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AFGHANISTAN: TEN YEARS OF AIMLESS WAR

America’s war has been ineffective

Washington, DC’s World Affairs Council hosted an Oct. 3 forum featuring Gidon Bromberg, co-director of Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME), to talk about the ecological, political and social implications of water resources in the region. According to Bromberg, FoEME is the only organization in the region where Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians cooperate at a community level for a common purpose. The reason this type of interdependence is necessary, he explained, is because “almost all water resources [in the region] cross political boundaries.” The lack of major cooperation, as a result of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, has lead to poor management of the already scarce resource—and, consequently, widespread environmental pollution. JEAN-PASCAL DEILLON

CHAMY’S “OF REFUGE, OF HOME” EXPLORES FAMILY MYTH AND HISTORY The renowned military strategist Maj. Gen. J.F.C. Fuller defined war’s true objective as achieving desired political results, not killing enemies. But this is just what the U.S. has been doing in Afghanistan. After 10 years of war costing at least $450 billion, 1,600 dead and 15,000 seriously wounded soldiers, the U.S. has achieved none of its strategic or political goals. Each U.S. soldier in Afghanistan costs $1 million per annum. CIA employs 80,000 mercenaries there, cost unknown. The U.S. spends a staggering $20.2 billion alone annually air conditioning troop quarters in Afghanistan and Iraq. The most damning assessment comes from the U.S.-installed Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai: America’s war has been “ineffective, apart from causing civilian casualties.”Washington’s goal was a favorable political settlement producing a pacified Afghan state run by a regime totally responsive to U.S. political, economic and strategic interests; a native sepoy army led by white officers; and U.S. bases that threaten Iran, watch China, and control the energy-rich Caspian Basin.All the claims made about fighting “terrorism and al-Qaeda,” liberating Afghan women and bringing democracy are pro-war window dressing. CIA chief Leon Panetta admitted there were no more than 25 to 50 alQeda members in Afghanistan. Why are there 150,000 U.S. and NATO troops there? Washington’s real objective was clearly defined in 2007 by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher: to “stabilize Afghanistan so it can become a conduit and hub between South and Central Asia—so energy can flow south.” ERIC S. MARGOLIS

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The Jerusalem Fund Gallery in Washington, DC held a Sept. 30 opening reception for artist Adam Chamy’s month-long exhibit, “Of Refuge, Of Home.” Chamy’s collection of family portraits and installation works explore the stories of his Palestinian-Texan family with deep roots in the American frontier south as well as a deep love for a distant homeland suffering colonization and catastrophe. Guests viewed the art and discussed it with Chamy, former director of the AET Book Club. The portraits depict family members Chamy either knew as a child or merely through photographs, stories and old diary entries. The faces of Texan farmers hang side by side with Jerusalem merchants. “I was interested in the idea of myth and legend, particularly in one’s own family,” explained Chamy. “I weaved through the clutter and picked out a few stories and memories that really spoke to me.” JAMES G. ABOUREZK

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2012


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TURKISH FILM “THREE MONKEYS” SCREENED IN WASHINGTON, DC An acclaimed Turkish artist chose an awardwinning Turkish movie to be shown on Sept. 18 as part of the “Moving Perspectives” program at the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington, DC. Carol Huh, assistant curator of contemporary Asian art, gave a brief overview of multimedia artist Hale Tenger and director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, who won the 2008 Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival for “Three Monkeys.” Both Tenger and Ceylan treat violence with subtlety and emphasize the personal meaning of space. Tenger’s current installation at the Sackler evokes the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, former prime minister of Lebanon, by filming the flapping curtains and shifting light on the façade of Beirut’s St. Georges Hotel. Hariri was assassinated in front of the hotel on Feb. 14, 2005, when his motorcade was blown up in a massive explosion. While the film was made later during the renovation of the hotel, the tragic moment is represented by the sudden interruption of the musical score and jerking camera movements.Similarly, much of the violence takes place out of sight in “Three Monkeys” but its reperThe exhibition of Hale Tenger’s work was on view in the lobby of the Sackler from July 30 through Nov. 6, 2011. “Three Monkeys” is available on DVD with optional English and Turkish subtitles and more than three hours of commentary, and other special features. BY ANNE O’ROURKE

