Saturday, December 24, 2005
By Jason Szep (Reuters), 14 Dec 2005
Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Updike's next project is bound to stir controversy -- not just in literary circles.
Titled "Terrorist," the novel confronts the emotional issue of changes in America after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks with a culturally charged twist: Updike's terrorist is a U.S. teenager given a sympathetic treatment.
The threat is not anonymous, foreign-born or groomed overseas by Osama bin Laden. He is an 18-year-old American-born son of an Irish mother and Egyptian father who finds Islam at a small urban American high school.
"It's my attempt, in a way, to cope with today's world," Updike said, referring to the novel that he expects to be published in June.
"Terrorism is one of our themes that has changed the texture of American life in a noticeable way. And, of course, it makes you fearful because you think, 'Well, I'm not a terrorist but somebody could be.' "
At one point, Updike considered another title, "Land of Fear." But that title had already been taken and "Terrorist" was more arresting, he said. Some scenes are set in Washington, D.C., with a fictional Cabinet, but Updike is careful not to give away the plot.
"I thought my take on it would be different from anybody else's -- trying to understand it from the terrorist's point of view and make him a sympathetic character," he said. …
December 23, 1939 [France]
The further I go, the more I see that men deserve war – and deserve it more, the more they wage it. It’s like the song of Adam that each individual, according to Kierkegaard, freely adapts as his own. The declaration of war, which was the fault of certain men, we all adapt as our own, with our freedom. This War – we have all declared it at one moment or another.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
The president was so desperate to kill The New York Times’ eavesdropping story, he summoned the paper’s editor and publisher to the Oval Office. But it wasn’t just out of concern about national security.
Dec. 19, 2005 - Finally we have a Washington scandal that goes beyond sex, corruption and political intrigue to big issues like security versus liberty and the reasonable bounds of presidential power. President Bush came out swinging on Snoopgate—he made it seem as if those who didn’t agree with him wanted to leave us vulnerable to Al Qaeda—but it will not work. We’re seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator, or in his own mind, no doubt, like Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.
No wonder Bush was so desperate that The New York Times not publish its story on the National Security Agency eavesdropping on American citizens without a warrant, in what lawyers outside the administration say is a clear violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I learned this week that on Dec. 6, Bush summoned Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futile attempt to talk them out of running the story. The Times will not comment on the meeting, but one can only imagine the president’s desperation...
The 'I Word'
Expect 2006 to offer up Nixon-era nastiness and a chorus of calls to impeach Bush.
...We are entering a dark time in which the central argument advanced by each party is going to involve accusing the other party of committing what amounts to treason. Democrats will accuse the Bush administration of destroying the Constitution; Republicans will accuse the Dems of destroying our security...
Where’s the Outrage?
Bush’s defense of his phone-spying program has disturbing echoes of arguments once used by South Africa’s apartheid regime. Why Americans should examine the parallels.
Dec. 21, 2005 - Back in the 1980s, when I was living in Johannesburg and reporting on apartheid South Africa, a white neighbor proffered a tasteless confession. She was "quite relieved," she told me, that new media restrictions prohibited our reporting on government repression. No matter that Pretoria was detaining tens of thousands of people without real evidence of wrongdoing. No matter that many of them, including children, were being tortured—sometimes to death. No matter that government hit squads were killing political opponents. No matter that police were shooting into crowds of black civilians protesting against their disenfranchisement. "It's so nice," confided my neighbor, "not to open the papers and read all that bad news."
I thought about that neighbor this week, as reports dribbled out about President George W. Bush's sanctioning of warrantless eavesdropping on American conversations. For anyone who has lived under an authoritarian regime, phone tapping—or at least the threat of it—is always a given. But U.S. citizens have always been lucky enough to believe themselves protected from such government intrusion. So why have they reacted so insipidly to yet another post-9/11 erosion of U.S. civil liberties?...
