JFP 4/22: What happens after Qaddafi is removed?; Ignatius blasts drone strikes
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April 22, 2011
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*Action: Barbara Boxer: Ending the Endless War
California Senator Barbara Boxer has re-introduced former Senator Feingold's bill requiring the President to establish a timetable for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan - a timetable with an end date. Senators Durbin, Harkin, Gillibrand, and Brown have already signed on as co-sponsors. A real deadline for US withdrawal would facilitate meaningful peace talks. More visible Senate criticism of the endless war can move the White House. Urge your Senator to co-sponsor.
Barbara Boxer Is New Senate Champion Against Afghan War
A firm end date for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan could be crucial to the success of peace talks to end the war.
Paul Krugman: The Progressive Budget Alternative
If you want to balance the budget in 10 years, you pretty much must do it largely by cutting defense and raising taxes; you can't make huge cuts in the rest of the budget without inflicting extreme pain on millions of Americans.
The Fix: Bowen positioning as anti-war candidate; Winograd support may matter in runoff
Opposition to the war is an issue in the special election for the seat previously held by Jane Harman.
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1) Contrary to the President's speech, regime change in Iraq did not take eight years, write former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff and former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden in the Washington Post. It was accomplished in a matter of weeks. What consumed eight years was the aftermath of regime change. Failing to recognize that the hardest part is post-regime change raises the question of whether we have planned for what NATO and others will do if we in fact succeed in our policy objective of showing Gaddafi the door.
The transitional leadership now is a collection of former regime officials, unelected Benghazi intellectuals and returning expatriate dissidents. We must acknowledge the real possibility that Gaddafi's departure will be followed by continued violent resistance carried out by his supporters or bloody score-settling by the victorious rebels. The staying power of Gaddafi's forces a month after the NATO intervention began suggests that the current fight, largely seen as democrat vs. oppressor, might have a darker tribal underlay. And with arms now generally available because of the weapons caches that both sides have accessed, a tribal-based round two could be dark indeed.
If Gaddafi falls, it will be because his army and other existing institutions of national power have been broken. And at this stage, it is difficult to see what surviving indigenous institution can manage a transition of governance in Libya.
If disorder and disarray follow Gaddafi's ouster, will humanitarians be prepared to stand by while the blood of retribution is spilled in the streets; or anarchy reigns; or society disintegrates; or a terrorist haven, famine and disease emerge? Whatever one's view about the wisdom of embarking on our coalition effort in Libya, prudence suggests we begin serious planning about what happens when we win - including what effort and resources and time will be required, they argue.
2) Drone attacks have become an addictive tool of U.S. national security policy, as illustrated by Thursday's unfortunate announcement that President Obama has authorized their use in Libya, writes David Ignatius in the Washington Post. US officials did not state what targets the Predator had been assigned to strike. But surely it's likely that the goal was to kill Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi or other members of his inner circle, Ignatius writes. This brings a weapon that has become for many Muslims a symbol of the arrogance of U.S. power into a theater next door to the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions. It projects American power in the most negative possible way, Ignatius says.
3) U.S. and Iraqi military officials have been in negotiations about keeping 10,000 US troops in Iraq beyond the scheduled withdrawal of all U.S. forces at year's end, the Wall Street Journal reports. But the discussions have faltered because of Iraqi worries that a continued U.S. military presence could fuel sectarian tension and lead to protests similar to those sweeping other Arab countries, U.S. officials say. Obama could face a political backlash at home if he doesn't meet his campaign pledge to bring troops home from Iraq, the Journal says.
U.S. military officials are particularly concerned that Iraqis will stage massive protests in support of fellow Shiites in Bahrain, the Journal says.
4) The unraveling of Greg Mortenson's tale reveals a lot about the naivety of Americans concerning the world and their role in it, writes Madeleine Bunting in The Guardian. Americans swallowed his tale because they wanted to, she writes. What empires - particularly those involved in violent conflict - need, above all, is heroes.
Mortenson's big pitch for the last 15 years was that schooling will divert potential terrorists: a "one-man peace mission" in the war on terror, she writes. By this account, the insurgency in Afghanistan/Pakistan is not political opposition to foreign intervention but a form of false consciousness inculcated in the madrassas. Get to the child early enough and they will grow up good democrats. It's ludicrously naive given that all the 9/11 bombers were highly educated.
