Monday, February 21, 2011

Pictures of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

I recently came across some pictures of Rohingya refugees living in makeshift camps in the Cox's Bazar area in the south-eastern part of Bangladesh, close to the Bangladesh-Burma border. The pictures are really depressing to see the miserable condition of the refugees. Many of the kids growing under unsanitary conditions suffer from diseases, hunger and thirst. They also lack proper education, healthcare and other basic amenities of life that even the poor have access to.

My hope is one day the Rohingya people of Arakan state of Burma would be recognized as equal citizens in Burma, with rights similar to those enjoyed by the majority Burmans, and would be able to live in peace inside their ancestral home without facing any persecution, discrimination, harassment and abuses from the regime.

Thanks to Mr. Nurul Islam of ARNO and Mr. Tin Soe for sharing these pictures.

(For a good understanding of the Rohingya problem, please, read my book or some of my articles - here, and here.)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Western hypocrisy with pro-democracy movement in the Muslim world is an Internet site dedicated to promoting understanding between the western world and the Muslim world. In one of its most recent editorials, The West and the Protests in the Arab World-Leaving the Freedom Movement in the Lurch, Bettina Marx hit the bull's eye with her concluding remarks where she complained about the apparent silence of the western government for the cause of democracy. She wrote: "It is equivalent to an admission of failure that Western governments lack clear words of support for the democracy movement in Egypt. It is doubly shameful that Europe's citizens have also held back, that western capitals have seen no mass demonstrations, no shows of solidarity with the people in the Arab world – the people who are, after all, our neighbours."

Bettina is right. However, the Muslim world is not surprised by the less than lukewarm support, or more correctly their overt silence or covert opposition, to the change for democracy from the western governments. To many keen observers like me, the profound and almost prophetic statement of the late Shaykh Fadhlallah of Lebanon still rings bell and fills the gap in our understanding of the western attitude. He said some 30 years ago that when the West spoke about democracy, freedom, equality, human rights, etc. all these higher values were for them, and the people in the East, esp. those in the Muslim world, never counted in that equation.

Bush and many of the bigots can promote Natan Sharansky's book, but just like the author himself -- a despicable hypocrite (which I must add), when push comes to shove all their real ugly selves are unmasked. That is why, all the Israeli leaders and their so-called democratic voice wanted to see a prolongation of the hated undemocratic Mubarak regime. And regrettably so did all our western leaders.

In his recent essay on Egypt, while advocating a consistent policy from the West Sharansky still does not like to see a repeat of the 2006 election in Gaza. This kind of pre-condition, more like the call from the western leaders in the dying days of the fallen regime for a smooth transition of the government duties to Mubarak’s hand-picked successor – approved by the CIA and the Mossad -- without untying knots of the dictatorship is surely not conducive to democracy. This is the same selfish mindset that destroyed any chance of seeding true democracy in the Occupied Territories of Palestine. Instead of giving the nascent democracy a chance to take roots, the West and Israel tried to unseat Hamas by every means possible, including starvation of the people of Gaza. They, of course, enlisted Egypt’s Mubarak to become a partner in that crime. As long as Mubarak was in the helm of affairs, looking out for the joint American-EU-Israeli interest, democracy, let alone regime change in Egypt, was not part of their vocabulary.

When the fall of Mubarak did really happen, some of these hypocrites tried to welcome the change, just like president Obama, because not doing so would look so bizarre. But then conspiracy against the Muslim world, let alone the Egyptian people, still goes on behind the curtain of those policy makers on the Middle East. They want to ensure that the greatest opposition to the regime for all these past 60 years, i.e., the Muslim Brotherhood, doesn't come to power. Even the latter's promise not to put its presidential candidate in the next election is not sufficient to allay their suspicion.

For all these years, the pro-western puppets ruling the vast territories of the Arab world were able to successfully exploit the bogeyman of this Islamic threat to justify their dictatorial ways and even extract concessions. So the stability of these regimes, including that of Asad’s Syria, fit well into the regional strategy of their masters. Asad, more like Gaddafi of Libya, were treated more like irritants than any real threats to western hegemony and interest. Even the Zionist regime would rather see the continuation of these autocratic regimes than democratic ones emerging with the support of the people. They would rather live next door to a toothless and paw-less tiger than a concerned human being who tries to correct its wrong deeds. It is these hypocritical governments that fear people and their potential power to change the paradigm that had served their interest so well all these years.

