Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Who are the Terrorists?

by Adnan Gill

These days the word “terrorist” is thrown around more often than any other noun we can think of. Pick a newspaper or tune into a news channel; all one sees or hears is somebody attacking another under the pretext of ‘self-defense’ or ‘war-on-terrorism’. As a rule of thumb, almost always, the stronger calls the weaker a terrorist. It seems, all one has to do is label his/her rival a terrorist, and a license to wage indiscriminate violence is bestowed upon him/her. Naturally, one has to wonder who the terrorists are in reality, and who are the victims in today’s asymmetric war-on-terrorism? Are the terrorists whoever the media designates, or the American and Israeli governments labels as such, or anyone who dares to question the apartheid practices of governments like Israel, India, Russia, and etc.?

Though there is no single broadly accepted definition of terrorism that can clearly define who the terrorists are, but in order to answer the question, it maybe prudent to go over whatever definitions of terrorism we can find, even if they are not universally accepted.

Proposed Definitions of Terrorism

The Webster’s dictionary defines ‘terrorism’ as: “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” It also defines the ‘terrorists’ as: “violent or destructive acts (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands.”

On several occasions the United Nations (UN) has futilely tried to come up with a singular definition of terrorism, but it always failed, because one or the other powerful nation(s) objected and sabotaged the general consensus.

Proposed Definitions of Terrorism at the UN

1. League of Nations Convention (1937):

"All criminal acts directed against a State and intended or calculated to create a state of terror in the minds of particular persons or a group of persons or the general public".

2. UN Resolution language (1999):

“Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other nature that may be invoked to justify them".

In the absence of a universal standard that defines terrorism and hence a terrorist, a brief glance over a few incidents that could be perceived (in the context of loose definitions, above) as acts of terrorism may help us to understand who the terrorists are?

Some of most memorable acts of terrorism in the modern history:

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the Zionist groups like Hagana Bet/ Irgun and Lehi/Stern Gang hounded the British rulers and Arab civilians through violent means. Were Irgun and Stern Gang terrorist groups? You decide.

German Nazis exterminated over six million Jews, gypsies, and disabled. Were Nazis terrorists? You decide.

In 1949, close to 1 million Arabs were forced out of the newly-created Jewish State. Does that make Israel a terrorist state? You decide.

In1953, Ariel Sharon was given command of Unit 101 whose missions were to spread terror in an effort to scare Palestinians to flee from their homes. In August 1953, the UN commander Major-General Vagn Bennike reported, "bombs were thrown" by Sharon's men "through the windows of huts in which the refugees were sleeping and, as they fled, they were attacked by small arms and automatic weapons." Fifty Arab refugees were killed. On October 14, 1953, Sharon led an attack on a Jordanian village of Qibya massacring 69 civilians. Then in 1982, after invading Lebanon, Sharon allowed the Lebanese Christian Phalangist militia into two Beirut-area refugee camps, Sabra and Shatila, where they slaughtered over 800 Palestinians, including women and children. Is Sharon a terrorist? You decide.

According to the Israeli historian Avi Shlaim, "Sharon's order was to penetrate Qibya, blow up houses and inflict heavy casualties on its inhabitants. His success in carrying out the order surpassed all expectations…The village had been reduced to rubble: forty-five houses had been blown up, and sixty-nine civilians, two thirds of them women and children, had been killed." Does that make Israeli leadership a terrorist organization? You decide.

In 1972, during the Munich Olympic Games, Palestinian fighters held Israeli athletes hostage and subsequently killed about a dozen of them. Does that make PLO fighters, terrorists? You decide.

In 1984, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, raging Hindu mobs embarked on anti-Sikh riots in which more than 3,000 Sikhs were massacred in New Delhi. Another 8,000 Sikhs were bloodily slaughtered in rest of India. Did Hindu mobs commit terrorism? You decide.

During the 1st Palestinian Intifadah (1988-1991), 1,162 Palestinians, including 241 children out of which 159 children were below the age of 16 were killed by the Jewish extremists and the Israel military for tossing stones. Does that make Jewish extremists and IDF, terrorist organizations? You decide.

During the same time (1988-1991), 160 Israelis were killed by the Palestinians. Does that make Palestinians militants, terrorists? You decide.

Since the 1989 Kashmiri insurgency, an estimated 80,000 innocent Kashmiris, including women and children had been indiscriminately butchered by the Indian military and paramilitary forces. Thousands of Kashmiri women had been raped by the Indian troops. Another hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris lost their homes, business, and crops to the naked aggression of Indian troops. Does that make Indian troops, terrorists? You decide.

In a 1995 nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway by the members of a Japanese cult which killed 12 people and left 5,000 people injured. Does that make the Japanese cult a terrorist organization? You decide.

During the 2nd Palestinian Intifadah (2000-2005), 3,323 Palestinians were killed by the Israel extremists and military for tossing stones. Does that make Jewish extremist groups (including the Jewish settlers) and IDF terrorist organizations? You decide.

During the similar time (2000-2006), 989 Israelis were killed by the Palestinian rockets and suicide attacks. Does that make Palestinian militants, terrorist organization? You decide.

On September 11, 2001 (9/11), 19 men affiliated with al-Qaeda hijacked four American passenger jet airliners to crash them into American landmarks. Approximately 3,000 innocent people from all walks life died in these attacks. Were the 19 men, affiliated with al-Qaeda, terrorists? You decide.

During the 2002 Gujarat pogrom, over 2,000 unarmed Muslim men, women and children were systematically butchered by Hindu extremists. Major Indian newspapers accused the Gujarat state government, led by BJP Chief Minister Narendra Modi of supporting, and in some cases instigating, the riots. Are Hindu extremists, Modi and BJP, terrorists? You decide.

