Thursday, 26 February 2009

Some notes on terrorism

Martha Crenshaw, "The Causes of Terrorism," 2001

"Terrorist violence communicates a political message; its ends go beyond damaging an enemy's material resources."

"If there is a single common emotion that drives the individual to become a terrorist, it is vengeance on behalf of comrades or even the constituency the terrorist aspires to represent."

US State Department

"politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience."

Charles Tilly, The Politics of Collective Violence, 2003

"Regimes have often authorised violence specialists such as paramilitary forces, secret police, and subsidised thugs to silence their opponents, but over the last few centuries those killers have usually operated in the shadows. When unauthorised groups have employed terror, furthermore, they have commonly  belonged to two categories of political actors: groups actively aligned with international enemies of the regimes they are attacking (the case of most suicide attackers in recent decades) or factions of larger dissident coalitions that have broken away from moderate control (frequently the case of armed activitists in Ireland and the Basque Country). In short, the same sorts of political processes that generate other forms of coordinated destruction produce the special forms that authorities and horrified observers call terrorism."

Veena Das and Arthur Kleinman, Violence and Subjectivity, 2000

"One cannot draw a sharp line between collective and individual experiences of social violence. These are so thoroughly interwoven that moral processes (i.e social engagements centered on what is at stake in relationships) and emotional conditions are inseparable. Violence creates, sustains, and transforms their interaction, and thereby it actualises the inner worlds of lived values as well as the outer world of contested meanings."

Eqbal Ahmad, "Terrorism: Theirs and Ours" 1998

"By 1942, the Holocaust was occurring, and a certain liberal sympathy with the Jewish people had built up in the Western world. At that point, the terrorists of Palestine, who were Zionists, suddenly started to be described by 1994-1945, as 'freedom fighters.' At least two Israeli prime ministers, including Menachem Begin, actually had bounties on their heads. You can find copies of posters with their pictures, saying 'Terrorist, Reward this Much.' The highest reward I have noted so far was one hundred thousand British pounds on the head of Menachem Begin, the terrorist. 

Then from 1969 to 1990, the PLO, the Palestine Liberation Organisation, occupied center stage as the terrorist organisation. Yasser Arafat has been described repeatedly by the great sage of American journalism, William Safire of the New York Times, as the 'Chief of Terrorism.' That's Yasser Arafat. 

Thus, on September 29,1998, I was rather amused to notice a picture of Yasser Arafat to the right of President Bill Clinton. To his left is Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

In 1985, President Ronald Regan received a group of bearded men in the White House. I was writing about these bearded men in those days in the New Yorker. They were very ferocious-looked bearded men with turbans who looked as though they came from another century. After receiving them, President Reagan spoke to the press. He pointed toward them, I'm sure some of you will recall that moment, and said, "These men are the moral equivalent of America's founding fathers.' These were the Afghan Mujahideen. They were at that time, guns in hand, battling the Evil Empoire. They were the moral equivalent of our founding fathers!  

I have recalled all these stories to point out to you that the matter of terrorism is rather complicated. Terrorists change. The terrorist of yesterday is the hero of today, and the hero of yesterday becomes the terrorist of today."

"The Palestinians, for example, the superterrorists of our time, were dispossessed in 1948. From 1948 to 1968, they went to every court in the world. They knocked at every door in the world. They were told that they became dispossessed because some radio told them to go away - an Arab radio, which was a lie. Nobody was listening to the truth. Finally, they invented a new from of terror, literally their own invention: the airplane hijacking. Between 1968 and 1975, they pulled the world up by its ears. They dragged us out and said, Listen, Listen. We listened. We still haven't done them justice, but at least we all know. Even the Israelis acknowledge. Remember Golda Meir, prime minister of Israel, saying in 1970. 'There are no Palestinians'? They do not exist. They damn well exist now. We are cheating them at Oslo. At least there are some people to cheat now. We can't just push them out. The need to be heard is essential. One motivation is there."

