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

Thursday, August 31, 2006


Bush Speaks at American Legion Convention:


"We stand with the mothers and fathers in every culture who want to see their children grow up in a caring and peaceful world." Link

Neo-Cons Denounce Khatami Visit as "Appeasement"


Next week's visit to the United States of former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has been strongly denounced by hard-line neo-conservatives and other hawks here as "appeasement".

[...] Sen. Rick Santorum who called the visa issuance "at best foolish and at worst misguided. Mohammed Khatami is one of the chief propagandists for the Islamic Fascist regime."

"I am opposed to granting a visa to such a man so that he can travel around the United States and mislead the American people," he added. Link

Fox 'News' june 22 2006 - "We have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq" - Sen. Rick Santorum Link

Huffington Post june 23 2006 - Senator Rick Santorum Finds Old Crap, Makes Ass of Himself Link

Enemy Lies

[...] in Lebanon they design attacks and manipulate the media to try to demoralize public opinion. They doctor photographs of casualties, use civilians as human shields and then provoke an outcry when civilians are accidentally killed in their midst, which of course was their intent - Rumsfeld August 29, 2006

One Israeli accident [air strike] hit a farm near Qaa, close to the Syrian border in the Bekaa Valley where human shields [workers], mostly Syrian Kurds, were loading plums and peaches on to trucks. 33 were killed and 20 wounded. "Outcry" was limited.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Ministry of Truth costs rocket under Neo-Labour

The price of Government spin has trebled since Labour came to power, costing taxpayers more than 300 million pounds a year.

Recently released figures show that Whitehall employs an army of more than 3,200 press officers to promote ministers and their quangos.

The increase sharply illustrates the determination of Labour's drive to get its message across - and deploy publicly-funded resources to serve its cause.

[...] The revelation will provide further ammunition for critics who say Labour has turned an impartial information service into a political propaganda machine. Read more

db: It's important that the Party has all necessary means at its disposal to 'get the message across' - "War is Peace," "Islamism=Fascism", "Blair is not a Bush- poodle- neoconservative- bitch"

The Big Lie About 'Islamic Fascism'

by Eric Margolis

The latest big lie unveiled by Washington's neoconservatives are the poisonous terms, "Islamo-Fascists" and "Islamic Fascists." They are the new, hot buzzwords among America's far right and Christian fundamentalists.
President George W. Bush made a point last week of using "Islamofacists" when recently speaking of Hezbullah and Hamas - both, by the way, democratically elected parties. A Canadian government minister from the Conservative Party compared Lebanon's Hezbullah to Nazi Germany.
The term "Islamofascist" is utterly without meaning, but packed with emotional explosives. It is a propaganda creation worthy Dr. Goebbels, and the latest expression of the big lie technique being used by neocons in Washington's propaganda war against its enemies in the Muslim World.
This ugly term was probably first coined in Israel - as was the other hugely successful propaganda term, "terrorism" - to dehumanize and demonize opponents and deny them any rational political motivation, hence removing any need to deal with their grievances and demands.
As the brilliant humanist Sir Peter Ustinov so succinctly put it, "Terrorism is the war of the poor, and war is the terrorism of the rich."
Both the terms "terrorism" and "fascist" have been so abused and overused that they have lost any original meaning. The best modern definition I've read of fascism comes in former Colombia University Professor Robert Paxton's superb 2004 book, The Anatomy of Fascism.
Paxton defines fascism's essence, which he aptly terms its "emotional lava" as: 1. a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond reach of traditional solutions; 2. belief one's group is the victim, justifying any action without legal or moral limits; 3. need for authority by a natural leader above the law, relying on the superiority of his instincts; 4. right of the chosen people to dominate others without legal or moral restraint; 5. fear of foreign "contamination."
Fascism demands a succession of wars, foreign conquests, and national threats to keep the nation in a state of fear, anxiety and patriotic hypertension. Those who disagree are branded ideological traitors. All successful fascists regimes, Paxton points out, allied themselves to traditional conservative parties, and to the military-industrial complex.
Highly conservative and militaristic regimes are not necessarily fascist, says Paxton. True fascism requires relentless aggression abroad and a semi-religious adoration of the regime at home.
None of the many Muslim groups opposing US-British control of the Mideast fit Paxton's definitive analysis. The only truly fascist group ever to emerge in the Mideast was Lebanon's Maronite Christian Phalange Party in the 1930's which, ironically, became an ally of Israel's rightwing in the 1980's.
It is grotesque watching the Bush Administration and Tony Blair maintain the ludicrous pretense they are re-fighting World War II. The only similarity between that era and today is the cultivation of fear, war fever and racist-religious hate by US neoconservatives and America's religious far right, which is now boiling with hatred for anything Muslim.
Under the guise of fighting a "third world war" against "Islamic fascism," America's far right is infecting its own nation with the harbingers of WWII totalitarianism. Read more

db: As always the Blairite neocons here mirror the US lies - John Reid has recently been referring to the 'fascist' threat - relating to the overhyped so-called plot to 'murder on an unimaginable scale' via the alleged 'plan' to bring down ten, or seven, maybe four, or three possibly two or less planes over the Atlantic, or elsewhere, soon - or sometime. [Follow link above to NYT item that was not published in the UK , via Cryptome]

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Israel was 'not ready to confront real fighters'

"For the last six years we were engaged in stupid policing missions in the West Bank," he said. "Checkpoints, hunting stone-throwing Palestinian children, that kind of stuff. The result was that we were not ready to confront real fighters like Hezbollah." Link

Monday, August 28, 2006

Afghanistan: Helping the People

Objective reporting of the fighting in Helmand is lacking due to the refusal of commanders to have journalists at forward bases.

