Ignoring 459 bombs

The US media and government have said very little about what is probably the most dramatic and well-organized attack by jihadist terrorists since 9/11, the August 17 explosion of 459 bombs in a span of 30 minutes in Bangladesh.

The attacks were subtle (if that can be said of bombings), and very well-organized. The targets were government buildings and populated areas, but apparently the intention was not wanton destruction — only 2 people were killed and a couple hundred injured. According to Reuters, the bombs “caused little damage and appeared to have been aimed chiefly at spreading panic.”[1] The attackers used “homemade bombs – explosives in small tin cans,” many of which were “cushioned in sawdust, apparently intended to limit the damage they caused.” [2]

Map of Bangladesh with bomb blast locations The bombs went off in 63 of the 64 districts of Bangladesh, and were timed to go off inside of a 30 minute period. The group responsible must have been incredibly well-organized.[3] The country’s Daily Star newspaper called the operation “Grassroots Clockwork,” saying it was carried out by “some 400 activists and leaders” who planned it in exquisite detail.[4]

There is practically nothing on this event in the US media, in sharp contrast to the front page circus around the London attacks, or Madrid. I found three articles so far in the New York Times [5] and four in the Washington Post [6] You would think that the sheer scope of the attacks would draw a lot more media attention, especially from the Bush “anti-terror” crowd. So why isn’t the media paying attention to these bombings?
Perhaps the fact that the people terrorized were mostly poor and brown might have something to do with the weak outpouring of sympathy, concern, and solidarity. Since the terrorists were home-grown, there is certainly less fear that we might be next, always a factor in how a disaster story is pitched.

The lack of carnage made room for attention to be paid to the alleged perpetrators’ political message, something our own media and government tend to avoid as much as possible. Unlike the Bush/Blair standard ignorant and racist response to Islamist terrorism (“they hate our way of life”), Bangladesh’s State Minister for Home acknowledged that these bombings were “done in an organised way with an objective.” The message itself is similar to that of other jihadist groups who we have heard from in recent years. The leaflets left at the bomb sites by Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh addressed two groups of people, first “Muslims in Bangladesh,” and second “Muslims of the world.” The first part of the document called for an Islamic state and labeled the present democratic government a creation of “kafirs,” or infidels. In the second section, key points include the following: [7] [8]

  • The “biggest terrorist of the present world is George W Bush, who launches attacks on innocent Muslims by resorting to terrorism, and tries to make the Muslim into nonbelievers by forcibly imposing a Kufri [evil] Constitution.”
  • “Democracy is the main weapon to establish evil forces in the world. This evil order allows the arrest of Mujahideen who are on Allah’s path.”
  • Bush and his allies “want to bring the whole world under their control through a new world order by establishing a Kufri concept of democracy. It seems to be a neo-Pharaonic ambition.”
  • Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and other leaders of Muslim majority countries who act as agents of Bush are “kafirs.”
  • To Bush and Blair: “The Muslims across the world are rising up. If you don’t stop repression forthwith, you will not be allowed to live in safety anywhere in the world.”

Coincidentally (or not?) one of the architects of the Bush/Blair policy, Paul Wolfowitz, is in Bangladesh for a visit in his capacity as president of the World Bank. Even some of Wolfowitz’s natural allies among the country’s elites lambasted his presence. A meeting of NGO officials and academics convened to criticize World Bank projects in Bangladesh as “mass destructive.” Most of the speakers protested Wolfowitz’s visit and complained, among other things, that the poverty rate in their country had doubled (from 30 to 60 million) between 1972, when Bangladesh first began receiving World Bank “aid,” and 2005.[9] It is likely that the anti-US component of the jihadist message resonates deeply with the concerns of the Bangladeshi people. Even if the bombings had been covered in more detail by the US media, this point would surely have been lost.

Thanks to Angsuman Chakraborty for bringing this story to my attention.

Linknotes:

  1. Reuters
  2. Australian Associated Press – registration required
  3. Daily Star [Bangladesh]
  4. Daily Star
  5. New York Times archive search for ‘bangladesh’
  6. Washington Post archive search for ‘bangladesh’
  7. Simple Thoughts – Abridged translation of the leaflet by Angsuman Chakraborty
  8. The Daily Star [Bangladesh]
  9. The Daily Star [Bangladesh] – On his first tour of South Asia since he became the Bank’s head, Wolfowitz has been unwelcomed in other places too. Activists in Andra Pradesh, one of the first Indian states to receive World Bank loans, also protested in advance of his visit [BBC News]

The China Syndrome

Imperial rivals to the US are getting more powerful, and more capable of deterring the unfettered trampling of the globe that US policymakers are bent on.