"My final question is this: these conditions have existed for a long time, but why then this flurry of private political terrorism? The answer is modern technology. you have a cause. You can communicate it through radio and television. They will all come swarming if you have taken an aircraft and are holding 150 American hostages. They will all hear your cause. You have a modern weapon through which you can shoot a mile away. They can't reach you. And you have modern means of communicating. When you put together the cause, the instrument of coercion, and the instrument of communication, a new kind of politics becomes possible."

"Do not condone the terror of your allies. Condemn them. Fight them. Punish them. Please eschew, avoid covert operations and low-intensity warfare. They are the breeding grounds of terror and drugs....Please focus on causes and help ameliorate causes. Try to look at causes and solve problems. Do not concentrate on military solutions. Do not seek military solutions. Terrorism is a political problem. Seek political solutions. Diplomacy works."

"I first met him in 1986. He was recommended to me by an American official who may have been an agent. I asked the American, 'Who are the Arabs here who would be very interesting to interview?' By 'here' I meant in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He said, 'You must meet Osama.' I went to see Osama. There he was, rich and bringing in recruits from Algeria, from Sudan, from Egypt, just like Sheikh Abdul Rahman. This fellow was an ally. He remained an ally. He turns at a particular point. In 1990, the US goes into Saudi Arabia with force. Saudi Arabia is the holy place of Muslims, Mecca, and Medina. There had never been foreign troops there. In 1990, during the Gulf War, they went in, in the name of helping Saudi Arabia defeat Saddam Hussein. Osama bin Laden remained quiet. Saddam was defeated, but the American troops remaind in the land of the kaba...He wrote letter after letter, saying, Why are you here? Get out! You came to help, but you have stayed on. Finally, he started a jihad against the other occupiers. His mission is to get American troops out of Saudi Arabia. His earlier mission was to get Russian troops out of Afghanistan....these are tribal people...Being a millionaire doesn't matter. 

Their code of ethics is tribal. The tribal code of ethics consists of two words: loyalty and revenge...For him, America has broken its word. The loyal friend has betrayed. The one to whom you swore blood loyalty has betrayed you. They're going to go for you. They're going to do a lot more. These the chickens of the Afghanistan war coming home to roost. This is why I said to stop covert operations. There is a price attached to them that the American people cannot calculate." 

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Negotiating with Terrorists

Negotiating with Terrorists
RT Hon Michael Ancram QC MP
CISD Annual Lecture
24 February 2009

Terrorists and terrorism are the bane of our current existence, or so it goes. Therefore, the title of the lecture is quite catchy and, produced a packed hall.

The speaker, Michael Ancram, was part of the negotiations in the process that led to peace in Northern Ireland. According to himself, he is acting as a free lance 'negotiator' in dialogue with the 'terrorist' groups, Hamas and Hizbollah. After a lengthy self-promoting introduction by the head of the CISD at SOAS, Ancram was introduced as a very courageous man with a distinguished career in politics and peace making. Apparently Ancram can also sing and play the guitar.

As Ancram took to the podium, he said that there were a lot of lessons from the peace process of Northern Ireland however, given that each conflict is different there aren't any templates or solutions that can be directly copied. However, we can use the techniques.

For a long time, 'we' did not talk to terrorists because 'we' were democrats. We preferred confrontation and or engagement but never engaged with terrorists. It struck Ancram that despite this many 'former' terrorists eventually became heads of states (i.e. Jomo Kenyatta and the Mau Mau 'Rebellion') and were dining at Buckingham Palace. This made him realise how 'clever' the policy of disengagement actually was. This policy continues today: be it Sri Lanka or the Middle East.

So, what does 'talking' with terrorists mean? Ancram said that it was the dialogue phase of the negotiations, the behind the scenes conversation, that has been the key in successful peace making. Dialogue or conversation does not require pre conditions while negotiations are based on grand rules and preconditions. Negotiations are very slow and cautious while, dialogue is probably less constrained - let's say its 'freestyle!'

