“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The US Surveillance State: The Orwellian named Freedom and Patriot Acts have nothing to do with either


The GOP Likuds Force Trekking To Israel For Further Instructions

Americans politicians' pre-occupation with Israel is absolutely bizarre. There are over five millions Jews here in the US--more than any other country in the world except for Israel itself. There are also millions upon millions of people of Irish and Italian descent living in America--yet no American politician feels the need to continuously kowtow to a "pro-Ireland" or "pro-Italy" lobby in D.C., to constantly re-affirm their commitment to a foreign government's policy goals at the expense of those of their own nation.
At the same time, the governments of Italy and Ireland and their supporters in the American press do not reflexively attack Americans who dare to question the motives of the Italian or Irish governments as being mindless bigots whose motivations can be summarily dismissed and vilified.
If the Irish or Italian government had been engaged in a decades-long policy of Apartheid and indiscriminate violence against an entire people, how much fealty would our (right-wing) politicians demonstrate towards them? -cjbussey 

GOP Presidential Candidates Go to Israel and Return With Fairy Tales

Israel is playing a greater role in the Republican presidential race than perhaps ever before. 
The past year has seen an effective merger between the Republican Party and Israel's right-wing Likud Party. This is particularly explicit with regards to the presidential race, where contenders are courting pro-Israel billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who could instantly unleash tens of millions of dollars to bolster their candidacies.
As a part of this “Adelson primary,” as it has been dubbed by the media, these presidential candidates are taking trips to Israel, where they meet with far-right politicians and studiously avoid interacting with everyday Palestinians or the occupation. They then come back and tell fairy tales of a liberal democracy under existential threat.
Here's who has gone and what they've come back to say.
Rick Santorum: Santorum has not yet announced, but is considered a likely contender. He visited Israel last year on a trip organized by the right-wing group “Patriot Voices.” While there, he called the right-wing outlet Newsmax to give an interview. Despite the tremendous political, economic and military support the United States provides Israel, Santorum said “the average Israeli knows whose side that John Kerry and Barack Obama are on, and it's not to protect the security of Israel.” For Santorum, re-arming the Israelis as they were assaulting the Gaza Strip while vocally defending their actions simply wasn't supportive enough.
Scott Walker: Walker visited Israel this month, and when he returned he wrote a post on Medium detailing his “reflections.” The Israel Walker says he saw is “one of the world's most vibrant democracies,” and one of “America's most important allies.” That's an odd phrasing for a country that systematically disenfranchises 4.5 million Palestinians and gives millions of non-Jews citizenship without the same full legal rights as Jewish Israelis. Walker also seemed to endorse the Bush administration's foreign policy, saying he would “take the fight to them before they take the fight to us,” which echoed similar remarks by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in support of the unprovoked war against Iraq.
Ben Carson: The former neurosurgeon's strange comments about Israel actually began before he actually got there. GQ's Jason Zengerle accompanied Carson on his trip to the country, and witnessed a bizarre conversation he had with his Israeli guide. He admitted he did not know what the Knesset (the Israeli legislature) actually did, and had his guide explain it. After she finished, he responded, “It sounds complex. Why don't they just adopt the system we have?” When he actually got to Israel, he was quick to draw conclusions. When informed about foreign fighters ending the Syrian civil war, he concluded, “It's just like the troublemakers in Ferguson.”
When he returned to the United States, Carson was suddenly an expert on world affairs, trying to lump in Iran with ISIS. “We need to recognize that the Shia in Iran are every bit as dangerous, perhaps more dangerous,” he said, a sectarian warning that could easily be found in the text of an extremist Saudi cleric.
Carly Fiorina: The former HP executive visited Israel in 2010, in a trip widely seen as oriented around courting pro-Israel political forces. This spring, she claimed that tensions with Israel are “in no small measure due to President Obama,” simply ignoring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's series of provocative words and actions. She also went further, pledging to repudiate an Iran deal on her first day in office—essentially rejecting Obama's diplomatic efforts.
Coming Polarization
Israel is playing a greater role in the GOP presidential race than perhaps ever before. The Adelson primary is transforming the same political party that once harshly clashed with Israeli leadership over its failure to make peace into one that is indistinguishable from the Likud.
But something else is happening on the Democratic side. While candidates there are not openly calling for sanctions or cutting aid to Israel, they're not leaping up to defend it, either. The topic is all but absent in the Democratic primary, despite the fact that the party is the traditional base of the pro-Israel lobby. Polling shows that the party's rising base of young people and racial minorities is increasingly hostile to Israeli foreign policy, in ways that will surely at some point impact American policy.
Many in the United States have lamented the increasing polarization of the Israel issue, but it is that polarization that may finally give Americans a choice about policy, rather than bipartisan support for Israel, right or wrong.
Zaid Jilani is an AlterNet staff writer. Follow @zaidjilani on Twitter.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Wasn’t free trade with China a great idea?

