U.S., France, the UK and Italy. NATO and beyond. This panel consists of nine very different countries, nine different cultures, and nine different national historical pasts, five different parts of the world. The very first critic of its report complained that it was made up of all white males and no humanitarians. What an absurd complaint . When determining whether or not a conflict/war was conducted in a “legally prescribed manner”, one looks to the accredited, accepted and adopted International Rules of War and not to the further musing of a humanitarian.

If we have accepted the Rules of War, and they have been processed, created and accepted by all the enlighten nations of the entire world for more than mere decades. It is not the “humanities” of war we look at (they have been incorporated into the treaties, conventions that comprises the Rules of War). We certainly would not seek the humanitarians on the payroll of Hamas to determine if a participant of hostilities is guilty or not of its violations. Second, these particular generals and defense officials, from nine very different countries, are not the political voice of one of the combatants as attempted by the UN’s HRC. And third, and possibly the most important, the High Level Military Group observations were made with the combined experience and wisdom of many years of war from nine very different perspectives, cultures and political positions—and most important, they viewed evidence produced from both sides of the conflict.
The HLMG found:
• That Israel not only abided by the laws of armed conflict, but far surpassed their requirements.
• Armies of the world would be rendered far less effective if they were forced to operate under the same restrictions as the IDF during Israel’s 2014 Gaza campaign.
• The report found that the UN accepted Hamas’ figures for combatant vs. civilian casualties, while the HLMG found Hamas’ numbers to be widespread with contradictions and flaws. For example: the insertion of identical names, incorrect ages, combat-related deaths caused by Hamas itself or its associated groups, the case of misfired rockets, and deaths not related to the hostilities but classified as such.
• And last, and extremely important when civilian casualties are high– The HLMG laid the blame for a majority of civilian casualties as the direct result of Hamas’ measured policy of having the military embedded within civilian compounds and areas in order to increase the chances of greater civilian casualties as another method of conducting its highly successful international war of propaganda.
• Not to be ignored was the Israeli use of “banging on roofs”. A short-hand term of advanced warning to civilians before a military strike was to occur giving them ample time to evacuate before hostilities began.

I understand hypocrisy, I understand being passionate about ones beliefs. I understand loyalty. I understand going the extra mile for the Gipper. On the world stage, I cannot accept deceit or an excuse for deceit. Take the consequences for your misstep, and move on. No one, nobody is innocent from birth to death for something done at one time in our lives. In the Mid-East, to continue the lie to any and all mistakes- and let me emphasize this is true on both sides of the equation — puts more rather than less lives into the nameless trenches of the dead.

We cannot carpet bomb or lie our way to success; we can no longer bring the Atomic bomb to the table; my rifle stays at home when we meet; to negotiate, to bargain for, to discuss is not a matter of –all or nothing.

Facts are facts. It is totally untrue, and clearly unacceptable, that one person’s hero is another’s terrorist. A protagonist does not kill innocent people; a “soldier” knows his enemy is and who is not. A freedom fighter does not firebomb a bus with civilians. Civilians are not combatants. A child and its mother is never, ever the enemy –no matter through which end of the binoculars you view the world.
Richard Allan,
The Editor

Connected Unsystematic Thoughts

The U.S.-led air campaign against the Islamic State began more than a year ago, and then chaos set in. The confusion on the ground and in the air over Syria is only becoming more of a night- mare, caused in part by too many fingers in one pot with no recognition of each other. Two months after Putin’s physical entry to shore up Assad’s regime, there have been too many close calls in the same air space between the fighters and bombers from Russia and the United States. To add to the confusion and disarray is Turkey’s shooting down a Russian bomber that strayed into Turkish air space. The crises continue with questions concerning the Turkish control of its boarders and ISIS. And now the present outcry: which country bombed a friendly Syrian army base? The first accused was the United States, but forced to reveal its evidence, the American intelligence confirms it was Moscow’s “Blackfire” bombers that killed three soldiers, wounding at least 13 and destroying vehicles and equipment. And yesterday, a Turkish fishing vessel came within 1600 feet of a Russian destroyer playing a dangerous game of “two close to call navigation” with Russian firepower used to make a military point and Turkey said its losing patience with the Russia.

As we flip to the other side of the world, China continues to pile sand and rocks on reefs to build islands to extend its territorial claims further into the South China Sea and to add its military strength to be piled higher on newly created islands. This is not only an attempt to control so much more of free sea lanes of navigation but to cut heavily into the control and power of China’s many neighbors, especially Japan and the United States’ long reach of its naval might. All this adds up to a new strategic imagery: Japan is moving rapidity away from its post WII pacifism, communist Vietnam is purchasing arms from the United States, and the Philippines is inviting the U.S. Navy back to its ports, some twenty-five years after asking them unceremoniously to leave. And even if you have never visited the tiny island nation Singapore, it is not hard to understand why the United States and Singapore have signed an agreement to provide a launching pad for the United States to monitor the South China Sea. Also, as reported, not only has Malaysia called for the United States to work out of its bases, but I am informed that the United States has added to its aircraft force in the area the P-8 Poseidon thereby putting greater spying know-how ability into play to monitor the Chinese adventures and capabilities in that part of the world.

Two items have become clear since my last comments concerning the Iranian Nuclear deal (JCOP). First, Iran is moving internally further in the direction against the “American Enemy” with greater political movement toward the ideological base of its Supreme Leader and non-adherence to the JCPOA , and, second, my mistrust of Iran’s intentions have become more evident. We have just learned that notwithstanding UN Resolution 2231, which was passed just one day after the nuclear accord was signed and which compels Iran to restrain from any work on ballistic missiles for 8 years, on November 21, in breach of that resolution, a missile known as the Ghadr-110, having a range a little over 1200 miles with the capacity of carrying a nuclear warhead, was tested by the Iranians. So much for international agreements, international resolutions, and international oversight and enforcement.

About three months ago I asked one of my grandsons: What’s the Dark Web? Without hesitation he shot back: “Why? Why do you want to know? You shouldn’t go there!” Since the shooting in San Bernadino with the death of 14 and the injury of scores of others, there is talk of encryption (normal text into code) and the Dark Web. It is on the Dark Web that terrorists communicate, utilizing encrypted messages. The Dark Web is a semi-technical term that refers to a collection of websites that, although they are publicly visible/available, the IP address of the servers that run them is hidden. You and I can utilize the Dark Web with any web browser, but it is more than problematical and ultra-challenging to determine who is behind the sites.

