Saturday, March 12, 2011

POLITICS: More on Peter King's radical fiasco

Republican Congressman Peter King, Chair of the US House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, has just commenced a set of controversial hearings on the "radicalisation of American Muslims".

Writing in the Boston Globe, John Tirman from the MIT Center for International Studies notes:

The START database on terrorism in America, which tracks all incidents of political violence, shows that most attacks in the last two decades have been on black churches, reproductive rights facilities, government offices, and individual minorities. And those have been committed mainly by right-wing extremists. From 1990 to 2009, START identified 275 “homicide events’’ that killed 520 people and were committed by right-wing ideologues. There were many more incidents of destruction of property, nonfatal attacks, and other acts of thuggery by white supremacists, private militias, and the like ...

King should expand his investigation to the largest sources of extremist violence in America — the Ku Klux Klan, the neo-Nazis, and their newer versions — and ask how hate speech and war fuel attacks. Those would be congressional hearings worth listening to.

Peter Bergen, director of the national security studies program at the New America Foundation, writes in the New York Times:

If law enforcement officials find it difficult to track down “homegrown” terrorists, then why have only 17 Americans been killed in the United States by jihadist terrorists since 9/11? Clearly law enforcement is having some success against such militants.

In the same time period, there were 73 homicides that the F.B.I. classified as hate crimes, and few lawmakers are suggesting that the agents aren’t doing enough about that issue. There are more than 15,000 murders in the U.S. every year, and few congressmen are claiming that law enforcement isn’t doing enough about such crimes.

To be continued ...

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

USA/COMMENT: Peter King's terror fantasy

A Republican Representative from Long Island in New York has just commenced Congressional Hearings in the United States on the dangers posed by Muslims. Apparently they haven't been doing enough to fight terrorism and extremism among their ranks. As a result, the whole of the United States is threatened.

No, Peter King isn't holding Congressional Hearings on extremism or terrorism. He's holding hearings on Muslim terrorism. Because as we all know, not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims. Just ask King, who was quoted in the NY Daily News on 29 November 2010 as follows:

Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.) urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to designate WikiLeaks a "foreign terrorist organization," saying it "posed a clear and present danger to the national security of the United States," and to prosecute founder Julian Assange for espionage.

Hey, let's be honest with ourselves. King can spot an Islamic terrorist a mile away. I mean, the dude pictured below sure looks like a Muslim to me.

Making matters more interesting, King chairs the Homeland Security Committee.

And you thought having Cory Bernardi as Tony Abbott's Parliamentary Secretary was nuts.

There's just one problem. Peter King himself is (or at least was) a supporter of terrorism.

Back in June 22 2005, the New York Sun reported:

Since the late 1970s, a Long Island congressman, Peter King, has been aligned with one of the most violent terrorist groups in recent European history, defying critics in his own Republican Party and elsewhere, and yet managing to prosper ...

The Nassau County politician ... used to travel to Belfast as often as twice a year ...

Once a vocal and frequent House champion for the IRA's political wing, Sinn Fein, and its leader, Gerry Adams ... The politician once called the IRA "the legitimate voice of occupied Ireland," he was banned from the BBC by British censors for his pro-IRA views, and he refused to denounce the IRA when one of its mortar bombs killed nine Northern Irish police officers.

It makes interesting reading. Here's some more.

He forged links with leaders of the IRA and Sinn Fein in Ireland, and in America he hooked up with Irish Northern Aid, known as Noraid, a New York based group that the American, British, and Irish governments often accused of funneling guns and money to the IRA. At a time when the IRA's murder of Lord Mountbatten and its fierce bombing campaign in Britain and Ireland persuaded most American politicians to shun IRA-support groups, Mr. King displayed no such inhibitions. He spoke regularly at Noraid protests and became close to the group's publicity director, the Bronx lawyer Martin Galvin, a figure reviled by the British.

Mr. King's support for the IRA was unequivocal. In 1982, for instance, he told a pro-IRA rally in Nassau County: "We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry."

