AFRICOM Goes to War on the Sly


What the military will say to a reporter and what is said behind closed doors are two very different things—especially when it comes to the U.S. military in Africa. For years, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has maintained a veil of secrecy about much of the command’s activities and mission locations, consistently downplaying the size, scale, and scope of its efforts. At a recent Pentagon press conference, AFRICOM Commander General David Rodriguez adhered to the typical mantra, assuring the assembled reporters that the United States “has little forward presence” on that continent. Just days earlier, however, the men building the Pentagon’s presence there were telling a very different story—but they weren’t speaking with the media. They were speaking to representatives of some of the biggest military engineering firms on the planet. They were planning for the future and the talk was of war.

I recently experienced this phenomenon myself during a media roundtable with Lieutenant General Thomas Bostick, commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. When I asked the general to tell me just what his people were building for U.S. forces in Africa, he paused and said in a low voice to the man next to him, “Can you help me out with that?” Lloyd Caldwell, the Corps’s director of military programs, whispered back, “Some of that would be close hold”—in other words, information too sensitive to reveal.

The only thing Bostick seemed eager to tell me about were vague plans to someday test a prototype “structural insulated panel-hut,” a new energy-efficient type of barracks being developed by cadets at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He also assured me that his people would get back to me with answers. What I got instead was an “interview” with a spokesman for the Corps who offered little of substance when it came to construction on the African continent. Not much information was available, he said, the projects were tiny, only small amounts of money had been spent so far this year, much of it funneled into humanitarian projects. In short, it seemed as if Africa was a construction backwater, a sleepy place, a vast landmass on which little of interest was happening.

Cook was one of three U.S. military construction officials who, earlier this month, spoke candidly about the Pentagon’s efforts in Africa to men and women from URS Corporation, AECOM, CH2M Hill, and other top firms.

Fast forward a few weeks and Captain Rick Cook, the chief of U.S. Africa Command’s Engineer Division, was addressing an audience of more than 50 representatives of some of the largest military engineering firms on the planet—and this reporter. The contractors were interested in jobs and he wasn’t pulling any punches. “The eighteen months or so that I’ve been here, we’ve been at war the whole time,” Cook told them. “We are trying to provide opportunities for the African people to fix their own African challenges. Now, unfortunately, operations in Libya, South Sudan, and Mali, over the last two years, have proven there’s always something going on in Africa.”

Cook was one of three U.S. military construction officials who, earlier this month, spoke candidly about the Pentagon’s efforts in Africa to men and women from URS Corporation, AECOM, CH2M Hill, and other top firms. During a paid-access web seminar, the three of them insisted that they were seeking industry “partners” because the military has “big plans” for the continent. They foretold a future marked by expansion, including the building up of a “permanent footprint” in Djibouti for the next decade or more, a possible new compound in Niger, and a string of bases devoted to surveillance activities spreading across the northern tier of Africa. They even let slip mention of a small, previously unacknowledged U.S. compound in Mali.

The Master Plan

After my brush off by General Bostick, I interviewed an Army Corps of Engineers Africa expert, Chris Gatz, about construction projects for Special Operations Command Africa in 2013. “I’ll be totally frank with you,” he said, “as far as the scopes of these projects go, I don’t have good insights.”

What about two projects in Senegal I had stumbled across? Well, yes, he did, in fact, have information about a firing range and a “shoot house” that happened to be under construction there. When pressed, he also knew about plans I had noted in previously classified documents obtained by TomDispatch for the Corps to build a multipurpose facility in Cameroon. And on we went. “You’ve got better information than I do,” he said at one point, but it seemed like he had plenty of information, too. He just wasn’t volunteering much of it to me.

Later, I asked if there were 2013 projects that had been funded with counter-narco-terrorism (CNT) money. “No, actually there was not,” he told me. So I specifically asked about Niger.

Last year, AFRICOM spokesman Benjamin Benson confirmed to TomDispatch that the U.S. was conducting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, or ISR, drone operations from Base Aérienne 101 at Diori Hamani International Airport in Niamey, the capital of Niger. In the months since, air operations there have only increased. In addition, documents recently obtained by TomDispatch indicated that the Army Corps of Engineers has been working on two counter-narco-terrorism projects in Arlit and Tahoua, Niger. So I told Gatz what I had uncovered. Only then did he locate the right paperwork. “Oh, okay, I’m sorry,” he replied. “You’re right, we have two of them… Both were actually awarded to construction.”

Those two CNT construction projects have been undertaken on behalf of Niger’s security forces, but in his talk to construction industry representatives, AFRICOM’s Rick Cook spoke about another project there: a possible U.S. facility still to be built. “Lately, one of our biggest focus areas is in the country of Niger. We have gotten indications from the country of Niger that they are willing to be a partner of ours,” he said. The country, he added, “is in a nice strategic location that allows us to get to many other places reasonably quickly, so we are working very hard with the Nigeriens to come up with, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a base, but a place we can operate out of on a frequent basis.”

It turns out that, if you want to know what the U.S. military is doing in Africa, it’s advantageous to be connected to a large engineering or construction firm looking for business.

Cook offered no information on the possible location of that facility, but recent contracting documents examined by TomDispatch indicate that the U.S. Air Force is seeking to purchase large quantities of jet fuel to be delivered to Niger’s Mano Dayak International Airport.

Multiple requests for further information sent to AFRICOM’s media chief Benjamin Benson went unanswered, as had prior queries about activities at Base Aérienne 101. But Colonel Aaron Benson, Chief of the Readiness Division at Air Forces Africa, did offer further details about the Nigerien mini-base. “There is the potential to construct MILCON aircraft parking aprons at the proposed future site in Niger,” he wrote, mentioning a specific type of military construction funding dedicated to use for “enduring” bases rather than transitory facilities. In response to further questions, Cook referred to the possible site as a “base-like facility” that would be “semi-permanent” and “capable of air operations.”

Pay to Play

It turns out that, if you want to know what the U.S. military is doing in Africa, it’s advantageous to be connected to a large engineering or construction firm looking for business. Then you’re privy to quite a different type of insider assessment of the future of the U.S. presence there, one far more detailed than the modest official pronouncements that U.S. Africa Command offers to journalists. Asked at a recent Pentagon press briefing if there were plans for a West African analog to Djibouti’s Camp Lemonnier, the only “official” U.S. base on the continent, AFRICOM Commander General David Rodriguez was typically guarded. Such a “forward-operating site” was just “one of the options” the command was mulling over, he said, before launching into the sort of fuzzy language typical of official answers. “What we’re really looking at doing is putting contingency locating sites, which really have some just expeditionary infrastructure that can be expanded with tents,” was the way he put it. He never once mentioned Niger, or airfield improvements, or the possibility of a semi-permanent “presence.”

Here, however, is the reality as we know it today. Over the last several years, the U.S. has been building a constellation of drone bases across Africa, flying intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions out of not only Niger, but also Djibouti, Ethiopia, and the island nation of the Seychelles. Meanwhile, an airbase in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, serves as the home of a Joint Special Operations Air Detachment, as well as of the Trans-Sahara Short Take-Off and Landing Airlift Support initiative. According to military documents, that “initiative” supports “high-risk activities” carried out by elite forces from Joint Special Operations Task Force-Trans Sahara. U.S. Army Africa documents obtained by TomDispatch also mention the deployment to Chad of an ISR liaison team. And according to Sam Cooks, a liaison officer with the Defense Logistics Agency, the U.S. military has 29 agreements to use international airports in Africa as refueling centers.

As part of the webinar for industry representatives, Wayne Uhl, chief of the International Engineering Center for the Europe District of the Army Corps of Engineers, shed light on shadowy U.S. operations in Mali before (and possibly after) the elected government there was overthrown in a 2012 coup led by a U.S.-trained officer. Documents prepared by Uhl reveal that an American compound was constructed near Gao, a major city in the north of Mali. Gao is the site of multiple Malian military bases and a “strategic” airport captured by Islamist militants in 2012 and retaken by French and Malian troops early last year.

America’s lone official base on the African continent, Camp Lemonnier, a former French Foreign Legion post in Djibouti, has been on a decade-plus growth spurt and serves a key role for the U.S. mission.

AFRICOM’s Benjamin Benson failed to respond to multiple requests for comment about the Gao compound, but Uhl offered additional details. The project was completed before the 2012 uprising and “included a vehicle maintenance facility, a small admin building, toilet facilities with water tank, a diesel generator with a fuel storage tank, and a perimeter fence,” he told me in a written response to my questions. “I imagine the site was overrun during the coup and is no longer used by U.S. forces.”

America’s lone official base on the African continent, Camp Lemonnier, a former French Foreign Legion post in Djibouti, has been on a decade-plus growth spurt and serves a key role for the U.S. mission. “Camp Lemonnier is the only permanent footprint that we have on the continent and until such time as AFRICOM may establish a headquarters location in Africa, Camp Lemonnier will be the center of their activities here,” Greg Wilderman, the Military Construction Program Manager for Naval Facilities Engineering Command, explained.

“In 2013, we had a big jump in the amount of program projects,” he noted, specifically mentioning a large “task force” construction effort, an oblique reference to a $220 million Special Operations compound at the base that TomDispatch first reported on in 2013.

According to documents provided by Wilderman, five contracts worth more than $322 million (to be paid via MILCON funds) were awarded for Camp Lemonnier in late 2013. These included deals for a $25.5 million fitness center and a $41 million Joint Headquarters Facility in addition to the Special Operations Compound. This year, Wilderman noted, there are two contracts—valued at $35 million—already slated to be awarded, and Captain Rick Cook specifically mentioned deals for an armory and new barracks in 2014.

Cook’s presentation also indicated that a number of long-running construction projects at Camp Lemonnier were set to be completed this year, including roads, a “fuel farm,” an aircraft logistics apron, and “taxiway enhancements,” while construction of a new aircraft maintenance hangar, a telecommunications facility, and a “combat aircraft loading area” are slated to be finished in 2015. “There’s a tremendous amount of work going on,” Cook said, noting that there were 22 current projects underway there, more than at any other Navy base anywhere in the world.

And this, it turns out, is only the beginning.

“In the master plan,” Cook said, “there is close to three quarters of a billion dollars worth of construction projects that we still would like to do at Camp Lemonnier over the next 10 to 15 years.” That base, in turn, would be just one of a constellation of camps and compounds used by the U.S. in Africa. “Many of the places that we are trying to stand up or trying to get into are air missions. A lot of ISR… is going on in different parts of the continent. Generally speaking, the Air Force is probably going to be assigned to do much of that,” he told the contractors. “The Air Force is going to be doing a great deal of work on these bases… that are going to be built across the northern tier of Africa.”

Hearts and Minds

When I spoke with Chris Gatz of the Army Corps of Engineers, the first projects he mentioned and the only ones he seemed eager to talk about were those for African nations. This year, $6.5 million in projects had been funded when we spoke and of that, the majority were for “humanitarian assistance” or HA construction projects, mostly in Togo and Tunisia, and “peacekeeping” operations in Ghana and Djibouti.

He also left no doubt about U.S. plans. “We will be in Africa for some time to come,” he told the contractors. “There’s lots more to do there.”

Uhl talked about humanitarian projects, too. “HA projects are small, difficult, challenging for the Corps of Engineers to accomplish at a low, in-house cost… but despite all this, HA projects are extremely rewarding,” he said. “The appreciation expressed by the locals is fantastic.” He then drew attention to another added benefit: “Each successful project is a photo opportunity.”

Uhl wasn’t the only official to touch on the importance of public perception in Africa or the need to curry favor with military “partners” on the continent. Cook spoke to the contractors, for instance, about the challenges of work in austere locations, about how bureaucratic shakedowns by members of African governments could cause consternation and construction delays, about learning to work with the locals, and about how important such efforts were for “winning hearts and minds of folks in the area.”

The Naval Facilities Engineering Command’s Wildeman talked up the challenges of working in an environment in which the availability of resources was limited, the dangers of terrorism were real, and there was “competition for cooperation with [African] countries from some other world powers.” This was no doubt a reference to increasing Chinese trade, aid, investment, and economic ties across the continent. He also left no doubt about U.S. plans. “We will be in Africa for some time to come,” he told the contractors. “There’s lots more to do there.”

Cook expanded on this theme. “It’s a big, big place,” he said. “We know we can’t do it alone. So we’re going to need partners in industry, we’re going to need… local nationals and even third country nationals.”


For years, senior AFRICOM officers and spokesmen have downplayed the scope of U.S. operations on the continent, stressing that the command has only a single base and a very light footprint there. At the same time, they have limited access to journalists and refused to disclose the number and tempo of the command’s operations, as well as the locations of its deployments and of bases that go by other names. AFRICOM’S public persona remains one of humanitarian missions and benign-sounding support for local partners.

AFRICOM now averages far more than a mission a day on the continent, conducting operations with almost every African military force, in almost every African country…”

“Our core mission of assisting African states and regional organizations to strengthen their defense capabilities better enables Africans to address their security threats and reduces threats to U.S. interests,” says the command. “We concentrate our efforts on contributing to the development of capable and professional militaries that respect human rights, adhere to the rule of law, and more effectively contribute to stability in Africa.” Efforts like sniper training for proxy forces and black ops missions hardly come up. Bases are mostly ignored. The word “war” is rarely mentioned. TomDispatch’s recent investigations have, however, revealed that the U.S. military is indeed pivoting to Africa.

It now averages far more than a mission a day on the continent, conducting operations with almost every African military force, in almost every African country, while building or building up camps, compounds, and “contingency security locations.” The U.S. has taken an active role in wars from Libya to the Central African Republic, sent special ops forces into countries from Somalia to South Sudan, conducted airstrikes and abduction missions, even put boots on the ground in countries where it pledged it would not.

“We have shifted from our original intent of being a more congenial combatant command to an actual war-fighting combatant command,” AFRICOM’s Rick Cook explained to the audience of big-money defense contractors. He was unequivocal: the U.S. has been “at war” on the continent for the last two and half years. It remains to be seen when AFRICOM will pass this news on to the American public.


Nick Turse is the managing editor of TomDispatch and a fellow at the Nation Institute. An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. He is the author most recently of the New York Times bestseller Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam. You can catch his conversation with Bill Moyers about that book by clicking here. His website is

Hunger Gains : A New Idea of Why Eating Less Increases Life Span


Nematode worms, fruit flies, mice and other lab animals live longer, healthier lives when they eat less than they otherwise would if more food were available. Primates may also benefit, and perhaps humans—which is why research funds are pouring into this phenomenon. But all this raises a puzzling question: Why did creatures evolve such a mechanism in the first place? Researchers have declared the most popular theory doesn’t make evolutionary sense, and they’ve proposed a new explanation in its place.

The most prominent theory involves what happens physiologically during times of food scarcity. When the living is good, natural selection favors organisms that invest energy in reproduction. In times of hardship, however, animals have fewer offspring, diverting precious nutrients to cell repair and recycling so they can survive until the famine ends, when reproduction begins anew. Cell repair and recycling appear to be substantial antiaging and anticancer processes, which may explain why underfed lab animals live longer and rarely develop old-age pathologies like cancer and heart disease.

Margo Adler agrees with the basic cellular pathways, but she’s not so sure about the evolutionary logic. Adler, an evolutionary biologist at the University of New South Wales in Australia, says this popular idea relies on a big assumption: that natural selection favors this energy switch from reproduction to survival because animals will have more young in the long run—so long as they actually survive and reproduce. “This idea is repeated over and over again in the literature as if it’s true, but it just doesn’t make that much sense for evolutionary reasons,” she says.

The problem, Adler says, is that wild animals don’t have the long, secure lives of their laboratory cousins. Instead, they’re not only endangered by famine but by predators and pathogens, random accidents and rogue weather as well. They also face physiological threats from a restricted diet, including a suppressed immune system, difficulty with healing and greater cold sensitivity. For these reasons, delaying reproduction until food supplies are more plentiful is a huge risk for wild animals. Death could be waiting just around the corner.

Better to reproduce now, Adler says. The new hypothesis she proposes holds that during a famine animals escalate cellular repair and recycling, but they do so for the purpose of having as many progeny as possible during a famine, not afterward. They “make the best of a bad situation” to maximize their fitness in the present. “It’s an efficiency mode that the animal goes into,” she says. Adler and colleague Russell Bonduriansky published their reasoning in the March BioEssays.

Other researchers believe that Adler’s theory may make sense for species that are short-lived or pay a low cost for reproduction, such as flies and mice. But the theory is problematic for animals with different biology. Birds and other mammals put a huge amount of energy into reproduction and parental care, so it’s a bigger risk for them to have offspring during famine compared with, say, fruit flies. Some species require so much energy to reproduce that their bodies prevent conception during a food shortage. Certain long-lived species (including humans) also have a better chance of survival in general, so they could afford to wait and pass on their genes when food finally returns to their plates.

Adler plans to test her idea in the wild, but it will be a challenge, she admits. “No one has ever been able to dietarily restrict animals in the wild because it’s really hard to manipulate diet in the wild.” Whether or not her hypothesis makes it into biology textbooks, it may help researchers in this field find novel ways to prevent age-related diseases.


By Annie Sneed |

The Red Line and the Rat Line : Seymour M. Hersh on Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels


In 2011 Barack Obama led an allied military intervention in Libya without consulting the US Congress. Last August, after the sarin attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, he was ready to launch an allied air strike, this time to punish the Syrian government for allegedly crossing the ‘red line’ he had set in 2012 on the use of chemical weapons.​Then with less than two days to go before the planned strike, he announced that he would seek congressional approval for the intervention. The strike was postponed as Congress prepared for hearings, and subsequently cancelled when Obama accepted Assad’s offer to relinquish his chemical arsenal in a deal brokered by Russia. Why did Obama delay and then relent on Syria when he was not shy about rushing into Libya? The answer lies in a clash between those in the administration who were committed to enforcing the red line, and military leaders who thought that going to war was both unjustified and potentially disastrous.

Obama’s change of mind had its origins at Porton Down, the defence laboratory in Wiltshire. British intelligence had obtained a sample of the sarin used in the 21 August attack and analysis demonstrated that the gas used didn’t match the batches known to exist in the Syrian army’s chemical weapons arsenal. The message that the case against Syria wouldn’t hold up was quickly relayed to the US joint chiefs of staff. The British report heightened doubts inside the Pentagon; the joint chiefs were already preparing to warn Obama that his plans for a far-reaching bomb and missile attack on Syria’s infrastructure could lead to a wider war in the Middle East. As a consequence the American officers delivered a last-minute caution to the president, which, in their view, eventually led to his cancelling the attack.

For months there had been acute concern among senior military leaders and the intelligence community about the role in the war of Syria’s neighbours, especially Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan was known to be supporting the al-Nusra Front, a jihadist faction among the rebel opposition, as well as other Islamist rebel groups. ‘We knew there were some in the Turkish government,’ a former senior US intelligence official, who has access to current intelligence, told me, ‘who believed they could get Assad’s nuts in a vice by dabbling with a sarin attack inside Syria – and forcing Obama to make good on his red line threat.’

The joint chiefs also knew that the Obama administration’s public claims that only the Syrian army had access to sarin were wrong. The American and British intelligence communities had been aware since the spring of 2013 that some rebel units in Syria were developing chemical weapons. On 20 June analysts for the US Defense Intelligence Agency issued a highly classified five-page ‘talking points’ briefing for the DIA’s deputy director, David Shedd, which stated that al-Nusra maintained a sarin production cell: its programme, the paper said, was ‘the most advanced sarin plot since al-Qaida’s pre-9/11 effort’. (According to a Defense Department consultant, US intelligence has long known that al-Qaida experimented with chemical weapons, and has a video of one of its gas experiments with dogs.) The DIA paper went on: ‘Previous IC [intelligence community] focus had been almost entirely on Syrian CW [chemical weapons] stockpiles; now we see ANF attempting to make its own CW … Al-Nusrah Front’s relative freedom of operation within Syria leads us to assess the group’s CW aspirations will be difficult to disrupt in the future.’ The paper drew on classified intelligence from numerous agencies: ‘Turkey and Saudi-based chemical facilitators,’ it said, ‘were attempting to obtain sarin precursors in bulk, tens of kilograms, likely for the anticipated large scale production effort in Syria.’ (Asked about the DIA paper, a spokesperson for the director of national intelligence said: ‘No such paper was ever requested or produced by intelligence community analysts.’)

