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

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Cheney 'may be guilty of war crime'

guardian: Vice-president Dick Cheney's burden on the Bush administration grew heavier yesterday after a former senior US state department official said he could be guilty of a war crime over the abuse of prisoners.

Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to secretary of state Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005, singled out Mr Cheney in a wide-ranging political assault on the BBC's Today programme.

Mr Wilkerson said that in an internal administration debate over whether to abide by the Geneva conventions in the treatment of detainees, Mr Cheney led the argument "that essentially wanted to do away with all restrictions".

Asked whether the vice-president was guilty of a war crime, Mr Wilkerson replied: "Well, that's an interesting question - it was certainly a domestic crime to advocate terror and I would suspect that it is ... an international crime as well." In the context of other remarks it appeared he was using the word "terror" to apply to the systematic abuse of prisoners.

The Washington Post last month called Mr Cheney the "vice-president for torture" for his demand that the CIA be exempted from a ban on "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of detainees. Read more

Meet John Rendon, Bush's general in the propaganda war

rollingstone: The Man Who Sold the War

The road to war in Iraq led through many unlikely places. One of them was a chic hotel nestled among the strip bars and brothels that cater to foreigners in the town of Pattaya, on the Gulf of Thailand.

On December 17th, 2001, in a small room within the sound of the crashing tide, a CIA officer attached metal electrodes to the ring and index fingers of a man sitting pensively in a padded chair. The officer then stretched a black rubber tube, pleated like an accordion, around the man's chest and another across his abdomen. Finally, he slipped a thick cuff over the man's brachial artery, on the inside of his upper arm.

Strapped to the polygraph machine was Adnan Ihsan Saeed al-Haideri, a forty-three-year-old Iraqi who had fled his homeland in Kurdistan and was now determined to bring down Saddam Hussein. For hours, as thin mechanical styluses traced black lines on rolling graph paper, al-Haideri laid out an explosive tale. Answering yes and no to a series of questions, he insisted repeatedly that he was a civil engineer who had helped Saddam's men to secretly bury tons of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. The illegal arms, according to al-Haideri, were buried in subterranean wells, hidden in private villas, even stashed beneath the Saddam Hussein Hospital, the largest medical facility in Baghdad.

It was damning stuff -- just the kind of evidence the Bush administration was looking for. If the charges were true, they would offer the White House a compelling reason to invade Iraq and depose Saddam. That's why the Pentagon had flown a CIA polygraph expert to Pattaya: to question al-Haideri and confirm, once and for all, that Saddam was secretly stockpiling weapons of mass destruction.

There was only one problem: It was all a lie. After a review of the sharp peaks and deep valleys on the polygraph chart, the intelligence officer concluded that al-Haideri had made up the entire story, apparently in the hopes of securing a visa.

The fabrication might have ended there, the tale of another political refugee trying to scheme his way to a better life. But just because the story wasn't true didn't mean it couldn't be put to good use. Al-Haideri, in fact, was the product of a clandestine operation -- part espionage, part PR campaign -- that had been set up and funded by the CIA and the Pentagon for the express purpose of selling the world a war. And the man who had long been in charge of the marketing was a secretive and mysterious creature of the Washington establishment named John Rendon. Read more

Iraq: At Hussein's Hearings, U.S. May Be on Trial

Juan Cole

The ongoing trial of Saddam Hussein could prove increasingly uncomfortable for the Bush administration. The first crime of which the deposed dictator is accused, the secret execution of 143 Shiites arrested in 1982, seems an odd choice for the prosecution, and politics may be behind it. Hussein is accused of using poison gas against Iranian troops, of genocide against the Kurds and of massacring tens of thousands to end the 1991 uprising after his defeat in the Gulf War. The problem for the Bush administration with these other, far graver charges, is that the Americans are implicated in them either through acts of commission or omission. Read more

Iraq: The Path To Peace

tompaine: Something is stirring in Iraq in the wake of the historic meeting last weekend in Cairo, sponsored by the League of Arab States, in which virtually all of Iraq'ss political factions sat down to talk at a reconciliation conference. Three important things took place at that meeting. First, primarily at the insistence of the Sunni delegates, all participants called for a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, putting virtually the entire Iraqi establishment behind a call for the United States to leave Iraq; second, all participants declared in the official statement that "resistance is a legitimate right of all peoples", thus conferring near-recognition to the armed Iraqi opposition inside Iraq; and third, the meeting set a date in February to convene a second, much larger, conference that could help settle the war in Iraq diplomatically.

That is, if the Bush administration steps up to the opportunity created by the Cairo initiative. That initiative, incidentally, was supported not only by the Arab League but by Iran, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. Read more

See: Reconciliation Conference Ends With Pledge To Move Forward

Liberty demands UK action over CIA torture flights

Press Release

Liberty demands Government halt CIA "torture" flight stops in Britain
Human rights group calls for USA assurances on extraordinary rendition
30 Nov 2005

Today Liberty called on Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to seek assurances in the next 14 days from the USA that it is not using UK airports to transport suspects to countries that torture. Liberty fears that the UK is in breach of domestic and international law by allowing CIA "extraordinary rendition" flights to land and re-fuel in Britain.

Director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti said:

"It is troubling that our Government chases Algeria for anti-torture assurances but cowers from confronting the USA on the same issue. It is the abhorrence of torture that distinguishes all democrats from dictators and terrorists. What can we say to those who perpetrate atrocities in London and around the world if we allow ourselves to become complicit in the cheapening of human life?"

Liberty also requested that the Police Chief Constables of Bedfordshire, Cambridge, Dorset, Essex, Hampshire, the Metropolitan Police, the Ministry of Defence Police, Suffolk, Sussex, Thames Valley, and West Midlands investigate suspected extraordinary rendition flights at their local airports. They too have been asked to respond within 14 days.

Liberty's call to action against extraordinary rendition marks the launch of its "No torture, no compromise" campaign which seeks to make the UK government honour its positive obligation to stop torture and ill-treatment.


1. A Guardian article published on 12 September 2005 revealed that airports in Biggin Hill, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Brize Norton, Farnborough, Gatwick, Heathrow, Luton, Mildenhall, Northolt, and Stansted have allowed CIA or CIA-chartered jets to land temporarily. The article also says that these aircraft had flown into the UK approximately 210 times since September 2001.

2. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)'s "extraordinary rendition" programme removes suspects to third party countries for interrogation without the approval of the courts.

3. An influential group of MPs led by Andrew Tyrie, Conservative MP for Chichester, have announced plans to investigate claims that CIA planes have been touching down at British airfields carrying terrorist suspects. Link

Iraqi air force and navy - some way to go

From President Bush's Speech today on the War of Terror

BUSH: "Iraqis now have a small air force that recently conducted its first combat airlift operations, bringing Iraqi troops to the front in Tal Afar." (APPLAUSE)

REALITY: Iraq's air force ... faces formidable challenges. It has a total of 38 aircraft, but only six of them are airworthy - November 08, 2005

BUSH: "The new Iraqi navy is now helping to protect the vital ports of Basra and Umm Qasr." (APPLAUSE)

REALITY: ... the Iraqi navy needs more vessels ... They currently have just five patrol boats and some inflatable boats ... Coast Guard Cmdr. Duke Walker - Link November 21, 2005

Transcript: President Bush's Speech on the War on Terrorism
[Delivered at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. November 30, 2005]

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Iraq: Ministries of 'political profit'

azzaman: Sectarian divisions and the run for illegal profits are the main hallmark of the new era, ushered in by U.S. 'liberation' troops.

Indeed sectarian affiliation has now replaced loyalty to the country and the flag. You no longer need to be an honest and patriotic citizen to get a government job, for example.

Sectarianism has become the road to riches, influence and government jobs.

The American occupier, already in a quagmire, has a big role in this. There is no need for the U.S.-installed Iraqi governments or officials to hide their sectarian tendencies. Iraqis are well aware of the tragedies such polices have brought to the nation.

The ministries are divided along sectarian lines. Therefore when a new minister assumes his post, the first thing he does is to exclude employees who belong to the opposite sect and replace them by members of his own sect.

This does not happen at the senior levels and posts. The new minister strives to make sure that members of sects other than his own should not be appointed even as janitors.

Cabinet ministers owe their existence and loyalty to the sectarian and ethnic parties that gave them their posts. To please their masters, these ministers resort to practices that are even worse than those reported to have taken place when the former leader Saddam Hussein was in power.

The ministries receive their instructions and orders from their political factions whose main target is to strengthen their popular and military base in the country.

Government officials are keen to enroll their employees in the parties they belong to. As a result the ministries have become arenas for sectarian rivalry and to hell with reconstruction, living standards and public amenities.

Cabinet ministers today have very little to do with human and constitutional rights. To please their sectarian factions, they apply rules that are comparable to those under the former Talaban government in Afghanistan.

