Here at What if they were Muslim we question what would happen if a Jewish, Christian, Hindu, ______(insert religion of choice) were to commit a crime in the name of their faith. Would it be treated the same way if a Muslim committed the exact same crime? Would very little emphasis be put on the perpetrators religion? Would it be stressed that the act is an aberration, a misrepresentation of the religion? Would the religion be mentioned at all?
WITWM is not a site that opines on the “what if” scenario of your favorite Hollywood star being a Muslim. It has nothing to do with Angelina Jolie or Johnny Depp, etc. It has everything to do with the double standards in both media and pop culture that perpetuate the myth that Islam is inherently more violent than other religions or the root cause of misdeeds by Muslims.
From the “most moral army in the world”: Mr. Pundak believes it wasn’t “unnecessarily cruel” to raze Palestinian villages but he drew the line with Ariel Sharon on “killing enemy fighters” in exchange for “a glass of champagne.” (h/t: Awda)
Brig. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Pundak is celebrating his hundredth birthday. Pundak was the commander of the 53rd Battalion of the Givati Brigade in the War of Independence and went on to supervise the establishment of the Armored Corps. He was also Ambassador in Tanzania and a founder of Arad.
In an interview on IDF Radio, Pundak confirmed that forces under his command razed Arab villages in 1948. “My conscience is at ease with that, because if we hadn’t done so, then there would be no state by now. There would be a million more Arabs,” he said.
Asked why he still finds it so important to lecture to soldiers, at his advanced age, he explained: “Just like in 1948, the country is in a state of danger – and if the Jews do not fight as we did in the War of Independence, the state is in danger.” He predicted that if a war breaks out again, Jews will be capable of the same kind of self-sacrifice as in 1948.
“When there is a war, people unite,” he explained. “Afterward, they form parties and become divided.”
He spoke with pain of the 145 soldiers who were killed under his command over the years, and said that if they woke up miraculously and saw the divided country of today, “they would run back to their graves.”
And yet, when asked if he feels proud of his country, he said that his pride runs “as high as the rooftop.”
Pundak, who was the governor of Gaza in the early 1970s, said that the credit that is usually given to Ariel Sharon for stopping Arab terror in Gaza in 1971 is mistaken. He said that Sharon was an unnecessarily cruel commander who once said at a meeting with officers that he would offer champagne to whoever killed an enemy fighter – and whoever brings him a wounded enemy “will drink soda.”
He said: “I told him, ‘You are not my commander, I am not coming to your meetings.’”
The number of conspiracy-peddling anti-government groups hit a record high last year, according to a report put out Tuesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which also found that hate groups in general remain at near-record levels.
Between 2000 and 2012, the number of hate groups, defined the by SPLC as those that verbally attack minority groups, rose from 602 to more than 1,000. The number declined slightly last year—from 1,018 to 1,007—but the number of so-called “patriot groups,” groups that generally believe the government is conspiring to take Americans’ guns and freedoms and impose one-world rule, hit a record high of 1,360 in 2012, up from 149 in 2008.
“We are seeing the fourth straight year of really explosive growth on the part of anti-government patriot groups and militias,” Mark Potok, senior fellow at the SPLC said on a conference call Tuesday. “That’s 913 percent in growth. We’ve never seen that kind of growth in any kind of group we cover.”
Why so much hate and paranoia? The culprits are pretty predictable: a liberal black president, the wider shift in demographics in the country, and the mainstreaming of formerly marginal conspiracies like Agenda 21, says Potok.
Although these groups aren’t necessarily involved in violence or criminality, their rise still has advocates worried. “Only a small percentage acts violently, but they should raise red flags and cause concern,” Daryl Johnson, former senior domestic terrorism analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, said during the conference call. And Potok says that immigration reform, gun control legislation, and the increasing social acceptance of LGBT rights have the potential to further fuel growth of these groups.
On Tuesday, the SPLC sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security urging it to amp up its non-Islamic domestic terrorism monitoring. The agency has done a lot less monitoring on non-Islamic terror since 2009, when a leaked DHS report revealing a resurgence of the radical right caused an uproar amongst GOP lawmakers and right-wing talk show hosts. The controversy spurred Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano to withdraw the report and dismantle the domestic non-Islamic terrorism unit that had written it.
Johnson, whose team at DHS wrote the report, says that since then, “nothing at the Department of Homeland Security regarding this issue has changed. DHS has one or two analysts looking at right-wing extremism. Meanwhile it has dozens of analysts and resources looking at home-grown Islamic extremists.”
“We need to stand up a domestic terrorism unit and start analyzing this threat,” he says.
The BBC found that boats were being intercepted by the Thai navy and police, with deals then made to sell the people on to traffickers who transport them south towards Malaysia.
The Thai government say they are taking the allegations seriously and have promised to investigate.