Ancram then outlined some criteria for 'talking' to terrorists:

- if the terrorist movement is or has to be part of the peace settlement (for instance - the Republican movement in Northern Ireland), then it is essential to talk to them
- are these people necessary?
- is there any point in talking to them?
- are these ideological terrorists such as Al Qaeda with whom we cannot have any common ground or territorial terrorists such as the IRA, Hamas or Hizbollah?

The first stage of talking to terrorists is 'below the radar.' This involves getting behind the rhetoric or 'megaphone diplomacy' as he put it. Violence can still be ongoing while this first phase of this process is ongoing. Drawing a parallel with the experience of this phase in Northern Ireland, Ancram said they had received coded messages from the IRA one of which said that 'the war is over, please help us end it.' After a series of back channel talks and dialogue, the Downing Street Declaration was issued followed by a framework document. This sent open signals to the 'terrorists' for the possibilities of negotiation and solutions. Tony Blair picked up the process thereafter and did a good job of taking the process forward and consolidating the peace process. Senator George Mitchell was also part of this process (he is now the American Special Envoy to the Middle East for the Obama administration).

Ancram recently gave a speech at the House of Commons. He stated that if 'you' believe in a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine, 'you' have to deal with Hamas which enjoys significant popular support not to mention the fact it legitimately won elections in Palestine. If 'you' believe in security for Israel, 'you' have to also deal with Hizbollah. Little did he know that after his speech, he would be approached in order to actually start talking with the two groups. And, in fact, he is talking with them as a freelance agent. He has been talking to them for two years and, he believe there is hope. The 'events' in Gaza recently clearly showed that a military solution will not work.

Ancram met with Hamas as recent as two weeks ago. When he had first met the senior leaders of the group, they expressed to him their utter surprise that no one from the international community wanted to speak to them despite the fact that they had won elections in a democratic process. They dubbed it 'Cinderella Democracy' because clearly democracy was legitimate only if the shoe fit.

The Middle East Quartet set three pre conditions for dealing with Hamas which were designed to be undeliverable. Among these preconditions was acceptance of Israel's right to exist.* While speaking to Hamas, Ancram said that the group cannot remove this from their set of core beliefs or manifesto because nothing has happened as yet, Israel continues to illegally occupy Palestinian territory and without any outline of negotiations, Hamas cannot give up on this. In his meeting two weeks ago with Hamas, Ancram asked them why the ceasefire brokered by the Egyptians broke. Hamas said that there were two different understandings of the ceasefire. Hamas thought it would entail release of prisoners while the other side thought it was re-opening of the crossings. Any ceasefire agreement needs to be on one piece of paper which should be publicly signed.

Ancram found Hamas leaders to be 'intelligent' and interested in moving forward. They were desperate to ensure transparency in the use of funds for the reconstruction of Gaza. They wanted to reconcile with the other Palestinians (PLO, Fatah, Christians, refugees in the surrounding countries, etc). They have made a proposal to set up five committees involving all these various representatives Palestinian groups. Ancram said that if Hamas is saying all this, it is important we consider it.

As for Hizbollah, this group is 'moving out of international terrorism.' 'Our' Parliament has declared them terrorists although they are part of the Lebanese Parliament. Only the U.S. and the U.K. do not recognise Hizbollah which is very unfortunate.

For the question of dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan, they have to be part of the solution. Having declared war on them is not going to work and, we will be there forever. Who are the Taliban? It maybe a farmer or an extreme radical - it is a diverse group of people. Therefore, we have to make them part of any solution. There is a slight opening in Pakistan with the renewed interest of the U.S. in Afghanistan under the new administration.


Ancram was, unsurprisingly, bombarded with a lot of questions. When asked why the negotiations with PLO did not work, he said that it was precisely because they were formal negotiations and there was no exploratory dialogue which he believes is very important before the phase of negotiations. Dialogue cannot be rushed and relationships have to be developed during this process.

Has Ancram been sharing the information? Was he 'depressed' with the right wingers coming into Israel **? Of course, he was sharing information. It was precisely because he is freelance and that although he will respect confidentiality, he will ensure the messages are delivered to the right people. He was not really depressed with the election results in Israel because sometimes the extremes end up making the deals e.g. Nixon in China, Hizbollah and Iran. I think this was a fair point.

