Stranded in the Land of the Free

Source: Time Magazine/Getty/Mashable

When people look up to America, they see a standard of freedom unparalleled anywhere in the world. This is still true. And there is only one reason for that. The liberal ideas that America has represented for more than 150 years as well as its Constitution. I was about to write law but the recently highlighted events, which may have gone on for a good number of years until DACA was put into action: Child separation from the detained migrants on the US-Mexico border. Thousands of little children from Central America and other parts of the world are stranded there among complete strangers, especially the ones who are brutal to them. The trauma is unimaginable. To many, the policy was escalated, if not initiated by the administration of President Trump by removing DACA, and worsened by the law enforcement headed by hardliner Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had the nerve to justify the policy with the Bible.

Only a day ago, President Trump has signed an executive order to end the separation policy, only to leave doubts about the possible indefinite detention of the migrant families. And especially about the status of families already separated by ICE. Why did Trump sign this executive order when he is playing to his base by toughening the immigration measures to a zero-tolerance policy? Just to make himself look good in front of the American people. Republican Senators like Lindsey Graham think that the administration did not think this policy through, which is most likely the case in reality, given the erratic track record of Trump’s administration.

Another idea that became a casualty of this administration is the idea of liberal free trade and globalization. President Trump’s refusal to sign the communique at the G7 Summit earlier this month, perhaps a victory for American Nationalism and isolationism in his eyes, was nothing short of a disaster for the liberal world. The President has already pulled out of Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The very ideas that the United States has championed since the fall of the Third Reich are being challenged in the most heartless manner, especially when it comes to migrants. Of course, there is no monopoly of ideas in a democracy and there is as much room for populism in public debate as there is for liberal globalization. However, the impact of such weakness among the ranks of liberal powers can be felt around the world, especially by the people who are striving and struggling to promote liberal ideas in their own backyards.

The rise of authoritarian conservative governments around the world is already a cause for concern. However, if you see a collapse of liberal ideas in a political entity such as the United States, then things seem even darker. While the Trump administration has also given a cause for optimism with the historic summit with North Korea, its unpredictable and hardline authoritarian and populist stances leave you more pessimistic about the future.

Let us just hope that the worst from the administration is not yet to come.

A Historic Day for the Kurdish People

Source: rudaw.net

For too long, I have neglected the issue of Kurdish self-determination in my personal political view and wrongly so. The early formative years of my liberal viewpoint had been under the influence of false idealism that discourages nationalism on the basis of ethnicities. This approach could not have been more wrong as this is precisely the basis of several modern nation states adhering to the most liberal and democratic of values. Consider Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany, Britain as examples, but if the colonial powers are not a good analogy, then Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, and Macedonia should suffice.

Of course, not every nation can be as perfect ideologically as the United States of America is, which is supposed to welcome every liberty seeking human being to its shores. However, this does not mean that lower pursuits such as seeking sovereignty on ethnic basis instead of some lofty ideology take away the right of self-determination. Even though a liberal democrat could possibly see these influences as discriminatory and undemocratic, if not fascistic. Considering the trouble that the Kurdish people have been facing while divided in three of the most authoritarian countries in the world: Iraq, Turkey, and Iran.

However, the 2003 Iraq War opened a new door of opportunities for the helpless Kurdish people `brutalized by the Arabization policies of Saddam Hussein. Resisting against such brutality and authoritarianism became the hallmark of the Kurdish minority in Iraq and elsewhere. Some groups even resorted to even more brutal measures themselves, with many of the Kurdish terrorist groups behind several bloody bombings in Turkish cities, some of which involved suicide bombers.

Since the fall of Saddam, the Kurdish people have been in control of a semi-autonomous region in the north of Iraq, their population stronghold which had been shattered by the Islamic State. As the Islamic State goes on the backfoot in northern Iraq, the Peshmerga has captured some additional territory other than the official autonomous zone rich in oil including the city of Kirkuk.

Currently only openly supported by Israel, the cause of the Kurdish independence has still a long way to go. The Iraqi government obviously rejects the referendum, and Iraq and Turkey have even carried out joint military exercises, reminding them of the consequences that they can face. Iran would not be happy with this either but we are talking about three countries who have been the primary oppressors of the Kurdish people.

However, this day of the referendum, with 92.7% already voting for independence, stands as a beacon of hope for the Kurdish people and all the liberty-seeking nations around the world. Perhaps, it is about time that some of other nations, particularly the United States, will join the right side of the camp and put their foot design especially if Turkey and Iraq threaten military action.

I wish them all the best for realizing their dream of independence.

We are all Taliban

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

The entire nation is in mourning.

The terrorists strike again where we are most vulnerable. Killing our children. Making us realize that we still have a lot to lose and proving how cruel they can possibly get.

Cruel. That’s how we have come to define our enemy.

But how are we dealing with them? Other than complaining about people not being mournful enough of the incident.

We are responding by suspending the moratorium on the death penalty and applauding the Prime Minister for it.