Administrative and political formations close to those of the Talaban have taken roots in many ministries and many provinces in the country.

Shrouding such practices with then name of Islam, has given these ministers leeway to achieve their short-sighted sectarian goals at the expense of the nation.

The U.S.-sponsored administrations' aim has been to make as much profit, whether economic or political, as possible in the time they have been in office.

Iraq is in need of a government that puts an end to political feudalism and sectarianism.

Iraq needs a government that puts loyalty to the country above political and sectarian allegiance. Link

Rumsfeld: No 'legitimate gripe' in Iraq

guardian: Rumsfeld: Don't Call Them 'Insurgents'

More than 2 years into the Iraq war, Donald H. Rumsfeld has decided the enemy are not insurgents.

"This is a group of people who don't merit the word 'insurgency,' I think," Rumsfeld said Tuesday at a Pentagon news conference. He said the thought had come to him suddenly over the Thanksgiving weekend.

"It was an epiphany."

Rumsfeld's comments drew chuckles but had a serious side.

"I think that you can have a legitimate insurgency in a country that has popular support and has a cohesiveness and has a legitimate gripe," he said. "These people don't have a legitimate gripe." Still, he acknowledged that his point may not be supported by the standard definition of 'insurgent.' He promised to look it up. Read more

db: Henceforth we will drop the term 'insurgents' - we agree with Rumsfelds epipheny. We'll just refer to them as 'the side that's winning'.

John Paul II - More miracles than you could shake a stick at

startribune: Vatican Eyes Possible Miracle by John Paul

Krakow's Roman Catholic archbishop spoke Tuesday of a possible miracle performed by Pope John Paul II in France that a church tribunal will focus on as the Vatican pursues its case for beatification.

Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was personal secretary to John Paul, told reporters in Rome that "there are no problems with miracles because there are many, but they have picked one because they don't need more."

Pressed further, Dziwisz added: "Maybe this I can say: they have picked (one in) France."

The Vatican needs proof of a miracle before it can proclaim John Paul eligible for sainthood, and a church tribunal from the archdiocese of Krakow, Poland, has been gathering evidence from witnesses. Read more

db: The real ' miracle' was Pope JP2's animatronics

Pat Buchanan: Iraq - Is Defeat Now An Option?

theconservativevoice: "Is the United States now going to cut and run in Iraq?" asks Bronwen Maddox, foreign editor of the London Times.

While the answer from President Bush remains a defiant "No!" the question is now being raised by the most hawkish of his backers. And understandably so. For John McCain's call for sending 10,000 more troops to Iraq has been met with polite silence, while all signals out of this city point to withdrawal, beginning in 2006, of scores of thousands of U.S. troops, whether the insurgency has been defeated or not, whether an Iraqi democracy is assured or not.

Consider these events of Thanksgiving week:

On Sunday, Nov. 20, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld confirmed that Gen. George Casey, U.S. commander in Iraq, had submitted plans for a reduction of U.S. forces from the present 160,000 to fewer than 100,000 by the end of 2006. When asked if that was possible, Rumsfeld, replied, "Yes, that's possible."

On Monday, 100 Sunni, Shia and Kurd leaders from Iraq met in Cairo and called for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal.

Wednesday, the Washington Post led the paper with a story on Casey's plan to withdraw the 60,000 and Secretary of State Condi Rice told Fox News we need not maintain present troop levels "very much longer," as Iraqi forces, which now number 200,000, are "stepping up" to the job. A gradual pullout could "come fairly soon," said Rice, the number of troops "is clearly going to come down." She added, "I think that is how the president will want to look at this."

By Thursday, the Pentagon confirmed that troops would be coming home after the December elections and, if conditions improve, U.S. forces could be drawn down by 60,000 before the end of 2006. Said Fred Barnes of the hawkish Weekly Standard, "These events are ominous ... they suggest that troop removal has superseded victory as the primary American concern." Indeed, they do.

Moreover, our principal coalition partners after the Brits are coming out. Silvio Berlusconi has said Italy's 3,000 troops may be home by the end of 2006. South Korea is pulling out a third of its contingent. Polish forces, cut from 2,400 to 1,400 in 2005, may soon fall below 1,000.

If no more troops are going in, and the only question is, how many U.S. and coalition troops are coming out, starting after the December elections, the conclusion seems inescapable: The United States is disengaging from the Iraq war before victory is at hand, or even in sight. Hence, a defeat, not of American arms, but of the U.S. policy in Iraq, is now a distinct possibility.

The signs America has had enough are everywhere. Bill Clinton now calls the war a "big mistake," an opinion shared by 60 percent of the nation. 39 Senate Democrats voted for an exit strategy, with timetables. Half the country wants withdrawals to begin. Only a third of the nation approves of Bush's war leadership, while 42 percent, in a Pew poll, want America to start minding her own business.

Bush has three years left, but the time is approaching when debate on a new U.S. foreign policy for the post-Bush era must begin. One lesson from this war is already clear: Americans will not long support spilling the blood of their soldier sons in a war for ideals like democracy in the Arab world unless they are convinced national security or U.S. vital interests are imperiled.

Months back, as opponents of the war became the majority, I predicted a Gene McCarthy would rise to lead the antiwar movement. No one expected it to be Rep. John Murtha, a combat veteran with 37 years in Marine Corps service. But Murtha's emotional call for withdrawal has proven a catalyst for Congress and the country.

The argument suddenly seems over and the nation appears to have reached a consensus: earliest possible withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, consistent with the avoidance of a strategic disaster.

But here is the rub: We are not going to get out of Iraq without suffering terrible consequences for having gone in. And when we come out, we no longer control what goes on within.

Once we depart, there is no guarantee the insurgents will be defeated, no guarantee that thousands of those who cast their lot with us will not be massacred, no guarantee Iraq will remain one nation, no guarantee there will not be chaos and civil war.

There is no guarantee that after having invested $200 to $300 billion** and the lives of thousands of splendid young Americans, we will not end up with an Iraq that is a strategic ally of Iran and a Sunni Triangle that is a base camp and training camp for terrorists larger than the one we destroyed in Afghanistan.

The impending U.S. troop withdrawals are a roll of the dice, demanded by the American people and now acceded to by the Bush administration. No one can know for sure what the dice will deliver. Link

db:** A transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich

Issue of secret camps strains U.S.-EU relations

IHT: Rising European anger over contentions that the CIA has flown terror suspects to secret camps in Eastern Europe for interrogation and possible torture appears to have the potential to slow a warming of U.S.-European relations.

The issue also may weigh on trans-Atlantic intelligence cooperation - one area of joint endeavor that has largely survived the polarizing debate over the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

On Monday, the European Union's commissioner of justice and home affairs warned that any EU member found to have permitted the use of such a camp could lose its voting rights.

It was not immediately clear what weight the warning by the commissioner, Franco Frattini, might carry. No member's voting rights have ever been suspended.

The warning could also add to pressure on East European aspirants like Romania, which is set to accede to the EU in 2007, to demonstrate that they fully respect the Union's human rights standards.

Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the National Security Council in Washington, acknowledged that the warning had "a potential impact" on U.S.-EU intelligence cooperation. He said the United States took the matter "very seriously."

The State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, when asked about European complaints that the United States had been slow to provide information on the existence of any camps, said the administration would do its best "to reply in as forthright a manner as we possibly can."

In an interview with USA Today published Tuesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice neither confirmed nor denied the existence of secret CIA prisons abroad.

She is expected to seek to ease growing European discomfort on a trip to Europe next week, and she defended the unlimited detention of terrorism suspects, saying it benefited the United States and the world.

"You can't allow somebody to commit the crime before you detain them, because if they commit the crime, thousands of innocent people die," she said.

Early this month, President George W. Bush responded to the latest allegations by saying repeatedly that "we do not torture." He did not address the question of secret camps.

The European Commission and several European governments are investigating the possibility of secret detention camps after a report in The Washington Post on Nov. 2.

The Post, citing unidentified U.S. and foreign officials, said the CIA had been hiding and interrogating Al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe. The report said the compound was a part of a covert CIA system set up since 2001 that at times had included sites in Thailand, Afghanistan and several East European democracies.

The Post said it had been asked not to identify the European countries, but Human Rights Watch later said it had information suggesting that Poland, a recent EU member, and Romania had secret prison sites. Read more

'Shoot to Kill' - good. 'Gay Priests' - bad

The Vatican has published long-awaited guidelines which reaffirm that active homosexuals and "supporters of gay culture" may not become priests. Link

A leading British bishop defended a "shoot-to-kill" policy on Tuesday, saying police officers should be allowed to gun down suspected suicide bombers. Link

db: Yes we are mixing our Church of England brethren with our Catholic brethren - you're all, supposedly, followers of Christ aintcha?