In November Ahmed said goodbye to his wife and eight children and left western Burma.
His fishing boat had been destroyed in clashes between Muslim Rohingya and Rakhine Buddhists, and he needed to earn a living.
With 60 others he travelled for 13 days on a flimsy wooden boat across the Andaman Sea to the coast of Thailand.
When they were caught by the Thai navy not far from shore Ahmed thought his ordeal was over. In fact it had just begun.
That night the Rohingya were taken from the border town of Ranong in a police van. After two hours they were bundled out and put in the back of six smaller vehicles and hidden under nets.
“We were forced to lay down next to each other just like canned fish,” he said.
Ahmed did not know it at the time but a trade had taken place. The 61 Rohingya were now heading south towards Malaysia in the custody of people-smugglers.
When they got out of the vehicles they were prisoners in Su Ngai Kolok, a town on the Thai Malaysia border.
“They dug a hole for us to use as a toilet. We ate, slept and excreted in the same place,” he said. “The smell was horrible. I was poked with an iron and beaten with a chain.”
Ahmed’s back is scarred from the beatings he received
The traffickers had paid money for the Rohingya and were determined to get their money back. Ahmed and the other Rohingya were periodically given a phone to call friends and family to beg for help.
“The broker said that they bought us from police,” he said. “If we don’t give them money they won’t let us go. They said: ‘We don’t care if you die here’.”
The price for Ahmed’s life was set at 40,000 Thai Baht, about $1,300 (£820) – a substantial amount for an ex-fisherman. Ahmed called his wife and instructed her to sell a cow. But that only raised half the amount.
After a month as a captive, as he began to despair a fellow Rohingya in Thailand came to his rescue and loaned him the rest.
Ahmed was set free and put on a bus back north to Phuket. Despite all that happened to him, he is surprisingly calm about his treatment by Thai officials.
“I’m not angry at the navy. I don’t hold any anger or grudge with me anymore. I’m so grateful that I’m alive,” he said.
With weather conditions favourable Rohingya boats are now arriving on the Thai coast almost everyday. And Ahmed is not the only one being sold by Thai officials.
Whole families are trying to escape the communal violence in western Burma
We took a close look at the fate of one particular boat which arrived on New Year’s Day off the holiday island of Phuket.
On 2 January the 73 men, women and children were brought onshore, put in trucks and it was announced that they were being driven to the Thai/Burma border crossing at Ranong and deported.
But they did not get that far. A deal had been struck to sell the Rohingya to people smugglers.
When the trucks reached the town of Kuraburi, the Rohingya were transferred back into a boat and pushed back out to sea.
We spoke to one of the brokers involved in the deal. They said that 1.5 million baht (about $50,000, £31,500) had been transferred from Malaysia and paid to officials in Thailand. That amount was confirmed to us by other members of the Rohingya community in Thailand.
The Thai authorities told us they believe there are just a few corrupt officials. But in the border town of Ranong a Thai official closely linked with the Rohingya issue told us that working with the brokers was now regarded as the “natural” solution.
With the Rohingya denied Burmese citizenship, deportation is fraught with difficulties.
Thailand considers the Rohingya to be economic migrants
Thailand in turn does not want to encourage people that it considers to be almost almost exclusively economic migrants.
“The Rohingya want to go Malaysia and Malaysia accepts these people because they are Muslims too,” the official said. “No matter what they will try and go there, the question is how they get there.”
Malaysia has allowed the United Nations Refugee Agency to assess Rohingya claims for asylum. Thailand does not, reserving the right to determine for itself who it considers to be a refugee.
We took our information to the Thai foreign ministry. Permanent Secretary Sihasak Puangketkaew told us an investigation was underway.
“We cannot at this moment conclude who these perpetrators are but the Thai government is determined to get to the bottom of the problem,” he said.
“At the same time the Thai government is doing its best to take care of these people on the basis of humanitarian principles.
“At the same time we feel very strongly that all of us will have to work together through international co-operation to see how we can put on place a durable and systematic solution.”
There have been influxes of Rohingya before and in 2009 the Thai government was heavily criticised for its policy of towing boats back out to sea.
Those boats were almost exclusively male and the Thai government said they were economic migrants. This time it is different.
Ethnic clashes in western Burma have forced more than 100,000 Rohingya into camps and for the first time the boats crossing the Andaman Sea are a mix of men, women and children.
A 17-year-old Alabama high school student, Derek Shrout, who was arrested last week for allegedly plotting to kill 6 Black students by blowing them up with homemade grenades, has been released on $75,000 bond, reports the Ledger-Enquirer.
Shrout, known at Russell County High School as a self-proclaimed, White supremacist, was arrested last week after a teacher turned a misplaced notebook over to authorities where he had written that the bombs were “a step or two away from being ready to explode,” said Russell County Sheriff Heath Taylor.
