Category Archives: Afghanistan

Death of a teenager: why were police not asked obvious questions?

THERE are obvious questions which should have been put to the police in the wake of the shooting of Numan Haider, an 18-year-old Muslim man, in the Melbourne suburb of Endeavour Hills on Tuesday (September 23) night.

But it’s doubtful that any reporter from the mainstream media – which appears to function more as a propaganda arm of government – will ask these queries.

Why did police ask a person whom they acknowledge was under surveillance to come in for an interview at night, and alone?

Why did police search this man’s house without a warrant the same evening? IF someone is suspected of doing something does that equate to guilt?

Why did police agree to come out and meet this man in the car park? Where the hell have they received training for dealing with people like the teenager?

Why did they not insist on meeting him in broad daylight, in the police station, along with a lawyer or someone else so that there would be witnesses to whatever happened?

Was the knife that Haider had on his person allowed under the prevailing laws in Melbourne? Or did it violate the existing laws?

And finally, why have journalists lost that one trait that should be a hallmark of their character – scepticism? Why do they swallow anything and everything that is dished out?

Emma Alberici strikes again

EMMA ALBERICI: And the question is: can air strikes drive the Islamic State out of the Middle East? – The ABC’s Lateline programme on August 13, 2014

I KID you not. This was a serious question put to David Kilcullen, a so-called counter-insurgency expert, by Emma Alberici, one of the most glorious examples of incompetence at the Australian national broadcaster.

Now Alberici, one would assume, has some idea about the size of the Middle East. One would also assume that she is aware that in no conflict has air power, no matter how awesome, been able to drive an enemy out of a battle zone.

How did she ask such a dumb question?

Despite her stupidity, this is the woman chosen to front one of the ABC’s national programmes twice or thrice a week. She draws a salary of around $190,000 per annum and sits there, tilting her head from side to side, and asking stupid questions. And this is not the first time I have had occasion to point this out.

The discussion revolved around the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – which now calls itself Islamic State – a militant group which has made rapid gains in taking over towns and cities in Iraq, and some parts of Syria. It is also fighting in the south of Lebanon. The US has launched air strikes on the group to protect minority sects which are being terrorised and fleeing their residences.

The choice of Kilcullen to discuss matters relating to militancy is questionable. According to a genuine expert, Kilcullen was one of those, who along with John Nagl and other counter-insurgency “experts”, devised a strategy in Afghanistan that aimed to unite Afghans by trying to Westernise them via popular elections, installing women’s rights, dismantling tribalism, introducing secularism and establishing NGO-backed bars and whorehouses in Kabul. When the West finally leaves that war-torn country later this year, the Taliban will be back within another six months.

But let’s leave that alone; maybe the choice of Kilcullen was made by someone else. However, no matter who chooses the guest to be interviewed, it is the presenter’s choice to do some preparation and not end up looking stupid. Alberici is a master of the art of putting her foot in her mouth.

A week ago
, a young man named Steve Cannane presented Lateline. He had as his guest Martin Chulov, the Middle East correspondent for the Guardian. Chulov is an old hand in the Mideast and very sound on the subject. Cannane did not put a foot wrong; he had prepared well and asked intelligent questions. The whole interview was gripping and highly informative stuff.

And then we have Alberici. Why, oh why, can the ABC not find a better presenter? In the past, the likes of Maxine McKew and Virginia Trioli were excellent presenters on the same programme; Tony Jones does an adequate job on other nights of the week now.

What is the hold that Alberici has on the ABC top brass? She was a miserable failure at hosting a programme called Business Breakfast which gave many people indigestion. For that, she has been made the presenter of what is arguably the ABC’s second-most important news and current affairs programme after 7.30. At the ABC, it would appear, nothing succeeds like failure.

Zero Dark Thirty is a work of fiction

FOR Americans, September 11, 2001, is a date that tends to awake their sense of patriotism. There are few in that country who can regard this day with even a shred of objectivity and realise that the attack was the result of the US of A’s actions in the Middle East.

Thus, the reaction to the third-rate Zero Dark Thirty, a film about the killing of Osama bin Laden, is not surprising.