On December 8th the French newspaper, Le Monde, reported that France, not nearly recovered from the ISIS attack last month in Paris, may seek to ban the infamous Tor browser, used to namelessly surf the Dark Web. The French Parliament may also ban use of public Wi-Fi during periods of emergency. But, at this writing, Paris seems to be turning away from those options. The UK has launched a dedicated cybercrime unit to tackle the Dark Web, with a particular focus on cracking down on serious criminal rings and child pornography. This very week the FBI has admitted that they can determine who is “speaking” to whom, but cannot crack the encrypted messages, so what it hears is “noise”, without understanding. Of course, only one country has been able to successfully block Tor: China, with its great “other” wall, the firewall.

As reported in the Jerusalem Post, a spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on December 6th that she supports labeling of Israeli settlement products from the disputed territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Israel had sought Germany’s help in convincing EU member states to reject the implementation of this type of labeling as it has done for many other countries. It refused. So much for a balance, even-handed international policy, and from a person just named TIME’s—Person of the Year in a country synonymous with holocaust.

Each of these random thoughts carries a connecting tissue. The obvious fact being that the United States sits geographically between the conflicts in the east and the west. These conflicts share potentially devastating consequences to its national security not merely abroad but at home, on our own shores. We are also in the midst of a race to the White House in a manner and style never before witnessed, filled with extreme rhetoric and personal vindictive hate. We have seen pictures of foreign parliaments whose member have been moved beyond words to extreme physical conformation. We are not like that; but what have we become?

To live in fear is not acceptable. But to live without care is imprudent and unrealistic. Today, as I write this blog, Americans’ fear of terrorism is as high as immediately after 9/11. Do we cry “ouch “only when we are personally affected? There have so many lessons available to us over the last 75 years, why are we ignoring them and to our peril? What do we teach our children, and why does a grandchild have to become fearful because his grandfather queries about the Dark Web?
Richard Allan
The Editor

Who Are These People?

Many years ago, in what I believe was a movie starring the comedian, Bob Hope, and was set in “very old merry England”, there was a depiction of a public square hanging. My recollection is that it was Mr. Hope who was to be hung along with all its and his silly humor. The scene of the hanging showed a raggedly dressed man walking through the crowd that had eagerly come to watch the hanging and who bellowed to the lynching mob: “Get ya programs, get ya programs. Ya can’t tell whose being hung without a program!”

Today, with all the different terrorist groups, each claiming their rightful place in history and touting their violent claims, the throngs of media specialists telling me which groups I should be most fearful of, I feel as if I was back in time as a child watching that Bob Hope movie. Except, this time it’s not funny.

As we move toward the new year of 2015, our thoughts are being forced to focus toward ISIS (or is it ISIL, or IS) and the surrounding world by every media blast. The problematic issue with a great majority of us is our lack of ability to distinguish between the different groups labeled as terrorist’s organizations ( by the news media and governments and experts), and the criticism that we are lumping them all together in a common sack as being equally dangerous and allied. There are many nuances, some important and others not.

The Long War Journal is an incredible daily source of terrorist activity. From its news blogs, written in a direct, uncomplicated manner, it is clear that with the beginning of the Syrian civil war in early 2011, the Islamic State along with other global jihadist groups – have all become allied in one fashion or another. Some look to launch a global caliphate, others to support local rebellions and still others, as with al Qaeda, to attack the West.

For our time-line in understanding what is being flashed before us today, we must understand its current development and “if” there is a reasonably articulate “why”. Obviously, I am focused not at some long past terrorist organizations from the time of the Russian Czarists, but from a more recent time. I have arbitrarily chosen the terrorist attacks against the United States or United States interests abroad and pared them down to the more significant events:

Between1982–1991: Hezbollah kidnapped 30 hostages. Some were killed and others released.

1983–April. The Islamic Jihad in Beirut, Lebanon claimed responsibility for a suicide car-bomb attack that left 17 Americans dead. Then, in that same year, the U.S. embassy was destroyed in a suicide car-bomb attack; 63 dead, including 17 Americans. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for that attack. In the latter part of 1983, a Shiite bomber killed 24 marines and in December killed 5 more Americans.

1984–September. In Lebanon once again, a truck bomb exploded outside the U.S. embassy annex, killing 2 U.S. military personal. In December, a Kuwait Airways flight was hijacked and two Americans were killed.

In 1985 — Beirut: An American airliner carrier was hijacked by Hezbollah and a navy diver was executed for the news media coverage. The scene was vividly displayed on television. Then in October, an American citizen confined to a wheelchair was executed on the cruise ship the Achille Lauro. The Italian government permitted the terrorist in that killing to escape capture by American forces. In December, in a bombing linked to Libya, 20 people were executed 5, of them Americans.

1986 April– Athens, Greece- a bomb exploded aboard TWA flight 840 killing 4 Americans and injuring 9. Then in April in West Berlin, the Libyans bombed a disco frequented by U.S. servicemen, killing 2 and injuring hundreds.

1988 December 21– Lockerbie, Scotland: A N.Y. bound Pan-Am Boeing 747 exploded in flight from a terrorist bomb and crashed into a Scottish village, killing all 259 aboard and 11 on the ground. Libya admitted responsibility 15 years later for the “Pan Am bombing.”

1993– February. New York City: A bomb exploded in a basement garage of World Trade Center, killing 6 and injuring at least 1,040 others. Two years later the militant Islamist Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and nine others were convicted of conspiracy, and in 1998, Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind, was convicted of the bombing. We begin to hear and read more often the phase: “Al-Qaeda involvement is suspected”.

1995– April 19th, Oklahoma City: car bomb exploded outside federal office building, collapsing wall and floors. 168 people were killed, including 19 children and 1 person who died in the rescue effort. This home grown terrorist act, unconnected to the Middle East, was hatched to avenge the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, Texas. In November, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: a car bomb exploded at U.S. military headquarters, killing 5 U.S. military servicemen.