Last May, more than ten members of the al-Nusra Front were arrested in southern Turkey with what local police told the press were two kilograms of sarin. In a 130-page indictment the group was accused of attempting to purchase fuses, piping for the construction of mortars, and chemical precursors for sarin. Five of those arrested were freed after a brief detention. The others, including the ringleader, Haytham Qassab, for whom the prosecutor requested a prison sentence of 25 years, were released pending trial. In the meantime the Turkish press has been rife with speculation that the Erdoğan administration has been covering up the extent of its involvement with the rebels. In a news conference last summer, Aydin Sezgin, Turkey’s ambassador to Moscow, dismissed the arrests and claimed to reporters that the recovered ‘sarin’ was merely ‘anti-freeze’.

The DIA paper took the arrests as evidence that al-Nusra was expanding its access to chemical weapons. It said Qassab had ‘self-identified’ as a member of al-Nusra, and that he was directly connected to Abd-al-Ghani, the ‘ANF emir for military manufacturing’. Qassab and his associate Khalid Ousta worked with Halit Unalkaya, an employee of a Turkish firm called Zirve Export, who provided ‘price quotes for bulk quantities of sarin precursors’. Abd-al-Ghani’s plan was for two associates to ‘perfect a process for making sarin, then go to Syria to train others to begin large scale production at an unidentified lab in Syria’. The DIA paper said that one of his operatives had purchased a precursor on the ‘Baghdad chemical market’, which ‘has supported at least seven CW efforts since 2004’.

A series of chemical weapon attacks in March and April 2013 was investigated over the next few months by a special UN mission to Syria. A person with close knowledge of the UN’s activity in Syria told me that there was evidence linking the Syrian opposition to the first gas attack, on 19 March in Khan Al-Assal, a village near Aleppo. In its final report in December, the mission said that at least 19 civilians and one Syrian soldier were among the fatalities, along with scores of injured. It had no mandate to assign responsibility for the attack, but the person with knowledge of the UN’s activities said: ‘Investigators interviewed the people who were there, including the doctors who treated the victims. It was clear that the rebels used the gas. It did not come out in public because no one wanted to know.’

In the months before the attacks began, a former senior Defense Department official told me, the DIA was circulating a daily classified report known as SYRUP on all intelligence related to the Syrian conflict, including material on chemical weapons. But in the spring, distribution of the part of the report concerning chemical weapons was severely curtailed on the orders of Denis McDonough, the White House chief of staff. ‘Something was in there that triggered a shit fit by McDonough,’ the former Defense Department official said. ‘One day it was a huge deal, and then, after the March and April sarin attacks’ – he snapped his fingers – ‘it’s no longer there.’ The decision to restrict distribution was made as the joint chiefs ordered intensive contingency planning for a possible ground invasion of Syria whose primary objective would be the elimination of chemical weapons.

The former intelligence official said that many in the US national security establishment had long been troubled by the president’s red line: ‘The joint chiefs asked the White House, “What does red line mean? How does that translate into military orders? Troops on the ground? Massive strike? Limited strike?” They tasked military intelligence to study how we could carry out the threat. They learned nothing more about the president’s reasoning.’

In the aftermath of the 21 August attack Obama ordered the Pentagon to draw up targets for bombing. Early in the process, the former intelligence official said, ‘the White House rejected 35 target sets provided by the joint chiefs of staff as being insufficiently “painful” to the Assad regime.’ The original targets included only military sites and nothing by way of civilian infrastructure. Under White House pressure, the US attack plan evolved into ‘a monster strike’: two wings of B-52 bombers were shifted to airbases close to Syria, and navy submarines and ships equipped with Tomahawk missiles were deployed. ‘Every day the target list was getting longer,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The Pentagon planners said we can’t use only Tomahawks to strike at Syria’s missile sites because their warheads are buried too far below ground, so the two B-52 air wings with two-thousand pound bombs were assigned to the mission. Then we’ll need standby search-and-rescue teams to recover downed pilots and drones for target selection. It became huge.’ The new target list was meant to ‘completely eradicate any military capabilities Assad had’, the former intelligence official said. The core targets included electric power grids, oil and gas depots, all known logistic and weapons depots, all known command and control facilities, and all known military and intelligence buildings.

Britain and France were both to play a part. On 29 August, the day Parliament voted against Cameron’s bid to join the intervention, the Guardian reported that he had already ordered six RAF Typhoon fighter jets to be deployed to Cyprus, and had volunteered a submarine capable of launching Tomahawk missiles. The French air force – a crucial player in the 2011 strikes on Libya – was deeply committed, according to an account in Le Nouvel Observateur; François Hollande had ordered several Rafale fighter-bombers to join the American assault. Their targets were reported to be in western Syria.

By the last days of August the president had given the Joint Chiefs a fixed deadline for the launch. ‘H hour was to begin no later than Monday morning [2 September], a massive assault to neutralise Assad,’ the former intelligence official said. So it was a surprise to many when during a speech in the White House Rose Garden on 31 August Obama said that the attack would be put on hold, and he would turn to Congress and put it to a vote.

At this stage, Obama’s premise – that only the Syrian army was capable of deploying sarin – was unravelling. Within a few days of the 21 August attack, the former intelligence official told me, Russian military intelligence operatives had recovered samples of the chemical agent from Ghouta. They analysed it and passed it on to British military intelligence; this was the material sent to Porton Down. (A spokesperson for Porton Down said: ‘Many of the samples analysed in the UK tested positive for the nerve agent sarin.’ MI6 said that it doesn’t comment on intelligence matters.)

The former intelligence official said the Russian who delivered the sample to the UK was ‘a good source – someone with access, knowledge and a record of being trustworthy’. After the first reported uses of chemical weapons in Syria last year, American and allied intelligence agencies ‘made an effort to find the answer as to what if anything, was used – and its source’, the former intelligence official said. ‘We use data exchanged as part of the Chemical Weapons Convention. The DIA’s baseline consisted of knowing the composition of each batch of Soviet-manufactured chemical weapons. But we didn’t know which batches the Assad government currently had in its arsenal. Within days of the Damascus incident we asked a source in the Syrian government to give us a list of the batches the government currently had. This is why we could confirm the difference so quickly.’

The process hadn’t worked as smoothly in the spring, the former intelligence official said, because the studies done by Western intelligence ‘were inconclusive as to the type of gas it was. The word “sarin” didn’t come up. There was a great deal of discussion about this, but since no one could conclude what gas it was, you could not say that Assad had crossed the president’s red line.’ By 21 August, the former intelligence official went on, ‘the Syrian opposition clearly had learned from this and announced that “sarin” from the Syrian army had been used, before any analysis could be made, and the press and White House jumped at it. Since it now was sarin, “It had to be Assad.”’

The UK defence staff who relayed the Porton Down findings to the joint chiefs were sending the Americans a message, the former intelligence official said: ‘We’re being set up here.’ (This account made sense of a terse message a senior official in the CIA sent in late August: ‘It was not the result of the current regime. UK & US know this.’) By then the attack was a few days away and American, British and French planes, ships and submarines were at the ready.

The officer ultimately responsible for the planning and execution of the attack was General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs. From the beginning of the crisis, the former intelligence official said, the joint chiefs had been sceptical of the administration’s argument that it had the facts to back up its belief in Assad’s guilt. They pressed the DIA and other agencies for more substantial evidence. ‘There was no way they thought Syria would use nerve gas at that stage, because Assad was winning the war,’ the former intelligence official said. Dempsey had irritated many in the Obama administration by repeatedly warning Congress over the summer of the danger of American military involvement in Syria. Last April, after an optimistic assessment of rebel progress by the secretary of state, John Kerry, in front of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee that ‘there’s a risk that this conflict has become stalemated.’

Dempsey’s initial view after 21 August was that a US strike on Syria – under the assumption that the Assad government was responsible for the sarin attack – would be a military blunder, the former intelligence official said. The Porton Down report caused the joint chiefs to go to the president with a more serious worry: that the attack sought by the White House would be an unjustified act of aggression. It was the joint chiefs who led Obama to change course. The official White House explanation for the turnabout – the story the press corps told – was that the president, during a walk in the Rose Garden with Denis McDonough, his chief of staff, suddenly decided to seek approval for the strike from a bitterly divided Congress with which he’d been in conflict for years. The former Defense Department official told me that the White House provided a different explanation to members of the civilian leadership of the Pentagon: the bombing had been called off because there was intelligence ‘that the Middle East would go up in smoke’ if it was carried out.

The president’s decision to go to Congress was initially seen by senior aides in the White House, the former intelligence official said, as a replay of George W. Bush’s gambit in the autumn of 2002 before the invasion of Iraq: ‘When it became clear that there were no WMD in Iraq, Congress, which had endorsed the Iraqi war, and the White House both shared the blame and repeatedly cited faulty intelligence. If the current Congress were to vote to endorse the strike, the White House could again have it both ways – wallop Syria with a massive attack and validate the president’s red line commitment, while also being able to share the blame with Congress if it came out that the Syrian military wasn’t behind the attack.’ The turnabout came as a surprise even to the Democratic leadership in Congress. In September the Wall Street Journal reported that three days before his Rose Garden speech Obama had telephoned Nancy Pelosi, leader of the House Democrats, ‘to talk through the options’. She later told colleagues, according to the Journal, that she hadn’t asked the president to put the bombing to a congressional vote.

Obama’s move for congressional approval quickly became a dead end. ‘Congress was not going to let this go by,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Congress made it known that, unlike the authorisation for the Iraq war, there would be substantive hearings.’ At this point, there was a sense of desperation in the White House, the former intelligence official said. ‘And so out comes Plan B. Call off the bombing strike and Assad would agree to unilaterally sign the chemical warfare treaty and agree to the destruction of all of chemical weapons under UN supervision.’ At a press conference in London on 9 September, Kerry was still talking about intervention: ‘The risk of not acting is greater than the risk of acting.’ But when a reporter asked if there was anything Assad could do to stop the bombing, Kerry said: ‘Sure. He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week … But he isn’t about to do it, and it can’t be done, obviously.’ As the New York Times reported the next day, the Russian-brokered deal that emerged shortly afterwards had first been discussed by Obama and Putin in the summer of 2012. Although the strike plans were shelved, the administration didn’t change its public assessment of the justification for going to war. ‘There is zero tolerance at that level for the existence of error,’ the former intelligence official said of the senior officials in the White House. ‘They could not afford to say: “We were wrong.”’ (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The Assad regime, and only the Assad regime, could have been responsible for the chemical weapons attack that took place on 21 August.’)


The full extent of US co-operation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar in assisting the rebel opposition in Syria has yet to come to light. The Obama administration has never publicly admitted to its role in creating what the CIA calls a ‘rat line’, a back channel highway into Syria. The rat line, authorised in early 2012, was used to funnel weapons and ammunition from Libya via southern Turkey and across the Syrian border to the opposition. Many of those in Syria who ultimately received the weapons were jihadists, some of them affiliated with al-Qaida. (The DNI spokesperson said: ‘The idea that the United States was providing weapons from Libya to anyone is false.’)

In January, the Senate Intelligence Committee released a report on the assault by a local militia in September 2012 on the American consulate and a nearby undercover CIA facility in Benghazi, which resulted in the death of the US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, and three others. The report’s criticism of the State Department for not providing adequate security at the consulate, and of the intelligence community for not alerting the US military to the presence of a CIA outpost in the area, received front-page coverage and revived animosities in Washington, with Republicans accusing Obama and Hillary Clinton of a cover-up. A highly classified annex to the report, not made public, described a secret agreement reached in early 2012 between the Obama and Erdoğan administrations. It pertained to the rat line. By the terms of the agreement, funding came from Turkey, as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the CIA, with the support of MI6, was responsible for getting arms from Gaddafi’s arsenals into Syria. A number of front companies were set up in Libya, some under the cover of Australian entities. Retired American soldiers, who didn’t always know who was really employing them, were hired to manage procurement and shipping. The operation was run by David Petraeus, the CIA director who would soon resign when it became known he was having an affair with his biographer. (A spokesperson for Petraeus denied the operation ever took place.)

The operation had not been disclosed at the time it was set up to the congressional intelligence committees and the congressional leadership, as required by law since the 1970s. The involvement of MI6 enabled the CIA to evade the law by classifying the mission as a liaison operation. The former intelligence official explained that for years there has been a recognised exception in the law that permits the CIA not to report liaison activity to Congress, which would otherwise be owed a finding. (All proposed CIA covert operations must be described in a written document, known as a ‘finding’, submitted to the senior leadership of Congress for approval.) Distribution of the annex was limited to the staff aides who wrote the report and to the eight ranking members of Congress – the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the Democratic and Republicans leaders on the House and Senate intelligence committees. This hardly constituted a genuine attempt at oversight: the eight leaders are not known to gather together to raise questions or discuss the secret information they receive.

The annex didn’t tell the whole story of what happened in Benghazi before the attack, nor did it explain why the American consulate was attacked. ‘The consulate’s only mission was to provide cover for the moving of arms,’ the former intelligence official, who has read the annex, said. ‘It had no real political role.’

Washington abruptly ended the CIA’s role in the transfer of arms from Libya after the attack on the consulate, but the rat line kept going. ‘The United States was no longer in control of what the Turks were relaying to the jihadists,’ the former intelligence official said. Within weeks, as many as forty portable surface-to-air missile launchers, commonly known as manpads, were in the hands of Syrian rebels. On 28 November 2012, Joby Warrick of the Washington Post reported that the previous day rebels near Aleppo had used what was almost certainly a manpad to shoot down a Syrian transport helicopter. ‘The Obama administration,’ Warrick wrote, ‘has steadfastly opposed arming Syrian opposition forces with such missiles, warning that the weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists and be used to shoot down commercial aircraft.’ Two Middle Eastern intelligence officials fingered Qatar as the source, and a former US intelligence analyst speculated that the manpads could have been obtained from Syrian military outposts overrun by the rebels. There was no indication that the rebels’ possession of manpads was likely the unintended consequence of a covert US programme that was no longer under US control.

By the end of 2012, it was believed throughout the American intelligence community that the rebels were losing the war. ‘Erdoğan was pissed,’ the former intelligence official said, ‘and felt he was left hanging on the vine. It was his money and the cut-off was seen as a betrayal.’ In spring 2013 US intelligence learned that the Turkish government – through elements of the MIT, its national intelligence agency, and the Gendarmerie, a militarised law-enforcement organisation – was working directly with al-Nusra and its allies to develop a chemical warfare capability. ‘The MIT was running the political liaison with the rebels, and the Gendarmerie handled military logistics, on-the-scene advice and training – including training in chemical warfare,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Stepping up Turkey’s role in spring 2013 was seen as the key to its problems there. Erdoğan knew that if he stopped his support of the jihadists it would be all over. The Saudis could not support the war because of logistics – the distances involved and the difficulty of moving weapons and supplies. Erdoğan’s hope was to instigate an event that would force the US to cross the red line. But Obama didn’t respond in March and April.’

There was no public sign of discord when Erdoğan and Obama met on 16 May 2013 at the White House. At a later press conference Obama said that they had agreed that Assad ‘needs to go’. Asked whether he thought Syria had crossed the red line, Obama acknowledged that there was evidence such weapons had been used, but added, ‘it is important for us to make sure that we’re able to get more specific information about what exactly is happening there.’ The red line was still intact.

An American foreign policy expert who speaks regularly with officials in Washington and Ankara told me about a working dinner Obama held for Erdoğan during his May visit. The meal was dominated by the Turks’ insistence that Syria had crossed the red line and their complaints that Obama was reluctant to do anything about it. Obama was accompanied by John Kerry and Tom Donilon, the national security adviser who would soon leave the job. Erdoğan was joined by Ahmet Davutoğlu, Turkey’s foreign minister, and Hakan Fidan, the head of the MIT. Fidan is known to be fiercely loyal to Erdoğan, and has been seen as a consistent backer of the radical rebel opposition in Syria.

The foreign policy expert told me that the account he heard originated with Donilon. (It was later corroborated by a former US official, who learned of it from a senior Turkish diplomat.) According to the expert, Erdoğan had sought the meeting to demonstrate to Obama that the red line had been crossed, and had brought Fidan along to state the case. When Erdoğan tried to draw Fidan into the conversation, and Fidan began speaking, Obama cut him off and said: ‘We know.’ Erdoğan tried to bring Fidan in a second time, and Obama again cut him off and said: ‘We know.’ At that point, an exasperated Erdoğan said, ‘But your red line has been crossed!’ and, the expert told me, ‘Donilon said Erdoğan “fucking waved his finger at the president inside the White House”.’ Obama then pointed at Fidan and said: ‘We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria.’ (Donilon, who joined the Council on Foreign Relations last July, didn’t respond to questions about this story. The Turkish Foreign Ministry didn’t respond to questions about the dinner. A spokesperson for the National Security Council confirmed that the dinner took place and provided a photograph showing Obama, Kerry, Donilon, Erdoğan, Fidan and Davutoğlu sitting at a table. ‘Beyond that,’ she said, ‘I’m not going to read out the details of their discussions.’)

But Erdoğan did not leave empty handed. Obama was still permitting Turkey to continue to exploit a loophole in a presidential executive order prohibiting the export of gold to Iran, part of the US sanctions regime against the country. In March 2012, responding to sanctions of Iranian banks by the EU, the SWIFT electronic payment system, which facilitates cross-border payments, expelled dozens of Iranian financial institutions, severely restricting the country’s ability to conduct international trade. The US followed with the executive order in July, but left what came to be known as a ‘golden loophole’: gold shipments to private Iranian entities could continue. Turkey is a major purchaser of Iranian oil and gas, and it took advantage of the loophole by depositing its energy payments in Turkish lira in an Iranian account in Turkey; these funds were then used to purchase Turkish gold for export to confederates in Iran. Gold to the value of $13 billion reportedly entered Iran in this way between March 2012 and July 2013.

The programme quickly became a cash cow for corrupt politicians and traders in Turkey, Iran and the United Arab Emirates. ‘The middlemen did what they always do,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘Take 15 per cent. The CIA had estimated that there was as much as two billion dollars in skim. Gold and Turkish lira were sticking to fingers.’ The illicit skimming flared into a public ‘gas for gold’ scandal in Turkey in December, and resulted in charges against two dozen people, including prominent businessmen and relatives of government officials, as well as the resignations of three ministers, one of whom called for Erdoğan to resign. The chief executive of a Turkish state-controlled bank that was in the middle of the scandal insisted that more than $4.5 million in cash found by police in shoeboxes during a search of his home was for charitable donations.

Late last year Jonathan Schanzer and Mark Dubowitz reported in Foreign Policy that the Obama administration closed the golden loophole in January 2013, but ‘lobbied to make sure the legislation … did not take effect for six months’. They speculated that the administration wanted to use the delay as an incentive to bring Iran to the bargaining table over its nuclear programme, or to placate its Turkish ally in the Syrian civil war. The delay permitted Iran to ‘accrue billions of dollars more in gold, further undermining the sanctions regime’.


The American decision to end CIA support of the weapons shipments into Syria left Erdoğan exposed politically and militarily. ‘One of the issues at that May summit was the fact that Turkey is the only avenue to supply the rebels in Syria,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘It can’t come through Jordan because the terrain in the south is wide open and the Syrians are all over it. And it can’t come through the valleys and hills of Lebanon – you can’t be sure who you’d meet on the other side.’ Without US military support for the rebels, the former intelligence official said, ‘Erdoğan’s dream of having a client state in Syria is evaporating and he thinks we’re the reason why. When Syria wins the war, he knows the rebels are just as likely to turn on him – where else can they go? So now he will have thousands of radicals in his backyard.’

A US intelligence consultant told me that a few weeks before 21 August he saw a highly classified briefing prepared for Dempsey and the defense secretary, Chuck Hagel, which described ‘the acute anxiety’ of the Erdoğan administration about the rebels’ dwindling prospects. The analysis warned that the Turkish leadership had expressed ‘the need to do something that would precipitate a US military response’. By late summer, the Syrian army still had the advantage over the rebels, the former intelligence official said, and only American air power could turn the tide. In the autumn, the former intelligence official went on, the US intelligence analysts who kept working on the events of 21 August ‘sensed that Syria had not done the gas attack. But the 500 pound gorilla was, how did it happen? The immediate suspect was the Turks, because they had all the pieces to make it happen.’