To briefly summarise the plot, it shows the activities of a CIA officer, who is credited with being the one to analyse information and come to the conclusion that Bin Laden was hiding in Abottabad in Pakistan. Seal teams then went in without informing the Pakistan government and killed the man in cold blood.

Most objections to the film have been that it shows torture as being used as a means to obtain information that led to the killing of Bin Laden. In other words, people like Dick Cheney, not the most popular American around, were justified in the approach they took.

And, after all, Americans are good people. They don’t torture or do anything illegal. How could director Kathryn Bigelow portray the people from the land of the brave and free in this manner?

For an individual like me, that matters little. But it is surprising to me that people cannot see the film for what it is: a cheap travesty from Hollywood, one that is just looking to make people feel good and also rake in the moolah.

For starters, the myth that a woman was responsible for analysing the information is just that: a myth. But it plays well to the gallery; after all, a woman operating in a man’s world and showing up the rest will always make for a better story.

This is contradicted by an account of the killing by Peter Bergen, surely the most credible writer on matters concerning Bin Laden. Bergen says the CIA agent who was researching information about Bin Laden for the eight years before his death and was convinced he was hiding in Abottabad was a man.

But Hollywood has had great success in portraying women in such roles; remember the film Saving Jessica Lynch which was totally fiction, yet was passed off as being a true tale of valour that happened after the invasion of Iraq? Zero Dark Thirty has had a good basis on which to cast a woman.

The acting is poor, wooden at times, and over-stated at others. And who would believe that you could converse with militants in Americanese? That’s what happens for most of the film. The militants whom the Americans captured right from late 2001 when they invaded Afghanistan seem well up in American slang. I thought they spoke Pushtu, Farsi or Urdu.

And then the actual raid itself is boring as batshit in the film. It’s meant to convey reality, yet one can’t conceive of such a bunch of bunglers executing a raid of this nature. Why is this part of the film so geared towards reality (or so Bigelow would have us believe) when the director adds on the fiction wherever she wishes in the rest of the film?

Films like this are meant to be part of the historical record. This one is not, it is wildly inaccurate and silly. It caters to jingoism and is meant to make money. That it will.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow: Al Qaeda has won

Today marks 11 years since Al Qaeda flew planes into the towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and made the US aware that it was not safe on its own soil. Sad to say, the US has used the attacks down the years to curtail freedoms for its own residents.

All kinds of ridiculous curbs have been put in place; fear has been used time and again to restrict the lives of ordinary citizens, with the government all the while claiming to be doing so in the cause of freedom.

With the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011, the US has been claiming that it has emerged victorious over the attackers. But is that really the case?

Bin Laden’s stated goal behind the attacks was to hit the US economy in such a way that it would lose its clout. In that, Al Qaeda has succeeded to a remarkable extent.

After the attacks on September 11, 2001, the US economy tanked as money flowed out of the country. In order to push things along, interest rates were lowered and a flood of cheap money hit the streets. This money was used to build up a housing boom, much of it being loans to people who could not afford them.

The US also undertook an invasion of Iraq, a foolish move that began bankrupting the country. Billions have been spent in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, both missions mounted in reaction to the 2001 attacks.

Seven years after the attacks, the global financial crisis manifested itself, with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The US is now technically bankrupt. It has a national debt close to $US16 trillion.

So who has the better claim to being the victor?

Afghanistan: lies and damn lies. No statistics

THIRTY-TWO Australians have died needlessly in Afghanistan. All of them were young, in their 20s and 30s, and have left young families behind. If there was some point to their dying, if they had sacrificed their lives for a worthy cause, then at least their loved ones would have some means of consoling themselves.

But that isn’t the case. They have died for nothing. They have died because one man’s vanity led to him thinking that he could do better than the old Soviet Union, the British Empire and even the much reviled Genghis Khan.

That one man is George Dubya Bush.

When the US sent troops into Afghanistan after the terrorist attacks of September 2001 in order to wreak havoc on Osama bin Laden and his followers, it was a justified reaction. Had the US smashed the al-Qaeda network and exited the country in six months, all would have been well.

