The obsession to `Muslimize` MJ



In 2006 it was also rumored that Michael Jackson embraced Islam but it was later denied. Yet the 2008 news were never denied
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By Kazi Mahmood

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A rather fantastic event hit the earth on the 25th of June in the US and it was here, at Kuala Lumpur the 26th of June in the early hours of the morning. The news of Micheal Jackson’s death hit the Internet with blogs and other twitter users carrying the story which grew like wild fires. At World Future Online, we published the story as early as 7 am in the morning and we followed it with another story on the reported conversion to Islam of MJ. Here we tell you more on the Muslim obsession to have MJ as a Muslim and why is this is very important to this community of 1.5 billion people.

 

The Muslims are sometimes accused of being thirsty for big names to join the list of those who embraced Islam in the course of their successful carreer. MJ had a larger than life success as a singer, a genius that the world will not see for a long time with the kind of musical phenomenon that we might not see again, unless the prophetized ‘Dajjal’ appear.

 

At the begining of his meteorical rise, MJ gave some Muslim thinkers reasons to fear that the ‘Dajjal’s coming was near. The reference to the ‘Dajjal’ was due to the 1982 global record sale of the Album ‘Thriller’ that took the world by storm and for ever changed the way the music industry looked at itself and was looked upon by the world.

Then came other albums, including Bad which sold very well and made MJ look like the number one dominant force in the music world. His aura, the magnetic appeal and his charismatic character turned him into a world musical giant. This again forced some people in the Musilm world to be weary. The idea that ‘Dajjal’, the anti-Christ for the Christian world and the anti-Muslim ogre for the Muslims, was on his way to earth. Dajjal will be a one eyed (perhaps biased?) singer who will capture the world with his power to deliver a music that mankind has never heard before.

Jermain Jackson on the right with Micheal holding an umbrella

With the concert ‘We are the World’ the image of Micheal Jackson took a sudden change as all the fears were torn apart. In this concert, with its background and the reasons for MJ to be involved in this project portrayed a very different Micheal Jackson. He became more fragile, human and down to earth and this made him more popular in Africa, Arabia and the Asian continent where he captured the people with his aura and charisma. The vulnerable Micheal showed his heart with ‘We are the World’ and this doused the fears of the 666 number appearing soon for many Muslims.

 

It is to be noted that Africa, Asia and Arabia has large populations of Muslims and the popularity of Micheal Jackson among the Muslims is uncomparable. Not a single Muslim star could reach the iconic height that MJ reached with his Muslim followers/supporters and this will probably remain as such for generations. ‘We are the World’ showed that Micheal wanted to save the world not destroy it and that he was a gentle, kind human being and never a threat to other people.

 

The charges against Micheal Jackson brought up by the families of the children who were his companions in his dream land sent a wave of pity across the world. The American justice system had much more to lose than to win with the accusations made against the man without a childhood. The entire world now knows that MJ wanted to be in the company of kids only to feel the same joy that they felt being at Dream Land. There’s nothing else to it and the families that made millions out of their accusations have nothing else to gain but the shame of having given a bad time to MJ. That is the global impression of people when you read blogs and other articles by people online and offline.

 

About his conversion to Islam, the news came as a sound of good tidings in the ears of the Muslims, battered in the war on terror and accused of being ‘extreme’ while their Prophet and their Holy Al-Quraan both suffered the ill-doings of bad intentioned non-believers. MJ a Muslim? The impact is huge. It is even bigger than Muhammad Ali becoming a Muslim in his tender age after he won the Olympic Gold Medal for the US in the 1960’s.

Muhammad Ali created a wave of joy in the Muslim world when he became a Muslim, abandoning the name Cassius Clay for his Muslim one. His successes and his ups and downs became that of the Muslim communities world wide. The fact that MJ is said to have converted to Islam too became a part and parcel of the Muslims who follows the news and are interested in MJ.

