Friday, 10 May 2013
Ruslan Tsarni, the uncle of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers, has impressed uncritical and credulous Americans. In a now famous interview on his front lawn in Maryland he denounced his nephews, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, as losers. They failed in a country which gave everyone a chance; they hated those who had succeeded and used religion as a pretext shaming the Chechnyan ethnic cause. He told Dzhokhar to turn himself in. Predictably Tsarni is now a folk hero, as American as apple pie.
Alexander Petri at the Washington Post says he has “slipped into the realm of meme and legend…Give this man a talk show. Give him everything we have to give. Fire Uncle Sam. Get us Uncle Ruslan. This is the sort of inspiring speech we all hope we could give… This was a moment we all needed.”
Uncle Ruslan also provided clues to how Tamerlan Tsarnaev changed from an aspiring Olympic boxer to a radical jihadist. In a CNN interview he blamed a mysterious Armenian convert to Islam from Cambridge to the north of Boston where Tamerlan went to school. “This person just took his brain. He just brainwashed him completely.” He described the man as “chubby, a big guy, big mouth presenting himself with some kind of abilities as exorcist . . . having some part-time job in one of the stores, not married. All of the qualifications of a loser, just another big mouth.”
Associated Press came up with a name. A flurry of speculative “Misha” stories followed. New York magazine claimed, “According to reports, family members point the finger at a man identified only as Misha, a friend whom Tamerlan knew through a local mosque. Misha is described as a bald, red-bearded, 30-year-old Armenian convert to Islam who claimed to be an exorcist who is fighting with demons.”
USA Today parroted, “The bombers’ uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, depicts Misha as a Rasputin-like figure who “took (Tamerlan’s) brain” and said that his presence soon became a source of tension within the family.” Then Christian Caryl of the New York Times Review of Books stopped the charade. She found Misha. He told her he hadn’t seen or spoken to anyone in the Tsarnaev family for more than three years. Armenians in Cambridge said it was highly unlikely that a member of their community would convert to Islam and certainly not without them knowing.
Uncle Ruslan was unfazed. He changed his story blaming Tamerlan’s mother, Zubeidat. Associated Press reported, “Ruslan Tsarni claimed that Zubeidat allowed a firebrand cleric into their house to give one-on-one sermons to Tamerlan over the kitchen table during which he claimed he could talk to demons and perform exorcisms.” The Daily Mail in London quoted him, “The change of the older boy, one of the biggest causes is her. First she started playing into this religious crap, they say is a devotion to Islam.”
This is the message transmitted repeatedly since 9/11. Muslims are generally good; true Islam is a tolerant religion. But there are also bad Muslims who resent the west and use religion to justify an extremist ideology. Belen Fernandez writing in New York’s Jacobin magazine says the media has in fact decreed “the primary duty of an acceptable Muslim is to continuously condemn the behaviour of a tiny minority of coreligionists thereby bogging down their community in a never-ending cycle of negative self-identification and political weakness”.
As an example of “one of a contingent of Muslims hawking an “indigenous” legitimisation of Islamophobia” she cites Asra Nomani the Indian-American journalist, author of “Standing Alone in Mecca: An American Woman’s Struggle for the Soul of Islam”. Nomani is a campaigner for women’s rights in mosques and trains the US military in cultural sensitivity. As a journalist she titillates in Marie Clair (My Big Fat Muslim Wedding) and patronises in The Daily Beast advising Muslims to stop being sensitive about religious slurs.
In a 2012 blog for the Beast she encouraged Muslims to embrace the NYPD’s penchant for racial profiling and spying. “Last year, I argued: profile me. This year, I say, too: monitor me. Indeed, just as we need to track the Colombian community for drug trafficking and the Ku Klux Klan for white extremists, I believe we should monitor the Muslim community because we sure don’t police ourselves enough.”