As intercepts and other data related to the 21 August attacks were gathered, the intelligence community saw evidence to support its suspicions. ‘We now know it was a covert action planned by Erdoğan’s people to push Obama over the red line,’ the former intelligence official said. ‘They had to escalate to a gas attack in or near Damascus when the UN inspectors’ – who arrived in Damascus on 18 August to investigate the earlier use of gas – ‘were there. The deal was to do something spectacular. Our senior military officers have been told by the DIA and other intelligence assets that the sarin was supplied through Turkey – that it could only have gotten there with Turkish support. The Turks also provided the training in producing the sarin and handling it.’ Much of the support for that assessment came from the Turks themselves, via intercepted conversations in the immediate aftermath of the attack. ‘Principal evidence came from the Turkish post-attack joy and back-slapping in numerous intercepts. Operations are always so super-secret in the planning but that all flies out the window when it comes to crowing afterwards. There is no greater vulnerability than in the perpetrators claiming credit for success.’ Erdoğan’s problems in Syria would soon be over: ‘Off goes the gas and Obama will say red line and America is going to attack Syria, or at least that was the idea. But it did not work out that way.’

The post-attack intelligence on Turkey did not make its way to the White House. ‘Nobody wants to talk about all this,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘There is great reluctance to contradict the president, although no all-source intelligence community analysis supported his leap to convict. There has not been one single piece of additional evidence of Syrian involvement in the sarin attack produced by the White House since the bombing raid was called off. My government can’t say anything because we have acted so irresponsibly. And since we blamed Assad, we can’t go back and blame Erdoğan.’

Turkey’s willingness to manipulate events in Syria to its own purposes seemed to be demonstrated late last month, a few days before a round of local elections, when a recording, allegedly of a government national security meeting, was posted to YouTube. It included discussion of a false-flag operation that would justify an incursion by the Turkish military in Syria. The operation centred on the tomb of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the revered Osman I, founder of the Ottoman Empire, which is near Aleppo and was ceded to Turkey in 1921, when Syria was under French rule. One of the Islamist rebel factions was threatening to destroy the tomb as a site of idolatry, and the Erdoğan administration was publicly threatening retaliation if harm came to it. According to a Reuters report of the leaked conversation, a voice alleged to be Fidan’s spoke of creating a provocation: ‘Now look, my commander, if there is to be justification, the justification is I send four men to the other side. I get them to fire eight missiles into empty land [in the vicinity of the tomb]. That’s not a problem. Justification can be created.’ The Turkish government acknowledged that there had been a national security meeting about threats emanating from Syria, but said the recording had been manipulated. The government subsequently blocked public access to YouTube.

Barring a major change in policy by Obama, Turkey’s meddling in the Syrian civil war is likely to go on. ‘I asked my colleagues if there was any way to stop Erdoğan’s continued support for the rebels, especially now that it’s going so wrong,’ the former intelligence official told me. ‘The answer was: “We’re screwed.” We could go public if it was somebody other than Erdoğan, but Turkey is a special case. They’re a Nato ally. The Turks don’t trust the West. They can’t live with us if we take any active role against Turkish interests. If we went public with what we know about Erdoğan’s role with the gas, it’d be disastrous. The Turks would say: “We hate you for telling us what we can and can’t do.”’


Courtesy :

Patriotism is the First Platform of Fools


A century ago, crowds in Paris were cheering, “on to Berlin!” Crowds in Berlin cried, “on to Paris.” World War I, the supreme example of nationalist/militaristic stupidity, was about to begin.

One hundred years later we hear cries across America to “get tough” with Moscow over fragmenting Ukraine. A dozen US F-16 fighters are being sent to the Baltic, a squadron of F-15’s to Poland, and a US warship to the Black Sea. In short, just enough to spark a war but certainly not enough to win one.

No one seems to have remembered – except Vlad Putin, of course – that the roughly 50,000 US troops and officials now based in Afghanistan are in large part at the mercy of Russia which controls their major supply and exit routes.

As the Ukraine crisis continues to build, it’s absolutely horrifying to recall that most of the American politicians and general public now lustily shouting “on to…where was it again?….oh yes….Kharkov” had no idea where Ukraine is, never mind Kharkov or Luhansk.

Ignorance is a primary fuel of nationalism and aggression. Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrel, as Dr . Johnson observed, and the first platform of fools.

Three professors from Princeton, Dartmouth and Harvard University just did a poll that found only 16% of Americans queried could find Ukraine on the world map. Actually, that’s better than I expected, given American’s notorious geographical illiteracy. Seeing Ukraine’s map on TV every night no doubt helped.

Worryingly, but hardly surprisingly, the poll also found that the further a poll respondent thought Ukraine was from its real location, the more likely he was to support US military intervention in Ukraine. Few Americans could find Iraq (Eye-raq to most), Afghanistan, or Iran (Eye-ran) on the map.

“Let’s get those dirty Commies,” goes the latest wave of war fever to sweep the US, “if we can only find them!” Some respondents put Ukraine in Australia, or South America.

Interestingly, the poll found that the group least able to locate Ukraine was +65 year olds – core Republican voters.

Why are Americans to poor in geography? I was in the last class at Georgetown University Foreign Service School to be taught world geography. Though essential for understanding international affairs and history, geography has vanished from America’s educational curriculum as an antique irrelevance. So, too often, has history. Even many well-off, educated Americans are deeply deficient in these subjects.

An influential Republican friend and former presidential advisor told me, “we’ve got to stop Putin from taking over Crimea!”

“Before you go to war,” I advised, “ask your big-time Republican supporters to name the top four cities in Crimea.”

Of course. War fever feeds on ignorance. If mobs in Paris had known in August, 1914, that they would die on the mud of Flanders few would have been so eager for war. All sides in World War One mistakenly believed in a short, sweet military victory. The great French voice against the folly of war, Jean Juares, was assassinated by nationalists.

“The proportion of collage grads who could correctly identify Ukraine (20%) is only slightly higher than the proportion of Americans who told Pew (the respected polling outfit) that President Obama was Muslim in August, 2010,” found the Ivy League professors.

About the same percentage of Americans believe that Elvis is still alive, or that an Islamic Caliphate will shortly rule America. Ever since the Bush administration, stupidity and ignorance have become fashionable.

Leading US newspapers – “The Wall Street Journal” and “New York Times” – have been beating the war drums. The most-watched TV network, Fox, is a mouthpiece for the War Party. Millions of Americans and Canadians of Ukrainian background are naturally deeply concerned by events there. Israel is now involved in Ukraine.

Too few voice urge calm and restraint. President Putin is being demonized into America’s leading hate figure. Few in the media dare say that Putin is reacting in Russia’s interests to NATO’s foolish push right up to his borders.

Republicans are blasting President Barak Obama for being a cowardly wimp. I like cowardly and wimpy when it comes to nuclear weapons. Thank goodness Sen. John McCain is not president or we might well already be in World War III.


Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles have appeared in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times, Nation – Pakistan, Hurriyet, – Turkey, Sun Times Malaysia and other news sites in Asia. 

Allama Iqbal & Jawaharlal Nehru


On the appearance of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru’s three articles in the Modem Review of Calcutta I received a number of letters from Muslims of different shades of religious and political opinion. Some writers of these letters want me to further elucidate and justify the attitude of the Indian Muslims towards the Ahmadis. Others ask me what exactly I regard as the issue involved in Ahmadism. In this statement I propose first to meet these demands which I regard as perfectly legitimate, and then to answer the questions raised by Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. I fear, however, that parts of this statement may not interest the Pandit, and to save his time I suggest that he may skip over such parts.

It is hardly necessary for me to say that I welcome the Pandit’s interest in what I regard as one of the greatest problems of the East and perhaps of the whole world. He is, I believe, the first Nationalist Indian leader who has expressed a desire to understand the present spiritual unrest in the world of Islam. In view of the many aspects and possible reactions of this unrest it is highly desirable that thoughtful Indian political leaders should open their mind to the real meaning of what is, at the present moment, agitating the heart of Islam.
I do not wish, however, to conceal the fact either from the Pandit or from any other reader of this statement that the Pandit’s articles have for the moment given my mind rather a painful conflict of feelings. Knowing him to be a man of wide cultural sympathies, my mind cannot but incline to the view that his desire to understand the questions he has raised is perfectly genuine; yet the way in which he has expressed himself betrays a psychology which I find difficult to attribute to him. I am inclined to think that my statement on Qadianism  no more than a mere exposition of a religious doctrine on modern lines—has embarrassed both the Pandit and the Qadianis perhaps because both inwardly resent, for different reasons, the prospects of Muslims political and religious solidarity, particularly in India. It is obvious that the Indian Nationalist, whose political idealism has practically killed his sense for fact, is intolerant of the birth of a desire for self-determination in the heart of north-west Indian Islam. He thinks wrongly in my opinion, that the only way to Indian Nationalism lies in a total suppression of the cultural entities of the country through the inter-action of which India can evolve a rich and enduring culture. A nationalism achieved by such methods can mean nothing but mutual bitterness and even oppression. It is equally obvious that the Qadianis, too, feel nervous by the political awakening of the Indian Muslims, because they feel that the rise in political prestige of the Indian Muslims is sure to defeat their designs to carve out from the ummat of the Arabian Prophet a new ummat for the Indian ‘prophet’. It is no small surprise to me that my effort to impress on the Indian Muslims the extreme necessity of internal cohesion in the present critical moment of their history in India, and my warning them against the forces of disintegration, masquerading as reformist movements, should have given the Pandit an occasion to sympathize with such force.
However, I do not wish to pursue the unpleasant task of analyzing the Pandit’s motives. For the benefit of those who want further elucidation of’ the general Muslim attitude towards. the Qadianis, I would quote a passage from Durant’s Story of Philosopy which, I hope, will give the reader a clear idea of the issue involved in Qadianism. Durant has in a few sentences summed up the Jewish point of view in the excommunication of the great philosopher Spinoza. The reader must not think that in quoting this passage I mean to insinuate some sort of comparison between Spinoza and the founder of Ahmadism. The distance between them, both in point of intellect and character, is simply tremendous. The “God-intoxicated” Spinoza never claimed that he was the centre of a new organization and that all the Jews who did not believe in him were outside the pale of Judaism. Durant’s passage, therefore, applies with much greater force to the attitude of Muslims towards Qadianism than to the attitude of the Jews towards the excommunication of Spinoza. The passage is as follows:

Furthermore, religious unanimity seemed to the elders their sole means of preserving the little Jewish group in Amsterdam from disintegration, and almost the last means of preserving the unity, and so ensuring the survival of the scattered Jews of the world. If they had their own state, their own civil law, their own establishments of secular force and power, to compel internal cohesion and external respect, they might have been more tolerant; but their religion was to them their patriotism as well as their faith; the synagogue was their centre of social and political life as well as of ritual and worship; and the. Bible, whose veracity Spinoza had impugned, was the “Portable Fatherland” of their people; under the circumstances they thought heresy was treason, and toleration suicide.

Situated as the Jews were—a minority community in Amsterdam—they were perfectly justified in regarding Spinoza as a disintegrating factor threatening the dissolution of their community. Similarly the Indian Muslims are right in regarding the Qadiani movement, which declares the entire world of Islam as Kafir and socially boycotts them, to be far more dangerous to the collective life of Islam in India than the metaphysics of Spinoza to the collective life of the Jews. The Indian Muslim, I believe, instinctively realizes the peculiar nature of the circumstances in which he is placed in India and is naturally much more sensitive to the forces of disintegration than the Muslims of any other country. This instinctive perception of the average Muslim is in my opinion absolutely correct and has, I have no doubt, a much deeper foundation in the conscience of Indian Islam. Those who talk of toleration in a matter like this are extremely careless in using the word toleration which I fear they do not understand at all. The spirit of toleration may arise from very different attitudes of the mind of man. As Gibbon would say:

There is the toleration of the philosopher to whom all religions are equally true; of the historian to whom all are equally false; and of the politician to whom all are equally useful. There is the toleration of the man who tolerates other modes of thought and behaviour because he has himself grown absolutely indifferent to all modes of thought and behaviour. There is the toleration of the weak man who, on account of sheer weakness, must pocket all kinds of insults heaped on things or persons that he holds dear.

It is obvious that these types of tolerance have no ethical value. On the other hand, they unmistakably reveal the spiritual impoverishment of the man who practises them. True toleration is begotten of intellectual breadth and spiritual expansion. It is the toleration of the spiritually powerful man who, while jealous of the frontiers of his own faith, can tolerate and even appreciate all forms of faith other than his own. Of this type of toleration the true Muslim alone is capable. His own faith is synthetic and for this reason he can easily find grounds of sympathy and appreciation in other faiths. Our great Indian poet, Amir Khusro, beautifully brings out the essence of this type of toleration in the story of an idol-worshipper. After giving an account of his intense attachment to his idols the poet addresses his Muslim readers as follows:

[Persian text]

Only a true lover of God can appreciate the value of devotion even though it is directed to gods in which he himself does not believe. The folly of our preachers of toleration consists in describing the attitude of the man who is jealous of the boundaries of his own faith as one of intolerance. They wrongly consider this attitude as a sign of moral inferiority. They do not understand that the value of his attitude is essentially biological. Where the members of a group feel, either instinctively or on the basis of rational argument, that the corporate life of the social organism to which they belong is in danger, their defensive attitude must be appraised in reference mainly to a biological criterion. Every thought or deed in this connection must be judged by the life-value that it may possess. The question in this case is not whether the attitude of an individual or community towards the man who is declared to be a heretic is morally good or bad. The question is whether it is life-giving or life destroying. Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru seems to think that a society founded on religious principles necessitates the institution of Inquisition. This is indeed true of the history of Christianity; but the history of Islam, contrary to the Pandit’s logic, shows that during the last thirteen hundred years of the life of Islam, the institution of Inquisition has been absolutely unknown in Muslim countries. The Quran expressly prohibited such an institution. “Do not seek out the shortcomings of others and carry not tales against your brethren.” Indeed the Pandit will find from the history of Islam that the Jews and Christians, fleeing from religious persecution in their own lands, always found shelter in the lands of Islam. The two propositions on which the conceptual structure of Islam is based are so simple that it makes heresy in the sense of turning the heretic outside the fold of Islam almost impossible. It is true that when a person declared to be holding heretical doctrines threatens the existing social order, an independent Muslim State will certainly take action; but in such a case the action of the State will be determined more by political considerations than by purely religious ones. I can very well realize that a man like the Pandit, who is born and brought up in a society which has no well-defined boundaries and consequently no internal cohesion, finds it difficult to conceive that a religious society can live and prosper without State-appointed commissions of enquiry into the beliefs of the people. This is quite clear from the passage which he quotes from Cardinal Newman and wonders how far I would accept the application of the Cardinal’s dictum to Islam. Let me tell him that there is a tremendous difference between the inner structure of Islam and Catholicism wherein the complexity, the ultra-rational character and the number of dogmas has, as the history of Christianity shows, always fostered possibilities of fresh heretical interpretations. The simple faith of Muhammad is based on two propositions that God is One, and that Muhammad is the last of the line of those holy men who have appeared, from time to time in all countries and in all ages, to guide mankind to the right ways of living. If, as some Christian writers think, a dogma must be defined as an ultra-rational proposition which for the purpose of securing religious solidarity must be assented to without any understanding of its metaphysical import, then these two simple propositions of Islam cannot be described even as dogmas; for both of them are supported by the experience of mankind and are fairly amenable to rational argument. The question of a heresy, which needs the verdict, whether the author of it is within or without the fold, can arise, in the case of a religious society founded on such simple propositions, only when the heretic rejects both or either of these prepositions. Such heresy must be and has been rare in the history of Islam which, while jealous of its frontiers, permits freedom of interpretation within these frontiers. And since the phenomenon of the kind of heresy which affects the boundaries of Islam has been rare in the history of Islam, the feeling of the average Muslim is naturally intense when a revolt of this kind arises. This is why the feeling of Muslim Persia was so intense against the Bahais. That is why the feeling of the Indian Muslims is so intense against the Qadianis.
It is true that mutual accusations of heresy for differences in minor points of law and theology among Muslim religious sects have been rather common. In this indiscriminate use of the word kufr both for minor theological points of difference as well as for the extreme cases of heresy, which involve the excommunication of the heretic, some present-day educated Muslims, who possess practically no knowledge of the history of Muslim theological disputes, see a sign of social and political disintegration of the Muslim community. This, however, is an entirely wrong notion. The history of Muslim theology shows that mutual accusation of heresy on minor points of difference has, far from working as a disruptive force, actually given an impetus to synthetic theological thought. “When we read the history of development of Mohammadan Law,” says Prof. Hurgronje, “we find that, on the one hand, the doctors of every age, on the slightest stimulus, condemn one another” to the point of mutual accusations of heresy; and, on the other hand, the very same people with greater and greater unity of purpose try to reconcile the similar quarrels of their predecessors.” The student of Muslim theology knows that among Muslim legists this kind of heresy is technically known as “heresy below heresy,” i.e. the kind of heresy which does not involve the excommunication of the culprit. It may be admitted, however, that in the hands of mullas whose intellectual laziness takes all oppositions of theological thought as absolute and is consequently blind to the unity in difference, this minor heresy may become a source of great mischief. This mischief can be remedied only by giving to the students of our theological schools a clearer vision of the synthetic spirit of Islam, and by reinitiating them into the function of logical contradiction as a principle of movement in theological dialectic. The question of what may be called major heresy arises only when the teaching of a thinker or a reformer affects the frontiers of the faith of Islam. Unfortunately this question does arise in connection with the teachings of Qadianism. It must be pointed out here that the Ahmadi movement is divided into two camps known as the Qadianis and the-Lahoris. The former openly declare the founder to be a full prophet; the latter, either by conviction or policy, have found it advisable to preach an apparently toned down Qadianism. However, the question whether the founder of Ahmadism was a prophet, the denial of whose mission entails what I call the “major heresy” is a matter of dispute between the two sections. It is unnecessary for my purposes to judge the merits of this domestic controversy of the Ahmadis. I believe, for reasons to be explained presently, that the idea of a full prophet whose denial entails the denier’s excommunication from Islam is essential to Ahmadism; and that the present head of the Qadianis is far more consistent with the spirit of the movement than the Imam of the Lahoris.
The cultural value of the idea of Finality in Islam I have fully explained elsewhere. Its meaning is simple: No spiritual surrender to any human being after Muhammad who emancipated his followers by giving them a law which is realizable as arising from the very core of human conscience. Theologically the doctrine is that the socio-political organization called “Islam” is perfect and eternal. No revelation, the denial of which entails heresy, is possible after Muhammad. He who claims such a revelation is a traitor to Islam. Since the Qadianis believe the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement to be the bearer of such a revelation, they declare that the entire world of Islam is infidel. The founder’s own argument, quite worthy of a mediaeval theologian, is that the spirituality of the Holy Prophet of Islam must be regarded as imperfect if it is not creative of another prophet. He claims his own prophethood to be an evidence of the prophet rearing power of the spirituality of the Holy Prophet of Islam. But if you further ask him whether the spirituality of Muhammad is capable of rearing more prophets than one, his answer is “No.” This virtually amounts to saying: “Muhammad is not the last Prophet; I am the last.” Far from understanding the cultural value of the Islamic idea of Finality in the history of mankind generally and of Asia especially, he thinks that Finality in the sense that no follower of Muhammad can ever reach the status of Prophethood is a mark of imperfection in Muhammad’s Prophethood. As I read the psychology of his mind he, in the interest of his own claim to prophethood, avails himself of what he describes as the creative spirituality of the Holy Prophet of Islam and at the same time deprives the Holy Prophet of his Finality by limiting the creative capacity of his spirituality to the rearing of only one prophet, i.e. the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement. In this way does the new prophet quietly steal away the Finality of one whom he claims to be his spiritual progenitor.
He claims to be buruz (بروز) of the Holy Prophet of Islam insinuating thereby that, being a buruz, his “finality” is virtually the Finality of Muhammad; and that this view of the matter, therefore, does not violate the Finality of the Holy Prophet. In identifying the two finalities, his own and that of the Holy Prophet, he conveniently loses sight of the temporal meaning of the idea of finality. It is, however, obvious that the word buruz, in the sense evil of complete likeness, cannot help him at all; for the buruz must always remain the other side of its original. Only in the sense of reincarnation a buruz becomes identical with the original. Thus if we take word buruz to mean “like in spiritual qualities” the argument remains ineffective; on the other hand, we take it to mean reincarnation of the original in the Aryan sense of the word, the argument becomes plausible; but its author turns out to be only a Magian in disguise.
It is further claimed on the authority of the great Muslim mystic, Muhyuddin Ibn-al-’Arabi of Spain, that it is possible for a Muslim saint to attain, in his spiritual evolution, to the kind of experience characteristic of the Prophetic consciousness. I personally believe this view of Sheikh Muhyuddin Ibn-al-’Arabi to be psychologically unsound; but assuming it to be correct, the Qadiani argument is based on a complete misunderstanding of his exact position. The Sheikh regards it as a purely private achievement which does not, and in the nature of things cannot, entitle such a saint to declare that all those who do not believe in him are outside the pale of Islam. Indeed, from the Sheikh’s point of view, there may be more than one saint, living in the same age or country, who may attain to Prophetic consciousness. The point to be seized is that while it is psychologically possible for a saint to attain to Prophetic experience his experience will have no socio-political significance making him the centre of a new organization and entitling him to declare this organization to be the criterion of the faith or disbelief of the followers of Muhammad.
Leaving his mystical psychology aside I am convinced from a careful study of the relevant passage of the Futuhat that the great Spanish mystic is as firm a believer in the Finality of Muhammad as any orthodox Muslim. And if he had seen in his mystical vision that one day in the east some Indian amateur in Sufism would seek to destroy the Holy Prophet’s Finality under cover of his mystical psychology, he would have certainly anticipated the Indian ulema in warning the Muslims of the world against such traitors to Islam.


