The Road to Armageddon: The Insane Drive for American Hegemony Threatens Life on Earth
by Paul Craig Roberts
The Washington Times is a newspaper that looks with favor upon the Bush/Cheney/Obama/neocon wars of aggression in the Middle East and favors making terrorists pay for 9/11. Therefore, I was surprised to learn on February 24 that the most popular story on the paper’s website for the past three days was the “Inside the Beltway” report, “Explosive News,” about the 31 press conferences in cities in the US and abroad on February 19 held by Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, an organization of professionals which now has 1,000 members.
I was even more surprised that the news report treated the press conference seriously.
How did three World Trade Center skyscrapers suddenly disintegrate into fine dust? How did massive steel beams in three skyscrapers suddenly fail as a result of short-lived, isolated, and low temperature fires? “A thousand architects and engineers want to know, and are calling on Congress to order a new investigation into the destruction of the Twin Towers and Building 7,” reports the Washington Times.
The paper reports that the architects and engineers have concluded that the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Institute of Standards and Technology provided “insufficient, contradictory and fraudulent accounts of the circumstances of the towers’ destruction” and are “calling for a grand jury investigation of NIST officials.”
The newspaper reports that Richard Gage, the spokesperson for the architects and engineers said: “Government officials will be notified that ‘Misprision of Treason,’ U.S. Code 18 (Sec. 2382) is a serious federal offense, which requires those with evidence of treason to act. The implications are enormous and may have profound impact on the forthcoming Khalid Sheik Mohammed trial.”
There is now an organization, Firefighters for 9/11 Truth. At the main press conference in San Francisco, Eric Lawyer,the head of that organization, announced the firefighters’ support for the architects and engineers’ demands. He reported that no forensic investigation was made of the fires that are alleged to have destroyed the three buildings and that this failure constitutes a crime.
Mandated procedures were not followed, and instead of being preserved and investigated, the crime scene was destroyed. He also reported that there are more than one hundred first responders who heard and experienced explosions and that there is radio, audio and video evidence of explosions.
Also at the press conference, physicist Steven Jones presented the evidence of nano-thermite in the residue of the WTC buildings found by an international panel of scientists led by University of Copenhagen nano-chemist Professor Niels Harrit. Nano-thermite is a high-tech explosive/pyrotechnic capable of instantly melting steel girders.
Before we yell “conspiracy theory,” we should be aware that the architects, engineers, firefighters, and scientists offer no theory. They provide evidence that challenges the official theory. This evidence is not going to go away.
If expressing doubts or reservations about the official story in the 9/11 Commission Report makes a person a conspiracy theory kook, then we have to include both co-chairmen of the 9/11 Commission and the Commission’s legal counsel, all of whom have written books in which they clearly state that they were lied to by government officials when they conducted their investigation, or, rather, when they presided over the investigation conducted by executive director Philip Zelikow, a member of President George W. Bush’s transition team and Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and a co-author of Bush Secretary of State Condi “Mushroom Cloud” Rice
There will always be Americans who will believe whatever the government tells them no matter how many times they know the government has lied to them. Despite expensive wars that threaten Social Security and Medicare, wars based on non-existent Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, non-existent Saddam Hussein connections to al Qaida, non-existent Afghan participation in the 9/11 attacks, and the non-existent Iranian nukes that are being hyped as the reason for the next American war of aggression in the Middle East, more than half of the U.S. population still believes the fantastic story that the government has told them about 9/11, a Muslim conspiracy that outwitted the entire Western world.
Moreover, it doesn’t matter to these Americans how often the government changes its story. For example, Americans first heard of Osama bin Laden because the Bush regime pinned the 9/11 attacks on him. Over the years video after video was served up to the gullible American public of bin Laden’s pronouncements. Experts dismissed the videos as fakes, but Americans remained their gullible selves. Then suddenly last year a new 9/11 “mastermind” emerged to take bin Laden’s place, the captive Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the detainee waterboarded 183 times until he confessed to mastermining the 9/11 attack.
In the Middle Ages confessions extracted by torture constituted evidence, but self-incrimination has been a no-no in the U.S. legal system since our founding. But with the Bush regime and the Republican federal judges, whom we were assured would defend the U.S. Constitution, the self-incrimination of Sheik Mohammed stands today as the only evidence the U.S. government has that Muslim terrorists pulled off 9/11.
If a person considers the feats attributed to Khalid Sheik Mohammed, they are simply unbelievable. Sheik Mohammed is a more brilliant, capable superhero than V in the fantasy movie, “V for Vendetta.” Sheik Mohammed outwitted all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies along with those of all U.S. allies or puppets, including Israel’s Mossad. No intelligence service on earth or all of them combined was a match for Sheik Mohammed.
Sheik Mohammed outwitted the U.S. National Security Council, Dick Cheney, the Pentagon, the State Department, NORAD, the U.S. Air Force, and Air Traffic Control.
He caused Airport Security to fail four times in one morning. He caused the state-of-the-art air defenses of the Pentagon to fail, allowing a hijacked airliner, which was off course all morning while the U.S. Air Force, for the first time in history, was unable to get aloft intercepter aircraft, to crash into the Pentagon.
Sheik Mohammed was able to perform these feats with unqualified pilots.
Sheik Mohammed, even as a waterboarded detainee, has managed to prevent the FBI from releasing the many confiscated videos that would show, according to the official story, the hijacked airliner hitting the Penagon.
How naive do you have to be to believe that any human, or for that matter Hollywood fantasy character, is this powerful and capable?
If Sheik Mohammed has these superhuman capabilities, how did the incompetent Americans catch him? This guy is a patsy tortured into confession in order to keep the American naifs believing the government’s conspiracy theory.
What is going on here is that the U.S. government has to bring the 9/11 mystery to an end. The government must put on trial and convict a culprit so that it can close the case before it explodes. Anyone waterboarded 183 times would confess to anything.
The U.S. government has responded to the evidence being arrayed against its outlandish 9/11 conspiracy theory by redefining the war on terror from external to internal enemies. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on February 21 that American extremists are now as big a concern as international terrorists. Extremists, of course, are people who get in the way of the government’s agenda, such as the 1,000 Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. The group used to be 100, now it is 1,000. What if it becomes 10,000?
Cass Sunstein, an Obama regime official, has a solution for the 9/11 skeptics: Infiltrate them and provoke them into statements and actions that can be used to discredit or to arrest them. But get rid of them at all cost.
Why employ such extreme measures against alleged kooks if they only provide entertainment and laughs? Is the government worried that they are on to something?
Instead, why doesn’t the U.S. government simply confront the evidence that is presented and answer it?
If the architects, engineers, firefighters, and scientists are merely kooks, it would be a simple matter to acknowledge their evidence and refute it. Why is it necessary to infiltrate them with police agents and to set them up?
Many Americans would reply that “their” government would never even dream of killing Americans by hijacking airliners and destroying buildings in order to advance a government agenda. But on February 3, National Intelligence Director Dennis Blair told the House Intelligence Committee that the U.S. government can assassinate its own citizens when they are overseas. No arrest, trial, or conviction of a capital crime is necessary. Just straight out murder.
Obviously, if the U.S. government can murder its citizens abroad it can murder them at home, and has done so. For example, 100 Branch Davidians were murdered in Waco, Texas, by the Clinton administration for no legitimate reason. The government just decided to use its power knowing that it could get away with it, which it did.
