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  • Why Reams of Intelligence Did Not Thwart the Paris Attacks

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    PARIS — The bloody denouement on Friday of two hostage crises at different ends of a traumatized Paris means attention will now shift to the gaping question facing the French government: How did several jihadists — and possibly a larger cell of co-conspirators — manage to evade surveillance and execute a bold attack despite being well known to the country’s police and intelligence services?

    On its own, the Wednesday morning slaughter that left 12 people dead at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo represented a major breakdown for French security and intelligence forces, especially after the authorities confirmed that the two suspects, the brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, had known links to the militant group Al Qaeda in Yemen.

    President François Hollande after holding a crisis meeting.Days of Sirens, Fear and Blood: ‘France Is Turned Upside Down’ JAN. 9, 2015
    Andrew Parker, the directory general of MI5, said militants were planning attacks in Britain similar to the one in Paris.In Britain, Spy Chief Calls for More Power for AgencyJAN. 9, 2015
    Then on Friday, even as the police had cornered the Kouachi brothers inside a printing factory in the northeast suburbs, another militant, Amedy Coulibaly — who has since been linked to the Kouachis — stormed a kosher supermarket in Paris and threatened to kill hostages if the police captured the Kouachis.

    Mohammed Benali is president of a mosque in Gennevilliers where, he said, Chérif Kouachi was an infrequent visitor. Credit Agnes Dherbeys for The New York Times
    “There is a clear failing,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls told French television on Friday night. “When 17 people die, it means there were cracks.”

    An American official speaking about the failure to identify the plot said that French intelligence and law enforcement agencies had conducted surveillance on one or both of the Kouachi brothers after Saïd returned from Yemen, but later reduced that monitoring or dropped it altogether to focus on what were believed to be bigger threats.

    “These guys were known to be bad, and the French had tabs on them for a while,” said the American official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid complicating a delicate intelligence matter. “At some point, though, they allocated resources differently. They moved on to other targets.”

    The official acknowledged that American spy agencies tracked Westerners, particularly young men, traveling in and out of Yemen much more closely after a failed Qaeda plot to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day 2009.

    But the official said the United States left the monitoring of the Kouachi brothers and other French citizens in France to that country’s security services.

    One reason for the lapses may be that the number of possible jihadists inside France has continued to expand sharply. France has seen 1,000 to 2,000 of its citizens go to fight in Syria or Iraq, with about 200 returning, and the task of surveillance has grown overwhelming.

    The questions facing French intelligence services will begin with the attack at Charlie Hebdo.

    Continue reading the main story
    The Links Among the Paris Terror Suspects and Their Connections to Jihad
    Where their lives intersected and what may have influenced them.

    The authorities knew that striking the satirical newspaper and its editor for their vulgar treatment of the Prophet Muhammad had been a stated goal of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, through its propaganda journal, Inspire.

    Intelligence officers had also identified the Kouachi brothers as being previously involved in jihad-related activities, for which Chérif was convicted in 2008. Investigators have also linked Chérif to a plot to free from prison an Islamic militant convicted in the 1995 bombing of a French subway station, while French news organizations have reported that Mr. Coulibaly was also implicated in that case.

    Continue reading the main story
    Much remains unclear about the three suspects and whether they were working in a coordinated fashion. But the French apparently knew, or presumably should have known, either on their own or through close intelligence cooperation with the United States, that Saïd had traveled to Yemen in 2011.

    News reports on Friday said that Saïd had met with the American-born Anwar al-Awlaki, a member and propagandist for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, who was later killed by an American drone strike.

    Security officials and acquaintances said that Mr. Kouachi’s travels in Yemen stretched from 2009 until at least 2012.

    Mohammed al-Kibsi, a journalist, said he met Mr. Kouachi in Sana, the Yemeni capital, in January 2010. At the time, Mr. Kibsi was working on an article about Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009, in a plot that intelligence officials believe was guided by Mr. Awlaki.

    While looking for Mr. Abdulmutallab’s house, Mr. Kibsi said, he came across Mr. Kouachi playing soccer with a group of children. Mr. Kouachi told him that he and Mr. Abdulmutallab were friends: They had lived together for a week or two, a few months before the bombing attempt. They were both learning Arabic at the Sana Institute for Arabic Language, and both worshiped at the same local mosque, he said.

    Continue reading the main story
    Tracking the Aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo Attack
    A visual timeline of the attack and the events that followed.

    Mr. Kouachi was “so friendly” and spoke using a mix of English and French, Mr. Kibsi said, adding that he saw Mr. Kouachi on at least two other occasions, at a different Arabic institute in Sana’s old city.

    It was not immediately clear whether Mr. Kouachi studied at Al-Iman University, an ultraconservative religious center with links to militants that Mr. Abdulmutallab attended.

    Yemen has been an American priority, not a French one, making it likely that the Kouachi brothers and Mr. Coulibaly were put lower on the priority list, intelligence analysts said Friday.

    Indeed, Mr. Coulibaly apparently met President Nicolas Sarkozy in July 2009, according to the French newspaper Le Parisien. At a news media event to encourage youth employment, Mr. Coulibaly was scheduled to be among a group of nine people who had taken part in a work-training program and was working at a Coca-Cola factory in the Parisian suburbs.

    “It is a pleasure to meet the president,” he told a journalist before the meeting. “I don’t know what I’m going to say to him. I will start with, ‘Good morning!’ ”

    The authorities released pictures of Mr. Coulibaly and a companion, Hayat Boumeddiene, 26, though it was not clear what became of her and how deep her links were to the group.

    On Friday, even as the Kouachi brothers were confronting the police several miles away, people in the Gennevilliers suburb where Chérif lived described a man who, by appearances, was a devout and solemn Muslim, if giving a few hints of extremism.

    Continue reading the main storyVideo

    PLAY VIDEO|2:10
    Paris Terror Suspect Shown in 2005 Film
    Paris Terror Suspect Shown in 2005 Film
    Chérif Kouachi, one of the suspects in the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, appeared in a 2005 investigative documentary about jihadism that aired on French television. Video by France3, via INA on Publish Date January 8, 2015. Photo by Pièces à Conviction, France3.
    Mohammed Benali, president of the mosque in Gennevilliers, said Chérif Kouachi was an infrequent visitor who was polite, was shaven, wore jeans, and showed no signs of radicalization — “except for one incident.”

    Continue reading the main storyContinue reading the main storyContinue reading the main story
    During France’s recent election, the imam consecrated a Friday Prayer to the importance of voting, which prompted Mr. Kouachi to jump up abruptly in the prayer hall and begin arguing that it was un-Islamic to vote.

    “Our security personnel escorted him outside,” Mr. Benali said. “They tried to calm him down. They asked him to respect our mosque and our people.”

    Chérif Kouachi was a familiar figure among some neighborhood shopkeepers, who regarded him as a serious Muslim. The owner of a bakery said that whenever Chérif came inside, his wife remained outside the glass door.

    Inside the apartment building where Chérif lived on the fourth floor, he was described as polite, someone who helped women carry grocery bags up the stairwell during the frequent breakdowns of the elevator. Some neighbors said they saw his wife fully covered in a niqab. Others said they assumed that he lived alone.

    “I always thought that he was single,” said one 24-year-old woman, who like others asked not to be identified. “He was always alone. I saw him once with a friend.”

    For the French authorities, the basic questions are why they had not monitored the three men more aggressively and why the offices of Charlie Hebdo were not better protected.

    Continue reading the main story

    Inside Charlie Hebdo After the Attack
    Inside Charlie Hebdo After the AttackJAN. 09, 2015

    Aftermath of Paris Terror Attack
    Aftermath of Paris Terror AttackJAN. 07, 2015
    Before Paris Shooting, Authors Tapped Into Mood of a France ‘Homesick at Home’
    Before Paris Shooting, Authors Tapped Into Mood of a France ‘Homesick at Home’JAN. 09, 2015

    A Timeline of Threats and Acts of Violence Over Blasphemy and Insults to Islam
    A Timeline of Threats and Acts of Violence Over Blasphemy and Insults to Islam JAN. 08, 2015
    “The problem we face is that even though there are not that many radicalized Muslims in France, there are enough of them to make it difficult to physically follow everyone with a suspicious background,” said Camille Grand, a former French official and director of the Foundation for Strategic Research, an independent Paris group.

    “It’s one thing to listen to the phone calls or watch their travel, but it’s another to put someone under permanent physical surveillance, or even follow all their phone conversations full time for so many people,” he added.

    Jean-Charles Brisard, head of the French Center for Analysis of Terrorism, praised the security response and said there were simply not enough police and security officers to keep full monitoring on everyone who goes through prison.

    “It’s a problem of resources,” Mr. Brisard said.

    He added that the authorities had Chérif Kouachi under surveillance “for a period of time, but then they judged that there was no threat, or the threat was lower, and they had other priorities.”

    “We are understaffed,” complained an officer involved in the search of Chérif Kouachi’s apartment in Gennevilliers. “We would need to triple our staff to better protect the city.”

    President François Hollande went on television Friday — before the two standoffs had ended — to try to reassure the nation, and he visited the Interior Ministry headquarters to supervise the police action.

    The attacks were likely to aggravate the problems of Mr. Hollande, already widely considered weak and indecisive. Moreover, serious internal questions are also likely, as they were after Mohammed Merah, who had been known to the police and intelligence services, killed seven people in southwestern France in 2012, saying that he was acting on behalf of Al Qaeda.

    It later emerged that Mr. Merah had traveled to Afghanistan, and that the Americans had alerted the French, who had not reacted with sufficient attention in what was considered an operational failure.

    Jean-Louis Bruguière, a former presidential adviser on terrorism and a former antiterrorism judge who knew Chérif Kouachi when he was arrested in 2005, said that the authorities could not monitor every person of interest. “You can’t keep a policeman tracking every single one of them,” he said, noting that he had interviewed hundreds of aspiring jihadists.

    Correction: January 17, 2015
    Because of an editing error, an article last Saturday about questions concerning how the jihadists responsible for the murders of 17 people in Paris were able to execute brazen attacks despite being known to the authorities referred incorrectly to the director of the Foundation for Strategic Research, who was quoted in the article. The director, Camille Grand, is a man.

    Reporting was contributed by Rukmini Callimachi, Laure Fourquet and Assia Labbas from Paris, Eric Schmitt from Washington, and Shuaib Almosawa from Sana, Yemen.


    Find this story at 9 January 2015

    © 2015 The New York Times Company


    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    UPDATED — A source within al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has provided The Intercept with a full statement claiming responsibility for the attack against the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris:

    Some ask the relationship between Al-Qaeda Organization and the (brothers) who carried out the #CharlieHebdo operation. Was it direct? Was the operation supervised by the Al-Qaeda wing in the Arabian Peninsula?

    The leadership of #AQAP directed the operation, and they have chosen their target carefully as a revenge for the honor of Prophet (pbuh)

    The target was in France in particular because of its obvious role in the war on Islam and oppressed nations.

    The operation was the result of the threat of Sheikh Usama (RA). He warned the West about the consequences of the persistence in the blasphemy against Muslims’ sanctities.

    Sheikh Usama (RA) said in his message to the West: If there is no check on the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions.

    The Organization delayed to claim responsibility due to the executors’ security reasons. Nevertheless, the operation carries a number of important messages to all the Western countries.

    One: Touching Muslims’ sanctity and protecting those who make blasphemy have dear price and the punishment will be severe.

    Two: The crimes of the Western countries, above them America, Britain and France will backfire deep in their home.

    Three: The policy of hitting the snake’s head followed by the Al-Qaeda organization under the leadership of Adhawahiri is still achieving its goals; until the West retreats.

    Four: The inspiring media policies of the Mujahideen of Al-Qaeda especially of Inspire Magazine has greatly succeeded in identifying its targets and collecting powers.

    One of the cartoonists’ name and photo were put down in Inspire’s wanted poster, dead or alive. The Western regimes should wait for harm and destruction by the Might of Allah.

    I hope the brothers will distribute these tweets and translate them so that they reach the greatest audience. {And Allah has full power and control over His Affairs, but most of men know not.}

    Arabic-language excerpts from the statement are being circulated widely on Twitter. AQAP has not made any claims of responsibility through its official communication channels. A prominent AQAP cleric released an audio recording today praising the attack, but made no reference to AQAP playing an operational role. [Update: Shortly after The Intercept published this statement, an AQAP official, Bakhsaruf al-Danqaluh, tweeted, in Arabic, the exact paragraphs the AQAP source provided us. This is still not an official AQAP claim of responsibility, but it suggests such a statement may be forthcoming or is being internally debated within the group.]

    Earlier in the afternoon, a source within al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula gave The Intercept a separate message praising the attack on Charlie Hebdo. “The lions of Jihad have stood. The followers of Muhammad – peace be upon him – have never forgotten,” the message declared. “Do not look for links or affiliation with Jihadi fronts. It is enough they are Muslims. They are Mujahideen. This is the Jihad of the Ummah. So France, are you ready for more attacks?”

