They just got a different tool to use than we do: They kill innocent lives to achieve objectives. That's what they do. And they're good. They get on the TV screens and they get people to ask questions about, well, you know, this, that or the other. I mean, they're able to kind of say to people: Don't come and bother us, because we will kill you. Bush - Joint News Conference with Blair - 28 July '06

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Cisco learns from China operation

Reuters: Computer hackers worked through the weekend to expose a flaw that could allow an attacker to take control of the Cisco Systems routers that direct traffic across much of the Internet.

Angered and inspired by Cisco's attempts to suppress news of the flaw earlier in the week, several computer security experts at the Defcon computer-security conference worked past midnight Saturday to discover and map out the vulnerability.

"The reason we're doing this is because someone said you can't," said one hacker, who like the others spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Cisco's routers direct traffic across at least 60 percent of the Internet and the security hole has dominated a pair of conferences that draw thousands of security researchers, U.S. government employees and teenage troublemakers to Las Vegas each summer.

The hackers said they had no intention of hijacking e-commerce payments, reading private e-mail, or launching any of the other malicious attacks that could be possible by exploiting the flaw.

Rather, they said they wanted to illustrate the need for Cisco customers to update their software to defend against such possibilities. Many Cisco customers have postponed the difficult process because it could require them to unplug entirely from the Internet.

Security researcher Michael Lynn first described the flaw on Wednesday at the Black Hat conference over the objections of Cisco and his former employer, Internet Security Systems Inc..

Lynn helped Cisco develop a fix but wanted to discuss it publicly to raise awareness of the problem, according to associates, going so far as to quit his job with ISS so he could talk freely.

"What (Lynn) ended up doing was describing how to build a missile without giving all the details. He gave enough (details) so people could understand how a missile could be built, and they could take their research from there," said a security expert who gave his name only as Simonsaz and who said he is not involved in the hacking effort. Read more

db: There is no intention of going techie on db - just that considering most of the worlds information - including governments' - is routed around the globe on Cisco kit - and is vulnerable to this flaw unless fixed - you would think that they would want as many people as possible to know all about it and get patched up. Maybe it's just too embarrassing for Cisco - and makes a mockery of their plug on '24' - whereby Cisco products basically saved the human race from extinction. I am also down on Cisco because of their approach to human rights in China - they really don't have one beyond a quarterly quota on some 'special' items designed and implemented to crush the Chinese further.

Anyone who is interested in the more technical how-to side of this story can go here to find out about The Process of Hacking a Cisco IOS based router

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Westminster war protester wins right to stay

Guardian:Anti-war protester Brian Haw today won his high court battle against new laws threatening to end his four-year, 24-hour vigil outside parliament. The court ruled that legislation being brought in to control demonstrations around the Houses of Parliament did not apply to 56-year-old Mr Haw.

The new rules state that, from August 1, anyone wanting to demonstrate in the area must have authorisation from the police "when the demonstration starts".

Lawyers for Mr Haw pointed out that his demonstration had actually "started" four years ago and therefore he did not have to apply for authorisation.

Allowing his application for judicial review, Lady Justice Smith, sitting with Mr Justice McCombe and Mr Justice Simon, said the new law did not catch Mr Haw because of a drafting error.

She said: "If parliament wishes to criminalise any particular activity, it must do so in clear terms. "If it wishes to do so, parliament can amend this act." Read more

Friday, July 29, 2005

Stockwell slaying: IPCC gets tough

db: The Guardian reports that Nick Hardwick, chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has been critical of the Home Office for releasing 'partial information' concerning Mr De Menezes - the Brazilian killed by police in Stockwell - in a reference to the release by government officials of detail concerning the immigration status of Mr De Menezes - and allegations of possible fraud in that the stamp used to authorise an "indefinite leave to remain" visa was apparently, according to the Home Office 'not in use' at the time of issue.

Interviewed on BBC radio 'World at One' he was critical of both the Home Office and the police for the statements they have released - and requested that they shut up. Mr Hardwick was strong in his assertion of independence regarding both the scope and focus of his investigation - he rejected calls from some parties that he should avoid 'operational issues' - and aggressively set out his absolute authority in all matters concerning this investigation into the slaying of the utterly innocent Mr De Menezes - an act for which, Nick Hardwick promises, people will be held to account.

"distasteful and disgraceful"

Asad Rehman, spokesman for Mr De Menezes' family, said it was "distasteful and disgraceful" that the Home Office should release information about him - and he is right. Is this a new policy? Will the next victim of police incompetence be labeled a 'dole scrounger', or more likely a 'failed asylum seeker'?

It appears that Nick Hardwick may well do a reasonable job for the family and friends of Mr De Menezes - and indeed all non-pure-white residents of London who may find themselves running towards the tube or away from gun-toting blokes in baseball hats. However, even if my optimistic assessment proves to be correct, it does not mean that Mr Hardwick's recommendations will be implemented - because his authority, as powerful as it seems, does not extend that far.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Terrorism: The Dance of Deception

TCC: Robert Pape, director of the Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism, has compiled a database that includes every suicide terrorist attack anywhere in the world from 1980 to the beginning of 2004. "The facts show that suicide terrorist attacks are not primarily an outgrowth of Islamic fundamentalism and are, almost always, part of an organized campaign to compel a modern democracy to withdraw military force from territory that the terrorists consider home." The world leader in suicide bombing is Sri Lanka, where a secular Marxist group draws its recruits from Hindu families Read more

The Logic of Suicide Terrorism

The American Conservative recently [before London Bombings] interviewed Robert Pape of the University of Chicago, whose book on suicide terrorism, Dying to Win, is beginning to receive wide notice. Pape has found that the most common American perceptions about who the terrorists are and what motivates them are off by a wide margin. In his office is the world's largest database of information about suicide terrorists, rows and rows of manila folders containing articles and biographical snippets in dozens of languages compiled by Pape and teams of graduate students, a trove of data that has been sorted and analyzed and which underscores the great need for reappraising the Bush administration's current strategy.

The American Conservative:
Your new book, Dying to Win, has a subtitle: The Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Can you just tell us generally on what the book is based, what kind of research went into it, and what your findings were?

Robert Pape: Over the past two years, I have collected the first complete database of every suicide-terrorist attack around the world from 1980 to early 2004. This research is conducted not only in English but also in native-language sources - Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, and Tamil, and others - so that we can gather information not only from newspapers but also from products from the terrorist community. The terrorists are often quite proud of what they do in their local communities, and they produce albums and all kinds of other information that can be very helpful to understand suicide-terrorist attacks.

This wealth of information creates a new picture about what is motivating suicide terrorism. Islamic fundamentalism is not as closely associated with suicide terrorism as many people think. The world leader in suicide terrorism is a group that you may not be familiar with: the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka.

This is a Marxist group, a completely secular group that draws from the Hindu families of the Tamil regions of the country. They invented the famous suicide vest for their suicide assassination of Rajiv Ghandi in May 1991. The Palestinians got the idea of the suicide vest from the Tamil Tigers.

TAC: So if Islamic fundamentalism is not necessarily a key variable behind these groups, what is?

RP: The central fact is that overwhelmingly suicide-terrorist attacks are not driven by religion as much as they are by a clear strategic objective: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from the territory that the terrorists view as their homeland. From Lebanon to Sri Lanka to Chechnya to Kashmir to the West Bank, every major suicide-terrorist campaign—over 95 percent of all the incidents - has had as its central objective to compel a democratic state to withdraw. Read more

See also 'Chicago Prof. disputes link between religion and suicide terrorism' - The American Muslim Perpective

Ukraine: Only the best for 'the son of god'

Independent: Children of the Orange Revolution's extravagant ways

Six months after he swept to power promising to stamp out cronyism, corruption and inequality, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has been forced on the defensive by the extravagant behaviour of his son.

Andrey Yushchenko, 19, has caused a stir and considerable resentment in Kiev by ostentatiously driving a rare BMW car around the city and generally conducting a playboy lifestyle. His excesses have enraged Ukrainians, many of whom earn less than 100 pounds per month.