5) Pakistani military officials said a US drone attack killed 23 people in North Waziristan on Friday, the New York Times reports. Friday's attack could further fuel antidrone sentiment among the Pakistani public, the Times says. A government official in North Waziristan told Pakistani reporters that five children and four women were among the 23 who were killed. A political leader, Imran Khan, has called on protesters to stage a sit-in on Saturday to block trucks carrying NATO supplies for the war in Afghanistan.
6) Greg Mortenson is to be sued by the Pakistani tribesmen he claimed kidnapped him, the Guardian reports. Mansur Khan Mahsud, who featured in the photograph in one of Mortenson's books of people who purportedly kidnapped him, said Mortenson came to his village in South Waziristan, in July 1996. Mahsud, who is research director of a thinktank in Islamabad that specialises in the tribal area, said the Taliban did not appear on the Pakistani side of the border until 2002, following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. "It's lies from A to Z," said Mahsud. "The way that he's portrayed the Mahsuds, as hash-smoking bandits, is wrong. He's defamed me, my family, my tribe. We are respected people in my area. He's turned us into kidnappers."
7) A government crackdown on the Shiite-dominated political opposition is reaching deep into Bahrain's middle-class professions, the Washington Post reports. Doctors, businessmen, engineers, academics, teachers and now journalists have all been targeted for questioning and detention, observers say, with hundreds arrested and hundreds more fired. Family members and associates of people detained say that the government is targeting Shiites indiscriminately, regardless of their political activity, and with a particular focus on doctors and educators. One opposition figure called the crackdown "an ethnic cleansing of top professions."
Physicians for Human Rights issued a report Friday alleging "systematic and targeted attacks against medical personnel, as a result of their efforts to provide unbiased care for wounded protesters." Nabeel Rajab, one of the few Bahraini human rights activists still willing to speak publicly, said he fears the government crackdown will "push the country toward civil war."
8) A rally of Israeli cultural leaders in support of an independent Palestinian state was disrupted by right-wing protestors who called the participants "traitors," Haaretz reports. Rally organizers and participants said police did not separate rally goers from objectors, as they usually do during right-wing events. One of the demonstrators, a Haaretz columnist, warned that Israeli opposition to Palestinian independence was "liable to bring about a practical catastrophe in which Israel will isolate itself and turn into a kind of South Africa."
9) Colombian journalists plan to take to the streets May 3 for a "march of silence" against the growing wave of threats by paramilitary groups against journalists and human rights groups, the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas reports. The Colombian Federation of Journalists, which is organizing the march, urged the authorities to take "concrete steps" to protect journalists and guarantee the freedom to practice journalism.
10) Two Peruvian journalists say they were fired from a television channel owned by the editorial group El Comercio - the most important in Peru - for refusing to slant the news in favor of Keiko Fujimori and against Humala, El Mundo reports. The firings have created an atmosphere of dismay in the Peruvian media, El Mundo says.
11) The rules defining who can travel freely to Cuba were released Thursday by the U.S. Treasury, the Miami Herald reports. Religious and educational groups can now travel to Cuba for certain types of events or study without a specific license. Americans can now send up to $2,000 annually to Cuba.
1) What happens after Gaddafi is removed?
Michael Chertoff and Michael V. Hayden, Thursday, April 21, 7:48 PM
[Chertoff was secretary of homeland security from 2005 to 2009; Hayden was director of the CIA from 2006 to 2009 and director of the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005.]
Libyan rebels have made it clear that any proposal to cease fighting and end their current battle against the Libyan government must include the removal of Moammar Gaddafi. President Obama, along with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, has repeatedly called for the removal of this violent dictator. The objective is clear. And Libya's future is being determined by a civil war, one in which we unarguably have a hand.
In a speech last month at the National Defense University, President Obama carefully distinguished between the administration's approach in Libya and America's experience in Iraq. Referring to overthrowing Gaddafi by force, he stated: "To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq. . . . [B]ut regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars. That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya."
For one thing, it is not at all clear whether the president will have the luxury of achieving his political objectives without the application of more force. More important, the president's statement reflects a fundamental misunderstanding that may have serious implications for the way ahead.
Regime change in Iraq did not take eight years. It was accomplished in a matter of weeks. What consumed eight years was the aftermath of regime change: the still ongoing process of transforming Iraq into a self-governing, reasonably secure, democratic society.
Failing to recognize that the hardest part is post-regime change raises the question of whether we have planned for what NATO and others will do if we in fact succeed in our policy objective of showing Gaddafi the door.
