Sep 30, 2010

"Brigade 313" prepares plan to attack Commonwealth Games

"Brigade 313" prepares plan to attack Commonwealth Games

By Ali K Chishti

Daily Times:
Karachi, Sept 30, 2010

It can be confirmed that al Qaeda and a group based in North Waziristan calling itself “Brigade 313”, which is made up of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and allied extremist group members, including Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Karachi-based Jandullah, has prepared a plan to attack the 19th Commonwealth Games, which are due to be held in News Delhi from October 3 to October 14, Daily Times has learnt.

Previously, those who have been described as “stateless actors” by the government, attacked various targets in India’s financial hub, Mumbai, which strained the relations between India and Pakistan and brought them on the brink of war.

The intelligence has originated from Kabul where a western military source confirmed that, “We intercepted certain conversations that gave us the impression that the attack on an important sporting event is due in India.”

It has also been confirmed that some of the information originated from a German national named, Ahmed Siddiqui, 36, who has been caught in Kabul under suspicion of carrying out a terrorist plot in the West. The intelligence about such an attack had also been passed on to the Indians.

Daily Times has been told that Ilyas Kashmiri, who heads al Qaeda’s Brigade 313 and who is a former rogue SSG commando, will be heading the whole operation to carry out this terrorist plot in New Delhi. Kashmiri had been linked to have actually orchestrated the Mumbai attacks and to have links with the Dylands-Posten plot to carry out the assassination of General Alvi, who commanded the Pakistan Army’s elite Special Services Group (SSG). Kashmiri is now based in North Waziristan and heads what is now called the Punjabi Taliban.

The Interior Ministry, along with various security establishments in Pakistan, after the news that there could have been another terrorist plot originating from Pakistan are in a ‘state of panic’, where according to one senior ministry member, “We are seriously investigating and taking all precautions that we could and have been extra-vigilant. Surely another 26/11 or a high-profile terrorist incident now in India would definitely be a major blow, something that none of us wants.”

A New Delhi based security analyst, Bharat Swami, told Daily Times, “Another attack from Pakistan would leave India no other option but to target militant camps inside Pakistan and could end all diplomatic relations with Pakistan.”

The Pakistani Foreign Office’s spokesman declined to comment on the story, but termed it ‘baseless’. Western diplomat in close contact with security officials told Daily Times that, “This is what we fear the most… we all have our fingers crossed on this one, but if such an incident does take place, we will be packing our bags.”

India only recently raised the level of security for the 19th Commonwealth Games and deputed more than 100,000 security officials, including elite commandoes, for providing security to the participants.

Sep 29, 2010

Obama: "The Cancer is in Pakistan"

From the Bob Woodward book "Obama's War"

President Obama dispatched his national security adviser, retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, and CIA Director Leon Panetta to Pakistan for a series of urgent, secret meetings on May 19, 2010.

Less than three weeks earlier, a 30-year-old U.S. citizen born in Pakistan had tried to blow up an SUV in New York City's Times Square. The crude bomb - which a Pakistan-based terrorist group had taught him to make - smoked but did not explode. Only luck had prevented a catastrophe.

"We're living on borrowed time," Jones told Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari at their meeting in Islamabad. "We consider the Times Square attempt a successful plot because neither the American nor the Pakistani intelligence agencies could intercept or stop it."

Jones thought that Pakistan - a U.S. ally with an a la carte approach of going after some terrorist groups and supporting others - was playing Russian roulette. The chamber had turned out to be empty the past several times, but Jones thought it was only a matter of time before there was a round in it.

Fears about Pakistan had been driving President Obama's national security team for more than a year. Obama had said toward the start of his fall 2009 Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy review that the more pressing U.S. interests were really in Pakistan, a nuclear power with a fragile civilian government, a dominant military and an intelligence service that sponsored terrorist groups.

Not only did al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban operate from safe havens within Pakistan, but - as U.S. intelligence officials had repeatedly warned Obama - terrorist groups were recruiting Westerners whose passports would allow them to move freely in Europe and North America.

Safe havens would no longer be tolerated, Obama had decided. "We need to make clear to people that the cancer is in Pakistan," he declared during an Oval Office meeting on Nov. 25, 2009, near the end of the strategy review. The reason to create a secure, self-governing Afghanistan, he said, was "so the cancer doesn't spread there."

Jones and Panetta had gone to Pakistan to tell Zardari that Obama wanted four things to help prevent a terrorist attack on U.S. soil: full intelligence sharing, more reliable cooperation on counterterrorism, faster approval of visas for U.S. personnel traveling to Pakistan and, despite past refusals, access to airline passenger data.

If, God forbid, the SUV had blown up in Times Square, Jones told Zardari, we wouldn't be having this conversation. Should a future attempt be successful, Obama would be forced to do things that Pakistan would not like. "No one will be able to stop the response and consequences," the security adviser said. "This is not a threat, just a statement of political fact."

