New Age Islam Edit Bureau
11 September 2015
Will We Always Remember 9/11?
By New York Times Editorial Board
What 9/11 Has Wrought For U.S. Mideast Policy
By Dr. John C. Hulsman
They Are Our Guests, Not Refugees
By Abdulateef Al-Mulhim
Us Counterterrorism Strategy in South Asia
By Asm Ali Ashraf
Indonesia Has Better Option for Refugee Issue
By Veronica Koman
Canada’s Lukewarm Response to the Refugee Crisis
By Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan
Will We Always Remember 9/11?
By The Editorial Board
Sept. 11, 2015
Soon after the horrific destruction of the World Trade Center towers 14 years ago, bumper stickers abounded in parallel with the nation’s grief. “Never Forget,” one proclaimed with great resolve. “We Will Always Remember,” promised another.
Now that they have faded from sight, their underlying message is being put to the test in Congress. The nation’s lawmakers have nothing less than a moral obligation to renew the health care and compensation programs for the thousands of 9/11 responders and volunteers severely stricken by their long labors at ground zero’s infernal pile of devastation.
These selfless workers were home-front casualties in what politicians presented as a war on terror. More than 33,000 responders and volunteers have developed illnesses from their time at the 9/11 sites, including Shanksville, Pa., and the Pentagon. Some 3,700 of them, including about 1,000 from the New York Fire Department, have developed cancers attributed to toxins that suffused ground zero.
Doctors expect more cancer victims in the future. But unless Congress renews the health care and compensation programs, patients will be deprived of fair treatment, while the 6,285 victims and their families awarded compensation for various illnesses could see their payments cut by an estimated 50 percent, according to program administrators. So far, the compensation fund has given $1.44 billion to patients and to families who lost breadwinners.
Five years ago, Congress acted after a fractious debate and compromise that produced the five-year programs, when both of them should have been open-ended, like the federal programs that help miners suffering from black-lung disease and nuclear plant workers harmed by their jobs. Unless there is a firm congressional commitment, crucial parts of the programs could start to phase out this year as patients and their medical teams receive the requisite notice of an uncertain future.
The aftermath of 9/11 allows for no simplistic closure, and Congress must not let these worthy programs slip away in yet another season of dysfunction. It should act now and not wait for the programs’ final months amid the chaos of next year’s election politics.
There are signs that some in Congress will never forget. Measures to renew the two programs have 129 House and 30 Senate sponsors. But the task needs congressional leaders to step up in good conscience with a sense of national priority. This is what more than 70,000 ordinary Americans did 14 years ago, journeying from nearly every congressional district to lead the way in repairing the devastation of 9/11.
What 9/11 has Wrought for U.S. Mideast Policy?
By Dr. John C. Hulsman
11 September 2015
On Sept. 11, 2001, the Washington foreign-policy community, myself included, was emotionally terrorized in a way we had never been before. This alone explains the dramatic foreign-policy overreaction that tragically occurred in the Middle East soon after, and plagues us to this day.
Al-Qaeda understood the power of human emotion in a manner we American intellectuals did not. By terrorizing us, it set in motion the overreaction of then-President George W Bush and his neoconservative cabal, and the consequent under-reaction of his successor Barack Obama that has followed.
My life - like everyone else’s in New York and Washington - changed on 9/11. In that tragic, powerless, fearful interlude lay the seeds for the calamity that would follow. Much as I loathe what the Bush administration did next, on one level it was a very human response to the terror that had been visited upon us.
America was uniquely powerful and uniquely vulnerable. We had been horrendously attacked, and had to strike back quickly so such a thing would never happen again. From that nugget of understandable emotion sprang the neoconservative program to democratize the Middle East, by gunpoint if necessary.
Misreading the World
The next Bush-administration mistake can also be seen as a reasonable assessment at the time. With the triumphant end of the Cold War, it seemed as if America was basking in the sun of a new uni-polar era, where U.S. predominance would continue far into the future. Now, after the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economic crisis and the rise of China, it is hard to remember how dominant America seemed for that fleeting moment.