Gold highest since '83 - hedging Dollar risk

reuters:Hedge funds bet Asia will boost gold reserves

Hedge funds, after pushing gold prices to 18-year highs, are looking to China and other Asian central banks as the next big drivers of the metal.

This month Russia, Argentina and South Africa decided to increase the amount of gold in their reserves, reversing a six-year trend of central bank sales, mainly from Europe.

That helped push gold prices above $500 an ounce on Tuesday, the highest price since 1987 and double levels seen in 2001.

Hedge fund manager Juerg Kiener said it was now only a matter of time before Asian central banks follow suit and diversify more of their $2.6 trillion in foreign reserves holdings into gold to hedge against what he sees as an inevitable decline in the dollar.

Just a hint of Asian central bank buying would set the gold market on fire, said Philip Klapwijk, chairman of London-based consultancy GFMS Ltd. and a director of the Global Precious Metals Fund.

"That's going to be explosive," he said. Read more

Monday, November 28, 2005

BP, Shell, Exxon - Here's a thing...

xinhuanet: Venezuela's state oil company to push new "social production" model

Venezuela's state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) will use loans and contracts to promote a new business model called "social production", Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told Venezuelan radio and television on Sunday.

Under the scheme, companies will fund social programs, share profits with workers and use some of their profits to help create more companies that work in the same way, said the oil minister atthe weekly "Hello, President" show hosted by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The PDVSA said in a statement published on its website that it would invest 100 million US dollars in the plan.

Chavez said that the new businesses would remain private property, but would work in a "collective" style.

"Capital itself is not bad," said Chavez. "What is bad is capitalism ... when capital is concentrated in the hands of the fewand used to exploit the rest."

The social model would discontinue the US model, which "asks usto abandon our industrial and development polices so they can invade us with their products," said Chavez, who frequently criticizes the United States.

Soaring oil prices have boosted the income of both the PDVSA and Venezuela as a whole. Chavez has used the money to offer cheapfuel to his neighboring states and finance related grand energy projects. Link

US 'needs more time' to 'evaluate' EU torture gulag

FT/reuters: EU states hosting CIA jails may face sanctions

Any European Union state that secretly hosted a CIA prison faces loss of its voting rights, and Washington should punish any violations that occurred, an EU commissioner said on Monday.

Franco Frattini, commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, said that under EU law, if reports of secret CIA jails were true, states would face "serious consequences, including the suspension of the right to vote in the Council".

The EU Council brings together ministers of the 25 member countries and is the bloc's main decision-making body.

Frattini's comments were his most explicit to date on the implications for any country found to have hosted a secret CIA facility for interrogating terrorist suspects.

The Washington Post this month reported the existence of such prisons in Eastern Europe, and campaign group Human Rights Watch named Poland and Romania as the most likely hosts.[db-as did Seymour Hersh]

Both deny it, a position reiterated on Monday by Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski. "Such prisons do not exist on Polish territory ... and there have not been any," Kwasniewski said.

Frattini said a senior commission official raised the report with the White House and State Department on a visit to Washington last week, but U.S. officials asked for more time to respond. "Right now, unfortunately (we have) no formal reassurances on that," Frattini told a news conference in Berlin. "They told us: 'Give us the appropriate time to evaluate the situation,'" Frattini said.

Asked about possible consequences for EU-U.S. relations, he said: "Our attitude will depend on how long ... it will take" for Washington to respond to the allegations. He said the EU's first request to the U.S. government would be to "punish, very strongly" any violations. Read more

db: Clearly the US 'needs more time' to concoct a story with it's Eurotorture partners.

Ian Blair Faces Conduct Probe Over De Menezes

bloomberg: London Police Chief Blair Faces Conduct Probe Over De Menezes

London police chief Sir Ian Blair faces an inquiry into his conduct in the wake of the shooting in July of an innocent Brazilian, after the victim's family complained that "false public statements'' were made by police officials about the killing.

The probe will be led by Mike Grant, a senior investigator at the Independent Police Complaints Commission, the IPCC said today in an e-mailed statement. The investigation is separate from another into the circumstances surrounding the shooting of the 27 year-old Brazilian electrician. A police spokeswoman declined in a phone interview to comment on the latest probe.

"Neither we nor Jean Charles' family want this complaint to distract us from the main task of finding out how and why Jean Charles died,'' IPCC Chair Nick Hardwick said in the statement. "We still expect our investigation into the shooting to be completed by the end of December.''

De Menezes was killed on July 22 after armed police mistook him for a suicide bomber. The shooting came a day after four bombers failed in an attempt to detonate explosives on London's transport system, and 15 days after the July 7 suicide bombings in which four bombers killed themselves and 52 other people on three London Underground subway trains and a bus.

Blair said in the wake of the shooting that de Menezes hadn't obeyed police instructions and that the killing was "directly linked'' to the anti-terrorism operation. The following day, police admitted De Menezes wasn't connected with either set of bombings.

'False Statements'

The complaint from De Menezes's family "alleges that individuals within the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) made false public statements following the fatal shooting of Jean Charles at Stockwell Underground station on 22 July 2005,'' the IPCC said. "The family's letter of complaint refers to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service.''

The Brazilian family also complained that the police subsequently didn't correct inaccurate information that was in the public domain, the IPCC said without elaborating. Blair in July and August was criticized by family members for failing to dispel reports that de Menezes ran into the subway and vaulted a barrier, and that he was wearing a bulky jacket.

"The IPCC has explained to the family that the IPCC itself had urged those involved not to comment on the facts of the case and so this will not form part of our investigation,'' the commission said. Link

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Iraq: Private Security Company shoots up civilians

telegraph: 'Trophy' video exposes private security contractors shooting up Iraqi drivers

A "trophy" video appearing to show security guards in Baghdad randomly shooting Iraqi civilians has sparked two investigations after it was posted on the internet, the Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

The video has sparked concern that private security companies, which are not subject to any form of regulation either in Britain or in Iraq, could be responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent Iraqis.

The video, which first appeared on a website that has been linked unofficially to Aegis Defence Services, contained four separate clips, in which security guards open fire with automatic rifles at civilian cars. All of the shooting incidents apparently took place on "route Irish", a road that links the airport to Baghdad.

The road has acquired the dubious distinction of being the most dangerous in the world because of the number of suicide attacks and ambushes carried out by insurgents against coalition troops. In one four-month period earlier this year it was the scene of 150 attacks.

In one of the videoed attacks, a Mercedes is fired on at a distance of several hundred yards before it crashes in to a civilian taxi. In the last clip, a white civilian car is raked with machine gun fire as it approaches an unidentified security company vehicle. Bullets can be seen hitting the vehicle before it comes to a slow stop.

There are no clues as to the shooter but either a Scottish or Irish accent can be heard in at least one of the clips above Elvis Presley's Mystery Train, the music which accompanies the video.

Last night a spokesman for defence firm Aegis Defence Services - set up in 2002 by Lt Col Tim Spicer, a former Scots Guards officer - confirmed that the company was carrying out an internal investigation to see if any of their employees were involved.

The Foreign Office has also confirmed that it is investigating the contents of the video in conjunction with Aegis, one of the biggest security companies operating in Iraq. The company was recently awarded a £220 million security contract in Iraq by the United States government. Aegis conducts a number of security duties and helped with the collection of ballot papers in the country's recent referendum

Lt Col Spicer, 53, rose to public prominence in 1998 when his private military company Sandlines International was accused of breaking United Nations sanctions by selling arms to Sierra Leone. Read more

Basra: Death sentence demanded for both

An Iraqi man shows a poster with old Iraqi
Banknotes with Saddam Hussein's portrait
and a slogan reading 'We want death
sentence to Saddam and Bush' in the southern
city of Basra November 27, 2005. Reuters

Islamists build parliament bloc despite vote curbs

reuters: The Muslim Brotherhood built its strength in Egypt's parliament this weekend, winning 29 seats in elections despite restrictions on voting and arrests of its supporters, official results showed on Sunday.

The Islamist group has now won 76 seats -- more than five times the number it held in the outgoing chamber. About a third of parliament's 444 elected places have still to be decided.

The officially banned Brotherhood is contesting only a third of the seats, not posing a challenge to control over parliament by the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), which won 75 places in voting on Saturday, bringing its total to about 195.

But the Brotherhood's wins have shown the weight of political Islam as the strongest opposition force in Egypt and caught the government and NDP off guard.

The authorities have curbed leeway given to the Islamists in the early stages of voting. Police restricted voting and detained 860 of the Brotherhood's activists on Saturday -- the fourth of six days of legislative elections.

Riot police cordoned off polling stations in Brotherhood strongholds, either preventing anybody from voting or allowing only a trickle of people to cast ballots.

"The aim was to prevent voters from reaching the ballot boxes and to affect the result," Brotherhood deputy leader Mohamed Habib told Reuters. "But with perseverance the people and the Brotherhood were able to overcome the barriers."

