ISRAELI HIGH COURT RETURNS PALESTINIAN LANDS?

Don’t Believe the Hype!

by David Bloom, WW4 REPORT

Despite over a thousand nonviolent protests, international media attention, worldwide condemnation, a decision by the International Court of Justice at The Hague declaring Israel’s “Separation Wall” illegal where it is built inside the occupied West Bank, and over 120 petitions to the Israeli courts, Israel’s High Court has issued only five decisions supporting changes in the wall’s route. As a result, only a small percentage of Palestinian land has been “returned” to the eastern side of the barrier. The wall still encloses 11.9% of the West Bank’s land, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.

A review of the decisions shows that even in the few cases where the High Court decided in favor of Palestinians, the benefits to the villages have been minimal. In one case, around the settlement of Alfe Menashe in the northern West Bank, the court’s decision actually made the situation worse for some of the villagers.

Lower courts have also heard cases. Sheikh Sa’ed, a neighborhood in the village of Sawahra, East Jerusalem, had the wall moved to the neighborhood’s eastern flank by the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court last year. This cut the neighborhood off from the rest of the West Bank, instead of Sawahra and East Jerusalem. This was an improvement for the village, but it is still negatively impacted through separation from the West Bank.

As of Oct 1 2007, the Israeli courts have heard over 120 Palestinian complaints against the wall, 89% of which runs through Palestinian territory inside the West Bank. In an Aug. 6 article, the fence’s main architect, Col. Danny Tirza—a settler—told the Washington Post that he lost only three of those challenges. As of Jan. 3, 2007 the Defense Ministry reported that 39 petitions against the barrier had still to be decided.

In a widely publicized ruling, on Sept. 4, the town of Bil’in won a case at the High Court to have the barrier moved, saving 500 acres of its farmland which had been isolated from the rest of the village by the wall. But the very next day, in a separate ruling that received little media attention, the court ruled that Matityahu East, a large, new settlement outpost being built within the wall on part of Bil’in’s land, could stay. So while the publicized decision returned lands to Bil’in, the quiet one upheld an illegal grab of other, more outlying village lands.

Israeli anti-wall activist Nir Shalev says the court “laundered” Mattiyahu East with its ruling. According to correspondent Akiva Eldar of the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, the court couldn’t countenance dispossessing all the settlers living in Matitatyu East — despite the fact that it was built illegally according to Israel’s own laws.

Mohammed Khatib, a leader of Bil’in’s non-violent resistance movement, wrote on Alternet Sept. 26, “In Bil’in we celebrated, along with our Israeli and international supporters. But Israel’s Supreme Court demonstrated both the power of nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation, and its limits. On September 5 the court rejected our petition to stop the construction of another Israeli settlement, Mattiyahu East, on our land even further to the west. Israel, with US support, appears determined to retain major West Bank settlement blocs, including one west of Bil’in, that carve the West Bank into bantustans.”

The court’s bait-and-switch tendency demonstrated with the two Bil’in decisions is not new. Indeed it has been in evidence since its first rulings on the wall’s path.

On June 30, 2004, one week before the International Court of Justice in The Hague was to give its ruling declaring the barrier route illegal, the Israeli High Court ruled the route in Beit Surik was disproportionately harmful to the village. The ruling appeared timed to blunt the impact of the Hague court’s, and at the time drew some praise.

However, Muhammed Khaled, the former mayor of Beit Surik, in a Deccember 2005 article on the website Stop the Wall, wrote: “But the Occupation court decision was worth nothing and made things even worse.” The wall’s location in Beit Surik was moved, but it still effectively surrounds the village on all sides, which is penned in additionally by a settler-only road. And Khaled writes that the Israeli army retaliated against those who had brought the petition: “Right after the court decision, they started uprooting my land for the Wall’s new path. My land is situated in the middle of its path—the only reason why they started from the middle was to retaliate against me and to intimidate whoever else wants to resist the Occupation. My land was planted with olive and almond trees as well as grapes. I carried the resolution and went to the soldiers who were working there in order to stop the uprooting of my trees. In response, they beat me very badly and then they arrested me.”

The Israeli state twice simply ignored the High Court’s order to dismantle a 41-kilometer section south of Hebron, along Route 317, affecting the villages of At-Tuwani and Yatta. The court first ordered the barrier removed in six months, in a 2006 ruling. According to a March 8, 2007 article in the Isreali daily Yediot Aharonot, Chief Justice Dorit Beinish noted: “The State…despite the court order, intends to keep the existing barrier… [T]he State chose not to comply with a court order…” As of July 24, 2007 it still had not been moved, according to Ha’aretz. The state was then given fourteen days to dismantle it, and according to Christian Peacemaker teams, it was finally dismantled on Aug. 7. A Palestinian leader of the non-violent movement in the area told CPT, “The IDF routinely disregards Israeli court decisions. We believe what happened is a success for the people’s nonviolent resistance. This is a very important step.”

On Sept. 15, 2005, the High Court ordered part of the fence dismantled where it enclosed five villages, Arab a-Ramadan, Arab Abu Farde, Wadi a-Rasha, Ja’arat a-Dara and Hirbet Ras a-Tira, with a collective 2,000 residents, inside the barrier with the settlement Alfe Menashe, just south of Qalqilya. At the time, the decision was hailed as a significant, precedent-setting victory. The villagers’ lawyer, Michael Sfard, declared, “The High Court has saved five Palestinian villages from utter annihilation, because if the fence had been left in place, they would not have been able to continue to exist”

But on July 31, 2007, the court changed its decision, leaving Arab a-Ramadan and Arab Abu-Farde trapped inside the barrier along with the settlement, according to the Jerusalem Post. These two villages, with a total population of 400, said they would be worse off with the re-routing of the wall, because they are now cut off from the other three villages and the city of Qalqilya. But the court rejected their petition.

Reached for comment, attorney Michael Sfard said, “Naturally, I am disappointed. The second decision strips the first of most of its humanitarian concerns and achievements.”

A Dec. 18 2003 report by the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign of the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network (PENGON) had warned, “The completion of the Wall and its ghettoization of Arab Ramadin are turning a community of shepherds into exploited workers for Israeli settlement industrial zones, as they are unable to sustain their lives.”

The Association of Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), which brought the petition on behalf of the five villages, said in a press release Dec. 26, 2006: “Moreover, the solution being formulated by the military authorities regarding the two villages that were not removed from the enclave (Abu-Farde and Arab a-Ramadan) is a shameless one that is based on population transfer. Although this transfer has been presented as ‘voluntary’ and ‘consensual,’ in fact the villages are being pressurized into accepting a process of immoral and illegal transfer of protected persons from their land.”

ACRI added, “The proposed route will also result directly in the destruction of 1,400 acres of cultivated land, and will cause a great deal of damage, indirectly, to large tracts of land. This is in addition to the destruction of some 2,000 acres of agricultural land that is required for the construction of this section of the barrier. The ‘amended” route of the Barrier places it in extremely close proximity to the homes of the residents, something that has already been proven to pose a real danger to their lives by a number of cases in the past in which villagers were shot and killed. Any movement close to the Barrier, which is almost on top of their homes, arouses the suspicion of the soldiers and others guarding the Barrier. In some cases this has resulted in the security forces opening fire.”

Across the valley from Alfe Menashe, to the north of Qalqilya, the villages of Azzon and Nabi Elias south of the settlement of Zufim also brought petitions against the barrier. The first, in 2002, was turned down by the court. A second, in June of 2006 succeeded, though it has yet to be implemented, Ynet reported last year. A ten kilometer section was ordered moved, to return more than 250 acres to the villages, within six months. The reason the first petition failed, according to Meron Rapaport in Ha’aretz, was that fence designer Col. Danny Tirza, in a 2002 affidavit defending the route, did not mention that the route of the fence was planned for the sake of building an industrial zone, expanding Zufim further onto privately held village lands. Tirza claimed only security considerations were involved.

Justice Aharon Barak appeared shocked by Tirza’s lack of candor, writing in his decision that “a grave phenomenon has been revealed in this petition. The High Court was not presented with the entire picture in the first petition. The court rejected the appeal based on partial information.” B’Tselem was more blunt: “The High Court of Justice in fact ruled that the State lied when it claimed that the fence route is only based on security considerations.”

Tirza’s failure to mention the industrial zone led Israeli Attorney General Menachem Mazuz to tell the then-Defense Minister Amir Peretz that this was “a severe gaffe that must not be tolerated.” Yet in spite of being ordered by Peretz to desist from appearing before the court representing the Defense Ministry, Tirza continued to do so. On March 3, 2006, Palestinians petitioned to have Tirza dismissed, arguing that as a settler, he has a conflict of interest in designing the fence route.

On the northern side of Zufim are the villages of Jayyous and Falamya. On Oct. 30, 2006, according to Jayyous farmer Shareef Khaled Omar, the Israeli courts issued a recommendation to move the barrier on Jayyous’ lands. Khaled said, “the army told our advocate that they would move the path of the wall to release 1,500 of the 8,600 dunums [375 of 2,140 acres] currently isolated from the village by the wall. This does not make us feel glad. The new path of the wall may even fall within the 1,500 dunums that they will release. We would like them to move the wall to the Green Line.”

Two other routes suggested by the army are also seen as inadequate, and the villages’ lawyer is insisting on the Green Line as the only alternative route. Omar points out that on the Green Line adjacent to Jayyous, “there are two fences, one electric, the other razor-wire, that will never allow a cat or a dog to pass through. So, if it is a matter of security, those two fences are sufficient and it is not necessary to build others six kilometers to the east of the Green Line in Jayyous land!”

In July 2006, on the second anniversary of The Hague ruling that the barrier had to be dismantled, the Israeli government approved a revised route for the barrier that had only “marginal overall effect” in reducing harm to the Palestinians’ fabric of life. The new route was actually thirty kilometers longer than the old route, and only one-half of one percent of the total area in the West Bank was removed from the “seam zone,” as Israel calls the area between the barrier and the Green Line. Four Palestinian villages, totaling 2,300 residents—were placed back on the Palestinian side, but at the same time another village of 900 was placed inside the “seam zone.” The human rights organization Bimkom reported that “some 250,000 Palestinians will be trapped in enclaves either on the ‘Israeli’ side of the security barrier or almost completely surrounded by concrete walls or fences inside the West Bank.”