But that wasn’t the case. The US and its allies decided that they would stay and try to indulge in nation-building. The long-term motive was to obtain mining concessions in Afghanistan and to try and build a pipeline through Central Asia for an alternative supply of gas. (That, incidentally, hasn’t worked. All the concessions, bar one, went to China and India; Canda was granted one.)

There has been some curious muddle-headed thinking by many in the Western camp; people like David Kilcullen have concluded that if the Afghans were given all the Western accoutrements of development, they would suddenly fall in love with their Western invaders. Kilcullen has a ridiculous hypothesis that the Taliban, who were ruling Afghanistan when the West invaded, has to draw on ordinary citizens for support and that these citizens can be weaned away by improvements in local conditions. Exactly how he came to this conclusion is unknown.

Things haven’t worked out that way. Had Bush asked someone to read the history books and find out what had happened to nations that tried to subjugate the Afghans, he might have found out that it was a mission that would end in failure. (Bush himself cannot read.)

But nobody among all the Western nations, Australia included, bothered to read up on the history of Afgnanistan and note that no invader has ever managed to get the better of the Afghans.

Now Australia has moved up its date of departure. Late next year, the Australian Labor Party will have to face an election which it will find very difficult to win; the Afghan involvement should not be present as an election issue.

For the US, something similar exists; Barack Obama goes to an election later in 2012 and if Afghanistan is an issue, it will not be helpful to him. So the American pullout will continue apace.

In the end, the Taliban will come back to power within six months of the West pulling out. The same Taliban which was ruling when the US invaded.

In the interim, the US, other NATO countries and Australia will tell their citizens any number of lies to quell the queries from the media. But in the end, it all amounts to nothing.

Once the troops have left Afghanistan it will all be back to square one.

Pakistan feels the blowback from the US

WHEN Britain engineered the split of the Indian subcontinent back in 1947, there was little indication that the colonial masters would face a big blowback. The old policy of divide and rule was used to give the Muslims a separate state, resulting in one of the bigger bloodbaths in history as people fought during the partition.

India has gone on to become a force in its own right and somehow has survived any number of problems; it has been under democratic rule for all but 26 months since the partition. Pakistan, on the other hand, has been under various forms of dictatorship during its history and become something of a vassal state for the US.

Every state that has gained nuclear weapons has done so in order to be taken seriously by the countries that make global policy; only in Pakistan’s case has this not worked. The US continues to do what it wants within Pakistan’s borders and the killing of 24 innocent civilians recently is but the latest indication that it has scant regard for Pakistan’s internal problems.

But no matter what abuse it receives at the hands of the US, Pakistan cannot move away. Without American aid, the country will wither and die. It has no option but to cater to American demands, outrageous as they often are. It has to subjugate itself to American foreign policy and only hope that Washington can muster the cash to send across every year.

During the years of the cold war, India was firmly in the Soviet camp. But economic dependence did not develop; India has always been able to meet its own internal and external commitments from its own funds. And as the 1990s came along and India became a place where foreign companies came and did business, Delhi has become something of a rising power, able to tell the Americans what they should do and not the other way around.

American companies are now often dependent on the success of their branches in India to report a profit; were any of them to be asked to leave, it would impact adversely on the company’s bottomline. The US needs India, not merely for its economic well-being but also as a bulwark against the rising might of China.

Pakistan, sadly, has not been able to develop its own industry sector even a tenth as much as India. The people are essentially the same but the lack of political stability and the level of corruption have got in the way of the country developing as a whole. And Pakistan has always had to please its masters in the West, something that India has not had to do.

There is a myth in foreign policy circles that India would like to destabilise Pakistan. In truth, the last thing that India wants is an unstable Pakistan; it views with horror even the thought that there could be another 150 million who could become refugees and seek refuge within its borders. Memories of the 1971 war that led to the creation of Bangladesh have not gone away altogether.

For Pakistan, the only option is to wean itself away from the US and try to attach itself more firmly onto the Chinese teat. China already provides assistance to Pakistan; the latter will have to solicit a much more closer relationship if it does not want to have its own people dying in numbers due to US drone attacks every now and then.