Since Aslan Maskhadov (a Chechen separatists leader) won internationally monitored election in 1997, Russian troops have killed hundreds of thousands innocent Chechens, and reduced virtually every Chechen city, town and village to ruble. Does that make Russians, terrorists? You decide.

On May 1, 2002, on a Hardball with Chris Matthews (CNBC) show, the then US House Majority Leader Dick Armey (a Republican) called for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. He said, “I'm content to have Israel grab the entire West Bank… There are many Arab nations that have many hundreds of thousands of acres of land and soil and property and opportunity to create a Palestinian state… I happened to believe that the Palestinians should leave... I am perfectly content to have Israel hold and occupy the land that it has at this moment.” Does the calls of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their ancestral homelands by the fascist Congressional leaders tantamount to terrorism? You decide.

Since the 2003 American invasion of Iraq, an estimated 50,000 Iraqis have been killed by the US led military coalition. Does that make the military coalition, terrorists? You decide.

In a series of coordinated bombings of the commuter trains in Madrid, in March 2004, 192 unsuspected people were killed. A number of Moroccans and Indians were arrested for the attacks. Were the arrested Moroccans and Indians, terrorists? You decide.

In September 2004, Beslan's Middle School Number One was seized by the Chechen separatists. In the ensuing fighting nearly 400 innocent people were killed. Half of them were children. Were the Chechen separatists, terrorists? You decide.

In September 2004, 35 Iraqi children were killed by the Iraqi insurgents as American troops were handing out candies to the children in the West Baghdad. Does that make Iraqi insurgents, terrorists? You decide.

In an instance of four coordinated suicide bombings, in July 2005, 56 civilians were killed in London by young British Muslims, who wanted to avenge worldwide mistreatment of Muslims. Were the four suicide bombers, terrorists? You decide.

In October 2005, the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." Does President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s call to destroy Israel tantamount to terrorism? You decide.

Some recent acts of terrorism:

Since Hamas won the January 2006 Palestinian legislative election and subsequently declared a unilateral ceasefire, Israel crossed into Gaza with impunity to abduct and kidnap dozens of Palestinian ministers and legislators, and to kill many others through the targeted assassinations. Does kidnapping and meticulously assassinating Palestinian ministers and legislators make Israeli government, a terrorist government? You decide.

On June 9, 2006, Israeli Navy shelled a crowded Gaza beach killing 7 civilians, including 3 children from the same family, and wounded another 20. Does that make Israeli Navy a terrorist organization? You decide.

On June 25, 2006, Palestinian fighters killed two Israeli soldiers and kidnapped one. They demanded from Israel the freedom of hundreds of Palestinian women and minors in its jails in exchange for the information about an Israeli soldier. Does the demand to release woman and children, and kidnapping of an Israeli soldier makes the Palestinian fighters, terrorists? You decide.

In a display of grotesque rage, since June 25, Israeli tanks, cannons, soldiers, gunships, warships and the warplanes have killed dozens of Palestinian civilians, including women and children, and flagrantly embarked on a campaign of collective-punishment. Israel has destroyed Palestinian homes, schools, markets, roads, bridges, government offices, sewage plant, water plants and electric power plants. Does Israeli campaign of systemic murder of Palestinian civilians and collective-punishment make it a terrorist state? You decide.

Despite protests of its neighbors, on July 4th, North Korea test-fired seven missiles. One of the tested missiles was a long range ballistic missile (Taepodong-2) which failed and landed in the Sea of Japan. Among many, the Americans called the missile launch provocative, and a terrorist act. Was the missile firing a terrorist act? You decide.

Despite protests of its neighbors, on July 9th, India test-fired a long range ballistic missile (Agni III) which failed and fell into the sea off the coast of Orissa. US State Department called the missile launch ‘disappointing’. Was the missile firing a terrorist act? You decide.

On July 11, 2006, eight bombs detonated in commuter trains and stations in Bombay killing at least 183 people. Were those who murdered 183 people, terrorists? You decide.

On July 12, 2006, Hezbollah captured 2 Israeli soldiers and killed 8 to gain the release of approximately 70,000 Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners, including women and children rotting in Israeli jails. Does Hezbollah’s killing of eight Israeli soldiers and capture of 2 Israeli soldiers to secure release of thousands of Arab civilians constitute as an act of terrorism? You decide.

In a raging mad response to the July 12 Hezbollah cross-border raid, Israel unleashed its lethal and armed to teeth military on all of Lebanon killing at least 200 Lebanese civilians in the first six days. Israel imposed an air and sea blockade. Israel collectively-punished Lebanese nation by destroying their hospitals, homes, schools, markets, roads, bridges, government offices, water plants, sewage plants, airports and electric power plants. Does Israeli campaign of terror, systemic murder of Lebanese nation and collective-punishment qualify it to be a terrorist state? You decide.

There are no easy answers. Some people may find the answers to the questions asked above to be plainly trivial, while others may disagree with the context of questions altogether, but no one can dispute the fact, that at some point in time, most of us had been victims of terror and at other time we became the terror. Captious critics often comment that one state's "terrorist" is another state's "freedom fighter". Others call the terrorism, poor-man’s war.

Whether they wear a disguise, a religious symbol, or a nation’s uniform, anyone who terrorizes a society by intimidating, injuring, and/or murdering innocent humans should be considered terrorists.

On July 13, while looking forward to feast on a barbecued pig in Germany, President Bush set the standards for self-defense, he declared, "Every nation must defend herself against terrorist attacks and the killing of innocent life." One wonders, if President Bush considers Palestinians and Lebanese to be nationals of Palestine and Lebanon respectively, or at a minimum, to be equally human as Israelis? Most probably not, otherwise he would have muzzled the Israeli terror machine and recognized Arabs’ right to defend themselves from the Israeli campaign of terror. Expecting the US to arm Palestinians and Lebanese with the same most-modern weaponry for self-defense as it freely arms Israel with, would be expecting Neo-Cons in his government to be fair. However, at least, President Bush could have also given the Palestinians and the Lebanese a few million dollars from the billions he dishes out to Israelis every year, so they could also, like the Israelis, build bomb shelters to save their citizens from the systematic, deliberate and malicious Israeli bombing raids.

