perspectives of America

Amazing William Vollman New Yorker article after traveling extensively in Afghanistan in 2000.

If I stopped and gave money to a child, others came running. I slipped one boy five thousand afghanis-about ten cents-and when I looked back in the rearview mirror it seemed that the other boys were practically tearing him to pieces. On a road bend where no other beggar could see, I gave a twenty-dollar bill to a boy who stood beside the carapace of a Soviet armored personnel carrier, and he took it and held it as if he were dreaming. I wanted him to hide it before anybody else came or the wind took it from him, but the last I saw of him he was still standing there with the banknote dangling from his hand.

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SFGate on Abu Mohammed al Amriki

Mohamed admitted a long list of such crimes: training guerrillas who attacked U.S. soldiers in Somalia in 1993; arranging a summit conference of anti-U.S. terrorist organizations in Sudan in 1994; plotting the suicide bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed more than 200 people and injured thousands.
Other suspected activities during his California days include raising money for the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, implicated in the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and smuggling sleeper agents for bin Laden into the United States from Canada.

then later…

Mohamed’s story also is important because it shows how easily even a top- level terrorist can operate unmolested and undetected from the very heart of the United States.
Terrorist groups have “woven themselves into the fabric of America,” said Harvey Kushner, an international security expert and professor at Long Island University. “That is why this is going to be a long, protracted war (against terrorism). The enemy is not outside, it’s within us.”

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NYTimes on Middle East perspectives of America. Maybe the root of all evil is American TV 😉

…for many Iranians, America is a country full of the scantily-clad, available women of Baywatch and MTV. First-time visitors to the United States are often shocked by the more spiritual and socially conservative side of America. “What surprised me the most when I came to the United States was how many churches there were,” said Mohammad Atrianfar, the head of Teheran’s town councils and editor of the daily newspaper Hamshahri. “I certainly didn’t know how religious Americans are.”

* * * * * on Afghanistan.
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Russian journalist Artyom Borovik chronicled the Soviet Union’s war with Afghanistan. I hope to read this book sometime soon.

In the book’s introduction, in a passage that could just as well be about the United States’ experience in Vietnam, Borovik writes: “We thought we were civilizing a backwards country by exposing it to television, to modern bombers, to schools, to the latest models of tanks, to books, to long-range artillery, to newspapers, to new types of weapons, to economic aid, to AK-47s. But we rarely stopped to think how Afghanistan would influence us.”
The single most haunting image in the book isn’t from some dramatic battle scene, though there are those, too, but of a woman standing outside Borovik’s Jalalabad hotel, holding an infant in her arms: “The baby had died on the trip from Pakistan two days ago. But the mother still refuses to give up her child. His tiny body has stiffened and turned blue. Of all the things I’ve seen in Afghanistan, this strikes me as the most horrible.”

News Photo

mourning with the US

Amazing photos of people around the world mouring with the US. This is beyond sad…I can’t find the words to express this kind of sadness.


Mossad’s warnings

NYTimes on 9/11 affect on Japan
…the country woke up last week to the fact that aircraft, not ships, carried 40 percent of the country’s trade last year with the United States – 11,000 parcels and 360,000 pieces of mail daily, or $76 billion worth of goods a year.
Belying the image of Japan as a self-sufficient trading fortress, the nation now imports 30 percent of its medicines and 60 percent of its food. Much of it travels by air.

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LATimes on Mossad’s warnings
FBI and CIA officials were advised in August that as many as 200 terrorists were slipping into this country and planning “a major assault on the United States,” a high-ranking law enforcement official said Wednesday.
The advisory was passed on by the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency. It cautioned that it had picked up indications of a “large-scale target” in the United States and that Americans would be “very vulnerable,” the official said.

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Interview with Tamim Ansary who wrote one of the pieces that has been flying around the ‘net since 9/11.
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Excellent BBC piece explaining the roots of Arab anger against the US.
American support for Iraq in its eight years of war with Iran (1980-88) in which hundreds of thousands of people died. Many Iranians believe Washington encouraged Saddam to invade Iran in order to puncture the Islamic revolution, and provided him with intelligence and other help for many years.
When Saddam later invaded Kuwait and threatened US oil interests, the picture changed. The US sponsored and invoked UN resolutions to cover a massive Western intervention, having ignored many other resolutions relating to Palestine and Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. The image of cynicism and double standards is widely held.
While Gulf Arabs might have applauded the US-led war against Iraq, the subsequent sanctions regime has punished the Iraqi people while Saddam continues to build palaces. There is a widespread feeling that the Americans have never been serious about unseating Saddam.
Throughout the Arab world, Washington’s closest alliances are with regimes which have negligible democratic foundations and highly dubious human rights performances. This too does nothing to endear the US to ordinary people, reinforcing the image of an arrogant, uncaring and deeply hypocritical global power, pursuing its interests without regard to principle.

