Tuesday 12th of December 2023

The Power of Nightmares

Some of you may recall that at the time of the London Underground bombings earlier this year, SBS TV were about to broadcast the award-winning UK documentary series, "The Power of Nightmares".

Their explanation for cancelling this broadcast at the time was, more or less, that certain aspects were considered "inappropriate in the light of recent events". Even more disturbing was a comment made on their Feedback program that they were "negotiating with the series producers regarding the possibility of updating some of the areas covered".

This series addresses the ease with which governments can exploit people's primitive fears, and how the vacuum left in the wake of the Cold War has been conveniently filled by the "War on Terrorism". It also paints a revealing portrait of how US foreign policy, particularly in Afghanistan, has done more than anything to make this particular nightmare a reality.

Prompted by hearing the despicable Mr Ruddock's "proof" of the proposition that the new "anti-terrorist measures" had popular support (viz. 1. They have similar laws in the UK, right? 2. Australians still went over to the UK to see the cricket, right? 3. Ergo, Australians endorse laws like these. QED), I wrote to SBS to see what was happening with the PON documentary.

I'm happy to report that they have told me that the series has now been rescheduled for screening, complete and unabridged, on three consecutive evenings, Tue 6 December, Wed 7 Dec & Thurs 8 Dec at 8.30pm.

I saw this program in the UK last year - it is informative, disturbing and depressing, and makes compelling viewing. Don't miss it!

power of nightmares .....

Don'r forget "Power Of Nightmares" - 8:30 PM, "Cutting Edge", SBS, tonight.

Four years too late

From the Minister for Justice and Customs, Regional cooperation to thwart terrorist financing
... the workshop brings together analysts and typologies experts from financial intelligence units in Malaysia, Indonesia, The Philippines, Thailand and Australia. ...

Here's some reading for Senator Chris Ellison.

From Inside the Madrasas by William Dalrymple:

... Since the revelations that three of the four future British Muslim suicide bombers visited Pakistan in the year preceding the July 7 attack, the British press has been quick to follow the US line on madrasas, with the Sunday Telegraph helpfully translating the Arabic word madrasa as terrorist "training school" (it actually means merely "place of education"), while the Daily Mirror confidently asserted over a double-page spread that the three bombers had all enrolled at Pakistani "Terror Schools."

In actual fact, it is still uncertain whether the three bombers visited any madrasas while they were in Pakistan: madrasas only entered the debate because the bombers told their families they were going to Pakistan to pursue religious studies, just as they told them they were going to a religious conference when they set off to bomb London. According to sources at the prime minister's offices in Downing Street there is in fact no evidence that any madrasa was visited by any members of the cell at any point on their journey. Still less is there any proof that madrasas were responsible for "brainwashing" the trio, as the British press assumed after the bombings. Instead there is considerable evidence to show that the trio were radicalized in Yorkshire through the Islamist literature and videos that were available beneath the counter of their local Islamic bookshop. And while it is now certain that the group made contact with al-Qaeda in Pakistan, there is no reason to assume that a madrasa acted as the conduit.

In this case, as in so many others, the link between madrasas and international terrorism is far from clear-cut, and new research has been published that has challenged the much-repeated but intellectually shaky theory of madrasas being little more than al-Qaeda training schools. It is certainly true that many madrasas are fundamentalist and literalist in their approach to the scriptures and that many subscribe to the most hard-line strains of Islamic thought. Few make any effort to prepare their students to function in a modern, plural society. It is also true that some madrasas can be directly linked to Islamic radicalism and occasionally to outright civil violence. Just as there are some yeshivas in settlements on the West Bank that have a reputation for violence against Palestinians, and Serbian monasteries that sheltered war criminals following the truce in Bosnia, so it is estimated that as many as 15 percent of Pakistan's madrasas preach violent jihad, while a few have been said to provide covert military training. Madrasa students took part in the Afghan and Kashmir jihads, and have been repeatedly implicated in acts of sectarian violence, especially against the Shia minority in Karachi.

It is now becoming very clear, however, that producing cannon fodder for the Taliban and educating local sectarian thugs is not at all the same as producing the kind of technically literate al-Qaeda terrorist who carried out the horrifyingly sophisticated attacks on the USS Cole, the US embassies in East Africa, the World Trade Center, and the London Underground. Indeed, a number of recent studies have emphasized that there is a fundamental distinction to be made between ma-drasa graduates—who tend to be pious villagers from impoverished economic backgrounds, possessing little technical sophistication—and the sort of middle-class, politically literate global Salafi jihadis who plan al-Qaeda operations around the world. Most of these turn out to have secular and technical backgrounds. Neither bin Laden nor any of the men who carried out the Islamist assaults on America or Britain were trained in a madrasa or was a qualified alim, or cleric. ...

Dreaming of Rembrandt

There is a big-ish con going on.

In the Review magazine of this Weekend Australian (8-9/10/05), there is this heading “THIS IS A MASTERPIECE...