The Brotherhood said its candidate in the oasis town of Fayoum south of Cairo had defeated high-ranking NDP official and former deputy Prime Minister Youssef Wali. Read more

Egypt teargassing the voters

reuters: Egypt police battle young who say they want to vote

Egyptian riot police fought running battles in an Alexandria slum on Saturday with young men who said that security forces prevented opposition supporters from voting in parliamentary elections.

Some of the men said they waited to vote since the morning but lines of riot police prevented them from reaching the polling stations in the area, where a Muslim Brotherhood candidate is competing with a politician from the ruling party.

Tempers snapped when polling stations closed and clashes broke out at about sunset between about 800 youngsters and 1,000 policemen.

Youths threw stones at the police, who threw rocks back and fired tear gas canisters, some of them down narrow and densely populated alleyways in the Dekheila shanties.

Police deployed down the alleys, banged on doors and told people not to leave their houses. Young men, damp cloths wrapped across their mouths to protect themselves from the gas, dodged the police and harassed them.

One of the young men, Mustafa Rizk, said: "We hate the government. We all hate the government. They treat us like animals. It's not Islamic the way they treat people. This is why we all want an Islamic government."

"This is the response of the government to people wanting to exercise their right to vote," added Walid, a carpenter.

Ahmed, a 19-year-old student who declined to give his second name, said: "I went to vote twice and they didn't let me. They are teargassing us just because we want to vote."

"The police are like the Israelis and we are like the Palestinians. We are oppressed," said another youth, who declined to give his name.

Witnesses said police restricted voting in many areas where the Muslim Brotherhood is fielding candidates. An Interior Ministry spokesman said police were ensuring orderly voting.

A police officer, asked why people could not vote, said: "I don't know. I really don't know." Link

Allawi forgets Fallujah - goes touchy/feely

bbcnews: The former Iraqi prime minister, Iyad Allawi, has called for immediate action against human rights abuses.

Such abuses are as bad today as they were under Saddam Hussein, Mr Allawi told Britain's Observer newspaper.

Militias are operating within the Shia-led government, torturing and killing in secret bunkers, he said.

... "People are doing the same as (in) Saddam Hussein's time and worse," Mr Allawi told the newspaper.

"It is an appropriate comparison. People are remembering the days of Saddam.

"These were the precise reasons that we fought Saddam Hussein, and now we are seeing the same things." Read more

db: Is this the same great humanitarian and former CIA asset who turned the 'worlds greatest ever fighting force' and it's chemical weaponry on the City of Fallujah?:

Deliver Zarqawi men or else, Allawi warns Fallujah

Iraq's interim prime minister warned Fallujah on Wednesday it must hand over foreign militants or face a major operation to root them out.

Iyad Allawi's comments set a tough condition for negotiators seeking to defuse a months-long standoff between US forces and their Sunni Muslim foes in Iraq's most rebellious city.

Repeated US air strikes have targeted buildings the military say are used by America's top enemy in Iraq, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi.

"If Zarqawi and his group are not handed over to us, we are ready for major operations in Fallujah," Allawi told Iraq's interim national council. "I hope they (people in Fallujah) will respond. If they don't, we will have to use force."

Allawi delivered his ultimatum shortly after Fallujah's chief negotiator said a peace deal with the government was near. Link

Bombing Al-Jazeera - 'Outlandish' Indeed

arabnews Editorial: 'Outlandish' Indeed

It is not just Wadah Khanfar, Al-Jazeera's boss, whoyesterday demanded to know from Prime Minister Tony Blair if President Bush really considered bombing the channel's headquarters in Qatar in April 2004, who is keen to get an answer. Blair's own MPs are demanding the contents of the memorandum be published. In fact, the entire world is interested in the answer. Did Blair talk Bush out of it? A British memorandum with a transcript of a conversation between the two men appears to answer both questions in the affirmative and is at the center of a growing political storm.

Meanwhile, two officials have been charged under the Official Secrets Act with leaking the document to a newspaper. The attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, the man who changed his mind about the illegality of the Iraqi invasion without UN authorization, sternly demanded that newspapers publish nothing more about the memo. He later changed his mind about this as well, saying that he had not actually been trying to gag the press, merely seeking to ensure a fair trial for the two accused of leaking. The White House has dismissed the alleged contents of the memo as "outlandish" and it is indeed. It is utterly outlandish that the leader of the world's most powerful democracy, in which the freedom of the press is enshrined in its very constitution, should ever contemplate bombing the headquarters of a news outlet located in the capital of a friendly country. It was equally outlandish in 2001 when US jets "accidentally" bombed the Al-Jazeera office in Kabul before the overthrow of the Taleban. It was outlandish two years later when US jets again "accidentally" bombed the Al-Jazeera offices in Baghdad during the Iraq invasion. Outlandishness has been a hallmark of the Bush administration, which once it sets itself an aim, will go to any lengths, including turning the truth on its head, in order to achieve it.

Many regret the publicity Al-Jazeera has given to Osama Bin Laden and his minions. Errors of editorial judgment do not however constitute grounds for a bomb attack. Indeed such an attack, had it been carried out would have been almost as much of an enormity as 9/11. Certainly the effect on the Arab world would have been profound.

Bush, however, seems incapable of escaping the narrow neoconservative box and putting himself into the shoes or mind of anyone else. This has made him blind, not only to the feelings of America's friends but also to the honorable values which underpin the constitution of the country he leads. Because Al-Jazeera is an Arab station over which Washington exerts no influence and because it has stuck to an independent editorial line, it has been cast as a bogeyman, an enemy to be bombed "by accident" whenever the White House thinks it can get away with it. Because of this, the idea of bombing the station's Qatari HQ does not seem at all outlandish. Maybe when the White House issued its terse comment on the Downing Street memo, what it really meant was that it was "outlandish" that the document had been leaked. Link

Beaten unconscious in Army initiation fun

Telling the truth is hard. Not telling it is even harder.

dont bomb us: This is an old Al Jazeera poster - the picture is of our office in Bagdad, seconds after the bombing that killed Tareq Ayoub.

The caption reads:
"Al Jazeera Channel has never shied away from reporting the truth and has paid the price repeatedly. Through accusations, political attacks, and boycotts by liberal as well as conservative governments and states; and by having a number of our offices closed down. Recently, the ultimate price was paid. Our Baghdad bureau was hit, reporter Tarek Ayoub killed and cameraman Zuhair Falih injured. This is too high a price to pay for telling the truth. But at Al Jazeera, we believe the price of not doing so would be even higher.

The right not to remain silent.

Don't Bomb Us - A blog by Al Jazeera Staffers

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Police restrict voting in Egypt runoff Egyptian police have restricted voting in areas contested by the opposition Muslim Brotherhood and detained more than 600 Islamists.

On Saturday, thousands of riot police were deployed in constituencies where the Brotherhood had candidates, in many cases sealing off polling stations or limiting the number of people who could go in, witnesses said.

A leading judge said some judges had left in protest against the police action and taken the ballot boxes with them.

"Security forces besieged some of the polling stations, blocking some voters from entering and allowing others in," said judge Ahmed Mekki, who is in charge of an informal election monitoring effort by the judiciary. Read more

"Throughout the Middle East the fear of free choices can no longer justify the denial of liberty,"
Condoleezza Rice 20 June, 2005

15,000 hepatitis cases reported in Baghdad neighborhood

azzaman: There are 15,000 cases of Hepatitis in Al-Sadr Town, one of Baghdad's most impoverished neighborhoods, a study has revealed.

The study was conducted by doctors and scientists concerned with the living standards of the town, where more than 1.5 million people live.

The investigators belong to Martyr al-Sadr Bureau, an organization working under the umbrella of the Iraqi political faction late by the Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.

Moqtada's followers help in securing the predominantly Shiite town and offer humanitarian aid to the needy.

The latest hepatitis figures are the result of a comprehensive investigation by the bureau in which 140,000 households were covered.

Moqtada's organization, which also includes a military wing, is highly disciplined and exercises almost full control of al-Sadr Town in Baghdad.

Hashem Mohammed, a leader of Moqtada's organization, said the group decided to undertake the investigation when it found that the government and the health ministry did not have the capacity to carry out such study.

The investigation shows dramatic increases not only in hepatitis, a serious disease of the liver, but also in cases of major communicable diseases.

The study's findings contrast sharply with official figures under which hepatitis cases are estimated at 1,500 in the town.

But Mohammed cast severe doubts on official documents, saying there was no way for the health ministry to have a clear picture of the worsening health conditions in the town.

He said officials figures rely on visits to the general hospital and does not include visits to clinics and health centers the group operates.

The sewage system in the city does not function properly and heavy water from open sewers inundates streets.

The study says a laboratory examination has found the tap water heavily polluted.

"Untreated water seeps into pure water pipes. The average of untreated water in the pure water pipes is no less than 40%," the study says.