Japan News

Chomsky on 9-11

Chomsky on 9/11

Q: After the first shock, came fear of what the U.S. answer is going to be. Are you afraid, too?
Chomsky: Every sane person should be afraid of the likely reaction — the one that has already been announced, the one that probably answers Bin Laden’s prayers. It is highly likely to escalate the cycle of violence, in the familiar way, but in this case on a far greater scale.
The U.S. has already demanded that Pakistan terminate the food and other supplies that are keeping at least some of the starving and suffering people of Afghanistan alive. If that demand is implemented, unknown numbers of people who have not the remotest connection to terrorism will die, possibly millions. Let me repeat: the U.S. has demanded that Pakistan kill possibly millions of people who are themselves victims of the Taliban. This has nothing to do even with revenge. It is at a far lower moral level even than that. The significance is heightened by the fact that this is mentioned in passing, with no comment, and probably will hardly be noticed. We can learn a great deal about the moral level of the reigning intellectual culture of the West by observing the reaction to this demand. I think we can be reasonably confident that if the American population had the slightest idea of what is being done in their name, they would be utterly appalled. It would be instructive to seek historical precedents.

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I am almost positive that we will send in troops- Bush can’t respond like Clinton did. That is not going to cut it. US soldiers will die.
This Guardian UK article interviews Tom Carew, a British SAS soldier who fought alongside the Afghans against the Soviets in the late ’70s. This is important to read so we understand exactly how difficult an assault on bin Laden’s organization will be. Let’s not kid ourselves when we say that Afghanistan may likely be one of the most deadly places for Americans to fight a war in.

…they have it all organised, moving from one village to the next, where they have bases stocked with food. This is how they have fought and won wars for the past 200 years, with little bases all over the place and holes in the ground where everything is buried. This allows them to carry as little as possible and to cover ground much faster than a western force could. We didn’t use tents. We lived in caves or slept rough. There were guys in the army just carrying a weapon, three magazines and some naan bread, wrapped in a shawl on their back. There is no way a western soldier could carry heavy equipment and keep up with them.
Because of the doctrine that it’s a great honour to die in a holy war, they were fearless and took risks that western soldiers perhaps would not. This is not the point of a military exercise, which is to defeat the enemy and live to fight another day. If you are reckless with your life, you risk depleting the army before it has won. But it was almost impossible to raise this issue with them; it would have invited a lot of trouble.

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Excellent Feb 1999 Esquire interview with bin Laden.

“We do not differentiate between those dressed in military uniforms and civilians; they are all targets in this fatwa.” Bin Laden argued that American outrage at attacks on American civilians constitutes a great double standard. Bin Laden believes that what we consider to be terrorism is just the amount of violence required to get the attention of the American people. His aim is to get Americans to consider whether continued support of Israel is worth the bloodshed he promises.
“So we tell the Americans as people,” bin Laden said softly, “and we tell the mothers of soldiers and American mothers in general that if they value their lives and the lives of their children, to find a nationalistic government that will look after their interests and not the interests of the Jews. The continuation of tyranny will bring the fight to America, as Ramzi Yousef and others did. This is my message to the American people: to look for a serious government that looks out for their interests and does not attack others, their lands, or their honor. And my word to American journalists is not to ask why we did that but ask what their government has done that forced us to defend ourselves.”
His last words to the camera were, “It is our duty to lead people to the light.”

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NYTimes article on Japan changing it’s international stance wrt the 9/11 terrorist attack. Let’s hope Koizumi can hold the nation together.

Mr. Koizumi’s decision came amid strongly mounting pressure from both inside Japan and abroad to avoid the embarrassment that the country suffered in the Persian Gulf war, in which all the Unites States’ major allies except Japan took part directly in one form or another. Japan, instead, provided as much as $13 billion in financial help.

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Great interview with Jason Elliot, a British journalist who has traveled to Afghanistan multiple times for extended periods.

Despite not being fond of bin Laden, Afghans don’t take well to being invaded, as both the British and the Soviets learned to their chagrin. These are people with nothing left to lose. It would be the ultimate humiliation. And it would not be lost on Muslims around the world, either. This is one of the poorest countries in the world, and it has had to fight off one of the great colonial superpowers, Britain, then one of the modern superpowers, the Soviet Union, only to now be attacked by the last remaining superpower. And the irony is that Afghans would be fighting with U.S. taxpayers’ money and with weapons bought with that money.

I can’t think of a more freedom-loving country than Afghanistan. That may sound strange to Americans right now, but these people gave everything they had in the fight with the Soviets. That left their country destroyed. In the absence of any help afterward, the country fell apart and became a haven for terrorist groups. Afghans are deeply disappointed that they didn’t get much help in rebuilding.


Bin Laden in the New Yorker

Excellent backgrounder on bin Laden from the Jan ’00 New Yorker.

Bin Laden’s father was a Yemeni who had immigrated to the kingdom and had made a fortune by building a construction company into a financial empire. Osama’s mother, a Syrian beauty, was his father’s fourth, and final, official wife (the other three were Saudis), and she was considered by the conservative bin Laden family to be far ahead of her time. (For instance, she refused to wear a burka over her Chanel suits when she travelled abroad.) Osama was her only son. Tutors and nannies, bearers and butlers formed a large part of his life. He and his half brothersÛand, to a lesser extent, his thirty half sistersÛwere playmates of the children of the kingdom’s most prominent families, including various royal princes and princesses. Nonetheless, his childhood has been described as an often lonely one. “It must have been very difficult for him,” one family friend told me. “In a country that is obsessed with parentage, with who your great-grandfather was, Osama was almost a double outsider. His paternal roots are in Yemen, and, within the family, his mother was a double outsider as wellÛshe was neither Saudi nor Yemeni but Syrian.”