Tag Archives: USA

The media and the manhunt

The media buzz around the death of OBL on May 2, 2011. Published in The Friday Times, 6 May, 2011.

With the first five months of the year, a plethora of changes have happened making world politics unrecognizable from one year before.  One of the biggest was the on May 2 when news of the capture of Osama Bin Laden in Abottabad exploded on TV screens and in newspapers. The facts that Western media has focused on have been that the US led operation focused on one of Bin Ladens trusted couriers and a protégé of one of the architects of 9/11, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (New York Times, ABC News, US Government). The compound where Bin Laden was hiding was valued at $1 million and had 12 to 18 foot walls with barbed wire. And was 8 to 10 times larger than surrounding houses.

Senior US officials initially told news agencies that Bin Laden’s body would be disposed of in accordance with Islamic tradition, which involves ritual washing, shrouding and burial within 24 hours, and Bin Laden was buried at sea (LA Times, Washington Post). The Guardian was of the view that US concern over Bin Laden’s burial place turning into a shrine were probably unfounded, since the Wahhabi/Salafi tradition rejects such things. “Burial at sea is rare in Islam, though several Muslim websites say it is permitted in certain circumstances. One is on a long voyage where the body may decay… The other is if there is a risk of enemies digging up a land grave and exhuming or mutilating the body – a rule that could plausibly be applied in Bin Laden’s case,” reported the paper.

The news was celebrated in many foreign capitals with crowds gathering outside the White House to celebrate and spontaneous celebration all over the US. French Foreign Minster Alain Juppe called it a “victory for all democracies fighting the abominable scourge of terrorism”. British Prime Minister David Cameron said it would “bring great relief to people across the world” (Express Tribune). The US had warned of possible threats of retaliation (CNN). In UK Heathrow airport has stepped up security and many other countries fear protests. In Pakistan US and UK embassies have put their citizen on high alert.

Headlines across America and Europe on May 2 were ‘The most wanted face of terrorism’ (New York Times), ‘A day for justice’ (Chicago Tribune), ‘An eye for an eye a tooth for a tooth’ (Der Spiegel) and ‘Born to privilege, he dies a pariah (Wall Street Journal). Local newspapers however have been skeptical of the facts (Dawn News), and the Television media will undoubtedly resort to more fact digging and speculation.

The Taliban in Afghanistan had no immediate official reaction, though a local commander in Paktia said the killing “will affect their morale and will trigger the violence” and a commander in Baghlan promised revenge (NYT, Guardian). Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula confirmed bin Laden’s death and called it a catastrophe (AFP).

Reports say that officials in the Middle East did not have immediate reactions, and responses were “mixed” on the Arab street (CNN, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times). However Hamas’ prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, condemned the killing and described bin Laden as a “holy warrior” (CNN).

The coming weeks will of course clarify more facts about the operation as well as create more controversies. Dawn News for example said on May 2 that Bin Laden might not have been killed by US forces but his own guard. The paper quotes a Pakistani official who visited the site after the US assault team left, “From the scene of the gun battle it doesn’t look like he could have been killed at point blank range from such a close angle, while offering resistance.”

The western media sees the proximity of a military academy to Bin Laden compounds as an obvious proof of Pakistani military and intelligence being involved in hiding him and other leaders of the Al-Qaeda (BBC, CNN). This reaction is not just isolated to the media but world leaders as well. Israel has called this the “liquidation” of Bin Laden. India lashed out at Pakistan, saying that terrorists find sanctuary in Pakistan (Express Tribune, AFP).

There will again be a reevaluation of the US-Pakistan relationship not only but the respective governments but also by the media. Shuja Nawaz writes for Foreign Policy saying that the Pakistani military’s official reaction to the death of Bin Laden will be telling. If the operation was carried out in close cooperation then the trajectory of this declining relationship may be reversed. Even though Obama has acknowledged the role of Pakistan in the war against terrorism, it is not clear what that role has been with regards to the capture. Foreign media has generally reviewed Pakistan unfavourably and credit for the capture has solely been awarded to the US.

The general consideration of the western media is that only one of head of the Al-Qaeda hydra has been cut off. Der Spiegel is of the view that Bin Laden has left behind one of the most resilient and effective terrorist networks the world has ever seen. The death will weaken Al-Qaeda but for some time now others have been in charge of planning global terrorism. “I suspect the al-Qaeda senior leadership will splinter… this will create a vacuum,” said Marc Sageman, a former CIA analyst as when Al-Qaeda leaders became consumed with mere survival, other groups will try to pick up the slack.