When it comes to terrorism and counter-terrorism, there are no winners; there are no heroes, only flawed human beings pursuing their own selfish goals.

More articles by Adnan Gill

Monday, July 24, 2006

US media, a Zionist propaganda mouthpiece…..

Israel and the US media

David Walsh

Over the past week, the American mass media has obediently fallen into line in defence of Israeli violence and aggression. As hundreds of civilians have died in Lebanon and an estimated half a million been made homeless by Israeli bombs and shells, the US media has consistently painted the conflict as a defensive action by the Zionist regime against provocations by “terrorists.”

The American public is deliberately being kept ignorant about the history and reality of the situation in the Middle East, as part of the combined effort by Washington and Tel Aviv to impose their brutal will on the people of the region.

The major television networks and cable channels, through which much of the population receives its information about world events, have played an especially foul role in concealing the real political and social questions. To watch the television news channels and network news programmes for a single afternoon and evening is largely to bathe in ignorance and reaction.

This begins with the manner in which the Middle East conflict is portrayed. The language and phrases used are carefully calibrated to conform to the arguments of the Israeli government and its sponsors in the US.

The television news programmes inevitably present the current conflict as a struggle between Israel and “terrorists.” Right-winger and xenophobe Lou Dobbs of CNN, for example, on July 19 evening, in the course of a one-hour programme, repeats this thought no less than eight times: “Israel tonight is stepping up its offensive against terrorists in Gaza,” “Israeli troops tonight are fighting Hezbollah terrorists in one of the biggest ground battles of this conflict,” “Hezbollah terrorists tonight are firing a barrage of rockets at cities and towns in northern Israel,” and so forth (from CNN transcripts).

Without fail, as well, any reference to the fighting must place the blame for its eruption on Hamas and Hezbollah, not long-term Israeli ambitions. Bob Schieffer, on the CBS Evening News Wednesday, for example, almost in passing, refers to Hezbollah as the group that “started the trouble in Lebanon.”

No hint emerges from any of the television news programmes that underlying the massive Israeli operation might be geopolitical aims, that what we see unfolding is an operation that has been long in the planning and only waiting for a pretext. Such a possibility is not even suggested.

The news on American television is nothing but propaganda. It has, in fact, a totalitarian character. No effort is made to educate the public. The news is delivered for the most part by ignorant individuals, unaware of history and social reality, simply repeating lines fed to them. When there is any question about the nature and scope of the current operation in Lebanon and Gaza, the television news programmes simply turn to the State Department or the Israeli government itself for clarification.

For example, when is an invasion not an invasion? When the Tel Aviv regime says so. O’Brien of CNN, on the Israeli incursion into Lebanon, July 19: “Israeli troops are on that side. They say it’s not an invasion, they say it’s part of an effort to root-out Hezbollah bunkers, strongholds and those rockets which continue to besiege the northern part of Israel.”

And when is the destruction of a country’s infrastructure no such thing? Also when the Israelis say so. Israel is not responsible for the destruction of bridges, roads, tunnels, apartment complexes, port facilities, factories. The “terrorists” are responsible. Israeli hands could not be cleaner. A parade of Zionist government officials appears on American television: on July 19 alone, Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres, former prime ministers Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, Israeli ambassador to the US, Dan Gillerman.

All the veteran Israeli leaders have blood on their hands. They bandy about the word “terrorist,” but the state of Israel was formed through explicitly terrorist means and the various political figures have personally participated in or presided over deadly military operations against the Palestinian, Lebanese and Jordanian populations. They are all well-trained practitioners of the Big Lie: that tiny Israel is under siege from its barbarous Arab neighbours. They know the “hot buttons” to push. They interact with their US interviewers like members of the same club. Israel, they seem to suggest, is “America in the Middle East,” practically the 51st state.

Peres appears at least twice on US television Wednesday, on “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on MSNBC and “Larry King Live” on CNN. Both interviewers are deferential to the veteran war criminal. Peres claims to King, “Israel didn’t start the war. Israel didn’t attack anybody. We gave back to Lebanon all the land, all the water... We were living for six years in total peace. We didn’t hurt anybody.”

Peres, of course, is lying. Israeli history in relation to Lebanon is one of provocation, violence and criminality. Before Israel’s establishment, Zionist leaders envisioned a greater Israel that would include the southern portion of Lebanon as far as the Litani River (perhaps Israel’s military goal today in any invasion). In the 1950s, the Israeli government considered the fracturing of Lebanon, the establishment of a Christian state and the annexation of the southern part of the country.

Between 1968 and 1974, the Lebanese army recorded more than 3,000 violations of Lebanese territory by Israeli armed forces; 880 Palestinians and Lebanese were killed in the attacks. Some 150 Palestinian camps and villages in southern Lebanon were razed and olive groves and crops destroyed.

In March 1978, Israel invaded Lebanon, killing more than 2,000 people and making some 250,000 homeless. In one of the most gruesome crimes of modern times, the Israelis allowed their allies in the fascist Southern Lebanon Army to enter the Palestinian refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla in September 1982, where the latter carried out the slaughter of an estimated 2,000 men, women and children. An Israeli inquiry later found that Defence Minister Ariel Sharon bore “personal responsibility” for the massacre. The Israeli military proceeded to occupy southern Lebanon for another 18 years, during which time countless Lebanese and Palestinians suffered at their hands. For the American television networks, however, history began when Hamas guerrillas seized a single Israeli soldier on June 25.