“The first thing I wanted to know was if you did exactly what he wrote, would it blow up,” said Taylor. “And everybody that I’ve consulted with has said that it would absolutely blow up exactly the way he wrote it.”
Taylor also revealed that from all indications the explosion would have been serious.
“He has a lot of pent-up anger toward blacks,” he said.
Bomb-making material, including tobacco cans and shrapnel, were discovered when police searched his home last Friday. Two large cans were labeled ‘Fat Boy’ and ‘Little Man,’ referencing the two atomic bombs that the United States used to decimate Hiroshima and Nagasaki during War World II.
After Shrout and his military family moved to the area, he joined the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC), but soon became involved with a White power group.
“In the hallway, at breakfast, at the lunch tables, after school where we have our bus parking lot, he’d have his big old group of friends and they’d go around doing the whole white power crazy stuff,” JROTC 1st Sgt. David White said.
Classmate Jessica Watkins, who described Shrout as “quiet and sweet,” said that she was horrified when she sat in his desk Monday:
“It said, ‘white power’ with the F-word, and it was covered in Nazi symbols,” Watkins said. The teacher tried to scrub it off, she said, but couldn’t because it was in permanent marker.
Shrout often would holler “white power” and make a “W” sign with his fingers and hold it to his chest, Watkins said. “But I always thought he was joking around,” she said.
Watkins said Shrout’s behavior was even more puzzling because, even though he said n*gger and other racial slurs, his best friend at school is Black.
His parents declined to comment, but have fully cooperated with authorities, allowing them full access to their home.
Shrout’s attorney, Jeremy Armstrong, who entered a “not guilty” plea for his client in response to one charge of first-degree attempted assault, said that everyone is over-reacting because of the tragedy that occurred last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, when Adam Lanza, 20, walked into the school and murdered 26 people, including 20 children, before killing himself.
“Our position is that our client had no intention to harm anybody,” said Armstrong.
Shrout also claims that the notebook, which he began writing 3 days after the massacre at Sandy Hook, was fictitious.
“When you go to his house and you start finding the actual devices that he talked about being made, no, it’s not fiction anymore,” Taylor said. “Those devices were – all they needed was the black powder and the fuse – he had put a lot of time and thought into that.”
The teen also wrote about shooting students and faculty at the school. There were several weapons in his home, including his father’s hunting rifle, shotgun and handgun.
“He just talks about some students, he specifically named six students and one faculty member and he talked about weapons and the amounts of ammunition for each weapon that he would use if he attacked the school,” Taylor said.
As conditions of his release, set forth by Judge Albert Johnson, Shrout “must remain at home; wear a GPS locator bracelet on his ankle; refrain from initiating contact with anyone connected to the school; and be monitored by a parent while on the Internet,” reports the Ledger-Enquirer.
By ANDREW LAWLER (nytimes.com)
WHEN the Taliban blasted the famous Bamiyan Buddhas with artillery and dynamite in March 2001, leaders of many faiths and countries denounced the destruction as an act of cultural terrorism. But today, with the encouragement of the American government, Chinese engineers are preparing a similar act of desecration in Afghanistan: the demolition of a vast complex of richly decorated ancient Buddhist monasteries.
The offense of this Afghan monument is not idolatry. Its sin is to sit atop one of the world’s largest copper deposits.
The copper at the Mes Aynak mine, just an hour’s drive south of Kabul, is to be extracted under a roughly $3 billion deal signed in 2007 between Afghanistan and China’s Metallurgical Group Corporation. The Afghan finance minister, Omar Zakhilwal, recently said the project could pump $300 million a year into government coffers by 2016. But the project has been plagued by rumors of corruption; there was widespread talk of a $30 million kickback involving the former minister of mines, who resigned.
In 2009, archaeologists were given a three-year deadline to salvage what they could at Mes Aynak, but raising money, securing equipment and finding experienced excavators took up more than half of that time. So the focus now is solely on rescuing objects. An international team of archaeologists is scrambling to save what it can before the end of this month, when it must vacate the central mining zone, at the heart of the Buddhist complex.
The task is herculean: more than 1,000 statues have been identified, along with innumerable wall paintings, fragile texts and rare wooden ornamentation. And the excavators can only guess at what may lie in older layers. There is no time to dig deeper.
From about the third century until the ninth century, Afghanistan served as a bridge between India and China and played a key role in shaping the Buddhism that swept across Central Asia. At Mes Aynak, monks and artisans built an astonishing array of temples, courtyards and stupas, as well as whole towns of workshops and homes for miners. (Even then, Mes Aynak was exploited for its copper.)