As I have noted many times, hypocrisy has always been the major component of western values, esp. how their governments perform. They were loud in talking, and never cared about walking the talk, especially on matters that affected the Muslim world. The rules and standards were different and self-serving. The interest of the ordinary people was not there.

Bahrain is now bleeding with spontaneous protests. The island nation is home to American Navy’s Fifth Fleet. It is ruled by an unpopular monarch King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, a Sunni minority government against a Shiite majority in the strategic island state in the Persian Gulf. He has been a puppet ruler to preserve western interest all these years. Just two months ago in a town-hall-style meeting in Bahrain, Secretary of State Clinton got a pointed question from a member of Bahrain’s Parliament: was the United States letting Bahrain off the hook for a string of arrests of lawyers and human rights activists? In her reply she said, “I see the glass as half full,” pointing to Bahrain’s recent elections. “I think the changes that are happening in Bahrain are much greater than what I see in many other countries in the region and beyond.” Well, there have we have it again just like we heard about Egypt before the fall of Mubarak.

On Saturday thousands of joyous Bahrainis retook a major square in the heart of Manama, the island nation's capital, in a dramatic turn of events two days after security forces ousted demonstrators from the spot in a deadly attack that killed nearly half a dozen unarmed protesters while they were sleeping at night. Now the ruling family wants to open a dialogue with the citizens.
Secretary Clinton’s rosy assessment just a mere two months ago seems so absurd in light of the army’s bloody crackdown on protesters, illustrating once again how the U.S. government has overlooked recent complaints about human rights abuses in a kingdom that is an economic and military hub in the Persian Gulf. As WikiLeaks made public the U.S. diplomatic cables, the Bush and Obama administrations repeatedly characterized Bahrain as more open and reform-minded than its neighbors, and pushed back when human rights groups criticized the government.

Even with Obama in the White House, the U.S. policy on the Middle East essentially remained the same. As recently as January of 2010 the American Embassy in Bahrain criticized the human rights group Freedom House for downgrading Bahrain’s rating from “partly free” to “not free” in its global survey of political rights and civil liberties. The diplomatic cable asserted that Freedom House had been successfully lobbied by a radical Shiite movement, known as Haq, which rejects the government’s reform efforts. As is clear, you can’t teach new tricks to an old bitch!

In Yemen protests appeared to grow larger and more violent in the city of Taiz, 130 miles south of the capital, where thousands of protesters called for the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh and clashed with government supporters. Saleh has been a U.S. ally in the region to curb influence of the al-Qaeda. Afraid of a fate similar to those Zine and Mubarak, he declared not to seek presidency in the coming election. But that announcement has not been able to dampen protests against his puppet regime.

Across the Gulf of Aden in the tiny African nation of Djibouti thousands of demonstrators gathered on Friday to demand that the country’s president step down, after a series of smaller demonstrations seeking to capitalize on the wave of unrest. Like Bahrain, Djibouti, a former French colony, is a strong ally of the United States. It plays host to an American military base, the only one in Africa.

Clashes between pro- and antigovernment demonstrators were also reported in Amman, the capital of Jordan, where the king Abdullah II is another western puppet. Again mindful of the changing political landscape in Egypt and Tunisia, he sacked his government. But such half-hearted measures have not been able to derail popular unrest against his regime.

Would America come to the aid of these suffering and persecuted majority who is calling for a regime change? No.

It is actually better that way. Let the people rely on their innate strength for simply being on the right side of history and trust in God to better their conditions. And victory would InshaAllah come on their way. No western mendacity and collaboration with the hated regimes would be able to choke people’s genuine aspirations for freedom and liberty, at least for not too long.