Netanyahu, the extreme right-winger beloved of the neo-fascists in the Republican Party, defends the killing of civilians to MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson. In keeping with the Zionist regime’s line (and the line of every imperialist bully), civilian deaths are the fault of the “terrorists,” who insist on mingling with the general population. “If you have to take out a rocket emplacement in a crowded neighbourhood, you have to do it,” explains Netanyahu, to which Carlson audibly adds, “That’s right.”

When Lebanese casualties are mentioned by the television news, they are inevitably balanced by reports of Israeli deaths and wounded, as though the figures were equivalent. On Wednesday afternoon, the Fox News Channel’s John Gibson, a fanatical right-winger, intones, “Hezbollah attacked the holy city of Nazareth,” where a rocket killed two Israeli Arabs. The various news commentators are astounded to learn that local residents blame Israel, first, for not providing bomb shelters for the predominantly Arab population, and, second, for launching its attacks on Gaza and Lebanon.

If the American television networks had the slightest honesty, they would have begun their news programmes Wednesday with the fact that Louise Arbour of the UN High Commission on Human Rights suggested that Israel might be guilty of war crimes. She declared that the obligation to protect civilians during hostilities is entrenched in international law, “which defines war crimes and crimes against humanity.” Moreover, she argued that individual political leaders could find themselves charged with war crimes, adding, “I think one must issue a sobering signal to those who are behind these initiatives to examine very closely their personal exposure,” she told the BBC.

The fighting is invariably described as “fierce exchanges between Hezbollah guerrillas and the Israelis,” again, as though there were some sort of equivalence between the Islamic movement’s Katyusha rockets and mortars, and the Zionist military’s F-16 bombers, Apache helicopter gunships, artillery, tanks and armoured personnel carriers.

Almost unavoidably, glimpses of the truth appear on American television news programmes. Certain reporters on the spot in Lebanon, obviously affected by the mass suffering, provide some picture of what life is like under the Israeli siege. Nic Robertson of CNN reports on the bombing of a food distribution warehouse in Beirut, which burns for hours. He warns of a “humanitarian crisis in the making,” with half a million people out of a population of 4 million displaced, “airports bombed, ports blockaded.” One of the most moving encounters appears on ABC, with an Ethiopian woman, who works as a maid in Beirut. The young woman is crying, obviously terrified, cowering in a doorway. The reporter notes, with sympathy, “No ship is coming for her.”

The hostility of the Lebanese population to the Israeli war and the backing of the resistance cannot be entirely evaded. CBS News notes that Hezbollah is “drawing support from the war meant to destroy it.” Even a Fox News report from a park in Beirut, where the homeless are camped out, has to admit that there are “no hard feelings toward Hezbollah.” An aid worker tells the Fox reporter, “the refugees here adore Hezbollah.”

Brit Hume of Fox News somewhat mournfully asks his usual panel of Fred Barnes, Mort Kondracke and Mara Liasson “how long can the US hold out” against the pictures of refugees and devastation in Lebanon before it is forced to pressure Israel into considering a ceasefire. Not long, they regretfully reply. The Israeli embassy, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the entire Zionist lobbying enterprise expend vast amounts of time and money to intervene in and manipulate the US media. The lobbying in and of itself would not be successful if its aims did not coincide with American imperialist policy. Apart from that, the pro-Israel operation would simply be considered a criminal conspiracy. How else to explain certain stories that suddenly appear on each television network and cable channel simultaneously? On Wednesday, for example, the various American news programmes, as though on cue, run stories on the supposed threat posed by Hezbollah terrorist attacks in the US.

Each of the networks or channels treats the story with its own particular touch. Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News pulls no punches. “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” an afternoon programme, asks Wednesday, “Are Hezbollah cells a bigger threat than Al-Qaeda?” Brian Levin, “terror analyst,” and Wayne Simmons, a former CIA operative, unsurprisingly, answer in the affirmative. Simmons suggests, without providing a shred of evidence, that Hezbollah is “much more of a threat than Al-Qaeda.” Fox subsequently runs a headline, “FBI hunts for Hezbollah sleeper cells inside US.”

Not to be outdone, CNN asks its viewers, to most of whom the question has no doubt never occurred before: “How concerned are you about Hezbollah attacks in the US?” The cable channel’s Wolf Blitzer, formerly the Jerusalem Post correspondent in Washington, warns of “fears that Hezbollah is going to hit the US.” The CBS Evening News with Bob Schieffer also introduces the allegation with a sensational headline, “Hezbollah in the US,” only later to half-debunk the story by pointing out that Hezbollah supporters in the US have never been charged or suspected of any terrorist attacks.

One afternoon, one evening of US television news...


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Indian-Israeli terror nexus

The Indian-Israeli terror nexus

Shireen M Mazari

The present situation in the Middle East shows the desperate need for the UN to include state terrorism within any international convention on terrorism. Israel's unleashing of its military might against the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian people and against the hapless Lebanese state shows most starkly the terrorism a state with massive military resources can unleash.

With US President Bush and his faithful sidekick Tony Blair, continuing to declare their absurd refrain of Israel's "right to defend itself", the international community has been reduced to a frustrated spectator to this latest act of Israeli terrorism. If ever there was a true reflection of unilateralism, it is this ability of the US to undermine all efforts at multilateral diplomacy and international peace and security.