Americans who think “their” government is some kind of morally pure operation would do well to familiarize themselves with Operation Northwoods. Operation Northwoods was a plot drawn up by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff for the CIA to commit acts of terrorism in American cities and fabricate evidence blaming Castro so that the U.S. could gain domestic and international support for regime change in Cuba. The secret plan was nixed by President John F. Kennedy and was declassified by the John F. Kennedy Assassination Records Review Board. It is available online in the National Security Archive. There are numerous online accounts available, including Wikipedia. James Bamford’s book, Body of Secrets, also summarizes the plot:
“Operation Northwoods, which had the written approval of the Chairman [Gen. Lemnitzer] and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war.”
Prior to 9/11 the American neoconservatives were explicit that the wars of aggression that they intended to launch in the Middle East required “a new Pearl Harbor.”
For their own good and that of the wider world, Americans need to pay attention to the growing body of experts who are telling them that the government’s account of 9/11 fails their investigation. 9/11 launched the neoconservative plan for U.S. world hegemony. As I write the U.S. government is purchasing the agreement of foreign governments that border Russia to accept U.S. missile interceptor bases. The U.S. intends to ring Russia with U.S. missile bases from Poland through central Europe and Kosovo to Georgia, Azerbaijan and central Asia. [see www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=17709 ] U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke declared on February 20 that al Qaida is moving into former central Asian constituent parts of the Soviet Union, such as Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan. Holbrooke is soliciting U.S. bases in these former Soviet republics under the guise of the ever-expanding “war on terror.”
The U.S. has already encircled Iran with military bases. The U.S. government intends to neutralize China by seizing control over the Middle East and cutting China off from oil.
This plan assumes that Russia and China, nuclear armed states, will be intimidated by U.S. anti-missile defenses and acquiesce to U.S. hegemony and that China will lack oil for its industries and military.
The U.S. government is delusional. Russian military and political leaders have responded to the obvious threat by declaring NATO a direct threat to the security of Russia and by announcing a change in Russian war doctrine to the pre-emptive launch of nuclear weapons. The Chinese are too confident to be bullied by a washed up American “superpower.”
The morons in Washington are pushing the envelop of nuclear war. The insane drive for American hegemony threatens life on earth. The American people, by accepting the lies and deceptions of “their” government, are facilitating this outcome.
Filed under: MidEast
The truth about the Mossad
The recent, outlandish assassination in Dubai may prove the most damaging yet in the Mossad’s history of high-profile, bungled operations.
Last November, a sharp-eyed Israeli woman named Niva Ben-Harush was alarmed to notice a young man attaching something that looked suspiciously like a bomb to the underside of a car in a quiet street near Tel Aviv port. When police arrested him, he claimed to be an agent of the Mossad secret service taking part in a training exercise: his story turned out to be true – though the bomb was a fake.
No comment was forthcoming from the Israeli prime minister’s office, which formally speaks for – but invariably says nothing about – the country’s world-famous espionage organisation. The bungling bomber was just a brief item on that evening’s local TV news.
There was, however, a far bigger story – one that echoed across the globe – two years ago this week, when a bomb in a Pajero jeep in Damascus decapitated a man named Imad Mughniyeh. Mughniyeh was the military leader of Lebanon’s Shia movement Hizbullah, an ally of Iran, and was wanted by the US, France and half a dozen other countries. Israel never went beyond cryptic nodding and winking about that killing in the heart of the Syrian capital, but it is widely believed to have been one of its most daring and sophisticated clandestine operations.
The Mossad, like other intelligence services, tends to attract attention only when something goes wrong, or when it boasts a spectacular success and wants to send a warning signal to its enemies. Last month’s assassination of a senior Hamas official in Dubai, now at the centre of a white-hot diplomatic row between Israel and Britain, is a curious mixture of both.
With its cloned foreign passports, multiple disguises, state-of-the-art communications and the murder of alleged arms smuggler Mahmoud al-Mabhouh – one of the few elements of the plot that was not captured on the emirate’s CCTV cameras – it is a riveting tale of professional chutzpah, violence and cold calculation. And with the Palestinian Islamist movement now vowing to take revenge, it seems grimly certain that it will bring more bloodshed in its wake.
The images from Dubai follow the biblical injunction (and the Mossad’s old motto):”By way of deception thou shalt make war.” The agency’s job, its website explains more prosaically, is to “collect information, analyse intelligence and perform special covert operations beyond [Israel’s] borders.”
Founded in 1948 along with the new Jewish state, the Mossad largely stayed in the shadows in its early years. Yitzhak Shamir, a former Stern Gang terrorist and future prime minister, ran operations targeting German scientists who were helping Nasser’s Egypt build rockets – foreshadowing later Israeli campaigns to disrupt Iraqi and (continuing) Iranian attempts to acquire nuclear and other weapons.
The Mossad’s most celebrated exploits included the abduction of the fugitive Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, who was later tried and hanged in Israel. Others were organising the defection of an Iraqi pilot who flew his MiG-21 to Israel, and support for Iraqi Kurdish rebels against Baghdad. Military secrets acquired by Elie Cohen, the infamous spy who penetrated the Syrian leadership, helped Israel conquer the Golan Heights in the 1967 Middle East war.
It was after that that the service’s role expanded to fight the Palestinians, who had been galvanised under Yasser Arafat into resisting Israel in the newly occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. The 1970s saw the so-called “war of the spooks” with Mossad officers, operating under diplomatic cover abroad, recruiting and running informants in Fatah and other Palestinian groups. Baruch Cohen, an Arabic speaker on loan to the Mossad from the Shin Bet internal security service, was shot in a Madrid cafe by his own agent. Bassam Abu Sharif, of the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was badly disfigured by a Mossad parcel bomb sent to him in Beirut.
Steven Spielberg’s 2006 film Munich helped mythologise the Mossad’s hunt for the Black September terrorists who massacred 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. Eleven of them were eliminated in killings across Europe, culminating in the small Norwegian town of Lillehammer, where a Moroccan waiter was mistaken for Ali Hassan Salameh, the Munich plot’s mastermind. Salameh was eventually killed by a car bomb in Beirut in 1979 – the sort of incident that made Lebanese and Palestinians sit up and notice last year’s botched training episode in Tel Aviv.
Some details of the assassination of Mabhouh last month echo elements of the campaign against Black September – which ended with the catastrophic arrest of five Mossad agents. Sylvia Raphael, a South African-born Christian with a Jewish father, spent five years in a Norwegian prison; she may have been among the young Europeans in Israel who were discreetly asked, in nondescript offices in Tel Aviv, if they wished to volunteer for sensitive work involving Israel’s security. Other agents who had been exposed had to be recalled, safe houses abandoned, phone numbers changed and operational methods modified.
Over the years, the Mossad’s image has been badly tarnished at home as well as abroad. It was blamed in part for failing to get wind of Egyptian-Syrian plans for the devastating attack that launched the 1973 Yom Kippur war. Critics wondered whether the spies had got their priorities right by focusing on hunting down Palestinian gunmen in the back alleys of European cities, when they should have been stealing secrets in Cairo and Damascus. The Mossad also played a significant, though still little-known, role in the covert supply of arms to Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran to help fight Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, as part of the Iran-Contra scandal during Ronald Reagan’s presidency.
It has, in addition, suffered occasional blows from its own disgruntled employees. In 1990, a Canadian-born former officer called Victor Ostrovsky blew the whistle on its internal organisation, training and methods, revealing codenames including “Kidon” (bayonet), the unit in charge of assassinations. An official smear campaign failed to stop Ostrovsky’s book, so the agency kept quiet when another ostensibly inside account came out in 2007. It described the use of shortwave radios for sending encoded transmissions, operations in Iran for collecting soil samples, and joint operations with the CIA against Hezbollah.