    From the Winter 2014 issue of AQAP’s Inspire, a Muslim prays next to a pressure cooker, above an image of a French passport.
    The source, who demanded anonymity because the group had not yet released an official statement, also told The Intercept that two images in the latest issue of its publication, Inspire, published in December, contained a clue foreshadowing the attack on Charlie Hebdo. One image (at right, click to enlarge) shows a Muslim kneeling in prayer with a cooking pot similar to the one used by the Boston marathon bombers. “If you have the knowledge and inspiration all that’s left is to take action.” On the page immediately below it is a picture of a French passport. Throughout the day, several AQAP members have been praising the attack on social media and discussion sites. An AQAP source pointed The Intercept to a recording they claim is Cherif Kouachi, one of the suspects, acknowledging that his trips to Yemen in 2011 were “financed” by U.S.-born radical imam Anwar al Awlaki and that he was sent to Yemen by AQAP.

    The full message provided by the AQAP source, which references Inspire‘s previous threats to attack media outlets that publish demeaning pictures of the Prophet Muhammad, is here:

    Freedom of Speech

    Freedom of speech! Journalist! Newspaper! It is a war on freedom of speech. It is a war on journalism. These words kept belching out of many mouths. All are well aware of what this magazine published. “It was just satirical,” some argued. I find it funny how this type of people think. “It is a crime for a journalist to be killed,” they claim … I would like to pose some questions to them:

    Was it a crime to kill Sheikh Anwar Al-‘Awlaki for his da’wah?

    Was it a crime to kill Samir Khan for being a member of Inspire Team?

    Was it a crime to kill Fuad Al-Hadhrami, the brother who accompanied journalists in S.Yemen?

    Charlie Hebdo’s editor-in-chief Gerard Biard remarked he didn’t “understand how people can attack a newspaper with heavy weapons. A newspaper is not a weapon of war.” Isn’t Inspire a magazine? Are we to conclude that drones and missiles aren’t heavy weapons?

    Where are your values in that regard?

    The Charlie magazine team deserved what they got. Many warnings have been given before, but they were persistent. They had the freedom to use cartoons in their magazine, and we have the freedom to use bullets from our magazines. As the ‘Wanted List’ stated: A bullet a day, keeps the kaffir away. Yes, Charb is no more. The lions of Jihad have stood. The followers of Muhammad – peace be upon him – have never forgotten. As Sheikh Anwar Rahimahullah put it: The Dust Will Never Settle Down.

    Do not look for links or affiliation with Jihadi fronts. It is enough they are Muslims. They are Mujahideen. This is the Jihad of the Ummah. So France, are you ready for more attacks; Weren’t you asked by Inspire Magazine immediately after the Wanted List:

    So, why is France so thick in learning from its past mistakes? Is it leaving Paris undefended once again? Woe upon you from tens of Muhammad Merah!

    You come third in the target list, after US and Britain. If I were the latter, I would rather pull my sleeves up.

    Earlier in the day, the French government announced that the suspects in the Charlie Hebdo massacre have been killed following a stand-off at a printing plant outside of Paris. U.S. and French intelligence agencies are aggressively investigating the travel history and associations of the two brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi. The brothers both claim to have spent time in Yemen. Agence France Press reports that Said traveled multiple times to Yemen from 2009-2013 and studied at Sana’a’s Iman University, founded by radical preacher Abdel Majid al-Zindani.

    A senior Yemeni intelligence official told Reuters that Said traveled to Yemen in 2011 and met with Awlaki, who was infamous for his sermons and writings calling for Muslims in Western countries to conduct terrorist attacks. Anonymous U.S. officials have alleged in various news reports that Said received training from Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and a witness to the shooting told French media that one of the shooters claimed that they were from AQAP. “We do not have confirmed information that he was trained by al Qaeda but what was confirmed was that he has met with Awlaki in Shabwah,” the Yemeni official told Reuters. Awlaki, along with another U.S. citizen, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in northern Yemen ordered by President Obama in September 2011.

    Said Kouachi
    A senior Yemeni official told The Intercept that the French government has not yet formally requested the Yemeni government’s assistance or cooperation in their investigation. “France has not approached us in any official way yet,” the official said. “The [Yemeni] government is waiting for a French inquiry.”

    The Intercept granted the Yemeni official anonymity because he is not authorized to speak about the matter absent an official French inquiry and because anonymous U.S. and Yemeni officials are making contradictory claims. The official said that many French nationals have traveled to Yemen, sometimes on passports from other nations.

    Awlaki was very public in his calls for assassinating cartoonists and attacking media outlets that published demeaning images of Prophet Mohammed.


    In June 2010, AQAP published its first issue of an English language publication, Inspire. “Allah says: ‘And inspire the believers to fight,’” read the opening line of the letter from Inspire’s unnamed editor. “It is from this verse that we derive the name of our new magazine.” Inspire, the editor wrote, was “the first magazine to be issued by the al-Qaeda Organization in the English language. In the West; in East, West and South Africa; in South and Southeast Asia and elsewhere are millions of Muslims whose first or second language is English. It is our intent for this magazine to be a platform to present the important issues facing the ummah [community] today to the wide and dispersed English speaking Muslim readership.”

    The issue of Inspire featured an “exclusive” interview with the head of AQAP, Nasir al Wuhayshi, also known as Abu Basir, as well as translated works from bin Laden and Zawahiri. It also included an essay praising Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the failed underwear bomber. The magazine was well produced, with a layout that resembled a typical U.S. teen magazine, though without fashionably dressed women and celebrities. Instead, it featured photos of children alleged to have been killed in U.S. missile strikes and pictures of armed, masked jihadis. An article written under the byline “AQ Chef” and titled “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom” provided instructions on how to manufacture explosive devices from basic household goods. Another article gave detailed directions on how to download military-grade encryption software for sending e-mails and text messages.

    Perhaps most disturbing, the magazine contained a “Hit List” of people who it alleged had created “blasphemous caricatures” of the Prophet Muhammad. In late 2005, the Danish publication Jyllands-Posten commissioned a dozen cartoons of the Prophet, ostensibly to contribute to a debate about self-censorship within Islam. It had enraged Muslims across the world at the time, sparked massive protests and resulted in death threats and bomb threats against the newspaper. The hit list published by Inspire included magazine editors, anti-Muslim pundits who had defended the cartoons, as well as the novelist Salman Rushdie. But it also included Molly Norris, a Seattle-based cartoonist who initiated “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.” Norris said she did it in response to the U.S. Comedy Central network’s decision to edit out a scene in its popular animated program South Park that addressed the controversy, after receiving a threat.

    Anwar Al-Awlaki at Dar al Hijrah Mosque on October 4 2001 in Falls Church, VA. (Photo by Tracy Woodward/The Washington Post).
    Anwar Al-Awlaki
    Inspire’s hit list was accompanied by an essay penned by Awlaki encouraging Muslims to attack those who defame the image of Mohammed. “I would like to express my thanks to my brothers at Inspire for inviting me to write the main article for the first issue of their new magazine. I would also like to commend them for having this subject, the defense of the Messenger of Allah, as the main focus of this issue,” Awlaki wrote. He then laid out a defense for assassinating those who engaged in blasphemy of Mohammed. “The large number of participants makes it easier for us because there are more targets to choose from in addition to the difficulty of the government offering all of them special protection.” He continued:
    “But even then our campaign should not be limited to only those who are active participants. These perpetrators are not operating in a vacuum. Instead they are operating within a system that is offering them support and protection. The government, political parties, the police, the intelligence services, blogs, social networks, the media, and the list goes on, are part of a system within which the defamation of Islam is not only protected but promoted. The main elements in this system are the laws that make this blasphemy legal. Because they are practicing a “right” that is defended by the law, they have the backing of the entire Western political system. This would make the attacking of any Western target legal from an Islamic viewpoint….Assassinations, bombings, and acts of arson are all legitimate forms of revenge against a system that relishes the sacrilege of Islam in the name of freedom.”

    When Inspire was published, some within the U.S. intelligence community panicked. The first concern was protecting the people who had been identified as targets for assassination. The FBI took immediate precautions to guard the Seattle cartoonist, whom they feared could be murdered. She eventually changed her name and moved. Law enforcement agencies in other countries took similar measures.


    If Awlaki met with Said Kouachi in Yemen, it would not be the first time he met with young Muslims who went on to attempt or conduct terrorist attacks. In the aftermath of the failed Christmas day attack on an airplane over Detroit, the young Nigerian man who attempted to detonate an explosive device sewn into his underwear was presented as an AQAP operative who had been sent on a suicide mission by Anwar Awlaki. Yemeni intelligence officials told the United States that Abdulmutallab had traveled to Awlaki’s tribal area of Shabwah in October 2009. There, they say, he hooked up with members of AQAP. A U.S. government source said that the National Security Agency had intercepted “voice-to-voice communication” between Abdulmutallab and Awlaki in the fall of 2009 and had determined that Awlaki “was in some way involved in facilitating this guy’s transportation or trip through Yemen. It could be training, a host of things. I don’t think we know for sure,” the anonymous source told the Washington Post.

    A local tribal leader from Shabwah, Mullah Zabara, later told me he had seen the young Nigerian at the farm of Fahd al Quso, the alleged USS Cole bombing conspirator. “He was watering trees,” Zabara told me. “When I saw [Abdulmutallab], I asked Fahd, ‘Who is he?’” Quso told Zabara the young man was from a different part of Yemen, which Zabara knew was a lie. “When I saw him on TV, then Fahd told me the truth.”

    UNSPECIFIED – UNDATED: This undated handout image provided by the U.S. Marshals Service on December 28, 2009 shows Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. Abdulmutallab, 23, is a Nigerian man suspected of attempting to blow up Northwest 253 flight as it was landing in Detroit on Christmas day. (Photo by U.S. Marshals Service via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab
    Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab
    Awlaki’s role in the “underwear plot” was unclear. Awlaki later claimed that Abdulmutallab was one of his “students.” U.S. officials insist Awlaki played an operational role in the plot. Tribal sources in Shabwah told me that al Qaeda operatives reached out to Awlaki to give religious counseling to Abdulmutallab, but that Awlaki was not involved in the plot. While praising the attack, Awlaki said he had not been involved with its conception or planning. “Yes, there was some contact between me and him, but I did not issue a fatwa allowing him to carry out this operation,” Awlaki told journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye in an interview for Al Jazeera a few weeks after the attempted attack: “I support what Umar Farouk has done after I have been seeing my brothers being killed in Palestine for more than sixty years, and others being killed in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And in my tribe too, U.S. missiles have killed” women and “children, so do not ask me if al-Qaeda has killed or blown up a US civil[ian] jet after all this. The 300 Americans are nothing comparing to the thousands of Muslims who have been killed.”
    Part of this article was adapted from Jeremy Scahill’s book, Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield.

    Photo: Michel Euler/AP; Kouachi: Direction centrale de la Police judiciaire/Getty; Al-Awlaki: Tracy Woodward/The Washington Post/Getty; Abdulmutallab: U.S. Marshals/Getty

    Email the author: jeremy.scahill@theintercept.com

    BY JEREMY SCAHILL @jeremyscahill 01/09/2015

    Find this story at 9 January 2015

    Copyright https://firstlook.org/theintercept/

    El terror en París: raíces profundas y lejanas CHARLIE HEBDO.

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    * Una versión muy resumida de esta nota, escrita ayer “en caliente” ni bien enterado de los hechos, fue publicada en el día de hoy, 8 de Enero de 2015, por Página/12. Ahora, con más tiempo, la doy a conocer con todos sus detalles.

    (Atilio A. Boron ) El atentado terrorista perpetrado en las oficinas de Charlie Hebdo debe ser condenado sin atenuantes. Es un acto brutal, criminal, que no tiene justificación alguna. Es la expresión contemporánea de un fanatismo religioso que -desde tiempos inmemoriales y en casi todas las religiones conocidas- ha plagado a la humanidad con muertes y sufrimientos indecibles. La barbarie perpetrada en París concitó el repudio universal. Pero parafraseando a un enorme intelectual judío del siglo XVII, Baruch Spinoza, ante tragedias como esta no basta con llorar, es preciso comprender. ¿Cómo dar cuenta de lo sucedido?

    Cabu, Wolinski, Charb y Tignous; los dibujantes muertos por el ataque terrorista a Charlie Hebdo. Fotos: EFE

    La respuesta no puede ser simple porque son múltiples los factores que se amalgamaron para producir tan infame masacre. Descartemos de antemano la hipótesis de que fue la obra de un comando de fanáticos que, en un inexplicable rapto de locura religiosa, decidió aplicar un escarmiento ejemplar a un semanario que se permitía criticar ciertas manifestaciones del Islam y también de otras confesiones religiosas. Que son fanáticos no cabe ninguna duda. Creyentes ultraortodoxos abundan en muchas partes, sobre todo en Estados Unidos e Israel. Pero, ¿cómo llegaron los de París al extremo de cometer un acto tan execrable y cobarde como el que estamos comentando? Se impone distinguir los elementos que actuaron como precipitantes o desencadenantes –por ejemplo, las caricaturas publicadas por el Charlie Hebdo, blasfemas para la fe del Islam- de las causas estructurales o de larga duración que se encuentran en la base de una conducta tan aberrante. En otras palabras, es preciso ir más allá del acontecimiento, por doloroso que sea, y bucear en sus determinantes más profundos.