Coming now to the essence of Ahmadism. A discussion of its sources and of the way in which pre-Islamic Magian ideas have, through the channels of Islamic mysticism, worked on the mind of its author would be extremely interesting from the standpoint of comparative religion. It is, however, impossible for me to undertake this discussion here. Suffice it to say that the real nature of Ahmadism is hidden behind the mist of mediaeval mysticism and theology. The Indian ulema, therefore, took it to be a purely theological movement and came out with theological weapons to deal with it. I believe, however, that this was not the proper method of dealing with the movement; and that the success of the ulema was, therefore, only partial. A careful psychological analysis of the revelations of the founder would perhaps be an effective method of dissecting the inner life of his personality. In this connection I may mention Maulvi Manzoor Elahi’s collection of the founder’s revelations which offers rich and varied material for psychological research. In my opinion the book provides a key to the character and personality of the founder; and I do hope that one day some young student of modern psychology will take it up for serious study. If he takes the Quran for his criterion, as he must for reasons which cannot be explained here, and extends his study to a comparative examination of the experiences of the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement and contemporary non-Muslim mystics, such as Rama Krishna of Bengal, he is sure to meet more than one surprise as to the essential character of the experience on the basis of which prophethood is claimed for the originator of Ahmadism.
Another equally effective and more fruitful method, from the standpoint of the plain man, is to understand the real content of Ahmadism in the light of the history of Muslim theological thought in India, at least from the year 1799. The year 1799 is extremely important in the history of the world of Islam. In this year fell Tippu, and his fall meant the extinguishment of Muslim hopes for political prestige in India. In the same year was fought the battle of Navarino which saw the destruction of the Turkish fleet.  Prophetic were the words of the author of the chronogram of Tippu’s fall which visitors of Serangapatam find engraved on the wall of Tippu’s mausoleum: “Gone is the glory of Ind as well as of Roum.” Thus in the year 1799 the political decay of Islam in Asia reached its climax. But just as out of the humiliation of Germany on the day of Jena arose the modern German nation, it may be said with equal truth that out of the political humiliation of Islam in the year 1799 arose modern Islam and her problems. This point I shall explain in the sequel. For the present I want to draw the reader’s attention to some questions which have arisen in Muslim India since the fall of Tippu and the development of European imperialism in Asia.
Does the idea of Caliphate in Islam embody a religious institution? How are the Indian Muslims and for that matter all the Muslims outside the Turkish Empire related to the Turkish Caliphate? Is India Dar-ul-Harb or Dar-ul-Islam? What is the real meaning of the doctrine of Jihad in Islam? What is the meaning of the expression “from amongst you” in the Quranic verse: “Obey God, obey the Prophet and the masters of the affairs (i.e. rulers) from amongst you?” What is the character of the traditions of the Prophet foretelling the advent of Imam Mehdi? These questions and some others which arose subsequently were, for obvious reasons, questions for Indian Muslims only. European imperialism, however, which was then rapidly penetrating the world of Islam was also intimately interested in them. The controversies which these questions created form a most interesting chapter in the history of Islam in India. The story is a long one and is still waiting for a powerful pen. Muslim politicians whose eyes were mainly fixed on the realities of the situation succeeded in winning over a section of the ulema to adopt a line of theological argument which, as they thought, suited the situation; but it was not easy to conquer by mere logic the beliefs which had ruled for centuries the conscience of the masses of Islam in India. In such a situation logic can either proceed on the ground of political expediency or on the lines of a fresh orientation of texts and traditions. In either case the argument will fail to appeal to the masses. To the intensely religious masses of Islam only one thing can make a conclusive appeal, and that is Divine Authority. For an effective eradication of orthodox beliefs it was found necessary to find a revelational basis for a politically suitable orientation of theological doctrines involved in the questions mentioned above. This revelational basis is provided by Ahmadism. And the Ahamdis themselves claim this to be the greatest service rendered by them to British imperialism. The prophetic claim to a revelational basis for theological views of a political significance amounts to declaring that those who do not accept the claimant’s views are infidel of the first water and destined for the flames of Hell. As I understand the significance of the movement, the Ahmadi belief that Christ died the death of an ordinary mortal, and that his second advent means only the advent of a person who is spiritually “like unto him,” gives the movement some sort of a rational appearance; but they are not really essential to the spirit of the movement, in my opinion they are only preliminary steps towards the idea of full prophethood which alone can serve the purposes of the movement eventually brought into being by new political forces. In primitive countries it is not logic but authority that appeals. Given a sufficient amount of ignorance, credulity which strangely enough sometimes co¬exists with good intelligence, and a person sufficiently audacious to declare himself a recipient of Divine revelation whose denial would entail eternal damnation, it is easy, in a subject Muslim country, to invent a political servility. And in the Punjab even an ill-woven net of vague theological expressions can easily capture the innocent peasant who has been for centuries exposed to all kinds of exploitation.
Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru advises the orthodox of all religions to unite and thus to delay the coming of what he conceives to be Indian nationalism. This ironical advice assumes that Ahmadism is a reform movement; he does not know that as far as Islam in India is concerned, Ahmadism involves both religious and political issues of the highest importance. As I have explained above, the function of Ahmadism in the history of Muslim religious thought is to furnish a revelational basis for India’s present political subjugation. Leaving aside the purely religious issues, on the ground of political issues alone, I think, it does not lie in the mouth of an Indian an like Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru to accuse Indian Muslims of reactionary conservatism. I have no doubt that if he had grasped the real nature of Ahmadism he would have very much appreciated the attitude of Indian Muslims towards a religious movement which claims Divine authority for the woes of India.
Thus the reader will see that the pallor of Ahmadism which we find on the cheeks of Indian Islam today is not an abrupt phenomenon in the history of Muslim religious thought in India. The ideas which eventually shaped themselves in the form of this movement became prominent in theological discussions long before the founder of Ahmadism was born. Nor do I mean to insinuate that the founder of Ahmadism and his companions deliberately planned their programme. I dare say the founder of the Ahmadiyya movement did hear a voice; but whether this voice came from the God of Life and Power or arose out of the spiritual impoverishment of the people must depend upon the nature of the movement which it has created and the kind of thought and emotion which it has given to those who have listened to it. The reader must not think that I am using metaphorical language The live-history of nations shows that when the tide of life in a people beings to ebb, decadence itself becomes a source of inspiration, inspiring their poets, philosophers, saints, statesmen, and turning them into a class of apostles whose sole ministry is to glorify, by the force of a seductive art of logic, all that is ignoble and ugly in the life of their people. Those apostles unconsciously clothe despair in the glittering garment of hope, undermine the traditional values of conduct and thus destroy the spiritual virility of those who happen to be their victims. One can only imagine the rotten state of a people’s will who are, on the basis of Divine authority, made to accept their political environment as final. Thus all the actors who participated in the drama of Ahmadism were, I think, only innocent instruments in the hands of decadence. A similar drama had already been acted in Perisa; but it did not lead, and could not have led, to the religious and political issues which Ahmadism has created for Islam in India. Russia offered tolerance to Babism and allowed the Babis to open their first missionary centre in Ashkabad. England showed Ahmadis the same tolerance in allowing them to open their first missionary centre in Woking. Whether Russia and England showed this tolerance on the ground of imperial expediency or pure broad-mindedness is difficult for us to decide. This much is absolutely clear that this tolerance has created difficult problems for Islam in Asia. In view of the struciure of Islam, as I understand it, I have not the least doubt in my mind that Islam will emerge purer out of the difficulties thus created for her. Times are changing. Things in India have already taken a new turn. The new spirit of democracy which is coming to India is sure to disillusion the Ahmadis and to convince them of the absolute futility of their theological inventions.
Nor will Islam tolerate any revival of mediaeval mysticism which has already robbed its followers of their healthy instincts and given them only obscure thinking in return. It has, during the course of the past centuries, absorbed the best minds of Islam leaving the affairs of the State to mere mediocrities. Modern Islam cannot afford to repeat the experiment. Nor can it tolerate a repetition of the Punjab experiment of keeping Muslims occupied for half a century in theological problems which had absolutely no bearing on life. Islam has already passed into the broad daylight of fresh thought and experience; and no saint or prophet can bring it back to the fogs of mediaeval mysticism.


Let me now turn to Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru’s questions. I fear the Pandit’s articles reveal practically no acquaintance with Islam or its religious history during the nineteenth century. Nor does he seem to have read what I have already written on the subject of his questions. It is not possible for me to reproduce here all that I have written before. Nor is it possible to write here a religious history of Islam in the nineteenth century without which a thorough understanding of the present situation in the world of Islam is impossible. Hundreds of books and articles have been written on Turkey and modern Islam. I have read most of this literature and probably the Pandit has also read it. I assure him, however, that not one of these writers understands the nature of the effect or of the cause that has brought about that effect. It is, therefore, necessary to briefly indicate the main currents of Muslim thought in Asia during the nineteenth century.
I have said above that in the year 1799 the political decay of Islam reached its climax. There can, however, be no greater testimony to the inner vitality of Islam than the fact that it practically took no time to realise its position in the world. During the nineteenth century were born Syed Ahmad Khan in India, Syed Jamal-ud-Din Afghani in Afghanistan and Mufti Alam Jan in Russia. These men were probably inspired by Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab who was born in Nejd in 1700, the founder of the so-called Wahabi movement which may fitly be described as the first throb of life in modern Islam. The influence of Syed Ahmad Khan remained on the whole confined to India. It is probable, however, that he was the first modern Muslim to catch a glimpse of the positive character of the age which was coming. The remedy for the ills of Islam proposed by him, as by Mufti Alam Jan in Russia, was modern eduction. But the real greatness of the man consists in the fact that he was the first Indian Muslim who felt the need of a fresh orientation of Islam and worked for it. We may differ from his religious views, but there can be no denying the fact that his sensitive soul was the first to react to the modern age.
The extreme conservatism of Indian Muslims which had lost its hold on the realities of life failed to see the real meaning of the religious attitude of Syed Ahmad Khan. In the North-West of India, a country more primitive and more saint-ridden than the rest of India, the Syed’s movement was soon followed by the reaction of Ahmadism—a strange mixture of Semitic and Aryan mysticism with whom spiritual revival consists not in the purification of the individual’s inner life according to the principle of the old Islamic Sufism, but in satisfying the expectant attitude of the masses by providing a “promised Messiah.” The function of this “promised Messiah” is not to extricate the individual from an enervating present but to make him slavishly surrender his ego to its dictates. This reaction carries within itself a very subtle contradiction. It retains the discipline of Islam but destroys the will which that discipline was intended to fortify.
Maulana Syed Jamal-ud-Din Afghani was a man of a different stamp. Strange are the ways of Providence. One of the most advanced Muslims of our time, both in religious thought and action, was born in Afghanistan! A perfect master of nearly all the Muslim languages of the world and endowed with the most winning eloquence, his restless soul migrated from one Muslim country to another influencing some of the most prominent men in Persia, Egypt and Turkey. Some of the greatest theologians of our time, such as Mufti Muhammad ‘Abduhu, and some of the men of the younger generation who later became political leaders, such as Zaghlul Pasha of Egypt, were his disciples. He wrote little, spoke much and thereby transformed into miniature Jamal¬ud-Dins all those who came into contact with him. He never claimed to be a prophet or a renewer; yet no man in our time has stirred the soul of Islam more deeply than he! His spirit is still working in the world of Islam and nobody knows where it will end.
It may, however, be asked what exactly was the objective of these great Muslims. The answer is that they found the world of Islam ruled by three main forces and they concentrated their whole energy on creating a revolt against these forces.
  1. Mullaism: The ulema have always been a source of great strength to Islam. But during the course of centuries, especially since the destruction of Baghdad, they became extremely conservative and would not allow any freedom of Ijtihad i.e. the forming of independent judgment in matters of law. The Wahabi movement which was a source of inspiration to the nineteenth-century Muslim reformers was really a revolt against this rigidity of the Ulema. Thus the first objective of the nineteenth-century Muslim reformers was a fresh orientation of the faith and a freedom to reinterpret the law in the light of advancing experience.
  2. Mysticism: The masses of Islam were swayed by the kind of mysticism which blinked actualities, enervated the people and kept them steeped in all kinds of superstition. From its high state as a force of spiritual education mysticism had fallen down to a mere means of exploiting the ignorance and the credulity of the people. It gradually and invisibly unnerved the will of Islam and softened it to the extent of seeking relief from the rigorous discipline of the law of Islam. The nineteenth-century reformers rose in revolt against this mysticism and called Muslims to the broad daylight of the modern world. Not that they were materialists. Their mission was to open the eyes of the Muslims to the spirit of Islam which aimed at the conquest of matter and not flight from it.
  3. Muslim Kings: The gaze of Muslim Kings was solely fixed on their own dynastic interests and, so long as these were protected, did not hesitate to sell their countries to the highest bidder. To prepare the masses of Muslims for a revolt against such a state of things in the world of Islam was the special mission of Syed Jamal-ud-Din Afghani.


It is not possible here to give a detailed account of the transformation which these reformers brought about in the world of Muslim thought and feeling. One thing, however, is clear. They prepared to a great extent the ground for another set of men, i.e. Zaghlul Pasha, Mustafa Kamal and Raza Shah. The reformers interpreted, argued and explained but the set of men who came after them, although inferior in academic learning, were men who, relying on their healthy instincts, had the courage to rush into sun-lit space and do, even by force, what the new conditions of life demanded. Such men are liable to make mistakes; but the history of nations shows that even their mistakes have sometimes borne good fruit. In them it is not logic but life that struggles restless to solve its own problems. It may be pointed out here that Syed Ahrnad Khan, Syed Jamal-ud-Din Afghani and hundreds of the latter’s disciples in Muslim countries were not westernized Muslims. They were men who had sat on their knees before the mullas of the old school and had breathed the very intellectual and spiritual atmosphere which they later sought to reconstruct. Pressure of modern ideas may be admitted; hut the history thus briefly indicated above clearly shows that the upheaval which has come to Turkey and which is likely, sooner or later, to come to other Muslim countries, is almost wholly determined by the forces within, It is only the superficial observer of the modern world of Islam who thinks that the present crisis in the world of Islam is wholly due to the working of alien forces.
Has then the world of Islam outside India, or especially Turkey, abandoned Islam? Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru thinks that Turkey had ceased to be a Muslim country. He does not seem to realize that the question whether a person or a community has ceased to be a member of Islam is, from the Muslim point of view, a purely legal question and must be decided in view of the structural principles of Islam. As long as a person is loyal to the two basic principles of Islam, i.e. the Unity of God and Finality of the Holy Prophet, not even the strictest mulla can turn him outside the pale of Islam even though his interpretations of the Law or of the text of the Quran are believed to be erroneous. But perhaps Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru has in his mind the supposed or real innovations which the Ataturk has introduced. Let us for a moment examine these. Is it the development of a general materialist outlook in Turkey which seems inimical to Islam? Islam has had too much of renunciation; it is time for the Muslims to look to realities. Materialism is a bad weapon against religion; but it is quite an effective one against mulla-craft and Sufi-craft which deliberately mystify the people with a view to exploit their ignorance and credulity. The spirit of Islam is not afraid of its contact with matter. Indeed the Quran says: “Forget not thy share in the world.” It is difficult for a non-Muslim to understand that, considering the history of the Muslim world during the last few centuries, the progress of a materialist outlook is only a form of self-realization. Is it then the abolition of the old dress or the introduction of the Latin script? Islam as a religion has no country; as a society it has no specific language, no specific dress. Even the recitation of the Quran in Turkish is not without some precedent in Muslim history. Personally I regard it as a serious error of judgment; for the modern student of the Arabic language and literature knows full well that the only non-European language which has a future is Arabic. But the reports are that the Turks have already abandoned the vernacular-recitation of the Quran. Is it then the abolition of polygamy or the licentiate ulema? According to the Law of Islam the Amir of a Muslim State has the power to revoke the “permission” of the law if he is convinced that they tend to cause social corruption. As to the licentiate ulema I would certainly introduce it in Muslim India if I had the power to do so. The invention of the myth-making mulla is largely due to the stupidity of the average Muslim. In excluding him from the religious life of the people the Ataturk has done what would have delighted the heart of an Ibn-i-Taimiyya or a Shah Wali Ullah. There is a tradition of the Holy Prophet reported in the Mishkat to the effect that only the Amir of the Muslim State and the person or persons appointed by him are entitled to preach to the people. I do not know whether the Ataturk ever knew of this tradition; yet it is striking how the light of his Islamic conscience has illumined the zone of his action in this important matter. The adoption of the Swiss code with its rule of inheritance is certainly a serious error which has arisen out of the youthful zeal for reform excusable in a people furiously desiring to go ahead. The joy of emancipation from the fetters of a long-standing priest-craft sometimes drives a people to untried courses of action. But Turkey as well as the rest of the world of Islam has yet to realize the hitherto unrevealed economic aspects of the Islamic law of inheritance which Von Kremer describes as the “supremely original branch of Muslim law.” Is it the abolition of the Caliphate or the separation of Church and State? In its essence Islam is not Imperialism. In the abolition of the Caliphate which since the days of Omayyads had practically become a kind of Empire it is only the spirit of Islam that has worked out through the Ataturk. In order to understand the Turkish Ijtihad in the matter of the Caliphate we cannot but seek the guidance of Ibn-i-Khaldun—the great philosophical historian of Islam, and the father of modern history. I can do no better than quote here a passage from my Reconstruction

Ibn-i-Khaldun, in his famous Prolegornena, mentions three distinct views of the idea of Universal Caliphate in Islam: (1) That Universal Imamate is a Divine institution and is consequently indispensable. (2) That it is merely a matter of expediency. (3) That there is no need of such an institution. The last view was taken by the Khawarij, the early republicans of Islam. It seems that modern Turkey has shifted from the first to the second view, i.e., to the view of the Muttazilla who regarded Universal Imamate as a matter of expediency only. The Turks argue that in our political thinking we must be guided by our past political experience which points unmistakably to the fact that the idea of Universal Imamate has failed in practice. It was a workable idea when the Empire of Islam was intact. Since the break-up of this Empire independent political units have arisen. The idea has ceased to be operative and cannot work as a living factor in the organization of modern Islam.