Certainly, it would be wonderful if the transitional leadership turns out to be a collection of Thomas Jeffersons and Edmund Burkes who quickly fashion a constitution that embodies freedom and civil rights for all. What we have now, though, as brave and committed as the Libyan opposition might be, is a collection of former regime officials, unelected Benghazi intellectuals and returning expatriate dissidents.
We must acknowledge the real possibility that Gaddafi's departure will be followed by continued violent resistance carried out by his supporters or bloody score-settling by the victorious rebels. The staying power of Gaddafi's forces a month after the NATO intervention began suggests that the current fight, largely seen as democrat vs. oppressor, might have a darker tribal underlay. And with arms now generally available because of the weapons caches that both sides have accessed, a tribal-based round two could be dark indeed.
In the days immediately following the fall of Saddam Hussein, looting and disorder rapidly degenerated into an insurgency. That outcome cannot be excluded as a possibility in Libya. While Egypt has been progressing along a relatively orderly transition to civil society, that process has been overseen by a powerful military, which managed President Hosni Mubarak's exit from power and enforced a disciplined framework for establishing more democratic institutions. Success in Egypt is far from guaranteed, and the army could falter in its self-appointed role, but this is a country with a strong national identity, a national history and strong national institutions.
If Gaddafi falls, it will be because his army and all other existing institutions of national power - corrupt as they might be - have been broken. And at this stage, it is difficult to see what surviving indigenous institution can manage a transition of governance in Libya.
We may tell ourselves that Gaddafi's ouster will end our mission. Optimists can point to the fact that Libya is more ethnically and religiously homogeneous than, say, Iraq, but it is also more tribal than most Arab societies. As brutal as he has been, Gaddafi has still had to respect tribal dynamics to sustain his rule. Is the United States confident that the dominant narrative today, of democrats vs. oppressor, will continue to play out - and will not be overtaken by latent ones such as tribe vs. tribe, haves vs. have-nots or, worse, Islam vs. "crusaders"?
If disorder and disarray follow Gaddafi's ouster, will humanitarians be prepared to stand by while the blood of retribution is spilled in the streets; or anarchy reigns; or society disintegrates; or a terrorist haven, famine and disease emerge? Whatever one's view about the wisdom of embarking on our coalition effort in Libya, prudence suggests we begin serious planning about what happens when we win - including what effort and resources and time will be required.
2) Drone attacks in Libya: A mistake
David Ignatius, Washington Post, 04/21/2011
Drone attacks have become an addictive tool of U.S. national security policy, as illustrated by Thursday's unfortunate announcement that President Obama has authorized their use in Libya.
Armed with Hellfire missiles, the Predator drone is a tool for assassination from 10,000 feet. It has been used by the CIA, with a paper-thin veneer of deniability, to attack al-Qaeda operatives and related targets in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where other weapons do not reach. One would like to think that's a special case, born of the extreme threat posed on Sept. 11, 2001, and the remoteness of the tribal areas where the attackers are hiding.
But now we have Defense Secretary Robert Gates, accompanied by Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stating at a news conference that Obama "has approved the use of armed Predators" over Libya-and, indeed, that the first mission was launched Thursday but aborted because of bad weather.
They did not state what targets the Predator had been assigned to strike. But surely it's likely that the goal was to kill Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi or other members of his inner circle.
My quick reaction, as a journalist who has chronicled the growing use of drones, is that this extension to the Libyan theater is a mistake. It brings a weapon that has become for many Muslims a symbol of the arrogance of U.S. power into a theater next door to the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions, the most promising events in a generation. It projects American power in the most negative possible way.
I wrote late last year that the problem with the Predators is that they provide too easy an answer to political and military problems. They Saudis asked for them last year to go after Yemenis they didn't like; the Turks use them (looking over our shoulders) to target Kurdish extremists in Iraqi Kurdistan. And now the United States will use them to beef up a stalemated NATO campaign in Libya, on behalf of a rebel army that very well may include Islamic radicals who, under other circumstances, might themselves have been targets of Predator attack.
Not a good idea, Mr. President. And a rare error of judgment by Secretary Gates. I hope it's not too late for this mistake to be reversed.
3) Iraq Troop Talks Falter
Allies Want U.S. to Stay Past Withdrawal Date but Baghdad Fears Unrest
Adam Entous and Julian E. Barnes, Wall Street Journal, April 22, 2011
Washington - Senior U.S. and Iraqi military officials have been in negotiations about keeping some 10,000 American troops in Iraq beyond the scheduled withdrawal of all U.S. forces at year's end, according to officials familiar with the talks.
