Bangladesh -- Of Beliefs and Backlash
Of Beliefs and Backlash
The casualties at the final hour of the War of Independence, in the hands of the collaborators of the Pak junta, were the intellectuals. Those who fell prey did so because of their belief in an independent nation for the Bangalis. These were not only the most illustrious intellectuals of the soil, but also the most brave, otherwise they would not have remained in Dhaka at that crucial hour when the Jammat-e-Islami of Bangladesh were determined to do whatever ill to the sphere of knowledge that might go to shaping a new nation. December 14 is marred forever by the murky shadow of an enemy within, who, out of sheer rage, sunk its teeth as the last resort to vex the course of an emerging nation.
Later, what people were served in the platter in the guise of democracy in independent Bangladesh, was a far cry from what they ever expected. Thirty-three years have passed, yet the culture of moratorium on thoughts, beliefs and creative expressions thrives. The British provided the legal framework for such practices. As the environment of tolerance goes against the ruling class, it often finds a solution in freezing the birth of ideas that may lead to dissent. The Pakistan era saw the culture of moratorium on intellectual freedom in its worst composition. But one should also keep in mind that the other side of the coin provides no rosier picture. Freedom of expression, the phrase of the so-called democratic west, often is a mere rhetoric to give a semblance of a democracy. Same is evident in independent Bangladesh, which has a western frame of government.
The persecution of dissent is considered undemocratic, so are verbal assaults aimed against a particular community. In the first constitution of Bangladesh, both the acts were earmarked, the first as the right of every citizen and the second as a form of attack on other's right. However, history of Bangladesh in one hand is rife with persecution of the freedom of expression and on the other hand malicious voices are often heard from one end to undermine the other. Humayun Azad, the literatary exponent was the latest victim, who was attacked as he spoke against the quarter that played the role of the quislings during 1971 war. And the community that has most recently been stolen of their right to practice their own religion is the Ahmedyias. The government was forced to ratify a ban that strive to mum a minority who never had any strength to fight back.
It all started at the onset. The Bihari writers and journalist were the first victims of mass paranoia in independent Bangladesh. Bangalis retaliated as the Bihari community, at least the majority of it, aligned itself with the Pakistani junta. But the writers community inside the Bihari community, which Illias Ahmed refers to as "a microscopic community among a microscopic community, was a progressive front. "The general Urdu-speaking Biharis played in the hands of the rulers. But a few progressive voices, mostly of writers and poets, even demanded both Bangla and Urdu to gain the status of National Language," recalls Illias. Anjuma-E-Taraque-Urdu was the platform that promoted Urdu literature. "Back in the tumultuous time of the Language Movement, the East Pakistan branch seceded from their mother organisation in the western wing on the issue of Urdu being the only state language," reveals Illias.
The Stalwarts like Nawshad Nuri, the poet who even wrote a forcefully expressed poem in Urdu to press home the demands of the Bangalis to have Bangla as the sate language, along with Illias were at the helm of their organisation. These two, as editors of an Urdu daily, even helped spread the political beliefs of the Bangalis. Nuri Translated the 'six point' demand of Awami League during those boiling days. Yet the office and the Library of the Anjuman-E-Tarique-Urdu, where most of the influential writers and poets were Nap (Bhashani) sympathisers, was destroyed right after the independence. "All the books along with valuable manuscripts were burnt, and later the building at the Bongobondhu Avenue was evacuated to facilitate a handful of businessman to run their affairs," testifies Illias, a journalist and a poet in his late sixties.
Illias had a harrowing experience right after Bongobondhu was released and was about to give a public address on January 16, 1972. He and his friends, who were instrumental in raising funds for the Muktibahini in the observer house, where they all were employed, wanted to appeal to the government to help stop the retaliation against the Biharis. Although the Communist Party provided them with the ID card that declared them pro-Muktijodha activists, yet in the Observer house itself, Illias and his two other friends were attacked by the workers of the Observer house, who soon blindfolded them, as if to ready them for execution. Later they were saved when KG Mustofa and other peers intervened. "We never got any recognition for what we did for Bangladesh," laments
Illias who chose to remain in Dhaka, though many of his friends who came from Kolkata went back to India or set out for Pakistan.
The Bakshal regime was of a unique constitution. Whatever its ingredients were on the surface, deep down the most salient feature was to gag dissent. Poet Al Mahmood, who hates to hark back to those traumatic days, says in retrospect, "I was kept in the Dhaka central jail for nine months, during which time I was taken to the court only once, which was a farce anyway. And the government could not bring any charge against me." He was picked up from Minto road with many others, among them Nasir Ali Mamoon, who is now a renowned photographer. "The Rakhhi Bahini picked up more then a hundred of us on March 18, 1974, and we were sent to jail without trial or anything," recalls Mamoon who fears that ten were killed during that incident when people were fired at. Al Mahmood, the poet, who was the editor of Gonokontho, a daily that was a fearless critic of the bourgeois rule, was released after nine months, by then Gonokontho met a forced demise as did all the other news dailies except four that the government favoured.
When Bongobondhu was murdered, and army rode power, poet Nirmolendu Goon was picked up by the military intelligence in 1975. Before that, right after independence, writer Humayun Kabir, who was associated with a radical left wing political group, lost his life in 1972. Daud Haider had to leave the country after enraging the theologically inclined quarter and Rafiq Azad's piece, Bhat De Haramjada, was slapped with a ban because of its vehemence of angst against the ruling class.
During the rule of Ershad, the Shishu Acedamy's publication of an encyclopedia was impeded, as it could not meet the demands of the Islamic Extremists who antagonised the chronological portrayal of the Prophets and Messiahs. Ershad spawned varied strands of Islam, by passing the 8th amendment, which made Islam the state religion.
In the cultural field of the Nation, a swath was made clearly visible in the late eighties. Jatra, Palas were the cultural traits of the Bangla-speaking mass for a long, long time. These forms first came under attack from the British, who promulgated a black law banning Jatra forever. To this day, in independent Bangladesh, the law stays. This kind of performances, which sometimes verges on the prurience, became the softest target of the puritanical Islamic outfits that often Jamaat was backing. In fact, the followers of Moududi, that makes up the whole spectrum of Jamaat-E-Islami, have marshaled a leap, a political comeback of sorts in the mainstream politics courtesy of BNP, AL and Ershad during the eighties. Books like Satanic Verses had strengthened their position, made them even look closer to the truth and divinity, as this is the kind of book that interiorises a strong dose of malice that often serve the agenda of the western super powers.
However, when creativity is obstructed to facilitate the sanctimonious voices to pick up the decibel, the result is a wholesale demolition of the idea of tolerance. During the military rule of Ershad, poet Syed Atikullah lost his job from Janata bank for writing a poem. And Shamsur Rahman's name was dropped at one fag end of the military rule. The poet's name suddenly disappeared from the printers' line while he was still serving as the editor of the government owned Bichitra, the defunct legendary weekly. This led to his resignation.
Then came the so-called democratic surge. Many, who hoped to see a sea change, saw only a continuation of the past. In the creative field as well as in the field of information, the 'changes to be' remained just that. It was during the first term of BNP, the first bout with democratically elected government after two consecutive military rulers, that brought on the blight of ban on Taslima Nasrins' somewhat footloose writings. Before the ban on 'Lajja' in 1995, the Taslima controversy brewed only in the verbal front. Her colic comments regarding society made the Islamic extremists insecure. Though, in 'Lajja', the first book of Taslima for which she was smacked a ban, deals, in most part, with Jamaat and BNP on the role of the moral watchdogs. Year 2002, saw another of her book 'Ka', that deals with excesses of our intellectuals in the sexual front, getting a ban. And luckily for her, these bans keep knocking her books out of the bookstores to be sold out in the street in the hands of mass book sellers, a newly germinated tribe in Dhaka.
While the educated middle class remained all-entangled in the Taslima affair, crimes aimed against lesser known writers and poets remained unexamined. Moslem Uddin, a wandering minstrel, was clubbed to death at Dhunat, Bogra in 2002. A local political activist testifies that Moslem was a poet who wrote on all sorts of wrongdoings.
At Dhunat a Muslim sect who practiced Zikre, a form of meditation based on repetitive chant from Koran and Hadith was attacked by pro-Zikre group. Moslem wrote a poem condemning this attack. This led to the heinous attack on this wandering poet. He was mercilessly beaten in April, 2002, and died after a month long struggle with death.
This is not the only incident of persecution. Examples abound in both the rural front and within the front of the corridor of power. The government lends impetus to this growing intolerance by trying to gag voices pitched against them. Incarceration of Shahrier Kabir, and Muntasir Mamoon boosted the spirits of all the self-styled guardians of public moral and custodians of religious sanctity.
Saimon Zakaria, a playwright ran into a whirlpool of trouble when back in 1994, he wrote a play Gosto-Chakro for the village youngsters to stage. The chairman of the village intervened on the pretext that without his consent, how can a play be staged? Simon, who is now a regular contributor in the daily Prothom Alo, says, "We left our village in 1996, when we could not brave the threat any more." The family and the play wright left their ancestral home living in the city ever since.
However, there are agent provocateurs, who contribute to making things worse. Shambit Shaha wrote a play depicting a Pir monopolising everything and every situation to serve his own end. The same play was turned into a scathing depiction of the life of the Prophet, when the director, who staged it in Faridpur, doctored the script to suit his own intentions, without the consent of the writer. This sly attempt landed the playwright in Jail, where he remained for two years. These intentional vilifications of Prophets bring into focus the elements that are active in the guise of freedom of speech.
Farhad Mazhar, who himself was jailed for the article he wrote in the daily Bhorer Kakoj in 1995 on 'Ansar Rebellion' that was mercilessly crushed by the then BNP government, believes that freedom of speech is a vacuous term without a sense of responsibility. Mazhar was accused of "Inciting Rebellion" in July, 1995. He was released after the issuance of a court order one month later. He also says, "You can't be responsible unless you are free." And then hastens to add, "I can't agree on personal freedom. Freedom in the capitalist society is perverted. In the name of the writers' freedom you cannot hurt a community."
He is of the opinion that every community has backwardness, and in the name of fighting that backwardness, we often consciously or subconsciously become a tool in the hands of the exploiters. Mazhar, as a social analyst, is known for his polemics aimed at the real targets in the greater political chessboard. He is not against the right to criticise the community. "You can write to enrage a community, unless you are a part of the internal struggle that goes on inside every community, you cannot play the part of the critic if you don't belong there, you would only be an agent provocateur," affirms Mazhar.
It is true that even the most sincere critics often become a target of the people at the helm, as did Mazhar. But it is equally true that the fire of intolerance is often stoked by a number of writers who never aligned themselves with the masses. Abu Sayeed Abdullah, while reflecting on writers' freedom opines, "As the writers have freedom, so does the man that the writer is writing about. As Voltair said that you can wield your scimitar, but you will have to do it keeping a distance from my nose. So, the writer cannot simply attack others through his writing." "This leads to anarchy, not democracy," he adds.
The last victim, --- Humayun Azad, had no political clout. That made him an easy target. Police so far have provided no clue as to who were the attackers. If persecution of this nature continues, as a nation, we will lose all elements of critical practices that make a populace see its past and present mistakes in a clear light. "The attack on Azad brought the writers community closer. It made us realise our strength," opines Abdullah Abu Sayeed. He adds that if a writer's criticism is sincere than it may contribute to society's advancement. He concludes, "We must realise that the solution doesn't lie in one particular belief or opinion. So we must let every flower bloom."
- Fmr. FBI Translator: White House Had Intel On Possible Airplane Attack
We speak with former FBI translator, Sibel Edmonds, who was hired shortly
after Sept. 11 to translate intelligence gathered over the previous year
related to the 9/11 attacks. She says the FBI had information that an attack
using airplanes was being planned before Sept. 11 and calls Condoleezza
Rice's claim the White House had no specific information on a domestic
threat or one involving planes "an outrageous lie."
President Bush yesterday finally agreed to allow National Security Adviser
Condoleeza Rice to testify publicly and under oath before the independent
commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks.
President Bush, White House Press Briefing, March 30, 2004.
Bush did not take questions and left the room after his statement.
For weeks, the White House has insisted for weeks that Rice not testifying
was a matter of constitutional principle and would set a dangerous
On 60 Minutes this weekend Rice said, "It is a longstanding principle that
sitting national security advisers do not testify before the Congress."
It is unclear what "longstanding principle" Rice was referring to since
President Clinton allowed his national security adviser, Sandy Berger, to
testify in public before the House Governmental Affairs Committee only 8
years ago and Zbigniew Brzezinski was allowed under President Carter.
In return for Rice testifying, the commission agreed to strict conditions
that ruled out any further public testimony from White House officials,
including Rice herself. So after Rice's appearance before the panel, public
testimony from various aides who might be in a position to confirm or deny
her claims is not an option.
The commission also promised that Rice's testimony won't set a precedent.
Bush also agreed to meet privately with all 10 commissioners for an
undetermined time limit, backing off his previous demand to meet only with
the Chairman and Vice Chairman for just one hour.
But again, the apparent retreat by the president came with conditions. In
return, the commission agreed that Bush will not be under oath and can have
Vice President Dick Cheney appear with him by his side.
Rice has outright denied having specific information of an imminent domestic
threat involving hijacking airplanes, but she might have a particularly hard
time convincing the 9/11 Commission of this fact.
A former FBI translator with top-secret clearance has called Rice's claims
"an outrageous lie." She says she testified before the 9/11 Commission that
the FBI had information that an attack using airplanes was being planned
before September 11.
Sibel Edmonds, former FBI translator who was hired shortly after Sept. 11 to
translate intelligence gathered over the previous year related to the 9/11
attacks. She speaks fluent Farsi, Arabic and Turkish.
This transcript is available free of charge, however donations help us
provide closed captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing on our TV
broadcast. Thank you for your generous contribution.
Donate - $25, $50, $100, more...
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Sibel Edmonds. Welcome to Democracy Now!
SIBEL EDMONDS: Thank you. Good morning, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. Well, what about this claim that
both President Bush has made and Condoleezza Rice has made saying that they
had no information about an imminent domestic threat involving airplanes?
