Friday, May 6, 2011

ASSASSINATION : A Messy Business

KILLING quickly in combat, when large numbers of soldiers are fighting according to the laws of war, is sad but legal. Change any of those parameters, and things get tricky. Some lawyers have denounced the killing of Mr bin Laden, unarmed and in his home, as an extra-judicial murder. Others see it as a wholly legitimate military operation. Every country allows soldiers to use lethal force against a declared enemy in wartime, just as police may, in some circumstances, kill criminals. But America is at war with an organisation, not a country, and though al-Qaeda is not a state it is (by its own account) at war with the United States. Purists argue that the criminal law is the right weapon for defence against terrorists; pragmatists would differ. In any case, America’s armed forces have legal backing for their actions against al-Qaeda. Though a presidential order of 1976 bars assassinations by America’s spooks, an act of Congress in 2001 authorised the president to use “all necessary and appropriate force” against the perpetrators of the terrorist attack in September of that year. Next comes the category of person killed. Deliberately targeting civilians in any conflict is illegal. But al-Qaeda has a quasi-military structure, and plenty of precedents exist for killing enemy commanders in wartime: in April 1943 America ambushed Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the Japanese naval commander, on the express orders of President Franklin Roosevelt. Critics of America’s actions are arguing that Mr bin Laden was no longer the effective commander of al-Qaeda. But that would be hard to prove. Location can be controversial too. Russia sees the émigré Chechen leadership, for example, as legitimate targets and has killed them in places such as Qatar, to the fury of the local authorities. The assassination of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a Hamas commander, in Dubai in January 2010 , presumably by Israel, aroused similar ire. But Pakistan has itself used lethal force against al-Qaeda and allowed American drone attacks, for all its loud complaining now. Timing complicates the question further. Bombing soldiers in a hospital, or shooting them after they have surrendered, is a war crime. Soldiers are under no legal duty to give their opponents a chance to surrender, though if the white flag is shown it must usually be honoured. Nobody has suggested that Mr bin Laden tried to surrender. But his shooting while unarmed raises questions about the nature of his resistance. Any video footage of the attack will be closely scrutinised to see whether he was a combatant, rather than a prisoner. Behind the controversy is a change not in the laws of war but in the means of waging it. Drone strikes were measured in dozens under George Bush. They number many hundreds under Barack Obama. They allow an official sitting in America to kill someone thousands of miles away. Such killings usually escape scrutiny—and controversy— because they preclude any chance of surrender. Killing someone in the same room is always going to be more complicated.

OSAMA BIN LADEN : Now Kill His Dream

A FEW bullets were enough. But the shots that killed Osama bin Laden in the dead of night on May 2 in a fortified compound not far from Islamabad came after 15 years of dogged pursuit, two long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, well over $1 trillion of spending and around 150 ,000 deaths. It is a heavy reckoning for one man’s life. Barack Obama, America’s president, will justifiably savour a moment so dearly bought. A reluctant warrior in other ways, he has not wavered in hunting down the foot soldiers and commanders of al-Qaeda as well as its elusive leader. The president chose a manned assault directly on Mr bin Laden rather than an air strike on his compound, as some of his advisers wished, and it paid off. Mr Obama was lucky, but he made his luck—and he deserves the credit that will now come his way (see Lexington ). Mr Obama has been careful to warn that violent Islamism is still a dangerous force. Al-Qaeda is active, even without Mr bin Laden (see article ). The alarming problems of Pakistan, Yemen and so many other places threaten to feed more violence. And yet the death of the world’s most wanted man comes just when radical Islam looks vulnerable to the changes sweeping across the Middle East and north Africa. The task now facing all those who yearn for a safer world is to isolate Mr bin Laden’s savage jihad just as surely as its creator was isolated behind his compound walls. The man who warped a faith Mr bin Laden matters because he swept up a ragbag of local grievances into a brand of intoxicating and violent jihad with worldwide pretensions. His vision, however impractical, of purging Islam and establishing a single Islamic caliphate appealed to Muslims disgusted by the venality of their own elites. His means of bringing it about embraced an orgy of murder and martyrdom partly directed against the “ Crusader” West, particularly America. Sad to say, that also appealed to many Muslims for a while. And the whole package was decked with the riches-to- rags story of Mr bin Laden himself—a man who had given up power and wealth in