He really thinks that these groups are terrorists because they use acts of violence to create fear which is effectively blackmail. He was asked yet again by another audience member as to how he recognises the groups as terrorists and manages to engage with them. I don't think he really answered the question in terms of questioning the labels and definitions.

There were quite a few questions which Ancram dodged and, these were what I would call the moral, ethical questions. For instance, he is part of the Intelligence and Security Committee which has received allegations of torture under its nose. He said he could not really answer. There were questions of state terrorism and Israeli 'political terrorism' and, what he thought of that. He said that states were subject to international law and, terrorists were not. He completely fudged that. Someone even asked him about putting Blair on trial and wouldn't terrorism be reduced if the West stopped interfering in the world? That was a very general lament rather than a statement but needless to say, a lot of the audience was fumbling with definitions of terrorism and, if states, powerful states commit acts of aggression, why is that not labeled terrorism?

Another question asked him about imposing Western solutions on the Middle East instead of supporting regional solutions. He completely agreed with that and said, that Qatar was coming up on the scene. He made reference to the Baker - Hamilton Report which was 'put in the bucket.' ***

Ancram really stressed the fact that we have to deal and engage with terrorist groups. He said he realised how interesting things had become when sunni Hamas was talking to shiia Iran.

Someone asked whether Northern Ireland worked because of 9-11. Ancram said to some extent it did because IRA realised it could not 'sell' terrorism any longer (although the process was quite advanced as it was with the Good Friday Agreement for instance). There are irreconcilable narratives of Israel and Hamas however it was same case with the IRA which wanted all of Ireland. It is possible to move forward and come to a common ground.

Some dopey old guy said that it seemed that Ancram was actually speaking on behalf of the terrorists. Also, why was he saying 'we' can't defeat terrorists? Did 'we' not beat the French, the Germans, the Malaysians, Cambodians? I don't know whether he's Queen Victoria's father or Churchill's cousin, but he sure sounded like a British Empire looney. Likewise, Ancram took care of him in an appropriate manner.

End Note

Overall, it was a very useful talk. I think the main thing we can really take away from this is the fact that in conflict resolution and peacemaking process, we have to have all the elements and actors on board, even if they are condemned as terrorists by the international community. If certain actors are part of the landscape - be it political or social - they have to be engaged with by the international community.

The other thing that can be appreciated is that Westerners who speak like this and, represent more reasonable and realistic views are helping to humanise a so-called evil phenomemon, terribly wicked individuals. The so-called enemy we are talking about is not a monster but actually human beings. Moreover, in humanising these individuals we also end up humanising the culture, religion and places they come from because let's face it, it is not terrorists only but Muslims and Arabs in general who have also suffered in this war on terror.

I am really glad I attended this talk as I am very interested in terrorism/the war on terror. It is probably the defining global agenda of our generation (poverty reduction and saving the environment are also part of it but not so divisive or destructive) and as a Muslim, even more so.

I asked a few of the people I met - some Pakistanis I keep running into - of what they thought of the talk. Everyone agreed the guy made a lot of sense and more or less right. I met someone from the Pakistan High Commission and the Sudanese High Commission as well. What Muslims and I imagine many others would argue should be addressed or rectified is the language - who and what is a terrorist and who is 'we'?

In the VCD class reading I have come across, some writers argue that to understand violence and conflict in context, we have to understand the culture of violence and place it in a social context. Violence is among others a social project for example; its actors are social actors, its mechanism are social institutions. I think this might actually be relevant in analysing and conceptualising terrorism other than just a political struggle. I am planning on tackling the 'Who becomes a terrorist and why' for my second essay which is due on 2 March. Yikes!

