Focal Points Blog

Pamela Geller’s, uh, Ill-Timed Rants Malign Memory of Utoya Victims

Cross-posted from Mondoweiss.

Pamela Geller, founder of Atlas Shrugs, delayed a full response to the shootings in Norway (by her own admission). Her ideological associates, in the meantime, had been issuing statements condemning the violence — as well as the victims’ politics. And now, Atlas Shrugs has finally joined this argument: this past Sunday, Geller published an analysis of the victims titled “Summer Camp? Antisemitic Indoctrination Training Center“:

But the jihad-loving media never told us what antisemitic war games they were playing on that island. Utoya Island is a Communist/Socialist campground, and they clearly had a pro-Islamic agenda.

Only the malevolent media could use the euphemism summer camp and get away with it.

The slaughter was horrific. What these kids were being taught and instructed to do was a different kind of grotesque. There is no justification for Breivik’s actions whatsoever. There is also no justification for Norway’s antisemitism and demonization of Israel.

Even Geller knows these statement will be construed by the “Genocidal Leftists” as an endorsement of violence, but insists that it necessary to put the shootings in a larger context — the context of the global struggle against Islam:

. . . . Utoya camp was not Islamist but it WAS something not much more wholesome (by our standards, at any rate).

It was a summer indoctrination camp run by Norway’s ruling Labor Party for up-and-coming children of the ruling elite.

Glen Beck [sic] was not far off when he compared it to the Hitlerjugend or Young Pioneers.”

Think Progress caught on to the fact that an earlier version of this post referred to “race mixing” among the Norwegian youth at the camp. Specifically, a now-removed picture caption read “Note the faces which are more Middle Eastern [sic] or mixed than pure Norwegian.” Even some favorable commenters on the post called Ms. Geller out on this caption. Perhaps the intent of this statement was to demonstrate that there were Muslims present at the summer camp and that their presence was (of course) related to the youth organization’s “anti-Semitic” and “pro-Palestinian” agenda?

The statement was probably removed, though, because it could be taken to suggest that a non-Caucasian life (especially one mixed in with Muslim blood) is somehow “worth less” than a non-Caucasian (or part-Caucasian) one. While Geller did not come out and say that, the notion is far from the fringes of respectability in “journalistic” debate.

Geller also approvingly quotes an argument for moral relativism vis a vis Palestinians and Israelis in relation to the shootings:

For them it is unacceptable for Breivik to murder Norwegian children, because his ideology is wrong. But it is acceptable for Palestinians to murder Israeli children, because their ideology is right.

Given the intensely pro-Zionist feelings among the anti-Islamic right, it is sadly inevitable that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be used to “contextualize” a terrorist attack on “socialist” “pro-Islamic” “aristocrats” (all terms she uses to describe the camp attendees). The spleen is practically audible.

Is the anti-Islamic right suggesting that the Islamocommunist children of Norway’s ruling party were asking for trouble by engaging in behavior such as displaying signs that say “Opphev Blokkaden Av Gaza” (Oppose the Blockade of Gaza) and signing onto the BDS Movement? Geller and her cohorts suggested, soon after the identity of the shooter became known, that “If anyone incited him to violence, it was Islamic supremacists. If anything incited him to violence, it was the Euro-Med policy.”

Such statements now even more eerily echo Breivik’s own manifesto in that he lumped together his specific targets with the larger anti-Semitic Islamocommunist alliance that, according to the anti-Islamic right, holds Norway (and the EU in general) in its grip. Such sentiments have long been present in the discourse, but to hear such assertions articulated more forcefully now after what has happened is even more disturbing. “We are witnesssing the complete breakdown of rational society,” Geller opined in response to hate mail she has received since the attacks.

Geller has no idea how right she is!

Paul Mutter is a graduate student at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.

Afghanistan: U.S. and Pakistan Seek to Reinforce a Border That Was Arbitrary to Begin With

Kabul, Afghanistan-American and allied forces in Afghanistan are strengthening a layered defense along the border with Pakistan to seize Haqqani network militants as they try to make their way to Kabul to carry out spectacular attacks, according to senior military officers.

— New York Times, 8/1/11

Okay, New York Times, time for a little geography lesson, with a few bits of history thrown in.

Let’s start with that old Rand McNally three-dimensional map of the world that formerly graced the walls of grammar schools across the country (I happen to have one in my closet). It has low spots to demonstrate deep-sea trenches and bumps for mountain ranges. Among the biggest set of bumps are the Hindu Kush (the western extension of the Himalayas) that corresponds to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The highest of those bumps is Mt. Noshaq (24,580 ft).

This is also a very long border, 1,510 miles more or less (more on that later). Think of the distance between Portland, ME and Miami, FL, New York City and Dallas/Fort Worth, or London and Moscow. It is mostly really big bumps (except some lower ones on the western edge of the border), so it is not only long, it contains some of the most formidable terrain on the planet.

In fact the “official” border is marked from Sikaram Peak to Laman Peak. It is always a bad idea to fight a war where you measure the battlefield by the distance between peaks. If there are general rules of war, certainly one of them is: “Do not fight in places that the Rand McNally three-dimensional map puts lots of bumps.”

This is also not a border, in the normal sense of word, with the striped guardhouses and border checks. For one thing, the Afghans and the Pakistanis had nothing to do with establishing it. That was done—with considerable mischief in mind—in 1893 by Sir Mortimer Durand, then England’s lead colonial officer in India (Pakistan did not yet exist).

His plan was to split up the Pashtuns—who have populated the region since at least the fifth century BC—so that they would not constitute a majority in either region. Pashtuns make up about 42 percent of Afghanistan and about 15 percent of Pakistan. The Pashtuns have never recognized the Durand Line, and neither has the government in Kabul. This makes Pakistan nervous, because aside from India, one of the things Islamabad fears most is ethnic dismemberment: the establishment of an independent Pashtunistan.

Pashtuns are among the most hospitable people in the world, but they don’t like being invaded or occupied, which no one has successfully managed to do, although many have tried. A 19th century British general remarked that when one gets ready to invade the area, the first thing to do is plan a line of retreat, the inevitable course followed by all militaries.

So now, let’s look at “layered defense along the border,” as well as American pressure on the Pakistani military “to cleanse their border of militants.”

First, from the Pashtuns’ point of view, Pakistan’s military is just as much a foreign intruder as were the Greeks, Buddhists, Mongols, Muslims, and British, and Islamabad’s army would have just about the same level of success as all those other invaders. Second, any attempt to “cleanse” the border would stir up major hostilities among the tribes and clans in both countries and feed Pashtun nationalism, which is exactly what Islamabad does not want to do.