But the worst own goal came in 1997, during Binyamin Netanyahu’s first term as prime minister. Mossad agents tried but failed to assassinate Khaled Mash’al – the same Hamas leader who is now warning of retaliation for Mabhouh’s murder – by injecting poison into his ear in Amman, Jordan. Using forged Canadian passports, they fled to the Israeli embassy, triggering outrage and a huge diplomatic crisis with Jordan. Danny Yatom, the then Mossad chief, was forced to quit. Ephraim Halevy, a quietly spoken former Londoner, was brought back from retirement to clear up the mess.
The Dubai assassination, however, may yet turn out to be far more damaging – not least because the political and diplomatic context has changed in the last decade. Israel’s reputation has suffered an unprecedented battering, reaching a new low during last year’s Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip. “In the current climate, the traces left behind in Dubai are likely to lead to very serious harm to Israel’s international standing,” the former diplomat Alon Liel commented yesterday.
Even though Israel is maintaining its traditional policy of “ambiguity” about clandestine operations, refusing to confirm or deny any involvement in Dubai, nobody in the world seems to seriously question it. That includes almost all Israeli commentators, who are bound by the rules of military censorship in a small and talkative country where secrets are often quite widely known.
It would be surprising if a key part of this extraordinary story did not turn out to be the role played by Palestinians. It is still Mossad practice to recruit double agents, just as it was with the PLO back in the 1970s. News of the arrest in Damascus of another senior Hamas operative – though denied by Mash’al – seems to point in this direction. Two other Palestinians extradited from Jordan to Dubai are members of the Hamas armed wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam brigades, suggesting treachery may indeed have been involved. Previous assassinations have involved a Palestinian agent identifying the target.
Yossi Melman, the expert on intelligence for Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, worries that, as before the 1973 war, the Israeli government may be getting it wrong by focusing on the wrong enemy – the Palestinians – instead of prioritising Iran and Hizbullah.
“The Mossad is not Murder Inc, like the Mafia; its goal is not to take vengeance on its enemies,” he wrote this week. “‘Special operations’ like the assassination in Dubai – if this indeed was a Mossad operation – have always accounted for a relatively small proportion of its overall activity. Nevertheless, these are the operations that give the organisation its halo, its shining image. This is ultimately liable to blind its own ranks, cause them to become intoxicated by their own success, and thus divert their attention from their primary mission.”
From an official Israeli point of view, the Mossad has an important job to do. Its reputation for ruthlessness and cunning remains a powerful asset, prompting what sometimes sounds like grudging admiration as well as loathing in the Arab world – where a predisposition for conspiracy theories boosts the effect of the disinformation and psychological warfare at which the Israelis are said to excel.
The government’s official narrative, of course, is that Hamas is a terrorist organisation that pioneered horrific suicide bombings, fired thousands of rockets at Israeli civilian targets and – despite occasional signs of pragmatism or readiness for a temporary truce or prisoner swap – remains dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state. It refuses to admit that its ever-expanding West Bank settlements remains a significant barrier to peace.
In western countries, including Britain, there was widespread anger at the 1,400 Palestinian casualties of the Gaza war. Barack Obama has declared the occupation “intolerable”. Netanyahu heads the most rightwing coalition in Israel’s history; his famous quip that the Middle East is a “tough neighbourhood” no longer seems to justify playing dirty.
Yet Israelis, and not just those on the right, worry that their very existence as an independent state is being de-legitimised. And, judging by the jobs section of the Mossad website, there are still plenty of opportunities for Israel’s wannabe spies: challenging positions are available for researchers, analysts, security officers, codebreakers and other technical work. Speakers of Arabic and Persian are invited to apply to be intelligence officers.The work involves travel abroad and a “young and unconventional” environment.
It is a novelty of this episode that ordinary Israeli citizens are angry that their identities appear to have been stolen by their own government’s secret servants – one reason why the Mossad chief Meir Dagan may find his days are numbered. But it is hard not to detect an undercurrent of popular admiration for the killers of Mabhouh. The day after the sensational CCTV images and passport photos were shown, the Israeli tennis champion Shahar Pe’er reached the quarter-finals of a major international competition in the emirate. “Another successful operation in Dubai,” the Ynet website headlined its story.
Ofer Kasti, Haaretz’s education correspondent, did not have his passport cloned, but he does bear a striking resemblance to the hit-squad member named as Kevin Daveron. “My mum rang and asked gently if I’d been abroad recently,” he wrote. “Friends asked me why I hadn’t brought back any cigarettes from the duty free shop in Dubai. I thought I sensed admiring glances in the street. ‘Well done,’ said an elderly woman who came up to me in the supermarket and clapped me the shoulder. ‘You showed those Arabs.'”
Last night, right-wing blogger (and law professor) Glenn Reynolds promoted this media analysis from right-wing blogger (and Los Angeles Assistant District Attorney) Patterico regarding coverage of the Fort Hood shootings. Patterico wrote: “Whenever there is breaking news, it’s good to keep a few things in mind: . . . Always follow Allahpundit” — referring to one of the two bloggers at Michelle Malkin’s Hot Air site.
Upon reading that, I went to Hot Air to read what he had written, and it’s actually quite revealing — not in terms of what it reveals about Hot Air (that topic wouldn’t warrant a post) but, rather, what it reveals about major media coverage of these sorts of events. Allahpundit’s post consists of a very thorough, contemporaneous, and — at times — appropriately skeptical chronicling of what major media outlets were reporting about the Fort Hood attack, combined with his passing along of much unverified gossip and chatter from Twitter, most of which turned out to be false.
It’s worth focusing on what the major media did last night, and one can use the Hot Air compilation to examine that. I understand that in the early stages of significant and complex news stories, it’s to be expected that journalists will have incomplete and even inaccurate information. It’s unreasonable to expect them to avoid errors entirely. The inherently confusing nature of a mass shooting like this, combined with the need to rely on second-hand or otherwise unreliable sources (including, sometimes, official ones), will mean that even conscientious reporters end up with inaccurate information in cases like this. That’s all understandable and inevitable.
But shouldn’t there be some standards governing what gets reported and what is held back? Particularly in a case like this — which, for obvious reasons, has the potential to be quite inflammatory on a number of levels — having the major media “report” completely false assertions as fact can be quite harmful. It’s often the case that perceptions and judgments about stories like this solidify in the first few hours after one hears about it. The impact of subsequent corrections and clarifications pale in comparison to the impressions that are first formed. Despite that, one false and contradictory claim after the next was disseminated last night by the establishment media with regard to the core facts of the attack. Here are excerpts from Allahpundit’s compilation, virtually all of which — except where indicated — came from large news outlets:
Number of shooters
The fact that at least three gunmen are involved already has Shuster and Miklaszewski mentioning similarities to the Fort Dix Six plot on MSNBC . . . two of the gunmen are still at large and one has fired shots at the SWAT team on the scene . . . . New details from CNN: One gunman “neutralized,” one “cornered,” no word on the third. . . . Whether there are two shooters or three seems to be in dispute at the moment, but there’s certainly more than one: The second shooting on the base evidently occurred at a theater. . . . Fox News says there are reports that the men were dressed in fatigues. . . . MSNBC TV says two shooters are in custody now. . . . it sounds like both shooters are military . . .According to MSNBC, there were three shooters. . . In case you’re wondering whether the other two soldiers in custody were actual accomplices or just being questioned because they knew Hasan, Rick Perry just said at the presser he’s holding that all three were shooters. . . . Hearing rumblings on Twitter right now that Perry was wrong and that the two other “suspects” have now been released. Was Hasan, in fact, a lone gunman? . . . . According to the general conducting the briefing going on right now, he appears to be a lone gunman.
The fate of the shooter
One of the shooters is dead. . . One is dead, two more are in custody. Has there ever been a case of “battle stress” that involved a conspiracy by multiple people? . . . So poor and fragmented have the early media reports about this been that only now, after 9 p.m. ET, do we learn that … Hasan’s still alive. He’s in stable condition.