Friday, December 16, 2005
Dec. 14, 2005 - When I finally got him on his cell phone, Javier Rodríguez had his Canon trained on Tenerife airport in the Canary Islands, and he was zooming in with a 500mm lens. Rodríguez normally works at a bank, but his passion is hunting aircraft, taking pictures, checking tail numbers, posting his findings on the Web. The hobby of plane spotting is sort of like jet-fueled bird-watching; you look for variety, color, rarity. You click off a few shots; you share them with friends. Apart from an occasional scare when a pilot confuses a long lens with a rocket launcher and radios the tower, this is a pretty innocuous obsession. Or so it was until the beginning of this year, when reports in NEWSWEEK and other publications caught up with “Air CIA.”
Ever since, plane spotters have played a key role keeping the issue of so-called “torture flights”—and images of the aircraft themselves—in front of the public eye. Last week, they and their pictures were more in demand than ever as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice toured Europe and found herself dogged at every stop by questions about the aircraft—Boeings and Gulfstreams—using European airports and transiting European airspace.
After countless refusals to talk about the planes and their destinations because, er, they were secret, and repeated denials that the United States practices torture, as narrowly defined by the Bush administration, Rice did quell some of the criticism from NATO allies. After all, many European governments seem to have known what was going on in their air space, or at least knew enough not to want to know. Yet this issue won’t go away. The plane spotters took it out of the hands of government, in fact. They put vital evidence on the Web, unwittingly at first, that human-rights organizations and parliamentarians have used to launch lawsuits and demand explanations….
Shadowland: Bourne Again?, 5 July 2005
The real-life spy adventure uncovered in Italy's "kidnapped imam" case raises more troubling questions about how the Bush administration came to invade Iraq, and what's happened to the war on terror.
Shadowland: The Road to Rendition, 16 June 2005
Did U.S. agents help to abduct an imam off an Italian street? An upcoming Milan case could embarrass both Bush and Berlusconi.
Goodbye to America
I've literally become homeless. My new home is now hoder.com and I'm not joking.
You might have seen a small change in my little biography on the right hand side. I had said that I was in New York. But I'm now out of the States and can't go back at least for six months.
It was actually my blog that got me into trouble after a month of staying in my friend's flat in lower-Manhattan, NYC. It's a sad but real story.
The last time I decided to go back to Toronto for a night, I took a bus. A huge mistake, now I know. When I wanted to come back to NYC, I was obviously stopped and interviewed by US Customs and Border Security people at the Buffalo border (Peace Bridge), like everyone else on the bus.
But when they realized I was going to the States to speak at a blog-related conference (ConvergeSouth) they started to google my name right in front of me. Two officers, actually.
They carefully scanned the results and found this English blog. One of them, a very sharp guy in fact, started to read every single post on my blog. And it didn't take long until he shocked me: "So you live in New York, right? That's what you've written in your on blog."
I had no idea googling people at the border had become a routine. So instead of defending me with some simple legal arguments about my rights as a Canadian citizen and what I meant by that sentence, I kind of felt desperate and said I did that because I was there for some back-to-back events and conferences and I thought saying you are in New York is sexier than Toronto -- which actually is, don't you think?
He was ecstatic. My blog made his day, or in this case, his night. He kept reading my posts and asking questions about a lot of them: Why did I go to Iran, what are my feelings about Bush administration, why I separated from my wife, what did I think about Iranian politics, etc.
The guy wanted to get me into deep trouble so ultimately I would never go back to his lovely country, apparently. So he started to look for evidence that I'd also worked in the States and were paid by American. Until he found, in my archive, a post I'd written before leaving for Iran, to ask for the blogging community's attention and support, especially if something happened to me in Iran and about how they could help in that case.
Sarcastically, I'd reminded everyone not to be surprised if, while in detention in Iran, I confessed about some absurd wrongdoings form the Islamic regime's point of view, such as: getting money from the CIA, trafficking illegal drugs, dating Natalie Portman and Kiera Knightly, etc.
"So you are getting money for the Bush administration," the officer asked. I was speechless. "Come on! This is a joke. Read the whole thing and put it in a context." Fortunately the guy was a smart man and realized the sarcasm. However he said these things are not quite appropriate to be on your blog when you are at the border. He was right.
