Saturday, May 14, 2011
The operation against Osama bin Laden was more than just a military raid. It was also an opportunity to attack bin Laden's image and ideology.
The war on al-Qaida is in part a propaganda struggle, fought with the aim of changing attitudes in the Muslim world.
Finding and killing bin Laden was not enough. Almost as important was what came afterward: the work of telling the story of the operation in such a way as to advance U.S. interests.
The Bin Laden Narrative
In the time since bin Laden was killed, each day has brought a little more news about the operation. This week, we learned that a bin Laden diary found in his house showed he had differences with his followers over what targets should be hit. And U.S. officials anonymously told Reuters that pornography was found in bin Laden's compound.
Were those details leaked by U.S. officials anxious to discredit bin Laden's al-Qaida movement in the Muslim world? If so, it would be an example of what's called strategic communication — putting out news that furthers your cause.
"Strategic communication is a huge part of the bin Laden killing. Taking advantage of that, getting the message out, framing it in the right way to get some benefit from it," says Christopher Paul of the RAND Corporation.
If before his death bin Laden had lost some control over his followers, the al-Qaida movement could be in real turmoil now. Michael Doran, who served as the Pentagon's strategic communications specialist under President Bush, says he'd be emphasizing that point if he were still in his old job.
"There's one main message that you want to hammer home at every opportunity, and that's basically: al-Qaida is on the ropes, the organization is going down," Doran says.
The White House has in fact been making that point.
Paul, who studies strategic communication efforts, says administration officials have generally risen to the strategic occasion in talking about bin Laden's death.
"They got a solid B or B+. They planned ahead. They did a lot of things right. They grappled with some hard issues, and there were a few things that didn't go perfectly," Paul says.
The most notable faux pas was on the day after the bin Laden raid, when White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan suggested that bin Laden, the jihadi hero, resided in a mansion and used a woman as a shield when Navy SEALs came after him.
"Here is bin Laden, living in this million-dollar-plus compound in an area that is far removed from the front, hiding behind women who were put in front of him as a shield. I think it really just speaks to just how false his narrative has been over the years," Brennan said.
U.S. officials later corrected their own narrative, saying bin Laden did not use a woman as a human shield. They did later put out a video of bin Laden sitting on his floor, wrapped in a blanket, watching himself on television, The idea there may have been to portray him as vain and obsessed with his own image. But some pious Muslims may actually have seen him as appearing humble, and Doran points out that bin Laden's residence appeared a bit shabby.
"It didn't look like a mansion. The pictures of him, the video of him in front of the television, didn't look like he was living in luxury. If you're inclined to follow bin Laden and to respect him, I don't think anything you saw there is going to make you not respect him," Doran says.
Managing The Message
When government spokesmen exaggerate in their eagerness to score a propaganda point, their credibility suffers.
Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communication, says the Obama administration knows that, and he points out that any administration misstatements about the bin Laden raid were quickly corrected.
"What was important in those initial days was getting the facts out and then insofar as they needed to be corrected, very forthrightly and immediately coming forward and saying, 'We've learned additional information. Here's what we understand the facts to be,'" Rhodes says.
Propaganda and spin are generally seen as efforts to manipulate or even deceive people. But in this media age, there is little disputing the notion that any organization — from al-Qaida to the U.S. presidency — needs to have a message and put it out clearly. Rhodes says a strategic communications goal of the Obama administration has long been to challenge the al-Qaida argument that the United States is at war with Islam or the Muslim world.
"Around his death, I think we saw it as an important opportunity to say Osama bin Laden in many ways had already become irrelevant in parts of the region," Rhodes says. "His narrative of violent resistance and violent change had actually been eclipsed by the peaceful protests that we see in many parts of the Arab world."
And that strategic message is one we'll likely hear next week, when President Obama makes a speech about recent developments in the Middle East.
Friday, May 13, 2011
The pledge early in her marriage to the terror leader, recounted by her family, reflected the determination of Amal Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada, now 29, to rise above her divorced mother's social standing.
It came, they said, before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and the decade-long manhunt that ended May 2 when U.S. commandos killed the al-Qaida leader in a raid on his compound in Pakistan.
