Check out my new site at…
All of my work will be archived there…and I will have lots of new stories.
Check out my new site at…
All of my work will be archived there…and I will have lots of new stories.
On Thursday evening Americans could see and hear a car bomb as it exploded in downtown Juarez — the city I just returned from a few weeks ago. The blast hit a Federal Police convoy and killed 3 people, rattling law enforcement on both sides of the border and creating fears that the bombings that shook Colombia throughout the 80’s and 90’s could make a comeback a few hundreds yards from the US border.
When I saw the image of the burning police trucks on the El Paso Times website, I felt a personal connection. During my visit to Juarez in June, I spent a day interviewing the Federal Police and riding in one of their convoys, as the video in my previous post shows. With this attack, the Juarez Cartel — which claimed responsibility for the car bomb — puts itself on the same level as Jihadist groups like the Pakistani Taliban, which attempted to bomb Time Square with its own explosive-laden vehicle in May. The Juarez hit, however, suceeded…and just a short stroll form the United States. The explosion of car bombs and the rattle of AK-47 is knocking on our door…and its even found a way in.
Here are the links to my articles about Juarez. The first one was published on July 2nd and the second came out on July 9th. A third installment will follow at the beginning of August — this time around, I will be reporting from Phoenix.
Hello everyone…my apologies for not posting in a while. I have been quite busy…and as you can see, my time away from the blog has been well worth it. On Tuesday evening I returned from a trip to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico — the flash point in Mexico’s drug war. I have been following the situation in this city even when I was in South Asia.
The Federal Police allowed me to embed in one of their convoys and make this video. I know the sound of the wind and the traffic sort of gets in the way, but I feel its important for people — particularly Americans — to see how hard the police in Mexico are working. Remember, this is one of the most violent cities in the world.
I’m in the process of putting together a story together for the newspaper about this and it should be published next week.
Lately I have been thinking about the growing number of international thugs, organizers of genocide, terrorists, and autocrats who have taken hypocrisy to an almost unimaginable level. Well, its getting worse. Over on Michael J. Totten’s blog, I told some of my fellow commentators that Sri Lanka — the emerging dictatorship that literally blasted its way through refugee camps to kill its enemies — would probably join the anti-Israel chorus. Well, here it is…
The Sri Lankan government today (June 2) condemned Israel’s attack on an aid flotilla which was carrying supplies for Palestinian people on Monday.
On Monday’s predawn operation carried out by the Israeli defence forces at least ten civilians who were in the boats which were carrying, food, medicine and essential items were killed.
The attack had taken place off the coast of Gaza in international waters in a bid to thwart a blockade in Gaza.
Sri Lanka today joined hands with several other counties that brought international condemnation to Israel’s barbaric act.
The reports of attacks during the Israeli military operation on boats carrying supplies for Palestinian people in international waters off the coast of Gaza have caused grave distress to the Government and the people of Sri Lanka, states the Ministry of External Affairs.
“Sri Lanka deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries resulting from this operation. Indiscriminate use of force to prevent the carriage of supplies for people under occupation is condemned,” it stated.
“The attack has caused grave distress to the government and the people of Sri Lanka,” the statement said.
Sri Lanka needs to appoint a minister in the department of hypocrisy and propaganda affairs — its surprising they have time to condemn Israel since they have been so busy defending the “heroic” actions of their soldiers during last years’ final conflict with the Tamil Tigers. You know, like when Sri Lankan commandos lobbed mortars into a makeshift hospital and incinerated almost 50 already-injured people. Or maybe the biggest accomplishment of the Sri Lankan State is that fact that the final operations of its civil war killed about 10 times as many civilians as the Israeli attack on Gaza last year. Yes, commanders from the Israeli Defense Forces should be sent to Sri Lanka to learn about how officers and their soldiers should properly conduct themselves when fighting a guerrilla force.
Then again, maybe the Government of Sri Lanka and its power-usurping president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, should just shut their mouths and lead by example — perhaps they could begin treating their Tamil citizens like humans and apologize for killing wounded civilians at hospitals. After that, they should accept an international probe into atrocities committed by its military — like the one that is being demanded for Israel. As the embers left behind from Sri Lanka’s civil war continue to smolder in the scorched-earth northern parts of the country, international hypocrisy is exploding at the seams.
As the aftermath of the Israeli raid on the “Free Gaza” flotilla continues, a false comparison is already being drawn up by politicians, activists, and most of the others jumping on the anti-Israel pile-on. That would be the assertion, stated here by Glenn Greenwald, among others, that the United States and the international community would be irate and protests would break out across the world if it was Iran that had attacked an aid ship instead of Israel.