Great Muslim names have today paid their reverence to Micheal Jacson on his untimely death, a death that has made many people cry on the Television during interviews with TV presenters including Larry King who spoke to close friends of MJ. And most of them cried live on TV or said later on that they could not stop crying. Their heart broken and their hopes dashed, they loved MJ too much to have lost him so soon.

 

Nevertheless, for the Muslims, it is like a sort of blessing in disguise and when Jermain said the word ‘Allah’ during the official declaration of MJ’s death, it was a light in the tunnel for the millions of Muslims who are living in state of war, war caused by their enemies who are today head quartered in no other place than the Pentagon! The news of MJ becoming a Muslims had spread like wild fires in November last year. In 2006 it was also rumored that he embraced Islam but it was later denied. Yet the 2008 news were never denied.

 

The impact of the MJ’s death on his followers will inevitably bring some of them to consider the fact that Jermain is a Muslim and that perhaps MJ converted to Islam. The same impact was seen with Lady Diana Spencer after her passing in 1997. Though 911 will remain the greatest impact on non-Muslims who embraced Islam after that deadly event, the role MJ’s reported conversion and Jermain’s confirmed conversion will play in the future. This will be of great importance to Muslims and also to non-Muslims as the latter folks will see a new light, a new way to understand Islam despite the massive anti-Islam campaigns by the American Neo-Cons and the Jews.

Source: Mathaba
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author(s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this post.

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Published in: on 30/06/2009 at 2:00 pm  Comments (3)  
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Does it Matter if Michael Jackson, Princess Diana Were Muslim?


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RPK Addresses The Issue of Asian Muslim Inferiority Complex. We say Asian (including Arab), because this strange phenomena of looking for endorsement by Western Stars is a primarily if not exclusively Asian phenomena which reveals an insecurity and inferiority complex.


WHAT IS THERE TO BE PROUD OF?


So, does it really matter whether Lady Diana became a Muslim before she died? Would Islam benefit if Prince Charles or the Queen herself became a Muslim? Does this really enhance the image of Islam, as most Muslims believe it would?


by Raja Petra Kamarudin


There are many who are pleased with the revelation brought on by the death of Michael Jackson. This is of course the revelation that he may have converted to Islam. These happy people were also pleased that Cassius Clay became a Muslim (and is now called Muhammad Ali) and in most likelihood Princes Diana and astronaut Neil Armstrong did as well — although I don’t think these personalities concerned actually publicly said so.
Why is it so important to Muslims that these superstars converted to Islam? So they died as Muslims. Or maybe they never became Muslims and died as Jews or Christians or whatever. Does it really matter one way or another what religion they professed before they died? What is it to us anyway? Would it not be their business more than ours?
I suppose to some this would be very meaningful. To know that extremely important people like Michael Jackson, Muhammad Ali, Princes Diana and Neil Armstrong may have all become Muslims gives us that feeling of winning. This proves that we were right all along. And everyone likes to feel that he or she was right and enjoy the satisfaction of being able to say, “I told you so!”
Would it mean anything to Muslims if one million poor and starving Africans converted to Islam? Probably not and we really don’t care if it were 100 million poor and starving Africans who had converted. It is not the numbers that count. We don’t care about quantity. We are concerned about the ‘quality’ of the converts.
One million or even 100 million poor and starving Africans converting to Islam is not something to be proud of. But if Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, was to become a Muslim then that is cause to celebrate with the slaughter of 100 camels and 300 sheep. That proves beyond any shadow of doubt that Islam is the correct religion and it further proves that I was right all along in subscribing to Islam. Hey, even Prince Charles agrees with me and Prince Charles is no ordinary human being.
This ‘we won’ and ‘we were right all along’ is not only a Muslim obsession but also an obsession of all religions. So before you take this as a cue to start your Islam-bashing please note that the word ‘Islam’ can be replaced with the word ‘Christianity’, ‘Hinduism’ or whatever. No religion is exempted from this ‘competitive spirit’ and the obsession to ‘prove itself’ by the converts it attracts — and the higher the profile of the convert the higher your win and the stronger your message of being ‘right’.
Instead of harping on the number of new converts you are able to attract and the high profile or high quality of these converts, I would rather focus on the high quality of your existing practitioners and ask whether they are doing justice to the religion they are supposed to be professing. What does it matter if Queen Elizabeth herself converted to Islam if the rest of the five million or so Muslims in Britain leave much to be desired as far as their conduct is concerned.
Why are properties in non-white areas in Britain lower than in an all-white area? Well, basically this is because in a non-white area the crime rate is very high. Even your car insurance is higher if you live and park your car in these ‘black’ areas — especially if you don’t own a garage and park your car on the street.
RPK