SIBEL EDMONDS: Well, Amy, for the past two years I have testified several
times before the Department of Justice Inspector General, for the Senate
Judiciary Committee, and a few months ago I testified behind closed doors
for the 9-11 Commission, and as I stated before, to just come out and say --
and state that we had no specific information whatsoever, that would be an
outrageous lie. President Bush, I guess, he made a smart move, because he
also added that they did not have any specific information stating that the
attack was going to occur on September 11. But Ms. Rice's statement that we
had no specific information is inaccurate.
AMY GOODMAN: Looking specifically at the Op-Ed piece that Condoleezza Rice
wrote in the "Washington Post" on March 22nd, she said, �Despite what some
have suggested we received no intelligence that terrorists were preparing to
attack the homeland using airplanes as missiles.� Though, some analysts
speculated that the terrorists might hijack airlines to try to free
U.S.-held terrorists. The F.A.A. even issued a warning to airlines and
aviation security personnel that, quote, �The potential for a terrorist
operation such as an airline hijacking to free terrorists incarcerated in
the United States remains a concern.�
SIBEL EDMONDS: Well, I would say not only that we had specific information,
we had several specific information as early as April, 2001. And many of
this information has been public already. I mean, you look at what Agent
Rowley provided, you look at the Phoenix Memo, the investigations that I
worked on after 9-11, retranslating certain documents related to certain
investigations, that is the reason I'm saying this is absolutely inaccurate.
We had not one, but we had many specific informations, and this information
was not maybe investigated under counter-terrorism because it's very
difficult to separate these issues when you have criminal investigation, and
money laundering investigation, drug related investigations that actually
have major information regarding 9-11 incidents. To say that they would be
mostly under counter-terrorism would be a wrong assumption, too.
AMY GOODMAN: Sibel Edmonds, can you explain exactly why you have come to
these conclusions? What exactly was your job?
SIBEL EDMONDS: My job was translating documents and various documents, audio
and also interviews that had to do with various investigations. Again, not
only counter-terrorism, but counter-intelligence and criminal
investigations. During this short tenure that I had over there, I became
aware of several investigations that were ongoing investigation dating back
to a year or -- some of them actually years before 9-11 that contained
significant amount of information about various activities. I would like to
emphasize again, we are talking about money laundering activities directed
toward these terrorist activities. We are looking at counter-intelligence
activities, so, as I said it, is not categorized under counter-terrorism.
This information was pouring in dating back as early as 2000.
AMY GOODMAN: Sibel Edmonds, can you explain what exactly you did? I mean,
you took a job on was it September 20, 2001?
SIBEL EDMONDS: Correct.
AMY GOODMAN: And where did you work? SYBIL EDMONDS: I worked for Washington
Field Office, F.B.I.'s Washington Field Office Translation Department, and
they had the largest translation department in the country. So, because we
were the largest, we received information again in various formats from all
over the country.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, when you say you received information, what is it that you
were handed -- transcripts of wiretapped phone conversations, what?
SIBEL EDMONDS: Well, I cannot specifically answer this question. As you're
aware, I'm under a gag order, however, as I said, in various forms -- and as
I said, again, it -- I did interviews, I did documents, I did audios, and
this is as specific as I'm allowed to get in terms of the format with this
AMY GOODMAN: You translated them?
SIBEL EDMONDS: Correct.
AMY GOODMAN: Into English.
SIBEL EDMONDS: Correct.
AMY GOODMAN: Had some of them been translated before?
SIBEL EDMONDS: Yes. Many of them, actually.
AMY GOODMAN: By who?
SIBEL EDMONDS: Oh, by various translators previously, and agents from
different field offices felt like that these information was either
inaccurate or it was not precise, so they felt that they needed to send
these documents or other formats back and have them get to be retranslated
because after 9-11, they were suspicious that the information that they
received was not really accurate, and there was more. And in fact, in some
cases, there were more.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?
SIBEL EDMONDS: Well, let's say you had certain investigations, and you sent
certain either documents, audio or whatever to be translated, and certain
translator translated it in let's say summary format, and basically that
this information is not that pertinent. After 9-11, the agent is saying, you
know what, I want this thing to be retranslated again, because considering
9-11 and considering this target under this investigation, we believe there
was more in this, let�s say, document or audio. And after translating this
-- let's say, particular document, verbatim, and sending back, then that is
when you would see the information and say -- shake your head and say how
could we have missed this information before.
AMY GOODMAN: Sibil Edmonds, what do you think would have happened if
anything that you translated after September 11 had been translated fully
before? And accurately?
SIBEL EDMONDS: I cannot confidently answer this question because in fact
there were information that were translated very precisely and accurately
before. And somehow having that information did not achieve anything,
either. So, unfortunately, I cannot say if these documents were translated
more precisely previously, something would have been done. My question is
how about the ones that we had before? How about the information we had
before that were pretty specific and they were pretty accurate, and they
came from real reliable sources assets. What happened to that information?
That is my question, and I'm hoping that through this investigation by the
9-11 Commission, we will get to hear these questions being asked
specifically and directly.
AMY GOODMAN: We have to break, but when we come back, Sibel Edmonds, I want
to ask you why there is a gag order on you.
SIBEL EDMONDS: Sure.
AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Sibel Edmonds, a former F.B.I. Wiretap
Translator. Senator Charles Grassley, the Republican from Iowa, has told
�salon.com� she recently testified before the National Commission on
Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, and called her very credible.
We'll be back in a minute.
AMY GOODMAN: We are talking with a former F.B.I. Wiretap Translator with top
secret security clearance. She was hired just after September 11 to go back
and retranslate, or sometimes translate for the first time, documents and
conversations from before September 11. Republican Senator Charles Grassley
called her very credible, said that she recently testified before the
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, saying that
the F.B.I. had detailed information prior to September 11, 2001, that a
terrorist attack involving airplanes was being plotted. Now, Sibel Edmonds,
to call Condoleezza Rice's claim that the White House had no specific
information on domestic threat or one involving planes an outrageous lie is
very strong. Can you repeat again or fill out the information that you have
to substantiate that? She's going to be going before the 9-11 Commission
SIBEL EDMONDS: Right. Well, Amy, I really wish I could comment, I could have
given you some specific information. I'm hoping that these authorities,
being Director Mueller, during his testimony, or the report that was
expected to be out by Inspector General's Office to come out, actually,
instead of being sealed, and shoved under this blanket of secrecy so that
you would see these specific informations, because I don't know if you are
aware of it or not, but Attorney General Ashcroft on October 18, 2002,
personally asserted State Secret Privilege in my case. I would read two
sentences here: �To prevent disclosure of certain classified and sensitive
national security information, Attorney General Ashcroft today asserted the
State Secret Privilege in Sibel Edmonds' case. This assertion was made at
the request of the F.B.I. Director Robert Mueller,� in papers filed today,
and they are citing the reason that because this case would create
substantial risks of disclosing classified and sensitive national security
information that could cause serious damage to our country's security. They
are citing that this privilege is very rare and is asserted to prevent
certain information getting -- becoming public or hurting diplomatic
relations. I would underline this phrase, diplomatic relations several
AMY GOODMAN: And what has been the response of the federal authorities to
you speaking out right now?
SIBEL EDMONDS: They have -- during their meetings with Senator Grassley and
Senator Leahy's office, these authorities have confirmed all of my reports
and allegations and have denied none. However, as I said, Inspector
General's Office�s report was supposed to be out in October, 2002. Here we
are sitting in March 2004, and my sources are telling me they are going to
seal this report, and it will be never made public. Now, to protect certain
diplomatic relations? -- that is the question. What diplomatic relations? To
this date, I have been waiting to see this information to be available, and
become available and be out there, but it's not getting there. And there's
so much that the public just simply doesn't know. About what went wrong,
what we had, and my last hope right now is this Commission. 9-11 Commission
is my last hope because I have pursued all possible authority channels that
I could have pursued. I have gone to the Senate. I have provided testimony
to the Inspector General's Office and the F.B.I. They have confirmed these
allegations, however, this information is being prevented from becoming
public. It needs to be public because first we have to acknowledge the facts
before we go about fixing these problems. If they don't want to admit to
these facts and they want to -- they don't want to acknowledge it, then we
have no chance of really addressing the serious issue of national security
and terrorism that they are citing.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to Sibel Edmonds, a former F.B.I. Wiretap
Translator, hired just after September 11, ultimately was fired. I want to
ask about Senator Grassley on "60 Minutes" saying you're credible. Quote,
�She's credible, and the reason I feel she's very credible is because people
within the F.B.I. have corroborated a lot of her story.� I want to ask you
about why you were fired, and the reports you have made of serious
misconduct, security lapses and gross incompetence in the F.B.I.
Translations Unit, including supervisors who told translators to work slowly
during the crucial post-9-11 investigations to get more funds as well as
other issues of harassment of you, as you started to make these charges.
SIBEL EDMONDS: Yes. Senator Grassley, I have a lot of respect for Senator
Grassley. After they investigated this case, he said basically, publicly, on
CBS "60 Minutes" that these departments need to be turned upside-down. I
took that very literally, and I have been expecting for past two years for
these departments and the issues within these departments to be addressed.
You see, after September 11, these people -- people from the F.B.I., came
forward and they blamed everything on shortage of budgets and shortage of
personnel. And they said, we failed, and these were the major causes. These
were the reasons. That is not accurate. We were told during the time that
these people were going on TV and they were begging for people to apply for
translation positions because we had this shortage, what was going on behind
the scenes was exactly opposite. We were being asked not to do these
translations, and let the documents pile up, because within a month or so,
they were scheduled to go in front of the Senate and Congress and ask for
increased budgets. In doing so, they needed to give numbers of pages,
numbers of documents and audios that they were not translated due to the
shortage, and needed to be translated, and that they were urgent, and in
order to do so, we had to increase that number, the number of pages and the
number of audio.
AMY GOODMAN: It's interesting, Sibel Edmonds, I remember doing a piece on
the translators who were gay and lesbian, who were fired at a time when
there was a serious lack of translators.
SIBEL EDMONDS: Again, this contradicts what they have been stating. I
performed translations for three languages, and they had so many active
cases under those languages. They are not even admitting that they had fired
me. This is how they are putting it: �She was terminated purely for the
convenience of the government.� Now, you can translate that in any way you
want, but it is the vague statement -- that she was not fired, she was
terminated purely for the government's convenience. Now, what is that? What
AMY GOODMAN: Now, you have sued?
SIBEL EDMONDS: Yes. And first of all, I applied for -- information that I
could, under Freedom of Information Act, receive, and I wanted to get some
of these documents. I know what those documents are, and -- but I wanted to
get them out and make it public. They did not comply, as they are required
under the Freedom of Information Act, so we had to pursue the court option.
And again, for this court case, we never even had a chance to go in front of
this particular judge because they went in camera, and they told the judge,
due to national security and the State Secret Privilege, these documents,
all 1,500 of them, are top secret, classified documents, therefore, none of
them can be released to the public, and again, without any hearings, we
never went in front of any judge, the judge ruled in favor of the F.B.I. And
she said, �Well, who am I to argue with the government? If they are saying
it's going to compromise our national security I have to take their word for
that,� and therefore, they ruled against us, and now we are appealing that
AMY GOODMAN: Sibel Edmonds, you testified before the 9-11 Commission. You
also held a news conference right outside the hearings, right before Richard
Clarke testified. What has been the media response?
SIBEL EDMONDS: First of all this issue has been out there for almost two
years. Every few months, there has been an article here or an article there,
and first of all, if -- major news sources don't perceive it as a news item
because it's not news, it's an issue. It cannot be news because specifics
are withheld and by this real, real strong State Secret Privilege. So how
many specifics and evidence can be given to the media, and how much of this
information can be provided? It is very limited. News sources such as
yourself are the ones who actually have been paying attention to these
issues and have been pursuing it and calling the Senate and calling the
Inspector General's Office and following up on that, but I have not seen
major activities within the larger mass media sources. I don't know why. I
don't know why, really, to be honest with you, I don't know.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you expect of this 9-11 Commission hearing?
SIBEL EDMONDS: I am still holding onto my optimism. I'm expecting on this
April 13 and April 14 during the hearings with Director Mueller, I'm
expecting them to ask the real questions. Now, I am expecting that their
report will be different than the report that was issued by this Joint
Intelligence Inquiry that they had which was basically nothing. And so far,
I have been very disappointed, because the real issues, the specifics get to
the address behind closed doors under this blanket of security and secrecy.
Most likely from their reports, the real issues are going to be redacted
because they're going to be citing classifications, and then what good is
that report going to do, or what use is this hearing going to have? That's
the question. I'm hoping that from these attentions that we have been
receiving from the press in terms of the issues that have been raised by,
again, Agent Rowley, Clarke, Mr. Clarke's testimony, people would raise
their expectations and expect to hear the real questions being asked from
Director Mueller during this hearing. This is what I expect, and this is
what I'm hoping. Another issue is to actually see the Senate exercising
their oversight authority that has been given to them by the public. Because
to this date, what I have been hearing repeatedly is that, in quotes, �Our
hands are tied. You see the climate. Our hands are tied.� Well, in a way,
that is not acceptable. Because they have been given the responsibility and
authority to execute this oversight, and so far to this date, it hasn't been
exercised. I'm hoping that at least through these issues becoming more
public and the 9-11 Commission will be followed by some real Senate
activities in terms of addressing these issues. Because American public, you
know, they have the right to know. They need to know these facts.
AMY GOODMAN: Sibel Edmonds, I want to thank you very much for being with us.
SIBEL EDMONDS: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Sibel Edmonds, who was an F.B.I. Wiretap Translator, and we
will continue to follow up on your story. I want to thank you for being
SIBEL EDMONDS: Thank you, Amy.
To purchase an audio or video copy of this entire program call 1 (800)
- Cyprus�s future in its people�s hands
Politicians have failed to reach agreement in internationally backed talks
to reunite the island of Cyprus. The United Nations will now put its peace
plan directly to the people.