And what do I hear from many of my fellow countrymen?

Enforce the death penalty. Hang the terrorists in public squares.

Cruel. Justice must be cruel and merciless.

If only we could keep our cruelty to the battlefield, where it belongs, and out of our towns, legislatures and courtrooms.

Forget that. We actually want to follow the example of Iran and the Taliban themselves. We have people drooling for revenge justice. We are broadcasting the images of the corpses of the hanged terrorists and are just a touch away from live broadcast of public executions.

We condemn the extremist terrorists for their barbaric actions but believe in the same heinous extremities.

It is safe to say that a good number of those who would be described as moderate Muslims believe in public punishment, amputations, stoning to death and an eye for an eye.

Does this mean we would like to see many of our politicians hanging in public, just like what the Taliban did to Dr. Najeeb? I would really like a survey asking that question.

But ask any ten people and you would find a healthy number of replies hinting toward such revolutionary goals.

In other words, how does that make us any different from the enemy?

But wait, who is our enemy?

You might see the condemnation of the heinous act of the Peshawar carnage, but you would find voices reluctant to attack the attackers.

Some of our most prominent commentators would see India behind the attack. Others would blame the CIA and the Mossad for the problem.

Of course, how could our Muslim brothers possibly do something like this to us?

The very occurrence of the incident is evidence that the attackers were not Muslims, but non-Muslims in the guise of the holy warriors.

We are never going to win this war anyway. How can you fight your own self and claim to win? Down with the military operation which resulted in this massacre.

Yet, India and America are behind it.

But no need to appease Western influenced politicians and civil society. There is no need to pretend that we hate our brothers, who are our very own people.

Their beliefs and ours are the same.

We want Shariah compliant public executions now. We don’t care who is being killed in the name of God, we want revenge.

We are all Taliban.

The post was originally published in The Nation blogs.

Legitimizing the Drone

Source: thenewstribe.com

Source: thenewstribe.com

Would you believe that the drone is a divisive issue? But what isn’t.

A recent Amnesty International report with a rather emotional title was widely hailed by anti-drone activists, and locally by staunch anti-war parties such as the PTI. However, at the same time the report was criticized by people who think the weapon was doing a great job in firing terrorists. The accuracy of the report has also been questioned, although by some who have a history of defending drone strikes.

Obviously, you cannot expect the US government to concede that drones violate international law. However, I believe that when international human rights watchdogs are disapproving of drones and if the UN considers their use a violation of international law, there is no real need to go out of your way to defend the US drone campaign. Amusingly, a lot of commentators have been doing precisely that to justify the US government and military.

This does not mean that they do not have valid reasons to do that. Drone warfare is not any worse than conventional warfare, except for the fact that it is a constant threat looming on the heads of certain civilian populations, where militants are present. I think relatively safer populations cannot understand how a threatened population may see drone strikes.

The usual response to criticism of drones is that jet bombing kills more if not the equal number of people, can be as terrible for the people suffering the bombing and human rights, and that conventional bombing is more erratic than the drones. All these points are valid.

Whoever is opposing drones but advocating jet or artillery fire is not understanding the benefit of the technology. Pakistani nationalists opposing drones because they violate the sovereignty of the country is merely a nationalistic political viewpoint and has nothing to do with the human loss.

Drone technology is superior, indeed. But if the UN and other international and nonpartisan bodies are maintaining that US drone strikes violate international law, there is no sense in persisting with the support of an illegal device of war.

However, this does not mean that the use of this particular technology is condemned, even though it is a violation of people’s privacy and safety in any case. I do not see the reports criticizing drones and the civilian deaths caused by them as an attack on the technology, but one on the political force controlling these drones.

The drone can be legitimized. The US should stop carrying out drone strikes unilaterally and, since the technology is so accurate and helps minimize losses, the United Nations Security Council should be authorizing and supervising drone strikes when and where needed.

This does not necessarily have to require the US giving up the drone technology to the UNSC, but the UN body would only supervise the US strikes, as in UN Peacekeeping Missions. In this way, drone strikes would at least not violate the international law and the instances of possible abuse can be minimized. Critics may question the feasibility of this proposal, but the viewpoint of defending violation of international law is unreasonable.

Maybe all the criticism on the drone strikes is more about the distrust of the invader, instead of the weapon.

It’s not the drone that kills, but the people behind it.

Are Muslims the New Niggers of America? – My Comment on Roger Ebert’s Post

Rogert Ebert is probably the most famous film critic in the world, who has also become a twitter sensation. But of late, Roger Ebert has been the center of attention for completely different reasons. Ebert is a noted critic of the Republican politicians like Sarah Palin who are opposing the Park 51 Muslim Community Center, dubbed incorrectly as the “Ground Zero Mosque”,  and sees the controversy as a missed opportunity to show to the world the Constitutional freedoms that Americans can enjoy.

