Saturday, July 09, 2005

London, Sheep

1) Concerning the implications of the London bombings, here is a fine analysis of political reactions on the right wing following the London bombings, especially concerning the "war on terrorism." Go to their link for further links and the full analysis:

http://www.prwatch.org/node/3833

Rhetoric vs. Reality in London
Submitted by Sheldon Rampton on Fri, 07/08/2005 - 23:09.

Topics: Iraq

Emergency services surround the wreckage of a bus ripped apart as part of a coordinated terrorist attack in London in July 2005. Source: BBC News via WikipediaI've had the pleasure of visiting London on several occasions. I've ridden the subways and walked the streets where Thursday's awful terrorist attacks occurred. I have nothing but sympathy for the innocent people who were slaughtered, and nothing but contempt for the perpetrators of these crimes. According to pro-war bloggers like Jeff Jarvis, however, people like me belong to the "bomb-us-please crowd."

This sort of dishonest rhetoric, sprinkled with name-calling, seems to be the best response that supporters of the war have been able to muster in response to George Galloway, a British member of parliament and prominent anti-war voice. Following the attacks, Galloway issued a statement in which he expressed condolences to the victims before pointing out that he had predicted previously "that the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq would increase the threat of terrorist attack in Britain." Galloway called on his own government "to remove people in this country from harms way, as the Spanish government acted to remove its people from harm, by ending the occupation of Iraq and by turning its full attention to the development of a real solution to the wider conflicts in the Middle East."

Jarvis dismissed these comments as "idiocy," adding that they were "stupid, just stupid." Other pro-war bloggers called Galloway "a damn fool," "sub-human," "insane," "pro-fascist filth," a "traitor" and "friend of Saddam Hussein" who should "at least have waited until the victims were identified and buried before engaging in such cheap political opportunism."

When it comes to "cheap opportunism," though, the right wing's own response to the bombings is hard to top. Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit recommended the "analysis" of pro-war blogger Bill Roggio, who thought the London attack "works to the West's advantage" because it would dominate attention at the G8 summit, "sideline issues that drained resources and attention for the West, such as Global Warming and African debt relief," prompt a tightening of "Europe’s immigration and asylum laws," and "give President Bush and Prime Minister Blair the opportunity to restate the case that al Qaeda is actively being engaged in Iraq."

Notice Roggio's use of the word "opportunity." If it is "opportunistic" to oppose the war on the occasion of a terrorist attack, isn't it equally opportunistic to see the attack as a chance to promote the war along with a handful of your other pet causes?...




2) Former British Foreign Minister Robin Cook says it very well, with great eloquence:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/terrorism/story/0,12780,1523838,00.html
-----------------------------------------------------The struggle against terrorism cannot be won by military means

The G8 must seize the opportunity to address the wider
issues at the root of such atrocities

Robin Cook
Friday July 8, 2005
The Guardian

I have rarely seen the Commons so full and so silent
as when it met yesterday to hear of the London
bombings. A forum that often is raucous and rowdy was
solemn and grave. A chamber that normally is a bear
pit of partisan emotions was united in shock and
sorrow. Even Ian Paisley made a humane plea to the
press not to repeat the offence that occurred in
Northern Ireland when journalists demanded comment
from relatives before they were informed that their
loved ones were dead.
The immediate response to such human tragedy must be
empathy with the pain of those injured and the grief
of those bereaved. We recoil more deeply from loss of
life in such an atrocity because we know the
unexpected disappearance of partners, children and
parents must be even harder to bear than a natural
death. It is sudden, and therefore there is no
farewell or preparation for the blow. Across London
today there are relatives whose pain may be more acute
because they never had the chance to offer or hear
last words of affection.

It is arbitrary and therefore an event that changes
whole lives, which turn on the accident of momentary
decisions. How many people this morning ask themselves
how different it might have been if their partner had
taken the next bus or caught an earlier tube?

But perhaps the loss is hardest to bear because it is
so difficult to answer the question why it should have
happened. This weekend we will salute the heroism of
the generation that defended Britain in the last war.
In advance of the commemoration there have been many
stories told of the courage of those who risked their
lives and sometimes lost their lives to defeat
fascism. They provide moving, humbling examples of
what the human spirit is capable, but at least the
relatives of the men and women who died then knew what
they were fighting for. What purpose is there to
yesterday's senseless murders? Who could possibly
imagine that they have a cause that might profit from
such pointless carnage?

At the time of writing, no group has surfaced even to
explain why they launched the assault. Sometime over
the next few days we may be offered a website entry or
a video message attempting to justify the impossible,
but there is no language that can supply a rational
basis for such arbitrary slaughter. The explanation,
when it is offered, is likely to rely not on reason
but on the declaration of an obsessive fundamentalist
identity that leaves no room for pity for victims who
do not share that identity.