By the mid-1980s, the authorities on both sides of the Atlantic were openly hostile to Mr. King. On one occasion, a judge threw him out of a Belfast courtroom during the murder trial of IRA men because, in the judge's view, "he was an obvious collaborator with the IRA." When he attended other trials, the police singled him out for thorough body searches.

During his visits to Ireland, Mr. King would often stay with well-known leaders of the IRA, and he socialized in IRA drinking haunts. At one of such clubs, the Felons, membership was limited to IRA veterans who had served time in jail. Mr. King would almost certainly have been red-flagged by British intelligence as a result, but the experience gave him plenty of material for the three novels he subsequently wrote featuring the IRA.

If Peter King helped give the IRA a respectable face in America, in Ireland and Britain the IRA's reputation as a ruthless and skilled terrorist group was solidifying. The product of street disorders in 1969 in the wake of a civil rights campaign on behalf of Northern Ireland's minority Catholic population, the IRA's violent effort to end British rule against the wishes of the majority Protestant population lasted 25 years. Despite killings by state forces and Protestant terrorist groups who favored retaining Northern Ireland's British links, the IRA emerged as the single most violent group. More than 3,600 civilians, soldiers, and policemen died in the conflict between 1969 and 1994 - the per-capita equivalent death toll in America would be nearly 700,000 - and the IRA was responsible for around half of those killings.

Ireland was no stranger to episodic political violence, but the strife in Northern Ireland was the most intense and prolonged of all. At one stage, Britain had 30,000 troops stationed there to quell the violence. Meanwhile, the IRA took its campaign to Britain - where London's financial district was twice devastated by bombs - and to mainland Europe, where British NATO bases were frequently targeted. The IRA nearly killed Prime Minister Thatcher and her cabinet with a bomb in 1984, and it assassinated prominent British politicians and members of the royal family. The IRA's primary contribution to international terrorist know-how, the car and truck bombs now commonplace in Iraq, were devised and first deployed by the IRA in Belfast in 1972. The organization also developed homemade explosives, like the fertilizer-based device that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma in 1995.

Much of the conventional weaponry and a great deal of the money necessary for IRA violence came from Irish-American sympathizers. Mr. King's advocacy of the IRA's cause encouraged that flow and earned him the deep-seated hostility of the British and Irish governments. In America, official animosity was no less intense. The GOP in Nassau tried, unsuccessfully, to muzzle him, and he complained that the FBI was opening mail sent from Ireland, including letters from Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams. In 1984, the Secret Service listed him as a threat when President Reagan made a trip to Nassau County to watch a Special Olympics event.

Mr. King and the IRA made the oddest of political couples. While Mr. King was an opponent of legalized abortion, a fiscal conservative, and a prominent supporter of English First - which campaigned against federal funds for bilingual education - the IRA and Sinn Fein are close to supporting abortion rights, have campaigned to give the Irish language official parity with English, and were in a pseudo-Marxist phase when Mr. King made his alliance with them. None of that bothered the IRA's American supporters.

"People like Adams were banned from America, there was censorship in Ireland, and there was no one around who would support armed struggle," a former head of the Manhattan unit of Noraid, John McDonagh, said. "But here you had this guy whose father was an NYPD cop - a politician, a lawyer, and from Queens. We may not have liked his politics, but it was so good to have someone like that, a very credible person who spoke up for us."

As Mr. King became more outspoken in his support for the IRA he was also fashioning his political career. In 1977 he was elected to municipal office in Hempstead, and four years later he became Nassau County comptroller. His breakthrough came in 1985,and for that he could thank IRA supporters in New York.Four years before, 10 IRA prisoners had starved themselves to death on a hunger strike in protest of being denied political status by the British. Week after week during the lengthy fast, tens of thousands of Irish-Americans turned out for noisy Noraid protests - and mainstream politicians, from Mayor Koch to Senator D'Amato - lined up to speak from Noraid platforms.