The weapons used
M-16s involved: . . . From the local Fox affiliate, how it all went down. Evidently McClatchy’s report of M-16s was wrong:
The shooter’s background
According to Brian Ross at ABC, Hasan was a convert to Islam. . . . Contra Brian Ross, the AP says it’s unclear what Hasan’s religion was or whether he was a convert. . . . Apparently, one of Hasan’s cousins just told Shep that he’s always been Muslim, not a recent convert. . . .
I’m hearing on Twitter that Fox interviewed one of his neighbors within the last half-hour or so and that the neighbor claims Hasan was handing out Korans just this morning. Does anyone have video? . . . . “Brenda Price of KUSJ reported to Greta at 10:33: ‘also, the latest I am hearing, this morning, apparently according to his neighbors, he was walking around kind of giving out his possessions, giving away his furniture, handing out the Koran…'” . . .: Evidently CNN is airing surveillance footage from a convenience store camera taken this just morning showing Hasan in a traditional Muslim cap and robe. . . “A former neighbor of Hasan’s in Silver Spring, Md. told Fox News he lived there for two years with his brother and had the word ‘Allah’ on the door.”
Good lord — there’s a report from BNO News on Twitter that new shooting is being heard on the base. . . . For what it’s worth, an eyewitness report of Arabic being shouted during the attack: . . .Federal law enforcement officials say the suspected Fort Hood, Texas, shooter had come to their attention at least six months ago because of Internet postings that discussed suicide bombings and other threats. . . . The $64,000 questions: What was he doing at Fort Hood among the population if he thought suicide bombers were heroes?
Isn’t it clear that anyone following all of that as it unfolded would have been more misinformed than informed?
The New York Times‘ Robert Mackey did an equally comprehensive job of live-blogging the media reports, and his contemporaneous compilation reflects many of these same glaring errors in the coverage: “CNN reports that two military sources say that the second gunman at Fort Hood is ‘cornered’ . . . Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison told Fox 4 News in Texas that one shooter was in custody and ‘another is still at large’ . . . CNN’s Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr reports that 12 people have been killed and up to 30 wounded. One of the dead is said to have been one of the gunmen. . . . Lt. Gen. Robert Cone, just revealed that earlier reports that the suspected gunman, Major Nidal Hasan, had been killed were incorrect. Major Hasan was wounded but remains alive.”
Perhaps most irresponsible of all is the unverified claim that Hasan had written on the Internet in defense of suicide attacks by Muslims, even though the origins of those writings are entirely unverified. Similarly, certain news organizations — like NPR — used anonymous sources to disseminate inflammatory claims about Hasan’s prior troubles allegedly grounded in activism on behalf of Islam. Much of this may turn out to be true once verified, or it may not be, but all of the conflicting, unverified claims flying around last night enabled many people to exploit the “facts” they selected in order to create whatever storyline that suited them and their political preconceptions — and many, of course, took vigorous advantage of that opportunity.
I’m obviously ambivalent about the issues of media responsibility raised by all of this. It’s difficult to know exactly how the competing interests should be balanced — between disclosing what one has heard in an evolving news story and ensuring some minimal level of reliability and accuracy. But whatever else is true, news outlets — driven by competitive pressures in the age of instant “reporting” — don’t really seem to recognize the need for this balance at all. They’re willing to pass on anything they hear without regard to reliability — to the point where I automatically and studiously ignore the first day or so of news coverage on these events because, given how these things are “reported,” it’s simply impossible to know what is true and what isn’t. In fact, following initial media coverage on these stories is more likely to leave one misled and confused than informed. Conversely, the best way to stay informed is to ignore it all — or at least treat it all with extreme skepticism — for at least a day.
The problem, though, is that huge numbers of people aren’t ignoring it. They’re paying close attention — and they’re paying the closest attention, and forming their long-term views, in the initial stages of the reporting. Many people will lose their interest once the drama dissolves — i.e., once the actual facts emerge. Put another way, a large segment of conventional wisdom solidifies based on misleading and patently false claims coming from major media outlets. I don’t know exactly how to define what the balance should be, but particularly for politically explosive stories like this one, it seems clear that media outlets ought to exercise far more restraint and fact-checking rigor than they do. As it is, it’s an orgy of rumor-mongering, speculation and falsehoods that play a very significant role in shaping public perceptions and enabling all sorts of ill-intentioned exploitation.
Post-9/11, Muslims have been victimized, vilified, and persecuted for their faith, ethnicity, prominence, activism, and charity. They’ve been targeted, hunted down, rounded up, held in detention, kept in isolation, denied bail, restricted in their right to counsel, tried on secret evidence, convicted on bogus charges, given long sentences, then incarcerated for extra harsh treatment as political prisoners in segregated Communication Management Units (CMUs) in violation of US Prison Bureau regulations and the Supreme Court’s February 2005 Johnson v. California decision.
An October 21 FBI press release announced Tariq (mispelled Tarek) Mehanna as its most recent target saying:
“A Sudbury, Mass. man was charged today in federal court with conspiracy to provide support to terrorists.”
The FBI alleged that from “about 2001 and continuing until (about) May 2008, Mehanna conspired with Ahmad Abousamra and others to provide material support and resources for use in carrying out a conspiracy to kill, kidnap, main or injure persons or damage property in a foreign country and extraterritorial homicide of a US national.”
With no substantiating evidence, “Mehanna and coconspirators (were accused of having) discussed their desire to participate in violent jihad against American interests and that they would talk about fighting jihad and their desire to die on the battlefield. (They also) attempted to radicalize others and inspire each other by, among other things, watching and distributing jihadi videos. (In addition), Mehanna and two of his associates traveled to the Middle East in February 2004, seeking military-type training at a terrorist training camp (to) prepare them for armed jihad….including (against) US and allied forces in Iraq….(One) of Mehanna’s coconspirators made two similar trips to Pakistan in 2002.”
“….Mehanna and the coconspirators had multiple conversations about obtaining automatic weapons (from a Mr. Maldonado, now serving a 10-year sentence for training with Al Queda in Somalia) and randomly shooting people in a shopping mall, and that the conversations went so far as to discuss the logistics of a mall attack, including coordination, weapons needed and the possibility of attacking emergency responders.”
Yet no attack occurred. None ever was likely planned, but according to the FBI, it was because no automatic weapons could be obtained even though legal semi-automatic ones are freely sold and illegal automatic ones easily gotten.
The web site eastcoastfirearms.com lists for sale numerous ones, including AK-47 (Kalashnikov) assault rifles, AR-15/M16 type rifles, Uzi assault weapons, LWRC M6A2s called the most modern carbine rifle in the world, and various others with considerable firepower.
“Mehanna was previously indicted in January 2009 for making false statements to members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force of the FBI in connection with a terrorism investigation. If convicted on the material support charge, (he) faces up to 15 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.”
Federal Judge Leo Sorokin ordered Mehanna held without bail pending his next court hearing on October 30. After his ruling, his attorney, JW Carney, Jr. said:
“This is the type of case that challenges our commitment and faith in the United States Constitution. Our country is respected around the world because we presume people are innocent, and we require the government to prove its allegations in open court at trial.”
Mr. Carney will soon discover how prosecutors use secret evidence, paid informants, and will go to any lengths to intimidate juries to convict, regardless of a defendant’s guilt or innocence, especially targeted Muslims charged with intent to commit or provide material support for terrorism.
According to the Bureau, Mehanna and his “coconspirators” used code words like “peanut and jelly” to mean fighting in Somalia and “culinary school” for terrorist camps, but perhaps they said precisely what they meant, and what proof suggests otherwise.