Tel Aviv University psychologist Carlo Stenger writing in Ha’aretz on Sept. 25, warned that Israel is “On the way to [becoming] a pariah state… Behaving in a manner befitting the standards of the Western world is far more important for Israel’s long-term survival than gaining a few square miles here and there, by building the security wall through Palestinian territories, tearing apart villages, homes and schools, and expanding settlements. Every such act is not just a moral outrage; it pushes Israel one step closer to being disqualified from belonging to the West.”

——

See also:

ANATOMY OF THE WEST BANK “REALIGNMENT”
Strategic Pull-Back to Perpetuate Occupation
by David Bloom, WW4 REPORT, June 2006
/node/2023

RESOURCES:

Israel’s Security Fence, Ministry of Defense
http://www.securityfence.mod.gov.il/Pages/ENG/news.htm#news49

Col. Danny Tirza boast to Washington Post, Aug. 7, 2007
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/06/AR2007080601661.html

B’tselem on the Sheikh Sa’ed decision, Occupation Magazine, March 21, 2006
http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=12804

Nir Shalev on the Bi’lin decision, Occupation Magazine, Sept. 5, 2007
http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=22172

Mohammed Khatib on the Bil’in decision, Alternet, Sept. 26
http://www.alternet.org/audits/63640/

Muhammad Khaled on the Beit Surik decision, Stop the Wall, Dec. 20, 2005
http://stopthewall.org/communityvoices/1064.shtml

Yediot Aharonot on the Route 317 decision, March 8, 2007
http://www.peace-security-council.org/news.events.asp?id=638

Christian Peacemaker Teams on the dismantling of Route 317, Aug. 20, 2007
http://www.cpt.org/archives/2007/aug07/0020.html

Michael Sfard on Arab a-Ramadan, et al, The New Standard, Sept. 16, 2005
http://newstandardnews.net/content/index.cfm/items/2370

Jerusalem Post on Arab a-Ramadan, et al, Aug. 31, 2007
http://www.peace-security-council.org/news.events.asp?id=656

Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) on Arab a-Ramadan, et al, Dec. 26, 2006
http://www.acri.org.il/english-acri/engine/story.asp?id=348

YNet on Azzoun and Nabi Elias decisions, June 15, 2006
http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3263267,00.html

Meron Rapaport on Azzoun and Nabi Elias decisions, Ha’aretz, June 25, 2006
http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=14709

Amira Hass on Col. Danny Tirza, Ha’aretz, March 3, 2006
http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=12441

More from Ha’aretz on Col. Danny Tirza, Aug. 24, 2006
http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=15934

Bimkom on the enclosure of 250,000 Palestinians, Jerusalem Post, Jan. 22, 2007
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1167467790412&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FPrinter

Carlo Stenger on Israel as “pariah state,” Ha’aretz, Sept. 25, 2007
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/906924.html

——————-

Special to WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingISRAELI HIGH COURT RETURNS PALESTINIAN LANDS? 

Issue #. 138. October 2007

Electronic Journal & Daily Weblog ISRAELI HIGH COURT RETURNS PALESTINIAN LANDS? Don’t Believe the Hype! by David Bloom, WW4 REPORT BOOTS, BEARDS, BURQAS, BOMBS The Politics of Militarism and Islamist Extremism in Pakistan by Beena Sarwar, Himal Southasian, Kathmandu DESTINATION… Read moreIssue #. 138. October 2007

PIRATES OF THE MEDITERRANEAN

America’s First War on Islamic Terrorism

by Bill Weinberg, Middle East Policy

Book Review:

VICTORY IN TRIPOLI
How America’s War with the Barbary Pirates Established the US Navy and Built a Nation
by Joshua E. London
John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken, NJ, 2005

JEFFERSON’S WAR
America’s First War on Terror, 1801-1805
by Joseph Wheelan
Carroll & Graf, New York, 2003 (paperback edition 2004)

Few Americans today know much about the Tripoli crisis of 1801-5, aside from a vague sense of the origins of the line “to the shores of Tripoli” in the Marine Corps hymn. But it is actually surprising that the affair has received so little attention given both its critical role in shaping early US military and especially naval power, and its startling parallels to the “war on (Islamic) terrorism” that would be launched precisely two centuries later.

These points are certainly not lost on Joseph Wheelan and Joshua London, authors of two post-9-11 histories of the Tripoli affair. Both books are competent histories, with an emphasis on the military side of things. But both strike a triumphalist tone that borders on the embarrassing. Neither is subtle about contemporary analogies.

Most Americans are aware that US citizens were held hostage by Islamic militants when Ronald Reagan took the oath of office in 1981. Few are aware this was also the case when George Washington took the oath in 1789. While the seamen being held on North Africa’s Barbary Coast did not occupy the center of the US political stage as the 1980 hostage crisis would, how to resolve the dilemma was an issue of the day, and an early dividing line between the Federalists, who favored military force, and the Democratic-Republicans who were suspicious of any such solution. (This divide was the seed of the contemporary two-party system; with a few twists and turns, the Federalists would ultimately emerge as today’s Republicans, and the Democratic-Republicans as the Democrats.)

But the situation played out in a paradoxical way. It was the Democratic-Republican, perceived anti-militarist Thomas Jefferson who, within days of taking office in 1801, ordered a squadron of warships to the Mediterranean, without any Congressional or public debate. The popular shorthand for the depredations of the Barbary corsairs at the time was “the Terror”; Wheelan makes the point clearer by calling it “state sponsored-terrorism,” and the payment of ransom in the form of tribute to the Barbary states “arms for hostages deals.” Both writers extol Jefferson as a hardliner who would take no more of this humiliation

The Barbary states consisted of Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli (contemporary Libya), all officially tributaries of the Ottoman empire but in fact basically autonomous; and the independent sultanate of Morocco. All maintained fleets of corsairs, and impounded the ships, goods and crews of any nation that did not pay them tribute. The crisis with the US began just over a year after the War of Independence had ended—in October of 1784, when the merchant ship Betsey was seized with its crew by Moroccan corsairs off the Spanish coast; nine months later the ships Dauphin and Maria were similarly taken by Algerian corsairs.

Both authors note that Morocco’s sultan Sidi Muhammed ibn Abd Allah, presumably pleased to see Europe losing its colonial holdings, expressed interest in recognizing the US as early as 1780—when the outcome of the War of Independence was by no means certain. It was the new republic’s apparent reticence to enter into a treaty with the sultanate that prompted Morocco to force the matter. Consuls were dispatched to the Barbary states, and in 1786, the US did strike a treaty with Morocco and the crew of the Betsey was released. But internecine jealousies complicated matters when the consuls attempted to negotiate treaties with the three other Barbary states.

Jefferson (then minister to France) and his Federalist friend and rival John Adams (minister to Britain) were also dispatched to London to meet with representatives of the Barbary states. After meeting with the Tripolitan ambassador, Adams wrote to Foreign Secretary John Jay that he had been told the Barbary states were “the sovereigns of the Mediterranean; and that no nation could navigate that sea without a treaty of peace with them.” Jefferson, following such a meeting, wrote that he was told “every Musselman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.” Adams lamented that “the policy of Christendom has made cowards of all their sailors before the standard of Mahomet.”

The American statesmen clearly had matters other than freeing hostages on their minds. John Jay openly saw the crisis as an opportunity to strengthen the federal government. “War alone can bring together the various States, and give a new importance to Congress,” he wrote. Jefferson held that “the liberation of our citizens” has “an intimate connection with the liberation of our commerce in the Mediterranean.”

In 1788, as Jefferson returned home to become Washington’s secretary of state, he authored a “Proposal to Use Force against the Barbary States,” which openly called for selling Muslim captives in the slave market in Malta to finance the expedition. In 1793, more US ships were captured by Algiers, and the following year Congress approved an “Act to Provide a Naval Armament”—initially consisting of six frigates, including the USS Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” which would achieve glory in the War of 1812. One Federalist congressman even warned of “Algerines off the coast of America” if the corsairs were not beaten back in the Mediterranean.

Later in 1793, however, the US consuls in Algiers struck deals in which the hostage crewmen, who had been put to hard labor, were released for cash payments. Treaties with Tunis and Tripoli also followed. But the issue did not go away, and meanwhile there was the so-called Quasi-War with France—also a largely naval affair, this one mostly in the Caribbean. In 1798, with the Federalist standard-bearer Adams then president, the Department of Navy and the Marines were created by acts of Congress.

Right on time, the Barbary situation started to heat up again. In July 1800, the US shipCatherine was captured by Tripoli, then petitioning for a better treaty. The crew was released a few months later—but on threat of war if terms were not met. Then in September, the USSGeorge Washington, on the first Mediterranean port of call by an American warship, was comandeered by Bobba Mustapha, the dey of Algiers, and ordered to sail to Constantinople to deliver a payment of Algerian tribute. Captain William Bainbridge acquiesced, under threat of having his ship destroyed by the dey’s harbor guns, taking both the tribute shipment and a large contingent of Algerians on board. Wheelan notes how Bainbridge’s crew exacted a perverse revenge: “The Americans took pleasure in tacking into the wind whenever the Moslems prostrated themselves facing east toward Mecca, as they were required to do five times a day. This forced the worshippers to change position incessantly so they always faced approximately east, toward Mecca.”

In Constantinople, Bainbridge met the Ottoman sultan, Selim III, who we are told (implausibly) had never heard of the United States before. But he noted that both the US and Ottoman flags were adorned with “heavenly bodies,” connoting to him a spiritual connection. Writes London: “To his mind, America was not a Christian nation and thus was not like the nations of Europe.”

The consul to Tunis, William Eaton, a veteran of campaigns against Indians in the Ohio Valley who would emerge as the crucial figure in the Barbary drama, was aghast at Bainbridge’s capitulation to Algerian threats: “Nothing but blood will blot out the impression… Will nothing rouse my country?” And: “There is but one language which can be held to these people, and that is terror.”

