Gain Afghans’ trust

Ron Dzwonkowski’s Sunday column (“Job No. 1: Gain the trust of the Afghans”) addressed only our military’s strategic concerns. It failed to mention the concerns of Afghans themselves.

Afghan civilians have suffered high numbers of casualties in the past eight years. Also, Afghans have heard reports of detainees being tortured at the Bagram Detention Center, right in their own backyard, a facility that has held far more detainees than Guantanamo with reportedly much worse conditions. And while some view us as liberating them from the repressive Taliban regime, many now view us as foreign occupiers not much different from the Soviets, the British, or as far back as Alexander the Great.

Perhaps more acknowledgement of the suffering and deaths of Afghans and greater transparency regarding prisoner abuse at Bagram may be more of a constructive step in gaining trust of Afghans than military escalation.

Dawud Walid

Executive director

Council on American-Islamic

Relations — Michigan


The difference between an FBI plot and a real threat

The difference between an FBI plot and a real threat

Najibullah Zazi has appeared in court in New York to plead not guilty to conspiring to use weapons of mass destruction. He is accused of being part of what is generally considered to be the most serious terrorism case inside the US since 9/11.

Authorities say it bears many similarities to the 7/7 London attacks, and could have resulted in significant loss of life if the plot hadn’t been disrupted.

Zazi had actually bought chemicals he needed to make a bomb. He had attended an al-Qaida training camp in Pakistan, and he had stored on his laptop nine pages of instructions for making bombs from the chemicals he had bought.

The fact that Zazi posed a real danger makes this story very different from dozens of other American terrorism cases in which the arrests are announced with great fanfare but on closer examination seem to contain almost no legitimate threats.

All too often it seems like it’s the FBI undercover agents who do most of the plotting and provide most of the materials.

Even the New York Times says: “In recent years, foiled plots announced with fanfare in Washington have sometimes involved unsophisticated people who seemed hardly capable of organizing a major attack.”
There were two other terror arrests in the US last week, unrelated to the Zazi case, and both seemed to orchestrated by undercover agents

A 19-year-old Jordanian immigrant was arrested in Texas on Thursday for plotting to blow up a 60-storey office building in Dallas. But he never posed any real threat.

There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that he had any plans to attack Americans before he was befriended by an FBI agent posing as a senior member of an al-Qaida sleeper cell. He met with agents several times over the next few months to discuss possible targets.

When the time came to carry out the attack, it was the FBI who gave him an SUV with a fake bomb inside it. They gave him a mobile phone and the number he was to dial to supposedly detonate the explosives.

After they failed to explode (obviously), he was arrested for trying to use weapons of mass destruction. And the FBI can claim to have foiled a major terror plot – albeit one that would never have existed unless they had dreamt it up.

On the same day as the Dallas arrest, another man was detained in Springfield, Illinois, and charged with plotting to blow up the federal building. Michael Finton is a red-haired Caucasian US citizen, but he called himself Talib Islam and claimed to hate America.

But it does not seem like he planned to do anything about that hatred until he was approached by FBI agents once again posing as al-Qaida. And yet again, they supplied him with a vehicle he thought was packed with explosives and arrested him after he tried to set off the bomb with an FBI cell phone.

Karen J Greenberg, from the Centre on Law and Security at New York University law school, has studied all the prosecutions of terrorism-related crimes since 2001, and she is quoted as saying many had turned out to be “fantasy terrorism cases” where the threat seemed modest or even nonexistent.

But there is nothing modest about the way the FBI trumpet their supposed success in the cases.

A few years ago they would also have led to the terror threat level being increased, heavily armed police and roadblocks throughout major cities, and the general level of fear being ramped up too.

At least the Obama administration doesn’t seem to pay very much attention to these “fantasy cases”.

U.S. attorney engaged in bogus targeting of Muslms

The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi)

September 29, 2009 Tuesday

U.S. attorney targeted N. Miss. store owners

BYLINE: Jerry Mitchell


LENGTH: 759 words

The U.S. attorney’s office in Oxford targeted convenience store operators in north Mississippi, many of Middle Eastern descent, despite a lack of any connection to terrorism, according to documents obtained by The Clarion-Ledger.

The Convenience Store Initiative arose from meetings with local law enforcement officers in the years following 9-11 – when Middle Eastern terrorists flew hijacked planes into the Pentagon and World Trade Center Twin Towers.

U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee of Oxford said the government was “looking to see any links to terrorism, but what we found was criminal conduct.”

Instead of arrests for alleged terrorist plots, state and federal officials since 2006 have charged more than 60 people in Mississippi with such illegal acts as the sale of excessive amounts of pseudoephedrine – used to make meth.

Those who ran the Convenience Store Initiative say the FBI found nothing wrong with the initiative, which arose from tips from local law enforcement. In fact, they say the Justice Department in the Bush administration praised the concept.