But later, when he had still doubt about letting me in or not, he found the latest issue of Newsweek in my small suitcase on which I had my NYC address. There were many others with my Toronto address, but that single was enough to convince him about my situation. I didn't challenge him again. God, I wish I were a lawyer. I could've said this magazine is important for me and I didn't want to miss a single issue of it by being away from home.
So then he took me to another room and spent about two hours writing a report and registering and documenting my refusal of entry.
Now the result is that, apparently, I can't visit the States at least for six months and even after that I should prove I'm established enough in Canada. I also have to explain why I failed to register my departure when the bus driver didn't stop while crossing the US border to Canada.
Now I feel there is no place in New York City, the most cosmopolitan city in the world. But it's the end of the world. Even it might be better for me to spend more time in Europe and learn new languages.
It's sad to see America is not the land of the free anymore.
P.S: Some of the readers think I had broken law by staying in the US. But as a Canadian citizen I'm allowed to visit and stay in the US for up to six month. It was only one month I was in New York City and I was staying with a friend. How that could be breaking the law?
Mahmoud Ahmadi’nejad, the Iranian president, made a grotesque stab at moderation this week with an appeal that “Israel be moved to Europe” rather than “wiped off the map” He claimed, “My word is the same as that of [the] Iranian nation,” with the BBC’s Frances Harrison in Tehran adding that, “the Iranian press has endorsed the president's views, calling them logical and less passive than the approach of previous Iranian governments.” In fact there is an entirely different Iran simmering behind those headlines.
A free, nationally representative press no longer exists. Over 100 publications, including 41 dailies, have been closed down by the regime in recent years. We see Iranians portrayed as crowds chanting ‘Death to America and Israel!’ in archive footage that was shot during Friday prayers and is routinely shown on news broadcasts. Yet according to surveys by Iran’s own Ministry of Culture and Guidance, fewer than 1.4 per cent of the population actually bothers to attend Friday prayers.
A major national poll in 2002 commissioned by the then-reformist parliament revealed that that 64.5 per cent favoured resumption of talks between Iran and the United States. The researchers involved soon found themselves in prison. Three years later – just last month -- Abdolah Naseri, the former director of the state news agency, IRNA, was put on trial for revealing that the regime’s raison d'etre, enmity to the US, is not shared by the majority of Iranians.
Those who lived through the Iranian Revolution of 1979 are now a minority. Iran has one of the most youthful and educated populations in the Middle East: 70 per cent are under thirty, with national literacy rates of well over 90 per cent. Last year more than 65 per cent of those entering university were women. It is the voices of these educated young people that come emerge from the phenomenon that is the Iranian blogosphere. The internet has opened a new virtual space for free speech in Iran, a country dubbed the "the biggest prison for journalists in the Middle East", by Reporters sans Frontières. With an estimated 75,000 blogs, Farsi is now the fourth most popular language for keeping online journals.
“Can’t anyone shut this man up?” one Iranian blogger pleaded after Ahmadi’nejad’s latest remarks. Another lamented that, “by denying the holocaust President A.N now stands in history next to Mussolini and Hitler.” Picking up on a label given him by Iran’s leading (and recently exiled) satirist, Ebrahim Nabavi, bloggers commonly refer to their president by his initials A.N, a Persian word meaning excrement.
Another blogger writes, “Perhaps Ahmadi’nejad has never seen aging Jewish men and women, who 60 years after WWII, still with trembling voices and tearful eyes recount how they were separated from their parents and sent to Auschwitz… and he has not seen on their wrinkled arms their hacked out prisoner numbers. Perhaps he doesn’t know he hasn’t read or heard… that he so confidently calls the genocide and injustice to this people a myth. But where are those defenders of Islam... those who see Islam so threatened and endangered to extinction with slightest of social loosening and keep calling on others to revolt in defence of the integrity of their faith. Don’t they have a problem with their Islam’s accord with Nazism?”
