You are browsing the archive for 9/11.

Obama’s Latest Speech on Afghanistan: Bridging the Say/Do Gap to Finally End the War

6:56 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Those who read President Barack Obama’s speech will likely be reading to find hints of when the conflict might finally come to an end. Support for a pullout from Afghanistan is at an all-time high, according to a recent Pew Research Center poll. But, there is little reason to put much stock in the fact that ten thousand troops will be leaving Afghanistan this summer. Withdrawing a number of troops around July of 2011 was always part of a plan, a way of deftly managing public opinion.

When Obama went ahead and added thirty thousand troops, he knew, as shown in Bob Woodward’s book Obama’s Wars he had two years with the public. He understood the perils of escalating a war, as retired Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry,  retired Gen. James L. Jones and Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute all offered a level of dissent against Admiral Mike Mullen, Gen. David Petraeus and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates. And, Obama allegedly told Vice President Joe Biden in private to oppose a big troop buildup but could not stand up to military brass. In the end, though, he was able to set a withdrawal timetable of ending the war by 2014.

Like any speech on war by US presidents these days, it began by re-opening the wounds of 9/11, by forcing all Americans to recall the fear or pain they experienced that day. It transitioned into a history of how America had gotten to this point—why America invaded Afghanistan, how it got “sidetracked” in Iraq (sorry for  your luck Iraqis) and why America committed to a surge in Afghanistan about a year and a half ago. It proceeded to outline the plans and goals for the next stage of the mission and then concluded with pure, pathological American exceptionalist fallacies.

A key difference between this speech and the surge speech is during the speech there weren’t any US State Embassy cables or war logs from WikiLeaks to reference and call “bullshit” when something was said with an err of confidence that seemed preposterous. Fast forward to June 2011, with plenty of information on US diplomacy and US military operations in Afghanistan, there is ample reason to doubt the assertions President Obama makes in his speech.

When Obama announced the surge, he committed the US to refocusing on al Qaeda, reversing the Taliban’s momentum and training Afghan security forces to defend their own country. According to Obama, the US is meeting these goals or objectives and so the country will be able to “recover” the surge and be back around the level of troops that were in Afghanistan when President George W. Bush left office.

One week ago, Jonathan Owen for The Independent reported, “Not a single Afghan police or army unit is capable of maintaining law and order in the war-torn country without the support of coalition forces.” Owen cited a US Department of Defense report on Afghanistan from February showing “out of more than 400 army and police units in Afghanistan” none are capable of operation without assistance from coalition forces. And, Owen also highlighted the fact that twenty-five billion US dollars have been used to train and equip Afghan forces thus far and Lieutenant-General William B. Caldwell does not think the “training mission” can be complete until 2017.

A cable from December 2009 titled, “Karzai Looks Forward,” features this exchange on the Afghan army and police:

Turning his attention to the Afghan National Army (ANA), Karzai announced that the ANA leadership should lead simpler, more spartan lives. He criticized widespread reports of ANA generals driving expensive cars and NDS reports that only no officers had died in battles with insurgents, only ANA soldiers died (the latter account was disputed by Minister of Defense Wardak). Reflecting on ANA recruitment, Karzai asked why so few Afghans from the provinces of Zabul, Ghazni, Helmand, Herat, and Farah enlist in the ANA. He bemoaned the fact that only drug users join the Afghan National Police (ANP) in Khandahar and Helmand Provinces. Upon hearing the latter, Minister of Interior Affairs Atmar interjected that a partially completed personnel asset inventory conducted in Khandahar and Helmand turned up the surprisingly good news that only 20 percent of ANP personnel were drug users. [emphasis added]

These days, what percentage of Afghan police are drug users or addicts? How is that impacting operations? More importantly, do private contractors like DynCorp leaders still “pimp little boys to stoned Afghan cops”?

A June 2009 cable shows the DynCorp leaders pimping Afghani children to the police. At bacha bazis or “boy-play” parties eight to fifteen-year-old boys are “made to put on make-up, tie bells to their feet and slip into scanty women’s clothing.” The boys dance seductively to older men. Their “services” are auctioned and men will sometimes purchase them outright. And, the State Department understands that bacha bazis are a “widespread, culturally accepted form of male rape.”

Purchasing services from a child is illegal under Sharia law and the civil code in Afghanistan. The party mentioned in the cable led to the arrest of two Afghan National Police. Are “dancing boys” still a problem for law enforcement in the country?

What about this story from the cables on Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd saying the situation “scares the hell out of me”? Or the fact that he found France and Germany’s contribution to fighting the Taliban to be “organizing folk dancing festivals” and the comment from Australian Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan Ric Smith that the mission was like a “wobbly three-legged stool”?

Obama’s speech singled out the Afghan national police, but what about the unconventional forces the United States has been using? A November 2009 cable indicates the Afghan government and local communities were using “unconventional security forces. These “local and private bodies” were proliferating because of the lack of “public confidence in the police.”

Interior Minister Hanif Atmar had a plan to use a “traditional militia concept.”

Locals who are loyal to the government and register their existing arms could serve as police auxiliaries, receiving food and even some pay from MOI in return for helping the police. Atmar’s longest-serving advisor, Habib Wayand, explained that the Minister prefers to encourage small groups linked to local shuras, rather than large militias that might bite back or prove loyal to commanders with their own agendas.

Exactly, how are these militias impacting operations now? And, also, a prime proposal from Atmar in February 2010 involved sending twelve to fifteen thousand police to train in Jordan at a facility constructed for training Iraqi police. There is little indication this proposal has been accepted by US forces tasked with training Afghanis to keep their country “secure.” Atmar also reported a “need to train 50,000 per year to meet expansion targets and offset attrition” but the maximum training capacity was around 30,000 trainees.

Less than 100 al Qaeda are in Afghanistan. It seems true that the goal of refocusing on al Qaeda has been achieved but why did US forces ever have to “refocus” on al Qaeda? Was there ever a point when they weren’t going after al Qaeda?

The Afghan War Logs released by WikiLeaks almost one year ago revealed the Pakistan spy service was meeting directly with Taliban for “secret strategy sessions to organize networks of militant groups that fight against American soldiers in Afghanistan, and even hatch plots to assassinate Afghan leaders.” To what extent do these operations persist?

The released war logs also showed the US military covered up “a reported surface-to-air missile strike by the Taliban that shot down a Chinook helicopter over Helmand in 2007 and killed seven soldiers, including a British military photographer.” There may be political leaders affiliated with the Taliban who are willing to talk, but how does the US intend to halt the fighters who are committed to fighting US forces?

The questions are not raised because this author supports the war effort and wishes to see it continue. Doubts are made evident because President Obama appears to be certain that it will all work out by 2014. It seems quite clear that this speech is part of a ploy to con Americans into believing the mission is ending and will end as the timetable being discussed suggests yet it appears it could take another half decade to train forces or further sort out a political solution. In the meantime, if the US is being consistent, wouldn’t forces have to remain to prevent a vacuum from forming?

Furthermore, the conclusion of Obama’s speech shows that what is at stake for America, as for any war, is its credibility and reputation. Obama, whose weapon of choice in governance is often compromise, lays out two choices, in the same way he laid out two choices when working to pass health reform. The are not necessarily the only two choices America has but they are two choices, which Obama averages to get a solution that will make possible a balancing act between the military and political establishment and the citizens of the United States.

He presents one of the choices as isolationism or retreat. This means no longer being an “anchor for global security,” letting despots and terrorists flood the earth and create anarchy. The other choice he presents is overextension, struggling to confront every evil that can be found in the world. (Absurdly, he does not hint at the reality that the US already tries to go after all evil or at least exploits this as a pretext for many, many operations.)

Upon establishing these poles, he plants a stake in at what he deems “the center.” The solution is not necessarily right or wrong but “pragmatic.” The answer is not to deploy large armies when targeted operations can be used. When innocents are being slaughtered, the US can rally international action (e.g. Libya). Somehow, the final stages of Afghanistan are part of this “centered course.”

The disenthralled approach obfuscates the past and recasts the future. US-assassination squads operating with “kill-and-capture lists,” the use of drones, intelligence agents awash in data they don’t know what to do with, and the killing of civilians going unreported, all revealed in the Afghanistan War Logs, can continue as tools so long as they are employed properly. Brutal night raids, which have led Afghanis in villages to fear US forces more than the Taliban, become legitimized. The brutality of war cast as “pragmatism” suggests what is unfolding is part of a measured approach and whether those who get bombed at weddings care about “pragmatism” versus “realism or “idealism,” that does not matter.

