Posted on 02-10-2010
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Just when you thought that week 1 of this blog resuming posting could go by without a shout out to our favorite American “allies,” this week has has been full of delightful news in the region.

  • Our venal, incompetent ally in the presidential palace in Kabul may be suffering a nervous breakdown, but we are stuck with him.
  • Our venal, incompetent (though well meaning) ally in the presidential palace in Islamabad could be forced out of office in a shadow coup.
  • Pakistan is seething about drone attacks that NATO is now aggressively carrying out on their side of the border for the logical reason that the terrorists are located there.  The problem is that the drones have tendency to kill Pakistani civilians and soldiers.
  • As a result, American supply lines to Afghanistan are threatened by attacks on NATO convoys and by Pakistan blocking them.
  • The overhyped Pakistani offensive in the tribal areas still has not worked (as evidenced by the stoning to death of a woman by the Taliban for being seen with a man).
  • But Pakistan’s leaders are still focused on the drones crossing the border rather than fighting the Taliban in its North Waziristan stronghold.  Their elite in denial try to pretend that they are somehow being sucked into America’s war – even though Pakistan midwifed the Taliban and by sponsoring Al-Qaeda’s ideological allies as proxies against India was the training ground for terror.  This (and the recent discovery of a terror plot in Europe by men of Pakistani origin) got them a dressing down from CIA director Leon Panetta.
  • And last but most importantly, the Afghan army will not be ready in time for the withdrawal of American troops.

I understand the political imperative that forced the Afghan surge, but it has not worked in the face of bumbling civilian allies and duplicitous military ones (as shown by the Wikileaks documents this summer).  The question remains whether the administration will have the courage to cut its losses and focus on a smarter war against Al Qaeda, rather than squandering blood and treasure in the Land of Bones.

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Posted on 20-04-2010
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

This chilling piece on on time anthrax attack suspect Dr. Steven J. Hatfill by David Freed is worth a read.  It is a stark reminder of the slender thread on which liberty stands when the government succumbs to fear.   The government bureaucrats, their enablers at the local level and the credulous media will walk away with few consequences, apart from any discomfort to their consciences, if they exist.  While Dr. Hatfill was not driven to suicide, Dr. Bruce Ivins (now presumed to be responsibel for the anthrax attacks) cracked quickly.  By committing suicide he gave the FBI the opportunity to close the case.  Given the myopic vision with which people honed in on the suspect the entire truth may never be told.

Dr. Hatfill was the latest victim of the police-media rush to judgment in prominent cases.  Other victims in the last 15 years include Dr. Wen Ho Lee (accused of spying for China and who received an apology from the Federal judge for government misconduct), Richard Jewell (accused in the Atlanta Olympic bombing) and Brandon Mayfield (accused of involvement in the Madrid terror attacks due to sloppy fingerprint analysis).

And then there is the ongoing blot of Guantanamo, where it was asserted recently that even George Bush and Dick Cheney knew that many of the prisoners were innocent (the dubious capture methods were widely reported by the non mainstream news media), but were willing inflict the collateral damage to catch a few hardcore terrorists.  With the innocents now likely radicalized that has been advanced by some Fox “News” contributors as an argument to keep them locked up.

One of my biggest disappointments with Barack Obama has been his rather retrograde record on civil liberties.  While he said a lot of the right things on torture and closing Guantanamo (which is still open), his administration has brushed the Bush administration’s torture record under the carpet (the cynic in me thinks because they are probably doing it themselves more discreetly), dismissed privacy concerns in tracking cellphones, and asserting a right to assassinate American citizens.  The last one is an invitation to a slippery slope of the type of police “encounters” and extra judical killings that occur in India, Pakistan and other parts of the world.  Given the sheer incompetence in many prominent cases, it seems like a dangerous road to cross.

noted previously the power wielded by prosecutors and law enforcement and the risk of abuse.  I understand that the line between liberty and security is a fine one.  But the harassment meted out to Dr. Hatfill to buttress a weak case is truly disturbing.

