Archive for the ‘Terrorism’ Category

The Washington Post about Jordan’s role as a CIA holding prison and proxy interrogator. Nothing you havent previously heard. Some excerpts:

The building is the headquarters of the General Intelligence Department, Jordan’s powerful spy and security agency. Since 2000, at the CIA’s behest, at least 12 non-Jordanian terrorism suspects have been detained and interrogated here, according to documents and former prisoners, human rights advocates, defense lawyers and former U.S. officials.


The General Intelligence Department, or GID, is perhaps the CIA’s most trusted partner in the Arab world. The Jordanian agency has received money, training and equipment from the CIA for decades and even has a public English-language Web site. The relationship has deepened in recent years, with U.S. officials praising their Jordanian counterparts for the depth of their knowledge regarding al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic networks.

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, however, the GID was attractive for another reason, according to former U.S. counterterrorism officials and Jordanian human rights advocates. Its interrogators had a reputation for persuading tight-lipped suspects to talk, even if that meant using abusive tactics that could violate U.S. or international law.


Sharqawi said he was threatened with sexual abuse and electrocution while in Jordan. He also said he was hidden from officials of the International Committee for the Red Cross during their visits to inspect Jordanian prisons.

“I was told that if I wanted to leave with permanent disability both mental and physical, that that could be arranged,” Sharqawi said in his April 2006 statement, which was released by a London-based attorney, Clive Stafford Smith, who represents Guantanamo inmates. “They said they had all the facilities of Jordan to achieve that. I was told that I had to talk, I had to tell them everything.”

Bush administration officials have said they do not hand over terrorism suspects to countries that are likely to abuse them. For several years, however, the State Department has cited widespread allegations of torture by Jordan’s security agencies in its annual report cards on human rights.


Former prisoners have reported that their captors were expert in two practices in particular: falaqa, or beating suspects on the soles of their feet with a truncheon and then, often, forcing them to walk barefoot and bloodied across a salt-covered floor; and farruj, or the “grilled chicken,” in which prisoners are handcuffed behind their legs, hung upside down by a rod placed behind their knees, and beaten.


 On June 26, 2006, just after 6 p.m., Nowak, the U.N. investigator, paid a surprise visit to GID headquarters in Amman.

The Jordanian government had previously agreed to give Nowak carte blanche to inspect any prison in the country, with no preconditions and unfettered access to inmates. As a new member of the U.N. Human Rights Council, Jordan was eager to win Nowak’s seal of approval. GID officials permitted Nowak to tour its prison wing. But they refused to allow him to speak with prisoners in private. When Nowak asked about allegations that the CIA had used the building as a proxy jail, department officials said the reports were untrue.

“The response was just very flat, a simple denial, ‘We don’t know anything about that,’ ” Nowak recalled in an interview.

“It is common for prisoners to make false allegations about torture in a pathetic attempt to evade punishment and to influence the court,” the government wrote.

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Washington post article on Rumsfeld’s memos as Secretary of Defense. Nothing shocking, really. But i thought this pathetic:

He also lamented that oil wealth has at times detached Muslims “from the reality of the work, effort and investment that leads to wealth for the rest of the world. Too often Muslims are against physical labor, so they bring in Koreans and Pakistanis while their young people remain unemployed,” he wrote. “An unemployed population is easy to recruit to radicalism.

First, it’s generally gulfies that bring in foreign labor, not even Arabs. Second, last time i checked the number of non-Muslim Pakistanis was kind of negligible. Offensive race(religios)ism aside, this just demonstrates how ignorant these people are. The US Secretary of Defense does not know the religion of the country that’s at the front line of the war on terror. He is also incapable of differentiating between Arabs and Muslims.

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John Judis looks at two books mentioned by bin Laden in a recent tape: Michael Scheuer’s Imperial Hubris and Emmanuel Todd’s After the Empire.

