Let nobody doubt that religion hurts people. Good, intelligent, caring people suffer every day and everywhere at the hands of religion, the happy lie.
Religion is used by dishonest people who claim to know the way to the one thing humans want most: immortality. To combat fear of death, religious people ignore their intellect, believe the lie, and follow the preacher, usually blindly and sometimes to the point of insanity.
We are witnessing one very good example of this right now, as a group led by Christian ministry leader Harold Camping prepares for the end of the world this Saturday, May 21.
Of course, the weekend will pass without incident and thousands of Camping's followers, having spent or donated huge amounts of money on his behalf, will be gravely disappointed. Victims will be broken. Families will be damaged. Lives will be ruined. All because someone made a good pitch, and followers believed.
I am not sure if Camping is a liar, but I think so. He realized that religion is a great way to make tax-free money off the backs of well-meaning people, through donations to his ministry, all without fearing eternal damnation. You see, I suspect that he, like many others of his ilk, doesn’t believe in God at all.
It may seem odd that I would accuse this man of being an atheist like me, but rest assured that he is nothing like me.
Like most atheists, I’m a pretty nice person and would never scam someone out of his or her life savings or convince someone to quit a job just to line my pockets. The truth is that religion and ethics are completely independent of one another.
Consider how Newt Gingrich could campaign against President Bill Clinton's adultery as the darling of the Religious Right while actually being an adulterer himself. Consider how evangelical superstar Ted Haggard could preach against homosexuality, in God’s name, while hiding a gay lover. And consider Camping, who can get donors to cough up what appears to be a lot of money in God’s name while ruining his followers’ real lives on Earth.
These are not people who fear God or hell. In my opinion, they know very well that gods are myths. They are just bad people. Atheists have bad people, too, the worst of whom feign religion for their own personal gain.
Next week, Camping’s victims will ask our forgiveness for being so foolish, and we will forgive them, because we’ve all done stupid things. They will ask for money and we will help them, because most people are charitable.
And then Camping victims will ask us to forget all about this whole ugly scam. That is something we must never do.
We must remember that Camping, atheist or not, is no different from any other preacher. Religion thrives on fear–the constant threat of any-time-now Judgment Day coupled with eternal punishment in hell for those who don’t believe strongly enough.
Since rational minds question irrational things, believers constantly have doubts, and therefore fear that they don't have enough faith to pass muster during the eventual Rapture, when the righteous will be saved and the unrighteous will be damned. Fear of hell makes believers desperate to ease those doubts so they can be sure to get into heaven. It’s a recipe for fear-based obedience, which is exactly what religion craves.
It’s the method used by Camping, and by the rest of Christianity, too.
If we forget about Camping, this apocalyptic madness will happen again. Next year is 2012 and, just as was supposed to happen in 2011, 2004, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1997, 1994 and other years that the world is supposed to end, according to one religion or another.
What will we do in 2012? Will we sit still while preachers take advantage of the gullible again? Will we refrain from confronting the fools and continue to revere religion? Or will we, as a society, demand that people use their intellect and pay attention to their preachers, priests, rabbis or mullahs and see them as the scammers they really are?
This weekend, preachers from coast to coast will talk about why they are right and Camping is wrong, and I ask you all to listen closely. They will try to justify why one interpretation of the Bible (theirs) is right while the others are wrong. In the end, they are all interpreting the “perfect word of God” in their own imperfect way so that God agrees with their own agenda. It’s obvious if you look for it; no preacher ever says "God disagrees with me."
Yes, this weekend we will giggle at the fools who follow the preachers that earn their living spreading happy lies. Religion will have been proven wrong yet again.
But we all must remember that people have been hurt this weekend. We hope the victims of this year’s end-of-the-world will lift themselves back up, dust themselves off, and come out of this as better, less gullible people. Hopefully, they will use their experience to help others avoid future scams by shouting loudly at tomorrow’s victims, without fear of being irreverent about something which deserves no reverence at all.
Their message, which they say the Bible guarantees, is simple: The end of the world is near.
And now, it’s suddenly really near - so near that if these folks are right, you should probably pass on buying green bananas.