Jones did not give specifics about what he meant. The Obama administration had a "retribution" plan, one of the most sensitive and secretive of all military contingencies. The plan called for bombing about 150 identified terrorist camps in a brutal, punishing attack inside Pakistan.

Sep 22, 2010

Pres Obama MoH presentation to Etchberger family

THE PRESIDENT: Please be seated. Good afternoon, and on behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House. And I thank you, General Cyr, for that wonderful invocation.

Of all the military decorations that our nation can bestow, the highest is the Medal of Honor. It is awarded for conspicuous gallantry; for risking one’s life in action; for serving above and beyond the call of duty. Today, we present the Medal of Honor to an American who displayed such gallantry more than four decades ago —- Chief Master Sergeant Richard L. Etchberger.

This medal reflects the gratitude of an entire nation. So we are also joined by Vice President Biden and members of Congress, including Congressman Earl Pomeroy and —- from Chief Etchberger’s home state of Pennsylvania -— Congressman Tim Holden.

We are joined by leaders from across my administration, including Secretary of Veterans Affairs Ric Shinseki; Secretary of Defense Robert Gates; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Jim “Hoss” Cartwright; and leaders from across our Armed Services, including Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Chief of Staff General Norton Schwartz.

I want to acknowledge a group of Americans who understand the valor we recognize today, because they displayed it themselves —- members of the Medal of Honor Society. Most of all, we welcome Dick Etchberger’s friends and family -— especially his brother Robert, and Dick’s three sons, Steve, Richard and Cory.

For the Etchberger family, this is a day more than 40 years in the making. Cory was just nine years old, but he can still remember that winter in 1968 when he, his brothers and his mom were escorted to the Pentagon. The war in Vietnam was still raging. Dick Etchberger had given his life earlier that year. Now his family was being welcomed by the Air Force Chief of Staff.

In a small, private ceremony, Dick was recognized with the highest honor that the Air Force can give —- the Air Force Cross. These three sons were told that their dad was a hero -- that he had died while saving his fellow airmen. But they weren’t told much else. Their father’s work was classified, and for years, that’s all they really knew.

Then, nearly two decades later, the phone rang. It was the Air Force, and their father’s mission was finally being declassified. And that’s when they learned the truth —- that their father had given his life not in Vietnam, but in neighboring Laos. That’s when they began to learn the true measure of their father’s heroism.

Dick Etchberger was a radar technician and he had been hand-picked for a secret assignment. With a small team of men, he served at the summit of one of the tallest mountains in Laos -— more than a mile high, literally above the clouds. They manned a tiny radar station, guiding American pilots in the air campaign against North Vietnam.

Dick and his crew believed they could help turn the tide of the war, perhaps even end it. And that’s why North Vietnamese forces were determined to shut it down. They sent their planes to strafe the Americans as they worked. They moved in their troops. And eventually, Dick and his team could look through their binoculars and see that their mountain was surrounded by thousands of North Vietnamese troops.

Dick and his crew at that point had a decision to make —- ask to be evacuated or continue the mission for another day. They believed that no one could possibly scale the mountain’s steep cliffs. And they believed in their work. So they stayed. They continued their mission.

There were 19 Americans on the mountain that evening. When their shift was over, Dick and his four men moved down to a small, rocky ledge on a safer side of the mountain. And then, during the night, the enemy attacked. Somehow, fighters scaled the cliffs and overran the summit. Down the side of the mountain, Dick and his men were now trapped on that ledge.

The enemy lobbed down grenade after grenade, hour after hour. Dick and his men would grab those grenades and throw them back, or kick them into the valley below. But the grenades kept coming. One airman was killed, and then another. A third airman was wounded, and then another. Eventually, Dick was the only man standing.

As a technician, he had no formal combat training. In fact, he had only recently been issued a rifle. But Dick Etchberger was the very definition of an NCO —- a leader determined to take care of his men. When the enemy started moving down the rocks, Dick fought them off. When it looked like the ledge would be overrun, he called for air strikes, within yards of his own position, shaking the mountain and clearing the way for a rescue. And in the morning light, an American helicopter came into view.

Richard Etchberger lived the Airman’s Creed —- to never leave an airman behind, to never falter, to never fail. So as the helicopter hovered above and lowered its sling, Dick loaded his wounded men, one by one, each time exposing himself to enemy fire. And when another airman suddenly rushed forward after eluding the enemy all night, Dick loaded him, too —- and finally, himself. They had made it off the mountain.

That’s when it happened. The helicopter began to peel away. A burst of gunfire erupted below. Dick was wounded. And by the time they landed at the nearest base, he was gone.

Of those 19 men on the mountain that night, only seven made it out alive. Three of them owed their lives to the actions of Dick Etchberger. Today, we’re honored to be joined by one of them —- Mr. John Daniel.