Amal al-Sada was shot in the leg as she rushed the Navy SEALs, according to U.S. officials. She is now in Pakistani custody, along with her daughter and two other bin Laden wives, according to Pakistani officials, who say they eventually will be repatriated.
Amal al-Sada's family told The Associated Press that they saw her only once after her marriage in late 1999 to the al-Qaida leader — during a monthlong visit to Afghanistan the following year. Communication was largely limited to messages delivered by couriers.
The interviews with the AP took place in the family's apartment in a two-story structure made of white, black and red rocks in Ibb, an agricultural town nestled in the mountains about 100 miles south of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa. Shops occupy the ground floor.
The family portrayed Amal al-Sada as a simple but determined and "courageous" young woman, religiously conservative but not fundamentalist. She was a high school dropout but was eager for knowledge and to realize something more than their modest life seemed to offer.
Amal al-Sada always told her friends and family that she wanted to "go down in history," recalled her cousin, Waleed Hashem Abdel-Fatah al-Sada.
'It's your future'
The door for fame opened in 1999 when her older sister's husband arrived at her uncle's home with a proposal. A Saudi named Osama bin Laden was looking for a bride.
Joining Dr. Mohammed Ghalib al-Baany — her sister Farah's husband — was a man named Rashad Mohammed Saeed, also known as Abu al-Fedaa. They were both friends of bin Laden, the family said.
Her uncle, Hashem al-Sada, recalled telling Amal al-Sada that he knew bin Laden was from a "devout and respectable family" in Saudi Arabia but didn't know them personally. He told the AP that he wasn't aware bin Laden "was wanted by the Americans" for the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
"The choice is yours," the uncle said he told her. "It's your future."
He said his niece's response was direct: "This is destiny from God, and I accept it."
That she hadn't met bin Laden, whose family was of Yemeni origin, was of little concern. Most marriages in Yemen are conducted either through intermediaries or through the selection of the prospective spouse through a picture.
This marriage was no different.
Weeks after the proposal, the uncle signed the marriage contract as her guardian and Abu al-Fedaa signed on behalf of bin Laden. The al-Qaida leader arranged for $5,000 to be paid to the bride's family, according to Yemeni traditions.
After two wedding parties, including one in a Sanaa hotel, Amal al-Sada left Yemen. Accompanied by Abu al-Fedaa, she flew to Dubai and then to Pakistan, before making the trip to Afghanistan to meet her bridegroom.
Her father, Ahmed Abdel-Fatah al-Sada, said they later learned through a courier that she had given birth to a daughter named Safiya.
Amal's new life
Members of the family then went to Afghanistan to visit Amal al-Sada and the baby. Although they said the visit took place before the 9/11 attacks, this would be no easy trip.
They spent more than 20 days in a hotel in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, under the watchful gaze of fighters loyal to bin Laden, according to the father. Among them were two men who had been on the same flight from Yemen.
One night, he said, a car took them to the Afghan border. Then came a six- or seven-hour ride in another vehicle until they reached a large tent guarded by mujahedeen. Inside the tent was an opening to an underground passageway. They walked in the passageway for about 30 minutes before emerging on the other side. Then another vehicle took them to bin Laden's cave, according to his account.
The father said he was greeted by his daughter. The following morning bin Laden arrived along with other al-Qaida leaders and Afghan tribal officials. There was a celebration honoring the Yemeni family's arrival, complete with a 21-gun salute and a lavish lunch attended by dozens of people.
Bin Laden was a "kind and noble" man, the father recalled. He described the al-Qaida leader as "easygoing and modest, giving you the feeling that he was sincere."
The father recalled bin Laden apologizing for the family's delay in Pakistan, saying it was a security matter out of his control.
On the final day of the visit, the cousin recalled bin Laden telling his two wives — the other one at the time was from Syria — that they could either stay with him in Afghanistan or return to their home countries.
He said Amal al-Sada quickly put the matter to rest.
"I want to be martyred with you and I won't leave as long as you're alive," he recalls her saying. Even when bin Laden told them that he was "subject at any moment to death," Amal al-Sada cut him short. "I've made my decision," she said.
Amal al-Sada's cousin recalled her describing bin Laden as a "noble" man who treated her well.