That this is occurring is most obvious in the case of China. The eviction of US troops from Uzbekistan[1] would not have happened if it wasn’t supported fully by Russia and China. The move followed closely on the heels of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s request that the US develop a timetable for withdrawal from all of Central Asia.[2] In general, says a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, the eviction is certain to “put pressure on other central Asian states to turn away from the west, towards China and Russia, because of their reliance on Uzbekistan’s resources.”[3] China is scoring points against the US in its own neighborhood, but those points have global ramifications.

It isn’t just the tilt of one or two small allies that has Washington policymakers concerned. China’s sway in the region includes security arrangements, like the recent Chinese/Russian war games, which may portend a more aggressive foreign policy from Beijing. According to the Christian Science Monitor,

The week-long maneuvers off the Pacific coast are widely viewed as Moscow lending a mail-gloved hand to China’s efforts to warn the United States away from involvement in any future crisis over Taiwan. But preparations to deal with potential unrest in Central Asia may also figure, some say.

Further suggesting the war games may be part of a larger agenda is the presence of defense ministers from the six-member Shanghai Cooperation Organization: Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. Some analysts believe Moscow and Beijing hope to transform the SCO, hitherto a Central Asian talking shop, into a NATO-style security alliance to keep order in their increasingly troubled neighborhood.[4]

US policy makers are worried about this development, and they want their allies to also be worried. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made it a point at a Singapore conference of Asian defense ministers in June to “question” China’s military buildup, in a “rhetorical assault” that “underscores a growing concern in the United States over China’s rising military, economic and diplomatic power,” according to Reuters. Some of Rumsfeld’s comments:

China appears to be expanding its missile forces, allowing them to reach targets in many areas of the world, not just the Pacific region, while also expanding its missile capabilities within this region…China also is improving its ability to project power, and developing advanced systems of military technology…Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment? Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases? Why these continuing robust deployments?”[5]

You mean, why is China acting like the United States?

The comments were made just prior to the intended release of the 2005 Pentagon report on Chinese military capacity. The report was held back for over a month because “earlier drafts…concerned National Security Council officials by painting what they saw as an overly antagonistic picture of China.”[6]

I suppose I understand not wanting to appear too antagonistic towards a government which is emulating your own.

The report was finally released on July 19. Here are some quotes, chosen for their ironic relevance to US behavior:[7]

  1. “China has not renounced the use of force… Over the long term, if current trends persist, PLA [People’s Liberation Army] capabilities could pose a credible threat to other modern militaries operating in the region.” Now, which “other modern militaries” operate in the region around China? Hmmm.
  2. “Forces…that could divert China from a peaceful pathway” include “nationalistic fervor bred by expanding economic power and political influence” and “an expanding military-industrial complex that proliferates advanced arms.” Sound familiar?
  3. “[D]ependence on overseas resources and energy supplies, especially oil and natural gas, is playing arole in shaping China’s strategy and policy. Such concerns factor heavily in Beijing’s relations withAngola, Central Asia, Indonesia, the Middle East (including Iran), Russia, Sudan, and Venezuela.”
  4. “Beijing has described its long-term political goals of developing comprehensive national power and of ensuring a favorable strategic configuration of power in peaceful terms…Nevertheless, China’s military modernization remains ambitious… In the future, as China’s military power grows, China’s leaders may be tempted to resort to force or coercion more quickly to press diplomatic advantage, advance security interests, or resolve disputes.”

China’s military budget ($26 billion) is only about 1/18 that of the US. But just because China isn’t capable of building as gigantic an arsenal as the US, or of invading and creating insurgencies in two of the poorest countries on the planet, it has been able to make modest advances against US power in Iran and Central Asia by working with regional leaders for common goals.[8]

In the short term, a new Cold War might be a good thing. The US will be less capable of invading other countries, or of imposing crippling sanctions or doing anything else unilaterally that might have a serious impact. But for those interested in ending empire, supporting the rise of China as an “anti-hegemon” would be fighting fire with fire. The democratic empowerment of most of the planet will be a lot further away with two superpowers than with none. Perhaps in the space opened up by the weakening of US credibility in the Middle East and Central Asia, and while the Bush and later US administrations are distracted by the rise of China, that third “superpower,” the world populace, will be able to sneak off with the prize.