The al-Sadr Town is Iraq's most densely populated area. It is a warren of two-story houses separated by narrow streets with open sewers. Link

US troops burn Taleban "dogs" but no offense intended

bbcnews: No US charges over Afghan bodies

US troops who burned the corpses of two suspected Taleban fighters killed in a gun battle in Afghanistan committed no crime, military investigators say.

The bodies were burned for reasons of hygiene, the investigation found.
... Speaking at a news conference in Kandahar, the US-led coalition's operational commander, Maj-Gen Jason Kamiya, said the soldiers involved had not been aware that what they were doing was wrong. Read more

smh: Film rolls as troops burn dead

... An investigation by SBS's Dateline program, to be aired tonight, filmed the burning of the bodies. It also filmed a US Army psychological operations unit broadcasting a message boasting of the burnt corpses into a village believed to be harbouring Taliban.

According to an SBS translation of the message, delivered in the local language, the soldiers accused Taliban fighters near Kandahar of being "cowardly dogs". "You allowed your fighters to be laid down facing west and burnt. You are too scared to retrieve their bodies. This just proves you are the lady boys we always believed you to be," the message reportedly said. Read more

Chavez's cheap oil for US poor angers Washington

smh: Venezuela's President, Hugo Chavez, has pulled off his greatest public relations coup yet in his campaign to irritate the Bush Administration with a deal to supply cheap fuel to thousands of poor residents of Boston and New York.

To the anger of many in Washington, Citgo Petroleum Corporation, a company controlled by the Venezuelan Government, will supply more than 45 million litres of oil at 40 per cent below market prices.

The deal is one of the most spectacular moves yet in Mr Chavez's attempt to market his "21st-century socialism" using his country's oil wealth.

While it will not change many minds in Washington about his populist and autocratic regime, Caracas hopes it will bolster Mr Chavez's claim as the coming leader of an anti-capitalist Latin America. Mr Chavez, who once dubbed President George Bush a "genocidal madman" and led a huge anti-US protest earlier this month, first proposed his fuel offer in August when oil prices were at a record high after Hurricane Katrina.

Joe Kennedy, the chairman of Citizens Energy, one of the organisations that will distribute the oil, said the deal highlighted the failure of oil companies in the US and the Government to step in to help.

"Our government has made billions of dollars just this year on the royalty payments the oil companies pay to the Government," he said. But when it is a question of poor Americans, "what do we hear from Washington? Sorry boys. There's no money in the till."

To promote his dream, Mr Chavez has offered cheap oil and refineries to his neighbours and pledged financial support for regional development programs.

All the while he has positioned himself as a rival to Washington, accusing the Bush Administration of plotting a coup against him, and predicting the imminent demise of American capitalism.

The US on Wednesday threatened to block a record-breaking arms deal under which Spain would sell ships and aircraft to Venezuela, claiming that the €1.3 billion ($2 billion) arms deal with Mr Chavez could destabilise the region.

The deal, due to be signed in Caracas on Monday, would be a huge boost to Spain's ailing shipyard industry and to the rest of its defence industry.

"Those air or naval platforms include US technology," the US ambassador to Madrid, Eduardo Aguirre, said on Wednesday. "We have not yet decided whether to grant our permission for obtaining that technology. Link

Iraq set to lose billions of dollars in oil rip-off

asharqal-awsat: Iraq is currently losing millions of dollars in "rip-off" deals between the US-backed government in Baghdad and international oil companies, a report published in London on Tuesday said.

"Crude Designs: The Rip-Off of Iraq's Oil Wealth" revealed Iraqis were in danger of losing up to $194 billion in lost revenues, and risk handing more than 64% of the control of Iraq's oil reserves to foreign companies. Iraq has the world's third largest oil reserves.

Steve Kretzman, from Oil Change International who contributed to the report, said, "The Bush administration has gone to great lengths to hide the truth, but this report confirms what many had long suspected. In short, the winners for control of Iraq's oil are the US, the UK and their oil companies. The losers are the Iraqi people."

Published by a coalition of environmental organizations, the report indicated that long-term contracts would guarantee massive profits with rates of return between 42% and 162%, compared to an average profit of 12% in the oil industry.

Gregg Muttitt of PLATFORM, a center of expertise on oil and gas corporations in London, who researched and wrote the report said, "This form of contract being promoted is the most expensive and undemocratic option available. Iraq's oil should be for the benefit of the Iraqi people, not foreign oil companies."

He was referring to a type of contract known as production sharing agreements (PSAs) which he claimed have been heavily promoted by the US government and oil companies and have the backing of senior figures in the Iraqi Oil Ministry. Britain had also encouraged Iraq to open its oilfields for foreign investment. The report demonstrated that PSAs that last for 25 to 40 years, are usually secret and prevent governments from later altering the terms of the contract.

Iraqi officials have defended these contracts and said they would contribute to the development of oil-producing regions across the country. In a recent statement, Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi deputy prime said, "In order to increase our oil production we need to enter into PSAs."

First developed in the 1960s, these contracts technically keep the legal ownership of oil reserves in state hands and therefore sidestep the accusation of transferring oil wealth into foreign hands, while practically, they deliver oil companies the same results as the concession agreements they replaced.

PSAs generally exempt foreign oil companies from any new laws that might affect their profits. The contracts often stipulate that disputes are heard not in the country's own courts but in international investment tribunals.

The report warned that these contracts may be signed while the government is new and weak and the security situation dire. They are likely to be highly unfavorable but could last for up to 40 years. As such, the report called for "a full and open debate in Iraq about the way oil resources are to be developed, not 30-year deals negotiated behind closed doors."

Not only are these deals being negotiated without public discussion, but ongoing violence in Iraq has been putting the country at a considerable disadvantage. Muttitt explained, "Iraqi's institutions are new and weak. Experience in other countries shows that oil companies generally get the upper hand in PSA negotiations with governments. The companies will inevitably use Iraq's current instability to push for highly advantageous terms and lock Iraq into those terms for decades."

The Iraqi constitution adopted last October opened the way for greater foreign involvement in Iraq's oilfields. Negotiations with oil companies are already underway, ahead of the parliamentary elections in December and prior to the passing of a new Petroleum Law.

Several influential Iraqi politicians and technocrats were responsible for pressing the government to sign long-term deals with foreign oil companies, the report found.

According to Louise Richards, Chief Executive of War on Want, a co-publisher of the report, the study demonstrates that "Iraq's oil profits, far from being used to alleviate the suffering that the Iraqi people now face, are well within the sights of the multi-nationals."

As an alternative, the report calls on Iraq to self finance oil production by inviting foreign oil companies to sign short term agreements with fewer constraints or by using oil profits as a guarantee to borrow the necessary funds.

In a start warning to the Iraqi people, the report claimed the country was in danger of "surrendering its democracy before it even begins." Link

"Crude Designs: The Rip-Off of Iraq's Oil Wealth" [pdf]


Pilger: Mainstream journalism is the voice of rampant power

ICH: The Indian writer Vandana Shiva has called for an "insurrection of subjugated knowledge." The insurrection is well under way. In trying to make sense of a dangerous world, millions of people are turning away from the traditional sources of news and information and to the World Wide Web, convinced that mainstream journalism is the voice of rampant power. The great scandal of Iraq has accelerated this. In the United States, several senior broadcasters have confessed that had they challenged and exposed the lies told about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, instead of amplifying and justifying them, the invasion might not have happened.

Such honesty has yet to cross the Atlantic. Since it was founded in 1922, the BBC has served to protect every British establishment during war and civil unrest. "We" never traduce and never commit great crimes. So the omission of shocking events in Iraq – the destruction of cities, the slaughter of innocent people, and the farce of a puppet government – is routinely applied. A study by the Cardiff School of Journalism found that 90 per cent of the BBC's references to Saddam Hussein's WMD suggested he possessed them and that "spin from the British and U.S. governments was successful in framing the coverage." The same "spin" has ensured, until now, that the use of banned weapons by the Americans and British in Iraq has been suppressed as news. Read more

db: There continue to be moments when the BBC are fairly bold in their reporting - often it's World Service radio or, less frequently, Radio 4. This is one example - Radio 4 'PM' on US use of WP chemical weapons in Fallujah [15.11.2005 - windows media] - includes a classic and never to be forgotton interview with the moronic Pentagan spokesman Barry Venable .

A gutless, draft-dodging coward named Dick Cheney

capitalhillblue: The last thing we need in the increasingly bitter Iraq debate is a gutless, draft-dodging coward like Dick Cheney criticizing those who did serve their country.

The Vice President, who used multiple deferments to avoid serving his country during the Vietnam conflict, jumped into the fray big time last week and again on Monday with an acrid broadside against those who properly question the President's motives for dragging the country into the bloody dead-end called Iraq.

"This is revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety," Cheney said yesterday. "It has no place anywhere in American politics."