[...] The intensity of the air support needed to keep the Taliban attacks at bay is far beyond anything Government ministers expected when they authorised the deployment in January. US Air Force data show that Musa Qalah has been bombed by USAF B-1s, A-10 ground-attack aircraft and RAF Harriers on almost every day this month. US aircraft have attacked the town on more than 20 occasions and there was only one day this month that US aircraft did not bomb targets in Helmand province.

Before British troops arrived there was barely one call a week for air support.

In January, Mr Reid distanced Britain from US tactics that relied on heavy bombing. He said: "We are not going to Afghanistan to wage war - we are going in order to help the Afghan people." Link

Thursday, August 24, 2006

"We are being watched by extremists" - Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Due to an unplanned def brain outage
posts are in short supply, and will be so for a little while.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

British Muslim airline pilot ordered off flight


A British Muslim airline pilot yesterday described the "humiliating" moment when he was hauled off a transatlantic flight just before take-off.

Amar Ashraf, 28, who was born in Wrexham, North Wales, said he felt " demoralised and humiliated" after being told to leave the flight from Manchester to Newark by a stewardess, and then being questioned by armed police. He believes his removal was down to having a "Muslim-sounding name".

Mr Ashraf, 28, a British Pakistani who was returning to his job as a pilot for one of Continental's partner airlines in the US, will lodge a formal complaint with Continental Airlines, with whom he was travelling, as well as with the US authorities. Read more

db: As well as Monarch Airlines removing two passengers from a flight at the weekend for "speaking what was believed to be Arabic and repeatedly checking their watches" a story on BBC Radio 4 revealed that a couple were refused entry to London's millenium wheel - also for speaking Arabic. Gone crazy.

Monday, August 21, 2006

US dreams of disarming Hezbollah


U.S. resolution would disarm Hezbollah

The United States is planning to introduce a new U.N. resolution on disarming Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, but U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said Monday this should not hold up the quick deployment of U.N. peacekeepers.

[...] President Bush talked about a new resolution at a news conference in Washington when he was asked whether the United States would demand that U.N. peacekeepers disarm Hezbollah.

"There will be another resolution coming out of the United Nations, giving further instructions to the international force," he said. "First things first is to get the rules of engagement clear so that the force will be robust to help the Lebanese."

"One thing ... for certain is that when this force goes in to help Lebanon Hezbollah won't have that safe haven or that kind of freedom to run in Lebanon's southern border," Bush said.

Asked soon after about a new resolution, Bolton said, "As we've always contemplated, the disarming of Hezbollah, which was not specifically addressed in 1701, would have to be addressed, and that should be coming shortly." Link

db: Disarm Hezbollah - who exactly will do that? The Lebanese army? Italy? And I don't quite see how this flight of fancy is going to help get a 'peacekeeping' force together - I mean, it's one thing to send your troops to patrol the border and do some 'observing' it's another to attempt to disarm - otherwise known as 'go to war with' - Hezbollah. Unless they are planning to offer Hez a firearms amnesty maybe because they will go for that. And when they've given up their weapons maybe they will ask the IDF to come over for some tea.

Bush, Cheney, Blair, Olmert - Amateur warlords

Toronto Sun

Eric Margolis

Bush, Cheney, Blair -- and now Olmert -- have demonstrated they have no grasp of military affairs

For a leader who styles himself "the war president," U.S. Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush's military record now stands at 0 for 4. Even Italy's born-again "imperial Roman conqueror," Benito Mussolini, fared better.

- Fiasco I: Five years after Bush ordered Afghanistan invaded and proclaimed "total victory," U.S. and allied forces are fighting a losing war against Afghan resistance groups. Afghan heroin exports are up 90%. The U.S. just quietly deployed thousands more troops to Afghanistan to hunt Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in a desperate attempt to save Republicans from getting clobbered in November midterm elections.

- Fiasco II: "Mission accomplished" in Iraq. Bush's war in Iraq is clearly lost, but few dare admit it. The U.S. has spent $300 billion on Afghanistan and Iraq, with nothing to show but bloody chaos, deficits, body bags, and growing hatred of America. The Bush/Dick Cheney "liberation" of Iraq has now cost more than the Vietnam War.

- Fiasco III: The White House had the CIA and Pentagon spend tens of millions bribing Somali warlords to fight Islamist reformers trying to bring law and order to their strife-ravaged nation. The Islamists whipped CIA-backed warlords and ran them out of Somalia. Following this defeat, the U.S. is now urging ally Ethiopia -- shades of Lebanon -- to invade Somalia, thus raising the threat of a wider war between Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Good work, Mr. President.

- Fiasco IV: Bush and Vice President Cheney egged Israel into the hugely destructive but militarily fruitless war in Lebanon over the past month, in what many view as the first part of their long-nurtured plan to militarily crush Hezbollah, Syria and Iran. They did there best to thwart world efforts to halt the conflict.

To Washington and London's shock and awe, Hezbollah, Iran, and Syria emerged the war's victors. Hezbollah is now the Muslim world's new hero after battling Israel's mighty armed forces to a humiliating draw.

Hezbollah's victory put the kibosh on the Bush/Cheney Holy Land crusade.

No sooner had bombing stopped last week than Hezbollah bulldozers were busy clearing rubble, and Hezbollah social workers resettling refugees. Perhaps Bush should ask Hezbollah to take over rebuilding New Orleans.