RPK

Granted, not all the non-whites are Muslims. Some are Christians, Hindus, or whatever. Nevertheless, if that particular Briton happens to be a Muslim rather than a Jew, Christian or Hindu, you can safely bet that that person would be non-white rather than white. So, while not all non-whites are Muslims, most Muslims are non-white. And the crime rate is higher in non-white areas (as it is in ‘white’ council areas).
So, does it really matter whether Lady Diana became a Muslim before she died? Would Islam benefit if Prince Charles or the Queen herself became a Muslim? Does this really enhance the image of Islam, as most Muslims believe it would? What would really enhance the image of Islam would be if property in non-white areas are exactly the same price as property in the white areas and your car insurance is not loaded because you live and park your car in a non-white area.
If Michael Jackson really did die a Muslim then well and fine. Good for him. It does not do anything for me anyway. The same as far as Lady Di is concerned and for the rest of the British Royal Family as well. The fact that these high profile people became Muslims does not add value to Islam. What would add value to Islam would be when you buy a car in Britain and you don’t end up paying double the insurance premium because you live in a high-crime rate ‘Muslim’ neighbourhood’ or that your home is cheaper in value because all your neighbours are non-white Muslims.

Now that would make me real proud indeed.

Source: Mathaba
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the ‘Wonders of Pakistan’. The contents of this article too are the sole responsibility of the author(s). WoP will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this post.

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Its Great Game once again – now in Pakistan


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US weapons have mysteriously landed in the hands of terrorists in Pakistan. Now we have the Al Qaeda leadership freely accessing the foreign media in Afghanistan saying it would use Pakistani nukes against America. What is the US up to with Al Qaeda? Post-9/11 the world has had a memory lapse over the US-Al Qaeda connections – especially when Sudan offered Bin Laden to the US – but the latter allowed the Al Qaeda leader to move to Afghanistan.


By SHIREEN M. MAZARI


Pakistanis cannot be allowed to savor joy and success peacefully. Just when the nation was tumultuously enjoying the magical victory of our cricket team, the hard reality of our hostile environment post-9/11 clouded over us once again.
For anyone who thought the US was not targeting our nuclear assets, the screaming headlines from the Afghan-based Al Qaeda leadership’s interview to Al Jazeera brought the issue to the forefront once again with claims that Al Qaeda would use our nuclear assets against the US if they could. The absurdity of the statement notwithstanding, it can be explained only if seen as part of the campaign to legitimize a US/NATO takeover of our nuclear assets since our security prevents the US from taking them out physically.
We have also seen US weapons mysteriously land in the hands of militants in Pakistan – now we have the Al Qaeda leadership freely having access to the foreign media in Afghanistan. What is the US up to with Al Qaeda? Post-9/11 the world has had a memory lapse over the US-Al Qaeda connections – especially when Sudan offered Bin Laden to the US – but the latter allowed the Al Qaeda leader to move to Afghanistan!