The most fraudulent part is the mythological portrayal of America that Obama presents:

In all that we do, we must remember that what sets America apart is not solely our power — it is the principles upon which our union was founded. We are a nation that brings our enemies to justice while adhering to the rule of law, and respecting the rights of all our citizens. We protect our own freedom and prosperity by extending it to others. We stand not for empire but for self-determination. That is why we have a stake in the democratic aspirations that are now washing across the Arab World. We will support those revolutions with fidelity to our ideals, with the power of our example, and with an unwavering belief that all human beings deserve to live with freedom and dignity.

The sophistry of these words dares one to ask whether engaging in warrantless wiretapping, torture, or rendition, invoking state secrets to prevent transparency, denying habeas corpus to detainees in prisons like Guantanamo and Bagram (along with black prison sites that likely still exist), holding detainees in detention indefinitely, asserting the right to target and kill US civilians bypass due process or employing military commissions—“kangaroo courts”—is what nations that adhere to the rule of law and respect the rights of people do.

The portrait of America presented and its underhandedness obscures how America has typically been at war with those in the country who engage in acts of self-determination, who dissent against power.

Search warrants, grand jury subpoenas, indictments, trials, spying, infiltration, entrapment, raids, and severe limits on demonstrations with bystanders, protesters and journalists all subject to arrest at demonstrations are all omitted. Obama cannot sell America as a model country for freedom if that paragraph contains hints at abuses of the state or Executive.

Thus, the next stage of the Afghanistan war, officially launched by this speech, is benign compared to the pathological rot in the military and political establishment, which conditions someone to be able to stand before a world and utter such misrepresentations.

Gareth Porter, investigative journalist, says this morning on Democracy Now!, “There is an effort here to create a narrative that as he put it, the war is receding, the tide of war is receding. When in fact, nothing of this sort is happening…Clearly, the Taliban are carrying out counterattacks this year and will do so again next year. That is not going to come to an end.” And, about 70,000 US military forces along with thousands of contractors would remain in the country after 2012.

Thanks to transparency, technology and the courage of whistleblowers, citizens in this country can begin to bridge the gap between what leaders say and do in such a way that has never been possible before in this country’s history. Information released by outlets like WikiLeaks can be used to confront speeches like this one head on and work to bridge the say/do gap. It’s relentlessly working to bridge this gap that will force leaders into a corner that will eventually lead to deception being exposed and the war coming to an end.

Release the Dead bin Laden Photos

12:27 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Celebration Photos Just as Likely to Inflame ‘Terrorists’ as Bin Laden Death Photos

The decision to not release photos of a dead and fatally wounded Osama bin Laden rests on at tenuous set of reasons that rest purely on Beltway conventional wisdom.

The argument that the release of photos could inflame the Middle East has been made before (recall the Obama Administration blocked the release of “torture photos” in May 2009 that the ACLU was seeking to obtain through a Freedom of Information Act request). Greg Mitchell with The Nation reminds Americans of the debate that surrounded the decision to release photos of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi after his death.

Jon Stewart made a good point last night on “The Daily Show”:

We’ve been fighting this war for nearly ten years. Thousands of US deaths, tens of thousands of Iraqis have died and we’ve seen nearly zero photographic evidence of it. Member how long the media had to fight to show military coffins returning from overseas? Maybe not because you saw pictures of it the day they won the case and not since. Maybe we should always show pictures. Bin Laden, pictures of our wounded service people, pictures of maimed innocent civilians. We can only make decisions about war if we see what war actually is and not as a video game where bodies quickly disappear leaving behind a shiny gold coin.

Essentially, the key argument should not be that the photos should be released to debunk conspiracy theories (which the White House has helped fuel by not really getting all the details straight on the bin Laden killing). It shouldn’t be don’t release the photos because it will hand Republicans a victory and they won’t be satisfied and will just ask for more like Donald Trump wants to know more even though he got the president to release his long-form birth certificate.

The argument should be that Americans see the photo so they can see what they have been celebrating. They should see the image of brutality, which so many vehemently believe is justified.

What makes anyone think photos of celebration at Ground Zero or the White House on the day bin Laden was killed won’t inflame the Middle East or haven’t already provoked some cell of terrorists to plan a new scheme for attacking America?

This guy with “Rest In Hell Osama” scrawled on his body could be on a recruiting poster for al Qaeda (if they use recruiting posters).

This guy could be on a recruiting poster too. Not because he looks like he lusts for blood but because he looks like a dopey Westerner whose ideals those in al Qaeda likely despise vehemently.

Even this seemingly benign photo could inflame those who would support al Qaeda’s mission against the West. The flag-waving in celebration of the execution of a human being on their side is enough to move them to organize an attack.

The front pages of the editions of The Daily News and the New York Post that ran the day after bin Laden was killed are enough to inflame those sympathetic to al Qaeda’s cause too. The Daily News’ front page said, “Rot in Hell!” The Post’s front page cried, “Vengeance at last! US nails the bastard!” The first sentence in the Post read, “We finally got the miserable son of a bitch.”

This irresponsible tabloid journalism was being gobbled up by New Yorkers as a reasonable characterization of what went down. People hung the front pages up nearby Ground Zero and took photos of the front pages posted on a wall.

This photo of university students should have the US national security establishment frightened not because students shouldn’t be allowed to go to spontaneous and patriotic Spring Break-type events, where they act like they are at a pep rally for an upcoming football game. The photo should have those in government worried because that girl with the cigar in her mouth could easily remind the terrorists of this girl with the cigar(ette) in her mouth.

The point is not that people shouldn’t be able to go out and celebrate and mark the deaths of America’s with American flags and signs that express satisfaction. The point is, if the photos of a dead bin Laden could be a potential threat to America if released, what about the photos of people celebrating his death?

Jeremy Scahill of The Nation appeared on “The Tavis Smiley Show” to discuss how he really thinks the death of bin Laden is a “somber occasion.” He thinks Americans should reflect on the destruction that has taken place since 9/11 and those who have died in wars instead of simply treating the killing like a “sporting event.” And, he finds the celebrations give off an image of a “culture that celebrates execution.”

Additionally, Donna Marsh O’Connor, who lost her pregnant daughter on 9/11 writes:

As a family member of a young woman killed in the attacks, I want the response to the death of bin Laden to be one of somber reflection, one that marks how far we have come from the days of that attack and accounts for all we have lost—our civil rights, our trust in our government to act ethically. I want our civil liberties back, our reliance on the Constitution and the rule of law. I want, again, for my children to feel free.

Let’s take that energy and reclaim our land as the land of the free, the civilized and the just. There are dire costs to shirking this duty. We’ve just seen it in our streets.

O’Connor also states, “We should recognize the energy that came from the elimination of this criminal at the hands of the U.S. government and we should try to craft, instead, the end of the terror years.”

Back to the photos themselves, Michael Shaw at HuffingtonPost has this to say:

What the powers-that-be never get is that an erasure is not without it’s own moral baggage and trace. Disappearing the photo, given the reality that an image represents (especially these days, when in Egypt, in Libya and in Syria, we see citizens dying by the day just for the cause of pushing pictures to twitpics), the willful act of suppressing the photo, in our every more visually-mediated and documented society, equates to the intention of keeping the killing in the dark. It’s this signal, by way, this act of omission reinforced by the President’s dismissive and defensive tone, that not just insults the intelligence of the American people but actually reinforces the suspicions of the Muslim street.

By not releasing the photos, we are letting the terrorists win—just as we have been letting them win since 9/11. We are adapting our behavior and applying more restraints to freedom and transparency. Doing this likely empowers terrorists.

Release the photos. They will do the US no harm. Now, continuing the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan and continuing to support dictatorial regimes in the Middle East will.

Democrats, Obama Cave to Corporations Unwilling to Close Tax Loophole to Fund 9/11 Responders’ Healthcare

10:29 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


The first responders and families of those who were first to act show support for the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act. by TalkMediaNews


Add healthcare for 9/11 responders to a long list of concessions or outright capitulation to corporations that has taken place as a result of Democrats and President Obama being unwilling to take a stand against Republicans fronting for corporate executives and the top 2% in America.

