#. 5. Oct. 27, 2001
By Bill Weinberg
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. Civilian Casualties Escalate
2. Aid Agencies Protest Us Food Drops As Famine Looms
3. US Rangers Routed By Taliban
4. Did Taliban Down Us Chopper?
5. Pentagon Grooms Northern Alliance
6. US Plays Opium Card--Despite Facts
7. Pentagon Hires PR Firm
8. Hidden 9-11 Victims: Chinese Dissidents
THE WAR AT HOME
1. Detained Pakistani Dies In Custody
2. FBI Considering Torture
3. Postal Service To Irradiate Mail?
4. Bayer Accused Of Profiteering
5. War Games Spook Locals
WATCHING THE SHADOWS
1. Anthrax Terrorism: Made In USA?
2. Next: Super-Anthrax?
3. Interpol: Osama Aided KLA
4. Cornhuskers Wooed Taliban For Unocal
5. Taliban Seeking The Nuke?
6. Islam Experts: War Fuels Fundamentalism
THE AFGHANISTAN FRONT
1. CIVILIAN CASUALTIES ESCALATE
On Oct. 27, the New York Times reported that the Pentagon "sincerely regrets" the previous day's airstrikes on a Red Cross complex in Kabul--in an area which had ostensibly been put "off limits" after the bombing of the same complex Oct. 16. Claiming military planners didn't know it was a Red Cross building, the Pentagon nonetheless sent a representative to the organization's Geneva headquarters to ensure it wouldn't happen again. Tons of food aid and blankets were destroyed in the raid, and a photo showed an Afghan man standing with sacks of wheat amidst the rubble.
CNN.com reported Oct. 24 that residents of Chowker Korez village in northwest Afghanistan claimed dozens killed and over 20 wounded in a US aerial raid Oct. 22. While Navy Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem said the Pentagon "can't confirm" the strikes on the village, CNN staff who went to a Kandahar hospital said they saw several dismembered bodies wrapped in white bags, as well as a number of wounded being treated. Most were Kuchi nomads who have returned to their traditional way of life to avoid bombing raids on the cities, and said they were in the village when it was attacked by US aircraft.
Newsday reported Oct 24 the Pentagon admitted an "errant bomb" damaged a home for the elderly in Herat, but denied Taliban claims of over 100 dead. The strike was allegedly aimed at a military vehicle storage building. US bombs also "went astray," striking a residential area northwest of Kabul. Newsday also cited reports by Qatar's al-Jazira TV of nearly 100 dead in air raids on two villages near Kandahar. Stufflebeem "suggested that differing between civilian and Taliban targets will grow more difficult amid reports that the Taliban are beginning to hide personnel and equipment in residential neighborhoods or near mosques to protect them from airstrikes."
A New York Times headline that day highlighted Taliban rocket attacks on Charikar village, controlled by the US-backed Northern Alliance, leaving two dead. Also on Oct. 24, the New York Times website ran a photo caption saying 70% of residents of Afghanistan's three biggest cities had fled the bombing--but, one Internet watcher reports, "an hour later the caption just said above is a photo of a refugee!"
On Oct. 23, Newsday reported Taliban claims that the Herat raid hit a hospital, killing over 100. The Pentagon "said there was no evidence of the attack but it was investigating the claim." On Oct 21, al-Jazira showed widespread destruction in Kabul's Khair Khana neighborhood, citing 18 killed (summary at abunimah.org). Oct. 19, a New York Times photo showed a 50-foot crater filled with muddy water on a road near Kabul "where witnesses said a pedestrian was killed." The caption cited residents saying "at least five civilians were killed when an airstrike hit houses near a Taliban tank unit." On Oct 16, Newsday quoted Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissing claims of hundreds of civilian casualties as "ridiculous," calling the Taliban and al-Qaeda "accomplished liars." Rumsfeld acknowledged a Navy jet mistakenly bombed a residential area near the Kabul airport, killing four civilians.