The complacency that New Englander and Federalist sympathizer Eaton decried would be broken in an unanticipated way. In the electoral upset of 1800, Jefferson was elected by the tie-breaking House of Representatives. It was the outgoing Adams who, seeing the move as inevitable under the incoming Democratic-Republican, eviscerated the nascent Navy, selling off most of its ships. But immediately upon taking office, Jefferson dispatched four warships from the depleted US fleet to the Mediterranean. Writes Wheelan: “His decision not to consult Congress established the president’s authority to unilaterally send armed forces abroad.” Historians have dubbed the Mediterranean squadron the “Nursery of the Navy.”

The move only precipitated war. The Tripolitan ruler, Pasha Yusuf Karamanli, declared hostilities in his traditional way—having his soldiers chop down the flag at the US consulate, sending consul James Cathcart packing for Italy.

A blockade was thrown up around Tripoli harbor, and Gibraltar was policed to hole up the Tripolitan corsair ship Meshuda—none other than the former Betsey which (we are never told how in either book) seems to have been transferred to Tripolitan hands. The first battle came in August, when Lt. Andrew Sterett, commanding the USS Enterprise, captured another corsair ship, the Tripoli, while on a water run to Malta.

Then, both writers bristle, almost nothing happened for two years. In 1802, Morocco briefly declared war on the US to demand the release of the Meshuda, but nothing much came of it. In June 1803, US Marines finally touched those fabled sands of Tripoli, in what Wheelan notes was “the first US amphibious landing on a hostile shore.” But the incursion was brief and failed to intimidate Yusuf Karamanli. Jefferson, growing impatient, dispatched more ships, and a new, more aggressive commander, Commodore Edward Preble.

In October 1803 came what both writers call (in identically entitled chapters) “the Philadelphiadisaster.” The frigate Philadelphia, commanded by Bainbridge, ran aground on a reef just off Tripoli’s coast. Bainbridge surrendered without a fight, and both the ship and crew were taken captive. Preble, based in Syracuse, Sicily, plotted revenge. In February 1804, he dispatched the captured Tripolitan corsair Mastico, now dubbed the Intrepid and flying under British colors as a ruse de guerre, to Tripoli—where a hidden crew of Marines revealed themselves, boarded the Philadelphia and set it aflame before escaping. It went straight down.

Preble followed up with a sea battle in Tripoli harbor in August. The Constitution shelled the city, wreaking random death and toppling a minaret. Preble threatened to “reduce Tripoly to a heap of Ruins…” But all the action is seen through the eyes of the Americas: US Naval officer James Decatur is mortally wounded while boarding a corsair ship, and his brother Stephen, the mission commander who would later gain fame in the War of 1812, exacts vengeance, taking the ship and killing the captain. In September, the explosives-laden Intrepid is sent to destroy Tripoli’s harbor defenses, but explodes prematurely, destroying only the ship and crew.

Europe was finally impressed. Lord Horatio Nelson, Britain’s hero of Trafalgar, hailed Decatur’s mission as “the most bold and daring act of this age.” Said Pope Pius VII: “The American commander, with a small force and in a short space of time, has done more for the cause of Christianity than the most powerful nations of Christendom have done for ages.”

But as things approached a climax, the decisive tactics switched from conventional warfare to intelligence intrigues. William Eaton was sent in as “Naval agent for the Barbary Regencies,” with a design to form an alliance with Hamet Karamanli, the former pasha of Tripoli who had been dethroned and exiled by his brother Yusuf in 1795. Hamet had taken refuge in Egypt—then in the throes of a chaotic four-way war among the Ottomans, British, French and the local dynasty, the Mamluks.

Eaton landed at Alexandria in November and made his way up the Nile to Cairo, where he received the blessings of the Ottoman viceroy. He established contact with Hamet, hurriedly assembled a polyglot army of Marines, Turks, Greeks and Bedouin, and began marching west across the desert into Tripolitan territory. Wheelan hails Eaton as “America’s first modern intelligence operative” and “America’s Lawrence.”

In April 1805, “General” Eaton and his ragged army succeeded in taking Derna, easternmost of the Tripolitan cities, for the first time raising the stars and stripes over foreign soil. Eaton’s program of “regime change” (as Wheelan calls it) was well underway.

And, predictably, it was undercut by the bureaucracy. Tobias Lear, the general consul for the Barbary states, opposed Eaton’s mission, but exploited the tight spot it had put Pasha Yusuf in, negotiating a deal in which the Philadelphia captives would be ransomed, but no annual tribute paid. The war was over. Sailing out of Derna, Eaton wrote that his erstwhile comrade Hamet “falls from the most flattering prospects of Kingdom to beggary!” The men who had fought for Eaton and Hamet were left to their own devices, not trusting Yusuf enough to accept his amnesty offer. While both Wheelan and London expended much ink portraying the Bedouin soldiery as an undisciplined rabble that Eaton successfully struggled to master, we are told nothing of how they fared in the expedition’s aftermath.

Eaton wrote that the deal was “more honorable than any peace obtained by any Christian nation with a Barbary regency at any period within a hundred years: but it might have been more favorable and more honorable.” We can hope that his concern was not merely with US prestige.

The new treaty with Tripoli contained a secret clause which allowed Yusuf to keep Hamet’s family, who had been seized in his coup of 1795, imprisoned for four years more, as insurance against further uprisings. Hamet was exiled to Syracuse and paid a “paltry” sum for his efforts. After much pleading, he finally prompted the US to bring pressure to have his family released to Sicily in 1807.

Back in the USA, Eaton was hailed as the “modern Africanus” (a reference to Scipio Africanus, the Roman general who defeated Hannibal) and “inheritor of the mantle of Alexander the Great!” But his growing bitterness that his regime change plans were betrayed turned him, like the whole affair, into a political pawn. The Federalists blasted the treaty as a betrayal (an “inglorious deed” said a Senate committee called to investigate the matter) while the Democratic-Republican press portrayed Hamet as a degenerate “addicted to sordid propensities,” contrasting Yusuf’s “elevated centiments” (sic). Eaton was elected to the Massachusetts state legislature, but, drawn into endless political intrigues and, ultimately, alcoholism, he died in obscurity, a pathetic figure.

The trouble in Barbary wasn’t quite over. Tunis threatened war over the return of Tunisian ships confiscated in the Tripoli blockade. A warship under Decatur was dispatched to the scene, and the crisis was resolved with what had become the usual admixture of threats and diplomacy. In November 1807, Algiers, this time goaded by Britain, seized more American ships. In a sideshow to the War of 1812, war with Algiers was formally declared in 1814. Decatur was dispatched yet again, and Lear threatened: “Algiers will be humbled to the dust.” But it ended in a truce before that happened. Ironically, it was the British themselves who really did shell Algiers into submission two years later. The glory days of the Barbary corsairs were over.

The authors document the Orientalist prejudices that served war propaganda in the Barbary campaigns. Bainbridge wrote that if Americans could see “the weakness of their garrisons, and the effeminacy of their people, I am sure they would not be long tributary to so pitiful a race of infidels.” Eaton wrote of the North Africans that “they have no property in the soil to inspire an ambition to cultivate it. They are abject slaves to…the despotism of priestcraft. They live in more solemn fear of the frowns of a bigot who has been dead and rotten above a thousand years than of the living despot whose frown would cost them their lives.” He describes Dey Bobba Mustapha as “a huge, shaggy beast…with his hind legs gathered up like a tailor or a bear,” and expresses disgust at having to kiss his hand.

Unfortunately, both authors share in these prejudices, portraying the Arabs as gutless, conniving and greedy (using shameless adjectives like “perfidious” and “irascible”), while ascribing the highest of motives to the Americans—even while acknowledging that they also engaged in ruses and trickery.

The American officers and consuls were aghast at what they saw as an oppressive society in Barbary, but seemed blissfully blind to their own oppressions. Wheelan notes that Preble ran what was known as a “tight ship”—meaning, for instance, that he had the word MUTINEER burned with a branding iron into the forehead of a seaman who circulated a letter of protest about onboard conditions among the crew. The 320 lashes he was subsequently given must have seemed a mere afterthought. London notes that Eaton, to his credit, really grappled (in his journal) with the contradiction that they were fighting to free Americans from slavery, even as America practiced slavery at home.

Alternative histories such as Peter Lamborn Wilson’s cult classic Pirate Utopias: Moorish Corsairs & European Renegadoes (Autonomedia, New York, 1995) have portrayed the Barbary states as multi-cultural autonomous zones where Iberian, French and Balkan converts to Islam were welcomed as brothers-in-plunder. Wilson concludes that many“renegadoes” (Europeans who had “turned Turk” and joined the corsairs) were drawn to Islam and piracy by the lure of cultural and even sexual freedom, a “proto-individualist-anarchist” ethic, and a rage against oppressive Euro-Christian society. While the fact that captives who converted were freed from forced labor was also doubtless a factor, Eaton actually vindicates Wilson’s thesis somewhat, writing that the corsair ships were commanded by “scoundrels who had just escaped from certain Christian countries to evade the punishment which their crimes merited…” Wheelan notes that the Muslims’ (perceived) sexual lasciviousness and acceptance of homosexuality helped fuel the war fever.

We are told that the Tripolitan grand admiral Murad Reis—commader of the Meshuda and later the chief defender of Tripoli’s harbor—was actually the Scottish renegado Peter Lisle. Wheelan mentions that Barbary raids had reached as far as Iceland, but fails to note that the notorious 1627 expedition to that northern isle was carried out by an earlier Murad Reis, for whom the Tripolitan grand admiral was named. And (as PL Wilson notes) the 17th-century Murad Reis, who sailed for Morocco, was also a renegado—born Jan Janz, a Dutchman.