Historically, uni-polar moments are far from the norm, and this case proved no exception. Short of colonizing Iraq for 100 years (which is what the Romans would have done in their heyday), Baghdad was not about to forget its intrinsic history, culture, sociology, economic structure and ethno-religious basis to fall in line with deeply flawed neoconservative yearnings for a region that would elect Iraqi versions of George Washington.
Intellectually worse, the neo-cons were trying to remake a country of which they knew next to nothing, which is where I entirely fault them. The Republican party is founded on a healthy (and correct) distrust of social engineering in the United States, believing that the market and individuals tend to do a better job of knowing their own interests than far-away bureaucrats in Washington.
As I kept hammering home to the Bush people, if we do not think we can reengineer America, of which we know a lot, how do we think we can remake Iraq, of which we know relatively little? As a result I was fired from my job, but that does not mean I was wrong.
What Bush Hath Wrought
The invasion of Iraq, and its consequent collapse as a functioning state, was the direct result of 9/11. Through its colossal strategic miscalculation - brought on by the understandable human urge to pacify the region that had wreaked such havoc on America - the United States has unwittingly left its geopolitical foe Iran immeasurably strengthened in the vital Gulf. The dismemberment of Iraq has facilitated the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and all the horror that has followed from that.
The Bush administration did not follow such a baleful course because it was evil. It did not - as I wearily hear constantly - even do so primarily to get Iraq’s oil. The more horrifying if simple truth is that these were powerful, confident men and women, who as U.S. citizens had never experienced a true moment of terror and struck out after a devastating and unexpected blow.
The horrible truth of what 9/11 has wrought is that, under the terrible pressure inflicted upon us by the murderers of Al-Qaeda, America was induced to make a series of calamitous (if understandable) errors in the Middle East that plague us to this day.
Dr. John C. Hulsman is the President and Co-Founder of John C. Hulsman Enterprises, a successful global political risk consulting firm. An eminent foreign policy expert, John is the senior columnist for City AM, the newspaper of the city of London. Hulsman is a Life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations. The author of all or part of 11 books, Hulsman has also given 1490 interviews, written over 410 articles, prepared over 1270 briefings, and delivered more than 460 speeches on foreign policy around the world.
They Are Our Guests, Not Refugees
By Abdulateef al-Mulhim
11 September 2015
Since the establishment of modern-day Saudi Arabia in 1932, it has been a land of hospitality for many of those who fled conflicts and persecution in neighboring Arab countries. At that time many Arab countries were under foreign colonization. Many Arabs came to the Kingdom fleeing persecution in their home countries. The Kingdom, since then, has continued to see an influx of refugees, who were never called or labeled as refugees. And many came to this land years before it was officially called Saudi Arabia.
During and after the WWI, many fled the Ottoman and European conflicts. After that, many Palestinians who fled their land settled down in Saudi Arabia and it was even before the 1948 hostilities between the Arabs and Israelis. But, again they were not called refugees. They were called guests of the Kingdom and many of them were given the highest-paying jobs as workers in the oil industry, which was run then by the newly formed company Arabia American Oil Company (ARAMCO).
During all these times, the Saudis did these without any media projection and never received any aid from any international body such as the United Nations or any other organization. Saudi Arabia did this as part of its duty toward its Arab brothers.
The trend continues to this day and these people are considered guests and not refugees. During the internal conflicts in Yemen between the north and the southern part, millions of Yemenis came to Saudi Arabia. Many of them kept coming and going without any visa requirements. They worked and lived like Saudis in the Kingdom. Ironically during the 1950s, 60s and 70s many of the so-called Arab nationalists labeled the Gulf states and especially Saudi Arabia as less stable countries in the Arab world. They never appreciated or spoke about the millions who lived in the Kingdom and the other five Gulf states and enjoyed free health care and other benefits. But, as time passed, the influx of guests continued to the Gulf countries with Saudi Arabia accepting and hosting the majority.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait, Saudi Arabia hosted every Kuwaiti and non-Kuwaiti and furnished them with not only the best housing and accommodation, but also provided them financial aid during their stay until Kuwait was liberated. The world didn’t really take notice of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who fled Iraq before and after Desert Storm. And many more came after the end of the war because Saddam Hussein was attacking his own people in the southern part of Iraq. These hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were never called refugees. They were called guests and they were housed in newly built accommodation with hospitals and schools.
