New jihad code threatens al Qaeda

World map about terrorist attacks of al-Qaeda.
Worldwide map of al Qaeda terror attacks.

From within Libya’s most secure jail a new challenge to al Qaeda is emerging.

“Leaders of one of the world’s most effective jihadist organizations, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), have written a new “code” for jihad. The LIFG says it now views the armed struggle it waged against Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s regime for two decades as illegal under Islamic law.

The new code, a 417-page religious document entitled “Corrective Studies” is the result of more than two years of intense and secret talks between the leaders of the LIFG and Libyan security officials.

The code's most direct challenge to al Qaeda is this: “Jihad has ethics and morals because it is for God. That means it is forbidden to kill women, children, elderly people, priests, messengers, traders and the like. Betrayal is prohibited and it is vital to keep promises and treat prisoners of war in a good way. Standing by those ethics is what distinguishes Muslims' jihad from the wars of other nations.”

The code has been circulated among some of the most respected religious scholars in the Middle East and has been given widespread backing. It is being debated by politicians in the U.S. and studied by western intelligence agencies.

Video: Into the prison in Tripoli

Gallery: The new jihadi code

In essence the new code for jihad is exactly what the West has been waiting for: a credible challenge from within jihadist ranks to al Qaeda's ideology.” ( via Steve Silberman)

Are nuclear weapons safe in Pakistan?

Only Israel, India & Pakistan. HTTP://RETHINK ...
Image by Cecilia… via Flickr

Seymour Hersh, with his usual uncanny inside access,writes in the New Yorker on the current state of the US-Pakistani alliance in light of concerns about the security of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal. Hersh feels that the Pakistanis’ apparent cooperation is a case of telling the Americans what they think they want to hear in return for coveted American bankrolling. By and large, he says, the Pakistanis distrust and dislike the Americans, fearing that anything they shared with the US in candor would find its way to Indian intelligence. Hersh hopes the Obama regime is not naive enough to believe the lines that the Pakistanis are feeding them, including their assurances that their nuclear arsenal is secure.

The US is stuck propping up the extremely unpopular Zardari regime, garnering the enmity of important segments of Pakistani society. The antipathy within the military is bolstered by the perception that they have been coopted as proxies in the US war on terror, turning their guns on their own people (local villagers, rather than the Taliban, were certainly the main victims of the bloodbath in Swat) from their traditional self-defined role defending their country against India. And it is upon this cooptation that the US’s “Af-Pak” strategy depends.

Hersh reviews evidence that the military has indeed turned far more fundamentalist in the past decade and that there are significant jihadist elements. A number of scenarios in which an internal mutiny could occur, and place a nuclear device in renegade hands, seem plausible. Secret US commando units will almost surely jump into a Pakistani crisis to seize and secure their nuclear weapons, but the outcome is not likely to be welcomed by Pakistan whether it succeeds or fails.

Reality Check

Car bombing in Iraq, 2005. As Coalition Forces...

Andrew Sullivan: “The Beltway’s conventional wisdom has long been that the war in Iraq is over. According to the partisan GOP blogs, Bush won the war last year. And yet, for all the many reports of a new calm in Iraq, and on the day that Tom Friedman buys into Maliki’s hope that a new non-sectarian future is imminent, two massive car bombs reveal that security still needs a city divided by huge, concrete barriers, and American troops for investigation and clean-up. It’s worth recalling that this is still happening even as over 120,000 US troops remain in the country. If this can happen when they are there in such vast numbers, what are the odds that Iraq will remain half-way peaceful and unified when/if the US leaves?” (The Atlantic)