But even if Pakistan was to decide to actually try to “cleanse” the border, Islamabad has neither the manpower nor the money to do so (even if it were possible, which history argues it is not). Pakistan has some 1.4 million men under arms, but only a little over 600,000 of those are regular troops. The rest are reserves or border police and local paramilitaries. And most of those troops have to be kept on the border with India, with which Pakistan has fought three wars.

Pakistan’s military is currently engaged both in fighting its own domestic Taliban in South Waziristan and maintaining troops in North Waziristan, but the North West Frontier and Federally Administered Tribal Areas—the part of the world we are talking about—are vast tracts of terrain, and “pacifying” them is quite beyond the capabilities of any army in the world, let alone Pakistan’s.

The situation is not much different on the Afghan side of the border. The combined NATO forces are about 132,000, of which 100,000 are Americans (although 4,000 are headed home in the next few months). However, with the exception of the British, Canadians and Australians, most of the allied troops are not involved in active combat, so the actual number of troops available is closer 110,000. And not all of those troops fight. Some drive trucks, some handle supplies and logistics, some man bases. The final number of fighters? Maybe 60,000.

The Afghan Army is somewhere between 150,000 and 171,000—the exact number is hard to pin down because so many desert within the first few months—of which only several thousand—two brigades— are capable of fighting on their own. There are also 134,000 Afghan police, but they don’t fight. In fact, according to most Afghans, they mostly extort.

You can’t put all those U.S., allied, and Afghan troops on the Pakistan border, particularly since the Taliban have spread their attacks to formally “pacified” areas of the country, in the north, east and west. And. in any case, the Afghan Army is still training (although it is curious that while the Taliban soldiers receive virtually no training, they are able to hold their own in battle with the most sophisticated and well-trained military force in the world).

For arguments sake, let’s say you could put a mix of 40,000 troops on the border, a border of massive mountains and deep valleys, a border filled with passes, trade routes and goat trails, a border that stretches 1,510 miles. With 20,000 troops, the British Army could not seal the 224-mile border between southern and Northern Ireland.

Since the Haqqanis are Pashtun, they can cross this border virtually anyplace, and, as the last few weeks have illustrated, the Taliban and their allies can strike almost anywhere. The problem with all this nonsense about “thickening the Afghan border” is not the “senior military officials”— generals lie, it’s part of their job description—but that the New York Times would print this blather.

It is not only silly, it feeds dangerous illusions at a time when clear thinking is called for. As Gareth Porter of IPS News reports, “The Taliban leadership is ready to negotiate peace with the United States right now if Washington indicates its willingness to provide a timetable for a complete withdrawal.” According to Porter, the Taliban are willing to break any ties with al-Qaeda and won’t even demand a withdrawal date. The only thing they will insist upon are no U.S. bases.

So why isn’t the Times reporting this breakthrough instead of peddling foolishness?

More of Conn Hallinan’s work can be found at Dispatches From the Edge.

Iran Eats Nuclear Scientist Rezaie’s Assassination as the Cost of Doing Business

The killing of the third Iranian scientist thought to be part of Iran’s nuclear program since 2009, in this case Darioush Rezaie, is most likely the work of either the CIA and Mossad. (Another suspicious incident occurred not long ago when a civilian aircraft crashed in Russia killing everyone on board, including several Russian nuclear scientists who worked in Iran for a time.)

While it’s true that U.S. forces recently struck deep into Pakistan to attack bin Laden’s compound, in Rezaie’s case a Western security agency probably used a proxy. Likely candidates are Iranian opposition groups – and terrorists in their own right — the Mujahedin-e Khalk (MEK) or Jundallah.

What’s especially intriguing, though, is how Iran responds to these events. At Reuters, Andrew Hammond reports:

When news of the shooting first came out, semi-official news agency Mehr published information on Rezaie’s background which indicated involvement in Iranian nuclear activities. … But the report was then immediately withdrawn by Mehr and Iran’s intelligence minister Heydar Moslehi … denied Rezaie had any links to the nuclear energy program.

Then when parliament speaker Ali Larijani blamed the United States and Israel in a speech broadcast live on state television Sunday, Moslehi said it was too early to tell. “We have not found any trace of foreign spy services involvement in Rezaie’s assassination case yet,” … Analysts believe that Iran might wish to play down … the incident [as it is] embarrassing for its security agencies and could become an issue in domestic politics.

Afshon Ostovar, an Iran analyst based in Washington, accepts that

“…Rezaie was assassinated because of his relationship to Iran’s nuclear program…” [But after] the initial confusion, Ostovar said he detected “a PR campaign to both downplay the impact of his death on Iran’s nuclear program and to discredit any sense of legitimacy of the assassination.”

How different from the United States, which, if a foreign nation engineered an attack on its soil, would be reeling around as if mortally wounded. Besides figuring out yet more domestic security restrictions, the United States might take the attack as license to finally bomb one, some or all of Iran’s nuclear facilities. A smaller power just tries to save some face, roll with the punches, and soldier on. In Iran’s case, presumably it expects to have the last laugh anyway when it develops nuclear capabilities.

Islamophobes Insinuate Their Way Into U.S. Intelligence

A barely legible 2009 FBI PowerPoint on “Islam” has come down the FOIA line at a very unfortunate time following the July 2011 right-wing terrorist attacks in Norway. But it is very much part of that tragedy. The 62-slide PowerPoint presentation, which the FBI states that it is no longer in use, is for training interrogators to interview Muslim suspects. A few slides in, and one shudders what to think it has been replaced by, though – an email sent to intelligence officials linking to the anti-Islamic blogs Jihad Watch, Atlas Shrugs and The Gates of Vienna (which asks if there is to be “Surrender, Genocide . . . or What?” regarding Islam in Europe)?

It wouldn’t be much of a leap, given the content of the “intelligence” in the presentation – and the way that such outlets, and other opportunistic “Islam” experts, have ingratiated themselves in the U.S. political establishment and our ostensibly objective intelligence agencies, from the FBI to the U.S. Army.

Intelligence is what this report lacks most. “Muslims,” the report notes midway through, after dispensing with a great deal of basic statistics, “are fundamentally and inalienably spiritual while the West is purely materialistic” (not that this stops politicians or right-wing terrorists from depicting an Islamic-Marxist alliance as a major threat to Western civilization).

Surely, when attempting to understand a real, but specific, threat, American officials should be trained to view over a billion people as inscrutable and medieval time bombs just waiting to overrun the West. (The Gates of Vienna, for instance, actively evokes this scenario – it proclaims that its struggle against “Islamization” is a continuation of an age-old war for civilization.)

But yet, it does just that. A slide titled “Islam 101” presents – as fact – that Islam “transforms country’s culture into 7th century Arabian ways.”

