1. (Video) “The Israelis Are Controlling Our Government”: Bill Maher
2. (Video) The March on The Wall <<<—-
3. (Video) Oscar Nominated Filmmakers Discuss Their Film “5 Broken Cameras”
4. (Video) U.S. Drone Strikes Are ‘Terrorism’ : Madea Benjamin
5. Obama to receive Israel’s presidential medal of honor
6. Prisoner in Israeli isolation for 2 years ‘forgets speech’
7. Amira Hass: Fourteen Palestinians released in Gilad Shalit deal back in Israeli jails
8. Alan Dershowitz says leading candidate for papacy is an anti-Semite
9. Israel supplies Turkey with military equipment for first time since Gaza flotilla hey?
10. New Documentary Reexamines the Iraq War “Hoax”
11. Most Terrorist Plots in the US Aren’t Invented by Al Qaeda — They’re Manufactured by the FBI
12. Prof. Lawrence Davidson: War and Institutionalizing Abuse
13. Historic Case to Challenge BBC’s 9/11 Coverage <<<—-
14. Is David Beckham little more than an Arabian figurehead? <<<—- interesting
______________________________________________________1. (Video) “The Israelis Are Controlling Our Government”: Bill Maher
MAHER: Based on every statement I’ve heard out of any Republican in the last two years, the Israelis are controlling our government.
Posted February 17, 2013
2. (Video) The March on The Wall
Published on Feb 14, 2013
On 9 July 2004 the International Court of Justice delivered its advisory opinion in response to this question posed by the United Nations General Assembly:
3. (Video) Oscar Nominated Filmmakers Discuss Their Film “5 Broken Cameras”
Truthout Monday, 18 February 2013 10:11
By Laura Flanders, GritTV | Video
Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi discuss their Oscar nominated film, 5 Broken Cameras. The film is a highly personal encounter of the Palestinian and Israeli conflict.
4. (Video) U.S. Drone Strikes Are ‘Terrorism’ : Madea Benjamin
Williams pointed to comments by Professor Cornel West calling Obama a “war criminal.” Williams asked Benjamin if she agrees with West. Benjamin argued that Obama’s drone policy “terrorizes entire nations,” calling it the “best recruiting tool for extremists organizations” while hurting the safety of the United States.
Williams grilled Benjamin on why it threatens Americans when the government sends out drones to take out dangerous terrorists. Benjamin highlighted the innocents killed by the drone strikes, arguing that every time a drone kills an innocent person, more people will start joining al-Qaeda. Williams told Benjamin what she’s saying is “not true,” suggesting that people in these nations would be less enthusiastic about the U.S. military moving in.
Benjamin accused the United States of “using terrorism” in nations like Pakistan, where people believe that the U.S. is their enemy. She insisted that the drone strikes are directly resulting in more people joining al-Qaeda. Williams shot back by accusing Benjamin of trying to “blame the United States” for targeting terrorists. He added that killing terrorists actually does make the United States safer. Benjamin responded, “We’re creating more terrorists than we’re killing.”
February 17, 2013
5. Obama to receive Israel’s presidential medal of honor
By Agence France-Presse
Raw Story Monday, February 18, 2013 13:03 EST
Barack Obama will become the first serving US president to receive Israel’s presidential medal, from his Israeli counterpart Shimon Peres on a visit to the Jewish state next month, Peres’s office said on Monday.
“President Obama has made a unique and meaningful contribution to strengthening the state of Israel and the security of its people,” it said in a statement.
“Barack Obama is a true friend of the state of Israel and has been since the beginning of his public life. As president of the United States he has stood beside Israel in times of crisis,” it added.
Israel’s presidential medal of distinction is awarded to individuals or organisations who have contributed to Israeli society and Israel’s image in the world.
The White House has not announced specific dates for the Obama visit, his first to Israel and the West Bank as president.
Israeli media reports and a Palestinian official have said that it will run from March 20-22 and take in talks with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
The White House has kept expectations deliberately low, saying Obama has no plans to use the trip to push new proposals to break the more than two-year deadlock in peace talks.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that his talks with Obama would focus on Iran’s nuclear programme, the conflict in Syria and long-stalled stalled peace talks with the Palestinians.
6. Prisoner in Israeli isolation for 2 years ‘forgets speech’
Ma’an February 17, 2013
RAMALLAH — A Palestinian man held in solitary confinement by Israel for two years is losing his ability to recall language and has speech impairments, a lawyer who visited him in jail said Sunday.
The lawyer for the Palestinian prisoners society said Dirar Abu Sisi, an engineer from Gaza, is suffering from a number of health problems in his isolation cell.
Abu Sisi disappeared in February 2011 while traveling on a train in Ukraine and Israel later announced that it was holding him in a southern Israeli jail.
He was the only prisoner excluded from a May 2012 deal with Israeli authorities to end solitary confinement, according to prisoners rights group Addameer.
The deal, which included several terms to improve prisoners conditions, was made to end a mass hunger strike campaign launched by Palestinian prisoners.
The order to keep Abu Sisi in isolation was renewed for another six months on Nov. 1, 2012.
The prisoners society lawyer said Abu Sisi told him prison guards were implementing other punitive measures.
They bring him rotten food, and recently confiscated his notebook where he records his thoughts during his isolation, Abu Sisi said.
The technical director at Gaza’s sole electricity plant, Abu Sisi was charged with developing Hamas’ rocket capabilities. Abu Sisi denies the charges and Hamas says he has no affiliation to the group.
Abu Sisi, father of six and the husband of a Ukrainian woman, disappeared while traveling between Kiev and the eastern city of Kharkov on the night of Feb. 18-19.
His wife Veronica said train attendants told her that her husband had been taken away by two men posing as officers of the Ukrainian secret service. A month later, Israel partially lifted a gag order on reporting his disappearance and Abu Sisi turned up in Israeli court.
Secretive detentions in Israel have come under the spotlight in recent days, after an Australian TV report identified the mysterious ‘Prisoner X’ as Australian citizen Ben Zygier.
Zygier, a possible Mossad operative detained on suspicion of security offenses, was held in isolation and his identity shrouded in secrecy. He committed suicide in Israeli jail in 2010.
7. Amira Hass: Fourteen Palestinians released in Gilad Shalit deal back in Israeli jails
Haaretz February 17, 2013
Changes in military law allow IDF and Shin Bet to rearrest any released prisoner until the end of his or her original sentence, on the slightest pretext, and often relying on secret evidence.
Four hunger-striking Palestinian prisoners have managed to upset the Palestinian public more than any other element of friction created under Israeli domination.
Two of the strikers, Tarek Qa’adan and Ja’afar Ezzedine, are administrative detainees. The other two, Ayman Sharawna and Samer Issawi, were released in the Gilad Shalit deal and subsequently rearrested.
Issawi has been subsisting on water, salts and food supplements now for more than 200 days, while Sharawna has been fasting (with short breaks) for 140 days.
Concern for their fate has shunted aside discussion of the cardinal issue of the land mines created by the deal to release prisoners, which were concealed during the celebrations over their return.
Since the deal that liberated Shalit was signed in October 2011, the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service have rearrested 14 of the prisoners released in the exchange. At the time five of them had been sentenced to between 24 and 38 years in prison. Now, they are slated to complete the remainder of their sentences − from 16 to 28 years.
The five are Issawi (who contravened the conditions of his release and left Jerusalem for the nearby neighborhood of A-Ram); Sharawna; Ibrahim Abu Hijleh; Iyad Abu-Fanun; and Ayman Abu Daud. Others, including a minor and a woman, had already been sentenced to short prison terms, and they are less the focus of public interest.