Among the few who knew of Dick’s actions, there was a belief that his valor warranted our nation’s highest military honor. But his mission had been a secret. And that’s how it stayed for those many years. When their father’s mission was finally declassified, these three sons learned something else. It turned out that their mother had known about Dick’s work all along. But she had been sworn to secrecy. And she kept that promise —- to her husband and her country —- all those years, not even telling her own sons. So today is also a tribute to Catherine Etchberger, and a reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our military spouses make on behalf of our nation.

This story might have ended there —- with a family finally knowing the truth. And for another two decades, it did. But today also marks another chapter in a larger story of our nation finally honoring that generation of Vietnam veterans who served with dedication and courage but all too often were shunned when they came home, which was a disgrace that must never happen again.

A few years ago, an airman who never even knew Dick Etchberger read about his heroism and felt he deserved something more. So he wrote his congressman, who made it his mission to get this done. Today we thank that airman, retired Master Sergeant Robert Dilley, and that congressman, Earl Pomeroy, who along with Congressman Holden made this day possible.

Sadly, Dick’s wife Catherine did not live to see this moment. But today Steve and Richard and Cory —- today your nation finally acknowledges and fully honors your father’s bravery. Because even though it has been 42 years, it’s never too late to do the right thing. And it’s never too late to pay tribute to our Vietnam veterans —- and their families.

In recent years, Dick’s story has become known and Air Force bases have honored him with streets and buildings in his name. And at the base where he trained so long ago in Barksdale -- Barksdale in Louisiana, there is a granite monument with an empty space next to his name -- and that space can finally be etched with the words “Medal of Honor.”

But the greatest memorial of all to Dick Etchberger is the spirit that we feel here today, the love that inspired him to serve -- love for his country and love for his family. And most eloquent -- the most eloquent expression of that devotion are the words that he wrote himself, to a friend back home just months before he gave his life to our nation.

“I hate to be away from home,” he wrote from that small base above the clouds, “but I believe in the job.” He said, “It is the most challenging job I’ll ever have in my life.” And then he added, “I love it.”

Our nation endures because there are patriots like Chief Master Sergeant Richard Etchberger —and our troops who are serving as we speak -- who love this nation and defend it. Their legacy lives on because their families and fellow citizens preserve it. And as Americans, we remain worthy of their example only so long as we honor it —- not merely with the medals that we present, but by remaining true to the values and freedoms for which they fight.

So please join me in welcoming Steve, Richard and Cory for the reading of the citation:

MILITARY AIDE: The President of the United States of America, authorized by Act of Congress, March 3, 1863, has awarded, in the name of The Congress, the Medal of Honor to Chief Master Sergeant Richard L. Etchberger, United States Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty.

Chief Master Sergeant Richard L. Etchberger distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism on March 11, 1968, in the country of Laos, while assigned a Ground Radar Superintendent, Detachment 1, 1043d Radar Evaluation Squadron.

On that day, Chief Etchberger and his team of technicians were manning a top-secret defensive position at Lima Site 85 when the base was overrun by an enemy ground force. Receiving sustained and withering heavy artillery attacks directly upon his unit’s position, Chief Etchberger’s entire crew lay dead or severely wounded. Despite having received little or no combat training, Chief Etchberger single-handedly held off the enemy with an M-16, while simultaneously directing air strikes into the area and calling for air rescue. Because of his fierce defense and heroic and selfless actions, he was able to deny the enemy access to his position and save the lives of his remaining crew. With the arrival of the rescue aircraft, Chief Etchberger, without hesitation, repeatedly and deliberately risked his own life, exposing himself to heavy enemy fire in order to place three surviving wounded comrades into rescue slings hanging from the hovering helicopter waiting to airlift them to safety. With his remaining crew safely aboard, Chief Etchberger finally climbed into an evacuation sling himself, only to be fatally wounded by enemy ground fire as he was being raised into the aircraft.

Chief Etchberger’s bravery and determination in the face of persistent enemy fire and overwhelming odds are in keeping with the highest standards of performance and traditions of military service. Chief Etchberger’s gallantry, self-sacrifice, and profound concern for his fellow men at risk of his life, above and beyond the call of duty, reflect the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

Sep 18, 2010

US-PK-Talib peace talks? "Special" from Karachi's Daily Times

Diplomatic Efforts for Afghanistan
By Ali K Chishti
18 Sept 2010

Daily Times has learned of a massive diplomatic effort by the United States, Pakistan and certain Arab Governments to ‘find a solution for Afghanistan’. A western diplomat who has been at the forefront as a fixer told Daily Times that, “that, the idea is to have broad based government that includes Talibans in Afghanistan.”

Hamid Karzai the president of Afghanistan who is dubbed as ‘the mayor of Kabul’ and is criticized as enormously corrupt and incompetent by the Americans is on board to talk to the Talibans too.