Exactly what on earth is that supposed to mean? There have been protests and a world response…in fact, the world is so busy focusing on Israel that its seemingly no big deal that an unapologetic, genocidal country like Turkey — that is involved in a brutal repression of its Kurdish population — is leading the “international condemnation”. And yes, President Barack Obama has “remained silent” on the situation, but he also remained silent when the Iranian government unleashed a ragtag band of army rejects (the “Basiji”) with guns, knives, and clubs on unarmed students last year. Ironically, many of the so-called “peace activists” — as well as their right-wing allies like Ron Paul and Pat Buchanan, praised his approach to “non-intervention” at the time. Am I going too far by suggesting that these people aren’t really interested in “peace” and instead have their own agenda that involves hatred of Israel and sympathy the “Islamic Republic”?
Let’s go back to the Iran-Israel comparison. About a month ago, the UN elected Khamenei’s Iran –yes, a society that stones women and forces them to cover their heads — to the “Women’s rights commission”, effectively slapping not only the Iranian people in the face, but also anyone who has ever cared about Iranian democracy. This was the UN’s response to images of Basij smashing iron rods and truncheons down on the heads of young Iranians, including many women (I’m starting to wonder if the “elite” Basij and Revolutionary Guards trained the “peace activists” on board the Gaza flotilla in the art of clubbing and other stupid acts of violence). Therefore, if Iran attacked a civilian vessel in the Persian Gulf, they would probably be elected to an anti-piracy commission or something like that. I wouldn’t hold my breath for a second expecting a UN Security Council summit.
I’m not saying the Israelis did not botch this raid…but the way I see it, this “international outcry” crumbled and went up in flames before it even got off the ground. There is no way for this to be taken seriously when despotic, third-world regimes and genocidal nationalists are leading the charge. Reason has been drowned by hypocrisy in this sad world…because only without the former could countries like Turkey and Pakistan — two “occupation” states responsible for carnage far, FAR worse than anything Israel has ever done — criticize Israel, let alone lead global criticism and preach to the world about human rights. Turkey tried to conquer the entire Middle East before World War I (yes, including Palestine) and Pakistan is a fundamentalist state carved out of India — in other words, an “occupation”. Its culture of intolerance was brought out in full display just days ago when armed men in suicide vests shot up two mosques in Lahore and ruthlessly culled 100 people who did not follow the “correct” interpretation of Islam (yesterday, several of the attackers who escaped during the assault attempted to storm a hospital and finish off some of the wounded). Has anyone seen any global protests against this? Because I haven’t…
Now these two countries and others are going before the United Nations. Between Iran’s ascent to the “Women’s rights council” and the world body’s obsession with hating Israel, the UN’s current actions are rivaled only by its “oil for food” debacle in Iraq and the shameful acts of its “peacekeepers” during the Rwandan Genocide.
How “the value of an education” has reduced our society into a mundane and mediocre experience
In today’s world, most people would equate obtaining a college degree with living a successful life. Unfortunately, that is largely true…
Everything seems to come down to the classroom: how many hours you have spent in class, how much homework you have done, how many credits you have earned, and the piece of paper you are given as a reward, better known as a degree. There are many companies and employers who will refuse to have anything to do with an applicant who has not done the 4+ year prison sentence, even if they are eager and more than capable of doing what is needed. Now, things are more difficult than ever…community colleges are bursting at the seams and tuition costs for universities are going through the roof. In fact, some people are shelling out $20-30,000 a year only to emerge without the ability to locate Iraq on a map or identify what political party Abraham Lincoln was involved in. How pathetic is that?
As a student, I always find myself thinking of what I’d really like to be doing every time I force myself into the classroom…and it’s not just because I am awash with ADD. Last year, I learned more about life and the world we live in when I visited South Asia. I discovered who I could be and what I wanted to do…and I didn’t even have to assess into a math class. Since then, I’ve come to realize that there are many famous people — in fact, many people who have changed the world — who either gave up or skipped the classroom altogether. Just a few examples…
Many of these people have changed the world in spectacular ways or have accomplished things that many of us only dream of…and the piece of paper that today’s society demands was not even needed. If I had it my way, I would take all the money I will spend on college these next two years and use it to travel and gain the experience in life I need. Maybe everyone should. I mean, come on, its not as if our world, even though it demands degrees from those who seek success, is a perfect place. Far from it, in fact.
In the West, “the value of an education” and its ripple effects produce a population that is enslaved to mediocrity and a boring way of life: you are born, go to school, go to college, get a job, get married, produce a few kids, get a mortgage, plan for retirement, save for the kids’ “education”, suffer a few financial and subsequent health problems, send the kids off to college, weep at the sight of their empty room, pay bills, retire (if you live long enough), and die.