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Yes, it seems that Sinai Bedouins set an NDP headquarters on fire when they stormed government offices. From what i can gather (it’s amazing how much variation there is between wires) it started out as a regular conflict (according to ap, bedouins and a shopowner), and escalated into tribal issue. When a bunch of people from one tribe shot up a neighborhood of the other tribe, things got ugly. Apparently the shot tribe were protesting the lack of police protection. AFP discusses the (justified) sense of marginalization in the Sinai.

And guess what the government’s innovative response is? Who would have though… arbitrary detention.

At least there arent any bombs this time.

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Apparently the US government seeks to establish a strategic command for Africa (AFRICOM) that would be the aid, policy, military and counterterrorism nerve-center for Africa. The idea is that this will help raise the profile of Africa and improve efforts through coordination and increased attention. Ultimately, more US government drivel:

The Pentagon says AFRICOM will bring its hearts-and-minds campaign closer to the people; critics say it represents the militarization of U.S. Africa policy. Already, the United States has identified the Sahel, a region stretching west from Eritrea across the broadest part of Africa, as the next critical zone in the War on Terror and started working with repressive governments in Chad and Algeria, among others, to further American interests there. Worried U.S. allies argue that AFRICOM will only strengthen America’s ties with unsavory regimes—including the Ethiopians, who have become U.S. proxies in an expanding civil war in Somalia—by prioritizing counterterror over development and diplomacy.

The command would serve to consolidate the efforts to date:

AFRICOM would take these piecemeal efforts and expand them substantially. The outlines are already visible. In Dire Dawa, a dozen American reservists and Army National Guardsmen on a yearlong tour live together in a four-story house that serves as both base and home. Each morning they raise two flags: Ethiopian and American. With a $1 million budget they hope to build enough schools and wells and bridges to wrestle key local leaders, clan elders and unemployed youth over to their vision of Ethiopia’s future. AFRICOM, with its cadre of officer corps and civilian expertise, could then integrate those smaller efforts with larger strategic objectives across the continent, sharing intelligence and speeding up communications. Amazingly, China now has more embassies and consulates—and thus more listening posts—in Africa than the United States.

Not really all that amazing. The comparative shrewdness of China’s Africa policy has been the subject of much discussion.

Perhaps the biggest source of concern is the recent U.S. track record in the Horn of Africa, where Washington has been pursuing an increasingly militarized policy for more than a year with disastrous results. Twice in the past year, the United States has intervened in Somalia—first by supporting local warlords, then by backing an Ethiopian invasion—to undermine the regime of the fundamentalist Islamic Courts Union (ICU), which Washington accuses of maintaining links with Al Qaeda. Fighting has raged across Mogadishu ever since, killing hundreds of innocent civilians and forcing some 400,000 from their homes, without decisively toppling the Islamists. U.S. and European attempts to create a government of national unity have failed spectacularly.

South Africa is leading a group of countries in opposition to US meddling.

Interestingly, Egypt would be the only non-island country excluded from AFRICOM. (See the map on the DoD site).

There‘s more from the EUCOM website to which AFRICOM will be initially subordinate.

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UPDATE: oops! forgot the link.

I just read a pretty interesting article in the National Geographic that takes a look at Islam in Pakistan and its relationship to both fundamentalist Islam and violent Islamists, entitled “Struggle for the Soul of Pakistan”. I have always, since my insect-observing science-obsessed nerdy childhood had a certain affection for NG and continue to consider it one of the best magazines, full stop. I suppose in nature you dont need to worry about the author’s slant so much.

Which is why I got so excited about their covering Islam in Pakistan just when the world (or the policy shapers, at least) is finally taking notice of the fuck-up that is Pakistan. (It is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore.) And I feel like I wasnt disappointed. Some excerpts:

This is also where two conflicting forms of Islam meet: the relatively relaxed and tolerant Islam of India, versus the rigid fundamentalism of the Afghan frontier. Beneath the surface of Pakistan, these opposing forces grind against each other like two vast geologic plates, rattling teacups from Lahore to London, Karachi to New York. The clash between moderates and extremists in Pakistan today reflects this rift, and can be seen as a microcosm for a larger struggle among Muslims everywhere. So when the earth trembles in Pakistan, the world pays attention.