Wheelan and London both provide some cursory historical background, tracing the roots of the corsair jihad to the 1492 expulsion of the Moors from Spain, followed by Muslim raids on their former Iberian homeland, prompting, in turn, Spanish-Hapsburg incursions into North Africa (e.g. Charles V’s attempted invasion of Algiers in 1541). The Barbary states appealed to Constantinople for aid, and the centuries-long contest was on. The authors’ attempts to reach deeper into history get confused, with Wheelan stating, for instance, that the Crusaders had fought the Ottoman Turks. (It was the Seljuk Turks who ruled the Middle East back then). Inaccuracies aside, both writers flirt with the tiresome “clash of civilizations” thesis.

Many of the historical analogies are left unspoken, but they become obvious with just a little imagination. Before going to war over its captive seamen, the US sought the aid of the Holy Order of Redemption of Captives (known as the Redemptionists, Mathurins or Trinitarians)—who were accused of perpetuating the slave trade by buying back hostages. This was an early echo of the contemporary controversy around groups that have similarly intervened in the Sudanese slave trade.

Muslim piracy itself is again a reality off the coast of Somalia, where the US is again backing one faction against another.

The spectacle of the rival Karamanli brothers being adopted by rival factions in the US elites may remind contemporary readers of the CIA promoting Iyad Allawi as Iraq’s leader while the Pentagon was supporting Ahmad Chalabi. And Jefferson’s treatment of Hamet Karamanli’s partisans recalls George HW Bush’s betrayal of the rebel Kurds and Shi’ites in the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm.

Aside from the Marine Corps hymn, the Tripoli affair has found its way into other bits of Americana. The USS Reuben James, which famously galvanized pro-war sentiment when it was torpedoed by the Nazis in 1941, was named for a sailor who was at the siege of Tripoli and is credited with saving Stephen Decatur’s life. More significantly, Francis Scott Key’s first prototype for “The Star-Spangled Banner” was inspired by the Tripoli war, with lines like “And pale beam’d the Crescent, its splendor obscur’d/By the light of the star-bangled flag of our nation” and “the turban’d head bowed to the terrible glare.”

London’s very last lines note the fall of Algiers to the French in 1830, and he hails this victory for European colonialism as a triumph of civilization without a trace of irony. “The terror of Barbary was finally laid to rest,” he happily concludes.

But if these books are, on some level, “really” about contemporary Iraq and Afghanistan, there are some obvious differences. One senses that, whatever its roots, the Barbary states’ jihad had become a largely mercenary affair by Jefferson’s day. As Richard O’Brien, consul to Algiers, remarked: “Money is the God of Algiers and Mahomet their prophet.” The contemporary jihadis, in contrast, are motivated by a genuine rage. And however criminal their tactics and totalitarian their ideology, the reasons for that rage are real and obvious.

It is instructive that neither author mentions the famous line from the US-Tripoli treaty of 1796 which for two centuries has been pointed to by defenders of American secularism: “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,—and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”

From the first days of the republic, there has been a tension between secularism and what some have called “Christian nationalism” in the United States. It is an irony that the latter has the upper hand just as the US has launched a global crusade ostensibly to protect the Western secular tradition from Islamic extremism.

——

This review first appeared in the Fall 2006 issue of Middle East Policy Journal
http://www.mepc.org/journal_vol13/0609_Weinberg2.asp

——————-

Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingPIRATES OF THE MEDITERRANEAN 

INDIGENOUS ANARCHISM IN BOLIVIA

An Interview with Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui

by Andalusia Knoll, Rustbelt Radio, Pittsburgh

The South American nation of Bolivia has filled the headlines of the global press with its fight against water privatization, struggle for nationalization of gas, non-compliance with free trade policies, and the 2005 election of the continent’s first indigenous president, Evo Morales. These struggles are rooted in the long history of indigenous resistance to colonialism and imperialism in Bolivia. In an interview conducted during her recent stay in Pittsburgh, subaltern theorist, Aymara sociologist and historian Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui discussed Bolivian anarchism, the health benefits of the coca plant and the cocaleros’ (coca growers) fight for sovereignty. Rivera Cusicanqu is a founder of the Taller de Historia Oral Andina (Workshop on Andean Oral History) and author of Oppressed But Not Defeated: Peasant Struggles Among the Aymara and Quechua in Bolivia, 1910-1980 (United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, 1987). She was born in 1949 in La Paz.

Andalusia Knoll: Could you talk about some of the things that you have uncovered in your research about anarchism in Bolivia as related to the struggles of the Aymara and Quecha people?

Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui: We started as an Aymara collective that basically wanted to uncover the Aymara and Quechua struggles and we discovered that there were many links with urban Aymara communities that had organizations linked both to the indigenous communities and to the union movement, which in the 20’s was basically anarchist.

What happened in Bolivia is that there have been two official histories: the official history written by the [Revolutionary] Nationalist Party—MNR—that basically denies all the agency of both workers and peasants and indigenous peoples; and the official history of the left that forgets about anything that was not Marxist, thus eclipsing or distorting the autonomous history of anarchist unions,

It’s the links between the anarchists and the indigenous people that gave them another nuance, because their communities are self-sustained entities and they basically are places where anti-authoritarian type of organization can take roots. They don’t need this leadership that is like permanent leadership. The communities have leaders, but as a rotational thing that is a service to the community. It’s kind of a burden to be a leader for a community, you know? It’s something you do once in a lifetime and you do because you ought to do, and that the community says its your turn or the turn of your family. So, that creates a totally different relationship with power structures and, in a way, it decolonizes power and to a certain extent gives it back to the people.

That is what fascinated us most about the communities and, on the other hand, it led us to discover that communities were not only rural but also urban and worked with [1920s anarchist] Luis Cusicanqui and other anarchist leaders because they had such an affinity between the way they saw struggle, autonomy, domination, and oppression.

AK: Anarchism in general, I think, is perceived as a European tradition that has been brought to the United States and places like Argentina and people don’t generally associate anarchism with places like Bolivia or places in Africa, et cetera. Could you talk about how anarchism was in line with many of the beliefs of the Aymara and Quechua people and the way their communities were governed.

SRC: A general point of departure of Bolivian history with the rest of Latin America is that many—especially anarchists—have had to go through the filter of their own traditions of struggle that are basically anti-colonial. So, what happened is that there was like a mutual breeding, a mutual fertilization of thought and an ability to interpret universal doctrine that is basically a European doctrine in Bolivian, Chola and Aymara terms.

That’s why Bolivian anarchism is so important, because it has roots in the grassroots urban unions. Because most urban workers were also Indian in Bolivia and still are. 62 percent of the population in Bolivia self-identify as indigenous, as Aymara, Quechua, Guarani and as many other indigenous peoples.

So we have a majority, even in urban settings, and therefore have a particular brand of anarchism. I would say it is Anarcho-Indianism. And also it is Anarcho-Indianism-Feminism because the chola figure, the women, the female fighter, the female organizer, is part of Bolivian daily life. If you have been there you know what the market looks like, how strong these women are, how in solidarity they are when there is a march coming from the cocaleros, when there are these marches that last ten, twenty days without much to eat. These women prepare these huge pots of soup they give away to the poorest people. They have such a tradition of union associations that self-organize. And they self-organize basically in the administration of space,. The market is a space and it’s very symbolic that they take over this space and just grab it from the municipality or from the central state.

So, you have a very specific chola brand of anarchism that explains why it was so attractive for so, so many people. And it explains why one of the most salient things in Bolivian anarchist history is that their leaders made their speeches in Aymara. And just thinking that another non-Western language, non-European language is filtering the thoughts of anarchists and helping to phrase, to express the rage, the proposals, the ideas—it gives such richness, you know? In Aymara you can say, “us” in four different ways.

AK: How do these struggles of indigenous people in the ’20s and ’30s relate to struggles against neoliberalism today?

SRC: Liberalism made its big reforms in the late 19th century, which were anti-Indian reforms. They killed the market for indigenous crafts and goods. They took Indian lands. They jailed all the leaders of the communities. They wanted them to become servants of the haciendas and have a quiet and domesticated, low-paid labor force in the mines and in the factories.

You have a second liberalism here now that wants basically the same thing, except for the issue of haciendas. Haciendas are out of date in Bolivia because of agrarian reform. Yet there is still a need for agrarian reform because the big land ownership has moved, it has been displaced to the lowlands and still it’s doing the same thing. It’s usurping indigenous lands.

So you have basically the same set of problems and aggressions, but you obviously have cultural differences, a cultural gap. Because in those times, you didn’t have much of a literate working class, or literate leadership in the communities. The communities had many problems just trying to understand the language of the documents that decreed their extinction, or decreed the laws against them. So they created a movement in favor of schools. That was another link with the workers, because the workers, especially the anarchists, had their own self-organized schools. The indigenous communities came in search for support for their schools and found a very fertile terrain in the anarchist unions.

AK: Could you talk more about the struggles of the cocaleros? Here in the United States there’s very little dialogue about their struggle and people don’t even realize that there is a difference between coca and cocaine.

SRC: Well, let me tell you, I have been researching, and every time I come to the US I go to the libraries with one question: Why is coca so underground, so unknown, so mistreated, so stigmatized? Why do people believe all these lies? Why can you get any drug but not coca? It’s because if coca was a drug you could get it.

And I’m finding a big conspiracy against coca in the late 19th century by the pharmaceutical industry. And it is a conspiracy against people’s health in general. But the conspiracy against coca was particularly mean and ill because it was a conspiracy against a people. The Indians had been in touch with coca for millennia and have been able to use it in a variety of ways; as a mild stimulant for work, as a ritual item, as a recreational commodity that you chew at parties, at wakes, at weddings, or even as a symbol of identity and of struggle.

So, coca leaves are almost pervasively present in the Bolivian context but there is like this press blindness, blindness of the media. Blindness of the media that in many senses is dictated by the US embassy, you know? It’s the US embassy that dictates the policy on coca and blackmails the government so that if we don’t do as they say, the funds for development or, I don’t know, the funds they give to the Bolivian government will be cut. I always said to the leaders, “Let them cut! We won’t die! And we can’t live forever on somebody else’s alimony.”