The future of terrorism may still be secure. The Taliban is entrenched in Afghanistan and Pakistan, terrorist groups in Yemen, Algeria and Iraq have adopted the Al-Qaeda brand and in Somalia, al-Qaeda-inspired terrorists are growing. Ayman al-Zawahiri is expected to be number one on the FBI’s most wanted list (ABC News). Reports say that the power balance will shift to Yemen (Der Spiegel). John Brennan, US Chief of Counterterrorism may have spoken too soon when he said that that “Al-Qaeda is something in the past.”

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WikiLeaks’ Pakistan

The WikiLeaks release of diplomatic cables about Pakistan has shed new light on US-Pakistan relations. The leaked communications reveal Washington’s frustration with Islamabad and the civil-military struggles within Pakistan. Dispatches from early 2010, for instance, quote the aging Saudi monarch calling President Asif Ali Zardari the greatest obstacle to Pakistan’s progress: “When the head is rotten it affects the whole body”.

ISI still in the game: The cables from Secretary of State acknowledge that Pakistani senior officials have publicly disavowed support for these groups, but some officials from the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) continue to maintain ties with a wide array of extremist organizations, in particular the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Tayabba (LeT) and other extremist organizations.

Biden and Brown on militancy and aid: According to the cable documenting US Vice President Biden’s March 27, 2009 meeting with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, there was no real possibility of defeating Al Qaeda without also “dealing with Pakistan”. Vice President Biden said he worried that NATO countries in Europe underestimated the threat from the region and viewed the problem as an economic development issue rather than a security issue, despite the fact that Afghan opium is primarily exported to Europe; and Europe has been the victim of several terrorist attacks originating from the region.

During this meeting, Vice President Biden commented that it was difficult to convince Pakistan to commit to developing its counter-insurgency potential as the threat from India made Pakistan devote defence spending to conventional warfare capabilities. Thus in the meantime “we [US] need to develop our relationship with Pakistan beyond its current transactional nature to a long-term strategic partnership. We should begin with $1.5 billion per year in economic assistance that is unconditional and supplement that with military assistance that is conditioned on the modernization of its command structure and active action in the field to combat insurgents. It would be difficult to convince Congress to support such a plan, particularly the unconditional civilian component.”

Biden noted that with the exception of the UK and a few others, very few Europeans were taking action. Brown agreed that there was a significant terrorist as more than 30,000 Pakistanis travel back and forth to the UK each year and two-thirds of the terrorist threats that UK security forces investigate originate in Pakistan. The roots of terrorism in Pakistan are complicated and go beyond the madrassas to, in some areas, a complete societal incitement to militancy.

The Zardari-Kayani-Sharif triangle: US Vice President Biden and US Prime Minster Gordon Brown felt that Zardari’s commitment to combating terrorism was unclear, although “he always says the right things”. The only way to reduce the threat and eventually draw down NATO’s commitment to the region was by increasing the capacity of Afghan and Pakistani security services. The 2009 cable says that Biden commented that Zardari had said to him: “ISI director, and Kayani will take me out”. Brown thought this unlikely and said that Kayani did not want to be another Musharraf; rather he would give civilian leadership room to function. However, Kayani was suspicious of the Sharif brothers and Zardari.

According to leaked cables, Nawaz Sahrif has been telling the US ambassador he was “pro-American”, despite his public stance and thanked the US for “arranging” to have Kayani appointed as the Army chief. US Ambassador Anne W Patterson shot this down by saying that, “The fact that a former prime minister believes the US could control the appointment of Pakistan’s chief of army staff speaks volumes about the myth of American influence here.”

Furthermore, US and General Kayani worried that Zardari would renege on his word of pardoning Musharraf. Patterson’s view according to the cable was that “Zardari is walking tall these days, hopefully not too tall to forget his promise to Kayani and to us on an immunity deal”.

Human rights and the Pak army: Secret cables for the US Embassy in Islamabad address concerns about Pakistan security forces’ human rights abuses against terrorists in Malakand Division and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. The cable acknowledges the difficult of accuracy but reports from a variety of sources suggested that Frontier Corps and regular Pakistan Army units involved in direct combat with terrorists may have been involved:

“The crux of the problem appears to centre on the treatment of terrorists detained in battlefield operations and have focused on the extra-judicial killing of some detainees… Revenge for terrorist attacks on Pakistan Army and Frontier Corps personnel is believed to be one of the primary motivating factors for the extra-judicial killings. Cultural traditions place a strong importance on such revenge killings, which are seen as key to maintaining a unit’s honor. This fear is well-founded as both Anti-Terrorism Courts and the appellate judiciary have a poor track record of dealing with suspects detained in combat operations such as the Red Mosque operation in Islamabad and have repeatedly ordered their unconditional release.”