Apart from the historic record of Israel to kill Arabs at will -- after all who can forget the massacres of Sabra and Shatila and the almost daily target killings by the Israelis of Palestinians -- the efforts by Israel and its defenders to rationalise the present military onslaught against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians has absolutely no legal or moral justification. A state cannot be allowed to massacre civilians at will in response to the actions of a non-state actor. As for the notion of 'collective punishment' -- if that is to become part of international state behaviour, then there will be total anarchy in the world. Already the US, with its unilateralism and notion of 'coalitions of the willing' is reducing the international system into an anarchic one making existing international law and norms of inter-state behaviour almost irrelevant. If the Israeli notion of collective punishment is accepted then even more chaotic scenarios can result. If, for example, a Pakistani soldier is kidnapped or killed by an Afghan, should the Pakistani state have the right of collective punishment and move it's military into Afghanistan? By such perverse logic, it really depends on who is more powerful, not who is right.

If Israel continues to get the indulgence it is getting from the US and its European allies -- one really wonders how much more sufferings the Palestinians will have to endure in order to pay for Europe's Nazi guilt -- it may well become more adventuristic and widen the conflict to Syria and Iran. Iran has already given a commitment to defend Syria against Israeli aggression and probably the only thing stopping Israel so far is the element of the unknown with regard to Iran.

There is also a wider plan of the US-Israeli combine to eventually break up what are seen as "strong" Muslim states. Iraq is already slipping into a divisive, ethno-sectarian civil war and since 9/11 the US has sought to undermine the Saudi ruling family. There are some in the US who think a Shia Arab state carved out of Eastern Saudi Arabia (where the bulk of the oil also lies) and southern Iraq could be a counter to Iran. This is as bizarre as it is untenable, but then logic and rationality have not always held sway in the US. As for Jordan, the Israelis along with the US have been thinking of this "third option" -- that is, annex the West Bank, push Palestinians into Jordan creating a Palestinian state there, as a way out of their dilemma of having to accept the reality of a viable Palestinian state. So far the Jordanians are holding their ground as the chaos increases around them.

Meanwhile, as Israel finds itself free to conduct its terrorism in the region, India is seeking to assume a similar role in dealing with Pakistan although so far it has restricted its actions to verbal barbs only and to "postponing" the peace process -- such as it was -- although there are mutterings of "hot pursuit". The reason for Indian 'restraint' is not humanism but South Asia's nuclear reality. So let us once more thank those who persisted against all odds in giving the Pakistani nation its nuclear deterrence. This should dissuade India from its efforts at brinkmanship -- a strategy it employed rather unsuccessfully in December 2001.

Equally important for Pakistan should be the realisation of the fragility of the peace process despite Pakistan's major moves towards conflict resolution. Not only were these never reciprocated by the Indians, India used the first opportunity it found to halt the process itself. Despite no proof and despite some members of the Indian cabinet insisting that the Mumbai blasts could be the work of Hindu extremists, the Indian leadership and its compliant media lashed out against Pakistan. It seems the Indian psyche has not moved out of its traditional hostile mode towards Pakistan and that is why it was probably finding the peace process increasingly uncomfortable. After all, the atmospherics had gone on long enough; it was time to move substantively on conflictual issues and India is not ready for that, as reflected in its continued use of state terrorism in Occupied Kashmir.

This is also a good time for Pakistan to reassess the direction of this peace process, seeing as how vulnerable it remains to Indian sabotage. Was there anything substantive that has been lost in the present postponement? If not, then what was the worth of this process? Peace cannot be sustained by one party alone. While Pakistan was showing good intent and commitment to anti-terrorism, India was busy in covert actions against Pakistan -- primarily through Afghanistan. Despite all the evidence, Pakistan decided not to go public on the India-Afghan linkages to the BLA -- which has offices both in the centre of Kabul and in New Delhi. Nor have we made much of a noise about the presence of Indian Special forces in Afghanistan, despite ample evidence, including intercepts, to suggest Indian efforts to intervene in our border provinces. All this so that the peace process does not get derailed. (Some among

our political elite even made offers which run contrary to our policies -- as happened on the FMCT.) Now India has derailed the process with accusations and histrionics to hide the fissiparous tendencies within itself.

Of course, now that the UK has declared the Balochistan Liberation Army a terrorist organisation, Pakistan should take up the issue of India and Afghanistan's support for it more vigorously, especially since India is a strategic partner of the US and Afghanistan is still in the control of its NATO-US 'liberators'.

As for the Arab World, their sheer helplessness, despite their economic power, is a disgrace. They have failed to translate their economic strength into political and military prowess, and so remain subject to the political, psychological and military terrorism from the West and Israel. Is it any wonder the Arab street continues to become more radicalised? And the anger and frustration is spreading to Muslim civil societies beyond. In the final analysis, state terrorism has to be condemned, irrespective of the power of the perpetrating state.

The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Email:


Saturday, July 15, 2006

Indian Duds

Dangers of a regional missile race

Praful Bidwai

The crash of India's intermediate-range Agni-III missile last Sunday, followed by the failure of a satellite launch on the Indian Space Research Organisation's Geostationary Space Launch Vehicle the next day, serves to highlight many issues. For one, it belies the claim, made both in Pakistan and India, that missile development would not carry the risk of triggering an arms race in and beyond the South Asian region and therefore not destabilise regional security.

For another, it shows that once-Non-Aligned India, with a mind of its own and a broad-horizon foreign policy, is willing to be roped in by the United States to contain China. The Agni-III, with a range of 3,500 kilometres, is specifically meant to bring mainland China, including Beijing and Shanghai, into the range of India's nuclear deterrent. The Agni-II, with a range of 2,000-2,500 km, can at best reach western China.

Equally important, the Agni-III test-flight was, so to speak, "cleared" last month by none other than chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff Peter Pace. General Pace publicly encouraged India to test-fly Agni-III by declaring that it wouldn't destabilise the regional military balance -- "other countries in this region… have also tested missiles."

Contrary to this claim, a successful test would have affected Sino-Indian relations and the regional security balance. It's bad enough that India and Pakistan are engaged in a nuclear and missile arms race. Extending such rivalry to China would be bad for India's long-term security too.