Saudi Arabia, lived simply and seemed almost charmed in his capacity to defy the mightiest army in history ( see Obituary ). Terrorists dream of setting the agenda, and in two ways Mr bin Laden succeeded beyond imagination. For many people, especially non-Muslims, the central place he reserved for violence tainted the whole of Islam. Even as Westerners came to fear bloodthirsty and barbaric Muslims, Muslims deplored degenerate and imperialist Christians. Mr bin Laden’s brand of hatred thrived on both those grotesque stereotypes. And by framing the fight as a clash of civilisations, he could draw the West into a global war on terror. The attacks of September 11 th 2001 tipped America and the West into a fight that exacted a terrible price in blood and treasure. At home, America has diverted vast resources into a security bureaucracy. Abroad, it has been distracted from the historic challenge that American power faces in Asia. Along the way, America has compromised the values that are its greatest strength. This was partly by accident, because war is always cruel and messy, but also by design, through the torture of jihadist detainees and the oblivion of Guantánamo. It is not yet clear whether finding Mr bin Laden depended on torture (it probably never will be clear, given that the interrogator’s lead identifying Mr bin Laden’s courier took years to bear fruit). What is certain is that his message prospered because he could dismiss America’s commitment to freedom and human rights and claim that the country abused Muslims. That message is potent enough to survive Mr bin Laden’s death. Stuck in his compound, without a telephone or the internet, he had anyway become a remote figure. The al-Qaeda franchise, spread across the Sahel, in the Arabian peninsula and in cells around the world, will surely now seek to prove its potency. The hope is that the computers, discs and drives American special forces seized during their raid will wreck such plans. Terrorism being what it is, though, an attack sooner or later has every chance of succeeding. Strategic failure Even if it does, that should not obscure the fact that Mr bin Laden’s infamy in the West is losing its power to inspire his own people. This partly reflects the failure of violence to accomplish the goals he set himself in the Muslim world. Despite years of bloody strife, the Western way of life has continued to encroach on Muslims. Jihad has failed to banish non-Muslim troops from Islamic countries. Western forces remain in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kashmir is home to the Indian army, and Chechnya to the Russians. Israel still flourishes. Not one treacherous Arab government has yielded to the caliphate. More than that, Mr bin Laden’s desire to murder his way to salvation has at last aroused widespread disgust among Muslims. After al-Qaeda slaughtered Shia and Sunni Muslims in their thousands in Iraq, even fellow jihadis began to condemn his doctrine of takfir , under which radicals took it upon themselves to declare other Muslim apostates and kill them. According to a poll by the Pew Research Centre, confidence in Mr bin Laden in the Palestinian territories has fallen from 72 % in 2003 to 34 % now. In Jordan it is down from 56 % to 13 %. That still leaves a huge reservoir for recruits, but they have been hard to spot in the uprisings sweeping the Arab world. So far the Arab spring has cast violent jihad to the margins. When young Egyptians crowded into Cairo’s Tahrir Square, they wanted rights, not a caliph. Even the Muslim Brothers look as if they will opt for civil society rather than theocracy. Political change in the Arab world will be neither smooth nor immediate. In some places it is sure to go wrong; in others it may yield to hardline Islam. And yet, thanks to the Arab spring, Islam stands its best chance in generations of re-engaging with politics to found institutions in which religious and civil life can coexist. That would be a devastating refutation of Mr bin Laden’s ideology of universal Muslim struggle. How to encourage it? First, don’t relent on counter-terrorism. Al-Qaeda will need stopping for years to come. Second, recognise that jihadists will be defeated mainly by Muslims themselves. That means stabilising the crescent of Muslim countries, mostly outside the Arab world, where broken government has allowed terrorism to gain a hold. All are hard cases. Some, like Somalia and Mali, are only susceptible to containment at best. Afghanistan is close enough to the drawdown of NATO troops in 2014 not to pull out in haste. Most worrying of all is Pakistan (see Banyan ). In spite of what looks like duplicity over Mr bin Laden’s hiding place, the nuclear power is too dangerous to abandon. Better for America to hold Pakistan close than cut it loose. And last there are the Arab countries. Peace between Israel and the Palestinians would help (see article ); but more vital is Western support for the aspirations of the Arab spring. When Mr bin Laden struck on 9 /11 the West had few means of defending itself but by attacking him directly and by striking a Faustian bargain with the Arab world’ s oppressive rulers. His death comes when Arab opinion is at last flowing in a new direction. It is too good a chance to waste.