2. AID AGENCIES PROTEST US FOOD DROPS AS FAMINE LOOMS
The Oct. 20 Economist quoted Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke saying US war aims are "creating the conditions necessary for sustained anti-terrorist operations, and for the delivery of humanitarian aid." But a story on the next page said "a group of aid agencies, including Oxfam and Christian Aid, appealed to America to stop the bombing to allow food through." UN aid caravans from Pakistan have been halted due to the bombing, and with winter approaching Afghanistan faces mass starvation. Read an Oxfam press release (quoted in Newsday Oct. 25): "We've reached a point where it is simply unrealistic for us to do our job in Afghanistan. We've run out of food, the borders have closed, we can't reach our staff and time's running out." In response to the pressure, Uzbekistan finally opened its border to allow a UN caravan through, as aid workers think this northern route may be safer (Newsday, Oct. 25). Worsening the situation, the Taliban took over UN World Food Progam warehouses in Kabul, confiscating the stores there (Newsday Oct 18). Oxfam also reported that US bombs had hit near UN food storehouses in Kabul (Oct. 17 press release).
The International Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders joined Oxfam in protesting US air-drops of food aid into Afghanistan, saying it actually worsens the situation. "Our staff are in danger," Oxfam's Mark Fried told the Ottawa Citizen Oct. 26. "If one side of the conflict perceives that the other is using humanitarian aid as a weapon of war, we could be perceived as the enemy and therefore our staff could be targeted. We're quite concerned that this blurring of the line between humanitarian and military is...ultimately dangerous to the whole effort of providing humanitarian relief." Fried said the rations are reaching only one per cent of those in need, and called the price of the air-drops "obscene." He said it cost $27 million to air-drop 130,000 meals--about $207 per meal--while Oxfam could distribute this amount for under 3.5 cents a meal.
On Oct. 14, the UK Observer's Mary Riddell wrote: "Scattering food parcels, whose rations are unsuitable for starving children, has been insultingly useless. Even if all the airdrops missed minefields and reached the neediest, the $320 million earmarked by the US would feed only a quarter of the hungry for one day." In a boon to the Kellogg's company, The Economist reports Pop Tart Toaster-Pastries are included in the drops. Meanwhile, in the Pakistan refugee camps now swelling in response to the bombing, aid workers warn of a deadly tuberculosis epidemic if measures are not taken to arrest an outbreak before winter (New York Times, Oct. 20).
3. US RANGERS ROUTED BY TALIBAN
The US Rangers and Delta Force troops in the Oct. 19 raid on Taliban headquarters in Kandahar "encountered far heavier opposition than they expected," according to an Oct. 26 account in the London Daily Telegraph. "The raid was a success from the intelligence point of view," said one Pentagon source. "But our men were surprised by the amount of resistance they ran into. The speed with which the Taliban launched a counter-attack came as a bit of a shock. They fought like maniacs, we didn't expect that. Intelligence got it wrong." Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted the Taliban was more formidable than expected. "These are very tough people," he told US News & World Report. "They've made careers out of fighting, and they're not going to roll over." UK Chief of Defence Staff Adml. Sir Michael Boyce warned in a New York Times interview, "quick pinprick" strikes would not be enough.
4. DID TALIBAN DOWN US CHOPPER?
On Oct. 22, All Things Considered reported Taliban claims to have shot down a US helicopter during the Oct. 19 Special Forces raids on Taliban headquarters in Kandahar. Taliban representatives displayed the wheels as evidence for the news media, but the Pentagon says the chopper just lost its wheels.