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2012

“THIS IS WHERE WE TAKE OUR STAND,” PREMIERES IN DC “This Is Where We Take Our Stand: The Iraq Veterans Against the War Who Risked Everything to Tell Their Story,” had its Washington, DC premiere Feb. 2. This riveting film is based on the “Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan” event held March 13-16, 2008 at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, MD. Inspired by the Winter Soldier Investigation of 1971, Iraq Veterans Against the War asked more than 250 U.S. military veterans and active duty soldiers, as well as Iraqi and Afghan civilians, to gather together and provide accounts of their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. The film of their testimony is masterfully made—and devastating. “It really messed me up when I discovered I was on the bully’s team. It’s not what I signed up for,” Sgt. Millard says in the film, going on to call himself angry, lost and betrayed. “No one can hear what we did and support the war.” BY DELINDA C. HANLEY

ADC HOSTS CAST FROM “ALL-AMERICAN MUSLIM” An enthusiastic audience packed Washington, DC’s West End Cinema on Jan. 4 for a community forum hosted by the AmericanArab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) with cast members from the TLC docu-series “All-American Muslim.” ADC legal director Abed Ayoub asked cast members Suehaila Amen, her brother Bilal “Billy” Amen and Nina Bazzy, along with TLC’s vice president of production and development on the East Coast, Alon Orstein, to discuss the groundbreaking 8-part show. The TLC network spoke with imams and Muslim families from coast to coast and finally selected five families in Dearborn, Michigan who showed their daily lives, trying to raise families, juggle jobs, and engage in their regular civic duties. TLC brought cameras into their homes and let each cast member tell his or her own story, hoping they’d help knock down stereotypes. BY DELINDA C. HANLEY

THE TRUTH ABOUT MUSLIMS IN AMERICA Concerned by the abundance of misinformation regarding Islam in American society, the Religious Education Freedom Project at the Newseum in Washington, DC hosted a Jan. 18 public forum titled “What is the Truth about Islam and Muslims in America?” Attendees were invited to ask challenging questions about the Muslim faith to a panel of experts on Islam and interfaith peace. By discussing and providing accurate and clear answers to issues such as women’s rights, shariah law, and jihad, event organizers hoped that listeners developed a greater understanding of the peaceful nature of Islam. Charles C. Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Education Project, moderated the discussion. BY DALE SPRUSANSKY

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Rebels // AP photo

WHAT LAY BEHIND THE LIBYA INTERVENTION?

Since the start of the Franco-British intervention in Libya, which on British and American insistence last March was turned into a NATO affair, some commentaries on the left have interpreted the action as Western imperialism. It was called an effort to seize control of Libya’s enormous oil reserves, in the guise of humanitarian intervention. Although I am willing—more willing than most—to think the worst of the motivations of states, I find it hard to see why the Western countries would want an expensive war to seize the oil to which they already had ample access through purchase on the international market. Barack Obama, already taking punishment on other issues from the Republican presidential primary Punch and Judy Show, had the sense to tell NATO that he preferred to lead from behind. That way he was able to take credit for Victory (as his flacks and the more gullible sector of the U.S. press have already done), while allowing the French and British to conduct the principal combat operations, without unduly troubling the Pentagon. Since the late Col. Muammar Qaddafi decided in 2003 that re-establishing friendly relations with the Western powers was to his advantage—handing over the Bulgarian nurses and naming the alleged authors of attacks on American and French airliners, even producing a scapegoat for Scottish jailing—the colonel has been the best of friends with Western governments, pitching his tent near the Elysée Palace in Paris, staying as a guest at the White House, and diligently participating in the CIA pursuit of real or fancied Arab terrorists. BY WILLIAM PFAFF