The FBI also claimed when they weren’t able to join terror groups in Iraq, Yemen and Pakistan, the 2002 Washington-area sniper shootings inspired them to attack shopping malls instead as well as two (unnamed) former executive branch members.
Mehanna is a graduate of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy where his father, Ahmed, is a professor. They reside in Sudbury, MA, an affluent Boston suburb.
Neighbors expressed shock by the news. Chafic Maalouf called Mehanna “very sweet (and) soft-spoken. He seemed so harmless. He has a beard and a dark complexion, so to the average American he fits the terrorist profile. But if you look in his eyes, he seemed to be a very genuine, kind, loving person,” not a jihadist.
Paul McManus called him “everyday normal. When he was out walking, he was friendly (and) neighborly.” Another supporter said the FBI is “painting the wrong picture of the Muslim community” by targeting one of its up and coming members. Still others cited his work with youths as a teacher at the Islamic Center of Boston in Wayland, MA.
Abdul Cader Asmal, the Center’s former president, said he gave lectures at Friday services in Worchester, MA and translated poetic Arabic scriptures into English. Over time, he became dedicated to his beliefs as many people of all faiths do who plan no terrorist acts.
Ahmad AlFarsi defended Mehanna in a 2008 article following his previous arrest that’s pertinent to his current charges. At first, he hesitated “so as not to expose (his) privacy,” then felt he had to support his friend “since the media has already made his case and name public” and practically convicted him in the court of public opinion.
AlFarsi called him “one of the most gracious, kind, caring, thoughtful, and respectable people I have ever known….I have seen him go above above and beyond what most others would do to help others in need. Those who know him personally know exactly what I am talking about. I am sure any of his peers, Muslim or non-Muslim, would testify to his excellent character.”
He’s also been “very involved in the Muslim community. I remember many times that he would be giving halaqaat (Islamic lectures) in the local masjid (Muslim place of worship) on an Islamic text he was studying. And he helped many many other Muslims in the community come to the straight path….I’d also like to emphasize that he does not and never has supported nor been involved with terrorism, in any way whatsoever.”
Consider “the implications of this incident: we have another (Muslim man, an American citizen) with no previous criminal record of any kind, being held without bail (for now) in his own country….Such a tactic serves only to smear Muslims, and brings pain and suffering to him, his family, and his future,” and leaves all Muslims “fearful, marginalized, and unable to trust the authorities.”
The FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) October 20 Affidavit
JTTF Special Agent Heidi L. Williams assisted in the investigation of Mehanna, Ahmad Abousamra, and others, and presented alleged evidence to establish probable cause, but said “classified national security information” would remain secret, unavailable to the defense, and therefore beyond its capability to disprove.
Williams claimed Mehanna’s “Computer and its contents constitute evidence of the commission of a criminal offense, contraband, fruits of crime and things otherwise criminally possessed as well as property designed and intended for use, and that has been used, as a means of committing….criminal offense(s under US law).”
She also said “information set forth herein comes from two cooperating witnesses (‘CW1’ and ‘CW2′ – aka commonly used FBI informants to entrap). Both CWs provided information that was based on personal knowledge, including actions and statements by MEHANNA and ABOUSAMRA.” Their trial testimony will show “corroborative evidence in the form of consensually recorded conversations” with defendants and others. “Further evidence is provided by Daniel Maldonado, who was a friend of MEHANNA and ABOUSAMRA, and is currently serving a 10 year prison sentence for Receiving Military-type Training from a Foreign Terrorist Organization (to wit: Al Qa’ ida….).”
“Additional information was obtained from a review of records of governmental agencies, such as Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) and Department of State, Passport Office, as well as records of private entities, such as banks, airlines, telephone companies and internet service providers, and interviews of friends, relatives and acquaintances (of defendants).”
Williams cited more evidence from:
— Mehanna’s bedroom;
— a computer hard drive;
— “false information” he provided the JTTF with regard to his 2004 Yemen trip and knowledge of “Maldonado’s circumstances at the time of the interview;”
— recorded conversations in which “Mehanna admitted to other individuals that he lied to the FBI” regarding Maldonado;
— the November 2008 charge of lying about Maldonado during JTTF interrogations;
— the December 2006 charge that Abousamra lied during JTTF interrogations in claiming his 2004 Yemen trip was to study Arabic and Islam;
— Williams’ assertion that both defendants went to Yemen in 2004 “to learn how to conduct, and to subsequently engage in, jihad;” to Pakistan twice in 2002 for the same purpose;
— that defendants “continued in their efforts to train for jihad (and) received information and assistance from an individual (referred to) as Individual A, about who to see and where to go to find terrorist training camps in Yemen;”
— in February 2004, Abousamra also entered Iraq, stayed for about “15 days” and two months later went to Syria and Jordan before returning to the US in August 2004; he subsequently visited Syria “multiple times;” he “made fictitious and fraudulent statements to the FBI” that he went to Jordan to “look for colleges,” to Iraq “to look for a job” and to Syria “to visit his wife.”
The lengthy 55-page affidavit, plus attachments, also claimed:
— CW 2 was a coconspirator;
— Abousamra had “extremist views by citing Islamic teachings;”
— “the three men engaged in serious conversations about jihad;”
— they discussed “going to terrorist training camps in Pakistan (and) conducted logistical research on the internet pertaining to terrorist training camp locations and how to travel there, but no concrete plans materialized;” and
— extensive further allegations that defendants sought but never received terrorist training; that they wished to engage in jihad, but never did; and they subsequently “discussed logistics of a mall attack, including the types of weapons needed, the number of people who would be involved, and how to coordinate the attack from different entrances (but) Because of the logistical problems of executing the operation (and their inability to obtain the type weapons they wanted), the plan was abandoned.”
From all this, an observer might conclude there was no plan, no weapons, and no crime in what appears to be clear entrapment using a paid informant, a coconspirator CW 2, offering testimony in return for leniency, and Maldonado (imprisoned for 10 years) promised it as well for his cooperation. Nonetheless, under US conspiracy law, if prosecutors can convince juries that defendants words implied actions they can get convictions, especially when they cite terrorism and the urgency to prevent it at all costs, even if innocent victims are imprisoned for offenses they never committed of planned.
Mehanna Friends, Supporters, and Family Express Doubts about the Charges
With no previous criminal record, his friends and family call him a maturing Muslim community leader, a passionate writer, and a young man wanting a career in Saudi Arabia as a pharmacist, not a jihadist, even though he supports the right of oppressed peoples to resist as international law allows. In the Kingdom, he was promised good pay, generous benefits, and free trips home. He was boarding a plane in Boston en route when he was arrested.
In a summer 2009 interview with the Boston Globe and subsequent statements through his lawyer, he denied FBI allegations and accused federal investigators of targeting him with bogus charges because they wanted him as a government informant, pressured him to accede, but he refused and wouldn’t cooperate. That made him suspect, an enemy, and got him targeted.
The Dominant Media’s Jihad against Muslims
Whenever Muslims are charged, the dominant media provides support without ever questioning the legitimacy of accusations. As a result, innocent victims are vilified. They’re presumed guilty unless proved innocent. Fear is instilled in the public, while law enforcement officials are portrayed as public defenders, working to keep us safe from bad guys. Below are some samples of media bias:
— The New York Times headlined, “Mass. Man Arrested in Terrorism Case….The authorities said he had conspired to attack civilians at a shopping mall, American soldiers abroad and two members of the executive branch of the federal government.”