Tom Clancy's Dead Or Alive : Did It Predict The Osama Raid?

In Dead or Alive , the author, who previously foretold how passenger planes could be used as weapons, paints an eerily accurate picture of the terrorist’s takedown. Most of the world was stunned to learn that Osama bin Laden had been living not in a cave but in comfort when he was shot to death by secretive U.S. forces Sunday night. Tom Clancy, though, had an idea. In December, the author of The Hunt for Red October and Patriot Games published his first novel in seven years, Dead or Alive , this one with the help of a coauthor, Grant Blackwood. In it, Clancy’s version of bin Laden is finally caught—and when he is, he turns out not to be hiding in the lawless mountain regions along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, as most of the fictional intelligence community believes. Instead, he’s been biding his time in an upscale house (“must have set him back a million”) that is a shortish drive from a major city, and just a few miles from a major military institution. He works only with couriers and bodyguards. A super- elite Navy SEAL is on the team that takes him down. Oh, and one of the book’s rejected titles? In Plain Sight . OK, so not every detail lines up. The nearby city is Las Vegas, not Islamabad. Bin Laden was not moments away from personally detonating a homemade nuclear bomb deep underneath a radioactive waste depository when he was shot in real life. And Jenna Bush was not the triggerman. (In Clancy’s world, Jack Ryan, the hero of The Hunt for Red October, eventually becomes president; it’s his son, Jack Jr., who fires the climactic bullet in Dead or Alive , under a subsequent liberal administration.) But the similarities that are present show that while Clancy has lost a lot of his game in recent years--you see his name in bookstores now mainly splashed across the covers of forgettable spinoffs written by “collaborators” —he still has an uncanny feel for the intersection of real-world intelligence, terrorism, and fiction. In Clancy’s book, the bin Laden character has been biding his time in an upscale house a few miles from a major military outpost. Never an English professor’s idea of a novelist, Clancy achieved bestseller status with a signature mix of weapons porn, spectacular action (Denver is nuked in The Sum of All Fears ), diabolical international villains, and infallible steel-jawed American heroes. Implausible plots are studded with highly specific technical details. In Rainbow Six , Clancy’s clandestine spec ops men don’t just shoot guns; they shoot “the Hechler & Koch MP-10 submachine gun, the new version of the venerable MP-5 , chambered instead for the 10- mm Smith & Wesson cartridge developed in the 1980 s for the American FBI” with “superb diopter sights.” And they use them, naturally, to thwart a weaponized Ebola attack at the Olympics. It’s escapist stuff, but some of Clancy’s work comes startlingly close to reality. In December’s bin Laden capture book, Dead or Alive , Clancy and Blackwood describe the terrorist’s choice of hideout this way: “The Emir might have chosen a better-defended dwelling, but that might well have attracted the interest of his neighbors, and been counterproductive in this age of helicopters and bomb-laden aircraft.” Communication would be an issue. “How, then, would the Emir get his messages out? Couriers were the most secure method…” Even Muammar Gaddafi makes an extended appearance, with a Western consortium taking military action in Libya. Clancy has a track record of being ahead of the terror curve. Seven years before al Qaeda hijackers crashed jets into the World Trade Center and Pentagon, and attempted to hit either the White House or the Capitol with another plane, Clancy ended his novel Debt of Honor with a 747 slamming into the Capitol during a joint session of Congress. “People talk about ripped from the headlines. He’s kind of the opposite,” says Tom Colgan, an executive editor at Penguin, who edited Dead or Alive . (Clancy himself, who rarely speaks publicly, declined an interview.) “He has this weird ability to predict these things.” Clancy’s legion of fans on Facebook have noticed. Wrote one Tuesday night: “Clancy’s prophetic Dead or Alive has (a) very quiet behind the scenes intelligence work, (b) follow the courier, (c) waterboarding, (d) kill them without Miranda, (e) the ‘emir’ ( Osama) living in luxury right under our nose in a major city, (f) silent spec ops warriors who do the job without asking or getting credit. Along with airliners crashing into U. S. ‘high value targets’ (ie. the capital), bureaucrats & politicians who leave special ops guys stranded in the field—anything else prophet Clancy wants to warn us about (did I miss anything?)