Obama’s Cairo mission: Don’t be Bush

Under George W. Bush, America's Arab/Muslim report card was an F-minus. U.S. standing in the Middle East and among the world's Muslims sank to an all-time low, terrorist attacks greatly increased, violent extremists gained power, moderate and pro-U.S. regimes were weakened, the crucial Israeli-Palestinian conflict grew ever more intractable, Iraq sank into a hell from which it has only now begun to emerge, and the Taliban surged back in Afghanistan and threatened Pakistan. Bush's policies were directly responsible for many of these calamitous outcomes, and exacerbated others. In his Cairo speech, Obama's most pressing need is thus to make it unequivocally clear to the world's 1.5 billion Muslims and 325 million Arabs that the U.S. has decisively rejected Bush's failed ideology and policies, and intends to chart a completely new path. We can expect Obama to invoke his own background, reject the idea of a “clash of civilizations” and make an inspiring appeal to shared values. Those oratorical flourishes will count for something, but unless he supports them with tough, realistic language and actual policy changes, they will just go down as pretty words. What follows is a list of Bush's five cardinal Middle East errors, and what Obama can do in his speech and in his subsequent actions to correct them.” — Gary Kamiya (Salon )

Did Obama apologize explicitly and forcefully for the idiocy and criminality of Bush and make it clear how US action and policy will depart from that of his predecessor? Did he make it clear that we are not a Christian nation? that our policy is no longer to be “guided by voices”? A preliminary reading of the Cairo speech sugests he fell short.

Andrew Sullivan comments on the Cheney torture speech

Impeach Dick

“A simple note having now read the former vice-president’s despicable and disgraceful speech. It confirms the very worst of him, and reveals just how callow, just how arrogant, and just how reckless and unrepentant this man is and has long been. There was not a whisper of regret or reflection; there was a series of lies and distortions, a reckless attack on a graceful successor, inheriting a world of intractable problems, and a reminder that while serious men and women will indeed move on, Cheney never will. He remains a threat to this country’s constitution as he remains a stain on its honor and moral standing. I never believed I would hear a vice-president of the United States not simply defend torture but insist on pride in it, insist on its honor. But that is what he said, with that sly grin insisting that fear always beats reason, that violence always beats dialogue, and that torture is always an American value.” Read the entire column (The Atlantic).


Montana town requests that U.S. government send 100 Gitmo detainees to its prison.


‘A frequent attack on the closure of Guantanamo is the claim that no one in the U.S. wants detainees housed in their backyard. Last Sunday, Dick Cheney remarked, “I don’t know a single congressional district in this country that is going to say, gee, great, they’re sending us 20 Al Qaida terrorists.” But Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds reports that the town of Hardin, MT is requesting that 100 detainees be sent to its empty prison…(Think Progress)

The 13 people who made torture possible

“…13 key people in the Bush administration cannot claim they relied on the memos from the DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel. Some of the 13 manipulated the federal bureaucracy and the legal process to “preauthorize” torture in the days after 9/11. Others helped implement torture, and still others helped write the memos that provided the Bush administration with a legal fig leaf after torture had already begun.” (Salon).

No Speech, Please…We’re British

Ashkar - Hét antwoord op Fitna

Britain’s politicians care so much about constitutional protections for human rights that they have two sets of them–the centuries-old traditions laid out by parliament and precedent and the newfangled European Convention on Human Rights, written into British law in 1998. Neither of these stopped Britain from becoming the first European Union country to bar an elected European legislator from its territory for his political opinions on February 12.

The Dutch MP Geert Wilders heads the Freedom party, which holds 9 of the 150 seats in the Second Chamber in The Hague. He has been preoccupied with militant Islam at least since November 2004, when the filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered by a Muslim fanatic in Amsterdam, and Wilders’s own name turned up on a jihadist hit list. In March 2008, Wilders released Fitna, a 15-minute film, on the Internet. It details contemporary Islamist outrages and locates their inspiration not in any perversion of Islam but in specific suras of the Koran itself, which Wilders likens to Mein Kampf and urges authorities to ban.” via The Weekly Standard.