Afghanistan was home to an extraordinary mix of Nestorian Christians, Persian Zoroastrians, Hindus, Jews and, eventually, Muslims. New scholarship based on finds at ancient sites like Mes Aynak suggests that Islam arrived here not with sudden fire and sword, but as a slowly rising tide. This was an Afghanistan of cosmopolitan wealth and industry, and of religious innovation, devotion and tolerance, at a time when Europe was mired in the Dark Ages.
Many statues and paintings will be saved for museum exhibitions, but the potential for understanding a key piece of Afghan history — and for drawing future tourists — will soon be lost. Deborah Klimburg-Salter, a scholar of art and archaeology who recently visited the site, told me that Mes Aynak “would be of great historical value not only for the history of Afghanistan but the whole region — if they could slow down, excavate and document properly.”
It’s ironic: a company based in China, which received Buddhism via Afghanistan, will destroy a key locus of that transmission. Washington, which condemned the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, is standing by as Kabul sacrifices its cultural heritage for short-term revenue.
The destruction is not just a cultural travesty. It may not even result in the advertised economic benefits for some time to come. World Bank experts told me that large-scale mining is not likely to take place at Mes Aynak for years. For one thing, there is no smelter to process the ore and no railroad to carry the material to China. An August rocket attack by Taliban militants on the mining camp prompted the Chinese workers to evacuate the heavily guarded site. The tenacious archaeologists, mostly Afghans, stayed behind.
There is still hope that the Afghan government might allow archaeologists to remain at the central complex past Dec. 31. “We’re hoping we get more time,” Philippe Marquis, the director of the French archaeological mission in Afghanistan and a lead scientist on the project, told me. There is no reason archaeology and mining operations can’t coexist at the site. But archaeologists fear the government wants to close the site to researchers and reporters to avoid embarrassing images of dynamited monasteries.
The looming deadline is not Mr. Marquis’s only worry. New Taliban attacks might prompt the Chinese to abandon the site and stop paying for the security forces that protect the area. That could invite looting by desperately poor Afghans. An ancient Buddhist statue can sell for tens of thousands of dollars in the dark, unregulated corners of the international art market.
Last month, Buddhist protesters marched in Bangkok, denouncing the planned demolition of Mes Aynak. An American filmmaker has raised $35,200 on Kickstarter to document the controversy. Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan recently said it was “the duty of all” Afghans to preserve what remains of the country’s Buddhist heritage.
But there are few scholars with the political pull to bring the matter into the international spotlight, and the United Nations has all but ignored the matter. A Unesco official told me he hoped that “some accommodation could be made for the parallel activities of archaeology and mining,” but the organization hasn’t held the government and company accountable.
The looming devastation at Mes Aynak is but the latest example of threats to cultural treasures. Recently, the Egyptian Islamist leader Murgan Salem al-Gohary caused an international stir when he mused that the Sphinx and the pyramids at Giza should be flattened. And this summer, Islamist rebels smashed Sufi tombs in Timbuktu, Mali, an act some have called a war crime.
Whether for economic gain or ideological purity, destroying humanity’s common heritage limits our understanding of one another, as well as of our past — something we can ill afford in today’s fractious world. “We are only breaking stones,” the Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar said dismissively in 2001, when he heard the international outcry over the statues’ destruction. Even given Afghanistan’s dire financial plight, it’s not a position to accept, much less emulate.
Tariq Aziz (centre, second row) attending a meeting about drones strikes in Waziristan, held in Islamabad, Pakistan oin 28 October 2011. Three days later, the 16 year old was reported killed by a drone-launched missile. Photograph: Pratap Chatterjee/BIJ
Numerous commentators have rightly lamented the difference in how these childrens’ deaths are perceived. What explains it?
By Glenn Greenwald (guardian.co.uk)
Over the last several days, numerous commentators have lamented the vastly different reactions in the US to the heinous shooting of children in Newtown, Connecticut as compared to the continuous killing of (far more) children and innocent adults by the US government in Pakistan and Yemen, among other places. The blogger Atrios this week succinctly observed:
“I do wish more people who manage to fully comprehend the broad trauma a mass shooting can have on our country would consider the consequences of a decade of war.”
“Most of the world’s media, which has rightly commemorated the children of Newtown, either ignores Obama’s murders or accepts the official version that all those killed are ‘militants’. The children of north-west Pakistan, it seems, are not like our children. They have no names, no pictures, no memorials of candles and flowers and teddy bears. They belong to the other: to the non-human world of bugs and grass and tissue.
“‘Are we,’ Obama asked on Sunday, ‘prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?’ It’s a valid question. He should apply it to the violence he is visiting on the children of Pakistan.”