The same slide also acknowledges, without even a hint of irony, that Islam is “hard for Westerners to understand.”

Hard to understand, perhaps, but not hard to make money and fame from by bashing it. The Great Fear, Max Blumenthal notes, geared up during the lead-in to the 2003 Iraq War. The neoconservatives in the White House and Department of Defense had their grand hope of not only settling the score with Saddam and doing good by oil (“60% of the earth’s oil reserves [are] in or near [the] Arabian Peninsula,” notes the PowerPoint) but also bringing a Pax Americana to the Middle East. What better what to achieve consensus on such a controversial project than by demonizing the enemy’s civilization? We’re not at war with Islam, then-President George W. Bush noted, but Islamophobes seemed to either miss or ignore that message. And so the anti-Muslim machine – a very diverse machine – took the jitters and anti-Islamic sentiments resulting from 9/11 and turned them into politically potent forces.

In such a climate, nonprofit groups and former intelligence analysts – most of whom have zero to no training in Islamic matters – have been raking in millions of dollars from their work outlining the supposed “Islamic” threat to America. Other outlets have noted that these “experts” have even been hired by the federal government to do training and consultative work.

The Washington Monthly has outlined how “counterterrorism trainers for hire” have ingratiated themselves with state and local law enforcement across the U.S. – offering helpful advice to police on how to deal with Muslim suspects by employing “legal harassment, ” a profiling tactic that assumes Muslims are guilty until proven innocent – one trainer suggested that police raid convenience stores owned by Muslims (which, according to the trainer, invariably launder money for terrorists) under the cover of health code violations.

Even less “intelligence” is needed to be a politician with a similar opinion on the Islamic Question – though most are careful to present “the fight against Islam” in non-violent terms (“war” and “fight” are metaphors, they shouldn’t be taken literally – a clarification that, as in other debates, often only becomes clear following a literal bloodbath). “Anti-Islamization” Dutch MP Geert Wilders, for instance, affirms that “the global anti-Islamic movement” has always been a campaign to be won through “the power of the ballot box and the wisdom of the voter. Not bombs and guns.” In the U.S., the specter of “Sovietization” has been superseded (but not replaced) by the specter of “Sharia Law” replacing the Constitution. Bills have come up through multiple state legislatures to “preempt” the “Islamization of America.” Thankfully, America’s awakened bloggers and legislators won’t let that happen here. (There is still no consensus on what century the bill’s sponsors would like to return us to, though.)

It’s perfectly acceptable to draw broad conclusions like these in the mainstream media, too. The Washington Post ran an op-ed that immediately placed blame for the Oslo attacks on Islamists – and went on to reiterate the need to boost defense spending in light of the “jihadist” threat. When it became apparent that Muslims were not behind the attack, the Post did not apologize for the inaccuracies – and the editorialist in question, Jennifer Rubin, simply reiterated her original (neocon) argument by stating that while she was wrong on the particulars, “There is no shortage of threats. There is no shortage of evil. Democratic governments have many demands on tax dollars, but none is more important than defending the lives and security of our citizenry.” (She also distinguished Breivik as a “lone-wolf” in contrast to “organized jihadists,” implying that the latter is the greater, omnipresent threat).

Not very subtle, but Islamophobia and neoconservativism rarely are.

In the blogosphere, sites like Atlas Shrugs, Jihad Watch and The Gates of Vienna (which is an EU site; the first two are U.S.-based) are just some of the better-known outlets pandering Islamophobia as breaking news and informed commentary. The U.S. commentators are increasingly linking up with their European counterparts (who for years have been encroaching on the margins of respectability – electorally and rhetorically – in the EU over Muslim immigration).

Speaking of imagined conspiracies (like Hezbollah laundering money through the local 7-11) and polemicists, Robert Spencer, now infamous because of Anders Breivik’s liberal citations of Jihad Watch posts in his manifesto, gets 2 nods in the “Recommended Reading” slide of the FBI presentation – 2 of his books, out of only 8 books in total, the FBI thought necessary to include here on this list are his.

Given the focus these sites give to culture in the Muslim world, it is not surprising that so much of the “jihadist” discussion in the PowerPoint is juxtaposed with (unrelated) aspects of Islamic culture. A photo of a Muslim circumcision ceremony is presented following a slide that reads “Things to use/consider for successful interviews/interrogations with individuals from the M.E.” [Middle East] Presumably, knowing that Muslims practice circumcision is a crucial component of U.S. security. Also: that they have prayer beads.

One can only guess at how many terror plots have been foiled now that we are armed with this knowledge.

It also helps to portray entire nations – millions of people – as targets who are as much front-line combatants in “the struggle” as soldiers are. But, of course, this kind of total war-mass civilian casualty conceptualization is only a metaphor when Westerners use it.

This PowerPoint offers much insight into the sort of thinking that has made Islamophobia an acceptable aspect of Western political “discourse.” Throughout history, Americans have castigated particular groups as subhuman. Blacks = apes, Japanese = spies, Jews = swindlers, Latinos = illegals. Now, the boogeyman is “the Muslim” (and/or “the Arab”). The “Arabic mind,” reads one slide, is “swayed more by words than ideas and more by ideas than facts.” Of course, the “Arabic mind” is presumably exceptional in this regard. As we all know, Westerners only believe in facts, unimpeachable facts such as those presented in these slides.

For instance, that the Muslim inclination to terrorism can be determined by a sliding scale. Phrenologists rejoice. There is a helpful scale of tolerance on one slide to help determine whether one’s interrogation subject is a mild-mannered “Shaffii” (rated as most tolerant) or a sinister, suicide-bombing “Salafi Jihadi” (rated as least tolerant, with a helpful snapshot of a bearded man wearing a skullcap for profiling purposes!).

The irony is that in casting hundreds of millions of people as potential oppressors and villains, the Islamophobes are aping the “Islamists” they claim to be the vanguard against. Ayman Al-Zawahiri and Anders Breivik have much in common, as the American right is arguing, though for very different reasons than they suggest – they make an operational link; I’m making a philosophical one.

Actual advocates of Islamist terrorism and the Islamophobic commentators that Breivik latched on to also have a lot in common. Bigotry, incitement to violence and fear mongering are nonsectarian.

On the “Recommended Reading” slide, the Quran is also included, as is Islamist godfather Sayyid Qutb’s seminal anti-Western screed, Milestones – which is basically like saying an FBI agent could get a good understanding of Christianity just from reading the Bible and former KKK leader David Duke’s Jewish Supremacisim (or that Judaism can be boiled down to a reading of the Torah and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion).