    A partir de esta premisa metodológica hay un factor merece especial consideración. Nuestra hipótesis es que lo sucedido es un lúgubre síntoma de lo que ha sido la política de Estados Unidos y sus aliados en Medio Oriente desde fines de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Es el resultado paradojal –pero previsible, para quienes están atentos al movimiento dialéctico de la historia- del apoyo que la Casa Blanca le brindó al radicalismo islámico desde el momento en que, producida la invasión soviética a Afganistán en Diciembre de 1979, la CIA determinó que la mejor manera de repelerla era combinar la guerra de guerrillas librada por los mujaidines con la estigmatización de la Unión Soviética por su ateísmo, convirtiéndola así en una sacrílega excrecencia que debía ser eliminada de la faz de la tierra. En términos concretos esto se tradujo en un apoyo militar, político y económico a los supuestos “combatientes por la libertad” y en la exaltación del fundamentalismo islamista del talibán que, entre otras cosas, veía la incorporación de las niñas las escuelas afganas dispuesta por el gobierno prosoviético de Kabul como una intolerable apostasía. Al Qaeda y Osama bin Laden son hijos de esta política. En esos aciagos años de Reagan, Thatcher y Juan Pablo II, la CIA era dirigida por William Casey, un católico ultramontano, caballero de la Orden de Malta cuyo celo religioso y su visceral anticomunismo le hicieron creer que, aparte de las armas, el fomento de la religiosidad popular en Afganistán sería lo que acabaría con el sacrílego “imperio del mal” que desde Moscú extendía sus tentáculos sobre el Asia Central. Y la política seguida por Washington fue esa: potenciar el fervor islamista, sin medir sus predecibles consecuencias a mediano plazo.

    Horrorizado por la monstruosidad del genio que se le escapó de la botella y produjo los confusos atentados del 11 de Septiembre (confusos porque las dudas acerca de la autoría del hecho son muchas más que las certidumbres) Washington proclamó una nueva doctrina de seguridad nacional: la “guerra infinita” o la “guerra contra el terrorismo”, que convirtió a las tres cuartas partes de la humanidad en una tenebrosa conspiración de terroristas (o cómplices de ellos) enloquecidos por su afán de destruir a Estados Unidos y el “modo americano de vida” y estimuló el surgimiento de una corriente mundial de la “islamofobia”. Tan vaga y laxa ha sido la definición oficial del terrorismo que en la práctica este y el Islam pasaron a ser sinónimos, y el sayo le cabe a quienquiera que sea un crítico del imperialismo norteamericano. Para calmar a la opinión pública, aterrorizada ante los atentados, los asesores de la Casa Blanca recurrieron al viejo método de buscar un chivo expiatorio, alguien a quien culpar, como a Lee Oswald, el inverosímil asesino de John F. Kennedy. George W. Bush lo encontró en la figura de un antiguo aliado, Saddam Hussein, que había sido encumbrado a la jefatura del estado en Irak para guerrear contra Irán luego del triunfo de la Revolución Islámica en 1979, privando a la Casa Blanca de uno de sus más valiosos peones regionales. Hussein, como Gadaffi años después, pensó que habiendo prestado sus servicios al imperio tendría las manos libres para actuar a voluntad en su entorno geográfico inmediato. Se equivocó al creer que Washington lo recompensaría tolerando la anexión de Kuwait a Irak, ignorando que tal cosa era inaceptable en función de los proyectos estadounidenses en la región. El castigo fue brutal: la primera Guerra del Golfo (Agosto 1990-Febrero 1991), un bloqueo de más de diez años que aniquiló a más de un millón de personas (la mayoría niños) y un país destrozado. Contando con la complicidad de la dirigencia política y la prensa “libre, objetiva e independiente” dentro y fuera de Estados Unidos la Casa Blanca montó una patraña ridícula e increíble por la cual se acusaba a Hussein de poseer armas de destrucción masiva y de haber forjado una alianza con su archienemigo, Osama bin Laden, para atacar a los Estados Unidos. Ni tenía esas armas, cosa que era archisabida; ni podía aliarse con un fanático sunita como el jefe de Al Qaeda, siendo él un ecléctico en cuestiones religiosas y jefe de un estado laico.

    Impertérrito ante estas realidades, en Marzo del 2003 George W. Bush dio inicio a la campaña militar para escarmentar a Hussein: invade el país, destruye sus fabulosos tesoros culturales y lo poco que quedaba en pie luego de años de bloqueo, depone a sus autoridades, monta un simulacro de juicio donde a Hussein lo sentencian a la pena capital y muere en la horca. Pero la ocupación norteamericana, que dura ocho años, no logra estabilizar económica y políticamente al país, acosada por la tenaz resistencia de los patriotas iraquíes. Cuando las tropas de Estados Unidos se retiran se comprueba su humillante derrota: el gobierno queda en manos de los chiítas, aliados del enemigo público número uno de Washington en la región, Irán, e irreconciliablemente enfrentados con la otra principal rama del Islam, los sunitas. A los efectos de disimular el fracaso de la guerra y debilitar a una Bagdad si no enemiga por lo menos inamistosa -y, de paso, controlar el avispero iraquí- la Casa Blanca no tuvo mejor idea que replicar la política seguida en Afganistán en los años ochentas: fomentar el fundamentalismo sunita y atizar la hoguera de los clivajes religiosos y las guerras sectarias dentro del turbulento mundo del Islam. Para ello contó con la activa colaboración de las reaccionarias monarquías del Golfo, y muy especialmente de la troglodita teocracia de Arabia Saudita, enemiga mortal de los chiítas y, por lo tanto, de Irán, Siria y de los gobernantes chiítas de Irak.

    Fusilamiento de un policía a la salida de las oficinas de Charlie Hebdo

    Claro está que el objetivo global de la política estadounidense y, por extensión, de sus clientes europeos, no se limita tan sólo a Irak o Siria. Es de más largo aliento pues procura concretar el rediseño del mapa de Medio Oriente mediante la desmembración de los países artificialmente creados por las potencias triunfantes luego de las dos guerras mundiales. La balcanización de la región dejaría un archipiélago de sectas, milicias, tribus y clanes que, por su desunión y rivalidades mutuas no podrían ofrecer resistencia alguna al principal designio de “humanitario” Occidente: apoderarse de las riquezas petroleras de la región. El caso de Libia luego de la destrucción del régimen de Gadaffi lo prueba con elocuencia y anticipó la fragmentación territorial en curso en Siria e Irak, para nombrar los casos más importantes. Ese es el verdadero, casi único, objetivo: desmembrar a los países y quedarse con el petróleo de Medio Oriente. ¿Promoción de la democracia, los derechos humanos, la libertad, la tolerancia? Esos son cuentos de niños, o para consumo de los espíritus neocolonizados y de la prensa títere del imperio para disimular lo inconfesable: el saqueo petrolero.

    El resto es historia conocida: reclutados, armados y apoyados diplomática y financieramente por Estados Unidos y sus aliados, a poco andar los fundamentalistas sunitas exaltados como “combatientes por la libertad” y utilizados como fuerzas mercenarias para desestabilizar a Siria hicieron lo que en su tiempo Maquiavelo profetizó que harían todos los mercenarios: independizarse de sus mandantes, como antes lo hicieran Al Qaeda y bin Laden, y dar vida a un proyecto propio: el Estado Islámico. Llevados a Siria para montar desde afuera una infame “guerra civil” urdida desde Washington para producir el anhelado “cambio de régimen” en ese país, los fanáticos terminaron ocupando parte del territorio sirio, se apropiaron de un sector de Irak, pusieron en funcionamiento los campos petroleros de esa zona y en connivencia con las multinacionales del sector y los bancos occidentales se dedican a vender el petróleo robado a precio vil y convertirse en la guerrilla más adinerada del planeta, con ingresos estimados de 2.000 millones de dólares anuales para financiar sus crímenes en cualquier país del mundo. Para dar muestras de su fervor religioso las milicias jihadistas degüellan, decapitan y asesinan infieles a diestra y siniestra, no importa si musulmanes de otra secta, cristianos, judíos o agnósticos, árabes o no, todo en abierta profanación de los valores del Islam. Al haber avivado las llamas del sectarismo religioso era cuestión de tiempo que la violencia desatada por esa estúpida y criminal política de Occidente tocara las puertas de Europa o Estados Unidos. Ahora fue en París, pero ya antes Madrid y Londres habían cosechado de manos de los ardientes islamistas lo que sus propios gobernantes habían sembrado inescrupulosamente.

    De lo anterior se desprende con claridad cuál es la génesis oculta de la tragedia del Charlie Hebdo. Quienes fogonearon el radicalismo sectario mal podrían ahora sorprenderse y mucho menos proclamar su falta de responsabilidad por lo ocurrido, como si el asesinato de los periodistas parisinos no tuviera relación alguna con sus políticas. Sus pupilos de antaño responden con las armas y los argumentos que les fueron inescrupulosamente cedidos desde los años de Reagan hasta hoy. Más tarde, los horrores perpetrados durante la ocupación norteamericana en Irak los endurecieron e inflamaron su celo religioso. Otro tanto ocurrió con las diversas formas de “terrorismo de estado” que las democracias capitalistas practicaron, o condonaron, en el mundo árabe: las torturas, vejaciones y humillaciones cometidas en Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo y las cárceles secretas de la CIA; las matanzas consumadas en Libia y en Egipto; el indiscriminado asesinato que a diario cometen los drones estadounidenses en Pakistán y Afganistán, en donde sólo dos de cada cien víctimas alcanzadas por sus misiles son terroristas; el “ejemplarizador” linchamiento de Gadaffi (cuya noticia provocó la repugnante carcajada de Hillary Clinton); el interminable genocidio al que son periódicamente sometidos los palestinos por Israel, con la anuencia y la protección de Estados Unidos y los gobiernos europeos, crímenes, todos estos, de lesa humanidad que sin embargo no conmueven la supuesta conciencia democrática y humanista de Occidente. Repetimos: nada, absolutamente nada, justifica el crimen cometido contra el semanario parisino. Pero como recomendaba Spinoza hay que comprender las causas que hicieron que los jihadistas decidieran pagarle a Occidente con su misma sangrienta moneda. Nos provoca náuseas tener que narrar tanta inmoralidad e hipocresía de parte de los portavoces de gobiernos supuestamente democráticos que no son otra cosa que sórdidas plutocracias. Hubo quienes, en Estados Unidos y Europa, condenaron lo ocurrido con los colegas de Charlie Hebdo por ser, además, un atentado a la libertad de expresión. Efectivamente, una masacre como esa lo es, y en grado sumo. Pero carecen de autoridad moral quienes condenan lo ocurrido en París y nada dicen acerca de la absoluta falta de libertad de expresión en Arabia Saudita, en donde la prensa, la radio, la televisión, la Internet y cualquier medio de comunicación está sometido a una durísima censura. Hipocresía descarada también de quienes ahora se rasgan las vestiduras pero no hicieron absolutamente nada para detener el genocidio perpetrado por Israel hace pocos meses en Gaza. Claro, Israel es uno de los nuestros dirán entre sí y, además, dos mil palestinos, varios centenares de ellos niños, no valen lo mismo que la vida de doce franceses. La cara oculta de la hipocresía es el más desenfrenado racismo.

    Find this story at 8 January 2015

    Copyright © 2009 Atilio Boron

    Paris Unity March – Where Hypocrites Of The World Unite!

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    After the Charlie Hebdo attack, dozens of world leaders marched arm in arm with President Francois Hollande during a unity march in Paris. But many of these leaders aren’t exactly supporting free speech and a free press back home. So what’s the deal? Dena Takruri of AJ+ explains

    JANUARY 13, 2015

    Find this story at 13 January 2015
    Or watch here

    Islam and free speech: What’s so funny? Western media keep using Charlie Hebdo attack to fan propaganda about the ‘Islamification’ of Europe.