The cable also implicates the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Police in the abuse of terrorist suspects allegedly responsible for attacks on police stations and says that this is a separate problem from those detained by Frontier Corps and Pakistan Army units. The cable highlights areas for assistance in this regard; creation of new ordinances, reform of prison rehabilitation programs and help from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Human Rights Commission Pakistan (HRCP) and the UK government.

Washington worried about Abdul Qadeer Khan: Cables from Hillary Clinton’s office from 2008 say that the US was strongly opposed to AQ Khan’s release and would undermine the positive steps Pakistan had taken on non-proliferation. The document urged Pakistan to consider the long-term gains it could garner from the international community by continuing Dr Khan’s current status rather than the short-term domestic political gains that could result from his release.

Bin Laden and General Musharraf: Anne W Patterson in leaked documents has claimed that Pakistan had concerns that the US would desert Islamabad after they catch Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden. Thus Pakistan feels hesitant in fully cooperating with its key ally. Anne W Patterson said that the relationship between the two countries was one of co-dependency: “Pakistan knows the US cannot afford to walk away; the US knows that Pakistan cannot survive without our support”.

In a meeting held in April 2007, Musharraf told Senator John McCain that although he had no solid evidence, he believed Al Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri were in Bajaur Agency, since it was in the territory of Afghan militant leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and bordered Afghanistan’s Kunar province. He also spoke about Karzai’s frequent pronouncements about Pakistan’s failure to capture Taliban leader Mullah Omar in Quetta: “Let me tell you, Omar would be mad to be in Quetta – he has too many troops to command in southern Afghanistan to make it feasible. In fact, the only parts of Balochistan with Pakistani Taliban are Afghan refugee camps which we are planning to shut down.”

Musharraf also said that most Pashtuns in Balochistan were traders and had no reason to join the Taliban. They want roads to increase their trade, not to fight. The same could not be said for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Compiled from WikiLeaks archives. The Friday Times, 10 Dec, 2010

WikiLeaks: The Af-Pak conundrum

Nearly as many civilians have died in Afghanistan as Afghan forces.

The Friday Times, 10 Dec, 2010

The cables relating to Afghanistan reveal that beneath public assurances lie deep divisions in Islamabad on issues like Pakistan’s support for the Afghan Taliban and tolerance of Al Qaeda.

‘Stability’ top priority: Cables from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton focus on cutting off the flow of funds to terrorist organizations and achieving stability in Af-Pak as top US priorities. This is to be achieved by effective actions against terrorist fundraising in the Gulf by “Al Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT, and other Af-Pak-based violent extremist groups, all of which undermine the security of the entire international community.” In its ‘talking points’ brief to embassy in Kuwait it is said, “We emphasize the need to prevent the Taliban from using the cover of reconciliation talks to raise funds.”

The Karzai dilemma: The cable’s word on President Hamid Karzai has been far from flattering. Oman’s foreign minister says that he is “losing confidence” in him. A British diplomat says Britain feels “deep frustration” with him, while an Australian official complains that he “ignores reality.” A diplomat from the United Arab Emirates says Afghanistan would be better off without him. NATO’s secretary general speculates that he has a split personality.

Lt Gen Karl W Eikenberry, the American ambassador to Afghanistan in April 2009, was blunt about his criticisms in a July 2009 cable. “It remains to be seen whether Karzai can or will refrain from this ‘blame America’ tactic he uses to deflect criticism of his administration,” he wrote. “Indeed, his inability to grasp the most rudimentary principles of state-building and his deep seated insecurity as a leader combine to make any admission of fault unlikely, confounding our best efforts to find in Karzai a responsible partner.”

An August 2009 report from Kabul complained that Karzai and his attorney general “allowed dangerous individuals to go free or re-enter the battlefield without ever facing an Afghan court.” The embassy was particularly concerned that Mr. Karzai pardoned five border police officers caught with 124 kilograms of heroin and intervened in a drug case involving the son of a wealthy supporter.

