The Public Humanist

The Public Humanist contributor: Brian Glyn Williams

Brian Glyn WilliamsBrian Glyn Williams is Associate Professor of Islamic History at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Formerly he was professor of Middle Eastern History at the University of London. He is author of Afghanistan Declassified, A Guide to America's Longest War, The Crimean Tatars, the Diaspora Experience and the Forging of a Nation, and numerous articles on Islam and the Middle East. Dr. Williams has spent considerable time in the Islamic world and his field research includes: time spent with nomads descended from the Mongols in Kazakhstan, interviews with Kosovo Liberation Army commanders in Kosovo and Macedonia, travels in the Middle East from Turkey to Egypt, time spent in pre-war Bosnia, and most recently, he has lived with a powerful anti-Taliban warlord in northern Afghanistan where he interviewed Taliban prisoners. Dr Williams currently writes on issues related to Al Qaeda terrorism for the Washington DC-based Jamestown Foundation's widely respected journal, the Terrorism Monitor and has served as a terrorism advisor for Britain's Scotland Yard. His articles and photographs from his travels can be found on his personal website.

The Dark Secret Behind the Sochi Olympics: Russia’s Efforts to Hide a Tsarist Era Genocide

As a Bostonian who was watching the race on April 15th 2013 that was marred by the senseless act of terrorism carried out by two Chechen-Dagestani-Americans which killed three people, I had a sickening sense of de ja vu as I watched recent media reports of as many as thirty people killed in twin bombings in Volgograd, Russia on December 29th and 30th, 2013. My heart went out to the Russians whose lives were cut short by the terrorists and the larger number of people who were cruelly maimed.

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America as the 21st Century “Elysium” (an Afghan Comparison)

I first began traveling to Afghanistan soon after the 2001 liberation of the country from the Taliban and, despite the extreme dangers, poverty, and lack of development, came to love this war torn land and her people. My journeys there gave me tremendous insight into the land of stunning landscapes, warm hospitable villagers, and a rich history.

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CIA “Signature Drone Strikes” and the Killing of Americans Abroad

On May 22nd Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the CIA has carried out the extrajudicial drone assassination of four Americans since 2009 (when one includes the one American killed by a drone in Yemen in 2002 that brings the number to five US citizens who have been killed in Yemen and Pakistan). In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee Holder attempted to shed light on this murky process that would have been inconceivable prior to 9/11.

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Droning on about Drones: Rand Paul’s Filibuster Bluster and Reality

In case you missed his 13 hour filibuster of John O. Brennan’s nomination to be the next CIA Director, on the night of March 6th/7th Kentucky Senator Rand Paul made himself the darling of both the Tea Party/Libertarians and those on the right who fear that the government will send black helicopters to kill them as well as the anti-war/anti-drone crowd on the left who feel CIA drones hunt and exclusively kill Pakistani women and children.

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Will Iran Really Nuke Israel if it Develops Nuclear Weapons?

Following his recent trip to Israel key Mitt Romney advisor Dan Senor summed up the former Massachusetts’ governor’s position vis a vis Israel and Iranian nukes as follows “If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing the capability, the governor would respect that decision.” In so doing Romney is simply stating (through his advisor) the Republican Party line which puts a premium on saving Israel from an Iranian nuclear Armageddon that party stalwarts assure us will take place should Iran go nuclear.

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The Last US Troops Leave Iraq: A Retrospective on Operation Iraqi Freedom

With little fanfare this weekend the last few thousand American troops in Iraq withdrew from their bases and traveled into neighboring Kuwait ending America’s most contentious war since Vietnam. After eight and half years of conflict that cost the US almost one trillion dollars, 32,000 wounded and the lives of almost 4,500 service men and women, the war is officially over.Well, at least for the Americans. This month alone 225 Iraqi civilians were killed in ongoing terrorism and violence.

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A Visit to the Mountain Kalash, the Vanishing People of Pakistan (Part 2)

We accessed the Kalash after making a ten hour journey from the Pashtun-dominated frontier city of Peshawar which lies to the south of the mountains. Approximately seven hours of this journey was made off road on an unpaved mountain road that winds its way on dizzying switchbacks over a 10,000 foot pass to get to the Chitral Valley. A four wheel drive vehicle was needed for the journey due to the rough nature of the road.

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A Visit to the Mountain Kalash, the Vanishing Pagan People of Pakistan (Part I)

While Pakistan is predominantly a Muslim nation, it is home to an ancient pagan people known as the Kalash who claim descent from Alexander the Great. Known for the love of wine, unveiled women, wooden idols, and bright folk costumes, the Kalash of the Hindu Kush have survived in a Muslim sea for centuries but have come under pressure to convert to Islam in recent years.

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Three Reasons for Democrats to Support a Troop Surge in Afganistan

In the fall of 2009 General Stanley McChrystal, the top US commander in Afghanistan, requested 40,000 additional troops to help fight an increasingly aggressive Taliban insurgency. President Obama agreed in December to send 30,000 troops as part of an Afghan ‘surge.’ Below are three reasons why Democrats who have soured to the war should support his request.

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Exploring Gitmo. The Pearl of the Antilles.

I quickly learned that the Military Commissions were a lot of hurry up and wait. While I waited to give my testimony I was allowed to explore Guantanamo Bay for a couple of days. As I left my quarters to begin my exploration, the first thing I noticed were the bright yellow signs warning drivers of “iguana crossings.” And sure enough, I soon began to see massive iguanas roaming around parking lots, sunning themselves on the side of the road, and curiously approaching if you came to close to them.

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American Limbo. Reflections on a Recent Journey to Guantanamo Bay

For most who have never been to Guantanamo Bay it is something of an abstract, a place defined by a disparate images of Al Qaeda prisoners in orange jump suits,barbed wire, guard towers and US Marines. It is more of a symbol, a 21st century Devil’s Island or an emblem of shame for many critics of the Bush administration, than a real place. Others see it as an off shore Caribbean Alcatraz that confines some of this century’s most dangerous men.

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To Hell with Allies and World Opinion? An Essay in Support of John Hill

In 2001, I traveled across the war-blackened villages of Kosovo and saw first hand the evidence of Serbian atrocities carried out against the region’s indigenous Kosovar Albanian population. All of these horrors had beencarried out in blatant disregard for established norms that the US and allcivilized countries officially abided by. The world understood that the Serbs were beyond the pale of civilization and NATO forcefully ended their campaign of ethnic cleansing with a UN mandate (resolution 1244).

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The Law of Unintended Consequences: A Tale of Two Afghanistans

One never knows what to expect when flying into Kabul International Airport and making one’s way into the bustling capital of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. On my first trip to Afghanistan in 2003 I found the city streets filled with bandolier swathed Northern Alliance fighters, the lamp posts decorated with the ribbons of cassette and video tapes that had been symbolically ‘executed’ by the Taliban moral police, and more burqas than a Taliban ‘Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice’ policeman could shake an iron rod at.

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