Israelis have now turned from fighting Arabs to furious finger-pointing. Politicians and generals are blaming each other for the Lebanon debacle that killed 118 Israeli soldiers and 41 Israeli civilians, cost at least $1 billion, ruined the summer tourist trade, and, after a burst of initial sympathy, brought worldwide condemnation. And no captured soldiers -- the war's supposed objective -- have been yet returned.

Still, a swap of Israeli prisoners for Lebanese and Palestinian ones remains likely, as this column predicted at the war's beginning. The killing of 1,000 Lebanese civilians, a million Lebanese and Israelis made refugees, and billions in wanton destruction, could all have been avoided.


By turning a routine skirmish into a big war, Israel's PM Ehud Olmert showed he had no more grasp of military affairs than those other amateur warlords, Bush, Cheney and British PM Tony Blair.

Even Washington hawks are wondering if invading Iran may not be such a cakewalk as they envision. Iran's Revolutionary Guards helped train and arm Hezbollah's fighters.

America was the big loser in the Lebanon war. From Morocco to Indonesia, each night some 1.5 billion Muslims watched the carnage in Lebanon on TV and most blamed America. Even the poorest shepherd in Uzbekistan heard that the U.S. was airlifting the precision bombs and deadly cluster munitions to Israel that wound up killing hundreds of Lebanese.

Any hope of damping down the Islamic world's surging hatred of the U.S., Britain, and Israel (and now Canada, thanks to the federal government's pro-Israel stance) was killed in Lebanon.

Even the interestingly-timed airport hysteria in London over claims of liquid bomb plots failed to divert attention from the latest egregious U.S.-British Mideast policy disaster.

The "war president" has become the fiasco president. The White House should stop listening to bogus military advice from neocon couch commandos who thirst for Muslim blood, and start listening to experienced Pentagon officers who understand the meaning and cost of war. Link

Sunday, August 20, 2006

And Now, Islamism Trumps Arabism



"The victory that Hezbollah achieved in Lebanon will have earthshaking regional consequences that will have an impact much beyond the borders of Lebanon itself," Yasser Abuhilalah of Al Ghad, a Jordanian daily, wrote in Tuesday's issue.

"The resistance celebrates the victory," read the front-page headline in Al Wafd, an opposition daily in Egypt.

Hezbollah's perceived victory has highlighted, and to many people here validated, the rise of another unifying ideology, a kind of Arab-Islamic nationalism. On the street it has even seemed to erase divisions between Islamic sects, like Sunni and Shiite. At the moment, the Hezbollah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, is widely viewed as a pan-Arab Islamic hero.

"The losers are going to be the Arab regimes, U.S.A. and Israel," said Dr. Fares Braizat of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. "The secular resistance movements are gone. Now there are the Islamists coming in. So the new nationalism is going to be religious nationalism, and one of the main reasons is dignity. People want their dignity back." Read more

Fisk: No wonder the UN can't find volunteers


Europeans are sick and tired of paying to keep the peace between Israelis and Arabs

Israel is keen to see the implementation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1559 and 1701, which demand the disarmament of Hizbollah - an organisation which Israel so dismally failed to disarm over the past six weeks after wrecking Lebanon and slaughtering more than a thousand Lebanese civilians.

And I have to say that there is a certain irony in watching Israel's diplomats paying such close attention to the wording of these resolutions and the need to abide by them after they have spent years trashing the very same UN force in Lebanon that is supposed to protect them in future.

Unifil, the so-called United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon, has been sitting in the south of the country for 28 years and has been the butt of Israel's jokes and slander and calumny for all of that time. I recall how the Israelis claimed that the Irish battalion - since withdrawn - were drunk or anti-semitic, how UN officers lied, how a Fijian commander was spreading syphilis among the women of Qana, the town whose inhabitants have just been massacred by Israel's forces for the second time in a decade.

But now, the new, reinforced Unifil is supposed to provide the buffer behind which Israel - whose army so dismally failed to protect its people in this latest war - can feel safe.

One cannot but wish the Israelis always paid such attention to UN resolutions. If only they would be so keen to adhere to UN Security Council Resolution 242, for example, as they are anxious to ensure Hizbollah and the Lebanese army abide by 1559 And 1701. Few readers will need to be reminded that 242 calls for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from territory occupied in the 1967 war in return for the security of all states (including Israel) in the area.

Now of course, Hizbollah is also playing fast and loose with the UN. It illegally crossed the UN Blue Line in southern Lebanon on 12 July to kill three Israeli soldiers and capture two others. They have already made it clear that they do not intend to be disarmed and their members - "schoolteachers, builders, university undergraduates" (I particularly admired the latter conceit) - would remain south of the Litani river, arms out of sight but not out of mind. And if 1701 is meant for Hizbollah's rubbish bin, then what is 242 worth for the Palestinians?

But there is something far more dangerous on the loose in southern Lebanon, something intimately linked with the hell-disaster into which we have turned Iraq. The famous 3,000 French troops that were supposed to arrive in Lebanon to support the Lebanese army have suddenly been reduced to 400 French engineers.

And the Spanish and the Italians, it transpires, would like to know a little bit more about the mysterious UN mandate under which their troops would be operating before sacrificing their young men's lives in Lebanon. The Spanish have not forgotten the price they paid for supporting the "coalition of the willing" - so soon to become the "coalition of the unwilling" - in Iraq. They don't want more bombs on the Madrid railway system. And the Italians are a little tired of state funerals for their fallen in Iraq.