Earlier as part of the diplomatic flurry, United States special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke visited Pakistan, followed by Karzai and Gen.Petraeus and met, Gen.Keyani and DG, ISI Gen.Pasha who according to a top foreign ministry’s source described, ‘came to sought Pakistan’s help to broke a deal with the Talibans and give some sort of legitimacy and power to Hamid Karzai to deal with the them (Talibans). The Americans practically accepts Pakistan’s stance that the Talibans are a reality in Afghanistan.”

Daily Times could confirm that Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz who has the confidence of both the Americans and Hamid Karzai is next in line to visit Pakistan where he will meet high-level Taliban leadership at various safe-houses.

The sources confirmed Daily Times that the Saudi intelligence chief will try to convince the Talibans to break a deal with Hamid Karzai. The UAE’s special envoy to Pakistan Ali Mohammad al-Shamsi who had previously led the negotiations will also be present in talks and would offer major concessions to the Talibans.

A Taliban spokesman while talking to Daily Times denied that negotiations are actually taking place and said, ‘that Ameer Ul Momineen Mulla Omer and Talibans will only negotiate when the US and coalition forces leave Afghanistan."

Sep 9, 2010

Profiling Pakistani Jihadists

ANALYSIS: Profiling Pakistani Jihadists

By Ali K Chishti

Karaci: One major draw for jihadis in Pakistan is the clout a religious militant enjoys with the law-enforcement agencies. The militant organisation gives otherwise powerless men a strong sense of identity in an increasingly fragmented social structure

What kind of people are rushing to join jihadi organisations? Where are they coming from? What is their family and educational background? And most importantly, what motivates them to put their lives on the line for missions that really have nothing material to do with them? What really prompts a Punjabi, Sindhi, Baloch or Pashtun to become a member of a suicide squad? Or, for that matter, what makes these people participate in far off conflicts that have no bearing on their lives, except maybe emotional attachment? What is behind their fanaticism and their commitment? How are they recruited?

All such profiling conducted by various think-tanks gives us a small hint of the demonic mindset that we are dealing with in the fight against radical Islamic terror groups. Another frightening reality that emerges from a close study of jihadis is that they do not come from any one particular education stream, family background, region or even economic background. The spirit of jihad transcends these boundaries and stereotypes. In other words, jihadis are now coming from every social, economic and cultural strata of Pakistani society. This means that our country itself has become one big Jihad Inc. The role of mullahs in motivating and recruiting young men for jihad clearly comes out when profiling jihadis but equally important is the fact that economic factors and a breakdown in traditional social structures too are motivating many people to take to jihad.

Jihad in this part of the world is seen as lending a sense of purpose to the lives of many people who otherwise would be pushovers in society. One major draw for jihadis in Pakistan is the clout a religious militant enjoys with the law enforcement agencies. A black tinted four-by-four and a suspicious number plate with occupants sporting militia-style clothing, long hair and beards is bound to arouse suspicion and get the vehicle pulled over at any check post. If you are a religious militant, however, you are simply waved through with a level of ‘respect’ unthinkable for most Pakistanis. Obviously, being above the law holds great appeal for the jobless. The militant organisation gives otherwise powerless men a strong sense of identity in an increasingly fragmented social structure.

Only recently a research paper published on the very subject reveals that a vast number of recruits come from formal schools and lack any real religious knowledge or motivation. The primary cause behind militancy, it is argued, is unemployment and poverty. There are the middle class jihadis like Shehzad Tanvir or Sheikh Omar, who has been convicted of murdering Daniel Pearl. There is a popular misconception that young Pakistani men who volunteer for jihad invariably do so out of a lack of viable economic options. This is particularly untrue in Karachi where most budding jihadis hail from middle, upper middle or even upper class families. A similar trend prevails in other large cities that, in turn, explodes another myth that Pakistan’s ‘non-state actors’ are largely confined to the country’s tribal and northern areas.

“I am proud of my son although the only regret I have is that I do not have another son to send for this noble cause,” says a middle-aged man whose only son is believed dead somewhere in Afghanistan. Another jihadi now turned tableeghi, Mehmood, who in his late 20s managed to come back to Karachi in one piece, maintains that misconceptions abound concerning the current reality in Afghanistan. He says, “Some people accuse the Taliban of retreating without informing the Pakistani and Arab mujaheedin, a move that allegedly resulted in their slaughter by the Northern Alliance. That is totally incorrect.” While pulling back, the Taliban asked all their foreign allies to withdraw with them. The Pakistani and Arab mujahideen, however, decided to keep on fighting even though they knew that they would get killed. Most of them preferred to die as they had already burnt their bridges.

One would imagine that most of those planning to take part in the holy war would be from the militant cadres of jihadi organisations. However, it has become patently obvious that this modern version of the David and Goliath fable has an emotive appeal across the spectrum of Pakistani society too. Many, even those who do not agree with the Taliban’s obscurantist version of Islam, have found inspiration in the obdurate refusal of one of the world’s poorest Muslim countries to give in to the demands of the only global superpower.