1996 June 25th, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia: a truck bomb exploded outside Khobar Towers military complex, killing 19 American servicemen and injuring hundreds of others. 13 Saudis and a Lebanese, all alleged members of Islamic militant group Hezbollah, were indicted for the attack. In August—in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dares Salaam, Tanzania: two bombs exploded almost simultaneously near 2 U.S. embassies, killing 224. Four men connected with al-Qaeda were involved in the incident; two of the terrorists who had received training at al-Qaeda camps inside Afghanistan, were convicted of the killings. A United States federal grand jury indicted 22 men in connection with the attacks, including Osama bin Laden.

2000–October–In Aden, Yemen: U.S. Navy destroyer USS Cole was heavily damaged when a small boat loaded with explosives blew up alongside it. 17 sailors are killed. This attack was linked to Osama bin Laden.

2001- September 11th, New York City, Arlington, Va., and Shanksville, Pa. This horrendous attack was linked to the Islamic al-Qaeda terrorist group.

2002–June, Karachi, Pakistan: bomb explodes outside American consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, killing 12. This too is an al-Qaeda operation.

2003 May, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: suicide bombers kill 34, including 8 Americans, at housing compounds for Westerners. Again, Al-Qaeda is suspected.

2004 May – Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: terrorists attack the offices of a Saudi oil company in Khobar, Saudi Arabia; the terrorists seized foreign oil workers hostage in a nearby residential compound, leaving 22 people dead including one American. In June, Riyadh: terrorists kidnap and execute an American, Paul Johnson Jr., in Riyadh. Two other Americans and a BBC cameraman were killed by gun attacks. December 6th, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: terrorists storm the U.S. consulate, killing 5 consulate employees. 4 terrorists were killed by Saudi security.

2005—NovemberAmman, Jordan: suicide bombers hit 3 American hotels, Radisson, Grand Hyatt, and Days Inn, in Amman, Jordan, killing 57. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility.

2006 September- Damascus, Syria: an attack by four gunmen on the American embassy is foiled.

2007-January- Athens, Greece: the U.S. embassy is fired upon by an anti-tank missile, causing damage but no injuries. December 11, Algeria: more than 60 people are killed, including 11 United Nations staff members, when Al Qaeda terrorists detonate two car bombs near Algeria’s Constitutional Council and the United Nations offices.

2008– May, Iraq: a suicide bomber on a motorcycle kills six U.S. soldiers and wounds 18 others in Tamiya. In June: a suicide bomber kills at least 20 people, including three U.S. Marines, at a meeting between sheiks and Americans in Karmah, a town west of Baghdad. In June, Afghanistan: four American servicemen are killed when a roadside bomb explodes near a U.S. military vehicle.  In July, Afghanistan: nine U.S. soldiers die when Taliban militants attack an American base in Kunar Province. In August, Afghanistan: in a major incident where there were no American casualties, as many as 15 suicide bombers, backed by about 30 militants ,attack a U.S. military base, Camp Salerno, in Bamiyan. In September, Yemen: a car bomb and a rocket strike the U.S. embassy in Yemen, as staff arrived to work, killing 16 people including 4 civilians. At least 25 suspected al-Qaeda militants are arrested for the attack. In November, India: A series of attacks on several of Mumbai’s landmarks and commercial hubs that are popular with Americans and foreign tourists, including at least two five-star hotels, a hospital, a train station, and a cinema. About 300 people are wounded, and nearly 190 people die, including at least 5 Americans. In the midst of the attack, live television brought us pictures of the burning hotels.

2009- February 9. Iraq: a suicide bomber kills four American soldiers and their Iraqi translator near a police checkpoint.

In April 10, Iraq: a suicide attack kills five American soldiers and two Iraqi policemen.  On June 1st Little Rock, Arkansas: Abdulhakim Muhammed, a Muslim convert from Memphis, Tennessee, is charged with shooting two soldiers outside a military recruiting center. One is killed and the other is wounded.

In a January-2010, in a letter to the trial judge hearing his case, Muhammed asked to change his plea from not guilty to guilty. He claimed ties to al-Qaeda and called the shooting a jihadi attack “to fight those who wage war on Islam and Muslims.” December 25: A Nigerian man on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit attempted to ignite an explosive device hidden in his underwear. The alleged underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, told officials later that he was directed by the terrorist group Al Qaeda. December, Iraq: a suicide bomber kills eight Americans civilians, seven of them CIA agents, at a base in Afghanistan. It’s the deadliest attack against the agency since 9/11. The attacker was reportedly a double agent from Jordan who was acting on behalf of al-Qaeda.

2010– May 1st, New York City: a car bomb is discovered in Times Square, New York City, after smoke is seen coming from a vehicle. Faisal Shahzad pleads guilty to placing the bomb as well as 10 additional terrorism and weapons charges.  May 10th, Jacksonville, Florida: a pipe bomb explodes while 60 Muslims were praying in a mosque. The attack causes no injuries.  October, two packages are found on separate cargo planes. Each package contains a bomb consisting of 300 to 400 grams of plastik and a detonating mechanism. The packages were bound from Yemen to the United States.

2011-January, Spokane, Washington: a pipe bomb is discovered along the route of the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial march. The bomb, a “viable device”, set up to spray marchers with shrapnel and to cause multiple casualties, is defused without any injuries.

2012—September 11th, Benghazi, Libya: militants armed with antiaircraft weapons and rocket-propelled grenades fire upon the American consulate, killing the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens and three other embassy officials. The U.S. believed that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, a group closely linked to Al Qaeda, planned the attack. This attack is still drawing scrutiny before Congress.

2013–February, Ankara, Turkey: Ecevit Sanli detonates a bomb near a gate at the U.S. Embassy. Turkish officials claim the attack was organized by the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party. April 15th, Boston, Mass.: multiple bombs explode near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Two bombs go off as runners finish the race. Three people are killed. One is an eight year old boy. More than 260 people are injured. The first of two suspects, identified as Tamerlan Tsarnaev, age 26, is killed. A suicide vest is found on his body. The other suspect, Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, age 19, awaits trial. They had lived in the U.S. for about a decade, but are from an area near Chechnya.

2014– August 19: Members of ISIS behead an American journalist, James Foley, 40, in apparent retaliation for U.S. airstrikes against the group. Foley, who worked for Global Post, went missing in Syria in November 2012. In September–An ISIS militant decapitates another American journalist, Steven Sotloff, 31, who worked for Time and other news outlets. He had been abducted in 2013 in Syria. Then a third beheading was also videotaped for public viewing. A  massive grave is video taped and broadcast during the last week of October.