* I do not believe Israel has the right to exist. It has no historical case, no moral case, nada. Does this make me a terrorist? So, who is a terrorist? Someone who takes his or her beliefs to an extreme practical application? Or someone who genuinely believes in a cause or represents a group of people or grievance that has no other political alternatives?
**Right wing and Israel - seriously - what's the difference?
*** According to Wikipedia, it is a 2006 Iraq Study Group report mandated by the US Congress.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Afghanistan and Iraq: Good War, Bad War? Lakhdar Brahimi

Centre for the Study of Global Governance
Afghanistan and Iraq: Good War, Bad War?
Lakhdar Brahimi
Chair: Mary Kaldor
11 February 2009

How do you introduce a very important statesman? Mary Kaldor who chaired this talk wanted to convey the stature of Lakhdar Brahimi by way of anecdote. She thought the best way to go about it would be to tell a story of where Brahimi and she were late for a conference or meeting somewhere in the Middle East. The taxi driver was so impressed with the fact that it was Lakhdar Brahimi that he refused to take any fare. Kaldor said that this demonstrates how much Brahimi is respected in the Middle East.

I really do not know how this makes for a good anecdote when one is introducing a world-class statesman. I do not think it does Brahimi any justice at all. * It is a great cultural anecdote of Middle Eastern hospitality of which I myself have many stories which I could share.

Kaldor was a very annoying chair to be honest. Her questions to Mr. Brahimi, in her sitting-on-a-sofa voice were - likewise - lazy and general. To begin with, what kind of a title for a lecture is this? Do we want to sit and philosophise whether the attacks and invasions on Afghanistan and Iraq were good or bad? I suppose it is a safe and easy place to begin but, to be honest, it sounds more like the title of a CNN programme not a talk at a university. I think it could have been more appropriately entitled 'Lakhdar Brahimi's reflections on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the role of the UN' or something to that effect.

On the whole, they could have a more animated, wake and insightful chair than Kaldor although she happens to be a distinguished chair of the LSE global governance centre. And she is the author of New and Old Wars and, I do not even want to get into that right now. I'm going to get those violence, conflict and development blues again.**

Good war, bad war?

In response to this question, Mr. Brahimi said that there aren't any good wars. Some are worse than others. In the case of Afghanistan, the war seemed 'justified' because the U.S. had been attacked. The war in Iraq seemed entirely 'unjustified' even more so given outright public outrage globally except for the U.S. and Israel.

I think this was a very diplomatic and precisely summarised answer. This is exactly how these wars have been perceived in the West and, elsewhere too. We knew the U.S. was going to be merciless in its revenge after 9-11 and, would not spare any carnage in Afghanistan. It was inevitable. Not right but inevitable. Iraq was just a circus of lies, aggression, greed and the continuing march of empire and hegemony.

Mr. Brahimi said he felt the U.N. - "we" - did a reasonably good job in Afghanistan for the first two years however, there was no interest in Afghanistan. It was considered a low-intensity conflict, far away. It was believed the Taliban had been dealt with. However that was far from the truth. Mr. Brahimi said without the necessary support, it was not going to work. In the end he had to publicly quit and declare why he did. He told the UN Security Council that it did not have the right attitude towards Afghanistan which needed support. Moreover, the conflict could not be bottled in that country and would spill out.

One-Eyed Mullah and the Taliban

Kaldor asked Mr. Brahimi about the one-eyed mullah, the leader of the Taliban. She said, you are the "UN person" who had met Mullah Omar, the "one-eyed leader of the Taliban", twice. I was frowning to myself when she said that. It was a flippant question, worded carelessly. It is hard to believe an academic would go around talking like that. And, I think this really triggered Mr. Brahimi to respond the way he did. In that one flippant and disrespectful question, she managed to separate, divide, alienate, demonise, generalise - the Taliban freaks as an irrational group, their leader a freaky one-eyed Mullah, in a world apart very different from LSE, Holborn, London.

Mr. Brahimi said that Mullah Omar was actually a mujahideen who had lost his eye in the jihad against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He had found Omar to be a soft spoken, shy person who was extremely conscious of the eye he had lost. He went on to explain that Taliban means "student" and Omar was one. In fact, he was an idealist. The Taliban had risen up against the very mujahideen who after having liberated Afghanistan from the Soviets started fighting with each other. The Taliban were intially welcomed by the Afghanis.