Finally, there is the myth and misconception that jihadis are only Pashtuns and Punjabis. The records provided by different jihadi organisations and research material available show that the number of martyrs from Sindh has already touched 500 in the FATA region alone. In the early 2000s, when our proxies were primarily targeted towards the east, 85 of the Jaish-e-Mohammad, 175 of Hizbul Mujahideen and 51 of Lashkar-e-Islam were Sindhi-speaking jihadis. In the case of Balochistan, the list of casualties published by various jihadi organisations shows that from 1999 to March 2002, there were 112 so-called martyrs from Balochistan, most of whom died in Afghanistan, indicating that the jihad phenomenon in Pakistan has gone viral in almost every segment of our society.


The writer is a political analyst. He can be reached at

"Building on Faith" By the Imam of the proposed NYC mosque

Building on Faith


AS my flight approached America last weekend, my mind circled back to the furor that has broken out over plans to build Cordoba House, a community center in Lower Manhattan.I have been away from home for two months, speaking abroad about cooperation among people from different religions. Every day, including the past two weeks spent representing my country on a State Department tour in the Middle East, I have been struck by how the controversy has riveted the attention of Americans, as well as nearly everyone I met in my travels.

We have all been awed by how inflamed and emotional the issue of the proposed community center has become. The level of attention reflects the degree to which people care about the very American values under debate: recognition of the rights of others, tolerance and freedom of worship.

Many people wondered why I did not speak out more, and sooner, about this project. I felt that it would not be right to comment from abroad. It would be better if I addressed these issues once I returned home to America, and after I could confer with leaders of other faiths who have been deliberating with us over this project. My life’s work has been focused on building bridges between religious groups and never has that been as important as it is now.

We are proceeding with the community center, Cordoba House. More important, we are doing so with the support of the downtown community, government at all levels and leaders from across the religious spectrum, who will be our partners. I am convinced that it is the right thing to do for many reasons.

Above all, the project will amplify the multifaith approach that the Cordoba Initiative has deployed in concrete ways for years. Our name, Cordoba, was inspired by the city in Spain where Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed in the Middle Ages during a period of great cultural enrichment created by Muslims. Our initiative is intended to cultivate understanding among all religions and cultures.

Our broader mission — to strengthen relations between the Western and Muslim worlds and to help counter radical ideology — lies not in skirting the margins of issues that have polarized relations within the Muslim world and between non-Muslims and Muslims. It lies in confronting them as a joint multifaith, multinational effort.

From the political conflicts between Israelis and Palestinians to the building of a community center in Lower Manhattan, Muslims and members of all faiths must work together if we are ever going to succeed in fostering understanding and peace.

At Cordoba House, we envision shared space for community activities, like a swimming pool, classrooms and a play space for children. There will be separate prayer spaces for Muslims, Christians, Jews and men and women of other faiths. The center will also include a multifaith memorial dedicated to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

I am very sensitive to the feelings of the families of victims of 9/11, as are my fellow leaders of many faiths. We will accordingly seek the support of those families, and the support of our vibrant neighborhood, as we consider the ultimate plans for the community center. Our objective has always been to make this a center for unification and healing.

Cordoba House will be built on the two fundamental commandments common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam: to love the Lord our creator with all of our hearts, minds, souls and strength; and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We want to foster a culture of worship authentic to each religious tradition, and also a culture of forging personal bonds across religious traditions.

I do not underestimate the challenges that will be involved in bringing our work to completion. (Construction has not even begun yet.) I know there will be interest in our financing, and so we will clearly identify all of our financial backers.

Lost amid the commotion is the good that has come out of the recent discussion. I want to draw attention, specifically, to the open, law-based and tolerant actions that have taken place, and that are particularly striking for Muslims.

President Obama and Mayor Michael Bloomberg both spoke out in support of our project. As I traveled overseas, I saw firsthand how their words and actions made a tremendous impact on the Muslim street and on Muslim leaders. It was striking: a Christian president and a Jewish mayor of New York supporting the rights of Muslims. Their statements sent a powerful message about what America stands for, and will be remembered as a milestone in improving American-Muslim relations.

The wonderful outpouring of support for our right to build this community center from across the social, religious and political spectrum seriously undermines the ability of anti-American radicals to recruit young, impressionable Muslims by falsely claiming that America persecutes Muslims for their faith. These efforts by radicals at distortion endanger our national security and the personal security of Americans worldwide. This is why Americans must not back away from completion of this project. If we do, we cede the discourse and, essentially, our future to radicals on both sides. The paradigm of a clash between the West and the Muslim world will continue, as it has in recent decades at terrible cost. It is a paradigm we must shift.

From those who recognize our rights, from grassroots organizers to heads of state, I sense a global desire to build on this positive momentum and to be part of a global movement to heal relations and bring peace. This is an opportunity we must grasp.