But in relation to his opinion and comments about the Park 51 controversy, the right wingers have actually resorted to criticize Roger Ebert for his views, for supposedly sympathizing with the “terrorists” and for accusing Sarah Palin to be resorting to tactics from Mein Kampf, the autobiography of Adolf Hitler. Despite the criticism on Ebert, his mention of Sarah Palin in the context is correct, since it was her initiative, along with other politicians like Newt Gingrich, which fueled the controversy.

And this post will further illustrate why this controversy is encouraging the notion of hatred against Islam among Americans, which is the most dangerous part of the story.

One of his very recent posts for his blog for the Chicago Sun-Times “10 Things I Know About the Mosque” offer a very balanced and common-sense perspective on the issue and I felt compelled to comment on the post myself.

“Brilliant piece. The correct reaction to this blown-out-of-proportion issue is common sense really. So are American values and the rights offered by the American constitution. While those who oppose Park 51 maintain that it is not about the religion, they maintain that mosques are “monuments to terrorism” and that Muslims are terrorists. The simple translation to that is: “We don’t like you Muslims, and you can get the hell out of here.” Which is fine, but unAmerican. Given their viewpoint, there should not even be a single mosque in the NYC because the World Trade Center was located in the city, which suffered the 9/11 attacks, leave alone building Park 51 on the proposed spot. I just hope that feeling does not spread out to the rest of the America, although I have a feeling it already has, with anti-mosque protesters rising voice in other states like Tennessee. If things get too worse, this could be the beginning of the end of the religious freedom of Muslims in America. I hope not, but if that happens, then America would need to consider a fact: Are we not resorting to the same values for which we bomb other countries?”

August 26, 2010 4:25 PM

While I won’t go explaining my comment, which really was made on the spur of the moment, I would just like to reflect on a few things here. The location of the Park 51 Community Center, which just contains prayer halls and is not a mosque, has certainly stirred a controversy, which in my opinion is absurd, but nevertheless respecting the sentiments of the families of the 9/11 victim, I would consider it to be an issue in the first place. Probably the sanest analysis of the issue which I have come across so far comes from Keith Olbermann of MSNBC and pretty much reflects what I think about the issue.

Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment: There is No Ground Zero Mosque

However, in the wake of the opposition to the proposed community center, many people who opposed the very idea of a Muslim place of worship found an excuse to spew out their hatred for the Muslim community. Most of these anti-Mosque protesters hold that “Mosques are monuments to terrorism”. While they have all the right to think in that way, preventing the construction of mosques is denying Muslims their religious freedom and civil rights, which is unAmerican, which would be paradoxical since the opponents of Mosques are patriotic Americans.

Even states like Tennessee, which are miles away from either New York City or Washington D. C., which were the cities that became victims of the 9/11 attacks, and have no apparent connection to the attacks except for the fact that they are located in the same country, people have started voicing their opinion against a local Islamic Center, which is well elaborated and covered in his usual satirical manner by Jon Stewart in the Daily Show.

The opposition to the proposed community center has also revived the sentiment of hatred against the Muslim community among the American public, which like most of the non-Muslim world is already suffering from Islamophobia, with incidents like a Bangladeshi Muslim cab driver getting stabbed in New York City after the passenger asked him if he was a Muslim, and went on to stab him on learning that he was, and one drunk man entering a New York Mosque, abusing Muslims and urinating over the prayer mats.

We are talking about the United States of America here, the Free World, not Afghanistan, not Iran, not Iraq, not Pakistan, but America. Still they say it is not about religion. To those who consider these mild episodes, I would just say that let us hope that it does not get any worse.

But then again, it is Americans who have to decide whether they want to offer Muslims their rights in the country, or whether they want them out of the country altogether. Because given the theory of the opponents of the Mosque, who are clearly more concerned about Islam itself than the 9/11 victims or their families, given the example of the opposition to the Islamic Center in Murfreesboro, TN and other examples quoted above, then not only should there not be a single mosque in the New York City, but in the entire country.

It could even be implied by this opinion that they also do not want any Muslims living in America altogether, since Muslims supposedly are terrorists, which is fine if the majority of Americans agree with it, which is not really the case. Just the problem is that all those Muslims living in America are “Americans”, and are somewhere in between 3 to 9 million in numbers. And you know we are not talking about illegal immigrants here and obviously it does not matter if most Muslim Americans are immigrants. Besides, America was built by immigrants anyway.

I know sane Americans like Ebert, Olbermann, President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Bloomberg believe in American values and don’t agree with those suffering from Islamophobia. But the broad public opinion matters more than that. Because if this trend strengthens, I will not really be concerned about the religious freedom of Muslims in America, but their very security. The question to ask is: Are Muslims becoming the new niggers of America? If that is the case, America certainly needs another Martin Luther King Jr.

There can be a thin line between hating terrorism and becoming a terrorist yourself.

Note: If you are still wondering why some people are insane enough to support Park 51 even after watching the video clip with Olbermann’s comments, read this.