While our military has become embroiled in a “war” that cannot be won by conventional military means, the US continues to play dangerous games with Pakistan – and at multiple levels. The drone attacks continue under Obama since the first one he ordered three days after his inauguration as US president – which killed 15 Pakistanis. In fact just as the present government has gone the extra mile in ceding ground to the US in Pakistan, the Obama administration has expanded the drone policy and according to Jeremy Scahill in the first 99 days of 2009 more than 150 Pakistanis have been killed in these attacks.
His estimate is that since 2006 and up to April 2009 drones have killed 687 Pakistanis – apart from the identifiable militants. That comes to about 38 civilian deaths a month just from these drone attacks.

Nor is this all. The New York Times gave an interesting account of US military operations within Pakistan including US Special Forces commando raids in FATA across the international Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Even more of a wakeup call of US intent should be the $.9 billion of the first year ‘largesse’ under the Kerry-Lugar Bill that has been earmarked for the construction of the new US embassy in Islamabad – a huge fortress right behind the presidency and the prime minister’s secretariat. If Iraq is anything to go by we may soon have US private security companies like the notorious Blackwater plus hundreds of other contractors. While US human intelligence will not gain in quality we will have a meddling US presence across our state institutions and civil society which will be damaging in the long term to our national wellbeing.
We are already read of the CIA chief visiting us followed by Obama’s special representative general James Jones who is currently in Islamabad. Like CIA chief he too will be visiting India and the general thrust seems to be to push Pakistan into accepting an Indian military presence in Afghanistan. Interestingly General Jones also has strong ties to US business including Boeing and Chevron. Meanwhile there is no let down on focusing on our nuclear assets, which is why Prime Minister Gilani was compelled to finally, after a year of silent tolerance, demand that the US stop using a discriminatory approach towards Pakistan’s nuclear program, including the search for civilian nuclear power.
But there is discrimination and the new line of attack that has been opened is the Al Qaeda statement – following the numerous US official and media statements expressing “fear” of US nukes falling into militant hands! Surely just as the discovery of US/Israeli arms on militants in Pakistan raised serious questions as to the role/linkages of outside forces to militant outfits within Pakistan, so the new development is hardly without its linkage to an overall plan against our nuclear assets. Once again, the fact is that unless the Pakistan military is weakened from within, the assets cannot be accessed at all. Hence the need of the US to get the military bogged down in a conventional battle against unconventional foes in Swat and FATA – without any overarching political strategy visible from the government.
Ironically, while plots against our nuclear assets continue, it is developments in other countries that reveal the lack of strong security measures at nuclear installations in these places. On 22nd June, anti-nuclear activists managed to break through security at the German Unterweser nuclear power plant and actually scaled the dome of the plant. More disturbing has been the story, now surprisingly blocked out, about the Indian nuclear scientist Lokanathan Mahalingam, who disappeared or was abducted, and was later found dead from the Kali river. Mahalingam had also disappeared ten years earlier while he was working at another sensitive Indian nuclear location – the Kalpakkam nuclear complex.
India’s nuclear and missile security has revealed many shortcomings and in 2006 Dr. Tiwari involved in space research was also shot dead.
There have been stories of an underground network of Hindu extremists and Indian scientists involved in technology transfers to and from India and Israel. Indian scientists were also discovered at Iran’s Bushehr plant. So it is strange as to why the US and the IAEA continue to keep silent over India’s possible private proliferation rings as well as the weak safety of its nuclear and missile installations and sites? Equally puzzling is official Pakistani silence on these issues.
It is similar to the questionable manner in which our official institutions declare that there are Indians/US links to militant outfits in Pakistan, but then fail to give details or to take up these issues with the countries concerned. What is the Pakistani state playing at or fearful of? Is it not time the nation was told about the sources of funding and weapons for the militants in specific terms to give credibility to these allegations? Or will all the “militants” be “killed” before we can learn crucial facts about US double dealing and Indian destabilization of Pakistan. That is why arrest and trial of the militant leadership in anti-terror courts, rather than their killing, is essential for our nation and state’s long term security.
As for India, while Pakistan is also under pressure to resume the bilateral dialogue, our seeming haste seems to have sent the wrong signals to India. That is why we saw the sheer bad behavior on the part of India’s Manmohan Singh towards President Zardari in Russia. Too bad the latter was unable to respond in kind. But we can still send the correct message to the Indians by refusing to have a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the NAM conference in Egypt.
Dialogue is certainly desirable but only when the intent of the two sides is honest in terms of conflict resolution. So far the Indian intent is clearly not focused on this aspect. So perhaps it would be good to wait till India realizes the need to move towards conflict resolution with Pakistan in a holistic fashion. It may take pleasure in our leadership’s refusal to bring up the K word but without any movement on Kashmir, the dialogue will eventually run aground as always. For Pakistan it is also essential to know its maximalist and minimalist positions in clear terms – both, of necessity, being premised on giving Kashmiris their right to self-determination.
Things are moving fast, and there is a crucial need for the Pakistani state to step back and look at the larger picture so that inclusive policies can be formulated to deal with the threat of extremism, militancy on a long term basis by denying them space in our society; and to protect our nation and its nuclear assets from US designs.
Finally, it is sad to see that while the Pakistani state has seemingly abandoned the Kashmiris in Occupied Kashmir, these brave people continue to rally round Pakistan in a most instinctive way. So it was with the T20 World Cup where the Kashmiris in Occupied Kashmir joined the Pakistani nation in celebrating the Pakistani victory. Did anyone else in our neighborhood do the same?
AmedQuraishi.com / The News International.