It’s a little flowery. And the moderates/extremists polarity rings alarm bells in my head. But looking beyond the recent usurpation of the words, for someone who knows so little about south asia, the contrast of the schools of Islam is quite interesting and goes towards explaining a lot.


From the start, the founders of Pakistan intended their nation to be a refuge for Muslims, not an Islamic state. Pakistan was created when India, a British colony for nearly a hundred years, gained its independence and was partitioned into two countries along a hastily drawn border. Pakistan’s first leader, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and his brain trust of secular intellectuals created a fledgling democracy that gave Islam a cultural, rather than political, role in national life. Their Pakistan was to be a model of how Islam, merged with democratic ideals, could embrace the modern world. “Muslims would cease to be Muslims, not in the religious sense,” Jinnah said in his inaugural address, but “as citizens of the state.”

Sixty years later, having been educated in schools that teach mainly the Koran, the young women in the library are stunned when I mention Jinnah’s secular vision for Pakistan. “That is a lie,” Ayman says, her voice shaking with fury.


More than anyone, it was General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq who created Pakistan’s current generation of Islamic radicals, and the climate in which they thrive. A Punjabi general with a pencil-thin mustache and raccoon circles under his eyes, Zia seized power in a coup in 1977, had the democratically elected prime minister tried and hanged, and promptly pressed for the Islamization of Pakistan, calling for more religion in the classroom and the use of punishments such as flogging and amputations for crimes against Islam. To Zia, Pakistan’s secular founders, with their emphasis on Muslim culture, had it exactly backward. “We were created on the basis of Islam,” Zia said, and he set out to remake democratic Pakistan as a strict Islamic state—despite the fact that a large majority of Pakistanis were, and remain, moderates.

Whether by temperament or tradition, most Pakistani Muslims are more comfortable with the mystical and ecstatic rituals of Barelvi Islam, a colorful blend of Indian Islamic practice and Sufism. For a Punjabi farmer whose crop has just come in, it has always been more satisfying to hang out at a Sufi shrine listening to qawwali music and watching dervishes whirl than reciting the Koran in a fundamentalist mosque. Most Pakistanis, though powerless to resist, were lukewarm to Zia’s Islamization program, as was much of the outside world.

Naturally, what comes next is the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and consequent aligning of CIA’s interests with those of Zia. And then, as we all know, by the 80s the madrassas were swelling with the “Zia Generation”. Coupled with the autonomy of tribal mountain regions, the rest is history.

But what of now?

In modern Pakistan, that’s [“I’m a Muslim,” says Edhi, “but my true religion is human rights.”] an increasingly lonely position. There are many thousands of dedicated doctors, lawyers, teachers, social workers, and humanitarians—including some in government—who, like Edhi, are working to move their country forward, but the space in which they operate is shrinking. Recently, at Musharraf’s bidding, parliament passed a bill to restrict the activities of NGOs and human rights groups. Even as he promotes “enlightened moderation,” Musharraf accuses such groups of humiliating Pakistan by publicizing abuses, and declares them a threat to the national interest.

Such rhetoric only emboldens the Islamists, whose influence is growing across Pakistan.

Sounds familiar. And so does:

He explains what emboldens these young women to risk their lives for Islam: “This government has lost all credibility,” he says. “People look at Musharraf and they see a U.S. puppet who’s willing to declare war on fellow Muslims to satisfy America. They also see his generals getting rich, while they’re getting poorer every day. People are losing hope. Pakistan and its government are becoming two different things. This will have to change, and soon.”

So familiar, in fact, that all you have to do is change a few letters and it sounds like home.

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FP just released the latest version of its Terrorism index. They surveyed 100 “experts” from various branches of govt, white house staff, intelligence, defense and scholars. Their results are pretty bleak from an American perspective. Not much that’s surprising really.

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