Beyond the Blasts’s guide to undercovered news, commentary and resources to help put the Sept. 11 terror attacks and their aftershocks into context. Updated throughout the day.

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Oct. 5, 2001

The war on drug terrorism? — Various
Proponents of the government’s war on drugs — perhaps concerned that their cause has faded from the headlines — have been quick to point out possible connections between groups like al-Qaida and the drug trade. Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) went so far as to charge that terrorists seek to “get as many people in the West drugged out and screwed up as they can. That’s part of their revenge on the world.” Not so fast, says the advocacy group Drug Reform Coordination Network: Very little Afghan opium ever makes it to the US. DRCNet estimates that about 90 percent of US heroin comes from Colombia and Mexico; most Afghan opium ends up in Europe.

Northern Alliance: Another brand of thugs? — The Independent
Veteran Middle East observer Robert Fisk is fed up with talk of bringing democracy to Afghanistan — the same talk, he notes, that was heard when the West armed the mujahedin whose fight against the Soviets gave birth to al-Qaida. What the US and its allies are really doing is prolonging the country’s agony by supporting the murderous Northern Alliance: “More than 7,000 innocents have been murdered in the USA, and the two million Afghans who have been killed since 1980 don’t amount to a hill of beans beside that. Whether or not we send in humanitarian aid, we’re pouring more weapons into this starving land, to arm a bunch of gangsters in the hope they’ll destroy the Taliban and let us grab bin Laden cost-free.”

The view from the other side — San Francisco Chronicle
Western officials aren’t the only ones to worry about young protesters who distrust authority, the established media, and consumer culture: Throughout the Arab world, reports Frank Viviano, a “radicalized generation” is protesting what it sees as the West’s attempt to eradicate Islamic culture. In this movement, suicide bombings are seen as the only answer to an overpowering enemy, and the death toll of the Sept. 11 attacks is frequently measured against the deaths in Palestinian cities and towns in the conflict with Israel. “Whether the comparisons are valid or not is beside the point,” writes Viviano. “The fact is, they are widely and deeply felt. A genuine war on terrorism will have to take the perceptions into account.”

Oct. 4, 2001

Al-Qaida’s Saudi roots — The Christian Science Monitor
One major factor contributing to the growth of Usama bin Ladin’s operation, reports the Monitor‘s Warren Richley, was a strategy by Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries to dispatch local Islamic extremists to fight the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. “Half the countries in the region, including our friends in Egypt, emptied their jails and sent all their troublemakers to Afghanistan with the hope that they might become martyred in the jihad,” a former CIA official tells Richley. Though not always embraced by their Afghan hosts — who considered the newcomers mediocre fighters with a tendency to lecture — those would-be martyrs launched the formidable network that is now creating headaches for the U.S. and Muslim governments alike.

Powell wants gadfly Arab station toned down — BBC
Secretary of State Colin Powell has asked the emir of Qatar to “rein in” a controversial television station based in the small Gulf state. The station, al-Jazeera, is one of the few non-state run channels in the Arab world; it was the first to carry a faxed statement from Usama bin Ladin calling on Muslims to attack Americans, and to broadcast footage of Taliban troops destroying ancient statues in Afghanistan. Israel, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia have also expressed frustration with the outspoken station.

The Zen of terror-fighting — Beliefnet
Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen monk who regularly conducts workshops with Palestinian and Israeli youth, suggests that Americans approach the Sept. 11 hijackers with… compassion: “Why would these young people, full of vitality and strength, have chosen to lose their lives, to commit such violence? What lies under all this violence? Why do they hate so much that they would sacrifice their own lives and bring about so much suffering to other people?”

Oct. 3, 2001

How to keep the press at bay — Public I
The US Department of Defense learned one thing from the Vietnam War — to better control media access to information about military campaigns. The Pentagon now knows, reports Jacqueline Sharkey, how to make sure the American public sees “sanitized” visuals of war, how to censor information, and how to control journalists’ access to the battlefield. “The evidence shows,” she warns, “that, increasingly, information about Defense Department activities is being restricted or manipulated not for national security purposes, but for political purposes — to protect the image and priorities of the Defense Department and its civilian leaders, including the president.”

