The dangers of life as a Muslim leader in the United States weren’t all that drove Anwar al-Awlaki the flee the country.
Awlaki had a secret life involving American motels. (Photo: the Telegraph)
Anwar al-Awlaki, the first American citizen killed without trial by the U.S. government in decades, is arguably the most influential and beloved teacher of Islam and, later, jihadist in recent years. In the New York Times magazine, Scott Shane writes about both his 53-CD series on the life of Muhammad and his domination of YouTube, in one of which he explains why Muslims must kill Americans. He was a favorite of Nidal Hassan, the Fort Hood shooter, and Umar Farouk Abulmutallab, would-be airline bomber.
But if both mainstream and extremist Muslims knew the true Awlaki, their esteem for him might not have been so high. Before we get ahead of ourselves, from Shane’s piece:
In fact, Awlaki’s pronouncements seem to carry greater authority today than when he was living, because America killed him. On Sept. 30, 2011, the day that Obama announced Awlaki’s death, many Islamic websites attached the word ‘‘martyrdom’’ to this news. … [His] rich afterlife on the web raises disturbing questions: Is Awlaki as dangerous — perhaps even more dangerous — dead than alive?
Last year it was reported that the Islamic State captured Syrian fighter planes.
A Syrian MiG similar to those allegedly captured by the Islamic State. (Photo: Airforce-technology.com)
In October 2014, Ewen MacAskill reported in the Guardian: Islamic State training pilots to fly MiG fighter planes, says monitoring group.
Islamic State (Isis) is takings its first steps towards building an air force by training pilots to fly captured fighter planes, according to … the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). … Rami Abdulrahman, who runs the British-based group, said Isis has trainers who had gained experience in the Iraqi air force under former president Saddam Hussein [and that witnesses].
… The monitoring group reported witnesses saying the planes flying low over Aleppo recently appeared to be MiG 21s or MiG 23s and had taken off from and returned to the nearby al-Jarrah base. It added that training courses are taking place at the base.
Intelligence is still being fixed around policy, but this time about the Islamic State, not Iraq.
A decade after the invasion of Iraq on false pretences, intelligence is still being tailored to preordained policy. Pictured: the Islamic State’s de facto capital, Raqqa, Syria. (Photo: Beshr / Flickr Commons)
Apparently U.S. intelligence and military officials have been pressuring terrorism analysts to turn the pig’s ear of news about the Islamic State into a silk purse. At the Daily Beast, Shane Harris and Nancy Youssef write:
Analysts have been pushed to portray the group as weaker than the analysts believe it actually is, according to these sources, and to paint an overly rosy picture about how well the U.S.-led effort to defeat the group is going.
… Two defense officials said that some felt the commander for intelligence at CENTCOM failed to keep political pressures from Washington from bearing on lower-level analysts at command headquarters in Tampa, Florida.
… Reports that have been deemed too pessimistic about the efficacy of the American-led campaign, or that have questioned whether a U.S.-trained Iraqi military can ultimately defeat ISIS, have been sent back down through the chain of command or haven’t been shared with senior policymakers, several analysts alleged.
It was one thing to establish a peace group in Poland or Hungary during the Communist era, another entirely in East Germany.
The Pankow Peace interpreted peace to include pedagogy, economic development, and environmentalism. Pictured: Ruth Misselwitz, a founder. (Photo: John Feffer)
Cross-posted from JohnFeffer.com.
It was one thing to establish an independent peace group in Poland or Hungary during the last decade of the Communist era. Freedom and Peacechallenged military service in Poland, where there was a long tradition of independent organizing. In Hungary, perhaps the most liberal country in the region outside of Yugoslavia, Dialogus opposed nuclear weapons on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Both groups experienced their share of surveillance and harassment.
But organizing in East Germany was something else. Dissidents were put on trial, thrown in jail, and often kicked out of the country against their will. The Stasi kept a tight watch on everything.
That’s why the story of the Pankow Peace Group is so remarkable. Organized in the Pankow neighborhood of East Berlin in 1981, the group not only took bold positions on nuclear issues but interpreted peace more broadly to include pedagogy, economic development, and environmentalism.
Laudato Si’, the papal encyclical letter written by Pope Francis, is helping to move global warming to the forefront of the world’s consciousness.
The fearless that Pope Francis displayed in his papal encyclical letter on global warming flies in the face of cynicism that many experience about institutions. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Recent years have exposed the emptiness of the free market ideology — arguably a theology — and U.S. intervention. In turn American voters have staged some dramatic about-faces: from George W. Bush to Barack Obama (or our idealized version of him before he proceeded to continue and even double-down on — surveillance — some of Bush’s policies); from Scott Brown to Elizabeth Warren; and Mike Bloomberg to Bill de Blasio. But none of these can compare with the series of popes culminating in the ossified Benedict XVI to Francis, who didn’t take long to reveal himself as a champion of the dispossessed (and I’m speaking as a former Catholic to whom no love was lost on the church).