Monday, February 14, 2011

MSNBC should not entertain an Islamophobe

This morning, I was extremely disappointed with MSNBC's choice of interviewing Niall Ferguson, the Harvard History professor, on the Morning Joe program. Anyone familiar with his work and life knows that he is a rabid Islamophobe, whose agenda includes protecting Israeli interest above anything else. Interestingly, he left his previous wife to marry Ayaan Hirsi Ali, another rabid Islamophobe, who made a point in her life to extinguish the faith of some 1.6 billion people, i.e., Islam by any means possible. She is a proven liar to whom the ends justifies the means. Not too long in her appearance in the CNN during the Egyptian Revolution, she mentioned to Anderson Cooper that she was from Kenya while everyone familiar with her life story know that she is from Somalia who had left the country in the midst of civil war some two decades ago. Her life is a complex one that is hemmed in lies and deceptions, half-truths and fear-mongering. Her understanding of Islam and its history and law is so pathetic and ludicrous that even a madrasa student with no higher degree than the basic degree is enough to show her pitiful ignorance; no alem or scholar would be required!

These two persons Ferguson and Ayaan Hirsi definitely deserve each other and can live their lives of hatred, bigotry and xenophobia - none of which are any of the values that anyone can look up to as a model to copy or live by.

In my letter to Joe, I wrote, "Please, don't allow the messengers of hatred to spread their hatred and fear-mongering. We have enough of those, thanks to Fox News. Your listeners don't like to see another Bill O'Reilly show or Sean Hannity, but the real Joe that you are, providing a balanced perspective on issues that are important to our American people and people around the globe."

Niall Ferguson has lived a life of adultery all his life. According to published reports, he has cheated on his wife eight times over the past five years, according to one family friend, and five of these affairs have apparently taken place over the past 18 months.

Ferguson is not a role model for anyone. His advices are also disingenuous and biased by his delusional mind. He is on the board of the Centre for Policy Studies, the leading Right-wing think-tank, and works as an unofficial adviser to Mr Cameron, in particular on how to promote ‘Britishness’. Hateful guys like him should not be given the spotlight that they crave for to further divide our world into hateful camps.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Maureen Dowd on Rummy

Maureen Dowd is an op/ed columnist for the NY Times. In her latest column - Simply the Worst, she discussed Rumsfeld's book. It is a good reading.

Kristof on Egypt - an essential reading for American policy makers

Nick Kristof writes on a variety of issues of our world. In the Sunday issue of the New York Times, he had an excellent article on lessons to learn from the Egyptian revolution: What Egypt can teach America.

The Fall of the Egyptian Tyrant

Last Friday, a grim-looking Omar Suleiman announced, “In these grave circumstances that the country is passing through, President Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave his position as president of the republic.” The Vice President continued, “He has mandated the Armed Forces Supreme Council to run the state. God is our protector and succor.” With those much expected words the 30-year reign of Mubarak crumbled. It was the right thing to do, and probably the only rational thing to do for the 82-year autocrat who had by then exhausted all his tricks to cling into power. The previous night in his speech to the nation, he sounded defiant and non-quitting.
Mubarak was a man of the barracks who as an air force pilot had fought in the wars of 1967 and 1973. Despite his peasant background he had earned the trust of his predecessor – the cigar-smoking Anwar Sadat to rise to the post of vice president. He was a survivor. On the day of assassination of President Sadat in 1981, he was sitting next to him and could easily have been killed by Lt. Khalid al-Islambouli, the assassin, if the latter had wanted it to happen. Wounded, Mubarak was spared by Lt. Khalid, who walked past him, saying, “Get out of my way. I only want to kill this son of a dog.”

After being sworn in as the President, Mubarak put together an intricate police state that was no less monstrous than those of Hafez al-Asad in Syria and Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Stability became the watchword of his presidency, with emergency law - which prevented gatherings of more than five people - lasting throughout the 30 years of his rule. Some 1.7 million people worked for his Ministry of Interior. Everyone was spied upon. No one knew whom to trust and share frustration with his tyrannical regime that tolerated no opposition. He suspended what few civil liberties 80 million Egyptians had under its well-trampled constitution. Severe limits on freedom of expression and civil society were imposed. Newspapers and websites faced occasional shut down and bloggers prosecution. Some 10,000 to 15,000 political prisoners, mostly from the Muslim Brotherhood — which has been portrayed as the Islamist bogeyman, rotted in his prisons.