Nor is the idea of separation of Church and State alien to Islam. The doctrine of the Major Occultation of the Imam in a sense effected this separation long ago in Shi’a Persia. The Islamic idea of the division of the religious and political functions of the State must not be confounded with the European idea of the separation of Church and State. The former is only a division of functions as is clear from the gradual creation in the Muslim State of the offices of Shaikh-ul-Islam and Ministers; the latter is based on the metaphysical dualism of spirit and matter. Christianity began as an order of monks having nothing to do with the affairs of the world; Islam was, from the very beginning, a civil society with laws civil in their nature though believed to be revelational in origin. The metaphysical dualism on which the European idea is based has borne bitter fruit among Western nations. Many years ago a book was written in America called If Christ Came to Chicago. In reviewing this book an American author says:

The lesson to be learned from Mr. Stead’s book is that the great evils from which humanity is suffering today are evils that can be handled only by religious sentiments; that the handling of those evils has been in the great part surrendered to the State; that the State has itself been delivered over to corrupt political machines; that such machines are not only unwilling, but unable, to deal with those evils; and that nothing hut a religious awakening of the citizens to their public duties can save countless millions from misery, and the State itself from degradation.

In the history of Muslim political experience this separation has meant only a separation of functions, not of ideas. It cannot be maintained that in Muslim countries the separation of Church and State means the freedom of Muslim legislative activity from the conscience of the people which has for centuries been trained and developed by the spirituality of Islam. Experience alone will show how the idea will work in modern Turkey. We can only hope that it will not be productive of the evils which it has produced in Europe and America.
I have briefly discussed the above innovations more for the sake of the Muslim reader than for Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru. The innovation specifically mentioned by the Pandit is the adoption by the Turks and Persians of racial and nationalist ideals. He seems to think that the adoption of such ideals means the abandonment of Islam by Turkey and Persia. The student of history knows very well that Islam was born at a time when the old principles of human unification, such as blood-relationship and throne-culture, were failing. It, therefore, finds the principle of human unification not in the blood and hones hut in the mind of man. Indeed its social message to mankind is: “Deracialize yourself or perish by internecine war.” It is no exaggeration to say that Islam looks askance at Nature’s race-building plans and creates, by means of its peculiar institutions, an outlook which would counteract the race building forces of nature. In the direction of human domestication it has done in one thousand years far more important work than Christianity and Buddhism ever did in two thousand years or more. It is no less than a miracle that an Indian Muslim finds himself at home in Morocco in spite of the disparity of race and language. Yet it cannot be said that Islam is totally opposed to race. Its history shows that in social reform it relies mainly on its scheme for gradual deracialization and proceeds on the lines of least resistance. “Verily,” says the Quran, “We have made you into tribes and sub-tribes so that you may be identified; but the best among you in the eye of God is he who is the purest in life.” Considering the mightiness of the problem of race and the amount of time which the deracialization of mankind must necessarily take, the attitude of Islam towards the problem of race, i.e. stooping to conquer without itself becoming a race-making factor, is the only rational and workable attitude. There is a remarkable passage in Sir Arthur Keith’s little book, The Problem of Race,  which is worth quoting here:

And now man is awakening to the fact that Nature’s primary end—race-building—is incompatible with the necessities of the modern economic world and is asking himself: What must I do? Bring race-building as practised hitherto by nature to an end and have eternal peace? Or permit Nature to pursue old course and have, as a necessary consequence—War? Man has to choose the one course or the other. There is no intermediate course possible.

It is, therefore, clear that if the Ataturk is inspired by Pan-Turanianism he is going not so much against the spirit of Islam as against the spirit of the times. And if he is a believer in the absoluteness of races, he is sure to be defeated by the spirit of modern times which is wholly in keeping with the spirit of Islam. Personally, however, I do not think that the Ataturk is inspired by Pan-Turanianism, as I believe his Pan-Turanianism is only a political retort to Pan-Slavonism or Pan-Germanism, or Pan-Anglo-Saxonism.
If the meaning of the above paragraph is well understood it is not difficult to see the attitude of Islam towards nationalist ideals. Nationalism in the sense of love of one’s country and even readiness to die for its honour is a part of the Muslim’s faith; it comes into conflict with Islam only when it begins to play the role of a political concept and claims to be a principle of human solidarity demanding that Islam should recede to the background of a mere private opinion and cease to be a living factor in the national life. In Turkey, Persia, Egypt and other Muslim countries it will never become a problem. In these countries Muslims constitute an overwhelming majority and their minorities, i.e. Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians, according to the law of Islam, are either “People of the Book” or “like the People of the Book” with whom the law of Islam allows free social relations including matrimonial alliances. It becomes a problem for Muslims only in countries where they happen to be in a minority, and nationalism demands their complete self-effacement. In majority countries Islam accommodates nationalism; for there Islam and nationalism are practically identical; in minority countries it is justified in seeking self determination as a cultural unit. In either case, it is thoroughly consistent with itself.
The above paragraphs briefly sum up the exact situation in the world of Islam to-day. If this is properly understood it will become clear that the fundamentals of Islamic solidarity. are not in any way shaken by any external or internal forces. The solidarity of Islam, as I have explained before, consists in a uniform belief in the two structural principles of Islam supplemented by the five well-known “practices of faith”. These are the first essentials of Islamic solidarity which has, in this sense, existed ever since the days of the Holy Prophet until it was recently disturbed by the Bahais in Persia and the Qadianis in India. It is a guarantee for a practically uniform spiritual atmosphere in the world of Islam. It facilitates the political combination of Muslim States, which combination may either assume the form of a world-State (ideal) or of a league of Muslim States, or of a number of independent States whose pacts and alliances are determined by purely economic and political considerations. That is how the conceptual structure of this simple faith is related to the process of time. The profundity of this relation can be understood only in the light of certain verses of the Quran which it is not possible to’ explain here without drifting away from the point immediately before us. Politically, then, the solidarity of Islam is shaken only when Muslim States war on one another; religiously it is shaken only when Muslims rebel against any of the basic beliefs and practices of the Faith. It is in the interest of the eternal solidarity that Islam cannot tolerate any rebellious group within its fold. Outside the fold such a group is entitled to as much toleration as the followers of any other faith. It appears to me that at the present moment Islam is passing through a period of transition. It is shifting from one form of political solidarity to some other form which the forces of history have yet to determine. Events are so rapidly moving in the modern world that it is almost impossible to make a prediction. As to what will be the attitude towards non-Muslims of a politically united Islam, if such a thing ever comes, is a question which history alone can answer. All that I can say is that, tying midway between Asia and Europe and being a synthesis of Eastern and Western outlooks on life, Islam ought to act as a kind of intermediary between the East and the West. But what if the follies of Europe create an irreconcilable Islam? As things are developing in Europe from day to day they demand a radical transformation of Europe’s attitude towards Islam. We can only hope that political vision will not allow itself to be obscured by the dictates of imperial ambition or economic exploitation. In so far as India is concerned I can say with perfect confidence that the Muslims of India will not submit to any kind of political idealism which would seek to annihilate their cultural entity. Sure of this they may be trusted to know how to reconcile the claims of religion and patriotism.
One word about His Highness the Agha Khan. What has led Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru to attack the Agha Khan  it is difficult for me to discover. Perhaps he thinks that the Qadianis and the Isma’ilis fall under the same category. He is obviously not aware that however the theological interpretation of the Isma’ilis may err, they believe in the basic principles of Islam. It is true that they believe in a perpetual Imamate; but the Imam according to them is not a recipient of Divine revelation. He is only an expounder of the Law. It is only the other day (vide The Star of Allahahad, March 12, 1934) that His Highness the Agha Khan addressed his followers as follows:

Bear witness that Allah is One, Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah, Quran is the Book of Allah. Kaaba is the Qibla of all. You are Muslims and should live with Muslims. Greet Muslims with Assalamo-o-’Alaikum.

Give your children Islamic names. Pray with Muslim congregations in mosques. Keep fast regularly. Solemnize your marriages according to Islamic rules of nikah. Treat all Muslims as your brothers.

It is [for] the Pandit now to decide whether the Agha Khan represents the solidarity of Islam or not.
This paper was written by Iqbal in response to a series of articles from Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and was published in a newspaper in January 1936.

Political Thought in Islam | Allama Iqbal

ImagePre-Islamic Arabia was divided into various tribes, continually at war with one another. Each tribe had its own chief, its own god and its own poet, whose tribal patriotism manifested itself chiefly in the glorification of the virtues of his own tribe. Though these primitive social groups recognized, to a certain extent, their kinship with one another, yet it was mainly the authority of Muhammad and the cosmopolitan character of his teaching which shattered the aristocratic ideals of individual tribes, and welded the dwellers of tents into one common ever-expanding nationality. For our purposes, however, it is necessary to notice, at the outset, the features of the Arabian system of tribal succession, and the procedure followed by the members of the tribe on the death of their chief.

When the Chief or Shaikh of an Arab tribe died all the elders of the tribe met together and sitting in a circle discussed the matter of succession. Any member of the tribe could hold the chieftainship if he were unanimously elected by the elders and heads of great families. The idea of hereditary monarchy, as Von Kremer has pointed out, was quite foreign to the Arab mind, though the principle of seniority which, since Ahmad I, has received legal recognition in the constitution of modern Turkey, did certainly influence the election. When the tribe was equally divided between two leaders, the rival sections separated from each other until one of the candidates relinquished his claim; otherwise the sword was appealed to. The Chief thus elected could be deposed by the tribe if his conduct necessitated deposition. With the expansion of the Arab conquest, and the consequent enlargement of mental outlook, this primitive custom gradually developed into a Political Theory carefully constructed, as we shall see, by the constitutional lawyers of Islam through reflective criticism on the revelations of political experience.
True to this custom, the Prophet of Arabia left no instruction with regard to the matter of his succession. There is a tradition that the old Amir, son of Tufail, came to the Prophet and said, “If I embrace Islam what would my rank be? Wilt thou give me the command after thee?” “It does not belong to me,” said the Prophet, “to dispose of the command after me.” Abu Bakr—the Prophet’s father-in-law and one of his chief companions—therefore, in consequence of the danger of internal disruption, was rather hurriedly and irregularly elected. He then rose and addressed the people thus:

O people! Now I am ruler over you, albeit not the best amongst you. If I do well, support me; if ill, then set me right. Follow the true wherein is faithfulness, eschew the false wherein is treachery. The weaker amongst you shall be as the stronger with me, until that I shall have redressed his wrong; and the stronger shall be as the weaker until, if the Lord will, I shall have taken from him that which he hath wrested. Leave not off to fight in the ways of the Lord; whosoever leaveth off, him verily shall the Lord abase. Obey me as I obey the Lord and his Prophet, wherein I disobey, obey me not.

Omar, however, afterwards held that the hurried election of Abu Bakr, though very happy in its consequences and justified by the need of the time, should not form precedent in Islam; for as he is reported to have said (Dozy, I, p. 121) an election which is only a partial expression of the people’s  will is null and void. It was, therefore, early understood that Political Sovereignty de facto resides in the people;  and that the electorate by their free act of unanimous choice embody it in a determinate personality in which the collective will is, so to speak, individualized, without investing this concrete seat of power with any privilege in the eye of the law except legal control over the individual wills of which it is an expression. The idea of universal agreement is in fact the fundamental principle of Muslim constitutional theory. “What the Muslim community considers good,” says the Prophet, “God also considers good.” It is probably on the authority of this saying of the Prophet that al-Ash’ari developed his political dogma—“That error is impossible in the united deliberations of the whole community.” After the death of Abu Bakr, Omar, who acted as Chief Judge during his predecessor’s Caliphate, was universally elected by the people. In 644 A.D. he was mortally wounded by a Persian slave, and committed his trust, before he died, to seven electors—one of them being his own son—to nominate his successor, with the condition that their choice must be unanimous, and that none of them must stand as a candidate for the Caliphate. It will be seen from Omar’s exclusion of his own son from the candidature, how remote was the idea of hereditary monarchy from the Arabian political consciousness. The choice of this council, however, fell upon one of the councillors, Uthman, who was consequently nominated, and the nomination afterwards confirmed by the people. The Caliphate of Uthman is really the source of the three great religio-political parties with their respective political theories which each party, finding itself in power, attempted to realize in one or other of the provinces of the Arab Empire. Before, however, I proceed to describe these theories, I want to draw attention to the following two points:

1. That the Muslim Commonwealth is based on the absolute equality of all Muslims in the eye of the law. There is no privileged class, no priesthood, no caste system. In his later days the Prophet once ascended the pulpit and said to the people: “Muslims! If I have struck any one of you, here is my hack that he may strike me. If anyone has been wrongedby me, let him return injury of injury. If I have taken anybody’s goods, all that I have is at his disposal.” A man arose and claimed a debt of three dirhams (about three shillings). “I would much rather,” said the Prophet, “have the shame in this world than in the next.” And he paid him on the spot.

The law of Islam does not recognize the apparently natural differences of race, nor the historical differences of nationality. The political ideal of Islam consists in the creation of a people born of a free fusion of all races and nationalities. Nationality with Islam is not the highest limit of political development; for the general principles of the law of Islam rest on human nature, not on the peculiarities of a particular people. The inner cohesion of such a nation would consist not in ethnic or geographic unity, not in the unity of language or social tradition, but in the unity of the religious and political ideal; or, in the psychological fact of “like-mindedness” as St. Paul would say. The membership of this nation, consequently, would not be determined by birth, marriage, domicile, or naturalization. It would he determined by a public declaration of “like-mindedness” and would terminate when the individual has ceased to be like-minded with others. The ideal territory of such a nation would be the whole earth.  The Arabs, like the Greeks and the Romans, endeavoured to create such a nation or the world-state by conquest, but failed to actualize their ideal.  The realization of this ideal, however, is not impossible; for the ideal nation does already exist in germ. The life of modern political communities finds expression, to a great extent, in common institutions, Law and Government; and the various sociological circles, so to speak, are continually expanding to touch one another. Further, it is not incompatible with the sovereignty of individual States, since its structure will be determined not by physical force, but by the spiritual force of a common ideal. 

2.That according to the law of Islam there is no distinction between the Church and the State. The State with us is not a combination of religious and secular authority, but it is a unity in which no such distinction exists. The Caliph is not necessarily the high-priest of Islam; he is not the representative of God on earth. He is fallible like other men and is subject like every Muslim to the impersonal authority of the same law. The Prophet himself is not regarded as absolutely infallible by many Muhammadan theologians (e.g. Abu Ishaq, Tabari). In fact, the idea of personal authority is quite contrary to the spirit of Islam. The Prophet of Arabia succeeded in commanding the absolute submission of an entire people; yet no man has depreciated his own authority more than he. “I am,” he says, “a man like you; like you my forgiveness also depends on the mercy of God.” Once in a moment of spiritual exaltation, he is reported to have said to one of his companions, “Go and tell the people: ‘he who says, there is only one God, will enter the paradise’,” studiously omitting the second half of the Muslim creed—“and Muhammad is his Prophet.” The ethical importance of this attitude is great. The whole system of Islamic ethics is based on the ideal of individuality; anything which tends to repress the healthy development of individuality is quite inconsistent with the spirit of Islamic law and ethics. A Muslim is free to do anything he likes, provided he does not violate the law. The general principles of this law are believed to have been revealed; the details, in order to cover the relatively secular cases, are left to the interpretation of professional lawyers. It is, therefore, true to say that the entire fabric of Islamic law, actually administered, is really judge-made law, so that the lawyer performs the legislative function in the Muslim constitution. If, however, an absolutely new case arises which is not provided for in the law of Islam, the will of the whole Muslim community becomes a further source of law.  But I do not know whether a general council of the whole Muslim community was ever held for this purpose.

I shall now describe the three great political theories to which I have alluded above. I shall first take up the Sunni view.
I. Elective monarchy
A. The Caliph and the People
During the days of the early Caliphate things were extremely simple. The Caliphs were like private individuals, sometimes doing the work of an ordinary constable. In obedience to the Quranic verse—“and consult them in all matters” —they always consulted the more influential companions of the Prophet in judicial and executive matters, but no formal ministers existed to assist the Caliph in his administrative work. It was not until the time of the House of ‘Abbas that the Caliphate became the subject of scientific treatment. In my description of the Sunni view I shall mainly follow al-Mawardy—the earliest Muslim constitutional lawyer who flourished during the reign of the Ahbasi Caliph al-Qadir. Al-Mawardy divides the whole Muslim community into two classes: (1) the electors, (2) the candidates for election. The qualifications absolutely necessary for a candidate are thus enumerated by him:
  1. Spotless character.
  2. Freedom from physical and mental infirmity. The predecessor of the present Sultan of Turkey was deposed under this condition.
  3. Necessary legal and theological knowledge in order to be able to decide various cases. This is true in theory; in practice the power of the Caliph, especially in later times, was divided.
  4. Insight necessary for a ruler.
  5. Relationship with the family of Quraish. This qualification is not regarded as indispensable by modern Sunni lawyers on the ground that the Prophet never nominated any person as his successor.
  6. Full Age (al-Ghazali). It was on this ground that the chief judge refused to elect al-Muqtadir.
  7. Male sex (al-Baidawi). This is denied by the Khawarij who hold that a woman can be elected as Caliph.


If the candidate satisfies these conditions, the representatives of all influential families, doctors of law, high officials of the State, and commanders of the Army meet together and nominate him to the Caliphate. The whole assembly then proceeds to the mosque where the nomination is duly confirmed by the people. In distant places representatives of the elected Caliph are permitted to receive homage on behalf of the Caliph. In the matter of election the people of the capital, however, have no precedence over other people—though, in practice, they have a certain amount of precedence, since they are naturally the first to hear of the Caliph’s death. After the election, the Caliph usually makes a speech, promising to rule according to the law of Islam. Most of these speeches are preserved. It will be seen that the principle of representation is, to a certain extent, permitted in practical politics; in the law of property, however, it is expressly denied. For instance, if B dies in the lifetime of his father A and his brother C, leaving issues, the whole property of A goes to C. The children of B have no claim; they cannot represent their father, or “stand in his shoes”.
From a legal standpoint, the Caliph does not occupy any privileged position. In theory, he is like other members of the Commonwealth. He can be directly sued in any ordinary law court. The second Caliph was once accused of appropriating a large share in the spoils of war, and he had to clear his conduct before the people, by production of evidence according to the law of Islam. In his judicial capacity he is open to the criticism of every Muslim. Omar I was severely reprimanded by an old woman who pointed out to him that his interpretation of a certain Quranic verse was absolutely wrong. The Caliph listened to her argument, and decided the case according to her views.
The Caliph may indicate his successor who may be his son; but the nomination is invalid until confirmed by the people. Out of the fourteen Caliphs of the House of Umayya only four succeeded in securing their sons as successors. The Caliph cannot secure the election of his successor during his own lifetime. Ibn Athir tells us that Abdul Malik—the Umayya Caliph—endeavoured to do so but Ibn Musayyib, the great Mekkan lawyer, strongly protested against the Caliph’s behaviour. The Abbasi Caliph Hadi, however, succeeded in securing the election of his son Ja’far but after his death the majority declared for Harun. In such a case, when the people declare for another Caliph, the one previously elected must, on penalty of death, immediately renounce his right in public.
If the Caliph does not rule according to the law of Islam, or suffers from physical or mental infirmity, the Caliphate is forfeited. Usually one influential Muhammadan stands up in the mosque after the prayer and speaks to the congregation giving reasons for the proposed deposition. He declares deposition to be in the interest of Islam and ends his speech by throwing away his finger-ring with the remarks: “I reject the caliph as I throw away this ring.” The people then signify their assent in various ways and the deposition is complete.
The question whether two or more rival Caliphates can exist simultaneously is discussed by Muslim lawyers. Ibn Jama holds that only one Caliphate is possible. Ibn Khaldun holds that there is nothing illegal in the co-existence of two or more Caliphates, provided they are in different countries. Ibn Khaldun’s view is certainly contrary to the old Arabian idea, yet in so far as the Muslim Commonwealth is governed by an impersonal authority, i.e. law, his position seems to me to be quite a tenable one. Moreover, as a matter of fact, two rival Caliphates have existed in Islam for a long time and still exist.
Just as a candidate for the Caliphate must have certain qualifications, so, according to al-Mawardy, the elector also must be qualified. He must possess: (1) Good reputation as an honest man. (2) Necessary knowledge of State affairs. (3) Necessary insight and judgment.
In theory all Muslims, men and women, possess the right of election. There is no property qualification. In practice, however, women and slaves did not exercise this right. Some of the early lawyers seem to have recognized the danger of mass-elections as they endeavour to show that the right of election resides only in the tribe of the Prophet. Whether the seclusion of women grew up in order to make women incapable of exercising a right which in theory could not be denied to them, I cannot say.
The elector has the right to demand the deposition of the Caliph, or the dismissal of his officials if he can show that their conduct is not in accordance with the law of Islam. He can, on the subject, address the Muslim congregation in the mosque after the prayer. The mosque, it must be remembered, is the Muslim Forum, and the institution of daily prayer is closely connected with the political life of Muslim communities. Apart from its spiritual and social functions, the institution is meant to serve as a ready means of constant criticism of the State. If, however, the elector does not intend to address the congregation, he can issue a judicial inquiry concerning the conduct of any State official, or any other matter which affects the community as a whole. The judicial inquiry as a rule does not mention the name of any individual. I quote an illustration in order to give an idea of this procedure:

In the name of God, most merciful and clement. What is the opinion of the doctors of law, the guides of the people, on the encouragement of the Zimmis, and on the assistance we can demand from them, whether as clerks to the Amirs entrusted with the administration of the country, or as collectors of taxes?… Explain the above by solid proofs, establish the orthodox belief by sound arguments, and give your reasons. God will reward you.