But the discussions face political obstacles in both countries, and have faltered in recent weeks because of Iraqi worries that a continued U.S. military presence could fuel sectarian tension and lead to protests similar to those sweeping other Arab countries, U.S. officials say.
In Iraq, top U.S. military officials believe that leaving a sizeable force beyond this year could bolster Iraqi stability and serve as a check on Iran, the major American nemesis in the region, officials said. U.S. allies Saudi Arabia and Israel have echoed the concern that if the U.S. pulls out completely, Iran could extend its influence.
Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Baghdad Thursday, urging Iraqi leaders to step up discussions soon if they want U.S. forces to stay beyond the end of 2011.
The timing is critical because the U.S. is scheduled to start drawing down remaining forces in late summer or early fall, and the military would have to assign new units months in advance to take their place.
While American defense officials have made clear they want to leave troops in Iraq, such a decision would require presidential approval. President Obama has yet to indicate publicly whether he would sign off on such a deal.
Mr. Obama could face a political backlash at home if he doesn't meet his campaign pledge to bring troops home from Iraq. If the U.S. pulls out of Iraq and violence there surges, the president could face tough questions, particularly from Republicans in Congress, about whether the U.S. misjudged Iraq's capabilities.
Administration officials say Iraqi security forces have been able to tamp down violence during previous troop reductions and express confidence they would be able to do so again.
Officials said final determinations have yet to be made about how large a U.S. military contingent could remain. "We have conversations with the Iraqis constantly about security issues," an Obama administration official said. But the official added: "The Iraqis haven't made a request for us to keep troops, and we haven't offered."
Likewise, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and other top Iraqi civilian officials have sent mixed messages about the future American military role in the country, U.S. officials say, a reflection of Iraq's delicate political dynamic after years of sectarian warfare.
Anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has threatened to unleash his militia and step up "resistance" if U.S. troops fail to leave as scheduled this year, his aides say.
Mr. Maliki's hold on power depends on the support from parliamentarians loyal to Mr. Sadr. Iraqi officials are also worried any plan to keep a sizeable number of U.S. troops could touch off protests that could bring down the government.
Thousands of Iraqis have taken to the streets in recent months, demanding better basic services and an end to government corruption. Baghdad responded last week by imposing a ban on protests on the streets of the capital.
U.S. military officials are particularly concerned that Iraqis will stage massive protests in support of fellow Shiites in Bahrain. Bahrain's U.S.-backed ruling al-Khalifa family has cracked down on Shiite-dominated demonstrations there.
4) The US swallowed these cups of tea to justify its imperial aims
The US swallowed these cups of tea to justify its imperial aims
Greg Mortenson's wild Pakistan tale exposes more than one fantasist – it reveals Americans' delusion about their 'civilising' mission
Madeleine Bunting, The Guardian, Friday 22 April 2011
In the mid-90s an American nurse, Greg Mortenson, was sleeping in his car to save rent so he could fulfil a promise he made to build a school in remote northern Pakistan. Fifteen years later, his book of his epic journey, Three Cups of Tea, has been in the US bestseller list for more than four years; thousands attend his speaker events; he has raised millions for his charity, and built hundreds of schools in the Gilgit-Baltistan region. His book was top of the reading list for US troops deploying to Afghanistan.
It was an extraordinary story – until this week, when it was dismantled in the US programme 60 Minutes and in an ebook by one of Mortenson's former supporters, Jon Krakauer. Mortenson has admitted to "some omissions and compressions" while largely defending his work. But his myth has fallen apart with such astonishing speed that every- one is left wondering how on earth it persisted for so long.
Mortenson's feet of clay expose far more than one fantasist: they also reveal a lot about the naivety of Americans concerning the world and their role in it. No one questioned him too closely, and, more importantly, no one listened closely enough to what the Pakistanis themselves had to say: the unravelling of the Mortenson fable has come as no surprise there. Even in such a highly connected world, some forms of information still don't travel and certainly make no headway against the word of an American hero. Americans swallowed his tale because they wanted to. What empires – particularly those involved in violent conflict – need, above all, is heroes.
Making Mortenson a credible hero means traducing the whole region of Gilgit-Baltistan which, in his script, becomes a wild region of extremist Islamism drawn to violent terrorism. Time and again, he braves personal danger to follow his dream. His big pitch for the last 15 years is that schooling will divert potential terrorists: a "one-man peace mission" in the war on terror. By this account, the insurgency in Afghanistan/Pakistan is not political opposition to foreign intervention but a form of false consciousness inculcated in the madrassas. Get to the child early enough and they will grow up good democrats. It's ludicrously naive given that all the 9/11 bombers were highly educated.