Yesterday the prime minister described the bombings as
an attack on our values as a society. In the next few
days we should remember that among those values are
tolerance and mutual respect for those from different
cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Only the day before,
London was celebrating its coup in winning the Olympic
Games, partly through demonstrating to the world the
success of our multicultural credentials. Nothing
would please better those who planted yesterday's
bombs than for the atrocity to breed suspicion and
hostility to minorities in our own community.
Defeating the terrorists also means defeating their
poisonous belief that peoples of different faiths and
ethnic origins cannot coexist.

In the absence of anyone else owning up to yesterday's
crimes, we will be subjected to a spate of articles
analysing the threat of militant Islam. Ironically
they will fall in the same week that we recall the
tenth anniversary of the massacre at Srebrenica, when
the powerful nations of Europe failed to protect 8,000
Muslims from being annihilated in the worst terrorist
act in Europe of the past generation.

Osama bin Laden is no more a true representative of
Islam than General Mladic, who commanded the Serbian
forces, could be held up as an example of
Christianity. After all, it is written in the Qur'an
that we were made into different peoples not that we
might despise each other, but that we might understand
each other.

Bin Laden was, though, a product of a monumental
miscalculation by western security agencies.
Throughout the 80s he was armed by the CIA and funded
by the Saudis to wage jihad against the Russian
occupation of Afghanistan. Al-Qaida, literally "the
database", was originally the computer file of the
thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained
with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians.
Inexplicably, and with disastrous consequences, it
never appears to have occurred to Washington that once
Russia was out of the way, Bin Laden's organisation
would turn its attention to the west.

The danger now is that the west's current response to
the terrorist threat compounds that original error. So
long as the struggle against terrorism is conceived as
a war that can be won by military means, it is doomed
to fail. The more the west emphasises confrontation,
the more it silences moderate voices in the Muslim
world who want to speak up for cooperation. Success
will only come from isolating the terrorists and
denying them support, funds and recruits, which means
focusing more on our common ground with the Muslim
world than on what divides us.

The G8 summit is not the best-designed forum in which
to launch such a dialogue with Muslim countries, as
none of them is included in the core membership. Nor
do any of them make up the outer circle of select
emerging economies, such as China, Brazil and India,
which are also invited to Gleneagles. We are not going
to address the sense of marginalisation among Muslim
countries if we do not make more of an effort to be
inclusive of them in the architecture of global
governance.

But the G8 does have the opportunity in its communique
today to give a forceful response to the latest
terrorist attack. That should include a statement of
their joint resolve to hunt down those who bear
responsibility for yesterday's crimes. But it must
seize the opportunity to address the wider issues at
the root of terrorism.

In particular, it would be perverse if the focus of
the G8 on making poverty history was now obscured by
yesterday's bombings. The breeding grounds of
terrorism are to be found in the poverty of back
streets, where fundamentalism offers a false, easy
sense of pride and identity to young men who feel
denied of any hope or any economic opportunity for
themselves. A war on world poverty may well do more
for the security of the west than a war on terror.

And in the privacy of their extensive suites,
yesterday's atrocities should prompt heart-searching
among some of those present. President Bush is given
to justifying the invasion of Iraq on the grounds that
by fighting terrorism abroad, it protects the west
from having to fight terrorists at home. Whatever else
can be said in defence of the war in Iraq today, it
cannot be claimed that it has protected us from
terrorism on our soil.

r.cook@guardian.co.uk



3) Less eloquent than Cook, but makes the same point:

http://www.robert-fisk.com/

The reality of this barbaric bombing

If we are fighting insurgency in Iraq, what makes us
think insurgency won’t come to us?

By Robert Fisk - 08 July 2005

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/fisk/article297623.ece

http://www.selvesandothers.org/article10155.html

"If you bomb our cities," Osama bin Laden said in one
of his recent video tapes, "we will bomb yours." There
you go, as they say. It was crystal clear Britain
would be a target ever since Tony Blair decided to
join George Bush’s "war on terror" and his invasion of
Iraq. We had, as they say, been warned. The G8 summit
was obviously chosen, well in advance, as Attack Day.

And it’s no use Mr Blair telling us yesterday that
"they will never succeed in destroying what we hold
dear". "They" are not trying to destroy "what we hold
dear". They are trying to get public opinion to force
Blair to withdraw from Iraq, from his alliance with
the United States, and from his adherence to Bush’s
policies in the Middle East. The Spanish paid the
price for their support for Bush - and Spain’s
subsequent retreat from Iraq proved that the Madrid
bombings achieved their objectives - while the
Australians were made to suffer in Bali.