Sorry Dickie boy, but it is you and your cronies at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who have "no place anywhere in American politics." It is hypocrites like you, you shameless, cowardly son-of-a-bitch, who should be led from the White House in chains and locked away in some hellhole to rot for eternity.

American politics is cursed with chicken hawk politicians who do everything in their power to avoid serving their country and then vote to send other Americans to fight and die for their questionable wars. Bill Clinton used falsified documents to secure and keep his student deferments in place. Congress is littered with false patriots, Republican and Democrat alike, who avoided military service. And the biggest warmonger of them all, George W. Bush, needed daddy's connections to ride out the war at home in the safety of the Texas Air National Guard and couldn't even complete that service. Read more

US rivals join forces in Syria oil and gas bid

businessstandard: India, China to bid for oilfields in Syria

CNPC, ONGC have jointly bid for Petro-Canada's $1-bn oil and gas fields in Syria.

India and China, the most aggressive shoppers for oil and gas assets in the world, have come together for the first time to put in a joint bid.

The China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and the Oil & Natural Gas Corporation are jointly bidding for Petro-Canada's $1-billion oil and gas fields in Syria.

The ONGC executives confirmed the news but did not divulge details citing commercial reasons.

Petro-Canada had said in September that it might sell its 38 per cent stake in the Shell-operated Al Furat venture in Syria, which accounts for about 70,000 barrels of oil equivalent of the company's daily output.

Petro-Canada was selling the assets to reduce its political risk profile. The assets could fetch $800 million to $900 million in proceeds, Scotia Capital analyst Greg Pardy wrote in a note to clients in September. The source said the assets were worth more than the estimated numbers.

ONGC had been beaten by China's state oil giants in the $4.2 billion take-over of PetroKazakhstan and the $1.4 billion Ecuador oil field sale by North American producer EnCana. They are partners in Sudan. Both India and China with their growing appetite for oil and gas have a strategic need to diversify their energy sources from the present dependence on West Asia.

India last year imported about Rs 83,538 crore worth of crude oil constituting about 70 per cent of demand. China requires 266 million tonne oil but produces only 170 mt and imports about 91.12 mt. Link

Fisk - American journalism is Osmotic, Parasitic

Robert Fisk talking to Amy Goodman last week about the 'campaigning' Washington Post's decision not to release the names of the European countries that have hosted US torture centres [Romania, Poland] - in compliance with a request from Torture Control at the Pentagon.

AMY GOODMAN: And what do you make of them complying with the Pentagon request not to name the countries?

ROBERT FISK: Well, this is the same problem that's existed all along with American journalism. And that is this osmotic, parasitic relationship between the press or journalists, in general, and power, where to criticize your country's foreign policy, especially when it's war, is seen as a form of unpatriotic behavior and thus of potential subversion. Add to this the sort of American school of journalism, where everyone has to have 50% of each story, each side, which is ridiculous. The victims should be the subject of the story if we have any kind of compassion at all as human beings. When we reach this stage, I think, you know, journalism ceases to perform its function.

What we should be doing is challenging authority, which is what Helen was trying to do in that clip we just saw from the White House press conference. But if you want to see the normal White House press conference, you'll quickly see the relationship between the journalist and the President. It will be "Mr. President! Mr. President! Mr.President!" And then George W. Bush will say, "John," "Amy," "Bob," whoever it might be, right? That is the relationship that exists now, and it should be much more combative. You know, Amira Hass, the very fine Israeli journalist, a friend of mine, we were discussing the purpose of being a foreign correspondent about two years or so ago, and I was going on about, you know, "We write the first pages of history," in my Brit way. And she said, "No, Robert, our job is to monitor the centers of power." And we don't do that. Read more/video options

Britain gives approval to torture, claims Amnesty

independent: Tony Blair has been accused of undermining decades of British campaigning for international human rights by using the war on terror to give a "green light" to torture. Amnesty International is to launch an unprecedented global campaign tomorrow against the British Government after ministers admitted they would use information gained by torture to prevent attacks on the United Kingdom.

Mike Gapes, the Labour MP and chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, hit out at the Government after Ian Pearson, the Foreign Office minister responsible for human rights, said evidence obtained under torture could not be ignored if it might prevent an attack.

He said: "The fact the Government now seems prepared to use evidence obtained under torture sends a worrying signal and may mean that while we say we condemn the use of torture, other countries might feel they have a green light to use torture to get evidence on terrorism."

Amnesty is to turn the tactics it used against torture by dictatorships in the Seventies and Eighties on the Government as it puts the campaign against British anti-terror laws at the forefront of the organisation's global fight for human rights. It will call on its two million members worldwide to join a letter-writing campaign targeting Mr Blair and build international pressure to oppose plans to deport suspects to countries that use torture. Read more

Jazeera seeks Blair meeting

reuters: Arabic news channel Al Jazeera's general manager flew to London on Friday to demand the government explain a leaked report that U.S. President George W. Bush wanted to bomb the TV station.

The Daily Mirror reported on Tuesday that a secret government memo said Prime Minister Tony Blair had talked Bush out of bombing Al Jazeera's headquarters in Qatar in April last year.

"I have come to London in order to reach out to British officials, to investigate about the memo that some claim exists during the past week," Al Jazeera managing director Waddah Khanfar told Reuters by telephone after his arrival in London.

"It is a matter of deep concern for all of us in al Jazeera, and the Arab world and the media."

He said a delegation from the channel would deliver a letter to Blair on Saturday asking for an interview.

The White House has said the allegation that Bush wanted to bomb Jazeera is "so outlandish" it does not merit a response. Read more

Al Jazeera: protests against US threats and previous crimes

Fatima Ayyoub, 4, daughter of Jordanian Al Jazeera correspondent Tareq Ayyoub, is seen
with pictures of her father during a protest outside the Al Jazeera office in Amman November
24, 2005. Ayyoub was a victim of a US missile attack on the Al Jazeera bureau in Baghdad
on April 8, 2003

Friday, November 25, 2005

Military families want 'to bring Blair to account'

scotsman: Relatives of soldiers killed during the Iraq war are launching a High Court bid to force the Government to hold an independent inquiry into the legality of the conflict.

Military Families Against the War say they want "to bring Tony Blair to account". They believe the war to have been "based on a series of lies and to be an illegal act".

They will ask Mr Justice Collins, sitting at the High Court in London, for permission to seek a judicial review of the Government's decision in May to reject their call for a full public inquiry.

Government lawyers turned down their request, and the Prime Minister later said there was no need to go "back over this ground again and again"**. Read more

db: Pinochet feels the same way

Department of Defense defined WP as chemical weapon


BROTHER (SUBSOURCE) [ (b)(1) sec 1.3(a)(4) ][ (b)(7)(D) ]

AT THIS TIME). Read more

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Victims of US torture speak

guardian: [November 18, 2005] 'They couldn't take away my dignity'

This weekend Amnesty International is holding a conference in London which brings together the biggest gathering of former "war on terror" detainees.

Around 25 former inmates at Guantanamo Bay are attending and speakers will include former detainees from the UK, Russia and Afghanistan.

Ahead of the three-day conference, Amnesty conducted interviews with four former Guantanamo detainees and transcripts of these are below.

Moazzam Begg

[At Bagram airbase in Afghanistan] The guards had put barbed wire at the back of the cages or the cells where we'd use that area as the latrine. This detainee had apparently been able to push the barbed wire through and crawl out and run out - completely confused as to whether he's going left or right or where he was going to go in his orange suit. So the guards caught him and they beat him literally to death. After which they dragged him in front of all the cells which were there and that's when I saw his body. They took him to the medical room which was also opposite the cell where I was and they closed the doors. After that there was a whole series of doctors and medics and officers running in and rushing about. And eventually they carried his body out on a stretcher with the blanket covering his face and all we could se were the beaten soles of his feet that were visible.

I spoke to one of the soldiers who used to get along quite well with me and he told me exactly what he'd done, why he'd done it and how he'd done it. This soldier I'd met in Kandahar and he was one of the few who used to speak to me quite regularly and I was so amazed that he was so candid about telling me how he'd done this and why he'd done this and why he felt it was completely justified and almost vindicated himself by the fact that he's telling me.

When people say, "How did you manage?" Well sometimes I didn't manage. Sometimes I exploded myself and broke up everything and fell about, cried, smashed my head against the wall. But that was a rarity. Generally I tried to be a controlled and as calm as possible. One important thing to me was dignity and self control and self respect. They had definitely taken my freedom and my ability to be free, but what they couldn't do was to take away my dignity, and that's what I held on to.

When they handed out Korans to us in Bagram I remember seeing the Americans passing them through the airlocks and throwing them onto the ground. People might think that well, its just a book, but if you believe like you do as a Muslim that this is the unadulterated revealed speech of God and it is the most sacred thing that a Muslim would have in his house. To see them do that for me brought about a sense of complete desperation, that I can't do anything about this and them for the other Afghans and various other prisoners it was intolerable.