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    Media coverage of the Paris shootings is typical of previous incidents involving Islam and free speech in the West. Much of it has veered between the misleading, sensationalist and absurd (such as a ‘terrorism expert’ on Fox News branding Birmingham a “Muslim-only city”).
    Journalists have jumped on the “Je Suis Charlie” bandwagon. Many would never condone Charlie Hebdo’s content, so why self-identify with the magazine? One can condemn the murder of its staff without embracing what it stands for.
    The media seems reluctant to investigate the causes of radicalism that lead to such attacks, as if doing so implies justification. Thus there is little discussion about Muslim alienation in France and elsewhere in Europe.
    The result is a simplistic discourse of Islam versus free speech. The latter is
    Media coverage of the Paris shootings is typical of previous incidents involving Islam and free speech in the West. Much of it has veered between the misleading, sensationalist and absurd – such as a “terrorism expert” on Fox News branding Birmingham a “Muslim-only city”.
    Journalists have jumped on the “Je Suis Charlie” bandwagon. Many would never condone Charlie Hebdo’s content, so why self-identify with the magazine? One can condemn the murder of its staff without embracing what it stands for.
    The media seems reluctant to investigate the causes of radicalism that lead to such attacks, as if doing so implies justification. Thus, there is little discussion about Muslim alienation in France and elsewhere in Europe.
    The result is a simplistic discourse of Islam versus free speech. The latter is naively portrayed as absolute and non-negotiable, emboldening racist elements of society when European far-right sentiment is increasing.
    Islam v free speech
    In fact, there are limits to any right. In France, freedom of expression “is limited by strict defamation and privacy laws”, and “some of the toughest hate speech laws in the EU”, according to Index on Censorship.
    Muslims are disproportionately surveilled. Wearing religious signs or clothing in schools is forbidden, as is the face veil in public places, and Islamic prayers in the streets.
    In France – and other European states – it is a crime to deny the Holocaust, but not other genocides. Muslims are disproportionately surveilled. Wearing religious signs or clothing in schools is forbidden, as is the face veil in public places, and Islamic prayers in the streets.
    The media has largely glossed over such limitations in France and other countries that claim unrestricted free expression.
    Also largely absent, though crucial, is acknowledgement of the double standards in applying free speech.
    Charlie Hebdo fired one of its employees over anti-Semitic content. Similarly, Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten said soon after publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad in 2005 that it would not publish cartoons offending Christians and Jews.
    In my 10 years as head of a British media watchdog, it has become clear that Muslims are often described in derogatory ways that are unacceptable regarding other communities.
    The effect that the right to offend has on minorities compared with wider society is not addressed. A minority facing discrimination and disenfranchisement will feel existentially threatened, and be potentially radicalised, when the majority exercises its right to offend. The status of society at large is not at risk when the situation is reversed.
    This right is portrayed as a cornerstone of western values, while tolerance and respect – values that have attracted many immigrants, and are crucial in multicultural societies – are touted as appeasement.
    To uphold the right to gratuitously offend, without any sense of responsibility that should accompany freedom of expression, is childish, even dangerous. What point is proven by doing so? A foundation of journalism is awareness that with power comes responsibility, but many journalists in democracies forget how influential their profession is on public opinion and politicians.
    Taking responsibility
    Consider the effect on Muslims of international media mogul Rupert Murdoch saying they “must be held responsible … until they recognise and destroy their growing jihadist cancer”.
    This view is regurgitated by his numerous news outlets and by countless industry colleagues, many of whom have used the Charlie Hebdo attack to fan propaganda about the “Islamification” of Europe and the inherent violence and backwardness of Islam.

    Listening Post – Lead: Charlie Hebdo and the media
    They demand that Muslims apologise for and condemn acts that they have neither committed nor condoned. “I want real Muslims to … make it crystal clear that these terrorists don’t act in their name,” wrote Piers Morgan in an article titled “If I can accept that the Paris murderers aren’t real Muslims why won’t the MUSLIM world say so too?”
    Abundant condemnation from Muslims suggests that Morgan and others are either ignorant or refuse to listen.
    Similarly puzzling is the context in which Islam is mentioned in relation to the Paris shootings. The attackers’ religion is integral to their descriptions.
    The same cannot be said of murdered policeman Ahmed Merabet or Lassana Bathily, who saved shoppers in a kosher supermarket. Is someone’s Muslim faith only relevant in a negative context?
    As in the past, there is more discussion of Muslims than with them. An example is the BBC’s flagship political debate programme, Question Time, which fielded a panel of five talking about the Paris attacks without a single Muslim.
    Amid round-the-clock coverage of the shootings, reprisal attacks against Muslims have been remarkably under-reported, as have other deadly attacks against civilians and suppression of free speech worldwide. Violent incidents in Nigeria and Yemen in the last week led to far more civilian deaths than in Paris (up to 2,000 in Nigeria), but they were not deemed as newsworthy.
    The solidarity rally in Paris was attended by a who’s who of enemies of free speech and independent journalism. Those hoping the mainstream media would highlight this hypocrisy were disappointed.
    The irony was not lost on Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Bernard Holtrop, who said: “We vomit on all those people who are suddenly saying they are our friends… I’ve got to laugh about that.”
    Yet, recurrent problematic coverage is no laughing matter.
    Sharif Nashashibi is an award-winning journalist and analyst on Arab affairs. He is a regular contributor to Al Jazeera English, Al Arabiya News, The National, The Middle East magazine and the Middle East Eye.

    13 Jan 2015 07:49 GMT
    Sharif Nashashibi

    Find this story at 13 January 2015

    © 2015 Al Jazeera Media Network


    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    Defending free speech and free press rights, which typically means defending the right to disseminate the very ideas society finds most repellent, has been one of my principal passions for the last 20 years: previously as a lawyer and now as a journalist. So I consider it positive when large numbers of people loudly invoke this principle, as has been happening over the last 48 hours in response to the horrific attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

    Usually, defending free speech rights is much more of a lonely task. For instance, the day before the Paris murders, I wrote an article about multiple cases where Muslims are being prosecuted and even imprisoned by western governments for their online political speech – assaults that have provoked relatively little protest, including from those free speech champions who have been so vocal this week.

    I’ve previously covered cases where Muslims were imprisoned for many years in the U.S. for things like translating and posting “extremist” videos to the internet, writing scholarly articles in defense of Palestinian groups and expressing harsh criticism of Israel, and even including a Hezbollah channel in a cable package. That’s all well beyond the numerous cases of jobs being lost or careers destroyed for expressing criticism of Israel or (much more dangerously and rarely) Judaism. I’m hoping this week’s celebration of free speech values will generate widespread opposition to all of these long-standing and growing infringements of core political rights in the west, not just some.

    Central to free speech activism has always been the distinction between defending the right to disseminate Idea X and agreeing with Idea X, one which only the most simple-minded among us are incapable of comprehending. One defends the right to express repellent ideas while being able to condemn the idea itself. There is no remote contradiction in that: the ACLU vigorously defends the right of neo-Nazis to march through a community filled with Holocaust survivors in Skokie, Illinois, but does not join the march; they instead vocally condemn the targeted ideas as grotesque while defending the right to express them.
    But this week’s defense of free speech rights was so spirited that it gave rise to a brand new principle: to defend free speech, one not only defends the right to disseminate the speech, but embraces the content of the speech itself. Numerous writers thus demanded: to show “solidarity” with the murdered cartoonists, one should not merely condemn the attacks and defend the right of the cartoonists to publish, but should publish and even celebrate those cartoons. “The best response to Charlie Hebdo attack,” announced Slate’s editor Jacob Weisberg, “is to escalate blasphemous satire.”

    Some of the cartoons published by Charlie Hebdo were not just offensive but bigoted, such as the one mocking the African sex slaves of Boko Haram as welfare queens (left). Others went far beyond maligning violence by extremists acting in the name of Islam, or even merely depicting Mohammed with degrading imagery (above, right), and instead contained a stream of mockery toward Muslims generally, who in France are not remotely powerful but are largely a marginalized and targeted immigrant population.
    But no matter. Their cartoons were noble and should be celebrated – not just on free speech grounds but for their content. In a column entitled “The Blasphemy We Need,” The New York Times‘ Ross Douthat argued that “the right to blaspheme (and otherwise give offense) is essential to the liberal order” and “that kind of blasphemy [that provokes violence] is precisely the kind that needs to be defended, because it’s the kind that clearly serves a free society’s greater good.” New York Magazine‘s Jonathan Chait actually proclaimed that “one cannot defend the right [to blaspheme] without defending the practice.” Vox’s Matt Yglesias had a much more nuanced view but nonetheless concluded that “to blaspheme the Prophet transforms the publication of these cartoons from a pointless act to a courageous and even necessary one, while the observation that the world would do well without such provocations becomes a form of appeasement.”

    To comport with this new principle for how one shows solidarity with free speech rights and a vibrant free press, we’re publishing some blasphemous and otherwise offensive cartoons about religion and their adherents:

    And here are some not-remotely-blasphemous-or-bigoted yet very pointed and relevant cartoons by the brilliantly provocative Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff (reprinted with permission):

    Is it time for me to be celebrated for my brave and noble defense of free speech rights? Have I struck a potent blow for political liberty and demonstrated solidarity with free journalism by publishing blasphemous cartoons? If, as Salman Rushdie said, it’s vital that all religions be subjected to “fearless disrespect,” have I done my part to uphold western values?

    When I first began to see these demands to publish these anti-Muslim cartoons, the cynic in me thought perhaps this was really just about sanctioning some types of offensive speech against some religions and their adherents, while shielding more favored groups. In particular, the west has spent years bombing, invading and occupying Muslim countries and killing, torturing and lawlessly imprisoning innocent Muslims, and anti-Muslim speech has been a vital driver in sustaining support for those policies.

    So it’s the opposite of surprising to see large numbers of westerners celebrating anti-Muslim cartoons – not on free speech grounds but due to approval of the content. Defending free speech is always easy when you like the content of the ideas being targeted, or aren’t part of (or actively dislike) the group being maligned.

    Indeed, it is self-evident that if a writer who specialized in overtly anti-black or anti-Semitic screeds had been murdered for their ideas, there would be no widespread calls to republish their trash in “solidarity” with their free speech rights. In fact, Douthat, Chait and Yglesias all took pains to expressly note that they were only calling for publication of such offensive ideas in the limited case where violence is threatened or perpetrated in response (by which they meant in practice, so far as I can tell: anti-Islam speech). Douthat even used italics to emphasize how limited his defense of blasphemy was: “that kind of blasphemy is precisely the kind that needs to be defended.”

    One should acknowledge a valid point contained within the Douthat/Chait/Yglesias argument: when media outlets refrain from publishing material out of fear (rather than a desire to avoid publishing gratuitously offensive material), as several of the west’s leading outlets admitted doing with these cartoons, that is genuinely troubling, an actual threat to a free press. But there are all kinds of pernicious taboos in the west that result in self-censorship or compelled suppression of political ideas, from prosecution and imprisonment to career destruction: why is violence by Muslims the most menacing one? (I’m not here talking about the question of whether media outlets should publish the cartoons because they’re newsworthy; my focus is on the demand they be published positively, with approval, as “solidarity”).

    When we originally discussed publishing this article to make these points, our intention was to commission two or three cartoonists to create cartoons that mock Judaism and malign sacred figures to Jews the way Charlie Hebdo did to Muslims. But that idea was thwarted by the fact that no mainstream western cartoonist would dare put their name on an anti-Jewish cartoon, even if done for satire purposes, because doing so would instantly and permanently destroy their career, at least. Anti-Islam and anti-Muslim commentary (and cartoons) are a dime a dozen in western media outlets; the taboo that is at least as strong, if not more so, are anti-Jewish images and words. Why aren’t Douthat, Chait, Yglesias and their like-minded free speech crusaders calling for publication of anti-Semitic material in solidarity, or as a means of standing up to this repression? Yes, it’s true that outlets like The New York Times will in rare instances publish such depictions, but only to document hateful bigotry and condemn it – not to publish it in “solidarity” or because it deserves a serious and respectful airing.

    With all due respect to the great cartoonist Ann Telnaes, it is simply not the case that Charlie Hebdo “were equal opportunity offenders.” Like Bill Maher, Sam Harris and other anti-Islam obsessives, mocking Judaism, Jews and/or Israel is something they will rarely (if ever) do. If forced, they can point to rare and isolated cases where they uttered some criticism of Judaism or Jews, but the vast bulk of their attacks are reserved for Islam and Muslims, not Judaism and Jews. Parody, free speech and secular atheism are the pretexts; anti-Muslim messaging is the primary goal and the outcome. And this messaging – this special affection for offensive anti-Islam speech – just so happens to coincide with, to feed, the militaristic foreign policy agenda of their governments and culture.

    To see how true that is, consider the fact that Charlie Hebdo – the “equal opportunity” offenders and defenders of all types of offensive speech – fired one of their writers in 2009 for writing a sentence some said was anti-Semitic (the writer was then charged with a hate crime offense, and won a judgment against the magazine for unfair termination). Does that sound like “equal opportunity” offending?

    Nor is it the case that threatening violence in response to offensive ideas is the exclusive province of extremists claiming to act in the name of Islam. Terrence McNally’s 1998 play “Corpus Christi,” depicting Jesus as gay, was repeatedly cancelled by theaters due to bomb threats. Larry Flynt was paralyzed by an evangelical white supremacist who objected to Hustler‘s pornographic depiction of inter-racial couples. The Dixie Chicks were deluged with death threats and needed massive security after they publicly criticized George Bush for the Iraq War, which finally forced them to apologize out of fear. Violence spurred by Jewish and Christian fanaticism is legion, from abortion doctors being murdered to gay bars being bombed to a 45-year-old brutal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza due in part to the religious belief (common in both the U.S. and Israel) that God decreed they shall own all the land. And that’s all independent of the systematic state violence in the west sustained, at least in part, by religious sectarianism.

