!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News
Events: (Note that this is not the preferable method of finding events because not all events have been assigned topics yet)
Swiss scientist Horace de Saussure builds the world’s first solar collector. It is later used by Sir John Herschel to cook food during his South Africa expedition in the 1830s. [US Department of Energy, 2002 ]
Salem and Osama bin Laden hold a series of meetings with South African arms dealers to discuss supplies for the anti-Soviet mujaheddin in Afghanistan. One meeting is held at the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar, Pakistan, and a person who attends this meeting will later discuss it with a lawyer acting for victims of the 9/11 attacks. The person’s name is not known. The meeting is attended by Osama bin Laden, Afghan commander Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, and two South African officers. The attendees discuss weapons and training. There are other meetings in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, between South African suppliers and Salem bin Laden, Osama’s older brother. Arms purchases are also discussed there. Reportedly, some of the financing for the weapons comes from the Saudi government. [Coll, 2008, pp. 287]
Iraq purchases enriched uranium from South Africa, with a “green light” from the US, according to a later claim by the BBC. South Africa has had a covert nuclear weapons program since 1973, and will continue working on nuclear devices, and perhaps supplying Iraq and other nations with uranium, until 1989, when it will dismantle its nuclear weapons program and decommission its nuclear enrichment plants. The BBC television news program Correspondent will claim in 2001 that according to Iraqi defectors, including a nuclear engineer and an assistant to Saddam Hussein’s son Uday Hussein, South Africa quietly shipped some 50 kilograms of uranium to Iraq for its nuclear weapons program. The BBC program will cite an anonymous South African intelligence official as one of its sources. “The story is true,” he will say. “About 50 kilograms were sold to the Iraqis. The Americans gave the green light for the deal.” [BBC, 9/24/2002]
The Islamic Army of Aden (IAA) begins issuing what authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will describe as “provocative political statements.” The IAA is headed by Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar, who claims to have fought in Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden, and the organization will go on to have links with al-Qaeda (see Early 2000 and October 12, 2000). The Yemeni government had previously ignored the group, but is now irked by the statements and asks the elders of Almihdhar’s tribe to muzzle him. However, this strategy does not work, so the government offers a reward for his capture, dead or alive. Despite this, the IAA will plot a series of attacks later in the year (see Before December 23, 1998). [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 163]
Two future 9/11 hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, are given the contact of someone useful in the US, and they may utilize this contact when they move to the US a short time later. Dhiren Barot is a British citizen who was born in India, and by early 2000 he has been involved with Islamist militants for several years. For instance, he fought with militants in Kashmir and was an instructor at an Afghan training camp. According to a footnote in a 9/11 Commission report, Barot is sent to Malaysia with al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash on the orders of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). Bin Attash attends an al-Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur that is also attended by Amihdhar and Alhazmi (see January 5-8, 2000). Barot apparently does not attend the summit, but shortly afterwards he meets with al-Qaeda leader Hambali, who does attend the summit, and he gives him two addresses. According to the 9/11 Commission, one of the addresses is in the US, “possibly in California,” and the other address is in South Africa. He tells Hambali that he could “contact people in those locations” if he “needed help.” Hambali will later be captured and will deny to interrogators that he ever passed the addresses on to anyone else. But Newsweek will later report, “US officials are dubious about Hambali’s denials and suspect that the unspecified US address in California may well have been passed along to [Almihdhar and Alhazmi].” [Newsweek, 8/16/2004] These two hijackers fly to Los Angeles, California, only about a week after the summit, and begin living in San Diego (see January 15, 2000). Presumably, the US address would point to at least one conspirator in the 9/11 plot living in the US, but if the name of this person is known to investigators, it is not made public.
Future 9/11 hijacker Saeed Alghamdi wires $1,360 from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to someone in Johannesburg, South Africa. The name of the person who receives the Western Union wire is Abdullah Abdulrahman Alghamdi, according to an FBI document of 9/11 hijacker activities made after the attacks. [Investigative Services Division, FBI Headquarters, 4/19/2002] The name may be an alias for alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), who uses very similar aliases and travels very widely in the years before 9/11 (see for instance June 1998). For example, around this same time KSM applies for a US visa using a passport with the name Abdulrahman al Ghamdi and a real photo of himself (see July 23, 2001). Also, a 2006 Guantanamo document will give one of his aliases as Abdul Rahman Abdullah Faqasi al-Ghamdi. [US Department of Defense, 8/12/2006] A later Justice Department indictment will give one of his aliases as Abdulrahman Abdullah al-Ghamdi. [US District Court Southern District of New York, 4/4/2011 ] There is no publicly known al-Qaeda presence in South Africa at this time. However, there is an intriguing mention in another intelligence document that an al-Qaeda operative linked to KSM told another al-Qaeda leader in early 2000 of an address in South Africa where a contact existed who could provide help (see Early January 2000).
