Posts Tagged ‘al Qaeda’

How not to handle a hostage situation

September 23, 2013

As I watched Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta give a televised news conference about the horrific attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, I thought the hostages had been freed and the attackers, reportedly part of Somalia’s al Shabaab group, captured. I allowed myself a sigh of relief. As someone who once worked at the US Embassy in neighboring Tanzania that was destroyed by al Qaeda in 1998, I know that terrorism in East Africa is real and not to be underestimated.

But as Kenyatta continued, I realized that he was holding a media briefing while armed attackers were still holding hostages and the Westgate Shopping Mall. Worse, Kenyatta was giving the hostage takers information about people hiding undetected in the mall and security forces strategy. Most troubling, Kenyatta used his bully pulpit to threaten retaliation against the masterminds behind the attack. That’s not likely to hasten peaceful resolution of the situation.

I can’t imagine how Kenyatta thought taking center stage would help get the hostages free, unless it was clever camouflage for a raid (which it wasn’t). I also am stunned that he couldn’t think of anything more useful to do in the midst of a crisis. But then I remembered that Kenyatta and his deputy president William Ruto, face charges from the International Criminal Court for coordinating violence by their supporters after Kenya’s 2007 election. Kenyatta was following form by making the wrong call in a crisis.

His performance brought to mind another presidential offspring who followed in his father’s footsteps, George W Bush. In the wake of 9/11, which like the Westgate attack reflected an extraordinarily failure of his administration’s national security team, Bush first looked like a deer in the headlights, then mouthed off – “You’re either with us or against us” – then used the tragedy to push forward an unrelated, ill-considered and criminally mismanaged war in Iraq.

With accusations of crimes against humanity already under his belt, Kenyatta seems well ahead of Bush’s pace. Beware of what he’ll do once the crisis really is over.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, high finance, and cheap lingerie. See his bio, online archive and more at www.muhammadcohen.com; follow him on Facebook and Twitter @MuhammadCohen.

Osama died happy – thanks to Bush

September 11, 2011

Note: The chronicle of my post-9/11 terrorist conspiracy is available at Asia Times

Ten years ago, al-Qaeda extremists wrought tragedy upon America, killing more than 3,000 people in attacks aimed at the US political, economic and military nerve centers. The George W Bush administration turned this day of infamy into a decade of disaster for the US, just what Osama bin Laden had in mind when he ordered the 9/11 attacks.

The Bush administration’s reactions and their consequences did far more damage than the attacks themselves over the past decade. By turning the US into the country caricatured in al-Qaeda propaganda, the Bush people set the stage for catastrophic results at home and overseas. How dare they show their faces on this anniversary of their great failure, or take it as an occasion to sell books or indulge their sense of self-importance. They deserve to be served with warrants, strewn with garbage, and, most of all, never listened to again.

One thing you’ll never hear them do: take responsibility in any way, shape or form for the deadly attack that happened on their watch or the disasters that followed due to their errors. Condoleezza Rice thinks she was right to ignore the memo titled “Bin Laden determined to strike in US” five weeks before 9/11. Dick Cheney knows it was a good idea to turn away from Afghanistan, where the group that attacked the US on 9/11 was, to Iraq, where it wasn’t. Donald Rumsfeld thinks trying to police Iraq with at least 100,000 fewer troops than the generals recommended was a perfect plan. When George W Bush said, “We’re changing the culture of America from one that has said . . . ‘if you’ve got a problem, blame somebody else,’ to a culture in which each of us understands we are responsible for the decisions we make,” it was just another instance of Bush either not understanding his own words, or not meaning them. (more…)

Shame on Laura Bush and fellow 9/11 liars

September 11, 2010

Watching the 9/11 commemorations stirred appropriately somber memories and emotions of that tragic day, until I saw Laura Bush speaking at the Shanksville, Pennsylvania, memorial to Flight 93 passengers. The National Parks Foundation, which organized the memorial, must’ve invited Bush because Osama bin Laden and shoe bomber Richard Reid sent regrets. No telling where Bush found the gall to attend.

Bush, of course, is the wife of former president George W Bush, who held office when al Qaeda struck on September 11, 2001. Yet Bush shoulders none of the blame for the attacks, even though his administration downgraded the fight against al Qaeda, and Bush’s national security advisor, serial incompetent Condoleezza Rice, ignored an August 2001 memo titled “Bin Laden determined to attack inside the United States.”

Despite all that, plus the administration’s botched conduct of the operation to capture bin Laden that’s become the nine year war in Afghanistan, Bush evades responsibility for this monumental tragedy. Moreover, he and fellow Republicans wear 9/11 as a badge of honor, using it as a political weapon to bludgeon opponents. By contrast, the Obama administration came under a firestorm of criticism over an attempted attack where the primary fault was overseas airport security failing to detect explosives.

Laura Bush is no innocent bystander but an active part of the Bush propaganda squad. As first defender of her husband’s administration, two years ago at the Republican National Convention, Mrs Bush fibbed, “Let’s not forget, President Bush has kept the American people safe.” That’s not true, Laura, unless 9/11 is your idea of safe. Maybe it is, since you and W came out okay.