"'It's true that my life is one of moving between caves in Afghanistan, but despite the bitterness of this life ... I'm comfortable with Osama," she apparently told her father.
'Osama bin Laden did it'
Bin Laden is believed to have spent most of his time during this period in a house in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar but was known to have visited al-Qaida training camps in remote areas. He went into hiding after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Amal al-Sada's uncle said the terror leader complained about Arab leaders, particularly Sudanese President Oman al-Bashir, who he said "sold him for nothing," a reference to bin Laden being forced to leave Sudan for Afghanistan in 1996.
According to the uncle, bin Laden said he was the focus of several "assassination" attempts by Arab and U.S. intelligence services, including airstrikes, and that one mosque in which he was delivering a sermon was struck by a cruise missile.
"I was injured ... and a lot of people were killed," bin Laden reportedly said. "But I was spared from death because God wished it."
In August 1998 the U.S. fired cruise missiles at four militant training camps in Afghanistan in retaliation for the bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Bin Laden was believed to have been at one of the camps but left a few hours before the attack.
The cousin said bin Laden told the family during their visit to Afghanistan "of a big event that will occur in the world."
Later, when the cousin and Amal al-Sada's father were listening to news of the 9/11 attacks, the father said: "Osama bin Laden did it."
Thursday, May 12, 2011
According to this law, practising Islam in your house, i.e. in isolation is fine, but when a Muslim starts practising Islam with partners or in a group, then they are forming a "Sharia Organisation"
“Sharia organization” means any two (2) or more persons conspiring to support of acting in convert in support of, Sharia or in furtherance of the imposition of sharia…So that means, Muslims can no longer pray in congregation in a Mosque. Well, first of all Muslims can no longer form a Mosque, or a charitable organisation, or any other organisation, as such a formation will go against the law, which confines Islam to the solitude of a house. This also means Muslims can no longer marry based on Islamic Sharia, as such a marriage would be in direct violation of the new law.
...Any rule, precept, instruction, or edict arising directly from the extant rulings of any of the authoritative schools of Islamic jurisprudence of Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanbali, Ja’afariya, or Salafi, as those terms are used by sharia adherents, is prima facie sharia without any further evidentiary showing.That means, adhering to any School of thought is illegal.
...Any person who knowingly provides material support or resources to a designated sharia organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall commit an offense.Violation of this law is:
...punishable by fine, imprisonment of not less than fifteen (15) years or both.However, if the support causes a death, the sentence becomes:
...imprisonment for life or imprisonment for life without possibility of parole.If this is not a War on Islam, then what is?
Way to go America.
Cross posted from al hittin
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
By THOMAS MOUNTAIN
As the UN famine warning center issues urgent reports that millions of Ethiopians are once again starving in the Somali populated Ogaden the International Committee of the Red Cross publishes a statement that the Ethiopian government has denied the Red Cross an operating permit to carry out relief work in the region. Blocking the Red Cross from relief work somewhere is almost unheard of yet when it comes to Ethiopia, headed by the G-20 "statesman" Meles Zenawi, this is business as usual.
For the past four years all aid agencies, including the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders and UN relief agencies have been blocked by the Ethiopian military from feeding starving people in Ogadenia. Millions of starving people, maybe as many as 6 million, though no can can say for sure because...no one is allowed into the region.
Why is this? Why is there no outcry against this enormous crime against humanity, the blocking of food aid to millions of starving people?
The answer lies at the doorstep of those "humanitarian interventionists", the western countries and their puppets in the U.N. who pump billions of dollars a year into propping up the Meles Zenawi regime in Ethiopia. Ethiopia has for several years now surpassed Egypt as the largest recipient of cash from the west in the entire continent of Africa. While the exact amount is hidden deep inside the opaque reports gathering dust in the offices of the international financial cartels, the IMF reported that in 2010 Ethiopia's import bill was $8.7 billion while it exported only $1.7 billion. $7 billion a year, in direct cash grants, loans that are inevitably forgiven (the bulk of so called African debt relief) or various methods involving financial chicanery, the bill has to be paid or the west knows all to well how quickly their East African henchman Meles Zenawi's followers will abandon him. If Meles Zenawi goes, who will be the western enforcer in East Africa, the one who does the dirty work so the west can show the world how clean its hands really are?