Various Israeli media reports say the rearrested prisoners supposedly returned to terrorist activity. However, the range of Israeli definitions for “terror” includes activities that the Palestinians consider simple civil acts (such as receiving a living allowance, like Abu Daud does) or normal political activities (membership in political institutions of the Palestinian Liberation Organization or participation in a meeting or a rally).
Abu Hijleh, for example − who had been sentenced to 24 years in prison for holding positions in the military wing of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine during the second intifada − enjoyed only eight months of freedom.
In June 2012, when soldiers knocked on the door of the home he shared with his wife in Ramallah, he couldn’t have imagined that he was a wanted man. The culture minister in the cabinet of Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is a member of the Democratic Front. That group is part of the PLO, which signed the Oslo Accords with Israel. Abu Hijleh didn’t think that civil-political activity was prohibited.
Beneath the surface, complaints can be heard against the Egyptian intelligence services and Hamas negotiators. They seemingly didn’t take into consideration what could have been expected to happen to the few hundred prisoners who are residents of the West Bank and Jerusalem and who were not deported abroad or to Gaza but returned home.
Hamas in Gaza enjoys the glory of being the liberator, while the PA bears the brunt of the social unrest. The Palestinian prisoners’ club and the PA Ministry of Prisoner Affairs are mainly moving ahead on the diplomatic track with the Egyptians: phone calls to intelligence chiefs, meetings in Cairo and letters to the Egyptian ambassador in Ramallah. They hope diplomatic involvement will help, when the Egyptians have the time to devote to it, anyway.
Attempts to understand from Hamas what the details of the deal were − and to what extent its representatives were aware of its restrictions − have been fruitless. The families of the prisoners released in the exchange realized the hard way that while talks were underway for Shalit’s release in 2009, changes were made in military law regarding the early release of prisoners (security order number 1677).
These amendments, and the interpretation now being given to the order, allow the IDF and the Shin Bet to rearrest any released prisoner until the end of his or her original sentence, on the slightest pretext.
In most cases, the military prosecution relies on secret evidence. Attorney Ahlam Haddad is representing Sharawna and Abu-Fanun. Sharawna was arrested on January 31, 2012, and Abu-Fanun in April 2012. Both were accused of prohibited activities, but the evidence is kept secret and both have vehemently denied the allegations.
Abu-Fanun, who was convicted in 2003 of attempted murder and membership in Islamic Jihad, served nine years of a 29-year sentence. Sharawna served 10 years out of the 38 years to which he was sentenced for involvement in a terror attack in Be’er Sheva as a member of Hamas.
On Wednesday, the High Court of Justice will hear a petition by Sharawna, written by Haddad together with Nery Ramati of Gabi Lasky’s law firm. According to the attorneys, the amended clauses in security order number 1677 “include a number of orders which, when all implemented together, create a critical mass that transforms the entire arrangement into one that clearly goes against fair process.”
In contrast to parole boards in Israel, which consist of experts like social workers, criminologists, educators and psychologists, the military committee consists only of officers deemed fit to serve as judges. These are, the petition states, members of the same system “that ordered the [initial] arrest of the released prisoners and had no part in the decision to release them.”
According to the order, the condition for release is that the prisoner commit no offense where the penalty is three months’ imprisonment or more. So, for example, a traffic violation, participation in a demonstration or illegal presence in Israel will send the prisoner back to jail for 20 or 30 years. And, as opposed to civilian Israeli parole boards, the military committee has no authority to commute the sentence of such a prisoner.
Haddad and Ramati write in the petition that, according to the order, the secret evidence presented can be hearsay presented by a Shin Bet agent. According to the attorneys, this is precisely the situation Sharawna is in.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office told Haaretz that the terms of the pardons under which prisoners had been released in exchange for Shalit specifically included “the condition that they not return to prohibited security activities.” Also, that, by law, the pardon could be revoked “due to conviction of another offense during the period of parole, or through an administrative committee authorized to examine intelligence information with only one side present to attest to the violation of the conditions.”
During the past weeks’ demonstrations in support of the hunger strikers, calls were heard to abduct an Israeli soldier as the only way remaining for the Palestinians to force Israel to treat Palestinian prisoners as POWs (and therefore be eligible for release), rather than as incarcerated criminals.
Those calling for such action are not taking into account the determination of the Israeli government and military to limit the achievements of the Palestinians in the Shalit exchange and thwart future deals.
8. Alan Dershowitz says leading candidate for papacy is an anti-Semite
Harvard law professor says Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras blamed the Jews for scandal surrounding Catholic sex abuse, and ‘compared Jewish controlled media with Hitler’.
Haaretz Feb.18, 2013
In a letter to the editor of the Miami Herald, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz said that one of the leading candidates to replace Pope Benedict XVI is an anti-Semite.
Responding to a list published last week after the resignation of Benedict, which identified Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras as a possible successor to the current pope, Dershowitz wrote: “He has blamed the Jews for the scandal surrounding the sexual misconduct of priests toward young parishioners! He has argued that the Jews got even with the Catholic Church for its anti-Israel positions by arranging for the media — which they, of course, control, he said — to give disproportionate attention to the Vatican sex scandal. He then compared the Jewish controlled media with Hitler, because they are ‘protagonists of what I do not hesitate to define as a persecution against the church.’”
Maradiaga, in a May 2002 interview with the Italian-Catholic publication “30 Giorni,” claimed Jews influenced the media to exploit the current controversy regarding sexual abuse by Catholic priests in order to divert attention from the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
At the time, the Anti-Defamation League expressed public outrage at the cardinal’s comments. In a later conversation with ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, Maradiaga apologized and said he never meant for his remarks to be taken as perpetuating an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory about Jewish control of the media, and promised never to say it again.
“The Vatican has rightly called anti-Semitism a sin, and yet an unrepentant sinner is on the short list to become the leader of the Catholic Church,” Dershowitz insists in his letter to the editor. “If that were to occur, all of the good work by recent popes in building bridges between the Catholic Church and the Jews would be endangered. This should not be allowed to happen.”
9. Israel supplies Turkey with military equipment for first time since Gaza flotilla
Facing pressure from Boeing and American administration officials, the Israeli government recently ended a freeze on advanced electronic warfare systems for the Turkish Air Force.
By Anshel Pfeffer
Haaretz Feb.18, 2013
Israel has supplied advanced electronic warfare systems to the Turkish Air Force, marking the first exchange of military equipment with Turkey since relations between the two countries deteriorated in the wake of the Israeli Navy raid on the Mavi Marmara ferry in May 2010.
The deal was reported on Sunday in the Turkish newspaper Zaman and confirmed today by a senior Israeli defense source. The source stressed that the deal was finally approved due to American pressure as well as Israeli attempts to improve relations with Turkey, recognizing the tension between Turkey and Iran over the Syrian civil war.
The electronic warfare systems, which will significantly upgrade the capabilities of the Turkish Air Force early-warning planes, are made by ELTA, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries and were ordered for the Turkish aircraft by Boeing, the American aircraft manufacturer.
In 2002, Boeing won a contract to supply Turkey with four new Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, which are Boeing 737 airliners modified to carry large radar and other military electronic systems. As part of the deal, Boeing ordered electronic warfare systems from ELTA for the Turkish aircraft as part of a $200 million deal. The planes were supplied to Turkey by Boeing three years ago and entered operational service.
The Israeli systems were supposed to upgrade the planes in 2011 but following the rapid deterioration in relations between the two countries following the flotilla incident, in which nine Turkish activists were killed, ambassadors were recalled and there were concerns about the close ties between Turkey, Hamas and Iran, the Defense Ministry decided to curtail all arms deals with Turkey.