An ill Saud Memon shortly before his death. [Source: Daily Times]Saud Memon, a Pakistani businessman who owns the land where Wall Street Journal report Daniel Pearl is killed in late January 2002 (see January 31, 2002), apparently flees Pakistan for fear of being arrested for Pearl’s death. According to later newspaper accounts in Pakistan and India, Memon is arrested by the FBI in South Africa on March 7, 2003. He is kept at Guantanamo prison for more than two years and then handed over to Pakistani authorities. On April 28, 2007, some unknown men drop Memon in front of his house in Pakistan. He is deathly ill and unable to speak or recognize people. He dies less than one month later on May 18, 2007. Memon has been the top name on the list of Pakistan’s most wanted. In addition to having a suspected role in Pearl’s death, he helped fund the Al Rashid Trust, which has been banned for being an al-Qaeda front. While some suspect a US and/or Pakistan government role in Memon’s disappearance, it is not known for sure what happened to him for those four years. [Associated Press, 5/18/2007; Daily Times (Lahore), 5/19/2007; Indo-Asian News Service, 5/19/2007]
Apparently, the white supremacist ideology formerly thought of as a uniquely American issue has spread to South Africa. Ten years after the collapse of apartheid and whites-only rule in that country, dozens of right-wing, white supremacist groups are being founded in South Africa. Many of them believe that black majority rule is a punishment sent by God because of the disobedience by the Afrikaaner people. They view themselves as descendents of the 10 lost tribes of Israel, whites who are destined to rule over all races and forbidden to mix with other races. Many of these groups echo the Christian Identity ideology (see 1960s and After). Reverend Willie Smith, a former Baptist minister, founded the Lewende Hoop (Living Hope) community in Kroonstad in the Free State in the late 1990s. Smith says: “I looked around and saw the need of my people, the Afrikaaners. They do not know who they are. The other churches are not preaching the truth. But I tell them, you are the people of the Bible. The Bible was written for you.… We strayed from the teachings of the Bible. Our leaders sold us out. They want us to mix with the other races. But it is not working. The other churches are preaching that you must love all. But we don’t want that. We don’t want to overthrow the government. We have to wait for deliverance from the Lord.… We are suffering under this ANC [African National Congress]-communist regime. We want blacks, coloreds, and the other races to return to their traditions. If we rule, it will be a blessing for all of Africa.” Smith’s group allegedly consists of 30 congregations with a total of 6,000 believers. [Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 5/30/2006]
The 2005 NPT Review Conference, held once every five years to review and extend the implementation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (see July 1, 1968), is an unusually contentious affair, and the US is at the center of the imbroglio. After the 2000 NPT Review Conference (see Late May, 2000), the US, under George W. Bush, refused to join in calls to implement the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT—see September 10, 1996). The US’s recalcitrance is, if anything, magnified five years later. Many representatives of the NPT signatories focus their ire upon the US, even though two signatories, Iran and North Korea, are, in author J. Peter Scoblic’s words, “violating either the spirit or the letter of the treaty” in developing their own nuclear weapons. Other nations send their foreign ministers to the conference, and in turn the US could have been expected to send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. (In 1995 and 2000, the US had sent, respectively, Vice President Al Gore and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to represent the US.) Instead, the US sends State Department functionary Stephen Rademaker. Not only is Rademaker’s lesser rank a studied insult to the conference, Rademaker himself is an ardent conservative and a protege of arms control opponent John Bolton. Rademaker enters the conference prepared to use the forum to browbeat Iran and North Korea; instead, he finds himself defending the US’s intransigence regarding the CTBT. The New Agenda Coalition, made up of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, South Africa, Sweden, and New Zealand—all allies of the US—focuses on “the troubling development that some nuclear-weapon states are researching or even planning to develop new or significantly modify existing warheads,” a Bush administration priority (see May 1, 2001 and December 13, 2001). “These actions have the potential to create the conditions for a new nuclear arms race.” Even Japan, usually a solid US ally, says that all nuclear-armed states should take “further steps toward nuclear disarmament.” Canada, the closest of US allies both in policy and geography, is more blunt, with its representative saying, “If governments simply ignore or discard commitments whenever they prove inconvenient, we will never build an edifice of international cooperation and confidence in the security realm.” And outside the conference, former British Foreign Minister Robin Cook lambasts the US in an op-ed entitled “America’s Broken Unclear Promises Endanger Us All,” blasting the Bush administration for its belief that “obligations under the nonproliferation treaty are mandatory for other nations and voluntary for the US.” For his part, Rademaker says just before the conference, “We are not approaching this review conference from the cynical perspective of, we are going to toss a few crumbs to the rest of the world, and, by doing that, try to buy goodwill or bribe countries into agreeing to the agenda that we think they should focus on rather than some other agenda.” In 2008, Scoblic will interpret Rademaker’s statement: “In other words, the administration was not going to engage in diplomacy even if it would encourage other states to see things our way—which only meant that it was quite certain they never would.” [United Nations, 5/2005; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 277-280]