Mr Yushchenko has rejected all accusations of impropriety concerning his family and has attacked the media for picking on "children". But his son, a student of international relations in Kiev, is now sarcastically referred to in sections of the press as the "Son of God".

So embarrassing has the scandal become that Andrey has released a written statement justifying his behaviour.

The brand new BMW M6 that is his vehicle of choice, which has a starting price in the region of 90,000 pounds, has come under particular fire. The car in question is apparently the only one of its kind in Kiev. The newspaper Ukrainskaya Pravda has quoted witnesses who declare that Andrey should have been stripped of his driving licence long ago for accelerating down the narrow street where his girlfriend lives at 60 miles per hour.

The paper also wondered aloud how Andrey, a student in one of Europe's poorer countries, could possibly afford such an expensive car, noting that even his famous father - with an annual salary of about 34,000 pounds - would be hard pressed to buy it.

Attention has also been drawn to Andrey's Vertu mobile phone, which is also the preferred handset of oligarchs across the former Soviet Union. His personal model is said to be the top of the range one, with a platinum body, that costs about 25,000 pounds.

As the optimism of the Orange Revolution becomes more muted, many Ukrainians are beginning to believe that power in the country may have simply shifted from the pro-Soviet oligarchy of former president Leonid Kuchma to a new elite. The president's son is being treated as a case in point. Read more

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Islamising Global Conflict 'If you think religion is the source of terrorism you really fail to see the root causes of conflict and extremism' writes Ayman El-Amir

[Ayman El-Amir is former Al-Ahram correspondent in Washington, DC. He also served as director of United Nations Radio and Television in New York.]

Despite our best efforts at self-denial, we are experiencing a conflict of political cultures of which the recent London bombings and the murder of the Egyptian envoy in Baghdad are but manifestations. Madrid, Moscow, Istanbul or New York; each one, as well as the daily carnage in Iraq, is part of a global phenomenon of terror that is now a political ideology which is gathering momentum.

..One has only to point to blood- drenched Iraq to see that terrorism has no religion but only political motivation. Read more

Monday, July 25, 2005

Jean Charles de Menezes - the last 26 minutes

theaustralian: Innocent man's 26-minute journey to a violent death

It took 26 minutes for Jean Charles de Menezes to get from his flat in Tulse Hill to the entrance of Stockwell Tube station. In that time, the 27-year-old electrician did not appear to realise that a team of 30 Scotland Yard officers was following his every move.

Police were staking out the red-brick block of flats in Scotia Road, London, after the address had been found in documents left in one of the rucksacks abandoned after the failure of last Thursday's attacks.

There was also evidence that the crop-haired bomber in the sweatshirt with a New York logo on the front, seen in CCTV pictures fleeing Oval station, had recently stayed at the address.

There are eight separate flats in the block. When Mr de Menezes emerged from the communal front door just after 9.30am, the police must have realised from the photographs they carried that he was not one of the four bombers.

Even so, they decided that he was "a likely candidate" to follow because of his demeanour and colour, so one group set off on foot after him.

As he waited at a nearby bus stop, the reconnaissance team sought urgent instructions on whether to challenge him or let him board a bus. They were worried about the bulky, padded jacket he had zipped up on such a warm morning.

The decision was taken to let him go, in the hope he might lead his shadows to the bombers. Mr de Menezes was heading to Willesden Green to fix an alarm system. After surviving the crime-ridden slums of Brazil, London seemed the perfect, peaceful place for him to start a new life.

When it was obvious he was getting off at Stockwell Tube station, the team on the bus alerted a three-man team of marksmen to move in. The decision was taken at Scotland Yard that he must not be allowed to get to the platform.

The marksmen were told: "If you think he has explosives under his coat and he fails to heed shouted warnings, then you must shoot to kill." As the three plainclothes officers closed in, they say they screamed their first warning that they were armed police. They say he turned, ran into the station concourse, vaulted the ticket barriers and reached a waiting train before they could catch him. They shot him five times in the head when they believed he was trying to trigger a bomb.

His cousin, Alex Alves, claims Mr de Menezes was "playing around with a friend in a game of chase outside the station".

The police insist he was alone during the entire journey.

By far the most controversial claim is from several witnesses who cast doubt on police statements that they shouted a warning or identified themselves before firing.

Lee Ruston, 32, who was on the platform, said he did not hear any of the three shout "police" or anything like it. Mr Ruston, a company director, said he saw two officers put on blue baseball caps marked "police" but that the frightened electrician could not have seen that because he had his back to the officers and was running with his head down.

Less than a minute later, Mr de Menezes was pinned to the floor of the carriage by two men while a third fired five shots into the base of his skull.
Read more

Iraq: This is now an unwinnable conflict

theindependent: ..The war in Iraq is now joining the Boer War in 1899 and the Suez crisis in 1956 as ill-considered ventures that have done Britain more harm than good. It has demonstrably strengthened al-Qa'ida by providing it with a large pool of activists and sympathisers across the Muslim world it did not possess before the invasion of 2003. The war, which started out as a demonstration of US strength as the world's only superpower, has turned into a demonstration of weakness. Its 135,000-strong army does not control much of Iraq.

The suicide bombing campaign in Iraq is unique. Never before have so many fanatical young Muslims been willing to kill themselves, trying to destroy those whom they see as their enemies. On a single day in Baghdad this month 12 bombers blew themselves up. There have been more than 500 suicide attacks in Iraq over the last year.

It is this campaign which has now spread to Britain and Egypt. The Iraq war has radicalised a significant part of the Muslim world. Most of the bombers in Iraq are non-Iraqi, but the network of sympathisers and supporters who provide safe houses, money, explosives, detonators, vehicles and intelligence is home-grown. Read more

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Robin Cook: "War in Iraq boosted terrorism"

thisislondon: Former foreign secretary Robin Cook has said the invasion of Iraq had "undoubtedly" boosted terrorism around the world.

Mr Cook, who quit the Cabinet over his opposition to the war, said that unless the Government addressed the issue it would struggle to win over young Muslims in Britain.

He stressed that he was not arguing that the attacks on London would not have occurred if Britain had not joined the invasion.

However he said intelligence agencies had warned Tony Blair on the eve of conflict that military action would increase the terrorist threat to Britain.

"The problem is that we have handed al Qaida an immense propaganda gift, one that they exploit ruthlessly," he told the BBC News 24 Sunday programme.

"There have been more suicide bombings in the two years since we invaded Iraq than in the 20 years before it. Yes, it has happened around the world. I don't think you can make a simple link between any one event and Iraq, but undoubtedly it has boosted terrorism. Read more

UK government report: Foreign policy a cause of UK extremism

db: The instinct of the Blair government to come down hard on all suggestions of a 'link' between foreign policy and the events still unfolding on the streets of London is that of self preservation. Whilst Blair is currently enjoying the public's support for what is seen as a 'statesmanlike' approach to the latest challenges, he is wise enough to know that time will tell - and a combination of future dramas and/or security failures/cock-ups mixed with an open debate could yet bring him nearer to a resignation speech than he thought was possible a month ago.

If evidence is needed regarding the government's real thoughts regarding the threat of terrorism to the UK then the 2004 document 'Draft Report on Young Muslims and Extremism' is a reasonable place to start

Draft Report on Young Muslims and Extremism
UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office/Home Office
April 2004

There is no simple cause and effect and we must avoid generalising. We need to understand better the causes and extent of extremism, and the nature of links between extremism and terrorism. A strong Muslim identity and strict adherence to traditional Muslim teachings are not in themselves problematic or incompatible with Britishness. Factors which may attract some to extremism include:

* Anger: a perception of "double standards" in British' foreign policy, where democracy is preached but oppression of the 'Ummah' (the one nation of believers) is practiced or tolerated e.g . in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Chechnya; a consequent sense of helplessness over the situation of Muslims generally; the lack of any real opportunities to vent frustration. The following quote by a young British Muslim leader best demonstrates the link between extremism/terrorism amongst young British Muslims and foreign policy issues. "What is needed is a debate about the root cause of terrorism, which is our country's foreign policy. As part of a truly globalised community, many young British Muslims carry the burden of struggles elsewhere - Palestine, Iraq and Kashmir." (Quote from Osama Saeed-Muslim Association of Britain, The Observer- 4th April 2004) .

