Posts Tagged ‘terrorism’

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.

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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.

East meets West at the Ubud Writers Festival

October 7, 2009

Two years ago, my novel Hong Kong On Air was launched at the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival in Bali. I blogged for Lonely Planet.com about the festival that year, and I think those posts still convey a sense of this spectacular event.

At Wednesday’s opening press conference, playwright and former political prisoner Wole Soyinka of Nigeria, the first Nobel laureate on the Ubud program, noted the festival’s origin as a counterpoint to the Bali bombings of 2002. “Ubud had been on my radar for some time,” Soyina said. “I was drawn to it as it was a response to an act of the cessation of life.”

As night fell, participants celebrated another opening at Ubud’s Royal Palace albeit without the full moon of 2007. But again this year, under Bali’s magical influence, at the opening dinner, camaraderie and learning were already evident on the menu for readers and writers alike.

If you’re in the region, the event runs through Sunday, followed by the festival’s first event outside Bali at Yogyakarta’s Borobudur temple on Tuesday. If you’re far away, start making your plans to attend the Ubud festival next year.

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.

Don’t boo Andy Murray because he’s Scottish

September 11, 2009

Watching the US Open tennis tournament, once Taylor Dent beat Ivan Navarro to set up a third round match with Andy Murray, I found myself hoping the New York crowd would boo Murray off the court. Not just because Dent is an American and the tournament’s top feel-good story after two operations for back trouble that could have left him in a wheelchair. Not just because I don’t like Murray’s playing style, personality, bad teeth, or rock star entourage before he’s topped the charts. No, I wanted the fans in my home town to bury Murray because he’s from Scotland. But as soon as I thought it, I knew it was wrong.

Scotland, you’ll recall, released convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi from prison last month. Most of the 270 victims of the Christmas week 1988 airliner bombing were Americans, bound for New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport, about 15 kilometers from center court at Flushing Meadow (note from Queens native: Flushing Meadow is correct; Flushing Meadows is wrong, no matter how often it’s repeated). Scottish Justice Minister Kenny Macaskill marked himself for near-universal approbation with his smug claims of superior compassion for al-Megrahi while showing none for the victims of the cowardly attack and their families.

Documents released since the release show the British government, Murray’s other national flag, shares culpability in the abhorrent decision. Moreover, the release seems so wrong, so ill-conceived, so irrational, that suspicion lingers – and evidence mounts – that there must have been an under the table deal with Libya, trading al-Megrahi’s freedom for oil or some other commercial consideration.

Americans and decent people all over the world have a right to be angry at the governments of Scotland and Britain. But that doesn’t give them any right to be angry at Scottish people like Andy Murray. Americans, of all people, should understand that.

For most of the George W Bush administration, America was the most vilified nation on earth due to the invasion of Iraq. (For some, Ameriphobia dates to Vietnam, Hiroshima, the dawn of the military industrial-industrial complex, or back to that Scotsman Adam Smith.) As an American living overseas, whenever nationality was mentioned, I took great pains to explain I didn’t support Bush or the Iraq invasion. I didn’t want to get blamed for the stupid things my government did.

Holding civilians responsible for the sins of their governments is precisely what terrorists do. Al-Megrahi and his co-conspirators, or whoever bombed Pan Am flight 103, didn’t ask any of the passengers what they thought about US support for Israel or its enmity toward Libya. No one checked the nationalities of workers filing into New York’s World Trade Center twin towers on that clear morning eight years ago. They became victims simply because they were presumed to be Americans by madmen who considered their nationality a criminal act.

Like ordinary folks, athletes don’t deserve to be victimized for their citizenship, but it happens. Recall the 1972 Olympics in Munich or the March ambush of Sri Lanka’s national cricket team playing in Pakistan. Tennis has escaped the violence but not the politics. Israeli players are routinely denied entry visas for tournaments in Arab countries. In the Fed Cup, the women’s international team competition, Indonesia chose to forfeit rather than play in Israel. On the other end of the scale, Murray, like his British number one predecessor Tim Henman, faces extraordinary pressure from the home fans at Wimbledon, the biggest tournament in tennis, where no British man has won the title since 1936.

Some years ago, I experienced a version of politics and sports mixing badly on a basketball court in Washington, DC. Some guy I’d never played with began roughing me up from the first dribble, pushing and elbowing in an otherwise relaxed game. I’m not that good a player, so hardly merited the special attention. It took me a couple of points to realize it had to be because I was white (the only white player in the game) and this young black man hated white people, or at least hated playing basketball with them. I’d never done anything to him, and I wasn’t a racist (certainly not as far as he knew). But he judged me solely on my membership in a certain target group and acted out, just as the terrorists do.

Athletes, like the rest of us, deserve to be judged on who they are, not what they are or where they’re from. So fellow New Yorkers and tennis fans everywhere, show your sportsmanship and enlightenment: don’t boo Andy Murray just because he’s Scottish. Boo him just because he’s Andy Murray, and delight with me that he crashed out of the US Open in the fourth round.

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.

Don’t blame Libya for cheering bomber

August 22, 2009

Libya’s warm reception for convicted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset al-Megrahi has become the focus of outrage. Pictures blanketing news programs showing crowds in Libya cheering al-Megrahi are fanning fury. But that anger is misplaced and misguided.

Anger over al-Megrahi’s release should be directed at the Scottish and British governments that freed him. Scottish so-called Justice Minister Kenny Macaskill’s pompous, self-righteous justifications for the release ought to make that that easy. Still, it’s hard to imagine why the authorities thought it was a good idea to let this guy go free. On the planet where I live, there’s no compassion due anyone who kills 270 innocent people without warning or cause other than the accident of their nationality.

Furthermore, if there was some inclination to release al-Megrahi, then Libya should have given something in return, such as turning over officials responsible for the 1988 pre-Christmas bombing that targeted Americans returning home for the holidays. It makes little sense for authorities to just let al-Megrahi go, adding credibility to the claim by Moammar Gadhafi’s son that there’s a trade deal tied to his release.

Despite the inflammatory pictures of cheering crowds greeting al-Megrahi, the reception was reportedly subdued by Libyan standards. Moreover, the issue of released prisoners is almost invariably bound to offend someone. Think of the homecoming of that certified American hero, Senator John McCain. His heroism traced to dropping bombs from the thousands of feet in the air, endangering innocent civilians even when not specifically targeting them. Imagine how North Vietnamese, particularly those who lost loved ones to American bombs, felt seeing him lauded and meeting with the president after his release. Terrorism is in the eye of the beholder.

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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