Political philosophy professor Falguni Sheth similarly writes that “the shooting in Newtown, CT is but part and parcel of a culture of shooting children, shooting civilians, shooting innocent adults, that has been waged by the US government since September 12, 2001.” She adds:
“And let there be no mistake: many of ‘us’ have directly felt the impact of that culture: Which ‘us’? Yemeni parents, Pakistani uncles and aunts, Afghan grandparents and cousins, Somali brothers and sisters, Filipino cousins have experienced the impact of the culture of killing children. Families of children who live in countries that are routinely droned by the US [government]. Families of children whose villages are raided nightly in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Meanwhile, University of Michigan professor Juan Cole, at the peak of mourning over Newtown, simply urged: “Let’s also Remember the 178 children Killed by US Drones“. He detailed the various ways that children and other innocents have had their lives extinguished by President Obama’s policies, and then posted this powerful (and warning: graphic) one-and-a-half-minute video from a new documentary on drones by filmmaker Robert Greenwald (no relation):
Finally, the Yemeni blogger Noon Arabia posted a moving plea on Monday: “Our children’s blood is not cheaper than American blood and the pain of loosing [sic] them is just as devastating. Our children matter too, Mr. President! These tragedies ‘also’ must end and to end them ‘YOU’ must change!”
There’s just no denying that many of the same people understandably expressing such grief and horror over the children who were killed in Newtown steadfastly overlook, if not outright support, the equally violent killing of Yemeni and Pakistani children. Consider this irony: Monday was the three-year anniversary of President Obama’s cruise missile and cluster-bomb attack on al-Majala in Southern Yemen that ended the lives of 14 women and 21 children: one more child than was killed by the Newtown gunman. In the US, that mass slaughter received not even a small fraction of the attention commanded by Newtown, and prompted almost no objections (in predominantly Muslim nations, by contrast, it received ample attention and anger).
It is well worth asking what accounts for this radically different reaction to the killing of children and other innocents. Relatedly, why is the US media so devoted to covering in depth every last detail of the children killed in the Newtown attack, but so indifferent to the children killed by its own government?
To ask this question is not – repeat: is not – to equate the Newtown attack with US government attacks. There are, one should grant, obvious and important differences.
To begin with, it is a natural and probably universal human inclination to care more about violence that seems to threaten us personally than violence that does not. Every American parent sends their children to schools of the type attacked in Newtown and empathy with the victims is thus automatic. Few American parents fear having their children attacked by US drones, cruise missiles and cluster bombs in remote regions in Pakistan and Yemen, and empathy with those victims is thus easier to avoid, more difficult to establish.
One should strive to see the world and prioritize injustices free of pure self-interest – caring about grave abuses that are unlikely to affect us personally is a hallmark of a civilized person – but we are all constructed to regard imminent dangers to ourselves and our loved ones with greater urgency than those that appear more remote. Ignoble though it is, that’s just part of being human – though our capacity to liberate ourselves from pure self-interest means that it does not excuse this indifference.
Then there’s the issue of perceived justification. Nobody can offer, let alone embrace, any rationale for the Newtown assault: it was random, indiscriminate, senseless and deliberate slaughter of innocents. Those who support Obama’s continuous attacks, or flamboyantly display their tortured “ambivalence” as a means of avoiding criticizing him, can at least invoke a Cheneyite slogan along with a McVeigh-taught-military-term to pretend that there’s some purpose to these killings: We Have To Kill The Terrorists, and these dead kids are just Collateral Damage. This rationale is deeply dishonest, ignorant, jingoistic, propagandistic, and sociopathic, but its existence means one cannot equate it to the Newtown killing.
But there are nonetheless two key issues highlighted by the intense grief for the Newtown victims compared to the utter indifference to the victims of Obama’s militarism. The first is that it underscores how potent and effective the last decade’s anti-Muslim dehumanization campaign has been.
Every war – particularly protracted ones like the “War on Terror” – demands sustained dehumanization campaigns against the targets of the violence. Few populations will tolerate continuous killings if they have to confront the humanity of those who are being killed. The humanity of the victims must be hidden and denied. That’s the only way this constant extinguishing of life by their government can be justified or at least ignored. That was the key point made in the extraordinarily brave speech given by then-MSNBC reporter Ashleigh Banfield in 2003 after she returned from Iraq, before she was demoted and then fired: that US media coverage of US violence is designed to conceal the identity and fate of its victims.
The violence and rights abridgments of the Bush and Obama administrations have been applied almost exclusively to Muslims. It is, therefore, Muslims who have been systematically dehumanized. Americans virtually never hear about the Muslims killed by their government’s violence. They’re never profiled. The New York Times doesn’t put powerful graphics showing their names and ages on its front page. Their funerals are never covered. President Obama never delivers teary sermons about how these Muslim children “had their entire lives ahead of them – birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.” That’s what dehumanization is: their humanity is disappeared so that we don’t have to face it.
But this dehumanization is about more than simply hiding and thus denying the personhood of Muslim victims of US violence. It is worse than that: it is based on the implicit, and sometimes overtly stated, premise that Muslims generally, even those guilty of nothing, deserve what the US does to them, or are at least presumed to carry blame.