True, the French have not forgotten their 58 murdered soldiers at the Drakkar building in Beirut on 23 October 1983, when suicide bombers associated with the Hizbollah struck them as part of the "Multinational Force" in Lebanon, another American creation. But France has watched the collapse of the American project in Iraq and is suspicious that its soldiers - despite the prospect of renewing in ghostly form the mandat francais of the 1920s and 1930s in Lebanon - could end up in the same predicament as those armies which decided to follow George W Bush's into Iraq's bloody swamp.

Who is actually going to disarm Hizbollah? Will they in fact be disarmed? And what will we do if they are not? I could not help smiling when I heard Israel's Dan Gillerman announcing on the BBC yesterday that if the UN failed to disarm Hizbollah, Israel would have to do the job - despite the fact that it has patently proved itself militarily incapable of any such task. And the latest extraordinary demand by Israel is that Muslim nations who do not recognise the State of Israel will not be allowed to join the expanded Unifil force in southern Lebanon.

What in the name of God is going on? Well, I will hazard a terrible guess. The Iraq fiasco - and the growing debacle in Afghanistan has drained the will of Nato nations to commit troops to peacekeeping operations, certainly for missions which may involve confrontations and violence with Muslims. And those Muslim nations which might be persuaded to join such a mission - Turkey excluded, of course - are going to be rigorously excluded. Which means that despite the deployment of Lebanese troops to southern Lebanon, the famous ceasefire in the south of the country is doomed.

And I'll hazard another guess. Europeans are getting sick and tired of funding and sacrificing their lives to keep the peace between Israelis and Arabs. Repeatedly in European capitals, I sense a growing anger that America should wreck all chances of peace by its uncritical support of Israel, while European taxpayers are told to hand over billions of euros to rebuild the cities of Gaza and Lebanon, which Israel has vandalised.

One European diplomat in Beirut has put forward the idea that the UN should open some form of internationally controlled escrow account into which Arabs and Israelis would contribute in order to pay for their repeated and dirty wars. Let the Arabs pay for the damage to Haifa. Let the Israelis (which I suppose means the US) pay for the billions of dollars squandered by the riff-raff of the Israeli air force in smashing Lebanon's infrastructure. Why should we go on paying for these filthy conflicts?

Maybe it is our guilty conscience. Heaven knows, we should have one. It was Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara who supported Bush's decision to delay a ceasefire in Lebanon - support which cost the lives of hundreds of Lebanese civilians who would otherwise be alive today. In Qana, they have just buried 29 of the civilians killed in Israel's murderous attack on the town. No doubt our dear Prime Minister was thinking of them yesterday.

Hezbollah night-vision gear was from Britain, Israel says


Israeli intelligence officials have complained to Britain and the United States that sensitive night-vision equipment recovered from Hezbollah fighters during the war in Lebanon had been exported by Britain to Iran. British officials said the equipment had been intended for use in a U.N. anti-narcotics campaign.

[...] Israeli military intelligence confirmed that one of the pieces of equipment is a Thermo-vision 1000 LR tactical night-vision system, serial No. 155010, part No. 193960, manufactured by Agema, a high-tech equipment company with branches in Bedfordshire, England, and San Diego. A spokesman for Agema in San Diego denied all knowledge of the system. Link

British arms exports to Israel double in a year


[...] Licences approved for Israel last year included components for combat helicopters, aircraft radars, air-to-surface missiles and airborne electronic warfare equipment. Special licences were also approved for the sale to Israel of components for military training aircraft, naval radars, naval communications equipment, and optical sensors for unmanned air vehicles.

These do not include components made by British companies in US Apache helicopters and F-16 bombers sold to Israel. The government provoked a storm of protest in 2002 by introducing new guidelines on the sale of military components. It cleared the way for head-up display units (HUDs, for presenting data without blocking view) - made by BAE Systems, Britain's largest arms company - to be sold to the US for use in F-16 planes. Ministers said the move was dictated by the interests of British arms companies. British equipment used in American Apache helicopters supplied to Israel includes missile trigger systems. Link

Monarch Airlines dump men 'travelling while Asian'

Two men were forced off a plane heading to the UK when British holidaymakers staged a mutiny.

The Brits refused to allow their flight to Manchester to take off from Malaga until the men were removed because they feared they were terrorists.

Cabin crew informed Spanish authorities of the passengers' fears and the men were taken off the Monarch Airlines flight and quizzed by police.

The plane had been due to take off at around 3am but was in fact delayed by around three hours.

Some passengers reportedly stormed off the Airbus 320 aircraft and refused to fly unless the pair were removed.

The two men, thought to be in their 20s and of middle eastern appearance, were escorted off the plane by airport police.

They were not allowed to fly and were quizzed by officers for several hours. Link

The pair were wearing leather jackets and thick jumpers, speaking what was believed to be Arabic and repeatedly checking their watches.

They were escorted from the plane after fellow passengers objected to them, but were later cleared again by security and booked onto a later flight. Link

Lebanon war "definetely a victory" for Israel


The conflict in Lebanon ended with an Israeli victory, though not a knockout, IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Dan Halutz said on Sunday

Among other things, Israel battered the infrastructure of Lebanon's Hizbullah guerrillas, he said.

"Tallying up the points, it is definitely a victory, perhaps not a knockout, but in terms of achievements, it is (a victory)," Halutz was quoted as saying by participants in the Cabinet meeting.

Others consider the outcome of the 34-day war that ended with a cease-fire Monday to be murkier than Halutz suggested. Hizbullah was not crushed, and their disarmament appears questionable. Their standing in the Arab world is stronger than it was when the war began, and Iranian and Syrian patrons who supply the group with arms remain committed.