Ordinary Iranians appear to be tired of the ‘death chants’ of the regime. They want to project a positive image of their country to counterbalance its reputation in the West as a nation of terrorists. As one blogger puts it “Although we do have our fair share of bigots and racists, I don’t think we as a society are more intolerant than any others in the world. If Iranians were so intolerant . . . then why have so many people throughout our ancient history sought refuge in our land?” According to UNHCR’s global refugee figures (June 2004), Iran ranks second in the world in providing asylum to refugees.
It may be hard to believe but Iran also has the largest Jewish community outside of Israel in the Middle East. The Jerusalem Post last year (5 May 2004) reported that ‘most of the Jews still resident in Iran are quite happy to be there and despite the anti-Israel hatred that often translates itself into anti-Jewish feeling, generally speaking, they are not persecuted.’ More recently The Jerusalem Post (4 Nov 2005) reported Iranian Jewish immigrants to Israel moving back “'home' to Teheran.”
Although the Iranian authorities hate the state of Israel, anti-Semitism remains a social taboo in Iran – even among the most radical members of the regime. Even under the present constitution there must be a Jewish representative in Parliament. Examine Ahmadi’nejad’s hateful rhetoric and his irritation is consistently directed at Israel or Zionists and never at Jews. The Iranian Jewish exile Roya Hakakian has recently published a memoir about her life in Tehran before and after the Revolution. Growing up in Tehran, she never experienced anti-Semitism: ‘The people who persecuted Jews in Iran were the same people who persecuted anyone who didn’t fall in line with the Government . . . Our neighbours never turned on us and we always maintained close ties with our Iranian friends.’
Iranians are proud and conscious of their rich ancient history. Iranian Jews are the oldest inhabitants of the country and have lived in Iran for 2,500 years since the first Diaspora, when large populations were exiled from Judea. According to the Bible, Cyrus conquered Babylonia in 539 B.C., liberated the Jews from captivity, and raised funds for the rebuilding of their destroyed temple in Jerusalem. Even in more recent times there have been figures such as Hossein Sardari, dubbed the ‘Iranian Schindler‘, who was honored last year by the Wiesenthal Centre. As a young Iranian diplomat in Paris, Sardari succeeded in having hundreds of Iranian Jews classified as ‘non-racially‘ connected to the rest of the Jewish people, thereby saving them from the Nazi death camps. In 1942, he turned over 500 blank Iranian passports to Jewish acquaintances in Paris to help save other non-Iranian Jews fleeing from Nazi persecution.
Hossein Derakhshan, the so called ‘godfather’ of the Iranian blogosphere, asks his compatriots to communicate with the outside world by writing in English: "it’s crucial to show what a tiny percentage amongst us thinks like Ahmadi’nejad. And how little these radical thoughts and bigoted views exist amongst Iranians... write in English about how we are at odds with him." In the past Hossein has asked, “Why are we the only country in the region that does not accept the existence of the state of Israel? We must not forget that during the Iran–Iraq war, Yasser Arafat was Saddam’s best friend and along with all other Arab-speaking nations supported Iraq against Iran in the war.”…
Although the Iranian people have deep sympathies with the Palestinians, after 25 years of being told it is their religious duty to one day liberate Jerusalem, perhaps some Iranians are more concerned with their own liberation. In the summer of 1999, among the calls for democracy and freedom of student protestors was a familiar slogan: ‘Forget Palestine . . . let’s deal with our own problems!’ Not much of slogan in English but a perfect rhyming couplet in Persian. … and one that would startle Ahmadi’nejad more than any possible conflict with the West.