It was a depressing history! A land long known for its ancient civilization, high quality education, superb hospitality, melodious songs and marvelous literature, sly humor and nonstop gossips became hopeless, surly and silent, if not dull or dead.
My Egyptian friends that had returned to their homeland (in contrast to many students that chose not to return) in the 1980s after completing their graduate studies in North America to teach in some of the best universities in the region were not above suspicion from the Mukhabarat. They had every reason to be frightened and entreated me not to write to them because they felt vulnerable and monitored and their letters opened before being delivered. It was a Republic of Fear that Mubarak ran whose stranglehold only grew stronger and suffocating with time.

It was his torture cells that produced the individuals like Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, born of aristocracy and yet feeling dejected and humiliated in a state -- crafted by Mubarak and his henchmen. These latter-day radicals, revolutionaries or terrorists had nothing to lose, but an implausible and somewhat naïve urge to get even with their native tormentors and foreign sponsors.

With absolute power came insatiable greed and unfathomed corruption. Mubarak’s family became filthy rich and powerful. In contrast to his more famous predecessors Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat, Mubarak entertained dynastic aspirations for his son Gamal. He grew oblivious of Egypt’s history of short outbursts of revolution after long periods of calmly submission.

Consequently, when the first pro-democracy demonstrations started on January 25 – the Day of Rage, Mubarak was dismissive of its innate and culminating revolutionary strength drawn from decades of tyranny. He did not want to read the blood-stained writings on the walls. Taking cues from the Pharaoh of the old, he acted arrogant and behaved blind, deaf and dumb. He was unprepared for a revolution and so were his patrons and beneficiaries. One by one the protesters withstood each weapon in his arsenal of autocracy — first the heavily armed riot police, then a ruling party militia and finally the state’s powerful propaganda machine.

When all the draconian measures to quell the protests, including the murder of some 300 Egyptian protesters and injury of another thousand, let alone the shutting down of the internet, failed and his own military chose not to kill its own people in this single most important challenge to his hateful regime, Mubarak was already a dead dictator walking.

After Mubarak’s defiant speech was heard on Thursday night more than 1,000 activists besieged the state TV and radio building in Cairo, in an attempt to end its broadcast of round-the-clock pro-Mubarak propaganda. Tahrir Square was crammed with a crowd that rivaled the quarter-million figure of the biggest protests over the past 18 days. Some 100,000 people gathered in the main square of Alexandria, Egypt’s second largest city. The protesters staged rallies outside the president’s many palaces. With his presidential palace surrounded in Cairo by thousands of protesters on Thursday night, Mubarak managed to flee to his resort home in Sharm-el-Sheikh, probably taking advantage of the cover of the night.

Friday, February 11, saw the largest gathering of the pro-democracy revolutionaries. They came from everywhere. There were young and old people, women in hijabs protesting alongside men with yuppie beards, toddlers on the shoulders of their parents, jean-clad youths alongside homeless people, religious next to secular, Christians and Muslims alike. The labor and trade unions joined in the revolution, and so did the lawyers and doctors. The message from the crowd was loud and clear: Mubarak must leave. Much in common with many other hated dictators of the past, including Marcos of the Philippines, in the last days of his despotic rule, Mubarak felt abandoned or betrayed by his own masters -- the USA and the EU.
Just after the nightfall the much awaited announcement on Mubarak’s resignation came from his hand-picked Vice President. Several hundred thousand protesters, massed in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, exploded into joy, waving Egyptian flags, and car horns and celebratory shots in the air were heard around the city of 18 million in joy. They chanted, “Egypt is free, Egypt is free,” as the historic announcement was made.

It was a Berlin Wall moment for the Egyptians who after 18 days of protests succeeded in toppling one of the most repressive regimes to ever rule the Muslim world. The message was clear that the Egyptian people, esp. its Muslim population, are not a violent people and they can topple a tyrant without resorting to violence. Well, there were deaths and injuries; however, such were all because of the violence unleashed by the Mubarak regime.