I therefore call upon all Americans to rise to this challenge. Let us commemorate the anniversary of 9/11 by pausing to reflect and meditate and tone down the vitriol and rhetoric that serves only to strengthen the radicals and weaken our friends’ belief in our values.

The very word “islam” comes from a word cognate to shalom, which means peace in Hebrew. The Koran declares in its 36th chapter, regarded by the Prophet Muhammad as the heart of the Koran, in a verse deemed the heart of this chapter, “Peace is a word spoken from a merciful Lord.”

How better to commemorate 9/11 than to urge our fellow Muslims, fellow Christians and fellow Jews to follow the fundamental common impulse of our great faith traditions?

Feisal Abdul Rauf is the chairman of the Cordoba Initiative and the imam of the Farah mosque in Lower Manhattan.

Sep 6, 2010

American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong?

American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong?

NY Times, Sept 5, 2010
For nine years after the attacks of Sept. 11, many American Muslims made concerted efforts to build relationships with non-Muslims, to make it clear they abhor terrorism, to educate people about Islam and to participate in interfaith service projects. They took satisfaction in the observations by many scholars that Muslims in America were more successful and assimilated than Muslims in Europe.

Now, many of those same Muslims say that all of those years of work are being rapidly undone by the fierce opposition to a Muslim cultural center near ground zero that has unleashed a torrent of anti-Muslim sentiments and a spate of vandalism. The knifing of a Muslim cab driver in New York City has also alarmed many American Muslims.

“We worry: Will we ever be really completely accepted in American society?” said Dr. Ferhan Asghar, an orthopedic spine surgeon in Cincinnati and the father of two young girls. “In no other country could we have such freedoms — that’s why so many Muslims choose to make this country their own. But we do wonder whether it will get to the point where people don’t want Muslims here anymore.”

Eboo Patel, a founder and director of Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based community service program that tries to reduce religious conflict, said, “I am more scared than I’ve ever been — more scared than I was after Sept. 11.”

That was a refrain echoed by many American Muslims in interviews last week. They said they were scared not as much for their safety as to learn that the suspicion, ignorance and even hatred of Muslims is so widespread. This is not the trajectory toward integration and acceptance that Muslims thought they were on.

Some American Muslims said they were especially on edge as the anniversary of 9/11 approaches. The pastor of a small church in Florida has promised to burn a pile of Korans that day. Muslim leaders are telling their followers that the stunt has been widely condemned by Christian and other religious groups and should be ignored. But they said some young American Muslims were questioning how they could simply sit by and watch the promised desecration.

They liken their situation to that of other scapegoats in American history: Irish Roman Catholics before the nativist riots in the 1800s, the Japanese before they were put in internment camps during World War II.

Muslims sit in their living rooms, aghast as pundits assert over and over that Islam is not a religion at all but a political cult, that Muslims cannot be good Americans and that mosques are fronts for extremist jihadis. To address what it calls a “growing tide of fear and intolerance,” the Islamic Society of North America plans to convene a summit of Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders in Washington on Tuesday.

Young American Muslims who are trying to figure out their place and their goals in life are particularly troubled, said Imam Abdullah T. Antepli, the Muslim chaplain at Duke University.

“People are discussing what is the alternative if we don’t belong here,” he said. “There are jokes: When are we moving to Canada, when are we moving to Sydney? Nobody will go anywhere, but there is hopelessness, there is helplessness, there is real grief.”

Mr. Antepli just returned from a trip last month with a rabbi and other American Muslim leaders to Poland and Germany, where they studied the Holocaust and the events that led up to it (the group issued a denunciation of Holocaust denial on its return).

“Some of what people are saying in this mosque controversy is very similar to what German media was saying about Jews in the 1920s and 1930s,” he said. “It’s really scary.”

American Muslims were anticipating a particularly joyful Ramadan this year. For the first time in decades, the monthlong holiday fell mostly during summer vacation, allowing children to stay up late each night for the celebratory iftar dinner, breaking the fast, with family and friends.

But the season turned sour.

The great mosque debate seems to have unleashed a flurry of vandalism and harassment directed at mosques: construction equipment set afire at a mosque site in Murfreesboro, Tenn; a plastic pig with graffiti thrown into a mosque in Madera, Calif.; teenagers shooting outside a mosque in upstate New York during Ramadan prayers. It is too soon to tell whether hate crimes against Muslims are rising or are on pace with previous years, experts said. But it is possible that other episodes are going unreported right now.

“Victims are reluctant to go public with these kinds of hate incidents because they fear further harassment or attack,” said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “They’re hoping all this will just blow over.”

Some Muslims said their situation felt more precarious now — under a president who is perceived as not only friendly to Muslims but is wrongly believed by many Americans to be Muslim himself — than it was under President George W. Bush.

Mr. Patel explained, “After Sept. 11, we had a Republican president who had the confidence and trust of red America, who went to a mosque and said, ‘Islam means peace,’ and who said ‘Muslims are our neighbors and friends,’ and who distinguished between terrorism and Islam.”