The Associated Press reports the pay mechanism for funding health care for 9/11 responders has been changed to appease Republicans, who branded the original bill for 9/11 responders as something that included a “corporate tax increase.” Instead of closing a tax loophole, the bill will now use fees on “foreign firms that get U.S. government procurement contracts,” “fees on certain firms that rely on H-1B and L-1 visas,” and “fees on travelers who don’t present visa travel documents at U.S. airports,” to finance the bill.

It was too much for President Obama or Democrats to come out and boldly defend a bill that would have “required multinational companies incorporated in tax havens to pay taxes on income earned in the U.S.” It was too much to take this issue and say that corporations should be willing to honor the sacrifices made by 9/11 responders by paying for this bill by closing a tax loophole.

Jon Stewart has artfully skewered Republicans on their traitorous abandonment of 9/11 responders. He has demonstrated through several segments how Republicans should no longer be allowed to exploit 9/11. Their failure to defend 9/11 responders here means they will no longer be credible at all when they call for something to be done in the name of 9/11. But, he hasn’t really pointed out the lack of push from President Obama or Democrats on this (except for in a remark to Mike Huckabee, who appeared on the show right after 9/11 responders appeared on Thursday, December 16th).

Since August this year, President Obama has been, for the most part, silent on healthcare for 9/11 responders. When the bill passed the House, he could have held a press conference like he did when he was moving the recent tax cut deal through Congress. But, he did not use the power of the pulpit he has as president to make a speech calling on the Senate to support the bill for health care for 9/11 responders in its current form.

Only recently did he agree to halt the delay of funding for a research study that would end doubt amongst officials and the media on whether 9/11 responders are actually being diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, and other diseases or disorders because of their service in the aftermath of 9/11. The New York Daily News reported in October, “President Obama has quietly forked over millions to study what’s killing 9/11   responders   – after refusing to pay up earlier this year. City officials had expected to get the cash last spring for an ongoing $12 million program, which includes tracking people in the 9/11 health registry and studying the alarming rates of cancer in Ground Zero workers. Federal bean counters initially held up funding for this year’s $4.9 million outlay, saying they were auditing the effort.

Except for Democrats from New York and other states nearby like New Jersey, there has been little leadership from the Democratic Party on this issue. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi finally got a bill to give health care to 9/11 responders passed in the last week of September. Senator Harry Reid has done very little, it seems, to get the bill passed. It could have been brought to a vote every day, and, each time it failed, statements could have been made by Democrats to show how Republicans were betraying the 9/11 responders.

Media coverage, as Stewart pointed out on his show, has been largely non-existent. In contrast to the “Ground Zero Mosque” story earlier this year, there has been no interest in this story whipped up by media pundits on Fox News or other cable/network news outlets. That does not mean coverage of the 9/11 responders hasn’t briefly taken place on news shows. It means this issue has not been turned into something that echoes around the country until elected officials step up and address the needs of 9/11 responders.

Why might this be? Does this have anything to do with the working or lower class backgrounds of the 9/11 responders seeking assistance?

Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson spotlight “unrepresentative democracy” in their recent book, Winner Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer–And Turned Its Back on the Middle Class. They cite a study by two professors who worked separately at Princeton University, Larry Bartels and Martin Gilens. Bartels and Gilens studied the “correspondence between what politicians do and what their constituents of differing economic backgrounds say they want them to do in opinion polls.”

Bartels’ study found that “wealthier Americans” are more likely to earn responses on issues from politicians in Washington than “less affluent” Americans. Bartels looked “at how closely aligned with voters U.S. senators were on key votes in the late 1980s and early 1990s.” He found a “pretty high degree of congruence between senators’ positions and the opinions of their constituents–at least when those constituents” were in the “top third of the income distribution.” (The study by Bartels also found that when the poorest people supported a policy senators were actually less likely to vote for it.)

Gilens took the investigation to another level and collected “survey questions fielded since the 1980s” that asked people “whether they wanted government policy to change.” He broke the population down into “income groups” and found that when policy changes had a good chance of becoming law, there was a huge amount of support for that change from those at the top. Hacker and Pierson write of the study, “When the opinions of the poor diverged from those of the well-off, the opinions of the poor ceased to have any apparent influence.”

There are virtually no opinion polls in circulation on whether 9/11 responders should get healthcare or not, but one can imagine only a small, small percentage being opposed to such a measure.

What makes this hard for the wealthy or top 2% to support is how it would be paid for. Since the 1970s, business has worked together to protect the interests of all businesses in America and the tax loophole, if closed, would have significantly harmed business (at least if you ask lobbyists for business interests in America).

Would Americans vote “yes” in a poll asking if the closing of a tax loophole for corporations should be used to fund healthcare for 9/11 responders? That would likely show a key division in American society, with forty to sixty percent saying corporations have a duty to American society that would be fulfilled through helping 9/11 responders by closing the loophole or with forty to sixty percent saying political leaders should not play politics with this bill and try to fund it by pushing for a “controversial” end to a loophole for corporations.

As corporations and the rich continue to accrue more subsidies or handouts and more policy change victories from government, there will be less and less funding available for measures, which the majority of Americans would support. At some point, corporations and the rich have to be put in a position where they pay for the freedom, services, and environment they enjoy in America. Otherwise, the lower classes will be asked to make sacrifices to fund measures like this and will be badgered into giving certain “causes” funding out of “charity” and “support.”

The ones who should have been badgered and coerced into funding those whom they privately if not publicly have celebrated are corporate executives, business interests or the top 2%, which pushed Republicans to oppose this bill and who are most capable of sparing some change for 9/11 responders.

The bill will likely pass now that it no longer requires a tax loophole be closed. It wasn’t enough for those at the top to get breaks in the tax cut deal. They had to protect a break they’ve been getting from being taken away because men and women, who responded after 9/11, are dying of cancer and other diseases. And, as with the tax cut deal, those at the top will continue to take and keep what they think they should be able to keep and not give up so long as Democrats especially liberals take minimal action to resist concessions to corporate power.

9/11 No Longer Brings Us Together, We Must Reassess How It Defines This Country

2:34 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

 

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4113/4952003798_0094e1bde8.jpg

 Photo by cliff1066

Nicholas D. Kristof, columnist for the New York Times, writes of the “healers of 9/11” and how Susan Retik, a Jewish woman “has pursued perhaps the most unexpected and inspiring American response to the 9/11 attacks.” Ms. Retik, a Jewish woman, who lost her husband in the attacks, noted how Afghanis would turn into widows as a result of the American war in Afghanistan and she started Beyond the 11th, an education and poverty-alleviation project. And, she ended up partnering up with another woman, Patti Quigley, who lost her husband in the attacks too.

For the past years, there have many individual stories like this that remind one how many Americans listen to their heart and soul and now deep down inside how to make a difference. Unfortunately, the shock and awe of the September 11th attacks, nine years later, still holds this nation captive. Many of the nation’s leaders still hold the power to invoke 9/11 and elicit a reaction of complacence or complicity. And, in fact, 9/11 is one reason why there is a dark continuity between the Obama Administration and the eight years of the Bush Administration. 

As Americans see pastors intent on making statements on the so-called dangers of Islam, as we see our nation’s own religious clerics seek to hold an entire religion responsible for the death of thousands of Americans nine years ago, let us not forget that Obama continued the "us vs. them" thinking by saying in his Inaugural Address, “the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America – they will be met."

As Americans see Republican leaders endorse and participate in protests against planned constructions of centers for religious worship, as Americans see Democrats allow a vacuum to persist which allows for hate and bigotry to spread like a virus, let us remember that President Obama also said in his Inaugural Address, “That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.”

Those quotes should not dissuade people like Ms. Retik or Ms. Quigley from taking individual action but rather should call into question the very idea that, nine years later, America remains under threat from any kind of far-reaching network at all.

There is a power in the unity that we all shared when we all grieved and were hurt by September 11th. But, the problem is that unity inevitably has grown into a unity of fear when what Americans really need is a unity of reconciliation. There is a need for Americans to find the courage to not forget but forgive. And, unfortunately, there is still an amount of reflection needed because this nation is still somewhere between anger and depression when it comes to handling the grief experienced. 

It is important to remember how Americans responded with disbelief, horror, and fear and then were propagandized into supporting a war in Iraq along with a war in Afghanistan, how Americans encouraged friends and family to enlist in the military and defend our country from any future 9/11s, how Bush didn’t ask Americans to make sacrifices but told Americans to instead go shopping., and how this event has allowed for the rolling back of civil liberties to go on.