India and Pakistan – Apologies should be genuine


SOUTH AFRICA CRICKET TWENTY20 WORLDS

On common ground – Why Only Amritsar and Lahore!


by Tridivesh Singh Maini

Recently, Kuldip Nayar, while speaking at a seminar in Amritsar, proposed that the Punjab assemblies of both India and Pakistan pass separate resolutions condemning the barbaric crimes committed during Partition. But a few issues need to be considered. First, why only the Punjab assemblies? Why shouldn’t the parliaments of both India and Pakistan apologise? Unless of course Nayar feels that Partition conditioned only the two Punjabs. And why shouldn’t there be an apology for the partition of Bengal?
Secondly, if it comes to apologies, bigger crimes have been perpetrated on citizens of both countries by their respective governments — the events of 1984 and those in Gujarat in 2002 — apart from other blunders that caused suffering to every Indian and Pakistani in some form or the other. Not passing resolutions on these would qualify for “double standards”.
Two things may help more than an apology. First, as has been the demand of many (including Nayar himself), allowing people over a certain age to visit their old homes. I met a gentleman called Manmohan Sethi, who was born in what became Pakistan. Sethi introduces himself as “Pedaishi Pakistani, rehaishi Hindustan (Born a Pakistani, resident of Hindustan)”. While applying for his visa at the Pakistani High Commission a few years ago, Sethi was asked “Who are your hosts?” He had replied, “My soil.” In Pakistan, he was hosted by strangers. This visit helped him realise that people wanted peace and now he is working in his own way — by composing music — to promote peace.
Secondly, it is more important for individuals who have deeply ingrained biases to interact with people from the other side. An 80-year-old Lahori, Mirza Nasir-ud-Din — who had rescued non-Muslims during Partition — visited Mumbai a few years later. When a group of Hindus who had killed and looted Muslims during Partition were introduced to him, they cried and sought his forgiveness for their acts.
The crux of the matter is that interaction is pivotal and apologies should be genuine and not dictated. There is no substitute for spontaneity in the subcontinent.
Source: Lahorenama

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The Ir-Af-Pak War: Obama Looses the Manhunters


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Charisma and the Imperial Presidency