And then there are those terrorist groups that are off the radar screen for the vast majority of the American population. A Defense Department’s report mentions some of the other al Qaeda-associated groups and others associated with the Taliban. These other groups, are all but unknown by the American public, include the Haqqani Network, Hezb-i-Islami-Gulbuddin and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). The Haqqani Network is itself part of the Taliban. In addition, the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba “targeted ISAF in Kandahar, Nangarhar, and Kunar Provinces.” The LeT, group which has worked closely with al Qaeda, is responsible for the November 2008 Mumbai attacks (which al Qaeda also assisted in), as well as other attacks inside India and elsewhere.

To round out the groups that require our notice is the CNG (Commander Nazir Group) which, according to the State Department, is “behind numerous attacks against international forces in Afghanistan as well as inside Pakistan.” It is also alleged that this group fought for the Taliban since the late 90s and continues to support al Qaeda. “Since 2006, CNG has run training camps, dispatched suicide bombers, provided safe haven for al Qaeda fighters, and conducted cross-border operations in Afghanistan against the United States and its allies,” the State Department said in a recent press release. “In addition to its attacks against international forces in Afghanistan, CNG is also responsible for assassinations and intimidation operations against civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

In September 2010, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates identified these partnerships as an “unholy syndicate.” After a speech at Duke University, Gates said that eastern Afghanistan “is increasingly the host to an unholy syndicate of terrorist groups working together: al Qaeda, the Haqqani network, the Pakistani Taliban, the Afghan Taliban and groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba.”

“A success for one is a success for all,” Gates warned.

Those presently off the radar screen, as noted above and many, many more will eventually come to attack our interests: “A global terrorist group operating out of Sinai is being blamed for injuring two Israeli soldiers patrolling near the Egyptian border. Egyptian authorities say the attack came from Ansar Bait al-Maqdis, which arose from Egypt’s 2011 revolution and seeks to topple President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government. According to the Jerusalem Post’s Yaakov Lappin, the group has links to the Islamic State terrorist group and “has beheaded a number of Egyptians in recent months, accusing them of being spies for Israel’s Mossad.” (As reported by Memri) For example: Among the multitudes of foreign fighters who have turned the Islamic State into the world’s most dangerous terrorist organization, the Chechens stand out. Most of them have unfamiliar names in the West, such as: Shamil Basayev, Ibn al-Khattab, Abu Hafs al-Hudani, Abu al-Walid, Doku Umarov. Many of these fighters joined the fight in Syria early on, as the uprising began in 2011 and mutated into a chaotic and vicious civil war. In addition, some of the less experienced fighters may have been encouraged to gain battlefield experience in Syria, according to seasoned analysts reporting in that area.

The Taliban is a predominantly Pashtun Islamic fundamentalist group that ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001, when a U.S.-led invasion toppled the regime for providing refuge to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. The Taliban then regrouped across the border in Pakistan. The Taliban was formed in the early 1990s by an Afghan faction of mujahedeen and Islamic fighters who had resisted the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. [Remember, we helped them oust the Russians with a massive supply of weapons which were, in time, turned upon us.] The Taliban then imposed its brand of justice as it consolidated territorial control, and granted sanctuary to al-Qaeda. The grant of sanctuary was conditioned upon al-Qaeda not antagonize the United States. Obviously, that did not stop bin Laden, who reneged on their agreement in 1998, when he planned and executed the bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa. Even after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, the Talban rejected U.S. demands that it surrender bin Laden.

Al Qaeda had arrived in Afghanistan from Sudan sometime in the mid-60s. Its membership, it is claimed by some, was not more than 30 fighters. Al Qaeda fighters and its recruits who came to Afghanistan were physically separated from the Taliban fighters, who resented Al Qaeda not merely because of their different philosophical differences– Osama bin Laden insisted that international violent actions against the United States and other countries was crucial to his strategy, while the Taliban opposed such actions. In addition, relationship between Al Qaeda and the Taliban is further complicated by the delicate cultural differences between the two: The Taliban are Afghans, and Al Qaeda are mostly Arab and almost entirely non-Afghan. Most Al Qaeda leaders are older than the young commanders of the Taliban, and many Al Qaeda people are professionals and well educated by western standards. The Taliban, on the other hand, are rural, lacking formal schooling and grew up in places like Kandahar where access to newspapers was absent and radios were only for the privileged few. They were and are cultural worlds apart.

What has evolved is a complicated world of interwoven violent components about which most of us are ignorant, and at the same moment, as they are woven together they seek an independent status and are generally led by charismatic and compelling leaders, each having their own agenda for the future and their own methods to produce and deliver their violence.

Understand that the political and social arena under the microscope for this article – from the west in Tunisia to the east, is in all likelihood far beyond immediate repair. According to some, this part of the world would have to be totally dismantled both geographically and politically, before it could be repaired to something akin to viable intra-state organizations and international normalcy. This geographic area, the Middle East and northern Africa was for too many centuries been under the unyielding yoke of something beyond a mere dictatorship. It has been described by others as “the angry, broken and dysfunctional Middle East. [ed: It is broken far beyond that.] The region is already in the process of melting down for a tsunami of reasons that have nothing to do with the Palestinians.”

Then there we are faced with: IS or is ISIS, or maybe ISIL, or Islamic State or even Daiish? The calling card for this jihadist group is their murdering of dozens of people at any one time, carrying out public executions, public videotaping and broadcasting of beheadings, crucifixions and other inhuman acts that they can conceive. They are not being ignored; they have your utmost attention. They are not a small obscure terrorist group. Well led, well financed, fiercely loyal and focused.

One cannot rely upon common conceptions of who and what constitute the Muslim world. China has more Muslims than Syria, while Russia is home to more Muslims than Jordan and Libya combined. When you focus on the two main sects of the Muslim world, only a small percentage is Shia, while an overwhelming number are Sunni. Most Shias live in just four countries: Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and India. In the United States, the vast majority of Muslims are Sunnis, but it is held that most Muslims in the United States think of themselves as just “Muslims” without any affiliation to either major sect. The state with the highest Muslim population is Illinois.