THE Cyprus conflict has, on several occasions, dragged Greece and Turkey to
the brink of war, despite both being NATO allies. For 30 years, since
Turkish troops invaded following a coup by Greek-Cypriot militants, a
UN-patrolled buffer zone has divided the Mediterranean island in two,
running right through Nicosia�Europe�s last divided capital. The conflict�s
resolution would allow the poor, isolated Turkish-Cypriot republic in the
north (which only Turkey recognises) to join the European Union on May 1st
along with the southern, Greek-Cypriot sector. And it would help pave the
way for Turkey to open negotiations on entry into the EU. Repeated attempts
at a settlement have failed. But with so much to be gained, the UN, the EU,
America, Britain (the island�s former colonial ruler), Greece and Turkey
have in recent weeks applied their combined diplomatic pressure to the
island�s stubborn politicians and brought them back to the negotiating
Alas, this concerted coaxing was not quite enough: late on Wednesday March
31st, the UN�s secretary-general, Kofi Annan, announced that the final round
of talks, in the Alpine resort of B�rgenstock, had failed to achieve an
agreement. The UN will now put its proposed settlement directly to Greek-
and Turkish-Cypriots in simultaneous referendums on April 24th. The
Turkish-Cypriot delegation to the talks had been prepared to sign the deal,
in which some territory they hold would be transferred to Greek-Cypriot
control. But the Greek-Cypriot leader, Tassos Papadopoulos, rejected it.
Rauf Denktash, the Turkish-Cypriot president, was not part of the delegation
and has also said he too will campaign against it.
Urging the island�s two communities to vote yes in the referendums, Mr Annan
said: �There have been too many missed opportunities in the past. I urge you
not to make this mistake again.� However, they might do just that,
especially on the Greek-Cypriot side, where opinion polls have suggested
that as many as 90% oppose the UN plan. Unless Mr Papadopoulos can be
persuaded to change his mind and support the deal, its chances do not look
For years, each side has used the memory of horrors committed by the other
as an argument for resisting agreement. On neither side has there been much
self-examination. Greek-Cypriots say they were victims, not perpetrators, of
the tragic events of 1974: the coup, fomented by Greece�s then military
government, led the Turkish army to overrun nearly 40% of the island,
forcing many Greek-Cypriots to flee their homes. Turkish-Cypriots argue that
Greek atrocities in the 1960s gave them good reason to seek protection from
their brethren in Ankara.
When the reunification talks resumed in February, Mr Denktash was as
unhelpful as ever. However, when they transferred to B�rgenstock, he stayed
at home and the Turkish-Cypriot delegation was led jointly by the north�s
new prime minister, Mehmet Ali Talat, and his coalition partner, Mr
Denktash�s son Serdar�who is more pro-European than his father. Both were
anxious to make a deal. So was Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey�s prime
minister, who is eager to polish his country�s credentials in the hope of
starting EU accession talks next year. Mr Erdogan�s efforts have been
rewarded by effusive praise from G�nter Verheugen, the EU�s enlargement
commissioner, for Turkey�s �very constructive and co-operative role��a
possible hint that Turkey�s accession talks could now go ahead even if the
Cyprus settlement fails.
Mr Erdogan has persuaded the Turkish army�s commanders, formerly loyal to
the elder Mr Denktash, to back a settlement. Costas Karamanlis, Greece's new
prime minister, was also keen to resolve the issue. So the chances for Mr
Annan�s plan to reunify the island as a confederation of two republics had
looked good. Under the plan, land would be given back to the Greek-Cypriots,
reducing the Turkish-Cypriot share from 37% to 29%. The two states would
largely run their own affairs, but the �United Cyprus Republic� would handle
relations with the rest of Europe.
But with Mr Denktash off the stage, Mr Papadopoulos emerged as the
hardliner. The deal fell apart over his demand for more land�four villages
in the Karpas peninsula�in exchange for agreeing to the presence of more
Turkish soldiers and settlers than the Greek-Cypriots had wanted. Mr
Papadopoulos also objected to the Turkish request for an extended transition
period, written into EU law, to stop wealthy Greek-Cypriots buying up land
for development in the north. On this point, he was backed by Mr Karamanlis,
who otherwise kept his distance from the Greek-Cypriot leader, not least to
protect his budding friendship with Mr Erdogan.
Though the Greek-Cypriots are assured entry into the EU even if they reject
the peace deal, they have several incentives to take a more constructive
attitude. Tens of thousands of those uprooted in 1974 would regain their
homes; the broader regional tension between Greeks and Turks would be
greatly eased; besides, if it looked obvious that Hellenic intransigence had
wrecked the deal, the Greeks (in Athens and Nicosia) would see their moral
authority collapse. That would be a big price to pay at a time when
competition for influence in an enlarged EU is heating up.
Nevertheless, it seems that Mr Papadopoulos is prepared to be pilloried in
Brussels and other international capitals to preserve his popularity at
home. So a settlement of the conflict depends on whether his people heed the
words of Mr Verheugen, who pointed out that they must now choose between
�this plan or nothing, no solution at all�. He insisted on Thursday that the
settlement process had not failed�not yet. But if it does, it may be a long
time before another opportunity comes along.
Cyprus will join the European Union (EU) when that club next expands in May
2004, but its division is a stumbling block. The south, ethnically Greek, is
run by the internationally recognised government of the Republic of Cyprus.
The ethnically Turkish north, created after a Turkish invasion in 1974, is
recognised as a state only by Turkey. The capital, Nicosia, is similarly
UN-sponsored �proximity talks� on reuniting the island have long struggled.
Promising proposals to create a loose Swiss-style confederation stalled
after Rauf Denktash, the Turkish-Cypriots' truculent leader, rejected a deal
in March 2003. Yet a wildly popular opening of the border soon after put
pressure on Mr Denktash to soften his line. In a subsuquent Turkish-Cypriot
election moderates did well, leading to a power-sharing government between
them and Mr Denktash's son. Turkey is urging the Turkish Cypriots to return
to negotiations (again with UN involvment) in the hopes of reunifying the
island before it joins the EU.
Failing reunification by May 2004, the EU's plan is to admit only the Greek
half. This would make it much harder for the EU to smile on Turkey's own
application to join.
- U.S. forces prepare for surprises in Asia
By RICHARD HALLORAN
HONOLULU -- They call it the "tyranny of distance," and it ranks up there in
U.S. strategic thinking with conventional threats like that from North Korea
and unconventional dangers posed by terrorists in Southeast Asia.
In this day when American forces are spread thin around the world,
projecting power across the Pacific and onto the shores of Asia takes
extensive planning, complicated transport and logistics, and not a few
buckets of sweat.
To train for this mission, an exercise called Balikatan has just been
completed in the Philippines. There the Third Marine Expeditionary Brigade
from Okinawa provided the nucleus of a task force formed with the Philippine
Western Command to maneuver on the islands of Luzon and Palawan.
From the United States, army, navy and air force units were transported from
10 mainland states plus Alaska, Hawaii and Guam. The Marines, compressing 12
months planning into five, choreographed the movement of 2,600 people, 90
pieces of rolling stock and 2,473 tons of cargo to three airports, two
seaports and a landing beach in the Philippines.
There they formed a task force that included the Philippine 7th Infantry
Division, 51st Elite Brigade and two fighter wings plus an aerial rescue
unit, a naval construction battalion, a landing team, and special operations
forces or commandos.
Said Lt. Gen. Wallace Gregson, who commands the Marines in the Pacific: "Any
logical East Asian strategy we pursue should include the capability to do
combined operations like this with our allies and friends, both to meet
conventional threats from North Korea and to strike against unconventional
dangers from terrorists in Southeast Asia."
Last fall, U.S. forces joined with Australians in Exercise Crocodile there.
In May, the Army's I Corps from Fort Lewis, in the state of Washington, will
lead U.S. forces in an exercise in Thailand called Cobra Gold, with Thai and
Singaporean forces. Similar training either has or will take place with
South Korean and Japanese troops.
Longer range, the U.S. has stationed bombers on Guam in a not-so-subtle
warning to North Korea. Two attack submarines have been moved to Guam from
Pearl Harbor to put them closer to possible contingencies. The Navy is
planning to base another aircraft carrier in the Pacific to bring the total
to seven. And the 2nd Infantry Division in South Korea will be prepared to
deploy elsewhere in Asia.
Although U.S. military leaders try to stay out of political hot water by
saying their training drills are aimed at fictional adversaries, Balikatan
was clearly weighted toward defeating terrorists. Part of Balikatan, which
means "shoulder to shoulder" in Tagalog, took place on Palawan, where Abu
Sayyaf terrorists have operated.
Earlier, the U.S. trained Filipino troops for counterterrorist operations in
the southern Philippines. The commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, Adm.
Thomas Fargo, has said that U.S. alliances in Asia more and more "are
focused on guarding Southeast Asia from terrorism, piracy, drugs and other
This exercise was divided into three phases that went on simultaneously. The
first trained leaders and staffs to control operations in seven locations
spread out over 1,100 km. The second was field training that included
parachute jumps, live fire on ranges, amphibious landings and strenuous
The third phase focused on humanitarian operations. Combined U.S. and
Philippine medical teams treated 24,700 Filipinos in 10 days, and engineers
built a 3,200-liter storage tank for a school that had been without water
for 10 years and added five classrooms to a high school and an elementary
school. Col. Michael Dana, chief of staff of the expeditionary brigade, told
a marine newspaper, "This is the most complex operation that I have ever
been involved with."
On one day, according to an after-action report, the Filipinos and Americans
were engaged in three live firing drills, convoy training, close air
support, rappelling at night from helicopters onto an airfield, parachuting
a communications team into a field site and carrying out five engineering
Even with the emphasis on training, the real world was never far away. When
a ferry from Manila to Baculod in the central Philippines caught fire, Maj.
Antonio Rosario of a Philippine Marine reconnaissance unit asked for
The U.S. Navy's Underwater Construction Team Two, from Port Hueneme,
California, launched two Zodiac boats to help rescue survivors. The
Americans had been training and diving with Filipino counterparts when the
For a swift response that aided in saving 420 lives, the team's executive
officer, Lt. Gregory Miller, was awarded the Military Merit Medal by
Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Richard Halloran, formerly a correspondent for Business Week, The Washington
Post and The New York Times, is a freelance journalist.
The Japan Times: March 29, 2004
- Bird flu found outside B.C. hot zone
'Possibility of find further cases cannot be excluded,' official warns
VANCOUVER - Avian flu has spread to poultry beyond a tightly guarded hot
zone in the Fraser Valley where hundreds of thousands of chickens are in the
process of being culled, federal health officials confirmed late Wednesday.
Test results showed birds were infected on a farm located somewhere in a
broad area including the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley region, said a
statement released by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
It's the first time the flu has been detected among birds outside a
five-kilometre high-risk zone near Abbotsford where the first avian case was
detected last month.
So far six farms in the hot zone have been confirmed to have infected birds.
Health officials announced last week they would kill all poultry in the
rural area in a bid to halt the flu's movement.
"Given the highly contagious nature of the disease the possibility of
finding further cases cannot be excluded," said the CFIA statement.
Also on Wednesday, the federal agency announced it had quarantined a second
farm outside the hot zone "on the basis of preliminary test results."
"The quarantine is a precautionary measure and tests are ongoing to gain
conclusive information about the farm's disease status," said the CFIA.
The initial farm was quarantined Monday and birds there were slaughtered
before the disease was suspected, said the agency.
The H7 variety of the avian flu detected on the B.C. farms is not the same
as the strain that has killed people in Asia and is not believed to pose any
serious risk to humans.
The CFIA statement did not say whether precautionary measures might be
altered or added in the wake of Wednesday's confirmation.
"All needed resources are being dedicated to control the spread of avian
influenza in the control area and the CFIA is continuing its rigorous
surveillance activities," said the agency.
One bird flu expert predicted earlier in the week that, should the flu be
detected outside the high-risk zone, tighter restrictions and more chicken
slaughter would have to follow.
"I can't quote a number, but I think you'd want to jump more than another
five kilometres," Earl Brown, who teaches at the University of Ottawa, said.
"I think you'd want to kill a lot of chickens."
Health officials designated the entire Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley an
avian flu "control area" earlier this month.
Control area regulations restrict the movement of any bird in captivity,
including pets, day-old chicks and hatching eggs.
The B.C. government said earlier this week it would have to look at bringing
in heavy duty incinerators to deal with the hundreds of thousands of birds
killed within the high-risk zone.
The dead poultry has been shipped to the small community of Princeton, B.C.,
for incineration, but Bill Barisoff, the minister responsible, said the
government was looking at granting permits in the Fraser Valley.
His comments came the day Princeton Mayor Keith Olsen said his council and
the Okanagan-Similkameen regional district had unanimously voted to ask the
Canadian Food Inspection Agency to stop bringing birds to the community.
Olsen said he was unhappy about his community being a dumping ground for
infected birds and he said community leaders didn't realize so much dead
poultry would end up in Princeton.
It was also confirmed last week that a CFIA contract worker had picked up
the avian flu virus.
The person exhibited conjunctivitis, or pink eye, and the symptoms have
since cleared up.
- A question of trust
While politics and business battle governance issues, Ontario seems to be
emerging from seasons of profound discontent in educat
Instances of alleged breakdowns in the governance arrangements in both
business and politics have inundated our newspapers in recent months, myriad
tales of possible executives' felonies and other crimes of commerce, and now
the current spate of what appear to be bureaucratic boondoggles (or worse)
Each of the revelations, in its way, is an illustration of governance that
seems to have failed.
With respect to managing the affairs of Canada, Prime Minister Paul Martin
himself has tacitly acknowledged some betrayal of the fiduciary bond of
trust between government and the people when he railed last week against
cronyism, waste, corruption and mismanagement.
"The culture of governance had to change," Marting said, seeming almost an
echo of the private sector's first efforts to regain public trust in
corporate governance and its way of doing business.
On everyone's "hit list" are obfuscation, self-dealing, deceit,
unaccountability and employee abuse.
The reformers, whether leader of government or corporation, are promising
transparency, accountability, integrity and fair dealing, all steps aimed at
restoring public confidence and regaining that prized fiduciary relationship
that is fundamental to good governance in all arenas.
This week, the focus was on governance in public education � at least for
the 200 Ontarians (and other Canadians) in Toronto this week who
participated in an important meeting, Summit II, on that topic sponsored by
The Learning Partnership, a not-for-profit organization committed to the
strengthening of Canadian public education.
Cynics would say that governance in education � and elsewhere � is simply a
power game, played by elites who jockey for political control for which the
formal governance arrangements are just a politically correct screen.
The true nature of governance is, however, more about performance than
power, a fact to which any shareholder will attest.
When investors (or citizens) lose confidence in a company's (or school's)
performance, share values plummet (as does confidence in our public
Whether political poll or share valuation, performance is trump; the quality
of governance, therefore, becomes a key determinant, making for good times
Ontario seems to be emerging from seasons of profound discontent in
In an earlier meeting in January of education stakeholders hosted by The
Learning Partnership, Summit I, there were seemingly unanimous calls not
only for an end to the rancour between government and teacher groups, but
also to rebalance and redefine the role of local and central authorities.