    The New York Times‘ David Brooks today claims that anti-Christian bias is so widespread in America – which has never elected a non-Christian president – that “the University of Illinois fired a professor who taught the Roman Catholic view on homosexuality.” He forgot to mention that the very same university just terminated its tenure contract with Professor Steven Salaita over tweets he posted during the Israeli attack on Gaza that the university judged to be excessively vituperative of Jewish leaders, and that the journalist Chris Hedges was just disinvited to speak at the University of Pennsylvania for the Thought Crime of drawing similarities between Israel and ISIS.

    That is a real taboo – a repressed idea – as powerful and absolute as any in the United States, so much so that Brooks won’t even acknowledge its existence. It’s certainly more of a taboo in the U.S. than criticizing Muslims and Islam, criticism which is so frequently heard in mainstream circles – including the U.S. Congress – that one barely notices it any more.

    This underscores the key point: there are all sorts of ways ideas and viewpoints are suppressed in the west. When those demanding publication of these anti-Islam cartoons start demanding the affirmative publication of those ideas as well, I’ll believe the sincerity of their very selective application of free speech principles. One can defend free speech without having to publish, let alone embrace, the offensive ideas being targeted. But if that’s not the case, let’s have equal application of this new principle.

    Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images; additional research was provided by Andrew Fishman

    BY GLENN GREENWALD @ggreenwald 01/09/2015
    Email the author: glenn.greenwald@theintercept.com

    Find this story at 9 January 2015

    copyright https://firstlook.org/theintercept/

    Charlie Hebdo: This Attack Was Nothing To Do With Free Speech — It Was About War

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    White people don’t like to admit it, but those cartoons upheld their prejudice, their racism, their political supremacy, and cut it how you will — images like that upheld a political order built on discrimination.

    In less than an hour of the dreadful shooting of 12 people at the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, the politicians had already started to lie to their own public.

    John Kerry, US Secretary of State, declared that, “freedom of expression is not able to be killed by this kind of act of terror.”

    The media lapped it up — the attack was now spun as an attack on ‘Freedom of Speech’. That cherished value that the West holds so dear.
    The British Government was so in love with it, that they were passing laws that demanded nursery school teachers spy on Muslim toddlers because they had too much of it. Toddlers were ‘free’ to speak their mind as long as it agreed with UK Government policy.

    A ‘free speech’ machine. It looks for people who do not have enough free speech and them gives them some
    Still at least it was not as draconian as Western Governments routine harassment of those they thought spoke a bit too freely. Ask Moazzam Beg, the freed Guantanamo Bay Detainee and human rights campaigner, who was falsely accused of terrorism and imprisoned for months, after flying back from Syria with damning evidence of Britain’s complicity in torture in the Muslim world.

    Or for that matter the Al-Jazeera journalist Abdulelah Haider Shaye incarcerated in Yemen at the behest of the America for reporting the wrong type of facts.

    They loved it so much, they kept spying on everyone, tapping their phones and arresting them for not having the right sort of it.

    Basically Muslims were FREE TO AGREE — that great overarching cherished Western principle that Muslims just didn’t understand.
    As usual there was no real depth in any of the analysis in the media. The public were left in shock and anger but without any real answers

    The elites narrative was simple, a left-wing magazine, had produced ‘satirical cartoons’ about all religions and politicians, some of them about the Prophet of Islam — Only the Muslims took offence (subtext because their backward barbaric religion was alien and intolerant).

    The argument sounded reasonable enough… if you lived in a bubble on the land of middle class white guy — sadly Muslims usually didn’t have that luxury.
    Let me explain it from a different perspective, one that Muslims saw all too clearly.

    After all its only a joke! They make fun of white people as well!
    In 30’s America when white people were burning black people on trees, whites could equally have used this argument. After all there were cartoons even about the president! However making insulting cartoons about white people who controlled the power structures was not the same as demonizing black people — a powerless underclass.

    Imagery of black people being, dumb, violent, lazy, thieves who looked like monkeys — upheld a political reality, the very imagery re-enforced the prejudices of those in power and subjugated blacks.

    The same with Jews in Nazi Germany — Imagine today’s spurious and conceited argument being used by the Nazi’s — could a German newspaper hide behind the claim it also made fun of white Germans? How unjustified that only the Jews complained so! After all Germans didn’t complain when they were made fun of — those backward Jews and their greedy religion didn’t understand free speech!

    White people don’t like to admit it, but those cartoons upheld their prejudice, their racism, their political supremacy, and cut it how you will — images like that upheld a political order built on discrimination.
    The Muslims today are a demonized underclass in France. A people vilified and attacked by the power structures. A poor people with little or no power and these vile cartoons made their lives worse and heightened the racist prejudice against them.

    Even white liberals have acted in the most prejudiced way. It was as if white people had a right to offend Muslims and Muslims had no right to be offended?

    After the massacre of 1000 Muslims by Egyptian dictator in a single day — the paper ran this headline “The Quran is sh*t it doesnt stop bullets” — Imagine if a Muslim paper did this about them now — still find it funny?
    Cue some right wing media white dude (or some Zionist) to now accuse me of justifying the murder —After all, if you are Muslim, explaining things is justifying them right! ?

    The truth is, this awful attack can not be explained in a vacuum, absent of the context around it. It has to be seen through the prism of events that are going on around the world. With eyes firmly fixed on the wars going on from Palestine to Pakistan.

    A global view spreading across the Muslim world, is that the West is at war with them (propagandists say this is due to hate preachers — nothing to do with more bombs being dropped on Iraq alone than were used in the whole of the first and second world war).

    This anger sweeping the Muslim world, is solidifying in the consciousness of millions, re-enforced by daily bombings, kidnappings and of course wars that the West has initiated and engaged in. These policies have lead to many Muslims abandoning the belief that they could bring any change peacefully — cue the rise of men taking up arms.

    Killing Muslim children doesnt make Muslims take up arms — its just they hate freedom of speech honest!
    These images then, can be played down as just a ‘bit of fun’ as no doubt the least perceptive of you will try to argue, or it can be seen through the prism of the war on terror — just another front on the war against Islam that has claimed so many lives — and the demonology behind it.

    The Orientalist racist stereotype of the Muslim humourless barbarian — in this image of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH — it says “100 lashes if you don’t die laughing!”
    I argue, that we are creating extremists in the bucket load and have done so exponentially, since we declared this endless war of terror . Our policies are hardening views on all sides.

    To justify its continuation, politicians have to keep lying (via the plaint corporate media) to the public, saying Muslim violence is due to ‘Islamists, Extremists, Hate Preachers — the evil Muslim fairy, or any other word that makes people think the problem is faith and not the real driver — War.

    This false narrative is creating extremism in white communities too (note the rise of right wing neo-facists across Europe. And of course as the bombs fall like rain — it hardens opinions and creates extremists in the Muslim world. And both these people are expressing themselves in very ugly ways — and that’s exactly what happened here.

    Twelve people are dead — because the world we are creating — is utterly polarised.

    Our bombs dont leave much room for ‘freedoms’ and now neither do theirs.
    Extremism leads to extremism — this is just another symptom of the world Bush and Blair gave us and our political classes are determined to keep it going. Read more on this here and here.

    Drone strike — another dead Muslim
    The two sides are set to clash unless we pull the foot off the accelerator — and our elites don’t have the sense to do that .

    By the time the dust settles, there will more attacks against Muslims in the streets, mosques burned down, politicians introducing draconian laws against Muslims, media wall-to-wall demonization and France along with the rest of Europe will lurch right — proving true the very thing these Muslims believe — that the West hates them — and they wouldn’t be wholly wrong.

    Someone, more powerful than you or I reader, in the political elites has to have the sense to change the mood music of war and hate, re-look at our policies and have the courage to say:

    ‘Everyone chill out, put the guns down and lets talk’.

    Even if I am wrong, one thing is for sure — to bring an end to this — we got to do something differently, because what we are doing now — isn’t working.
    And if they dont — buckle up — we haven’t seen anything yet.

    Asghar Bukhari

    Find this story at 7 January 2015

    Copyright https://medium.com/

    Why I am not Charlie

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    There is no “but” about what happened at Charlie Hebdo yesterday. Some people published some cartoons, and some other people killed them for it. Words and pictures can be beautiful or vile, pleasing or enraging, inspiring or offensive; but they exist on a different plane from physical violence, whether you want to call that plane spirit or imagination or culture, and to meet them with violence is an offense against the spirit and imagination and culture that distinguish humans. Nothing mitigates this monstrosity. There will be time to analyze why the killers did it, time to parse their backgrounds, their ideologies, their beliefs, time for sociologists and psychologists to add to understanding. There will be explanations, and the explanations will be important, but explanations aren’t the same as excuses. Words don’t kill, they must not be met by killing, and they will not make the killers’ culpability go away.

    To abhor what was done to the victims, though, is not the same as to become them. This is true on the simplest level: I cannot occupy someone else’s selfhood, share someone else’s death. This is also true on a moral level: I cannot appropriate the dangers they faced or the suffering they underwent, I cannot colonize their experience, and it is arrogant to make out that I can. It wouldn’t be necessary to say this, except the flood of hashtags and avatars and social-media posturing proclaiming #JeSuisCharlie overwhelms distinctions and elides the point. “We must all try to be Charlie, not just today but every day,” the New Yorker pontificates. What the hell does that mean? In real life, solidarity takes many forms, almost all of them hard. This kind of low-cost, risk-free, E-Z solidarity is only possible in a social-media age, where you can strike a pose and somebody sees it on their timeline for 15 seconds and then they move on and it’s forgotten except for the feeling of accomplishment it gave you. Solidarity is hard because it isn’t about imaginary identifications, it’s about struggling across the canyon of not being someone else: it’s about recognizing, for instance, that somebody died because they were different from you, in what they did or believed or were or wore, not because they were the same. If people who are feeling concrete loss or abstract shock or indignation take comfort in proclaiming a oneness that seems to fill the void, then it serves an emotional end. But these Cartesian credos on Facebook and Twitter — I am Charlie, therefore I am — shouldn’t be mistaken for political acts.

    Among the dead at Charlie Hebdo: Deputy chief editor Bernard Maris and cartoonists Georges Wolinski, Jean Cabut (aka Cabu), Stephane Charbonnier, who was also editor-in-chief, and Bernard Verlhac (aka Tignous)
    Among the dead at Charlie Hebdo: Deputy chief editor Bernard Maris and cartoonists Georges Wolinski, Jean Cabut (aka Cabu), Stephane Charbonnier, who was also editor-in-chief, and Bernard Verlhac (aka Tignous)

    Erasing differences that actually exist seems to be the purpose here: and it’s perhaps appropriate to the Charlie cartoons, which drew their force from a considered contempt for people with the temerity to be different. For the last 36 hours, everybody’s been quoting Voltaire. The same line is all over my several timelines:

    From the twitter feed of @thereaIbanksy, January 7
    From the twitter feed of @thereaIbanksy, January 7

    “Those 21 words circling the globe speak louder than gunfire and represent every pen being wielded by an outstretched arm,” an Australian news site says. (Never mind that Voltaire never wrote them; one of his biographers did.) But most people who mouth them don’t mean them. Instead, they’re subtly altering the Voltairean clarion cry: the message today is, I have to agree with what you say, in order to defend it. Why else the insistence that condemning the killings isn’t enough? No: we all have to endorse the cartoons, and not just that, but republish them ourselves. Thus Index on Censorship, a journal that used to oppose censorship but now is in the business of telling people what they can and cannot say, called for all newspapers to reprint the drawings: “We believe that only through solidarity – in showing that we truly defend all those who exercise their right to speak freely – can we defeat those who would use violence to silence free speech.” But is repeating you the same as defending you? And is it really “solidarity” when, instead of engaging across our differences, I just mindlessly parrot what you say?

    But no, if you don’t copy the cartoons, you’re colluding with the killers, you’re a coward. Thus the right-wing Daily Caller posted a list of craven media minions of jihad who oppose free speech by not doing as they’re ordered. Punish these censors, till they say what we tell them to!

    Screen shot 2015-01-09 at 12.34.32 AMIf you don’t agree with what Charlie Hebdo said, the terrorists win.

    Screen shot 2015-01-09 at 12.22.15 AMYou’re not just kowtowing to terrorists with your silence. According to Tarek Fatah, a Canadian columnist with an evident fascist streak, silence is terrorism.

    Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 11.46.59 PMOf course, any Muslim in the West would know that being called “our enemy” is a direct threat; you’ve drawn the go-to-GItmo card. But consider: This idiot thinks he is defending free speech. How? By telling people exactly what they have to say, and menacing the holdouts with treason. The Ministry of Truth has a new office in Toronto.

    There’s a perfectly good reason not to republish the cartoons that has nothing to do with cowardice or caution. I refuse to post them because I think they’re racist and offensive. I can support your right to publish something, and still condemn what you publish. I can defend what you say, and still say it’s wrong — isn’t that the point of the quote (that wasn’t) from Voltaire? I can hold that governments shouldn’t imprison Holocaust deniers, but that doesn’t oblige me to deny the Holocaust myself.