This nation’s understanding of terrorism continues to stop and begin at 9/11,  a convenient reality that government leaders have used to prosecute wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, expand the power of the Executive Branch, and bolster American superpower.

The trampling of civil liberties has been permitted by America largely because many have bought into the idea that there are networks of fanatical enemies out there tirelessly plotting the death and destruction of America, who hate America for its freedom. Americans have allowed terrorism to be personified and now increasingly associate terrorism with Muslims even though all humans could potentially pose a terrorist threat to mankind. The arousal of primal fear from conjured perception and the fact that those who have been imprisoned, abused, tortured, and denied rights don’t look like “real Americans” has pushed America closer and closer to the world one reads about on the pages of George Orwell’s 1984.

As the ACLU has valiantly worked to demonstrate to Americans, 9/11 has produced the context that America lives in a “new normal.” Not only does that mean when we need to go somewhere in an airplane we have to go hours early to take off our belts, shoes, empty our pockets, and dispose of our water bottles and soaps, shampoos, conditioners, hairsprays and any other substance that might be a liquid or powder before boarding, but it also means that a world climate exists where individuals are shielded from accountability for engaging in warrantless wiretapping, torture, or rendition; state secrets are invoked to prevent transparency; detainees are denied habeas corpus; prisons like Guantanamo and Bagram (along with black prison sites that likely still exist) continue to hold detainees perhaps indefinitely; the right to target and kill U.S. civilians and bypass due process is asserted; and military commissions or “kangaroo courts” force detainees into Kafkaesque proceedings that make it nearly impossible to not be found guilty.

Nine years later, does it not sound ridiculous that a whole country was under the spell of the mantra “we’re fighting the terrorists there so we don’t have to fight them here”? Does it not seem insane that since 9/11 America has only given the “terrorists” what they wanted—a battle against them on their terrain, a global, amorphous and cosmic war, which this nation continues to perpetrate and kill thousands and thousands of people each year?

This anniversary, as Americans face the confluence of a planned Koran burning (since called off but now possibly on hold), violent demonstrations of groups in the Muslim World inflamed by a fundamentalist pastor’s plan to burn Korans, the continued outrage among some Americans toward Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s plan to build an Islamic community center near Ground Zero, and Eid al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan, why not consider the following:

Why not note how many are discussing what it means to be “sensitive” to the Muslim World and whether Americans should be sensitive or not and admit that if America is going to have this kind of discussion as a result of planned Koran burnings and proposed “mosque” projects then Americans should also discuss whether torture, rendition, indefinite detention, wars, and occupations in the Middle East are “sensitive” and whether they pose national security risks to Americans?

Why not note the fierce urgency of now that calls upon us to reject the narrative of a “clash of civilizations”? Why not reject both fundamentalist religious forces, Christian and Islamic, which promote implicitly and explicitly a toxic climate through harsh rhetoric and support for violence?

Why not come to an agreement that we will no longer stand for people who exploit 9/11 to make money like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck are doing on this anniversary or to advance a career in politics? 

Why not take a deep breath and admit Sharia Law is not creeping into America and it has never creeped and will never creep—at least the kind of Sharia Law Americans now talk of being afraid of—because America is not a Third World country (for now)? (And, if any repressive Law is going to creep into America, it will be Palin Law [which just happens to share some similarities with Sharia Law].)

This anniversary let’s be more afraid that America has a democratic republic largely unresponsive to the people that a huge portion of the population is disenchanted with even though it permits electoral participation every two or four years. Let’s be concerned that this country and its leaders continue to dither and stall on domestic and international actions that must be taken to give this country and its people the change it needs to continue to prosper and survive in the 21st Century and the world is waiting on America to be the shining example its leaders claim America to be in speeches.

Finally, let’s not only be more open about the fact that America commits actions it probably shouldn’t, which provoke Islamic fundamentalists, but also admit September 11th has become a yoke around the neck of America. Failure to remove it and make peace with whatever demons Americans think were responsible for the attacks will only continue to imperil us all.

UPDATE 1 

Do any Americans remember how there was a list circulated of songs radio stations were encouraged not to play in the aftermath of 9/11? Songs like Kool & The Gang’s "Celebration" were played and upset callers who claimed radio stations were being insensitive. 

Well, in memory of Clear Channel’s advisory list to radio stations, here’s "War," a song neoconservatives probably asked Clear Channel to put on the list. 

Pastor Jones Calls Off International Burn-a-Koran Day, Now What?

5:02 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

A religious soap opera is unfolding before the world’s eyes. Dr. Terry Jones, the noxious pastor from Gainesville, Florida who had planned the festive International Burn-A-Koran Day for September 11th, has called off the book burning event, according to news sources like USA Today. Imam Muhammed Musri apparently offered Dr. Jones a deal if he would back down.

It’s being reported that Dr. Jones has canceled "the planned burning of the Qurans" and is "instead flying to New York on Saturday to meet with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the planned New York mosque" because Imam Rauf may decide to build the Park51 Project somewhere else. But, the problem is the deal being reported has not been made. Imam Rauf is denying a deal has been made and he put out the following statement:

"I am glad that Pastor Jones has decided not to burn any Korans. However, I have not spoken to Pastor Jones or Imam Musri. I am surprised by their announcement. We are not going to toy with our religion or any other, nor are we going to barter. We are here to extend our hands and build peace and harmony."

Imam Rauf says he has not talked to Dr. Jones or Imam Musri.

Two theories: (1) Imam Musri said something that convinced Dr. Jones to go on a trip to meet with Imam Rauf, never said Imam Rauf would move the mosque, and Pastor Jones being thick-headed misunderstood Imam Musri so he said at the press conference the mosque was going to be moved. Or, (2) Imam Musri and Imam Rauf duped Dr. Jones into backing down.

Whatever the case may be, the freakout over at JihadWatch.org reveals how much members of the anti-Islam movement were looking forward to the burning even though they claim it was an unwise or tactically bad move. Some examples:

We are being had. Jones was threatened. Rauf has no intention of moving that mosque. What the hell is going on? -lilredbird, September 9, 2010 2:35 PM

From the story:

"Jones said Imam Muhammad Musri of the Islamic Society of Central Florida told him that officials would guarantee that the mosque would be moved."

WHO is Imam Muhammad Musri, of Central Florida, and what does he have to do with Rauf or Cordoba? Can he speak on behalf of, or make decisions for, Rauf?? - Eleano, September 9, 2010 2:39 PM

NO WAY!

Color me jaded, but there is no way this story could be true. Ain’t gonna happen. Time after time, for 1400 years, the hudna trick has been played, a la Lucy holding the football, and the only winner is repeatedly Muslims.

I’ll keep watching the headlines, Robert, but this one is a bridge too far. -Fscarn, September 9, 2010 2:45 PM

I get the idea that this pastor is a half-bubble off plumb.

He doesn’t know what’s really in the Qur’an.

He’s like the Chauncy Gardner of the anti-jihad.

And he just got called out.

He got a phone call from someone with a foreign accent who called himself Imama;seldkfaaldkjfhdh dfhjsdfh and he started to make deals.

However, I have to say he’s give us a good idea…use the Qur’an and Mohammed drawing as weapons. It’s too easy given how fragile their little egos are. -winoceros, September 9, 2010 2:59 PM

Now that the threat of burning the quran has been opened as a tactic, it is bound to happen.
This whole situation is on a hair trigger, one spark and it will kick off, you can be sure the muslims are up for it .
It is going to happen and sooner would be better than later.
Premption or reaction? -defender, September 9, 2010 3:05 PM

He caved, is all that happened.

The FBI, Gates, colossal public obloquy.

Probably threats of legal harassment and prosecution.

I pity him. -gaius, September 9, 2010 3:08 PM

Is Jones crazy or crazy like a fox? In all his ramblings He did say that tolerance was a two-way street. Is he calling Rauf’s bluff on this?

Hmmm. - awake, September 9, 2010 3:43 PM

I officially declare that I will stop pointing out that Islam was founded by a mass-murdering pedophile if Islam agrees to move to Mars. -out of context, September 9, 2010 3:49 PM

Prior to this announcement, Dr. Jones had gained the attention of the class. The State Department had issued a "travel warning" for Americans. President Barack Obama said "This is a recruiting bonanza for Al Qaeda." And, Attorney General Eric Holder had spoken out against the planned burning of Korans and General David Petraeus as said it could endanger American troops.