FREEDOM OF SPEECH UNDER INCREASING ATTACK WITHIN THE ORGANIZED JEWISH COMMUNITY When it comes to discussing Israel and events in the Middle East, freedom of speech is coming under an increasing assault within the organized American Jewish community. Even a brief look at organizational Jewish life reveals growing efforts to stifle free expression. In too many cases, these efforts are succeeding. The national umbrella organization for Jewish federations has removed critics of Israel from an online voting contest designed to identify “heroes” within the Jewish community. One of the excluded nominees, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) deputy director Cecilia Surasky, was among the top 10 vote-getters in the Jewish Community Heroes contest when Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) officials pulled her name from the contest Web site. BY ALLAN C. BROWNFELD

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INSIDE THE MIDEAST PRISONER SWAP  In recent days, we’ve witnessed the rare spectacle of Israelis and Palestinians celebrating at the same time. Ironically, this was the result of negotiations between the government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Palestinian resistance organization Hamas, which Israel and the United States describe as “terrorists.” It was a moment that revealed what it would take for negotiations between seemingly irreconcilable foes to result in a credible agreement and why the current “peace process” has gone nowhere. But in the wake of the Israel-Hamas agreement under which 1,027 Palestinians held by Israel are being released in exchange for one Israeli soldier held in Gaza, the editors of The New York Times expressed a good deal of frustration. “If Mr. Netanyahu can negotiate with Hamas—which shoots rockets at Israel, refuses to recognize Israel’s existence,” they wondered in an Oct. 18 editorial, “why won’t he negotiate seriously with the Palestinian Authority, which Israel relies on to help keep the peace in the West Bank?” What are the chances of this happening? The Times was referring to the supposedly “moderate” Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas, whose U.S.-backed security forces collaborate with Israel to keep any form of armed or unarmed Palestinian resistance in check. The Times noted that Netanyahu had defied Israeli families whose loved ones had been killed in armed attacks by some of the Palestinian prisoners: Why can’t Netanyahu also buck the wishes of Israeli settlers in the West Bank in a similar way and put in place a settlement freeze? BY ALI ABUNIMAH

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2012


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COMEDIAN DISCUSSES U.S. ISLAMOPHOBIA COMEDY.  Dean Obeidallah, who performs regularly at comedy clubs, spoke on Sept. 23 at Georgetown University’s Mortara Center for International Studies. The awardwinning comedian, who has appeared on television’s Comedy Central and CNN networks, explained how he uses comedy to spread peace and freedom in both the U.S. and the Arab world. Growing up in a predominantly Italian-American community, he always self-identified as a white American, he said, and was not in touch with his Arab heritage. However, like many other Americans, Obeidallah’s life changed dramatically on Sept. 11, 2001. The post-9/11 Obeidallah has used his platform as a comedian to promote a greater understanding of Islam in America. He noted that America has a tradition of using comedy to address social and racial issues.He has organized comedy events such as his tour of the southern U.S., titled “The Muslims are Coming,” to educate, and introduce individuals to Islam. BY KELLYE STEINDEL

“TENNIS IN NABLUS” REVIVES THE ARAB REVOLT “As a Palestinian-American playwright,” says Ismail Khalidi, “I am deeply committed to challenging the myths and distortions about Palestinians that abound in American discourse.” That’s just one of Khalidi’s goals in his award-winning play “Tennis in Nablus,” which enjoyed a successful run Sept. 7 to 25 at Stageworks Hudson, He also dramatizes a Palestinian cry for that never recovered from its defeat in the 1936-’39 Arab Revolt. In the crucial years from 1917 to 1947 that preceded the birth of Israel, British colonialists fueled ethnic hatred by promising the land to both indigenous Arabs and Jewish immigrants. It shows that the British used the same brutal tactics against Arab rebels that they’d used to smash popular revolts in India, Ireland and elsewhere. BY KELLYE STEINDEL