What Doctors (Supposedly) Get Wrong about PTSD

This article in Scientific American by David Dobbs reports on the growing concern that “the concept of post-traumatic stress disorder is itself disordered”. The writer is critical of a culture which “seemed reflexively to view bad memories, nightmares and any other sign of distress as an indicator of PTSD.” To critics like this, the overwhelming incidence of PTSD diagnoses in returning Iraqi veterans is not a reflection of the brutal meaningless horror to which many of the combatants were exposed but of a sissy culture that can no longer suck it up. As usual, the veil of ‘objective’ ‘scientific’ evidence is used to cloak ideological biases.

FmH readers know that I too am critical of the frequency of PTSD diagnosis in modern mental health practice, but I think that is not a problem with the theoretical construct of PTSD but its slapdash application. With respect to domestic PTSD, the problem is one of overzealous and naive clinicians ignoring the diagnostic criteria and, more important, misunderstanding the clinical significance and intent of the diagnosis, labelling with PTSD far too many people who have ever had anything more than a little upsetting or distressing happen to them. Essentially, PTSD is meant to refer to the longterm consequences of either an experience or experiences that are outside the bounds of what the human psyche can endure. Both emotionally and neurobiologically, the capacity of the organism is overwhelmed and the fact of the trauma assumes an overarching and inescapable central role in future information processing, functioning and sense of self. Experience that occurs when the body is flooded with unimaginably high levels of stress hormones, when the nervous system is in the throes of the fight-or-flight response, and when the normal processes for making sense of what we are going through utterly break down are encoded differently in the body and mind, with immeasurable effects. Only someone who did not grasp this at all could misrecognize simple anxiety, depression or adjustment difficulties as PTSD. But it happens all the time, especially in the treatment of depressed women, largely because of do-gooder clinicians’ desires to be politically correct and not be seen as insensitive to their clients’ suffering. Unfortunately, what it mostly does is train these clients to remain lifelong inhabitants of a self-fulfilling inescapable victim role.

The concern, on the other hand, with soldiers returning from the wars in central Asia, is the opposite. All evidence is that PTSD is being underdiagnosed, because of systematic biases within the government and the military to deny the scope of the problem. Articles such as this, and the research that it depicts, should be seen as nothing but a conservative backlash, an effort to blame the victims. If coping with the scope of PTSD is a problem, deny the reality of PTSD. Certainly considerable research suggests that a proportion of soldiers returning from the battle front in bad shape will have shown their resilience, will no longer show a high magnitude of emotional disturbance, and will not warrant a diagnosis of PTSD if reassessed months or years later. Research also suggests that early intervention using a trauma paradigm may do more harm than good, perpetuating the vulnerability of the patient. And most Defense Dept. research on the effects of combat trauma is intended to figure out how to block the stress reaction so that a soldier can remain functional and return to a combat role as soon as possible. But it remains the case that the human nervous system did not evolve to endure the horrors of modern war, and that the indefensibility and anomie of this war in particular, based as it has been entirely on lies, amplifies the intolerability and makes it far less likely that a veteran can find sustaining meaning in the suffering they endured. This will inevitably turn into higher rates of PTSD than among veterans of other wars.

To deny the scale of PTSD in our returning veterans is to be an unquestioning apologist for the untrammelled American imperialist projection of power in lawless aggression. As Dobbs describes it, the PTSD deniers construe us as having a cultural obsession with PTSD which embodies “a prolonged failure to contextualize and accept our own collective aggression.” What horse manure. Our cultural neurosis, rather, lies in the unquestioning acceptance of suggestions like Dobbs’ that we should mindlessly embrace such aggression as natural. This was the neurosis that made it possible to elect Bush and his handlers to enact an administration that set about violating every supposed principle of our democracy and our humanity. I know we are not supposed to draw this particular analogy, but this brand of PTSD denial strikes me as akin to nothing as much as Holocaust denial. Via Scientific American.

Secret Red Cross review says US practiced torture

The Constitution in Peril

“A secret Red Cross report from 2007 concluded that the treatment of al-Qaeda captives by CIA interrogators “constituted torture,” the Washington Post reported Monday.

The newspaper quotes the International Committee of the Red Cross report as saying the treatment of inmates at secret prisons run by the US Central Intelligence Agency amounted to “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment,” which is prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.