It’s hard because really there is a problem of poverty; but poverty in Bolivia is constructed, it’s a result of bad policies! And it’s a result of being robbed of our resources. And so I think the coca issue is very, very enlightening in terms of what the power of interests of corporations can do to truth… Just veil the truth to such an extent that…common sense has been overcome by this absurd idea that coca is cocaine. I have chewed coca since I was 16 years old. When I came to the states, of course you miss everything you don’t have, but I’m not in a [withdrawal] syndrome. I have a [withdrawal] syndrome of coffee! When I quit coffee I had symptoms of being addicted to coffee, but the coca leaves are not addictive. I just chew them and enjoy them everyday and if I don’t have them I don’t chew them and that’s it. And I’m very healthy and I think so many people would be rid of osteoporosis and calcium deficits and gastric disorders and obesity and cardio-vascular problems and diabetes [if coca were available].

And that’s why it is an enemy of the pharmaceuticals; because we wouldn’t need all their shit! All their pills, all their venoms that make us believe that they are good and then they have side effects and then you go back, and they give you another thing, and you keep on going back and then you end up with having a full pharmacy in your drawer and then you feel miserable and you have lost control of your life. That’s what they want and that’s what we’re against and coca is our big, big shield against companies taking over our bodies.

AK: Earlier you had mentioned one of the marches of the cocaleros. Could you talk about some of the actions that people have taken to defend their rights to grow coca and their sovereignty?

SRC: Yes. Well, I like to talk about things I really know first and there have been many, many marches. One of the most impressive ones was in 1994 and it is really very incredible to be a part of one of these events. And in 1998, when things were getting really bad because of forced eradication and assassinations of cocaleros, and army raids where they into the coca fields and destroyed everything was a daily occurrence… there was this big march that I joined… And I was able to get into the rank-and-file cocaleros within the march and see how there is this Gandhian ethic of self-sacrifice accompanied with coca. It’s also a Gandhian ethic of not eating too much, because…[i]t is the force of the spirit and the force of the belief that goes and carries your body. And so your body has to be light. And that’s why you learn a lot about ethics when you do this type of struggle… [Y]ou’re doing a sacrifice for a cause that is for the good of many people and it really feeds your spirit. It is very important to have something beyond your own belly… [A]nd also to go for a cause that is for the whole of the Bolivian people, because sovereignty is the missed task. No revolution of whatever kind—liberal revolution, nationalist revolution, leftist—has really been freed from imperialism, freed from colonial domination.

So, that task requires all the strength and these marches, vigils and hunger strikes have been, always, a typical characteristic of the Bolivian people. A peaceful type of non-violent actions—but so massive! so massive!–where people are ready to die. And that generosity…is very, very heart-lifting, you know? And so, it gives people a strength to overcome many obstacles, to overthrow governments, and to even take governments. And so, I think that’s a result of our strength; our collective strength.

——

This interview originally appeared on Rustbelt Radio, Pittsburgh Indymedia’s weekly review of news from the grassroots. To hear the complete interview, go to http://pittsburgh.indymedia.org/news/2007/03/26831.php

It also ran July 25 in The Defenstrator, Philadelphia, PA
http://www.defenestrator.org/silvia_rivera_cusicanqui

RESOURCES:

Anarkismo en Bolivia, Radio Perdida, September 2007
http://radioperdida.blogspot.com/2007/09/anarkismo-en-bolivia.html

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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingINDIGENOUS ANARCHISM IN BOLIVIA 

COLOMBIA: PARAS, ARMY STILL KILLING PEASANTS

from Weekly News Update on the Americas


Recent headlines from Colombia tell of imprisoned paramilitary warlords, politicians forced to step down for their links to the paramilitaries—and an unprecedented legal victory, with Chiquita Bananas fined $25 million for underwriting the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a State Department-designated “foreign terrorist organization.” However, the impression created by these stories that the paramilitary terror is a thing of the past is a false one. On the ground in Colombia’s rural war zones, terror grinds on nearly unabated. The AUC seems to have fractured into a new generation of paramilitary outfits, such as the Black Eagles, who have carried out atrocities nearly throughout the country. As before, evidence points to close paramilitary collaboration with the official armed forces. As before, the Colombian army itself also continues to be implicated in assassinations and torture of campesinos and civil leaders. And as before, the targets are often not guerilla collaborators, but leaders of nonviolent civil initiatives such as the San Josecito Peace Community, which assert the right of campesinos to neutrality and non-involvement in the civil war. This overview of recent attacks is provided by Weekly News Update on the Americas.

On the afternoon of July 13, two men who the previous day had identified themselves as members of the Black Eagles paramilitary organization stopped a public bus, forced community leader Dairo Torres out of the vehicle, and shot and killed him in a place very close to a police checkpoint on the road between the towns of Apartado and San Jose in Antioquia department, in northern Colombia. Torres had been involved in the Peace Community of San Jose de Apartado since 2004; at the time of his death he was coordinator of the Alto Bonito humanitarian zone, located about a four hour walk from the San Josecito Peace Community. The two paramilitaries who killed him had been seen earlier in the day sitting next to the police at the nearby checkpoint, talking to them. The previous day, July 12, the same two paramilitaries had threatened members of the Peace Community. (Colombia Support Network, July 14; Comunidad de Paz de San Jose de Apartado, July 14)

On July 14, two hooded individuals shot to death Mario Sereno Toscana, a member of the El Palmar Association, and fled after stealing a watch and chain from him. While the attack had the appearance of a common crime, Sereno is the second member of the El Palmar Association to be murdered recently. The association was formed by campesinos reclaiming land in the south of Bolivar department, an area controlled by paramilitaries working in the service of large landholders. (Agencia Prensa Rural, July 15)

On July 16 in Norte de Santander department, campesino Luis Carlos Angarita Rincon was returning from San Pablo, Teorama municipality, where he had gone to carry out a market transaction, to his farm in Aguachica, Puente Real, San Calixto. At an army checkpoint along the road between San Pablo and Bijagual he was apparently detained and tortured to death the next morning by soldiers from the Mobile Brigade No. 15. Angarita, 25 years old, was the father of a two-year-old son and a 10-month-old baby, and also supported his parents and three sisters with disabilities. The family learned of his death when they heard on Radio Catatumbo that his body was in the morgue in Ocana. The radio reported that Angarita was a “member of the Resistencia Bari mobile column of the FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia], killed in combat by the Mobile Brigade No. 15.” An autopsy showed Angarita had no bullet wounds; he appeared to have bled to death. The skin and some of the flesh had been pulled off his arms and buttocks, and his body showed signs of heavy blows in the face and chest. The army now denies any knowledge of the circumstances of Angarita’s death. The community held a silent march on July 20 in San Pablo to demand justice for Angarita and reject the militarization of the zone. (Agencia Prensa Rural, July 20)

On July 17, soldiers from the army’s Mobile Brigade No. 12 set up a checkpoint on the road between the village of El Tigre and the community La Cooperativa, in Vista Hermosa municipality, Meta department. At the checkpoint they stopped a pickup truck driven by Ramiro Romero Bonilla, accompanied by Arnulfo Guerra. The soldiers detained the two campesinos and forced them to board a military helicopter. Three days later there had still been no news of the whereabouts of the two men. (Notimundo, July 20 via Agencia Prensa Rural)

On July 17, two members of the leftist National Liberation Army (ELN) abducted 50-year old Pedro Nel Canole Polo as he was cutting wood on his farm in the community of Santo Domingo, Cantagallo municipality, also in the south of Bolivar. Canole had been a resident of the area for over 20 years. An hour after his abduction, his body was found at El Perillo, on the road linking Santo Domingo to Puerto Matilde. (Asociacion Campesina del Valle del Rio Cimitarra, July 19 via Agencia Prensa Rural)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 3

Early on Aug. 23, a group of Colombian soldiers arrived at the home of campesino Ruben Dario Luna Triana on the Las Delicias farm in the rural community of San Pablo in Chaparral municipality, Tolima department. The soldiers forced Luna out onto his front yard and tortured him in front of his wife and children before cutting his chest and stomach open with a knife. The soldiers then delivered a “coup de grace” pistol shot to Luna’s head and reported him as a “guerrilla killed in combat.” The soldiers were accompanied by Nilson Medina Cometa, a man known in the region for his criminal conduct and now working as an informant for the army’s Jose Domingo Caicedo Battalion.

The community believes the crime is part of a plan by the army to murder campesinos and present them as guerrillas killed in combat, in response to pressure from President Alvaro Uribe Velez and the military high command to show results in the counterinsurgency war.

Luna was the fourth campesino from the region to be murdered in just over a month, and the ninth in less than a year. Camilo Aviles Morales and Jesus Maria Riano were murdered on July 19 in the Espiritu Santo community of Chaparral; and Isaul Buitrago was murdered on Aug. 7 in the community of Gaitan in neighboring Rioblanco. Four more campesinos were killed in Rioblanco in November 2006: Miguel Ipus Medina was killed on Nov. 20 in the La Pradera community; and Heremildo Valero Bedoya, Virginia Hernandez Valero and Abelino Rada Vargas were murdered on Nov. 29 in the Maracaibo community. Another campesino, Harsai Yate Urbano was murdered on May 20, 2007, between the communities of La Cristalina and El Cambrin in Rioblanco. (Adital, Sept. 30 from Prensa Rural)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 30

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Weekly News Update on the Americas
http://home.earthlink.net/~nicadlw/wnuhome.html

See also:

COLOMBIA’S PARAMILITARY PARADOX
Far-Right Militias Survive “Peace Process” and “Para-Politics” Scandal
by Memo Montevino, WW4 REPORT, August 2007
/node/4286

COLOMBIA: “DEMOBILIZED” PARAS TERRORIZE PEASANTS
from Weekly News Update on the Americas
WW4 REPORT, August 2007
/node/4287

From our weblog:

Colombia holds drug lords in floating prisons
WW4 REPORT, Sept. 19, 2007
/node/4450

Chiquita fined $25 million in Colombia terror case
WW4 REPORT, Sept. 19, 2007
/node/4449

Colombia: paras kill more in Chocó
WW4 REPORT, Sept. 6, 2007
/node/4391#comment-306971

Colombia: another killing at San Josecito Peace Community
WW4 REPORT, July 15, 2007
/node/4224

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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingCOLOMBIA: PARAS, ARMY STILL KILLING PEASANTS 

PARAGUAY: LABORATORY FOR LATIN AMERICA’S NEW MILITARISM

by Benjamin Dangl, Upside Down World

Two soldiers in Paraguay stand in front of a camera. One of them holds an automatic weapon. John Lennon’s “Imagine” plays in the background. This Orwellian juxtaposition of war and peace is from a new video posted online by US soldiers stationed in Paraguay. The video footage and other military activity in this heart of the continent represent a new style of militarism in Latin America.