Note from WoP: Other day, while watching the interview president Obama gave to Anwar Iqbal of Dawn TV, I was tremendously impressed by president’s eloquence, the days he spent in Pakistan, the friends he had from Karachi and Hyderabad, whom he so nostalgically remembered, his experience of cooking daal (lentils) and qeema (chopped meat), the popular Pakistani  dishes, his excellent relations with Pakistani Americans, the role they are playing in US economy and lastly Pak US relations, I was so impressed, so delighted, I felt like saying well done brother Obama, You won our hearts.
But that’s where Obama’s charm as a statesman and his charisma as an astute politician, is at its best. It was same in Cairo when he sent his message to the Muslim world waiving his Olive branch to Muslims all around the world. But when it comes to action, Obama’s charming persona, his most befitting, most moving choice of words, his articulation, his perfect command over what the president is communicating comes to end.


by Tom Engelhardt


Let’s face it, even Bo is photogenic, charismatic. He’s a camera hound. And as for Barack, Michelle, Sasha, and Malia — keep in mind that we’re now in a first name culture — they all glow on screen.`
Before a camera they can do no wrong. And the president himself, well, if you didn’t watch his speech in Cairo, you should have. The guy’s impressive. Truly. He can speak to multiple audiences — Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Christians, as well as a staggering range of Americans — and somehow just about everyone comes away hearing something they like, feeling he’s somehow on their side. And it doesn’t even feel like pandering. It feels like thoughtfulness. It feels like intelligence.
For all I know — and the test of this is still a long, treacherous way off — Barack Obama may turn out to be the best pure politician we’ve seen since at least Ronald Reagan, if not Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He seems to have Roosevelt’s same unreadable ability to listen and make you believe he’s with you (no matter what he’s actually going to do), which is a skill not to be whistled at.
Right now, he and his people are picking off the last Republican moderates via a little party-switching and some well-crafted appointments, and so driving that party and its conservative base absolutely nuts, if not into extreme southern isolation. In this sense, his first Supreme Court pick was little short of a political stroke of brilliance, whatever she turns out to do on the bench. Whether the opposition “wins” (which they won’t) or loses in any attempt to block her nomination, they stand to further alienate a key voting bloc, Hispanics. Now 9% of voters, Hispanics went for Obama in the last election by a staggering 35-point margin. Next time their heft might even bring solidly red-state Texas closer to in-play status in the two-party system. In other words, the president has left his opponents in a situation where they can’t win for losing.

Mix Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Reagan…

All this is little short of amazing, particularly if put into even the most modest historical context.
If, in a Star-Trekkian mode — hand me the “red matter,” Mr. Spock! — you could transport yourself back to early 2003 and tell just about any American what’s coming, you might have found yourself institutionalized. If you had said that the new norm would be a black president with Reagan-like popularity, Kennedy-like charisma, and Roosevelt-like skills in the political arena, leading a majority Democratic Congress in search of universal health care, solutions to global warming, energy conservation, and bullet trains, your listener might, at best, have responded with his or her own joke: “A priest, a rabbi, and a penguin walk into a bar…”
After all, back then, before two “hurricanes” — the invasion of Iraq and Katrina — began the process of turning our American world upside down, the Bush administration seemed to be riding ever higher globally and the Republican Party even higher than that at home. Back then, the neocons were consumed with imperial dreams of shock-and-awe-style eternal global conquest and domination (“Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran”); and the President’s “brain,” Karl Rove, now exiled to the opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal, was convinced that he was nailing down a domestic Pax Republicana for generations to come.
And at that moment, who would have denied that things would turn out just that way? So don’t let anyone tell you that history doesn’t have its surprises. A black guy with the middle name of “Hussein,” a liberal Chicago politician from — in a phrase Republicans then regularly spit out, as if saying “Democratic” was too much effort — the “Democrat Party”? I don’t think so.
And yet, in mid-June 2009, less than five months into the Obama presidency, can you even remember that era before the dawn of time when people were wondering what it would be like for an African-American family to inhabit the White House? Would American voters allow it? Could Americans take it?
You betcha!