Perhaps you’ve already noticed, what with the billboards and signs dotting the landscape, the pamphlets blowing in the wind and the RVs plastered with Judgment Day warnings weaving through cities. Or maybe, as the birds chirped outside and you sipped your morning coffee, a full-page newspaper ad for the upcoming mass destruction caught your eye.
May 21, 2011, according to loyal listeners of Family Radio, a Christian broadcasting network based in Oakland, California, will mark the Day of Rapture and the start of Judgment Day (which, they say, will last five months). Those who are saved will be taken up to heaven, and those who aren’t will endure unspeakable suffering. Dead bodies will be strewn about as earthquakes ravage the Earth, they say. And come October 21, they’ll tell you, the entire world will be kaput.
It’s the kind of belief that riles up churchgoers who insist no one can know when Judgment Day will come, and the sort that many say does a disservice to Christianity. And it’s the kind of message that delights the types who are planning tongue-in-cheek End of the World parties and are responding to a Facebook invitation to attend a post-rapture looting. Rapture events, including one at a tiki bar in Fort Lauderdale, are being hosted by American Atheists. News outlets, comedians and even Doonesbury can’t seem to resist a good end-of-the-world prophecy.
Billboard battle over Judgment Day
Earlier this year, CNN traveled with a team of believers - all of whom had walked away from friends, families and jobs - as they set out to share this serious message aboard a caravan of Judgment Day RVs. These ambassadors or co-laborers in God’s work, as they see themselves, let us into their world. Along the way we met other supporters, as well as a sea of skeptics, many of them drunken pirates gathered for an annual festival in Florida.
With only days to go, we wanted to know how the ambassadors are feeling now. Are they making special plans and saying goodbyes? Have their convictions stayed strong, or have doubts crept in? Are they at peace, excited or maybe afraid?
“We’ve been a little busy, as you can imagine,” said Fred Store, the team leader on our journey.
Reached at a motor home park in Providence, Rhode Island, Store spoke of the surge of support he’s seen in recent months – the 60 like-minded people (including someone who works for Homeland Security, he boasted) who joined his small crew on the Mall in Washington, and the hundreds who gathered in Times Square in New York.
But at the same time he said resistance from those who don’t believe has grown, too. The more people heard about the May 21 warning, the more they discussed it with their pastors and came prepared to argue.
And the media, while they’ve helped spread the message, will be turned away in the coming days. CNN hoped to be with Store and his team on doomsday, but the members said they needed that time to focus on their relationship with God. Perhaps that’s just as well, as an official at Family Radio headquarters pointed out: “What makes you think you’ll be able to get to them? The roads will be a mess," he said, referring to the expected earthquakes. Plus, Store said, even if we got there, there would be no time to edit and publish, so what's the point?
Store’s faith remains unwavering. Come Saturday, he and his team will be in Boston, standing in a spot with heavy foot traffic, passing out their pamphlets – which they call tracts – and doing what they believe God called them to do until the very end.
No longer with the team is Darryl Keitt, who ditched his caravan on May 6. He said his time on the RV was a “gift from God,” but he decided he needed to spend the last couple of weeks focusing on his non-believing family and friends in New Jersey. It was a decision he prayed about for several weeks.
His Elizabeth, New Jersey, apartment is pretty sparse, seeing as he gave away most everything before hitting the road.
“I was able to get my old place back,” he said. “But we only have four days to go, so I don’t need much.”
He’s reaching out to old friends and hoping his family will come around and believe what he says he knows to be true.
“I have not seen any signs that they are believing the message,” he said. “But I can’t read anybody’s heart; only God can. And I’m still praying for them. All I can do is continue to share my convictions.”
Tisan Dawud may not share his older half-brother's beliefs, but he supports the positive nature of what Keitt's doing and is awestruck by his dedication.
"He's trying to spread what he believes is the word of God, and I can't knock him for that," Dawud said Tuesday evening. "I became Muslim when I was very young, and he remained Christian. But I've always had respect for his beliefs, and he always had respect for my beliefs."