In the 2005 presidential elections, all the candidates professed to be staunch reformists. The winner, Tehran mayor Ahmadi’nejad, was promoted as a man of the people. At one stage during his campaign, he even claimed that the "establishment" had cut off the electricity in large areas of Iran so that ordinary people couldn't hear his campaign speeches in which he promised to fight corruption. …Nearly five months after his election victory the president’s campaign pledge of social justice and distribution of oil money to the poor seems increasingly unrealistic. The new parliament has announced plans to reduce subsidies on the sale of imported petrol, bread and cement. After rising chicken prices during the holy month of Ramadan, some observers were already reporting the beginning of the end of Ahmadi’nejad’s “honeymoon period.” The Tehran stock exchange has plunged 25 per cent in the past four months -- the biggest drop in the history of the exchange. … Yet Ahmadi’nejad knows that a radical Iran survives in isolation and any possible conflict with the West will only strengthen his power base; as even those Iranians who oppose him are tempted to move to his camp in the face of foreign aggression.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
The United States and those countries that share the commitment to defend their citizens will use every lawful weapon to defeat these terrorists. Protecting citizens is the first and oldest duty of any government.
Sometimes these efforts are misunderstood. I want to help all of you understand the hard choices involved and some of the responsibilities that go with them.
One of the difficult issues in this new kind of conflict is what to do with captured individuals who we know or believe to be terrorists. The individuals come from many countries and are often captured far from their original homes. Among them are those who are effectively stateless, owing allegiance only to the extremist cause of transnational terrorism. Many are extremely dangerous. And some have information that may save lives, perhaps even thousands of lives.
The captured terrorists of the 21st century do not fit easily into traditional systems of criminal or military justice, which were designed for different needs. We have to adapt. Other governments are now also facing this challenge.
We consider the captured members of Al Qaida and its affiliates to be unlawful combatants who may be held, in accordance with the law of war, to keep them from killing innocents. We must treat them in accordance with our laws, which reflect the values of the American people. We must question them to gather potentially significant, life-saving, intelligence. We must bring terrorists to justice wherever possible.
For decades, the United States and other countries have used "renditions" to transport terrorist suspects from the country where they were captured to their home country or to other countries where they can be questioned, held, or brought to justice.
In some situations a terrorist suspect can be extradited according to traditional judicial procedures. But there have long been many other cases where, for some reason, the local government cannot detain or prosecute a suspect, and traditional extradition is not a good option. In those cases the local government can make the sovereign choice to cooperate in a rendition. Such renditions are permissible under international law and are consistent with the responsibilities of those governments to protect their citizens.
Rendition is a vital tool in combating transnational terrorism. Its use is not unique to the United States, or to the current administration. Last year, then-Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet recalled that our earlier counterterrorism successes included "the rendition of many dozens of terrorists prior to September 11, 2001."
Ramzi Youssef masterminded the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and plotted to blow up airlines over the Pacific Ocean, killing a Japanese airline passenger in a test of one of his bombs. Once tracked down, a rendition brought him to the United States, where he now serves a life sentence.
One of history's most infamous terrorists, best known as "Carlos the Jackal," had participated in murders in Europe and the Middle East. He was finally captured in Sudan in 1994. A rendition by the French government brought him to justice in France, where he is now imprisoned. Indeed, the European Commission of Human Rights rejected Carlos' claim that his rendition from Sudan was unlawful.
Renditions take terrorists out of action, and save lives.
In conducting such renditions, it is the policy of the United States, and I presume of any other democracies who use this procedure, to comply with its laws and comply with its treaty obligations, including those under the Convention Against Torture. Torture is a term that is defined by law. We rely on our law to govern our operations. The United States does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances. Moreover, in accordance with the policy of this administration:
The United States has respected -- and will continue to respect -- the sovereignty of other countries.
The United States does not transport, and has not transported, detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture.
The United States does not use the airspace or the airports of any country for the purpose of transporting a detainee to a country where he or she will be tortured.
The United States has not transported anyone, and will not transport anyone, to a country when we believe he will be tortured. Where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured.
International law allows a state to detain enemy combatants for the duration of hostilities. Detainees may only be held for an extended period if the intelligence or other evidence against them has been carefully evaluated and supports a determination that detention is lawful. The U.S. does not seek to hold anyone for a period beyond what is necessary to evaluate the intelligence or other evidence against them, prevent further acts of terrorism, or hold them for legal proceedings.
