Posts Tagged ‘George W Bush administration’

Muslims, stop swallowing extremist bait

September 15, 2012

It’s time for Muslims to stop letting Islamophobes goad them. Violent reactions to perceived insults to Islam are a black eye for Muslims that cost the lives of good people like US ambassador to Libya J Christopher Stevens and foster a vicious cycle of hate that benefits no one except bigots on all sides.

The latest wave of violence to defend Islam, stemming from the Innocence of Muslims movie, reveals a lot about the forces at work. A Coptic Christian living in California who opposes Egypt’s new government, reportedly produced the amateurish movie, found only online, that depicts the prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and pedophile. The movie was publicized by Terry Jones, the Florida pastor best known for threatening to burn the Quran, to promote his mock trial of the prophet on Jones’ International Judge Muhammad Day.

On the Muslim side, a Salafist television station played excerpts of the video then, issuing a challenge to viewers, according to the Los Angeles Times, “demanded to know how Islam could be treated in such a debasing way.” In Libya, radical militias that oppose the post-Qaddafi government were behind the attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi that killed Stevens and three other Americans.

On both sides, the impetus for violence and prejudice arises from a tiny minority fringe that uses its mirror image to create a cycle of hate. Anti-Muslim propaganda helps radical Islamists incite violent protests. In turn, those protests give ammunition to anti-Muslim extremists that contend Islam is different from other mainstream religions. Further anti-Muslim acts give impetus for Islamist extremists to incite more mob reactions that stoke more anti-Muslim provocations. To end this cycle of hate, Muslims need to ignore these insults and further marginalize, rather than publicize, the insignificant figures that spew them. Publicity is the only thing that gives bigots power.

To their credit, many Muslim leaders have condemned the violent reaction to the film and the extremists on both sides inciting it. But more Muslim leaders and individuals need to stand up and be counted. It’s sad to see violent protests across the Arab world following Friday prayers, as if there’s some connection between the practice of Islam and rampaging mobs. Violence to avenge perceived insults to the prophet doesn’t make anyone a good Muslim, it just makes them a bad human being.

It’s a sad irony that the revenge attacks began on September 11. Eleven years earlier, strikes against the US by Muslim extremists provided a flashpoint for shameless ideologues such as Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, and their sycophants such as Condoleezza Rice, to exploit Islamophobia to promote their own political agenda. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the George W Bush administration’s global war on terror rhetoric surrounding them gave rise to perceptions of a Western war on Islam, a view promoted by Muslim extremists looking to advance their political agendas.

Still, Americans are bewildered that US diplomatic buildings have become favored targets for mobs across the Muslim world. The US government had absolutely no connection with the production or distribution of the offending film and has given it no support. As all good people of goodwill should, US officials ignored the film until they could no longer do so, then condemned it unconditionally.

Americans are especially perplexed by the attacks in Egypt, where the US gives $1.55 billion in foreign aid annually; and Libya, where Western aid was crucial to the overthrow of Moammar Gaddafi. Furthermore, at great personal risk, Stevens entered Benghazi when it was the center of the revolt and under attack by Gaddafi loyalists. Warmongering by the Bush administration and the checkered history of American engagement with the Muslim world, including virtually unconditional support for Israel, tells only part of the story.

Muslim extremists say that America hates Islam, but in fact, it’s religious extremists of all varieties that hate America. The US represents values antithetical to extremists, freedom of thought, individual rights, and education for all. Religious extremists favor freedom only until it gives them power and influence. Then they expect conformity and blind obedience.

As a former US diplomat, I’m particularly saddened by the attacks on US embassies consulates. I joined the Foreign Service while American diplomats were held hostage in Tehran and served at the US embassy in Dar es Salaam that was leveled by al Qaeda bombers in 1998. A hidden tragedy of 9/11 and other terrorist attacks is the difficulty they add for dedicated diplomats like Stevens to reach out to the good people in their host countries, to share key American values and prevent cycles of hate from arising. That’s just the way the extremists want it.

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; 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…)

Paul Wolfowitz shouldn’t be seen or heard

March 6, 2011

In the late 1980s, automaker Isuzu began a series of commercials featuring Joe Isuzu, a pitchman congenitally incapable of telling the truth. “I used my new Isuzu pickup truck to carry a 2,000 pound cheeseburger,” Joe Isuzu, played by actor David Leisure, declared. He claimed one Isuzu had “more seats than the Astrodome,” and that another was faster than a speeding bullet that he caught – in mid-sentence – between his teeth.

Paul Wolfowitz is the Joe Isuzu of US foreign policy. Whatever Wolfowitz says is untrue, simply wrong if not an outright lie. Therefore, it’s little short of astounding that CNN programs Fareed Zakaria GPS and Anderson Cooper 360 put Wolfowitz on the air as an expert on the situation in Libya. Perhaps CNN, a network I was proud to have worked for, no longer wants to be seen as a credible news organization.

In case you’ve forgotten, as Deputy Secretary of Defense, Wolfowitz wasn’t just a leading architect of the George W Bush administration’s ill-conceived invasion of Iraq. His mulish conviction, shared by his boss Donald Rumsfeld, that reality would conform to his beliefs, and utter dismissal of opinions differing from his own, transformed the Iraq misadventure into an unmitigated disaster. After failing to secure Afghanistan following the overthrow of its Taliban rulers because the Bush administration was stingy with reconstruction funding and troops, Wolfowitz helped ensure those errors were repeated in Iraq.