5. PENTAGON GROOMS NORTHERN ALLIANCE
The deal between Washington and Afghanistan's rebel Northern Alliance appears to be cemented. This week, US forces began bombing Taliban frontlines in the north outside Mazar-i-Sharif, as well as continuing attacks on Kabul (BBC, Oct. 21). The Northern Alliance, which is attempting to take Mazar-i-Sharif, had previously criticized the US for not attacking frontline Taliban troops, and some still protest that the air raids on frontline positions are insufficient (New York Times, Oct. 26). On Oct. 25, the New York Times reported that the Northern Alliance is sending into battle a new "elite unit," called Zarbati (rapid), numbering some 10,000. The Times said the new unit is "intended to be more regular army than guerillas--perhaps joined by Taliban defectors." It did not say "intended" by whom. However, an article on the same page reported that US Green Berets have been training in Uzbekistan since 1995. The Times only said the Green Berets were holding military exercises with Uzbekistan forces. But Uzbekistan serves as staging ground for the Northern Alliance and the side-by-side stories imply a Green Beret role in shaping the Zarbati. On Oct 21 the Times quoted Gen. Atta Mohammad, Northern Alliance commander outside Mazar-i-Sharif, admitting (or boasting) that a US military team is operating in territory held by his fighters, but insisted they are just engaged in intelligence gathering. "There is a small group of Americans," he said. "They are just here for reconnaissance." The new US role may mean tension with Washington's tentative Russian allies, who were backing the Northern Alliance when the US was tilting to the Taliban. The BBC reported Oct. 21 that Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Northern Alliance President Burhanuddin Rabbani in Tajikistan to offer military aid, but insisted there was no place for Taliban veterans in Afghanistan's post-war government.
6. US PLAYS OPIUM CARD--DESPITE FACTS
A New York Times headline Oct. 22 warned: "Afghan Ban On Growing of Opium is Unraveling." While noting that the Taliban's War on Drugs has been successful, resulting in a 95% drop in this year's opium harvest, the article cited US "intelligence reports" that widespread opium planting is now underway. State Department counter-narcotics official R. Rand Beers told the Times: "We had a situation that showed promise that is now headed in absolutely the wrong direction." The Economist went even further, noting in its Oct. 20 edition that the local Afghanistan price of $700 kilos of raw opium dropped to $100 within two weeks of Sept. 11, and speculated that the
Taliban is releasing "stockpiled" opium on to the international market. Read the article: "UN officials believe that 2,800 tonnes of opium, convertible into 280 tonnes of heroin, is in the hands of the Taliban, the al-Qaeda network... and other Afghan and Pakistani drug lords." Conveniently, "other Afghan drug lords" would include commanders of the US-backed Northern Alliance. Neither the Economist nor the Times reports mentioned the Times' own Oct. 5 citation of UN data indicating most opium in Afghanistan is now grown in territory controlled by the Northern Alliance.
7. PENTAGON HIRES PR FIRM
The Pentagon has hired a top DC public-relations firm, the Rendon Group, to help "explain US military strikes in Afghanistan to global audiences," the San Jose Mercury News reported Oct. 19. Rendon has previously worked for the CIA, which paid it to boost the image of the Iraqi National Congress, a US-backed group opposed to Saddam Hussein. The Pentagon is now paying Rendon to "monitor news media in 79 countries; conduct focus groups; create a counterterrorism Web site that will provide information on terrorist groups and the US campaign against terrorism; and recommend ways the US military can counter disinformation and improve its own public communications." The contract, awarded without bidding, is for $397,000 and lasts 120 days, with an option to extend for up to one year.
8. HIDDEN 9-11 VICTIMS: CHINESE DISSIDENTS
The New York Times reported Oct 21 that when President Bush and China's President Jiang Zemin met at the Asian summit in Shanghai, they put aside long-standing differences on human rights issues, instead "emphasizing their new cooperation." At US-Chinese meetings earlier that month in DC, a "strikingly friendly and cooperative" optimism reigned that progress would be made on the cases of several Chinese political prisoners being monitored by the US State Department. "Instead, as Mr. Bush prepared to come to Shanghai this week to rally support for his war on terrorism, human rights issues faded into the background and the high-profile cases seemed once again stalled, family members and their lawyers said." Among the stalled cases is that of Yang Zili, 29, awaiting sentencing on charges of "subverting state power" for hosting an Internet political discussion group advocating peaceful reform. A sentence was expected just before Bush's visit, but has now been delayed as Zili languishes behind bars. More information is available on his case from the Digital Freedom Network.