The findings were based on conclusions by ICRC officials who were granted exclusive access to the CIA’s “high-value” detainees after they had been transferred in 2006 to the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the report said.

The 14 detainees gave uniform accounts of abuse that included beatings, sleep deprivation, extreme temperatures and, in some cases, waterboarding, the paper noted.” via Google-hosted AFP


Justice Department Ends “Enemy Combatant” Definition For Gitmo Detainees, But….


“The Obama administration said Friday that it is abandoning one of President George W. Bush’s key phrases in the war on terrorism: enemy combatant. But that won’t change much for the detainees at the U.S. naval base in Cuba _ Obama still asserts the military’s authority to hold them. Human rights attorneys said they were disappointed that Obama didn’t take a new stance.

The Justice Department said in legal filings that it will no longer use the term “enemy combatants’ to justify holding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

“This is really a case of old wine in new bottles,” the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has been fighting the detainees’ detention, said in a statement. “It is still unlawful to hold people indefinitely without charge. The men who have been held for more than seven years by our government must be charged or released.”

In another court filing Thursday criticized by human rights advocates, the Obama administration tried to protect top Bush administration military officials from lawsuits brought by prisoners who say they were tortured while being held at Guantanamo Bay.” via Huffington Post.

Cheney Taunts Bush, Pardon Me or Else

Beavis & Butt-head as George W. Bush & Dick Cheny

“With his ABC interview Vice President Dick Cheney put a smoking gun on the table. He admitted that he, along with other top administration officials, personally approved the CIA’s waterboarding of prisoners. That he said it unapologetically is merely his low-keyed way of declaring open war.

President Bush has been working on his legacy by circulating an upbeat, 2-page talking point memo with a description of his successes in office. Bush likes to white-wash and obfuscate. Cheney prefers a more aggressive approach.

Always blunt, two-fisted, and condescending, the question is, why admit that he approved waterboarding? And why now? Maybe it was egotism, pure and simple, his own version of a legacy campaign where he takes credit for a policy that he asserts made America safe. But to his detractors it is an admission of guilt that is prosecutable, as damning as Jack Kervorkian’s 60 Minutes interview that landed him in prison.”

via David Latt in HuffPo.

Sign the ACLU’s Petition to Shut Down Guantanamo Bay

Five high-profile detainees this week attempted to submit guilty pleas before the government’s ill-conceived military commissions at Guantánamo Bay. But, by the end of the day, their pleas were tied up in a blizzard of confusion over unresolved legal questions.

Whatever happens, it is abundantly clear is that, no matter how hard the government tries to advance the military commissions, this process doesn’t work.

What’s happening at Guantánamo flies in the face of justice, fairness and our American ideals. Please take a moment to tell President-elect Obama to close the prison at Guantánamo. Click here:

It will take just a few minutes –and the public pressure is critical.


Justices Take Case on President’s Power to Detain

“The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide the most fundamental question yet concerning executive power in the age of terror: Can the president order the indefinite military detention of people living in the United States?

The case concerns Ali al-Marri, the only person on the American mainland being held as an enemy combatant, at the Navy brig in Charleston, S.C. Mr. Marri, a citizen of Qatar, was legally in the United States when he was arrested in December 2001 in Peoria, Ill., where he was living with his family and studying computer science at Bradley University.

Eighteen months later, when Mr. Marri was on the verge of a trial on credit card fraud and other charges, President Bush declared him an enemy combatant, moving him from the custody of the Justice Department to military detention. The government says Mr. Marri is a Qaeda sleeper agent sent to the United States to commit mass murder and disrupt the banking system.

The case, which will probably be argued in the spring, will present the Obama administration with several difficult strategic choices. It can continue to defend the Bush administration’s expansive interpretation of executive power, advance a more modest one or short-circuit the case by moving it to the criminal justice system.”

via New York Times.