Finding supports American suspicions that Beijing is building up reefs in South China Sea for military purposes

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea, in this file still image from video taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft and provided by the United States Navy this month.



U.S. surveillance imagery shows China has positioned weaponry on one of the artificial islands it is developing in the South China Sea, American officials said, supporting their suspicions that Beijing has been building up reefs for military purposes.
The U.S. imagery detected two Chinese motorized artillery pieces on one of the artificial islands built by China about one month ago. While the artillery wouldn’t pose a threat to U.S. planes or ships, U.S. officials said it could reach neighboring islands and that its presence was at odds with China’s public statements that the reclaimed islands are mainly for civilian use.
“There is no military threat,” a U.S. official told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. “But it is about the symbolism.”
While posing no military threat to the U.S., the motorized artillery was within range of an island claimed by Vietnam that Hanoi has armed with various weaponry for some time, the American officials said. Vietnamese officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
A Chinese Embassy spokesman in Washington wouldn’t comment specifically on the weaponry, but said its development work within the Spratly Islands—known by the Chinese as the Nansha Islands—was primarily civilian.
Te-Ping Chen contributed to this story.

Friday, May 29, 2015

The Vultures Are Coming Home To Roost

Second Saudi Arabia suicide bombing fuels Isis campaign fears

Attacker detonates bomb in car park of Shia mosque in Dammam, killing four people a week after suicide blast kills 21 at another mosque in east of country

Ian Black Middle East editor Guardian

Friday 29 May 2015 12.02 EDT 

In the second attack of its kind in a week, four people have died after a suicide bomber targeted a Shia mosque in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province, fuelling fears of an organised campaign by Islamic Stateto foment sectarian tensions inside the conservative Sunni kingdom.

Reports from Dammam described a car bomb explosion at the entrance to the al-Anoud mosque, despite security measures put in place because of last Friday’s incident near Qatif, in which 21 people were killed and 120 injured in the worst attack in Saudi Arabia in a decade.

Video clips showed men at prayers inside the mosque reacting in alarm when a loud bang was heard. The Saudi Press agency reported that guards had approached the attacker’s car as it was parking and that the driver then detonated the bomb. One of the dead appears to have been the bomber.

The latest attack was quickly claimed by Isis, which said the “blessed martyrdom operation” had been carried out by a “soldier of the caliphate” it named as Abu Jandal al-Jazrawi. General Mansour al-Turki, spokesman for the Saudi interior ministry, said the terrorist was dressed in women’s clothes.

Analysts have described “lone wolf” initiatives encouraged by Isis, though the speed of the claim of responsibility suggested planning and coordination. Isis has been paying special attention to Saudi Arabia since a speech by its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, excoriating the royal family as the “head of the snake and stronghold of disease”.

Saudi Arabia’s special status in the Arab and Muslim worlds rests on its custodianship of the two holy mosques of Mecca and Medina.

The latest bombing, like last week’s, was also followed by an Isis statement referring to “Wilayat Nejd”. Wilaya is the Arabic term for province. Nejd is the desert heartland of the Saudi kingdom that was first created in the 18th century – as distinct from the Hejaz – the country’s more liberal region along the Red Sea. It also used sectarian language to vilify Shia Muslims – who make up 15% of the Saudi population.

The Saudi government has responded to the bombings with expressions of concern and pledges of severe punishment for the perpetrators. Earlier this week the recently appointed Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Nayef visited the al-Qudaih mosque in Qatif where hundreds of thousands of people turned out for the funerals of the victims. Unusually, Bin Nayef was publicly criticised by a resident who challenged him to put an end to sectarianism. “If you do not do your part … then you are a silent partner in this crime,” the man told the prince. The video showing the encounter was viewed more than 800,000 times in less than 24 hours.

Saudi authorities have jailed two prominent Shia clerics who have called for reforms such as adopting a constitutional monarchy. Last year one leading cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, was sentenced to death for leading protests in Qatif.

In the past few days liberal Saudis have called for an end to sectarian messages in education, the religious establishment and the media – and for a crackdown on extremist Sunni preachers blamed for anti-Shia incitement, often on private TV channels.