* Alienation: the struggle to reconcile a modern Islamic identity with modern secular challenges; a general lack of young Muslim participation in mainstream politics and public life; Islamophobia and ignorance about Islam in British society and the media creating alienation, including among educated professionals; a perception that counter-terrorism powers are targeted at Muslims.

* Activism: a proactive desire to forge an alternative Islamic identity to that of parents but often without an underpinning knowledge of Islam, disillusionment with 'sell-out' mainstream Muslim organisations; a desire for simple 'Islamic' solutions; the search for practical goals and a purpose in life, the need to belong: all driving vulnerable youngsters in unpredictable directions .

A number of extremist groups are acriveiy recruiting young British Muslims. Most do not advocate violence. But they can provide an environment for some to gravitate to violence. Extremists target poor and disadvantaged Muslims, including through mosque and prison contact. But they also target middle class students and affluent professionals through schools and college campuses. Others get recruited through personal contact, often by chance, and maintain a low profile for operational purposes .

The Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, which make up nearly two thirds of Muslims in the UK, experience very high levels of economic and educational disadvantage. Overall, Muslims have unemployment three times above the wider population, poor qualifications (over two fifths have none) and high representation in deprived areas. Read Full

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Sweet spot for Halliburton - Hell for the rest of us

Halliburton Shares Soar 10 Percent

HOUSTON (AP) -- Oilfield services firm Halliburton Co.'s shares soared 10percent Friday after it reported that an influx of new government contracts at its KBR and energyservices units drove it to a second-quarter profit.

"It was a fundamentally solid quarter," Halliburton chief executive David Lesar said during a Friday morning conference call with analysts. "There are good reasons for all of us to feel proud and good about what we have accomplished."

In December 2002, when Halliburton announced its asbestos settlement before the start of the war in Iraq, the company's shares sold for just over $18.

"I think they are in a sweet spot right now as the numbers today proved," said analyst Dan Pickering "The market agrees. They are loving it."

Halliburton shares rose $4.59, or 9.4 percent, to close at $53.29 Friday on the New York Stock Exchange, surpassing the previous 52-week closing high of $50. Read more

London man executed by police was innocent

db: BBC World have reported that the 'terror suspect' shot five times in the head in Stockwell, South London yesterday was in fact an innocent man. Operation Kratos - shoot to kill - was destined to result in the death of innocents. That this has happened so soon must be a shock to even the most staunch supporter of Israeli counter-terrorism techniques.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Gwynne Dyer: Bombs had nothing to do with anything

Writing for The New Zealand Herald Gwynne Dyer gets it about right:

..The British Government [similarly] denies that there is any connection between Tony Blair's decision to join President Bush's Iraq adventure and the bombs in London. Blair has to defend this position regardless of the evidence, because otherwise it would be solely his fault that Britain is now a target for Islamist terrorism.
But here's another clue. Every major terrorist attack by Islamists since the invasion of Iraq in March, 2003, has targeted the citizens of countries that sent troops to Iraq: Americans, not Canadians; British, not French; Spanish, not Germans; Australians, not purposely New Zealanders. And these later attacks have not all been carried out by Arabs.

As well, other Muslims are now getting involved: Indonesians in the bomb attack on Australian tourists in Bali; Turks in the attacks on the British consulate and Jewish institutions in Istanbul; and now British Muslims of non-Arab origin in attacks on their own fellow citizens in London.

Is there some "causal link" here, as Charles Kennedy so delicately put it? You bet your boots there is.

Muslims everywhere were horrified by September 11, and quite rightly denied that it was in any way an expression of Islamic values.

But many Arabs did share the grievances that had radicalised the terrorists, and even felt a fleeting, guilty satisfaction at seeing Americans suffer as so many Arabs have suffered, whereas most non-Arab Muslims - at that point - saw no excuse whatever for the attacks and felt nothing but sympathy for the US.

That sympathy persisted right through the invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, which most non-Arab Muslims still saw as a justifiable response to the September 11 attacks.

After all, there actually were terrorist training camps in Afghanistan run by members of al Qaeda, most of them Arabs, who were doing their best to spread their apocalyptic version of revolutionary Islam beyond the confines of the Arab world.

But they really weren't having much success, although there were some non-Arab Muslims in the training camps in Afghanistan.

Then came the invasion of Iraq, which was obviously not about fighting terrorism (since there weren't any terrorists there, or any links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda).

All over the world, Muslims, particularly young Muslims, began to conclude that there was some substance to the Islamist radicals' argument that the West was indiscriminately attacking Muslims everywhere; that it was actually attacking Islam itself.

That is not true.

The Iraq operation was really just the Bush Administration exploiting the panic about terrorism to pursue quite traditional strategic objectives in the Middle East. Read more

Bush stays on 'offense', gets standing ovation

Reuters: President George W. Bush said on Friday the United States and Britain would not be intimidated by "thugs and assassins," as he expressed solidarity with this staunch ally in the war on Iraq in the aftermath of the London bombings.

"People of Great Britain must understand how, how strongly America stands with them during these trying times," Bush said to a packed auditorium in Atlanta where the audience applauded his comment and gave a standing ovation.

db: London salutes you Mr President, now get lost

'Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades' claims London attacks

Reuters: A group claiming links to al Qaeda said on Friday it was behind the latest attack on London, warning it would not halt its strikes until foreign forces quit Iraq, according to an Internet statement.

"Our attack in the heart of the infidel British capital is nothing but a message to all European governments that we will not rest until all the infidel troops leave Iraq," said the statement by the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades dated July 22.

"This is a warning to all those who follow the policies of the president of infidel America," it added, referring to U.S. President George W. Bush.

Friday's statement, like the previous claim from the group, did not appear on major al Qaeda Web sites. U.S. officials say the Abu Hafs al-Masri's links to al Qaeda are not clear.

The group has claimed many attacks in Europe in the past, including the 2004 Madrid train bombings. These claims have been discredited by security experts.

The same group claimed responsibility for the four bomb attacks in London two weeks ago which killed 56 people. British police on Friday were hunting down four bombers who struck at London's transport network in an apparently failed bid to repeat these attack. Read more

Attempt to burn down house of UK 'suicide bomber'

LBC report that police have sealed off Northern Road, Aylesbury, Bucks - location of the former home of alleged suicide bomber Germaine Lindsay after it was subject to an arson attack.

Operation Kratos a reality in London?

There are reports suggesting that the man shot dead in Stockwell was one of the 'would be' bombers - 'probably' The response by the police would suggest that they may have thought the same. See item from The Scotsman 15th July below:

"Armed police officers could be given more aggressive shoot-to-kill orders, telling them to fire at the heads of suicide bombers, it emerged yesterday.

Under a plan known as Operation Kratos, armed Met officers could in extreme circumstances be ordered to shoot suspected suicide bombers in the head.

Details of the potential new Metropolitan Police tactics meant to stop suicide bombers emerged yesterday as the government began to outline the proposals in Tony Blair's tougher stance on deporting Muslim preachers who support terrorism.

Normal firearms rules mean officers fire at the chests of targets, with the intention of stopping and incapacitating, but not directly aiming to kill.

But the Met has been advised by Israeli security officials that this is not adequate, since even after several shots they can still be capable of triggering an explosive device.

Shooting at the chest also runs the risk of triggering explosives strapped to a terrorist's body.

Shots to the head, by contrast, kill immediately, almost instantly causing the nervous system to shut down, preventing any detonation." Read more

London update

db: LBC report that the incident at the East London Mosque was a bomb scare - someone had phoned them threatening to bomb the building. Police have confirmed that a man was shot on Stockwell tube - he had run into the station, was followed by police onto a carriage, pushed to the floor and shot ' five times in the head' said witnesses. In Kennington armed police arrested a man on board a train - then evacuated the other passengers.