The new minister of education, speaking at the outset of the conference,
found his "bias for local governance" enthusiastically received by the
Such devolution of decision-making would allow for substantial manoeuvring
at the local level so that specific boards, and indeed specific schools,
could respond to local conditions.
More decentralization of decision-making, it seemed to the audience, and
certainly to this observer, is a necessary condition for the creativity,
imagination and energy of educators to be released, recognized and rewarded.
While parallels between the private and public sectors have to be drawn
cautiously, there is no doubt about the enormous public investment in
Public education is, generally, regarded as a public good, because, among
many other priorities, it is the collective enterprise that makes possible
our way of life, providing the lingua franca through which we can
communicate across our many divides.
It is, therefore, no accident that we turn to education to assist us in
addressing pressing social concerns � about youth unemployment,
international competitiveness, safe streets and stronger communities.
Indeed, given the heterogeneity of the society around us, public education
is almost the only thing that holds us together as a society.
Where else can all our many solitudes meet and touch each other? The stakes
in good governance in public education are, therefore, high.
When most parents describe the ideal school environment, their vocabulary
quickly embraces notions of stewardship, trust and dependability, those
attributes preceding even the commonplace virtues of high challenge,
stimulating programs and learning outcomes.
The parent sends a child to school, entrusting that the fiduciary bond
between education minister and the child is unshakably strong, a hoped-for
guarantee of physical safety and emotional and intellectual nurture on a
wide variety of fronts. How consonant that parental hope is to the safety
and performance that we covet in all our institutions, private and public.
This is the spirit in which the participants convening at Summit II
yesterday debated fresh proposals on education governance, ones which aim to
strengthen accountability at all levels, engage parents and students more
fully, heighten respect for all education partners, enhance the process to
improve schools and student achievement and foster innovation throughout the
Dare we hope for an increasingly better time in school for our children? I,
for one, believe the outcomes of these summits will add to the momentum of
substantial renewal in that socially vital cause.
Bernard J. Shapiro is principal emeritus of McGill University, and a former
Ontario deputy minister of education. He is also a former director of the
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).
- This isn't America
By Paul Krugman
Last week an opinion piece in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about the
killing of Sheik Ahmed Yassin said, "This isn't America; the government did
not invent intelligence material nor exaggerate the description of the
threat to justify their attack."
So even in Israel, George Bush's America has become a byword for deception
and abuse of power. And the administration's reaction to Richard Clarke's
"Against All Enemies" provides more evidence of something rotten in the
state of our government.
The truth is that among experts, what Clarke says about Bush's terrorism
policy isn't controversial. The facts that terrorism was placed on the back
burner before 9/11, and that Bush blamed Iraq despite the lack of evidence,
are confirmed by many sources � including by Bob Woodward in "Bush at War."
And new evidence keeps emerging for Clarke's main charge, that the Iraq
obsession undermined the pursuit of al-Qaida. From Monday's USA Today: "In
2002, troops from the 5th Special Forces Group who specialize in the Middle
East were pulled out of the hunt for Osama bin Laden to prepare for their
next assignment: Iraq. Their replacements were troops with expertise in
That's why the administration responded to Clarke the way it responds to
anyone who reveals inconvenient facts: With a campaign of character
Some journalists seem, finally, to have caught on. Last week an Associated
Press news analysis noted that such personal attacks were "standard
operating procedure" for this administration and cited "a behind-the-scenes
campaign to discredit Richard Foster," the Medicare actuary who revealed how
the administration had deceived Congress about the cost of its prescription
But other journalists apparently remain ready to be used. On CNN, Wolf
Blitzer told his viewers that unnamed officials were saying that Clarke
"wants to make a few bucks, and that in his own personal life, they're also
suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well."
This administration's reliance on smear tactics is unprecedented in modern
U.S. politics � even compared with Nixon's. Even more disturbing is its
readiness to abuse power � to use its control of the government to
intimidate potential critics.
To be fair, Sen. Bill Frist's suggestion that Clarke might be charged with
perjury may have been his own idea. But his move reminded everyone of the
White House's reaction to revelations by the former Treasury Secretary Paul
O'Neill: An immediate investigation into whether he had revealed classified
information. The alacrity with which this investigation was opened was, of
course, in sharp contrast with the administration's evident lack of interest
in finding out who leaked the identity of the CIA operative Valerie Plame to
And there are many other cases of apparent abuse of power by the
administration and its congressional allies. A few examples: According to
The Hill, Republican lawmakers threatened to cut off funds for the General
Accounting Office unless it dropped its lawsuit against Dick Cheney. The
Washington Post says Rep. Michael Oxley told lobbyists that "a congressional
probe might ease if it replaced its Democratic lobbyist with a Republican."
Tom DeLay used the Homeland Security Department to track down Democrats
trying to prevent redistricting in Texas. And Medicare is spending millions
of dollars on misleading ads for the new drug benefit � ads that look like
news reports and also serve as commercials for the Bush campaign.
On the terrorism front, here's one story that deserves special mention. One
of the few successful post-9/11 terror prosecutions � a case in Detroit �
seems to be unraveling. The government withheld information from the
defense, and witnesses unfavorable to the prosecution were deported (by
accident, the government says). After the former lead prosecutor complained
about the Justice Department's handling of the case, he suddenly found
himself under internal investigation � and someone leaked the fact that he
was under investigation to the press.
Where will it end? In his new book "Worse Than Watergate," John Dean, of
Watergate fame, says, "I've been watching all the elements fall into place
for two possible political catastrophes, one that will take the air out of
the Bush-Cheney balloon and the other, far more disquieting, that will take
the air out of democracy."
- On tour with the harbingers of doom
US readers flock to meet evangelists at helm of a publishing phenomenon
Robin Bales has seen the signs - war, terrorism, microchips in animals and
corporate logos tattooed on the foreheads of the young. As prophesied in the
book of Revelation, she explains, the end of the world is nigh.
"A lot of what is written down is literal and a lot of it is happening
today. I definitely believe that," she says. "The seasons are meshing
together. One day in January it was 75F and the next day it snowed. The
world has gone down so quickly."
Impending doom notwithstanding, Ms Bales is delighted. She got to the South
Carolina Christian Supply store early on Tuesday to buy her copy of Glorious
Appearing, the 12th book in the bestselling Left Behind series, based on a
fictionalised account of the apocalypse, on the day it came out.
The first 11 Left Behind books have sold more than 40m copies, making the
authors, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, bigger sellers than John Grisham.
Orders for the Glorious Appearing (The End of Days) were so strong that the
publishers started a second printing two weeks before the first copies had
reached the shelves. According to the publishers, a survey last year showed
that one in eight US adults has read some of at least one book from the
So Ms Bales, who has read all 11, booked her place in line early, thus
avoiding the queue of 800 people snaking around the shop and out into the
rain, waiting to meet the authors on Tuesday night. And now she is clutching
a signed copy of one of the most startling literary sensations of our time.
"I'm going to read the 11th one again before I start this," she says.
Coming in the wake of the success of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ,
which details Jesus's last 12 hours before crucifixion, the Left Behind
series is the latest example of the huge impact religious themes are having
on popular culture in the US, as well as the vast amounts of money that can
be made from them.
Scan the Christian Supply store in Spartanburg and you will see everything
from The Bible's Way to Weight Loss to Bible Bingo, along with T-shirts,
keyrings, CDs and toys bearing scripture and car registration plates asking:
"Americans don't just have to rely on the Bible anymore," says Sarah
Golightly, one of the few African-Americans who came to the launch. "God is
showing himself in many ways through movies, books and audio."
Ms Golightly, who has read only the first three of the Left Behind series,
found Gibson's film hard going but rewarding: "It was two hours of rough
beating. But it was good."
The Left Behind series is not all easy reading either, with long passages
both vivid and violent. It starts with what evangelists call the rapture -
the moment when, they believe, those who have been born again will disappear
and ascend to heaven. The first book opens with a 747 heading to Heathrow
from Chicago. The flight attendant finds half the seats empty as the
faithful are whisked away into the firmament, leaving behind only their
clothes, fillings and wedding rings. Several thousand feet below husbands
and wives are waking up next to piles of pyjamas, and cars, suddenly
deprived of drivers, crash as the righteous rise.
The next 10 books - with titles including Assassins, Armageddon and
Desecration - detail the seven-year period of upheaval in which those left
behind have their final chance to find Jesus. The authors committed
themselves to portraying at least one "believable conversion" in each book.
As the series progresses, the antichrist becomes the head of the UN and
triggers the second coming after he signs a peace treaty with Israel, while
144,000 Jews convert to Christianity.
Glorious Appearing should be the final episode, in which Jesus returns -
although the publishers plan a postscript (with the final judgment of Satan
after Jesus' 1,000-year reign on earth) and a prequel (which will introduce
the characters sent to the rapture before the first book began).
It was all LaHaye's idea. The 77-year-old creationist and religious-right
stalwart had been preaching and writing self-help books for decades when he
got the idea for a fictional series about the end of time. When he realised
he couldn't write it himself he drafted Jenkins, 54, a former journalist and
prolific religious novelist. LaHaye provides the scripture; Jenkins moulds
it into drama.
Some Catholics and conservative Protestants have charged that the Left
Behind novels are anti-Catholic because they depict a future pope
establishing a false religion linked to the antichrist.
"Dr LaHaye believes we should treat the Bible literally where we can,"
Jenkins says. "For people who disagree with us, we say, 'Write your own
books.' We're just glad we can live in a country where we can compete in a
marketplace of ideas."
And with that they start their 12-city six-day tour through the south - home
to almost half of their readers - from Spartanburg through Georgia, Alabama,
Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. The book's core reader is a white,
southern, female homemaker in her mid-40s, who is a college-educated,
When LaHaye first pitched the idea publishers did not think it had much of a
future outside of the Christian market. It was a hard sell, according to Ron
Beers, the senior vice-president and publisher of Tyndale fiction, which
published the series. The production team asked why anybody would "want to
buy a book when they know what the ending's going to be?"
But with each edition word of mouth grew. More than 20,000 volunteers formed
a Left Behind "street team", to introduce the books to family, friends and
neighbours. When the fifth book, Apollyon, was released in 1999 it hit No 2
on the New York Times fiction hardcover list and the novels have remained in
the mainstream ever since.
If the series' success illustrates the high degree of religious feeling in
the US, it also offers a glimpse of how evangelism and fundamentalism are
shaping the national mood after 9/11.
A Time/CNN poll 18 months ago found that 59% of Americans believe the events
in the book of Revelation are going to come true, while nearly 25% think the
Bible predicted the September 11 attacks. Little wonder then that sales
jumped 60% after 9/11 and Desecration -the 9th book, released in October
2001 - was the bestselling novel of the year. "The tragedy of 9/11 made
everything so much more real and believable," Jenkins says.
Referring to Mel Gibson's film, LaHaye said: "I think the world is waking up
to the fact that there are a great many people who support wholesome movies
and maybe we'll have a whole new field of faith-based movies.
"People complain that The Passion is violent and wonder if children should
see it ... But they're used to violence. Good grief, television and the
internet abound with it. But that's senseless violence. This is purposeful
violence. Children end up asking why Jesus was committed to go through
- How Clarke 'Outsourced' Terror Intel
The former counterterrorism chief tapped a private researcher to develop
intelligence on Al Qaeda. The disclosure sheds new light on White House
frustrations with the FBI.
By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball
As White House counterterror czar, Richard Clarke was so frustrated by the
FBI�s inability to identify Islamic radicals within the United States that
he turned for help to a freelance terrorism researcher whose work was deeply
resented by top bureau officials.
Clarke�s secret work with private researcher Steven Emerson is among a
number of revealing disclosures in the ex-White House aide�s new book,
�Against All Enemies,� that has been all but obscured by the furor over the
author�s politically charged allegations against President George W. Bush.
As recounted by Clarke in his book, and confirmed by documents provided to
NEWSWEEK, Emerson and his former associate Rita Katz regularly provided the
White House with a stream of information about possible Al Qaeda activity
inside the United States that appears to have been largely unknown to the
FBI prior to the September 11 terror attacks.
In confidential memos and briefings that were sometimes conducted on a near
weekly basis, Emerson and Katz furnished Clarke and his staff with the names
of Islamic radical Web sites, the identities of possible terrorist front
groups and the phone numbers and addresses of possible terror suspects�data
they were unable to get from elsewhere in the government.
This private pipeline of information�which began under President Clinton and
continued under Bush even after September 11�irritated top officials at FBI
headquarters, especially when much of the private research bore fruit and
was later used to help develop a U.S. government list of banned
organizations whose assets were frozen by the Treasury Department.
�There was a fatwa against me at the FBI,� Emerson joked to NEWSWEEK in an
interview. �Al Qaeda would have been more welcome at FBI headquarters than
But the role of private researchers like Emerson and Katz is not just
embarrassing to the FBI. It raises questions about a fundamental issue that
is getting major attention from the independent commission investigating
September 11: whether the FBI can ever really transform itself into a
domestic intelligence agency that can identify terror threats inside the
country before a crime has taken place.
The issue, which the commission is grappling with behind the scenes, may
lead to a recommendation that the FBI be split up and a separate domestic
spy agency be created along the lines of Great Britain�s MI5.
While Clarke never explicitly endorses this idea in �Against All Enemies,�
the story he tells is instructive and likely to be cited by supporters of
the idea inside the commission.
As recounted in his book, Clarke was furious in late 1999�during the height
of the crisis over the feared Millennium Plot by Al Qaeda�when the FBI
insisted to him that there were no Web sites inside the United States that
were recruiting jihadists for training in Afghanistan or soliciting money
for terrorist front groups.
Convinced the FBI was wrong, Clarke reached out to Emerson, a former
journalist for US News & World Report and CNN who later set up The
Investigative Project, a Washington-based group that specializes in exposing
the activities of Islamic radical groups inside the United States.
With funding from wealthy donors and foundations, who he has declined to
identify, Emerson has employed a number of different tactics�including
extensive Web-based research as well as deploying undercover researchers to
attend and secretly record meetings of Islamic groups in the United States.