Now, unlike Mr. Bush then, the politicians with sway in red state America are the ones whipping up fear and hatred of Muslims, Mr. Patel said.

“There is simply the desire to paint an entire religion as the enemy,” he said. Referring to Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the founder of the proposed Muslim center near ground zero, “What they did to Imam Feisal was highly strategic. The signal was, we can Swift Boat your most moderate leaders.”

Several American Muslims said in interviews that they were stunned that what provoked the anti-Muslim backlash was not even another terrorist attack but a plan by an imam known for his work with leaders of other faiths to build a Muslim community center.

This year, Sept. 11 coincides with the celebration of Eid, the finale to Ramadan, which usually lasts three days (most Muslims will begin observing Eid this year on Sept. 10). But Muslim leaders, in this climate, said they wanted to avoid appearing to be celebrating on the anniversary of 9/11. Several major Muslim organizations have urged mosques to use the day to participate in commemoration events and community service.

Ingrid Mattson, the president of the Islamic Society of North America, said many American Muslims were still hoping to salvage the spirit of Ramadan.

“In Ramadan, you’re really not supposed to be focused on yourself,” she said. “It’s about looking out for the suffering of other people. Somehow it feels bad to be so worried about our own situation and our own security, when it should be about empathy towards others.”

Marines & Japanese: the first months after WW2

The Pacific Campaign, Dam Division
(NYTimes, 3 Sept 2010)

ON Sept. 1, 1945 — 65 years ago this week — I arrived in Leyte Gulf, the Philippines, aboard a Navy transport ship. Along with other newly commissioned ensigns in the Navy Civil Engineer Corps, I was prepared to join one of the Seabee battalions being mustered for an invasion of the Japanese mainland. However, as we had learned during our voyage across the Pacific, the A-bombs had been dropped and Japan had capitulated. As the fates would have it, the day after our arrival — Sept. 2, 1945 — a peace treaty was signed aboard the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

The war was over. But we all agreed that it would take years — perhaps a generation — before our hatred of the enemy would diminish.

I joined the 29th Naval Construction Battalion, whose postwar assignment saw us traveling to Truk (now called Chuuk), an atoll in the Caroline Islands that had served as headquarters for the Japanese fleet. This formidable base had been bombed into rubble, and now the Navy had decided that the main airstrip should be rebuilt, along with a basic military camp. Under a unique provision in the surrender agreement, 3,000 Japanese were to remain on Truk to perform the necessary construction, working under the direction of an American force. Our battalion was selected to be that American force.

Arriving at Truk, we found ourselves surrounded by the erstwhile enemy: approximately 40,000 warriors noted for their ferocity in battle. Marines had preceded us to assure security, but one could not help feeling a little edgy.

As the youngest and newest officer, I was put in charge of one of the less imposing projects: building a small earth-fill dam on a mountain stream for our water supply system. I had no experience with earth-fill dams, but using handbooks, and with guidance from colleagues who were knowledgeable engineers, I developed a rudimentary plan. Rising some 25 feet from the bottom of a small gorge, the dam was not exactly Grand Coulee; but for me, it was a challenge. For work in the field, I was given three experienced men from our battalion and a Japanese crew of about two dozen under the command of one of their lieutenants.

On the appointed day, the two teams gathered at the construction site and for what seemed like a long time simply stared at each other. Was there hostility or fear? I cannot say for sure. Friendly feelings? Certainly not.

It was up to me to make the first move. I walked over to my Japanese counterpart and ceremoniously unrolled the drawings I had prepared, showing him the outlines of the job. I set up a basic surveyor’s transit, and within minutes my men were driving pointed stakes at designated spots and stretching cord between them. Soon, under orders from their officer, the Japanese soldier-workers were attacking the earth with shovels and picks.

The Seabee threesome provided supervision, first hesitantly, then with increasing zest. To my amazement, they and the Japanese workers were soon engaged in attempts at banter and pantomime. I had arranged for a clay-like soil to be brought to the site by truck and wheelbarrow, and the Japanese devised a wooden pounding tool with which to compact the material. Within a few days the two groups had settled into an efficient working routine interspersed with episodes of playfulness.

The Japanese lieutenant and I, inhibited by notions of military protocol, did not warm up to each other right away. But enthusiasm for the task at hand, and pride in the progress made, led to mutual respect and, eventually, to friendship. I knew that there had been a breakthrough when he encouraged me to call him “Moe,” an abbreviation of a name that I had difficulty pronouncing.

The anticipated generation-long era of fear and hatred seemed to have been reduced to mere days.

After several weeks, the project was complete and we planned a dedication ceremony. Moe surprised me with the gift of a small ceramic statue, accompanied by a message that had been translated by one of his fellow officers and transcribed painstakingly onto a white kerchief. It read (I’ve retained the original spelling and punctuation):

April 2, 1946. The souvenir of the water plant completion. This is a statue of Admiral of The Fleet Count Hehachiro Togo, I.J.N. He was born at Kagoshima in Kyushu about a hundred years ago. He won the great victory in the Naval Battle of the Japan Sea. Namely he defeated the great Russian fleet (the Barutic Fleet). But some years ago he had a natural death. The world people say that he is the Nelson of the east. I pray that you may be able to make a great work as well as his achievement.