Even more importantly, it has no relevance in Gilgit-Baltistan, which is a peaceful, predominantly Ismaili region whose inhabitants see the Paris-based Aga Khan as their spiritual leader. There is a strong Tibetan Buddhist influence.
Rather than Mortenson waging a lonely battle against ignorance, the Aga Khan Development Network has been building hundreds of schools in the region and has a track record of staffing them and keeping them open. As the Pakistani journalist, Rina Saeed Khan, points out, Gilgit-Baltistan has one of the highest literacy rates in Pakistan. She asks, quite rightly, why Mortenson didn't join forces with the network given their experience and expertise, instead of struggling desperately to work it all out for himself.
But an American putting money into a foreign-sounding aid foundation doesn't quite have the same marketing appeal as the "one-man mission" line that captures perfectly the boom in DIY aid: a new wave of fledgling agencies driven by individuals frustrated and impatient with bureaucracies and politics, who launch their bid to "make a difference". A myth which turns development into an amateur's hobby.
To every age, their own type of hero: the British empire had Gordon of Khartoum in the 1880s, and the Americans have Mortenson. He is the gentle giant of a man who stumbles into exotic and dangerous locations of which he knows little, and makes friends. This is the innocent abroad – an image of America in the world that is also evident in Mortenson's rival in the New York Times bestseller lists in the last few years, Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love.
These hugely popular tales portray a deeply consoling myth of how the US engages with the world as these adventurous individuals wander through foreign climes, and in their expansive, endearing way want only to bring as much delight in their interactions with the locals as they experience themselves. Both books share the personal crisis/failure which is resolved by finding a new self (through a new sense of meaning or love) abroad: in both, the individual's emotional quest is the starting point and provides the narrative thread. These are knowable characters who effectively explain the exotic to home audiences. They offer homely, charming myths for an empire currently embroiled in deadly protracted wars, rather as Rudyard Kipling's fables delighted a previous age of imperialists.
But perhaps the most intriguing – and most serious – aspect of the Mortenson myth is that his "one-man mission to bring peace" is a continuation of a western drive to "civilise" the world. His parents were Lutheran missionaries in Tanzania. Mortenson describes grinding poverty and ancient tribal customs: it's a patronising form of orientalism.
Above all, Mortenson has talked about women's empowerment and his pledge to get girls into schools. Women need liberating from the oppressive tribal patriarchy. There is nothing original here – US foreign policy is now stuffed with the rhetoric of women's rights – but Mortenson has helped popularise one of the most astonishing conundrums: feminism has been co-opted as a rationale for the US war on terror. It dangerously justifies and confirms an American self-righteousness in central Asia.
5) Deadly Drone Strike by U.S. May Fuel Anger in Pakistan
Jane Perlez and Ismail Khan, New York Times, April 22, 2011
Islamabad, Pakistan - An American drone attack killed 23 people in North Waziristan on Friday, Pakistani military officials said, in a strike against militants that appeared to signify unyielding pressure by the United States on Pakistan's military amid increasing public and private opposition to such strikes.
The strike came a day after the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, met with the chief of the Pakistani military, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and appealed to Pakistan to do more to fight the militants who use North Waziristan as a base from which to attack United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
The strike was the second show of determination to continue drone attacks since the head of Pakistan's spy agency, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, met earlier this month in Washington with the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon E. Panetta, to request a halt to the strikes.
Friday's attack could further fuel antidrone sentiment among the Pakistani public. A government official in North Waziristan told Pakistani reporters that five children and four women were among the 23 who were killed.
The attack singled out forces of a militant commander, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, whose loyalists cross the border into Afghanistan to make targets of American and NATO soldiers, the government official said.
Mr. Bahadur operates under a peace accord with the Pakistani Army that ensures that militants under his control do not attack Pakistani soldiers but concentrate only on allied soldiers in Afghanistan.
Those killed Friday were gathered in Spinwam, an area close to Mir Ali in North Waziristan that had become a hub for militants in the past several months, the official said.
In the increasing public war of nerves between the American and Pakistani Armies, the provincial government is allowing a planned anti-NATO protest to go ahead in Peshawar during the weekend. A political leader, Imran Khan, has called on protesters to stage a sit-in on Saturday to block trucks carrying NATO supplies for the war in Afghanistan. The trucks travel through Peshawar from the seaport of Karachi to Torkham, the gateway to Afghanistan.
