By John Ballard
Our holiday weekend plans were interrupted by car trouble so I have time to read. Here's stuff from this morning that caught my eye.
?The CIA�s Islamist Cover Up, NY Review of Books, by Ian Johnson
No, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11 this is not one of those conspiracy theories about the US blowing up the WTC, But there is plenty of meat in this column, mostly promoting the writer's own newly-published book, to give readers a lot to think about. (H/T The Arabist)
Of course some of this history is well known. The blowback story�how the US armed the mujahedeen, some of whom morphed into al-Qaeda�has been told in book and film. We are also getting a sense now of how parts of the US-backed Pakistani military-intelligence complex have actively supported radical Islamists. Collusion between Britain and Islamist movements over the past century has also been explored. And of course, Israel�s support for Hamas as a counterweight to the Palestinian Liberation Organization has gone down as one of the great diplomatic miscalculations of recent history.
But compared to the full scope of the issue, these insights are meager. To date, the Central Intelligence Agency continues to block access to its archives relating to radical Islam or cooperation with Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. In the course of researching my book on the Brotherhood�s expansion into the West, I applied numerous times under the Freedom of Information Act to see documents concerning events in the 1950s, some of which had been confirmed by already declassified State Department cables. Inevitably the CIA responded with the blanket exception of �national security� to justify denying access to any files.
The stinking remains of the Wikileaks carcass and the diplomatic lancing of the Turkey-Israel boil in the aftermath of the UN Report make this reading more timely than it was at the time it was published. Plow through it slowly, paying attention to details easy to miss. That part I highlighted, for instance, was one of the details I had forgotten if I ever knew it at all. This is how that link opens.
"Hamas, to my great regret, is Israel's creation," says Mr. Cohen, a Tunisian-born Jew who worked in Gaza for more than two decades. Responsible for religious affairs in the region until 1994, Mr. Cohen watched the Islamist movement take shape, muscle aside secular Palestinian rivals and then morph into what is today Hamas, a militant group that is sworn to Israel's destruction.
Instead of trying to curb Gaza's Islamists from the outset, says Mr. Cohen, Israel for years tolerated and, in some cases, encouraged them as a counterweight to the secular nationalists of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its dominant faction, Yasser Arafat's Fatah. Israel cooperated with a crippled, half-blind cleric named Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, even as he was laying the foundations for what would become Hamas. Sheikh Yassin continues to inspire militants today; during the recent war in Gaza, Hamas fighters confronted Israeli troops with "Yassins," primitive rocket-propelled grenades named in honor of the cleric.
?Pakistan, the Army and the Conflict Within by Pervez Hoodbhoy, Zia Mian
For any newcomer to the issue, this brief historic summary of the mystery we call Pakistan is the tip of an iceberg. Drilling into the history of Pakistan's internal political, social and sectarian conflicts is a daunting task for experts and almost impossible for the layman. I recall as a history major how convoluted cause and effect becomes when analyzed in the light of past events. In analytical terms, the complexity of Pakistan ranks with examining the causes of the American Civil War or either of the two World Wars. There is nothing simple about it. This reading is a good primer.
Religion divides Pakistan, and Pakistanis, and increasingly divides the Pakistani military. The worst-kept secret in the ranks is that, in fact, there are now two armies. The first is headed by Gen. Kayani and is a national army. The second, as of now, has no known leader and sees itself as God�s army. The same division is to be found in the ISI, maybe even within the Strategic Plans Division, which has custody of Pakistan�s atomic arsenal.
Army-One and ISI-One, and Army-Two and ISI-Two, have similar but distinct mindsets. The officers and soldiers in both, like all Pakistanis, were reared on the �two-nation theory,� the belief of Pakistan�s founding father Muhammad Ali Jinnah that Hindus and Muslims can never live together as equals in peace. Both sets of soldiers are steeped in anti-Indian prejudice, a sentiment instilled early on in the army cadet colleges at Petaro and Hasan Abdal, and also share a deep-rooted contempt for civilians. They differ on religion, however.
I came by this at 3Quarks Daily where I left the following comment:
I have been re-reading Vali Nasr's Shia Revival and this article seems to resonate with Chapter Five, "The Battle of Islamic Fundamentalisms."
Step by step Nasr describes how the overthrow of the Pahlavi dynasty set off an internal sectarian conflict in the faith that went horribly wrong. An anecdote about an encounter in the Seventies between Ayatollah Khohmeini and Pakistan's general Zia ul-Hak illustrates the core conflict. (p161)
...In their few personal encounters, Khomeini openly showed his disdain for the general and his Islamic idealism. On one occasion Zia took it upon himself to caution Khomeini about confronting the United States, warning that it was imprudent to tangle with a super-power. Khomeini retorted that he would never do such a thing, and in fact had always relied on the superpower. Zia was baffled at first, but then realized that Khomeini was mocking him, saying that his own superpower was God, whereas Zia's was the United States. Humiliated, Zia decided to take no chances by allowing Iranian influence in Pakistan and soon had his Sunni fundamentalists reining in the Shias.
?While I'm thinking of 3Quarks, Abbas found this year-old video that somehow I missed. It should have been viral (and may have been) but the number of views noted at You Tube is surprisingly low. This girl is astonishing.
?Aaaand.... as long as we're doing You Tube stuff, a Yemini cab driver told Tom Finn that this is the best song ever written. I don't know about that but it sure shows why Coca Cola is a durable global giant.
?Finally, a lesson in Twitter protocol in a series of Tweets from Sandmonkey.
But since we are on the topic, can we just get a grip & realize that twitter is only a social media tool? Or have you forgotten that?
It's a playground, where people share ideas, link pictures, & talk to the screen. It's nothing more. Chill! Cause this is insane.
Egypt is a country where the military communicates with us using facebook & what u do on twitter defines ur character.
As far as I am concerned, my Twitter account is my personal pissing ground: I can say what I want & do what i want. I dictate it, not you. As much as I appreciate having followers, I didn't seek them, & if they don't like what is written they can simply unfollow me. Simple.
And if u think that people are exactly like their twitter account, oh boy are u due for some rude awakening, cause it's not true. So again, grateful to have u, but u don't dictate to me what to write :
I'll sometimes curse, i'll say inappropriate things. This'll happen So please, if u can handle free speech, with all its negatives, keep following people. Otherwise, sod off. No 1 is forcing u to do anything
Now, have urself a lovely day & please focus on the catastrophic election we are about to have, not what hashtag did what on twitter.