And rather than criticize or ridicule his brother, who he said isn't hurting anyone, Dawud wishes people would focus on those who deserve examination and condemnation - those selling drugs, molesting children, raping women or embezzling money, for example.
Keitt spends his days in prayer, reaching out to people on Facebook, listening to Family Radio and walking around his neighborhood in his Judgment Day cap and T-shirt. He ran out of tracts some time ago, and at this point it’s too late to order any more, he said. As for where he’ll be on Saturday: “It’s a good question," and one he's still considering.
He doesn’t like goodbyes, he said, and only told two people in his caravan team of 10 that he was leaving. He gave those two men, one of them Store, a quick hug and that was it.
“Preferably we’ll meet each other again,” Keitt said, “in heaven.”
Dennis Morrell was driving through Jacksonville, Florida, pulling his Judgment Day billboard trailer, when we reached him on his cell phone. He wasn’t part of the caravan of RVs but was among the Floridians who joined in to help Store’s team when they were in the city.
Morell and his wife quit their jobs to focus on warning others, a move that’s left their four kids – ages 17 to 24 – thinking “Mom and Dad are crazy,” he said.
He still hopes God will “open their spiritual eyes,” he said. “But they’re at an age where they love their lives. They don’t want this world to come to an end.”
His faith, though, is as firm as ever, and he wishes others would open their minds and hearts to this possibility.
“Why would you wait to see if this is actually going to happen? You have that option to cry out for mercy,” he said. “I don’t want to die and go to hell. Do you?”
He plans to spend the last days praying, up until the early hours of Saturday - when he’ll both pray and wait for 16 hours.
Why 16 hours? Morrell explained that the massive doomsday earthquake will start at the International Date Line before moving west. New Zealand, he said, will get hit first – at 6 p.m. local time. And then that wave of destruction will roll around the world, wreaking havoc at 6 p.m. in each time zone.
While Morrell expects he’ll reserve Saturday for private time, Benjamin Ramrajie of Ocala, Florida, doesn’t have any special plans.
We met Ramrajie in Tampa after his 7-year-old daughter issued a doomsday warning about how the sun would “turn red like blood.” He stood by and nodded his approval as she spoke about dead bodies and her fears of dying.
“Most of my family doesn’t agree 100 percent, and I don’t blame them because it is far-fetched,” he said. “I strongly believe it’s going to happen. But I just figure I’ll relax, maybe watch TV. If that’s the day we get raptured, great. If not, we’ll move on.”
OKYO (AFP) – Japan's economy plunged back into recession in January-March, contracting sharply on the impact of the nation's biggest recorded earthquake, a tsunami and a nuclear crisis, data showed Thursday.
Gross domestic product fell 0.9 percent in the first quarter compared with the previous three months, and marked the second consecutive quarter of contraction, which economists define as a technical recession.
The drop was equivalent to a 3.7 percent fall on an annualised basis.
In the aftermath of the disasters, industrial output saw its biggest ever fall and spending plunged as consumer and business confidence took a tumble.
Many analysts see the downturn worsening in April-June, as nationwide supply chain problems in the wake of the quake continue to disrupt production and the threat of power supply disruption prevails.
"The economy was weak before the Great East Japan Earthquake struck on 11th March and the full impact of that catastrophe has only just begun to be reflected in the GDP data," noted Capital Economics.
The fall in annualised terms was nearly double the 2.0 percent drop forecast in a Dow Jones Newswires poll of analysts and was the first successive contraction since the global financial crisis.
"The Japanese economy is expected to remain weak for the time-being," Economy Minister Kauro Yosano told reporters, adding that a third straight contraction in April-June was likely.
However, he stressed Japan's plight was temporary given the difference between the impact of the earthquake and the financial crisis, which sapped overseas demand.
Japan's economy contracted for four straight quarters during the downturn and remains mired in deflation as falling prices encourage consumers to hold off purchases.
"The situation is totally different from the time in the wake of Lehman Brothers' collapse. The Japanese economy is seen to be strong enough to show resilience," he said, adding the decline "is not due to sluggish overseas demand."