Moreover, he also made reference to the fact that many Afghanis were by and large quite conservative to begin even before the Taliban arrived.

I think Mr. Brahimi was really trying to make a point in response to Kaldor's question. He related a few incidents which demonstrated that the Taliban were not some demonised monsters but a group of people who came about in response to the chaos in Afghanistan. For instance, when the Taliban had taken over Mazar, they arrested Iranians and confiscated trucks. Mr. Brahimi went to see Mullah Omar and convinced them to release the Iranians (who in turn had become very angry and had, started amassing troops on the border) and the trucks too because these were the livelihoods of local people. The same thing happened with UN offices, warehouses and vehicles in Bamiyan and again, everything was returned in tact to the U.N. Apparently they distributed some food (these were WFP warehouses) before returning the assets.

He said that at that point in time the Taliban were the 'most honest' people there were in Afghanistan. Moreover, we have 'demonised them excessively' and it is ironic that we are now talking about negotiating with them. We could have taken such steps much earlier.

He also made a reference to the destruction of the Buddha's in Bamiyan. Mr. Brahimi was in talks with the Taliban commander in 'in charge' trying to convince him that the Buddha's were world heritage, important to everyone and the Buddhists, etc. The commander replied that it was Afghanistan's heritage, that the Buddha's had been untouched with 1,300 years of Islam. Mr. Brahimi said whatever happened after that is 'speculation.'

Regarding the destruction of the Buddha's may be not really so much of speculation. Most people would probably agree that the Taliban did indeed destroy those statues. As for whether or not Afghanis were conservative to an extremist degree before the Taliban arrived on the scene is also arguable. Afghanistan remembered by different Afghanis will be different accordingly. There might be those claiming that bears and burqa's were the norm but, likewise, there are many who remember Afghanistan and particularly Kabul as a modern, functioning city with universities, cinemas, culture and life.

Nevertheless, I understand Mr. Brahimi's efforts in demonstrating that at the time the Taliban arrived on the scene, they were welcomed by many of the people. Moreover, this group overthrew the warlords who had led Afghanistan into a 20-year old civil war but also brought in their own version of Islam. Mr. Brahimi thought Mullah Omar was a soft-spoken individual (the same observation has been made of Osama bin Laden as well by journalists), an idealist even. I think he was trying to humanise this group of people he had interacted with and, pointing out the complexity of the circumstances which produced and moulded a group like the Taliban. I think this was triggered really by Kaldor's flippant one-eyed-mullah-leader-of-the-Taliban comment.

Brahimi Report

Mr. Brahimi said that he never had a clue as to how famous his report would become. He was pretty sure it was going to join the many other reports commissioned and produced by the U.N. gathering dust on bookshelves.

The report was produced at a time when the U.N. was 'stumbling failure to failure' e.g. Srebenica, Rwanda. Almost a million people got killed in Rwanda while the U.N. looked away. He said Srebenica was even more terrible and inexcusable because that massacre occurred at U.N. safe haven.

The main recommendation was:
  • U.N. should give itself doable mandates and, ensure it has the necessary tools and resources for those mandates.
- the Secretary General should tell the Security Council what it needs to hear, not what it wants to hear, I think he was making reference to Kofi Annan's soft style
- DPKO moves thousands of soldiers with just a few staff
- there were to be 26,000 troops in Darfur, the target was never met; moreover, they did not even have enough helicopters

Afghanistan - Successes and Failures; Bonn Agreement

Mr . Brahimi said that 'we' exploited the fact that the Americans had bombed Afghanistan and the Taliban ran away from the cities. I guess he was saying that the first couple of years were used to do some programmes, install a new government, etc. Millions of refugees returned to Afghanistan. There were two successful Loya Jirga's.

The conference in Bonn was hurriedly put together and lasted for 10 days. The participants were not the real representatives.

As for the failures:

1) The people in Bonn were not the representatives. In fact, 'we' gave the domination back to those who had been overthrown by the Taliban with 'our' money. What was needed was to reach out to the Taliban and bring them on board. No one wanted to hear anything about them when in fact, the Taliban had never surrendered, they had 95% of the land. What should have happened was a Bonn 2 to assess and evaluate the work done so far. However, the Americans were not interested in hearing anything negative with their elections and Iraq.