?” Dead or Alive doesn’t tie off so neatly as the real-life raid on bin Laden that ended with no American casualties and the villain at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. “The Emir” is captured alive, and then tortured to death and revived, with the threat of a chemically induced perpetual heart attack leading him to talk to interrogators. Perhaps Obama really should release a photo of bin Laden’s corpse. The next Clancy book, for what it’s worth, focuses on the infiltration of the Pakistani military by the Taliban.

Indian Maoists Extend Tentacles Up To East Punjab

Indian Maoists killed at least 11 paramilitary troops and left 50 wounded in one of the major encounters in Jharkhand on May 3. In Orissa, one trooper was killed and four others were injured on May 2. Three policemen were wounded in a landmine blast in Bihar on the same day.    Media reports about the incidents of barely a couple of days said the Maoists have taken advantage of the weakening of the central government-sponsored Operation Green Hunt. About 250 , 000 paramilitary forces and police have been deployed in the anti- Maoist operation about three years ago with the target of eliminating the red rebels within 2 years' time. But the Maoist movement, purportedly aimed at securing the rights of the deprived, oppressed tribals and dalits whose average income is Rs 20 a day, has now extended up to Punjab posing the gravest internal security threat to India.    Police accounts said about 400 Maoists, including men and women, on Tuesday carried out the ambush in a forested area of Jharkhand that killed 11 security personnel and injured as many as 50 - the biggest such attack in the state in two years. Some 100 paramilitary forces and police on secret information launched operation against the Maoists. Finding none of them, the group was returning to the camp and caught in the blast of one of the landmines planted in two kilometres stretch. Through hailers the Maoists asked the forces to lay down arms and surrender. They refused to surrender. The fierce gunfight left eight paratroopers and three police killed and 50 others wounded. Most of them were airlifted to state capital Ranchi, seven of them in a critical condition. "If there had been delay in backup support, then the casualty could have been much more," said a police official.    In another encounter, police claimed busting of a transit camp of the Maoists at Jhumara hillocks in the state on Tuesday. CRPF assistant commandant JP Yadav was wounded by bullet in the encounter. He was evacuated by helicopter. Yet another encounter took place in Ranchi district early Tuesday morning when deputy police super Anand Joseph Tigga was badly wounded by bullet.    In Orissa, a paramilitary jawan was killed and five others were injured in an encounter with the Maoists in a forest area last Monday. A group of 21 paramilitary troopers on patrol in Khandamal district came under sudden attack by the Maoists. The area is known as communally sensitive. A Hindu leader and his four aides were killed by Maoists three years ago triggering widespread communal violence lasting for several months. At least 38 people were killed in the violence.    Maoists in the state have warned of taking revenge for violation of agreement by the government reached with them last month for securing release of a district collector and junior engineer abducted by them. The government had accepted all the 14 demands including halting of Operation Green Hunt, release of some 600 tribals arrested for suspected involvement in Maoist movement and compensation to the families of innocent tribals killed in anti-Maoist operation. Soon the state government, ostensibly at the behest of the centre, resumed Operation Green Hunt and refused to implement any of the demands.    In Bihar, three policemen were injured when Maoist blasted a landmine in forest area of Muzaffarpur district last Monday.    