Yosano said he expected Japan to grow nearly 1.0 percent in the current fiscal year.
The January-March contraction was the worst slippage since a record 18.3 percent tumble in January-March 2009.
Private consumption, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the economy, was down 0.6 percent. Japan adopted a mentality of self-restraint in the aftermath of the disasters, which is slowly easing.
Data earlier this week showed consumer sentiment plunging by its steepest measure on record in April.
The 9.0 magnitude earthquake and a devastating tsunami has left around 25,000 dead or missing, and with a subsequent emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant it plunged Japan into its worst post-war crisis.
Many of Japan's biggest companies saw profits tumble in the quarter and have been unable to offer forecasts due to the scale of the disaster's impact on production and sales.
The likes of Sony and Toyota were forced to halt production. Many component manufacturers are based in the worst-hit regions of Japan, their facilities damaged by the earthquake or inundated by the giant wave that followed.
While fears of an electricity supply-demand imbalance going into the summer months have eased slightly, the situation remains volatile, analysts warn.
Before the disasters, analysts had predicted that the nation's economy would return to growth in the first quarter on rising overseas demand.
Having gone into recession, analysts say the economy should start to grow again in the third quarter as initial earthquake-related disruption is overcome and reconstruction spending starts to boost the official figures.
"The point to watch in coming quarters is how well production can recover," said Daiju Aoki, economist at investment bank UBS. "It is unlikely that (the economy) will stay mired in recession."
An early government estimate put the rebuild cost at 16-25 trillion yen ($195-$300 billion) over the next three fiscal years, not accounting for wider issues such as the unresolved crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Analysts say the rebuild cost will further pressure a public debt that at around 200 percent of GDP is the industrialised world's largest.
TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan's economy shrank much more than expected in the first quarter and slipped into recession after the triple blow of the March earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis hit business and consumer spending and tore apart supply chains.
The Bank of Japan (BOJ) expects the economy to resume growing in the second half of the year, but some economists say the surprisingly grim gross domestic product figures in the first quarter increase the risk that the pace of recovery will be slower than anticipated. Manufacturers are moving to repair supply chains, but fears of power shortages in the summer and an ongoing nuclear crisis also pose risks, economists say.
The negative surprise came as inventories fell and imports jumped following losses in factory output. Still, economists expect the BOJ to keep monetary policy steady when it ends a two-day meeting on Friday while declaring readiness to ease further if the quake's impact proves more lasting that thought.
Gross domestic product fell 0.9 percent in January-March, nearly double the 0.5 percent forecast by analysts, translating into an annualized 3.7 percent decline compared with a 2.0 percent forecast, government data showed on Thursday.
The economy shrank a revised 0.8 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, so a second consecutive quarter of contraction puts Japan in recession. Analysts also project the economy will shrink again in April-June as supply bottlenecks triggered by the March catastrophe continue to weigh on output and exports.
Most economists still see growth resuming in the second half of the year as supplies are gradually restored and reconstruction spending kicks in, though there are still risks to such a scenario, including the possible power shortages.
Economics Minister Kaoru Yosano sought to reinforce that view, saying the economy was going through a temporary rough patch.
"The economy has the strength to bounce back," Yosano told a news conference after the data release, saying the economy should grow nearly 1 percent in the current fiscal year to March 2012.
Yosano also sided with the central bank, which said it had done enough to support the economy when it eased policy just days after the quake, doubled its asset-buying scheme and pumped record amounts of cash into the banking system.
"The Bank of Japan is taking utmost measures allowed under the BOJ law. I have nothing to request from them," Yosano said.
DEMAND STILL THERE
Yosano stressed that in contrast with the deep and severe recession during the global financial crisis, the post-quake slump in output was caused by supply concerns and there was still demand for Japanese goods and services.
Currency and government bond markets showed little reaction to Thursday's data as the negative surprise did not shift investors' expectations.
Economists said, however, that the data highlighted how difficult will it be for the world's third-largest economy to recover from a tsunami so powerful that it turned entire villages into piles of tinder and left large fishing vessels strewn atop buildings like children's toys.