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Posted on 04-04-2010
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Pakistan has evidently asked the Interpol to issue arrest warrants for Ajmal Kasab and Fahim Ansari in connection with the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.  See link.  The oddity stems from the fact that there is no mystery about their presence, both are lodged in Indian jails.  As the article notes it has raised speculation that this is an opening gambit in a sequence of moves designed to let Pakistan’s LeT proxies off the hook.  It could be just innocent bureaucratic paperwork, but this highlights the futility of talks in an atmosphere of deep distrust and until Pakistan’s commitment to dismantling its terror infrastructure is not established.

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Posted on 04-04-2010
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

As predicted in previous posts (see here and here) the Indo-Pak talks have hit a dead end.  See link.   The talks were taken for the benefit of the United States and Europe and were never going to go anywhere.  The undiplomatic truth from the Indian perspective is that there isn’t much to talk about as long as Pakistan keeps its terror proxies in reserve.  After being burned by the Pakistani security establishment many times New Delhi is not eager to repeat an experience akin to the classic clip from Animal House below.

What use is a composite dialog of the sort Pakistan wants when there is no trust on the ground and when Pakistan’s civilian government does not have the ability to rein in its military.  In the meantime Pakistan continues to ratchet up its complaints.  The latest concerns alleged violations of the long standing Indus Waters Treaty.  See link.  So the dance between the nuclear emerging power and the nuclear failed state continues.  The result will be headaches for the persons in charge of Washington’s Afghan policy.

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Posted on 16-02-2010
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

The last few weeks have seen an uptick in right wing carping about the Obama administration’s allegedly weakness in fighting terror (in large part based on increasing discredited facts about the arrest and interrogation of the underpants bomber and their refusal to torture him).  As signs of the silly season of the silly season are this piece by vocal torture supporter Marc Thiessen that the Obama administration is too darn successful in killing terrorists and is thereby costing us valuable intelligence.  Dick Cheney emerged from his coven to lob his usual broad sides at the administration.

Then came the news of the arrest of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Karachi.  See link. Mullah Baradar is second in influence to Mullah Omar and coordinates the old Afghan Taliban’s military operations.  See link.  The arrest complicates the Taliban’s military response to the surge and is an opportunity to be exploited.  The administration is also drawing kudos for keeping quiet about the arrest while intelligence leads against the Taliban in Karachi were pursued.

The fact that this arrest occurred in Karachi shows how the drone campaign is affecting Taliban operations.  Pakistan’s commercial capital has seen an influx of Pashtuns of late and an uptick in violence (beyond the usual round of blood letting between the native Sindhis and the Muhajirs – Muslims who emigrated from India after partition).

The arrest has raised hopes that Pakistan is finally co-operating fully in the fight against the Taliban.  But not everyone is convinced.  Juan Cole in the link above speculates that the violence triggered by the Taliban starting to relocate to Karachi forced the Pakistanis to act.  Others have speculated that it is a cynical attempt to insert Pakistan into the talks with the Taliban.  See link.  I have been harsh in my evaluation of Pakistan’s Janus-faced cooperation in the past, but for now I will defer comments until events play themselves out.

I will also allow my sliver of hope for Afghanistan to widen, slightly.

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It has become a predictable pattern ever since Pervez Musharraf as chief of the Pakistani army instigated the the Kargil War.  Barely a week after the announcement that India and Pakistan would resume the talks that were put on hold after the Mumbai attacks, comes a bomb attack.  See link.  This time the target is the city of Pune.  As in Mumbai, the target of the attacks was a location where foreigners congregated.  Even though the perpetrators have not been identified, the site of the attack was surveyed by David Headley, the Chicago man of Pakistani origin who is being investigated for his connection with Mumbai attacks.  See link.

