Port Authority Terror Today!

Dec 11 NYC terror
Photo Courtesy: New York Times (for non-profit, one-time-only, academic use.)

I express my sadness, frustration, and anger on such cowardly terrorist acts, and offer my sympathy for those who were hurt. Thank God, nobody lost their life.

Then, we talk about Islamophobia and Immigrant Bashing.

Every time something like it happens, it automatically makes people even angrier against immigrants and especially Muslim immigrants. People start calling names, and refuse to be in any discussion, any dialogue, or any debate.

Some media flare up the sentiment, and profit more. I am sure tomorrow’s papers will be flooded with sensational, front-page stories, with zero substantive discussion about the immigrant communities. In fact, immigrant communities will continue mistrusting one another, and even more.

I am also sure people like Trump of USA and Modi of India do not mind that hiked-up hatred, to win more elections, exploiting the anger. Misplaced anger also diverts attention from other real-life issues, such as money, jobs, education, health, environment. Violence on women and children. Police brutality. War. Gun violence.

It works so well! They have done it over and over again.

Yet, based on reports today, this idiot named Akayed Ullah, who blasted the bomb at Port Authority today lived in Brooklyn, and was from Bangladesh, and I know literally hundreds of Muslims from Bangladesh living in Brooklyn and New York. I live here. I work here.

I have no doubts in my mind that this nut represents a small, miniscule number of nuts, and the vast majority of immigrants — Muslim, Hindu or Christian, with papers or without — do not believe in violence. They believe in peace. They condemn violence of any kind.

Let us not divide ourselves even more, and fall prey to the traders of bigotry and hate.

Let us come together. Let us live in harmony and peace.

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

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Fifteen Years of 9/11: Have We Progressed?

freedom-towerNot that fifteen years of 9/11 is anything different from fourteen years, or sixteen. It is just a number.

For those who lost their loved ones on that fateful day here in New York, their pain and sorrow will remain exactly the same. We — those who were lucky not to go through their traumas — will not understand how intense their bereavement is.

I personally know at least five or six different friends and families who have never been able to escape from their loss. They have done their best to move on. Some of them have moved on, assuming tasks that others would not have the courage or energy to perform.

Adele Welty lost her firefighter son on September 11, 2001. But she did not cringe in fear. She did not preach violence against violence. Instead, she and some of her friends such as Valerie Lucznikowska established a group called September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, and went from place to place — both in the U.S. and across the world including Afghanistan and Iraq — to promote peace. These are leaders who showed me how peace and tolerance vis-a-vis war and violence is the only answer.

But unlike them, a vast number of Americans have not been able to understand peace. They have not tried to understand the reasons behind terrorism, and they have not tried to understand the global game of war, repression and economic exploitation, promoted and perpetuated by war corporations, military complexes, their politicians, think tanks, and media. They have misplaced their anger, and the war-mongering people in power have made this world a much more dangerous and violent place to live, much more so than what it was before 9/11/2001.

What we see in ISIS, Boko Haram, Jamat Islami or other extremist-terror groups now, we could not even imagine them until we began to hear about Taliban or Al Qaeda, really after the 9/11 terror took place. Yet, no serious media or government discussion happened ever as to explain where these groups came from, who gave them funding, political and military support, and how these terror groups recruited so many young men and women — people who are ready to kill any number of innocent people, anywhere in the world?

Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, has prolonged the war in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan in a way no other U.S. president has ever done. Even though U.S. media do not want to report it this way, but even the New York Times, a staunchly pro-Democratic, pro-status quo mouthpiece of corporate America had to admit that “Mr. Obama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and spent his years in the White House trying to fulfill the promises he made as an antiwar candidate, would have a longer tour of duty as a wartime president than Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon or his hero Abraham Lincoln.” 