Warmongering North of the Border

Canadians are supposed to be peace-loving and nonviolent. At least that is the stereotype, promulgated in films like Bowling for Columbine, in which Michael Moore demonstrated lack of violent tendencies via unlocked doors and low handgun death rates. I wouldn’t be too quick to accept a few Moore-ian anecdotes as proof of the stereotype’s veracity, but it is certainly true that the Canadian government, being a lesser power compared to the United States, has not had quite as many imperial adventures. (Tho’, like the US, of course, Canada was founded on an imperialistic land theft.)

According to Canadian activist Justin Podur[1] , the Canadian military is beginning to emulate our own:

Canada has atrocious foreign policy, hate, fear, crime, punishment, and a beaten up social welfare system with socialized health care. Look south and look at the future. More atrocious foreign policy, more hate, more fear (terror, even), more crime, more punishment, and no health care.

Justin relays General Hillier’s comments on anti-US fighters in Afghanistan, referred to as “detestable murderers and scumbags.” I just read excerpts from a speech by Major General Andrew Leslie,[2] who makes the following points:

  1. Canada will be in Afghanistan militarily for a long time: “Afghanistan is a 20-year venture.”
  2. Canada will use military force to somehow help Afghanistan “break out of the cycle of warlords and tribalism.”
  3. A lot of people will be killed. “There are things worth fighting for. There are things worth dying for. There are things worth killing for…Your soldiers have done all three of those activities in the last 50 years. More of that activity is about to take place.”
  4. The anti-Canadian elements will be worth killing, since they are “predators … who wish to kill those whom we are charged to protect.”
  5. Canada will be the cause of more terrorism: “Every time you kill an angry young man overseas, you’re creating 15 more who will come after you. You have to be prepared for the consequences.”

This bellicose buildup to a long-term Canadian military presence in Afghanistan is, I suspect, rhetorical preparation for the eventual takeover of US “security operations” in Afghanistan by NATO in 2006.[3] The handover of power is as yet vaguely defined. What is certain, current US operations in Afghanistan are not bringing security, and, judging by Canadian rhetoric, neither will future NATO operations.

Linknotes:

  1. The Killing Train – Justin Podur’s Blog
  2. Toronto Star
  3. Agence France-Presse

Wait a Minute, Man

The Minuteman Project (Wikipedia) has been dealt a couple of blows in recent weeks. For example, anti-racist demonstrations in opposition to the group have been building up steam. A protest in New Mexico (Associated Press) drew hundreds. (For more on the movement against the MM, see SouthWest Action to Resist the Minutemen). In addition, local and national officials have distanced themselves from the project, if not from its intentions. The chairman of the Democratic Party in Hidalgo County, Texas (KGBT Television) announced his party’s opposition to the Minutemen operating in the state. The head of the Texas branch of the Minutemen quit (Houston Chronicle – unavailable without subscription) (Alternate link), claiming that the group was even more racist than he expected and he doesn’t want his “name and my reputation associated with a group of people who are racist like that.” I don’t doubt for a second that the man who invited the group into his state in the first place must have been highly supportive of the project’s racist objectives. He probably realized that the Minutemen are not good enough at covering up their racism. I think this is the reason why the Homeland Security Dept backed away (Washington Post) from earlier statements of a Border Patrol official that “we welcome the eyes and ears of citizens who help us gain control of our borders”, implying that the Minutemen were a good model for a volunteer corps of Border Patrol (Los Angeles Times – registration required).

The primary goal of the Minuteman project is keeping the borders secure from “illegal immigrants,” the same as US Border Patrol. The racism and hypocrisy of such a project is much more obvious in the Minutemen, allowing us to shine a light on the unsavory aspects of US immigration policy.

Reading the Minuteman offical web site (http://www.minutemanhq.com), the group’s racist underpinnings are smothered in misappropriated leftist language (“You are reading this because you believe that you can actively participate in one of the most important, socially responsible, and peaceful movements for justice since the civil rights movement of the 1960s”) and admonitions to follow the law (“we will display the highest level of restraint, thus proving we are responsible citizens and that our character is consistent with our ability to stay within the boundaries of the law”). But let’s face it. The boundaries of current law are not too kind to people who cross the US border unannounced.

Like US Border Patrol, the Minutemen are not interested in analyzing or fixing the conditions that lead to criminalized border crossings, which would be the case if they were truly building a “movement for justice.” Truth be told, the Minutemen and others of their ilk don’t really care about justice. At its core, the project plays on the fear of loss of white privilege to the brown non-English speakers to the south. Uncontrolled immigration is synonymous with “invasion” in the group’s tracts. The racist logic is declaimed in passages like the following from the US Border Control website (not a govt department, like US Border Patrol):

At the current rate of invasion the United States will be completely over run with ILLEGAL aliens by the year 2025…only 21 years away. ILLEGAL aliens and their offspring will be the dominant population in the U.S. and will have made such inroads into the political and social systems that “they” will have more influence than our Constitution over how the U.S. is governed. The ugly consequence of an ignored U.S. Constitution is already taking place.