Lt. Moe

Today the statue stands on a shelf in my office, and the white kerchief, framed, hangs on the wall beside it. Perhaps one shouldn’t generalize from this somewhat idyllic tale, but I do. Recalling the events on a small Pacific atoll in 1945, I am reminded how camaraderie can spring up in the unlikeliest situations.

Samuel C. Florman, the chairman of a construction company, is the author of “The Existential Pleasures of Engineering.”

Sep 3, 2010

Maj Greg "Pappy" Boyington - "Pappy Boyington Field".

Pappy Boyington - USMC Ace in WW2

On September 12, 1943, the VMF-214 Black Sheep Squadron began their combat tour in the Solomon Islands. The CO, Maj Gregory "Pappy" Boyington alreadfy had combat experience in China as he flew against the Japanese as a member of Gen Claire Chennault's famed "Flying Tigers." He continued his success flying from Guadalcanal.

On September 16, 1943, Pappy shot down 5 Japanese aircraft in one day (4 Haps, 1 Zeke) over Ballalle before he was shot down. He was credited with a victory count of six from his time with the Flying Tigers, so these five victories in one day brought his running count to 11 enemy aircraft. After a day afloat, he was rescued by a Japanese submarine, and sent to Japan as a POW. Boyington was initially classified as KIA, and awarded a Medal of Honor.

In September 12, 1945, Boyington was reunited with his Black Sheep after being held as a prisoner by the Japanese for 20 months. A reunion party was held at the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco, and many of the Black Sheep were there to welcome Pappy home.

In September 21, 1976 the "Baa Baa Black Sheep" television series premiered on NBC. The show starred Robert Conrad as Major Greg Boyington, and featured a squadron of restored F4U Corsair. Pappy was involved in the casting decision for Robert Conrad, and he served as a technical advisor on set. It was a top rated show, but was canceled after the first season, but viewer backlash forced the network to bring the series back, and the second season was called "Black Sheep Squadron". Today you can find the first season on DVD at

In September 22, 2007, there was an official airfield naming ceremony for the "Coeur d'Alene Airport/Pappy Boyington Field". Hundreds of people in he community attnded to welcome two USMC AV-8B Harriers for a fly-over and landing to honor Pappy.

September brings many interesting dates in WWII History, and as commemoration in the town of Pappy's birth, there will be a special display of memorabilia in the Coeur d'Alene Public Library during this month.

The display will include an artists painting of the proposed Bronze Statue of Pappy Boyington, as well as working pieces of the statue clay model. Before Boyington was a Black Sheep, he was also a member of the American Volunteer Group (AVG), so a special collection of books about the China/Burma/India experience will be showcased. This is an excellent opportunity to present WWII information and artifacts to a new generation.

Sep 1, 2010

Pakistani complicity with Al Qada-Taliban uncovered

The TTP & Operation ‘Samosa’
By Ali K Chishti
Daily Times; Karachi

It has been reported from at least two Interior Ministry sources in Pakistan that the ministry is in a state of panic and, as one of the sources, who wanted to remain anonymous, confirmed to Daily Times, “We are currently in a state of panic. If the whole al Qaeda, Taliban, TTP, local jihadi organisations and floods were not enough, we are now under immense pressure to trace the links of the alleged bombers caught in Ontario, Canada.” (Seems they are reluctant to do so, as those links to the Pakistani government will be uncovered)

While the country’s media is busy commenting on the latest cricket betting scandal and floods, a whole new crisis, perhaps of the same intensity as the Faisal Shahzad one, is brewing within both the international community and Canada.

Daily Times, after intense investigations and a tip-off from a source, was able to talk to a leader of the TTP who’s been alleged by a certain Western diplomat of being the brains behind the would-be terrorist attacks in Canada. TTP spokesman Azam Tariq neither refused nor denied the statement, but instead opted to say, “We support anyone who would fight the infidels.”

The TTP also paid homage to Faisal Shahzad for his bold actions in the US and said he had rendered great sacrifices to uphold the sacred cause of Islam. America is not safe on its own land, Azam Tariq pointed out.

While intense investigations are underway both in Pakistan and Canada, intelligence officials in Pakistan are said to be focusing on a friend of Shahzad – Muhammad Rehan – who originally introduced Shahzad to the TTP. Hiva Alizadeh, 30, an Iranian of Kurdish descent, is believed to be the mastermind of the would-be terrorist plot.

Daily Times was the first publication to publish the role of a Pakistani intelligence agency in tipping off its Canadian counterparts, which helped the Canadians unearth the al Qaeda cell.