News of Muslims shouting "Death to Christians" and burning American flags and plans by groups for activities to counter the burning of Korans were all being reported on.

The media and world had everyone tuned into this pastor’s plan to burn books (and still do). Even if the books do not burn on September 11th, Dr. Jones got what he wanted: a backlash of right wing Islamic extremism that he could say confirms his thesis that Islam is "of the Devil."

So, Shelley Phelps Roper, a leader of the Westboro Baptist Church, was right. The authorities "browbeat him" and he backed down "at the last minute." And, now if you’re an unapologetic Christian Dominionist or fundamentalist you can agree with Roper who said he would back down because he’s "an apologist" and "doesn’t serve God."

Many agreed the burning of Korans was an act of hate intended to inflame a group the Muslim population of the world. He clearly had a right to burn the books but many tried to dissuade him because of what could happen as a result. If only the world was as insistent against torture, rendition, and indefinite detention of detainees and war and occupation in Muslim-dominated countries in the same way they were insistent against the Koran burning because it would create a "recruiting bonanza for al-Qaeda" or lead to attacks on Americans.

The media gave Dr. Jones and his Dove World Outreach Center a gift. Not only did Dr. Jones likely experience an increase in sales of his End Times Bestseller "Islam is of the Devil," but the media also made it possible for his Burn-the-Koran Day to truly be an international day.

I’ll entertain the possibility that this could be some kind of a move to create this perception that Imam Rauf can prevent the Quran burning if he just moves the Park51 Project and Dr. Jones will do the Quran burning later and blame Imam Rauf for it if he doesn’t move the project to another location.

Now, one could argue Dr. Jones succeeded and never had to burn the Korans. That he called for an International Burn-a-Koran Day and seemed serious was enough to inflame certain parts of the Muslim World.

Part of his success was due to the fact that the media does not label individuals like Dr. Jones or others like Rev. Pat Robertson or Pastor John Hagee as Christian supremacists. In comparison to the history of white nationalism in America, dogmatic Christians are not labeled like white supremacists when they carried out racist actions or made racist speeches. Not being regarded as a Christian nationalist or a Christian power advocate, allows Dr. Jones to continue to mount the argument that Islam is a devil religion without having to answer to the Dominionist vision of America he promotes, without having to answer to the fact that he and his church followers believe we are living in End Times.

Mosque-haters had spoken out against the Koran burning. The leaders may have spoken out, but if you read their words, it was all pragmatic and tactical criticism. None disputed the hate speech behind Dr. Jones’ theory that "Islam is of the Devil."

What the world saw was a split between those who wished to be part of the mainstream anti-Islam movement in America and those who were willing to be part of the vanguard of the anti-Islam movement in America. In the past, Dr. Jones has stood in solidarity with other members of the vanguard like Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church. Mosque-haters who decried the Koran-burning like Erick Erickson, Bryan Fischer, Pam Geller, Frank Gaffney, and Bill Keller all would like to continue to gain notoriety, fame and fortune off their hatred for and "warnings" about Islam.

And, isn’t that really what it’s about in the end? Money. That’s why this guy never went anti-Semitic. That’s why he didn’t go after Judaism instead of attacking a religion that supports a lot of the cultural values he thinks Christians should stand for. That’s why he chose to be a crackpot against Muslims and not a nutcase against Jews.

Dr. Jones figured out long, long ago there is no money in hating Jews. Hating Muslims and condemning Islam, on the other hand, he realized can help cover the costs of keeping a worship center like the Dove World Outreach Center open.

Who knows how meeting with Imam Rauf will feed into his Dominionist agenda (or if he will even get a meeting)? I don’t. The world doesn’t. And, unfortunately, the show’s not over yet. Another episode in this religious opera has just begun.

The Difference Between Opposing Mosques and Burning Korans

3:12 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

4917546253_dc071b5169.jpg

 

Dove Outreach World Center Pastor Terry Jones’ and his followers’ decision to burn Korans on September 11th has proven there are those in this country who will stoop to such a level and burn sacred texts to express their beliefs. It also indicates there is a line, for now, that those who subscribe to anti-Islam industry propaganda will not cross. Few who oppose the construction of the Park51 project (the "Ground Zero Mosque," as they affectionately term the proposed center) are flocking to support this crackpot pastor’s eagerness to burn Korans.

The Coalition to Honor Ground Zero [and Stop the 9/11 Mosque] put out a statement that the coalition finds the idea to be "irresponsible and wrong." The coalition upholds the "Minister’s freedom of speech and assembly" but contend, "with rights come responsibilities" and urge him not to go ahead with the burning. This is the same coalition that endorses and supports a major rally against the Park51 Project that will be held on 9/11.

What is the difference between obstructing and seeking to prevent the construction of a place of worship and the burning of a sacred text that those who are found to be dangerous derive much of their religious beliefs from?

Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin, who opposes the construction of the Park51 Project, said, "We don’t burn books. The Left does that." Continuing on without citing examples or even bothering to explain how burning Harry Potter books was the work of leftists in America, he said, "And, we certainly don’t do it if it’s going to put our armed forces in danger."

Levin asserted, "It is clear that there are individuals all over the world who will use this as an additional excuse to harm people. There is a fundamentalism-Islamic fundamentalism-that is out to destroy parts of the world and which has frankly murdered more of their fellow Muslims than the Western world or other religions could ever even try to destroy. So, why give a propaganda opportunity to people who are looking for all the propaganda opportunities they can get?"

To those who have been following the hullabaloo around the Park51 Project, this argument is one that supporters have used to undercut opposition to the "Ground Zero mosque." Supporters have argued opposition to the project could help write the recruiting script for Islamic extremists and even justify future acts of terror.

Yet, it does not appear that the opposition to the Park51 Project has had that effect. Director of Arab language television station Al-Arabiya Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashid, wrote recently that he does not think opposition has "provoked" Muslims in the way that a "2006 publication of a cartoon ‘mocking the Islamic prophet in a Danish newspaper,’" which set off violent protests in the Muslim world, did. He added there have been no "demonstrations related to the mosque in Arab countries, that imams have not addressed the controversy during their sermons and that the issue has not been taken up by Islamic religious and intellectual institutions."

The director argued this is because the center could be turned into a "symbol of hatred for Muslims." Such a notion speaks to the power opposition has had in influencing conversation on the project in the media. Certainly, it makes sense that Muslims would not want to erect "an arena for the promoters of hatred, and a monument to those who committed the crime," as Al-Rashid contended.

Muqteder Khan, director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware, in a column published by the Washington Post, offers a bit more insight on why desecrating the Koran may provoke more demonstrations and violence in the Muslim World than opposition to the Park51 Project has:

…On September 11, 2010, some misguided Americans plan to burn the Holy Quran, the only book in the entire heritage of humanity that claims to be solely the word of God. This dastardly act is the brainchild of Terry Jones, a Christian Pastor from Florida. This act is not just some symbolic gesture of defiance. It is an act of egregious violence against the beliefs and the sacred symbols of one fourth of humanity. The act will scorch Muslim hearts everywhere. The searing pain will never be forgotten.

Along with the idea of God and prophets, the Quran is the thing that Muslims hold the dearest. My children have been listening to it since even before they were born. I use to recite it to them while they were still in the womb. Their children will be reciting it to them when they will be lowered in to their tomb. Believe me, there is nothing more precious to Muslims than the Quran, and watching people toss it into fire, will be horrifying. I would rather burn in fire myself, than watch a Quran burn…

Let’s be clear about Levin’s remarks–he did not condemn the content of Jones’ opposition to Islam but rather opposed the tactic Jones would be using to voice his discontent. For the purposes of further understanding how conservatives might be grappling with the planned burning of Korans:

"When our government funds so-called art–art that uses urine and feces and this so-called artist stuck a cross into the urine and feces, we were told that this is free speech and any effort to cut the funding for that department or to control what kind of grants are issued is an abomination, would be anti-American.

So, if we the taxpayers against our will fund the desecration of a cross with Jesus on it, there’s something wrong with us. If we object to a provocateur, a radical Imam, trying to locate a mosque at Ground Zero, there’s something wrong with us. But, if this Pastor Jones burns some Korans–which again I object and think is dangerous particularly to our soldiers–then what? Do you hear the liberals saying he has a constitutional right to do this? No."