The 0.9 percent contraction in the first quarter of this year was the largest since a record 4.9 percent plunge in the first quarter of 2009 as the financial crisis raged. It will be a challenge for the economy to return to where it was before the natural disaster, with many economists predicting only a sluggish and gradual recovery later this year.
"The effect of the disaster was very significant and it will take a long time to get back to previous levels," said Yoshikiyo Shimamine, chief economist at Dai-Ichi Life Research Institute.
Shimamine said growth should resume in July-September, but there was a risk any recovery could come even later, though there was no need for further monetary easing.
"The Bank of Japan has done what it needs to do in terms of emergency action, so I don't think these figures will prompt any further action."
Some economists said, however, the initial damage to the economy was so severe that it might still need extra help.
"The size of the downturn highlights the need for much more fiscal and monetary support than has been forthcoming," said George Worthington, chief Asia-Pacific economist with IFR Markets in Sydney.
Among the biggest damper to growth was inventories, which shaved 0.5 percentage point from GDP, the largest negative contribution since the second quarter of last year.
Private consumption, which accounts for about 60 percent of the economy, also fell 0.6 percent, hit by a slump in automobile sales and worsening of sentiment.
Corporate capital spending fell 0.9 percent against a market forecast of a 1.2 percent decline.
Separate data showed capacity utilization in March fell 21.5 percent in March, declining at a record pace, as the quake crippled manufacturing activity.
The annual GDP deflator was minus 1.9 percent in the first quarter, larger than minus 1.6 percent for the fourth quarter, suggesting the incredible loss of output wasn't enough to narrow the gap between supply and demand.
Looking beyond the first quarter, recent data supports the central bank's base scenario of a gradual recovery.
Businesses polled by Reuters in May were markedly less pessimistic than in April, when sentiment plunged after the quake, while official data showed earlier this week manufacturers expecting more orders to keep coming in after a surprising rise in March.
Carmakers, among the hardest-hit by the disaster because of their reliance on elaborate supplier networks, are making progress in restoring production.
Honda Motor said this week the recovery in parts supplies was speeding up, while Nissan Motor Co said it was aiming to bring production back to pre-quake levels ahead of its October target.
Bin Laden was shot dead on May 2 in a top-secret raid in the northern Pakistani town of Abbottabad. The discovery and killing caused much embarrassment to Pakistan, which for years denied the world's most wanted man was on its soil.The government is now under considerable pressure to explain how the al-Qaida leader was found in the garrison town, a short distance from the main military academy, while at the same time facing criticism at home over the perceived violation of sovereignty by the U.S. commando team.
Pakistani cooperation is crucial to combating Islamist militants and to bringing stability to Afghanistan and the U.S. administration has been keen to contain the fallout.
U.S. investigators, who have been sifting through a huge stash of material seized in bin Laden's high-walled compound, wanted to question his three wives as they seek to trace his movements and blunt the activities of his global militant network.
Pakistan says the three wives, one from Yemen and two from Saudi Arabia, and their children, will be repatriated.
Bin Laden's discovery has deepened suspicion that Pakistan's pervasive ISI spy agency, which has a long history of contacts with militants, may have had ties with the al-Qaida leader, or that some of its agents did.
Lawmakers demand an end to American missile strikes against militants on their soil
Still angry over the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden, Pakistani lawmakers demanded an end to American missile strikes against Islamist militants on their soil Saturday, and warned that Pakistan may cut NATO's supply line to Afghanistan if the attacks don't stop.
The nonbinding parliamentary resolution reflects the precarious state of the U.S.-Pakistani alliance, which is vital to the war effort in neighboring Afghanistan. The bin Laden raid has brought to the fore a longstanding dilemma that U.S. strikes that Washington says kill militants often are seen by Pakistanis as a violation of sovereignty with mostly civilian victims, exacerbating an already-high anti-American sentiment.
During a visit to Afghanistan, U.S. Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called on Pakistan to be a better partner in the fight against terrorists.
"We obviously want a Pakistan that is prepared to respect the interests of Afghanistan, and to be a real ally in our efforts to combat terrorism," said Kerry, a Democrat from Massachusetts. "We believe that there are things that can be done better."