What's more, Israel failed to win the release of two soldiers captured by Hizbullah in the opening shot of the war. Link

Militants rebound as the 'heroes' of Lebanon

Ten coffins draped with Hezbollah flags of fighters, who died in south Lebanon during the offensive with Israel, are carried aloft by their comrades during a mass funeral procession in the Bouj El Barajneh suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Saturday, Aug. 19, 2006. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

Sunday Times

Hezbollah seizes initiative as Israel is racked by doubt

Soon after 34 days of ferocious fighting in Lebanon came to a sudden halt last Monday, Salim al-Tayeb made his way cautiously to the edge of his village in the south of the country to retrieve the bodies of three Hezbollah comrades-in-arms from beneath a heap of rubble.

His friends had been among the last of more than 1,300 people to die in the war and al-Tayeb wanted to make sure they were not left to rot where they lay, as so many others had been.

One by one, he hauled the bodies into the sunshine. Then he bowed his head as a Red Crescent ambulance drove them away.

It was two days before he allowed himself to share in the exultation that swept through Hezbollah ranks at the end of a conflict that many of the men had not expected to survive.

Yet for al-Tayeb, 40, there was a special reason to savour the moment. "I haven’t even seen my newborn baby boy," he explained with a smile when I found him feasting on kebab sandwiches at a "victory" lunch laid on by the mayor in Taibe, their village two miles from the border.

Al-Tayeb had just telephoned his wife in Beirut. It was the first time they had spoken since the birth and he admitted shyly that he had said he missed her, loved her and yearned to see her. He had held back tears, he said, for fear of seeming weak to his other children, a girl of eight and a five-year-old son. "All they know is that their father is away working."

A different type of work now awaits al-Tayeb. He is not one of Hezbollah's 2,000 or 3,000 full-time military elite, but serves in its reserves, estimated at between 8,000 and 13,000 strong. For 20 years, he has fought when the need has arisen. But in civilian life he is an engineer and his skills are in urgent demand as Hezbollah launches a new battle to lead the reconstruction of the group's shattered Shi'ite strongholds in south Lebanon and the southern suburbs of Beirut.

The campaign was getting under way in earnest this weekend. Fighters exchanged rocket launchers and military fatigues for bulldozers and brooms as they confronted the destruction they had brought down on Lebanon when they captured two Israeli soldiers during a cross-border raid on July 12.

Far from resenting Hezbollah's provocation, most of those returning to their ruined villages seemed to admire the fighters' resilience in having prevented the mighty Israeli army from rolling effortlessly through south Lebanon as it has in the past.

Despite their grief for family and friends who died and their shock at the heart-stopping scale of the devastation, Hezbollah is rallying them to its cause by offering cash, comfort, professional expertise and slick organisation that less efficient government officials can only marvel at.

In these critical first days after the war, Hezbollah and its financial backers in Tehran have seized the moment. They are appeasing those who might have been expected to denounce Hezbollah from the wreckage of their homes. And they are entrenching their support among a growing army of sympathisers.

Iran's money is crucial. Estimates vary widely, but one Hezbollah source said as much as $1 billion had been made available by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president; another that the Iranian leader had placed no limit on the money pouring in.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has promised the Lebanese government $500m and Kuwait another $300m. But Hezbollah is giving Iran's money directly to the people - a year's rent for a homeless family here, a bundle of notes for some new furniture there, up to $12,000 per family within 48 hours of registration. The money buys loyalty to the "Party of God" as well as the basic necessities.

The peace, like the war, is shedding new light on the organisation. Hezbollah has been widely portrayed in the West as a ragtag army of terrorist hotheads. Yet it has withstood the Israeli onslaught that was intended to crush it.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader that Israel set out to kill, has not only survived but has also resurrected Hezbollah's operations on the ground within days of the ceasefire. Nasrallah is being praised in Lebanon and across much of the Middle East for having achieved the simple objective he set his group at the start of the conflict: to remain viable. Read more

Saturday, August 19, 2006

[...] in the quiet High Wycombe neighbourhood that suddenly became an anti-terrorism crime scene, life is still far from normal. Residents have been worried after seeing television reports that claimed detonators had been found in the woods earlier this week.

The lack of information about police operations in the town has caused anxiety in the community but six police on horses have been drafted in to reassure the public.

One of the riders, PC Tim Pollock, said: "Not a lot of people want to go up and speak to a policeman but the horse can break down the barriers." Link