Unconfirmed reports of armed police surrounding London mosque

db: BBC Radio Four are reporting that they have received unconfirmed information telephoned in from a member of the public that armed police are surrounding an east London mosque. This may be a reference to 'The' East London Mosque which is located in Whitechapel Road.

London - man shot dead by police

Passengers have been evacuated from a train on the Northern Line at Stockwell, south London, after hearing what sounded like shots being fired. An 'Asian looking man' was pursued by police and shot five times.

BBC: Mr Whitby, told BBC News: "I saw an Asian guy run onto the train hotly pursued by three plain-clothes police officers.

"One of them was carrying a black handgun - it looked like an automatic - they pushed him to the floor, bundled on top of him and unloaded five shots into him."

Passenger Briony Coetsee said: "We were on the Tube and then we suddenly heard someone say, 'Get out, get out' and then we heard gunshots." Read more

'War on Terror'

'Ban Representative 'Tom' Tancredo from the UK'

" I believe that what we are fighting here is not just a small group of people who have hijacked a religion, but it is a civilization bent on destroying ours. Radical Islam has been the foe of Christendom for centuries"

db: Who said that? Mad Kilroy-Silk? Nick Griffin? The tormented spirit of the vile, recently deceased British fascist John Tyndall? Wrong again - these words were uttered by US Representative Thomas G. 'Tom' Tancredo - he of 'bomb Mecca' fame. The worrying thing is 'Tom' sits on the "Subcommittee on International Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Human Rights" as discussed here.

Given that the British government is creating a 'global blacklist' of undesirables - those on the blacklist would potentially face deportation or be barred from entering the UK should their presence be judged as "not conducive to the public interest" - I would hereby like to propose the inclusion of the US trouble maker Thomas G. 'Tom' Tancredo.

London: It's not the blitz yet

db: There seems to have been a bungled attempt today by terrorists to replicate the horror and destruction that was dealt to London only two weeks ago. They succeeded in once more disrupting travel, no doubt they've scared some people, but reports state that there has been no injuries. It appears that the devises failed to detonate correctly. If this turns out to be true, then we are very lucky indeed (relatively).

What seems a reasonable question is - just how many angry young men are there out there prepared to carry out these types of attacks? By all accounts MI5 doesn't know, and if they are in the dark it's no good asking a policeman. It's not that I am worried - there is no way those terrorists are going to change my way of life - we will never give in - we're standing our ground - our resolve is strong...................hang on a minute. I was listening to this kind of stuff on the radio as I made my way across west London after failing to take one decent picture on my mobile phone of the unfolding drama. The presenter - on Greater London Radio - was coming up with all those old lines about how tough we are, and the 'blitz' spirit. In the blitz Londoners had a pretty good idea of why the bombs were raining down on their heads - and approved of a war which was fought to rid the world of the Nazis. In the case of the events in London of late, there is no such clearly defined enemy, and you have to question, given that there is no clear 'mission' that the British public approves of to make sense of any of this, how much can the city take before things become a problem?

If we allow this 'don't mention the Iraq war' government strategy to dominate the landscape we are going to fall into the same trap as the US in it's response to 9.11 - 'why us'? Bush said in response to 7/7 that these people plot in caves. He got that wrong. They live with us, doing the same things we do, most of the time. In order to combat the threat that they represent we need to be honest about seeking to understand their motivations. To understand your enemy is as important as having the armies to defeat him, and currently my guess is that the UK security services have little idea what they are dealing with, and little intelligence to predict if or when another bombing will take place.

Bad day in London could have been much worse

db: It seems that one of the would-be killers at the Oval today in London attempted to explode his bomb by firing at it with a handgun. There are also reports that the devices were of similar construction to those used two weeks ago. Through good fortune all the bombs failed to detonate. The BBC details the following:

The attacks took place almost simultaneously, at about 1230 BST.

London's transport system was quickly thrown into chaos, with a number of Tube lines closed and roads shut off as cordons were established.

* At Warren Street Tube station witnesses reported hearing a bang at the front of a train, creating some panic among passengers.

* Armed officers were twice deployed to nearby University College Hospital, following reports that someone had run away from Warren Street. Three unoccupied rooms in the hospital remained cordoned off on Thursday evening. Police later said they believed two people who had been arrested in the area were unconnected to the blasts and had been released.

* At Oval Tube station about 20 or 30 passengers were evacuated from a train after seeing "white smoke". The RMT union's security meeting was told the suspect used a handgun to try and detonate explosives contained in a backpack, BBC London Transport correspondent Andrew Winstanley said. There were reports that bystanders tried to tackle a man as he fled the station.

* At Shepherd's Bush a man was reported to have fled after the attack, on the Hammersmith and City Line.

* On a Number 26 bus on the Hackney Road there was an explosion on the top deck. The windows of the bus, which was travelling from Waterloo to Hackney, were blown out, although there was no structural damage.


Police say there is one casualty in hospital who may or may not be connected to the bombings. Earlier it was suggested that this person was wounded when his backpack failed to fully explode. There is still no clear picture of what exactly happened today. It does seem though we have four would-be bombers, who have proved their desire to kill en masse, loose on the streets of the capital. It could have been much worse.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Nice day for a walk in Shepherds Bush, London

db: Out in Shepherds Bush in west London today it was a fine lunchtime for a pint and a walk in the sun. There db got caught up in the unfolding drama that hit London this afternoon. Shepherds Bush tube was closed and buildings nearby were evacuated as police closed all roads in the vicinity. There were reports that a man had been spotted climbing across a wall near the station platform and running off. The BBC reported that the man had threatened to blow himself up.

There is still some confusion regarding today's events. Happily, the terrorists appear to have failed to kill . It also seems that there have been arrests.

Outside Shepherds Bush tube 21.07.05
- no panic - some of us had beer

Dubai TV outside a closed Shepherds Bush
tube. The groupies are with the NBC guy
down the road

Chuck or Brad for NBC

Shepherds Bush, London today - NBC
reporting live on the unfolding events
across London. The NBC guy - Chuck
or maybe it was Brad, nevermind, but
he was good and had the crowd

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Congressman in 'bomb Mecca' controversy has form and power

db: The Washington Post reports that a Colorado congressman told a radio show host that the U.S. could "take out" Islamic holy sites if Muslim fundamentalist terrorists attacked the country with nuclear weapons.

Rep. Tom Tancredo made his remarks Friday on WFLA-AM in Orlando, Fla. His spokesman stressed he was only speaking hypothetically.

Talk show host Pat Campbell asked the Littleton Republican how the country should respond if terrorists struck several U.S. cities with nuclear weapons.

"Well, what if you said something like _ if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites," Tancredo answered.

"You're talking about bombing Mecca," Campbell said.

"Yeah," Tancredo responded.

The congressman later said he was "just throwing out some ideas" and that an "ultimate threat" might have to be met with an "ultimate response." Read more.

Representative Thomas G. 'Tom' Tancredo (CO) is not a man without some power. He sits on the "Subcommittee on International Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Human Rights" - it's jurisdiction is as follows [see] :

There shall be one subcommittee with functional jurisdiction: Subcommittee on International Terrorism, Nonproliferation and Human Rights

Oversight and legislative responsibilities over the United States' efforts to manage and coordinate international programs to combat terrorism as coordinated by the Department of State and other agencies, including diplomatic, economic, and military assistance programs in areas designed to prevent terrorism, and efforts intended to identify, arrest, and bring international terrorists to justice;........ matters involving nuclear, chemical, biological and other weapons of mass destruction; ....... Implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other matters relating to internationally-recognized human rights, including sanctions legislation aimed at the promotion of human rights and democracy generally.