Of course, that is the general formula one sees by the detractors of any ideology: pick a main text, and then take an extreme “derivative” of it and paint that extremism as the norm. It’s very effective – for one thing, it’s not mentally taxing – and it makes someone who is appreciably (or not appreciably) different easier to hate. Islamophobia plays on conformation biases and self-pity – as Antiwar Radio’s Justin Raimondo suggests, just go look at the Book of “Rebuilding America’s Defenses” from the neoconservative bible Project for a New American Century, for a relevant example – one especially relevant because of the imagining of the West against the rest (but specifically the Muslim rest). Blending together a visibly outsider (Muslims) with a populist fervor (anti-elitism) into a political package is a surefire way to win at the polls – or at least make a statement people won’t soon forget.

One can only hope that the FBI is getting better intelligence these days from its PowerPoints. But hope (or fact) is often sadly overrated in the face of fear.

Paul Mutter is a graduate student at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.

U.S. Arms Sales to Repressive Regimes Overlooked in Domestic Gun Control Debate

Arms control is an oxymoron in the U.S. Recognizing this, successive governments have managed to pursue foreign policies that export billions of dollars in weapons abroad while also debating fiercely over domestic firearms ownership.

Sometimes, these debates intersect, and the UN Arms Trade Treaty is one such occasion for intersection.

For the U.S. government, whose arms exports are largest in the world in both volume of sales and profits, to support an international arms control treaty is a bit disingenuous (that we are now bombing at least four other countries on a daily basis suggests that if anyone’s arms needs controlling, it’s our own military’s). Arms control by governments is always a bit disingenuous in any case, especially given that the other four permanent members of the Security Council are also the world’s top defense spenders and arms exporters. The U.S., the PRC, the UK, France and Russia are, in that order, the world’s top defense spenders while in arms sales, the order is as follows: the U.S., Russia, France, the UK and the PRC (Germany is actually the world’s third largest arms exporter, below Russia and above France, but is not a permanent member).

U.S. support for the treaty, presumably, has more to do with potential gains in better regulating arms sales to states like Iran, Venezuela or North Korea – or governments with suspect sympathies towards al Qaeda (Pakistan, for instance, although Pakistan remains a major recipient of U.S. weaponry).

The treaty has already been watered down by the permanent members of Security Council to remove any chance for a “supranational” regulatory authority in place of “a more general statement of obligations related to arms trade which are to be fulfilled nationally, not globally.”

According to the permanent members, “the treaty is not a disarmament treaty nor should it affect the legitimate arms trade or a state’s legitimate right to self-defense. The decision to transfer arms is an exercise in national sovereignty.”

Self-control, apparently, isn’t “an issue” for the Big Five.

The treaty, though is still garnering major opposition in the U.S. A bipartisan group of U.S. Senators is warning the Obama administration not to bargain away the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, which gives U.S. citizens the right to bear arms. UN statements that the treaty will not undermine gun control in the U.S. have failed to placate anyone (the statements are derided as being “apologist”).

55 U.S. Senators have publically expressed reservations about the treaty – 67 yes votes are needed in the Senate to ratify the treaty. Of that number, 10 are Democrats, which presents the Obama administration with a real problem if the treaty is going to become a law the U.S. would adhere to.

Democrat John Tester of Montana, the latest Senator to express reservations over the treaty, said that he was encouraged by the fact that “countries will maintain the exclusive authority to regulate arms within their own borders” but that a lot more needed to be done to make the treaty acceptable. Specifically, Senator Tester wants to see no that there is neither regulation of “small arms, light weapons, ammunition or related materials” nor an “international gun registry.” The provisions for small arms would make the treaty “unenforceable,” according to Senator Tester, while the international gun registry “could impede on the privacy rights of law-abiding gun owners.”

The result? An utterly toothless arms treaty that would satisfy everyone involved – well, everyone but human rights organizations who support the treaty, which, despite being watered down, could still have a major impact on the international arms trade (to the detriment of arms dealers and defense ministries).

I guess I should say that an amended treaty would satisfy everyone who has a vested interest in keeping the well-oiled international arms trade running smoothly.

The NRA, a powerful U.S. firearms lobby, states that “Neither the United Nations, nor any other foreign influence, has the authority to meddle with the freedoms guaranteed by our Bill of Rights, endowed by our Creator, and due to all humankind.” The NRA is determined to kill the treaty altogether: “The latest attempt by the U.N. and global gun banners to eliminate our Second Amendment freedoms is to include civilian arms in the current Arms Trade Treaty.”

This particular debate is (unfortunately) being juxtaposed with a renewed debate over gun control in the U.S. because of two high-profile shootings (both by right-wing “homegrown” terrorists) in the U.S. and Norway this year. Arms control in a U.S. context tends to evoke more discussion about domestic gun ownership than, say, arms sales to repressive regimes, gun running by the U.S. government to Mexican drug cartels – or our own nuclear arsenal.

Not that the above issue aren’t being discussed – though American conservatives insist that the treaty is simply further evidence of the UN’s world governance aspirations and anti-democratic naïveté. According to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative U.S. think tank:

The treaty is still based on two fundamental and irremediable errors. First, it explicitly accepts that all states – dictatorships and democracies – have an equal right to arm themselves, and it proposes to embody this pretended right in international law.

This moralizing conveniently ignoring that the U.S. seems to recognize the right of non-democracies, such as Saudi Arabia, and, until recently, Egypt and Libya, to arm themselves, and has historically had few scruples about whether arms recipients are democratic or not, so long as they were ostensibly pro-U.S. (Iran before 1979, for instance, as well as the Nicaraguan contras, Musharraf’s Pakistan or Iraq when it was our ally of convenience in the 1980s).

The Heritage Foundation goes on to say that:

Second, it tacitly presumes that all the world’s states are well intentioned and will actually implement the treaty’s controls. But if all the world’s states were well intentioned, the treaty would not be necessary. Thus, while the treaty would do nothing to prevent states like Iran from supplying terrorists – and would actually legitimate arms sales to and from dictatorships – its ambiguous criteria would weigh heavily on the U.S. and other democracies, where activists would stigmatize any arms sale as a violation of the treaty.

Great James Madison’s ghost! Governments aren’t angels?

Once again, a lack of historical memory is present in this moralizing. The U.S. has only cared about “arms sales to and from dictatorships” when it is a matter of convenience: case and point, the “Safari Club” formed in the 1970s by the intelligence agencies of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to help bankroll anti-communist movements in Africa (Morocco, France, Egypt and Iran also contributed) that the U.S. wished not to dirty is hands with direct assistance to.

The main rhetorical (and electoral) opposition is presented on Second Amendment grounds – it is rather better to argue from that position than, say, theories of mutually assured destruction, or to openly discuss one’s relationship with defense companies.