The idea of the construct of a “Muslim world” began to formulate in 1999, and was the forerunner of a group called “Al-Qaeda in Iraq”. In 2004, the infamous Abu Musab al-Zarqawi formed an al Qaeda splinter group in Iraq. Within two years, al-Zarqawi’s group in Iraq was trying to fuel a sectarian war against the majority Shiite community. In 2006, it joined other Sunni insurgent groups which then consolidated into the ISI. In June 2006, al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. strike, and Abu Ayyub al-Masri became his successor and then fell under the leadership of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. In 2008, its violent methods led to a backlash and temporary decline in its popularity. In April 2013, the group changed its name to the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”. It grew significantly under its leadership, gaining support in Iraq as a result of perceived economic and political discrimination against Iraqi Sunnis. It then established a large presence in Syria.

The CIA estimated, in September 2014, that IS had 20,000–31,500 fighters in Iraq and Syria. It had close links to al-Qaeda until February 2014 when, after an eight-month power struggle, al-Qaeda cut all ties with the group, reportedly for its brutality and “notorious intractability”. ISIS then proclaimed a worldwide caliphate in June of this year, and the group was renamed the Islamic State. In its self-proclaimed status as a caliphate, it claims religious authority over all Muslims worldwide. Its mission to bring Muslim-inhabited regions of the world under its political and social control, beginning with the Levant region, which covers Syria, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Cyprus and part of southern Turkey.

Meanwhile, as reported on the front pages of the NYT (10.22.14), the undesirable and destructive fallout from what was considered then, as the glorious “Arab Spring”, does not merely continue but escalates. It is now four years since the celebration of the coming of the new birth of democracy across the Middle East and beyond. Now it is clear that the violence has accelerated, and the paths and vision for those who were seeking democracy has deviated to violence and extremism. The extremism of ethnic cleansing has passed the line of barbarism.

What has happened in Tunisia, (where open and free elections have resulted in a non-Islamic government),  a country in the Arab world with the most educated population but that has become an epicenter for the extreme militants to recruit its fighters? Tunisia, as a country, has sent more foreign fighters than any other country to Iraq and Syria to join the extremist group– Islamic State. As a new sovereignty with clear political independence and the freedoms of a democracy that arose with the onset of the Arab Spring, Tunisia has also facilitated and permitted the extreme militants to preach openly and recruit openly, and recruit successfully. How can that be?

The United Nations and Amnesty International have accused the group of grave human rights abuses, and Amnesty International has found it guilty of ethnic cleansing on a “historic scale”. Within the last days of October, the New York Times front pages proclaimed: “Taliban are Rising Again in Afghanistan’s North .…with Rapid Advance.” And “In West, ISIS Finds Women Eager to Enlist.” From the Denver suburbs to north London, women and girls are seeking to join to fight for ISIS or marry an ISIS “warrior”. One wonders what prompts these woman and girls.

I need to conclude with the following, which must be superimposed upon all actions of war or political movements that are propelled by force: In a 1993 report to the United Nations Security Council (during the Bosnian war), ethnic cleansing was defined as “rendering an area ethnically homogenous by using force or intimidation to remove a person of a given group from the area.” To be considered “a crime against humanity,” ethnic cleansing has to be systematic or widespread, carried out against civilians and intentional. To be considered a “war crime”, the situation involving the violence must be defined as war.

Nowhere in Iraq, Syria or the wide path across Africa and the Middle East has there been any “declaration of war”, just horrific, unspeakable violence. It appears to me that “actions” speak louder than creating “labels” and seeking “definitions”. A responsible world, a responsible nation must reply immediately against those who seek domination thru violence, and engage those liable unswervingly and directly with meaningful force –not words that first need to be defined.

Richard Allan,
The Editor

Imposition of Democracy

How quickly history may change. The exchange of rockets between Hamas and Israel was documented in great detail especially if you watched the somewhat one sided, minute- to- minute exchange on CNN. Forgetting their then poor attempt to correct their bias, the events of the various parties reaching out to the fairly newly anointed President of Egypt was an impressive showing of international politics in action.

Played out on international television, the proceedings unfolded but were subject to events beyond the battle field and not shared with the viewing public in print or television. A bit over three weeks prior to the Hamas rocket attack, Israeli jets raced to the south west and the far side of the Red Sea to the skies over Khartoum, the second largest city of the Sudan. If you are attempting to visualize its location, it is just to the west of Ethiopia. There, the Israeli jets bombed the Yarmouk weapons factory, which belongs to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. They are the manufactures of those long range missiles with heavy warheads that were propelled toward Israel. They were considered by some as the “game change” weapons. Iran had paid for the rockets and had them smuggled to Gaza for Hama’ use against Israel. For days, those particular rockets, were launched at major cities and intercepted by the defense shield Dome (a product of US and Israeli knowhow and money). When it was clear to intelligence sources that most, if not all, of those rockets in Gaza had been spent and none could be produced because of the destroyed factory, the United States entered the scene.

The United States’ Secretary of State appeared alongside the Egyptian President and the Hamas/Israeli hostilities then halted. The game changing rockets were no longer in Gaza, and the factory that built them was destroyed. There were some sputtering moments of peace which were followed by quiet and international praise for the Egyptian government and its leaders. And that seemed to be the end of the story.

Two days later, it was announced that the cease fire was holding. Then the commentators weighed in on who was the winner of the conflict, and where we were to foresee the future of any new alliances that could be spawned by cession of conflict. With the media focus on the various wings of the anti-Israeli world, a vitriolic campaign erupted over if and when Israeli should “start” any action, “they” would send Israeli back to dust. Considering what had just transpired, one wondered why this verbal barrage suddenly erupted upon the world stage. But those were only bellicose words, and the rattling of swords remained in their sheath.

When the dust finally appeared to be settling down-–the rocket launching had stopped, the verbal threats lost their voice, and regional forces moved toward the negotiation table there was no one who could have anticipated that the newly minted hero of the moment, the president of Egypt, would attempt a clear political misstep and look to seize governing power away from the recently shaped democratic country. By attempting to seize the prevailing power in Egypt, clouded by the Hamas/Israeli crises, the President, one could assume, thought that his enhanced international standing and the emotional heat of the rocket and verbal exchanges would shroud what was clearly an attempted at the grab of power during a domestic constitutional crises.