Right Wing News have an interview with Tancredo here which is well worth speed-reading. On the (flawed) 'Clash of Civilizations' he has this to say. "I happen to be a devotee of Mr. Huntington and believe it's true, it is a clash of civilizations. I believe that what we are fighting here is not just a small group of people who have hijacked a religion, but it is a civilization bent on destroying ours. Radical Islam has been the foe of Christendom for centuries. The most serious foe of Christendom. The battle ebbs and flows, peaks and becomes less intense, but it has been going on for centuries. We have never really been bothered by it, because the world was a place in which you could not really attack the United States physically. There were oceans separating us and if you did come, what were you going to come with? A gun, a rock, an arrow? But today it has all changed, it has taken on a different dimension."

Iraq: Shock and awe still the greatest weapon of terror

bbcnews: Iraq's catalogue of death

"Shock and awe invasions using massive air power and overwhelming force caused a far higher concentration of deaths, injuries and child fatalities than even the intense insurgency we are experiencing now"

Professor John Sloboda
Author of report

Read more

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

June Report Led Britain to Lower Its Terror Alert

NYT: Less than a month before the London bombings, Britain's top intelligence and law enforcement officials concluded that "at present there is not a group with both the current intent and the capability to attack the U.K.," according to a confidential terror threat assessment report.

The previously undisclosed report was sent to British government agencies, foreign governments and corporations in mid-June, about three weeks before a team of four British suicide bombers mounted their July 7 attack on London's public transportation system.

The assessment by the Joint Terrorist Analysis Center prompted the British government to lower its formal threat assessment one level, from "severe defined" to "substantial." The center includes officials from Britain's top intelligence agencies, as well as its police forces and Customs.

Asked to comment on the document, a senior British official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, "We do not discuss intelligence assessments."

British officials said the reduced threat level had no practical impact on terrorism preventive measures, and the British home secretary said it did not make Britain more vulnerable to attack.

The tersely worded threat assessment was particularly surprising because it stated that terrorist-related activity in Britain was a direct result of violence in Iraq.

"Events in Iraq are continuing to act as motivation and a focus of a range of terrorist related activity in the U.K.," said the report, a copy of which was made available by a foreign intelligence service and was not disputed by four senior British officials who were asked about it.

Read more

Seymour Hersh: US manipulation in Iraq election

Get Out the Vote

..The Administration was confronted with a basic dilemma: The likely winner of a direct and open election would be a Shiite religious party. The Shiites were bitter opponents of Saddam's regime, and suffered under it, but many Shiite religious and political leaders are allied, to varying degrees, with the mullahs of Iran. As the election neared, the Administration repeatedly sought ways - including covert action - to manipulate the outcome and reduce the religious Shiite influence. Not everything went as planned.

..A former senior intelligence official told me, "The election clock was running down, and people were panicking. The polls showed that the Shiites were going to run off with the store. The Administration had to do something. How?"

By then, the men in charge of the C.I.A. were "dying to help out, and make sure the election went the right way," the recently retired C.I.A. official recalled. It was known inside the intelligence community, he added, that the Iranians and others were providing under-the-table assistance to various factions. The concern, he said, was that "the bad guys would win" Read more

db: If the CIA had interfered with the 2005 UK election George Galloway might have become PM.

Monday, July 18, 2005

UK report: Riding pillion with Bush is a hazard to your health

db:The lead story on the BBC radio Worldservice is that the UK government has rejected today's Chatham House security report 'Security, Terrorism and the UK'. Whilst the governments response to this document is important, it is patently not the lead story. The lead story, naturally, is the report itself, but sadly the BBC allowed the government's attack dog John Reid to wax on about the necessity of 'confronting the school bully' ahead of any remotely serious attempt at analyzing the document.

In the first [of four] papers in the report, Frank Gregory and Paul Wilkinson reflect on the UK's performance in the war on terrorism. Clip below and link to [pdf] report

"A key problem with regard to implementing 'Prevention' and 'Pursuit' is that the UK government has been conducting counter-terrorism policy 'shoulder to shoulder' with the US, not in the sense of being an equal decision-maker, but rather as pillion passenger compelled to leave the steering to the ally in the driving seat. There is no doubt that the situation over Iraq has imposed particular difficulties for the UK, and for the wider coalition against terrorism. It gave a boost to the Al-Qaeda network's propaganda, recruitment and fundraising, caused a major split in the coalition, provided an ideal targeting and training area for Al-Qaeda-linked terrorists, and deflected resources and assistance that could have been deployed to assist the Karzai government and to bring bin Laden to justice. Riding pillion with a powerful ally has proved costly in terms of British and US military lives, Iraqi lives, military expenditure, and the damage caused to the counter-terrorism campaign." Link to [pdf]

John Reid's point about the 'school bully' is classic attack-dog. Part of the problem with Mr Reid's analysis is that in this scenario yes, the school had a bully - but it wasn't our school. That school's bully was on a brutal and severe program of 'rehabilitation' - which had resulted in the removal of all threat of further acts of bullying from the now tame, if not reformed, offender.

Standing up to the school bully is not the same as invading Iraq. Standing up to Hitler is not the same as invading Iraq. Standing up to bin Laden is not the same as invading Iraq [in fact, as the report states - the Iraq invasion has been a hindrance in this regard]. Winning 'the war of terror' is not the same as invading Iraq. Getting the hell out of Iraq is not 'giving in to terror'.

Iraq was a blunder - and Blair is part of it. Why has it been so bad for the 'war of terror'? Because it was an unjust war - simple. Everyone knows that.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Seymour Hersh's Iraqi election allegations White House discussed covert aid in Iraqi vote

In the months before the Iraqi elections in January, President George W. Bush approved a plan to provide covert support to certain Iraqi candidates and political parties, but he rescinded this because of congressional opposition, current and former government officials said.

In a response to questions about a report on the plan in the next issue of The New Yorker magazine, Frederick Jones, the spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, said that "in the final analysis, the president determined and the United States government adopted a policy that we would not try - and did not try - to influence the outcome of the Iraqi election by covertly helping individual candidates for office."

The New Yorker article, by Seymour Hersh, reports that the administration proceeded with the covert plan over the congressional objections. Several senior Bush administration officials disputed this, although they recalled renewed discussions within the administration last fall about how the United States might counter what was seen as extensive Iranian support to pro-Iranian Shiite parties.

Any clandestine U.S. effort to influence the elections or to provide particular support to candidates or parties seen as amenable to working with the United States, would have run counter to the Bush administration's assertions that the vote would be free and unfettered.

Bush, in his public statements, has insisted that the United States would help promote conditions for democracy throughout the region but would live with whatever governments emerged in free elections. Read more

Truman's "purely military" A-bomb crime

Harry S. Truman, Diary, July 25, 1945

[President Truman told his diary on July 25, 1945, that he had ordered the bomb to be used. Emphasis has been added to highlight Truman's apparent belief that he had ordered the bomb dropped on a "purely military" target, so that "military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children." See the order to drop the bombs below]

"We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark.

Anyway we "think" we have found the way to cause a disintegration of the atom. An experiment in the New Mexico desert was startling - to put it mildly. Thirteen pounds of the explosive caused the complete disintegration of a steel tower 60 feet high, created a crater 6 feet deep and 1,200 feet in diameter, knocked over a steel tower 1/2 mile away and knocked men down 10,000 yards away. The explosion was visible for more than 200 miles and audible for 40 miles and more.

This weapon is to be used against Japan between now and August 10th. I have told the Sec. of War, Mr. Stimson, to use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital or the new.

He and I are in accord. The target will be a purely military one and we will issue a warning statement asking the Japs to surrender and save lives. I'm sure they will not do that, but we will have given them the chance. It is certainly a good thing for the world that Hitler's crowd or Stalin's did not discover this atomic bomb. It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful..."

[The written order for the use of the atomic bomb against Japanese cities was drafted by General Groves. President Truman and Secretary of War Stimson approved the order at Potsdam. The order made no mention of targetting military objectives or sparing civilians. The cities themselves were the targets. The order was also open-ended. "Additional bombs" could be dropped "as soon as made ready by the project staff."]