King happily supported radical extremism and terrorism when it suited his own understanding of his ethno-religious identity. It was okay for him to spend years promoting and raising funds for violent terror cells. The Irish Catholic jihad was his jihad.

Now things have changed. Funny, that. Still, it isn't just terrorists of the wrong religion that Peter King has a problem with.

HUMOUR: Islamic French superheroes

It’s often said that Paris is the city of lovers. Which might make you wonder whether such wimped-out lovey-dovey Parisian types might ever need superheroes to protect them. After all, isn’t love supposed to conquer all?

But like any big city, the real Paris is a place where organised crime and terrorism can flourish. This might explain a recent decision by the board of multinational Batman Incorporated to expand its operations beyond Gotham City, with new branch offices established in Paris and Tokyo.

Heading up the Parisian operation is some bloke named Nightrunner. Nicely tanned and sporting black and grey tights, Nightrunner is on a mission to defeat a group of highly organised criminals and leftist and rightist terrorists carrying out high-profile assassinations.

There’s just one problem. This particular Frenchman isn’t really French at all. One righteous blogger, Warner Todd Huston, complains that DC Comics and “Batman couldn’t find any actual Frenchman to be the ‘French saviour’”.

It’s easy to laugh off the likes of Huston as just a bunch of far-Right fruitloops. But their claims seem to resonate across so much of the mainstream. For a change, let’s try and take Huston’s argument a little seriously. Not too much. Just a little.

So what’s so un-French about Nightrunner? Apart from Nightrunner’s attire suggesting dubious sexual preference (heck, real blokes wouldn’t be caught dead in black and grey tights!), what else could any conservative blogger have a problem with?

I did notice that Nightrunner’s skin is of a slightly darker Mediterranean shade. Does Mr Huston imagine that persons of Mediterranean appearance aren’t welcome in a country with a Mediterranean coast? Not exactly.

You see, DC Comics has decided that the ‘French saviour’, the French Batman, is to be a Muslim immigrant ... The character’s name is Bilal Asselah and he is an Algerian Sunni Muslim and an immigrant that is physically fit and adept at gymnastic sport Parkour.
Mr Huston goes further:

The whole situation is a misreading of what ails France. The truth is, neither communist union members nor neo-Nazi parties are causing riots in France. Muslims are. Yet DC Comics is absurdly making a Muslim immigrant the 'French saviour'?

Bloody oath! These immigrants can never be real Frenchmen. Marshall Philippe Benoni Petain understood this well. He was a French national war hero and eventually headed the government of the French State during the 1940s. Petain’s government managed to rid France (which in those days included Algeria) of many nasty foreign types – Jews and Gypsies. I wonder how Petain would feel at his beloved capital having yet another foreign superhero!

Huston continues:

This is PCism at its worst. Not only that but it is pretty condescending to France, too. France is a proud nation. Yet DC Comics has made a foreigner the 'French saviour'. This will not sit well with many Frenchmen, for sure. Nor should it.
Huston is absolutely right. The French have had experience with nasty undisciplined foreign Mozzlems. This explains why they never allow Muslim guys like Bacary Sagna or Abou Diabyinto their national side. The French only allow real actual Frenchmen like Franck Ribery to be their football saviours, not a bunch of non-Christian immigrants. Anyone who disagrees deserves to be headbutted by this dude.

And so we have a problem. To fight Parisian terror, the folks at Batman Incorporated have chosen a superhero whose background means he is genetically disposed to being a nasty Ay-rab Mozzlem jihadist Islamist fundamentalist Islamofascist extremist Talibanist terrorist.

Seriously, if Batman had to choose an immigrant as the first French superhero, couldn’t he have found a Christian? Perhaps a Christian of Romanian heritage, a kid emerging from a Roma gypsy camp and with a history of fighting street crime. French people love gypsies because they’ve never been involved in rioting anywhere in France. We also know how welcome these good European Christian Roma folk are made to feel in the Republic. Just ask the current head of the French State, Nicolas Sarkozy.