Once taking that step it was difficult for him to back down (this is sometimes referred to as: loosing face), and his intransigence not only intensified the domestic political crises at a critical moment in Egyptian development, but rallied the people in the street and also those officials within the government. Especially vocal were the Judges. Egypt was once again in turmoil with the familiar rioting and tenting in its most famous square. A constitutional crisis of immense proportions grew, and that does not bode well however the issues are settled for a new country and its attempts at democracy. “Snap” votes cannot determine the breath of a new constitution to protect all the people within one nation.
It was said to me (and I believe I must have written about it) that history over hundreds of years plays an enormous role in how a democracy maybe created. The life and generational history of a people within a particular geographic area play a large role in the creation of a democracy. Under what form of governance have they lived for generations after generations. What has been ingrained, generations after generations, in their understanding and acceptance of governance? The mid-East has never known democracy as we in the West understand it. The question then becomes can there be a sudden and complete upheaval and reordering of life from non-self governance to immediately allowing a population—the individual– the self-governance of democratic choices? What has happened to the DNA of democratic choices within each individual that has never been allowed expression? We are seeing that played out in Egypt. The fear for some is that one form of dictatorship is being replaced by another form of suppression.

Richard Allan, The Editor

Global Incidents—

[column]
• The chairperson of the US Senate Homeland Security Committee, Joseph Lieberman, has added his voice to those who seek an independent (independent of the White House) investigation of national security leaks to the world media
• Syrian Government Forces continue to escalate their attacks
across the country Sunday, employing artillery barrages in the flashpoint city of Homs, as well as the suburbs of Damascus and Aleppo, and various towns. In addition, the UN News Service reported that the head of the United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS) today warned that escalating violence in the Middle Eastern country is hampering the ability of UN observers to carry out their work. The UN estimates that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad began some 16 months ago.
• Frightening news from Egypt: A well know Salafi-jihadi cleric was sought for a ruling on the “status” of members of the Egyptian military. The reply was that Egyptian soldiers “as a collective” are considered infidels, and the preferred manner in “dealing” with them must be left for a later time; presently the battle was ideological. Editor’s Note: Considering the Commentary to the right of this column, conditions in Egypt is uncertain for every segment of its population including its military. The chance of outright civil war is great and that is a tragedy beyond the unnecessary and tragic loss of life.
• Radio Free Europe reported that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russia has not been taking part in discussions with the United States or other countries about a political transformation in Syria that would involve President Bashar al-Assad leaving office. Then he added, which can only be described as comical, that Moscow does not “get involved in overthrowing regimes.”
• Voice of America: “U.S. military has confirmed it runs ‘broad ranging’ intelligence operations in Africa, though it stopped short of verifying a report that it has set up small air bases across the continent to keep watch on terrorist groups. While the Washington Post newspaper reported that the U.S. military has set up about a dozen air bases in Africa to conduct surveillance, in countries that include Burkina Faso, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and the Seychelles. Kenyan military officials have denied the United States is using Kenyan territory or airspace to conduct regional surveillance missions, as mentioned in a Washington Post newspaper report describing expanding U.S. intelligence operations across Africa.
• Not surprisingly Swiss ignore new Iran oil and bank sanctions. Benjamin Weinthall of the Jerusalem Post reported from Berlin that the” Swiss government’s policy to reject sanctions targeting Iran’s Central Bank and European oil trade has prompted criticism from the US government. With a new round of EU and US Iran sanctions to be implemented on July 1, there is growing frustration from the American side that the Swiss have failed to join the Western coalition trying to stymie Iran’s nuclear work.”
• You have to be of a certain age to remember the following: They were accused of taking part in the release of sarin gas in train cars on the Tokyo subway system during the morning rush hour on March 20, 1995. Twelve people died and thousands more were poisoned. The cult’s founder, Shoko Asahara (whose real name is Chizuo Matsumoto) has been sentenced to death by hanging for those killings and 15 others blamed on the group. Eleven other Aum members have also been convicted of murder and sentenced to die. Asahara, the cult leader, who is legally blind, at one time had a following numbering in the thousands. He told cult members he wanted them to help unleash turmoil that would trigger a third world war so they could seize power and take over Japan. Voice of America announced that Japan was breathing a long-awaited sigh of relief, as newspaper sellers hawked an extra edition with a banner headline that the country’s last remaining top fugitive has been apprehended. The police official said Katsuya Takahashi, 54, on the special Most Wanted list, has been taken into custody following a manhunt that began in 1995 and served with an arrest warrant for murder and attempted murder.
• MEMRI reports– Egyptian cleric Safwat Higazi announced to his followers in Egypt that “Our capital shall not be Cairo, Mecca, or Medina. It shall be Jerusalem, Allah willing. Our cry shall be: ‘Millions of martyrs march toward Jerusalem.'” “The United States of the Arabs will be restored…. The capital of the Caliphate – the capital of the United States of the Arabs – will be Jerusalem, Allah willing.”

• IRIN reports that fears of violence in northern Afghanistan after the drawdown. Recent violence allegedly sparked by the behavior of local police and militia groups in northern Afghanistan has raised fears that the planned withdrawal of international forces could lead to renewed violence even in the generally more peaceful north. “Violence has been increasing. Since the Karzai government has been in power we have not seen such high levels of violence here,” said Nadira Geya, head of the Directorate of Women’s Affairs in the northern province of Kunduz. “Before, we didn’t have cases of militia killing women – not even once a year. This year we have already seen several cases.”

• Global Security reports– what could be captioned as :”More of the same”: that “Iran’s intelligence ministry announced the capture of a number of prime suspects in the killings of two of the country’s nuclear scientists, and claimed the detainees were linked to Israel, IRNA news agency reported. “The main elements behind the killings…were arrested and moved to detention following an investigation of at least 18 months involving surveillance in Iran and abroad,” said a statement from the ministry published by state media.

• In a not good news report for the United States, Reuters’ Brian Ellsworth tells us from Caracas that “Venezuela is building unmanned drone aircraft as part of military cooperation with Iran (including China and Russia). President Hugo Chavez claims that his aircraft only has a camera and was exclusively for defensive purposes. While claiming that “We are a free and independent country” one must wonder why US prosecutors are investigating the drone production in that country. [/column]

[column]Commentary: I Told You So: Political Chaos in Egypt
I cannot tolerate people who say: “I told you so!” But I did tell you. The Egyptian Spring Revolution ran its bumpy course and presently has more than its front wheels in an impenetrable ditch. The people, if not the political system, have moved from exaltation to frustration to near exhaustion. This is or has already created a vacuum for the military to once again take control of that nation. In retrospect the reason is clearer, as it always is, as to what the future course of events were to be when the revolution first burst upon the public squares of Egypt.