Actually, a man who Levin and his listeners consider to be a "bleeding-heart liberal" has stated Jones has a constitutional right to burn the Korans. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been a stalwart defender of the Park51 Project developers right to build, said yesterday:

"In a strange way, I’m here to defend his right to do that. I happen to think that it is distasteful"The First Amendment protects everybody, and you can’t say that we’re going to apply the First Amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement"If you want to be able to say what you want to say when the time comes that you want to say it, you have to defend others, no matter how, how much you disagree with them."

Jones appears to have underestimated how anti-Islam proponents’ dedication to supporting the troops would deter them from supporting his action. General David Petraeus’, the State Department’s and others’ contention that this would put America’s troops in harm’s way has resonated with Americans who likely agree with part if not all of Jones’ arguments on how Islam is "of the Devil."

What those who have spent time organizing against the so-called march of Islam toward instituting Sharia in the United States should understand is that it is they who lay the foundation for whackjobs like Jones to carry out such book burnings. Arguments based solely on a fear of a Third World religion dominating this country’s society at some point in the future give Jones the climate he needs to make his book-burning seem like something indicative of attitudes toward Islam in America. Without their activism, this could be disregarded in the same manner cross burnings by white supremacists are now routinely disregarded.

Anti-Islam activism, which has been warning of "Islamo-fascism" through work by David Horowitz and others since 9/11, has created a climate for hate crimes and vandalism of mosques. The number of protests against mosques has escalated, rallies have harassed people who support their cause but look like Muslims, and have promoted the idea that mosques are "clubhouses for terrorists." In Temecula, California, dogs were deployed to intimidate those attending prayer services and, in Florida, a man attempted to firebomb an Islamic center.

What difference is there between people like Mike Gallagher, Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, or North Carolina congressional candidate Ilario Pantano and Pastor Terry Jones other than the fact that they disagree on the tactics that should be used to oppose Islam? How many think it likely that individuals like Franklin Graham, John Hagee, or Pat Robertson sympathize with the action Terry Jones intends to take? And, how sure can one be that Jones’ ideology isn’t part of what fueled foreign policy thinkers like the now deceased Samuel Huntington, who proposed the "Clash of Civilizations" thesis, or isn’t what fuel people like Frank Gaffney or Charles Krauthammer?

The city of Gainesville, Florida denied the Dove World Outreach Center a burn permit. (Do cities ever give out burn permits for the burning of books?) RBC Bank has called in the mortgage on Pastor Jones’ center and Cottons All-Lines has apparently canceled the center’s insurance. This and the calls from U.S. military men will not dissuade Jones and his few followers who are dedicated to making a statement.

Gen. Petraeus has said these words about troops being put in harm’s way before. This was the justification for not being transparent and preventing the release of photos that likely showed Americans torturing and abusing Muslim detainees. The ACLU almost succeeded in getting the photos released but President Obama and Congress took measures to prevent the photos from being released.

Will the world see the Obama Administration and Congress take this kind of action to protect America’s troops? Will there be state intervention? More importantly, can this be considered an act in furtherance of terrorism? Could the FBI and local police show up and handcuff Jones and others for proceeding with this act even if there is an argument to be made the act is protected by the Constitution? Will homeland security trump the First Amendment Rights of these loons who are people who not only find Islam to be "of the Devil" but also people who likely consider Obama to be the Antichrist?

Perhaps, it doesn’t matter. Jones can burn the Korans or the government can arrest him and his followers. Either way, the anti-Islamic fervor will continue because Americans harbor strong beliefs about Islam and, for many, the last thing they want is some Third World religion becoming dominant in America and transforming America’s national identity to one that, in their mind, runs counter to Judeo-Christian or Protestant values.

Hamas Supports the “Ground Zero Mosque” & Other Messages Damning Religious Freedom to Hell

10:28 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Flickr Photo by

The hysteria surrounding the "Ground Zero Mosque" that really cannot be seen from Ground Zero has nothing to do with some impending Islamic fundamentalist quest to impose Sharia Law in America. It has everything to do with a toxic patriotism fueled by evangelical political activism in this country.

Few know how this "controversy" was manufactured, how the Islamic cultural center became a political football or tool for exploiting fear of Muslims among Americans. And, at this point, one might think it doesn’t really matter: the right wing assault on Muslims’ private property rights continues unabashedly even though there should be no discussion at all and those behind the project should just take their project somewhere else.

The latest developments in sheer paranoia and outright xenophobia include anti-Obama author and Jerusalem bureau chief of the right-wing website WorldNetDaily.com Aaron Klein’s interview with Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar on his WABC radio show on Sunday. Klein was able to get Al-Zahar to say Muslims "have to build the mosque, as you are allowed to build the church and Israelis are building their holy places"we have to build everywhere." And, this touched off an eruption of echoes among conservative media as the leader’s position was immediately connected to Obama through headlines suggesting Hamas backs Obama–the impetus being if Hamas supports Obama we should all fear his support for the mosque in the same way we feared Obama’s association to Bill Ayers during the election.

Newt Gingrich appeared on "Fox & Friends" to say, "The folks who want to build this mosque — who are really radical Islamists who want to triumphally prove that they can build a mosque right next to a place where 3,000 Americans were killed by radical Islamists — those folks don’t have any interest in reaching out to the community. They’re trying to make a case about supremacy. That’s why they won’t go anywhere else, that’s why they won’t accept any other offer."

Gingrich went a step further comparing Muslims to Nazis:

"And I think we ought to be honest about the fact that we have a right — and this happens all the time in America. You know, Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor. There’s no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid publicly stated "build the mosque somewhere else" seemingly adopting his Republican opponent Sharron Angle’s position that one must "say no to the mosque at Ground Zero" or "side with President Obama" and be "against the families of 9/11 victims."

Finally, there was Don Lemon on CNN expressing, as Glenn Greenwald writes, "the crux of the "mosque’ opposition":

Lemon: Don’t you think it’s a bit different considering what happened on 9/11? And the people have said there’s a need for it in Lower Manhattan, so that’s why it’s being built there. What about 10, 20 blocks . . . Midtown Manhattan, considering the circumstances behind this? That’s not understandable?

Patel: In America, we don’t tell people based on their race or religion or ethnicity that they are free in this place, but not in that place –

Lemon: [interrupting] I understand that, but there’s always context, Mr. Patel . . . this is an extraordinary circumstance. You understand that this is very heated. Many people lost their loved ones on 9/11 –

Patel: Including Muslim Americans who lost their loved ones. . . .

Lemon: Consider the context here. That’s what I’m talking about.

Patel:I have to tell you that this seems a little like telling black people 50 years ago:you can sit anywhere on the bus you like – just not in the front.

Lemon:I think that’s apples and oranges -I don’t think that black people were behind a Terrorist plot to kill people and drive planes into a building.That’s a completely different circumstance.

Patel: And American Muslims were not behind the terrorist plot either. [emphasis not added]

More patently absurd was Tim Brown, a retired NYC firefighter who survived 9/11 who recounted a story at the tail end of the segment featuring Lemon and Patel involving a woman who "spoke at the Landmark Preservation Commission here and very passionately against the mosque and when she walked out and went to her car she had a heart attack." Brown added, "This is what is being done to the families of 9/11."

The bizarre notion that not only all of the Muslim world should pay for the few extremists that targeted the World Trade Center but they should also pay for people who are suffering physical hardships because they have to defend against the so-called insensitivity of Islam toward 9/11 victims provides one of the best examples of how this controversy is born out of Islamophobia. Brown’s comment suggests there is no thing those against the "mosque" that opponents will not blame Muslims for.

So, how did we get to here? How did Americans get dragged into some argument against Islam that solely consists of sentences comprised of a noun, a verb and 9/11? Didn’t Rudolph Giuliani lose big in the 2008 Election?

Justin Elliott over at Salon.com constructed a timeline that demonstrates the story first was discussed when Laura Ingraham interviewed Abdul Rauf’s wife, Daisy Khan, while guest-hosting "The O’Reilly Factor." Ingraham surprisingly said, "I can’t find many people who really have a problem" with the "mosque." She said she liked what the people behind the project were trying to do. Then, five and a half months later, on May 6, 2010, a New York community board approved the "WTC Mosque." The AP quoted 9/11 families. The New York Post, which a lot of right wing opinion makers read.