— AP called Mehanna “an Incompetent Wannabe” and practically accused him of “plotting to shoot up a mall, kill US troops fighting overseas, and assassinate US officials” here at home;
— Fox News highlighted the alleged plot, called Mehanna “Defiant in Court,” and said he was only foiled by being “unable to get into terror camps for training and failed to get access to automatic weapons;”
— the Wall Street Journal headlined the “Plots to Shoot Up Mall, Kill Federal Officials” by a man “out on bail (from an earlier unsubstantiated charge and) awaiting trial;”
— the Washington Post reported about the: “Massachusetts man arrested on terror charges” (for) conspiring to support terrorists by seeking training from Islamic extremist fighters overseas….”
— Time magazine offered a “two-minute bio” about an “Alleged US Terrorist….plann(ing) to carry out a ‘violent jihad’ by killing US politicians, (and) attack(ing) US shopping malls;”
— the Christian Science Monitor headlined how the “FBI traced Tarek Mehanna in his quest to become a jihadi” and practically accused him of “try(ing) to become a terrorist for eight years following the 9/11 attacks….;” and
— Jihad Watch, an Islamaphobic web site, called Mehanna “a Misunderstander of Islam,” then accused him of “plotting ‘violent jihad.’ “
Nowhere do major media or hate group reports suggest possible bogus charges, ulterior motives behind them, innocent people being targeted, secret evidence withheld to compromise a proper defense, intimidation of juries, or that everyone is presumed innocent unless proved guilty in fair and open proceedings with defendants having competent counsel.
According to muslimmatters.org after Mehanna’s 2008 arrest, the FBI was “Desperate for Results (so they) Arrest(ed a) US Citizen on Two-Year-Old (unsubstantiated) Charges” and got their usual scare headlines for support.
These comments followed his October 21 arrest:
“All of us here at MM believe, based on the facts that we know, that Tareq is innocent of the crimes that he has been accused of….MM is often on the front lines against disinformation about Islam, and actively seeks to counter the radicalization of Muslims.”
MM’s goal “is to educate readers about the fallacies and dangers of all types of extremism by promoting Orthodox Islam….we believe that Islamophobes are indirectly aiding and abetting terrorists’ recruiting efforts by fitting into their agenda and supporting their stereotypes.”
Many Muslims were shocked about the news on Mehanna. “It was generally thought (his 2008 charges were bogus) and that (he) had been falsely accused. After all, (post-9/11), the civil liberties of the Muslim American community had been slowly withered away by the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, the denial of the basic American right of habeas corpus, and unsavory tactics that targeted (Muslims) in general….we at MM” know his “reputation as a family man and a peaceful citizen” and presume he’s innocent “unless proven otherwise…. (We) remain highly skeptical that he was actually a ‘terrorist in disguise.’ ”
A Final Comment
More than any other ethnic-religious group, Western discourse has long portrayed Muslim/Arabs stereotypically as culturally inferior, dirty, lecherous, untrustworthy, religiously fanatical, and violent.
According to Jack Shaheen’s book, “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People,” defaming them has been fair game throughout decades of cinematic history (from silent films to today’s blockbusters) as a way to foster prejudicial attitudes and reinforce notions of Western values, high-mindedness, and moral superiority.
Worse still are slanderous media characterizations of dangerous gun-toting terrorists who must rounded up and put away, never mind the rule of law, right or wrong, or whether those accused are guilty or innocent.
It’s no surprise why it’s dangerous to be Muslim in America at a time when we’re all as vulnerable as Tariq Mehanna.
Stephen Lendman is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization. He lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Monday – Friday at 10AM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national issues. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Over 100 young Muslims were interviewed across the country in various focus groups, all representing over 15 ethnicities. Ahmed’s work is an intriguing analysis on the state of young Muslims in the UK and clearly has much input from the young Muslims that she spoke to. Seen and Not Heard informs us that young Muslims have a plethora of issues to deal with – including poverty, education, subcultures, the generational gap, media, police interactions – and of course, religion.
But first, there’s the terminology itself. Ahmed notes that a primary distinction must be made in addressing and discussing young Muslims in Britain. The term “youth” has the negative connotations of being affiliated with gangs and violence, which occurs all too often in perceptions by the government, police, and media. “Youth” are seen as a problem in society and Ahmed therefore proposes that Muslim youth be addressed as “young Muslims” or “young people,” which some of her interviewed youth workers also recommended, for a step in preventing “otherization.”
A highly refreshing aspect of Seen and Not Heard is Ahmed’s analysis of the interactions between young Muslims and their parents, and how education comes into play. Overall, the tensions between the two are often comparable to what young people in general experience with the older generation – this intergenerational gap is present in many communities, Muslim and non-Muslim.
However in Muslim communities, factors such as language and culture are also present and frequently cause distance between parents and their children. Such circumstances do affect the education of young Muslims and their attitudes towards it, as many Muslim parents in the UK are not able to engage with their children’s education:
“The research shows that attitude, language, poor education background and feeling insecure with systems of school governance can turn parents away from helping children with their homework, coursework and other assessments, remembering that many parents of the first generation didn’t attend school in the UK and in fact have a generally poor track record of education themselves.”
In other words, this results in young Muslims thus not taking their education very seriously, for their parents do not check on their progress. This was certainly the case with me – my parents, like many, were either too busy with work or were not able to understand my teachers and coursework, resulting in disengagement (though not indifference) with my education.
In contrast, after we moved to the United States, I noticed that young American Muslims around me often had their parents involved with their education, while I was left to my own means. Ahmed has shed much light onto my shared UK experience and recommends that schools need to extend outreach to parents of young British Muslims with a better cultural understanding. This would result in a better education for young Muslims, and ultimately, better life and job opportunities.
A discussion of the media’s treatment of young Muslims is another critical and necessary – but rare – insight offered by the report. Ahmed quotes many young Muslims on their perceptions of how media portray them negatively, and documents how this affects their identity. For example, young Muslims are often unfairly forced to answer for the actions of Muslims abroad, and more frequently so because of an increasingly globalized media network.
Some interviewees often times felt helpless at the expense of the media, saying, “You can’t really make a difference.” Ahmed recommends that young Muslims be encouraged to enter media fields as a means of empowerment. As a precursor to this, other interviewees have proactively countered the negative perceptions enforced by the media simply by getting to know their non-Muslim peers.
Ahmed concludes that the identities of young Muslims in the United Kingdom are constantly in flux, because of shifting attitudes towards education, culture, and religion – and that the media’s everyday barrage also spurs perceptions to shift quickly. By dispelling many stereotypes and misconceptions, Seen and Not Heard demonstrates that young Muslims in the United Kingdom do have a lot of potential. It’s just that their potential needs to be recognized and respected.
Implications of nuclear Myanmar for South Asia
by Moin Ansari
THE Indian press is full of stories of China’s ‘string of pearls’ strategy. What it is missing is the simple calculation which shows India surrounded by nuclear Pakistan on one side and now a nuclear Myanmar on the other side. While North Korea keeps Japan at bay, an Atomic Pakistan cuts down India to size. A Burma with nuclear missiles would further reduce Delhi’s designs of hegemony and regional power. Hemmed in by a belligerent Pakistan on the west and a resurgent Myanmar on the east, places Delhi in a bind. Is the military junta in Myanmar trying to acquire a military nuclear capability with North Korean assistance? Or is North Korea trying to shift some of its nuclear facilities to Myanmar to protect them from a possible attack by the US? If either of these scenarios is true, is China, which has a strong and active presence in North Korea as well as Myanmar, aware of it? Has it taken up the matter with the two governments? Has it alerted the International Atomic Energy Agency?