Such judicial inquiries are issued by the State as well, and when the lawyers give conflicting decisions, the majority prevails. Forced election is quite illegal. Ibn Jama, an Egyptian lawyer, however, holds that forced election is legal in times of political unrest. This opportunist view has no support in the law of Islam; though undoubtedly it is based on historical facts. Tartushi, a Spanish lawyer, would probably hold the same view, for he says: “Forty years of tyranny are better than one hour of anarchy.” 
Let us now consider the relation between the elected and the elector. Al-Mawardy defines this relation as “Aqd” binding together, contract. The State, therefore, is a contractual organism, and implies rights and duties. He does not mean, like Rousseau, to explain the origin of society by an original social contract; he holds that the actual fact of election is contract in consequence of which the Caliph has to do certain duties, e.g. to define the religion, to enforce the law of Islam, to levy customs and taxes according to the law of Islam, to pay annual salaries and properly to direct the State treasury. If he fulfils these conditions, the people have mainly two duties in relation to him, viz, to obey him and to assist him in his work. Apart from this contract, however, Muslim lawyers have also enumerated certain cases in which obedience to the Caliph is not necessary.
The origin of the State then, according to al-Mawardy, is not forced but free consent of individuals who unite to form a brotherhood, based upon legal equality, in order that each member of the brotherhood may work out the potentialities of his individuality under the law of Islam. Government with him is an artificial arrangement, and is divine only in the sense that the law of Islam—believed to have been revealed—demands peace and security.
B. Ministers and Other Officials
The Caliph, after his election, appoints the principal officials of the State, or confirms those previously in office. The following are the principal State officials with their duties defined by the law:

1. The Wazir—The Prime Minister—either with limited or unlimited powers. The Wazir with unlimited powers must possess the same qualifications as the Caliph, except that, according to al-Mawardy, he need not necessarily belong to the Quraish tribe. He must be thoroughly educated, especially in Mathematics, History and the Art of Speaking. He can, without previous sanction of the Caliph, appoint officers of the various departments of the State. The Wazir with limited powers cannot do so. The dismissal of the Wazir with unlimited powers means the dismissal of all officials appointed by him; while the dismissal of the Wazir with limited powers does not lead to dismissal of the officials appointed by him. More than one Wazir with unlimited powers cannot be appointed. The Governors of various provinces can appoint their own Wazirs. A non-Muhammadan may be appointed Wazir with limited powers. The Shi’a dynasty of the Obaidias appointed a Jew to this position. An Egyptian poet expresses their sentiments as follows: “The Jews of our time have reached the goal of their ambition. Theirs is all honour, theirs is all gold. O people of Egypt, I advise you to become Jews; God himself has become a Jew.”

2. Next to the Wazir the most important executive officers of the State were governors of various provinces. They were appointed by the Caliph with limited or unlimited powers. The governor with unlimited powers could appoint sub-governors to adjoining smaller provinces. For instance, the sub-governor of Sicily was appointed by the Governor of Spain and that of Sind by the Governor of Basra. This was really an attempt to create self¬governing Muslim colonies. The officer in charge was, so to speak, a miniature caliph of his province; he appointed his own Wazir, Chief Judge and other State officers. Where special commander of the provincial army was not appointed, the Governor, ex-officio, acted as the commander. This, however, was an error, since the governors became gradually powerful and frequently asserted their independence. But in his capacity of the commander the governor had no right to raise the salaries of his soldiers except in very special circumstances. It was his duty to send all the money to the central treasury after defraying the necessary State expenses. If the provincial income fell short of the expenses, he could claim a contribution from the central treasury. If he is appointed by the Caliph, the death of the latter is not followed by his dismissal; but if he is appointed by the Wazir, the death of the Wazir means the dismissal of all governors appointed by him, provided they are not newly confirmed in their respective posts.

The governor with limited powers was a purely executive officer. He had nothing to do with judicial matters and in criminal matters too his authority was very much limited.

Muslim lawyers, however, recognize a third kind of governorship, i.e. by usurpation. But the usurper must fulfil certain conditions before his claim is legally justified.

3. Commander of Armies. Here too the distinction of limited and unlimited powers is made, and the duties of commanders, subordinate officers, and soldiers are clearly defined.

4. The Chief Judge. The Chief Judge could be appointed by the Caliph or the Wazir. According to Abu Hanifa, in some cases, and according to Ibn Jarir Tabary, a non-Muslim can be appointed to administer the law of his co-religionists. The Chief Judge, as representative of the law of Islam, can depose the Caliph—he can kill his own creator. His death means the dismissal of his staff; tut the death of the sovereign is not followed by the dismissal of the judges appointed by him. During an interregnum a judge can be elected by the people of a town, but not during the sovereign’s lifetime.

5. President of the Highest Court of Appeal and General Control: The object of this institution was to hear appeals and to exercise a general supervision over all the departments of the State. Abdul Malik—the Ummaya Caliph and the founder of this court—personally acted as the president, though more difficult cases he transferred to Qazi Abu Idris. In later times the president was appointed by the Caliph. During the reign of the ‘Abbasi Caliph al-Muqtadar, his mother was appointed President, and she used to hear appeals on Fridays, surrounded by Judges, priests and other notables. In one respect, the President of this Court differed from the Chief Judge. He was not bound by the letter of law like the Qazi; his decisions were based on general principles of natural justice, so that the President was something like the keeper of the Caliph’s conscience. He was assisted by a council of judges and lawyers whose duty was to discuss every aspect of the case before the President announced his decision. The importance of this institution may be judged from the fact that it was among the few Muslim institutions which the Normans retained after their conquest of Sicily in the eleventh century.

II. The Shi’ah view
According to the Shi‘ah view the State is of divine origin, and the Caliph, or as they call, Imam, governs by divine right. The view arose among an obscure Arabian sect known as Saba’ites, whose founder Abdullah ibn Saba was a Jew of Sana in Yemen. In the time of Uthman he became a convert to Islam, and finally settled in Egypt where he preached his doctrine. This doctrine harmonized with the pre-Islamic habits of political thought in Persia, and soon found a permanent home in that country. The Imam, according to the Persians, is not elected (the Shi’ahs of Oman, however, adopted the elective principle and held that the Imam might be deposed) but appointed by God. He is the reincarnation of Universal Reason, he is endowed with all perfections, his wisdom is superhuman and his decisions are absolute and final. The first Imam, Ali, was appointed by Muhammad; Ali’s direct descendants are his divinely ordained successors. The world is never without a living Imam whether visible or invisible. The twelfth Imam, according to the Shi’ahs, suddenly disappeared near Kufa, but he will come again and fill the world with peace and prosperity. In the meantime, he communicates his will, from time to time, through certain favoured individuals—called Gates—who hold mysterious intercourse with him. Now this doctrine of the absence of the Imam has a very important political aspect which few students of Islam have fully appreciated. Whether the Imam really disappeared or not, I do not know; but it is obvious that the dogma is a clever way of separating the Church and the State. The absent Imam, as I have pointed out above, is absolute authority in all matters; the present executive authorities are, therefore, only guardians of the estate which really belongs to the Imam who, as such, inherits the property of deceased intestates in case they leave no heirs. It will, therefore, be seen that the authority of the Shah of Persia is limited by the authority of the Mullas—the representatives of the absent Imam. As a mere guardian of the estate he is subject to the religious authority of the Mullas though as the chief executive authority he is free to adopt any measure for the good of the estate. It is not, therefore, surprising that the Mullas took an active part in the recent constitutional reforms in Persia.
III. The Khawarij republicanism
I shall be very brief in my account of the Khawarij, since the history of their opinions is yet to be worked out. The first Muslims who were so called were the notorious 12,000 who revolted against ‘Ali after they had fought under him at the battle of Siffin. They were offended at his submitting the decision of the right to the Caliphate to the arbitration of men when, in their opinion, it ought to have been submitted to the law of God—the Quran. “The nation,” they said to ‘Ali, “calls us to the book of God; you call us to the sword.” Shahristani divides them into twenty-four sects, differing slightly from one another in legal and constitutional opinion, e.g. that the ignorance of the law is a valid excuse; that the adulterer should not be stoned, for the Quran nowhere mentions this punishment; that the hiding of one’s religious opinions is illegal; that the Caliph should not be called the commander of the faithful; that there is nothing illegal in having two or more Caliphs in one and the same time. In East Africa and Mazab—South Algeria—they still maintain the simplicity of their republican ideal. Broadly speaking, the Khawarij can be divided into three classes:
  1. Those who hold that there must be an elected Caliph, but it is not necessary that he should belong to a particular family or tribe. A woman or even a slave could be elected as Caliph provided he or she is a good Muslim ruler. Whenever they found themselves in power, they purposely elected their Caliph from among the socially lowest members of their community.
  2. Those who hold that there is no need of a Caliph, the Muslim congregation can govern themselves.
  3. Those who do not believe in Government at all—the anarchists of Islam. To them Caliph Ali is reported to have said; “You do not believe in my Government, but there must be some Government, good or bad.”


Such are, briefly, the main lines of Political Thought in Islam. It is clear that the fundamental principle laid down in the Quran is the principle of election; the details or rather the translation of this principle into a workable scheme of Government is left to be determined by other considerations. Unfortunately, however, the idea of election did not develop on strictly democratic lines, and the Muslim conquerors consequently failed to do anything for the political improvement of Asia. The form of election was certainly maintained in Baghdad and Spain, but no regular political institutions could grow to vitalize the people at large. It seems to me that there were principally two reasons for this want of political activity in Muslim countries.
  1. In the first place the idea of election was not at all suited to the genius of the Persians and the Mongols—the two principal races which accepted Islam as their religion. Dozy tells us that the Persians were even determined to worship the Caliph as a divinity, and on being told that worship belonged to God alone, they attempted to rebel against the Caliph who would not be the centre of religious emotion.
  2. The life of early Muslims was a life of conquest. Their whole energy was devoted to political expansion which tends to concentrate political power in fewer hands; and thus serves as an unconscious handmaid of despotism. Democracy does not seem to be quite willing to get on with Empire—a lesson which the modern English Imperialist might well take to heart.


In modern times—thanks to the influence of Western political ideas—Muslim countries have exhibited signs of political life. England has vitalized Egypt; Persia has received a constitution from the Shah, and the Young Turkish Party too have been struggling, scheming, and plotting to achieve their object. But it is absolutely necessary for these political reformers to make a thorough study of Islamic constitutional principles, and not to shock the naturally suspicious conservatism of their people by appearing as prophets of a new culture. They would certainly impress them more if they could show that their seemingly borrowed ideal of political freedom is really the ideal of Islam, and is, as such, the rightful demand of free Muslim conscience.
This paper by Allama Iqbal was published in The Sociological Review (London) in July 1908. His name appeared as “S. M. Iqbal”.

HAARP : Mega military machine


Suffering from delusions of grandeur, hegemonic powers strenuously strive to subdue societies and sordidly seek to stretch their sphere of influence across the globe one way or another.

These egregiously egotistical entities which, preposterously enough, regard themselves as the masters of the macrocosm, exhaust all options available to them to secure their global domination.

From making overtures to making threats, from subversion to invasion, from velvet revolutions to military coups, and the list goes on, there are no ways and means off-limits to these self-styled rulers when it comes to advancing their interests.

Servile states pose little trouble to these expansionists as they are subservient enough not to show any resistance to the dictates of the domineers.

Uncompromising nations, on the other hand, are more difficult to deal with, so much so that the hegemons may opt for subversive acts, coups or even invasion.

Of course, there are a few nations, namely Iran, Syria and Venezuela, who have refused to capitulate to the domineering powers and stood firm against bullying.

Global hegemons have quite a repertoire of weapons, military and otherwise, to secure their domination around the world. One such weapon, some analysts argue, is a cutting-edge technology involving radio waves. And one of several programs developed based on the same technology is HAARP.

HAARP, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, is, as the name suggests, a so-called “research program” jointly funded by the US Air Force, the US Navy, the University of Alaska and the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

HAARP operates a major sub-arctic facility, named the HAARP Research Station, near Gakona, Alaska.

HAARP comprises an array of 180 antennas approximately 72 feet (22 meters) tall linked together to function as one giant antenna to focus the energy coming out of the antenna field and inject that energy into the ionosphere (a  region of the upper atmosphere). HAARP, in fact, functions as a gargantuan lens which focuses millions of watts of ELF (Extremely Low Frequency) waves on a tiny patch of the atmosphere.

An expert says the energy emitted from HAARP is 72,000 times more intense than that of waves from a conventional radio station.

“The amount of energy we are talking about here is 3.6 million watts. … The largest legal AM radio station in North America is 50 thousand watts. HAARP is 72,000 50-thousand-watt radio stations injecting their entire output into a spot …,” says an expert familiar with the project.

With such immense power, HAARP is believed to be able to trigger natural disasters such as tsunamis, floods and earthquakes.

HAARP lies at the heart of numerous conspiracy theories.

Nick Begich Jr., the son of former US lawmaker Nick Begich and author of Angels Don’t Play This HAARP, has claimed that HAARP could trigger earthquakes and turn the upper atmosphere into a giant lens, so that “the sky would literally appear to burn.” He also claims that HAARP could be used as a mind control device.

Former Governor of Minnesota and noted conspiracy theorist Jesse Ventura has questioned whether the US government is using HAARP to manipulate the weather or to bombard people with mind-controlling radio waves.

“This thing can knock planes out of the air. It can control the weather. And it’s a very dangerous, dangerous weapon,” Ventura is quoted as saying in the article ‘Ventura seeks out conspiracy theories at Alaska station’ published on

Ventura reportedly made an official request to visit the site, but his demand was rejected. 
Physicist Bernard Eastlund has claimed that HAARP includes technology based on his own patents that has the capability to modify weather and neutralize satellites.

Ironically enough, even the European Parliament has taken a swipe at the program, citing environmental concerns. Europe’s misgivings are highlighted in an article dubbed EU clashes with US over atmosphere tests published on back in 1998. This is ironic because the European Incoherent Scatter Scientific Association (EISCAT) operates an ionospheric heating facility near Tromsø, Norway. You know, those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones!

Not to mention the HAARP station near Gakona, there are two other ionospheric heating facilities in America: the High Power Auroral Stimulation (HIPAS) Observatory  near Fairbanks, Alaska, which, according to Wikipedia, was dismantled in 2009, and one at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico.

There are said to be a few other such facilities around the world. The question is, whether the HAARP technology can really be used to manipulate the weather and trigger natural disasters.

There are numerous conspiracy theories claiming that disasters such as the magnitude 9.0 undersea quake off the coast of Japan that triggered a huge tsunami in 2011, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and the devastating temblor which struck China in 2008, were set off by the HAARP technology or relevant experiments.

There is no conclusive evidence to corroborate the claims. Nevertheless, some US officials have hinted at the possibility of electromagnetic waves being used as a tool to effect changes to the atmosphere or natural features.

On April 28, 1997, then US Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen delivered a keynote speech at the Conference on Terrorism, Weapons of Mass Destruction and US Strategy at the University of Georgia in Athens. When asked a question about terrorism, Cohen had this to say as part of his response about the type of technology that existed, even back then:

“Others are engaging even in an eco-type terrorism whereby they can alter the climate, set off earthquakes, volcanoes remotely through the use of electromagnetic waves.”

For a detailed transcript of his comments, you may log on here.

Whether or not the HAARP technology has been deliberately used to spark natural disasters is anybody’s guess at this point. But one thing is certain. Domineering powers will explore all avenues to secure their footholds the world over and to advance their interests at any cost. Hell-bent on establishing a global empire, the hegemonic states bide their time to interfere, intrude or invade to achieve their ends.

And it is incumbent upon all independent nations to keep their eyes peeled for any imperialistic conspiracies and nip any evil in the bud.


Nasser Namvar  is an Iranian writer and journalist.

A century of deceit : World wars and Zionist militarism


Some studies estimate that close to 1.5 million Iraqis have lost their lives as a result of the brutal American invasion and occupation of their country in 2003.  Millions more Iraqis have become refugees and orphans with no future prospects for prosperity, sanctity or stability.

Most of the critical infrastructure of the country was bombed into rubble and dust. American depleted uranium weapons have caused cancer rates in some Iraqi cities to skyrocket, permanently destroying the genes of future generations of Iraqis who are being born with horrific birth defects and diseases.

The culprits responsible for this genocidal campaign to subdue and enslave the Iraqi people are not the CEOs of American oil companies as some disingenuous commentators on the Left have claimed. President George W. Bush’s foreign policy in the Middle East was not his own nor that of the oil lobby, but was the brainchild of the neoconservative conspirators behind the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and other Zionist-oriented think tanks that dominated the Washington Beltway.

Three of Bush’s principal foreign policy advisors who are widely recognized as the prime movers behind the war in Iraq were neocon ideologues Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and Paul Wolfowitz, all of whom have well-documented histories of Israeli partisanship. Perle and Wolfowitz, for instance, were both investigated by the FBI in the 1980s for passing classified defence documents to Israel.  Perle was once an employee of the Israeli weapons firm Soltam.  Writers for the New York Times described Wolfowitz as one of Israel’s “staunchest allies” in the Bush administration and revealed that Wolfowitz “is friendly with Israel’s generals and diplomats” and that he is “something of a hero to the heavily Jewish neoconservative movement.”   Feith once ran a law firm in Israel and received an award from the Zionist Organization of America for his “services to Israel and the Jewish people.”  The New Yorker revealed that Feith even has a portrait of Zionism’s founder Theodore Herzl hanging on the wall of his home library.  It was Feith and his neocon Zionist colleague Abram Shulsky who oversaw the secretive “Office of Special Plans” in the Pentagon where all of the lies about Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction” were conceived and disseminated.

These Israeli militarists, masquerading as American thinkers, left behind a paper trail that unveiled their true objectives. In 1996, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser – all future Bush administration officials — authored a strategy paper for Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israeli Likud regime entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.”  In the paper, these Zionist hawks advocated an aggressive Israeli foreign policy, calling for the removal of all of Israel’s possible military competitors in the region through force. They spoke of “weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria” and of removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, calling it an “important Israeli strategic objective.” Also on their hit list was Iran, whose influence in the region they hoped to neutralize as well. By eliminating Israel’s external enemies the Zionist neocons were in turn endeavoring to subdue Israel’s internal foes, the indigenous Arab Palestinians who continue to resist Israeli occupation and apartheid. 

Meyrav Wurmser, the wife of neocon David Wurmser, confessed that most of the leading neocons are pro-Israel Jews.  Gal Beckerman, a writer for the Jewish Forward newspaper, admitted that the ideology of neoconservatism itself was the brainchild of chauvinistic Jewish intellectuals such as Leo Strauss, Irving Kristol and Albert Wohlstetter. “If there is an intellectual movement in America to whose invention Jews can lay sole claim, neoconservatism is it,” Beckerman wrote.  Prominent Israeli journalist Ari Shavit said the Iraq war was engineered by a cabal of 25 mostly Jewish neoconservative intellectuals.  Famed American-Jewish journalist Carl Bernstein expressed the same view on MSNBC. The Iraq war was launched on a phony pretext by Bush, Cheney and “the Jewish neocons who wanted to remake the world,” Bernstein opined, much to the chagrin of the pro-Zionist host.