“The perpetrators of these murderous acts are driven by an insane ideology disseminated by self-appointed clerics and reformers,” commented the Jeddah-based writer Khaled Al-Maeena. “For too long, we have kept quiet as they used the mosques, the media and other forms of communication to spread their evil philosophy. We … watched silently as some imams spewed hatred and spread falsehood about Muslims of other sects. These illiterate bigots should have been advised to shut up. We should not have remained silent and passive allowing their hatred to continue giving them the opportunity to manipulate the minds of many.”

Less progressive Saudi voices have objected to sectarianism on the grounds that it is used by “Safavid (Iranian)-Zionist-Crusader alliance” against the kingdom, in the words of Abdulaziz Fawzan, an influential sheikh.

The Saudi government and many citizens blame Iran, the kingdom’s strategic rival, for backing the Shia-led government in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Bashar al-Assad in Syria and most recently the Houthi rebels in neighbouring Yemen, where the Saudis are leading a bombing campaign in an attempt to restore And Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government.

The Saudis are also taking part in a US-led bombing campaign against Isis and rebuff criticism that they were responsible for the creation of the group because of previous backing for hardline Islamist factions fighting Assad. Riyadh now works more closely with its allies in Qatar and Turkey in supporting anti-Assad factions. Still, with an estimated 2,500 Saudi citizens having gone to fight in Syria or Iraq in recent years, an official crackdown in recent months may have meant that more Isis supporters are staying at home – and are prepared to act.

Toby Matthiesen, a Saudi Arabia expert at Cambridge University, said: “Saudi Arabia may now have to choose between anti-Shia [sentiment] as a political tool at home and abroad and the very real threat that extremists taking anti-Shia [sentiment] too seriously will bring the fight back home – with unpredictable consequences for the stability of Saudi Arabia and the wider region.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Great Professional Police Work - in Estonia

This obviously deranged man would have been shot dead by US Cops:

What have the GOP Hawks Wrought?

Iranian-Americans demand apology from Lindsey Graham for “Liar” Racism

NIAC | —
NIAC Condemns Senator Graham’s Racist Statement, Demands Apology
Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council, the largest Iranian-American grassroots organization in the United States, strongly condemns Senator Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) comments that “Iranians are liars” and demands an apology to the Iranian-American community.
The Senator and Presidential hopeful’s comments were given Friday morning to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference via video from Washington.
“Everything I learned about Iranians I learned working in the pool room,” Graham said. “I met a lot of liars, and I know Iranians are liars.”
“The Senator’s repulsive remarks are racist, period,” NIAC President Trita Parsi said. “This type of discourse should have no place in American politics.”
“Graham essentially admits to being a bigot, because nothing says ‘I’m stereotyping’ more than basing judgment of an entire people solely on a handful of interactions in a pool room,” Parsi added.
Senator Graham is also a strong critic of the nuclear negotiations with Iran, having promised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to follow his lead on this vital national security issue.
“Graham’s racist statement raises concerns about his ability to speak on vital national security matters such as the nuclear negotiations with Iran. Because if you judge an entire people based on your experience running a pool hall-liquor store, do you really have the judgment to keep America safe?” Parsi commented. “This is Graham’s ‘I can see Russia from my house’ moment.”
NIAC is demanding an apology from Senator Graham to the Iranian-American community.
“Senator Graham owes the Iranian-American community – one of the most successful communities in the United States – an apology. And all others presidential hopefuls – Republicans and Democrats – should condemn his bigoted comments,” Parsi said.
The National Iranian American Council is the largest Iranian American grassroots organization in the United States with supporters in all 50 states.

Monday, May 25, 2015

National self-delusion and un-winnable wars: The blame game of Republicans claiming if only Obama had done this or that, Bush’s Folly in Iraq would have been different, this time.