Being President

All that said, let’s not forget reality. Barack Obama did not win an election to be president of Goodwill Industries, or the YMCA, or the Ford Foundation. He may be remarkable in many ways, but he is also president of the United States which means that he is head honcho for the globe’s single great garrison state which now, to a significant extent, lives off war and the preparations for future war.
He is today the proprietor of — to speak only of the region extending from North Africa to the Chinese border that the Bush loyalists used to call “the Greater Middle East” — American bases, or facilities, or prepositioned military material (or all of the above) at Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, in Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Iraq (and Iraqi Kurdistan), Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan (where the U.S. military and the CIA share Pakistani military facilities), and a major Air Force facility on the British-controlled Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia.
Some U.S. bases in these countries are microscopic and solitary, but others like Camp Victory or Balad Air Base, both in Iraq, are gigantic installations in a web of embedded bases. According to an expert on the subject, Chalmers Johnson, the Pentagon’s most recent official count of U.S. “sites” (i.e. bases) abroad is 761, but that does not include “espionage bases, those located in war zones, including Iraq and Afghanistan, and miscellaneous facilities in places considered too sensitive to discuss or which the Pentagon for its own reasons chooses to exclude — e.g. in Israel, Kosovo, or Jordan.”
In January when he entered the Oval Office, Barack Obama also inherited the largest embassy on Earth, built in Baghdad by the Bush administration to imperial proportions as a regional command center. It now houses what are politely referred to as 1,000 “diplomats.” Recent news reports indicate that such a project wasn’t just an aberration of the Bush era. Another embassy, just as gigantic, expected to house “a large military and intelligence contingent,” will be constructed by the Obama administration in its new war capital, Islamabad, Pakistan. Once the usual cost overruns are added in, it may turn out be the first billion-dollar embassy. Each of these command centers will, assumedly, anchor the American presence in the Greater Middle East.
Barack Obama is also now the commander-in-chief of 11 aircraft carrier strike groups, which regularly patrol the planet’s sea lanes. He sits atop a U.S. Intelligence Community (yes, that’s what our intelligence crew like to call themselves) of at least 16 squabbling, overlapping agencies, heavily Pentagonized, and often at each other’s throats. They have a cumulative hush-hush budget of perhaps $50 billion or more. (Imagine a power so obsessively consumed by the very idea of “intelligence” that it is willing to support 16 sizeable separate outfits doing such work, and that’s not even counting various smaller offices dedicated to intelligence activities.)
The new president will preside over a country which now ponies up almost half the world’s total military expenditures. His 2010 estimated Pentagon budget will be marginally higher than the last staggering one from the Bush years at $664 billion. (The real figure, once military funds stowed away in places like the Department of Energy are included, is actually significantly larger.)
He now inhabits a Washington in which deep-thinking consists of a pundit like Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution whining that these bloated sums are, in fact, too little to “maintain” U.S. forces (a budgetary increase of 7-8% per year for the next decade would, he claims, be just adequate); in which forward-looking means Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reorienting military spending toward preparations for fighting one, two, many Afghanistans; and in which out-of-the-box, futuristic thinking means letting the blue-skies crew at DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) loose on far-out problems like how to turnprogrammable matter” into future Transformer-like weapons of war.
While Obama enthusiasts can take pride in the appointment of some out-of-the-box thinkers in domestic areas, including energy, health, and the science of the environment, in two crucial areas his appointments are pure old-line Washington and have been so from the first post-election transitional moments. His key economic players and advisors are largely a crew of former Clintonistas, or Clintonista wannabes or protégés like Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner. They are distinctly inside-the-boxers, some of them responsible for the thinking that, in the 1990s, led directly to this catastrophic economic moment.
As for foreign policy, had the November election results been reversed, Obama’s top team of today could just as easily have been appointed by Senator John McCain. National Security Advisor James Jones was actually a McCain friend, Gates someone he admired, and Hillary Clinton a figure he could well have picked for a top post after a narrow election victory, had he decided to reach out to the Democrats. As a group, Obama’s key foreign policy figures and advisors are traditional players in the national security state and pre-Bush-style Washington guardians of American power, thinking globally in familiar ways.