Future generations will inherit this mutated form of the United States of America, consisting of 100 different sub-nations, speaking 100 different languages, and promoting 100 different cultural agendas. That will certainly guarantee the death of this nation as a “melting pot”. Instead, it will be tantamount to a sack of marbles…with each marble colliding with the other marbles, as each culture scrambles for dominance of its culture over all others.

The final result: political and social mayhem.

Historians will write about how a lax America let its unique and coveted form of government and society sink into a quagmire of mutual acrimony among the various sub-nations that will comprise the new self-destructing America.

Compare this with the writings of a certain German chancellor:

For hundreds of years Germany was good enough to receive these elements [Jews], although they possessed nothing except infectious political and physical diseases. What they possess today, they have by a very large extent gained at the cost of the less astute German nation by the most reprehensible manipulations…

We are resolved to prevent the settlement in our country of a strange people which was capable of snatching for itself all the leading positions in the land, and to oust it…German culture, as its name alone shows, is German and not Jewish, and therefore its management and care will be entrusted to members of our own nation.

-Adolf Hitler, speech 1939

***

…there lives amongst us a non­ German, alien race which neither wishes nor is able to sacrifice its racial character or to deny its feeling, thinking, and striving. Nevertheless, it possesses all the political rights we do…

-Adolf Hitler, Letter to Adolf Gemlich, 1919

The “About Us” web page of the Official Minuteman Civil Defense Corps says:

You are considering joining the Minuteman… because you feel your government owes the citizens of the United States protection from people who wish to take advantage of a free society.

Compare this to Adolf Hitler’s response to the League of Nations High Commissioner for German refugees about the expulsions of Jews:

As to the Jews, why should there be such a fuss when they are thrown out of places, when hundreds of thousands of Aryan Germans are out on the streets?

Then of course, there is the name. The original 1700s Minutemen were the civil defense corps in the breakaway British colonies of the early United States. Most of them would have been termed illegal immigrants or the children of them if such an expression existed in Native American culture. Clearly, a “unique and coveted form of government and society” under the American Indians was destroyed to accomodate the settlement of different “sub-nations” (states) by Europeans. What is more, most of the current white residents of the border states California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, including the membership of the Minuteman Project, are even more newly-arrived descendants of “illegals.”

The way in which the Mexican border states became part of the United States is particularly instructive and ironic in the light of the Minuteman fear of “invasion” by Mexicans. Texas, for example, became part of the United States when Anglo-Saxon slaveowners migrated in droves in the early 1800s and revolted against the Mexican government, which owned the land at the time and had outlawed slavery. This gave slaveowners more weight in the US government, and was criticized violently by non-slaveowners. An 1845 pamphlet published by the Anti-Texass Legion makes it pretty clear why Texas was settled by whites:

It is susceptible of the clearest demonstration, that the immediate cause, and the leading object of this contest [the war with Mexico], originated in a settled design, among the slaveholders of this country, (with land speculators and slave-traders,) to wrest the large and valuable territory of Texas from the Mexican republic, in order to re-establish the SYSTEM OF SLAVERY; to open a vast and profitable SLAVE MARKET therein; and ultimately to annex it to the United States. And further, it is evident–nay, it is very generally acknowledged–that the insurrectionists are principally citizens of the United states, who have proceeded thither for the purpose of revolutionizing the country…[emphasis in original]

A piece by Theodore Sedgwick described the type of person that migrated to Mexican Texas from the United States, sounding like a Minuteman Project demagogue:

[Texas] received, commencing in 1821, the period of Moses Austin’s grant, a very considerable American or Anglo-Saxon population. That population was at the outset of a very desperate character. In August 1817, Mr. Chew, Collector of New Orleans, writes to Mr. Crawford, Secretary of the Treasury, of “the most shameful violations of the slave act, as well as of our revenue laws, practiced by a motely mixture of freebooters and smugglers established at Galveston.”

(Check out “Debates and Documents Relating to the Annexation of Texas” for more info.)

The Minuteman Project is obviously crude and crass and intellectually easy to dismiss. But the project really only wants the government to “do its job.” The group is more honest about its reasons for controlling immigration than is the government, hence the fear that the US Border Patrol has of associating with them. The Minutemen should really be seen as a manifestation of the true racist, nationalist, and proto-fascist heart of US immigration policy.