- Tue, 02/27/2007 - 11:00
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
It's taken me a few days to get a functioning URL of Martin Wayne's Asia Times piece on East Turkestan; mea culpa for that. However, I have now had the chance to examine Wayne's assertion that Communist China (a) has confronted al Qaeda, (b) has largely handled al Qaeda, and (c) its performance in "Xinjiang" can be a model for the rest of the world. Wayne is not only wrong on all counts, his assumptions come from the tragic mistake of largely taking what he hears at face value. Those of us who know better can see the flaws in his construct with almost disturbing ease.
Wayne beings with a description of the Communist "raid" on a supposed "terrorist facility " in East Turkestan: "According to reports, 18 terrorists were killed and 17 were captured, along with 22 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and material for thousands more. " Wayne seems to anticipate the arguments of skeptics like myself (and the Uyghur American Association), and innoculate himself from them with a throwaway line, but in the sentences that follow, he completely contradicts himself:
Chinese reportage on terrorism is notoriously problematic, at times imprecise or simply fabricated. For the skeptics, photos of a policeman killed in the raid were also released, showing emotional relatives amid a sea of People's Armed Police paying their final respects.
Not to be rude here, but a photo of a funeral is hardly an indication of that the deceased was killed in a raid of some kind, let alone the kind the Communists claim occurred. Now, that may sound like nitpicking, but one can understand my concern when added to the following stretch from Wayne:
In late December, al-Qaeda's No 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, called for action against "occupation" governments ruling over Muslims, including reference to the plight of Uighurs in western China. Yet despite this commitment of resources and rhetorical energy. . .
Commitment of resources and rhetorical energy? I took a look at the transcript of al-Zawahiri's December rant (via the Institute for Counter-Terrorism). The al Qaeda lieutenant spent over 8,100 words on Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Chechnya. How many words did al-Zawahiri dedicate to East Turkestan? Four. Contrary to Wayne's assertion, East Turkistan is, at most, a throwaway line to al Qaeda.
Of course, Wayne also notes that al Qaeda "reportedly trained more than 1,000 Uighurs . . . in camps in Afghanistan prior to September 11, 2001" (emphasis added). Of course, "reportedly" means as reported by the Communists themselves. To date, the United States military has captured or been handed less than two dozen Uighurs, and has cleared over half of them (United Press Int'l via Washington Times).
Wayne also slips up on the "riot" of Yining, and while he did get right al Qaeda's hopes for the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, he neglects to mention the numerous sources that make clear ETIM never actually made it to East Turkestan before it crashed and burned (though perhaps he is not aware of them).
Yet, it is in his discussion on Communist China's supposed political actions in the region where the deepest flaw in his theory is revealed (emphasis added):
The central government purged separatist sympathizers from local governments and attempted to remove political dissent from religious worship. At the same time, availability of Uighur-language education was broadened and Beijing sought to expand economic development in Xinjiang, which was viewed as the key to success. Uighurs in Xinjiang repeatedly explained in interviews that these changes made participation in the Chinese state more attractive, despite perceptions that economic opportunities primarily benefited ethnic Chinese.
This is a common pitfall whenever anyone investigates matters in Communist China, and Wayne falls right in. There is no excuse for assuming anyone interviewed in "Xinjiang" - Uighur, Han, or otherwise, is able to speak freely. Rather than accept at face value what he hears, he should be trying to dig for the truth outside of his or his subjects' Communist watchers. Otherwise, all he hears is Communist propaganda regurgitated.
Thus, it suddenly makes sense that Wayne is so willing to detach from reality when talking about how "China has created a path for young Uighurs - one achieved through participation in the system rather than fighting it" despite the reports of nearly every outside analyst and Uighur exiles like Rebiya Kadeer (fifth, second, eleventh, last, second, and fourth items) and, until he was imprisoned by Uzbekistan, Huseyincan Celil.
Thus, one is no longer surprised when Wayne refers to "Zawahiri's call to arms in late December," when in fact, the al Qaeda lieutenant's complete verbage on East Turkestan was hardly a whisper. Also, Wayne's insistence that Communist China's "primary concern is still internal security" is also understandable - no Communist source would dare tell him about the regime's ties to al Qaeda, the Iranian mullahcracy, and Saddam Hussein.
Wayne's credits cite his "extensive field work in Xinjiang." Unfortunately, his column makes clear the "extensive field work" was almost certainly done in cooperation with the Communist regime. Tragically, if my assumption is correct, he probably ended his "field work" as unaware of the truth as he was when he began.