Paraguay’s long-time dictator, General Alfredo Stroessner collaborated with the region’s other dictators through Operation Condor, which used kidnapping, torture and murder to squash dissent and political opponents. Stroessner’s human rights record was so bad that even Ronald Reagan distanced himself from the leader. Carrying on this infamous legacy, Paraguay now illustrates three new characteristics of Latin America’s right-wing militarism: joint exercises with the US military in counterinsurgency training and monitoring of social organizations, the use of private mercenaries for security, and the criminalization of social protest through “anti-terrorism” tactics and legislation.

In May of 2005, the Paraguayan Senate voted to allow US troops to operate in Paraguay with total immunity. Washington threatened to cut off millions in aid to the country if Paraguay did not grant the US troops entry. In July of 2005 hundreds of US soldiers arrived in the country and Washington’s funding for counterterrorism efforts in Paraguay doubled. The US troops conducted various operations and joint training exercises with Paraguayan forces, including the Medical Readiness Training Exercises (MEDRETEs). Orlando Castillo, a military policy expert at the human rights organization Servicio, Paz y Justicia in Asunción, Paraguay, says the MEDRETEs were “observation operatives” aimed at developing a “a type of map that identifies not just the natural resources in the area, but also the social organizations and leaders of different communities.”

Castillo, in his cool Asunción office, with the standard Paraguayan herbal tea, tereré in his hand, said these operations marked a shift in US military strategy. “The kind of training that used to just happen at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, is now decentralized,” he explained. “The US military is now establishing new mechanisms of cooperation and training with armed forces.” Combined efforts, such as MEDRETEs, are part of this agenda. “It is a way to remain present, while maintaining a broad reach throughout the Americas.” Castillo said this new militarism is aimed at considering internal populations as a potential enemies and preventing the coming to power of insurgent, leftist groups.

Bruce Kleiner of the US Embassy in Paraguay stated that MEDRETEs “provide humanitarian service to some of Paraguay’s most disadvantaged citizens.” The video by Captain William Johnson posted on Google Video has footage of various MEDRETE operations, the treatment and questioning of local Paraguayans as well as events and ceremonies aimed at strengthening ties between the military personnel of both countries. Often, heavily armed men are seen walking past lines of local families while they wait for medicine and questions. The video’s lighthearted depiction of these joint military operations is in sharp contrast with reports from local citizens.

A group of representatives from human rights organizations and universities from all over the world, including the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo in Argentina and a group from the University of Tolouse, France, traveled to Paraguay in July 2006 as part of the Campaign for the Demilitarization of the Americas (CADA) to observe and report on the repression going on in the country linked to the presence of US troops. Interviewed local citizens said they were not told what medications they were given during the US MEDRETEs. Patients said they were often given the same treatments regardless of their illness. In some cases, the medicine produced hemorrhages and abortions. When the medical treatment took place, patients reported that they were asked if they belonged to any kind of labor or social organization.

While Orlando Castillo is adamant that the historic military links between Paraguay and the US remain strong, the US troops that arrived in 2005 have reportedly left the country. In December 2006, the Paraguayan Senate and executive branch, responding to pressure from neighboring countries, voted to end the troops’ immunity. Paraguay would have been excluded from the lucrative regional trade bloc of Mercosur if it continued to grant immunity to the US troops.

Privatizing Repression

Castillo sees private mercenaries, or paramilitaries, as another key piece of the new militarism puzzle. In Paraguay, the strongest paramilitary group is the Citizens Guard. “These paramilitary groups are made of people from the community. They establish curfews, rules of conduct and monitor the activity of the community. They also intervene in family disputes and can kick people out of the community or off land.. This all very similar to the paramilitary activities in Colombia.” Castillo said that while this activity is illegal, the police and judges simply look the other way. Many of the paramilitaries are connected to large agribusinesses and landowners and have been linked to an increased repression of small farming families resisting the expansion of the soy industry. The shadow army of the Citizens Guard is as big as the state security forces: these paramilitary groups have nearly 22,000 members, while the Paraguayan police force is only 9,000 strong and the military has 13,000 members.

Anti-terrorism rhetoric and legislature is being mixed into this deadly cocktail. The Paraguayan Senate is scheduled to pass an anti-terrorism law which will criminalize social protest and establish penalties of up to 40 years in prison for people that participate in such activities. A large march against the passage of the law took place in the country’s capital on July 26th.

Marco Castillo, a Paraguayan journalist with a dark ponytail, shook as head while contemplating this new landscape of repression. Dozens of social organization leaders and dissidents have been disappeared and tortured in recent years. “Impunity reigns,” he said. “This is as bad as it was during the worst years of the Stroessner dictatorship.”

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Benjamin Dangl won a 2007 Project Censored Award for his coverage of US military operations in Paraguay. He is the author of The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia (AK Press, 2007).

This story first appeared Aug. 1, 2007 in Upside Down World
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/835/1/

RESOURCES:

Paraguay: Platform for Hemispheric Hegemony
by Raúl Zibechi, IRC Americas Program, August 18, 2006
http://americas.irc-online.org/am/3441

CADA, Conclusiones Generales de la Misión Internacional de Obvservación
ALAI, América Latina en Movimiento, July 21, 2006
http://alainet.org/active/12453&lang=es

The US Military Descends on Paraguay
by Benjamin Dangl, The Nation, July 12, 2006
http://www.thenation.com/doc/20060717/dangl

US Army Diplomatic Medical Mission to Paraguay
Google Video, Aug. 22, 2006
http://video.google.com/videoplay….

See also:

PARAGUAY: THE PENTAGON’S NEW LATIN BEACHHEAD
Is the Real Enemy Islamic Terrorism, or Bolivia’s Indigenous Revolution?
by Benjamin Dangl, Upside Down World
WW4 REPORT, December, 2005
/node/1340

From our weblog:

Paraguay: campesinos disappeared, killed
WW4 REPORT, July 2, 2007
/node/4166

——————-

Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingPARAGUAY: LABORATORY FOR LATIN AMERICA’S NEW MILITARISM 

DESTINATION DARFUR: A NEW COLD WAR OVER OIL

by Vijay Prashad, Frontline, Chennai, India

In February, George W. Bush announced the creation of a new unified combatant command for Africa. After several years of deliberation, the Pentagon finally agreed to create the African Command (AFRICOM), which will relieve the European Command (EUCOM) and the Central Command (CENTCOM), which earlier shared responsibility for Africa.

In July, Bush appointed General William “Kip” Ward to run AFRICOM, which will be based in Germany until it finds an African home (Liberia, home to a Pentagon Omega surveillance tower from 1976 to 1997, is openly lobbying to play host). Sensitive to criticism that AFRICOM seeks military solutions to African problems, the US Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, Theresa Whelan, said, “Africa Command is not going to reflect a US intent to engage kinetically in Africa. This is about prevention. This isn’t about fighting wars.”

Navy Rear Admiral Robert Moeller, who led the Africa Command Implementation Planning Team, pointed out that “the increasing importance of the continent to the US,” particularly on strategic and economic grounds, makes this development necessary. The proximate issues used to push for AFRICOM were the ongoing crisis in Darfur and the failure of the US to act in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

And the less-talked-about issue is the importance of African resources for the US economy and for multinational corporations. Oil is, of course, a central character in this story.

In September 2002, The New York Times ran an article with a telling headline, “In Courting Africa, US likes the Dowry: Oil.” The article quoted then Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, who said, “Energy from Africa plays an increasingly important role in our energy security.” The following year, a senior Pentagon official told The Wall Street Journal, “A key mission for US forces [in Africa] would be to ensure that Nigeria’s oilfields, which in the future could account for as much as 25 per cent of all US oil imports, are secure.” This figure comes from National Intelligence Council report of 2000 (when the US imported 16% of its oil needs from sub-Saharan Africa).

Since 9-11, the urgency of a stable source of oil has increased. Historian John Ghazvinian’s new book, Untapped: The Scramble for Africa’s Oil, points out that not only is African oil of high quality, but it bears other significant political advantages: most African countries are not Organizations of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members, their oil is not owned by powerful state oil companies, and the oil is largely offshore, which means “that even if a civil war or violent insurrection breaks out onshore [always a concern in Africa], the oil companies can continue to pump out oil with little likelihood of sabotage, banditry or nationalist fervor getting in the way.”

Eighty percent of the oil reserves discovered between 2001 and 2004 come from West Africa, where the US currently procures only 12% of its total supply. West Africa is a crucial site for US interests—so much so that the US is willing to be openly hypocritical about its promotion of democracy and human rights when it comes to the region.

In April 2006, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warmly welcomed her “special friend,” Equatorial Guinea’s man of all seasons and many decades, Teodoro Obiang. Her own Department annually chastises Obiang’s regime for corruption, human rights violations and electoral fraud. Despite being home to some of the poorest people in Africa, Equatorial Guinea is the third largest oil producer in the continent, whose oil the US government hopes will flow across the Atlantic to power the US. The US has been loath to put pressure on Nigeria for the very same reasons.

For decades, the oil regions in West Africa have been “swamps of insurgency” (as the International Crisis Group put it in a 2006 report). Wars in the Niger Delta, for instance, claim lives and communities, as well as barrels of oil. Both the Nigerian and US governments are concerned about “resource control,” and it has been the task of the Nigerian military to clamp down on dissent. Resource wars in the Congo (over diamonds and coltan) and in West Africa (over oil) have set the continent on fire. The US has thus far engaged with these conflicts through Africa’s national armies, who have increasingly become the praetorian guards of large corporations. None of this can be justified directly as protection of the extraction of resources, so it has increasingly been couched in the language of the War on Terror.