In a short, but rather telling analysis, OpenSecrets, a watchdog group of lobbyist spending in American politics, states that defense companies have “split evenly between Democrats and Republicans” in election years. Given the allergic reaction to defense spending most politicians’ exhibit when in office, it is not hard to see why they butter both sides of the bread.

But no one wants to admit that they are making policy based on the significance of particular campaign contributions. In its commentary on the Norway terror attacks, The National Review lambastes the allegedly illiberal Norwegians: “Licenses are tied to interests – farming, hunting, sports – rather than to rights.”

Of course, the only interest here is freedom, which is why the NRA rather grandly asserts that “the cornerstone of our freedom is the Second Amendment” (rather nicely sanitizes Mao Zedong’s dictum that power grows out of the barrel of a gun, doesn’t it?).

So it is not surprising that gun ownership is (ostensibly) the main bone of contention among U.S. politicians vis a vis arms control, given the history of gun ownership in the U.S. It always has been so. The Colonial Era, in which most male individuals (and some women) owned firearms for defense and hunting – both being imperatives in the westward expansion of the country – is the context in which the Second Amendment was proposed. The Founding Fathers believed an armed public was a public that would not be easily dominated by its elected officials – after all the militias played a pivotal role in the American Revolution (ironically, so did licit and illicit arms sales from the French and the Spanish, but that is rarely acknowledged).

This era is so idealized by the American right (the Minutemen and the Tea Party, to give just two examples) that gun ownership is almost always presented in the terms of the American Revolution. The Second Amendment is non-negotiable in U.S. politics.

But given the U.S.’s domestic extremists (heavily armed anti-government militias, for instance), one would see why this administration is looking favorably at a treaty that might give the government reason to exercise more arms control at home. But since the American right, from talk radio to Senators, is riding high on a wave of vitriolic extremism to all things internationalist and federalist, so this treaty is dead in the water in their view.

Although the right does have a point: the U.S. ought to practice what it preaches at home about arms control abroad. Take Mexico, for example: the U.S. Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had been secretly supplying weapons – weapons purchased with American tax dollars – to Mexican drug cartels in a misguided attempt to track their distribution and gain inside sources in the cartels. Other U.S. arms sales to Mexico have also turned up in the hands of cartels, and private sales, not being very carefully regulated, are booming as well.

The programs have since been revealed and been heavily criticized in the U.S. (by the same people who oppose the UN Treaty). The Senators’ indictment of the treaty, though, is likely to further undermine arms interdiction and gun control efforts in that region. Contradictions hardly matter when one is talking about the Second Amendment (or how the Iranians can’t be trusted to be left to their own devices – though other countries can).

The Second Amendment advocates are noticeably silent on a global Second Amendment (as that would undermine U.S. security), and for an American right so insistent about transparency (even demanding the President’s birth certificate), the possibility for greater transparency in the international arms trade is not even being mentioned.

“We’re told that in order to control the illegal trade, all states must control the legal firearms trade,” an NRA official fumed, clearly missing the fact that the two are indeed related by the way the defense industry (and defense ministries) work. The American right is quick to jump on the Founding Fathers’ statements on gun control, but equally quick to ignore Republican President Eisenhower’s warning about the military-industrial complex’s destruction of U.S. liberties.

But Eisenhower is old hat. Anti-internationalism (and anti-federalism) are the norm for the American right’s arguments against arms control of any kind, at home or abroad. The American right actually takes mutually assured destruction (which, ironically, was a term coined during the Eisenhower administration) as the rationale for blocking arms controls, from guns to nukes. A typical example of this logic comes from an anti-gun control article in The National Review. The piece, written in response to the July 2011 terror attacks in Norway, argues that things could have been different there if the victims had also been carrying around shotguns and assault rifles.

“Better a shoot-out than a massacre!” wrote one commenter on the article.

That seems to be the logic driving opposition to regulating the international arms trade. It’s hard to say who is more hypocritical here, the Obama administration, Congress, the American right, or the permanent members of the UN Security Council. The confluence of hypocrisy here will probably kill any chance this treaty has of limiting the trillion-dollar global arms trade most often paid for by those who don’t have access to arms not because of the laws conservatives rail against, but because the buyers are so often agents of greater powers.

Paul Mutter is a graduate student at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at NYU and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.

CIA Vaccination Program to Catch Bin Laden Makes Middle-East Even More Suspicious of Vaccinations

CIA polioSince the global anti-polio campaign was launched in 1988, the number of polio cases has dropped by more than 99 percent. As of now, only Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan still suffer from the spread of polio. Supporters of the anti-polio campaign estimated that the elimination of polio would produce a net benefit of $40 billion — $50 billion by 2035. However, the global anti-polio campaign has recently been complicated by the scandal that the CIA ran an operation to verify Osama bin Laden’s location by gathering DNA samples through a false-flag hepatitis B vaccination program. This incident also further complicates the already strained U.S.-Pakistan relationship after it was uncovered that a Washington nonprofit funnels money from Pakistan’s spy agency to lobby Congress on Kashmir.

Resistance to vaccination gained much momentum in the wake of 9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror. In Nigeria and Pakistan, at least, Muslim clerics have taken on roles to spread rumors that America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were part of a wider war on Islam. In 2003, religious leaders in Nigeria led the resistance to vaccination campaigns by spreading rumors that the shots were in fact sterilization drugs, part of a Western conspiracy to reduce African birthrates. In 2007, Taliban clerics in Pakistan also joined the anti-vaccination campaigns. Resistance also developed in extremely poor areas in Uttar Pradesh in India. It took a tremendous effort from the World Health Organization to reach out to religious authorities to dismiss these misconceptions.

And now these efforts are jeopardized by the CIA’s polio vaccine plot in Pakistan.

According to a Guardian report, the CIA worked with Shakil Afridi, a surgeon in Khyber Agency—a tribal agency that borders Afghanistan to the east—to lure families in for hepatitis B vaccinations. In addition to giving the shots, the medical team collected DNA from the blood of the patients. To make the vaccine drive seem less suspicious, Afridi even started in a poorer part of town before moving to Abbottabad.

The vaccination plan was conceived after American intelligence officers tracked an al-Qaeda courier…to what turned out to be bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound last summer.

The agency…wanted confirmation that bin Laden was there before mounting a risky operation inside another country. DNA from any of the Bin Laden children in the compound could be compared with a sample from his sister, who died in Boston in 2010, to provide evidence that the family was present.

According to The Washington Post, American officials are defending this operation, not denying it. An unnamed senior U.S. official was quoted:

People need to put this into some perspective. The vaccination campaign was part of the hunt for the world’s top terrorist, and nothing else. If the United States hadn’t shown this kind of creativity, people would be scratching their heads asking why it hadn’t used all tools at its disposal to find bin Laden.