The Mumbai Strategy

Guy Sorman: “The Mumbai terrorist attacks have opened a new chapter in the war against terrorism. They remind us that Islamic radicalism owes more to classic Leninist thinking than to the Koran…

Before the attacks, India and Pakistan were on the verge of concluding an alliance against their de facto common enemy, Islamic radicalism, under the guidance of the American government. In reviving Indians’ fears that they were once again under attack from Pakistani security forces, the Mumbai atrocities may well disrupt the projected alliance. Further, the attack on Mumbai took place in advance of decisive provincial elections in India: vociferous Hindu nationalist parties will undoubtedly exploit anti-Muslim feelings for political gain. The timing of the Mumbai attack, like that of al-Qaida’s Madrid bombing in 2003, confirms the broader Islamist-terror movement’s sophisticated strategy.”

via City Journal.

Sophisticated Attacks, but by whom?

Now all the talk starts about who the attackers were. The “Deccan Mujahedeen”, a reference to the Deccan plains of the south of India, took responsibility. They are a previously unknown group and the pundits are “unclear whether it’s a real group or not”, etc. RAND corporation terrorism “experts” debate whether they style and targets suggest linkage to al Qaeda. Everyone opines that the degree of sophistication and coordination point to a broader organization behind the perpetrators. Discussion ensues about which precedent attack patterns can be discerned blended in the event.

This all seems so absurd to me, as it has ever since 9/11. Just as, during the Cold War, all our boogeymen were “Communists”, now we need desperately to figure out what the “al Qaeda” ties are. The most obvious, disastrous, consequence of that type of limited thinking was of course to justify the criminal invasion of Iraq but the fundaments of our approach to terrorism are shot through with this kind of thinking. There are (always, everywhere) a plethora of angry locally-rooted groups willing to sow terror with violent acts, and whether they have the “fingerprint” of al Qaeda or not does not determine whether they proclaim themselves to be allied with the supposed aims of al Qaeda. You choose the boogeyman you want to be as a function of what will have the maximum desired impact, and your victims choose the boogeyman they want to see to help them comprehend the incomprehensible. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. As I have already said, that is really all that “al Qaeda” is. The War on Terror is a war against smoke and mirrors. Pitiful how comforted we are by the meaningless exercise of giving a name to our terrors, even though it dies nothing constructive to help protect us.

via New York Times

What Zawahiri’s Message Says About Obama and Al Qaeda

Ilan Goldenberg:Ayman Al-Zawahiri

“Al Qaeda’s narrative is now under siege and it’s clearly uncertain about how to react. The election of the first African American President, one with a Muslim father, flies in the face of this narrative. It shows America as an open and tolerant society – not the oppressive empire Al Qaeda would like to portray. In fact, the overwhelmingly positive international reaction to Obama’s election is proof of the the threat Al Qaeda faces. ..

Thus, it’s not surprising that Zawahiri has resorted to calling Obama a “house negro” to try and paint him as just another American President. But this is clearly more a defensive and weak message than effective propaganda that might actually work.”

via Huffington Post

Bush Misses a Trick in Guantanamo

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in 2003

Anti-Guantanamo activist Clive Stafford Smith says Bush missed his chance to hand the election to McCain if he had had self-professed 9/11 mastermind and Guantanamo detainee Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on trial during the campaign season.

I said, it was clear as day that they would charge Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the first defendant in the 2007 military commissions. KSM, as he is normally called, has boasted that he was the mastermind of 9/11. His trial could have filled the 2008 election season with pictures of that terrible crime, reminding the voters to be afraid and vote Republican.

But this is not what the Administration chose to do. Rather, for their first three candidates in commissions, the Pentagon chose two juveniles (Omar Khadr and Mohammed Jawad) and an alleged al Qaeda chauffeur (Salim Hamdan). It was inexplicable, akin to skipping over Herman Goering for the first trial at Nuremburg, and choosing a member of the Hitler Youth.

The Bush Administration marched to the beat of its own bizarre drummer, from one misjudgment to the next. (New York Post )