General Manhunter

And let’s be careful not to put all of this in the passive voice either when it comes to the new president. In both of these areas, he may have felt somewhat unsure of himself and so slotted in the old guard around him as a kind of political protection. Nonetheless, this hasn’t just happened to him. He didn’t just inherit the presidency. He went for it. And he isn’t just sitting atop it. He’s actively using it. He’s wielding power. In foreign policy terms, he’s settling in — and despite his Cairo speech and various hints of change on subjects like relations with Iran, in largely predictable ways.

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(Left) Obama’s New Man in Kabul, Gen. Stan McChrystal
He may, for example, have declared a sunshine policy when it comes to transparency in government, but in his war policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, his imperial avatar is already plunging deep into the dark, distinctly opaque valley of death. He’s just appointed a general, Stanley A. McChrystal, as his Afghan commander. From 2003-2008, McChrystal ran a special operations outfit in Iraq (and then Afghanistan) so secret that the Pentagon avoided mention of it. In those years, its operatives were torturing, abusing, and killing Iraqis as part of a systematic targeted assassination program on a large scale. It was, for those who remember the Vietnam era, a mini-Phoenix program in which possibly hundreds of enemies were assassinated: al-Qaeda-in-Iraq types, but also Sunni insurgents, and Sadrists (not to speak of others, since informers always settle scores and turn over their own personal enemies as well).
Although he’s now being touted in the press as the man to bring the real deal in counterinsurgency to Afghanistan (and “protect” the Afghan population in the bargain), his actual field is counter-terrorism. He spoke the right words to Congress during his recent confirmation hearings, but pay no attention.
The team he’s now assembling in Washington to lead his operations in Afghanistan (and someday maybe Pakistan) tells you what you really need to know. It’s filled with special operations types. The expertise of his chosen key lieutenants is, above all, in special ops work. At the same time, reports Rowan Scarborough at Fox News, an extra 1,000 special operations troops are now being “quietly” dispatched to Afghanistan, bringing the total number there to about 5,000. Keep in mind that it’s been the special operations forces, with their kick-down-the-door night raids and air strikes, who have been involved in the most notorious incidents of civilian slaughter, which continue to enrage Afghans.
Note, by the way, that while the president is surging into Afghanistan 21,000 troops and advisors (as well as those special ops forces), ever more civilian diplomats and advisors, and ever larger infusions of money, there is now to be a command surge as well. General McChrystal, according to a recent New York Times article, has “been given carte blanche to handpick a dream team of subordinates, including many Special Operations veterans… [He] is assembling a corps of 400 officers and soldiers who will rotate between the United States and Afghanistan for a minimum of three years. That kind of commitment to one theater of combat is unknown in the military today outside Special Operations, but reflects an approach being imported by General McChrystal, who spent five years in charge of secret commando teams in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Like the new mega-embassy in Pakistan, this figure — the Spartans, after all, only needed 300 warriors at Thermopylae — tells us a great deal about the top-heavy manner in which the planet’s super-garrison state fights its wars.
So, this is now truly Obama’s war, about to be run by his chosen general, a figure from the dark side. Expect, then, from our sunshine president’s men an ever bloodier secret campaign of so-called counter-terror (though it’s essence is likely to be terror, pure and simple), as befits an imperial power trying to hang on to the Eastern reaches of the Greater Middle East.
The new crew aren’t counterinsurgency warriors, but — a term that has only recently entered our press — “manhunters. And don’t forget, President Obama is now presiding over an expanding war in which “manhunters” engaging in systematic assassination programs will not only be on the ground but, thanks to the CIA’s escalating program of targeted assassination by robot aircraft, in the skies over the Pakistani tribal borderlands.
For those who care to remember, it was into counter-terrorism and an orgy of manhunting, abuse, and killing that the Vietnam era version of “counterinsurgency” dissolved as well.

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