Geopolitical Consequences of the Lebanon War


by Patrick Seale

Who won and who lost? It would appear that the Tehran-Damascus-Hizballah axis has emerged more confident from the Lebanon War, while the United States and Israel look politically weaker, morally tarnished, and acutely vulnerable to guerrilla warfare.
Israel's war on Lebanon was not a 'just war.' The capture of two Israeli soldiers on 12 July -- which Hizballah hoped to exchange for Lebanese prisoners held in Israeli jails for nearly 30 years - cannot serve to justify the destruction of Lebanon.
Brutal, wanton and hugely disproportionate, the war was pre-planned with Washington. It was waged to destroy Hizballah and install in Beirut a government submissive to Israel and the United States. But it was also waged to weaken Hizballah's sponsors, Iran and Syria, and perhaps expose them to attack in turn. It has achieved the exact opposite.
An immediate consequence of the war has been to increase the stature of Hizballah and its charismatic leader, Hasan Nasrallah. Although its fighters must soon withdraw from the border areas -- as Israel moves out and the Lebanese army and a beefed up UNIFIL gradually move in -- it is highly unlikely that Hizballah, as an armed political movement, will be dismantled, or even disarmed - at least not in the near future. Israel has failed to do the job, and neither the Lebanese government nor any one else is willing or able to attempt it.
Hizballah's domestic opponents will seek to blame it for having provoked the massive damage to Lebanon's infrastructure and the killing of over one thousand civilians. A million refugees are now streaming home in deplorable conditions to their shattered towns and villages.
As the main representative of a community of some 1.4 million people, Hizballah is bound to play a major role in rebuilding southern Lebanon, the Biqaa valley and the southern suburbs of Beirut, devastated by Israeli bombardment.
Far from reining in Hizballah - as Israel and the United States demand -- the Shi'a community may now demand a greater say in the country's affairs. Lebanon's institutions may have to be adjusted to take account of the new realities of power.
Another consequence of the war is that it has sharply reduced the likelihood of an attack on Iran or Syria. Washington's neocons, like Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, William Kristol of the Weekly Standard and other such fanatics, continue to call stridently for the violent overthrow of the regimes in Damascus and Tehran, but neither Israel nor the United States would seem to have the stomach for it.
Before the Lebanon war, Iran may have hesitated about the wisdom of building a nuclear weapon. Today, it must surely be racing to acquire the deterrent capability which nuclear weapons can provide. In the aftermath of the Lebanon war, it is hard to see how, or by whom, Iran's nuclear programme could be interrupted, let alone ended.
The American press continues to speculate about an American strike to destroy Iran's facilities, but most experts rule out any such dangerous adventure. President George W Bush may be ignorant and stubborn, but he is not insane.
Yet another result of the war has been to bring Syria in from the cold. Politicians and commentators in the United States and Europe -- and even Israel's Defence Minister Amir Peretz - have remarked on the need to involve Syria in any permanent settlement of the region's conflicts.
The war has brought to international attention the two preconditions for a lasting peace in Lebanon. They are the return of the Golan to Syria and the recognition that Syria has a legitimate interest in preventing a hostile foreign power establishing its influence over Lebanon, as this would constitute an intolerable threat to Syria's national security.
President Bush and President Jacques Chirac of France have, for their different reasons, attempted to exclude Syria altogether from Lebanese affairs. Israel's foreign minister, Tsipi Livni, has followed suit, saying this week that 'Syria must understand that Lebanon is taking off…in a different direction without them.' These are vain hopes, contradicted by the situation on the ground. It is Israel that must keep out of Lebanese affairs, and stay out.
In Israel, the political class is absorbed by the search for a scapegoat for a war which has severely dented its reputation for military invincibility, as well as its deterrent capability. Israel has had a taste of what the U.S. is experiencing in Iraq.
There are other far reaching consequences, which may not yet be fully grasped by the Israeli public. What is the point of Israel's hugely expensive Separation Wall, which has been pronounced illegal by the International Court of Justice and is making Palestinians' lives a misery, if missiles can fly over it?
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's 'unilateralism' - inherited from Ariel Sharon but which he hoped to extend - is another victim of the conflict. The unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, while maintaining Israel's cruel siege, has led to missile attacks on Israeli towns in the Negev. The attempt to destroy the democratically-elected Hamas government has led to something like war. Although some 200 Palestinians have been killed in the last six weeks, there is no sign that Hamas is ready to surrender. Meanwhile Olmert's so-called 'convergence plan' - a land grab on the West Bank without reference to, or negotiations with, the Palestinians - seems moribund.
Will the Olmert government fall? Will the debacle benefit the Right or the Left? Will the chief of staff, Air Force General Dan Halutz, be forced to go, as several Israeli commentators are demanding? In 34 days of war, his forces failed to stop Hizballah's rockets, while his vaunted air force was guilty of war crimes.
There is as yet no sign that Israel is ready to confront the real questions raised by the Lebanon war. Will it press on with its West Bank expansion and refuse to withdraw from the Golan, or will it be persuaded to negotiate with the Palestinians and Syria on the basis of the land-for-peace formula of Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967?
Will it seek to restore its absolute military superiority over the entire Arab region or will it accept some form of a balance of power -- or at least a balance of deterrence?
The answer to these questions will determine whether Israel can live in peace and security in the region or whether it will have to face a more or less permanent insurrection by its hapless neighbours.
The Western powers have made a dismal showing in the crisis. The United States is more hated and despised than ever before. By delaying a ceasefire for more than a month to allow Israel to 'finish the job', the U.S. has dealt a lethal blow to the UN Security Council, to the considerable anguish of Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Rarely has a world leader attracted such widespread ridicule as President George W Bush for asserting that the many crises from Afghanistan to Iraq and from Lebanon to Gaza are a contest between 'terror and freedom.' His notion of 'freedom' has brought nothing but death. Bush's repeated use of the term 'Islamo-fascism' - borrowed from Washington's Likudniks - has aroused outrage across the Muslim world. In Egypt, 50 independent parliamentarians are demanding an apology!
This, unfortunately, is not a leader able to conceive or to implement the bold and wide-ranging peace plan the region so desperately needs.
As for Britain, by tagging along behind the United States and Israel, Prime Minister Tony Blair has covered himself and his country with shame. At home, his policies appear to have put the country at risk from an enraged section of the Muslim population.
France has done a good deal better. Although it started by aligning itself on the United States, it soon corrected its aim to take account of Lebanese and Arab objections. This allowed it to negotiate the final compromise with the United States, which resulted in Resolution 1701.
How long will the present truce last? A lot will depend on whether opinion in Washington and Israel is ready to accept and digest the geopolitical lessons of the war. Link

Lebanon's Siniora says Israeli raid violates truce


An Israeli commando raid against Hizbollah guerrillas deep inside Lebanon on Saturday is a "naked violation" of a U.N. truce between the warring sides, Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said.