The tales we tell to cope with unwinnable wars

The mythology of Vietnam is now distorting accounts of the Iraq war

May 25, 2015 2:00AM ET ALJAZEERA
During my time as an Army infantryman in Iraq, I heard my fellow soldiers express their frustration in many different ways. There are only so many four-letter words to go around, after all, before the mind takes a more creative bent. One expression stands out in my memory: the suggestion that we should “go ‘Nam” on our enemies.
The impulse to “go ‘Nam” arose when we were forced to hold our fire, to reserve our force, to stand down. It expressed a desire to return to the unrestrained combat of the Vietnam War: body counts, torching villages, search and destroy, a disregard for collateral damage or escalation of force procedures. It was the dark and frustrated fantasy of Americans far from home, occupying a violent and dangerous place.  Struggling to comprehend the point of the Rules of Engagement and desperate to get home safe, it’s understandable why the frustrated grunts never made the next logical step: realizing that we lost the Vietnam War.
In “On War,” Carl von Clausewitz writes that the most important judgment commanders make is figuring out “the kind of war on which they are embarking.” Unfortunately for the tens of thousands of Americans who died and whom we honor this Memorial Day, and the countless more Vietnamese casualties, American leaders were never honest with themselves or anyone else about what they were doing in Southeast Asia. What began in the 1950s as modest support for French colonial forces in Indochina morphed over the next decade into a massive, bloody ground and air campaign that illegally spilled over into neighboring Laos and Cambodia. America, guided by a dark obsession over communist expansion, succumbed to inertia, trying every strategic gambit besides withdrawal.
The shifting goals and strategies not only betrayed the soldiers fighting in Vietnam, but also left a festering wound in the American psyche. By the 1980s, Ronald Reagan and Hollywood were all too eager to address this lingering cynicism, what had come to be called “Vietnam Syndrome,” with a medicine that was equal parts mindless optimism and willful misremembering. How Reagan went about recasting Vietnam as a “winnable” war that was lost because of a lack of will, even a lack of faith in America itself, stands as a warning about how we remember our most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Only the most entrenched revisionists assert that America won the war in Vietnam. Dramatic images of helicopters rescuing American personnel from the roof during the fall of Saigon in 1975 are a symbolic reminder of how real the loss actually was. More common is the view that the Viet Cong defeated American forces without having ever won an actual battle. This myth reveals a lingering pride in the overwhelming force the American military brought against Vietnam.
But the brute force that the American military brought down on Vietnam was counterproductive. A study from the State Department found that our massive aerial bombing of North Vietnam had failed to achieve its goals and was instead a “sad waste" of civilian casualties and American planes and pilots lost. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara said of the brutal bombing campaign, “The picture of the world’s greatest super power killing or seriously injuring 1,000 non-combatants a week, while trying to pound a tiny, backward nation into submission on an issue whose merits are hotly disputed, is not a pretty one.” The ground war wasn’t much different. According to some accounts, two civilians were killed for every Viet Cong soldier. There was obviously a fundamental disconnect between implementing “search and destroy” and winning “hearts and minds.”
The frustrating thing about counterfactuals is that they can’t be disproven. 
Haunting the pretense for Vietnam was a conflation of American ideals and American security interests. The two are not the same. For some, that was one of the lessons of the war in Vietnam — without popular support and strategic clarity, foreign adventurism is doomed to failure. And if that was the lesson, then Vietnam was unwinnable. Imposing our own desired political structure on a sovereign nation of people whose culture was completely alien to policy makers didn’t offer the chance of victory.
But not everyone learned the same lesson. As David Corbett writes, “But for … the Reagan administration, Vietnam had a different resonance. They saw that war as a critical failure of American will, and believed that victory had been prevented because troops had not been given ‘permission to win.’ They also believed that this circumspection about the use of military force was undermining American power, and was inviting Soviet aggression around the globe …” The frustrating thing about counterfactuals is that they can’t be disproven. Would the Vietnamese, North and South, have joined hands and decided to take up a parliamentary-style government and capitalist economy if we had killed 100,000 more civilians? I don’t think so. But I can’t prove it.
At any rate, the myth took root. Reagan parlayed the misremembering of Vietnam into politically expedient spectacle. On February 28, 1981, Reagan made his first public statement about the war as president while awarding the Congressional Medal of Honor to a Vietnam veteran. One sentence stands out: “They came home without a victory not because they’d been defeated, but because they’d been denied permission to win.” Reagan’s message implied that there was some achievable level of violence beyond what had already been unleashed on Vietnam that would have turned the tide. Instead of offering an apology to veterans for having to pay the price of America’s reckless policies, Reagan scolded the public for not supporting those policies vigorously enough.
It makes sense that a former actor would come up with a formula that Hollywood would repeat nearly word for word in the Sylvester Stallone-driven “Rambo” film series of the 1980s. In the second installment, “Rambo: First Blood II,” protagonist John Rambo, brooding Vietnam War veteran, is sent on a secret mission back into Vietnam to retrieve prisoners of war that weren’t returned after the Paris Peace Accords. The only question Rambo has for his handler is “Do we get to win this time?” As historian Andrew Bacevich writes “The New American Militarism,” “In this instance, Stallone and his collaborators absorbed and played back (thereby validating) perceptions about Vietnam and attitudes regarding soldiers that coincided neatly with the views and agenda of Reagan and his collaborators in Washington.”
When the guys I served with in Iraq wanted to “go ‘Nam,” they were asking for permission to do whatever it took to win the war and help their buddies make it home. Any understanding of the real history of Vietnam had been obscured under the fog of political posturing and pop culture bombast. It’s more reassuring to believe that you can win, and aren’t being allowed to than to confront the fact that elected officials have trapped you in an unwinnable war.
What’s troubling is that we are now seeing the pattern repeat itself in the way we remember the war in Iraq. It makes little difference if you blame failure on Bush’s tactical choices or Obama’s withdrawal. Both positions imply that the war could have been won. There’s no critique of the efficacy of nation building, of sending massive armies to foreign countries and restructuring them by force. Another irrefutable counterfactual: It might have worked, if only…
You have to wonder if decades from now, young Americans hunkered down in some far-flung corner of the world will find themselves wishing they could “go Iraq” on the enemy. 
Scott Beauchamp is a veteran and writer living in Portland, Maine. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Bookforum and The Baffler, among other places. 