6) Greg Mortenson to be sued by tribesmen he said kidnapped him
Three Cups of Tea author to have lawsuit filed against him by Mansur Khan Mahsud, who says his story is 'lies from A to Z'
Saeed Shah, Guardian, Wednesday 20 April 2011 20.25 BST
Lahore - Greg Mortenson, the author and philanthropist accused of fabricating large parts of his autobiographical writings, is to be sued by the Pakistani tribesmen he claimed kidnapped him.
In his bestselling books about building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, one of the most startling stories tells how he was kidnapped by the Taliban and held hostage in Waziristan, the most dangerous part of Pakistan's western tribal border area with Afghanistan. A photograph in one book showed him with a dozen tribesmen, some armed, who were supposedly holding him captive.
However, as with much else in the books, Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools, the tale is unravelling, following a US television exposé earlier this week.
Mansur Khan Mahsud, who featured in the photograph, said that Mortenson came to his village of Kot Langer Khel, in the Laddah area of South Waziristan, in July 1996. Mahsud, who is the research director of a thinktank in Islamabad that specialises in the tribal area, said that the Taliban did not appear on the Pakistani side of the border until 2002, following the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
"Greg Mortenson came with a relative of mine and he was a guest of the village. He stayed for about 10 days. He was living in the village, sightseeing, taking photographs. He had a really good time," said Mahsud, adding that some of the tribesmen carried guns to protect Mortenson.
In Mortenson's account, his hosts from the Mahsud tribe have been turned into the then better-known Wazir tribe, while the location has morphed to Razmak, North Waziristan.
"It's lies from A to Z. There's not one word of truth. If there had been a little exaggeration, that could have been forgiven," said Mahsud. "The way that he's portrayed the Mahsuds, as hash-smoking bandits, is wrong. He's defamed me, my family, my tribe. We are respected people in my area. He's turned us into kidnappers."
Mahsud said that he had decided to file a lawsuit against Mortenson and was in contact with a lawyer in the US.
"I am looking into how to sue him," said Mahsud, who only found out about the story in the book when he was contacted in February this year by a whistle-blower, Jon Krakauer, who was featured in the US investigative show 60 Minutes on CBS News.
7) In Bahrain, government crackdown hits middle-class Shiites hard
Philip Kennicott, Washington Post, Friday, April 22, 12:00 AM
Manama, Bahrain - A government crackdown on the Shiite-dominated political opposition is reaching deep into Bahrain's middle-class professions, according to local political leaders and human rights activists, potentially threatening the country's long-term stability.
Doctors, businessmen, engineers, academics, teachers and now journalists have all been targeted for questioning and detention, observers say, with hundreds arrested and hundreds more fired.
The repression extends beyond political leaders and activists associated with the largely Shiite-led demonstrations that began Feb. 14. Family members and associates of people detained say that the government is targeting Shiites indiscriminately, regardless of their political activity, and with a particular focus on doctors and educators. "It is retribution," said one prominent opposition figure, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of arrest. "But it is also an ethnic cleansing of top professions."
One political leader estimated that as many as 1,200 people have been fired in recent weeks. A representative of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions, which represents workers from across the economy, including well-paid banking, oil and industrial workers, said his organization had documented 920 politically driven dismissals. He added that the number is probably higher, given that many workers represented by the group are afraid to come forward.
Human rights activists say that teachers have been handcuffed in front of their students, office workers arrested and doctors taken from their homes at night and detained without charges. In many cases, the whereabouts of the detained are not known, and lawyers have no access to them.
Physicians for Human Rights, a Cambridge, Mass.-based watchdog group, issued a report Friday alleging "systematic and targeted attacks against medical personnel, as a result of their efforts to provide unbiased care for wounded protesters." The organization has documented 32 medical professionals under arrest.
Friends of one missing doctor, Sadiq Abdulla, a vascular surgeon and transplant specialist, say he was not involved in politics or the protests. Kevin Burnand, an English surgeon who trained Abdulla, described him as apolitical. "Sadiq has been persecuted because he has treated (as any doctor would) injured patients, many of whom happened to be protesters," said Burnand, in an e-mail.
Local political observers report that the medical profession has been particularly hard hit, creating a climate of fear among both doctors and patients. Military checkpoints and soldiers at the country's main hospital have terrified staff and patients, some of who have been tortured, according to Richard Sollom, author of the Physicians for Human Rights report. One local activist said that he was shuttling Western doctors between private homes as they attempted to reach patients too scared to seek treatment in public facilities.