The engine driving the Zionist-led neoconservative war machine is “holocaust” mythology. “For those of us who are involved in foreign and defense policy today of my generation,” explained Richard Perle in a BBC interview, “the defining moment of our history was certainly the holocaust.”  Douglas Feith often invokes the holocaust to justify his militarism. In a New Yorker profile, Feith asked, “What’s the answer to the Holocaust?” He answered his own question by suggesting that it is not surprising that this alleged event has caused so many Jews to become militant neocons dedicated to aggressive, unyielding warfare against all those who pose a “threat” to Jews and their interests.  In a New York Times profile, Paul Wolfowitz spoke of the holocaust as having a profound impact on his worldview.  Another neocon ringleader, Michael Ledeen, revealed his obsession with the subject in an article he authored entitled “The New Holocaust.”  Political analyst Kevin Barrett observed that the Israelis and their Jewish neocon patrons in Washington “are fanatical extremists who feel that they are being persecuted everywhere they go and that they have to be extremely harsh, unyielding and aggressive, as well as deceptive and violent with the world” in order to ensure their survival.  Somehow it doesn’t dawn on them that maybe it is their unscrupulous behaviour that is the cause of hostility towards them in the first place. Obviously introspection is not exactly a Zionist virtue.

The Zionists’ militarist mindset is evidently motivated by the ethnocentric myths of Jewish victimhood. World-conquering Neocon-Zionist belligerence is driven in large part by the religious adherence to the official propaganda of the victors of World War II. Elite Jews played an important role in bringing about the Second World War as the final phase of their plan to establish the state of Israel. The First World War accomplished several things for the Zionists: it freed up Palestine from Ottoman control (the Ottomans previously rejected Zionist offers to purchase Palestine), it fractured the big empires of Europe who could then be manipulated into future conflicts, and lastly it delivered Russia to the Bolsheviks, a majority of whom were Jewish chauvinists hell-bent on the subjugation of that Christian Empire. With Russia now in the hands of Jewish communist extremists and Palestine falling under British dominion, the Zionist plan for Israel was well on its way.

“It has been repeatedly acknowledged by British Statesmen,” wrote Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann in a 1941 letter to British leader Winston Churchill, “that it was the Jews who, in the last [world] war, effectively helped to tip the scales in America in favour of Great Britain. They are keen to do it – and may do it – again.” Wiezmann went on to ask for British assistance in the formation of a “Jewish fighting force” that would be used to ethnically cleanse Palestine of its Arab population. Wiezmann promised Churchill that if the British would help create a Jewish militia to conquer Palestine, he would do his utmost to mobilize American Jewry to exert their influence to draw America into the Second World War on Britain’s side, as they did in the first great war.

Benjamin Freedman, a former top-level Zionist, exposed the machinations of his brethren relating to the First and Second World Wars and the Zionist conquest of Palestine. In a 1961 speech at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., Freedman explained that the United States was “suckered into the [first world] war merely so that the Zionists of the world could obtain Palestine.” Freedman described how Zionist Jews made a secretive deal with the British leadership during World War I promising to bring America into the war in exchange for Palestine. The result of this agreement was the “Balfour Declaration” of 1917, a British government decree that promised to make Palestine into a national homeland for the Jews.  Freedman stressed the absurdity that Britain “should offer [Palestine] as coin of the realm to pay the Zionists for bringing the United States into the war.” The Zionists, said Freedman, “have complete control of our government. … The Zionists and their co-religionists rule this United States as though they were the absolute monarchs of this country.”

In a December 1919 speech in Jerusalem, Chaim Wiezmann boasted about securing the Balfour Declaration from the British government through “persistent propaganda, through unceasing demonstration of the life force of our people.” “We told the responsible authorities: We will establish ourselves in Palestine whether you like it or not,” Weizmann said. “You can hasten our arrival or you can equally retard it. It is however better for you to help us so as to avoid our constructive powers being turned into a destructive power which will overthrow the world.”  Threatening the world into approving the creation of Israel was part and parcel of the Zionist project from its inception.

In 1903 an early Zionist leader named Max Nordau conspicuously predicted the outbreak of the First World War, which lends credence to the suggestion that a hidden force of Jewish Zionists, Freemasons and bankers are responsible for instigating the conflict for their own purposes. “Let me tell you the following words as if I were showing you the rungs of a ladder leading upward and upward: Herzl, the Zionist Congress, the English Uganda proposition, the future world war, the peace conference – where with the help of England a free and Jewish Palestine will be created,” Nordau told his compatriots at the sixth Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, 11 years before the outbreak of the First World War and 14 years before the British issued the “Balfour Declaration.”

Such predictive powers unveil a plan that was consciously followed and executed during and after World War I. The “peace conference” Nordau envisioned was the 1919 Paris Peace Conference, which resulted in the Treaty of Versailles, a farce that unjustly punished Germany for a war it did not start, thus laying the groundwork for the inevitable outbreak of the Second World War. An international peacekeeping body was established shortly after World War I known as the League of Nations. The League put its stamp of approval on the British seizure of Palestine after the war, an imperial land-grab that had no real legitimacy outside of the self-serving declarations of the political elites, bankers and oligarchs who chaired the League.

The League essentially functioned as a tool of the financial elite and served the geopolitical aspirations of the Zionists. “The League of Nations is a Jewish idea, and Jerusalem some day will become the capital of the world’s peace,” proclaimed Jewish leader Nahum Sokolow at a Zionist conference in Carlsbad, California, in 1922. “The League has recognized our rights to our ancient home,” he said. “We Jews throughout the world will make the League’s struggle our own and will not rest until there is ultimate victory.”

Even with Palestine now in the palm of their hands, the Zionists still had a problem: convincing Europe’s Jews to leave their lives of luxury and embrace Palestine as their new home. Such a task proved difficult, with only a minority of European Jews strongly identifying with Zionism at this time. This reality sheds a different light on the rise of Adolf Hitler and National Socialism in Germany, which proved very convenient from the Zionists’ perspective. While publicly professing scorn and hatred of Nazism, Zionist Jews secretly initiated a deal with Hitler’s government – the “Transfer Agreement” – which saw the transfer of tens of thousands of German Jews and their assets to Palestine. Lasting from 1933 through 1941, the Nazi-Zionist pact proved crucial to the future establishment of the Zionist state. The large amounts of capital and agricultural equipment that was shipped into Palestine by way of this agreement substantially contributed to the creation of Israel. “Through this pact, Hitler’s Third Reich did more than any other government during the 1930s to support Jewish development in Palestine,” opined historian Mark Weber in his article titled “Zionism and the Third Reich.” “[D]uring the 1930s no nation did more to substantively further Jewish-Zionist goals than Hitler’s Germany,” says Weber.

Still, the Transfer Agreement alone did not produce the amount of Jewish emigration necessary to form an exclusivist Jewish ethno-state in Palestine, as the Zionists intended all along. There simply were not enough Jews in Palestine that would be required to replace the expelled Arabs and keep them at bay. Not only that, but there was still not enough global support or sympathy for the creation of a state for Jews. Since the dawn of Zionism in the late 1800s, Jewish-Zionist ideologues had been ravenously promoting the story of “six million” persecuted and oppressed Jews. “We Jews need a homeland of our own because we are persecuted wherever we go” was the traditional Zionist argumentation. But the First World War did not produce the circumstances needed to foist this propaganda on the world. Jews were not singled out for persecution or mistreatment by any belligerent in that war, which is why the Zionists, following the dictates of their founder Theodore Herzl, deliberately aided and abetted Hitler’s forces to corral their fellow Jews into ghettos and concentration camps during the Second World War.

Herzl, in his diaries, advocated making use of “anti-Semitism” to spur Jewish emigration to Palestine. “It would be an excellent idea to call in respectable, accredited anti-Semites as liquidators of [Jewish] property,” he wrote. “The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies. … I have already told you that we want to let respectable anti-Semites participate in our project, respecting their independence which is valuable to us—as a sort of people’s control authority.”  Did Hitler not carry out Herzl’s exact mandate? It must be pointed out that Hitler’s “final solution of the Jewish question” was the same procedure outlined by Zionists decades earlier: sequestering all Jews into a single state, isolated from other nations. “The final solution of the Jewish question lies therefore in the establishment of the Jewish State,” said the 1897 manifesto of a German-Zionist group.  In an 1899 letter, Theodore Herzl asked the Russian Czar if he would hear out his “Zionist plan for the final solution of the Jewish Question.”  In 1936, the Jewish nationalist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky laid out what the Zionist plan would ultimately entail: “It is not our task to establish in Palestine a home for selected people, not even a state for a small portion of our people. The aim of our efforts is to organize a systematic massive Jewish evacuation from all the countries in which they live.”

“The transfer of millions of Jews to their homeland [Palestine] will save the European Jewry from extermination,” declared Jabotinsky in 1940, adding, “Evacuation of the Jewish masses is the only cure for the Jewish catastrophe.”  The “extermination” Jabotinsky spoke of was not happening, but that didn’t stop Zionist propagandists from disseminating reckless atrocity stories of systematic genocide in order to win the world over to the Zionist cause. Legends of human soap, skin lampshades, shrunken heads, electric shock chambers, gas chambers and other absurdities were trumpeted from the rooftops by Zionists and their controlled press.

Jewish leaders made numerous public pronouncements designed to provoke Hitler, hoping he would unleash his fury upon Europe’s Jews, and with the help of Organized Zionism spur them to make their way to Palestine. For instance, Organized Jewry made a declaration of war against Germany in March 1933, before Hitler took any serious measures restricting the rights of German Jews. “Judea Declares War on Germany: Jews of All the World Unite in Action,” read the headline of the March 24, 1933, edition of Britain’s Daily Express. The corresponding article declared a Jewish “holy war against Germany.” “The Israeli people around the world,” the article continued, “declare economic and financial war against Germany. Fourteen million Jews stand together as one man, to declare war against Germany.”  A year later Jabotinsky made a similarly bellicose pronouncement, stating:

“For months now the struggle against Germany is waged by each Jewish community, at each conference, in all our syndicates, and by each Jew all over the world. There is reason to believe that our part in this struggle has general value. We will trigger a spiritual and material war of all the world against Germany’s ambitions to become once again a great nation, to recover lost territories and colonies. But our Jewish interests demand the complete destruction of Germany.”

As the war drew near, Chaim Weizmann did everything in his power to invite definite reprisals against Jews from Hitler’s regime. In a 1939 letter to British leader Neville Chamberlain, Weizmann declared that “the Jews stand by Great Britain and will fight on the side of the democracies.”  Weizmann and his Zionist colleagues made many public statements to that effect, which Hitler referenced in a July 1942 speech.  In 1941, an American Jew named Theodore Kaufman made an even more brazen effort to deliberately provoke hostility towards Jews. He authored and published a book advocating the genocide of the whole German people by way of a forced sterilization program. Kaufman’s text, titled Germany Must Perish!, outlined “a comprehensive plan for the extinction of the German nation and the total eradication from the earth, of all her people.”  A map illustrating the possible territorial break-up of Germany and the “apportionment of her lands” was also found in the book. “Germany must perish forever from this earth!” Kaufman declared, calling for “a final solution” of German extinction. Hitler’s propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels was well aware of Kaufman’s hateful screed, and widely distributed it in Germany to bolster his case of a Jewish conspiracy against his country.

Zionist leaders and activists gave Hitler more than enough ammunition to justify interning Jews in camps as a security threat to Germany. The American and Canadian governments imprisoned Japanese, German and Italian citizens in camps during the war with a far weaker rationale. Japanese, German and Italian citizens of the US and Canada had not declared a “holy war” against their adopted countries, but were interned nonetheless. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that these Zionist provocations were a cleverly calculated ruse intended to create an atmosphere in Europe conducive to the Zionist transfer plan. Without the uprooting process initiated by the National Socialists and their Zionist assistants, it is unlikely that any large amount of European Jews would have voluntarily left Europe for an uncertain future in Palestine.

Some Jewish casualties in a devastating war that took tens of millions of lives was inevitable and very much desired by the Zionist leaders seeking a pretext to invade and conquer Palestine for Jewish colonization. “There are 6,000,000 living, bleeding, suffering arguments in favor of Zionism,” declared Rabbi Stephen S. Wise at a meeting of Zionists in New York in 1900.  In 1906, a German-Jewish philanthropist named Dr. Paul Nathan publicized the notion that the Russian government had initiated a policy of exterminating its Jews as a “solution” to the “Jewish question” and that six million were in grave danger.  Max Nordau, the Zionist leader who predicted World War I, invoked the story of six million persecuted Jews in 1899, 1911 and 1920.  At a Zionist conference in 1911, Nordau warned that it was only a matter of time before six million Jews would be “annihilated” by European governments.

This familiar narrative was repeatedly advanced a few dozen times before, during and after World War I.  A most interesting example is from October 1919 when the American Hebrew publication carried an alarmist story headlined “The Crucifixion of Jews Must Stop” which alleged that “six million Jewish men and women” were on the brink of a “holocaust of human life.”  A New York Times report from the same year headlined “Ukrainian Jews Aim To Stop Pogroms” alleged that six million Jews in the Ukraine and Poland were being targeted in pogroms and massacres.  Another report from 1921 titled “Begs America Save 6,000,000 In Russia,” also from the New York Times, said, “Russia’s 6,000,000 Jews are facing extermination by massacre.” 

As the Second World War approached, Zionists amplified their atrocity propaganda. In 1936, Chaim Weizmann told a British Commission that “six million Jews” in Europe had “neither hope nor future save in the land of Israel.”  In 1940, World Jewish Congress chairman Nahum Goldmann proclaimed that if the German National Socialists achieved victory in the war “6,000,000 Jews in Europe are doomed to destruction.”  Amazingly, Zionist newspapers betrayed the pre-meditated and fraudulent nature of the six million myth by proclaiming precisely six million Jewish victims six months before the end of the war.   Soviet-Jewish war propagandist Ilya Ehrenburg told his readers that “the world now knows that Germany has killed six million Jews” in March of 1945, two months before the end of hostilities and long before any accurate statistical data of war casualties would become available.  “At that time, no demographic figures could have been available to [Ehrenburg],” writes German Rudolf in the preface of The First Holocaust. “Just a year later,” Rudolf continues, “British Historian David Irving emphasized that as early as June 1945, in other words immediately after the end of hostilities in Europe, some Zionist leaders claimed to be able to provide the precise number of Jewish victims – six million, of course – even though the chaos reigning in Europe at that time rendered any demographic studies impossible.”

In an effort to whitewash their own egregious war crimes, the Allied Powers went along with the Zionists’ pre-meditated fictional account of six million dead Jews. At the post-war Nuremberg trials, an Allied-run kangaroo court staffed to the brim by Zionist Jews and their Allied lackeys, the truth was buried underneath a tidal wave of falsehoods. The Zionist motives for the war itself were purposefully obscured and a cartoonish propaganda narrative of “Nazi evil” was foisted upon the world to advance the victors’ post-war aims for Europe and accelerate the Zionists’ ambitions for a Jewish ethno-state in Palestine. American Senator Thomas Dodd, who was a chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials in 1945, revealed in a letter to his wife that the staff at Nuremberg was about 75 per cent Jewish. “Now my point is that the Jews should stay away from this trial — for their own sake,” Dodd wrote in the letter, adding, “For … the charge ‘a war for the Jews’ is still being made and in the post-war years it will be made again and again. The too large percentage of Jewish men and women here [at Nuremberg] will be cited as proof of this charge.”

When the Soviet Union and its communist satellites in Eastern Europe collapsed in 1991, so did the myth of the six million. The Soviet lie of four million deaths at Auschwitz – a monstrous exaggeration accepted as ‘fact’ for decades — was officially reduced to around one million, but revisionist historians doubt even that figure. Revisionist scholarship has determined that somewhere between 100-150 thousand people perished in Auschwitz mainly as a result of disease and starvation, which was not a deliberate act on the part of the Germans but rather the outcome of Allied carpet-bombing of Germany’s infrastructure.  For years Zionist propagandists claimed several million Jews had been killed by the Germans at the Mauthausen and Majdanek concentration camps, but recent official revisions place the Jewish death totals there at 74,000 combined.  Despite the vast lowering of the death figures at many major camps, Zionists and those they have convinced through incessant propaganda still repeat the erroneous six million number as fact.

Jewish scholar Norman Finkelstein outlined Zionist deceptions vis-à-vis the orthodox holocaust narrative in his book The Holocaust Industry.  Finkelstein observes that a dogma has been fashioned around the “holocaust” by the Jewish-Zionist establishment as a means of thought control. Shielding Israel from criticism and rebuke, Finkelstein argues, is a primary motivation behind the ceaseless promotion of holocaust mythology, in addition to Zionist shakedowns for reparations money from Germany. This profitable industry is bolstered by the Hollywood entertainment establishment which is “totally run by Jews” according to the Jewish Los Angeles Times columnist Joel Stein.  Not only does the holocaust dogma provide Zionist Jews with psychological cover to commit heinous crimes against the Palestinians and mask them under a façade of victimhood, but it also acts as a perpetual pretext for wars that serve Israel’s interests, such as the war in Iraq.

Gilad Sharon, the son of Israeli war criminal politician Ariel Sharon, vividly unveiled the bloodthirsty and bellicose nature of Zionism in a 2012 op-ed for the Jerusalem Post. Calling openly for the genocidal carpet-bombing of Gaza, Sharon declared: “We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.”  Sharon’s remarks are not the ravings of a fringe lunatic — they are completely consistent with the teachings of the pioneers of Zionist ideology, like Dr. David Wolffsohn, the late World Zionist Organization chairman, who told a meeting of Zionists in 1907 that Jews must put aside their differences and unite to “conquer the world.”  Vladimir Jabotinsky, the father of the Revisionist strain of Zionism, said candidly, “We want a Jewish Empire.”  Zionism is a “death-crazed narcissistic cult,” said Rich Siegel, a former Zionist who saw the light.  The inhuman precepts of the Jewish supremacist mentality that is so prevalent in Israel today can only result in more violence and bloodshed, more misery and suffering for the Palestinians and Arabs in general. 

While the West bears much shame and responsibility for aiding and abetting the Zionist project and all of its murderous and destructive consequences, bringing history into accordance with the facts is one way to uplift the Palestinians whose struggle for freedom and justice goes on.


Brandon Martinez is a freelance writer and journalist from Canada whose area of expertise is foreign policy, international affairs and 20th and 21st century history. His writing is focused on issues such as Zionism, Israel-Palestine, American and Canadian foreign policy, war, terrorism and deception in media and politics.

The Muslims Are Coming ! : Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror


Arun Kundnani’s book, vastly more intelligent than the usual “war on terror” verbiage, focuses on the war’s domestic edge in Britain and America. His starting point is this: “Terrorism is not the product of radical politics but a symptom of political impotence.” The antidote therefore seems self-evident: “A strong, active and confident Muslim community enjoying its civic rights to the full.” Yet policy on both sides of the Atlantic has ended by criminalising Muslim opinion, silencing speech and increasing social division. These results may make political violence more, not less, likely.

The assumptions and silences of the counter-radicalisation industry end up telling us far more about particular ideological subsections of Anglo-American culture than they do about the Muslims targeted. The two dominant security approaches to Muslim citizens described by Kundnani – “culturalist” and “reformist” – highlight ideology rather than sociopolitical grievances.

Culturalism’s best-known proponent is Bernard Lewis, Dick Cheney‘s favourite historian, who locates the problem as Islam itself, a totalitarian ideology-culture incompatible with democratic modernity. So Mitt Romney explains the vast divergence between Israeli and Palestinian economies thus: “Culture makes all the difference” – and decades of occupation, ethnic cleansing and war make no difference at all. Writer Christopher Caldwell believes residents of the Paris banlieue rioted in 2005 because they were Muslims (although many weren’t), and not because of unemployment, poor housing and police violence. Perhaps the silliest culturalist intervention was Martin Amis‘s essay “The Second Plane”, where Amis breezily admitted he knew nothing of geopolitics but claimed authority nevertheless from his expertise in “masculinity” – 9/11 was explained by Muslim sexual frustration. Such discourses are part of an influential tradition. In 1950s colonial Kenya, psychiatrist JC Carothers understood the Mau Mau uprising as “not political but psycho‑pathological”.