It is extremely unlikely that Hillary Clinton, if and when elected president, will do anything different from what Obama has done over his eight years. And on the other hand, Donald Trump who is perhaps not going to be the next U.S. president (I do hope not), will unleash new reign of global warfare, causing massive, new bloodshed. A pro-peace Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein candidacy is now a dream vanished in thin air, thanks to the manipulative election game in the U.S., one that few people understand or pay attention to.

On the home front, within America, hate crimes are on the rise again. Even here in New York City, a so-called safe refuge for immigrants, just in the past couple of weeks, two Muslim priests were shot and killed, followed by a sixty-year-old Muslim woman knifed to death. Their belongings were not taken, and they were all wearing traditional garbs, making it all but certain that these were acts of hate crime.

We — those of us who worked on the ground against anti-immigrant hate crimes after 9/11 — have seen the ugly face of racism, bigotry and violence. We have seen how innocent lives were taken away, and their families were shattered. We have seen how innocent men were taken from their homes at gunpoint, and detained and deported. We have seen how places like Midwood, Brooklyn — aka Little Pakistan — looked like a ghost town, with many of the men taken away and put in prison, and their wives and children eventually leaving America. Their dreams for a better, safe future ended there, summarily.

We are going to observe fifteen years of 9/11 — the tragedies and terror. Let us question ourselves: have we learned anything from our experience in these fifteen years?

Have we progressed as human beings?

Sincerely,

Partha Banerjee

Brooklyn, New York

aunt-nypd-stabbed-queens

Another innocent life fell victim of hate and violence. Here in New York. August, 2016.

Photo Courtesy: pix11.com

Pakistan’s Schoolchildren Massacred

Peshawar 3

I have a simple question. If Muslims kill Muslims, how can all Muslims be terrorists?

Or, maybe, I should stop asking easy, logical questions. I should rather join the bandwagon, and support more war and more torture. After all, I am an Indian-American, and most Indians and most Americans are doing just that right now: calling for “exemplary punishment of the criminals.” Borrowing Cheney, use more torture. In fact, I presume, most Pakistanis are calling for it too.

On one hand, we have the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and ISIS in Syria and Iraq. They keep slaughtering innocent civilians and school children. They keep killing journalists. We have the Jamat-e-Islami in Bangladesh, and Laskar-e-Taiba and their many splinter groups in India. They have joined hands with their counterparts across the world, and created barbaric, gruesome acts of violence. If you don’t follow their trail, just know that India has seen numerous acts by “Islamic” terrorists in recent years, a flash point being the November 2008 carnage at Taj Hotel, Mumbai.

Taj Mumbai attack

As I write this article, Taliban terrorists invaded a military school in Peshwar, and killed more than one hundred Pakistani teenagers, most of whom came from civilian families. Violence and death have reached a new low.

Let me be clear: there is no doubt in my mind that Talibans are fanatic terrorists, and ISIS is beyond description. I have no soft corners in my heart for them. They are menace to human civilization. Their violence must be checked at any cost.

Yet, at the same time, I can’t resist asking these simple questions: (1) Who are these terrorists? (2) Why are they doing it? (3) Who is supporting them with weapons and money? And (4) Who’s benefiting at the end of the day?

New York Times reports on October 14, 2014: “The Central Intelligence Agency has run guns to insurgencies across the world during its 67-year history — from Angola to Nicaragua to Cuba. The continuing C.I.A. effort to train Syrian rebels is just the latest example of an American president becoming enticed by the prospect of using the spy agency to covertly arm and train rebel groups.”

We can add the Taliban to this list of groups U.S. government and intelligence have actively aided. Other than U.S. regimes’ longstanding support for the Mujahideens during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, support that many believe created terrorists like Osama Bin Laden, our American governments have also perpetually supported military regimes in Pakistan, regimes that choked any revival of democracy to death.

And these military regimes in Pakistan led by dictators such a Zia-ul Haq and Yahiya Khan (and most recently, America’s much-liked Pervez Musharraf) have not only created an elite, one percent for themselves and their cronies, creating more poverty, hunger and misery for the ordinary Pakistanis, they have also been responsible for brutality and horror elsewhere. The 1971 genocide and mass rapes in Bangladesh by Yahiya Khan’s army and their extremist Muslim operatives are too gruesome not to remember.