The decision lead to the cancellation of a joint ELTA-Elbit project to develop aerial reconnaissance pods for Turkish F-16 fighter-jets and a freeze in the supply of the electronic warfare systems for the Boeing AWACS.
In the past Israel has been a major supplier of weapon systems to Turkey, including the upgrade of M-60 main battle tanks and the supply of ten IAI Heron unmanned aerial vehicles.
Because the AWACS electronic warfare deal was not signed between ELTA and the Turkish government but rather through Boeing, Boeing and senior American administration officials pressured the Israeli government, as high up as Defense Minister Ehud Barak, to approve the deal.
For over a year, Israel withstood the pressure but ultimately decided a few months ago to allow ELTA to supply the systems. A few weeks ago they were flown to Ankara and are currently being integrated into the Turkish Boeings.
10. New Documentary Reexamines the Iraq War “Hoax”
An MSNBC film, hosted by Rachel Maddow and based on Michael Isikoff and David Corn’s book, finds new evidence that Bush scammed the nation into war.
By David Corn
David Corn is Mother Jones’ Washington bureau chief.
Information Clearing House February 16, 2013
A decade ago, on March 19, 2003, President George W. Bush launched the invasion of Iraq that would lead to a nine-year war resulting in 4,486 dead American troops, 32,226 service members wounded, and over 100,000 dead Iraqi civilians. The tab for the war topped $3 trillion. Bush did succeed in removing Saddam Hussein, but it turned out there were no weapons of mass destruction and no significant operational ties between Saddam’s regime and Al Qaeda. That is, the two main assertions used by Bush and his crew to justify the war were not true. Three years after the war began, Michael Isikoff, then an investigative reporter for Newsweek (he’s since moved to NBC News), and I published Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War, a behind-the-scenes account of how Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and their lieutenants deployed false claims, iffy intelligence, and unsupported hyperbole to win popular backing for the invasion.
Our book—hailed by the New York Times as “the most comprehensive account of the White House’s political machinations”—was the first cut at an important topic: how a president had swindled the nation into war with a deliberate effort to hype the threat. The book is now the basis for an MSNBC documentary of the same name that marks the 10th anniversary of the Iraq war. Hosted by Rachel Maddow, the film premieres Monday night in her usual time slot (9PM ET/PT). But the documentary goes beyond what Isikoff and I covered in Hubris, presenting new scoops and showing that the complete story of the selling of that war has yet to be told.
One chilling moment in the film comes in an interview with retired General Anthony Zinni, a former commander in chief of US Central Command. In August 2002, the Bush-Cheney administration opened its propaganda campaign for war with a Cheney speech at the annual Veterans of Foreign Wars convention. The veep made a stark declaration: “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.” No doubt, he proclaimed, Saddam was arming himself with WMD in preparation for attacking the United States.
Zinni was sitting on the stage during the speech, and in the documentary he recalls his reaction:
It was a shock. It was a total shock. I couldn’t believe the vice president was saying this, you know? In doing work with the CIA on Iraq WMD, through all the briefings I heard at Langley, I never saw one piece of credible evidence that there was an ongoing program. And that’s when I began to believe they’re getting serious about this. They wanna go into Iraq.
That Zinni quote should almost end the debate on whether the Bush-Cheney administration purposefully guided the nation into war with misinformation and disinformation.
But there’s more. So much more. The film highlights a Pentagon document declassified two years ago. This memo notes that in November 2001—shortly after the 9/11 attacks—Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with General Tommy Franks to review plans for the “decapitation” of the Iraqi government. The two men reviewed how a war against Saddam could be triggered; that list included a “dispute over WMD inspections.” It’s evidence that the administration was seeking a pretense for war.
The yellowcake uranium supposedly bought by Saddam in Niger, the aluminum tubes supposedly used to process uranium into weapons-grade material, the supposed connection between Saddam and Osama bin Laden—the documentary features intelligence analysts and experts who at the time were saying and warning that the intelligence on these topics was wrong or uncertain. Yet administration officials kept using lousy and inconclusive intelligence to push the case for war.
Through the months-long run-up to the invasion, Colin Powell, then the secretary of state, would become the administration’s No. 1 pitchman for the war with a high-profile speech at the UN, which contained numerous false statements about Iraq and WMD. But, the documentary notes, he was hiding from the public his deep skepticism. In the film, Lawrence Wilkerson, Powell’s chief of staff at the time, recalls the day Congress passed a resolution authorizing Bush to attack Iraq:
Powell walked into my office and without so much as a fare-thee-well, he walked over to the window and he said, “I wonder what’ll happen when we put 500,000 troops into Iraq and comb the country from one end to the other and find nothing?” And he turned around and walked back in his office. And I—I wrote that down on my calendar—as close for—to verbatim as I could, because I thought that was a profound statement coming from the secretary of state, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.
Wilkerson also notes that Powell had no idea about the veracity of the intelligence he cited during that UN speech: “Though neither Powell nor anyone else from the State Department team intentionally lied, we did participate in a hoax.”
A hoax. That’s what it was. Yet Bush and Cheney went on to win reelection, and many of their accomplices in this swindle never were fully held accountable. In the years after the WMD scam became apparent, there certainly was a rise in public skepticism and media scrutiny of government claims. Still, could something like this happen again? Maddow remarks, “If what we went through 10 years ago did not change us as a nation—if we do not understand what happened and adapt to resist it—then history says we are doomed to repeat it.”
11. Most Terrorist Plots in the US Aren’t Invented by Al Qaeda — They’re Manufactured by the FBI
In the ten years following 9/11, the FBI and the Justice Department convicted more than 150 people following sting operations, though few had any connection to real terrorists.
AlterNet February 15, 2013 |
The following is an excerpt from The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism by Trevor Aaronson (Ig Publishing, 2012).
Antonio Martinez was a punk. The twenty-two-year-old from Baltimore was chunky, with a wide nose and jet-black hair pulled back close to his scalp and tied into long braids that hung past his shoulders. He preferred to be called Muhammad Hussain, the name he gave himself following his conversion to Islam. But his mother still called him Tony, and she couldn’t understand her son’s burning desire to be the Maryland Mujahideen.
As a young man, Martinez had been angry and lost. He’d dropped out of Laurel High School, in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and spent his teens as a small-time thief in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. By the age of sixteen, he’d been charged with armed robbery. In February 2008, at the age of eighteen, he tried to steal a car. Catholic University doctoral student Daniel Tobin was looking out of the window of his apartment one day when he saw a man driving off in his car. Tobin gave chase, running between apartment buildings and finally catching up to the stolen vehicle. He opened the passenger-side door and got in. Martinez, in the driver’s seat, dashed out and ran away on foot. Jumping behind the wheel, Tobin followed the would-be car thief. “You may as well give up running,” he yelled at Martinez. Martinez was apprehended and charged with grand theft of a motor vehicle—he had stolen the vehicle using an extra set of car keys which had gone missing when someone had broken into Tobin’s apartment earlier. However, prosecutors dropped the charges against Martinez after Tobin failed to appear in court.
Despite the close call, Martinez’s petty crimes continued. One month after the car theft, he and a friend approached a cashier at a Safeway grocery store, acting as if they wanted to buy potato chips. When the cashier opened the register, Martinez and his friend grabbed as much money as they could and ran out of the store. The cashier and store manager chased after them, and later identified the pair to police. Martinez pleaded guilty to theft of one hundred dollars and received a ninety-day suspended sentence, plus six months of probation.