Drought, famine and an increasingly brutal counterinsurgency carried out by the Ethiopian military, the largest in Africa, the people of the Ogaden are forgotten by the world, thanks in no small part to the western media as well as the "human rights" corporations. In one moment of desperation I sent an e-mail about this to a reporter for the L.A. Times based in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa , only to receive a reply that they could not cover this matter due to "access and logistic difficulties". At least they cant say they didn't know.
Yet in all this darkness there is light, for the people of Ogadenia have been increasingly effective in armed self defense, and have begun to go on the offensive against the Ethiopian military and their local paramilitary death squads. Still, it remains far beyond the means of the several thousand fighters in the Ogaden National Liberation Front to feed millions of their people, all the while fighting some very desperate battles against their western armed and funded enemies in the Ethiopian military.
The Horn of Africa has been one of, if not the most, war and starvation plagued regions in the world, and these ongoing calamities can all be traced back to the western overlords footing the bill.
The west, especially the Obama White House may pretend ignorance of this crime, but the fact remains that a senior Obama advisor, Gayle Smith, in her pre-Obama opposition to George Bush day job at the so called Enough Project wrote about this back in 2007 and 2008.
So the powers that be know, all to well, that they are directly responsible for the forced starvation of millions, but don't expect any action from them. The mandate of the leaders of the western "democracies" is not to save lives, far from it, it is to protect their empire. So what does it matter if their capos in East Africa cause hundreds of thousands, maybe a million people to die of starvation?
International Law is really the Law of the Jungle, where only the strong survive, and the long suffering people of the Ethiopian Ogaden are the latest victims. The people of the the Ogaden have little choice but to fight for their lives, at least until the gangster, genocidal regime of Meles Zenawi is sent packing, with Meles fleeing to his palace in London and his ill gotten billions. Until then don't expect anything better than crocodile tears from the "humanitarian interventionists" in the west.
Thomas C. Mountain lives in Asmara, Eritrea. He can be reached at: thomascmountain at yahoo dot com
It’s hard to speak of hope, agency, and autonomy when our past, present, and future are clearly defined. Modernity, a Euro-centric teleological project seemingly has it all sorted out. Our past is limited to our colonial legacy, our present a despicable state of half-breed attempt at modernization, and our future a bright liberal and democratic state. A colonial ploy, trapping Muslims within a sort of historical determinism, or fixed uni-linear progression.
Paradigm Paralysis, in our Bayat’s case also manifests its self in his inability to think outside certain hegemonic constructs. Amongst them, the nation-state. Few realize, and take for granted that the Secular, and/or Democratic state is inextricable to the totalizing, and monopolizing nation-state. one must suggest that in an age in which European nations are drawing a common narratives and incrementally diluting its inter-state borders, consolidating our own national borders in the Muslim world is a regressive idea, not to mention strategically absurd. In speaking of the fate of minorities, he forgets that the majority/minority dilemma is a rotten fruit of the identity-forming nation-state.
Talal Asad, points out in his Formations of the Secular the way through which Modernity and the Western Liberal Paradigm provide a distinct and value-laden discursive framework through which religions is conceptualized and reconfigured. Totally ignoring the inner-dynamics and modernizing mechanisms in Islam – Bayat assumes the inability of Islam to meet the modern demands and requirements of society. The comprehensive Islamic Paradigm corresponding to Islam’s holistic and all-inclusive worldview and ontological foundations explicitly lays out political principles which determine the very legitimacy and authority of the executive in Islamic Political System, amongst them: Shura (consultation), Bay’ah (must incur allegiance of people, freely), and accountability (not only a right, but a religious obligation upon the community). Which of these, would Bayat find “not modernizing”?
And lastly, his assumption regarding the inevitable secularization of religion in governance is loaded with assumptions and preconceptions inherent to a Judeo-Christian conception of religion. Ignoring, that in Islam governance and acts related to ones “worldly-affairs” are not only religious acts, but acts of worship. As a matter of fact, the very notion, and Secular/Sacred binary never has, and never will exist in Islam. Asef Bayat’s secular, for Muslims, is not so sacred after all.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Do we have to be willing to kill a lot of civilians?
A lot of people would argue that by killing civilians, you create yet another tool for recruitment.