The attacks promptly brought calls to suspend talks with Pakistan, which the Indian government has said will continue.  Personally, I see the talks as a charade played out for public (particularly Western) consumption.  President Zardari’s government simply does not have the power to make the compromises necessary for a lasting peace treaty and does not control the Pakistani security establishment.  Islamabad still tries to distinguish the jihadi movement in Afghanistan from the proxies launched against India.  India is never going to accede to a demand to sever Kashmir from the Union of India, at best the Kashmiris on the Indian side of the LOC can look forward to a type of enhanced autonomy (which should probably be extended to the other states of India).  If Zulfikar Ali Bhutto at the height of his power did not have the ability to recognize the LOC as the international border with India (when he signed the Simla Accord), his widely despised son in law (Asif Zardari) who genuinely seems to want peace with India will not be able to do so either.

So the impasse will continue.  A few months from now Pakistan will complain the Indians are not serious about negotiations.  India will respond that the jihadi network still flourishes in Pakistan.  A terrorist strike that tests India’s patience will occur.  Pakistan will make some token arrests and bans to deflect attention.  One difference from the Musharraf years is that Pakistan stands alone and bereft of world sympathy as a result of its role in midwifing global terrorism.  As the Indian economy grows stronger and as Pakistan crumbles the balance of power is inexorably tilting in New Delhi’s favor.

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Posted on 26-01-2010
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Juan Cole has a fascinating analysis of the latest Bin Laden audio tape and why he is not convinced it is genuine.  See link.  As Cole notes Bin Laden has not been seen on video since October 2004 and the new tape has generally been ignored in the Arab world.  If Cole’s analysis is correct, Bin Laden’s decline also serves as a lesson on why terrorists with no practical positive plan struggle to maintain support.

Bin Laden at one point attracted genuine sympathy and support in the Arab world.  He was the rich kid who abandoned his wealth to fight a jihad against two superpowers back to back.  The perceived impotence of their regimes against Israel and frustration at the lack of political and economic opportunities contributed to his support.  But Al Qaeda never had a serious or practical program to offer.  Unlike Hamas and Hezbollah whose goals are narrower and nationalistic, Al Qaeda has the unrealistic goals of restoring the  pan-Islamic Caliphate.  The entity Al Qaeda wanted existed only in its imagination.  Of the first four caliphs, three were assassinated.  The distance from the capital of Damascus (and later Baghdad) to the extremities of the Empire (Spain and Morocco in the West and the Indus River in the East) meant that provincial governors would always have a lot of local autonomy.  The “golden age” of the famous Harun al-Rashid also marked the disintegration of the empire as Baghdad could not hold effective sway over such a vast region.

Far less ambitious projects like the union of Egypt and Syria (which barely lasted 3 years) crumbled in the 20th century.  Needless to say, no Arab state took Al Qaeda’s goals seriously.  Ultimately, all Al Qaeda offered was terrorism against its presumed enemies with involuntary martyrdom offered to any Muslims who happened to be in the way.  The terror attacks in Jordan, Zarqawi’s blood lust in Iraq that helped give rise to the Sunni Awakening and the terror attacks in Pakistan last year that forced the Pakistani army to respond with lethal force, all have dimmed the rosy glow some had for this band of thugs.

While vigilance must be maintained and bands of murderous fanatics are still out there, such groups do not present and existential threat to the American way of life (unless we do the job for them).  As Fareed Zakaria noted a few weeks back overreaction plays into their hands (see link).  Meanwhile, the location of the chief evildoer (as George W. Bush once named him) is somewhat of a mystery.  As Cole notes he increasingly appears to be an irrelevancy.

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It often comes down to what gets through the filter of the American media. To be fair, the United States is hardly unique in this.  Few countries engage in serious introspection about their actions.  However, there often seems to be a major disconnect between American self-image and the image as seen abroad.

To some extent it is understandable.  Self-criticism is too hard to take and certain groups can often go too overboard on the critiques of America without acknowledging the good.  But too often the American media goes to the other extreme by embracing the Pollyannaish version of American exceptionalism (like the ridiculous George W. Bush assertion “they hate us for our freedoms“) in which all American foreign policy actions are undertaken for noble reasons.  As many Latin Americans would tell you, that has unfortunately not always been the case.