Searching for greater meaning in his life, Martinez was baptized and became a Christian when he was twenty-one years old, but he didn’t stick with the religion. “He said he tried the Christian thing. He just really didn’t understand it,” said Alisha Legrand, a former girlfriend. Martinez chose Islam instead. On his Facebook page, Martinez wrote that he was “just a yung brotha from the wrong side of the tracks who embraced Islam.” But for reasons that have never been clear to his family and friends, Martinez drifted toward a violent, extremist brand of Islam. When the FBI discovered him, Martinez was an angry extremist mouthing off on Facebook about violence, with misspelled posts such as, “The sword is cummin the reign of oppression is about 2 cease inshallah.” Based on the Facebook postings alone, an FBI agent gave an informant the “green light” to get to know Martinez and determine if he had a propensity for violence. In other words, to see if he was dangerous.
The government was setting the trap.
On the evening of December 2, 2010, Martinez was in another Muslim’s car as they drove through Baltimore. A hidden device recorded their conversation. His mother had called, and Martinez had just finished talking to her on his cell phone. He was aggravated. “She wants me to be like everybody else, being in school, working,” he told his friend. “For me, it’s different. I have this zeal for deen and she doesn’t understand that.” Martinez’s mother didn’t know that her son had just left a meeting with a purported Afghan-born terrorist who had agreed to provide him with a car bomb. But she wasn’t the only one in the dark that night. Martinez himself didn’t know his new terrorist friend was an undercover agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and that the man driving the car—a man he’d met only a few weeks earlier—was a paid informant for federal law enforcement.
Five days later, Martinez met again with the man he believed to be a terrorist. The informant was there, too. They were all, Martinez believed, brothers in arms and in Islam. In a parking lot near the Armed Forces Career Center on Baltimore National Pike, Martinez, the informant, and the undercover FBI agent piled into an SUV, where the undercover agent showed Martinez the device that would detonate the car bomb and how to use it. He then unveiled to the twenty-two-year-old the bomb in the back of the SUV and demonstrated what he’d need to do to activate it. “I’m ready, man,” Martinez said. “It ain’t like you seein’ it on the news. You gonna be there. You gonna hear the bomb go off. You gonna be, uh, shooting, gettin’ shot at. It’s gonna be real. … I’m excited, man.”
That night, Martinez, who had little experience behind the wheel of a car, needed to practice driving the SUV around the empty parking lot. Once he felt comfortable doing what most teenagers can do easily, Martinez and his associates devised a plan: Martinez would park the bomb-on-wheels in the parking lot outside the military recruiting center. One of his associates would then pick him up, and they’d drive together to a vantage point where Martinez could detonate the bomb and delight in the resulting chaos and carnage.
The next morning, the three men put their plan into action. Martinez hopped into the SUV and activated the bomb, as he’d been instructed, and then drove to the military recruiting station. He parked right in front. The informant, trailing in another car, picked up Martinez and drove him to the vantage point, just as planned. Everything was falling into place, and Martinez was about to launch his first attack in what he hoped would be for him a lifetime of jihad against the only nation he had ever known.
Looking out at the military recruiting station, Martinez lifted the detonation device and triggered the bomb. Smiling, he watched expectantly. Nothing happened. Suddenly, FBI agents rushed in and arrested the man they’d later identify in court records as “Antonio Martinez a/k/a Muhammad Hussain.” Federal prosecutors in Maryland charged Martinez with attempted murder of federal officers and attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. He faced at least thirty-five years in prison if convicted at trial.
“This is not Tony,” a woman identifying herself as Martinez’s mother told a reporter after the arrest. “I think he was brainwashed with that Islam crap.” Joseph Balter, a federal public defender, told the court during a detention hearing that FBI agents had entrapped Martinez, whom he referred to by his chosen name. The terrorist plot was, Balter said, “the creation of the government—a creation which was implanted into Mr. Hussain’s mind.” He added: “There was nothing provided which showed that Mr. Hussain had any ability whatsoever to carry out any kind of plan.”
Despite Balter’s claims, a little more than a year after his indictment, Martinez chose not to challenge the government’s charges in court. On January 26, 2012, Martinez dropped his entrapment defense and pleaded guilty to attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction under a deal that will require him to serve twenty-five years in prison—more years than he’s been alive. Neither Martinez nor Balter would comment on the reasons they chose a plea agreement, though in a sentencing hearing, Balter told the judge he believed the entire case could have been avoided had the FBI counseled, rather than encouraged, Martinez.
The U.S. Department of Justice touted the conviction as another example of the government keeping citizens safe from terrorists. “We are catching dangerous suspects before they strike, and we are investigating them in a way that maximizes the liberty and security of law-abiding citizens,” U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement announcing Martinez’s plea agreement. “That is what the American people expect of the Justice Department, and that is what we aim to deliver.”
Indeed, that is exactly what the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been delivering throughout the decade since the attacks of September 11, 2001. But whether it’s what the American people expect is questionable, because most Americans today have no idea that since 9/11, one single organization has been responsible for hatching and financing more terrorist plots in the United States than any other. That organization isn’t Al Qaeda, the terrorist network founded by Osama bin Laden and responsible for the spectacular 2001 attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. And it isn’t Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Al-Shabaab, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, or any of the other more than forty U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations. No, the organization responsible for more terrorist plots over the last decade than any other is the FBI. Through elaborate and expensive sting operations involving informants and undercover agents posing as terrorists, the FBI has arrested and the Justice Department has prosecuted dozens of men government officials say posed direct—but by no means immediate or credible—threats to the United States.
Just as in the Martinez case, in terrorism sting after terrorism sting, FBI and DOJ officials have hosted high-profile press conferences to announce yet another foiled terrorist plot. But what isn’t publicized during these press conferences is the fact that government-described terrorists such as Antonio Martinez were able to carry forward with their potentially lethal plots only because FBI informants and agents provided them with all of the means—in most cases delivering weapons and equipment, in some cases even paying for rent and doling out a little spending money to keep targets on the hook. In cities around the country where terrorism sting operations have occurred—among them New York City, Albany, Chicago, Miami, Baltimore, Portland, Tampa, Houston, and Dallas—a central question exists: Is the FBI catching terrorists or creating them?
In the years since the attacks of September 11, 2001, the federal law enforcement profile of a terrorist has changed dramatically. The men responsible for downing the World Trade Center were disciplined and patient; they were also living and training in the United States with money from an Al Qaeda cell led by Kuwaiti-born Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. In the days and weeks following 9/11, federal officials anxiously awaited a second wave of attacks, which would be launched, they believed at the time, by several sleeper cells around the country. But the feared second wave never crashed ashore. Instead, the United States and allied nations invaded Afghanistan, Al Qaeda’s home base, and forced Osama bin Laden and his deputies into hiding. Bruised and hunted, Al Qaeda no longer had the capability to train terrorists and send them to the United States.
In response, Al Qaeda’s leaders moved to what FBI officials describe as a “franchise model.” If you can’t run Al Qaeda as a hierarchal, centrally organized outfit, the theory went, run it as a franchise. In other words, export ideas—not terrorists. Al Qaeda and its affiliated organizations went online, setting up websites and forums dedicated to instilling their beliefs in disenfranchised Muslims already living in Western nations. A slickly designed magazine, appropriately titled Inspire, quickly followed. Article headlines included “I Am Proud to Be a Traitor to America,”9 and “Why Did I Choose Al-Qaeda?” Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born, high-ranking Al Qaeda official who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Yemen on September 30, 2011, became something of the terrorist organization’s Dear Abby. Have a question about Islam? Ask Anwar! Muslim men in nations throughout the Western world would email him questions, and al-Awlaki would reply dutifully, and in English, encouraging many of his electronic pen pals to violent action. Al-Awlaki also kept a blog and a Facebook page, and regularly posted recruitment videos to YouTube. He said in one video:
I specifically invite the youth to either fight in the West or join their brothers in the fronts of jihad: Afghanistan, Iraq, and Somalia.
