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Bahrain/Libya Update

Firedoglake- By: David Dayen

Monday February 21, 2011 7:50 am

Let’s play a little catchup on the two most deadly flashpoints in the Arab uprising right now. In Bahrain, scene of a dastardly attack on protesters while they slept in Pearl Square, the attempt at repression backfired almost immediately. The Shiite al-Wafiq movement left the Parliament and demanded the resignation of the government. Protests grew in size. Sen. Patrick Leahy called for the application of a law he wrote to deny aid to Bahrain for violating human rights. And the protesters took back the square, with police and the Army withdrawing.

The latest is that the government is being pressured to negotiate:

Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim ruling family came under increased pressure to open in-depth negotiations with the Shiite-led opposition, as protesters erected more tents on the capital’s Pearl Square.

Dozens of workers also joined the protesters, and more than 1,000 medics marched on the square to demand the resignation of the health minister, whom they accused of slowing aid to protesters during a deadly police crackdown.

After nightfall, an AFP correspondent reported thousands more people converging on the roundabout, which has been the focal point of demonstrations that have rocked the small but strategic Gulf kingdom since February 14.

The opposition has also called a large protest for Tuesday afternoon in the hope that tens of thousands of people will converge on Pearl Square, according to the INAA, Bahrain’s main Shiite opposition group.

Crown Prince Salman, the heir to the throne in Bahrain, is supposed to be leading reconciliation talks. Bahrain has a Sunni minority in power over a Shiite majority, with predictable results. This is a really good backgrounder from Foreign Policy. In an epic example of bad timing, the State Department praised Bahrain just a few months ago for its movement toward democracy.

Then there’s Libya, where it’s hard to really get a full picture, with most foreign media unable to enter the country. We know there has been a massacre; the extent is not well known. Moammar Gadhafi’s son went on state-run television and vowed to “fight until the last man, the last woman, the last bullet.” He gave a long, rambling address, blaming Islamists for the provocation, saying that the country was on the brink of civil war, which threatened their oil output and risked colonization by an invading force, summoning up images of Iraq. Protesters have apparently taken control of Benghazi, the country’s second-largest city, and were clashing with police in the capital of Tripoli.

The latest can be found at Al Jazeera’s live blog. Foreign service personnel and even the minister of security have resigned their posts. Protests have become widespread throughout the country. This is the town of Misurata:

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Middle East Online, April 19, 2010

True, the demonizing of Arabs and Muslims in America began well before the terrible tragedy of September 11, 2001 but, what is new post-9/11, is that now demonizing Muslims and Islam is not only more widespread but also considerably more mainstream and respectable. In short, Muslim-bashing has become socially acceptable in the United States, notes Abdus Sattar Ghazali.
As if the adult media’s vitriol wasn’t enough, the seven-million strong American Muslim community, is now being faced by the alarming publication of a series of ‘children’s books’, containing misleading and inflammatory rhetoric about the Islamic faith. The 10-book series – entitled the “World of Islam,” – is published by Mason Crest Publishing in collaboration with the Philadelphia-based pro-Israel and pro-war Foreign Policy Research Institute.

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Rhys Blakely in Mumbai, The Times/UK, November 24, 2009

Hindu radicals climb on to the mosque hours before it was destroyed

Hindu radicals climb on to the mosque hours before it was destroyed

The destruction of a mosque by Hindu radicals that led to some of the bloodiest religious riots in India since Partition was “meticulously planned” by politicians including a former Prime Minister, according to a leaked report of the official investigation.The razing of the 16th-century Babri mosque — in the northern town of Ayodhya, on December 6, 1992, by an estimated 150,000 Hindus — led to national violence in which about 2,000 people died, mostly Muslims.

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Everyone, it seems, has a party line about who the good Muslims and bad Muslims are. Sadly, many of the dichotomies distort as much as they reveal, and use simple labels based on superficial preconceptions and over-simplifications, says Meena Sharify-Funk.

Middle East Online, Oct 30, 2009

Waterloo, Canada – Ever since the tragic events of 9/11, the diverse voices claiming to speak with authority about Islam have become increasingly cacophonous. Few contemporary topics are more controversial than that of how to interpret Islamic practices and beliefs.

In the West as well as in the Muslim world, interpreting Islam has become a virtual cottage industry. The ranks of interpreters are incredibly diverse, including counter-terrorism experts, policymakers and journalists, as well as religious studies academics, political scientists, Muslim ulama (Islamic legal scholars), Muslim feminists in the West, and people speaking on behalf of various religious groups. Interest in how Islam is understood and practiced has expanded dramatically in recent years, and it’s not always clear whom to listen to amongst the din.

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Explosive Allegations: Blackwater Founder Implicated in Murder

By Jeremy Scahill, The Nation. Posted August 4, 2009.

Sworn statements filed in Federal Court also allege that Blackwater founder Erik Prince launched a “crusade” to eliminate Muslims and Islam.

A former Blackwater employee and an ex-U.S. Marine who has worked as a security operative for the company have made a series of explosive allegations in sworn statements filed on August 3 in federal court in Virginia. The two men claim that the company’s owner, Erik Prince, may have murdered or facilitated the murder of individuals who were cooperating with federal authorities investigating the company. The former employee also alleges that Prince “views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe,” and that Prince’s companies “encouraged and rewarded the destruction of Iraqi life.”