China has been drawn into the US-led alliance by the threat of unrest in its far western Xinjiang Autonomous Region, which the local indigenous Uighurs, a Turkic and predominantly Muslim people, traditionally call Uighurstan. Several accused Uighur separatists have been imprisoned in connection with bus bombings and other armed actions in China in recent years (RFE Newsline, June 1, 1997). Two were executed in October, and three sentenced to life in prison (San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 18). Xinjiang/Uighurstan shares a border with Afghanistan, and in Oct. 12's New York Times, China Foreign Ministry spokesperson Sun Yuxi called the separatists "terrorists," claiming some have received training from the Taliban.
THE WAR AT HOME
1. DETAINED PAKISTANI DIES IN CUSTODY
Newsday reported Oct 25 that Pakistani immigrant Rafiq Butt, 55, detained by the INS Sept. 20 in the post-9-11 sweeps, died in New Jersey's Hudson County Jail. Butt was not linked by authorities to the terror attacks, but had overstayed his visa while working as a waiter in Queens and supporting a wife and five children in Pakistan. Authorities blamed a pre-existing heart condition for his death, but it may have been exacerbated by blood tests he was subjected to, allegedly "because of concerns about bio-terrorism." People with heart conditions are more vulnerable to certain pathogens which can enter the bloodstream during such tests.
2. FBI CONSIDERING TORTURE
The Washington Post reported Oct. 22 that FBI officials are "beginning to say that traditional civil liberties may have to be cast aside" in the case of suspects held at New York's Metropolitan Correctional Center in connection with the 9-11 attacks. The four suspects are Zacarias Moussaoui, a French Moroccan "detained in August in Minnesota after he sought lessons on how to fly commercial jetliners but not how to take off or land them"; Mohammed Jaweed Azmath and Ayub Ali Khan, "Indians traveling with false passports who were detained the day after the [9-11] attacks with box cutters, hair dye and $5,000 in cash"; and Nabil Almarabh, "a former Boston cabdriver with alleged links to al-Qaeda." The four have all rejected offers of lighter sentences, money, jobs and new identities in exchange for testimony. Noting US legal strictures against torture, authorities are considering extraditing the suspects to "allied countries where security services employ threats to family members or torture."
3. POSTAL SERVICE TO IRRADIATE MAIL?
Facilities used to irradiate produce and poultry are now being proposed for use by postal authorities to decontaminate anthrax-infected mail, Newsday reported Oct. 24. But critics say up to 2.5 times the standard radiation dose would be needed to destroy anthrax spores. Staples and paper clips could become "unacceptably" radioactive, and the process may not even be effective at all. Food sent in the mail, especially meat, cheese or fruit, could turn into mush. And workers would have to be protected from lung-damaging ozone, which is released in the radiation process. "Some are embracing this as the silver bullet to deal with the anthrax problem, when it may be very harmful," said Tony Corvo of Public Citizen, which has long opposed food irradiation. Predictably, the irradiation industry says its ready to go. "We could do a million letters a day," at a cost of about 50 cents per pound, said Jim Jones, sales & marketing president for Food Technology Service Inc., of Mulberry, FLA. "Our business is killing bacteria." The plant uses Cobalt 60 to emit bacteria-killing gamma rays that can penetrate cardboard, aluminum or plastic. The process, which could require 25 kilogrades of radiation rather than the 10 kilogrades used for food, would not make the mail radioactive, Jones insisted. Although the Cobalt 60 and Cesium 137 used in irradiation plants are not currently recovered from nuclear waste, the industry has long plugged food irradiation as a profitable solution to the waste dilemma and a boon to continued nuclear development.