Today in Shanksville, Bush even had the temerity to mention Iraq, the misbegotten war her husband’s team justified by abusing 9/11 and telling other, bigger lies. The invasion of Iraq cost more Americans lives than 9/11, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and extinguished any opportunity for the US to build on the global goodwill the attacks created.

For future 9/11 anniversaries, let’s hope that memorial organizers have the good sense to keep members of the George W Bush administration off the podium, and that administration members, starting with Laura and her husband, have the good taste to spend that day, and every day, with their heads bowed in shame and regret, at least until they take responsibility for their errors and apologize to the families in America and beyond that lost loved ones due to the administration’s incompetence, malfeasance and arrogance.

Make no mistake, Bushies, you’ll find Osama. You’re all guaranteed to meet him in hell.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

Speak up, moderates!

September 8, 2010

It’s a busy week, full of competing ideas and emotions. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, kicking off the high holiday season begins at sundown Wednesday. Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, ends Friday, giving way to the celebration of Id ul-Fitri. Saturday marks the ninth anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks on the US that left more than 3,000 dead. Amid the controversy over Cordoba House, an evangelical Christian pastor with a congregation of 50 in Florida has created an international furor with plans to commemorate the day by burning copies of the Qur’an.

On all sides, extremists have seized control of the debate. Moderates must raise their voices to be heard over the radicals and take back the conversation. In this last shared holy season between Muslims and Jews until the 2030s, Palestinians and Israelis have restarted peace talks; perhaps negotiators will be infected with the spirit of the season, as I suggested last year in The Guardian. It may not help to be hopeful, but as the old joke* instructs, “It couldn’t hurt.”

*For those who don’t know the joke: The legendary actor of the Yiddish theater Boris Tomashevski dies during intermission of a performance. The producer comes out from the closed curtain and tells crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen, it breaks my heart to inform you that the great man, Tomashevski has passed away in his dressing room.”

From the back of the theater, a woman’s voice calls out, “Give him an enema.”

The producer ignores the cry and continues, “Of course, the performance will not continue, and we will refund your money. I’m sure you join me in sending deepest condolences to the family of the great man…”

“Give him an enema,” the woman repeats.

The producer can’t contain himself any longer. “Lady, Tomashevski is dead. An enema can’t help him.”

“It couldn’t hurt.”

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

America’s Muslim problem

August 28, 2010

I’ve been ignoring the controversy over Cordoba House – the so-called Ground Zero Mosque – hoping for a sudden outbreak of sanity across America. I took a similar approach to run-up to the invasion of Iraq, and, considering how well that worked out, I really should have known better.

Opposition to the community center – calling Cordoba House a mosque is like calling Columbia University a restaurant since it serves food, or Saint Patrick’s Cathedral a bar since it serves wine – makes me ashamed to be an American. Opposing Cordoba House does far more damage to America and its values than a few planes flown into buildings ever could.

The bigotry and narrow-mindedness behind much of the opposition to Cordoba House attacks the fundamental principles of our nation and does irreparable damage to America’s image overseas. Hostility toward Cordoba House proves radical Islamists’ point: Americans hate Muslims, so Muslims should hate them back. Building Cordoba House won’t help recruit terrorists to attack the US and Americans overseas; opposing Cordoba House is doing precisely that.

I was plenty ashamed about the Iraq invasion, but now American is making war on its own values. What’s particularly troubling is that, unlike the highly orchestrated Tea Party movement, the Cordoba House backlash truly is a grassroots movement. Two years ago, during another controversy involving Islam, I noted that many Americans consider “Muslim” a dirty word. Since writing that piece for The Guardian, the percentage of Americans who believe President Obama is a Muslim has doubled, and I doubt any of them laud his links with Islam.

The arguments against Cordoba House are specious at best, at worst against the very principles that make America the land of the free. Islam didn’t attack the US on 9/11, al Qaeda did. Assigning collective guilt to Muslims is no more logical than blaming Christians (or God) for Nazi Germany because its soldiers carried Bibles and wore belt buckles proclaiming “Gott Mitt Uns (God is with us).” Collective guilt, a fancy term for bigotry, means we all end up hating each other. When Newt Gingrich argues that the US shouldn’t allow Cordoba House because Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow churches or synagogues, he paints a grim vision for America. If our country doesn’t aspire to a higher standard than a theocratic monarchy, then what’s the point of America?

I’m shocked that so many Americans are acting this foolish, this bigoted, and this misinformed. But perhaps I shouldn’t be. How many years ago would there have been poll number similar to those opposing Cordoba House against living, working or going to school with Irish, Catholics, Jews, blacks, Hispanics? Opposing Cordoba House follows the tradition of Yankee hypocrisy that began with slaveholders who declared all men are created equal.

Americans can take no comfort that it’s just this one special case because it’s Muslims and Ground Zero, as if James Meredith and the University of Mississippi, or Rosa Parks and the Memphis bus, or Jews and the Ivy League, or women in the executive suite weren’t also special cases in their day.

America is either the land of the free, or it’s not – and right now, the Cordoba House controversy points which way the country is heading. It’s up to good people to take our country back, to stop making excuses and equivocating and stand up for liberty and justice for all.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.


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