The people of Pakistan have suffered a great deal due to the machinations of their rulers. At least in the case of many other countries, it could be said that the mess they are in is of their own making. But in Pakistan’s case. its people live in a mess of other countries’ making.

Desperate US gets set to take advantage of Asia

AUSTRALIA is putting itself in a dangerous position by agreeing to be the meat in the sandwich between the US and China.

The US, realising that it cannot stand up to developing powers on its own, has devised a deal called the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement; this enables the US to act as a parasite and live off eight other countries.

But over and above this, the US wants to use Australia as a proxy staging ground for displaying whatever military might it has left and trying to hold off China from claiming its rightful place as the supreme power in the Asia-Pacific.

Australia has good relations with China which buys a huge amount of mineral resources from Canberra. Australia needs China and China needs Australia. Yet China is careful to try and cultivate others sources; it has built up good ties in several African countries where there is a promise that there may be mineral resources to exploit. Exploration is being funded by Chinese companies and the country has plenty of monetary reserves to continue making inroads into Africa.

The US has no currency in Africa. Indeed, it has never been able to make a success of any of its foreign adventures. The US has invaded more than its fair share of nations but has always been forced to leave with the invaded country in a mess. Iraq and Afghanistan are but the latest examples of this bungling.

Australia is a medium-level power. It is affluent because of its mineral wealth but quite foolish when it comes to looking to its own interests. Prime ministers and others are dazzled by the US and cede whatever Washington wants without thinking whether it is in Australia’s own interests. Many of these politicians, coincidentally, end up with good jobs at big American companies after they are thrown out of office by the voting public.

There is no doubt that China wants, peacefully or otherwise, to retake Taiwan. Will the US sit idly by if that happens? What will Australia do? Will it, by then, have adopted a more pragmatic attitude towards Beijing? Or will it still be following the old foolish policy of asking “how high?” when America says “jump?”

No matter what nice words people use to dress it up, you cannot trade with a country and at the same time ally yourself with someone else who is seeking to curb the power of that very country. One might as well try to marry a woman while spreading rumour and innuendo about her parents.

The US is a fading power. It has yet to accept this reality and figure out that the world will soon belong to China, India, Russia and Brazil. The Middle East will have its own centre of power as it has much of the world’s remaining oil reserves. America has no money to project power any more; high time to realise this and at least try to sort out domestic problems.

Why was the US attacked on September 11, 2001?

THIS weekend will mark 10 years since the World Trade Centre was brought down by Islamic fundamentalists in a spectacular attack that changed life in the US. But till today, we have had no answer to the question why.

The Middle East correspondent of The Independent, Robert Fisk, tells of an incident shortly after the attacks, when he was interviewed along with Alan Dershowitz, the well-known US lawyer. Fisk, like any good journalist, raised the question of why the attacks had taken place; as he explained it, even in the case of a small robbery, the first thing the police try to find out is possible motive.

In response, Dershowitz called him a dangerous man, anti-American and anti-Semitic. Exactly why he did that is open to question.

Why did 19 young Muslims volunteer to end their lives by staging an attack of this nature? While there are conspiracy theories aplenty on the internet as to the how of the operation, the book Masterminds of Terror offers the authentic account, straight from the mouths of the planners, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh. Journalists Yosri Fouda and Nick Fielding published this tome in 2003 but then ignorance is rampant and people continue to attribute the attacks to everyone from the Mossad to the US government.

But the why is equally important. American policy in the Middle East has, for ages, been slanted in favour of Israel. For a long time, Muslims, both Arab and non-Arab, had no choice but to accept the repeated humiliations to which the US subjected them. In this light, the fact that some among them hit back is no surprise.

The main problem in the Middle East is the Israeli-Palestinian question. A deal was signed as far back as 1993 for a two-state solution but it is still to be implemented in full. The main reason for this is the fact that Israel does not want the conflict to end – if it did, its importance would decline and correspondingly its ability to influence US policy. It is much better to always be in the news as a country that is being attacked by Arabs; that way it is easy to generate sympathy from the world at large.

There are other issues in the Middle East. The US is willing to deal with any kind of dictator as long as he does their bidding. Talk of democracy is very selective. Young people in the Arab world are fed up with the double standard. Is it any wonder that the more determined and idealistic among them choose to join fringe groups that use killing as a tactic?