4. BAYER ACCUSED OF PROFITEERING
The Bayer Corporation--which holds the patent on Cipro, the only anti-biotic effective against anthrax--resolved an unseemly squabble with the US government over the price it will charge for emergency stockpiles, but still faces price-fixing litigation from consumer groups. Bayer insists no other company be allowed to manufacture Cipro, and that no foreign countries be allowed to export it--despite the fact that nations with less stringent patent laws sell Cipro for one-thirtieth the US price, and have offered to ship the US large quantities (New York Times, Oct. 21). Bayer finally agreed to drop costs from $1.83 to $1 per tablet after the government threatened to import generic alternatives (New York Times, Oct. 24). But consumer groups protest the deal as inadequate. On Oct. 24, the Prescription Access Litigation (PAL) project announced it has gone to court to overturn an agreement between Bayer, Barr Laboratories, and two other generic drug companies that it says blocks access to adequate supplies and cheaper versions of Cipro. Groups in eleven states--representing over one million consumers--have signed onto the suit. The plaintiffs charge Bayer unlawfully paid three of its competitors a total of $200 million to date to abandon efforts to market generic Cipro, thereby manipulating the price and supply. Because of these payments, the generic companies abandoned their argument that Bayer's patent was invalid. Under WTO regs written by the pharmaceutical industry, production of generic drugs without royalty payments to the patent-holder is to be phased out completely by 2005 (see Whose Trade Organization? Corporate Globalization and the Erosion of Democracy by Lori Wallach and Michelle Sforza, Public Citizen, 1999, p. 112-124).
5. WAR GAMES SPOOK LOCALS
WATCHING THE SHADOWS
A mock attack on a nuclear power plant by US military forces four days after the 9-11 attacks alarmed officials in two states. The unannounced exercise included soldiers rappelling from helicopters and small arms fire around Duke Energy's Catawba Nuclear Power Plant at York, SC. A Duke Energy spokesperson told the AP Oct. 23 the company still doesn't know what was going on: "We were not part of an exercise and there was no contact made with the station." Fighter jets from South Carolina's Shaw Air Force Base were scrambled to check out reports of an assault on the state's northern line, the Raleigh News & Observer first reported. Later, the North Carolina Emergency Management Division's Raleigh command center received unconfirmed reports that it was a military "special forces" operation, the paper reported on the 23rd. The Defense Department "apparently forgot to advise regional authorities of the exercise," North Carolina emergency officials said. Word of the exercise began about 8 PM Sept. 15, when residents called local police to report four or five helicopters flying low near Interstate 77, following the Catawba River north toward the nuclear plant. York County's emergency operations center couldn't reach the helicopters on any radio channel; neither could air traffic controllers at Charlotte-Douglas Airport. By midnight, eight state and federal agencies, including the FBI, had been notified and were looking into the scare. Some law enforcement and emergency officials are concerned about not being notified, especially on the heels of the terror attacks. "It wasn't a good time for the military to do whatever they were doing," said York County emergency management director Cotton Howell. "Their timing was real bad."
1. ANTHRAX TERRORISM: MADE IN USA?
The assumption that the anthrax attacks are the work of Osama bin Laden is echoed in many--but mostly vague--headlines. On Oct. 23 AFP cited reports in "the British press" quoting an anonymous "chief lieutenant" of bin Laden saying the accused terror mastermind bought mail-order anthrax spores as well as e-coli and salmonella from unspecified labs in "eastern Europe," laundering the purchase through "an Islamic separatist group in Indonesia." On Oct. 23, the New York Times reported the US had signed a pact with Uzbekistan to clean up an old Soviet bio-war lab on the Aral Sea's Vozrozhdeniye Island to the tune of $6 million in US taxdollars--due to fears that bio-hazardous material could fall into the hands of Islamic extremists. On Oct. 26, the New York Times quoted new US Homelands Security Director Tom Ridge on the front-page, above-the-fold: "It is clear that the terrorists responsible for these attacks intended to use this anthrax as a weapon. Clearly we are up against a shadow enemy, shadow soldiers, people who have no regard for human life."