Just a few months ago, the New York Times reported that the Obama administration has re-defined the term “militant” to mean: “all military-age males in a strike zone” – the ultimate expression of the rancid dehumanizing view that Muslims are inherently guilty of being Terrorists unless proven otherwise. When Obama’s campaign surrogate and former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about the US killing by drone strike of 16-year-old American citizen Abdulrahman Awlaki two weeks after his father was killed, Gibbs unleashed one of the most repulsive statements heard in some time: that Abdulrahman should have “had a more responsible father”. Even when innocent Muslim teenagers are killed by US violence, it is their fault, and not the fault of the US and its leaders.
All of this has led to rhetoric and behavior that is nothing short of deranged when it comes to discussing the Muslim children and other innocents killed by US violence. I literally have never witnessed mockery over dead children like that which is spewed from some of Obama’s hard-core progressive supporters whenever I mention the child-victims of Obama’s drone attacks. Jokes like that are automatic. In this case at least, the fish rots from the head: recall President Obama’s jovial jokes at a glamorous media dinner about his use of drones to kill teeangers (sanctioned by the very same political faction that found Bush’s jokes about his militarism – delivered at the same media banquet several years earlier – so offensive). Just as is true of Gibbs’ deranged and callous rationale, jokes like that are possible only when you have denied the humanity of those who are killed. Would Newtown jokes be tolerated by anyone?
Dehumanization of Muslims is often overt, by necessity, in US military culture. The Guardian headline to Monbiot’s column refers to the term which Rolling Stones’ Michael Hastings reported is used for drone victims: “bug splat”. And consider this passage from an amazing story this week in Der Spiegel (but not, notably, in US media) on a US drone pilot, Brandon Bryant, who had to quit because he could no longer cope with the huge amount of civilian deaths he was witnessing and helping to cause:
“Bryant and his coworkers sat in front of 14 computer monitors and four keyboards. When Bryant pressed a button in New Mexico, someone died on the other side of the world. . . .
“[H]e remembers one incident very clearly when a Predator drone was circling in a figure-eight pattern in the sky above Afghanistan, more than 10,000 kilometers (6,250 miles) away. There was a flat-roofed house made of mud, with a shed used to hold goats in the crosshairs, as Bryant recalls. When he received the order to fire, he pressed a button with his left hand and marked the roof with a laser. The pilot sitting next to him pressed the trigger on a joystick, causing the drone to launch a Hellfire missile. There were 16 seconds left until impact. . . .
“With seven seconds left to go, there was no one to be seen on the ground. Bryant could still have diverted the missile at that point. Then it was down to three seconds. Bryant felt as if he had to count each individual pixel on the monitor. Suddenly a child walked around the corner, he says.
“Second zero was the moment in which Bryant’s digital world collided with the real one in a village between Baghlan and Mazar-e-Sharif.
“Bryant saw a flash on the screen: the explosion. Parts of the building collapsed. The child had disappeared. Bryant had a sick feeling in his stomach.
“‘Did we just kill a kid?’ he asked the man sitting next to him.
“‘Yeah, I guess that was a kid,’ the pilot replied.
“‘Was that a kid?’ they wrote into a chat window on the monitor.
“Then, someone they didn’t know answered, someone sitting in a military command center somewhere in the world who had observed their attack. ‘No. That was a dog,’ the person wrote.
“They reviewed the scene on video. A dog on two legs?”
Seeing Muslim children literally as dogs: few images more perfectly express the sustained dehumanization at the heart of US militarism and aggression over the last decade.
Citizens of a militaristic empire are inexorably trained to adopt the mentality of their armies: just listen to Good Progressive Obama defenders swagger around like they’re decorated, cigar-chomping combat veterans spouting phrases like “war is hell” and “collateral damage” to justify all of this. That is the anti-Muslim dehumanization campaign rearing its toxic head.
There’s one other issue highlighted by this disparate reaction: the question of agency and culpability. It’s easy to express rage over the Newtown shooting because so few of us bear any responsibility for it and – although we can take steps to minimize the impact and make similar attacks less likely – there is ultimately little we can do to stop psychotic individuals from snapping. Fury is easy because it’s easy to tell ourselves that the perpetrator – the shooter – has so little to do with us and our actions.
Exactly the opposite is true for the violence that continuously kills children and other innocent people in the Muslim world. Many of us empowered and cheer for the person responsible for that. US citizens pay for it, enable it, and now under Obama, most at the very least acquiesce to it if not support it. It’s always much more difficult to acknowledge the deaths that we play a role in causing than it is to protest those to which we believe we have no connection. That, too, is a vital factor explaining these differing reactions.