From this point on groups like Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) began to hold protests and campaign against the "mosque." It is then that "professionals of the anti-Islam industry" began to propagandize the project eventually earning a victory when New York Post columnist first used the phrase "ground zero mosque" (and also falsely reported the Cordoba House [Park51] would open on September 11, 2011.

The manufacturing of this controversy proves this is about much more than religious freedom and 9/11 families. What those against the "mosque" really want is for Americans to constantly relive the horror of 9/11 on a daily basis, live in a state of post-trauma for eternity, and never forget how extremists with a religion that has often been at odds with prominent Western religions attacked America.

The most outspoken opponents of this mosque seek to maintain a shared purpose, a national identity that became the context for domestic and foreign politics after 9/11. They seek to further entrench America in a war against Islam.

Opponents tremble in fear because their triumphalism–largely derived from their evangelical Christianity and other Christian denominations–is threatened by the interfaith goals of dialogue that this Islamic cultural center has adopted. They do not want dialogue. They want only to maintain their religion and further institute Biblical law in American society.

Zealous businessmen and snake politicians have charted a course for power, opted to exploit not only the families who lost loved ones in 9/11 but also exploit the energy produced by evangelical religion’s activism in politics and channel it into this manufactured controversy they hope will help them win elections in November.

These religious archaists market beliefs and aim to attract customers they can convert into consumers that will follow their precepts. They hope their consumers will join them in the further construction of American mythology to serve their agenda for reorienting this nation and realigning this country with their beliefs.

The vanguard of opposition to the mosque follows the ideology of Samuel Huntington, a foreign policy thinker who had great influence over the past twenty years of American foreign policy. They like Huntington believe "America is different and that difference is defined in large part by its religious commitment and Anglo-Protestant culture." They like Huntington think "at the heart of that culture has been Protestantism and the political and social restitutions and practices inherited from England, including most notably the English language." And, they believe "Americans are also overwhelmingly Christian, which distinguishes them from many non-Western peoples" and "their religiosity leads Americans to see the world in terms of good and evil to a much greater extent than most other peoples."

The propagandistic idea that the mosque should not be built because all Muslims should continue to pay for 9/11 stems from the toxic patriotism or right-wing nationalism of a section of society who has put its political energy behind American military might, preemptive war, promotion of ignorance toward the way America radicalizes societies who adopt Islamic fundamentalism as a tool of resistance, and xenophobia.

Demagoguery and ideology neurotically controls a sect of American society and culture. Our opposition to the construction of the mosque, whether we adopt the position to win elections in November or because we have been grieving for 9/11 families and constantly terrified by our leaders exploitation of the attacks so they can achieve power, gives the upperhand to religious demagogues and ideologues. It violates core principles of our nation’s Constitution, principles President Obama and Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg have called upon citizens to support and uphold.

Religious freedom did not become part of our nation’s core principles because people thought Americans would be comfortable with all religions. It became part of our principles because people understood all Americans should have the right to practice religion openly and freely.

Since 9/11, Muslims have been attacked and demonized in many sections of the country. This should not be allowed, we as a nation should not be complicit and silent, and we who care deeply about this nation should speak out in support of the mosque not because we are religious or support Islamic beliefs but because attacks and demonization should cease in this country now.

 

Now from last night’s Countdown w/ Keith Olbermann, a "Special Comment" — "There is No Ground Zero Mosque."

President Obama on Ground Zero Mosque: A Wasted Attempt to Stand Up to Islamophobia?

9:44 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Jingoistic demonstration in Zucotti Park against proposed Islamic Cultural Center a few blocks from Ground Zero. Later, someone garlanded the proposed site with dirty shoes, raw porkchops, and cartoons of the Prophet. by Johnnie Utah

President Barack Obama stepped into the middle of a swirl of prejudicial vitriol and unashamed hatred surrounding the building of an Islamic cultural center several blocks away from Ground Zero.

Appearing at Friday night’s iftar dinner at the White House, held to mark the breaking of the daily Ramadan feast, in a safe space away from Islamophobic politicians and pundits who have been disinforming Americans on the building of a "Ground Zero mosque" for weeks now, Obama declared in a speech:

…Recently, attention has been focused on the construction of mosques in certain communities — particularly New York. Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of Lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. And the pain and the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. And Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.

But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure…

 

Obama’s remarks were insightful and courageous and along the lines of comments from New York City’s Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg just over a week ago. Bloomberg, too, argued "the government has no right whatsoever to deny" the right to those who wish to build a mosque and stated, "if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution."

 

"Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question – should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion?" asked Mayor Bloomberg. "That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here. This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions, or favor one over another."

 

And, from a place of great reason, to strike a blow to unthinking people who are running around making outlandish claims about Muslims and terror babies and how Islamic people wish to impose Sharia law on America, Bloomberg stated:

"Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values – and play into our enemies’ hands – if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists – and we should not stand for that"

 

 Having people like Mayor Bloomberg to back President Obama up, Obama would be able to hold on to his defense and continue to give this well-reasoned argument to thwart the hatred of Islamophobes across the country as reporters asked him for more remarks on what he said, right?

"I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about. And I think it’s very important, as difficult as some of these issues are, that we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about."

 

President Obama’s position at that moment morphed into, in principle, this country should allow the Islamic center to be built, but, I do not know specifically if in this case building a mosque is a wise idea or not. The idea that "commitments to religious freedom must be unshakeable" now appeared to be shakeable if it could be proven one is making unwise decisions related to the exercising of that religious freedom.

 

How would this "backtracking" play in the conservative media echo chamber that has made the Obama Administration yield to any and every message born out of pig-headed phobia?

 

Guests and show hosts promoted this idea on Sunday that, if the cultural center would not be promoting interfaith dialogue (a standard that most Christian or Jewish institutions never have to adhere to), then there’s no way the construction of a mosque should be supported.

 

 Republican Congressman Peter King said on "State of the Union with Candy Crowley" on August 15th, "I think the president, by the way, is trying to have it both ways, because I don’t know of anyone who was saying that Muslims do not have the right to practice their religion, but with rights go responsibilities, and that’s the part of it the president did not comment on.

 

Democratic Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island said "Fox News Sunday" with Bret Baier, "the president, I think, is right to point out that our traditions do embrace tolerance for religions, all religions" but went on to say the "issue is whether the operation — this facility is really one that is designed to provide interfaith communication, dialogue, to not in some way try to repeal the reality of 9/11, which was an attack by fanatical Muslims against the United States, but to try to find those common ground between all the religious communities."

 

On the same show, Senator John Cornyn, chairman of the Republican Senatorial Committee declared this issue an "election issue" and said what was said is indicative of "the lack of connection between the administration and Washington and folks inside the Beltway and mainstream America. And I think this is what aggravates people so much."

 

ABC’s This Week host Christiane Amanpour and NPR senior news analyst Cokie Roberts accused Obama of "walking back" from statements he made in his speech. And, Liz Cheney was quoted by Mike Allen of Politico, "I guess President Obama was for the mosque before he was against it."

 

Tunku Varadarajan wrote on The Daily Beast, "At first sight, this may seem but a minor alteration in tone, or nuance. But in political terms, it is tectonic, reducing Obama in stature from a brave man, standing tall against the forces of intolerance, to a picayune, insecure trimmer who wishes to be all things to all people, a man who is so unsure of his own principles that he will seek to reinterpret words, just a day after he uttered them."

 

Varadarajan and the aforementioned congressmen are right to talk about how this was never a question of the mosque’s right to be built–at least rhetorically speaking. Amanpour’s comments on Obama "walking back" his comments directly cited a poll of Americans indicating more than sixty percent recognize the right to build the center but, in another poll, more than sixty percent think it’s wrong to build the mosque. So, the tension does not seem to be coming from people who dispute whether Muslims have a right to religious freedom or not–unless you consider this gubernatorial candidate.

 

Unless you consider the people protesting the building of one on Staten Island. Unless you consider the people protesting the building of one in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Unless you consider the people protesting the construction of one in Sheboygan County in Wisconsin. Unless you consider the people protesting the building of one in Temecula, California. Unless you consider the people detailed in Stephen Salisbury’s article "Extremism at Ground Zero (Again)".

 

Contrary to politicians and pundits, this is about the right to religious freedom. From coast to coast Americans do not want Muslims to have private property rights because they have Islamophobia that there is no way of knowing how the mosque will be funded, who will be praying and worshipping at the mosque and what activities/agenda the mosque might support. The only way to alleviate that fear is through leadership and speeches to the American public similar to the one Obama delivered Friday night and the one Mayor Bloomberg delievered over a week ago.