The Islamic State isn’t going anywhere soon.
The political will to dismantle the Islamic State is lacking.
(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
At the end of last month, after lengthy negotiations, Turkey consented to U.S. use of its bases to mount strikes against the Islamic State. At the National Interest, Micah Zenko writes:
This latest development was characterized as a “game-changer” by a senior Obama administration official, in particular for more intensive bombing of the Islamic State in northern Syria. Rather than flying from carriers or Persian Gulf bases, flying out of Incirlik significantly increases the time that coalition strike aircraft can loiter above Islamic State-controlled territories and, potentially, provide close air support for coalition-backed opposition forces on the ground, including the Pentagon-trained rebels that entered Syria on July 12.
Despite how much more precise they have become, the amount of civilian casualties that nuclear weapons would cause will forever subvert their legitimacy.
Nuclear weapons can never fulfill the requirements of just war theory. (Photo: John Parie / U.S. Air Force)
Whether or not one supports a state’s development and deployment of a nuclear weapons program, it’s tough to argue that nukes don’t represent, to one degree or another, overkill. In the course of doing research for a book I’m writing about an element of nuclear weapons and disarmament, I had occasion to reach much of a book published in 1986 titled Nuclear War: the Moral Dimension.
Despite the ongoing islands dispute, Japan and China are growing closer.
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been taking constructive measures to ease tensions with China since late 2014. (Photo: Flickr Commons)
(The views presented are not necessarily those of Focal Points.)
By reiterating Japan’s “unshakable” apology for World War II and legalizing the necessary enhancements to operate its Self-Defense Forces like a normal national armed force of a state, Shinzo Abe (Prime Minister 2006-7, 2012-present) has done a meritorious job to consummate Japan’s statehood, thus enabling the Japan-China relation to move on to another stage of collaboration in due course.
For as long as two decades after the Treaty of Peace and Friendship was sealed by Takeo Fukuda (PM 1976-8) and Deng Xiaoping in 1978, Japan and China maintained a smooth working relation, particularly in trade and fixed investments. Despite the ongoing islands dispute, a joint statement was issued in June 2008 at the Tokyo summit between Yasuo Fukuda (PM 2007-8) and Hu Jintao (President 2003-13) to attest their commitment in working out a joint East China Sea development scheme. Anticipation was actually high for a deal. “Rumors circulated in early February (2008) that a breakthrough was close … that the dispute might be nearing some kind of resolution”. Details of two scenarios regarding the Chunxiao complex, median line and names of the selected oil exploitation corporations as the terms of the resolution were disclosed [Note 1].
To Vaclav Havel, government wasn’t about a well-oiled economy or keeping the streets safe and clean, but whether the system allowed people to live with integrity.
Polish philosopher Zbigniew Szawarski felt that a new totalitarianism, a product of Solidarity and the Catholic Church, replaced Communist totalitarianism. (Photo: John Feffer)
Some of the most powerful critiques of the Communist governments in East-Central Europe were moral. Vaclav Havel, for instance, argued that the regimes, with their propaganda and inequalities and corruption, were built on a foundation of lies. He proposed the alternative of “living in truth,” which in its rejection of collaborating with a system of lies was at its essence a moral act. It wasn’t, in other words, a question of whether the system worked, in terms of delivering the economic goods or keeping the streets safe and clean. The question was whether the system allowed people to live with integrity. Havel and other dissidents tried to do so and were thrown into jail for their efforts.
Those who collaborated with the system may once have done so out of political commitment. But by the 1970s and 1980s, collaboration was more a function of opportunism. Party membership came with certain benefits. And those who didn’t agree with the system but also didn’t speak out against it were preserving whatever privileges they enjoyed, even if it was only the privilege of not being in jail. This was the moral critique of dissidents like Havel.
Historic sites serve every purpose to the Islamic State except actual preservation of cultural heritage.
The Islamic State alternately destroys and loots historic sites. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
The beheading by the Islamic State of “Mr. Palmyra,” Khalid al-Asaad, the retired chief of antiquities for historic Syrian site, Palmyra was the latest insult to both the citizens and the cultural heritage of the territory it conquers. It should be noted that it’s thought that Asaad was first tortured, but apparently refused to reveal the whereabouts of certain antiquities that the Islamic State sought.
Asaad’s execution follows on the heels of two historic tombs in Palmyra that the Islamic State blew up in June. To the Islamic State, historic sites serve three functions.