A column by Juan Cole brought this issue up for me recently.  The column deals with the continuing human catastrophe in Gaza.  Israel’s apologists in the United States often attribute any criticism of Israel to an undercurrent of anti-semitism and are only too willing to grant it unquestioned support.  However, it is stories like the one linked above that have undercut the sympathy Israel attracts (including among some progressives in the United States) in many parts of the world.

Israel is no longer the plucky underdog of the Six Days War or the Yom Kippur War threatened by seemingly overwhelming odds.  While the threat to Israel is real, the armies of its Arab neighbors have atrophied since the fall of the Soviet Union.  Meanwhile the Israeli army built up with a steady diet of American aid is the 800 lb gorilla in the Middle East.  Add to that the (not publicly acknowledged, but understood) second strike nuclear capability delivered to Israel by the United States and Israel has the ability to pulverize any of its neighbors (as Lebanon and the Gaza strip found out in the last two years).

However, with great power comes great responsibility.  American media coverage generally fails  to acknowledge this change in status for Israel or the extremely disproportionate number of Palestinian casualties in the last decade.  American media has also not really delved into the details of the collective punishment inflicted on Gaza in the past year.  When the destruction is covered, it is generally framed solely in the context of a response to terrorist attacks with little discussion of whether a hammer is being used to swat a fly.  As a result, the United States remains one of the few countries where public opinion and elected officials generally uncritically support Israel.

In contrast, the rest of the world’s media has covered this issue extensively.  So now a furious and sometimes bewildered Israel finds much of world opinion treating it as a bully for actions it feels are justified self-defense.  Israel is also painfully learning the lesson the United States learned in Vietnam.  Civilian suffering transmitted to the living rooms makes for awful public relations for a democracy, unless of course the media chooses not to cover it.  It is unfair, but countries are generally held to higher standards than terrorist groups.

A critique I have had for the Cheneyian vision of the world is that it often seeks to lower American actions to the standards of the thugs they oppose while encouraging charges of hypocrisy by maintaining the high minded rhetoric that plays so well domestically.  Israel does have a point that it should not have to take too many pious bromides from human rights “paragons” Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran, etc. who are only too willing to use the Palestinians as props while doing nothing to ameliorate their lot.  However, the question does arise whether Israel really wants to lump itself on the issue of human rights with these countries?

Juan Cole’s column also brought about a sense of deja vu.  The stories about Gaza sound distressingly similar to the stories about the sufferings of Iraqi civilians during the sanctions in the 1990s.  These stories were circulated by human rights groups, dismissed by the Clinton and Bush administrations as solely Saddam Hussein’s fault and were largely ignored by the media.  While nobody should discount Saddam’s brutality, hiding behind indifference of a tyrant to the suffering of his people is an odd way to absolve yourself of any responsibility.  And ultimately all that suffering made not a whit of difference to toppling his regime.  As the Iranian people are finding out and as the Chinese found in 1989, public outrage by itself cannot topple men with the guns who have no qualms about shedding blood.  It is also very easy, as in the case of Iraq, for governments used to manipulating public opinion to transfer the blame to the people implementing the sanctions.

The result is a propaganda coup for the regime (another example would be Castro’s dictatorship in Cuba that blames the yanquis for the failures of its socialist revolution) and a recruiting boon for fanatics like Al Qaeda who tap into the resentment caused by the suffering that is transmitted into living rooms across the Middle East.

However, as little of this is transmitted to American living rooms the perspective of the American public is shaped very differently than the rest of the world.

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Posted on 05-01-2010
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Jon Stewart starts  off the year strong with a wonderful skewering of the performance of the intelligence agencies and the predictable chest thumping partisan response from Republicans (clip at end of post).