Emerson�s research has, in the past, sometimes been controversial. For
years, major Arab-American and Muslim organizations would denounce him,
accusing him of painting with too broad a brush. �This is a guy who started
out riding an anti-Arab hobby horse and then transformed it into an
antiterrorism hobby horse,� says James Zogby, president of the Arab-American
Institute. �His material should be taken with a grain of salt.�
But Clarke had no reservations in "outsourcing" to the private researcher
and soon became convinced that his work was solid and even prophetic. He
writes in �Against All Enemies� that Emerson�s own 2002 book, "American
Jihad" (Free Press), �told me more than the FBI ever had about radical
Islamic groups in the U.S.�
�Within days� of his first request in late 1999, Clarke writes, Emerson
provided him �with a long list of Web sites sitting on servers in the United
States.� Clarke then passed along the list to the Justice Department and
FBI. But officials there balked at using it and complained at the time about
�how difficult it was prosecute �free speech� cases.�
As described by Emerson and Katz, who later split with her former boss and
now runs her own privately funded group called the SITE (Search for
International Terrorist Entities) Institute, the relationship with Clarke
blossomed into a much more extensive one that included regular briefings at
both the Clinton and Bush White Houses.
The memos they wrote for Clarke also covered more than Web sites. One, dated
Dec. 28, 1999, was especially noteworthy. It traced links between two Saudi
dissidents in London, apparent associates in the United States and Osama bin
Laden�s network. A look at those links �reveals that bin Laden�s
international terrorist infrastructure operates across the U.S.�not only in
New York and Texas, but also Colorado, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Missouri
and probably elsewhere,� according to a copy of the memo provided to
NEWSWEEK by Emerson.
To be sure, Clarke acknowledges in his book, the FBI was handicapped in its
ability to develop the same information on its own. Attorney General
guidelines imposed during the 1970s barred agents from attending meetings of
religious groups or even printing out organizations� Web pages unless they
had specific reason to believe a federal crime had been committed. (The
bureau also was suffering from an antiquated computer system that left
agents unable to conduct a simple Google search.)
FBI spokesman Bill Carter notes that much has changed since then. The FBI
guidelines have since been modified by Attorney General John Ashcroft so
that agents can now more easily collect public-source information about
suspected terror groups and even attend religious meetings in mosques or
other houses of worship so long as they have a �reasonable suspicion� that
terrorist activity might be taking place. The bureau has also invested
hundreds of millions of dollars in a new computer system that, at long last
gives street agents the ability to surf the Web.
But whether those and other post-September 11 changes are enough to
forestall demands for a new domestic intelligence structure�including a
possible MI5�is still unclear. Emerson, for his part, says that the bureau
is still hindered by a bureaucratic culture that is overly
compartmentalized, resists information-sharing and has an innate distrust
of �open source� information that can often be more revealing than that
which is provided by informants and cooperating witnesses. �This is why
outside groups can do a lot more,� he says.
- Tag-team testimony from Bush, Cheney will limit divergent answers
By Ron Hutcheson
WASHINGTON - President Bush's plan to appear before the Sept. 11 commission
with Vice President Dick Cheney at his side violates a fundamental rule of
investigations, but the panel accepted the unusual arrangement to get the
As anyone who has ever watched a cop show knows, witnesses and suspects are
best grilled alone to expose any inconsistencies in their stories.
"Get 'em alone, keep 'em alone, and don't even let them talk to each other
immediately after, if you can help it," former New York police detective
Robert Louden said Wednesday, recalling the tactics he used during his 21
years on the force. "In an ideal world, you want them separated."
But Louden, who now teaches at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in
New York, said normal rules don't necessarily apply to a case involving the
Bush insisted on the joint appearance in agreeing to take questions from all
10 members of the panel investigating the Sept. 11 attacks. He initially had
offered to meet only with the commission's top two members, former New
Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, the chairman; and former Rep. Lee Hamilton, the
No date has been set for the tag-team testimony. The arrangement virtually
eliminates any possibility of divergent answers from Bush and Cheney, and
lets Bush pass off any question he'd rather avoid and makes it impossible
for the commission to ask either man any follow-up questions.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush proposed the joint session
to streamline the question-and-answer process.
"This is a good way to help them get the information they need and do so in
a timely manner," McClellan said. "They can talk to both of them and help
better understand how to piece together all the information that they've
Although the joint appearance has some advantages for Bush, it might also
give new ammunition to critics who view Cheney as the real power in the
White House and the driving force behind the decision to invade Iraq.
Commission members accepted the arrangement Tuesday to end drawn-out
negotiations over terms of Bush's appearance. Bush also insisted that he and
Cheney testify in private without being placed under oath.
"This is an unusual situation. We've only got a limited amount of time to
complete our work," said commission member Richard Ben-Veniste, a former
prosecutor and one of the toughest questioners on the panel. "If this is an
important condition, that both the president and vice president be in the
room at the same time, we can accommodate that."
The panel faces a July 26 deadline for its final report. It also plans to
hold separate sessions with former President Bill Clinton and former Vice
President Al Gore. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice is expected to
testify in open session within the next two weeks.
Sitting presidents rarely appear before investigative panels or
congressional committees, but it has happened. On Oct. 17, 1974, Gerald Ford
became the only sitting president to testify under oath at a congressional
hearing when he went before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Criminal
Justice to explain his pardon of former President Richard Nixon.
Kean said he saw no need to place Bush under oath. "We're happy just to have
him talk to us," he told CBS Wednesday.
Although Bush and Cheney have a close working relationship, they rarely
appear together in public, especially since the Sept. 11 attacks. Bush and
Cheney have had little to say about the specifics of former
counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke's allegation that the
administration downplayed the terrorist threat. But they have been
consistent in defending their handling of the war on terror.
Cheney's initial effort to rebut Clarke seemed to backfire.
"He wasn't in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff," Cheney told
conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh on March 22. "He clearly missed a lot
of what was going on."
Two days later, Rice directly contradicted Cheney.
"I would not use the word out of the loop. He was in every meeting about
terrorism," she said.
By appearing together, Bush and Cheney can avoid any similar embarrassments.
"We recognize that Mr. Bush may help Mr. Cheney with some of the answers,"
Kean joked on Tuesday, drawing laughter. "We think we can get the
information we need."
- Pakistan to play a pivotal role
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - As the Pakistan military establishment's pro-United States
policies continue to receive harsh criticism domestically, Washington is now
pressuring Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf to undertake yet
another operation against foreign militants and their proteges in Pakistan's
tribal regions of South and North Waziristan near the Afghanistan border.
The most recent operation in South Waziristan kicked off two weeks ago and
failed miserably, with the official figure listing about 50 of the Pakistan
Army's officers and soldiers killed and no "prize targets" captured. Asia
Times Online sources maintain the casualty figure is actually much higher.
Now, Musharraf has been pushed back under the microscope. Through many
reshuffles in the Pakistan army, Musharraf has managed to maintain his writ
as chief of army staff, while holding onto his position as president of
Pakistan - however this issue is reemerging as a source of contention in
Pakistan. There is also intense debate in the armed forces hierarchy
following the failed operation in Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan
agency, that the two offices should be separated to keep the army out of
Such calls for the division of military and state come in the wake of
several "high value target" myths established over the duration of the
operation. At the start of the fighting, it was implied that al-Qaeda number
two, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, was hiding out in the region, an allegation later
dismissed by the army. More recently, it was suggested that two high-level
al-Qaeda members, Tahir Yuldevish and "Abdullah", were seriously wounded and
killed - in that order. Yuldevish is the leading commander of the Islamic
Movement of Uzbekistan, meanwhile Abdullah's story would have ridiculed the
army had the world known his background, given that Pakistan's Inter
Services Public Relations (ISPR) department initially branded him to be a
key al-Qaeda member.
Yuldashev and "Abdullah" are two of the most famous characters among the
Pakistani jihadis - each featured in movies that are in circulation all over
the country. Yuldashev can be seen addressing the Islamic cause in which he
justifies their fight against the US by providing various glimpses of
brutalities in Israel and in Chechnya. "Abdullah" is a Chechan guerilla who
is known among the jihadis for his classic guerilla fights. He is shown in
the movies killing Russian soldiers.
US bombings in Afghanistan forced Yuldevish to leave northern Afghanistan
some time ago, his whereabouts are currently unknown, however, he was last
believed to have been hiding out in Khost. Pakistani authorities took the
lead from there and established their own guess that Yuldevish was hiding
out in the Shawal mountains - a no-man's land on the Pakistan-Afghan border
- and even claimed that he was wounded. Given the popularity of Abdullah in
Pakistan, it was presumed that he should also be in Afghanistan, and his
status was elevated by the ISPR to that of chief spy master of al-Qaeda.
Soon after, however, it was recognized that there was no evidence of his
presence in Afghanistan. He was eventually presumed dead, but it was later
stated by the ISPR that he is not the chief spy master, but rather an
ordinary spy: "an Egyptian" whose body had not yet been recovered.
These attempts to "glorify" the Wana operation were unable to cover up its
failure and repercussions. The Pakistan army is split on an ethnic basis.
Before the operation started in South Waziristan, Musharraf prematurely
retired Corps Commander Peshawar Ali Jan Orakzai, a Pashtun, and installed
Lieutenant-General Safdar Hussain - a Punjabi. The development was seen as
anti-Pashtun among the Pashtun officers who are the second largest majority
after Punjabi officers. These feelings of tension were clearly reflected
during the operation, from both sides. Several soldiers and a few officers
of Pashtun origin refused to participate in actions taken against the
The way in which Pashtun tribals dealt with hostages is also a reflection of
this split. The tribals that held Pashtun paramilitary force members hostage
are said to have treated them with respect, later releasing them after a
deal with Pakistani authorities. However, the soldiers that were of Punjab
descent were killed and their bodies mutilated.
High-level sources tell Asia Times Online that in the face of these
failures, Musharraf now faces two immediate challenges.
Firstly, the US military high command has been regularly been visiting
Pakistan and is stressing the need for a complete crackdown on foreign
fighters along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area, starting from Khyber
Agency to South Waziristan. They emphasized that the mission can only be
successful if both US and Pakistani forces conduct joint operations in the
area. The aim of this operation is once again to destroy the base of jihadi
fighters believed to be in the Shawal mountains. Thus another operation in
South and North Waziristan is inevitable, despite the public outcry sure to
The second challenge Musharraf is up against comes from the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). IAEA inspectors are now in Iran and aim to come
Pakistan to verify the Iranian centrifuge facility with Pakistan - which
means they will be paying a visit to Pakistan's nuclear installations,
another issue sensitive to the Pakistani public.
Non-compliance with these two challenges is difficult for Pakistan, as the
country is under heavy US pressure. But, on the other hand, compliance means
giving Islamic radicals the chance to wreak further havoc. They are already
seeking out this opportunity - under broader designs chalked out by the
International Islamic Front - in which the success of the Afghan resistance
can only be ensured once it takes control of Pakistan's backyard. This is
only possible if the country falls into the hands of Islamic radicals or
deep into anarchy and chaos.
- Sad chapter for university presses
By Marilyn Gardner
When Northeastern University Press prints the final books on its 2004 list
later this year, the titles will have a dubious distinction: They will be
the last ones bearing the university imprint. After 27 years, the respected
press is shutting down, a casualty of rising costs and shifting priorities.
School officials say they cannot afford subsidies that now stand at $450,000
and could reach $600,000 this year.
"It's not a reflection of the work of the staff or the quality of the list,"
says spokeswoman Christine Phelan in Boston. "It's solely a financial
Northeastern is not alone. The University of Idaho has announced that it is
closing its press July 1, when the deficit will total $385,600. And the
University of Georgia Press faces a possible loss of $289,329 in state
support, half of its annual state subsidy.
"It's been a rough time," says Peter Givler, executive director of the
Association of American University Presses in New York. "In general, the
university presses were affected by the same economic forces that have
affected everybody else since 2001."
Ms. Phelan traces current budget woes to increases in paper and publishing
costs, declines in library spending for new books on highly selective
topics, and fewer purchases through general bookstores.
"It's a very dismaying trend," she says.
Yet Mr. Givler sees signs of a turnaround. "I've been hearing that sales are
looking up, returns are down, and the slide that many presses were
experiencing for a couple years before that has stopped." But state tax
collections are still down, he cautions, which affects state university
budgets and presses.
Across the country, 95 university presses publish 11,000 books a year. In
2002, these scholarly works generated $444 million in sales. Although they
account for a fraction of the 150,000 titles published in the US annually,
they create what Douglas Armato, director of the University of Minnesota
Press, calls "an impressive cultural entity."
Even so, he says, university presses suffer from stereotypes that they are
simply "fossilized recyclers of dissertations."
As one measure of the importance of university press books to broader
audiences, Givler notes that in the months following Sept. 11, 2001, three
previously published volumes quickly became bestsellers: "The New Jackals:
Ramzi Yousef, Osama Bin Laden, and the Future of Terrorism" (Northeastern);
"Taliban" (Yale); and "Twin Towers" (Rutgers).
"It was so unusual that three university press books would be topping the
national bestseller list," Givler says. "There is no visible, large,
national market for a lot of these very specialized books. But when
something comes along - 9/11 being the most dramatic and horrible example -
university presses have already published the books about it that people
need to read. They're serving the public need for information, not just
scholars' need for information."
At Northeastern, some faculty members are dismayed that school officials
never sought their views about closing the press, which publishes 35 titles
a year. "There was no consultation with faculty," says William Kirtz, a
journalism professor. "I think people feel it got shot out from under them."
Yet he and others acknowledge the challenge universities face in deciding
how to allocate limited funds. "Where do you cut?" he asks. "I don't know."
That's also the question at the University of Idaho, which publishes between
eight and 10 books a year. Spokeswoman Kathy Barnard notes that some people
regard the closing of its press as a threat to the school's stature. Others
are relieved that the school is shutting down the press rather than
"In light of the overall budget situation of the university, we just can't
afford to have any program that deficit-spends at this point and is not
crucial to the core mission of educating students," Ms. Barnard says.
At the University of Georgia Press, which publishes 70 to 80 titles a year,
staff members hope that some of the proposed subsidy cuts can be averted.
The provost has expressed his appreciation to employees at the press, says
Alison Reid, assistant director for marketing. "We've gotten assurance that
they're going to do everything they can to support us."