In their testimony, both men also allege that Blackwater was smuggling weapons into Iraq. One of the men alleges that Prince turned a profit by transporting “illegal” or “unlawful” weapons into the country on Prince’s private planes. They also charge that Prince and other Blackwater executives destroyed incriminating videos, emails and other documents and have intentionally deceived the U.S. State Department and other federal agencies. The identities of the two individuals were sealed out of concerns for their safety.

These allegations, and a series of other charges, are contained in sworn affidavits, given under penalty of perjury, filed late at night on August 3 in the Eastern District of Virginia as part of a seventy-page motion by lawyers for Iraqi civilians suing Blackwater for alleged war crimes and other misconduct. Susan Burke, a private attorney working in conjunction with the Center for Constitutional Rights, is suing Blackwater in five separate civil cases filed in the Washington, DC, area. They were recently consolidated before Judge T.S. Ellis III of the Eastern District of Virginia for pretrial motions. Burke filed the August 3 motion in response to Blackwater’s motion to dismiss the case. Blackwater asserts that Prince and the company are innocent of any wrongdoing and that they were professionally performing their duties on behalf of their employer, the U.S. State Department.

The former employee, identified in the court documents as “John Doe #2,” is a former member of Blackwater’s management team, according to a source close to the case. Doe #2 alleges in a sworn declaration that, based on information provided to him by former colleagues, “it appears that Mr. Prince and his employees murdered, or had murdered, one or more persons who have provided information, or who were planning to provide information, to the federal authorities about the ongoing criminal conduct.” John Doe #2 says he worked at Blackwater for four years; his identity is concealed in the sworn declaration because he “fear[s] violence against me in retaliation for submitting this Declaration.” He also alleges, “On several occasions after my departure from Mr. Prince’s employ, Mr. Prince’s management has personally threatened me with death and violence.”

In a separate sworn statement, the former U.S. marine who worked for Blackwater in Iraq alleges that he has “learned from my Blackwater colleagues and former colleagues that one or more persons who have provided information, or who were planning to provide information about Erik Prince and Blackwater have been killed in suspicious circumstances.” Identified as “John Doe #1,” he says he “joined Blackwater and deployed to Iraq to guard State Department and other American government personnel.” It is not clear if Doe #1 is still working with the company as he states he is “scheduled to deploy in the immediate future to Iraq.” Like Doe #2, he states that he fears “violence” against him for “submitting this Declaration.” No further details on the alleged murder(s) are provided.

“Mr. Prince feared, and continues to fear, that the federal authorities will detect and prosecute his various criminal deeds,” states Doe #2. “On more than one occasion, Mr. Prince and his top managers gave orders to destroy emails and other documents. Many incriminating videotapes, documents and emails have been shredded and destroyed.”

The Nation cannot independently verify the identities of the two individuals, their roles at Blackwater or what motivated them to provide sworn testimony in these civil cases. Both individuals state that they have previously cooperated with federal prosecutors conducting a criminal inquiry into Blackwater.

“It’s a pending investigation, so we cannot comment on any matters in front of a Grand Jury or if a Grand Jury even exists on these matters,” John Roth, the spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office in the District of Columbia, told The Nation. “It would be a crime if we did that.” Asked specifically about whether there is a criminal investigation into Prince regarding the murder allegations and other charges, Roth said: “We would not be able to comment on what we are or are not doing in regards to any possible investigation involving an uncharged individual.”

Erik Prince fancies himself as a Christian crusader ridding the world of its Muslim population.
Apparently, Blackwater has been killing former employees who have shared information about this criminal enterprise.

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By Valerie Elverton Dixon | Sojourners.net, May 30, 2009

William Faulkner once said: “The past is not dead.  In fact, it’s not even past.”  We often think about time and history as a straight line leading from the past, running through the present, heading into the future. With this conceptualization, the past is past and gone.  However, there is another way to think about time.  Tree time.  When we cut down a tree, the rings of the stump are concentric circles of time. The first year exists at the center and each succeeding year surrounds it.

So it is with the meeting of Christianity and Islam on the battle fields of Afghanistan and Iraq.  The historical center of the present conflict is the history of the Crusades.  Many in the Muslim world consider the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan as another Crusade.  The Crusades were wars between Christians and Muslims, Christians and Pagans, Christians and Christians over four centuries.  It was a tragic time when armies of the state fought to promote a religious cause.  Crusaders travelled far from home as warriors and pilgrims, warriors and penitents, warriors as walls to stall the spread of Islam.  They won and lost battles.  They destroyed and plundered and raped. They were sometimes brutally massacred when the Muslims won on a particular day.

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Osama Bin Laden Challenges Obama In Tape

LEE KEATH | January 14, 2009 10:18 AM EST | AP

CAIRO, Egypt — Al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden urged Muslims to launch a jihad against Israel and condemned Arab governments as allies of the Jewish state in a new message aimed at harnessing anger in the Mideast over the Gaza offensive.

Bin Laden spoke in an audiotape posted Wednesday on Islamic militant Web sites where al-Qaida usually issues its messages. It was his first tape since May and came nearly three weeks after Israel started its campaign against Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers.

The al-Qaida leader also vowed that the terror network would open “new fronts” against the United States and its allies beyond Iraq and Afghanistan. He said President-elect Barack Obama has received a “heavy inheritance” from George W. Bush _ two wars and “the collapse of the economy,” which he said will render the United States unable to sustain a long fight against the mujahedeen, or holy warriors.

“There is only one strong way to bring the return of Al-Aqsa and Palestine, and that is jihad in the path of God,” bin Laden said in the 22-minute audiotape, referring to the revered Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. “The duty is to urge people to jihad and to enlist the youth into jihad brigades.”

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