In her response to the Boston bombing in the Washington Post she writes, “There is no doubt that embracing an ideology of Islam that promotes extremism and violence has been a motivator for terrorism…And the collectivist-minded Muslim community needs to learn an important lesson from Tsarni: It’s time to acknowledge the dishonour of terrorism within our communities, not to deny it because of shame.” The piece is headed, “Muslims have a problem. Uncle Ruslan may have the answer.”
And indeed he might. The problem is that the FBI has shown little enthusiasm for questioning him. There is the issue of a failed marriage – admittedly neither unusual nor cause for suspicion. In Tsarni’s case however he was married to Samantha Ankara Fuller. She is the daughter of former top CIA official, Graham Fuller. This would be inconvenient gossip but investigative journalist Daniel Hopsicker who unearthed the link between Tsarni and Fuller discovered a lot more.
In 1995 Tsarni incorporated the Congress of Chechen International Organisations which according to its listed address was based in Graham Fuller’s home. Documents show the Congress liaised with Benevolence International a Saudi funded “charity” to procure aid for Sheikh Fathi, a military commander who had arrived in Chechnya after a decade of waging jihad in Afghanistan. Following the 9/11 attacks Benevolence International was designated a financier of terrorism and shut-down. The indictment noted that Sheikh Fathi, a preacher of violent jihad was a major conduit for providing material support to the Chechen rebels. This does not look good on a normal CV.
Tsarni worked for the US Agency for International Development in the 90s (in the former Soviet Republic of Kazakhstan) and is back in the fold this time as a legal consultant to a U.S. company contracted to deliver economic aid to Kyrgyzstan. USAID is known to provide cover for CIA agents and has recently been kicked out of Russia and Bolivia. Uncle Ruslan is also linked to scandal- ridden multinational Halliburton, suspected CIA assets, Chechnyan crime bosses and money laundering oligarchs. A deal to purchase Prince Edward’s £15m Sunninghill Park home on behalf of a Kazakh billionaire adds royalty and oil to the mix.
Fuller who spent two decades at the CIA is notorious for penning the memo that led to the Iran-Contra scandal. Until recently ensconced at the Rand Corporation – among the most potent and sinister purveyors of American imperialism – he’s hardly been out of the loop. He’s a state terrorism strategist. “The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvellously well in Afghanistan against [the Russians]. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilise what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia.”
Fuller is a supporter of Fethullah Gulen, the powerful imam whose goal is to dismantle Turkish secularism and propagate the Gulen Movement worldwide through a network of schools. Fuller interceded when the authorities tried to deny Gulen a green card and the preacher now lives in Pennsylvania. Sibel Edmonds, FBI translator turned whistleblower, claims Gulen, the CIA and NATO were implicated in supporting Al-Qaeda in Central Asia and the Balkans, and in the illegal trafficking of humans, guns and drugs.
None of this has attracted the attention of the mainstream media and it’s unlikely to now that three of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friends have confessed to concealing incriminating evidence and lying to protect him. There was of course no fuss when fractured steel beams were swiftly removed from Ground Zero and shipped off to China. The alarming fact that the bombing – as on 9/11 in New York and 7/7 in London – coincided with a security drill to defend against just such an attack is unlikely to be pursued. There won’t be any explanation of what mercenaries from Craft, a private security company, were doing at the Boston Marathon.
Tsarni told the Associated Press, “When I was speaking to the older one, he started all this religious talk, ‘Insh’allah’ and all that, and I asked him, ‘Where is all that coming from?” Asra Nomani has the answer. “What Tsarni is admitting is something true but politically incorrect to talk about: the increasing use of these phrases of religiosity are code inside the community for someone who is becoming hardcore. It doesn’t mean that they’re becoming violent or criminal, but it’s a red flag.”
Inshallah (God willing) expresses the hope that plans for the future accord with what is best for humanity and the cosmos – not that they come true. The phrase graces conversations across and beyond Muslim communities. It’s crass, dangerous and demonising to suggest that in the hunt for terrorists you count the number of Inshallahs in a chat – and Bob’s your uncle.