    It’s true, as Salman Rushdie says, that “Nobody has the right to not be offended.” You should not get to invoke the law to censor or shut down speech just because it insults you or strikes at your pet convictions. You certainly don’t get to kill because you heard something you don’t like. Yet, manhandled by these moments of mass outrage, this truism also morphs into a different kind of claim: That nobody has the right to be offended at all.

    I am offended when those already oppressed in a society are deliberately insulted. I don’t want to participate. This crime in Paris does not suspend my political or ethical judgment, or persuade me that scatologically smearing a marginal minority’s identity and beliefs is a reasonable thing to do. Yet this means rejecting the only authorized reaction to the atrocity. Oddly, this peer pressure seems to gear up exclusively where Islam’s involved. When a racist bombed a chapter of a US civil rights organization this week, the media didn’t insist I give to the NAACP in solidarity. When a rabid Islamophobic rightist killed 77 Norwegians in 2011, most of them at a political party’s youth camp, I didn’t notice many #IAmNorway hashtags, or impassioned calls to join the Norwegian Labor Party. But Islam is there for us, it unites us against Islam. Only cowards or traitors turn down membership in the Charlie club.The demand to join, endorse, agree is all about crowding us into a herd where no one is permitted to cavil or condemn: an indifferent mob, where differing from one another is Thoughtcrime, while indifference to the pain of others beyond the pale is compulsory.

    We’ve heard a lot about satire in the last couple of days. We’ve heard that satire shouldn’t cause offense because it’s a weapon of the weak: “Satire-writers always point out the foibles and fables of those higher up the food chain.” And we’ve heard that if the satire aims at everybody, those forays into racism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism can be excused away. Charlie Hebdo “has been a continual celebration of the freedom to make fun of everyone and everything….it practiced a freewheeling, dyspeptic satire without clear ideological lines.” Of course, satire that attacks any and all targets is by definition not just targeting the top of the food chain. “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges,” Anatole France wrote; satire that wounds both the powerful and the weak does so with different effect. Saying the President of the Republic is a randy satyr is not the same as accusing nameless Muslim immigrants of bestiality. What merely annoys the one may deepen the other’s systematic oppression. To defend satire because it’s indiscriminate is to admit that it discriminates against the defenseless.

    Funny little man: Contemporary caricature of Kierkegaard
    Funny little man: Contemporary Danish cartoon of Kierkegaard

    Kierkegaard, the greatest satirist of his century, famously recounted his dream: “I was rapt into the Seventh Heaven. There sat all the gods assembled.” They granted him one wish: “Most honorable contemporaries, I choose one thing — that I may always have the laughter on my side.” Kierkegaard knew what he meant: Children used to laugh and throw stones at him on Copenhagen streets, for his gangling gait and monkey torso. His table-turning fantasy is the truth about satire. It’s an exercise in power. It claims superiority, it aspires to win, and hence it always looms over the weak, in judgment. If it attacks the powerful, that’s because there is appetite underneath its asperity: it wants what they have. As Adorno wrote: “He who has laughter on his side has no need of proof. Historically, therefore, satire has for thousands of years, up to Voltaire’s age, preferred to side with the stronger party which could be relied on: with authority.” Irony, he added, “never entirely divested itself of its authoritarian inheritance, its unrebellious malice.”

    Satire allies with the self-evident, the Idées reçues, the armory of the strong. It puts itself on the team of the juggernaut future against the endangered past, the successful opinion over the superseded one. Satire has always fed on distaste for minorities, marginal peoples, traditional or fading ways of life. Adorno said: “All satire is blind to the forces liberated by decay.”

    Funny little man: Voltaire writing
    Funny little man: Voltaire writing

    Charlie Hebdo, the New Yorker now claims, “followed in the tradition of Voltaire.” Voltaire stands as the god of satire; any godless Frenchman with a bon mot is measured against him. Everyone remembers his diatribes against the power of the Catholic Church: Écrasez l’Infâme! But what’s often conveniently omitted amid the adulation of his wit is how Voltaire loathed a powerless religion, the outsiders of his own era, the “medieval,” “barbaric” immigrant minority that afflicted Europe: the Jews.

    Voltaire’s anti-Semitism was comprehensive. In its contempt for the putatively “primitive,” it anticipates much that is said about Muslims in Europe and the US today. “The Jews never were natural philosophers, nor geometricians, nor astronomers,” Voltaire declared. That would do head Islamophobe Richard Dawkins proud:

    Screen shot 2015-01-09 at 3.01.25 AM

    The Jews, Voltaire wrote, are “only an ignorant and barbarous people, who have long united the most sordid avarice with the most detestable superstition and the most invincible hatred for every people by whom they are tolerated and enriched.” When some American right-wing yahoo calls Muslims “goatfuckers,” you might think he’s reciting old Appalachian invective. In fact, he’s repeating Voltaire’s jokes about the Jews. “You assert that your mothers had no commerce with he-goats, nor your fathers with she-goats,” Voltaire demanded of them. “But pray, gentlemen, why are you the only people upon earth whose laws have forbidden such commerce? Would any legislator ever have thought of promulgating this extraordinary law if the offence had not been common?”

    You are an infamous impostor, Father, but at least you’re circumcised: Voltaire lectures to a priest
    You are an infamous impostor, Father, but at least you’re circumcised: Voltaire lectures to a priest

    Nobody wishes Voltaire had been killed for his slanders. If some indignant Jew or Muslim (he didn’t care for the “Mohammedans” much either) had murdered him mid-career, the whole world would lament the abomination. In his most Judeophobic passages, I can take pleasure in his scalpel phrasing — though even 250 years after, some might find this hard. Still, liking the style doesn’t mean I swallow the message. #JeSuisPasVoltaire. Most of the man’s admirers avoid or veil his anti-Semitism. They know that while his contempt amuses when directed at the potent and impervious Pope, it turns dark and sour when defaming a weak and despised community. Satire can sometimes liberate us, but it is not immune from our prejudices or untainted by our hatreds. It shouldn’t douse our critical capacities; calling something “satire” doesn’t exempt it from judgment. The superiority the satirist claims over the helpless can be both smug and sinister. Last year a former Charlie Hebdo writer, accusing the editors of indulging racism, warned that “The conviction of being a superior being, empowered to look down on ordinary mortals from on high, is the surest way to sabotage your own intellectual defenses.”

    Of course, Voltaire didn’t realize that his Jewish victims were weak or powerless. Already, in the 18th century, he saw them as tentacles of a financial conspiracy; his propensity for overspending and getting hopelessly in debt to Jewish moneylenders did a great deal to shape his anti-Semitism. In the same way, Charlie Hebdo and its like never treated Muslim immigrants as individuals, but as agents of some larger force. They weren’t strivers doing the best they could in an unfriendly country, but shorthand for mass religious ignorance, or tribal terrorist fanaticism, or obscene oil wealth. Satire subsumes the human person in an inhuman generalization. The Muslim isn’t just a Muslim, but a symbol of Islam.

    Cartoon by Sudanese artist Khalid Albaih, from Aljazeera.com
    Cartoon by Sudanese artist Khalid Albaih, from Aljazeera.com

    This is where political Islamists and Islamophobes unite. They cling to agglutinative ideologies; they melt people into a mass; they erase individuals’ attributes and aspirations under a totalizing vision of what identity means. A Muslim is his religion. You can hold every Muslim responsible for what any Muslim does. (And one Danish cartoonist makes all Danes guilty.) So all Muslims have to post #JeSuisCharlie obsessively as penance, or apologize for what all the other billion are up to. Yesterday Aamer Rahman, an Australian comic and social critic, tweeted:

    Screen shot 2015-01-09 at 12.08.33 AM

    A few hours later he had to add:

    Screen shot 2015-01-09 at 12.07.58 AM

    This insistence on contagious responsibility, collective guilt, is the flip side of #JeSuisCharlie. It’s #VousÊtesISIS; #VousÊtesAlQaeda. Our solidarity, our ability to melt into a warm mindless oneness and feel we’re doing something, is contingent on your involuntary solidarity, your losing who you claim to be in a menacing mass. We can’t stand together here unless we imagine you together over there in enmity. The antagonists are fake but they’re entangled, inevitable. The language hardens. Geert Wilders, the racist right-wing leader in the Netherlands, said the shootings mean it’s time to “de-Islamize our country.” Nigel Farage, his counterpart in the UK, called Muslims a “fifth column, holding our passports, that hate us.” Juan Cole writes that the Charlie Hebdo attack was “a strategic strike, aiming at polarizing the French and European public” — at “sharpening the contradictions.” The knives are sharpening too, on both sides.

    We lose our ability to imagine political solutions when we stop thinking critically, when we let emotional identifications sweep us into factitious substitutes for solidarity and action. We lose our ability to respond to atrocity when we start seeing people not as individuals, but as symbols. Changing avatars on social media is a pathetic distraction from changing realities in society. To combat violence you must look unflinchingly at the concrete inequities and practices that breed it. You won’t stop it with acts of self-styled courage on your computer screen that neither risk nor alter anything. To protect expression that’s endangered you have to engage with the substance of what was said, not deny it. That means attempting dialogue with those who peacefully condemn or disagree, not trying to shame them into silence. Nothing is quick, nothing is easy. No solidarity is secure. I support free speech. I oppose all censors. I abhor the killings. I mourn the dead. I am not Charlie.

    Posted on 9 January 2015

    Find this story at 9 January 2015

    Copyright http://paper-bird.net/

    Am I Charlie?

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    I am Charlie because 12 people were executed in cold blood.
    I am not Charlie because I am troubled by the crowd of mostly white middle class liberals who took to the streets in Paris to protest the killings, many of whom apparently feel their culture and values are superior to others. Many of them also enjoy the privileges of being white and middle class in Paris, a city where many of the lowest paid work is done by Africans, including Muslim North Africans.

    I am Charlie because no one has an inherent right to the protection of the dignity of their religious or national identity, under threat of execution. For example, we should all be able to critique and even ridicule Islam, Christianity, Judaism or any faith when its scriptures are used to justify human rights abuses against women or gay and lesbian people.

    I am not Charlie because racism is rife in France, and five million French people voted for the Front National last year, a far right party that blames immigrants, most of whom are black, for the ills in French society. And I believe the publishers of Charlie Hebdo played into that racism by invoking cultural stereotypes, whether intentionally or not.

    I am not Charlie because I live in South Africa, and every day in this country, even in 2015, there are white people who try to erase the legacy of slavery, colonialism and Apartheid. Some of them argue against the use of affirmative action to redress past discrimination. Their aim seems to be to protect their privilege, and I believe many white liberals in France would like to do the same when it comes to their history of colonisation of North Africa.

    I am Charlie despite the fact that I live in South Africa, because South Africa desperately needs satirists to expose the hypocrisy of our leaders. South Africa is now more unequal than it was under Apartheid, such that two rich men have the same wealth as 50% of the entire population, and yet instead of focusing on addressing this, many of our leaders are black billionaires, preoccupied with personal self-enrichment. And when cartoonists such as Zapiro or artists such as Brett Murray have tried to use satire to criticise the corruption of our leaders, they are warned not to insult the dignity of the president or his comrades.

    I am Charlie because political leaders here try to use race to silence their critics, arguing that it is only white cartoonists and artists that would humiliate an older person who deserves respect in black culture, just as some in France have argued that only non-Muslims would ridicule or satirise their prophet. And yet this is not true in either case. In South Africa, artists like Ayanda Mabulu and musicians like Sizwe Mpofu-Walsh also use art and music to challenge and ridicule black leaders.

    I am not Charlie because Barack Obama continues to roll out his “war on terror” around the world in the name of American values, using drone strikes against whole families and communities, plus routine torture and execution, arguably creating more terror than many of his ‘terrorist’ opponents. And in order to legitimise these wars and prevent his terror being morally compared with that of his opponents, he needs us all to be Charlie. He needs us all to buy into a distorted dichotomy between Western liberalism that defends freedom of speech, and the barbarism of religious fanatics and terrorists whose only motive is to murder Americans.

    I am not Charlie because it’s not a crime for a policeman to murder a black youth in Ferguson.

    I am not Charlie because “concomitant action” in Marikana left 34 striking miners dead.

    I am Charlie because Boko Haram used Islam to justify the abduction and sexual enslavement of more than 200 schoolgirls in Chibok, Nigeria in April 2014. And yet I am not Charlie because there’s another story here of the systematic marginalisation of millions of Nigerians in the North and the East of the country and the theft of their natural resources by a Nigerian elite in cahoots with multinational corporations.

    I am not Charlie because they called it a democratic Arab Spring and yet after the NATO planes were returned to base, cities were left to burn, dreams were forgotten and the only thing left was the rubble.

    I am not Charlie because until 2008 Nelson Mandela was officially considered a terrorist and yet he is now remembered as one of the greatest people to have ever lived.

    I am not Charlie because it just isn’t that simple. We cannot create a more just society simply by defending the right of everyone to speak out freely, using the social and economic power they currently have. We need to redistribute power and wealth to create a just society, whether in South Africa, France or elsewhere in the world.

    I am Charlie because without freedom of expression, we cannot organise people to transform our societies to create more justice, equality, harmony and solidarity.

    Am I Charlie?