And it was of course part of the dehumanising process again. And one of the guards there of that unit told me when I used to have discussions with them, that when we see you people we can't look at you as human beings. Our psyche does not allow us to do that - because if we did we wouldn't treat you this way. It's easy for us to dehumanise you. First of all most of you guys don't speak the same language. Secondly, you look different. Thirdly, you're dressed different. Fourthly, you're in cages and we're out here with the guns.

The use of torture has in the 21st century become a topic of debate. Should we or should we not. And I think that it's just such a terrible statement ... on the state of us as human beings on the planet today.

The people who claim to be the upholders and defenders of freedom are debating now whether it is legitimate to use torture. After all of what the world has been through arguing against the fact. And if it does in one way or another become legitimised, either mental torture or physical or psychological, which has been clearly used by several countries, then I think the world will spiral into something that nobody will be able to control.

People have been held there [Guantanamo] for four years now, almost. What possible intelligence value could they be giving after all this time - even if there was any to begin with?

So I would say categorically that not only should the United States close the place down. I think people should be repatriated. Those people who have committed crimes should be charged. Those people who have not should be released and should be compensated - if it's possible to compensate people for the time and for the physical and mental torture that they've had to suffer all of this time.

Badarzaman Badar

Actually in the beginning when we were in Bagram and Kandahar and in cells of ISI, we suffered a lot. We have been kicked out, we have been kicked by the feet of soldiers. We have become naked; they have taken our naked pictures. They have shaven our beards and they have insulted us in different ways. The way they were taking us to interrogation in Kandahar was really insulting and we suffered a lot and we had no shower for three months in Bagram and Kandahar and the same way for two and a half months in cells of ISI in Peshawar. The way we were taken and flown from Peshawar to Bagram, and from Bagram to Kandahar and from Kandahar to Guantanamo Bay was really torturing, we suffered a lot. They tied us with plastic handcuffs and it really hurt us and the most terrible thing was when they took us from Kandahar to Guantanamo. We had goggles on our head and had masks and we were blinded there and it was a very long flight of 24 hours. What happened to us... It is just torturing us mentally right now and when I just think about Guantanamo, I think about Kandahar, I think about Bagram I think about the cells of ISI, I cannot forget the night we were arrested and we left our children crying without reason. We haven't been criminals, we haven't done anything wrong. We have been journalists, we have been scholars, we have been intellectuals, we have been reporters and editors you can see the library here. I can draw it for you this is the whole block you can see. You know and there were two rows, in each row there were 24 cells and then there was another row of 24 cells. You can see and each cell was 180 centimetres in length, and the width and the height was 180 centimetres. It was the place where we had to sleep, where we had to offer our prayers, where we had to go to the bath and that was the whole thing we had in our life. We had to stay here for a long time and after every three days and sometimes after every five days we had to go out for 20 minutes and some people for 30 minutes if we were not on punishment. But those who were on punishment had to stay there for longer times - for a month, two or three without coming out.

Actually we couldn't get our messages from home and our families couldn't receive our messages up to almost one year and a half. The first time I received our message through Red Cross. I wrote my first message in Kandahar but it arrived home after 8 months and we received our first message after one year and most of the messages were coming through Red Cross and they used to censor and erased just those lines which they didn't like - you can see these.

I want to go to that conference [Amnesty's] because we want to impart and to give the details to the rest of the world and we want to inform the world so it does not happen again. So the right thing is done to those innocents who are still in detention and punishment for those who are really guilty. I mean keeping this information secret and not telling the world would be a dishonesty an intellectual dishonesty and we want to tell the world and it's very important. It's just many people are waiting for us to listen and to know what was going on there and what happened and what were the results.

Rustam Akhmiarov

The torture was basic. In order to cause discomfort they switched on the air conditioning and closed the door to the room. The chain was covered with frost. Before the investigation we were held in the isolation ward for ten days to a month. During this time continuous beatings and insults took place.

Concerning our transfer from Kandahar to Guantánamo: it was a very cruel journey. We were all chained, attached to the seats. We were wearing headphones, blacked out glasses and respirators, making breathing almost impossible. People were continually losing consciousness because of the respirators. The headphones caused high pressure on the head, almost causing a hole, and all of that caused a lot of pain.

Airat Vakhitov

We were put into an American detention centre at Kandahar air base. Every one of us suffered from torture and humiliation. The beatings became a routine. Isolation wards, unsanitary conditions and we were sleeping on the sand in the winter. This humiliation was bringing us to our knees.

The torture we were subjected to include beatings and systematic provocations to try and make the detainee break some instructions. And when that happens a special team is called - they would run into the cell, beat and chain him up.

During the interrogations they left you in a cold room for a few weeks. Isolation wards are a good example. We weren't given anything to lie on - no carpet. All of us have problems with our kidneys because we slept on the iron with air conditioning on. It was freezing cold. The ceilings began to be covered with condensation from the cold. We were held like that for months. I was in the isolation ward for five months. I consider the biggest humiliation I have suffered is the stigma that the Americans gave to me. The life-long brand of terrorist, extremist, which I received in Guantánamo has stayed with me since being extradited to Russia.

We have to expose to the public these crimes of the system speaking out for all of the international community, few people have taken the opportunity using legitimate or other methods and people are starting to understand what happened. Some people on behalf of the whole community say that Muslims are the terrorists, bandits and killers. I face insults in the streets. It is the fault of a group of people who speak out on behalf of the world's Islamic Uma. I think not all people share the point of view of Bush's administration. Not all Muslims share the opinion of Osama Bin Laden or Zarkowi. There is an attempt to cause tension between two big civilizations and we became the victims of this war, we were caught in the middle. Link

'Bomb al-jazeera' memo: The futility of secrecy

newstatesman: He's done it several times before on a smaller scale, so it seems eminently conceivable that George W Bush should want to finish the job properly. In November 2001, a US missile destroyed al-Jazeera's Kabul offices; in April 2003, coalition forces attacked the station's bases in Baghdad and Basra. Now the Daily Mirror reports that the US president told Tony Blair of his plans to bomb al-Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, capital of the emirate of Qatar. Downing Street, when asked to respond to the story, initially gave a non-committal response. Subsequently it warned editors that publication of the contents of documents relating to their discussion would be a breach of the Official Secrets Act.

The act, introduced in 1911, has a long history of stamping on free speech. Some of its current, and most restrictive, provisions date back to 1989 and the Thatcher administration. Clearly, all governments can legitimately point to the need for measures to preserve secrets relating to external, internal or military intelligence. Some previous prosecutions of former security service employees might have been legitimate in both the spirit and the letter of the law.

However, this government, with its particularly inglorious approach to veracity, seems to be interpreting its gagging powers more broadly to include political or diplomatic inconvenience. Thus the Cabinet Secretary seeks to tone down the memoirs of a former spin-doctor, fearing the embarrassment it would cause ministers. Now the Attorney General - a man whose equivocations about the legality of the Iraq war have made him one of the least distinguished holders of that office - has broadened his remit to classify as secret any piece of information damaging to his boss's closest ally. The latest move is as absurd as it will prove counter- productive, ensuring maximum exposure across the world. Read more

db: It's interesting that the government let the story run in the first place. It's possible that Blair and his team calculated that the allegations of him standing up to Bush and acting as a force for reason [no doubt a one-off] would be just the thing to mitigate his current reputation as an obedient poodle. It's no secret that Alistair Campbell and Blair still talk a lot.

First Berlusconi kicks Bush in the nuts - then Blair pulls a fast one. Bush is going down and it's every man for himself.

Targeting Al Jazeera

counterpunch: On Tuesday, Britain's Daily Mirror published an explosive story riddled with implications concerning the character and intent of the US president when pursuing his so-called 'war on terror', and perhaps, shedding light on the bombing of Al Jazeera's offices in both Kabul and Baghdad.

Twenty-four later, the Mirror and all other British papers had been subjected to a "gag order" under Section 5 the Official Secrets Act at pain of prosecution.

"The Daily Mirror was yesterday told not to publish further details from a memo marked 'Top Secret', which revealed that President Bush wanted to bomb an Arab TV station," wrote Kevin Maguire in Tuesday's edition of the paper.

"The gag by the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith" the same attorney general who changed his pre-Iraq War legal opinion after being badgered by US government lawyers to do so "came nearly 24 hours after the Mirror informed Downing Street of its intention to reveal how Tony Blair talked Bush out of attacking satellite station Al Jazeera's HQ in friendly Qatar" in the spring of 2004.

The White House has characterized the Mirror's reporting as "outlandish", but if that's the case, one wonders why Downing Street has gone into crisis mode not only prosecuting two of its own civil servants David Keogh and Leo O'Connor under the Official Secrets Act but also threatening editors of British newspapers with prosecution an historical first according to Richard Taylor-Norton of the Guardian.