It is easy for Tony Blair to call yesterdays bombings
"barbaric" - of course they were - but what were the
civilian deaths of the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq
in 2003, the children torn apart by cluster bombs, the
countless innocent Iraqis gunned down at American
military checkpoints? When they die, it is "collateral
damage"; when "we" die, it is "barbaric terrorism".

If we are fighting insurgency in Iraq, what makes us
believe insurgency won’t come to us? One thing is
certain: if Tony Blair really believes that by
"fighting terrorism" in Iraq we could more efficiently
protect Britain - fight them there rather than let
them come here, as Bush constantly says - this
argument is no longer valid.

To time these bombs with the G8 summit, when the world
was concentrating on Britain, was not a stroke of
genius. You don’t need a PhD to choose another
Bush-Blair handshake to close down a capital city with
explosives and massacre more than 30 of its citizens.
The G8 summit was announced so far in advance as to
give the bombers all the time they needed to prepare.

A co-ordinated system of attacks of the kind we saw
yesterday would have taken months to plan - to choose
safe houses, prepare explosives, identify targets,
ensure security, choose the bombers, the hour, the
minute, to plan the communications (mobile phones are
giveaways). Co-ordination and sophisticated planning -
and the usual utter ruthlessness with regard to the
lives of the innocent - are characteristic of
al-Qa’ida. And let us not use - as our television
colleagues did yesterday - "hallmarks", a word
identified with quality silver rather than base metal.

And now let us reflect on the fact that yesterday, the
opening of the G8, so critical a day, so bloody a day,
represented a total failure of our security services -
the same intelligence "experts" who claim there were
weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when there were
none, but who utterly failed to uncover a months-long
plot to kill Londoners.

Trains, planes, buses, cars, metros. Transportation
appears to be the science of al-Qa’ida’s dark arts. No
one can search three million London commuters every
day. No one can stop every tourist. Some thought the
Eurostar might have been an al-Qa’ida target - be sure
they have studied it - but why go for prestige when
your common or garden bus and Tube train are there for
the taking.

And then come the Muslims of Britain, who have long
been awaiting this nightmare. Now every one of our
Muslims becomes the "usual suspect", the man or woman
with brown eyes, the man with the beard, the woman in
the scarf, the boy with the worry beads, the girl who
says she’s been racially abused.

I remember, crossing the Atlantic on 11 September 2001
- my plane turned round off Ireland when the US closed
its airspace - how the aircraft purser and I toured
the cabins to see if we could identify any suspicious
passengers. I found about a dozen, of course, totally
innocent men who had brown eyes or long beards or who
looked at me with "hostility". And sure enough, in
just a few seconds, Osama bin Laden turned nice,
liberal, friendly Robert into an anti-Arab racist.

And this is part of the point of yesterday’s bombings:
to divide British Muslims from British non-Muslims
(let us not mention the name Christians), to encourage
the very kind of racism that Tony Blair claims to
resent.

But here’s the problem. To go on pretending that
Britain’s enemies want to destroy "what we hold dear"
encourages racism; what we are confronting here is a
specific, direct, centralised attack on London as a
result of a "war on terror" which Lord Blair of Kut
al-Amara has locked us into. Just before the US
presidential elections, Bin Laden asked: "Why do we
not attack Sweden?"

Lucky Sweden. No Osama bin Laden there. And no Tony
Blair.



4) Here, Juan Cole examines Muslim clerical condemnations of Bin Laden and others. Go to link for further links of each example cited:

www.juancole.com

Friedman Wrong About Muslims Again
And the Amman Statement on Ecumenism

Tom Friedman is a Middle East expert who knows a lot about Islam. Why, then, does he keep saying misleading things? He wrote in his latest column, "To this day - to this day - no major Muslim cleric or religious body has ever issued a fatwa condemning Osama bin Laden."

A "fatwa" is simply a considered opinion of a Muslim jurisconsult. Such opinions are numerous. First of all, almost all the major Shiite Grand Ayatollahs have condemned Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. You could say that is easy, since Shiites don't generally like Wahhabis. But they are the leaders of 120 million Muslims (some ten percent of the 1.2 billion). So that is one. Tracking these things down is time-consuming, but this should do:
Ayatollah Muhammad Husain Fadlallah of Lebanon condemns Osama Bin Laden.

So then what about the Sunni world? The leading moral authority for Sunnis is the rector or Grand Imam of the al-Azhar Seminary/ University in Cairo, Egypt. Al-Azhar is perhaps the world's oldest continuous university and has been since the time of Saladin a major center of Sunni religious authority. The current incumbent is Shaikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi. So what about Tantawi and Bin Laden?

Grand Imam of Al-Azhar seminary, Shaikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, condemns Osamah Bin Laden. And:

The Grand Imam of al-Azhar Seminary, Shaikh Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, condemns Osamah Bin Laden.