Government-affiliated publications this week have reported investigations into professional organizations aimed at rooting out "subversive activities." The pro-government Daily Tribune said a fact-finding committee had recommended the immediate termination of 111 teachers and other school employees. The newspaper also accused a leading teachers organization of "politicizing our schools."
The targeting of more educated and prosperous members of the Shiite community is particularly worrisome, say local analysts, who fear it could remove a moderating element in political life.
"By attacking the higher-educated class, you try to silence everybody, but this is very, very costly," said Abdul-Jalil Khalil, of al-Wefaq, the country's main Shiite party. "You will deepen the problem, and make it even more complicated."
Like their Sunni neighbors, many wealthier Shiites have enjoyed lives of relative ease in this land of high-end shopping malls, restaurants and luxury homes. But after joining in the February protests with poorer Shiites, who have generally borne the brunt of discrimination and government disfavor, even middle-class Shiites are now subject to the full force of the government's ire, according to opposition leaders.
Even those summoned only for interrogation describe an Orwellian experience. Government agents demand they identify colleagues and friends from pictures taken during the protests, according to people who have been questioned and released. Interrogations can continue for hours, or days. Threats and insults are common. One woman said she saw signs of physical abuse in other detainees and was required to sign testimony without being able to read it. Journalists have been compelled to sign pledges that they will not write aboutpolitical subjects.
Nabeel Rajab, one of the few Bahraini human rights activists still willing to speak publicly, said he fears the government crackdown will "push the country toward civil war." The tensions that erupted in February, he says, are only being exacerbated by the heavy-handed government response.
8) Left and right clash at Tel Aviv rally to support Palestinian state
Rally participated by 21 Israel Prize laureates was to culminate by signing declaration of Palestinian independence outside Tel Aviv's historical Independence Hall.
Leading left-wing cultural leaders, including several Israel Prize laureates, were verbally accosted on Thursday during a rally in support of an independent Palestinian state.
The rally, taking place outside Tel Aviv's Independence Hall, was reportedly disrupted by right-wing activists equipped with bullhorns, who called out: "leftist professors, it will all blow up in your face," "Kahane was right," and "traitors."
Rally organizers and participants, who included 21 Israel Prize laureates, said present police forces did not separate rally goers from objectors, as they usually do during right-wing events.
The speech by Israel Prize winning actress Hanna Maron was disrupted several times by right-wing counter-protesters, who yelled out "fifth column." Disruptions reportedly continued even after attempts by organizers to quell the anti-rally sentiment by mentioning Maron lost her leg during a 1970 terror attack on an El-Al flight.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak released a statement following the clash, saying disagreements must be solved "without the word' 'treason' and without violence."
Prior to Thursday's rally, protest organizers said they planned to sign their own written declaration to this effect, adding they intended to invite members of the general public to join them in signing the document.
"The Jewish people arose in the Land of Israel, where its character was forged. The Palestinian people is rising in Palestine, where its character was forged," the proposed document declared.
"We call on everyone who seeks peace and freedom for all peoples to support the declaration of Palestinian statehood, and to act in a way that encourages the citizens of the two states to maintain peaceful relations on the basis of the 1967 borders... The total end to the occupation is a fundamental precondition for the liberation of the two peoples," the statement continues.
Sponsors of the event insist it will not be a token protest, but rather part of a larger process that will lead to a legitimate alternative to Israel's current policies.
"Our initiative is not a naive one," said Sefi Rachlevsky, one of the initiators of the demonstration and a Haaretz columnist. "Instead of Israel being the first to extend its hand and support Palestinian independence, it is trying to warn against it. That is not only a moral disaster, but it's also liable to bring about a practical catastrophe in which Israel will isolate itself and turn into a kind of South Africa."
9) Colombian journalists organize "march of silence" to protest paramilitary threats. Monica Medel, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, 2011-04-20
Colombian journalists nationwide plan to take to the streets May 3 for a "march of silence" against the growing wave of threats by paramilitary groups against journalists and human rights groups, El Espectador and CM& report.
The demonstrations are organized by the Colombian Federation of Journalists (FECOLPER), which lists at least a dozen journalists countrywide, who have been subject to threats originating from three distinct paramilitary groups: the Black Eagles, Los Urabeños, Rastrojos, and the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia.