And for a third, the Agni-III crash shows how far India (and probably, Pakistan) has to go in raising the competence of its weapons designers and manufacturers and making them more accountable. The unreliability of weapons, especially powerful armaments like nuclear-capable missiles, can only heighten the nuclear danger in South Asia.

It's clearly premature -- and unconvincing -- for Samar Mubarikmund, chairman of Pakistan's National Engineering and Science Commission, to claim that the Agni-III's failure reflects the "incompetence" of Indian missile designers and planners, and the "superiority" of Pakistan's missile programme. And it's simply ludicrous to contend that Pakistan's missile development programme is "indigenous". There is overwhelming evidence that it has borrowed technology and components from North Korea and China.

Besides, there are significant differences between the two Indian agencies which handle rocketry – the ISRO, and the Defence Research and Development Organisation, which developed Agni-III. The ISRO crash sets back the civilian programme of launching INSAT communications satellites, which has been a moderate success.

But the ISRO's failure is, relatively speaking, "honourable" and redeemable. Such mishaps are not uncommon in the global satellite launch industry. Satellite launches and operations take place under extreme stress, so even minute faults translate into large abnormalities.

However, the DRDO's failure may not be redeemable. It comes on top of an indifferent, even embarrassing, performance of its Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme.

This is a good occasion to take a critical look at India's missile programme, and more generally, at the DRDO. It has an annual budget of Rs30 billion -- of the same order as the Department of Atomic Energy, which runs India's civilian and military nuclear programmes. The sum exceeds central spending on university and higher education (excluding technical education). This is reason enough to hold the DRDO strictly accountable.

It has rarely succeeded in developing new missile designs -- as distinct from some (partial) reverse-engineering. In the 1970s, it launched two missile programmes but had to abandon them. "Project Valiant", an ambitious attempt to develop a 1,500 km-range missile, was a total failure.

"Project Devil" partially succeeded in "reverse-engineering" the Soviet SA-2 surface-to-air missile to produce the Prithvi. The Prithvi (range, 150-250 km), then, isn't truly indigenous. Nor is it very dependable. Its liquid fuel is highly corrosive and messy to handle. Its launch demands half-a-day-long preparation. No wonder the armed forces resist buying it.

DRDO didn't develop the Agni series entirely on its own. The missile's first stage is the SLV-3 space-launching rocket borrowed from the ISRO. The DRDO simply fitted a Prithvi on top! The Agni was first test-flown in 1989. But after three test-flights, it was declared "a technology demonstrator", not a missile on production track.

Between 1994 and 1999, India suspended all Agni tests. When it was re-launched as Agni-II (range, 2,000-2,500 km), it had an all-new avatar, with both stages solid-fuelled. Agni-II was test-flown just three times before it was declared ready for production and induction.

This is strange. By international standards, a missile isn't considered developed unless it undergoes 12 to 20 test-flights under different weather and operational conditions to validate its range, accuracy and reliability. Because missiles can carry nuclear warheads, it's vital that they have a near-zero failure rate -- to minimise the risk of accidents and crashes over civilian populations. But the DRDO has always taken shortcuts, compressing several stages of development and system testing into a few launches.

In 2002, when Agni-II was still under development, the DRDO announced a new shorter-range (800-900 km) missile, the Agni-I. This too was declared ready for production in 2003 after just three tests. It started work on Agni-III in 1999 and announced it would be ready for a test-flight by late 2003. The test was postponed twice. Although "political" reasons -- averting Washington's displeasure -- were cited, it's not clear that the DRDO was really ready to test until last week.

The DRDO's poor performance isn't confined to ballistic missiles alone. "It isn't the world's most reliable weapons R&D agency", says Admiral L Ramdas, a former chief of staff of the Indian Navy. "The Indian armed services' experience with DRDO-made armaments has not been happy. Their reliability is extremely poor".

No major DRDO project has ever been completed on time or without huge cost overruns. Consider the three biggest: developing a Main Battle Tank (MBT), a nuclear-powered submarine, and an advanced Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). The MBT project was launched in 1974. But the tank has failed to meet service requirement tests. It's reportedly too heavy and undependable for combat. The Indian army says it will use MBTs for training, not operations.

The submarine project, launched 31 years ago, is unfinished despite an estimated Rs30 billion spent on it. The reactor hasn't yet been tested with the vessel's hull. The LCA project, launched in 1983, is still in the doldrums. The DRDO has failed to develop the right engine.

The primary reason for these shocking instances of underperformance and ineptitude is lack of public accountability and oversight. The DRDO's malaise must be understood both in the context of India's (and Pakistan's) relatively low standards in manufacturing technology and its hyper-bureaucratic, authoritarian culture.

It's not that Indians are not technologically gifted. Their success in Information Technology and fields like metallurgy, petrochemicals and pharmaceuticals belies the claim. Where Indians show real weakness is in meticulous adherence to good manufacturing practices, an eye for detail, and high levels of workmanship. These weaknesses get magnified in institutions like the DRDO.

South Asian military-science establishments suffer from excessive hierarchy under overpowering bosses, who are lionised by the media and pampered by politicians. This must change. We are entering into dangerous terrain by developing nuclear-tipped land-attack cruise missiles in both countries. These will greatly enhance the risk of accidents and disasters. It's time to halt the missile race altogether.



Saturday, July 08, 2006

Indian nuclear program: Disasters-in-Making

by Adnan Gill

On August 6, 1945 the nuclear bomb Little Boy killed an estimated 80,000 people. In the following months, an estimated 60,000 additional souls were lost to radiation poisoning. Three days later Nagasaki was targeted by the second nuclear bomb. An estimated 39,000 people were killed instantly with another 75,000 believed to have succumbed to radiation poisoning. American intelligence estimates the casualties to be manifold higher in a similar attack on densely populated Indian cities like New Delhi or Mumbai. Indian experts say the country could face an equally devastating nuclear catastrophe, not because of its nuclear rival, but from within. Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, a former chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) summarized the threats from within as, "There could be lesser accidents which could still release moderate amounts of radioactivity into the crowded areas surrounding some of our less-safe installations at Madras, Trombay or Tarapur. It could be devastating to a large number of people."