Tough times all over
Although small presses struggle the most, even large presses feel the
effects of economic shifts. "Having a bigger list makes you a little more
diverse, so you're able to absorb the shocks of the marketplace," says Carol
Kasper, a marketing director at the University of Chicago Press, the largest
university press in the US. "But nobody is immune to all the funding issues
that are plaguing universities right now."
Phil Pochoda, director of the University of Michigan Press, sees this as a
"very perilous moment" for university presses. Library orders that once
would have totaled a thousand copies for any given title have dropped to 200
to 300 because of library budget cuts, he says.
"I think there definitely will be a shakeout," he adds. "This is just the
beginning." Calling university presses a cultural treasure that is seriously
undervalued and ignored, he says, "They won't be appreciated until more and
more have been eliminated."
Givler is more optimistic. Although this kind of publishing has always
represented a financial struggle, he says, "It's a very exciting kind of
publishing. People who are in it aren't in it for the money."
For now, Northeastern officials are considering the possibility of joining a
press consortium to handle the school's backlists. When the University of
Massachusetts Press lost $375,000 in state subsidies last year, it formed an
alliance with Johns Hopkins University Press.
Emphasizing the value of Northeastern's press, which specializes in regional
history, criminal justice, and music, Kirtz says, "They weren't just books
read by 12 anthropologists in Borneo."
- Mexican migrants' growing influence
By Javier Lizarzaburu
"We are powerful enough to make a difference," says Guadalupe Gomez, talking
about the influence migrants have in Mexican politics.
Originally from the Mexican state of Zacatecas, he's lived north, in the US,
for more than 40 years. He is currently president of the Federation of
The migrants' influence comes with the massive amounts of money they send
Despite the relative stagnation of the US economy, this flow of money keeps
growing, according to recent data. In 2003 it increased by 35% - the total
amount sent that year to Mexico was more than $13bn.
Remittances from Mexicans in the US have become one of Mexico's most
important sources of income - second only to oil and surpassing the
traditional tourism industry.
According to Roberto Suro, director of the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington
"remittances have probably benefited Mexico more than Nafta" (the North
American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the US and Mexico).
The flow of money from the US to Latin America largely exceeds the money
from foreign aid that the region receives.
For many, remittances have become a form of foreign aid that helps the
families back home to alleviate poverty, spur investment and achieve higher
standards of living.
It is thanks to them [migrants] that I became state governor
Zacatecas Governor Ricardo Monreal
But critics argue that dependence on remittances can impair local initiative
and create no incentives for people to move forward.
However, the issue is not just about families anymore.
Remittances are fast becoming a new phenomenon, influencing foreign and
domestic policies in different countries, including the US - the main source
of remittances worldwide.
Experts say the recent immigration proposals submitted by US President
George W Bush, to allow migrants to work legally in the US for a limited
number of years, are a direct response to the growing influence of Latinos
in that country.
For Mexico's President, Vicente Fox, the issue was paramount during his
He made migration a cornerstone of his political agenda. He even called
migrants the new "heroes".
Quite a change from the days, not so long ago, when those who chose to live
with "the enemy" - as they used to call the US in many parts of the Mexico -
were called "traitors".
The Mexican state of Zacatecas, once a place rich in silver but now one of
the poorest areas in the country, is illustrative.
More Zacatecans live now in Los Angeles than in the city of Zacatecas.
The State Governor, Ricardo Monreal, acknowledges that "their economic
influence is huge and their political clout as a consequence of that is huge
"It is thanks to them that I became state governor," says Mr Monreal.
Remittances also have social and human implications.
In the village of Jomulquillo, a couple of hours from the city of Zacatecas,
what hits you as soon as you arrive is the silence.
One of the few locals remaining there says that at the moment there are 80
people living in the village - 300 live in Los Angeles.
With the empty houses, the closed windows and locked doors, this feels like
a ghost town.
But the pain of families being separated is somewhat compensated by these
remittances that, in the case of Zacatecas, not only help the relatives but
also their villages of origin.
As part of a new strategy, the Mexican authorities have decided to match the
money sent by migrants with local, regional and federal money, in order to
build roads, schools and medical centres.
From being called "traitors who chose to live with the enemy", Mexico's
emigrants have now gained a level of influence and respectability unheard of
in the country.
According to Guadalupe Gomez "a lot of politicians are taking notice of our
influence". And, he adds, they have to do more to make migrants participate
in the decision-making process.
It is not surprising therefore that last year, in a historic move, the
Zacatecas' state legislature voted in favour of allowing migrants living in
the US to stand for political office.
Similar things are occurring in other Latin American countries.
The recent elections in El Salvador show just how much this issue is
Experts say that the right-wing Tony Saca won the elections largely due to
last minute television ads warning that a victory for the left-wing
candidate would have a negative impact on US-Salvador relations.
One consequence of this, the ads warned, would be massive deportations that
in turn would put remittances at risk.
Analysts believe that because nearly 30% of the population depends on the
money sent from the US, this twist in the electoral campaign became a
decisive element in Mr Saca's victory.
If remittances continue to grow as they have in the last few years, migrants
are likely to become crucial players in the politics of their countries of
origin and not only in the economy.
Do you want to comment on this article. Use the form below.
Even in Pennsylvania, which is a long way from the Mexican border, small
restaurants have opened run by a large family group from Guadalajara. The
food is fantastic and the staff are hard working and very congenial. As is
typical, the shops are open seven days each week from 11:00 to 11:00... try
beating that for ambition! Now they are developing a chain of restaurants
throughout many smaller cities.
Sharon Schafer, Pennsylvania, USA
Maybe if the US (and other nations) would relax our immigration policies,
workers could bring their whole families with them, and that $13bn could
stay here in the States.
Matt Johnson, Mobile, Alabama, USA
As a Mexican living in the United States I have experienced how, Mexican
immigrants, in fact influence Mexican politics. When President Fox was being
elected many of the Mexicans in Chicago highly supported him and usually
called their relatives to tell them that he was their best choice.
Particularly because Fox has highly supported the idea of allowing immigrant
to vote from abroad and also because many were upset that it was the
economic environment created by the previous party, the PRI, that made them
emigrate in the first place.
Jose Galixto, Madison, Wisconsin, USA
Mexicans who live and work in the USA have never been criticised as your
report suggests. It is accepted by just about everyone that they go north to
make money. The people who are criticised are the ones who cross over as it
were and become American nationals. They are known as pochos in Mexican
Spanish and, yes, they are widely disliked. So, making money in the USA is
OK, but giving loyalty to the place is still frowned upon.
Ken Bell, Mexico City
I think it's very bad that our country depends so much on remittances from
our "paisanos" in the US. I think that our country should impulse the
national industry and market, instead of depending on foreign money. Every
nation should be self sufficient, and even the rich ones aren't.
Ernesto Lomel�, Tijuana, Mexico
Story from BBC NEWS:
- 2 firms linked to Al Qaeda, Saudi intelligence agency
By John Crewdson, Tribune senior correspondent. John Crewdson reported from
Germany, and Viola Gienger contributed from Bosnia-Herzegovina and Albania.
HAMBURG, Germany -- Two private Saudi companies linked with suspected Al
Qaeda cells here and in Indonesia also have connections to the Saudi Arabian
intelligence agency and its longtime chief, Prince Turki bin Faisal,
according to information assembled by German intelligence analysts.
The Twaik Group and Rawasin Media Productions, both based in Riyadh, the
Saudi capital, have served as fronts for the Saudi General Intelligence
Directorate, according to an inquiry by Germany's foreign intelligence
service, the BND.
Twaik, a $100 million-a-year conglomerate, has diverse holdings inside and
outside Saudi Arabia. Rawasin reports earnings of about $4 million a year
from producing and selling audio and videotapes promoting the Wahhabi
version of Islam that is Saudi Arabia's dominant religion.
The conclusions reached by the BND inquiry were presented to the office of
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder late last year and subsequently
circulated within the German intelligence community.
The inquiry determined that Twaik, like Rawasin, was what one source
described as "an organ of Saudi Arabia intelligence."
In the late 1990s both Twaik and Rawasin employed Reda Seyam, a 44-year-old
Egyptian suspected by Indonesian authorities of having helped finance the
Bali nightclub bombing. Germany's federal prosecutor is investigating Seyam
on suspicion of supporting a foreign terrorist organization, namely Al
The German inquiry also discovered that, during 1999 and 2000, Seyam took
several flights from Saudi Arabia to destinations in Europe on aircraft
operated by the Saudi General Intelligence Directorate, or GID.
The Tribune reported last year that between 1995 and 1998, Twaik deposited
more than $250,000 in bank accounts controlled by Mamoun Darkazanli, a
Syrian-born Hamburg businessman and longtime Al Qaeda associate with close
ties to the Sept. 11 hijackers during their years in the northern port city
Abdulrahman Al-Fahhad, then the Twaik executive responsible for the
company's rental-car operations in the Balkans, acknowledged hiring
Darkazanli in 1995 to supply cars from Germany for Twaik's branch office in
Albania. The money, Al-Fahhad said, had been for Darkazanli's use in
purchasing those cars.
Al-Fahhad also acknowledged hiring Seyam to manage Twaik's rental-car office
in nearby Bosnia-Herzegovina. In telephone interviews last year and earlier
this month, Al-Fahhad continued to maintain that he could not remember how
he met either Darkazanli or Seyam.
Twaik's founder and owner of record, Saudi businessman Saleh Abdulaziz
Al-Fahhad, did not respond to several written requests for comment on his
company's purported connections with Saudi intelligence, Rawasin and Seyam.
Rawasin did not respond to e-mailed requests for information beyond stating,
"You can find our products in Islamic cassette shops."
The BND inquiry has concluded that Seyam, one of whose specialties was
videotaping Muslim fighters in action around the world, was sent to
Indonesia by Rawasin a year before the October 2002 Bali bombing that killed
202 people and wounded more than 300.
It is not clear whether Seyam was working on his own or on behalf of Rawasin
while he was distributing what Indonesian investigators said was tens of
thousands of dollars to militant Islamists in Indonesia, including the
convicted mastermind of the Bali bombings.
Neither Seyam nor Darkazanli, both of whom emigrated to Germany in the early
1980s and subsequently became naturalized German citizens, has been charged
with any crime in Germany. Darkazanli is the target of a separate
investigation by the federal prosecutor into the suspected laundering of Al
In 2002 and 2003 Seyam served a 10-month jail sentence in Indonesia for
violating that country's immigration laws. Darkazanli was accused in a
Spanish indictment last year of having served as Osama bin Laden's
"financier in Europe."
According to information gathered by the BND, the relationships between
Twaik, Rawasin and the Saudi General Intelligence Directorate were
established while the GID was headed by Prince Turki bin Faisal al Saud, the
eighth and last son of the late Saudi King Faisal and currently the Saudi
ambassador in London.
Prince Turki served as the chief of Saudi intelligence from 1978 until 2001.
The Twaik Group was formed in 1985, and Rawasin in 1998, according to
business records on file in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. In a March 18 letter
faxed to the Tribune, Prince Turki stated only that "I have not developed
any relationship with either group."
Less than two weeks before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States,
the prince surprised observers by resigning after 23 years as head of Saudi
intelligence. The official Saudi news agency said the resignation had been
the prince's decision.
In a February 2002 speech to an alumni reunion at Georgetown University, his
alma mater, Turki recalled having met with Osama bin Laden on five occasions
in the late 1980s, at a time when both the Saudis and the U.S. were
supporting bin Laden and other Muslims battling the Soviet army in
Turki described bin Laden, whom he met in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, as "a
relatively pleasant man, very shy, softspoken."
If the BND's conclusions are correct, the linkage of Twaik to Saudi
intelligence may resolve a question that has puzzled criminal investigators:
Why would a conglomerate that then ranked 67th among all Saudi corporations
choose a Muslim ideologue with no apparent business experience to manage its
struggling rental-car operation in Bosnia-Herzegovina?
Those conclusions may also explain why a company whose operations within
Saudi Arabia range from waste removal to the management of government
hospitals undertook not one but two risky business ventures in the
strife-torn Balkans, where several Saudi-based Muslim charities were
spending tens of millions of dollars to aid the Muslim population.
Relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have been frayed by the Bush
administration's contention that wealthy individuals, companies and Islamic
charities in that country may have contributed, consciously or otherwise, to
the support of Islamic terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda.
There has been no indication thus far that any agency of the Saudi
government or member of the Saudi royal family played a conscious role in
supporting terrorist activities. A source familiar with the BND
investigation said Saudi government officials outside the GID "probably" had
no idea of the relationship among Rawasin, Twaik and the GID.
The BND's conclusions might also raise questions about whether at least some
of the Saudi government's acknowledged support for armed struggles by
Muslims in Afghanistan and elsewhere may have been diverted to attacks on
No direct link
No direct connection between Saudi money and the Sept. 11 plotters in
Hamburg has been found, though investigators here and in the U.S. continue
to search for one. A senior FBI official acknowledged recently that the
agency still did not know the "ultimate source" of the estimated $500,000
that financed the Sept. 11 hijackings.
Though both men are free, Seyam and Darkazanli are being kept under
surveillance while the federal prosecutor's investigation of their
The investigation of Seyam has been hampered by the fact that, until two
years ago, supporting a foreign terrorist organization like Al Qaeda was not
illegal in Germany.
That loophole, which also has caused problems for the prosecutions of two
accused Sept. 11 conspirators in Hamburg, has since been closed. The
loophole is not an issue in the Darkazanli investigation, which is focused
on ordinary criminal statutes that prohibit money laundering.
The new anti-terrorism statute, forbidding support for any organization
foreign or domestic, is not retroactive. A decision on whether to arrest
Seyam and to indict him on terrorism charges will depend on what prosecutors
learn about his activities after the law was changed in August 2002.
Under German law, intelligence information like that collected about Seyam
by the BND cannot be used to build a criminal case, something a source
familiar with the BND's investigation of Seyam described as "very
Seyam still could be charged with an ordinary crime not related to terrorism
if the evidence to support such a charge exists. His ex-wife, a German woman
named Regina Kreis, has emerged as a leading witness in the criminal
investigation, which is being conducted by the German federal police, the
A ride to Germany
One BKA official, cautioning that his agency was not entirely convinced of
Kreis' credibility, said she had recalled for investigators riding in a car
from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Germany with her husband and another man sometime
From photographs Kreis identified the mystery passenger as Ramzi Binalshibh,
who moved to Germany from Yemen the previous year and would later become the
self-described "coordinator" of the Sept. 11 hijacking plot. Binalshibh is
now in U.S. custody at an undisclosed location.