These questions, among others, come to one’s mind in the wake of a flurry of reports regarding an alleged nuclear relationship between Myanmar and North Korea. These reports hit the international media coinciding with the meeting of the foreign ministers of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Phuket, Thailand on July 23. The meeting was attended among others by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton, who had proceeded to Thailand after a high-profile visit to India. She told a Thai TV channel in an interview on July 21: ‘We worry about the transfer of nuclear technology from North Korea to Myanmar.’ She subsequently reverted to the subject at Phuket where she spoke to the media of ‘concerns being expressed about cooperation between North Korea and Burma in the pursuit of offensive weapons, perhaps even including nuclear weapons at some point.’
She was not categorical on the question of a possible nuclear relationship between North Korea and Myanmar, but she was on the question of a conventional military relationship between the two countries. Her concerns seemed to be that this might be expanded to cover the military nuclear field, if this has not already happened or is not already happening.
To what extent her concerns were well-founded? Was the reference to this issue by her meant to exercise political pressure on Myanmar and North Korea, both of which attended the ARF meeting – Myanmar at the level of its foreign minister and North Korea at the level of an official of its foreign office? Was she merely trying to step up the pressure on Myanmar on the question of the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and restoration of democracy and on North Korea on the question of its denuclearisation by using the nuclear co-operation allegations or was there something more to it?
The Sydney Morning Herald reported recently that Myanmar appears to be establishing nuclear facilities with help from North Korea and Russia, possibly with the intent of producing nuclear weapons. If true, Yangon’s possession of nuclear arsenal will tilt the balance of forces by having in China’s side allies like nuclear armed North Korea, Russia, Pakistan, and, perhaps, Iran too. Quoting two Burmese defectors who had disclosed details of the scheme to an Australian strategic studies analyst, Desmond Ball, and a Thailand-based journalist, Phil Thornton, some reports revealed that Yangon’s military regime has secretly constructed a reactor at Naung Laing that would encompass reprocessing technology designed to extract weapon-grade plutonium. Besides, a command and control facility for a nuclear-weapon program was reportedly prepared at a nearby underground location and members of the military nuclear battalion were working in the area, said one of the defectors.
The press release issued by the ASEAN secretariat on the ARF meeting and the media briefing did not contain any reference to the nuclear allegation. Did she raise it at the ARF foreign ministers’ meeting or was it confined to her interactions with the media? It is not clear.Even though Clinton confined her remarks only to the alleged co-operation between North Korea and Myanmar and did not refer to the on-going civil nuclear cooperation between Myanmar and Russia, Moscow on its own referred to this subject in response to her remarks in Thailand.
The RIA Novosti news agency of Russia disseminated the following report on July 21:
‘Nuclear cooperation between Russia and Myanmar is not in conflict with the Non-Proliferation Treaty or IAEA requirements, and will move ahead, a foreign ministry spokesman said. Andrei Nesterenko’s comment came in response to US concerns over the cooperation. However, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said earlier on Tuesday that Washington was taking concerns about military cooperation between nuclear-armed North Korea and Myanmar “very seriously”, but made no mention of Russia. “Our cooperation with Myanmar is absolutely legitimate and in full compliance with our obligations under the NPT and IAEA requirements,” Nesterenko said. He added that the IAEA had no problem with Myanmar over its non-proliferation commitments. Russia signed an agreement in 2007 on the construction of a nuclear research centre in Myanmar, and it will stand by this agreement, Nesterenko said. The centre will include a 10 MW light-water research reactor.’
Reports of Myanmar’s interest in developing a nuclear research capability started circulating after the nuclear tests carried out by India and Pakistan in May 1998. Before 1998, it had an atomic energy committee, which used to be headed by one of its ministers in charge of industries. The military junta introduced an Atomic Energy Law on June 8, 1998, within a fortnight of Pakistan’s Chagai nuclear tests.
The interest of the Myanmar military junta in acquiring civil nuclear expertise with Russian assistance came to be known in February 2001. It has had a long history of conventional military relationship with Russia. This relationship was subsequently expanded to cover the civil nuclear field. Myanmar’s stagnant nuclear program was revitalized shortly after Pakistan’s first detonation of nuclear weapons in May 1998. Senior general and junta leader Than Shwe signed the Atomic Energy Law on June 8, 1998, and the timing of the legislation so soon after Pakistan’s entry into the nuclear club did little to assuage international concerns about Myanmar’s nuclear intentions. Some analysts believe the regime may eventually seek nuclear weapons for the dual purpose of international prestige and strategic deterrence. Myanmar’s civilian-use nuclear ambitions made global headlines in early 2001, when Russia’s Atomic Energy Committee indicated it was planning to build a research reactor in the country. The following year, Myanmar’s deputy foreign minister, Khin Maung Win, publicly announced the regime’s decision to build a nuclear research reactor, citing the country’s difficulty in importing radio-isotopes and the need for modern technology as reasons for the move. The country reportedly sent hundreds of soldiers for nuclear training in Russia that same year and the reactor was scheduled for delivery in 2003. However, the programme was shelved due to financial difficulties and a formal contract for the reactor, under which Russia agreed to build a nuclear research centre along with a 10 megawatt reactor, was not signed until May 2007. The reactor will be fuelled with non-weapons grade enriched uranium-235 and it will operate under the purview of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog. The reactor itself would be ill-suited for weapons development. However, the training activities associated with it would provide the basic knowledge required as a foundation for any nuclear weapons development programme outside of the research centre.
In September 2001, the government of Myanmar reportedly informed the IAEA of its plans to acquire a nuclear research reactor. This was followed by a visit to Myanmar by a team of IAEA experts to study whether Myanmar had the required capability to run a research reactor safely. The team reportedly concluded that Myanmar did not have the required safety standards. Despite its negative report, the Government decided to go ahead with its exploratory talks with Russia on this subject. Moscow, which must have been aware of the negative findings of the IAEA team, had no hesitation in responding positively to the approach for help from the Myanmar junta.
When US troops occupied Afghanistan post-9/11 after expelling the Taliban from power, they reportedly found evidence of contacts between some retired and serving nuclear scientists of Pakistan and Osama bin Laden They short-listed four names – retired scientists Sultan Bashiruddin Ahmed Chaudhry and Abdul Majid and serving scientists Sulaiman Assad and Mohammad Mukhtar.
At the request of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence took into custody the two retired scientists who where interrogated by the FBI. They reportedly admitted having met Laden at Kandahar before 9/11, but asserted that their meeting with him was in connection with the work of a humanitarian relief organisation which they had founded after retirement. They were released as no evidence of their involvement in any activity relating to the supply of nuclear material or expertise to al-Qaeda was found. However, as a safety measure, the ISI, at the request of the FBI, imposed restrictions on their movement outside their home town. The FBI got the bank accounts of their supposedly humanitarian relief organisation frozen by taking up the matter with the anti-terrorism sanctions committee of the UN Security Council.
Sulaiman Assad and Mohammad Mukhtar managed to flee to Myanmar before they could be detained for questioning by the ISI. There was uncorroborated speculation that the ISI did not want them to be questioned by the FBI as they had knowledge of the proliferation activities of Pakistan, particularly about its nuclear and missile supply relationship with North Korea. It was alleged by some in Pakistan that the Myanmar military junta gave them sanctuary at the request of the ISI. There has been no further reliable news about them.
‘I can’t confirm they will have nuclear weapons in a few years,’ said Khin Maung Win, deputy executive director of the Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma, which obtained some of the images. ‘But it is the hope of the military regime.’