OK, I've tried my best to take Huston's argument seriously, but I just can't. The idea that migrants from particular backgrounds cannot be saviours of their (or their parents’) adopted country is just ridiculous. It’s too dumb even for the world of comic strips. If only it was too stupid for certain elements of the allegedly conservative blogosphere.

First published on ABC The Drum on 18 January 2011.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

CRIKEY: NSW election: the ethnic vote battle that is Lakemba

With the NSW election coming up on March 26, there will no doubt be plenty of attention paid to the so-called ethnic vote. And with even safe ALP seats up for grabs as O’Farrell’s barrel of promises rolls across western Sydney, ethnic organisations will use the opportunity to promise votes. For a price, of course.

In Lakemba, things aren’t exactly promising for the Libs. Although the Liberal candidate for Lakembasecured a two-party preferred swing of some 13% in the 2008 byelection, it remains rock-solid Labor. The only problem is that an outsider wouldn’t be sure who the ALP candidate actually was. Sitting MP Robert Furolo for some reason has omitted words such as  ALP and Labor from his posters. Unlike last time ...

Lakemba isn’t a popular place in some circles. Dr Jeremy Sammut, a Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies, sees Lakemba as an example of the "M&M" problem of "disintegration". Sammut claims that "Lakemba and its surrounds ... remain ghettofied ... [with] jarring realities on the disintegration of some parts of Sydney from the mainstream, and the failure to repeat the successful patterns of integration of other ethnic groups".

And presumably ghetto-dwellers presumably vote the same way, obeying the dictates of their leaders. Enter the Lebanese Moslems Association (LMA), which manages the Imam Ali ben Abi Taleb mosque on Haldon Street, the largest of around 10 mosques in the seat and where Sheik Hilaly often leads the service.

In the 1995 state election, which then Premier John Fahey lost of Labor’s Bob Carr, Hilaly openly backed Michael Hawatt, then (and indeed now) the Liberal candidate. Hilaly’s voice could be heard on a loudspeaker stuck to the roof of a station wagon telling voters in chaste Arabic how to vote for Hawatt. A few days before the ballot, a host of Fahey ministers were at the Lakemba library showing their support for Hilaly’s campaign. And all to no avail. Tony Stewart easily defeated Hawatt, and Carr managed to knock off Fahey.

The LMA is also no stranger to politics. It was often involved in branch stacks on behalf of competing ALP factions. Back in the 1990s when Tony Stewart competed with former premier Morris Iemma for the Lakemba preselection, a former LMA president and local solicitor allowed his office to be used as a base for a dummy branch set up to support one of the factions.

In the 2001 Auburn byelection, whose ballot was held on the Saturday before the 9/11 attacks, Liberal leader Kerry Chikarovski sought endorsement for her candidate in Auburn from Hilaly and the LMA. She got it. The Liberal candidate obtained a primary swing of less than 1% in a ballot with no compulsory preferencing. Scott Morrison was campaign manager and state director.

Just how representative is the LMA anyway? Last time I checked, the LMA excluded over 50% of voters by not allowing women to be full members. Then again, "mainstream" Australian organisations such as the Melbourne Club are also happy to only have chicks working in the kitchen.

And like the Melbourne Club, the LMA is becoming a bastion of Liberal Party activism, throwing its support behind a swag of Liberal candidates, among them Michael Hawatt in Lakemba. Personally I think this is a politically inept move for any community organisation, but then again I’m probably one of those ghettofied M&M types.

The Libs shouldn’t fall into the trap of accepting ridiculous claims by community organisations of delivering votes. People don’t vote because of some alleged ethnic or organisational affiliation. People vote because their parents voted a certain way or because they like the candidate or for some other reason usually divorced from race or religion. And they hardly ever vote a certain way because their imam tells them to.

And that makes the LMA’s reported move of endorsing candidates completely futile. Still, at least this time around they’re backing a party and not some Muslim-only ticket as their senior imam did recently.

Words © 2010 Irfan Yusuf

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