Let us also not forget the Saudi efforts during the 10-year Lebanese civil war. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states did a lot, but without any fanfare or claim of who did this or did that. Not only the governments helped them, but also the Saudis and other Gulf citizens who stood by their neighbors.
Then came the so-called Arab Spring. During the outbreak of unrest in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and Syria, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states took hundreds of thousands of people from these countries, mainly Syria and Yemen. More than half a million Syrians were given residency status and never called refugees. They work and live side by side with Saudis. Many brought their families and relatives to the Kingdom. It is true that some rules were put in place to scrutinize the newcomers. But, it was done only after terrorist attacks in the Kingdom — to check infiltration by terror groups like Daesh.
Since the beginning of disturbances in Yemen and even after Operation Decisive Storm, Saudi Arabia did not stop taking care of the Yemenis. More than 600,000 Yemenis corrected their status and were given legal status.
In other words, Saudi Arabia has been and still is a safe destination for those who need help and shelter. We have never called the Yemenis or the Syrians refugees. We call them guests. And on top of this, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states have always borne the financial burden of hosting these guests.
We and the world know that Saudi Arabia’s population is about 30 million and one third of them are non-Saudis. In other Gulf states, foreigners form a bigger percentage of their population.
Saudi Arabia and Gulf states have done much more than what the foreign press has been reporting. This is something we normally don’t talk about because we respect the dignity of those fleeing their countries. The western press may not be aware of the Saudi and Gulf states’ efforts to help the refugees (guests) directly by hosting them or indirectly through the billions of dollars given to international organizations to help these hapless people. But, as for some Arab writers and columnists who try to distort facts and use the agony and misery of the refugees for their personal gains, I say, we have seen you do this before and we will expose your real intentions.
US Counterterrorism Strategy in South Asia
By ASM Ali Ashraf
September 11, 2015
As the United States observes the fourteenth anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks, it is important to have a fresh look at U.S. counterterrorism strategy in South Asia. Such discussions should focus on U.S. threat perception and the evolving responses to deal with the threat.
Until the rise of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as a self-sustaining force in 2014, al Qaeda's core and affiliates have long constituted the principal threats to the U.S. and its interests. There are sharp differences between the core and the affiliates. While al Qaeda core is located in Pakistan, the affiliates are nothing but a wide variety of groups, cells, and individuals either directly or loosely connected to the core. Al Qaeda core is defined by the organisation's senior leadership, including Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri, who have long stayed in Pakistan and maintained a strong relationship with the Afghan-focused Taliban insurgent groups.
Between 2001 and 2007, al Qaeda was initially on the run but later began to regroup and re-organise – thanks to the distraction and negligence caused by the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. During this period, al Qaeda changed its attack styles from the use of expeditionary strikes, such as the 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa and the 9/11 attacks in New York, to the guerilla style strikes in Madrid (2004) and London (2005). While expeditionary terrorist strikes required the deployment of trained recruits to overseas target countries, the guerilla strike strategy has involved radicalised immigrant communities and local recruits. Since 2007, al Qaeda core has continued to lose its strength in Pakistan with a corresponding increase in the strength and activities of its affiliates in the Middle East and North Africa. It is in this context, the Boko Haram in Nigeria, Al Shabaab in Somalia, and Al Nusrah Front in Syria have come into more prominence in recent years. The latter group has eventually morphed into a more sinister threat of ISIL which now draws a huge pool of young recruits not only from the impoverished regions of Africa and Asia but also from the wealthy countries of Europe and North America.