The Republican response has been particularly distressing: from banging the war drums to enter the Yemeni quagmire, repeating calls to bring back torture and attacking the rule of law by trying to push what will be an open and shut case into military tribunals (somehow the court system worked just fine for the shoe bomber Richard Reid).  All of this is a part of a strategy to play the Democrats are weak on terror card with little attention to whether any of this posturing actually works or makes America safer.  The father of the underpants bomber was calling the United States to turn his kid in.  Would this happen if the United States followed Pat Buchanan’s barbaric call to deny medical aid or the calls to torture him for information he probably does not have?  The right still does not understand just how potent a recruiting tool Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib were for Al Qaeda.  And so far nobody has pointed to any useful information the willful law breaking produced that was not being obtained from other legal sources.  It also appears that some of the torture occurred because the prisoners were not giving the answers Dick Cheney and his acolytes wanted to hear.

This blinkered world-view ignores just how much Al Qaeda’s nihilistic philosophy and willingness to shed Muslim blood have cost them support in the Arab world.  Pakistan (while not Arab) is a good example of this.  While Pakistanis remain deeply in denial about the origins of extremism in their country, the vicious attacks on civilians have turned public opinion against these thugs.  An overreaction of the sort counseled by George Bush’s homeland security advisor Frances Fargos Townsend vaguely threatening an invasion of Yemen would be just what Al Qaeda wants.  Have the United States invade yet another Muslim country (in the Arab peninsula no less) that would make it easier for them to claim that the United States is an enemy of Islam.

Then there is the call to engage in racist profiling.  As George Bush’s CIA Director and Homeland Security Secretary note how profiling can be easily sidestepped.  After all the underpants bomber as a Nigerian would not have shown up on typical terrorist profiles.

It is understandable to tighten up security procedures to prevent attacks.  But the ugly reality is that it is impossible to prevent all attacks from a group that probably numbers about a 1,000 people world wide.  If fear of Al Qaeda starts a downward slide to a police state, Al Qaeda will have won.  Using a hammer to swat a fly will leave a gaping hole in the fabric of the idea and values of America.  This long piece from the New York Times is a good read on how the administration struggles to find a balance between the values and the security while avoiding the pointless and probably harmful chest thumping that Dick Cheney would like.

Meanwhile the people calling for draconian police action continue to compare health care reform to tyranny and a Republican Congressional candidate in Minnesota says defeating liberals is a bigger battle than defeating terrorism.  The mind reels.

Enjoy the clip.

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Terror 2.0 by Yemen
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The New York Times has a an interesting read about Pakistan’s unwillingness to take on its pet Afghan militant as part of its posturing for a post American Afghan future.  After riding the militant tiger and finding it hard to get off Pakistan is not yet willing to learn its lessons from the past.  Instead as many observers including this blog have noted, it remains steeped in denial and paranoia about Indian intentions in Afghanistan.  It is much easier to engage in tit for tat blame of India (with no real evidence presented) rather than face up to the mess they have made of their country.  While the Pakistani establishment fiddles, its country burns.

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Indian authorities (with silent Bangladeshi cooperation) appear to have arrested the head of the United Liberation Front of Asom.  ULFA now appears a spent force and hopefully the mistakes of the past that gave rise to the insurgency will not be repeated.  While the Indian constitution explicitly protects minority religions, cultures and languages and the Indian government has generally not actively discriminated against minorities, India has been plagued by repeated insurgencies and secessionist movements along its periphery.  This was often created by excessive centralization in the aftermath of partition and particularly in the Indira Gandhi years.  The central government also repeatedly dismissed opposition governments in sensitive states like Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir.  While this was also carried out in different parts of the country, needless to say states with large minority populations took umbrage.

The insurgency in Assam was different in that unlike Kashmir, Punjab or Nagaland the state is largely Hindu.  Assam, like Kashmir, has historically very much been a part of the Indian cultural mileu but due to geographical location was somewhat isolated on the periphery.  The name of the state itself comes from the Ahoms who conquered the ancient Indian region of Kamarupa.  While the Ahoms would defeat Mughal invasion attempts their civil war plagued kingdom was eventually conquered by Burma.  A few years later the British annexed Assam after the First Anglo-Burmese War.