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and World Health Organization report attributes 56 deaths to Chernobyl accident and estimates that as many as 9,000 people, among the approximately 6.6 million most highly exposed, may die from radiation exposure. As horrific as these statistics may seem, experts believe these figures will dwarf in front of mass casualties resulting from an impending nuclear disaster(s) in India. Indian nuclear reactors are called by some nuclear experts, ‘disasters-in-making.’ Experts say, It’s not a matter of if, but when?

Indian industrial complex is notorious for lack of safety and catastrophic disasters. The Bhopal Disaster of 1984 is the worst industrial disaster in history. It was caused by the release of 40 tons of methyl isocyanate from a Union Carbide pesticide plant located in the heart of the city of Bhopal, India. The gases injured between 150,000 to 600,000 unsuspected victims, and snuffed at least 15,000 innocent lives. What is even more disturbing is that experts believe Indian nuclear complex is poised to kill even more Indians. Such a disaster will put even Bhopal Disaster to shame. Scientists believe that Indian plants are so poorly designed, built and maintained, a Chernobyl-style disaster may be just around the corner. The threats posed by its mad pursuit of nuclear weapons are real, because India is the only country in the world where nuclear research and plutonium production occur inside or near heavily populated areas. The Indian nuclear complex is believed to be gravely unsafe and most dangerous in the world. It is not surprising that the popular American television program ‘60 Minutes’, charged India with operating "the most unsafe nuclear plants in the world."

The safety black holes in the Indian nuclear program range from hazardous mining practices, near meltdowns, heavy water leaks, turbine-blade failures, moderator system malfunctions, inoperable emergency core cooling systems, coolant pumps catching fires, structure failures, to flooding incidents, to say the least. American-based watchdog group -- the Safe Energy Communication Council (SECC) -- described the Indian nuclear program, especially its reactors to be the “least efficient” and the “most dangerous in the world.” Nuclear safety experts are alarmed by the dangerously unsafe conditions plaguing the Indian reactors. Sharing his alarm with the Christian Science Monitor, Christopher Sherry the research director of the SECC, said, "The fact that India's nuclear regulator acknowledges that reactors in India are not operated to the standards of reactors in the US and Europe is not much of a surprise, [but] it is very disturbing."

How safe are Indian nuclear plants? According to Dr A. Gopalakrishnan, the answer is, hardly at all. In his alarming response to the question Dr. Gopalakrishnan said, "Many of our nuclear installations have aged with time and have serious problems. Our efforts to find indigenous solutions, despite our capabilities, are not well-organized or focused.” Fearing the pathetically unsafe conditions of Indian reactors, he said, “[It] is a matter of great concern."

Today, India has 14 nuclear reactors most of which are modeled after an obsolete 1957 Shippingport (Pennsylvania, USA) design. Only three Indian nuclear reactors barely meet IAEA standards. The rest are accountable only to the so-called ‘national standards’ set by AERB.

An Indian atomic-power expert Dhirendra Sharma estimates that Indian nuclear industry has suffered from "300 incidents of a serious nature... causing radiation leaks and physical damage to workers." He further concedes, "These have so far remained official secrets."

India's nuclear-power program has always been secretive, because politicians use it as a cover for the country's weapons program. The Indian government does not release information about the leaks or accidents at its nuclear power plants. Laws prohibit scientists and politicians from speaking out about the radioactive contaminations and accidents in the nuclear facilities. What throttled the absolute secrecy of accidents at its nuclear programs was the Indian Atomic Energy Act of 1962 (NO. 33 OF 1962. 15th September, 1962), which prescribes that the nuclear program should be shrouded in secrecy. The Act provides the Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) enormous powers and the rights to withhold any information from public. Critics call the DAE an 'unaccountable organization'. It prohibits private and public equity from within and outside the country. It also says the program should be run by the DAE with limited participation from private industries. Due to obscure international oversight and the 1962 Act the safety conditions at Indian nuclear facilities remain dangerously unsafe and largely hidden from the public.

Even four decades after it launched its nuclear reactor program, technical problems with Indian reactors remain so severe that the rated capacity of the country's reactors totals only 1,840-mw, contributing less than 2.5% of India's commercial energy.

A decade ago, a nine-month long AERB safety study of Indian reactors documented more than 130 extremely serious safety issues which warranted urgent corrective measures. The most urgent corrective actions were recommended at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre; Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR); Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited; Uranium Corporation of India Limited; Indian Rare Earths Limited; Nuclear Fuel Complex, and the Heavy Water Board.

Due to its age and insufficient safety procedures, IGCAR is prone to serious accidents. In 1987, during a fuel transfer process, a tube guiding fuel into the reactor was snapped. Then in 2002, 75kg of radioactive sodium leaked inside a purification cabin.

The Tarapur Atomic Power Station (TAPS) reactors are the oldest in the world. They experienced extensive tube failures which led to the de-rating of its reactors from 210-mw to 160-mw. The two reactors share the same emergency core cooling system, which experts say is a recipe for the reactor meltdown.

Kakrapar Atomic Power Station (KAPS) reactors are considered to be India’s model reactors for controlling radiation leaks; not surprisingly, even they emit three times the radiation as much as the international norm, a fact admitted by S.P. Sukhatme, chairman of AERB. Mr. Sukhatme’s shocking admission put the rest of the country's nuclear-power plants in grave perspective. Top Indian antinuclear activist Suren Gadekar found the admission to be extremely shocking and disturbing. He said, "The main implication is that other nuclear-power plants are much worse than even Kakrapar." In February 2002, chairman Sukhatme requested the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd to plug tritium contaminated water leaks in its reactors. In 1994, owing to its faulty design, concrete containment dome of KAPS collapsed. The collapse exposed the workers to high doses of radiation. Thereafter the floodwater entered the condenser pit and turbine building basement which resulted in four-year delay in its commissioning.