But on Oct. 25, Newsday quoted FBI Director Robert Mueller saying "there is no evidence to support the presumption at this point that the anthrax attacks were a result of organized terrorism." Former State Department counter-terrorism official Larry Johnson called the letters accompanying the anthrax spores ("DEATH TO AMERICA, DEATH TO ISRAEL, ALLAH IS GREAT") "a little to trite, too banal," as if lifted from a "bad Hollywood script." On Oct. 27, Bob Woodward wrote in the Washington Post that "top FBI and CIA officials believe that the anthrax attacks...are likely the work of one or more extremists in the United States who are probably not connected to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist organization."
The newsmedia have overlooked evidence that the anthrax may be coming from the USA's domestic radical right. Since the anthrax attacks, the New York Times has not referenced a front-page story it ran Feb. 20, 1998 about the FBI's arrest of white separatist Larry Wayne Harris and an accomplice in Las Vegas on charges of possessing deadly biological agents. Harris, a former Aryan Nations member from Lancaster, OH, worked at a medical laboratory and was able to pilfer official certificates with which to order samples of bubonic plague through the mail. The story said the FBI believed Harris intended to release the plague on the New York subways, "causing hundreds of thousands of deaths that would be attributed to the Iraqi government." The men were also said to be seeking other pathogens. Bobby Siller, the FBI agent on the case, said: "It was suspected that these individuals were in possession of a dangerous biological chemical anthrax."
2. NEXT: SUPER-ANTHRAX?
The New York Times reported Oct 23 the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) is developing a more potent form of anthrax to test a new vaccine the Pentagon intends to use on all service members. The project was delayed "for weeks" as Pentagon lawyers considered whether it violated the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, but now appears to be moving ahead. Testing such "defense measures" is the treaty loophole allowing the US to keep bio-warfare research alive--which is why maps in the media purporting to indicate global bio-war labs don't show Ft. Detrick, MD, or any other US facility. (See No Fire, No Thunder: The Threat of Chemical and Biological Weapons by Sean Murphy, et al, Monthly Review, 1984, p. 97)
But public panic may beat the Pentagon to the punch. On Oct. 22, Stanford University microbiologist Lucy Shapiro warned in the New York Times that media-induced paranoia could be more deadly than the anthrax itself, leading to widespread anti-biotic abuse which will only breed resistant strains. "Our big problem is not bioterrorism. It's our response that's going to lead to a big jump in antibiotic resistance. That's the terror."
3. INTERPOL: OSAMA AIDED KLA
In another embarrassing instance of Osama bin Laden making himself useful to US imperialism, the London Independent reported Oct. 21 that Interpol senior investigator Gwen McClure claimed in a briefing before a panel of NATO parliamentary representatives that the accused terrorist mastermind had been a key player in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the Albanian guerillas which battled Serbian forces on the ground during the 1999 NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia. Osama was said to be present at a series of meetings in Albania where international Islamic extremists and local mafia bosses brokered a deal to arm the KLA with heroin profits. Within months of the meeting, Albanian mafias established control of 70% of Europe's heroin market, McClure asserted. She also claimed Osama supplied one of his "top military commanders for an elite KLA unit during the Kosovo conflict."
4. CORNHUSKERS WOOED TALIBAN FOR UNOCAL
The Chicago Tribune reported Oct. 21 on a program at the University of Nebraska's Omaha campus, the Center for Afghanistan Studies, which served "a back door" to the Taliban for US policy and intelligence intrigues. While ostensibly aiming to "expose Afghan leaders to American ideas and democracy," it continued to host high-ranking Taliban representatives even as anti-Taliban rhetoric in Washington grew harsher and sanctions were instated. In November 1997, then-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright blasted Taliban leaders as sadistic killers who nail enemies to village walls and stone uncovered women. A month later, eight top Taliban chiefs toured the US at Center's invitation. The university's Education Sector Support Project even distributed thousands of textbooks to Afghan children reflecting a Taliban-approved version of history depicting women as second-class citizens. The pro-democracy content of the textbooks was edited out at the insistence of the university's Taliban partners, and university plans to educate female students and train female teachers in Afghanistan were "sharply limited."