Please spare me the objection that the Newtown shooting should not be used to make a point about the ongoing killing of Muslim children and other innocents by the US. Over the last week, long-time gun control advocates have seized on this school shooting in an attempt to generate support for their political agenda, and they’re perfectly right to do so: when an event commands widespread political attention and engages human emotion, that is exactly when one should attempt to persuade one’s fellow citizens to recognize injustices they typically ignore. That is no more true for gun control than it is the piles of corpses the Obama administration continues to pile up for no good reason – leaving in their wake, all over the Muslim world, one Newtown-like grieving ritual after the next.
As Monbiot observed: “there can scarcely be a person on earth with access to the media who is untouched by the grief of the people” in Newtown. The exact opposite is true for the children and their families continuously killed in the Muslim world by the US government: huge numbers of people, particularly in the countries responsible, remain completely untouched by the grief that is caused in those places. That is by design – to ensure that opposition is muted – and it is brutally effective.
President Obama, the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, has just been bestowed by TIME Magazine with the equally prestigious and meaningful accolade of 2012 Person of the Year.
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A cadet quitting West Point less than six months before graduation says he could no longer be part of a culture that promotes prayers and religious activities and disrespects nonreligious cadets.
Blake Page announced his decision to quit the U.S. Military Academy this week in a much-discussed online post that echoed the sentiments of soldiers and airmen at other military installations. The 24-year-old told The Associated Press that a determination this semester that he could not become an officer because of clinical depression played a role in his public protest against what he calls the unconstitutional prevalence of religion in the military.
“I’ve been trying since I found that out: What can I do? What can I possibly do to initiate the change that I want to see and so many other people want to see?” Page said. “I realized that this is one way I can make that change happen.”
Page criticized a culture where cadets stand silently for prayers, where nonreligious cadets were jokingly called “heathens” by instructors at basic training and where one officer told him he’d never be a leader until he filled the hole in his heart. In announcing his resignation this week on The Huffington Post, he denounced “criminals” in the military who violate the oaths they swore to defend the Constitution.
“I don’t want to be a part of West Point knowing that the leadership here is OK with just shrugging off and shirking off respect and good order and discipline and obeying the law and defending the Constitution and doing their job,” he told the AP.
West Point officials on Wednesday disputed those assertions. Spokeswoman Theresa Brinkerhoff said prayer is voluntary at events where invocations and benedictions are conducted and noted the academy has a Secular Student Alliance club, where Page served as president.
Maj. Nicholas Utzig, the faculty adviser to the secular club, said he doesn’t doubt some of the moments Page described, but he doesn’t believe there is systematic discrimination against nonreligious cadets.
“I think it represents his own personal experience and perhaps it might not be as universal as he suggests,” said Utzig, who teaches English literature.
One of Page’s secularist classmates went further, calling his characterization of West Point unfair.
“I think it’s true that the majority of West Point cadets are of a very conservative, Christian orientation,” said senior cadet Andrew Houchin. “I don’t think that’s unique to West Point. But more broadly, I’ve never had that even be a problem with those of us who are secular.”
There have been complaints over the years that the wall between church and state is not always observed in the military. The Air Force Academy in Colorado in particular has been scrutinized for years over allegations from non-Christian students that they faced intolerance. A retired four-star general was asked last year to conduct an independent review of the overall religious climate at the academy.
There also has been a growing willingness in recent years by some service members to publicly identify themselves as atheists, agnostics or humanists and to seek the same recognition granted to Christians, Jews and other believers. Earlier this year, there was an event at Fort Bragg that was the first known event in U.S. military history to cater to nonbelievers.
Page said he hears about the plight of other nonreligious cadets in part through his involvement with the West Point affiliate of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The founder and president of that advocacy group said Page’s action is a milestone in the fight against “fanatical religiosity” in the military.
“This is an extraordinary act of courage that I do compare directly to what Rosa Parks did,” said Mikey Weinstein.
Page, who is from Stockbridge, Ga., and who was accepted into West Point after serving in the Army, said he was notified Tuesday of his honorable discharge. He faces no military commitment and will not have to reimburse the cost of his education.
West Point confirmed that it approved his resignation and that Page had been meeting the academic standards and was not undergoing any disciplinary actions. Page said he had been medically disqualified this semester from receiving a commission in the Army as a second lieutenant — like his classmates will receive in May — because of clinical depression and anxiety. He said his condition has gotten worse since his father killed himself last year.
It’s not unusual for cadets to drop out of West Point, an institution known for its rigorous academic and physical demands. But the window for dropping out without the potential for a penalty is in the first two years. Dropouts are rare after that point.
Page expects to leave for his grandparents’ home in Wright County, Minn., in the coming days. He plans to remain an activist on the role of religion in the military.
“I’d really love to be able to do this for the rest of my life,” he said.