Around early June 2005, US intelligence learns that Haroon Rashid Aswat is living in South Africa. An associate will later say that he had known Aswat there for about five months, and that Aswat was making money by selling religious CDs and DVDs. [Press Trust of India, 8/2/2005] The US wants Aswat for a role he allegedly played in trying to set up a militant training camp in Oregon in 1999 (see November 1999-Early 2000), although he has not been formally charged yet (see August 2002). US officials contact the South African government and ask if they can take him into custody. Aswat is a British citizen, so South Africa relays the request to Britain and British officials block the request. When the debate continues, he manages to leave the country. [CNN, 7/28/2005] An unnamed US official will tell the Telegraph: “The discussion was whether or not they would render him. He’s got [British] papers and they said you can’t render somebody with [British] papers.” British officials will complain that they would have cooperated had the US simply pursued a formal extradition request instead of pushing for a rendition. A senior US intelligence official will add, “Nobody is going to say there is a row or a rift but there was certainly dissatisfaction and exasperation here over the handling of this case.” [Daily Telegraph, 7/31/2005] He apparently returns to Britain and meets with and phones the suicide bombers of the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005 and Late June-July 7, 2005). He will be named the mastermind of those bombings in many newspapers. One counterterrorism expert will allege that Aswat also was an informant for British intelligence, and this would explain why the British were protecting him (see July 29, 2005).
Reporter Arlene Getz equates President Bush’s attempt at controlling the media exposure of the warrantless wiretapping program (see December 15, 2005 and December 6, 2005) to similar media manipulation programs undertaken by the white apartheid regime in South Africa during the 1980s, and the acceptance of the controlled media by some South African citizens. Getz, who reported extensively on South Africa’s government, writes: “For anyone who has lived under an authoritarian regime, phone tapping—or at least the threat of it—is always a given. But US citizens have always been lucky enough to believe themselves protected from such government intrusion. So why have they reacted so insipidly to yet another post-9/11 erosion of US civil liberties?” She extends the comparison: “While Bush uses the rhetoric of ‘evildoers’ and the ‘global war on terror,’ Pretoria talked of ‘total onslaught.’ This was the catchphrase of P. W. Botha, South Africa’s head of state from 1978 to 1989.…Botha liked to tell South Africans that the country was under ‘total onslaught’ from forces both within and without, and that this global assault was his rationale for allowing opponents to be jailed, beaten or killed. Likewise, the Bush administration has adopted the argument that anything is justified in the name of national security.” [Newsweek, 12/21/2005]
A study conducted for the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency finds that close American allies want the Bush administration to understand that “a greater US readiness to engage on nuclear disarmament issues would pay off in increased support from other third parties in pursuing US nonproliferation issues.” Many US allies, such as Canada, Japan, Mexico, South Africa, and others, are deeply unhappy with the US’s recent refusal to follow the restrictions of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (see Late May 2005). A similar study for Sandia National Laboratories, a US nuclear research facility, finds that while other nations are not any more likely to develop their own nuclear programs because of the US’s nuclear posture, the US has lost tremendous credibility in pursuing nonproliferation efforts among other states because of its perceived hypocrisy. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 278-279]
The tasks before the forthcoming Group of 20 (G-20) summit to be hosted by President Barack Obama in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, are rolled out in the media. The number one agenda item for global leaders will be restraining financial institutions’ compensation and forcing them to clean their balance sheets to avert a duplicate of the near-meltdown of global financial systems. They will also attempt to find new methods for controlling over-the-counter derivatives markets, which are said to have augmented the global crash. The leaders are also scheduled to “increase oversight of hedge funds, credit rating agencies, and debt securitization.” Most leaders agree that it is essential to find a resolution for the huge financial imbalances in trade, savings, and consumption, all of which played a role in the global financial crisis, and ultimately may leave global economies vulnerable to future financial shocks. Christine Lagarde, the French Finance Minister, says that signs of economic recovery should not act as an excuse to avoid economic reforms. Officials of France and Germany are recommending stringent financial sector regulations, which incorporate limits on executive pay. The mandate of the G-20 is to “promote open and constructive discussion between industrial and emerging-market countries on key issues related to global economic stability.” The G-20 is comprised of finance ministers and central bank governors from 19 countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union, which is represented by the rotating council presidency and the European Central Bank. [Reuters, 9/22/2009; New York Times, 9/22/2009; Voice of America, 9/22/2009; G-20.org, 9/22/2009]
In his first speech to the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters, President Obama says all nations bear responsibility for addressing the global problems of nuclear proliferation, war, climate change, and economic crises. “We must build new coalitions that bridge old divides,” Obama says. “All nations have rights and responsibilities—that’s the bargain that makes [the UN] work.” Obama acknowledges that high expectations accompanying his presidency are “not about me,” adding that when he took office at the beginning of the year: “Many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and mistrust. No world order which elevates one nation above others can succeed in tackling the world’s problems. Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone.” Obama devotes a considerable portion of his speech to discussing the challenges inherent in finding a peaceful solution to settlements in the Middle East. He calls for the resumption of Israel-Palestine negotiations “without preconditions,” and also uses his speech to indicate that the US has returned to the global arena as a team player.