The journey with Binalshibh was first disclosed by the German magazine Der
Spiegel, which reported last week that German authorities now consider Seyam
"to be one of the most important Al Qaeda agents in Europe."
Another German magazine, Focus, previously quoted Kreis as saying Seyam had
been "in touch with Al Qaeda leaders" while the couple was living in
Bosnia-Herzegovina and had taken part in a firing squad that executed a Serb
in the summer of 1995.
Herbert Gude, a Focus reporter who interviewed Kreis while she was in the
BKA's witness protection program earlier this year, said she had been kept
in the dark about her husband's business affairs and could not explain how
and why Seyam had been hired by Twaik.
Kreis, who converted to Islam after her 1988 marriage to Seyam and was
divorced by her husband in 2001, was not living with Seyam in Jakarta when
he was arrested there in September 2002.
Evidence of financing
Muchyar Yara, the spokesman for the Indonesian State Intelligence Bureau, or
BIN, at the time of Seyam's arrest, said investigators uncovered evidence
indicating that Seyam was financing several suspected terrorists in
Yara said that when agents searched Seyam's rented $4,000-a-month house,
they recovered documents that included the names of suspected terrorists on
One of those names was Omar al-Farouq, believed by the U.S. to be a senior
Al Qaeda representative in Southeast Asia. It was al-Farouq's capture in
Indonesia in June 2002, Yara said, that led BIN to Seyam.
Seyam's "salary list," Yara said, also included the name of Imam Samudra, a
Balinese Islamic cleric sentenced to death last year after his conviction
for masterminding the Bali attacks.
Samudra has admitted his role in the nightclub bombings. At his trial,
Samudra reportedly declared that he was "grateful" for the deaths of more
than 3,000 people in the Sept. 11 attacks.
In all, Yara said, Seyam apparently handed out many thousands of dollars
during his Indonesian sojourn, including one particularly suspicious
expenditure of $74,000 for a "speedboat."
The BIN never found the speedboat, Yara said, noting that speedboats were
"not such a common thing" in Indonesia. But he added that "we can't say
directly that the money was used for the Bali bomb."
Despite the BIN's conclusion that Seyam was "a very high-ranking officer of
the international terrorism network," Yara said, he was convicted only of
working as a journalist while holding a tourist visa.
Seyam was not prosecuted on terrorism charges, Yara said, partly because of
loopholes in the Indonesian anti-terrorism laws, and partly because of his
German nationality. "We decided that his case would be better handled by
Germany," Yara said.
When Seyam's jail sentence ran out in July 2003, he was handed over to the
BKA, who returned him to Germany for questioning.
Interviewed by Der Spiegel in the small town near Stuttgart where he now
lives, Seyam said he was being "persecuted" because of his reporting of
injustices to Muslims while working as a correspondent for Al Jazeera, the
Arab-owned satellite TV channel.
Al Jazeera's Jakarta bureau chief, Othman al-Battiri, said in a telephone
interview that Seyam had never been an Al Jazeera correspondent, and that
his application for a job as a cameraman had been rejected. Editors at Al
Jazeera headquarters in Qatar confirmed that the organization had never
A heavily bearded man with what acquaintances describe as a brooding manner,
Seyam arrived in Germany in the early 1980s to study mathematics in
Freiberg. He became a naturalized German citizen after marrying Kreis.
"He was an ordinary Muslim who became a fanatic," a senior BKA official
According to Abdulrahman Al-Fahhad, when Seyam took over the management of
Twaik Rent-a-Car's office in the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo in October
1997, his instructions were to liquidate Twaik's operation.
"We hired him to close the business," Al-Fahhad said.
But Twaik's deputy manager in Sarajevo, Haytham Elshazli, remembers Seyam
struggling to make Twaik Rent-a-Car a going concern, albeit one with a
radical Islamic face.
Soon after taking over Twaik, Elshazli said, Seyam fired the company's only
two female employees. He also brought a copy of the Koran to the office and
began playing religious tapes during working hours.
When Seyam discovered that Twaik had rented a car to a woman with dual
Israeli and American citizenship, Elshazli recalled, "He said, `Why are you
renting to Israeli people, to Jews, to people like that ...? You don't have
to be in contact with Jews, with such people.'"
Seyam's exhortations drove away another Twaik employee, a non-observant
Bosnian Muslim who spoke to the Tribune on condition that he not be
"He said, `This is not good, you must have a wife, not a girlfriend, you
mustn't drink, you must go to mosque,'" the former employee recalled.
When the former employee told Seyam he intended to submit his resignation to
Abdulrahman Al-Fahhad, he said Seyam replied that that wouldn't be
necessary, because "I'm the owner of Twaik now."
Once Seyam took charge, Elshazli said, Abdulrahman Al-Fahhad's inspection
visits to Bosnia-Herzegovina ceased. At one point, Seyam brought in a dozen
or so Arabs, men Elshazli described as hard-line Islamists, explaining that
they were "accountants."
The men copied every document in the Twaik files, Elshazli said, including
the names and addresses of clients from the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo.
Within a few months of Seyam's taking over, Elshazli was also out the door.
"He said, `The company is ours now, and we are not satisfied with you
anymore,'" Elshazli recalled. "Six months of nightmare."
Whether despite Seyam's efforts or because of them, Twaik's enterprise in
Bosnia-Herzegovina failed, and in 1998 Seyam disappeared from
Bosnia-Herzegovina along with Twaik.
According to the BND investigation, he turned up the next year in Saudi
Arabia, working for Rawasin Media Productions.
In early 2001 Seyam began shuttling between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia,
where he reportedly videotaped fighting between the Muslim majority and the
Christian minority in Indonesia's remote Moluccas Islands. That
little-publicized struggle is believed to have claimed thousands of lives
over the past four years.
While Seyam was in Riyadh, according to Der Spiegel, "high-ranking Al Qaeda
members" were seen visiting his house.
Among Seyam's alleged visitors, the magazine said, was Osama bin Laden.
- - -
Men investigated for links to terror, Saudi intelligence
Two German citizens of Arab ancestry are suspected of links to the Sept. 11
hijackers and worked for companies believed to be affiliated with the Saudi
Arabian intelligence agency.
Profile: A 44-year-old German citizen originally from Egypt. Specialized in
videotaping Muslim fighters in the Balkans and elsewhere.
Terror ties: Under investigation in Germany for suspicion of
supporting Al Qaeda. Indonesian authorities suspect him of helping finance
the Bali bombing that killed more than 200 in October 2002.
Served 10 months in an Indonesian jail on a visa violation
before being deported to Germany in July 2003.
The self-described "coordinator" of Sept. 11. Held by U.S. authorities since
his arrest in September 2002.
- LINK TO SEYAM
Seyam's ex-wife, Regina Kreis, identifies Binalshibh as the man who shared a
car ride from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Germany with
her and her husband in 1996.
Profile: Syrian-born Hamburg businessman
Terror ties: Suspected of handling money, procuring equipment and other
activities on behalf of Al Qaeda. He was called Osama bin Laden's "financier
in Europe" in a 2003 Spanish indictment.
Hijackers used Hamburg as a base to plan the attacks; three of the four
pilots attended university there.
LINK TO DARKAZANLI
Darkazanli allegedly helped recruit the hijackers. He is a former associate
of Mohamed Atta while the latter was in college in Hamburg.
Rawasin Media Productions
Saudi Arabian company sells audio and videotapes promoting
Wahhabism, a form of Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. Allegedly affiliated
with the Saudi equivalent of the CIA.
- Link to Seyam
The company sent him to Indonesia in 2001, according to the German foreign
The Twaik Group
German intelligence officials call Riyadh-based conglomerate "an organ of
Saudi Arabia intelligence."
- LINK TO SEYAM
He ran the Saudi company's rental car business in Bosnia-Herzegovina in
- LINK TO DARKAZANLI
From 1995-98, the company wired more than $250,000 to
German bank accounts controlled by Darkazanli, who was hired to supply cars
for Twaik's office in Albania.
Sources: Police and intelligence reports, public documents Chicago Tribune
- THE LTTE CRISIS
in Jaffna and Batticaloa
With the Eastern rebel `Colonel' Karuna determined to go the whole hog and
the high command apparently unable to strike at him decisively, the LTTE
faces the worst crisis in its history.
Rebels, as I have come to realise, are never quite emancipated from the
people against whom they rebel. Whatever these people have admired, they
have to decry; whatever these people have decried, they have to admire.
Their opinions are thus dictated in reverse by their enemies.
- Bertrand Russell in "Revolt in the Abstract".
AFTER decades of tactical manoeuvres and scores of battles, which finally
took it to the negotiating table with the Sri Lankan government, the
Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) now faces its most serious
challenge: revolt within. Its Eastern military commander, Karuna, has struck
a belligerent note, which is an early sign of a possible implosion in the
once-monolithic group. It also raises serious concerns about the direction
in which the already-fragmented Sri Lankan polity is headed. The state of
flux that the Sri Lankan polity was in late last year following President
Chandrika Kumaratunga's decision to assume the portfolios of Defence,
Interior and Mass Communications has now extended to the island's Tamil
politics as well. The sparring in the Tiger camp has also rocked an already
unstable political situation into further disequilibrium. The uncertainty in
the ever-simmering eastern region gives no cause for comfort on both the
political and military fronts. According to the latest reports, although
attempts at rapprochement are continuing between the LTTE leadership and
Karuna, there is no clear public indication yet of a possible patch-up.
There are varying versions on the backdrop to Karuna's assertion of his
greater power in the east, the central command's decision on March 6 to
"discharge" him from the LTTE, and Karuna's subsequent defiance. But the
issues that have surfaced raise serious questions about the LTTE's
organisational structure and the concept of Tamil nationhood in Sri Lanka.
The LTTE has officially not gone beyond mentioning that the former special
commander for Batticaloa and Amparai was "discharged" for his "traitorous
acts" and that he was acting in self-interest, "instigated" by forces
"opposed to the liberation struggle". Supporters of the LTTE's decision say
Karuna had already painted himself into a corner through a series of
financial and personal misconduct. "Disciplinary action," they say, was
being contemplated against him, when he chose to revolt.
The LTTE sees the rebellion as "a temporary aberration". Colombo has
declined to comment on the matter and the international community, led by
the Norwegian peace facilitators, has distanced itself from the biggest
internal spat in the rebel group.
The impact of Karuna's rebellion should be weighed on three fronts - popular
perception and image, negotiations and political bargaining, military
strength and strike capability. In addition, it questions the raison d'etre
of the decades-old war for separation, which now appears to be veering round
to the federalist option.
The Tamils' assertion for nationhood is based on theThimphu Principles,
which encompass the right to a nation spread across a traditional homeland
based on self-determination. Karuna's rebellion is the first challenge to
the Thimphu Principles, which have been broadly accepted by the diversified
and mutually opposed Tamil parties and groups. The LTTE terms the latest
crisis an "internal" one perpetrated by a "lone individual with a lost
cause". The big difference from the past, however, is that it is being
fought in the public domain, with the expelled commander making the
Northern-Eastern divide a public issue.
Proponents of the theory of "pre-emptive strike by Karuna" argue that his
actions were built up over several months. "He was regional commander for 17
years something, unparalleled in the organisation. Why did he not raise the
issue of so-called discrimination of the East earlier?" a Jaffna resident
Karuna's defence against allegations of personal and financial misconduct is
that if it were so, he would have fled and not stayed on to assert his
The issues, supporters of his position say, were on the back burner for
quite some time.
As the debate on the rights and wrongs of Karuna's revolt continues, the
LTTE's image - as an organisation that has kept its problems to itself, as a
tightly ruled, disciplined group, and as one fanatically uncompromising on
Tamil nationalism - has taken a battering. The allegations of financial and
personal misconduct, if true, could well be too embarrassing for it to
More damaging is Karuna's charge that "discrimination" was behind his
decision to break ranks. In a society where caste and regional consciousness
run high, the LTTE was seen as a grouping that overcame such differences and
was focussed on "Tamil nationhood". The past undercurrents of regional
jostling by mainstream Tamil political parties, it was made clear, was
beyond Tigerism, which saw the North and the East as one. Moreover, of late,
the LTTE has also made a subtle, but significant shift from claiming to be
the sole representative of the Tamils to seeking to be that of the
"Tamil-speaking people", which would include the Muslims, who are a
predominant force in the East.
The LTTE has faced a "history of betrayals", says its chief negotiator and
ideologue Anton S. Balasingham, the most high profile one being that of its
deputy leader, Mahendrarajah alias Mahatiya, who was executed on charges of
"treason". However, the Mahatiya episode was known to the world only after
it was over. Karuna's high position in the organisation, the public
acknowledgment by the leadership of his military skills, and his role as a
member of the negotiating team, make his case very difficult for the LTTE to
Now that Karuna has put on public the domain issues of internal autonomy,
how the LTTE handles the crisis and how it seeks to cope with internal
demands could indicate whether the organisation is willing to move away from
its own centrist approach. A resident of Batticaloa said: "Karuna's case
would be seen anywhere else as a democratic assertion. Not in the LTTE."
IRONICALLY, the most telling comment on Chandrika Kumaratunga's
constitutional takeover last year came from Karuna. "It is like breaking the
pot when the butter was being churned," he had said. Tamil political
observers see a parallel in the timing of Karuna's revolt. "Our negotiating
position [in the peace talks] is likely to be affected and our bargaining
power could be weakened," a Northern politician said. The impact of Karuna's
revolt could become an additional component of the negotiations. The
possibility of the LTTE guaranteeing the implementation of any solution in
the East depends largely on the manner in which the group overcomes the
All through the stalled negotiations, the LTTE had presented its position on
two basic planks: that it was speaking for the Tamils and that it would not
compromise on its basic political and military positions. Against that
backdrop, Karuna's dissent, coming as it does from the weakest spot of the
conflict-resolution process - the East - will have an impact on the final
solution. The LTTE's moral high ground of "a united Tamil voice" at the
talks, already questioned by non-LTTE Tamil parties, will also be challenged
The largest uncertainty, however, is on the military front. The LTTE as a
military organisation has evolved into a force capable of countering and
launching conventional warfare since the 1990s. It was also then that Karuna
moved away from being a local warlord facing allegations of instigating
manslaughter to the position of a military leader. The longest and severest
military engagement between the Sri Lanka Army and the LTTE in the 1990s saw
the emergence of Karuna as a battlefield commander leading rebel ground
The result of that test between the rebel and government forces is now
common knowledge. Untested, however, is the situation of a military
engagement between LTTE factions. As Karuna's rebellion continues, his
assertion that he will "hit back" if attacked by the "Northern forces"
introduces a new dimension with calamitous consequences for the island's
Tamil population in the North and the East.