I invite them to join us in our new front, Yemen, the base from which the great jihad of the Arabian Peninsula will begin, the base from which the greatest army of Islam will march forth.
Al Qaeda’s move to a franchise model met with some success. U.S. army major Nadal Hassan, for example, corresponded with al-Awlaki before he killed thirteen people and wounded twenty-nine others in the Fort Hood, Texas, shootings in 2009. Antonio Martinez and other American-born men, many of them recent converts to Islam, also sent al-Awlaki messages or watched Al Qaeda propaganda videos online before moving forward in alleged terrorist plots.
12. Prof. Lawrence Davidson: War and Institutionalizing Abuse
Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University in West Chester PA. His academic work is focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He also teaches courses in the history of science and modern European intellectual history. www.tothepointanalyses.com
Information Clearing House February 17, 2013
In the halls of Congress and confines of the Oval Office, the perception is that the U.S. is at war with an enemy called al-Qaeda. Is this actually the case or is the claim an exaggerated piece of propaganda that has conveniently captured the minds of leaders whose abuse of power has become institutionalized?
In modern history “war” most often describes a condition of armed conflict between two or more states. War is also a condition that has a discernible beginning and a definite end. Your state officially declares war, you take territory, destroy the other state’s army, its government raises a white flag, signs a cease fire or, preferably, a peace treaty, and that’s that. Sometimes, a national government will want to hide the fact that the nation is at war and, as in the case of the United States in Korea (1950s) or in Vietnam (1960s), it does so through a blatant, but no less effective, bit of propaganda: in place of a declaration of war it goes about calling its violent behavior a “police action.” In truth, however, these add up to wars waged against other states. So, at least from the point of view of custom and tradition, not just any category of hostilities can be a “war.” For instance, feuds, vendettas, punitive actions, ethnic violence, tribal hostilities and the like, as bloody as they might be, are not traditionally thought of as wars.
al-Qaeda and the War Against Terror
Unfortunately, the traditional definition of what constitutes a war is changing and not for the better. Back in 2001 the United States was attacked by a shadowy organization called al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda was not a nation nor a government nor a state of any sort. Perhaps it was a loose collection of several thousand like-minded people bound together by an ideologically similar worldview, as well as a stark sense of being wronged. I think it is accurate to say that al-Qaeda devotees saw themselves “at war” with the United States because, they believed that the U.S. had attacked the Muslim “umma,” or community. Osama bin Ladin, the head of al-Qaeda, said as much in his public “declaration of jihad” released in 1996.
However, al-Qaeda’s perspective was not binding on the American government and, in truth, it makes no sense at all for the United States to say it is at war with an entity that, from the Western point of view, was, and to some extent still is, little more than a bunch of saboteurs.
Perhaps the speech writers and government public relations officers back in 2001 understood this dilemma and so, instead of declaring that the U.S. was at war with al-Qaeda, they concocted the term, “war on terror.” It was an interesting side-step, but it too made no sense. As has been said so many times before, terror is a tactic, and one that is used by many more groups than al-Qaeda. Governments too, even the U.S. government on too many occasions, use “state terror” against other peoples. Nonetheless, it was not long before U.S. officials and politicians were using the war on terror to justify all of its reactions to the 9/11 attacks.
Under the Bush administration this may have started out as propaganda. The president wanted war, but his targets were as yet conventional nation states. Bush was a cowboy, a “bring’em on” kind of guy, who was also prone to playing fast and loose with language and rules, to say nothing of truth. He did all of this to get at those on his “enemies list.” Al-Qaeda and the “war on terror” then, were tied to those states that Bush wanted to invade. Afghanistan was an obvious one, but really, for the administration, was an unavoidable diversion from more important targets. Soon after the 9/11 attacks Bush demanded that the Taliban rulers in Kabul turn over Osama bin Laden (who was a “guest” in that country). When they equivocated and asked for evidence that bin Laden was involved in the crime, Bush did not even answer. He just pulled the trigger.
Iraq was harder to bring off. The administration had to contrive a connection between bin Ladin and the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Then they arranged to supply themselves with falacious intelligence about alleged weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. If “operation Iraqi freedom” had gone as they expected, the next target was to be Iran.
None of this would have been possible if the 9/11 attacks had not put the entire country into a panic. It is moments like these when no one is thinking straight that one makes the mistakes which, in the future, one can’t help but regret. So, with nation running scared, our Congress passed the Authorization for the use of Military Force, which allowed the president to use military force against countries and groups that supported the 9/11 attacks. That was the turning point. With the “war on terror” as a one-size-fits-all cover, the government could say we were “at war” with the anyone allegedly tied to al-Qaeda and 9/11. Now, George W. Bush and his compatriots were unleashed.
Thanks to the Orwellian Patriot Act, another 2001 piece of legislative panic, the U.S. got suspension of habeas corpus, indefinite detention, searches and seizures without warrants, wiretaps without effective court oversight, and the FBI asserting the right to force your local librarian to tell them what books you borrow. All of which the American Civil Liberties Union correctly identifies as serious erosions to U.S. constitutional rights.
There is something disturbingly common about all of this. The “war on terror” that seems constituted to never end and the Patriot Act with which no real patriot could ever rest easy, are at once products of and facilitators for abusive impulses that, historically, people in power are both loath to admit to and equally loath to surrender.
To wit: Barrack Obama’s claim that he has “legal” justification (no one bothers claiming a moral justification) to kill anyone, including U.S. citizens, identified by some anonymous “informed high U.S. government official” as an al-Qaeda member posing an “imminent” danger to the United States.” There are all kinds of problems with this claim. As Marjorie Cohn has pointed out, clear evidence of an “imminent” attack is, in practice, not required. Just some official’s belief will do.
However, right now these are not the problems I wish to focus on. What interests me is that just about every modern U.S. president has broken domestic and international law in one way or another. While some turn out to be worse than others, they all do it. It doesn’t matter if it was Richard Nixon or Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter or Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush Sr. and certainly Jr., or Barack Obama. Nor, of course, is this loathsome phenomenon unique to our leaders in Washington. How come?
Here are some possible answers:
– An historical lack of accountability. Right from the founding of the nation there has been an unspoken assumption that, under certain circumstances, the president can break the law. Here are just a few early examples of this sort of notorious behavior: Andrew Jackson’s ignoring the Supreme Court in order to rob the Cherokee; James Polk’s lying to Congress so as to start a war with Mexico; Woodrow Wilson’s deplorable record of arresting and jailing non-violent dissidents during World War I. And, in each instance nothing happened to these presidents. They got away with breaking the laws they were sworn to uphold. This record inevitably has created a precedent that is for all intents and purposes institutionalized. Our modern presidents are just following the historical bearing.
I remember when Richard Nixon was exposed as a the “master mind” behind the Watergate burglary. Most people were going about saying that it was unthinkable to send a president to jail. My response at the time was that it was exactly because Nixon was the president that he must be sent to jail. Instead, he was pardoned and reemerged as the publicly acclaimed guru of foreign policy.
– Groupthink. When politicians run for office their constituency is the pool of voters who are eligible to elect them. They will speak to the likes and dislikes of the voters and propose policies that cater to their concerns. What happens after they are elected? The fact is that their constituency changes. In office, their immediate constituency becomes the political party to which they belong, its needs and, most significantly, its perceived obligations to the interest groups and lobbies which supply most of the party members with campaign funds.