Assam like Punjab saw its territory drastically reduced after independence when Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh were carved out of the state.  Even now certain tribal gorups like the Bodos have agitated for their own states.  If this was a bruise to the Assamese ego, the Indian government made it worse.  Even though Assam contains most of India’s land based oil reserves the refineries (and the resulting jobs) were relocated to electorally more promising states.  From the 1970s illegal immigration from Bangladesh threatened the religious and demographic make up of Assam, a problem aggravated by unscrupulous politicians enrolling these politicians on the electoral rolls.  By the 1980s Assam was the site of a simmering insurgency.

Countries don’t often get a chance to fix repeated mistakes.  However, the decline of the Indian National Congress and the emergence of coalition politics at the national level in India has helped ease some of the regional unrest.  Article 356 of the Indian constitution that was repeatedly misused in the past has rarely been used in the last 15 years.  This has allowed Indian state governments to rise and fall on their own merits without New Delhi being used as a scape goat.  The decline of ULFA is an opportunity to finish the transition from the bullet to the ballot to resolve Assam’s problems.

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Posted on 04-12-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

As the Pakistani army finally turned its guns on the monsters it help create, the monsters have responded with the type of violence that Afghans and Indians have experienced over the years.  For these so called warriors of Islam it is evidently no sin to send suicide bombers into a mosque (reserved for military families) or to blow up schools.  For the zealots who fund and support these terrorists the question must be asked, what sort of state do you think you would gain in the unlikely event these tactics succeed.  With Pakistan finally facing at home the tactics it has used via proxies against India for the past 25 years it is now or never to fix its corroded institutions and fractured civil society.

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Posted on 25-11-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Its been one year since the shocking images of the assault on Mumbai were flashed worldwide.  Time magazine reviews how India’s security situation domestically still leaves it as a soft target.  One of the few things the Indian government can take some pride in is that even its creaky justice system is bringing the accused to prompt trial.  But then unlike 9/11 the Mumbai attacks unfortunately were merely the latest and most public of the myriad terrorist events in India in the last 25 years.  The Indian judicial and legal system has far more experience dealing with such cases and the pitfall of draconian anti-terrorism statutes (TADA and POTA).  Unfortunately after each outrage like the Mumbai attacks the next draconian statute hits the books.

As the anniversary of the attacks approached and as it prepared for unwelcome attention to the paucity of any meaningful cooperation, Pakistan “rounded up the usual suspects.”  Count me a cynic on the likelihood that anything meaningful will come out of this.  While Pakistan has belatedly launched its assault on the Taliban, it remains unwilling or unable to clean up the terrorist  support infrastructure it created in the last 25 years.  However, 26/11 should also have hammered home just how isolated Pakistan stands in the international arena at present while its rival with all its flaws is increasingly accepted as a major international player.

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Posted on 17-11-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut
  • Josh Marshall wonders what people are afraid of.
  • Andrew Sullivan applauds the President for not being governed by fear.
  • Republican Congressman John Shadegg engages in some crude fearmongering.
  • The irrepressible Jon Stewart identifies the real risk…the media…plus pokes some fun at Rudy Giuliani.  Best line at the end of the clip “Geraldo Rivera is now the voice of reason”

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Law & Order: KSM
www.thedailyshow.com
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Posted on 16-11-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Ever since Barack Obama announced his plans to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Republicans have been in a lather about the perceived risks that would happen if these terrorists were transferred to a federal super-max facility.  The fact that these facilities already house people like the original World Trade Center bomber, Ramzi Yousef somehow seems to elude them as does the fact that nobody has actually escaped from these facilities. Finally some conservatives (Republican Congressman and Libertarian presidential candidate Bob Barr, David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union and Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform) have called out the GOP for its scaremongering.  Yet somehow I do not hold out hope that any of the prospective 2012 candidates will display any fortitude and stand up to the Republican base.