The Order

TO: General Carl Spaatz
Commanding General
United States Army Strategic Air Forces

1. The 509 Composite Group, 20th Air Force will
deliver its first special bomb as soon as weather will
permit visual bombing after about 3 August 1945 on one of the
targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Niigata and Nagasaki. To
carry military and civilian scientific personnel from the
War Department to observe and record the effects of the
explosion of the bomb, additional aircraft will accompany
the airplane carrying the bomb. The observing planes will
stay several miles distant from the point of impact of the

2. Additional bombs will be delivered on the above
targets as soon as made ready by the project staff. Further
instructions will be issued concerning targets other than
those listed above.

3. Discussion of any and all information concerning
the use of the weapon against Japan is reserved to the
Secretary of War and the President of the United States.
No communiques on the subject or releases of information
will be issued by Commanders in the field without specific
prior authority. Any news stories will be sent to the War
Department for specific clearance.

4. The foregoing directive is issued to you by direc-
tion and with the approval of the Secretary of War and of
the Chief of Staff, USA. It is desired that you personally
deliver one copy of this directive to General MacArthur and
one copy to Admiral Nimitz for their information.


General, G.S.C.
Acting Chief of Staff

[Read more documents]

In an interview for the Prague Writers' Festival, Gore Vidal talked to Michael March - Mar 29 2001

MM: You mentioned President Truman's decision to drop the bomb, but there were other people behind Truman. Was Truman a stooge of a greater force?

GV: Well, under our system any president is a stooge of the great financial forces that own or govern the country. The brains behind Truman belonged to Dean Acheson, who was a brilliant man, very witty and very imperial. "If anyone disobeys the United States, we must destroy them." He was a throwback to an earlier time, but he was the one who helped Truman militarise the economy, create Nato and the CIA, interfere with elections and get rid of the Bill of Rights. I don't say he sat down and did everything in order, but that was the result.

So on the one hand you have the pressure of the military, who had developed these extraordinary weapons, which they wanted to test; and on the other palm, Truman vacillated, seeing that it was going to change the nature of warfare and knowing perfectly well the Japanese were defeated. So we made a big deal over "unconditional surrender". As it turned out, Japan completely collapsed after two bombs, but it was interesting the extent to which Eisenhower denounced it publicly. Admiral Nimitz, the great figure in the Pacific, denounced it. Curtis LeMay, who as a war-lover liked to blow up everything, denounced it. They all said the same thing: we didn't need it. And why use it twice? They were going to surrender.

I don't think there was one single general officer in that war who approved of it, and they all went public very quickly to denounce their Commander-in-Chief Truman, who had dropped it for one reason: to intimidate Stalin, keep him out of the Pacific war, let him have no share of the peace that we were going to impose on Japan, and just keep him nervous. And it worked. Then a year or two later we divided Germany, taking the best part for ourselves, and made Stalin the world's enemy to justify our military build-up, which then started all over again and continues to this day. Read more

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A-bomb Sufferer sees growing US nuclear threat Hirotami Yamada: Still much to do 60 years after atomic bombing

[The author is general secretary of the Nagasaki Council of the A-bomb Sufferers]

..I grew up in a family of six. The Aug. 9 bombing took away five of them. Although none of them died instantly, my mother, my older sister and two younger brothers died within two weeks of the bombing. My father, who suffered severe burns that almost took his life, survived but died of cancer 16 years later in 1961. To me, their deaths are reality that is too cruel to forget.

Had the atomic bomb been a transient natural disaster-no matter how destructive-I might have been able to accept the consequences. But the atomic bomb is a human creation. An atomic bomb was also dropped on Hiroshima. The bombings were the result of a carefully laid plan.

In the 60 years since the bombings, the government of the country that dropped them has never apologized for its inhumane act. On the contrary, it not only continues to possess large quantities of nuclear weapons but its president has openly declared plans to develop new, easy-to-use nuclear weapons. He has said he would not hesitate to use them in pre-emptive strikes. Read more

Friday, July 15, 2005

Request to Egypt - Please don't kill our suspect!

db: The Financial Times reports that Egypt says it has arrested an Egyptian student, Magdy Mahmoud Mostapha al-Nashar, wanted in connection with last week's attacks in London. A statement from the interior ministry on Friday confirmed that Mr al-Nashar was being interrogated, but gave no details about the date or circumstances of his arrest. Read more

Being arrested in Egypt - the leading "Renditions Sky-Partner" - may turn out to be unfortunate both for the accused personally - his family, his friends - and for the integrity of the ongoing investigation into the London bombings. With Egypt's well documented history of torture there is a danger that not only would evidence gained under it be contestable but it would also be unreliable. What is more, with the level of enthusiasm that the Egyptians are known to employ in their interrogations there is no guarantee that the suspect will remain alive for long.

As Human Rights Watch put it in their briefing paper of Feb 2004
"Torture in Egypt is a widespread and persistent phenomenon. Security forces and the police routinely torture or ill-treat detainees, particularly during interrogation. In most cases, officials torture detainees to obtain information and coerce confessions, occasionally leading to death in custody. In some cases, officials use torture detainees to punish, intimidate, or humiliate. Police also detain and torture family members to obtain information or confessions from a relative, or to force a wanted relative to surrender

While torture in Egypt has typically been used against political dissidents, in recent years it has become epidemic, affecting large numbers of ordinary citizens who find themselves in police custody as suspects or in connection with criminal investigations. The Egyptian authorities do not investigate the great majority of allegations of torture despite their obligation to do so under Egyptian and international law. In the few cases where officers have been prosecuted for torture or ill-treatment, charges were often inappropriately lenient and penalties inadequate. This lack of effective public accountability and transparency has led to a culture of impunity."
Read more

Former Indian Ambassador on 'War of Terror'

db: K Gajendra Singh, served as Indian Ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan in 1992 - 96. Prior to that, he served as ambassador to Jordan (during the 1990 - 91 Gulf war), Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies, in Bucharest. In "There Is a Reaction to Every Action, Sir Isaac Newton" linked below he paints a fairly bleak picture for the War of Terror - he also has a challenging, blunt style. His perspective is his own, and his cv makes it of interest. .. According to psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton who wrote the insightful Superpower Syndrome, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the Bush administration "responded apocalyptically to an apocalyptic challenge"; of how, facing Islamist fanaticism, it offered its own version of a fundamentalist "world war without end"; of how it perversely partnered up with al-Qaeda in a strange global dance of animosity.[Lord Shiva's tandav dance of destruction] Once again, the London bombs may bolster Bush's waning support domestically, just as his acts globally reinforce the evidently growing support for various al-Qaeda-linked or identified groups. Read more

Iraqi troops: Reality check from a former Marine A Reality Check from Iraq

Jonathan Morgenstein was a Marine Corps civil affairs officer in Ramadi, Iraq, and received a master's degree in international policy from Stanford University. [- this man is dangerous]

Iraqi troops will not be able to provide security for a long time, despite President Bush's assertions. President Bush has argued that the Iraqi Security Forces will soon be capable of providing security for Iraq. However, his assertion that "Iraq has more than 160,000 security forces trained and equipped for a variety of missions," is misleading. President Bush's 160,000 includes Iraqi forces that: 1. have no uniforms or weapons; 2. don't show up for work regularly; 3 have no more than three weeks of training; and 4. are actually working for or with the insurgents. Read more

db: If the undeclared aim is to retain a large 'security' footprint in Iraq for at least the next decade then by all accounts we are winning.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Chris Hedges: War - Realities and Myth

..I have felt the attraction of violence. I know its seductiveness, excitement and the powerful addictive narcotic it can become. The young soldiers, trained well enough to be disciplined but encouraged to maintain their naive adolescent belief in invulnerability, have in wartime more power at their fingertips than they will ever have again. They catapult from being minimum wage employees at places like Burger King, facing a life of dead-end jobs with little hope of health insurance and adequate benefits, to being part of, in the words of the Marines, "the greatest fighting force on the face of the earth." The disparity between what they were and what they have become is breathtaking and intoxicating. This intoxication is only heightened in wartime when all taboos are broken. Murder goes unpunished and often rewarded. The thrill of destruction fills their days with wild adrenaline highs, strange grotesque landscapes that are hallucinogenic, all accompanied by a sense of purpose and comradeship, overpowers the alienation many left behind. They become accustomed to killing, carrying out acts of slaughter with no more forethought than they take to relieve themselves. And the abuses committed against the helpless prisoners in Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo are not aberrations but the real face of war. In wartime all human beings become objects, objects either to gratify or destroy or both. And almost no one is immune. The contagion of the crowd sees to that.