For all these 30 years Mubarak has been able to sell his propaganda. Probably, too well! He presented himself as a bulwark against the so-called Islamists, namely the Society of the Muslim Brothers, stating disingenuously that if he lifted the emergency rule and allowed true freedom and fair election, his regime would fall and the west would have no other choice but to deal with its so-called mortal enemy, and that the treaty with Israel would be annulled. He crushed his opposition and put their leaders behind the bar. The western intelligence agencies, especially the CIA, knew better. But who cared! Lies were swallowed like life-saving elixir. They were too eager and happy to reward Mubarak for his zealotry against the ‘Islamists.’ They surely can afford to be hypocritical when it comes to the Muslim world. Regional hegemony, national security and stability meant more than a hollow ideology!
And Mubarak delivered perfectly in that strategy up-keeping the Israeli-American-European Union interest. So complete was his servility to all interests foreign – everything except the interest of his own poor Egyptians – these outside powers, including donors, ignored his undemocratic ways, brutality and human rights abuses. He secured the Gaza and Sinai borders for Israel and stopped the flow of humanitarian aid to reach the stranded Gazans. With Mubarak in Cairo, Israel could afford to commit all its war crimes against the Palestinian people without feeling ire of the regime to the south. Mubarak collaborated with GW Bush administration in its so-called War on Terror that saw his prisons mimicking the excesses of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. He worked with the Obama administration and the corrupt and puppet Arab monarchs to curtail Iranian influence in the region.

Truly, Mubarak was no reluctant partner but a zealous one, bought by some $1.5 billion aid yearly from the USA whose majority share - $1.3 billion (to be precise) last year - was spent for military cause. The economic aid of $200 last year meant too little, if at all, for ordinary Egyptians – a share of measly $2.50 per capita -- mostly pocketed by the cronies and family members of the ruling party. With no wars in the horizon, it was only the security apparatus and all those connected with the regime that benefited from such disingenuous aid.

And yet all these cooperation and collaborations with foreign powers did not and could not save Mubarak’s regime. Not even his hated agents of the Internal Security, led by Suleiman, could stop his downfall.

Very few of us could dream of witnessing history. Fewer still is the likelihood of witnessing the downfall of a dictator – protected and nourished by the powerful few and hated by the powerless many. And slimmest still is the probability of witnessing a downfall that is brought about by the unarmed civilians when the odds of success were so little. The Egyptian Revolution of 2011 is surely one of those rare moments in history. Hosni Mubarak was thrust by violence into the leadership of the Arab world’s most populous country, and has been forced out by a wave of popular non-violent protest. It’s a momentous event in our lifetime. Like most of us who crave for freedom and human rights for all, Nobel Peace laureate and pro-democracy campaigner Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei was ecstatic with the outcome. He said it was the “greatest” day of his life. “The country has been liberated after decades of repression,” the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said. He said he hoped for a “beautiful” transfer of power.

Even the U.S. President Obama welcomed the change. Initially, Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary Clinton had said that the regime of Mubarak was stable. Then for the next two weeks, the Obama administration walked a very fine line: it was careful in not upsetting the Mubarak regime, while avoiding to appear hypocritical with the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people. The influence of the Israeli lobby runs too deep inside Washington D.C. The lobby obviously did not want to see the fall of their favorite guy and tried everything possible to change the course of popular discourse within the country and to steer policy discussions that would require protecting the regime at any cost. But at the end, sanity prevailed in the White House. It was a reality check that meant willing to let bygones be bygones and minimize damage!

Speaking from the Grand Foyer of the White House the president said, “The people of Egypt have spoken. Their voices have been heard. And Egypt will never be the same.”

Interestingly, the fall of the Mubarak regime coincided with the day 21 years ago when Nelson Mandela of South Africa – once declared a terrorist and now a much venerated personality -- was released from prison after 27 years behind the bar. More importantly, this was also the day 32 years ago when the Shah’s despotic regime in Iran fell.

The next few days will be defining moments for Egypt. After all, the old guards of the hated regime are still in charge. The ruling military council is comprised of people that were picked up by Mubarak and his cronies. They can have agenda of their own that are at odds with the rightful aspirations of the Egyptian people. Thus far, fortunately, the military has acted very professionally and announced on state television that the regime’s much hated emergency law will be lifted when the security situation allows. Much to the relief of Tel Aviv and Washington D.C., the ruling council also declared that it would honor all its treaty obligations.
Obviously, the Obama administration and its pro-Israeli friends in Washington D.C. would like the new regime to continue its previous courses on foreign policy, defense and security matters. Fearful of a free election that may bring the Muslim Brotherhood into power, they may even try to sabotage the hard-earned victory of the Egyptian people that could prolong the temporary rule of the military beyond September. Egypt had enough with crypto-military rule – from the days of Naser to Mubarak – no matter under what mask it appeared.