This reorientation to a new constituency creates a narrowed informational environment. For instance, in the case of the president, information gathered by the mired intelligence agencies becomes acceptable or unacceptable according to its compatibility with the demands of the new constituency. The situation must influence who a president chooses for his advisers and cabinet members, for the entire group will now go about creating policies and proposing legislation shaped under the influence of these special interests. The whole process restructures the perception of what is politically desirable and what is politically possible.
Within this narrowed world, there exists the unspoken acceptance of criminal behavior on the part of the president, particularly in the realm of foreign policy. If there are disputes between Congress and the executive branch in regard to such behavior, the best one can hope for is a Congressional demand for oversight. So, in terms of drones and assassination, what you now have is the demand for some sort of judicial court (a sort of Star Chamber) to oversee the foul play. Otherwise, Congress and most of the special interest constituents accept the abuse as almost normal behavior. This makes the president’s cabinet room a safe haven for the creation and rationalization of criminal conspiracies.
There are no doubt other social forces at work that facilitate the creation of such policies as assassination, indefinite detention, torture and entrapment. But, with the exception of a handful of civil liberties organizations, there has been no popular resistance to the long term drift into official criminality. Today’s public, reconciled to all of this by propaganda and the fear it creates, will not protest in any politically significant way, even though polls indicate that, when asked, they are uneasy with all of it.
One suspects that none of this institutionalized abuse of power is really necessary to assure national security. With a bit of imagination and a lot of public discussion, other ways, compatible with the Constitution, can be devised to meet the safety needs of the community. But, alas, from within the walls of Washington’s narrowed informational environment, no one thinks outside the box, and no significant change for the better can be expected.
13. Historic Case to Challenge BBC’s 9/11 Coverage
By Peter Drew
Information Clearing House February 17, 2013
On February 25, in the small town of Horsham in the United Kingdom, there will be a rare and potentially groundbreaking opportunity for the 9/11 truth movement. Three hours of detailed 9/11 evidence is to be presented and considered in a court of law where the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) will be challenged over the inaccurate and biased manner in which it has portrayed the events and evidence of 9/11.
Over the last 16 months, BBC has been challenged strongly by individuals in the UK over two documentaries that they showed in September 2011 as part of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, namely ‘9/11: Conspiracy Road Trip’ and ‘The Conspiracy Files: 9/11 Ten Years On’. Formal complaints were lodged with BBC over the inaccuracy and bias of these documentaries, which, according to 9/11 activists, was in breach of the operating requirements of BBC through their ‘Royal Charter and Agreement’ with the British public. This document requires BBC to show information that is both accurate and impartial. These complaints were supported by the US-based educational charity Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911Truth), which submitted detailed scientific evidence to BBC to buttress the complaints. The evidence focuses in particular on the confirmed free-fall of WTC 7 and NIST’s 2008 admission of this fact. In addition, over 300 AE911Truth petition signers supported these complaints by sending letters to BBC, requesting that BBC show this evidence to the public.
As a continuation of this process with BBC, documentary film maker Tony Rooke has decided to take a personal stand on this issue. People in the United Kingdom are required to pay an annual TV licence fee which is used to fund BBC’s operations. Tony has refused to pay his TV licence fee on the basis of specific anti-terrorism legislation.
Section 15 of the UK Terrorism Act 2000, Article 3, states that it is offence to provide funds if there is a reasonable cause to suspect that those funds may be used for the purposes of terrorism. Tony’s claim is that BBC has withheld scientific evidence which demonstrates that the official version of the events of 9/11 is not possible and that BBC has actively attempted to discredit those people attempting to bring this evidence to the public. According to Rooke, by doing this, BBC is supporting a cover-up of the true events of 9/11 and is therefore potentially supporting those terrorist elements who were involved in certain aspects of 9/11 who have not yet been identified and held to account.
Rooke has been charged with a crime for not paying his TV Licence Fee. However, he has lodged a legal challenge to this charge and has now been successful in being granted an appearance in a Magistrate’s court, where he has three hours available to present his evidence to defend himself against the charge. Tony has put together a formidable team to support him in presenting the evidence, including the following two outstanding 9/11 researchers:
Professor Niels Harrit
Dr. Niels Harrit is a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Copenhagen and is one of the world’s leading experts on the scientific evidence that contradicts the official story of 9/11. Professor Harrit’s team of scientists in Copenhagen proved that there was nano-engineered thermitic residue, both ignited and unignited, throughout the dust of the three WTC towers. He led the team and published the peer-reviewed study in an official scientific journal. He is also an expert on the other aspects of scientific evidence indicating controlled demolition of the three towers.
Professor Harrit was interviewed for a major documentary with BBC in 2011 where BBC clearly attempted to harass and discredit him rather than look at the scientific evidence, which was devastating to the official story of the destruction of the Twin Towers. Professor Harrit’s team took the precautionary step of recording this interview, as well as the interaction before and after the interview, which clearly shows the harassment and highly inappropriate conduct by BBC
Tony Farrell is a former Intelligence Analyst for the South Yorkshire Police Department. He was fired in 2010 because he felt compelled by his conscience to tell the truth in his official report and state that, due to his extensive analysis of the events of 9/11 and the 7/7 London bombings, he considered that the greatest terrorist threat to the public did not come from Islamic extremists but from internal sources within the US and British establishment. He is now dedicating his life to helping to expose the evidence and he is challenging his dismissal through international court.
Other members of Rooke’s presentation team include:
Ian Henshall: Leading UK author on 9/11 and founder of the UK group ‘Re-investigate 9/11’
Ray Savage: Former counterterrorism officer who demonstrates the official 9/11 story is not true
Peter Drew: UK AE911Truth Action Group Facilitator
In addition to these presenters, there are detailed written testimonies of evidence and support from four other 9/11 researchers which will be deployed to bolster to Tony’s defence:
Richard Gage, AIA: Founder/CEO of Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth
Dwain Deets: Former NASA Director of Aerospace Projects
Erik Lawyer: Founder of Firefighters for 9/11 Truth
Jake Jacobs: Veteran US airline pilot and member of Pilots for 9/11 Truth
The evidence about 9/11 that will be presented by the various individuals above has rarely, if ever, been seen in any court of law in the United Kingdom, so this court case represents a unique and valuable opportunity for the 9/11 Truth movement.
We encourage all AE911Truth supporters and petition signers in the UK to attend this court hearing – the more the better. An outpouring of support will strengthen the message that the 9/11 truth movement needs to be heard and that there needs to be a new and independent 9/11 investigation.
The date and location of the hearing are as follows:
February 25th at 10:00 am
Horsham Magistrates’ Court [Court 3]
The Law Courts
For further information, please contact Peter Drew, AE911Truth UK Action Group Leader, at truthfor911 [at] hotmail.co.uk
This article was originally posted at Architects & Engineers For 9/11 Truth http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article33984.htm
______________________________________________________14. Is David Beckham little more than an Arabian figurehead?
As David Beckham strides on to the Paris stage a hero, is he actually part of a perilous game being played by the rulers of Qatar to position their country at the heart of world affairs?
The Independent Sunday 17 February 2013
Waiting for David in the concrete bowels of the Parc des Princes is a sweaty affair. More than 400 journalists have packed into a press room which can comfortably take 200 and usually attracts 20.
The boy David – at 37, there is something still irresistibly boyish about Beckham – has been undergoing a medical at the hospital where Diana, Princess of Wales, died in August 1997. He is late because his limousine has been stuck in the evening traffic on the Boulevard Périphérique.