If you speak Hebrew, the Israeli Defense Forces would like you to refer to the wave of assassination strikes it commenced in Gaza today as “Pillar of Cloud,” a Biblical reference to the form God adopted in order to protect the Children of Israel and strike terror into the heart of Egyptians. If you speak English, it would prefer you to use the less fanatical “Pillar of Defense.”
Israel’s Hebrew-language newspapers are all calling the new operation “Pillar of Cloud” (or so Gawker’s resident Hebrew speaker and Israeli native, Neetzan Zimmerman, tells me.) And that’s how the name of the operation first propagated in the America press. Here is the IDF’s official Hebrew Twitter feed, in answer to a question about the operation’s name, answering “Pillar of Cloud” about 90 minutes ago (thanks again to Neetzan for the translation):
Here’s what “Pillar of Cloud” means: According to the Bible, during the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, God took the form of a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night, in order to light their way and to frighten the Egyptian army.
Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them. The pillar of cloud also moved from in front and stood behind them, coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel.
By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
And they will tell the inhabitants of this land about it. They have already heard that you, Lord, are with these people and that you, Lord, have been seen face to face, that your cloud stays over them, and that you go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
So that’s what a Pillar of Cloud is: A worldly instantiation of an all-powerful, vengeful God seeking to demonstrate the primacy of his chosen people, to guide them in their affairs, and to confound their enemies. And that’s what the people who conceived and executed this wave of strikes against Hamas officials and Gazan civilians chose to call them. If anyone was worried about the increasing religious and ethnic fanaticism of the Israeli leadership, they should still be worried. Did Israel launch this attack because there was no other rational route to maintain its security? Or was it pursuing a broader agenda rooted in ancient mysticism?
English-speakers don’t really have to confront that question: According to the IDF’s English language blog, the operation is simply called “Pillar of Defense.” Much better.
The Israeli consulate did not respond to a phone message.
Update: An IDF spokesman emailed to say that “Operation Pillar of Defense” was not intended as a “direct, word-for-word” translation of “Pillar of Cloud.”
The name is not a direct, word-for-word translation. Like most translations, it is an attempt to convey the spirit of the name, rather than a simple Google Translate.
Regardless of the religious implications, the bible plays an important cultural role in Israel. I think that every example of Bible quotes you cited has defensive connotations, rather than “vengeful.”
WASHINGTON, July 28, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — The following is being released by the Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy – The FBI partially declassified and released files linking Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a nuclear technology smuggling ring that targeted the United States. The declassified files are now publicly available online athttp://www.IRmep.org/ila/krytons/06272012_milco_mdr.pdf
FBI agents interviewed indicted American smuggler Richard Kelly Smyth on April 16-17, 2002, at the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles. The secret interview report details how during trips to Israel Smyth’s handler placed him in contact with Benjamin Netanyahu at Heli Trading Company. The FBI report suggests that “Smyth and [Netanyahu] would meet in restaurants in Tel Aviv and in [Netanyahu's] home and/or business. It was not uncommon for [Netanyahu] to ask Smyth for unclassified material.”
Smyth was indicted in the mid-1980s for smuggling 800 dual use “krytrons” without proper export licenses through a multi-front company network. Smyth fled the U.S. and lived abroad, supported by unknown means, until he was captured by Interpol and returned to the U.S. in 2001. He was convicted in 2002.
During the 2002 Smyth counterintelligence debriefing, the FBI learned that the Israeli Ministry of Defense ordered and paid an Israeli company called Heli Trading for krytrons. Heli in turn sourced them fromCalifornia-based MILCO in a clandestine operation codenamed “Project Pinto.” The report reveals how MILCO illegally shipped other prohibited military articles under general Commerce Department export licenses rather than smuggling them out via Israeli diplomatic pouches.
Although the FBI report has now been sent to the New York Times, Washington Post, all members of Congress and United Nations members, no top-tier establishment news coverage, Congressional or UN investigations have been made public. On Friday, National Public Radio syndicated host Diane Rehmimmediately disconnected IRmep Research Director Grant F. Smith when he asked her reporter roundtable to assess the implications of the Netanyahu espionage ring. An audio clip of the brief exchange is available at: http://www.IRmep.org/NPR.mp3
IRmep is a private nonprofit that studies how warranted law enforcement and civil action can improve U.S. Middle East policy.
SOURCE Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy
Pro-Israel propaganda sites often revel in images of Palestinian children posing with weapons, as if such images prove that Palestinian children are indeed uniquely vicious, or deserve no sympathy or justice when killed. A common rejoiner to this is the cry “if only they stopped teaching there children hatred” as if that is a precondition to being human.
Second, I find it very interesting that the target for which these children aim there imaginary missles at are “Arabs”. Not Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians, all Arabs as a racial class.
This is never a reflection on the children, but on the adults who subject them to such ugliness.