Among those threatened are FECOLPER president Eduardo Márquez, and well-known journalists Claudia Duque, Hollman Morris, and Daniel Coronell.
The journalism group urged the authorities to take "concrete steps" to protect journalists and guarantee the freedom to practice journalism, La FM reports.
In recent months, Colombian media workers have suffered a series of death threats through pamphlets signed by paramilitary groups, which list them as "military targets."
10) Peru press crisis: "We were fired for not supporting Keiko".
Omar Benel, El Mundo, April 21, 2011
Translated and edited by Jorge Riveros-Cayo
The firing of two journalists from a television channel owned by the editorial group El Comercio – the most important in Peru – has created an atmosphere of dismay in the Peruvian media. Last Wednesday Patricia Montero, editor-in-chief of Canal N (news cable channel) and José Jara, producer of news show "De 6 a 9," were fired.
"In these last three or four weeks, journalists from both channels [Canal N and América Televisión-channel 4] suffered the pressure from the owners of the group. There is no guidelines written in stone, but there have been insinuations and pressures to have an editorial line supporting Keiko Fujimori," says Patricia Montero from Lima to El Mundo.
José Jara says that he was fired for "not following the editorial line to support Fujimori and attack Humala. We are not willing to support neither candidate. The channel has never been in favor of either one in particular. We treated both of them the same."
Montero says that the pressure came from board members such as Martha Meier Miró Quesada y Luis Miró Quesada, among others. "They pressured us to be anti-Humala and not inform about this candidacy. They accused us of humanizing Humala, and consequently, of contributing to his triumph in the first round of elections," explained Montero.
"The current board of directors is 'fujimorista' – pro-Fujimori. The channel is 'fujimorizado' – fujimorized. Everybody knows that. Martha Meier Miró Quesasa was a candidate to Congress for Fujimori's party years ago," says Jara.
According to Montero, the board of directors wants to control both channels owned by El Comercio so they can follow the same editorial lines such as the newspapers they also have (El Comercio, Perú21, and Trome), which are, "obviously in favor of Keiko Fujimori."
"We were doing journalism. We were publishing the proposals and plans of both candidates, the good and the bad things," says Montero. And she emphasizes the paradox of what is happening. "Canal N was an emblematic media fighting against Fujimori's dictatorship in the nineties. I was there, I was a founder of the channel. We aired the 'vladivideo' in which congressman Alberto Kouri was receiving money from Montesinos. That was the beginning of the fall of Fujimori."
In order to describe the daily routine and harassment Canal N journalists have to live through, Montero says that every time Humala or one of his congressional candidates were interviewed "they would call us immediately on the phone to order us to cut him short live. When we interviewed somebody from Fujimori's party they would never call us." And she concludes, "They want to control both channels in order to assure Humala doesn't win the elections."
Montero says she is not in favor of Humala and that, by the contrary, she has serious doubts about his government manifesto, of possible nationalizations of private companies and limitations to freedom of press under a government of his. However, the owners of El Comercio "feel more secure with Keiko despite her flaws and the fact that she is surrounded by the same people that ruled with her father in the nineties."
11) U.S. Treasury Publishes New Cuba Travel Rules
Frances Robles, Miami Herald, Thu, Apr. 21, 2011
The long-awaited rules defining who can travel freely to Cuba were released Thursday by the U.S. Treasury.
After months of rumors that he was about to make dramatic changes, President Barack Obama in January allowed a broader group of U.S. citizens to travel to Cuba without first seeking permission from Washington.
The new rules make it easier for U.S. schools, churches and cultural groups to visit Cuba, and boost the amount of money Americans can send to the island to support its growing private economy.
The announcement, which included an increase in the amount of cash Americans could send to Cuba, did not come with the fine print. Until now, people still had difficulty sending money through Western Union, because the rules had been announced - but not published.
The White House argues that the changes to U.S.-Cuba policy are aimed at bolstering Cuba's civil society and putting distance between Cubans and their Communist-led government. The policies rescinded more restrictive travel and remittances guidelines issued by former President George W. Bush in 2003.
Under the official rules:
- Americans can send up to $2,000 annually to Cuba. There will be a quarterly limit on the amount any American can send: $500 per quarter to "support private economic activity." The Clinton administration had set that figure at $300 a quarter.
- Religious and educational groups can travel to Cuba for certain types of events or study without a specific license.
- "The commercial marketing, sales negotiation, accompanied delivery, or servicing in Cuba of telecommunications-related items that have been authorized for commercial export" can travel without a specific license.
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