Since 1986, the Center has received over $60 million in US AID grants for programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to host visits by regional leaders. AID cancelled the grant in 1994, but the State Department continued to authorize the visits, and a private interest stepped in to pick up the bill--the Unocal Corp. The sanctions do not apply to private companies funding "education or humanitarian relief efforts." Unocal, then seeking a pipeline route linking the Caspian Basin oilfields to global markets through Afghanistan, exploited this loophole to bring 8 Taliban reps (and a Pakistani intelligence officer) stateside to talk turkey in Dec. 1997.
"The US government was encouraging our engagement there to bring stability to the country," Unocal spokesman Barry Lane said. The Taliban visitors included Mullah Mohammad Ghaus, Afghanistan's foreign minister; Ahmed Jan, minister for mines and industry; Amir Muttaqi, education minister; and Din Muhammad, minister of planning. The Taliban ministers were flown to Unocal's Houston offices for four days of meetings. They also toured NASA headquarters, spent several hours at a shopping mall and attended a party at the mansion of an oil company VP. The group also spent two days at the Omaha campus. Back in Afghanistan, the university was building its training program on a 56-acre plot in Kandahar that had once been a US AID compound--now with Unocal picking up the tab to tune of $1 million.
Criticism of the program was voiced at Unocal's 1999 stockholder meeting in Los Angeles, where women's rights groups staged protests accusing Unocal of cutting secret deals with the Taliban. "We were suspicious that women's rights would be sold out for oil," said Feminist Majority spokeswoman Beth Raboin.
Unocal dropped the pipeline plan when the Taliban was linked to the Africa embassy bombings in 1998. No longer receiving money from AID or Unocal, the Omaha center closed its Afghanistan program. The center still has an office in Peshawar, Pakistan, and employs three guards to patrol the Kandahar compound.
5. TALIBAN SEEKING THE NUKE?
The AP reported Oct. 25 that Pakistani authorities had detained two top nuclear scientists about suspected contacts with leaders of Afghanistan's Taliban regime. Sultan Bashiruddin Mehmood, a founder of Pakistan's nuclear program, was picked up by intelligence agents in Lahore. Abdul Majid, who worked for years with Mehmood at Pakistan's Atomic Energy Commission, was also held, "officials in the Interior Ministry said on condition of anonymity." Sources said the men were interrogated about possible links to Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar and other figures in the regime. Neither has been charged with any crime. Mehmood and a "group of friends" work on "rehabilitation projects" in war-ravaged Afghanistan.
Pakistan and its regional rival India both tested nuclear weapons in 1998, and the ongoing conflict between the two over the disputed region of Kashmir has erupted into open war again since the bombing of Afghanistan began. The Islamic separatists who sparked the new warfare with an Oct. 1 car bombing at Kashmir's legislature in India, killing 38, are said to be backed by both Pakistan and the Taliban. India retaliated by shelling Pakistani army posts Oct. 15, when US Secretary of State Colin Powell was visiting the two countries. (UK Guardian, Oct. 16)
6. ISLAM EXPERTS: WAR FUELS FUNDAMENTALISM
Experts on Islamic fundamentalism warn that the US bombing campaign is only playing into the movement's hands by fueling a backlash. Anti-US protests in Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Egypt, Yemen and other countries are only the most visible sign. "What I worry about is based on what we're already seeing, and that is our striking in Afghanistan is a coup for Islamic extremists in Pakistan and around the world," Harvard terrorism expert Jessica Stern told the New York Times Oct. 21.
Saad Hassaballah, an attorney for Islamic militants in Egypt, drew an analogy between Osama bin Laden and Sayed Qutb, a founder of contemporary Islamic fundamentalism who was executed on charges of attempting to overthrow Egypt's government in 1966. More powerful in death than in life, his writings became essential texts for the movement which exploded throughout the Islamic world in the 1990s. "Sayed Qutb was hanged, but his ideas are still with us," Hassaballah told Newsday Oct. 16. "Bin Laden is now a symbol for some Muslims, and if he is killed or imprisoned, he too will become a martyr."
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