Some write that Egypt has now “suffered a political earthquake”. But earthquakes are not always predictable. One did not need a magic mirror to predict that country’s present political and social chaos. When the slow but predictable outcry of the people in Tahrir Square reach a monumental proportion, the Muslim Brotherhood was all but invisible. It was the black leopard crouching, hidden in a tree, waiting for its prey to meet a moment of vulnerability. Then, the world’s oldest and one of the largest Islamist movements moved to the forefront of the political discussion, and contrary to its public face during the height of street protest and violence, did a double turn and announced through its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), that it would move to fill the political void created by what seemed like the evitable political demise of the Mubarak Government. At that moment and simply stated, its well known positions regarding sharia law, women’s rights, and Egypt’s relations with Israel should have sent a shudder though the West. Most politicians applauded the birth of another democracy. Except that democracy.

The election process began in a move toward a new government. However, of the newly elected 100 member Egyptian Assembly, there were only six women and six Christians who were elected. Christians comprise about 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people. Within all those elected, there were almost none, it is claimed, who could be defined as skillful or knowledgeable in either constitutional or human rights issues.
When, thereafter, the newly elected Assembly convened for the first time to vote for those who would draft the country’s new constitution—it’s very first and most important and substantial act, one quarter of the Assembly (the lower house) walked out in protest. Walked out because they complained that the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the FJP, along with an ultraconservative Islamist Nour Party, effectively froze out of the legislative process a group of liberal and non-Muslim legislators. The liberal bloc of the elected members consisted of three separate parties who, along with the non-Muslim legislators, stated their objection that the Islamist-dominated law makers had imposed their will on the minority in the process of choosing who would draft the new constitution. In other words, no voice was given to the religious and political minority in the constitutional process. The political process then began to tumble almost uncontrollably. Decrees were issued, mediation between groups took place, and peace was brought to create a parliament and draft a constitution. Then the unsettling CNN reports flashed on our television screens: In the midst of electing a new president, after weeks of trying to determine who and who was not permitted or could be considered for that position, there was “sort of a coup”. “Sort of ?” Suddenly I had visions of Tahrir Square at the on start of the Spring Revolution, with the faces of a jubilant and defiant population celebrating the birth of their new democracy. And before most realized it, the new voices of the “new democracy” were calling for end to all relations and treaties with “America” and “Israel”.

On June 15th, there was a political bombshell! Egypt’s highest court ruled that one third of the parliamentary seats in the Islamist controlled parliament were invalid. This announcement invited the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces –that country’s interim ruling military council that had been hit with arrests within its own ranks—ruled that if any part of the parliament has been judicially declared illegal, then by “logic” the entire legislature should be dissolved.

Al-Jazeera reported that this string of events triggered a new level of chaos and confusion in the country’s leadership and a politically divided country with a population exhausted by the process. By week’s end the Country’s Constitutional Court added additional fuel to the fire by declaring that a law passed by the new Islamist controlled Parliament (that would control the election process and would have barred any member of the Mubarak government from running for office) was unenforceable. That ruling permitted the fallen government’s last prime minister to stand for election as president of the new republic. Parliament, controlled by Islamists who had long been antagonistic to the military, had only been in session for one month before it was dissolved. The end results were that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces was once again in control of the country. It would determine the makeup of the 100 person group to draft the country’s new constitution. By weeks end (June 15) there was a new constitution, as the Muslim Brotherhood announced that they would put “all their efforts” into securing the presidential election.

Notwithstanding that a parliamentary government did not exist, having been dissolved by the military, a presidential election was held the weekend of June 16 and 17. Monday morning June 18, the Muslim Brotherhood claimed victory and then, confronting the military head-on, declared that the dissolved parliament would write its own constitution. As I was about to place this Commentary on the blog, the front page of multiple news services ran the photograph of the opposition presidential candidate. The headline was he too was proclaiming victory. Therefore, as of June 19th, Egypt has two constitution, two proclaimed presidents and a dissolved Parliament.

How strong will the military stand? Can the Muslim Brotherhood generate sufficient public outcry to overcome the role of the military? In this atmosphere, can there be a compromise between the two? All this while a substantial minority within Egypt has their fate in the hands of competing wills. If the Brotherhood wins the battle, its historical voice is an indicator that the minority will be trampled. Beyond the pyramids, who succeeds in running the government will have an impact on not merely the lives of those that live in that ancient country but on the politics beyond the Mid East.

 

 
 [/column]

Global Incidents and Commentary

[column]Global Events

The CIA thwarted an ambitious plot by al-Qaida’s connection in Yemen to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner using a bomb with a sophisticated new design to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden. This new bomb was also designed to be used in a passenger’s underwear, but of a different design. The question is whether it could have passed though airport security and the indication was that since there was no metal in its construction it could. What is not that clear is whether new body scanners used in many airports would have detected it. The would-be new type underwear bomber, who was based in Yemen, had not yet picked his target or purchased his plane tickets when he and his bomb were detained. (See below for further comments.)
• NEW DELHI (Reuters) – “Standing next to India’s foreign minister, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pressed neighboring Pakistan on Tuesday to do more to stamp out homegrown terrorism, in comments likely to please the Indian government but annoy Pakistani leaders.” Editor’s Note: Pakistani leaders always get annoyed, and then go their own way ignoring our pleas because they know we will not react.
Editor’s Note: The Election in France will change the tone of the dialogue between and among those in both the euro zone and beyond. Although it is thought that the impact on the financial structure of the euro zone maybe minimum, national and international security issues will be view though very different prism then presently exists. Close attention to the dialogue should be looked at not as reality but the actions of all the parties as they move forward to their individual national goals.
• The Israeli Prime Minister has agreed to form a political coalition government with the leading opposition party and thus canceling his early election plans. The platform was that it would restore political and economic stability for the people of Israel. The real question is what does this do the hot public and publicity talk of bombing or not bombing Iran? Have the two parties come to an agreement concerning that very difficult issue and its implications far beyond the region?
• Yemen – One of the continuing hot spots in the world of violence with political instability and ongoing issue of terrorism (see Event below) has once again been partially sanitized by the US Defense Department with the reintroduction of a small number of military trainers. Much more than that will be necessary to stabilize that country.
• The Yemen branch of al Qaeda, on the Arabian Peninsula, was the home of the latest suicide underwear bomber. This time—surprise – it was actually a double-agent who delivered the non-metallic upgraded underwear bomb. The agent spent, what is described as weeks, inside Yemen’s al Qaeda affiliate which provided him access to information that has yet to be released and probably will not. The question remains that although the plot to blow up the bomb on an American plane was foiled well prior to its execution, was the other and equally important mission to find and kill the well-known and very well skilled bomb maker who remains at large…and untouched?
• Algerians opened their election polls for the first time since their independence from France in 1962. One would have expected a flood at the door to the voting booth, but only 35 percent of those eligible to vote will probably show up. The boycott is the result of the not unfounded belief that the real power to govern will be held by the security forces.
• Turkey—In its latest “stand alone stance”, the Turkish government has said it would not answer an international call for the arrest of one of Iraq’s senior Sunni Arab officials, hiding out in that country, on suspicion of directing and providing finance for alleged terrorist attacks. The reason given was that will not extradite someone whom they have always supported. The real reason has a tic-for-tack basis: Turkey would like Iraq to turnover alleged terrorist it wish to place under arrest who are ensconced in northern Iraq.
• And Last: Under the title of “that’s unfair”– a man who was involved in a domestic dispute was traveling with his young child. When he and the child attempted to board a domestic flight, the child’s teddy bear was placed on the conveyer belt for inspection (and why not?) and—low-and-behold, the teddy bear contained a gun toting armed hand gun.[/column]