As I look around the press room, a thought occurs to me. Beckham has become a global star, a celeb, or in French journalese, “un people”. Yet, of all the journalists impatiently waiting, the person who first heard the name Beckham is almost certainly me.
As a fan of Manchester United, I have followed the career of the Boy David since he really was a boy, playing in the Old Trafford youth teams. And here he is, two decades later, an international icon, about to sign a fat contract to play for Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), the richest club in the world.
Of course, Beckham, when he finally arrives, takes us all by surprise. He is signing a contract with PSG but will claim no salary. His wages will instead be given to a children’s charity in the Paris area.
Before Beckham speaks – confidently, charmingly, amusingly – he is introduced by Nasser al-Khelaifi, the president of PSG. Khelaifi says that Beckham will “add great value” to PSG and will be a “valuable asset”. He does not even bother to suggest that he means an “asset” on the field.
Once a professional tennis player, ranked 995th in the world, Khelaifi has many roles. One is president of PSG’s proprietor, Qatar Sports Investments, an arm of the Qatari government.
This is what makes the Beckham-to-PSG saga so intriguing – and potentially so hazardous for the Boy David. Beckham may appear in the red and blue of PSG for the first time this weekend, but he will not only be playing for PSG. He will be playing, too, for Qatar.
Chelsea FC have become the willing plaything of a super-rich Russian oligarch. Manchester City FC are the plaything of a super-rich Gulf family. Since 2011, PSG, the only professional football club in Paris, have been the tool – not the plaything – of a hyper-rich micro-state with tentacular ambitions. And the boy from the Manchester United youth teams, is, whether he knows it or not, part of a pharaonic project to turn a tiny country into an unchallengable global centre for sports and entertainment, culture and diplomacy. But especially of sport. And especially of football.
In the not-so-distant future, football fans could be cheering or cursing players discovered in third-world slums by Qatar, employed by a Qatari-owned club, wearing kit made by a Qatari sportswear company, playing on a Qatari-owned sports channel.
And British fans could be permanently watching British professional football in June and July – ending a winter tradition going back more than a century – because of the knock-on effects of world-football governing body Fifa’s dubious decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar (average summer temperature: 40C).
Though sport is only part of it. Qatar is now also the single largest global customer for modern art. Last year it broke the art- auction record and paid $250m for one of the four canvasses in Paul Cézanne’s “Card Players” series.
Qatar is also trying to buy into the world luxury-goods industry. And it has invested, massively, in real estate in both Paris and London, including taking ownership of the Shard building.
Qatar recently hosted the global conference on global warming, even though its carbon emissions are among the highest in the world and its extraordinary wealth is based entirely on oil and gas.
Qatar has played a pivotal – and increasingly disputed – role in the changes sweeping the Arab world: the Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera TV station began lambasting the corrupt, secular autocracies in Tunisia and Egypt long before the Arab Spring in 2011. Qatar also funded the Libyan rebels against Muammar Gaddafi. It even took part in the Franco-British airstrikes in Libya. And it is now sponsoring the rebels in Syria, despite having previously cosied up to Bashar al-Assad and Syria’s chief ally, Iran.
Yet, closer to home, Qatar takes a dimmer view of revolution or even democracy. An absolute monarchy, with no elected parliament, it discouraged the Arab Spring from spreading to neighbouring Bahrain. A Qatari poet who complained of enlightenment abroad and oppression at home was jailed last year.
None – or not much of this – is a secret or a surprise. It forms part of a 20-year plan published in 2008, called Qatar National Vision 2030. The document outlines a strategy for converting the emirate’s vast but ephemeral oil and gas wealth into a permanent and safe place among the most influential nations of the world.
And how does a 37-year-old footballer from Leytonstone, via Manchester, Madrid, Milan and Los Angeles, come to be a key piece of this masterplan? Qatar, before it discovered oil and the largest gas reserves on the planet, made its living from pearl-fishing in the Gulf. And it still fishes for pearls after its own fashion.
The roll call of great footballers, past and present, who are now on Qatar’s payroll in some way would make up a powerful squad. They include Zinedine Zidane, Pep Guardiola, Gabriel Batistuta and Roger Milla (hired as ambassadors for Qatar’s World Cup bid), Raul (playing in the Qatari league) and Zlatan Ibrahamovic and now David Beckham playing for PSG.
And why should PSG, who aspire to supplant Barcelona as the most successful team in the world, want a 37-year-old who has not played football at the highest professional level for three years? “He was the dream player for PSG and the Qataris because he links up so many things, from football to fashion,” says Nabil Ennasri, a French expert on Qatar, who will publish a book on the emirate next month (L’Enigme du Qatar). “PSG is Qatar’s sporting shop window. It is part of Qatar’s drive to acquire credibility as a football nation before the World Cup in 2022. Beckham takes the PSG project to a new level of notoriety and credibility, especially in Asia.
“And you have to remember that sport, and especially football, is the single most important lever in Qatar’s drive to reinvent itself as a global centre of ‘soft power’. Sport reaches millions of people and represents positive values. In Qatari terms, it is a relatively cheap way for a small, vulnerable country to put itself on the map.”
Positive values? Maybe. But just as Qatar’s political activism is beginning to create a backlash in the Arab world, so its relentless sports activism is starting to generate a negative reaction in the sports world and beyond.
Two days before Beckham had signed for PSG, the magazine France Football published an 18-page dossier headlined “Qatargate”. It detailed the many ways in which Qatar’s money legally – and, allegedly, illegally – influenced Fifa’s decision to award the 2022 World Cup to a country of 200,000 people (plus 1.7 million immigrant workers), which ranks 106th in the world of football.
The impossibly high summer temperatures in the Gulf mean that there is now a campaign – led by, among others, Michel Platini, president of the European football-association Uefa – for the 2022 World Cup to be shifted to November or December, which would mess up the traditional August-to-May pattern of the professional football season in Europe. “So what?” some influential voices (including Platini) are saying. Qatar 2022 provides the perfect opportunity to create a permanent, fine-weather season for European club football, starting in February and ending in October or November.
The idea is popular in Germany, where there is no dominant summer sport, such as cricket. Yet it would be greeted with nothing less than outrage in Britain.
There is some evidence that the PSG-Beckham deal, which initially fell through 12 months ago, was revived rapidly when Qatar got wind of the coming France Football investigation. Qatar needed an “equaliser” in a hurry, to promote the positive values it wishes to be associated with through sport.
The Beckham-plays-for-charity idea was dreamt up by the Qataris, according to someone familiar with the inner workings of PSG. A year ago, there was an outcry in France at Beckham’s putative €800,000-a-month wages. But while “buying” Beckham for a vast salary might have been counter-productive, Beckham playing for a kids’ charity – whatever the unrevealed small print – would offer a double helping of worldwide publicity and “positive values”.
This was a great coup for Qatar but not necessarily in the long term for Beckham. At the press conference in the Parc des Princes, Beckham made it clear that he planned to remain on the PSG-Qatari payroll beyond the end of this season. He may become the figurehead, it is reported, for a Qatari move to buy a professional sports club in the United States. He will almost certainly become a Qatari ambassador for the 2022 World Cup. But will this include annoying British fans by speaking out in favour of summer club soccer? Is the Boy David in danger of straying offside? Should we all be scared of Qatar?
atar is a flat thumb 100 miles long and 50 miles wide jutting northwards into the Persian Gulf between the island of Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Until 1971 it was a British protectorate. Its annual GDP is estimated at $180bn. If that were divided equally between the 200,000 Qataris (which of course it isn’t), they would have an average income of $900,000 a year for every man, woman and child. However, the actual population of Qatar, as alluded to earlier, is 1,900,000, about 90 per cent of whom are immigrants – mostly lowly paid construction and domestic workers from the Indian subcontinent and east Asia.