A report from Punjab said 15 people including seven police personnel were arrested for involvement in supply of firearms to the Maoists. Police said inter- state gangs are engaged in trading guns which are procured from clandestine factories in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. This has worried the government. The State Congress president Amarinder Singh asked the police for greater vigil against Maoist activities. The red rebels started spreading network in Punjab and sale of weapons to them is an ominous indication, said Singh and called for taking care of the youths, particularly those who are educated but unemployed as they can easily fall prey to any sinister design.    Maoists in trouble-torn West Midnapure of West Bengal are lying low these days because of heavy mobilization of central security forces for on-going state assembly elections. "They are very active and only waiting for the withdrawal of central forces after the polls," said police super MK Verma.    Three central leaders of CPI ( Maoist) were arrested in Bihar this week. One of them, Varanasi Subramanyam, is believed carrying out the responsibility of Kobad Gandhi arrested two years ago. The government announced Rs. 2 lakh reward for the security men who arrested the Maoist leaders. They were lodged in high security prison at Katihar.

Yunus Loses Last battle

All the legal processes and diplomatic efforts have exhausted as the highest court of Bangladesh has rejected the petition of Nobel laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus regarding his removal from Grameen Bank.    On Thursday, the full court of the Appellate Division, which simultaneously heard another petition filed by nine GB directors against the High Court order that backed sacking of Yunus, dismissed the recall plea. The full court had ended hearings on the petition on Wednesday.    The central bank on March 2 removed the Nobel laureate as the micro-lender's managing director for allegedly flouting rules when he was reappointed in 1999.    Yunus and the nine directors filed separate petitions challenging the legality of his removal, but the High Court in its verdict on March 8 dismissed the petitions.    The Appellate Division also upheld the High Court verdict on April 5 when Yunus and the nine directors prayed for further hearing and recalling of the apex court judgement.    Earlier Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina accused Yunus—-who had briefly floated his own political party in 2007 during the military- backed caretaker government, of using 'tricks' to avoid taxes and ' sucking blood of the poor' with his bank's loans.         GB employees' agitation    Meanwhile, about 26 ,000 employees of Grameen Bank and its allied organizations throughout the country have begun a work stoppage immediately after the Supreme Court verdict on Thursday.    Grameen Bank's employees have threatened the government with tough agitation if the bank's sacked managing director Muhammad Yunus is not made chairman in two weeks.    The warning was issued by Grameen Bank Employees' Association's former president Sagirur Rashid Chowdhury from a press briefing at its headquarters at Mirpur on Thursday.    The High Court on March 8 summarily rejected Dr Yunus's writ petition seeking a rule on Bangladesh Bank to explain as to why its order removing Yunus from the post of the managing director of the bank should not be treated to have been issued illegally.         'Unprecedented'    The rejection of the writ is ' denial of justice', Dr Yunus legal counsel Dr Kamal Hossain said last week. Commenting on the latest Supreme Court rejection of the leave to appeal, he said 'it is unprecedented and devoid of impartiality.' It suffers from ' shortage of neutrality', he told the press.    Moreover, dismayed by the appellate division ruling of April 5 upholding the earlier High Court verdict, he said never before, even during Ayub Khan's Martial Law regime of the then Pakistan such violation of basic constitutional right to a litigant was allowed to happen.         Chaos likely    Dr Yunus's counsel made an extra plea this time to the Supreme Court for review of its last month's verdict as a last resort to put in place a legal process to scrutiny of the Bangladesh Bank action. Here many legal points remain to be answered in one hand and on the other such indiscriminate removal may only lead to immediate chaos.         Combating poverty    This is a prestigious institution which has won the Nobel Peace Prize along with Dr Yunus for its pioneering role to develop micro credit as an effective tool of development, especially to combat poverty and bring the poor marginalized people to mainstream economic activities. It is operating not only in Bangladesh but over 140 countries in the world.    