Those involved in the initiative say the money from the illegal activity was being sent back overseas, where it couldn’t be traced and possibly could have gone to funding terrorism. But they acknowledged the money could have gone to relatives instead.

Greenlee denied the suggestion those of Middle Eastern descent were targeted. “Did we look at it from an improper purpose? No,” he said.

But Matt Steffey, professor at Mississippi College School of Law, said there are “serious constitutional and statutory issues raised by targeting people on the basis of national origin or race. … If race simply coincided with the investigation, that’s something else. But if they were targeted because of national origin, that’s unlawful and a very serious racial profiling case that would be disturbing to a lot of people.”

Of the more than 100 people listed as being investigated by federal authorities, nearly every name appears to be Islamic. FBI officials would not comment.

More than 65 have been arrested by federal authorities, the state Bureau of Narcotics and Drug Enforcement Administration agents.

Marshall Fisher, director of the bureau, acknowledged most were from the Middle East, Yemen, India or the like, but said authorities are not targeting any ethnic group.

“We target drug dealers,” he said. “We don’t care if they’re green Martians.”

He said the MBN’s portion of the investigation arose in 2006 after developing information that some convenience stores were illegally selling pseudoephedrine in bulk. That crackdown is continuing, he said.

Authorities identified one of those arrested, Hamzah Ali Ahmed, as the “godfather.”

A relative of Ahmed, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals, said the nickname was not a reference to criminal activity but was given by the beer distributor, who noted Ahmed’s large progeny.

She said Ahmed did not realize there was a limit on the sale of pseudoephedrine.

Fisher disputed that, saying the crackdown sought to weed out any stores that accidentally allowed extra sales of the over-the-counter cold medicine, unaware of the law.

Asked how they determined operators knew they were breaking the law, Fisher replied they relied on undercover officers or informants to talk about purchasing more than a minimum amount – 9 grams over a 30-day period.

“We would target them and go and see if undercover informants could buy,” he said.

Overall, they tried to make buys in 279 stores, but operators at only eight stores went along with the illegal bulk sales, he said.

The rise in these kinds of sales are connected to “a definite spike in meth labs,” some of which now fit into the back of pickups, he said.

Bill Chandler, president of Mississippi Immigrants Rights Association, said he’s seen discrimination in the wake of 9-11 and the Iranian hostage crisis. “I think it’s outrageous that Muslims were apparently targeted without any kind of reason except that they were Muslims,” he said.

Marty Wiseman, director of the Stennis Institute at Mississippi State University, said when terrorists struck New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001, “It was like somebody jerked the earth out from under everybody’s feet. All the rules on how to act went out the window. A lot of things were done in the name of 9-11, and now we think, ‘What were you thinking?’ ”

When the rules of the norm are tossed, he said, “All of a sudden you don’t know what the rules are, and some people do crazy things.”

Irreligious billboards up in Detroit


Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. has recently placed billboards up in Metro Detroit stating slogans such as “Imagine No Religion” to “Praise Darwin: Evolve Beyond Belief.”

One of their members states on their website, “”We thank the Founding Fathers for the parity these boards allow.”

It is true that the “Founding Fathers” upheld the Freedom of Religion and Freedom Speech.  It was not their intent to have a society without religion, just a society that is not dominated by one particular religious interpretation or religious authority.

Just read the The Declaration of Independence.

As far as the statement of the irreligious billboard above, imagine how Detroit would be without religion.  Imagine all of the churches and mosques who are guided by faith to give food & clothing to the poor were not around.  Imagine if there were no religion to help reform those who have partaken in criminal lifestyles.  Imagine how much more dangerous this city would be without religion.

MSU’s Islamophobic professor & the 1st Amendment

Islamophobic, xenophobic bigot Indrek Wichman

Islamophobic, xenophobic bigot Indrek Wichman

It’s amazing that after 3 years, new blog posts are popping up declaring Prof. Indrek Wichman of Michigan State University (MSU) as a hero of the 1st Amendment.

In 2006, Wichman was reprimanded by MSU officials for an offensive e-mail that he sent to the Muslim Students Association (MSA) while using tax-payer property (university computer/MSU faculty e-mail account).

In the early part of 2008, Wichman had a scheduled speech canceled at the Holocaust Center in Farmington Hills, which was sponsored by MSU’s chapter of Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) to further his Islamophobic, xenophobic agenda.

MSU’s YAF, by the way, is the only student organization in the USA, which the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) designated as a “hate group.”

Just as Wichman has the right to articulate his views, even if Islamophobic under the 1st Amendment, we have the right to question the appropriateness of a tenured professor using state owned property paid for by tax-payer dollars to send hate filled e-mails to MSA members, including members who take his classes.  Likewise, we also have the right under the 1st Amendment to challenge Wichman and those who hold similar views.

That’s America!