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   20 Questions We Ought to Get Answered Before We Start Killing Arabs ... Again

COMMENTARY:

20 Questions We Ought to Get Answered Before We Start Killing Arabs ... Again

By Bruce Jackson

BACKGROUND: This list of questions was originally published at CounterPunch.org. Bruce Jackson, the Samuel P. Capen Professor of American Culture at the State University of New York at Buffalo, is editor of Buffalo Report.

In an AP story called “Lackawanna Six: Small-town dupes or Al-Qaida acolytes?” (Sun., Sept. 29, 2002), Ben Dobbin reports that over 1,000 Yemeni-Americans live in Lackawanna, a Lake Erie town of 20,000. They mostly work “in the fading steel industry or in low-paying jobs in the Buffalo region.” Six Lackawanna residents, all Americans of Yemeni descent, have been charged with providing "material support" to a foreign terrorist organization. They have been described by federal authorities as a sleeper cell awaiting orders from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. Defense attorneys for the men say they are “victims of misinformation.”

In spring 2001, the six men traveled to Pakistan for what they claimed they thought would be two months of religious studies. Instead, according to the US government in charging documents, their US contact guided them to an Afghan training camp run by al-Qaida. Mr. Dobbin writes, “Prosecutors revealed.....[the men] heard bin Laden giving a malevolent anti-American speech, telling them ‘in unequivocal terms that there “is going to be a fight against Americans.” ’ The government also alleges that the men could not relay any account about the religious studies they were supposed to have engaged in.

Authorities acknowledged they have no evidence the suspected “cell” was planning a terrorist strike. The AP story.


In spring 2001, the six men traveled to Pakistan for what they claimed they thought would be two months of religious studies. Instead, according to the US government in charging documents, their US contact guided them to an Afghan training camp run by al-Qaida. Mr. Dobbin writes, “Prosecutors revealed.....[the men] heard bin Laden giving a malevolent anti-American speech, telling them ‘in unequivocal terms that there “is going to be a fight against Americans.” ’ The government also alleges that the men could not relay any account about the religious studies they were supposed to have engaged in.

Authorities acknowledged they have no evidence the suspected “cell” was planning a terrorist strike.

Here are Bruce Jackson’s questions:

  1. Why did the White House announce that George Bush himself authorized the arrest of the Lackawanna Six, since arrest warrants are normally the purview of an assistant attorney general, and the White House never before announced the direct involvement of George Bush in any criminal investigation?
  2. Why did NY Gov. George Pataki do most of the talking in the nationally-televised FBI press conference about the Lackawanna arrests?
  3. What was George Pataki doing there at all?
  4. Was there a single new fact about Saddam Hussein's inability to work and play well with others in George Bush's UN speech?
  5. Why did George Bush announce that the US was rejoining UNESCO one paragraph before he demanded that the UN take military action against Saddam Hussein if Saddam Hussein didn't agree to full inspection by UN experts?
  6. Why did George Bush say that Saddam Hussein's agreement to full inspection by UN experts didn't comply with his demand that Saddam Hussein agree to full inspection by UN experts?
  7. Why is the possibility that Saddam Hussein might develop the ability to manufacture weapons-grade plutonium or uranium in the future more dangerous to our welfare than, say Pakistan's present ability to manufacture weapons-grade plutonium or uranium?
  8. Why, if our sole interest is preventing Hussein from developing weapons-grade materials, don't we do what we (and Israel) have done in the past: take out the troublesome installations with a missile or bomb?
  9. Why, if we can't find the location of Hussein's putative weapons-grade plutonium or uranium factories (they are big and give off a lot of heat), are we spending those billions and billions of dollars on high-tech spy hardware?
  10. Why, as former President Bill Clinton points out, would Saddam use nuclear or biological weapons of mass destruction on us when he knows that using them would result in immediate massive and deadly counterattack by us?
  11. Why, as former President Bill Clinton asks, wouldn't Saddam use such weapons, and distribute them to other people who might use them, if we made a preemptive attack, since the point of our attack would primarily be to slaughter him and everyone close to him anyway? What, Clinton said, would he have to lose?
  12. The single document President Bush has quoted in support of his assertion that Saddam is close to producing a workable nuclear device is a 1998 International Atomic Energy Agency report that now turns out to be nonexistent, so what evidence is there that Iraq is even close to developing a workable nuclear device?
  13. What happened to Jose Padilla, that international terrorist about whom Attorney General John Ashcroft called his emergency Moscow press conference about several months ago--the ‘Bin Laden agent about to detonate a dirty nuclear device in Manhattan’? You know, the guy they locked in a Navy brig and wouldn't let out or bring to trial, even though they later said he didn't really have any connection with Bin Laden or have a dirty nuclear device to set off.
  14. What bad thing did the Lackawanna Six actually do, other than having been in a country in which it was then legal for Americans to be, and perhaps having heard a lecture by Bin Laden they couldn't have known beforehand they were going to hear while they were there?
  15. What American rights, specifically, are better safeguarded by the new White House policy of locking American citizens up without trial, and without access to attorneys, family, or the press?
  16. What happened to the inquiry into the way Dick Cheney got very rich on his way out of Haliburton just before Haliburton tanked?
  17. What happened to the House investigation into Dick Cheney's stonewalling about his meetings with Enron officials and how influential they were in setting Bush administration energy policy?
  18. What happened to the inquiry into the way George W. Bush got very rich on his way out of Harken Energy and why his partners in it gave him a $12 million “present” when he was in the Texas governor's office? (See: Paul Krugman, "Steps to Wealth," NY Times, 16 July 2002 for more on this.)
  19. How much does all of this have to do with the elections for US Senate and House of Representatives seats and the New York governorship scheduled for November 5?
  20. What is the premise, plot and possible present applicability of Barry Levinson's film “Wag the Dog,” starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert de Niro? (If you don't remember, visit click here for a plot summary.)

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This story was published on October 2, 2002.
  
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