After al Qaeda, two versions of Taliban have continued to pose serious threats to U.S. and its allies. The first represents three major Afghan Taliban groups including Mollah Omar's Quetta Shura Taliban, the Haqqani Network of Sirajuddin Haqqani, and Gulbuddin Hekmatiyar's Hezbe Islami. It is now abundantly clear; these Taliban militias have wanted the expulsion of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan, and power sharing in Afghanistan's domestic politics. They are believed to have a sanctuary in Pakistan's frontier areas in FATA and Balochistan Province, and a support structure inside Pakistan's military and intelligence apparatus. Pakistan's support for these Afghan groups is premised on the ground that it would provide a strategic depth in the event of a nuclear standoff with India.
The second Taliban version, also known as 'Pakistani Taliban,' is a loose network of violent extremist groups, who are opposed to Pakistan's support for the US led war on terrorism, and Islamabad's counterinsurgency operations in the FATA. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), established by Baitullah Mehsud, is the core of this Pakistani Taliban group. It came into prominence after the Red Mosque siege in July 2007, in which Pakistan's commando operations inside the mosque killed more than 100 including hard core militants, state security personnel, and innocent civilians.
The United States claims to adopt a comprehensive counterterrorism approach in which various elements of national power including diplomacy, law enforcement cooperation, intelligence sharing, financial control, and military force have been used. In reality, the last component, that is the use of military forces, is arguably the most visible to the American public, and thus received more priority in the national security strategies of Bush Jr. and Barack Obama administrations.
The use of military force came in several forms. In Afghanistan, the United States initially wanted to avoid the 'Soviet mistake' by maintaining a light footprint. The goal of the Afghanistan War at this period, from 2002 to 2005, was fighting terrorism. As the war goals were expanded to include the ambitious tasks of nation-building, between 2006 and 2010, the U.S. force deployment in Afghanistan peaked to 90,000 troops in 2010. This U.S. troops surge was matched by the gradual deployment of another 40,000 troops from European and NATO allies, many of whom were unwilling to do more burden-sharing. A reluctant Pakistan was dragged into these war efforts. Despite such military contributions, Pakistan's flirting with Islamist militants has created a trust deficit in Islamabad-Washington relations. It is in this context, on May 1, 2011, the U.S. Navy Seal conducted a commando operation which killed Osama bin Laden. The murder of Laden in a covert U.S. operation not only exposed the trust deficits between Islamabad and Washington, but also raised questions about the complicity of Pakistan's state apparatus or any rogue elements in it in providing a support structure for al Qaeda.
The Laden killing mission, planned by the Central Intelligence Agency and executed by Navy Seal, also reveals the growing role of intelligence and special operations in the global war on terrorism. Between 2001 and 2014, numerous cross-border covert operations in Pakistan were carried out by the U.S. and NATO forces. These strikes are targeted to extremely hostile and inaccessible areas of FATA, which are used by al Qaeda and Taliban militias as a staging ground for launching attacks on U.S. and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan. The use of pilotless drones also reduces the probability of harming U.S. soldiers, who would otherwise be engaged in armed hostilities in Pakistan and thus risking their lives.
The U.S. led coalition military strategy in Afghanistan and the adjacent border areas of Pakistan has drawn huge criticisms for its over-reliance on the use of coercive force and utter negligence of peace, reconciliation, and reconstruction efforts. The coalition strategy has also been criticised for creating an inefficient Afghan security force, which lacks sufficient training and morale to withstand Taliban insurgents, and shoulder the responsibility for securing Afghanistan after the U.S. and NATO forces' withdrawal in 2014. These generic problems in the Afghan National Army were exposed in August 2014 when U.S. Major General Harold Greene, the deputy commander of the Combined Security Transition Command, was killed by an Afghan soldier at a training facility in Kabul. The murder of Greene and other high profile terrorist attacks in 2014 have emboldened the U.S. position that a small contingent of U.S. and NATO troops would stay in Afghanistan at least for a decade.
ASM Ali Ashraf is Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Dhaka, and a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), London
Indonesia has better option for refugee issue
By Veronica Koman
September 10 2015
The international refugee crisis has finally reached a turning point. Led by Germany and followed by Austria, European countries have begun to open their borders. But how will the displacement of millions of people from Middle East countries affect Indonesia and our neighbor to the south — Australia?