The Pan-Sahel Initiative (created in 2002) draws US Special Operations Forces to Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. In 2004, the US extended this to the major oil-producing countries of Algeria, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia and renamed it the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Initiative (TSCTI). After 9-11, the US moved a Special Operations Force into a former French Foreign Legion base, Camp Lemonier, in Djibouti. In July 2003, the US earned the right to deploy P-3 Orion aerial surveillance aircraft in Tamanrasset, Algeria. Under the guise of the War on Terror, the US government moved forces into various parts of Africa, where they trained African armies and have been able to intervene in the increasingly dangerous resource wars.

If the US government is quieter in its approach, right-wing think tanks in the US feel no such compunction. The Heritage Foundation lobbied for the creation of AFRICOM for several years, and arguably its work moved Donald Rumsfeld to consider an African Command. In a 2003 study entitled “US Military Assistance for Africa: A Better Solution,” the Heritage Foundation argued: “Creating an African Command would go a long way towards turning the Bush Administration’s well-aimed strategic priorities for Africa into a reality.” Rather than engage Africa diplomatically, it is better to be diplomatic through the barrel of a gun. “America must not be afraid to employ its forces decisively when vital national interests are threatened,” the study said. Nevertheless, the US will not need always to send its own soldiers. “A sub-unified command for Africa would give the US military an instrument with which to engage effectively in the continent and reduce the potential that America might have to intervene directly.” AFRICOM would analyze intelligence, work “closely with civil-military leaders,” coordinate training and conduct joint exercises. In other words, the US would make the friendly African military forces “inter-operatable” not only with US hardware but also with US interests. When AFRICOM became a reality, Heritage’s Brett Schaefer welcomed the “long overdue” move.

At a May gathering of African leaders in Shanghai, the Chinese government promised $20 billion for the continent’s development. Madagascar’s President Marc Ravalomanana enthusiastically said, “We in Africa must learn from your success.” In January, the Chinese Foreign Ministry released a White Paper that pointed out that unlike US and European investment, Chinese finance for Africa would be driven by equity and sustainable development. Technology transfer, the entry of African goods into the Chinese market without barriers, and the entry of Chinese finance for development projects are the main elements of the Chinese strategy (also the main features of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and the Addis Ababa Action Plan of 2004-06). With the US and European aid at a low point and with resistance from the US and Europe to compromise on the debt burden of African states, the Chinese proposal was welcomed in many parts of Africa.

But in Washington, among the US establishment’s strategic planners (such as those in the Heritage Foundation), China’s entry into Africa has provoked concern. For people in the Heritage Foundation and in the White House, AFRICOM is as much a response to China as it is to the increased anti-terrorist efforts in the continent.

China is not in Africa for altruistic reasons. A quarter of China’s crude oil imports already come from Africa. African governments are well aware of the competition between the US and China, and they have used that standoff to their partial advantage (when the US would not act fast enough to get Nigeria’s armed forces 200 patrol boats and funds, the Nigerian government turned to China).

A new Cold War over oil has begun in Africa, but the new players are the US (as the face of global oil corporations) and China. The US government’s response has not been able to match the Chinese initiative dollar for dollar. Instead, the US has gone after China for its dealings with the government of Sudan. China promised to invest $10 billion in Sudan, and it currently purchases 70% of Sudanese oil (US-based oil firms cannot trade with Sudan as a result of an embargo in force since 1997). The price for this oil is greater, however, than money.

China blocked votes in the United Nations Security Council on the ongoing violence in Darfur, although global pressure has now forced Beijing to appoint a special envoy to Darfur and put some modest pressure on Khartoum. The close relationship between the US and the leaders of Equatorial Guinea or Nigeria is repellent but not half as dubious as that between the Chinese and Sudanese governments. The US government has, therefore, a potent weapon to wield against Beijing’s claim to be in favor of African development.

Since 1984-85, the western Sudanese province of Darfur has been in a prolonged crisis. The drought of those years made it hard for pastoralists to find grazing ground for their camel herds. Battles over land went on for two decades before an embattled and split Islamist government in Khartoum armed the most impoverished of the tribes (who had begun to regain their self-respect through a virulently supremacist ideology promoted by a group called Tajamu al-Arabi, or the Arab Gathering).

These tribes began an onslaught against their settled neighbors, with Khartoum’s support. In a few years over a million people were driven out of their homes to neighboring Chad. The UN estimates that around 70,000 have been killed [as of the end of 2004—WW4R]. (These numbers, incidentally, are dwarfed by the death toll and the population displacement forced by the US occupation of Iraq.) The UN called the Sudan situation a “crime against humanity,” while the US, uncharacteristically, labeled it genocide. For a while the African Union was able to stabilize the situation, although it did not succeed in crafting a political solution to the problem. The African Union, created in 1999, has neither the financial ability to pay its troops nor the logistical capacity to do the job. The European Union, which paid the troops’ salaries, began to withhold funds on grounds of accountability, and this gradually killed off the peacekeeping operations.

Professor Mahmood Mamdani of Columbia University (one of the world’s leading experts on contemporary Africa), says of this: “There is a concerted attempt being made to shift the political control of any intervention force inside Darfur from inside Africa to outside Africa.” In other words, the US and Europe are eager to control the dynamics of what happens in Africa and not allow an indigenous, inter-state agency to gain either the experience this would provide or the respect it would gain if it succeeds. The African Union has been undermined so that only the US can appear as the savior of the beleaguered people of Darfur, and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, it suits the US that the campaigns to save the people of Darfur concentrate on the role of China and on what is often framed as an “Arab” assault on “Africans.” The Save Darfur Coalition in the US, for instance, has a report on the “Deadly Partnership” between Sudan and China but says nothing of the role of the US in undermining the African Union’s attempts. The Coalition is more sophisticated than can fit into the Arab-African stereotypes, but its members include groups that are less careful (the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, for instance, is an organizational member; it has not yet tried to distance itself from its parent organization’s role in the Gujarat pogroms).

The Save Darfur Coalition, which is the largest US umbrella organization, was formed in 2004 through the work of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Jewish World Service. People who have been motivated by the efforts of the group are aware of what is happening in Darfur. This is a worthwhile goal, particularly if it is able to bring a ceasefire and an eventual peace settlement in Darfur. But, the movement seems to have no viable strategy to do this beyond putting pressure on China and pleading with the US government to take “tough” stands against Khartoum. The complexity on the ground is irrelevant.

The heads of the Save Darfur Coalition and the Genocide Intervention Network (set up by the Center for American Progress) are all liberal Democrats who played some kind of a role in the Bill Clinton administration. The Darfur campaign enables them to distance themselves from the excesses of the Bush regime and yet preserve an essential element of the Clinton foreign policy arsenal, “humanitarian intervention” (as in the Kosovo war of 1999). For that reason, these groups have begun to offer the slogan, “Out of Iraq and Into Darfur.” At a forum in New York City on July 15, a young woman asked why the US could not use its superior firepower to defeat the Janjaweed in Sudan. At the same event, the documentary film The Devil Came on Horseback shows the former US Marine Brian Steidle photograph a band of Janjaweed militia leave a village and wish he could exchange his telephoto lens for a gun-scope to “end it now.” Private mercenary armies such as the International Peace Operations Association and DynCorp International clamor to cross the Chad border and conduct operations against the Janjaweed.

The language of “no-fly zones” and sanctions is not only in the air, but it is close to becoming a reality. The New York Times’ Nicholas D. Kristof on July 16, called for the creation of a US-run “no-fly zone” over Darfur, which would be an entry point into the militarization of the response to what is, by the authority of the African Union and Human Rights Watch, a messy political situation. (The rebel groups have split up and are themselves attacking humanitarian workers).

In May, Bush unilaterally implemented tighter economic sanctions, and promised to move another Security Council resolution. That the first head of AFRICOM is the former commander of the battalion that led Operation Restore Hope in Somalia in 1993 is an ominous sign. Would a cruise missile strike on Khartoum (a replay of 1998) and an invasion of Darfur create a solution to the current crisis, or would it only create an Iraq in Africa?

——

Vijay Prashad teaches at Trinity College, Hartford, CT.

This article originally ran in Frontline, Chennai, India
http://www.frontline.in/fl2415/stories/20070810506906200.htm

It also appeared Aug. 19, 2007 in Toward Freedom
http://towardfreedom.com/home/content/view/1100/1/

RESOURCES:

China & Sudan: Deadly Partnership, Save Darfur Campaign
http://www.savedarfur.org/pages/china_and_sudan

UN estimates about 180,000 people have died in Darfur
AP, March 16, 2005
http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2005-03-16-darfur_x.htm

UN puts Darfur dead at 70,000
CNN, Dec. 21, 2004
http://www.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/africa/12/21/sudan.darfur.dead/index.html

In Quietly Courting Africa, U.S. Likes the Dowry: Oil
by James Doo, New York Times, Sept. 19, 2002
via CommonDreams
http://www.commondreams.org/headlines02/0919-09.htm

See also:

CHINA IN AFRICA: THE NEW DEBATE
by Walden Bello, Foreign Policy in Focus
WW4 REPORT, May 2007
/node/3738

NIGER DELTA: BEHIND THE MASK
Ijaw Militia Fight the Oil Cartel
by Ike Okonta
WW4 REPORT, January 2007
/node/2974

SAVE DARFUR: ZIONIST CONSPIRACY?
Exploiting African Genocide for Propaganda
by Ned Goldstein, WW4 REPORT, October 2006
/node/2582

From our weblog:

Darfur: Sudan woos some rebels —bombs others
WW4 REPORT, Sept. 15, 2007
/node/4429

Mali: Tuareg rebels fire on US military plane
WW4 REPORT, Sept. 14, 2007
/node/4427

Africa Command: “Follow the oil”
WW4 REPORT, Feb. 16, 2007
/node/3154

More denial on Darfur —this time from the “left”
(WW4R takes issue with Mahmood Mamdani’s analysis)
WW4 REPORT, March 18, 2007
/node/3368

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Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingDESTINATION DARFUR: A NEW COLD WAR OVER OIL 

BOOTS, BEARDS, BURQAS, BOMBS

The Politics of Militarism and Islamist Extremism in Pakistan

by Beena Sarwar, Himal Southasian

The Pakistan Army emerged victorious from the Lal Masjid battle that took place in Islamabad on July 10, following a week’s standoff. But it is a victory achieved at a heavy price. The bloodshed in the Red Mosque upped the ante in the ongoing war between the “boots and the beards,” to use the terminology of young Pakistanis for the military and the religious extremists. It also involves the burqas—hundreds of young girls and women affiliated with the Jamia Hafsa girls’ madrassa adjacent to the mosque became an integral part of the story.