The US has learnt nothing from the attacks. The same kind of arrogance that it exhibited in the past is still seen in its dealing with other countries. The level of hatred that people around the world have for the US has grown by leaps and bounds as news emerges of the way innocent Muslims are kidnapped and tortured in bases around the world. And this feeling of hatred is not confined to the Muslim world; it is evident in Western countries equally.

The adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan have turned out to be disasters in terms of image-building and also empire-building. But the US continues to muddle on, antagonising people left, right and centre.

As the song Where have all the flowers gone asks, When will they ever learn?

Afghanistan withdrawal timed for US elections

NEXT year, Barack Obama will face the task of trying to get re-elected. In normal times, the elimination of Osama bin Laden would have sufficed to see him through. But these are not normal times; try what he does, the US economy does not seem to be responding.

Hence, he has decided to pull out some troops from Afghanistan. The timing is very good – 10,000 leave this year and another 23,000 by September 2012, a couple of months before the Americans go to the polls. The Afghanistan war is not popular with the American public and for good reason. Obama’s move makes political sense.

The whole Afghanistan adventure has been marked by a lack of purpose. The initial rush of troops to the country was purportedly to exact revenge for the attacks on the US in 2001; the stated aim at the time was to hunt out and either capture or kill Bin Laden. The US took until May this year to kill the man. But long before that the nature of the mission had changed.

One of the main reasons for the American presence in Afghanistan is to build a pipeline to carry natural gas from Central Asia to Pakistan and on to India; work began on this pipeline in 2002. It remains to be seen exactly how the pipeline will be guarded after the US ends its presence in Afghanistan.

All American adventures overseas in recent years have been tied to the country’s energy future; Iraq was invaded because Saudi Arabia is becoming an increasingly unreliable ally. Religious fundamentalism is growing by leaps and bounds and the al-Saud regime often has to cater to domestic political concerns which run directly against American interests.

The US departure from Afghanistan is not as dramatic a move as its hurried exit from Vietnam; nevertheless, there are some things which are similar. The Taliban will come back to power in Afghanistan once the US leaves and there will be internecine warfare between the various ethnic warlords as there was after the Soviets left in 1989.

Bin Laden’s death: things grow curiouser and curiouser

AS the days go by, the number of questions and lies around the killing of Osama bin Laden by American secret service troops seems to only grow longer. And the doubts emanate right from statements made by the head of the country and all the way down.

(Reuters has posted graphic images taken after the raid.)

Here’s a sample of the questions that I would like to see answered:

President Barack Obama said the operation had commenced in August year when evidence was obtained by the CIA that bin Laden may be hiding in Pakistan. That means it was eight months before the actual hit took place. Was this not enough time to plan things properly, including a version of events that needed to be made public, a designated spokesman, and a co-ordinated release of information?

If the Americans, as stated, were unsure, until they entered the building , that bin Laden was really inside, how come they had already arranged for an imam (a Muslim religious leader) to be on a warship ready to bury the man?

Why was this imam waiting in readiness if, as is being touted, the mission was a kill or capture mission?

Why did the Americans pretend that their own officials (Obama and his senior aides) had followed the raid minute by minute when the CIA director Leon Panetta himself said that there was a period of about 20 to 25 minutes when nobody in Washington had any idea about what was going on?

Why did the Americans shoot an unarmed man and then give out – even Obama mentioned it – that he had resisted arrest?

Why did the Americans say bin Laden had used one of wives as a human shield when the woman had actually run towards them and they had shot her in the foot?

Why did the Americans claim the house in which bin Laden was hiding was worth a million US dollars when in reality it was worth only a quarter of that?

Why was this house described as a mansion when it was really tatty inside?

Why did American officials say a son of bin Laden named Hamza was killed and later change the name to Khalid?

Why did Americans claim that there was a fierce 40-minute firefight with people in the Abbottabad house where bin Laden was and later change it to just one person in the house having a gun? And that one person was killed moments after the raid commenced.

With so many unanswered questions and lies hanging over this event, can one really blame the conspiracy theorists for going into overdrive?