Many refugees arrive in Indonesia as the nearest transit country on a journey they hope will bring them to safety in Australia, but are frequently abandoned here by people smugglers. Refugees who end up in Indonesia almost invariably apply for refugee status to the UN refugee agency, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Its asylum-seeker certificate and refugee card serve as their identity documents. Besides registering with the UNHCR, refugees are also obliged to register with Indonesian immigration authorities. Contrary to the picture painted in Friday’s The Jakarta Post editorial entitled “The refugee tsunami”, they are neither undocumented nor unregistered.
Those who are recognized by the UNHCR as refugees then wait for resettlement in a third country, or voluntary repatriation once it is safe to return to their country of origin. It is a difficult wait, because refugees are not able to work or attend school here, unlike in Malaysia, where the government turns a blind eye to those seeking informal work.
Here, they mostly depend on relatives overseas to send them money. It is not unusual to find refugees sleeping on the streets, or detained in overcrowded immigration lockups. Jakarta’s Kalideres immigration detention center, for example, was built to hold 88 people but last Thursday was packed with 160 detainees. Despite our sympathy for displaced Rohingya, for example, we should not be too proud of ourselves — it is hardly enjoyable for refugees to live in Indonesia.
We should be careful about echoing Australian politicians’ pejorative use of terms such as “queue-jumpers” and “boat people”. People who risk their lives by taking to the seas from our shores are not jumping any real kind of “queue” for resettlement, as figures from the UNHCR in Indonesia show. For refugees registering here, the wait from registration to resettlement is sometimes as long as four to five years, and the proportion of registered refugees who succeed in being resettled from Indonesia is less than two percent. In 2014, there were 838 refugees resettled by the Indonesian office of the UNHCR, while so far in 2015, there have been just 346.
European countries such as Greece that allow refugees to come ashore are doing nothing more than fulfilling an obligation under international law, namely the principle of non-refoulement. The UNHCR has made it clear since 1997 that this provision of the 1951 Refugee Convention means that push-offs of boat arrivals or interdictions on the high seas, as practiced by Australia, are unlawful. Nevertheless, this is what Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has shamefully encouraged European governments to adopt, despite their shared status as Refugee Convention signatories.
We should also keep the supposed “devastating impact” of refugee arrivals in perspective. Far from comprising an overwhelming tsunami, the latest data from the International Organization for Migration show that 350,000 refugees have been registered in Europe since January this year.
Even with more on the way, the total by December is unlikely to match one percent of the EU’s 503 million residents. The 13,170 refugees and asylum seekers currently present in Indonesia are a drop in our 250 million-strong ocean.
The economic impact of refugees also tends to be misunderstood. Taking Australia as an example, research released last week by the country’s Bureau of Statistics shows that far from “taking jobs”, refugees are the migrants most likely to secure their own income through establishing small businesses. This hardworking entrepreneurship is a net economic boost to the refugee’s host country, rather than a drain.
Australia’s Tony Abbott announced last week that Australia would take in an extra 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees. This is good news, although Australia could have done more, as urged by tens of thousands of Australians who joined a nationwide “Light the Dark” pro-refugee demonstration on Monday. But Abbott’s new intake also came with the decision to bomb Syria. This is a dangerously flawed approach since it is likely to result in more refugees fleeing Syria. Abbott also said that Australia would prioritize taking in “persecuted minorities sheltering in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey”, which could result in prioritizing Christian refugees. This also suggests a further dimming of hope for the 715 Iraqis and 90 Syrians living in limbo in Indonesia.
Under current Indonesian law, refugees are treated as illegal migrants, with the risk of lengthy detention in lockups like Kalideres. There exists, however, a long-neglected draft presidential regulation on the handling of refugees and asylum seekers. The draft leaves much room for improvement, but it would at least ensure people fleeing persecution are not criminalized when they reach our country. I am sure President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is moved, as European leaders are, by the ongoing refugee tragedy. If he wishes to act, he can take the draft regulation off the shelf and ensure it is implemented swiftly, humanely, and in line with the spirit of the Refugee Convention.
Veronica Koman is a public interest lawyer at the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta).