 

This was a teaching moment, an opportunity to stay firm and not back down, a chance to comment on the specific project itself and in doing so defend other projects around the country that have been targeted by Islamophobia in recent years. It would not have been difficult to comment on the "wisdom" in a politically savvy way; all President Obama had to do is watch Jon Stewart take on Ground Zero mosque critics last week in a segment that properly ridiculed opposition to the building of the mosque.

 

But, it appears, as with countless issues, Obama has little moral fortitude to stand up for what’s right. He offers empty platitudes until reverberations or echoes drown out his platitudes and then he stops commenting. He then proceeds to engage in obvious wordsmithing to obfuscate his stance and refuses to give further comments on the problem or issue.

 

President Obama should have just remained silent on the mosque; if he wasn’t going to stand up for the mosque project itself, he should have known he would only be empowering FOX News blowhards and frenzied Americans who fear "in 20 years there will be enough Muslim voters in the U.S. to elect the president by themselves" so they can carry out their planned jihad on America.

 

But, given the mostly forgotten fact that he removed two Muslim women at a campaign rally who were going to be sitting behind the podium because his campaign didn’t want women with headscarves to appear with Obama in photographs or on television, we should all not be surprised at Obama’s spinelessness.

Escalating to End the Afghan War: Invoking Iraq, the Troops, and the Oft-Exploited Tragedy of 9/11

8:27 pm in Foreign Policy, Military by Kevin Gosztola

4117877154_6c7e5e3129.jpg

Flickr photo by Truthout.org

Obama’s speech at West Point Academy made a case for escalating the war in Afghanistan by deploying 30,000 more troops and laid out justifications for escalation that would deflect criticism.

The speech largely avoided the sloganeering and Manichaean flourishes that Americans became used to hearing from President George W. Bush, but it also setup a key paradox —

Isn’t this all being said to convince Americans that their conflicts and reservations with this war need to be sidelined? Aren’t Americans being asked to acquiesce to this president and let him take the lead without citizens creating noise in opposition to his plan for continuing a war Bush started?

Rachel Maddow noted afterward that this was a pretty pragmatic speech and Howard Fineman said during Countdown that there was a “grim realism” to this speech.

Both were hinting that Obama was focused on what was happening in Afghanistan, wanted to focus on the task at hand, and tamp down the criticism from people who are paying close attention to the wars in the Middle East.

A conversation between Ron Suskind and Rachel Maddow revealed on Tuesday night that Obama considered options ranging from a complete drawdown to escalating the war with 30,000 troops. It’s clear he had many reservations and yet military and other interests won this escalation decision.

The interests of American hegemony beat out interests of humanity in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and here at home.

Note what he used to justify the deployment of more troops. Obama cited the Iraq War:

I do not make this decision lightly. I opposed the war in Iraq precisely because I believe that we must exercise restraint in the use of military force, and always consider the long-term consequences of our actions. We have been at war for eight years, at enormous cost in lives and resources. Years of debate over Iraq and terrorism have left our unity on national security issues in tatters, and created a highly polarized and partisan backdrop for this effort. And having just experienced the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the American people are understandably focused on rebuilding our economy and putting people to work here at home.

Seemingly, Obama invoked the Iraq War because it is largely regarded as Bush’s War. And, reminding Americans that Bush created that war and that war has negatively impacted this nation’s ability to address the issue of the war in Afghanistan would make it possible to deflect criticism.

But then, he invoked the soldiers and their families:

…Most of all, I know that this decision asks even more of you – a military that, along with your families, has already borne the heaviest of all burdens. As President, I have signed a letter of condolence to the family of each American who gives their life in these wars. I have read the letters from the parents and spouses of those who deployed. I have visited our courageous wounded warriors at Walter Reed. I have travelled to Dover to meet the flag-draped caskets of 18 Americans returning home to their final resting place. I see firsthand the terrible wages of war. If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake in Afghanistan, I would gladly order every single one of our troops home tomorrow…

And 9/11:

…To address these issues, it is important to recall why America and our allies were compelled to fight a war in Afghanistan in the first place. We did not ask for this fight. On September 11, 2001, nineteen men hijacked four airplanes and used them to murder nearly 3,000 people. They struck at our military and economic nerve centers. They took the lives of innocent men, women, and children without regard to their faith or race or station. Were it not for the heroic actions of the passengers on board one of those flights, they could have also struck at one of the great symbols of our democracy in Washington, and killed many more…

Bush often invoked the troops and their families when giving speeches on Iraq and the "war on terror." (Iraq gave him a unique ability to avoid addressing the problems created by invading Afghanistan.)

By citing the troops, the mission becomes salvaging the war. It becomes something aimed at ensuring Americans did not die in vain.

The invocation of troops and their families sets up a situation where critics fall into the same rut that they fell into when Bush was helming the war in Iraq. Inevitably, one winds up saying I support the war but not the mission.

Unfortunately, liberals and progressives may fall for this and we may see more people buying more yellow ribbons. Quite frankly, supporting the troops does support the mission and the war.

If we find that their will be dire consequences for the expansion and further escalation of this war (even if it may come to a conclusion in 2011), we cannot support the troops because they will be contributing to a mission that does others great harm.

As for the invocation of 9/11, apparently this is Obama’s moment of desperation. 9/11 has been the crutch that political leaders have leaned on in their moments of great political trial.

John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Dick Cheney, Joe Lieberman, countless Republicans, and, of course, George W. Bush invoked the story of 9/11 to martial support for their own unpopular ideas on foreign policy.

In fact, these are words from President Bush’s State of the Union on January 29, 2002:

What we have found in Afghanistan confirms that, far from ending there, our war against terror is only beginning. Most of the 19 men who hijacked planes on September the 11th were trained in Afghanistan’s camps, and so were tens of thousands of others. Thousands of dangerous killers, schooled in the methods of murder, often supported by outlaw regimes, are now spread throughout the world like ticking time bombs, set to go off without warning.

To the American Legion on February 24, 2006 in a speech on violence in Iraq & the “War on Terror”:

We remain a nation at war. The war reached our shores on September the 11th, 2001, when our nation awoke to a sudden attack. Like generations before us, we have accepted new responsibilities, and we will confront these dangers with firm resolve. (Applause.)

And in October 7, 2001 in a speech on Afghanistan he said, “We did not ask for this mission, but we will fulfill it.”

Bush was a warmongering president. He was boisterous and had a realist foreign policy that didn’t hide its aim of global domination. But, truth be told, these words quoted from Bush could have appeared in Obama’s address at West Point.

It’s extremely disturbing that Obama’s second to last paragraph in his speech was the following:

It is easy to forget that when this war began, we were united – bound together by the fresh memory of a horrific attack, and by the determination to defend our homeland and the values we hold dear. I refuse to accept the notion that we cannot summon that unity again. I believe with every fiber of my being that we – as Americans – can still come together behind a common purpose. For our values are not simply words written into parchment – they are a creed that calls us together, and that has carried us through the darkest of storms as one nation, one people.

Glenn Beck’s 9/12 Project was meant to conjure the spirit and unity America felt after 9/11. It asked Americans to be the people they were after 9/11 on 9/12.

Most are aware of how successful that initiative has been. More than a year later, we can see how Beck has helped us all grow closer to one another through participation in Tea Party protests meant to promote liberty and freedom in America.

That 9/11 had such a prime role in the speech shows the Obama Administration is still under the same delusion the Bush Administration’s foreign policy suffered from: that 9/11 gives us carte blanche to do as we please in the name of security anywhere in the world.

And so, for those who feel deep down inside their mind, body, and spirit an opposition to the move Obama is making, you are not alone.

Obama’s speech was aimed at the criticism citizens have been leveling against the Afghanistan War, it was designed to bypass even the best arguments laid out by those calling on Obama to “rethink Afghanistan,” and plans for withdrawal in 2011 (that could always change) were made to appease liberal and progressives who have been skeptic.

What’s worse — a president who is an unapologetic warmonger or a president who justifies away and away his actions making it evident he has a conscience but that he will ignore what he knows in his heart to be true and will instead rely on what policymakers and analysts in the Pentagon think instead—policymakers and analysts who make a living off creating missions and objectives for wars?