Saudi financing: An action request cable from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2009 asserts that Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for Al Qaeda, the Taliban, LeT, and other terrorist groups including Hamas. Riyadh has taken only limited action to disrupt fundraising for the listed Taliban and LeT-groups aligned with Al Qaeda and focused on undermining stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“Saudi Arabia has enacted important reforms to criminalize terrorist financing and restrict the overseas flow of funds from Saudi-based charities. However, these restrictions fail to include multilateral organizations such as the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), Muslim World League (MWL) and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY.) Intelligence suggests that these groups continue to send money overseas and, at times, fund extremism overseas. In 2002, the Saudi government promised to set up a Charities Committee that would address this issue, but has yet to do so.”

 

 

Propaganda Sunday

More  on propaganda art…

As opposed to more “inspiring” and nationalistic attempts at garnering support for the Soviet cause (like the one on the side about “A Mighty Sports Power”) this poster aims at being simple and therefore effective.

Other posters are usually in Russian but this one in English obviously aims at a more international audience. The Soviet Union wanted to promote a positive image of itself throughout the early 1970s against a backdrop of the Vietnam War and a highly volatile relationship with the USA.

Propaganda Sunday

Long being in love with the artwork of vintage propaganda posters, I wrote and article on them for the Friday Times. But here’s an interesting one from America.

US WW2 Poster
Artist: Glenn Grothe
Year: 1942
The poster was a part of the “Loose lips may sink ships” campaign, reflecting the paranoia of the Americans that German spies could be among them. People were encouraged to not talk to strangers, and keep to themselves in crowds. The person watching in the picture wears a German soldier’s helmet. German spies were put ashore along parts of Florida’s east coast and northern states coastlines to infiltrate US businesses and military. There are numerous papers on the sighting of German U-boats just off US coastlines from Florida to Maine during WW2. US Merchant Marines engaged a number of these subs just off American shores even sinking some.

British school international political economy (BS IPE?)

The British school of international political economy is where I have been “trained”. Why does this matter? Well I didn’t think it when I applied for my course, it seemed like a good degree to do after studying economics. Here’s my two cents for those of you asking what is wrong with me.

There are some things missing at the “British School” style of IPE education, that I realize now that my formal education is kinda over.

A) The acute focus on theory; theory that is itself “Brit-school”. This includes a lot of focus on epistemology and ontology, liberal trade theory as it applied to Europe, “Marxist” theory of the critical branch coming from Robert Cox from Canada and people like Rosenberg and Linklater in UK.

B) There is a lack of focus on methods, including statistics and economics. Thus data analysis takes a back seat.

C) Teaching isn’t as rigorous as I wanted it to be. What they called teaching, I called guidance to the right book in the library.

On the plus side, usually British teachers (in the politics field at least) are very open, and responsive.

British school IPE though good as a social science subject is probably good for politics, a little bit of media, and maybe even something like working for the European Commission or the UN (if you are white or extremely lucky). If you don’t want to cause a socialist revolution, want to do formal research, be able to rigorously handle numbers and get a good job in the underdeveloped country with massive figures of poverty get thyself to the US. Or just stick with the economists.

Look here if you’re interested:

Brit vs American IPE: http://ipeatups.blogspot.com/2007/01/british-versus-american-ipe.html

Old and New IPE-Keohane: http://pdfserve.informaworld.com/218504__909094975.pdf

Paranoid Press

A Pakistani editor elaborates on how to handle the situation, and says that at the very least “shouldn’t the Pakistan government suspend cooperation with the US, at least temporarily?” The stopping of NATO supplies and “the downing of a drone” will send a clear message

Saadia Gardezi

No one really knows why Faisal Shahzad decided to try to drive a car, containing alarm clocks connected to fireworks and petrol tanks, into Times Square? The Pakistani press is getting a lot of mileage out of this one; every TV anchor has his conspiracy theory dialogue rehearsed. The facts are strange, and the audience is emotional and attentive; nothing better than that to start off with that ambrosial phrase, “You know what I think…”

This time, it’s not the Taliban. The TTP has claimed that the groups have fighters on American soil who are poised to attack, but deny responsibility for the fizzled car bomb in Times Square. Pakistani military spokesman Gen. Athar Abbas, on May 5, questioned the ability of the group to reach US soil. “Anybody can claim anything,” he said.

It’s not his failed attempt that has shocked the world; it was who he was that has surprised us all. The script of our media on terrorist activities linked to outfits like the TTP is well rehearsed, but Faisal’s profile does not fit plots that we have seen before. This may have added to the media concocting speculative theories about why he did it, and who was behind it.
Continue reading Paranoid Press