The question is now why the government is bent upon removing Dr Yunus from the Grameen Bank when it may put to risks its future along with the stability of many other subsidiaries of the group that Dr Yunus has set up over the years. So public concerns on the matter can not be ignored.         Denial of due course of justice    Dr Kamal said, High Court normally accepts writ in such cases where a person believes his basic rights have been violated and it deserves legal interpretation. But Yunus has been denied access to such justice; he has been denied of any chance to defend himself before his removal by the Bangladesh Bank order was issued, he said.    As per the Constitution, he said a case has to be disposed of after completing all legal procedures, but in this case Dr Yunus has been denied of the normal course of justice, he told the press.         'Embarrassed'    Another counsel, Barrister Rukonuddin Mahmud said they felt 'embarrassed and dishonoured' by the denial of due course of justice and therefore have decided not to move with a separate leave to appeal petition of the nine directors of the Grameen Bank. " We have told them to find other lawyers to deal with it", he said expressing the team's inability to make a case for hearing of Dr Yunus's ordeal.    The High Court order rejecting a rule on Bangladesh Bank has so many 'gross errors and injustice,' said former attorney general advocate Mahmudul Islam, another counsel to Dr Yunus's legal team. But the Supreme Court's refusal to entertain the leave to appeal is all the same disappointing, he said.    Citizens protection committees have already been set up at various levels at home and abroad including the high profile 'Friends of Grameen' in Paris with front ranking global personalities. These are just indicative of the scale of reaction that may come to brace any move to take over of the bank by the government.    People wonder why the government is not taking into account these crucial things essentially bringing damage to the country's image abroad. It remains crucial especially at a time when the question of 'gross errors and injustice' is overshadowing the merit of the central bank action, observers here say.         Vulnerability of the order    Referring to vulnerability of the Bangladesh Bank order, both legal counsels and also public opinion remain highly vocal on few points. They say if Dr Yunus was holding the post at Grameen Bank illegally, why the Bangladesh Bank did not issue a legal notice on him in the first place demanding an explanation how he was there and why legal action, in this case termination, of his service should not be taken.    There is yet another issue whether the Bangladesh Bank has the authority to directly terminate his services at the Grameen Bank when his appointment has been made by the Grameen's board of directors.    The directors of the Grameen Bank have also filed a writ challenging the jurisdiction of the Bangladesh Bank order but the High Court has similarly dismissed the move in an apparent move to protect the central bank from coming under critical questioning.    It is now well known that the government wants to see the removal of Dr Yunus from the Grameen Bank at whatever cost. In this case if people start reading the court action in the light of the government intension, then there is hardly any chance to distance one from the other.    Particularly a recent news item published in Bengali daily Prothom Alo came as a big agonizing factor to people supporting the Grameen case. It said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at a meeting at her office with police and other security agency chiefs made two distinct instructions. The instructions later circulated through official letter asking them to promote nationwide campaign against microcredit as a tool of exploitation in the first place. And secondly they should maintain greater vigilance on local microcrredit groups of Grameen Bank in an apparent bid to slowly put them to disintegrate.    Dr Yunus is a big global personality, nobody would be able to break him, but the Grameen Bank may become a quick victim of intolerance from powerful quarters. Here the courts can only save the institution if it would act accordingly, political observers here say.