Cindy Sheehan featured in Al Jazeera: “Dissent in the Age of Obama”

“The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience.” – Albert Camus

Recently, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) raided the homes of at least eight anti-war/social justice activists here in the US. I happen to be a prominent anti-war activist myself, and have joked that I am a “little hurt” that I was not raided and perhaps I should try harder. Even though, we have the urge to try and be light-hearted in this time of an increasing police state, with civil liberties on the retreat, it really isn’t funny considering that the activists could face some serious charges stemming from these raids.

I have felt this harassment on a smaller scale myself and I know that defending oneself against a police state that has unlimited resources, time and cruelty, can be quite expensive, time consuming and annoying. There is nothing noble about an agency that has reduced itself to being jackbooted enforcers of a neo-fascist police state, no matter how much the FBI has been romanticised in movies, television and books.
For example, in one instance, early in the morning of September 24, at the home of Mick Kelly of Minneapolis, the door was battered in and flung across the room when his partner audaciously asked to see the FBI’s warrant through the door’s peephole. At Jessica Sundin’s home, she walked downstairs to find seven agents ransacking her home while her partner and child looked on in shock.
These raids have terrifying implications for dissent here in the US.

First of all, these US citizens have been long-time and devoted anti-war activists who organised an anti-war rally that was violently suppressed by the US police state in Minneapolis-St. Paul, during the 2008 Republican National Convention. Because the Minneapolis activists have integrity, they had already announced that they would do the same if the Democrats hold their convention there in 2012.
I have observed that it was one thing to be anti-Bush, but to be anti-war in the age of Obama is not to be tolerated by many people. If you will also notice, the only people who seem to know about the raids are those of us already in the movement. There has been no huge outcry over this fresh outrage, either by the so-called movement or the corporate media.

I submit that if George Bush were still president, or if this happened under a McCain/Palin regime, there would be tens of thousands of people in the streets to protest. This is one of the reasons an escalation in police state oppression is so much more dangerous under Obama – even now, he gets a free pass from the very same people who should be adamantly opposed to such policies.
Secondly, I believe because the raids happened to basically ‘unsung’ and unknown, but very active workers in the movement, that the coordinated, early morning home invasions were designed to intimidate and frighten those of us who are still doing the work. The Obama regime would like nothing better than for us to shut up or go underground and to quit embarrassing it by pointing out its abject failures and highlighting its obvious crimes.

Just look at how the Democrats are demonising activists who are trying to point out the inconvenient truth that the country (under a near Democratic tyranny) is sliding further into economic collapse, environmental decay and perpetual war for enormous profit.
Barack and Joe, the commandantes of this police state, say that those who have the temerity to be critical are “asleep” and just need to “buck up”. White House spokesperson, Robert Gibbs, recently stated that we on the “professional left” need to be “drug tested” if we are not addicted to the regimes’ own drug: the Hopium of the Obama propaganda response team.
It seems like, even though some of those that have been nailed to the cross of national security do activism around South America, most of the activism is anti-war and pro-Palestinian rights. Being supportive of any Arab or Muslim, no matter how benign or courageous is a very dangerous activity here in post-9/11 America.
The Supreme Court just decided (Wilner v. National Security Agency) that the National Security Agency (NSA) did not have to disclose if it was using warrantless wiretapping to spy on attorneys representing the extra-legal detention of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Obtaining warrants, with cause, and attorney-client privilege were important principles of the US justice system, but even the neo-fascist Supreme Court is undermining the law – talk about “activist” judges!
Not only have activists been targeted here in the States, but Obama has ominously declared himself judge, jury and executioner of anyone that he deems a national security “threat”. These are the actions of a tyrant and another assault against our rights and against the rule of law from a person who promised “complete transparency” from his administration.
We have learned that Obama’s first victim under his presidential execution programme is Anwar al-Awlaki, a US-born Muslim who is now in Yemen. Without showing proof of al-Awlaki’s so-called executionable offenses and without a trial in a court of law, Obama has unloosed his hit squads on Awlaki. Is there anyone out there reading this who does not believe, or fear, that this programme could quickly descend into summary executions within the borders of the US?

Al-Awlaki’s father has filed a motion in federal court to stay the execution of his son until he gets his constitutionally guaranteed rights to due process, but Obama’s justice department has refused to cooperate stating that to do so would ‘undermine’ that fabled, exploited and ephemeral ‘national security’.

When Obama behaves like Bush, only on steroids, he amply demonstrates why other people hate our country so much. Persons in other countries are not nearly as blind as Americans. They know that even though Obama went to Cairo to blather about building understanding between the US and the Muslim world, actions speak louder than words and Obama’s actions drip with carnage and pain.

Obviously, the suppression of dissent here in the US, while outrageous and inexcusable, has not reached the level of the McCarthy witch hunts of the 1950’s – yet.

The longer we Americans remain silent in the face of these injustices, the more they will continue to occur and escalate.

Cindy Sheehan has been working tirelessly to end US occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan, motivated by social injustice, the crimes of war and most of all the passing of her son, who was killed in Iraq on April 4, 2004 


Dr. Manzur Ejaz: Pakistan and India- Apples and Oranges?