Dirty Stinking US Cops - a series on a national disgrace - The victim wasn’t responding, and the cops didn't even try to see what was wrong with him before one threatens to "fucking smoke" him

Video shows US police officer taser and pepper-spray African-American man who had suffered a stroke

Officer Shaun Jurgens has resigned from the police force but says he did nothing wrong

Police in Fredericksburg, Virginia, have released video of a police officer using his taser and pepper spray on an African-American driver suffering a medical emergency. 
The footage, shot by the body camera of officer Shaun Jurgens, shows the officer and two others, Matt Deschenes and Crystal Hill, responding to calls of a hit-and-run, with the driver travelling in the wrong direction along the motorway.
The car in question was being driven by 34-year-old David Washington. He eventually stopped his Hyundai in the middle of an intersection, having just hit a street sign.
The video shows Washington motionless at the wheel, although his right arm appears to be moving. Jurgens shoots Washington with his taser, but it fails to connect. His fellow officer opens the car door and then Jurgens pepper sprays the driver.

Jurgens and Deschenes then drag him out of the car and handcuff him, with Washington crying, "I can't breath."
Sources have told local reporters that Washington had suffered a stroke. Police say the 34-year-old has been released from hospital and is recovering. 
Jurgens has now resigned from the police department, but he released a statement to the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star arguing his innocence. Jurgens said he did what he had to do to control the situation and ensure it did not escalate. 
He says that Washington had been driving near a primary school and was a risk to drivers during rush hour traffic.
However, the Fredericksburg police department say that Jurgens use of force was not in line with department policies or training.

Newly released video has revealed the dying moments of an African-American active-duty soldier who checked himself into the El Paso, Texas, county jail for a two-day sentence for driving under the influence, and died while in custody in 2012. Authorities claimed Sgt. James Brown died due to a pre-existing medical condition, but shocking new video from inside the jail raises new questions about what happened. The video shows guards swarming on top of him as he repeatedly says he can’t breathe and appears not to resist. By the end of the video, he is shown naked, not blinking or responding, his breathing shallow. Attorneys say an ambulance was never called. Brown was eventually brought to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His family had long suspected foul play in his death but received little information from authorities. They’ve now filed a lawsuit against El Paso County saying his constitutional rights were violated. We are joined by Brown’s mother, Dinetta Scott.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

The bin Laden mail. We don’t know who translated this stuff, let alone who censored it

Suddenly it looks like we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive

Who’s left if we want to negotiate with Isis?

