Archive for April, 2007

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Hired Guns in Iraq

April 30, 2007

Blackwater mercenaries in training

As if the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan weren’t sinister enough with legitimate soldiers doing the Bush Administration’s dirty work, an article by Jeremy Scahill reveals that firms such as Blackwater are employing thousands of private contractors to engage in military activities within Iraq and Aghanistan, as well as recent activities near or possibly even in Iran.To quote the article:

While many of them perform logistical support activities for American troops, including the sort of laundry, fuel and mail delivery, and food-preparation work that once was performed by soldiers, tens of thousands of them are directly engaged in military and combat activities. According to the Government Accountability Office, there are now some 48,000 employees of private military companies in Iraq. These not-quite G.I. Joes, working for Blackwater and other major US firms, can clear in a month what some active-duty soldiers make in a year.

Even more disturbing is that they have almost no accountability, either in Iraqi or U.S. courts. In the cases where they have been accused of committing crimes in Iraq, they are whisked out of Iraq by their private firm.

If all of that doesn’t sound eerily Orwellian enough for you, consider this:

Today, Blackwater has become nothing short of the Bush administration’s well-paid Praetorian Guard. It protects the US ambassador and other senior officials in Iraq as well as visiting Congressional delegations; it trains Afghan security forces and was deployed in the oil-rich Caspian Sea region, setting up a “command and control” center just miles from the Iranian border. The company was also hired to protect FEMA operations and facilities in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, where it raked in $240,000 a day from the American taxpayer, billing $950 a day per Blackwater contractor.

Since September 11, 2001, the company has invested its lucrative government payouts in building an impressive private army. At present, it has forces deployed in nine countries and boasts a database of 21,000 additional troops at the ready, a fleet of more than twenty aircraft, including helicopter gun-ships, and the world’s largest private military facility–a 7,000 acre compound near the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina. It recently opened a new facility in Illinois (“Blackwater North”) and is fighting local opposition to a third planned domestic facility near San Diego (“Blackwater West”) by the Mexican border. It is also manufacturing an armored vehicle (nicknamed the “Grizzly”) and surveillance blimps.

But all of that is not even the topic of the article. The Democratic party, supposedly championing the anti-war cause has been quietly supporting these mercenaries and have, until this day, done nothing to stop funding to them. Even if the “withdrawal plan” were approved by Bush, the funding for his private army would still exist. Through the back door, he has doubled the military force in Iraq using “soldiers” who are above the law…all laws.

The democrats want to send FBI investigators to Iraq to “regulate” the activities of the mercenaries instead of taking them out of Iraq altogether. This will only serve to legitimize them, with no real way for even a large party of investigators to monitor 126,000 overpaid fighters. There are no official records of who is there, how many of them have been killed, what crimes they have committed, or who they ultimately answer to (it obviously isn’t the US government). As the name mercenary implies, they are for sale to the highest bidder. It is their best interest to keep the war going. It makes you wonder if maybe it is the President’s agenda as well.

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Modern Extremists

April 30, 2007

I’ve stated this many times using varying phrases, but I am saying it again because I found a new quotation from Eqbal Ahmad that illustrates it more effectively. Extremism (or if you prefer fundamentalism) in the case of 21st century Islamists is a product of the 19th and 20th centuries, not the 7th century. Perhaps the largest flaw of the Western world’s understanding of extremist Muslims is that they are, as one U.S. described it “trying to turn back the clock on the Muslim world” or to establish a 7th-century style caliphate.

In reality, however, they are not traditionalists or even imitators of traditionalists. Their movement is a modern phenomenon and is not even loosely based upon the principles of Islam. Their political (not religious) ideology is not even exclusive to Islam. Ahmad explains:

“Neither Muslims nor Jews nor Hindus are unique in this respect. All variants of contemporary ‘fundamentalism’ reduce complex religious systems and civilizations to one or another version of modern fascism. They are concerned with power not with the soul, with the mobilization of people for political purposes rather than with sharing or alleviating their sufferings and aspirations. Theirs is a very limited and time bound political agenda.”

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Son of Karbala

April 28, 2007

Cover of Son of KarbalaI just started reading, Son of Karbala: The Spiritual Journey of an Iraqi Muslim by the brilliant Shaykh Fadhlalla Haeri. I’ve long admired this shaykh, and it is no surprise to me that he has experienced such an intriguing life, growing up in the shadow of Imam Husayn’s shrine and then encountering education, trials, and realizations in the western world. I’ve only read a chapter so far, but I’m loving it. But then again, I love most biographies that tell of someone’s struggle to become a better person. I’ll post a more detailed review when I’m finished, inshaAllah.

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Pack your bags

April 26, 2007

I know I know. I haven’t posted in nearly a fortnight. Well, I’m back with some great news:

A habitable planet has been found. Let’s call it New Caprica! Oh wait, it already has a name: Gliese 581 c (ugh!).

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Tasty Denim

April 13, 2007

Tahira eating her dress

A dress never tasted so good.

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Resurrecting MedIslam

April 12, 2007

Medislam screenshot

I’m currently redesigning Medislam.org. It’s still in the early stages, but I thought it would be good to tell everyone so that I could get some feedback. So, please look at it and leave your comments.

For those who don’t know, Medislam.org was a medical information site for Muslims. Several Muslim doctors answered hundreds of questions from Muslims all over the world…that is, until I hosed it during our server upgrade. The old database survived, but the template was mashed to bits. The lead doctor has been very patient while I try to sort through the mess. I’d like to get it up and running by next week, inshaAllah. This version is running Joomla.

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Is Disney a Broken Home?

April 4, 2007

Finding nemoHere is a very relevant article about Disney’s “alarmingly” frequent portrayal of single-parent families.

Try and think of the last Disney film you have seen that features a protagonist that has both parents throughout the entire feature. There are truly some discrepancies with this trend such as The Incredibles or Hercules, but the numbers that support this idea are alarming.

Read the full article