What about Pakistan? Admittedly, it has some clerics who are fans of Bin Laden, or at least who would avoid condemning him. But the allegation Friedman is making is that no major cleric has condemned him. Try this: Prominent Pakistani Cleric Tahir ul Qadri condemns Bin Laden.

I don't personally care for Yusuf al-Qaradawi. He is an old-time Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood preacher who fled to Qatar and now has a perch at al-Jazeera. But he does have some virtues. He is enormously popular among Muslim fundamentalists. And, he absolutely despises Bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Al-Qaradawi has repeatedly condemned the latter. He even gave a fatwa that it was a duty of Muslims to fight alongside the US in Afghanistan against al-Qaeda! See also:
Yusuf al-Qaradawi condemns al-Qaeda.

There are also substantial Muslim communities in Europe with leaderships that have explicitly condemned Bin Laden. E.g.:

Spanish Muslim Clerical authorities Issue Fatwa against Osamah Bin Laden. There are on the order of 250,000 Muslims in Spain.

High Mufti of Russian Muslims calls for Extradition of Bin Laden. The Russian Muslim community is about 20 million strong, or 15 percent of Russia's 143 million population, and is growing rapidly, so that in a century Russia may be 50 percent Muslim. So this is not a pro forma thing here.

A good round-up on this sort of issue has been put up by al-Muhajabah.

Friedman also does refer to a major conference of Muslim clerics, thinkers and notables wound up just Wednesday that made a powerful statement about religious tolerance and condemned everything Osama Bin Laden stands for. But he seems oddly unaware of the significance of having Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Grand Imam of al-Azhar Seminary Muhammad Sayyid Tantawi, and many other great Muslim authorities sign off on this epochal statement of Muslim ecumenism.

The statement forbids one Muslim to declare another "not a Muslim" if the believer adheres to any of the mainstream legal rites of Sunnism and Shiism. The whole basis of al-Qaeda is to call the Muslim leaders of countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as well as Shiites, "not Muslims." The statement also demands that engineers should please stop pretending to issue fatwas, which should be left to trained clerical jurisconsults. This para. is also a slam at Bin Laden.



5) Fox News, sensitive as always:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,12271,1524856,00.html

Fox News slammed over 'callous' line

Julian Borger in Washington
Saturday July 9, 2005
The Guardian

Rupert Murdoch's Fox News channel was under fire
yesterday for comments by some of its leading
journalists in response to the London bombs.
Speaking about the reaction of the financial markets,
Brit Hume, the channel's Washington managing editor,
said: "Just on a personal basis ... I saw the futures
this morning, which were really in the tank, I thought
'hmm, time to buy'."

The host of a Fox News programme, Brian Kilmeade, said
the attacks had the effect of putting terrorism back
on the top of the G8's agenda, in place of global
warming and African aid. "I think that works to our
advantage, in the western world's advantage, for
people to experience something like this together,
just 500 miles from where the attacks have happened."

Another Fox News host, John Gibson, said before the
blasts that the International Olympic Committee
"missed a golden opportunity" by not awarding the 2012
games to France. "If they had picked France instead of
London to hold the Olympics, it would have been the
one time we could look forward to where we didn't
worry about terrorism. They'd blow up Paris, and who
cares?" He added: "This is why I thought the Brits
should let the French have the Olympics - let somebody
else be worried about guys with backpack bombs for a
while."

Media Matters for America, a watchdog and frequent
critic of Fox, criticised the comments on its website.
"I think it's absolutely sickening three Fox anchors
had such callous reactions to the bombings that took
dozens of lives," said the Jamison Foser, of the
group.

The Fox News media relations office had not responded
by the time the Guardian went to press yesterday.



6) Was the lead sheep named "W"?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,3604,1524854,00.html

Woolly jumpers baffle shepherds

AP in Istanbul
Saturday July 9, 2005
The Guardian

First one sheep jumped to its death. Then stunned
Turkish shepherds, who had left the herd to graze
while they had breakfast, watched as nearly 1,500
others followed, each leaping off the same cliff,
Turkish media reported yesterday.
In the end, 450 animals died, the daily newspaper
Aksam said.

Those which jumped later were saved as the pile got
higher, cushioning the fall.

"There's nothing we can do. They're all wasted,"
Nevzat Bayhan, a member of one of 26 families whose
sheep were grazing together in the herd, told Aksam.
The estimated loss to families in the town of Gevas,
located in Van province in eastern Turkey, is about
100bn Turkish lira (£43,000), a significant amount in
a country where average GDP per person is around
£1,550.

"Every family had an average of 20 sheep," Aksam
quoted another villager, Abdullah Hazar, as saying.
"But now only a few families have sheep left. It's
going to be hard for us."

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