Arab-Americans support profiling — Detroit Free Press
Hard on the heels of a study that found African Americans more supportive than whites of racial profiling in airports comes a survey showing that a majority of Arab Americans also support the practice. The poll, conducted by the Detroit Free Press, finds that 61 percent of Arab-Americans in metropolitan Detroit — the US city with the “most visible” Arab and Arab-American population — would support being subjected to “somewhat stricter” security measures for people with Middle Eastern features or accents. In the same poll, nearly half of those questioned say they personally know someone who has experienced an act of bias recently, but only one-fifth say they have changed their daily routine for fear of racially motivated attacks.

Generals leery of war? — New York Review of Books
Philip Wilcox, the nation’s top counterterrorism officer from 1994 to 1997, writes that unlike some of the president’s more hawkish civilian advisers, “many American military officers are skeptical about using military force against terrorists.” They are concerned about the logistical challenges of using soldiers to capture Usama bin Ladin, and of the backlash a large-scale military campaign could engender.

Oct. 2, 2001

Anti-terror exercises — New York
New York City gyms are reporting a surge in enrollments, at least some of them people who want to be in shape to effectively flee the next terror attack. “If a fire alarm goes off and I have to get down those stairs, I want to know I can get down them,” says one woman.

Searching for e-needles in haystacks — Wired News
The Sept. 11 terror attacks may have represented a failure of the FBI, CIA and other intelligence-gathering agencies, but it’s not like their job is easy in the digital age. Americans logged 2.58 billion minutes on cell phones in 2000, and email and instant messages add even more volume to the communications cacophony. America Online alone handles 225 million emails every day and 1.1 billion instant messages. Human beings can’t possibly keep up, so computers are used to monitor suspect traffic — but they have severe limits too. “If you have a computer looking for ‘bomb,’ you’ll get a lot of messages that have nothing to do with terrorist threats, while the terrorists will be using code words,” says one security expert.

Blacks support profiling of Arab Americans — Boston Globe
Two polls have found that African Americans — often targets of racial profiling themselves — are more likely than other groups to favor profiling and stringent airport security checks for Arab Americans. In a Gallup Poll, 71 percent of black respondents supported the idea of requiring Arabs, including US citizens, to undergo extra security checks before boarding airplanes. Fifty-seven percent of whites liked that idea. A Zogby International poll found that 54 percent of blacks favored singling out Arab Americans for special scrutiny at airport check-ins. Most Hispanics and whites were opposed to such policies.

Oct. 1, 2001

They doth protest too much —
Geov Parrish takes to task the anti-war demonstrators who came out by the thousands last weekend for being as short on imaginative tactics and real solutions as the Pentagon planners they denounce. “We’re asking our political and military leaders to make new and different choices in treacherous terrain, but protest leaders are, themselves, falling back on comfortable, familiar tactics and iconography,” writes Parrish. Assuming that the protesters do indeed want something done about terrorism, it’s not enough to simply be against war, he chides.

Towering ghosts — Newsday
Like recent amputees who can still “feel” their missing limbs, some New Yorkers claim to be catching sight of the spectral outlines of the destroyed World Trade Center towers at night. “It’s a thing of God,” one resident tells Newsday.

Coming soon: national wiretaps? — Village Voice
Congress’ recent approval of “roving wiretaps” — which allow law enforcement officials to tap any phone used by a suspect for whom they have a warrant — is a serious enough attack on civil liberties, writes Nat Hentoff. But even worse is a further extension of government wiretapping powers being sought by Attorney General John Ashcroft. Currently, a wiretap warrant is only valid in the jurisdiction where it was issued; Ashcroft wants a new, national wiretap warrant that will be good across the country.


Compiled by staff.


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