In 2002, the AERB ordered the closure of India's first nuclear plant -- Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS). The reactor was plagued with a series of serious defects ranging from turbine-blade failures, cracks in the end-shields, a leak in the overpressure relief device, and leaks in many tubes of the moderator heat exchanger. It was not the first time that seriously dangerous accidents forced RAPS to shutdown. In 1976, due to construction errors, the reactors were flooded, which forced the shutdown. The reactors were once again flooded in 1992. Also in 1992, four of its eight pumps caught fire. On February, 12 1994, it was shutdown for the repair of its calandria overpressure relief device which leaked radioactive heavy water. Later, in 1994, the Indian Express reported that in the aftermath of Canadian reports on the possibility of rupture in the pressure tubes of Canada-India Reactor, US (CIRUS) reactors, RAPS also went through the safety checks, as it was designed from the copied Canadian blueprints. Once, the emergency core cooling system got obstructed, leading to a near meltdown. RAPS’ innumerable problems forced it to be de-rated from 220-mw to 100-mw. RAPS functioned without high-pressure emergency core cooling system.

Despite a warning from the US-based General Electric (GE), the manufacturers of the turbines, in 1991, India commissioned the Narora Atomic Power Station (NAPS). As a result, in 1993, failure of two steam turbine blades resulted in a major fire in one of the heavy water reactors, which nearly led to a nuclear meltdown. The disaster could have been averted had either the government, or the DAE found it prudent to yield to GE’s warnings.

In 1986, the inlets of Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) reactors cracked and Zircalloy pieces were found in the moderator pump. Then in 1988, MAPS was shut down after heavy water leaked, exposing workers to high doses of radioactivity. Again, in 1991, tons of heavy water burst out from the moderator system. Its emergency cooling systems are said to be inadequate.

Its not only the designs of Indian nuclear reactors that are obsolete and flawed, even the very sites they were chosen to be built upon were irresponsibly unsuitable for such facilities. The under construction 500-mw prototype fast breeder reactor coming up at Kalpakkam was damaged by the waters of 2004 tsunami. In a March 2005 report, the Telegraph (Calcutta) reported, “Water had surged into the reactor’s foundation pit when the December 26 tsunami devastated coastal stretches of Tamil Nadu.” The report further revealed the extent of damage, “The huge foundation pit, close to the [MAPS], was filled with over six meters of seawater and chunks of silt and sludge.” The fast breeder reactor uses liquid sodium as coolant -- liquid sodium is an extremely hazardous agent. Once dried, it can ignite and burn with such heat and intensity that once started, it’s almost impossible to extinguish. Alarmed by the deadly hazards posed by the breeder reactor, in 2005, its Employees' Association and other workers' unions planed to file a court case charging DAE for seriously lacking the qualified technical personnel at critical positions of the MAPS reactors and for the reactor perilously endangering the safety of the plant and the public. The reprocessing plant holding glass-matted enriched waste is said to be just about 150 meters from the sea. Will it be safe if another tsunami strikes?

It is said there is no greater curse then to watch one’s child suffer from a disability and deformation. There are thousands upon thousands of Indian parents who inconsolably suffer from this horrific curse everyday. What is even more heartbreaking is that they don’t even realize the evil that has brought the curse upon them is manmade. It is the evil of nuclear poisoning. Indian nuclear program does not harm only the workers of DAE, but it also harms the lives of ordinary citizens even worst.

“Maloti Singh, a nine-year-old girl whose contract-worker father loaded waste drums, was born with one leg withered into a stump and a deformed foot. Her father and grandmother, who used to collect stone chips from the tailing pond, both have skin cancer. None of the family has seen a doctor.” (Sunday Telegraph, 25 April, 1999, Issue 1430). This is only one example out of thousands of ordinary Indians who have been poisoned by the highly-secretive, unsafe, and world’s most dangerous nuclear program.

Environmental contamination is especially severe in the eastern state of Bihar where Indian government callously mines radioactive materials without any regards to human lives or wellbeing of other species. The health threats posed to many families living near the Jadugoda mine are said to be worst than the after-effects of the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine. The locals suffer from unusually high number of abnormal births, cancers and a host of other ailments that were previously rare. Radioactive contamination is said to be so massive that genetic mutations have also been noted in animals and as well in plants.

In 1999, the Sunday Telegraph revealed, “In all, at least 30,000 villagers -- and the land and livestock around them -- are being exposed to contamination from the Jadugoda facility, according to researchers. Activists believe that the problems are caused by the lack of safeguards at the mine and its waste dumps, technically known as ‘tailing ponds’, as well as the unprotected movement of uranium and wastes. They fear that contamination has entered the food chain and will affect the genetic make-up of local population for generations to come.” Sadly, those who are the worst affected by the fatal contamination, don’t even realize what is terminating their lives short. Most attribute the strange diseases resulting from the radiation poisoning to the ‘will of God.’

Indian experts like N.M. Sampathkumar Iyangar (former manufacturer of nuclear reactor components) believes the real safety problems with the Indian nuclear program arise from the fact that well-connected manufacturers often sell substandard and defective equipment to build and repair the nuclear reactors. Others believe India cuts corners to save money by forsaking the technologies that make the power plants safe.

What worries experts is not the fact that an ambitious Indian nuclear program has become environmentally unaffordable, rather the reality that its nuclear program has become disasters-in-making.

More articles by Adnan Gill