"It is a naked violation of the cessation of hostilities declared by the Security Council," Siniora told reporters. He said he had protested about the incident to visiting U.N. envoys who would take up the matter with Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Hizbollah's main ally in government, said he also raised the incident with the envoys.

"If Lebanon had launched a similar act, wouldn't the Security Council have met to impose tough sanctions against it?" Berri asked, adding that he saw the raid as an attempt by Israel to provoke Hizbollah into retaliation and foil the deployment of the Lebanese army in south Lebanon.

"I'm sure that the resistance (Hizbollah) has enough awareness and realisation of the conspiracy to refrain ... from retaliating ...," he said. Link

Marine officer saw Haditha deaths as normal


The U.S. Marine officer who commanded the battalion involved in the deaths of two dozen Iraqi civilians in Haditha in November did not consider the incident unusual and did not initiate an inquiry, The Washington Post reported on Saturday. Read more

Palestinians agree to renew truce with Israel


Palestinian militant groups have agreed to reinstate their temporary cease-fire deal with Israel, Abbas said Thursday.

The decision includes Fatah, Hamas and other factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Fatah had already halted its rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

However, some of the factions' representatives said the cease-fire would be implemented only if Israel halted it s military attacks in the Gaza Strip. Read more

Hosni Mubarak - 'cheap rhetoric' - 'pivotal role'


Mubarak: US Shouldn't Take Military Action Against Iran

Egypt's president said Saturday that the U.S. should refrain from taking military action against Iran because doing so would create instability not just in the Middle East but around the world, according to a published report.
"The conflict between the United States and Iran should be solved through diplomacy and direct dialogue because striking Iran means the end of stability in the region and the world," President Hosni Mubarak told the semiofficial weekly Akhbar el-Yom newspaper.
Iran is facing heightened pressure over its disputed nuclear program and has rejected a a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on Tehran to halt uranium enrichment by Aug. 31.
Washington has said it intends next month to have the U.N. impose penalties on Iran for refusing to suspend its uranium enrichment, an important step in making nuclear weapons. U.S. officials have not specified the proposed punishment.
In the published interview, Mubarak also appeared to soften his stance on Hezbollah, calling the guerrilla group "part of the Lebanese national fabric."
"Resisting the occupier is a legitimate right under the condition that it springs from free will and in accordance to the supreme national interest," Mubarak said.
Mubarak was among some Arab leaders who initially blamed Hezbollah for carrying out an "uncalculated adventures" when the group kidnapped two Israeli soldiers on July 12, sparking the deadly conflict that lasted 34 days before a cease-fire went into effect Monday.
Mubarak came under sharp criticism by other leaders including Syrian President Bashar Assad, who said Tuesday that "we do not ask anyone to fight with us or for us ... But he should at least not adopt the enemy's views."
In an apparent response, Mubarak said in the interview that the region shouldn't tolerate "cheap rhetoric." Link
During a congressional hearing on 17 May administration officials stressed that Egypt's current regime had backed US interventions in the region, and had generally supported Washington's pro-Israeli foreign policy and US economic ambitions in the Middle East.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs Michael Coulter stressed the pivotal role of the Egyptian government in US military plans in the region. He described US military aid to Egypt -- a hefty $1.3 billion in foreign military financing (FMF) and $1.2 billion in international military education and training (IMET) -- as an instrument intended to "create a defence force capable of supporting US security".

"Military assistance is critical to the development of a strategic partnership with Egypt, and has contributed to a broad range of US objectives in the region," Coulter said. "Cooperation is increasing each year, and is often difficult to quantify in one single observation." Link

Israel seizes deputy Palestinian PM

A man comes under Israeli police water cannon fire in the West Bank village of Bilin

Swiss Info/Reuters

Israel seized Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Naser al-Shaer, a top official of the Hamas militant group, at his home in the occupied West Bank on Saturday, his wife and two lawmakers said.

Israel has more than two dozen Hamas lawmakers and several other cabinet ministers in custody since late June, after it launched an offensive in response to the kidnapping of a soldier in a cross-border raid from the Gaza Strip.

An Israeli army spokesman confirmed troops had taken al-Shaer into custody, saying it was "due to his membership in a terrorist organisation."

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh condemned the arrest and said government and people would remained undaunted.

"Israel's aims to undermine the Palestinian political system and to put obstacles before the government and the people ... This is blackmail but we are determined to continue our march," Haniyeh said. Read more

Friday, August 18, 2006

British terror-cops have poor track record

Craig Murray rightly suggests in the Guardian that we should be very, very sceptical regarding the plot 'to murder on an unimaginable scale'. How could anyone argue with that given what we know about the current government?
[...] More than 1,000 British Muslims have been arrested under anti-terrorist legislation, but only 12% have been charged. That is harassment on an appalling scale. Of those charged, 80% were acquitted. Most of the few convictions - just over 2% of arrests - are nothing to do with terrorism, but some minor offence the police happened upon while trawling through the lives they have wrecked.

Lebanon: 'Perceptions' the enemy, cash the solution

The Age/LA Times

The Bush Administration is scrambling to assemble a plan to help rebuild Lebanon, hoping that by competing with Hezbollah for the public's favour it can undo the damage the war has inflicted on its image and goals for the Middle East region.

Administration officials fear that unless they move quickly to demonstrate US commitment, the Lebanese will turn more fully to the militant group, which has begun rolling out an ambitious reconstruction program that US officials believe is bankrolled by Iran.

US officials also believe that the Administration must restore its influence to keep a newly assertive Syria from undermining US-supported reformers in Lebanon.