The Egyptian people should be extra vigilant so that their hard-earned victory is not hijacked by others whose loyalty lies to foreign masters. They should not forget the betrayal of 1952 when their dreams to live freely in a dignified way were soiled in the months following the ouster of King Farouq, a corrupt British puppet, when the Free Officers Movement took full control of the country while the Brothers and many of those nationalists who had actively participated in the revolution were put behind the prison walls. Since that time, all of Egypt’s post-1952 leaders have been military officers, and both serving and retired generals are sprinkled throughout the various arms of government.

On its part, Israel should understand that it is in her long-term interest to have a democratic Egypt as a neighbor. Fear-mongering against the Muslim Brothers will not endear her amongst the new generation of Egyptians who have learned to defeat fear. They ought to know that the Society is not what it used to be in the days of Hasan al-Banna and Syed Qutb. A treaty signed between nations is more enduring than between two statesmen. It is also prudent for Israeli leaders to acknowledge the legitimate interests of the Palestinians and to grant them their own state.

In his speech, President Obama said, “As Martin Luther King said in celebrating the birth of a new nation in Ghana while trying to perfect his own, ‘There is something in the soul that cries out for freedom.’ Those were the cries that came from Tahrir Square, and the entire world has taken note.”

Mr. Obama is right. It would be immensely gratifying for all to see that during his administration a free Palestine has emerged. After all, the Palestinian people have been crying too long from behind the apartheid walls of Israel. Their children deserve the same freedom enjoyed by others. Is Mr. Obama ready to stand up to this challenge to right the historical wrong done against this unfortunate people?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Insanity with Security Gadgets Must End

These days traveling is no fun, especially if one is an airplane passenger traveling inside the USA. Last week I was in Pasadena, outside Houston on a business trip. On Tuesday morning the weather was furious with rain and wind blowing so strong that I could not reach my rental car from the lobby of the hotel without an umbrella. However, before I could reach my car the wind had tore apart the umbrella. Then there were the rolling black-outs that followed throughout the day disrupting people’s regular work schedules. Many offices, schools and colleges had an earlier than usual shut down. The remainder of the week also felt too cold with pipelines freezing and bursting.

The weather forecast for Friday when I was scheduled to fly out was bad. Houston expected some snow, worse enough to form an inch or two of ‘black ice’, which’s very dangerous for commuters. To my surprise and utter dismay I found that the Continental Airlines had cancelled my morning flight and instead automatically bumped me out for a Sunday morning flight. It took several calls to my American Express travel agent and the airlines office before I could find a seating assignment for the Friday afternoon flight out of George Bush International Airport.

Houston is in the south-eastern side of Texas where the weather during this time of the year is usually not severely cold. Naturally, its commuters are not used to driving under icy road conditions. So, all the schools and most offices chose not to open on Friday. When I got up in the morning I discovered only a very thin layer of ice on my car windshields. The local TV stations showed shots of several freeways and roads. There were some car and truck accidents, especially in the above-the-ground highways which with bridges can become dangerously slippery. Obviously, the city administration was ill-equipped for the slippery roads and had not made enough preparation to salting the roads and highways.

After reports of accidents on the highways, some of the highways, including the Sam Houston Toll-way, were closed down. I left early for the airport so that I won’t miss my flight. I had to ride on the feeder roads that go parallel to the major toll-way that leads to the airport. With very few cars and trucks moving, it was an easy commute.

All the passengers must of course go through a thorough body-scan, after they take out their shoes, jackets, coins, belts, computers and liquid gels/lotions, including toothpaste that weigh more than 3 oz. All these items must then go through scanners which supposedly are capable of detecting any harmful devices or ingredients that can ignite or explode. We are told that every day millions of bags are screened for explosives and other dangerous items at over 7,000 baggage screening locations and at over 450 airports nationwide. Interestingly, so flawed are these scanners, as demonstrated by some incidents, new full-body scan machines (Advanced Imaging Technology) have been installed in many major airports that provide security screeners of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) with essentially nude images of travelers. To ensure privacy, faces are blurred and the images are deleted once the TSA officer determines that the passenger is not a threat. These full-body scan machines have been highly criticized by many passengers for invasion of individual privacy and/or of being pornographic entertainment to the TSA. The Allied Pilots Association, a union representing 11,000 American Airlines pilots, called the measure a ‘demeaning’ and an ‘unacceptable’ experience. One privacy watchdog group had gone so far as to file a lawsuit in a federal court, seeking to have the machines removed from airports.