More charitable than culturalism, reformism identifies the problem as a perversion of Islamic doctrine. With General Petraeus‘s Iraqi “hearts and minds” campaign, reformism came to dominate the post-Rumsfeld Pentagon; what started in counter-insurgency was soon considered as relevant to Bradford as Basra. It involved an accumulation of anthropological “knowledge” through surveillance (David J Kilcullen describes counter-insurgency as “armed social science”), and it underlay the assumption of Obama’s 2009 Cairo speech that positive recognition of moderate Muslim culture could solve political conflict. Qur’an-reading Tony Blair shared the notion that terrorism’s “root cause” was “a doctrine of fanaticism”.

This focus on doctrine meant the state intervened to promote correct belief. Muslims were categorised as “extremists” or “moderates”, although no link has been proved between extremist ideas and terrorist violence. The clumsy binarism sometimes went further – Salafis were extremist, Sufis were moderate – although most Salafis are quietists and some Sufis fight jihad against America. Those labelled moderate were quickly reclassified if they spoke out on foreign policy.

The emphasis on ideology led to the criminalisation of certain ideologies, and to the new crime of “glorifying terrorism” (as opposed to inciting violence). Increasingly, young Muslims were imprisoned for their reading matter. Thus the more liberal approach ended by assaulting liberal freedoms, and culture was transformed into a battlefield. By turning comparatively new (and by no means universal) values such as gender and sexual equality into icons of superior westernism, “liberalism became a form of identity politics”. (Reformism is heavy with bleakly absurd contradiction. For the sake of cultural sensitivity in Ramadan, hunger-striking Guantánamo prisoners are force-fed only at night.)

In one of several illuminating character sketches, Kundnani shows that the radicalisation of Yemeni-American Anwar al-Awlaki, killed by a US drone in 2011, involved no psychological crisis or theological shift (as the reformist literature would have it), but only experience of the war on terror, domestic and external, including his American-inspired arrest and abuse by Yemeni police. The preacher’s newly violent language mirrored not the Qur’an so much as war on terror discourse itself.

This failure to engage with the real roots of violent alienation has ramifications going far beyond security. Both culturalism and reformism neglect what Kundnani calls “the basic political question thrown up by multiculturalism: how can a common way of life, together with full participation from all parts of society, be created?” Those British Muslims who “ghettoised” didn’t do so by choice but as a result of industrial collapse, discriminatory housing policies and the fear of racist violence. Identity politics was promoted and funded by local government in response to a 1970s radicalism (for instance the Asian Youth Movements, modelled on the Black Panthers), which linked anti-racism to anti-capitalism. Home secretary Willie Whitelaw supported “ethnic” TV programming on the grounds that “if they don’t get some outlet for their activities you are going to run yourself into much more trouble”. Multiculturalism, then, was not a leftist plot but a conservative move bringing together the state and community “uncles” against a much more subversive alternative. And in the last decade, while “anti-terror” resources have flowed into Muslim communities, benefiting the usual gatekeepers and provoking the envy of equally deprived non-Muslim communities, young, alienated Muslims, as likely obsessed by the Illuminati as the caliphate, are deterred from speaking – and being challenged – in public.

Kundnani provides detailed, well‑contextualised accounts of the entrapment of vulnerable African-American Muslims as well as the criminalisation of the (already traumatised) Minnesota Somali community (for its opposition to the US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia). Arab-Americans, who had either identified as white or as a “model minority” (patriotic, bourgeois, less troublesome than black people or Latinos), suddenly found those options closing. In comedian Dean Obeidallah’s words, “I go to bed September 10th white, wake up September 11th, I am an Arab.” Anti-Muslim hysteria was whipped up by the media, the entertainment industry, and a state vocabulary that considered pipe bombs “weapons of mass destruction” when used by Muslims. Anti-Muslim violence in America increased by 50% in 2010.

The book closes with discussion of the new European far-right’s embrace of Zionism – it is now Islamphobic rather than antisemitic. In “creeping-shari’a” scaremongering, the tropes of classical antisemitism are clear. Rightists “ascribe to Islam magical powers to secretly control western governments while at the same time [seeing it as] a backward seventh-century ideology whose followers constitute a dangerous underclass”.

In Britain the English Defence League was born; in the US a media-based Islamophobic campaign fed existent conservative movements. Both peddle varieties of the “Eurabia” conspiracy theory, whereby a corrupt European political class has signed the continent over to Muslim domination through immigration, birth rates and multiculturalism. At one extreme, this brand of “anti-terror” politics soon arrives at its own, Anders Breivik-style terrorism.


Arun Kundnani is one of Britain’s best political writers, neither hectoring nor drily academic but compelling and sharply intelligent. The Muslims Are Coming should be widely read, particularly by liberals who consider their own positions unassailable. “Neoconservatism invented the terror war,” Kundnani writes, “but Obama liberalism normalised it, at which point, mainstream journalists stopped asking questions.”

Invasion of the Data Snatchers | Big Data and the Internet of Things Means the Surveillance of Everything


Estimates vary, but by 2020 there could be over 30 billion devices connected to the Internet. Once dumb, they will have smartened up thanks to sensors and other technologies embedded in them and, thanks to your machines, your life will quite literally have gone online. 

The implications are revolutionary. Your smart refrigerator will keep an inventory of food items, noting when they go bad. Your smart thermostat will learn your habits and adjust the temperature to your liking. Smart lights will illuminate dangerous parking garages, even as they keep an “eye” out for suspicious activity.

Techno-evangelists have a nice catchphrase for this future utopia of machines and the never-ending stream of information, known as Big Data, it produces: the Internet of Things.  So abstract. So inoffensive. Ultimately, so meaningless.

A future Internet of Things does have the potential to offer real benefits, but the dark side of that seemingly shiny coin is this: companies will increasingly know all there is to know about you.  Most people are already aware that virtually everything a typical person does on the Internet is tracked. In the not-too-distant future, however, real space will be increasingly like cyberspace, thanks to our headlong rush toward that Internet of Things. With the rise of the networked device, what people do in their homes, in their cars, in stores, and within their communities will be monitored and analyzed in ever more intrusive ways by corporations and, by extension, the government.

And one more thing: in cyberspace it is at least theoretically possible to log off.  In your own well-wired home, there will be no “opt out.”

You can almost hear the ominous narrator’s voice from an old “Twilight Zone” episode saying, “Soon the net will close around all of us. There will be no escape.” 

Except it’s no longer science fiction. It’s our barely distant present.

Home Invasion 

“[W]e estimate that only one percent of things that could have an IP address do have an IP address today, so we like to say that ninety-nine percent of the world is still asleep,” Padmasree Warrior, Cisco’s Chief Technology and Strategy Officer, told the Silicon Valley Summit in December. “It’s up to our imaginations to figure out what will happen when the ninety-nine percent wakes up.”

Yes, imagine it. Welcome to a world where everything you do is collected, stored, analyzed, and, more often than not, packaged and sold to strangers — including government agencies.

In January, Google announced its $3.2 billion purchase of Nest, a company that manufactures intelligent smoke detectors and thermostats. The signal couldn’t be clearer. Google believes Nest’s vision of the “conscious home” will prove profitable indeed. And there’s no denying how cool the technology is. Nest’s smoke detector, for instance, can differentiate between burnt toast and true danger. In the wee hours, it will conveniently shine its nightlight as you groggily shuffle to the toilet. It speaks rather than beeps. If there’s a problem, it can contact the fire department.

The fact that these technologies are so cool and potentially useful shouldn’t, however, blind us to their invasiveness as they operate 24/7, silently gathering data on everything we do. Will companies even tell consumers what information they’re gathering? Will consumers have the ability to determine what they’re comfortable with? Will companies sell or share data gathered from your home to third parties? And how will companies protect that data from hackers and other miscreants?

The dangers aren’t theoretical. In November, the British tech blogger Doctorbeet discovered that his new LG Smart TV was snooping on him. Every time he changed the channel, his activity was logged and transmitted unencrypted to LG. Doctorbeet checked the TV’s option screen and found that the setting “collection of watching info” was turned on by default. Being a techie, he turned it off, but it didn’t matter. The information continued to flow to the company anyway.

As more and more household devices — your television, your thermostat, your refrigerator — connect to the Internet, device manufacturers will undoubtedly follow a model of comprehensive data collection and possibly infinite storage. (And don’t count on them offering you an opt-out either.) They have seen the giants of the online world — the Googles, the Facebooks — make money off their users’ personal data and they want a cut of the spoils. Your home will know your secrets, and chances are it will have loose lips.

The result: more and more of what happens behind closed doors will be open to scrutiny by parties you would never invite into your home. After all, the Drug Enforcement Administration already subpoenas utility company records to determine if electricity consumption in specific homes is consistent with a marijuana-growing operation. What will come next? Will eating habits collected by smart fridges be repackaged and sold to healthcare or insurance companies as predictors of obesity or other health problems — and so a reasonable basis for determining premiums? Will smart lights inform drug companies of insomniac owners?

Keep in mind that when such data flows are being scrutinized, you’ll no longer be able to pull down the shades, not when the Peeping Toms of the twenty-first century come packaged in glossy, alluring boxes. Many people will just be doing what Americans have always done — upgrading their appliances.  It may not initially dawn on them that they are also installing surveillance equipment targeted at them. And companies have obvious incentives to obscure this fact as much as possible.

As the “conscious home” becomes a reality, we will all have to make a crucial and conscious decision for ourselves: Will I let this device into my home? Renters may not have that option. And eventually there may only be internet-enabled appliances.

Commercial Stalking

The minute you leave your home, the ability to avoid surveillance technologies masquerading as something else will, if anything, lessen.

Physical sensors connected to the Internet are increasingly everywhere, ready to detect a unique identifier associated with you, usually one generated by your smartphone, then log what you do and leverage the data you generate for insight into your life. For instance, Apple introduced iBeacon last year.  It’s a service based on transmitters that employ Bluetooth technology to track where Apple users are in stores and restaurants. (The company conveniently turned on Bluetooth by default via a software update it delivered to Apple iPhone owners.) Apps that use iBeacon harvest a user’s data, including his or her location, and sometimes can even turn on a device’s microphone to listen in on what’s going on.

Another company, Turnstyle Solutions Inc., has placed sensors around Toronto that surreptitiously record signals emitted by WiFi-enabled devices and can track users’ movements. Turnstyle can tell, for instance, when a person who visited a restaurant goes to a bar or a hotel. When people log-on to WiFi networks Turnstyle has installed at area restaurants or coffee shops and check Facebook, the company can go far beyond location, collecting “names, ages, genders, and social media profiles,” according to theWall Street Journal.

The rationale for apps that track where you are is that business owners can use the data to tailor the customer experience to your liking. If you’re wandering around the male grooming section of a particular retailer, the store could shoot you a coupon to convince you to purchase that full body trimmer that promises a smooth shave every time. If customers enter Macy’s and zig right more often than left, the store can strategically place what’s popular or on sale in those high-traffic areas. This is basically what’s happening online now, and brick and mortar stores want in so they can compete against the Amazons of the world.

Not so surprisingly, however, such handy technology has already led to discriminatory behavior by retailers. About a year ago, an investigation by the Wall Street Journal found that prices quoted by online retailers like Staples and Home Depot changed based on who the customer was. People who lived in higher-income areas generally received the best deals, which is a form of digital redlining. In the future, count on brick and mortar stores to do the same thing by identifying your phone, picking up data about you, and pricing items according to just how juicy a customer they think you may be.

To be able to do this, retailers need companies that can provide rich data about our lives. That’s where a group of pioneering companies in the new universe of customer surveillance called data aggregators come in. Already a multibillion-dollar industry, aggregators like Acxiom, Experian, and Datalogix buy customer data from wherever they can — banks, travel websites, retailers — and turn it into Big Data. Then they analyze, package, and sell it to third parties. “Our digital reach,” said Scott Howe, CEO of the largest data aggregator, Acxiom, “will soon approach nearly every Internet user in the U.S.”

Last December, the Senate Commerce Committee investigated the business practices of the nine largest data aggregators: what information they collect, how they obtain it, their invasiveness, and who they sell it to. The committee found that these companies collect information ranging from the relatively mundane to the incredibly sensitive, including names and addresses, income levels, and medical histories. They then sell it off without giving serious consideration to what the buyers might do with it.

In the process, you could find yourself categorized as part of a group of “Mid-Life Strugglers: Families” or “Meager Metro Means” or “Oldies but Goodies,” which aggregator InfoUSA described as “gullible” people who “want to believe their luck can change.” Think of it as high-tech commercial profiling of the most exploitative sort. 

The result is the creation of a twenty-first century permanent record of your very own, which you are unlikely to ever be able to see because, as the Senate report warned, the industry operates under “a veil of secrecy” with little or no regulation. “Three of the largest companies — Acxiom, Experian, and Epsilon — to date have been similarly secretive with the committee with respect to their practices, refusing to identify the specific sources of their data or the customers who purchase it.”

Congress’s watchdog, the Government Accountability Office, reviewed U.S. privacy law and found that citizens generally do not have the right to control the scope of information collected about them or limit its use, even when it pertains to their health or their finances. And if the information is incorrect — something you might never find out — there’s no U.S. law that requires data aggregators to correct it.

Paul Ohm, a policy advisor to the Federal Trade Commission, calls these immense troves of personal information “databases of ruin.” He worries that, over time, these databases will include new waves of data — maybe from your conscious home or location information from commercial sensors — and so become ever more consolidated. Soon, he fears, “these databases will grow to connect every individual to at least one closely guarded secret. This might be a secret about a medical condition, family history, or personal preference. It is a secret that, if revealed, would cause more than embarrassment or shame; it would lead to serious, concrete, devastating harm.”

Sooner or later, with smart devices seamlessly using sensors and Big Data provided by data aggregators, it will be possible to pick you out of a crowd and identify you in complex ways in real time. If intelligent surveillance cameras armed with facial recognition technology have access to social media profiles as well as the information stored by data aggregators, a digital dossier of your life could be called up on-demand whenever your face is recognized. Imagine the power retailers and companies will exert over your life if they not only know who you are and where you are, but what your weaknesses are — whether that’s booze, cigarettes, or the appealing mortgage rate with the sketchy small print. Are we looking at a future where the car salesman really does know what he has to do to put us in that car?

Big Data is creating the possibility of a far more entrenched, class-based surveillance society that discriminates using our perceived successes and preys on our weaknesses.

The Great Outdoors

Recently, Newark Liberty International Airport upgraded lighting fixtures at one of its terminals to a more eco-friendly alternative known as LEDs. It turns out, however, that energy efficiency wasn’t the only benefit of the purchase. The fixtures also double as a surveillance system of cameras and sensors that the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is using to watch for long lines, identify license plates, and — its officials claim — spot suspicious behavior.

With all the spying going on these days, this may not seem particularly invasive, but don’t worry, the manufacturers of such systems are thinking much bigger. “We see outdoor lighting as the perfect infrastructure to build a brand new network,” said Hugh Martin, CEO of Sensity Systems, a Sunnyvale, California-based company interested in making lighting smart. “We felt what you’d want to use this network for is to gather information about people and the planet.”

Pretty soon, just about anywhere you are, when you look up at that light pole, it is likely to be looking back down at you. Or into your home or car.

Other surveillance technologies are heading for the heavens. Persistent Surveillance Systems has developed a surveillance camera on steroids. When attached to small aircraft, the 192-megapixel cameras record the patterns of the planetary life they fly over for hours at a time. According to the Washington Post, this will give the police and other customers a “time machine” they can simply rewind when they need it. Placed strategically at the highest points of any town or city, these cameras could provide the sort of blanket surveillance that’s hard to avoid. The inventor of the camera, a retired Air Force officer, helped create a similar system for the city of Fallujah, the site of two of the most violent battles of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. It’s just one example of how wartime surveillance technologies are returning home for “civilian use.”

Private surveillance technology is also destroying one of America’s iconic freedoms: the open road. License plate readers are proliferating across America. These devices snap a picture of every passing car. One company, Vigilant Solutions, already holds 1.8 billion license plate records in its data warehouse, known as the National Vehicle Location Service (NVLS). Anyone with access to this information could easily find out where a person has driven simply by connecting the plate to the car owner. And keep in mind that it’s up to the companies gathering them to determine just who can access the information — data of immense interest to private investigators and anyone else curious to track another person’s movements.

Like many businesses that trade in Big Data or construct massive databases, Vigilant is in regular contact with government agencies craving access to its meaty stores of information.

If You Build It, They Will Come

In February, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) put out a solicitation to obtain access to a private license plate reader database for the purpose of “locating criminal aliens and absconders.” ICE claims that it wants to enhance officer safety by making it easier to arrest suspects away from their homes. When the mainstream media took notice and privacy advocates like the ACLU objected, new Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson pulled the plug on the project.

A big win? Don’t count on it, because police departments already have easy access to commercial license plate repositories. In the past, Vigilant has, for instance, allowed ICE to test its service free of charge. Police often pony up the cash to access such databases. As a quick experiment, go to Vigilant’s NVLS registration page, click on the drop-down menu beside “Agency name,” and scroll down. Trust us, you’ll get bored by the staggering list of police departments before you reach the bottom.

Which brings us to an axiom of our digital age: law enforcement will exploit any database built, if it makes it easier to figure out what the rest of us are up to. Lucky for them, there’s a wealth of data out there and available. Experian, one of the largest data aggregators, told the Senate Commerce Committee that “government agencies” regularly purchase information from them. 

Often, those agencies don’t even have to pay for the privilege of accessing our data. In many cases, such an agency can simply issue its own subpoena (not seen by a judge) and compel companies to turn over our sensitive data. The culprit here is known as the “third party doctrine,” which some courts have aggressively (and wrongly) interpreted to mean that any information disclosed to a third party isn’t really private.

The danger of the rise of Big Data and the Internet of Things is straightforward enough. Whenever data is perpetually generated, collected, and stored, the result is going to be a virtual ATM of user information that government agencies can withdraw from with ease. Last year, for instance, local, state, and federal authorities issued 164,000 subpoenas to Verizon and more than 248,000 subpoenas to AT&T for user information, while issuing nearly 7,500 subpoenas to Google during the first half of 2013.

The Internet of Things means that, soon enough, the authorities will have yet more ways to learn yet more about us.

Big Data, Little Democracy?

Here are two obvious questions for our surveillance future: Who controls the data generated by our devices? Without doing anything except buying and installing them, do we somehow consent to having every piece of data they generate shared with Big Business and sometimes Big Brother? No one should have to isolate themselves from society and technology in the ascetic mold of Henry David Thoreau — or more ominously, Ted Kaczynski — to have some semblance of privacy.

In the future, even going all Jeremiah Johnson might not have the effect intended, since law enforcement could interpret your lack of a solid digital footprint as inherently suspicious. This would be like a police officer growing suspicious of a home just because it was all dark and locked up tight.

When everything is increasingly tracked and viewed through the lens of technological omniscience, what will the effect be on dissent and protest? Will security companies with risk assessment software troll through our data and crunch it to identify people they believe have the propensity to become criminals or troublemakers — and then share that with law enforcement? (Something like it already seems to be happening in Chicago, where police are using computer analytic programs to identify people at a greater risk of violent behavior.)

There’s simply no way to forecast how these immense powers — disproportionately accumulating in the hands of corporations seeking financial advantage and governments craving ever more control — will be used. Chances are Big Data and the Internet of Things will make it harder for us to control our own lives, as we grow increasingly transparent to powerful corporations and government institutions that are becoming more opaque to us.


Catherine Crump is a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. She is a non-residential fellow with the Stanford Center for Internet and Society and an adjunct professor of clinical law at NYU. Her principal focus is representing individuals challenging the lawfulness of government surveillance programs. Follow her on Twitter at @CatherineNCrump.

Matthew Harwood is senior writer/editor with the ACLU. A TomDispatch regular, his work has been published by Al-Jazeera America, the American Conservative, the Columbia Journalism Review, the Guardian, Guernica, Reason, Salon, Truthout, and the Washington Monthly. He also regularly reviews books for the Future of Freedom Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @mharwood31.