There have been mixed reactions to the CIA’s vaccine plot and Pakistan’s growing domestic resistance to polio vaccination that may prompt ripple effects in the Muslim world. Doctors Without Borders, for instance, condemned the “use of medical aid for military objectives.” As the organization’s president Unni Karunakara said on July 14, “Whether the story is true or not, the mere suggestion that the provision of medical care was carried out under false pretences damages public perception of the true purpose of medical action. With all populations in crisis, it is challenging enough for health agencies and humanitarian aid workers to gain access to, and the trust of, communities, especially populations already skeptical of the motives of any outside assistance.” He went on to criticize the CIA: “Deceptive use of medical care also endangers those who provide legitimate and essential health services. Furthermore, carrying out an act of no therapeutic or preventative benefit purely for military or intelligence purposes violates medical ethics, which require acting solely on the needs of patients and doing no harm.”

Walt Orenstein, polio director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is concerned that “if we fail, if we take the pressure off, we will see a major resurgence [in polio cases].”

The vaccine plot, despite the success of the bin Laden mission overall, may yield more losses than gains in the long run. Vaccination campaigns must reach virtually 100 percent of a population to prevent pockets of resistance from emerging. To achieve this, public trust is immensely important to make healthy people agree to preventative medicine treatment. What further complicates the matter is that Pakistan recently dissolved its Ministry of Health, leaving international health programs to negotiate directly with local leaders about disease prevention. The CIA injudiciously burned the bridges that took many years to build, and this time it may take a longer time to repair.

Shiran Shen, a senior honors political science student at Swarthmore College, works as a research intern at the Foreign Policy In Focus program.

Bottom of the “Bucket” List: the Manhattan Project National Historical Park

We’re living in a time when infrastructure and WPA-type projects would be balm to an ailing economy. As welcome as they are, ideally they should hold out the promise of being both profitable and socially redeeming. Here’s one that fulfills neither requirement.

On July 13 Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, reported the Atomic Heritage Foundation in its newsletter, recommended the “designation” (authorization, presumably) of a Manhattan Project National Park. It would be located in the three main sites of the massive U.S. effort to develop nuclear weapons during World War II: Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Hanford, Washington; and Los Alamos, New Mexico.

In 2003 the Atomic Heritage Foundation, after years of lobbying, first recommended the park to Congress. In 2004 Congress passed legislation mandating that the Secretary of the Interior undertake an evaluation of the project. Apparently, all the requirements have been met.

Among the “Signature Facilities of the Manhattan Project” at Oak Ridge are the graphite reactor and gaseous diffusion plant. At Hanford, the first industrial-scale reactor to produce plutonium. At Los Alamos, the site where the plutonium bomb was developed had already been restored by a federal grant in 2006. Now the Foundation seeks to preserve the Gun Site, where the uranium, “gun”-model bomb was tested.

Wait, there’s more. Oak Ridge may even feature the guest house where General Leslie Groves (director of the Manhattan Project), Secretary of War Henry Stimson, and J. Robert Oppenheimer (director of the Manhattan Project’s secret weapons laboratory) stayed. At Los Alamos, not only the Fuller Lodge, the social center of the Manhattan Project, but the house where Oppenheimer’s family lived will be restored.

Once they catch wind of this, how will you get your kids to settle for Disney World, Busch Gardens, or Sea World? “Mommy, is the Manhattan Project National Park finished yet?”

It’s always a mistake to assume that much of the public favors the United States leading the way on disarmament when other states retain nuclear weapons. But you can be fairly certain that the public either lacks knowledge of the extent to which nuclear weapons still exist since the end of the Cold War or it locks said existence in a tiny room in its mind. In other words, isn’t the Manhattan Project National Park a vast investment of money in an attraction for an audience that’s strictly niche?

Oh, and Richard Rhodes (author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb and three succeeding books composing a nuclear-weapons quartet): you’re not helping matters. From the newsletter.

Richard Rhodes … reflected, “The Manhattan Project was a great work of human collaboration that has almost mythic proportions in its scale and ambition. Discovery of how to release the enormous energies latent in the nuclei of the atom has improved the quality of life and made world-scale war no longer possible-reason enough to preserve and commemorate this history.”

Perhaps aware that the subject matter is not only threatening, but dry, for the average family, the Atomic Heritage Foundation rolled out other selling points.

The Manhattan Project’s multifaceted story embraces aspects of the nation’s scientific, industrial, military, economic, social and cultural history. Its participants were a culturally diverse group. Recent immigrants to the United States who fled anti-Semitism in Europe were among the leading scientists. The 130,000 work force included young women from the South who had just graduated from high school … as well as numerous Hispanics, Native Americans and African-Americans.

Here, though, is easily the most specious aspect of the project that the Foundation features.

The coming of a Manhattan Project National Historical Park should be a financial as well as a cultural benefit to the communities where the sites are located. Every dollar of taxpayer funds spent on national parks generates four dollars in additional economic benefit through tourism and private-sector spending. For some locations, the returns are even greater. An annual federal appropriation of $7.1 million to Acadia National Park in Maine generates annual visitor spending of $137 million. An annual federal appropriation of $15.8 million for Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado generates $193 million in annual visitor spending.

To even suggest that the Manhattan Project National Historical Park annual investment would generate returns in anywhere close to Acadia National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park beggars credulity. Their desperation is apparent.

If the Atomic Heritage Foundation had any sense, it would accept the lifeline being thrown it by Representative Dennis Kucinich. On July 20, he provided it with a graceful way to bow out, especially in light of Fukushima, as you’ll see. From a press release at his House website (thanks to Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group for the heads up).

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a longtime advocate for peace and nuclear non-proliferation, today made the following statement on reports that some would like to name a new national park in honor of the Manhattan Project, the secret program to develop nuclear bombs.

“We’re approaching the anniversary of the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It would be much more fitting if instead of celebrating the Manhattan Project, we would see a park dedicated to Japanese-American friendship which would include an acknowledgement of not only the development of the bomb but of the graphic, devastating and enduring violence that the those bombs wrought on the Japanese people in 1945 and on the world everyday thereafter. … This is especially significant to the Japanese people who have recently suffered yet another disaster facilitated by nuclear technology.”

As you can see that’s no way for the Manhattan Project National Historical Park to save face. In fact raising the specter of U.S. guilt for what the Manhattan Project wrought is a slap in the face. You could say subtlety is not one of Rep. Kucinich’s strong points, but it’s obvious he was trying to rub the Atomic Heritage Foundation’s face in it.