Story: Kerry: Pakistan can be better ally against terror
The Pakistani measure was passed after a rare, private briefing in Parliament by Pakistan's military leaders, who were humiliated by the May 2 U.S. Navy SEAL raid that killed bin Laden in his compound in Abbottabad, a northwest garrison city. Pakistanis were angry the military allowed it to happen while the U.S. said the proximity to a military academy and the capital, Islamabad, raised suspicion that some security elements had been harboring bin Laden.
Washington also has been unable to get Islamabad to go after militant groups, such as the Haqqani network, who use its soil as hideouts but stage attacks only inside Afghanistan. Analysts say Pakistan may be maintaining ties to some insurgents because it wants leverage in Afghanistan — and a wedge against archrival India — once the U.S. pulls out.
Pakistani officials deny links to militant groups, saying they are too stretched battling insurgents attacking the Pakistani state to go after those fighting in Afghanistan right now.
Underscoring the threat, a roadside bomb hit a passenger bus Saturday near Kharian, a garrison town in eastern Pakistan, killing at least six passengers and wounding 20, senior police official Mian Sultan said. The bus was en route to Kharian from the nearby city of Gujrat.
On Friday, two suicide bombers struck a training center for paramilitary police recruits , killing 87 people in the Shabqadar area of Pakistan's northwest in what the Pakistani Taliban called a revenge attack for the death of bin Laden.
Pakistani military officials insist they did not know bin Laden was living in Abbottabad, and U.S. officials say they have no evidence that the top leadership was involved in hiding the 54-year-old al-Qaida chief.
Story: Pakistan parliament condemns bin Laden raid
Still, the U.S. didn't warn Pakistan ahead of the raid, and suspicions linger that some elements in its security establishment were helping to hide the terrorist leader.
That has deepened distrust between the two countries, who have had an uneasy alliance since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Ties have frayed in recent months over the case of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistanis in January, as well as missile strikes that have allegedly killed civilians.
Davis, who claimed the two Pakistanis were trying to rob him, was eventually freed after the victims families agreed to financial compensation, even as the U.S. insisted he had diplomatic immunity from prosecution.
The U.S. and NATO rely heavily — though increasingly less — on land routes in Pakistan to ferry non-lethal material to their troops across the border in Afghanistan. That gives Pakistan some leverage in its dealings with the U.S.
Last fall, after NATO choppers from Afghanistan killed two Pakistani soldiers during a border incursion, Pakistan closed the border to U.S. and NATO supply trucks for nearly two weeks.
The parliamentary resolution called the U.S. raid a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and said Pakistan would not tolerate future such incursions. It also criticized the drone strikes and said the government should consider preventing U.S. and NATO supply trucks from crossing over to Afghanistan if they continue.
The measure doesn't have the force of law, but is likely to be influential because it enjoys broad support from the ruling party and the opposition. It also reflected the political cost in Pakistan of the partnership with the U.S.
It's difficult to say how much of the anger over missile strikes is real and how much of it is Pakistani officials' way of appealing to a domestic audience that is largely anti-U.S. The government is widely believed to secretly aid in the missile strikes.
Few Pakistani lawmakers would discuss the confidential session, which began Friday and stretched into Saturday morning. The length alone suggested that the generals were questioned vigorously — a rarity in a place where the military operates largely out of civilian control.
Intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha admitted negligence in tracing bin Laden, but also noted that Pakistan had cooperated with the U.S. in helping kill or capture numerous bin Laden allies.
When asked why the CIA was able to track bin Laden, the spy chief said the U.S. agency had managed to acquire more sources in Pakistan than the Pakistani agencies because it paid informants far better, according to a lawmaker who attended the session.
"Where we pay 10,000 rupees ($118), they pay $10,000," one lawmaker described Pasha as saying. The lawmaker described the proceedings on condition of anonymity because the session was supposed to be confidential.
Pasha offered to step down if the political leaders demanded it, but none did, according to the lawmaker. Still, Parliament requested that an independent commission probe the U.S. raid debacle instead of one led by generals.