The Wall Street Journal in an article by Bertil Lintner, its staff reporter, on January 3, 2002, stated: ‘Myanmar is embarking on a nuclear-research project with the help of Russian and, possibly, Pakistani scientists. Diplomats say the development has upset China, which has heavily courted Myanmar in recent years and resents Moscow for muscling in on its turf. Believed by Western diplomats to be the brainchild of Science and Technology Minister U Thaung, the project was initiated by Russia’s atomic energy ministry, which in February announced plans to build a 10-megawatt research reactor in central Myanmar. In July, Myanmar Foreign Minister Win Aung, accompanied by the military-ruled country’s ministers of defence, energy, industry and railways, travelled to Moscow to finalise the deal. Western diplomats in Myanmar say the groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled to take place at a secret location near the town of Magway in January. The equipment and reactor will be delivered in 2003. Russian diplomats say more than 300 Myanmar nationals have received nuclear technical training in Russia during the past year.’
On January 22, 2002, Khin Maung Win, Myanmar’s deputy foreign minister, announced that the Myanmar government was planning to build a nuclear research reactor and had entered into talks with Russia on this subject. In his statement, he also said that his government had informed the IAEA of its intention to construct the reactor which would be used ‘for peaceful purposes’.
His statement further said: ‘The Myanmar government is striving to acquire modern technology in all fields, including maritime, aerospace, medical and nuclear. It is in the light of these considerations that Myanmar made enquiries for the possibility of setting up a nuclear research reactor. A proposal has since been received from the Russian Federation. Under the NPT which Myanmar signed in 1992, it had the right to pursue the peaceful use and application of nuclear technology. All our neighbouring countries, with the exception of Laos, are already reaping the benefits from nuclear research reactors operating in their countries. In this age of globalisation it is imperative that developing countries such as Myanmar actively seek to narrow the development gap so as not to be marginalised.’
Khin Maung Win denied media reports that Myanmar had secretly brought two Pakistani nuclear scientists into the country to help it fulfil its nuclear ambitions. He said: ‘The Myanmar government categorically states once again that no nuclear scientists from Pakistan have been given sanctuary in Myanmar. However, Myanmar scientists had been trained by the IAEA in the application of nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.’
The same day, the US reacted by warning Myanmar that it must honour its obligations under the NPT. An unidentified official of the State Department was quoted by the media as saying: ‘We expect the government of Burma to live up to its obligations and to not pursue production of weapons grade fissile material.’
There was no further development with regard to the Russian project for five years. This was attributed to the difficulties faced by the junta in raising the money for it and the Russian reluctance to finalise the deal till Myanmar reached a safeguards agreement with the IAEA. It was only by April 2007 that the junta found the money. It is not clear whether the junta signed a safeguards agreement with the IAEA. In May, the conclusion of a contract between the governments of Myanmar and Russia was announced.
On May 16, 2007, the US expressed concern over the agreement between Myanmar and Russia. US State Department spokesman Tom Casey said he had ‘no idea’ what Russia’s motivation was for the agreement. ‘Burma has neither the regulatory nor the legal framework or safeguard provisions or other kinds of things that you would expect or want to see for a country to be able to handle successfully a nuclear program of this type. It’s not a good idea.’
Casey further said Myanmar did not have a nuclear regulatory commission or safeguards in place to prevent accidents, environmental damage or proliferation. According to him, one risk was that nuclear fuel could be diverted, stolen or otherwise removed because of a lack of accounting or other procedures in place to prevent this.
He added: ‘There certainly would have to be a heck of a lot more work done by the Burmese before I think we would feel comfortable that they could safely deal with having a nuclear facility of this type on their soil.’
Myanmar is a signatory of the NPT and, according to some reports, has since signed a safeguards agreement with the IAEA. However, it has not yet accepted the Additional Protocol, which would allow the UN nuclear watchdog to conduct more intrusive monitoring of any nuclear operations.
Myanmar broke off diplomatic relations with Pyongyang in 1983, after alleged North Korean agents bombed the Martyr’s mausoleum in Yangon in an attempt to assassinate the visiting South Korean President, Chun Doo-hwan. The explosion killed more than 20 persons, including the deputy prime minister and the foreign minister, and the South Korean Ambassador to Myanmar. The relations were re-established only in April 2007.
The re-establishment of diplomatic ties led to the beginning of a military-supply relationship between the two countries and the exchange of visits of military delegations. In 2007 and 2008, there were reports of the receipt of a number of military consignments by Myanmar from North Korea by sea – mostly consisting of conventional infantry weapons. Following the resumption of diplomatic relations, the Myanmar military junta also started allowing North Korean transport planes going to Pakistan and Iran to re-fuel at the Yangon airport.
North Korean engineers were reported to have helped Myanmar military engineers in the construction of a number of tunnels in the newly-constructed capital at Naypyidaw. They were also reported to be helping the Myanmar engineers in the construction of similar tunnels at a place called Yadanapon, where the junta is planning to have its summer capital. It was presumed by analysts that the North Korean assistance in tunnel construction had the purpose of providing shelter to the members of the junta and other senior military officers in case of an attack by the US Air Force [ Images ]. It was the fear of an US attack which made the junta shift the capital from Yangon to Naypyidaw and it was the same fear which motivated it to seek North Korean assistance in tunnel construction.
What set off an alarm was reports from Myanmar political exiles that North Koreans were helping in tunnel construction not only in the capital and the proposed summer capital, but also in certain other remote areas. Myanmar political exiles close to Aung San Suu Kyi have been linking the construction of tunnels at a place called Naung Laing in North Myanmar to possible North Korean assistance in the construction of a secret nuclear facility. What kind of a facility it could be is not clear. Western and Australian analysts and journalists seem to be particularly relying on claims made by two defectors. One claims to have been an officer in the Myanmar army who was allegedly sent to Moscow for two years’ training. The other claims to have been a former executive in a company called Htoo Trading, which, according to him, handled nuclear contracts with Russia and North Korea. There has so far been no independent corroboration of their claims.
The suspicions regarding a possible nuclear supply relationship have been strengthened following a recent incident in which a North Korean ship called Nam Kam 1, which was reportedly bound for a Myanmar port turned back on being shadowed by US vessels. It is not clear what prevented the US vessels from surrounding and searching it. Without searching it, it seems to have been presumed that the cargo on board the ship must have been nuclear-related.
Political exiles can be sometimes good sources and sometimes unreliable and even dangerous. The information about Iran’s clandestine uranium enrichment plant initially came from political exiles, who were found to have been accurate. The false information about Saddam Hussein’s nuclear arsenal came from political exiles who made a fortune from the US intelligence by planting a series of false reports. In the 1980s, when Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister, Indian analysts had over-estimated Chinese military deployments in Tibet on the basis of reports from Tibetan political exiles. These reports were subsequently found to have been highly exaggerated.
One has, therefore, to be cautious in assessing the reports, claims and allegations from political exiles and army defectors from Myanmar. Their reports must be carefully verified. All one can say with some confidence at present is: firstly, that the Myanmar military junta’s interest in acquiring a civil nuclear capability dates back to 1998 when India and Pakistan carried out their nuclear tests; secondly, that since 2001 Myanmar has been in negotiations with Russia for the acquisition of a research reactor; thirdly, that there has been a long delay in the implementation of this project due to Myanmar’s lack of funds and the time taken to negotiate a safeguards agreement with the IAEA; and fourthly, that there has been an increase in North Korea’s military supply relationship with Myanmar since the two countries re-established diplomatic relations in April 2007.
Has the military supply relationship been expanded now to cover nuclear supply relationship? The evidence on this is not yet strong enough to permit a categorical answer.
The New Nation – August 17, 2009
The minutes of the US staff meeting on Bangladesh situation released recently said, the coup in Bangladesh had met a very little resistance. There is no sign of counter rebellion in any part of the country. The US had obtained the information from their separate network which was run by the aid workers. Booster said, it was imperative to let India know that Bangladesh was not declared Islamic republic as it was earlier presumed. Seventy-nine years-old Corn is now leading a retired life in Washington.