Warm but Restrained Reception - Although warmly received, applause appears slightly restrained, perhaps an indication that expectations for the Obama presidency are becoming more realistic, given the global problems with which most nations now struggle. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opens the 64th Session’s proceedings by saying, “Now is the time to put ‘united’ back into the United Nations.”
Followed by Libyan Leader - Libya’s President Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi follows Obama and speaks for over an hour, vehemently criticizing the UN’s power structure as uneven, archaic, and unjust. From a copy of the preamble to the UN Charter, al-Qadhafi reads: “It says nations are equal whether they are small or big—are we equal in the permanent seats? No, we are not equal. Do we have the rights of the veto? All nations should have an equal footing. For those who have a permanent seat, this is political feudalism. It shouldn’t be called the Security Council; it should be called the Terror Council.” Despite reigning in Libya for over 40 years, this is al-Qadhafi’s first UN General Assembly speech. [BBC, 9/23/2009]
The Group of 20 (G20)‘s pledge to return balance to the world economy may place the US dollar in a precarious position in the long run, experts feel. Over recent weeks, the dollar has fallen 4.3 percent this quarter because of equity market weakness as well as emerging major currencies as other countries begin their recovery from the worst economic downturn since the 1930s. Some G20 meeting attendees see the dollar as susceptible to damage while questioning its stability as well as its status as the global reserve currency, although the recent weakness of the dollar is not being blamed on the weakness of the US economy. Analysts say that short-term effects to the G20 meeting of other wealthy, developing economies will be subdued; however, they say that over a longer period, bank stocks and energy prices as well as the dollar may be harmed by G20 economic balancing actions. World leaders have expressed concern that the US economy’s recovery cannot be sustained because its rebound is due to government stimulus and increased borrowing. During the meeting in Pittsburgh, the leaders agree that to balance the global economy, the US needs to save more while the massive exporter China needs to consume more to support its growth. David Gilmore, partner at FX Analytics in Essex, Connecticut, explains, “The real problem is the world needs a huge consumer and the US has been basically doing it for decades, and now it’s spent.”
US Dollar as Reserve Currency - Robert Zoellick, president of the World Bank, says the US should not take the dollar’s status as the key global reserve currency for granted now that other options are emerging. Zoellick says that shifting global economic forces reveal that it is time to prepare for growth to come from multiple global sources. Although the world’s largest economies also agree to phase out subsidies on oil and other fossil fuels over the “medium term” to combat global warming, they acknowledge that the phase-out probably will not affect energy markets in the short term. In the long term, they say, the move could weigh on energy markets, cutting fuel demand in emerging markets. As for emergency economic support, G20 leaders promise to continue support until recovery is “at hand,” thus providing some relief for foreign currencies.
Economic Rebalancing Equals Shift from Dollar as Reserve Currency? - Global economic balancing is a two-edged sword for the dollar because the currency has been damaged by extremely low interest rates and the glut of dollars in the international monetary system. But the recession already has triggered partial rebalancing as US consumers cut spending while China spends $600 billion to stimulate its economy while making itself less dependent on exports. Analysts quickly note that minus tangible steps, the pledge only serves as lip service. The analysts also say it is improbable that countries would bend to G20 rules on how to run their economies. Nonetheless, the plan would be a clear shift, signaling a move away from the dollar. Currency strategist Kevin Chau of New York’s IDEAglobal says: “In the long run, I think they want another reserve currency, whether it’s the Special Drawing Rights or the Chinese yuan. For any country’s currency to gain that kind of credibility and trust, it would take years of development.” Still, last week, the dollar fell to a new low against the euro and even dropped below the key 90 yen-per-dollar level. [Reuters, 9/27/2009]
Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database
Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.