[column]Commentary—Be Careful What You Wish For.

The truth is I have never asked myself the question: what is democracy? After some thought and an attempt for an all-inclusive answer, what I arrived at was: Democracy is a form of government wherein all the people of a nation or state vote to determine the form or type of government they wish, and to elect those people who will decide the details and carry their wishes to fruition. Encompassed in that mandate is that the newly elected officials will then enact laws and regulations that provide a format or method for the new government to govern. What would flow from that directive would be laws that would be enacted to protect the population from a harsh government, and that each person subject to the laws would be treated not merely fairly but as equals. Obviously, this approach would change from culture to culture, but the underlying principals would remain the same.
When the Arab or “Spring” Revolution began its shattering race across the Middle East in late 2010 early 2011, a popular uprising began in late January of 2011 in Cairo and then in Alexandria, Egypt. Although Egypt has seen revolutions in the past, what occurred in Cairo differed in form from what had occurred weeks earlier in Tunisia. The Egyptian revolution began as non-violent acts of civil disobedience, supported by labor strikes, to not merely protest the regime of President Hosni Mubarak but to overthrow his repressive dictatorship with its crippling economic conditions and widespread corruption. The protestors quickly grew in size, and within a matter of days it was estimated that 2 million people –from a wide variety of social, economic and religious backgrounds–were protesting in Tahrir square. But violence did erupt, and over 800 people died with 6000 injured. The scene day after day and night viewed on CNN as it unfolded was as dramatic as one could wish to see in the hope that ultimately there would be the birth of a new democracy. The West stood on the sidelines throwing roses at those in the street of Cairo seeking democracy.
Nevertheless, the Mubarak dictatorship, although an overtly repressive regime, had its special place in the world order because of its friendly and financial ties to the West and the United States in particular. It had joined and partnered with the West in its fight against terrorism.
The world quickly came to terms, viewing President Hosni Mubarak as defendant Mubarak and in the dock fighting for his life in a court of law. As that event unfolded, if you did not watch closely enough, the revolution and “democracy” took a different turn in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s oldest and one of the largest Islamist movements, moved to the forefront of the political discussion, and contrary to its public face during the height of street protest and violence, did a double turn and announced through its political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), that it would move to fill the political void created by the demise of a Mubarak Government. At that moment and simply stated, its well known positions regarding sharia law, women’s rights, and Egypt’s relations with Israel should have sent a shudder though the West.
The election process began in a move toward a new government. However, of the newly elected 100 member Egyptian Assembly, there were only six women and six Christians who were elected. Christians comprise about 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, and within all those elected, there were almost none, it is claimed, who could be defined as skillful or knowledgeable in either constitutional or human rights issues.
When, thereafter, the newly elected Assembly convened for the first time to vote for those who would draft the country’s new constitution—it’s very first and most important and substantial act, one quarter of the Assembly (the lower house) walked out in protest. Walked out because they complained that the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm, the FJP, along with an ultraconservative Islamist Nour Party, effectively froze out of the legislative process a group of liberal and non-Muslim legislators. The liberal bloc of the elected members consisted of three separate parties who along with the non-Muslim legislators stated their objection that the Islamist-dominated law makers had imposed their will on the minority in the process of choosing who would draft the new constitution. In other words, no voice was given to the religious and political minority in the constitutional process. The political process then began to tumble almost uncontrollably.
Under this scenario, a series of fundamental—indispensible– questions flowed from the international press: What will happen to the secularists within and without the government? What of the non-Muslim but religious minority and their individual religious rights, their freedom of speech? Gays? What of women’s rights, unveiled women in public, women traveling without a male guardian? Is blasphemy punishable by death? Five months ago, thousands of supporters of the FJP marched in Cairo chanting: “Death to the Jews” and pledged to continue the jihad against Israel. The principles, beliefs, doctrine of the Brotherhood were and remain: “Allah is our objective, the Quran is our constitution, the Prophet is our leader, jihad is our way and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.”
Mubarak was exchanged, at great cost, for a chance at democracy. Can the uncompromising imposition of the majority, backed Brotherhood’s narrow litany of “these highest of our (religious) aspirations” be forced upon a diversified country and be deemed or acknowledged as “democracy in action”? Or is it merely that a “new government” through fortuitous and unanticipated events, has been hijacked by religious zeal?
“Is democracy foreclosed” might have been a better title for this Commentary. Upon reflection, the ultimate and disturbing question is: Can a democracy –in any form – be viable in the Middle East because of the ever present constraints on its political development? Part of the complicated answer can be discovered by recognizing that not only the regions very long and deep-seated cultural way of life has become part of its basic fabric, but that very complex ingredient has also been integrated into its zealous and fanatical religious ideals. The consequences of that permutation are that every aspect of individual and national life has become inexorably and inescapably entwined, with no room for political evolution.
Richard Allan,
The Editor[/column]