But more problematic is the pat-down searches, where a TSA personnel puts his/her hands in and around all body parts and cavities, including the breast and the groin area to check for explosives or other harmful objects. These new searches have appropriately been decried as "sexual molestation" or "sexual assault." I know firsthand why it is so objectionable and humiliating. After much criticism, most airports now do a random pat-down on passengers, i.e., all the passengers are no longer subjected to this pat down searches.

Last Friday, after arriving at the airport, I stood in the check-in line for security check. I took out my laptop computer from the carry-on bag; I also took out my shoes, jacket, etc. Then I stepped in through the body scan area. As expected, no beeping sound was heard, which would warrant a pat-down search. When I was about to collect my carry-on belongings from the conveyor belt, the mean-spirited TSA (Transportation Security Administration) personnel standing near the scan machine whispered something into the ears of a TSA colleague, who pulled me out for a pat-down search. I felt humiliated. Minutes later, I saw another south Asian also pulled for a thorough search. No other persons were randomly checked for such a humiliating experience. After the search was over, I could not avoid stating that it was a clear case of discriminatory racial profiling.

The government agency – TSA - was created in the post-9/11 days to ensure that certain items and persons prohibited from flying don’t board commercial airliners. Even when some nine million Americans are unemployed the TSA continues to hire people. According to its official website, some 43,000 trained and certified Transportation Security Officers are currently stationed at over 450 airports across the country. Combined with over 1,000 credentialed security inspectors, these professionals screen over two million passengers daily. While the government finds it difficult to balance its budget, the TSA and its parent organization – Department of Homeland Security (DHS) - continue to grow with men and machines.

Many of the TSA advisers are former agents of Israel’s Shin Bet and Mossad. In the post-9/11 era, many Israeli firms have made tons of money selling their security services, including scanning machines.

Rapiscan Systems, a manufacturer of body-scan technology, is a client of Michael Chertoff’s (Bush’s Homeland Security Secretary and co-author of the Patriot Act) security consulting firm, the Chertoff Group. It is worth noting that Chertoff (of dual Israeli nationality) played an important role in letting the detained suspected Israeli agents go back to Israel without any trial, immediately after 9/11. Chertoff is not alone in promoting companies like the Rapiscan Systems that make the airport nudie-scanners; many former congressmen are also involved. Lobbyists for Rapiscan (whose contract is worth $173 million) include Susan Carr, a former senior legislative aide to Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) who’s coincidentally chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee. They claim that such machines are a leap ahead of the metal detectors used in most airports, and are necessary to keep up with the plans of potential terrorists.

As we know better, such claims are absurd. If these latest full-body-scanners were that effective in detecting harmful objects, the travelers could have been spared of the extra pat-down searches.

The Homeland Security Department and other government agencies have been reviewing the Homeland Security Advisory System's usefulness for more than a year. The five-tiered, color-coded terror warning system, created after the Sept. 11 attacks, was one of the Bush administration's most visible anti-terrorism programs. Criticized as too vague to be useful in communicating the terror threat to the public, it quickly became the butt of late-night talk show jokes.

In the middle of 2009 Secretary Janet Napolitano ordered a 60-day review of the color code. Last week, 566 days later, she decided to phase out the colors and go with another system -- the National Terrorism Advisory System, or NTAS. By the end of April, terror threats to the U.S. will no longer be described in shades of green, blue, yellow, orange and red. The new plan calls for notifying specific audiences about specific threats. In some cases, it might be a one-page threat description sent to law enforcement officials describing the threat, what law enforcement needs to do about it and what the federal government is doing.

It is high time for Secretary Napolitano’s office to stop the insanity with scan machines which serve no purpose other than costing American government and its people billions of dollars. Surely, if a terrorist wants to carry out its deadly attack, the gathering places of the passengers for security check-ups are easier targets. He/she need not even go through the scan machine to commit the heinous crime. So whom are we fooling with expensive gadgets that do nothing other than fattening the coffer of the vested interest?