At best the Manhattan Project National Historical Park is one of those boring school trips that kids in the area are forced to take. Actually, once protective parents get wind of it, the trip may be aborted lest it scar youthful sensibilities. (Not for nothing, but the last thing those of us who grew up in the 50s and 60s with the specter of nuclear war want is for our children or grandchildren to be subjected to those fears.)

Meanwhile, a visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is meaningful for the young. But Manhattan Project National Historical Park commemorates the mechanism of destruction. It’s as if an auxiliary museum to the National Holocaust Museum were built that was a monument to IG Farben, the German chemical conglomerate that developed the cyanide Zyklon B used to slaughter Jews in death camps.

Don’t Believe Defense Cuts Until You See Them

Cross-posted from the Dissent Magazine blog Arguing the World.

One upshot of the debt-ceiling debate is that politicians might finally be ready to trim the outrageously bloated U.S. military budget. That’s the story, anyway, being told by the Washington Post. The paper reported: “[A]s lawmakers and the White House move closer to a grand bargain that could reshape the country’s fiscal priorities, Pentagon budget planners are…girding for the possibility that they will have to reduce projected spending by as much as $800 billion over the next 12 years.”

Certainly, it would make sense, in a time when conservatives are insisting on austerity, that the military—a huge and pork-laden area of discretionary spending—would be on the table. But there’s a good rule of thumb about defense cuts: Don’t believe them until you see them.

The Nation’s Robert Dreyfuss is optimistic that real cuts will be in the offing. In a piece entitled, “Defense on the Chopping Block,” he wrote: “Now, it appears that Obama is backing cuts as much as $886 billion, and that might just be an opening bid.” Of hawkish conservatives who are warning against reductions in Pentagon spending, Dreyfuss wrote:

It’s okay to laugh at their contention that the military is being ‘stretched thin’ after a decade of unbridled expansion and a doubling of military spending since 2000, not even counting Iraq and Afghanistan. But they’re right that cuts are coming.

This argument is one that Dreyfuss has been making throughout the year. In January, he suggested that “deficit-minded Republicans and the incoming class of Tea Party types” would result in squeezed military budgets, and again in March he contended that a “politics of debt and deficit reduction [that] has taken hold in Washington, tied to an economic crisis that has convinced many that the United States can no longer afford an oversized Pentagon,” will force down defense spending.

Again, this position seems plausible. But, in practice, talk of cuts to the military has a way of evaporating when it comes time for appropriations. There are several reasons for continuing skepticism.

First, the military and its hawkish defenders are very effective at pulling a sleight of hand with their budget projections. Every year, the Pentagon puts in a request for a big funding increase. Then, if politicians offer anything less than that, the hawks portray it as a cut.

We saw this with Paul Ryan’s budget proposal. The media highlighted conservative willingness to slash even sacrosanct programs, and the Republican proposal supposedly included billions in cuts that had been preemptively proposed by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Yet, as the libertarian Cato Institute pointed out in frustration, the budget in question was only a “cut” in the sense that it did not fully fund every item on the military’s wish list. It actually proposed an $8 billion increase in the Pentagon base budget over the previous year.

The bill that ended up passing the conservative-controlled chamber showed even less restraint. On July 8, after a year of Tea Party ascendancy, the House passed a defense appropriations bill that included a $17 billion budget increase for the Pentagon. So much for austerity.

Viewed in this light, a quote Dreyfuss included in his March article is revealing:

“Five years from now, we’ll turn around and the defense budget will be a lot lower than we thought it was going to be five years ago, and we’ll look back and say, Wow,” says Gordon Adams, a Stimson Center fellow and American University professor who’s been analyzing military spending for four decades.

If you read carefully, you’ll notice that “a lot lower than we thought it was going to be” does not necessarily entail actual cuts. It could just as easily mean slower increases.

The politics of defense pork make this latter outcome the more likely of the two. Many Republicans fervently denounced stimulus spending by the Obama administration and campaigned last fall against socialistic government jobs programs. But when it comes to federal funding for defense contractors and military bases in their home districts, they quickly turn around and paint any stemming of government dollars as unwise and unpatriotic. I noted one example in an article I wrote for the Guardian in February:

Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon of California, for instance, attacked White House stimulus spending, arguing, ‘Congressional Democrats and the administration continue to insist that we can spend our way out of this recession and create jobs, but the numbers just don’t add up.’ Yet in 2010 alone, he secured $24.2m in defense earmarks for his district, which includes the city of Palmdale, known as the ‘aerospace capital of America,’ where over 9,000 employees rely on Pentagon largesse for their jobs.

It’s not just long-time defense boosters like McKeon. In May, a Capitol Hill Blue headline read, “Tea Party-backed GOP freshmen pack defense bill with pork.” The article highlighted the actions of Illinois Representative Bobby Schilling, who pushed for $2.5 million in weapons and technology funding for the Rock Island Arsenal—a facility in his district—even after having criticized his Democratic opponent in last year’s election for directing funds to the very same institution. Likewise, after Missouri Representative Vicky Hartzler pushed for $20 million for her district’s Whiteman Air Force Base, she claimed that she didn’t think the ban on earmarks she promoted during her campaign applied to Pentagon spending.

Think Progress noted other similar examples of hypocrisy from elected officials that had been backed by the Tea Party and cited Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank’s observation that “It was probably inevitable that [grassroots] Tea Party activists would be betrayed, but the speed with which congressional Republicans have reverted to business-as-usual has been impressive.”

On a final note, it’s important to recognize that, while numbers like $400 billion or $800 billion sound big, proposed defense cuts of this magnitude are spread out over ten to twelve year periods. In that same time span, the Pentagon base budget alone will total well over $5 trillion, and that does not include trillions more that will go toward veterans benefits, nuclear weapons, and wars the country is actually fighting. (Appropriations for conflicts like those in Iraq and Afghanistan are not included in the base budget.) What’s more, there’s no guarantee that something like a 10 percent budget reduction would ever be carried out. Long-term plans for budget cuts often delay the most painful, difficult, and significant cuts until the back end of their schedules—when current policymakers will be least accountable for making them real.

For all these reasons, talk by right-wingers about extending their demands for fiscal discipline even to the military warrants skepticism. When it comes to reining in the Pentagon, seeing is believing.

Mark Engler is a senior analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus and author of How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy (Nation Books, 2008). He can be reached via the website Democracy Uprising.

Jeju Island Activist Sung-Hee Choi Interviewed in Prison

Jeju Island protestors(Pictured: Protesters obstructing construction trucks on Jeju Island.)

Last week, I had the honor of going to prison. I was conducting research on South Korea’s beautiful Jeju Island, off the country’s southern coast, and was lucky enough to be one of the two people per day allowed to speak with the renowned imprisoned activist Sung-Hee Choi.