What an old softee he was, compared to the throat-cutting killers of the “Islamic State”. The black-bannered executioners are back at work in Ramadi and Palmyra and yet, back from the dead, old bin Laden returns once more, fished out of the Indian Ocean (if he was ever there) for one final re-appearance. He loves his wife, he wants his son to take over the whole al-Qaeda outfit, he studies – if he can read English – Noam Chomsky.
Surely he’s a chap we could do business with, the “moderate” we are always searching for when we fail to destroy our enemies, a “middle party” to start a “dialogue” with these unruly Isis fellows. But the French, in their search for the “interlocuteur valable” who would chat to the FLN when de Gaulle chose to throw in the towel in Algeria, found they had already assassinated all their potential “interlocuteurs” – and we, goddammit, did the same with bin Laden. Having liquidated the Fountainhead of World Evil in 2011, we’ve no one left to represent us if we want to negotiate with the new Fountainhead of World Evil in 2015.
I have the suspicion we’re being fooled here. I’m puzzled about the CIA’s latest dip into the barrel of the collected works and thoughts of the Old Man of Abbottabad. Why now, so long after they released the first tranche of fascinating but occasionally boring tracts between bin Laden and his lads in Yemen, do they pop up with yet more bin Laden junk-mail? Because Seymour Hersh has just presented us with a more disturbing version of the bin Laden myth, in which the guy, after effectively falling under Pakistani intelligence control, was blown to bits by his American killers in Abbotabad – and some of those bits then thrown over the Hindu Kush? (The sea burial was a lie, according to Hersh).
Why were the new bin Laden videos silent? And why were some of these documents, like the previous set, actually censored – for which read the devious phrase “redacted” – by the CIA? The CIA feels it necessary to censor bin Laden? Weirdly, not a soul asked why. Journos waffled on about a “treasure trove”. I’m not so sure. What was it that the CIA knew and bin Laden knew – and which we mustn’t know?
My meetings with bin Laden – in 19931996 and 1997 – long ago became an albatross for me, a piece of tat to hang on a reporter’s CV, as if talking to the man who would approve (if he did not plan) the international crimes against humanity of 11 September 2001, somehow makes history clearer. But I do recall how at our second meeting in 1996, he was obsessed by Saudi Arabia’s corruption, how its royal family had betrayed Islam – until I learned that the Saudis were still offering him – via a Saudi diplomat who visited him in Afghanistan – millions of dollars and the return of his passport if he “returned” to Riyadh.
And there’s an intriguing paragraph buried in Hersh’s version of events – or “counter-narrative”, as colleagues insist it be called – in which Hersh’s “retired official” source tells him that during the hunt for bin Laden, Saudi Arabia was a worrying factor because the Kingdom “had been financing bin Laden’s upkeep since his [post 9/11] seizure by the Pakistanis”. The Saudis, according to Hersh’s “retired official”, “feared…we would pressure the Pakistanis to let bin Laden start talking to us about what the Saudis had been doing with al-Qaeda. And they were dropping money – lots of it.”
I have too many questions about the latest bin Laden mail. We don’t know who translated this stuff, let alone who censored it. I don’t doubt the authenticity of some passages; the letter to his wife Khairiah Saber – mother of Hamza, whom bin Laden wished to be next leader of al-Qaeda – contains a moving paragraph about his desire to see her in the afterlife and to be her husband there again (even if she marries in the real world after his “martyrdom”). But the fear of US drone attacks – bin Laden’s only advice is to travel under cloudy skies – the forlorn and belated understanding that education is necessary for real revolution, and the determination to strike at the US rather than its Middle East puppets, does not suggest that the Abbottabad recluse was running a “terror” control centre.
So why is all this material coming piecemeal and truncated? The 103 letters, reports and videos released last week follow three years after the “Combating Terrorism Centre” at West Point’ released an earlier 175 pages of bin Laden chit-chat which was equally truncated and oddly translated. For example, when a bin Laden agent in Yemen sent his master a copy of an article of mine which described al-Qaeda as “the most sectarian organisation in the world”, the second half was translated by the Americans back from Arabic into English – with obvious deviations from the original English used in The Independent. But the first half was a straight “lift” from the paper with no attempt to translate from Arabic.
Now we’re told that even more documents from Abbottabad await “declassification”. From what do they have to be declassified? It’s one thing to “declassify” government information for the world to read – but to “declassify” bin Laden’s secrets for the world to read? What does this mean? Saudi material perhaps?
I won’t delve into the “porn” stash supposedly found at Abbottabad – which it took the CIA four years to watch before deciding not to release it. Is the organisation which waterboards victims and stuffs food up their rectums really so prissy? And then there are the books, Chomsky, Woodward & Co. Quite an English-language reading list – if bin Laden could read English. But when I met him in 1997, he could hardly speak a word. Did he have language tutors in Abbottabad? He did read Arabic-language books. Which of them were found by the Americans? Or did they contain too many works on Saudi Arabia?
Certainly the previous batch of mail suggested the old boy was prepared to contemplate negotiating with the Brits. Nothing to suggest this in the latest collection. Could he have been useful as a bridge to the “moderates” that we in the West will undoubtedly discover inside the abominable Isis? Oh, if we could only read the letters of the “Islamic State” archives. But maybe they would have to be censored, too. Which is why I can suggest at least one “interlocuteur valable” for Isis, despite bin Laden’s demise. Saudi Arabia.