    BEN CASHDAN 09 JAN 2015 12:50 (SOUTH AFRICA)

    Find this story at 9 January 2015

    Copyright http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/

    They bombed al-Jazeera’s reporters. Now the US is after our integrity (2010)

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    A lot can change in five years. In December 2005 the Guardian opened its pages for me to respond to a leak – the Bush-Blair memo in which both leaders discussed the possibility of bombing Al-Jazeera’s Qatar HQ, where more than 1,000 people work. While those who leaked the memo were imprisoned, its detailed contents were never disclosed. Earlier this year I learned from a senior US official that the discussions had indeed taken place.

    I was not surprised. Our bureaus in Kabul and Iraq had previously been bombed by the US in an attempt to stifle the channel’s independence; one of our journalists in Iraq was killed. But this did not deter us from our mission to provide “the opinion and the other opinion” – our motto; to give a voice to the voiceless; to hold centres of power to account; and to uphold our editorial independence no matter what the cost. We maintained these values even as the US bombed our offices, continuing our coverage of both sides of the story.

    The Arab world, the region in which we are located, continues to see its share of bloodshed and war. Our audience, often the victim of these conflicts, demands honesty, credibility and integrity. If we get a story wrong, or are biased, it could mean the difference between life and death for viewers. They have come to expect independence as a standard.

    This week our independence was once again called into question. Cables from the US embassy in Doha were made accessible by WikiLeaks, alleging that Qatar was using Al-Jazeera as a tool for its foreign policy. While nothing could be further from the truth, US diplomats had the freedom to express their opinions. But interpretation and conjecture cannot take the place of analysis and fact. They focused on the source of our funding rather than our reporting, in an attempt to tarnish our work. Judgments made in the cables are plainly erroneous, such as the assertion that we softened our coverage of Saudi Arabia and the Iranian elections due to political pressure – one needs only to look at our reporting of these events to see that this is not the case. We are journalists not politicians – we are not driven by political agendas, for or against anyone.

    Journalists across the world picked up the story, and while some were careful to place it in context, many uncritically took the claims as fact. The Guardian’s report went well beyond even what was stated in the cables; the article clearly misunderstood the rhetorical statements reportedly made by Qatar’s prime minister, which then fed the false claim that al-Jazeera was being used as a “bargaining chip”. Those who understand the Middle East also know that Al-Jazeera’s coverage is no obstacle to a durable peace in the region. Context, analysis and a deep knowledge of the region are essential to a proper reading of the cables. Without these, journalism is another unwitting tool for centres of power.

    The region where we are situated is host to some of the most repressive governments in the world, where freedom of expression is silenced, journalists languish in prisons, and independent civil institutions are rare. Allegations that we lack independence are part of our daily routine – they no longer surprise us.

    But we take measures to protect our editorial integrity in spite of intimidation from governments and regimes – our journalists have been banned, imprisoned, tortured and killed. Al-Jazeera’s bureaus have routinely been closed, many times by Arab regimes with which Qatar has good relationships. Although banned in these countries, we continue to cover their stories with depth and balance. To institutionalise our independence we have ensured diversity among our staff, and have more than 50 nationalities represented – with no majority of any one nationality.

    Questions about al-Jazeera’s independence and its relationship with Qatar, our primary source of funding, are asked in almost any interview I give. Because the region has a history of state-controlled media it’s assumed our host country must impact upon our editorial policy. But the Qatari government has kept its distance – it is similar to the kind of model one sees in other publicly funded arm’s length broadcasters such as the BBC. Qatar’s prime minister openly criticises al-Jazeera, and has talked about the “headaches” caused by our independence. But we subject state officials to the same hard questions and journalistic standards we have for everyone else. Al-Jazeera has strong editorial policies to protect its independence from the influence of power – one only has to look at the screen to witness this.

    While we don’t claim to get it right all of the time (we are only human), we have got it right most of the time. We have placed a great deal of value on reporting from the field. Had the US diplomats actually watched al-Jazeera’s reports, they would have heard the voices and players who were shaping conflicts, wars and emerging democracies. By analysing our content they would have gained insights into the region. When George Bush declared “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq and most media outlets echoed his simplistic version of events, al-Jazeera was providing pictures and analyses that predicted the coming storm. At the time we were roundly criticised, often by states who had friendly relations with Qatar. And in Afghanistan, while others broadcast images of progress and calm, al-Jazeera highlighted the growing influence of the Taliban, reflecting the politics on the ground. In these cases and many others, time has vindicated our reporting. Had these diplomats listened to the voices reflected in our coverage perhaps some of their mistakes could have been averted.

    Those who lobby against al-Jazeera seek to delegitimise the work of dedicated and courageous journalists who put their lives on the line. For 14 years we have committed ourselves to safeguarding our editorial independence. Our audiences rely on us for this, and we will not be affected by pressure from regimes, states, media or other centres of power. We have full confidence in our mission as journalists.

    Wadah Khanfar
    The Guardian, Friday 10 December 2010 21.46 GMT

    Find this story at 10 December 2010

    © 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

    Guantánamo Bay files: Al-Jazeera cameraman held for six years (2011)

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    An al-Jazeera journalist was held at Guantánamo for six years partly in order to be interrogated about the Arabic news network, the files disclose. Sami al-Hajj, a Sudanese cameraman, was detained in Pakistan after working for the network in Afghanistan after 9/11, and flown to the prison camp where he was allegedly beaten and sexually assaulted.

    His file makes clear that one of the reasons he was sent to Guantánamo was “to provide information on … the al-Jazeera news network’s training programme, telecommunications equipment, and newsgathering operations in Chechnya, Kosovo and Afghanistan, including the network’s acquisition of a video of UBL [Osama bin Laden] and a subsequent interview with UBL”.

    The file shows that the camp authorities were convinced that al-Hajj was an al-Qaida courier who had provided funds for a charity in Chechnya suspected of having links with Bin Laden.

    However, the contents of the file also appear to support complaints made by al-Hajj to his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, that during his first 100-plus interrogations he was never once questioned about the allegations he faced, and that he eventually demanded that he be questioned about what he was supposed to have done wrong.

    Stafford Smith believes the US military authorities were attempting to force al-Hajj to become an informer against his employers.

    Al-Hajj was finally released in May 2008.

    Ian Cobain
    The Guardian, Monday 25 April 2011

    Find this story at 25 April 2011

    © 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

    Fury at US as attacks kill three journalists (2003)

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    Al-Jazeera quits Iraq as Americans accused over deaths

    The Arab satellite television channel al-Jazeera is to pull its reporters out of Iraq after one of them was killed during a US air raid on Baghdad.

    “I cannot guarantee anyone’s safety,” the news editor, Ibrahim Hillal, told reporters. “We still have four reporters in Baghdad, we will pull them out. We have one embedded with US forces in Nassiriya; we want to pull him out.”

    The move followed a day in which three journalists were killed by US fire in separate attacks in Baghdad, leading to accusations that US forces were targeting the news media.

    Reuters cameraman Taras Protsyuk, 35, was killed when an American tank fired a shell directly at the Reuters suite on the 15th floor at the Palestine hotel, where many journalists are staying.

    Jose Couso, 37, a cameraman for the Spanish television channel Tele 5, was wounded in the same attack and died later in hospital. Samia Nakhoul, the Gulf bureau chief of Reuters, was also injured, along with a British technician, Paul Pasquale, and an Iraqi photographer, Faleh Kheiber.

    Earlier, al-Jazeera cameraman Tarek Ayyoub, a 35-year-old Palestinian who lived in Jordan, was killed when two bombs dropped during a US air raid hit the satellite station’s office in the Iraqi capital.

    American forces also opened fire on the offices of Abu Dhabi television, whose identity is spelled out in large blue letters on the roof.

    All the journalists were killed and injured in daylight at locations known to the Pentagon as media sites. The tank shell that hit the Palestine hotel slammed into the 18-storey building at noon, shaking the tower and spewing rubble and dirt into hotel rooms at least six floors below.


    The attack brought pandemonium in the hotel which lies on the east side of the Tigris. It was adopted by all remaining western journalists in the city after advice from the Pentagon to evacuate from the western side of the river.

    Central command in Qatar said its troops had been responding in self-defence to enemy fire but witnesses dismissed that claim as false. According to a central command statement, “commanders on the ground reported that coalition forces received significant enemy fire from the hotel and consistent with the inherent right of self-defence, coalition forces returned fire”.

    The statement added: “Sadly a Reuters and Tele 5 journalist were killed in this exchange. These tragic incidents appear to be the latest example of the Iraqi regime’s continued strategy of using civilian facilities for military purposes.”

    But journalists in the hotel insisted there had been no Iraqi fire.

    Sky’s correspondent, David Chater, said: “I never heard a single shot coming from the area around here, certainly not from the hotel,” he said.

    BBC correspondent Rageh Omaar added that none of the other journalists in the hotel had heard any sniper fire.

    Chater said he saw a US tank pointing its gun at the hotel and turned away just before the blast. “I noticed one of the tanks had its barrel pointed up at the building. We went inside and there was an almighty crash. That tank shell, if it was an American tank shell, was aimed directly at this hotel and directly at journalists. This wasn’t an accident. It seems to be a very accurate shot.”

    Geert Linnebank, Reuters editor-in-chief, said the incident “raises questions about the judgment of the advancing US troops who have known all along that this hotel is the main base for almost all foreign journalists in Baghdad”.

    Journalists, a watchdog group that defends press freedoms, demanded an invesigation in a letter to the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. “We believe these attacks violate the Geneva conventions,” the letter said, adding that even if US forces had been fired on from the Palestine hotel “the evidence suggests that the response of US forces was disproportionate and therefore violated humanitarian law”.

    During the Afghan war, two supposedly smart US bombs hit the Reuters office in Kabul and many suspect the attack was no accident. It happened at a strategic moment, two hours before the Northern Alliance took over the city.

    US military officials at central command said they were investigating and added that the casualties were “regrettable”. “We know that we don’t target journalists,” said Brigadier General Vince Brooks, deputy director of operations.

    Al-Jazeera correspondent Tarek Ayyoub was broadcasting live to the satellite station’s 7am news bulletin when US aircraft fired two missiles at the bureau building, killing him and injuring a colleague. Two Iraqi staff are missing.

    Ibrahim Hilal, al-Jazeera’s chief editor at its headquarters in Qatar, said a US warplane was seen above the building before the attack. “Witnesses saw the plane fly over twice before dropping the bombs. Our office is in a residential area and even the Pentagon knows its location,” he said.

    Al-Jazeera correspondent Majed Abdul-Hadi said the bombardment was probably deliberate.

    In Doha last night al-Jazeera’s chairman, Hamad bin Thamer, said the channel “could not ascertain” if its Baghdad bureau had been targeted by the US. But he dismissed American claims that there had been gunfire coming from the building at the time of the attack.

    “This was absolutely and categorically denied by other reporters and our reporters present on the ground,” he said.

    Mr Ayyoub, 35, a Palestinian born in Kuwait, had not intended to go to Baghdad but as the war dragged on he felt he had to work there, and al-Jazeera agreed to let him work in Baghdad.

    His widow, Dima Ayyoub, launched a vitriolic attack on America: “My message to you is that hatred breeds hatred,” she said in a live telephone link-up from her home in Amman, Jordan. “I cannot see where is the cleanness in this war. All I see is blood, destruction and shattered hearts. The US said it was a war against terrorism. Who is committing terrorism now?”

    Suzanne Goldenberg in Baghdad, Rory McCarthy in Doha, Jonathan Steele in Amman and Brian Whitaker
    Wednesday 9 April 2003 07.30 BST

    Find this story at 9 April 2003

    © 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

    Al-Jazeera Kabul offices hit in US raid (2001)

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    The channel says everybody knew where the office was, including the Americans
    The Kabul offices of the Arab satellite al-Jazeera channel have been destroyed by a US missile.

    This office has been known by everybody, the American airplanes know the location of the office, they know we are broadcasting from there

    Al-Jazeera Managing Director Mohammed Jasim al-Ali
    The Qatar-based satellite channel, which gained global fame for its exclusive access to Osama Bin Laden and the Taleban, announced that none of its staff had been wounded.

    But al-Jazeera’s managing director Mohammed Jasim al-Ali, told BBC News Online that the channel’s 12 employees in Kabul were out of contact.

    Mr Jasim would not speculate as to whether the offices were deliberately targeted, but said the location of the bureau was widely known by everyone, including the Americans.

    He also expressed concern at reports that Northern Alliance fighters were singling out Arabs in the city since they took over early on Tuesday.

    Critical situation

    The station said in an earlier report the bureau had been hit by shells when the Afghan opposition forces entered the capital.

    Al-Jazeera confirmed later that it was a US missile that destroyed the building and damaged the homes of some employees.

    Al-Jazeera presenter
    The station has been viewed with suspicion in the West for its access to the Taleban
    “The situation is very critical,” Mr Jasim told the BBC from the channel’s offices in Doha.

    “This office has been known by everybody, the American airplanes know the location of the office, they know we are broadcasting from there,” he said.