Associated Press writers Ashraf Khan and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad and Riaz Khan in Peshawar contributed to this report.
Three of Osama bin Laden's widows taken into detention following the al-Qaida chief's death have been interviewed by U.S. officials, according to NBC News.
The women — who, according to reports, were interviewed together — are not believed to have provided with fresh details about bin Laden's movements or activities, or that of the terror network.
According to reports citing sources in both the Pakistani and U.S. governments, the women were quizzed by U.S. intelligence officers under the supervision of representatives from Pakistan's intelligence service, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
The same report describes the women as "hostile" toward the Americans. According to NBC News, the information provided by the women appeared to be rehearsed, as if they were told what to say if captured.
A senior Pakistani official tolds NBC News that during a briefing before parliament, the director-general of the ISI, Gen. Shuja Ahmed Pasha, said that that Pakistan's policies do not included denying the U.S. access to any evidence or people in custody, including the wives of Osama bin Laden. He added that Pakistan has "never handed over" anyone to the U.S., but nor has the U.S. been denied access.
Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan will return the tail of a U.S. helicopter Tuesday that was damaged during the raid that killed terror leader Osama bin Laden, a move that is part of a process to improve cooperation between the two nations, Sen. John Kerry said.
The helicopter crashed during the raid on the al Qaeda leader's compound May 2.
"I can tell you, an example, tomorrow the tail of the helicopter will be returned to America and we'll take possession of that in a coordinated operation that will take place with them," Kerry, D- Massachusetts, told reporters Monday during a visit to Islamabad. "That's step number one. And there are other steps that will take place immediately."
The one major problem for the Navy SEALs who killed bin Laden was the crash of the helicopter.
In photos of what was left after the SEAL team tried to destroy the aircraft, numerous aviation experts say they saw several telltale signs of stealth technology.
"Had this particular helicopter not crashed, we still would have no idea of its existence," said Gareth Jennings, the aviation desk editor for Jane's Defence Weekly.
Can U.S. hit Pakistan 'reset' button?
The helicopter was left on the ground at the al Qaeda leader's compound during the raid, although the SEALs were able to destroy much of the main body when it became clear it couldn't fly.
But the tail rotor assembly came down on the other side of the compound wall and was left largely intact when the SEALs finished their mission.
Pakistani troops were seen hauling the wreckage away on trucks covered with tarps.
In his remarks Monday, Kerry said the United States need not apologize to Pakistan for the successful raid that killed bin Laden. But, he said, it is important that the countries find a way to mend their frayed relationship in the wake of the attack.
Kerry said his goal in visiting was to begin a process that would leave the United States and Pakistan in a position where "isolated episodes, no matter how profound, do not jeopardize the relationships between our countries."
But he said Pakistan must choose between being a haven for extremists or a tolerant democracy and that the United States is willing to help the country.
"Our progress in the days ahead will be measured by actions, not words," he said.
Although many in Pakistan have accused the United States of violating Pakistani sovereignty by launching a unilateral military attack inside the country, Kerry said Pakistanis should direct their ire at bin Laden and his legion of foreign fighters, who he said were responsible for thousands of deaths inside Pakistan.
The Pakistani parliament recently condemned the raid, adopting a resolution calling for a review of its counter-terrorism cooperation agreement with the United States. The resolution also ordered the immediate end of drone attacks in a tribal region of Pakistan near the Afghan border.
Kerry said he was pleased Pakistan officials have committed to finding new ways to work on the terror threat and increased cooperation on joint operations and intelligence sharing, but did not elaborate on the steps to be taken.
He said two senior administration officials would soon visit the country to expand on the work. That visit would be followed by another featuring U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Kerry said.
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan/KABUL (Reuters) – NATO helicopters from Afghanistan intruded into northwest Pakistan on Tuesday, wounding two troops, officials said, prompting a protest from the military already seething over the secret U.S. operation to kill Osama bin Laden.
The military said it had sought a flag meeting with NATO commanders over the incursion in Pakistan's North Waziristan near the Afghan border which has been repeatedly targeted by U.S. drone aircraft as a hub of al Qaeda linked militants.