Wolfowitz forecast Iraqis would greet US troops with flowers as liberators; instead, more than 4,000 Americans have been killed by insurgents. He scoffed at suggestions it would require more than 100,000 troops to bring security to Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein; in reality, US troop strength in Iraq didn’t drop below 100,000 until 2009. Wolfowitz insisted that the war and the occupation would pay for itself; US direct costs for the war and its aftermath have so far exceeded $850 billion, and long term costs will surpass $2.5 trillion. The Center for Public Integrity flagged Wolfowitz for 85 Iraq-related lies through 2007, a higher total than his fellow Bush administration pillar of integrity Condoleezza Rice.

Like Rice, Wolfowitz adopts the air of an intellectual but he’s strictly a partisan hack, a shameless ideologue who’ll say anything to promote his side. After the 2002 Bali bombings that killed 202, Wolfowitz blamed the fall for the Suharto regime that Wolfowitz coddled as US Ambassador to Indonesia from 1986 to 1989 for allowing terrorists to gain ground. But last week he decried the Obama administration for not doing more to topple Hosni Mubarak in Egypt, as if anti-government protesters – unlike US-dependent autocrats – in Egypt are ripe for US influence. Rest assured, though, should any future Egyptian government take a harder line on Israel, Wolfowitz will be the first to criticize the Obama administration for failing to prop up Mubarak.

Moreover, 202 deaths from outlaw terrorists in Bali made it a mistake for the US not to intervene against an organic, homegrown movement that ousted Suharto. But an official death count in excess of 100,000, estimated true casualties of more than 500,000, plus huge falls in Iraqi living standards and US global prestige, didn’t make it wrong for the US to invade Iraq on false pretenses.

By the way, let’s not forget that in addition to his errors in the foreign policy field, Wolfowitz added personal dishonesty after failing up to the World Bank presidency. He secured excessive pay hikes for his girlfriend at the bank, then lied about it.

Yet Zakaria and Cooper put Wolfowitz on the air, as if he’s not a congenital liar and hasn’t been wrong about every major foreign policy question he’s faced as a public official. Rather than question him about his catalogue of failures that have cost thousands of lives and billions of dollars, they listened to him as if he knows something. When he urged the US to take military action in Libya to oust Moammar Gaddafi, no one reminded Wolfowitz that the invasion of Iraq has made it impossible for the US to intervene in the Middle East without being suspected of the worst possible motives and breeding greater anti-Americanism worldwide, even if, unlike the Iraq fiasco, it’s undertaken with the best intentions.

Perhaps less surprisingly, Wolfowitz has the gall to appear on mainstream television rather than hiding out in rightwing sinecures. Cooper and Zakaria are, like Wolfowitz, card carrying members of the elite that transcends ideology and common decency among its own and runs on self-congratulatory fellowship.

When Wolfowitz talks to them, he has no reason to fear that anyone will note his colossal errors in judgment and make him pay some price, even if it’s merely a small measure of humiliation, for his mistakes. The next person who puts Wolfowitz on the air needs to accept that responsibility and make Wolfowitz start to do the same.

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.

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.

Prince of Darkness made his own coffin

August 19, 2009

Robert Novak complained that Valerie Plame would lead his obituary. As the self-styled Prince of Darkness would have reminded that sniveling twit, “Who the hell’s to blame for that? It’s his own damned fault.”

Like MarketWatch media critic Jon Friedman, I’ll shed no tears for Novak. It’s not just because of Novak’s reactionary, sanctimonious political pontificating, but his brand of journalism spanning the eras from dueling city dailies to cable television’s punditocracy.

In the days of ink, Novak’s approach – officials were either sources or targets – belies his admirers’ cliam that he was first and foremost a shoe leather reporter. His column with Rowland Evans wasn’t about policy or substance. The pair produced the Washington equivalent of a gossip column, bonding the establishment, regardless of views, as it created mystique and aura around politics and its players, including its chroniclers.

Being part of story was a constant for Novak, making him a natural for the talk TV trenches. I worked at CNN in Washington during the heyday of Crossfire, so occasionally ran into him around the newsroom. Novak was as full of himself off-camera as on. That’s because his stage was all of Washington and fanning its importance brightened his own star. The spread of his brand of uncompromising ideological self-righteousness has helped to poison the national debate and paralyze government, particularly because the Washington bubble of bonhomie insulates its pompous practitioners from the consequences of their own actions while the country suffers.

Many praise Novak for his reporting pedigree, noting how that set him apart from fellow pundits. While it is amusing to think of Ann Coulter hunting for facts, Novak, at least in recent decades, was hardly an honest reporter. Rather than diverging from his journalism career, the Plame story was the natural conclusion of it: self-important celebrity columnist gets used by high level sources for a hatchet job on a political enemy. Novak didn’t investigate the main point of the leak, that Plame lobbied for her husband, former ambassador James Wilson, to examine claims Saddam Hussein obtained uranium from Africa. Wilson found the claims groundless and said so publicly when the Bush administration publicly misrepresented his findings. When Vice President Dick Cheney fed Novak the Plame story to discredit Wilson, Novak just licked the plate clean. Despite breaking the law, Novak managed to protect himself while other journalists were subpoenaed and even jailed for his offense.

Still, you couldn’t say that the Prince of Darkness had an ethical lapse in the Plame affair. It had been years since he had any ethics at 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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