Whenever any reference is made to India, my inbox sees a barrage of criticism by Indian readers. Thus, I find one question should be answered once and for all: is it legitimate to compare one society with another and what would be common denominators that make the comparison really genuine?

I think most scientists would agree that comparative studies are useful to derive universal laws to describe human and non-human behavior. However, uninitiated to the basis of social sciences start with an unsustainable assumption that human societies have no common denominator. In reality, all the ‘isms’—Capitalism, Marxism, Pragmatism—believed or practiced are based on the assumption that there are common denominators. For example, common history and socio-political evolution can be used as a denominator for description or prescription.

Most Pakistanis and Indians equate Pakistan with the Muslim world and start idealizing or criticizing it, as if religion is the single most important denominator. Pakistanis project themselves to be part of so-called Ummah in self-denial of their own real history to idealize their past, and Indians find it convenient to put Pakistan in religious category and demonize it. Pakistanis believe they are heirs of Muslim rule and their opponents believe in the same notion as well. In short, Pakistani and Indian nationalists agree on this point.   

The fact of the matter is that most of the Muslims living in Pakistan are converts of lower layers of different castes. Till the time of the partition their status as lowly mass of peasants, artisans and laborers continued. Land was mostly owned by Muslim feudal lords and urban centers were completely run by Hindu elite. Muslims of present Pakistan had hardly any representation in the business community, bureaucracy, or education. During the entire Muslim rule, their status remained similar to untouchables who converted to Christianity during the British rule. Therefore, other than a small percentage of Urdu speakers who may have come from the old ruling Muslim elite, it is misleading for the Pakistanis to idealize themselves as heir to Muslim ruling elites who had descended from central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East.

Looking at the national assembly members, representatives of people of Pakistan, there will be hardly anyone from traditional rulers of Muslim India like Mughals, Ghauris, Ghaznvis or Lodhis. Most of the national assembly member have been and are Jats, Rajputs, Gujjar, Arian and Syed. The caste make-up of the ruling classes in Pakistan, the majority of which come from Punjab and Sindh, is similar to contemporary North Indian states if one equates the status of Syeds with Brahmans.

Conversions of Jat, Rajput or Gujjar families have made no difference to their day-to-day behavior and caste system is well and alive in both India and Pakistan. If one looks at the last names in Punjab one can find their exact counterparts in India, specifically among dominating Jats. If Alberuni would come to his India today—it was only Punjab because that he accompanied Mahmood Ghaznvi who had conquered only this region–his differentiation of Indians from northern invaders would not be different. In short, despite the misleading idealization by Pakistanis and demonization by Indians, the majority of Pakistanis have their roots in the Sindh valley civilization. Their eating drinking habits, marriage and death ceremonies are comparable to the people of the North India. Therefore, large part of Pakistan and North India can be rightfully compared even if the Indian counterparts fair better than Pakistan.

On the empirical level, there are intriguing parallels. For example, an extremist religious uprising first emerged in Indian Punjab in the form of Khalistan movement. To start with, the ruling party in Indian Punjab, Akali Dal, has been much more religious than its counterpart in Pakistan. One can blame Indra Gandhi or Ziaul Haq for creating and abetting the Khalistan movement but the fact remains that outsiders can only exploit the potential and cannot create a large scale conflict from nowhere. Therefore, Khalistan movement was a precursor of religious extremism in North India.

The rise of various extremist religious and sectarian outfits in Pakistan during the 1980s coincides with the emergence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, an offshoot of the extremist Hindu ideological formation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). BJP’s predecessor, Bharatiya Jana Sangh was formed in 1951 by RSS but it did not take off. It was during the 80s—BJP was formed in 1980—that a political party with political Hinduism gained significance. The BJP gained momentum in 1984 for protesting the massacre of 10,000 to 17,000 Sikhs in Delhi. This was the time when the US and Pakistan army were crating and grooming private jihadi militias to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.

However, the fundamental reason for the simultaneous emergence of extremist religious grouping in Pakistan, Khalistan movement and the Saffron revolution can be traced to rapid change of the political economy of entire North India (including Pakistan). 

Fundamental change of ancient agrarian system through mechanization and commercialism had created an ideological vacuum which was filled by the religious parties. A new ideology of political Islam, Hinduism and Sikhism was born. It is naïve to base analysis on the basic notion of Islam and Hinduism: the political version of both is similar if not identical.

However, if one starts with an extremist individualist approach, no state or province within India and Pakistan can be compared to each other. How can we compare Pakistan Punjab with Baluchistan or East Punjab with Orissa or Kerala? But if historical commonality is taken to be common denominator then north of the subcontinent can be analyzed as a single phenomenon. Most of the north Indian states were center of or off shoots of Indus civilization. The languages spoken in this area has more than 70 percent common vocabulary. Sixty years of post partition history cannot overturn the common history of thousands of years

If today factors like corruption, nepotism, general lawlessness in society, unplanned growth, suicides and sectarian bickering are used as common denominators, Pakistani Punjab, Sindh and North Indian state will appear to be a one contiguous area. Travel from Multan to Delhi by road shows that other than the difference of Sikh turban and beards everything else is identical. There are sufficient common factors of history and centuries old life style that link these areas. Therefore, comparative study of North India and large part of Pakistan is genuine scholarly pursuit.