By the end of the army operation, the mosque’s name, derived from the red bricks with which it is built, took on a new, bloody connotation. Elite units of the Pakistan Army pounded the sprawling two-acre compound with automatic and chemical weapons for more than 12 hours, fiercely resisted by armed militants inside. By the end of the fighting, over 70 of the mosque’s affiliates, including their leader, Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, were dead. So were ten army men. The number of dead may have been much higher than the official number, however. Some were burnt beyond recognition, and may have included women and children. Smoke that still lingered over the site two days later was identified as residue from the Pakistan Army’s use of white phosphorus, a hot-burning substance prohibited by the Geneva Convention for use against civilians.

For months, Gen. Pervez Musharraf had allowed the militants of the Lal Masjid to run a parallel Taliban-style government in the heart of the capital. They had damaged billboards and other property that they deemed “vulgar,” and ransacked music and video shops. Female students from the madrassa occupied a children’s library in January; their spiriting away of six Chinese massage-parlor girls was apparently the last straw. It is believed that pressure from Beijing, Pakistan’s long-time ally, finally goaded Gen Musharraf into besieging the mosque, and ordering its inmates to surrender. A week later, he launched Operation Silence, originally expected to last only a couple of hours.

Ghazi and Abdul

The Lal Masjid saga exploded in July but it actually dates back to the late 1970s, when America enlisted Pakistan, led by the all-too-willing Gen. Zia ul-Haq, as a frontline state against the Russian communists who had invaded Afghanistan. Soon the Pakistani madrassas were flush with American and Saudi money. The influx coincided with the rise of Khomeini’s Shi’ite Iran, perceived as a threat by the Saudis who until then were the undisputed “leaders” of the Muslim world. More madrassas, mostly financed by the Saudis but some also by the Iranians, began appearing in Pakistan, along with training camps for the Mujahideen. Afghanistan’s fight for national independence was transformed into a jihad. (Ironically, Gen. Zia’s son, Ijaz ul-Haq, Pakistan’s Minister for Religious Affairs, was among the negotiators trying to work out a solution to the situation, until talks failed reportedly due to pressure from Washington, DC).

Hailing from a poor family of Baloch Mazaris in southern Punjab, Ghazi Abdul Rasheed’s father, Maulana Abdullah, was the first khateeb (chief orator) of the Lal Masjid, when the government’s Auqaf (department for religious affairs) built it in 1965. Abdullah retained this post for the following three decades. The Lal Masjid, like so many others during that time, eventually developed into the fortified, multi-storied mosque-madrassa complex that was the focus of international television networks for a week in July. When a gunman, believed to belong to a rival Islamist group, murdered Abdullah in the mosque courtyard in 1998, it was just part of a by-then familiar pattern.

Ghazi Abdul Rasheed began as a moderate youth who initially rejected his father’s religious training. Instead of going into the madrassa, he did a Masters in International Relations from the well-regarded, secular Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad. He worked at the Ministry of Education and UNESCO, married into a moderate family, and attended mixed gatherings. Rasheed’s subsequent radicalization itself reflects the rise of “militant Islam” in Pakistan.

After the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1988-89, the world turned its attention away from the war-ravaged country. The purpose had been served: communism had been defeated. The Mujahideen, who for the previous decade had been steeped in the mindset of jihad and violence, began fighting each other. Many returned to a Pakistan bereft of their chief patron, Gen Zia, who had been killed in an as-yet unexplained mid-air explosion in August 1988.

It is no coincidence that the farce of Pakistan’s “return to democracy” was marked not only by governments being regularly dissolved by caretaker set-ups overseeing fresh elections, but by a rise in sectarian violence that claimed hundreds of lives. Maulana Abdullah appears to be but one of the casualties of a fire that he himself was involved in stoking.

The Maulana’s murder brought his younger son, Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, back into the fold, guided by his elder brother, Abdul Aziz, who inherited the title of mosque khateeb. Rasheed continued his job with the Ministry of Education but became increasingly drawn to the faith, growing a beard and taking more interest in the affairs of the mosque and its madrassa. The turning point for him was September 11, 2001 and the ensuing US invasion of Afghanistan. In 2004, he was at the centre of a controversial fatwa, according to which Pakistan Army soldiers killed during operations in South Waziristan were to be considered infidels not worthy of a Muslim burial. The Lal Masjid’s links with al-Qaeda were also revealed that year. Rasheed was accused of plotting to attack government installations, but was soon mysteriously cleared of those charges, supported by Ijaz ul-Haq. A group of Uzbeks were instead found guilty.

The Lal Masjid again came into the limelight following the London bombings of July 2005, when it was reported that some of the perpetrators had recently visited the mosque. But the Islamabad government again sat back, making no attempt to arrest the brothers, even after declaring them as wanted criminals.

Blowback

The links between Pakistan’s intelligence agencies and the country’s militant Islamists have long been apparent. Those affiliated with the Lal Masjid are no exception. Abdul Aziz told journalists that he often visited intelligence-agency officers disguised in a burqa. These links seem to have been behind the ineffectual attempts by Gen. Musharraf’s administration to deal with the unfolding situation at the mosque—the indecisiveness in direct contrast to the heavy-handedness with which liberal or secular protests are handled.

The government’s inaction emboldened the Lal Masjid affiliates to start undertaking vigilante action in Islamabad, along the lines of the Taliban’s Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice Department, or Saudi Arabia’s Morality Police—something that their brothers in Peshawar and areas bordering Afghanistan had long been doing with impunity. The government did nothing to put down this growing monster in the country’s capital. The Lal Masjid had encroached on government land to build the Jamia Hafsa women’s madrassa, and so electricity, gas and water to the illegal structure could have been cut off long ago. The madrassa had been in operation for years before the government served it notice in January, in a drive to demolish illegal buildings. It was in protest of this order that Jamia Hafsa students occupied the children’s library.

All of this was well before Gen. Musharraf suspended Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry on spurious charges. This sparked off a lawyers’ movement for constitutionality that erupted into widespread public protest in March—and was then conveniently relegated to the background by the drama surrounding the Lal Masjid. On July 20, in a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court ruled that Chaudhry be reinstated, and quashed the charges of misconduct against him. While the Chaudhry issue has significantly reduced Gen. Musharraf’s political standing, the Lal Masjid affair weakened his links to the crucial religious right.

Dire predictions of Gen Musharraf’s underestimation of the ramifications of the Lal Masjid calamity began immediately. “The government, with its ham-handed handling of the situation, has in fact created the potential for further problems ahead,” warned lawyer Asma Jahangir, chair of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. “The deaths of so many at the hands of state forces may act only to pave the way for greater extremism in society and support for the violent cause militants espouse.”

The US-based think tank Statfor noted in early July that radical Islamist forces constitute a minority in Pakistan, although a significant one. “While the vast majority of Pakistanis do not support jihadists, they do not necessarily support Musharraf’s agenda either,” Stafor’s researchers noted. The report also predicted that the Red Mosque operation is likely to be “the beginning of a long confrontation between the state and radical/militant Islamist forces,” which could lead to military operations in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the tribal areas, “as well as nationwide social unrest.”

These apprehensions were soon borne out. Since July 10, pro-Taliban elements have increasingly clashed with the Pakistani military, and have intensified suicide attacks around the country, taking scores of lives. For the first time, a suicide bomber targeted a lawyers’ pro-democracy rally on July 17 in Islamabad, just minutes before Iftikhar Chaudhry was to arrive to address the meeting. The target, a welcome stall set up by workers of Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples’ Party, raised speculation that the bomber was aiming at not just the lawyers’ movement but also Bhutto, for having supported Gen. Musharraf’s action against the Lal Masjid. Two days later, three separate attacks killed more than 40 people in Balochistan and NWFP, where more than 100 had been killed during the previous week alone.

This is a situation that military action alone will never resolve. What is needed is a long-term political road-map, to bring Pakistan back into the fold of democracy. Meanwhile, as Gen. Musharraf battles religious zealots and political liberals, unable to take assistance from one against the other, it is clear that there is more violence, rather than less, written in Pakistan’s immediate future.

——

This story first appeared in the August issue of Himal Southasian, Kathmandu, Nepal
http://www.himalmag.com/2007/august/analysis_lal_masjid_beena.htm

It also ran in the September issue of Peacework, Cambridge, MA
http://www.peaceworkmagazine.org/

See also:

RAPE AND REFORM IN PAKISTAN
Real Change on Anti-Woman “Hudood” Laws?
by Abira Ashfaq, Peacework
WW4 REPORT, April 2007
/node/3494

From our weblog:

It hits the fan in Pakistan —as pipeline talks open with Iran
WW4 REPORT, Sept. 25, 2007
/node/4473

——————-

Reprinted by WORLD WAR 4 REPORT, Oct. 1, 2007
Reprinting permissible with attribution

Continue ReadingBOOTS, BEARDS, BURQAS, BOMBS 

WHY WE FIGHT

From Fox Local News, NYC. Sept. 30: Woman Killed in East Village Hit-Run A 24-year-old woman was killed early Sunday when a car hit her — and kept going. Julia Thomson of 355 Bowery was crossing East Fourth Street and… Read moreWHY WE FIGHT