Thursday, August 29, 2002

Back from Vacation

What a day to return to the Blogging world. There are two really interesting articles today in the Times of India. The first written by Chidhu Rajghatta, in which he states what many South Asians, terrorism watchers, and readers of Ahmed Rashid's Taliban book have known since September 11. American desires, it seems, to promote democracy around the world have suddenly taken a backseat to this war on terror. Perhaps, instead of focusing on Iraq or Iran in search of terrorists and Al-Qaeda, the more relevant move would be to sternly threaten Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to change its underlying support for extremists Islamicists. Iran, with its highly Shiite quality, would seemingly have no interest in supporting Al-Qaeda as Iran publicly backed the Northern Alliance, and Al-Qaeda is known to be pro-Sunni in characteristic. The Iraq issue is a sticky one. Saddam Hussein should be a candidate for U.S. sponsored regime change not because he is supporting Al-Qaeda (I don't think he is), not because he is a dictator, lack of Iraqi human rights and political freedoms (then there would be many countries who would be candidates for U.S. sponsored regime change), but soleley because of the dangers he creates by continuing the proliferation of Chem/Bio weapons and the perception in the terrorism community that perhaps he has the money, the psychology, and the delivery mechanisms to use these weapons.

The Second article, written by Rashmee Z Ahmed fits in well with my point, as Ahmed points out that Pakistani dictator cum President, Pervez Musharraf is not guaranteeing the stop in Pakistani support for military infiltration.

Pakistan has set "no time limit" for its new policy of government non-cooperation with cross-border terrorist infiltration, General Musharraf has said, even as he warned this might be hard to sustain without "some movement on Kashmir, some reciprocation from the Indian side".

What I gather from this then is that indeed Pakistan, as a state, is not ruling out again state sponsorship of militant activity in Kashmir. I wonder why Pakistan, for all these years has been missing from the State Department's list of State sponsors of terrorism, could it be perhaps, that the list is not accurate, and solely a political one?

Another aspect that is interesting is that possibly Musharraf, as interest in the West is slowly lulling with regards to Kashmir, is trying to reinvigorate the flames of war in South Asia. Musharraf knows, as does much of the Kashmir-watching World, that if any increase in militant activity occurs, as a result of Pakistani sponsorship, than this will lead to a possible war in the Sub-Continent. It is relevant to remember that elections will be occuring in Kashmir soon, and these elections are not in the interest of Pakistan. I think Musharraf is gambling, gambling on the fact that again the U.S. will get involved, and this time, not only enact travel warnings that were devastating financially for India, but that India will again issue threats that will not be backed up.

My guess is that if infiltrations increase, that this time India will attack, but not until after elections have been completed, leading again to a very dangerous situation. Hopefully, Musharraf, like many dictators unsure of their political support, is just talking to raise his own domestic levels of support.

My posts will continue to be slow as I am working on an article and Fulbright applications.

Friday, August 09, 2002

Kargil Documents

Great article today from Abroad's Aziz Haniffa on the shortcomings of the Indian Military during the Kargil war. Again, in efforts for full disclosure I must admit that I work at the the National Security Archive, and I did happen to pass the documents to him. Working with declassified documents are interesting for a number of reasons, but two in particular excite me greatly. Firstly, openness in government allows the regular citizen to better understand the inner-workings of government, whether it be what kinds of information is gathered on foreign policy issues, or like this document, the shortcomings of government and military forces. In the end, an open society is a more democratic one, and allowing the public a window into how a government works adds, in my opinion, to the legitimacy of government.

Secondly, this document is important for what it represents. That is, this information on the Indian military was created by a part of the United States Government, and was released in America. Should the Indian people be denied this kind of information from their own government? Isn't it important for citizens to have a grasp of how ready their military is with response to certain threats. If the Indian armed forces were lacking training, supplies, etc. during Kargil, maybe the public should be aware of this. I am aware of a movement in South Asia for freedom of Information, and hopefully the idea permeates poitical circles. It would be interesting to know what people think on this issue. Incidentally, the Archive has recently began a website dedicated to Freedom of Information movements around the world,

On a sidenote, I just finished my last exam for the summer. The class, for those of you that are interested was entitled Political Violence and was taught by Ehud Sprinzak, a brilliant academic who has come up with some really interesting theoretical models for the rise of terrorism. I did a paper for the class on the rise of the Kashmiri Insurgency through the use of these models. If anyone is interested, the paper still needs some work, but I may post it to the blog a little later. Incidentally, this blog will be taking a one or two-week hiatus starting tomorrow as I am off to wonderful Costa Rica with my adventurous mother.

Friday, August 02, 2002

Arms Case Indicates Link between Arms Procurers and Government of Pakistan ?