Peshwar 1 Peshawar 2

On the eastern side of Pakistani borders, Indian governments for their part, have always kept the animosity alive, and Kashmir has been their trump card, especially at election times. After the days of pacifist Gandhi and India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru who was socialist-minded, most other elected Indian leaders have found one reason or the other to “teach a hard lesson” to the “arch enemy” Pakistan. The two countries, since their British colonizers left in 1947 after two centuries of occupation, brutality and economic plunder, have fought three wars causing massive bloodshed. Historically, U.S. and China have always stood behind Pakistan, and the erstwhile Soviet Union has supported India.

The tide has turned 180 degrees. A post-Soviet India has decided become a close U.S. ally, and Clinton, Bush and Obama governments have used India’s neoliberal governments to push in U.S. corporations. Monsanto, GE, MacDonald’s, Coke, IBM and Disney, along with Rupert Murdoch’s media empire have reaped maximum profit, grabbed lands, and displaced people. Hundreds of thousands of Monsanto farmers have killed themselves, out of economic destitution. Union Carbide caused havoc. They have also spread their deregulated businesses across India, and helped an IMF-dictated destruction of India’s semi-socialistic economy.

Pakistan’s economy, on the other hand, has faltered even more. Amir Jahangir, chief executive officer at Mishal Pakistan, country partner for the Center of Global Competitiveness and Performance at the World Economic Forum, said in 2012: “Pakistan has lost its competitive advantage on almost all the pillars of the competitiveness index…” Pakistan’s currency now values at 100 Rupees per one U.S. dollar, compared to 64 Indian Rupees, and 77 Bangladeshi Taka. The country, with its ever-widening income inequality on one hand and medieval violence on the other, is falling apart.

What is happening in Pakistan as reaction is that anti-U.S., Islamic extremists are gaining ground, and forging political alliance. Democratically-elected Prime Minister Nawaj Sharif’s corruption- and inefficiency-tainted Muslim League government has failed to live up to its expectations, and  found its newest rivals in cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, Canada-originated Sufi cleric Tahir ul Qadri, and other pro-Islamic groups. This is on top of Sharif’s main opposition Pakistan People’s Party once led by former prime ministers Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and his daughter Benazir Bhutto (the father hanged by Haq courts and daughter killed by a road bomb blast).

Pakistan as a nation is at a crossroad. Administrative failures, corruption, illiteracy and poverty have only helped a rapid resurgence of ultra-religious, far right-wing groups and their Mullahs who openly preach toppling of any democratic governments, through any means. The extremist and violent Talibans have taken advantage of an unstable political situation and a very porous Afghan border, and sent in their mercenaries, just like those that killed innocent children at the Peshwar school.

India also has a rapid rise of reactionary, fundamentalist forces, and is now governed by BJP. The party and its prime minister Narendra Modi have close ties with Hindu right wing, militant group RSS. Modi was implicated in the 2002 Muslim massacre in Gujarat, and U.S. government at that time blacklisted him, and rejected his visa to travel to USA. Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 by Nathuram Godse, an RSS associate. Now, Modi is one of the global leaders sought-after by the West, and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have both extended olive branches to him, to seize on the vast, wide-open Indian market that has fallen prey to IMF and World Bank. India’s new and upcoming young generation, with few exceptions, is rabidly capitalistic and pro-American, as well as full of scorn, if not hate, for Muslims and Pakistan. Communal violence could flare up anywhere, anytime.

Pakistan’s new Taliban barbarism could prove ominous for the entire Indian subcontinent, and it is possible that U.S. government, its war corporations and CIA could use such horrific tragedies and bloodshed to wage a new, global warfare, this time using India as its loyal ally.

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Bangladesh, 1971.
Bangladesh, 1971.