With respect to detainees, the United States Government complies with its Constitution, its laws, and its treaty obligations. Acts of physical or mental torture are expressly prohibited. The United States Government does not authorize or condone torture of detainees. Torture, and conspiracy to commit torture, are crimes under U.S. law, wherever they may occur in the world.
Violations of these and other detention standards have been investigated and punished. There have been cases of unlawful treatment of detainees, such as the abuse of a detainee by an intelligence agency contractor in Afghanistan or the horrible mistreatment of some prisoners at Abu Ghraib that sickened us all and which arose under the different legal framework that applies to armed conflict in Iraq. In such cases, the United States has vigorously investigated, and where appropriate, prosecuted and punished those responsible. Some individuals have already been sentenced to lengthy terms in prison; others have been demoted or reprimanded.
As CIA Director Goss recently stated, our intelligence agencies have handled the gathering of intelligence from a very small number of extremely dangerous detainees, including the individuals who planned the 9/11 attacks in the United States, the attack on the USS Cole, and many other murders and attempted murders. It is the policy of the United States that this questioning is to be conducted within U.S. law and treaty obligations, without using torture. It is also U.S. policy that authorized interrogation will be consistent with U.S. obligations under the Convention Against Torture, which prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The intelligence so gathered has stopped terrorist attacks and saved innocent lives in Europe as well as in the United States and other countries. The United States has fully respected the sovereignty of other countries that cooperate in these matters.
Because this war on terrorism challenges traditional norms and precedents of previous conflicts, our citizens have been discussing and debating the proper legal standards that should apply. President Bush is working with the U.S. Congress to come up with good solutions. I want to emphasize a few key points.
The United States is a country of laws. My colleagues and I have sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. We believe in the rule of law.
The United States Government must protect its citizens. We and our friends around the world have the responsibility to work together in finding practical ways to defend ourselves against ruthless enemies. And these terrorists are some of the most ruthless enemies we face.
We cannot discuss information that would compromise the success of intelligence, law enforcement, and military operations. We expect that other nations share this view.
Some governments choose to cooperate with the United States in intelligence, law enforcement, or military matters. That cooperation is a two-way street. We share intelligence that has helped protect European countries from attack, helping save European lives.
It is up to those governments and their citizens to decide if they wish to work with us to prevent terrorist attacks against their own country or other countries, and decide how much sensitive information they can make public. They have a sovereign right to make that choice.
Debate in and among democracies is natural and healthy. I hope that that debate also includes a healthy regard for the responsibilities of governments to protect their citizens.
Four years after September 11, most of our populations are asking us if we are doing all that we can to protect them. I know what it is like to face an inquiry into whether everything was done that could have been done. So now, before the next attack, we should all consider the hard choices that democratic governments must face. And we can all best meet this danger if we work together.
Also see the transcript of a brief question and answer session that followed, as published by The Washington Post.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
Work on the Newsweek cover story "Women of Al Qaeda" consumed every minute of my time over the last couple of weeks, which is why no new Shadowland column appeared and no new items were posted on this blog. This is a project we've been looking at since last year, the reporting contributions from our farflung correspondents were wonderful, and I'm pleased with the way the story turned out, but I am also convinced that the interrelated questions of sex, gender and jihad have only just begun to be explored:
Dec. 12, 2005 issue - Very little is known about the first woman to become a suicide bomber for Al Qaeda in Iraq, except that she dressed as a man. Two weeks after a U.S.-backed operation to clean out the town of Tall Afar near the Syrian border in September, she put on the long white robe and checkered scarf that Arab men commonly wear in Iraqi desert towns. The clothes disguised her gender long enough for her to walk into a gathering of military recruits with no one taking much notice. The clothes also concealed the explosives strapped around her womb. "May God accept our sister among the martyrs," said a Web site linked to the organization of Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. She had defended "her faith and her honor." No name was given. But the bomb that blew apart that anonymous woman killed five men, maimed or wounded 30 more, and opened a new chapter not only in the war for Iraq but in the global struggle against terror....