So while Bush is attempting to brush off the incident, the British government is appearing more as though it has its hand in the cookie jar with damage control its first priority.

When asked to comment on the memo Downing Street refused to do so saying it doesn't commented on leaked documents. Be that as it may - and provided the Mirror story is false - then, surely, an absolute denial by the Prime Minister would put the story to bed and quash the rumors.

But gag order or not this story doesn't look like it's going to disappear into the ether like so many others. Read more

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Leaked Iraq memo on 'heavy-handed' US tactics

rawstory: On May 24, 2004, The Sunday Times published the contents of a leaked memo which revealed British fears about the "heavy-handed" tactics US troops were using in the Iraqi towns of Falluja and Najaf.

Earlier today, UK police charged ex-civil servant David Keogh and former MP's researcher Leo O'Connor for leaking that memo.

Confidential: Iraq memo

l. This paper summarises our strategic objective in Iraq, the difficulties we face and the strategy necessary to overcome them, up to and beyond the assumption of authority by a fully sovereign Interim Iraqi Government on 30 June.

Strategic Objective

1. Our strategic objective is a democratic, stable and prosperous Iraq, that poses no threat to its neighbours. This involves rebuilding and rehabilitating a country damaged and traumatised by years of brutality and mismanagement. The process is difficult, and setbacks are to be expected. But we have a strategy to push progress forward.


1. We should not underestimate the present difficulties: Iraqiisation of security forces will not be complete by transition on 30 June. Numbers, by and large, are up to par (although the Iraqi Army will not reach full strength till 2005) but capability and command remains a problem and performance has been patchy. There are signs of better organisation by insurgents and a reservoir of popular support, at least amongst the Sunnis. Heavy handed US military tactics in Falluja and Najaf some weeks ago have fuelled both Sunni and Shi'ite opposition to the coalition, and lost us much public support inside Iraq.It has spread fighting to MND(SE)'s area. The US have learnt lessons from this and are generally proceeding more cautiously Coalition control is nevertheless precarious in some areas. The Ukrainian military lost control of Al Kut some weeks ago and a resumption of coalition authority was only possible after reinforcement by American troops. The Italian military seem similarly to have lost control of Nasariyah temporarily over the weekend, and civilian staff were evacuated from the CPA compound pending reinforcement by MND(SE). The coalition is under pressure. Spanish, Honduran and Dominican Republic troops are leaving. In the UK area in the South-East, the coalition is for the moment more stable with only minor changes unconnected to recent events: the New Zealanders have long planned the withdrawal of their small contingent (for operational rather than political reasons), and the Norwegians have long planned to replace troops with trainers. Nonetheless countries such as the Netherlands and Italy, and outside the UK area Poland, though solid, are operating against a difficult parliamentary background. Security difficulties are slowing reconstruction and affecting Iraqi confidence in the Coalition. While power supplies this summer will be much better than last year, CPA targets for summer electricity production are unlikely to be met. Security permitting, in 2004 Iraq's economy should recover the ground lost in 2003. Some of the foundations of a market economy have been laid, but plenty of other reforms to the public distribution system for food, fuel and other prices, and State Owned Enterprises are still badly needed. The scandal of the treatment of detainees at AQbu Ghraib has sapped the moral authority of the coaliition, inside Iraq and internationally. A second member of the IGC - this month's President - was killed this week. This has been a shock to those involved in the political process. More generally, the timetable for transition of authority to a sovereign Iraqi Interim Government on 30 June is tight.


But we are taking forward a strategy to overcome them. Security will be key.
We need to ensure the right security architecture after 30 June, with (i) an Iraqi-led National Security Council, involving senior MNF representation, as the forum for strategic decision making and; (ii) Iraqi forces under Iraqi command, except when involved with the MNF in specific operations.
We have identified ways to underpin Iraqiisation of the security forces, including more monitoring and mentoring, better leadership and specialist training, more effective police command from the Ministry of the Interior and faster procurement of equipment. An MOD-led team is visiting Iraq to take work forward.
We need a more flexible approach towards cooperation with existing militias. This seems to have worked on local initiative in Fallujah and the US are now considering something similar in Kirbala. But we must acknowledge that this approach has risks as well as opportunities and needs to be considered carefully on a case-by-case basis.
More generally, we shall want to minimise the profile of coalition forces after 1 July, and get the Iraqis out in front as much as possible, particularly in patrolling and policing.
We need to double our efforts to ensure a sensible and sensitive US approach to military operations. The message seeems to be accepted at the highest levels but not always implemented lower down the command chain.

The MOD are considering options for the reinforcement of Southern Iraq. Either: (i) deploying a 3-star headquarters (the ARRC HQ) with a battlegroup to provide manoeuvre capacity, to take on responsibility for MND(CS) and MND(SE), or (II) deployment of ground forces to take over Najaf and Quadissiyah provinces, thus extending MND(SE) with the UK succeeding the US who have or the moment taken over from Spain in those duties. If we go down either route we should ensure that we use it to maximise our influence over American military decisions, and that we can prevent US action, either at the strategic or operational levels, which would jeopardise our objectives.
We need to maintain pressure on the neighbours, particularly Syria, over border security. We have made some progress with Iran on establishing border checkpoints - progress which may be jeopardised if the US proceed with expulsions of Iranian diplomats prior to transition (we are taking preemptive action). A cross-government team led by our future Ambassador to Iraq, Edward Chaplin, has made some progress with the Syrians.
We have kept in close consultation with coalition partners, with regular conferences on the military and political sides for MND(SE) troop contributors. The US have now recognised the wider need, and are organising a high-level meeting in Washington for all coalition partners on 20 May .

Political Process

Establishing democracy in Iraq is a huge task, given the background. We must continue to support Brahimi's efforts to establish a fully sovereign Iraqi Interim Government from 30 June. His key tasks are to nominate the members of the Interim Government; help convene a National Conference, via a Preparatory Committee, that might serve to legitimise the IG (ideally before transition); and determine the means whereby the National Conference might also select a Consultative Council. We need to keep this a UN and Iraqi-led process, but Brahimi has been keeping the UK and US closely involved as his thinking has developed. Some members of the Iraq Governing Council will be difficult. We can help with them. We have senior contact with the US in hand.
We must ensure successful negotiation of a UNSCR, ideally before the D-Day celebrations on 6 June (which will serve as some leverage on the French). The prospects for this look reasonably positive. The key will be satisfactory language on the post-transition security architecture and particularly the relationship between the Multinational Force and the Iraqi Interim Government. We are clear that the MNF will only be able to operate with the full consent of the Iraqi Interim Government; that Iraqi forces would not be part of the MNF but only under MNF command and control for operational purposes, if the Iraqis agree (while remaining under overall Iraqi command); and that the Interim Government will have an effective veto over major operations. We still need to tie the US down to language that reflects these principles. But if we do so, and then give the French, Germans and Russians a genuine opportunity to offer views on the draft, the prospects look reasonable. This will require detailed senior level intervention with the US.

We will also need to ensure a constructive international conference in July or the autumn, which the French, Germans and Russians want. It could serve as useful further underpinning for the new arrangements and might encourage them to contribute to reconstruction.
Looking further ahead, we shall need to support the UN, including in security terms, in their preparations for elections in January.
Meanwhile we need to demonstrate that we are gripping the detainee issue, and show that we respond to abuse allegations. The Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary are considering ideas for greater international involvement.

Reconstruction and Economy


With $32bn pledged at Madrid and oil prices high money is not a problem. But spending it effectively and in line with Iraqi priorities is. The big impact should come from the $18bn US Supplemental. DFID have a well-targeted Country Assistance Plan including building Iraqi government capacity and helping the US to spend Supplemental money in the south. Restoring security will be key to effective deployment of the funds.

On the Iraqi economy more generally, we need to: establish before transition a robust and transparent fiscal framework for the Iraqi budget and the management of oil reserves. The UNSCR will cover the latter. make progress on economic reforms,. such as petrol price liberalisation and reforming the public distribution system for food. These will be politically difficult for the Interim Government, who will need help from the IMF and the Coalition. ensure that the Interim Government has sufficient powers to enter into agreements with the International Financial Institutions, particularly on debt relief. Appropriate language with the SCR will help with this. DFID will help the Iraqis with this agenda.

If the UK AOR is extended, it will be important to have a supporting development (and political) strategy.



This is an intense agenda across a series of complex inter-related problems, with security at their heart. It will require consistent and high-level cross-government commitment over coming weeks and months.

The transition and the summer months are bound to be difficult. By October we need to be well underway, with election preparations, with Iraqis exercising control over their own government and over much of security, with supplemental money being turned into jobs and early results on the ground, particularly in Sunni areas, and the insurgents undercut by progress on all of those fronts.

The task is considerable; the stakes are high; but it is imperative that we succeed
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