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2012

RISING TENSION AND RHETORIC IN U.S. AND IRAN

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) held a Jan. 30 panel discussion at the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill to address “Avoiding Disaster: The Consequences of a Military Strike Against Iran and its Alternatives.” Moderator Alejandro J. Beutel, MPAC’s government and policy analyst, brought together several experts to comment on international policy and domestic politics in both Iran and the U.S. Dr. Paul Pillar, director of graduate studies at Georgetown University’s Center for Peace and Security Studies, highlighted the pattern in U.S. political rhetoric and analysis. Frequently, he noted, the possibility of Iran creating a nuclear bomb is discussed in the terms of worst-case scenarios. Alternatively, U.S. military action against Iran to prevent such an event is depicted only in terms of the best-case outcomes. The bias is also evident in political rhetoric depicting Iran as an irrational, aggressive actor with nuclear ambitions that would be easily subdued and rational after a U.S. attack. Most likely, he said, a “surgical strike” against Iran would not resolve the nuclear issue. Such an attack instead would provide political fuel to Iran’s leaders to continue developing nuclear weapons and would also “poison” relations with future generations. Dr. Pillar concluded by stressing that U.S. leaders must realize that “exerting pressure on Iran has become the end and no longer the means to the end.” BY ALLAN C. BROWNFELD

IOWA CONFERENCE ON U.S. POLICY IN PALESTINE-ISRAEL An Oct. 14-15 conference on “Palestine-Israel: Engaging Faith Communities in Pursuit of a Just Peace,” held at Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart (OLIH) Catholic Church in Ankeny, IA, attracted a large and diverse audience over the weekend. Organized by Joe Aossey of Cedar Rapids and Kathleen McQuillen and Samar Sarhan of American Friends Service Committee’s Iowa Middle East Peace Education Project, the event featured 16 speakers and workshop leaders from across the U.S. and the Middle East. Laila El-Haddad, a Palestinian freelance journalist, author, political analyst and mother of two from Gaza, presented the Oct. 15 keynote address. Plenary and workshop presenters included Yaser Abu Dagga, Jennifer Bing, Dr. Jeremy Brigham, Mohammed Fahmy, Mahmoud Hamad, Remi Kanazi, BY MICHAEL GILLESPI

NEOCONS BLAME OBAMA FOR IRAQ DISASTER  With President Barack Obama’s announcement of a complete U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq, the neoconservative editors of The Washington Post immediately got to work rewriting the narrative of the Iraq war, shifting the blame for the eight-year strategic disaster onto him. That is the message of Oct. 23’s lead editorial in which The Post joins with the neocon-advised Republican presidential candidates in setting Obama up for the fall in the likely event that the horrendous political violence in Iraq gets even worse. The neocon message is this: If only Obama had listened to us—like George W. Bush did—everything would have worked out just wonderfully. However, since he didn’t, Obama will have to shoulder the blame for what the world will see as a humiliating U.S. retreat from Iraq. BY ROBERT PARRY

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MASSACRE IN KABUL, AFGHANISTAN

It was around 3 at “ night that they entered the room. They took my uncle out of the room and shot him after asking him...

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In Najabyan village, a visitor’s eye is immediately drawn to the turquoise and green sheets blanketing mounds of dirt, and the red, green and gold flag flying above it all. Those are the only bits of color in the otherwise gray and brown landscape of Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. But underneath the colorful cloth is a stark reminder of a terrible moment in the village’s history. The sheets cover the graves of victims from a March 11 massacre that is being blamed on a U.S. soldier who is accused of sneaking off his base and going on a shooting rampage in the dead of night, killing 16 civilians, including children. Ali Ahmad, one of the villagers, holds a blood-stained pillow in his home, then goes to his neighbor’s home and shows blood splatter on a wall as he describes what he remembers. “It was around 3 at night that they entered the room. They took my uncle out of the room and shot him after asking him, ‘Where is the Taliban?’ “My uncle replied that he didn’t know,”

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Ahmad said.Ahmad used “they” but did not say more than one soldier was in his home.He said things only got worse from there. “Finally they came to this room and martyred all the children in this room. There was even a 2-month-old among these children,” he said. Once the shooting stopped, the villagers said, some of the dead were piled in a room and set on fire.Hours after the shooting, dawn revealed the burned bodies and dead babies. Villagers laid them side by side in truck beds to be taken to a burial ground. NATO and U.S. officials have said this was the work of a single soldier who was not on any mission and was acting on his own. Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is under arrest, accused in the crime, and is being held at the U.S. military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, while the military prepares charges. BY NEIL MACFARQUHAR

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2012

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