In other words, Qatar is a small, absurdly rich country in the middle of the most unstable, explosive region of the world. For the Qatari royal family, long-term security has become an obsession: the preservation of Qatari independence; the preservation of Qatar’s moderate- conservative tradition of society and Islam; and, of course, the preservation of the Qatari royal family.
Two dates and two events are crucial in understanding Qatar, according to Nabil Ennasri. In August 1990, Kuwait was invaded by a “brother” nation, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, provoking the first Gulf War. And in 1995, the present Qatari Emir, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, deposed his father in a bloodless coup.
“Kuwait was the Qatar of the 1970s and 1980s,” Ennasri explains. “It invested hugely in Europe and the United States. But that didn’t stop Kuwait from being invaded by Iraq. Then, when the Emir deposed his father in 1995, the Saudis and some people in the Emirates tried to reverse the coup. Both these lessons were learnt by the Emir. He decided that, to survive, Qatar must use its wealth not simply to invest abroad, but to reinvent itself, through soft power, as a leading player in the world, one whose interests would become intertwined with the interests of those countries – the US, Britain, France – which have traditional economic and military and cultural strength.
“So, if I am asked, ‘Should we be scared of Qatar?,’ I say no. They are like any other country. They are trying to defend and protect their own interests, through soft power – sporting, cultural, diplomatic – not through hard power.”
To this should be added intense competition for regional and global influence – bordering on hatred – between Qatar and Saudi Arabia. There is also a nouveaux riche competition between Qatar and the leading Emirates – Dubai, Abu Dhabi – amounting to a parable of the talents: who can best employ the fantastic, but finite, wealth in the ground of the Arabian peninsula to ensure not just long-term prosperity and survival but lasting power?
One has to admire – even marvel at – the sweep and complexity of the vision of the Emir of Qatar (and it is said to be largely his own vision). His country, which has no sporting tradition, is to become the nerve centre of world sport. It will have art collections to rival those of European capitals. It will promote education, literacy and action against climate change.
Importantly, Qatar will also become a junction box of a global “knowledge economy”. It already has an Education City and a Science and Technology Park, while Al-Jazeera television, now planning to create a US-based news channel, gives Qatar a stake and a voice in the new global media village.
Al-Jazeera offers a Qatari take on world and regional events, which is radically different in its English and Arabic language versions: moderate and reformist in English; Islamist-conservative and anti-Israeli in Arabic.
The role of sport – and especially football – is to give Qatar visibility and credibility from the suburbs of Manchester to the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Qatar has already hosted the Asian Games. It has been given the 2022 World Cup. It bid unsuccessfully for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics. It is bidding again for 2024. The Tour of Qatar cycle race attracted k some of the biggest names in the sport, including the British rider Mark Cavendish, earlier this month.
Al-Jazeera, meanwhile, is also moving into sport, launching a subsidiary in France that has bought the rights to all French and some Champions League games.
Qatar further hopes to build up its Burrda sports brand to rival Nike. It owns PSG. It sponsors Barcelona FC through the nonprofit Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development. And since 2005, the Aspire sports academy in Doha, with its 14 well-equipped subsidiaries around the world, has “detected” 500,000 sports stars of the future.
The best boys (though very few girls) are brought from third-world slums to Qatar, where they train alongside members of the professional clubs that hire the extraordinary Aspire facilities at cheap rates. Recent visitors have included Manchester United and Bayern Munich. Qatar has been accused of trying to persuade some of these “stars of the future” to become Qataris to give the emirate a respectable squad for the 2022 World Cup. Though Fifa has clamped down on that dodge, other sports are said to be more flexible.
More than €150bn is being spent on new stadia and other facilities before 2022, and immense armies of low-paid immigrant labourers have been imported to carry out the work. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) is desperately worried by the working conditions, and understandably so: there were 73 deaths last year alone, according to the Nepali government, and Sharan Burrow, the ITUC leader, has warned that more people may die building the stadia than will play in them in 2022.
All of this may be relentless , even obsessive – but it is not illegal. Qatar’s Achilles’ heel, however – the point where “positive” values from sport may become negative – is the very jewel of the 2022 World Cup. The France Football investigation last month claimed that new evidence had been discovered by Fifa’s ethics committee regarding the means used by tiny Qatar in December 2010 to beat the United States, among others, to the 2022 prize. One example: Qatar paid for the African football federation’s annual conference and insisted that delegates from other bidding countries should be kept away.
Some say that Qatar merely employed on a larger scale the doubtful methods countries have always used to “win” World Cups. However, Mark Pieth, the Swiss lawyer who presides over the Fifa ethics commission, told France Football: “There has existed for some time a real bundle of evidence [of illegal inducements] by Qatar [before the 2022 vote].” For its part, Qatar insists it has broken no rules and no laws.
“The problem with Qatar is that it has no brakes,” one former diplomat in the region tells me. “Its leaders are very intelligent and probably well-intentioned for the most part, but they suffer from the dual handicap of being inconceivably rich and largely unaccountable. They don’t seem to know when to stop or to grasp that their incessant activity is beginning to damage, rather than advance their own cause.”
There is already a backlash in the Middle East against Qatar’s political hyper-activism and especially against the role of Al-Jazeera. Qatar has tried to be on both sides of all arguments (hosting the huge US Central Command military base but also a Taliban office). It made friends with Iran (to the fury of Riyadh). It had good relations with Hezbollah in Lebanon and gave the Syrian president Bashir Assad a presidential jet. Then, having supported the rebellions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, it dumped Assad and became the pay-master of the rebels in Syria. All to what end?
“At the core there is a kind of pragmatism,” believes one Qatar-watcher in the United States. “Qatar believes that it can become a kind of balancing point, the indispensable broker for a relatively moderate, reformist but also conservative Middle East. It wants to pick the winners and be on the right side of an emerging new order. But it’s in danger of overreaching. Its role and ambitions are increasingly distrusted, especially by the liberal-minded. You see Qatari flags being burnt by the pro-liberal demonstrators in Egypt.”
Is the same kind of backlash about to happen in the world of sport? “It can’t be ruled out,” says Nabil Ennasri. “If it emerges that they went beyond the normal processes of Fifa lobbying, that could be very embarrassing, very difficult for Qatar. On the other hand, can you really imagine a decision to take the 2022 World Cup away from them if that means that €150bn in building contracts for European firms go up in smoke? Their fundamental goal has been to create a world in which Qatar’s interests are inextricably entwined with international interests. We may already be there.”
All the same, a stinking row about the 2022 World Cup now seems inevitable. The pressure to switch the competition to the cooler temperatures of a Gulf winter is being used by Michel Platini and others to push for a permanent redrawing of traditional football season boundaries.
The president of Bayern Munich, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who also acts as president of the association of European clubs, is in favour. “The best part of the year is the summer and that’s exactly the time when we don’t play,” he told France Football. “I believe we’re moving rapidly in [that] direction.”
But it is a push that will be far from universally admired, and Qatar’s bid for global influence and popularity will scarcely be helped by association with an unpopular earthquake in sports timetabling. Nor would it help the popularity of David Beckham as a Qatari sports ambassador.
The Boy David’s alliance with the tiny Goliath of the Gulf may yet prove to be not quite the win-win that it appears.
RESEARCH AND INFORMATION NETWORK (RAIN)
Director : Abie Dawjee
P O Box 37670, Overport City, Durban, South Africa 4067.