Perhaps you are reading this and thinking I am just a misinformed college student. But…think for a minute about how many lives could be summed up with the above list. I’m guessing there are quite a few…probably even a clear majority who live that way. When I realize this, I can’t help but shudder at the thought of paying tens of thousands of dollars just so I can find a place among billions in a lifestyle that is the same — a depressing, perpetual cycle on a spinning rock in space. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. If you are like me and need some inspiration, do some research on some of the people I mentioned above. Their stories are amazing. The things they accomplished were amazing. They were adventurous and stepped off the path that everyone else took…and some of them ended up leaving today’s world a better place than the world they found.
As for me, I don’t know what I am going to do…I want to have a degree, but I’m not going to punish myself if it proves to be too difficult. Maybe I should book a one-way ticket to some remote corner of the world 😀
A few months ago I posted about Hakimullah Mehsud, the violent leader of the Pakistani Taliban. Shortly after, he was reported to have been killed in a drone strike, only to reappear in this shocking video, released just in time to coincide with the bombing attempt in Time Square.
Over on Huffington Post, some people in the comments sections are expressing their dismay that the culprit in the attempted bombing was not a “teabagger” or a right-wing extremist (nice to see that America is this divided, eh?). Other publications, such as Mother Jones, are expressing similar lunacy. Hakimullah and his Tehreek-e-Taliban may be disappointed that scores of people were not incinerated in this car bomb attempt, but they must be happy and enthusiastic to see the cracks that are splintering through the United States due to politics. Car bombs aren’t really necessary…America is tearing itself apart on its own.
Meanwhile, I have been commenting on The Long War Journal, where some of my fellow commentators have used the Time Square attack to berate Pakistan. While Pakistan has made some dumb mistakes in the past (USA and all countries have too) it’s not really fair to point the finger at the state of Pakistan because a car bomb was found in NYC. Up until now, Hakimullah’s TTP has largely been targeting Pakistanis, including the ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence agency), which is often accused of supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan. While Pakistan has attempted to route the Taliban from its tribal areas, its cities — the markets, schools, rallies, and government buildings — are paying the price in the form of increasingly deadly suicide bombings that have taken thousands of lives. During these attacks, the commuters in Time Square have gone about their busy days uninterrupted. This car bomb operation is very disturbing, but Americans should not act as if they are the only ones suffering from terrorism. Believe it or not, we have actually been lucky these last 8 years. The citizens of Lakki Marwat — a small town in Pakistan’s Northwest that was hit by a massive truck bomb at the beginning of the year — might agree.
These new revelations regarding the Time Square plot are confirming my suspicions, which I mention in my first link, that Mehsud and other warlords are filling the vacuum that has been left behind by Osama Bin Laden, who could either be dead or increasingly irrelevant in this seemingly never-ending conflict.
Today, two powerful bombs tore through a mosque in the heart of Mogadishu, killing dozens of people and opening up a new front of violence that had been limited, for the most part at least, to Iraq and Pakistan, where attacks on mosques and markets are a regular occurrence. Although in this case, the forces fighting for “resistance” (Al-Shabaab and Hizbul-Islam) are targeting each other…instead of innocent Shiite worshipers. A senior leader of Al-Shabaab was supposedly addressing his supporters at the mosque when the bombs went off. From what I have seen so far, the attacks do not appear to be suicide bombings, although Somalia has been faced with several of them. Last week, Al-Shabaab dispatched a suicide car bomber to an African Union Base, claiming it was revenge for the killings of Masri and Baghadi, Al-Qaeda’s two top leaders in Iraq.
Here’s the story about the attacks:
More than 45 people including Al Shabaab insurgents were killed and 100 others wounded in an Iraq-style twin bombing inside a mosque in Somalia’s restive capital Mogadishu, witnesses and security officials told Garowe Online.
Witnesses said the bombs went off shortly after the afternoon prayers inside the Abdalla Shideye Mosque in Bakara Market, a stronghold for the insurgent group, Al Shabaab.
“The explosions were big and occurred inside the Mosque. The place turned dark with huge black smoke everywhere the mosque. I saw several dead and injured people,” said eyewitness Abdinasir Ahmed.
He added that at the time of the explosion, a senior commander of Al Shabaab named Sheikh Fuad Mohamed Shongole was delivering a sermon to the mosque’s congregants.
Ali Muse of Mogadishu Ambulance Service said they have assisted “over 100” wounded people, and some are in critical condition.
Sheikh Ali Mohammed Rage, Al Shabaab’s spokesman, blamed “foreign mercenaries” for the blasts.