2) The people who were put into power were not to be trusted. Moreover, ISAF should have been expanded outside of Kabul. The expansion was asked for and, in those days, ISAF was seen as friends. They had a good reputation. One of the British commanders was applauded even more than Karzai.

3) The Americans were never interested in Afghanistan. Mr. Brahimi said that he was not sure about this in the beginning but is absolutely certain of it now. They went into Afghanistan for the sole purpose of looking for bin Laden. In September 2001, they had already decided to invade Iraq. Afghanistan was just a side show. They were not interested in 'nation building.' His comment on NATO was to the effect that it doesn't exist and, certainly not in Afghanistan. He said the British think Helmand is Afghanistan; the Canadians think Kandahar is Afghanistan; and so on.

Iraq has really damaged the credibility and role of the U.N. The Americans had invaded Iraq without the approval of the U.N. and came back asking to be recognised as occupiers. As such, the U.N. had not role in Iraq. The Americans would have come back to the U.N. anyway asking for help but at that point, it was not necessary or right to be associated with this invasion.

Kofi Annan apparently said in an interview before the end of his second term what was his biggest regret and, he had said it was sending in Sergio Vieira de Mello who got killed in 2003.

The U.N. was severely compromised in Iraq having become associated with the occupying force. Mr. Brahimi said that even in Afghanistan before the American invasion, the U.N. flag was enough to cross from one faction territory into another in order to distribute relief or conduct immunisations. Now, the U.N. has become a target. He gave the example of the attack on U.N. offices in Algiers which is not because of something the U.N. did in Algeria but simply because it has lost its neutrality and credibility and, has become a target with people with an agenda.

The Americans did come to the U.N. in January 2004 asking for help as they did not want to be occupiers any longer. Mr. Brahimi said that the 'mediator' in him eventually gave in but he regrets ever going there.

He said that national reconciliation should have been pursued and, instead the war intensified. At this point, Kaldor yes, when I was also in Iraq, I spoke to a few Iraqis and they said, you are the first person who has ever spoken to us. No comment there.

He said the war was completely unjust and irrational. He asked why is it that the Americans went in there. The 'legend' of the WMDs was a complete fraud. The Americans completely destroyed Iraq. In that initial chaos, they allowed museums to be looted. The y apparently built a helipad on one of the important archaeological sites. The only thing that was protected was the Ministry of Oil. The war was completely wrong and no matter what was achieved after that (the removal of Saddam or elections) will never justify the war in which perhaps one million Iraqis died.

Should Bush and Blair be tried for war crimes?

Mr. Brahimi only responded by asking the same question.

Was it the surge that helped in Iraq?

It was not the 20,000 extra troops that made the difference. The Americans simply stopped killing people. Al Qaeda, by the way, went in there with the invasion, it did not exist in Iraq before that. Ethnic cleansing started happening in Iraq, walls were built around communities separating them.

It is said that Afghanistan is the 'graveyard for empire.' It should be a lesson to the policy makers there that the Afghanis will always destroy invaders but, if you demonstrate to them you are their friends, they will be cooperative. Mr. Brahimi said that the war has spilled over into Pakistan and even India giving it a dimensional complexity.

Role for the U.N.

Mr. Brahimi said that although the U.N. needs more resources to operate better and protect itself, it is unrealistic to expect more support in that respect. He said that the British embassy in Iraq probably spends millions of dollars just on its security - the U.N. cannot do that. As such, the U.N. desperately needs to reclaim its neutrality and credibility. NATO is seen as an occupying force in Afghanistan and, the U.N. needs to distance itself. Talks needs to be held with the Taliban and, the U.N. is the best body to convene these talks.