Choi was arrested for her attempts to prevent the construction of a naval base in Jeju’s Gangjeong Village, a base that many suspect would become a new port for the U.S. Navy. Despite the opposition of people like Choi, who has repeatedly laid her body in front of construction equipment, the South Korean government has been trying to create a base on Jeju since at least 2002, on an island that South Korea has declared, no less, an “Island of Peace.” Twice already, protestors have forced the government to find another construction site.

In the newest site, Gangjeong, where thousands of tons worth of construction supplies sit near the water, the base would pave over a delicate and rare volcanic beachfront, endanger local marine life, and destroy the heart of a beautiful seaside village. For five years, Gangjeong’s people have been struggling to stop the base.

Over the weekend, hundreds of South Korean police started assembling around Gangjeong in what villagers feared would be an imminent attempt to evict them by force from their permanent seaside protest site. This week, after protestors chained themselves to trees to block a police front hoe, the arrival of several politicians appears to have reduced tensions and forced the police, at least temporarily, to halt their eviction plans.

The following are Sung-Hee Choi’s words from our conversation last Thursday. I have lightly edited the transcript for ease of reading. Tomorrow morning, I return to Jeju to monitor the ongoing standoff with Sung-Hee’s powerful words still fresh in my mind.

SUNG-HEE CHOI: The United States and South Korea use military exercises in the Asia-Pacific region that are aimed against China not North Korea. There is big evidence that the United States will want the Jeju naval base, even though this is officially denied every time: They say, “This is not a U.S. naval base. This is a South Korean base.” So this is really a trick. They are really deceiving people. There is no problem for the U.S. military to use it. First, the U.S. and South Korean mutual defense treaty, which was signed in 1954, allows the United States to use of all South Korean military facilities. Second, the SOFA [Status of Forces Agreement] facilities are really meant for the U.S. military. Third, the U.S. military strategic flexibility policy under which South Korea has allowed U.S. forces in Korea to assume expanding regional and global roles beyond deterring North Korea.

The United States military can clearly use any South Korean base.

It is not only the military, but also corporations like Samsung and Daerim that are benefiting from the building of the base. It is not only a military part, but also the commercial part. What I am afraid about is the entrance of fascism in the whole island.

DAVID VINE: Fascism?

SUNG-HEE: Yes, fascism. Yes. In the mainland, and now Jeju island is being dominated by Samsung.

A base on Jeju would be a tragedy for Jeju Island and its people, because of what they have already experienced in 1948, when the South Korean military massacred 40,000 [accused communists].

Jeju’s people’s history is one of struggling against outside powers: the United States and Japan. U.S. military weapons [were involved in the massacre] just a few years after the South Korean liberation from Japan. Jeju’s own identity is constant. Jeju has been the victim of the outside powers.

Why are we still struggling? Not only for the environment, but also for the history of the Jeju island and South Korea, which have been struggling against the powerful countries.

Another thing that I am thinking is that, day by day, Jeju island is a red button for the United States military. The United States already occupies all of the region that it covets. The United States already occupies Hawai’i, Okinawa, Philippines—or, they used to. Now they want to occupy Jeju island. This is a peace island. This is for peace. Now the vision of the peace activists here is for keeping the island as a real peace island.

Brother Song [a fellow activist] and [former Jeju Governor] Shin Goo-beom have tried to find alternatives for villagers for how to develop Gangjeong village for our future generation. One option is to build a UN Peace School. They are all talking about this. And also the chairman and the villagers’ committee, they are all talking about this. That needs to be our vision. That needs to be our ultimate goal. That is a concrete vision to create a real peace school for future generations in Jeju island.

And I really hope that you can talk about how the villagers are suffering. How they love their hometown. I really hope that you will please communicate how the islands in the Asia-Pacific region are now a target of an empire base for the United States.

DAVID: Why do you think there are so many people who are so dedicated to the struggle? Like yourself. People willing to go to jail. People willing to go on hunger strikes. There are many anti-base movements but people seem to be very passionate, and I wonder why—either personally for yourself or for others—you think people are so dedicated, so strong in their opposition?

SUNG-HEE: As I have written before, I feel a responsibility to talk for the voiceless animals and creatures who cannot speak. Second, for our future generations who will be the victims of war if we don’t stop the base. I think the villagers love their hometown so much. It is their hometown. They love it so much.

It is about love. It is about a love that cannot speak. It is about the sea that cannot speak. It is about the creatures who cannot speak aloud. We are basically talking about, we are basically talking….

And then, an automated voice and background music abruptly cut Sung-Hee off, announcing that our time had expired and instructing visitors to leave quickly. Sung-Hee grabbed her pen and the scrap of paper next to her and furiously wrote a few final words. She held the paper briefly up to the glass between us before a guard took her away. The paper read:

It is about love for the people who cannot speak now.

It is about love.

David Vine is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at American University in Washington, DC, and the author of Island of Shame: The Secret History of the U.S. Military Base on Diego Garcia (Princeton University Press).

Breivik’s Qutb

Al Qaeda leaders such as Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Anwar al-Awlaki fell under the spell of the prolific Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood author Sayyid Qutb who called for Islamic fundamentalism, holy war, and martyrdom. Oslo shooter-bomber Anders Behring Breivik apparently had his own Qutb, who grease the skids to his attacks on civilians. At American Prospect, Adam Serwer writes that

Walid Shoebat, a “terrorism expert” with a dubious background who was paid by the U.S. government to train law enforcement in counterterrorism, is … cited in the manifesto of Anders Behring Breivik … more than 15 times. Brevik cites Shoebat to support his arguments that immigration from Muslim countries threatens the West.

Shoebat, Serwer adds, “is also a columnist for the right-wing birther website WorldNetDaily.” Sterling credentials indeed.

There will be those on the left who will ask where is the sorrow and wringing of hands when Muslim children are killed both by the Taliban and U.S.-NATO forces in Afghanistan. Like Sunday, when a British helicopter gunship wounded five children for the crime, according to the Telegraph, of “working in a field close to ‘positively identified insurgents.”

Of course, the attack on the Utoya youth camp approached Beslan proportions. Aside from that, out of respect for the dead, now is not the time to guilt-trip those who ignore the deaths of Muslim children. Especially since, in the United States anyway, it’s only natural to sympathize with Norwegians since, in the 1800s, many of them emigrated to the United States and helped settle the heartland.

Of course, the real insult to Muslims was on the part of those in the media who jumped to the conclusion that it was an attack by Muslims extremists. Which brings us to the question of why, if he were opposed to Muslim immigration and “multiculturalism,” he didn’t attack Muslims. I’m sure it’s hidden in his manifesto but I’ll leave poring over it to those with stronger stomachs.

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