"Force," Simone Weil wrote, "is as pitiless to the man who possess it, or thinks he does, as it is to his victim. The second it crushes; the first it intoxicates."
Read more

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Bush: " We are standing up, and the sacrifice is worth it."

db: The following is a transcript of remarks by President Bush on the War of Terror - speaking at the FBI academy in Virginia. Link to transcript

In an interview with the BBC's World Tonight, Robin Cook criticised the president's strategy, saying that instead of isolating the terrorists, he had upset Muslim societies around the world.

"Everybody would fully sign up to the most vigorous police reaction to make sure that we do pursue those responsible for atrocities such as happened in London," Mr Cook said.

"I think the problem with George Bush's approach is that he does keep talking about it as a war on terror as if there is a military solution and there isn't."***

Clearly, Robin Cook - a well known British lefty - is unlikely to ever endorse the efforts of George - no matter how successful. Read the transcript above and judge for yourself whether we are on the right track. Or whether all this 'sacrifice' is making us ill.

*** In late November 2002, a retired US Army general, William Odom, told C-SPAN viewers: "Terrorism is not an enemy. It cannot be defeated. It's a tactic. It's about as sensible to say we declare war on night attacks and expect we're going to win that war. [Read "Beware The War on Terror" here]

Monday, July 11, 2005

A UN solution in Iraq Mr Bush?

db: reports that the world body's top envoy to Iraq has met with the Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani as well as Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al- Sadr. Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative, Ashraf Qazi briefed the Grand Ayatollah al Sistani on the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), including the work of the electoral team, the office of constitutional support and UNAMI's efforts to facilitate dialogue among all parties in Iraq.

The Grand Ayatollah thanked Mr. Qazi and encouraged the UN to continue to play an active role in facilitating dialogue. The two leaders also discussed the ongoing constitution-making process, and modalities for the December elections.

The Shi'ite Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr acknowledged that the UN had an important role to play in Iraq, and asked Mr. Qazi to continue his efforts to promote dialogue and understanding.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative, Ashraf Qazi, conveyed his sincere condolences for the recent loss of the Grand Ayatollah's aide, Sheikh Hashim Attiyah al- Fadhli, and for other killings in recent months and weeks.

Who wants a settlement?

As the iron-fist of US occupation yet again finds it necessary to strike down hard upon the heads of the people of Fallujah you have to ask yourself - is a solution to the Iraq quagmire ever going to be found unless the UN adopts a genuine lead role in attempting to bring together all reasonable parties at the negotiating table? Resulting in an agreed timetable for the withdrawal of US forces and their replacement with a universally (more or less) accepted UN force.

Does the US even want a solution to bo found? Given a choice between a raging insurgency - where hapless Iraqi security forces and the civilian poulation take most of the punishment - and a solution brokered by the UN that would agree a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops, I would guess that the US would prefer that the entanglement in Iraq was sustained for a further period of years (maybe twelve).

If you try to look at the situation from Bush's perspective (that involves oversimplifying it) you might think that a relative peace in Iraq brought through negotiation and the withdrawal of coalition troops would be a bad thing because a. We fight them there so we don't have to fight them at home (sic) . And if we find a peace in Iraq right now it means we wont have had enough time to liquidate the terrorists. This logic is of course flawed because every day the US is in Iraq an extra 100 terrorists are born (that number is a wild guess, but the logic stands) b. If we leave Iraq now we will be sending the wrong signal to the terrorists. If Bush continues to make his decisions based on what bin Laden might be thinking we are never going to make any progress. c. These guys we are talking to have been blowing up US troops. Wake up - forget the War of Terror for a moment - the war in Iraq is the same war that has been raging since the coalition invaded, notwithstanding Bush's set piece onboard the deck of USS Abraham Lincoln declaring an end to major hostilities. Once you understand that it becomes a nonsense to exclude the 'killers' from the table. You could make a better case for excluding the US d. The US needs permanent bases in Iraq to assist in the War of terror True. Withdrawing from Iraq must also bring a rethink of this failed strategy - with this war Bush as brought to the world more terrorism and more terrorists e. bin Laden will see this as a victory. See b. above. Remember - leave Iraq and we have the resources to actually capture bin Laden - rather than leaving it to the untrustworthy 'allies' the US has in the area. f. It will be bad for the corporates. Yes, and as part of a negotiated settlement the corporates must be made to account for every penny they have robbed from Iraq and from the US taxpayer. g. Flip-flopping on The War of Terror will make me look weak. A 'statesman' would figure out a way to look good g. The UK is running scared. Handing over to the UN is not running, but facing realities. Anyone who thinks that withdrawing from Iraq will bring with it peace on earth is mistaken. The UK will not in a moment become 'safe' - anyway in the UK that condition is usually just a lull between old and new threats.

The list could go on. I question whether Bush wants peace in Iraq enough.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Iraq: Just another day

yahoo-AP: Suicide Bombings Kill at Least 40 in Iraq

A man strapped with explosives blew himself up at an Iraqi military recruiting center in Baghdad as suicide bombers attacked five times in Iraq on Sunday, killing at least 40 people and breaking a relative lull in violence in recent days.

The attacks pushed the death count to over 1,500 people killed in violence since April 28, when Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari announced his Shiite and Kurd dominated government in a country under attack from an insurgency led by Iraq's Sunni Arab minority.

At least 14 other people were killed in attacks elsewhere overnight and into Sunday, and the body of kidnapped Iraqi karate association chief Ali Shakir was found floating in the Tigris river southeast of Baghdad.

In the deadliest blast Sunday, a suicide bomber blew himself up at an Iraqi military recruiting center at Muthana airfield near central Baghdad, killing 25 people and wounding 47, according to the U.S. military and hospital officials.

The explosion occurred just before 9 a.m. as about 400 would-be recruits were crowded outside the gate of the center, which had been hit several times before by suicide attackers. Read more

London bombings: It's not our lifestyle that did it

db: As George Galloway helpfully pointed out Friday - the London attacks did not come out of the blue. Blair chose, ahead of any known supporting evidence, to lay the blame at the door of Islamist extremists. Of course the chances are that he is right, although one found it a little curious that a man such as Blair - known to triple check every statement leaving his brain before arrival at his mouth - would choose to depart from his usual caution.

There is no shortage of commentators alerting us to the fact that the bombings in London are a direct result of Blair's support for the Bush government's War of Terror - and it's more than 'support'. In this 'with us or against us' world, even the most anti US governments make noises that indicate a level of tolerance - bordering on support - for Bush's neocon inspired war. In Britain however we have (re elected) Tony Blair, who is not just supportive of US policy but is Bush's primary euro-mouthpiece - a man who, like Bush, is known to talk of the need for 'sacrifice' (not his own) in the military pursuit of a world fashioned to 'our' liking - and it's backlash.

Blair said recently "They are trying to use the slaughter of innocent people to cow us, to frighten us out of doing the things that we want to do, of trying to stop us going about our business as normal as we are entitled to do. They should not and they must not succeed."

Of course the terrorists must not succeed but I am not sure that I follow Blair in his assertion that the terrorists are trying to 'cow' me - nor do I completely hold with the idea that they want to frighten me out of doing what I want to do - at least not as an end in itself. What seems much more likely to me is that the ghastly series of explosions in London were part of another battle, hitherto raging elsewhere, that has little or nothing to do with Londoners but everything to do with Blair and his foreign policy blunders made in support of the increasingly belligerent and destabilising force that is the current US administration.