Question and Answers

The question and answer session was very interesting. There were a few questions by an Afghani girl, an Iraqi gentleman, a crazy Aussie and some others. The Afghani and Iraqi questions were very critical. The girl pointed out that the Taliban had committed a lot of massacres. The Iraqi gentleman criticised the installment of so-called technocrats and why did not Brahimi resign in Iraq as well. The response was that in both cases, he did whatever he could after messy wars and as a mediator. The Taliban were not 'worse' than anyone else. He was in Iraq for hardly six months and had made his reasons for leaving very clear. The recent elections in Afghanistan were okay but, there was no need to draft a new constitution; the 1964, stripped of the references to the monarchy, could have been used for another ten years. The elections in Iraq in 2005 were a farce though organised by the militias. He stressed that 'we' rush into elections too soon and, as such elections divide rather than bring anyone together. I think this is a very fair point for post conflict projects. It has often been pointed out that millions is spent on elections way too soon. There was a question by a Brit I think in response to the comments NATO most probably - he said that foreign armies could not solve Afghanistan's problems. Mr. Brahimi said he certainly agreed; however, if NATO is unable to help the Afghans and create more problems, it should leave. The crazy Aussie went on a rampage about why Mr. Brahimi went into Afghanistan in the first place; where did the U.S. end and the U.N. begin? He was talking about daisy cutters and why two hours even and why two years? Mr. Brahimi politely said that he agreed with much of what he said and, the U.N. certainly needed to reclaim its image; however, some good work had been done in the first two years.

***** ***** *****

Overall I really enjoyed these reflections by Mr. Brahimi. He was extremely honest about the successes and failures of the post conflict projects in Afghanistan and Iraq. I was in Afghanistan briefly while Mr. Brahimi was the U.N. boss and when the U.N. offices in Baghdad were bombed in August 2003 (I was in the north in Erbil). Traveling to Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003 was not really that much of a dilemma for me; I never instinctively had any feeling that the U.N. was associated with any invasion. Security was pretty good at that time. I still fondly remember the strolls along Chicken and Flower Streets in Kabul where apparently now expats are not allowed to go. Iraq though was a completely different case; I had a lot of problems when I went there but ignored my moral dilemmas of course. I knew I was in an occupied country. My passport was never stamped either going in or out! Americans were running the show. I remember a few weekly briefing meetings hosted by the American military in Mosul which I attended with my boss; I can't even describe the feeling of meeting those arrogant army officers. And when the U.N. offices were bombed hardly two months after I had just arrived in Erbil, the U.N. left en masse in U.N. flights. Our UNJLC office did some of the coordination of those flights and receiving staff at the airport in Amman, Jordan. From what I understood the injured Iraqi national staff did not receive the same kind of support. I remember standing with my friend and colleague at the airport watching the staff come in through those doors. There was one case where an Iraqi family was stranded at the airport because the wife and kids did not have entry visas or something like that and were going to be sent back. My friend Aysha and I sat with them until well after midnight. It was terrible to see that family knowing they would be separated in the morning. I've just remembered that incident. Aysha had made friends with another couple of young Iraqi staff who had come to Jordan for treatment of their wounds, a couple of young kids had lost one of their eyes, and were completely traumatised.

* My mother told us that the taxi drivers in Ankara often refused to take any fare from her because she was Pakistani. When I was in Erbil, Iraq our office driver never allowed my boss nor I to pay for meals in any restaurants. He would practically invite me every weekend to his house for a feast. This was almost the same story in Afghanistan. Of course, you would never find any hospitality in the UK for sure except for from fellow Pakistanis but certainly not from the locals. In fact, I have another story to that effect. Just recently, my family and I were strolling along New Kings Road and stopped at a cafe for tea; the fellow from Peshawar serving us was so happy to find out we were from Pakistan and the fact that my brother had taken the time to chat to him, that he presented us with a plate of muffins and croissants. The point I am trying to make is that a simple gesture from a taxi driver is part of the culture anyway - I can't even imagine the gestures and respect that would actually be shown to someone of Mr. Brahimi's stature.

** They go like this - why oh why do I have to read this crap? This a-historical, hypocritical crap about what's wrong with the developing world, why it is so backward, undeveloped and full of 'new' wars. The blues make me wonder whether I am studying a course entirely designed for Westerners.