John Mintz's story today in the Washington Post indicates that Federal Invesitgaotrs are now re-examining a recent arms smuggling case in FLorida to determine whether the Pakistani government tried to buy missile components in the US for use either by terrorists or the Pakistani military. The sting oringinally occurred in June 2001 and resulted in a single guilty plea and the sealing of court files for anothe defendant. Mintz's reporting suggests that the Federal prosecutors removed references to Pakistan from public filings because of diplomatic concerns. While Pakistani officials have responded by saying the Pakistani government doesn't buy weapons on the black market, the U.S. seems to think that the buyers were indeed connected in some way to the Government of Pakistan.

"Mohsen, meanwhile, introduced the undercover agents to a friend, Mohammed "Mike" Malik, a Jersey City deli owner originally from Pakistan. Mohsen said Malik, in turn, could connect them to the ultimate buyers, who Mohsen identified as "the intelligence of Pakistan" and as people close to Afghanistan's Taliban regime and al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.

Malik met many times with Stoltz over the next two years, saying that his clients in Pakistan wanted to buy hundreds of Stingers, TOW antitank missiles, many varieties of rockets and artillery, night-vision goggles and even "heavy water," which can be used to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons.

Pakistanis who said they represented the buyers in Islamabad flew to Florida several times to negotiate with Stoltz. At various points, Malik and these middlemen said that they represented Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The ISI, they said, was seeking weapons for the Pakistani military and for terrorist groups Islamabad has sponsored in the disputed Kashmir region along the Indian border.

U.S. officials say that at least before Sept. 11, elements of ISI and Pakistan's military worked closely with bin Laden, the Taliban and Kashmiri terrorists.

At one point, one of Malik's middlemen arranged for Stoltz to speak by telephone with a man in Pakistan who he described as a top Pakistani military procurement officer. U.S. officials say they are convinced the man holds that job."

This is going to be an interesting story.

Judge Orders Names of 9/11 Detainees Released

Great news today, it seems that a Federal Judge has ordered the FBI to reveal the names of people detained in the investigation of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a major victory for civil rights groups. One of those groups is a partner of the National Security Archive, the Center for National Security Studies, which is led by the Archives' General Counsel, Kate Martin. CNSS has been consumed with this case since September, and it is great to see that there work has paid off. U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler rejected the Justice Department's argument that releasing names would allow terrorist groups to gauge the progress of the government's investigation. Strong work, Kate, Ken, and Sarah! The story from the Post can be found here.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

Fire, Earth....?

and Water. These are not just the elements, but also names of the three movies that were to comprise Deepa Mehta's trilogy. Unfortunately, as a result of the close-mindedness and hooliganism of the Hindu right in India complemented by the repressive actions displayed by the Varanasi government, Water, Deepa Mehta's critique of Hinduism's treatment of widows was silenced and forcibly shutdown. It is unclear whether or not shooting, and the film will ever actually re-commence, but in an account by one of the assistants on the film, Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan, these details become clear

"The day before filming was due to begin, the crew was informed that there were a few complications with gaining location permits. The following day we were greeted with the news that 2,000 protesters had stormed the ghats, destroying the main film set, burning and throwing it into the holy river. Protesters burnt effigies of Deepa Mehta, and threats to her life began. There were three main political/religious parties leading the angry mob: the BJP( Bharatiya Janata Party), the VHU (Vishwa Hindu Parishad), both well established groups within the state of Uttar Pradesh; and the KSRSS (Kashi Sanskrit Raksha Sangharsh Samiti), a party formed overnight from the RSS (Raksha Sangharsh Samiti) specifically targeting Deepa Mehta. The KSRSS claimed their role was as the guardians of the culture of Varanasi and came forward with threats of violence against her. The head of the RSS approaching press with statements to support this:

"Breaking up the sets was far too mild an act, the people involved with the film should have been beaten black and blue. They come with foreign money to make a film which shows India in poor light because that is what sells in the west. The west refuses to acknowledge our achievements in any sphere, but is only interested in our snake charmers and child brides. And people like Deepa Mehta pander to them." (The Week magazine, India, Feb 13th, 2000)"

One would think that these Hindu groups would have more on their mind than harassing and trying to beat people "black and blue." Seemingly providing livelihood, education, and other skills to India's masses is not on their agenda. Maybe the RSS/VHP should put some of those things above harrassment of minorities and actors trying to tell a story. The zealousness and self righteousness that groups belonging to the Hindu right express is shocking and an extreme opposite to the personality that one asssociates with piety or piousness. Indeed, beating people black and blue is not a fundamental of the Hindu Dharma.

Anyway, it seems Mehta may have tabled the project for a while (I hope she re-shoots it) as it seems she has just completed another film entitled "Bollywood Hollywood", apparently a film more masala than the rest.