Whichever way you look at it the only winners from Thursday's events were the extremists - those whose aims are served by increasing the levels of fear. As to who those extremists might be well Blair is probably, at least partly, right - although it must not be overlooked that recent events have also played out very well for Bush. Already the scoundrel is making political capital out of it - "We need to finally bring Osama bin Laden to account for his crimes," he said. "And we need to get much more serious about protecting America from attack - about securing our roads and rails, our borders and bridges, our seaports and airports, our nuclear and chemical plants" [He could start off by closing Indian Point]. Bush said the London attacks were a reminder of the "evil" of the Sept. 11 attacks and underscored that the United States and its allies were fighting a "global war on terror."

"We will stay on the offense, fighting the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them at home," Bush said. He would be well advised to drop that particular well worn cliche - sooner or later it may come back to haunt him.

The only solution Bush and his lieutenants seem to have is more 'offense', further restrictions on civil liberties, and probably a lot more of the same ill-thoughtout moves that got us into this sad situation in the first place. As long as Bush (and Blair) continue pushing the myth that it's our 'lifestyle', 'freedom' or taste in music that the militants find offensive there is probably no alternative to this hell.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Gwynne Dyer: London - A town accustomed to bombs Tony Blair flew down from the G-8 summit in Scotland to be with Londoners in their time of trial, and you can hardly blame him. It's not that we needed him - it was only four smallish bombs, and the emergency services were doing their job just fine - but the tabloid newspapers would have crucified him if he hadn't shown up and looked sympathetic in public.

No doubt he was feeling sympathetic, too, but his words rang false. The accent was British, but the words were the sort that come from President Bush - all about defending British values and the British way of life. He didn't mention God, so he's still British, but I'm pretty sure I even heard him use Bush's favorite words, "freedom" and "resolve." I'm also pretty certain that this cut very little ice with most Londoners.

This town has been dealing with bombs for a long time. German bombs during the Blitz in September-December 1940 killed 13,339 Londoners and seriously injured 17,939 more. In 1944 this city was the first in the world to be hit by pilotless cruise missiles (the V-1s or "buzz-bombs"), and later that year it was the first to be struck by long-range ballistic missiles (the V-2s).

During the whole of World War II, about 30,000 Londoners were killed by German bombs and three-quarters of a million lost their homes. Then, between 1971 and 2001, London was the target of 116 bombs set by various factions of the Irish Republican Army, although they only killed 50 people and injured around 1,000. And not once during all those bombs did people in London think that they were being attacked because of their values and their way of life.

It was clear to them that they were being attacked because of British policies abroad, or the policies of Britain's friends and allies. The people who organized the bombs wanted Britain out of World War II, or British troops out of Northern Ireland, or the British Army out of the Middle East (or maybe the whole G-8 to leave the rest of the world alone). Nasty things, bombs, but those who send them your way are usually rational people with rational goals, and they almost never care about your values or your way of life.

Londoners understand that, and it has a calming effect, because once you have grasped that basic fact you are no longer dealing with some faceless, formless, terrifying unknown, but just a bunch of people who are willing to kill at random in order to get your government to change its policies. We don't even know for certain which bunch yet. It could've been Islamist terrorists, or some breakaway IRA faction, or even some anarchist group trying to make a point about the G-8. But that doesn't matter, really.

The point is that they are only terrorists, and they can't hurt all that many people. In a large city the odds are very much in your favor: It will almost always be somebody else who gets unlucky.

This knowledge breeds a fairly blase attitude to bombs, which was much in evidence Thursday morning when I had to go in to Harley Street to pick up my daughter from school. The buses and the underground weren't running and a lot of streets were blocked off by the police, but everybody was finding ways round them, on foot and in cars. You pull over to let the emergency vehicles pass, and then you carry on.

I do recall thinking, however, that it was a good thing the bombs had gone off here, not in some American city. Even in London, terrorist bombs will be used by the Bush administration as an argument for locking people up, taking away civil liberties, even for invading some other country. One bomb in an American city, and it would have a free run down to 2008.

Whereas in London, it doesn't work like that.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London bombings condemned by Amnesty International

Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Khan said:

"Our thoughts and sympathy are first and foremost with those who have become the victims of senseless violence this morning.

"Our common vulnerability makes us all a part of this tragedy, but our common humanity and conviction in human rights must convert the sense of fear into solidarity and action."

Amnesty International said that deliberately attacking civilians can never be justified. Targeting commuters going about their daily business shows complete contempt for the most fundamental principles of humanity.

To the extent that these bombings are part of a widespread attack on the civilian population of Britain in furtherance of an organisation's policy, they would constitute a crime against humanity. Read more

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The perils of colonial justice in Iraq

asiatimes: Among its more vociferous opponents, the American project in Iraq is characterized as a classic colonial adventure, indistinguishable in nature or intent from the deepest, darkest chapters in Northern oppression of the South: America is to Iraq as Britain was to India or Belgium to the Congo. Proponents, on the other hand, argue the inherent benevolence of American empire - the export of democracy and egalitarianism in contrast to the transparent racist imperialism of yore.

One possible way to arbitrate this dispute is by observing the dispensation of justice with regard to American servicemen accused of the "unlawful killing" (in military parlance) of Iraqi civilians. In this area, as with the infamous cases of torture in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere, impunity is the rule of thumb for both the rank and file and their superiors. In the overwhelming majority of cases over the course of the war, prosecutions have either not taken place, or if court martials have occurred, there have been acquittals or token sentences dispensed.

No matter how profound the inequities of US military justice, the transitional Iraqi government of Ibrahim Jaafari has no means to challenge them. The trend towards impunity, therefore, would seem to validate the grievances of the opponents by demonstrating the uneven distribution of power that defines relations between the US and the transitional Iraqi government. Read more

Gwynne Dyer: Is There Light at the End of Iraqi Tunnel?

Al-Jazeerah: If mere rhetoric could bridge the gulf of credibility, President George W. Bush might have turned the tide with his nationally televised speech on Tuesday (June 28) evening. As usual, he strove to blur the distinction between the "war on terror" (which almost all Americans still seen as necessary) and the war in Iraq (which they are finally turning against), and promised the viewers that all would end well if they only showed "resolve". But the audience has heard it too many times before.

A majority of Americans now understand that the terrorist attacks in Iraq are a result of the US invasion, not a justification for it. Many have also seen the leaked CIA report that concluded that Iraq is producing a new breed of jihadis, trained in urban warfare, who are more numerous and deadlier than the generation that learned its trade in Afghanistan. So they don't believe the war in Iraq is making them safer - and they see no light at the end of the tunnel. Read more

Iraq: A fiction as powerful as WMD

Guardian: [..] Some pro-war commentators warned early on that the country would be blighted by sectarian violence: oppressed Shias would take revenge on Sunnis; Kurds would avenge Saddam's rule by killing Arabs; and the Christian community would be liquidated.

What actually happened confounded such expectations. Within two weeks of the fall of Baghdad, millions converged on Karbala chanting "La Amreeka, la Saddam" (No to America, no to Saddam). For months, Baghdad, Basra and Najaf were awash with united anti-occupation marches whose main slogan was "La Sunna, la Shia; hatha al-watan menbi'a" (no Sunni, no Shia, this homeland we shall not sell).

Such responses were predictable given Iraq's history of anti-sectarianism. But the war leaders reacted by destroying the foundations of the state and following the old colonial policy of divide and rule, imposing a sectarian model on every institution they set up, including arrangements for the January election.

When it became clear that the poorest areas of Baghdad and the south were even more hostile to the occupation than the so-called Sunni towns - answering the Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's call to arms - Bush and Blair tried to defeat the resistance piecemeal, under the guise of fighting foreign terrorists. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was promoted to replace Saddam as the bogeyman in chief, to encourage sectarian tension and isolate the resistance. Read more