Unsurprisingly, Shabaab’s leaders are pointing the finger at “foreign mercenaries” for this attack. At least its not as ridiculous as the claims by some people in the Arab world and American leftists/right-wing isolationists that the CIA is responsible for the car bombings in Iraq.
The biggest story coming out of Baja California right now may be the recent 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit near Mexicali, but I would like to talk about my experience, which happened a few days before the quake hit. Two weeks ago, I went down to Tijuana for a report I am putting together about the drug war and the effect it has had on Mexico, both culturally and in regards to tourism. I saw all of Tijuana’s major districts and neighborhoods — and the contrast between some of them is stunning. Zona Norte is a particularly unsafe area to be in Tijuana, largely due to its close proximity to the US border. In spite of this, my friend and I handed the driver of a taxi libre $20 and asked him to take us through the red light district, the border, and other neighborhoods for an hour.
Zona Norte begins just after passing through Tijuana’s famous arch, which stretches across Avenida Revolucion, the city’s main tourist district. It was nerve-wracking, especially since the driver of another cab I had taken to La Gloria earlier in the day said to me in a half-joking and half-serious way that I know too much information about the drug war. He had said this after two hours of conversation about the fall of the Arellano Felix Cartel, the capture of “El Teo”, and what is next for Tijuana and its role on the border between the United States and Mexico.
While in Tijuana, I made several videos with my friend Anthony, who is also a fellow journalist (We’re still trying to break them up and get them on our Youtube channel…should be soon). Before we spent the night exploring Zona Norte, we were able to visit a police station and interview several police officers, including the Tourist Zone Supervisor. While they acknowledged the levels of chaos facing cities like Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua, they were adamant in saying that Tijuana is much safer today than in recent months and years. Hector, one of the officers, even said that Tijuana is not the 14th most dangerous city in Mexico, compared to the 2nd most dangerous just a few months ago, when violence was rising in the run-up to El Teo’s capture.
Tijuana is a fascinating and cultural city…and it’s definitely worth a visit. But if you decide to go, keep in mind what’s going on there. Violence still occurs, and the decline in violence may have less to do with police and military action and more to do with the violent power struggles emerging in central and eastern Mexico between the largest drug cartels. Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is locked in a brutal fight with the Juarez Cartel and the Gulf Cartel is teaming up with the “La Familia” drug gang to finish off their former hitmen for hire, the Zetas. None of the big guns are likely to try and snatch the lucrative trade routes from Tijuana into the United States in the immediate future, seeing as they have enough on their hands already. However, splinter cartels and common criminals remain abundant and its best to keep this in mind, wherever you might be in Baja.
That said, try to appreciate the culture in Tijuana and remember that Avenida Revolucion and Playas De Tijuana are only tourist attractions.
I’m going to be on my way to Tijuana, Mexico in a matter of hours, but I have some strong emotions about Iran I would like to transfer to the blogosphere first.
As I write this, I wonder to myself if society has become so deformed and deranged that human beings have lost touch with one another…we have forgotten that we are all one people who share the same world. I’m thinking this because I am repulsed by the news that has been coming out of Iran lately. It looks like the world is intent on watching the aging Islamic theocracy in that country dismantle its younger generation piece by piece, whether its hauling a student off to a Sharia Court and labeling him an enemy of God, raping a young woman, or busing rural, uneducated fundamentalists into Tehran to make it seem as if the establishment maintains any degree of credibility, as was done with February’s pro-revolution rally. Even many months after the June elections, Iranians have managed to come out into the streets, risking everything, to show the world that they are not one with Khamenei and Ahmadinejad. Today, there is a very clear line between Iran and the government holding it hostage. The two are NOT one in the same.
Meanwhile, what is happening in response? Clueless American leftists remain lost in the Vineyard, the right is throwing a tantrum over healthcare, the Arabs in the Middle East remain silent, Europe does business as usual, and the President of the United States would rather make childish, fiercely partisan jokes about his opposition at home. Its shameful and embarrassing, all of it.
I suppose there is only so much I can ask from my country and the rest of the world to help the people of Iran. If nothing else, I just wish that the UN, Obama, and the international community would realize that the young people of Iran — who make up 70 percent of its population — are the face of that country, not the “Marg bar Amreeka!” rallies featuring the bearded mullahs and their dwindling sympathizers. Ahmadinejad is not the elected leader of Iran…the government is illegitimate and not worthy of any international recognition…working with him as a head of state is an insult to those who have died trying to stand up against him.
Since the elections…or moreover, since I began meeting Iranians, I have refused to use the name of the country, “Iran”, in reference to actions taken by Khamenei or any of his thugs. If only the UN could do the same, it would call the regime out and there would be no sanctions or violence required.