Canada’s Lukewarm Response to the Refugee Crisis
By Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan
September 10, 2015
The Canadian people, including opposition parties, provincial regimes, mayors, religious organizations and others are prodding the federal government to open the doors to Syrians seeking safety. The latest opinion poll suggests that support for the Conservative government is dropping, partly because of its lukewarm response to the Syrian refugee crisis.
Canada had agreed to accept a comparatively small number of Syrian refugees at a leisurely pace. Canada has a mixed record of aiding the persecuted. Those refugees who made it to Canada were given a fair chance in the past to explain why they feared persecution, torture or cruel and unusual treatment or punishment. If they could show that there was more than a mere possibility of such persecution, they were generally accepted and allowed to stay. But in the last few years the government has become stricter and more demanding in an effort to drastically reduce the number of people it accepts and the money it has to spend on their upkeep while their claims are processed.
Refugees from Communist countries, Asian-Africans expelled by Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and the boat people fleeing from Vietnam have been among the more famous refugees who were welcomed by Canada in the last few decades. Somalis, who made it to Canada, were also generally accepted. So were Afghans and Iranians, though perhaps in fewer numbers. Refugee claimants come to Canada from all parts of the world and Canada was a leader in offering them safety and a chance to rebuild their lives.
Some of this has been changed by 9/11, terrorist or attempted terrorist attacks in Canada and the growing cost of deciding each claim while providing the claimants with living and medical expenses. The Conservative government has been particularly lukewarm toward Muslims. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made several statements saying that he sees Islamists as a major threat to Canada and the rest of the world.
The prime minister has not made a distinction between the handful of Muslims who are extremists and the masses of Muslims who live normal, productive lives and who themselves have been victimized by fanatics. Nor has he acknowledged that it is the policies of some Western countries that have rained death, destruction and ethnic cleansing on innocent Muslims and that some of the terrorist attacks are a response, however wrong, to such Western actions.
Grudgingly, the Conservative government, which has accepted about a thousand Syrian refugees so far, agreed to take an additional 10,000 refugees in the years to come in addition to the 10,000 it has volunteered to accept.
Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau, who has called for an immediate meeting of all major Canadian political parties to frame a proper policy, has stated that Canada should accept 25,000 Syrians this year alone. New Democratic Party leader Thomas Mulcair has stated that he will accept refugees in greater numbers in the years to come. All indications are that the Canadian people want their government to be more generous in welcoming refugees.
Like people in Europe and elsewhere, the Canadian people were horrified by the tragedy of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old Syrian boy, whose body washed up on a beach in Turkey. Aylan died, as did his four-year-old brother Ghaleb and their mother Rihana when the rubber boat in which they were fleeing to Greece capsized in the Aegean Sea. Abdullah Kurdi had tried to send his family to safety, but he ended up having to bury them in Kobani in Syria.
Tima Kurdi, the boy’s aunt, who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, had sent the family money to leave Syria safely. She had sponsored another brother, a refugee in Germany, to come to Canada and hoped to sponsor Abdullah’s family as well. But Canada rejected the first sponsorship saying the information provided was not complete.
Reflecting the views of many Canadians, NDP leader Tom Mulcair asserted: “It’s just unbearable that we’re doing nothing. Canada has an obligation to act.”
Some European countries, Germany in particular, having first-hand experience of displacement and persecution, have pledged to do all they can to help the refugees find safety. But it is a staggering problem. The five-year-old Syrian civil war has killed at least 250,000 people and has displaced some 11 million. Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq are harboring four million refugees. There is no end in sight to the Syrian civil war and to the Bashar Assad regime’s attacks on its own people. Nor is Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS), another tyrannical regime that is persecuting its own people, close to being ousted from power.
So the number of refugees continues to grow. Western countries will accept a large number of refugees. But they will ultimately be overwhelmed by the sheer number. The only answer would be for the international community to set up a government in Syria that seeks to rebuild the country and to replace Daesh with a regime that respects the human rights of its people. Only then will these people find safety.
Mohammed Azhar Ali Khan is a retired Canadian journalist, civil servant and refugee judge.