The LTTE leadership has made it a point to emphasise that the problem will
be solved without endangering the lives of civilians and cadre. Ground-level
indications from the East are that there is resentment against any
intra-Tamil violence. "We sent our boys to fight the Sri Lanka Army, not
against our own people," a pamphlet from the East, said.
The Eastern rebel cadre, according to Sri Lankan military sources, are known
for their "tenacity and precision in warfare". The number of Eastern
fighters varies between 5,000 and 6,000. The exact details of Karuna's
armoury are unknown, but it is acknowledged that its prowess cannot be
underestimated. In addition, the possibility of overt or covert support from
Sri Lankan forces is also not ruled out, depending on the situation. A
former militant cites the LTTE's unhesitating acceptance of support from the
Sri Lankan forces when it turned its guns against the Indian Peace-Keeping
Force (IPKF) and a Tamil group that supported the Indian Army.
Now, a week after Karuna's defiance, there is dead silence over the crisis.
According to current indications, the attempts for a re-alignment of forces
have not been abandoned completely. Karuna, who had planned several
battlefield deceptions to defeat the Sri Lankan forces, has demanded the
expulsion of three administrative heads - Pottu Amman (Intelligence),
Tamilendhi (Finance) and Nadesan (Police).
In an interview to Frontline, he did not conceal his personal animosities,
when he called the intelligence leader a "terrorist". The finance and police
chiefs, he alleged, were "not qualified to be in the LTTE" as they had
"surrendered" to the Indian Army. The selective targeting of these three
heads raises suspicions about the motives behind the opposition. According
to Karuna's critics, his displeasure towards the three chiefs could stem
from the fact that they are in charge of the subjects under which charges
have been made against him.
The high stakes placed by Karuna make reconciliation a seemingly difficult
task. The reasons behind the crisis remain unclear and are fast becoming
inconsequential outside the LTTE. As Sri Lanka gears up to face a hitherto
untested political and military sparring between two Tiger factions, a
difficult, possibly violent, phase lies ahead.
- Untold stories
Testimonies presented before a 'People's Tribunal' in New Delhi recently
bring out the vast human tragedy resulting from the abuse of POTA in
virtually every corner of the country.
UNTRAMMELLED power is dangerous in any hand. A "People's Tribunal", which
heard a number of testimonies on the application of the Prevention of
Terrorism Act (POTA) and other special security laws in Delhi in early
March, seemed quite unequivocally to reach this conclusion.
The testimonies brought to life statistics recently compiled on the
application of POTA and they revealed certain disquieting patterns. All the
287 cases booked under the law in Gujarat involve members of the religious
minorities; all but one involve Muslims. Of the 46 POTA cases in Uttar
Pradesh, all but two involve members of the Scheduled Castes or Adivasi
Om Prakash, a ten-year old from a Dalit family in Sonbhadra district of
Uttar Pradesh, was arrested in May 2003 and charged with political extremism
and involvement in the murder of a local feudal chief. His older brother had
been killed weeks before in what was described as an armed encounter with
the police. In hiding ever since, Om Prakash surrendered to the local police
following the threat that his family's meagre possessions, including its
home, would be attached by judicial order. He was held in a juvenile prison
for six months and allegedly tortured before being granted bail. Today, Om
Prakash regularly walks 10 kilometres to the courthouse where his case is
being heard. With no time-frame for resolution and the infinite capacity for
delay that the police brings to the case, he sees no prospect of an early
end to the agony.
This was one among at least four known cases involving the imprisonment and
continuing harassment of juveniles under POTA and other special security
laws. In Gumla district of Jharkhand, 16-year old Roopni Khari was arrested
under POTA. Terrorism has become a broad rubric under which any challenge to
an established order can be quashed. Khari's crime was to have organised the
women of her village around basic issues of subsistence they confronted in a
In Dharmapuri district of Tamil Nadu, Prabhakaran and Bhagat Singh, aged 15
and 17 then, were arrested in November 2002, for allegedly being involved
with the Radical Youth League, an offshoot of one of the factions of the
Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist). Neither was given any special
consideration on grounds of being juveniles. Both were detained under a
variety of provisions of the law and only informed after their third bail
hearings that they stood accused under POTA. Both spent over a year in
prisons before being granted bail. Their cases have now been transferred to
the jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court, where they belonged from the very
beginning. Quite apart from the repressive features of the law, the case of
these two juveniles from Tamil Nadu seemed to illustrate, in the perception
of the Tribunal, the dangerous intrusion of POTA special courts into other
Evidence rendered before the Tribunal indicated that for sheer promiscuity,
no State could quite match Jharkhand's record. The number of persons named
in the State under POTA is an astounding 3,200. Among these, first
information reports (FIRs) have been filed in 654 cases. A fact-finding team
that had extensively travelled through Jharkhand last year found that most
of the cases under POTA were being brought against the deprived sections
belonging, as a rule, to the Dalit and Adivasi communities. POTA was also
being used as an instrument of political coercion to erode the support
enjoyed by parties opposed to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
The picture from Uttar Pradesh showed a greater sense of restraint in
numbers, but an equally ready recourse to POTA to put down any agitation for
basic rights and services. Most of those arrested for alleged "terrorist"
offences in this State, the Tribunal was told, were guilty of nothing more
than pressing for land reforms and minimum wages.
In a survey of 25 instances of detention under POTA in Gujarat, a study team
that presented its findings to the Tribunal reported that a period of
illegal detention invariably preceded the formal arrest of the individuals
concerned. The duration of this illegal detention varied between three and
25 days. There were cases when family members of targeted individuals were
detained for days together, to pressure the main accused to surrender. The
typical mode of operation is for the police party to raid the premises of
the accused under cover of night to ransack and intimidate and even to seize
documents - such as ration cards - which may confer certain civic
entitlements on the accused. The embitterment of the religious minorities
had gone deep, said a legal activist from Gujarat. POTA, in this regard,
should more appropriately be called the "Production of Terrorists Act".
SPONSORED by the Human Rights Law Network, the Tribunal consisted of two
retired High Court Judges, D.K. Basu and Hosbet Suresh. The senior advocate
and former Union Law Minister Ram Jethmalani brought a greater depth of
juristic expertise to the body. Others on the Tribunal were the veteran
civil rights campaigner K.G. Kannabiran, Mohini Giri and Syeda Hameed, who
have both served on the National Commission for Women, the renowned writer
Arundhati Roy, and the journalist Praful Bidwai.
Summarising his impressions after two days of hearings, Jethmalani confessed
that he had been grievously in error in supporting the enactment of POTA.
"POTA came after a Security Council resolution asking all members of the
U.N. to legislate against terrorism," he said. "I did support the enactment
of POTA but I did it because it was done in obedience to the resolution of
the Security Council. I today regret that I supported POTA. I had reposed
faith in the honesty of the politicians who told me that it would not be
misused. Today, I have no doubt that we do not need (it) and that it should
go lock, stock and barrel."
Arundhati Roy for her part called for the repeal of POTA since it was no
more than an accessory in the mission of "dispossessing the poor". "The
misuse of POTA," she said, "is a clear illustration of how terrorism and
poverty are intertwined."
The well-known cases of the Tamil Nadu politicians, Vaiko and P. Nedumaran,
came in for extensive discussion at the Tribunal. Though the latter was
present, he was obliged by the judicial order governing his release on bail
to avoid any public utterances on his case. What the two days of testimonies
proved is that beyond the media spotlight which has been almost exclusively
focussed on prominent personalities whose liberty has been threatened by
POTA, there is a vast human tragedy of the abuse of special security laws
unfolding in virtually every corner of the country. When the Prevention of
Terrorism Bill was first drafted in 2000, the National Human Rights
Commission (NHRC) in its advisory jurisdiction described it as unnecessary
on virtually all counts. The categories of offences that the Bill dealt with
were covered by various other existing acts, it pointed out. What was
required for a credible fight against terrorism was a firmer commitment to
the rule of law, rather than the expansion of the powers of the police.
After evaluating the 1990s experience with the Terrorist and Disruptive
Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), considering the range of powers
conferred by existing laws and factoring in the provisions of international
covenants to which India is a party, the NHRC in complete unanimity,
affirmed that the Bill was uncalled for.
The Bill lapsed into some obscurity following this decisive intervention by
the country's highest human rights watchdog and the conspicuous failure of
political consensus. The terrorist attacks in the U.S. in September 2001
imparted a new life to it. The NHRC remained resolute in its opposition.
Justice J.S. Verma, then NHRC Chairman, forcefully articulated this
viewpoint in November 2001. In its approach to terrorism, he urged, the
government should balance the "dignity of the individual with national
security". Any law enacted to tackle terrorism must be very closely
scrutinised and "must muster the strict approval of constitutional validity,
necessity and proportionality". Care should be taken, he warned, to respect
the human rights of citizens and avoid harassment of the innocent, "lest the
entire action be counter-productive".
The NHRC's counsel found a receptive audience across much of the political
spectrum. It took an unprecedented joint sitting of both Houses of
Parliament to pass POTA into law. It took just over a year of its operation
to bring home the unavoidable message that the only use of POTA was its
abuse. The Union government responded with a Review Committee to examine
cases booked under the Act and set the innocent at liberty. But as the
Tribunal in Delhi was told, the Review Committee has remained hamstrung in
its operations, often unable to obtain necessary information and
documentation from the police authorities. Halfway measures serve little
purpose. The Tribunal's finding that the act should be repealed in its
entirety, is now backed up by extensive documentary evidence. But for those
who opposed POTA from its conception, vindication has come late and after
great human cost.
- Cricket diplomacy and the peace process
Despite the naysayers who wanted the Indo-Pak cricket series to be postponed
or cancelled because of fears of terrorism or unsporting rowdiness in the
stands, so far so good. The only injury has been to the Indian captain
Sourav Ganguly who tumbled after a ball and sprained his back. Indeed the
only hammering that anyone has got so far has been metaphorical, with the
Indian batsmen slamming the Pakistani bowlers all over the place and setting
To be sure, there is the usual crop of conspiracy theories about
match-fixing and team selection without which no Indo-Pak series can ever be
complete. The most bizarre theory has been peddled by a reactionary
anti-Musharraf Urdu columnist. Apparently he had predicted that India would
win both the One Day Internationals and Test matches because the Pakistani
establishment had ordered the Pakistani players to lose to India so that the
�sell-out� on Kashmir and �roll-back� on jihad could be cemented!
The reactions of lay Indian visitors to Karachi and Lahore during the series
have been no less intriguing. All have gone back gushing about Pakistani
hospitality, warmth and friendship. This is a far cry from the hostile
Hindu-hating fundamentalist Muslims they had been warned to expect by their
Muslim-baiting Hindu fundamentalist compatriots back home. This is what
happens when people meet, stereotypes snap and prejudices perish. The
balance of misinformation has been partially redressed.
Pakistanis know a bit about India�s Anglicised middle class composite
culture from Bollywood. But if the video revolution wasn�t sufficient to
give us a glimpse of India, the satellite channels have transported India to
millions of Pakistani homes. But there has been no comparable traffic the
other way because Lollywood is down market and Pakistani satellite channels
have only now reached across India. So Indians were fed by their ideologues
with all sorts of propaganda about Pakistan � about bombs and jihadis and
Pakistani women shrouded in purdah. When one TV camera focused on a group of
trendily clad Pakistani women clamouring for a �sixer� from Inzamam, the
Indian commentator was thrilled by such �normal� behaviour. Cricket has
served to uproot some of the big lies about Pakistan.
West Punjab in general and Lahore in particular are poised to be the
greatest beneficiaries of this peace process. At the time of partition, the
Sikhs who migrated from West to East Punjab were predominantly landowning
zamindars. So, as the famed Indian author Khushwant Singh has described in
his autobiography, they will seek opportunities to return to their homeland
in search of their ancient roots rather than their lost properties. In the
event, Lahore could become a bit of a boomtown. It was the capital of the
first and last Sikh state of Ranjit Singh in the late eighteenth and early
nineteenth centuries, and as such a Sikh �holy land� of sorts. Open the
borders and the Sikhs from East Punjab will flood the city. But that would
be for starters. Much of the urban property of the city was owned by Hindu
shopkeepers and businessmen who migrated to New Delhi at the time of
partition. Surely, they will all want to return to the sights and sounds of
their city and drink its water and smell its soil. The cry of �Lahore Lahore
ay� will echo everywhere and the city may yet regain its composite secular
culture of yore.
The credit for all this goes to General Pervez Musharraf and Mr Atal Behari
Vajpayee. A handful of die-hard reactionaries have accused General Musharraf
of misplaced concreteness vis-�-vis India. No matter. A vast majority
support him for focusing on peace rather than war with the neighbours. But
Mr Vajpayee has taken a greater risk on the eve of the Indian elections,
especially since he seems to have stood the BJP�s anti-Pakistan, anti-Muslim
ideology on its head. Indeed, the real test of the peace process will come
in the months ahead when both sides are obliged to demonstrate progress
towards finding a mutually acceptable �solution� to the core issue of
But it would be a mistake to hinge peace on any acceptable quick fix
�solution� to Kashmir. India and the rest of the world will concede nothing
more than the status quo. Third party mediation, especially by the United
States, will reinforce the status quo after allowing for marginal
adjustments between the Muslim Kashmiris and New Delhi. Indeed, the US may
exercise its greater leverage with Pakistan towards exactly such an end in
the region, and insist on making the peace process an end in itself rather
than the means to an end. So what�s wrong with this approach?
Absolutely nothing. In fact, it�s time we concentrated on bread and butter
issues rather than on guns and steel. The single most suffocating drag on
the Pakistani economy is the �rumour-of-war� syndrome in a nuclearised
neighbourhood. India is already growing at 9 per cent a year. But if we
languish at 5 per cent we shall be overwhelmed by poverty and unemployment
and alienation and civil unrest, all of which have the potential to
overwhelm us more comprehensively than the military might of India.