A Western military official in Kabul, however, said two NATO helicopters supporting a base in eastern Afghanistan had returned fire after being attacked from Pakistan, but declined to say whether they fired from Afghan airspace or crossed the border.
Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan have been pushed almost to the breaking point after the May 2 raid on Abbottabad that killed bin Laden, with Pakistan's parliament condemning the operation as a violation of the nation's sovereignty.
A local government official said two NATO helicopters crossed into North Waziristan and remained for about 10 minutes in the area, known to be a hub for al Qaeda-linked fighters including the Haqqani network that is leading the insurgency in eastern Afghanistan.
The helicopters retreated after Pakistani border forces opened fire in the Datta Khel area about 40 km (24 miles) west of the main town of Miranshah, a security official said.
"A shell struck a mountain nearby and two of our soldiers were wounded by the rubble," the official said.
The Pakistani military issued a statement confirming two NATO helicopters had entered Pakistan at the Admi Kot border post and that the army had lodged a strong protest and demanded a meeting with NATO military commanders.
A Western military official, who asked to remain anonymous, said NATO helicopters had fired at targets inside Pakistan, but only after they were attacked from across the border.
"Our initial reports indicate that two ISAF helicopters were in the area in support of FOB (forward operating base) Tillman, as the FOB had been receiving intermittent direct and indirect fire from across the Pakistani border," he said.
"Upon arrival the helicopter received fire from across the border but did not immediately return fire. Upon receiving fire from across the border a second time, the helicopter returned fire," he added.
The official said the NATO-led coalition had received reports two Pakistani troops had been wounded. He declined further comment, including on whether the helicopters had entered Pakistan airspace.
Pakistan has in the past reacted angrily to incursions by NATO aircraft, even though its air space is routinely breached by unmanned drone aircraft.
A previous incursion on September 30, 2010, killed two Pakistani troops and wounded four more when NATO helicopters crossed the border while pursing insurgents. Pakistan retaliated by shutting down the supply route for NATO troops in Afghanistan.
TENSE US TIES
The latest incident comes a day after a visit from U.S. Senator John Kerry, who was in Pakistan in an attempt to smooth relations in the wake of the bin Laden raid while also warning that Washington would not tolerate any of Pakistan's alleged double-dealings with militant groups.
It also came hours before Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani arrives in Beijing for a visit that underlines Islamabad's close and productive ties with another major power.
Bin Laden's discovery in the comfortable garrison town of Abbottabad, only 50 km (30 miles) from the capital, has deeply embarrassed the military and spy agency, reviving suspicion that Pakistan knew where he was and has been playing a double game.
Pakistan has rejected that as absurd, but the United States has stepped up drone attacks against suspected militants since bin Laden's killing despite Islamabad's objections.
Several Pakistani helicopters took off from Waziristan's main town of Miranshah toward the site of Tuesday's reported incursion, a Pakistani officials said.
"After the May 2 incident, there is a high alert on the border," a security official said. "Forces have been ordered to respond quickly if there is any attempt of intrusion."
Separately, a Pakistani helicopter gunship destroyed a wireless communication installation established by militants in mountains near Miranshah town in an strike on Tuesday, an intelligence official in the region said.
North Waziristan is the base of the Haqqani network blamed for the insurgency in eastern Afghanistan. U.S.-led drone aircraft have targeted the area over the past year and Washington has repeatedly urged the Pakistan military to launch a ground operation.
Many militants, including foreign fighters loyal to al Qaeda, are based in Datta Khel. It is a stronghold of fighters loyal to Hafiz Gul Bahadur and has been a frequent target of U.S. drone strikes.
On Monday, unmanned U.S. drone aircraft fired missiles in Datta Khel killing 12 militants, Pakistani officials said.
An intelligence official said that one of the dead militants, an Arab, was the son of an al Qaeda operative identified as Abu Kashif. There was no way to verify the death toll. Militants often dispute official accounts of drone attacks.
(Writing by Chris Allbritton; Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider and Kamran Haider in Islamabad and Emma Graham-Harrison in Kabul; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)