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Posted on 15-11-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Yglesias raises a question whether by terming terrorism as war you end up justifying (at least in part) the declarations of the perpetrators that they are somehow holy warriors instead of murderous thugs. This comes in light of the Obama administration’s decision to finally bring the 9/11 accused to trial.  This has caused the usual suspects including Rudy Giuliani to raise the standard weak on terror charge (ignoring his previous support for such trials by the Bush administration). A depressing characteristic of American conservatives after 9/11 is their willingness to eviscerate the rule of law in this country by permitting limitless wireless wiretaps, challenging the patriotism of attorneys who defended the Guantanamo accused (forgetting that John Adams defended the accused in the Boston Massacre) and letting a President claim that he can hold suspects (initially even American citizens) in prison indefinitely without trial.

After the Bush administrations bungled the opportunity of military tribunals by patently trying to turn them into show trials, it is hard to see how they could have regained international credibility.  However, a civilian trial is not without risks.  It requires a strong judge who will prevent the proceedings from turning into a circus Zacarias Moussaoui attempted to do and Slobodan Milosevic managed to do.

Ultimately, it is antithetical to American values to indefinitely hold persons without trial.  While some conservatives are fond of stating that as non-citizens have no rights, it flies in face of the Constitution which extend these rights to all “persons” and not just “citizens”.  It is time these criminals stop being used as a bogeyman to curb American values and liberty.

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Posted on 06-11-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s rampage at Fort Hood yesterday brings to the forefront how to combat extremism domestically without alienating all other Muslims in a manner that would prevent them from cooperating with law enforcement.  Bracing for the inevitable backlash, most major Muslim organizations have already condemned the attack.  Inevitably the usual suspects on the right and on Fox News have giddily started tarring the entire Muslim community and suggesting solutions that would result in an alienation of the Muslim minority in the United States as is the case in Europe.  A link from Andrew Sullivan raising this point.

The Obama administration seems to understand this point.  Here’s hoping they stand up for their principles to avoid the counterproductive ethnic profiling of the past eight years to identify meaningful ways to separate the dangerous extremists from the rest.  To close this post out is an article about the thoughts of a Muslim soldier at Fort Hood who interacted with Major Hasan.

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Posted on 30-10-2009
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

A comment to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her refreshingly frank tour of Pakistan has irritated me more than it should.  During an exchange she was told that Pakistan “was fighting America’s war”.  As Clinton herself acknowledged, the United States did abandon Pakistan when the Soviets left Afghanistan.  But Pakistan’s current situation is the result of the terrible choices made by its security and political establishments in the past 20 years and beyond.  Pakistan’s failure to create a viable educational system or develop its economy delegates a vast section of its population to madrassas where they emerge as radicalized youth with no career skills ripe for harvesting by terror groups.  Pakistan’s security establishment turned a blind eye to many of these groups because they could be used to bleed India in Kashmir.  The ISI created and funded the Taliban’s rise to power in the 90s and Pakistan was one of only three countries (along with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) to recognize that brutal regime.

After 9/11 the Musharraf dictatorship avoided many hard choices with respect to the terrorist establishment and in fixing Pakistani society.  Instead, it used American aid replenish its military arsenal against India.  Pakistan has been riding the jihadi tiger for the last 20 years and is now finding out that it is very hard to get off without being bitten.

For the  last decade the Pakistani establishment has acted as if it could continue business as usual in launching terrorists against India and pretending all was well in its unruly Northwest.  The American drones were used because the Pakistani army would not or could not launch anti-insurgency operations in Waziristan.  After the Mumbai attacks last year and with the increasingly brazen attacks on army and civilian targets inside Pakistan in the past few months, it is clear that things have to change.  Its time the Pakistani people stopped blaming everybody else and took a close hard look at the ruin they have created from its founder’s dreams.

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Posted on 29-10-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

Time magazine has an article up about Omar bin Laden, the fourth son of Osama bin Laden and a disturbing inner look at his abusive and ruthless upbringing.  With the father hiding in the wilds of Pakistan’s northwest, this may be the closest insider account we may get for a while.

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