    He said there had been no contact with Kabul correspondent Taysir Alluni because all their equipment had been destroyed.

    The Northern Alliance has reportedly ordered most reporters in Kabul to gather at the Inter-Continental Hotel.

    “Now that the Northern Alliance has taken over, it is too dangerous,” Mr Jasim said, adding that he had heard that some Arabs had been killed.

    Taleban withdrawal

    Earlier, al-Jazeera correspondent Yusuf al-Shuli quoted Taleban officials in their southern stronghold of Kandahar as saying they had withdrawn from the cities to spare the civilians air bombardment and acts of vengeance by the Northern Alliance.

    Al-Jazeera footage of three boys reported to be Bin Laden’s sons
    Al-Jazeera said these three boys are Bin Laden’s sons
    “They told us that reoccupying these cities will not take long once the air cover that supports the Northern Alliance is over,” he said.

    He said there was a “mixture of anger, despair, and disappointment among most people” in Kandahar at the fall of Kabul, but the situation there was calm.

    Al-Jazeera has a reputation for outspoken, independent reporting – in stark contrast to the Taleban’s views of the media as a propaganda and religious tool.

    But the channel has been viewed with suspicion by politicians in the West and envy by media organisations ever since the start of the US-led military action in Afghanistan.

    Exclusive access

    For a time it was the only media outlet with any access to Taleban-held territory and the Islamic militia itself.

    It broadcast the only video pictures of Afghan demonstrators attacking and setting fire to the US embassy in Kabul on 26 September.

    The banner of al-Jazeera
    The channel says its guiding principles are “diversity of viewpoints and real-time news coverage”
    Most controversially, it was the first channel to air video tapes of Osama Bin Laden urging Muslims to rise up against the West in a holy war.

    Last week it showed footage of three young boys reported to be Bin Laden’s sons.

    Western governments at one stage warned that the channel was being used by the al-Qaeda network to pass on coded messages to supporters around the world.

    Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 13:48 GMT

    Find this story at 13 November 2001

    Copyright BBC

    In the Wake of Charlie Hebdo, Free Speech Does Not Mean Freedom From Criticism

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    On Wednesday morning, the French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo was attacked by three masked gunmen, armed with kalashnikovs, who stormed the building and killed ten of its staff and two police officers. The gunmen are currently understood to be Muslim extremists. This attack came minutes after the paper tweeted this drawing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

    (“Best wishes, by the way.” Baghdadi: “And especially good health!”)

    An armed attack on a newspaper is shocking, but it is not even the first time Hebdo has been the subject of terrorist attacks. Gawker has a good summary of past controversies and attacks involving Hebdo. Most famously, the magazine’s offices were firebombed in 2011, after they printed an issue depicting the Prophet Muhammad on the cover.

    In the face of such an obvious attack on free speech, voicing anything except grief-stricken support is seen by many as disrespectful. Tom Spurgeon at The Comics Reporter, one of the first American comics sources to thoroughly cover the attack, quickly tweeted this:


    When faced with a terrorist attack against a satirical newspaper, the appropriate response seems obvious. Don’t let the victims be silenced. Spread their work as far as it can possibly go. Laugh in the face of those savage murderers who don’t understand satire.

    In this case, it is the wrong response.

    Here’s what’s difficult to parse in the face of tragedy: yes, Charlie Hebdo is a French satirical newspaper. Its staff is white. Its cartoons often represent a certain, virulently racist brand of French xenophobia. While they generously claim to ‘attack everyone equally,’ the cartoons they publish are intentionally anti-Islam, and frequently sexist and homophobic.

    Here, for context, are some of the cartoons they recently published.







    (Yes, that last one depicts Boko Haram sex slaves as welfare queens.)

    These are, by even the most generous assessment, incredibly racist cartoons. Hebdo’s goal is to provoke, and these cartoons make it very clear who the white editorial staff was interested in provoking: France’s incredibly marginalized, often attacked, Muslim immigrant community.

    Even in a fresh-off-the-press, glowing BBC profile of Charb, Hebdo’s murdered editor, he comes across as a racist asshole.

    Charb had strongly defended Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons featuring the Prophet Muhammad.

    “Muhammad isn’t sacred to me,” he told the Associated Press in 2012, after the magazine’s offices had been fire-bombed.

    “I don’t blame Muslims for not laughing at our drawings. I live under French law. I don’t live under Koranic law.”

    Now, I understand that calling someone a ‘racist asshole’ after their murder is a callous thing to do, and I don’t do it lightly. This isn’t ambiguous, though: the editorial staff of Hebdo consistently aimed to provoke Muslims. They ascribe to the same edgy-white-guy mentality that many American cartoonists do: nothing is sacred, sacred targets are funnier, lighten up, criticism is censorship. And just like American cartoonists, they and their supporters are wrong. White men punching down is not a recipe for good satire, and needs to be called out. People getting upset does not prove that the satire was good. And, this is the hardest part, the murder of the satirists in question does not prove that their satire was good. Their satire was bad, and remains bad. Their satire was racist, and remains racist.

    The response to the attacks by hack cartoonists the world over has been swift. While many are able to keep pretty benign:




    Several of the cartoons sweeping Twitter stooped to drawing hook-nosed Muslim caricatures, reminiscent of Hebdo’s house style.



    Perhaps most offensively, this Shaw cartoon (incorrectly attributed to Robert Mankoff) from a few years back swept Twitter, paired with the hashtag #CharlieHebdo:


    Political correctness did not kill twelve people at the Charlie Hebdo offices. To talk about the attack as an attack by “political correctness” is the most disgusting, self-serving martyr bullshit I can imagine. To invoke this (bad) Shaw cartoon in relation to the Hebdo murders is to assert that cartoons should never be criticized. To invoke this garbage cartoon is to assert that white, male cartoonists should never have to hear any complaints when they gleefully attack marginalized groups.

    Changing your twitter avatar to a drawing of the Prophet Muhammad is a racist thing to do, even in the face of a terrorist attack. The attitude that Muslims need to be ‘punished’ is xenophobic and distressing. The statement, “JE SUIS CHARLIE” works to erase and ignore the magazine’s history of xenophobia, racism, and homophobia. For us to truly honor the victims of a terrorist attack on free speech, we must not spread hateful racism blithely, and we should not take pride in extreme attacks on oppressed and marginalized peoples.

    A call “TO ARMS”


    is gross and inappropriate. To simplify the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices as “Good, Valiant Westerners vs. Evil, Savage Muslims” is not only racist, it’s dangerously overstated. Cartoonists (especially political cartoonists) generally reinforce the status quo, and they tend to be white men. Calling fellow cartoonists TO ARMS is calling other white men to arms against already marginalized people. The inevitable backlash against Muslims has begun in earnest.


    This is the worst.

    The fact that twelve people are dead over cartoons is hateful, and I can only pray that their attackers are brought to justice. Free speech is an important part of our society, but, it should always go without saying, free speech does not mean freedom from criticism. Criticism IS speech – to honor “free speech martyrs” by shouting down any criticism of their work is both ironic and depressing.

    In summary:

    Nobody should have been killed over those cartoons.

    Fuck those cartoons.

    by Jacob Canfield
    January 7, 2015 12:49 pm

    Find this story at 7 January 2015

    Copyright http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/

    Suspicions grow of Yemen link to Paris gunmen

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    IRBIL, IRAQ — As French police and security forces scoured the country for the two brothers suspected of massacring 12 people at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, intelligence officials in Europe and the United States were conducting a search of their own – for evidence that would link the two to international terrorism organizations.

    French officials told the intelligence services of two neighboring countries that they believed the two suspects, Cherif Kouachi and his brother Said, had recently traveled to Syria, where they’d fought with jihadist groups. But the French alert, distributed throughout Europe’s no-visa-required travel zone, offered no specifics on when the brothers supposedly traveled to or from Syria, and American officials, for one, were said to doubt the accuracy of the information.

    “We’re assuming that the French are basing this on intelligence, but they have yet to specifically share it, as one assumes they’re pretty busy hunting these guys down right now,” said one European intelligence official who does not have permission to speak to the news media.

    “But it’s certainly logical based on their clear professionalism and comfort handling their weapons in executing the journalists and police, as well as making their escape,” he added.

    U.S. officials are said to be more interested in connections between the Kouachis and Yemen, where al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula remains al Qaida’s most aggressive branch. Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell, now a CBS News consultant, told the network’s morning show Thursday that one of the Kouachis is thought to have traveled to Yemen in 2011.

    Other sources said he was referring to Said Kouachi, 34, an assertion that was backed by French news reports. The French news magazine Le Point, citing unnamed European officials, said Said Kouachi had spent several months of 2011 training in Yemen with al Qaida-linked groups.

    “We’re looking at an al Qaida in Yemen-directed attack,” Morell said. If further investigation proves that true, he said, Wednesday’s newspaper assault would be the first AQAP attack outside of Yemen since the 2009 Christmas Day bombing attempt when a Nigerian AQAP recruit attempted to detonate a bomb aboard a commercial airliner as it landed in Detroit.

    U.S. intelligence officials refused to comment on what their investigation has found and declined to endorse Morell’s statements. But they were echoed by John Miller, a former CBS correspondent who now is the New York Police Department’s deputy commissioner for intelligence and counterterrorism, who appeared with Morell.

    Also still unanswered is whether the Charlie Hebdo attackers were acting under their own initiative or were carrying out orders from a terrorist superior elsewhere. While French authorities have told news outlets that 18-year-old Hamyd Mourad faces no charges in Wednesday’s attack, there were worries that other conspirators remained at large.

    On Thursday morning, a gunman described by witnesses as of African descent and wearing body armor shot and killed a police officer in Paris before escaping, leaving authorities to scramble to determine if the incidents were related.

    Cherif Kouachi, at 32 the younger of the two brothers, has a long history of al Qaida-related sympathies. According to official French statements, he was convicted in 2007 of attempting to join al Qaida in Iraq and was detained for nearly three years as part of a broader investigation into an international jihadist trafficking ring that delivered fighters to Iraq to battle U.S. troops there.

    Also convicted in that investigation was Boubaker al Hakim, who now claims to be a member of the Islamic State, the successor group to al Qaida in Iraq, that now controls large chunks of Iraq and Syria. Last month, al Hakim claimed responsibility for the assassination in 2013 of two secular politicians in Tunisia, Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi, researcher Jean-Pierre Filiu, an expert on radical Islam at Paris’ Sciences Po University, told the Agence France Press news agency in an interview. Filiu suggested that that connection suggests an Islamic State tie to the Kouachi brothers.

    But Morell and Miller dismissed the likelihood of an Islamic State link, despite worries in Europe that hundreds of Europeans have flocked to Syria and Iraq to fight on behalf of the Islamic State. The Islamic State’s “job,” Miller said, “is to take territory and hold it, plant a flag and say this is the Islamic State. They are in the nation-building business.”

    AQAP, on the other hand, is the al Qaida wing tasked with external actions, and the travel to Yemen by one of the Kouachi brothers “would suggest,” Miller said, “that this was organized and directed by al Qaida’s external planning operation.”

    Indeed, Wednesday’s operation appeared to closely follow a script commonly used by al Qaida and the slew of groups its ideology and training camps have inspired. At least one witness said that the gunmen identified themselves as al Qaida members during the massacre in the newspaper’s newsroom. Le Point also said that as the gunmen were abandoning their getaway car, they told a passer-by “tell the media it’s al Qaida in Yemen.”

    The attackers also appeared to be experienced and prepared. They reacted calmly when they realized they initially had arrived at the wrong office and quickly adjusted their plan to find the correct location, a sign that they were operationally comfortable and able to overcome a mistake also made not uncommonly by police and military raiders around the world.

    The timing of the attack, during the newspaper’s hour-long weekly editorial meeting, indicates the attackers knew the editorial schedule of the newspaper and knew it was the one hour of the work week where all the top editors and cartoonists would be present in one room. And the attackers were able to overcome significant security procedures for a newspaper that was known to be a target and had been firebombed in 2011, including at least one armed police officer assigned to protect the editor because of previous threats.

    They also called out the names of specific cartoonists to kill but let others live, and were comfortable enough with their weapons that they were able to accurately control their fire.

    Still, the complexity of the operation would fall well within the capabilities of a small group of men trained on the battlefields of Afghanistan, Syria or Yemen. According to a police official quoted by Bloomberg news service, automatic AK-47 variants like those used by the attackers are easily purchased in Paris for about $1,200, making financing such an operation easily within range of a small group.

    Such small groups have planned previous spectacular attacks without much outside support, including the July 7, 2005, London transit bombings, the 2004 Madrid train bombings, and a disrupted plot in 2006 to attack Heathrow airport.

    The possibility that a small group could have planned the Paris attack on its own chills European security officials.

    “That’s what we all fear, that this is where it’s headed,” said the European intelligence official. “These guys come home with skills and motivation but aren’t part of the traditional network.”

    Prothero is a McClatchy special correspondent. Twitter: @mitchprothero
    McClatchy Foreign Staff
    January 8, 2015

    Find this story at 8 January 2015

    Copyright http://www.mcclatchydc.com/

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