A major rebuilding investment would put the US in the position of subsidising both the Israeli munitions that caused the damage and the reconstruction work that will repair it.

... "They know we're in a race against time to turn around these perceptions...We're coming in when there's a sense that we stood by the destruction of Lebanon by an ally, with US weapons, and didn't complain. So we may be too late." Read more

db: Life can be so unfair - there you are, standing by as your ally destroys Lebanon with US made weapons - and not complaining - only to be fingered later, unjustly, by 'perceptions'.

War in Lebanon gives birth to new Middle East

RIA Novosti political commentator Marianna Belenkaya

Israeli and American politicians, Syrian President Bashar Assad and many Islamic leaders say the war in Lebanon has changed the balance of power in the Middle East and given a new political image to the region.

The Middle East is changing, but how?

At the beginning of the war between Israel and Hizbollah, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described the plight of Lebanon as part of the "birth pangs of a new Middle East", free of the influence of extremist movements. She was apparently referring to Lebanon's Hizbollah and Palestinian Hamas.

When the war ended, U.S. President George W. Bush claimed Hizbollah had suffered a defeat in the month-long conflict.

Many Israeli politicians agree with the American leader, although they say more cautiously that Israel has merely changed the situation on its northern border in its favor.

But statements by Hizbollah's leaders show that the movement has not accepted defeat. Moreover, it is claiming a bigger social and political role in Lebanon, and insists that other political forces in the country must respect it.

Lebanese Defense Minister Ilyas al-Murr said the Lebanese military would go to southern Lebanon "not to disarm Hizbollah, but to defend the country and strengthen the victory of the Lebanese resistance." He added: "The Lebanese army must ensure the safety of the people, including resistance members."

The Arab media are writing about Hizbollah's victory over Israel, something no Arab state has attained before. The resistance movement has significantly strengthened its position in the Middle East and the Islamic world as a whole, which cannot leave anyone indifferent, especially Arab leaders.

Syrian President Bashar Assad said: "The substantial achievements of the Islamic resistance represented by Hizbollah have changed the region's outlook. The U.S.'s intention to create a 'new Middle East' in line with its blueprint has failed."

This is true because Hizbollah has shown that it can stand up not only to Israel, but also to the United States.

"Hizbollah cannot be viewed as a purely terrorist organization now, because it has won the support of the majority of the Lebanese people and authorities," said Vladimir Akhmedov, a senior researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences. "Thousand-strong demonstrations in the East and West display Hizbollah banners and portraits of Hassan Nasrallah. If we keep saying that Hizbollah is a terrorist organization, we will have to admit that terrorists have won the war. Why then did we fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, and why did we initiate action against Iran? To fight terrorists who turn out to be ordinary people?"

Akhmedov said that Hizbollah had proved to be a viable organization militarily, politically and in terms of information. To progress now, it should stop fighting Israel in order to strengthen its influence in Lebanon.

"Its priority objective now is to provide material assistance to war victims and to help the authorities deal with the consequences of the war," he said. "This is a way of expanding its influence in the country and strengthening its foothold in state institutions, including the army. Nasrallah said on August 14 that Hizbollah's heavy weaponry and militants should form the basis of a stronger Lebanese state, which leaves no doubt regarding the organization's strategic plans."

Many Islamic political movements in other Mideast countries have similar objectives. Their popularity rests on the idea of social justice, which the mostly poor Arab people readily embrace. This is why these organizations are formidable rivals to many regimes in the region, and the war in Lebanon has strengthened their standing.

It is logical that the bulk of Arab governments showed restraint towards Israel during the war in Lebanon. Unlike during the Palestinian intifada in 2000-2002, Egypt and Jordan did not sever diplomatic ties with it, and Qatar did not close the Israeli representative office in its capital, Doha.

During the war, the Israeli newspaper "Yedioth Ahronoth", citing a source in the Defense Ministry, wrote: "Moderate Arab regimes are [quietly] expressing support for Israel's actions," which means that "Arab countries would be glad if Israel did away with Hizbollah."

But Israel has not lived up to these "quiet" expectations.

These trends show that the Middle East is changing. Nobody in the region, including members of the most radical Islamic movements - especially when they get seats in government - can seriously hope that Israel will disappear from the political map. Therefore, the sides should find acceptable conditions for a peaceful coexistence.

This is where opinions on ways of attaining this goal split. Some Arab regimes have opted for dialogue and pragmatic cooperation with Israel. Others, mostly those that represent the unofficial "resistance project", prefer fighting, when and if necessary.

The war in Lebanon has shown again that it is not Arabs who should recognize Israel, but Israel, the West and Arab regimes who should accept the fact that radical Islamic movements such as Hizbollah and Hamas are an inalienable part of Middle Eastern politics. Ignoring them is useless, which means that we have a choice between trying to liquidate them (which has proved impossible) and coming to terms with them.

But different views of the new landscape of the Middle East make the second objective extremely difficult to achieve. Link

Lebanon: Israeli cluster bomb danger


Experts from the United Nations have identified 10 places where Israel used cluster bombs in its air strikes on southern Lebanon and fear there could be many more, a human rights group said on Thursday.

At least 16 people have been killed or wounded by munitions which exploded long after they were fired, and the casualty figure could rise, U.S.-based Human Rights Watch said, citing U.N. de-mining teams in southern Lebanon.

"They have been able to visit only a limited region so far, and fear that the 10 sites identified in the first two days could be the tip of the iceberg," the group said.

It urged Israel to tell the United Nations exactly where it used cluster bombs during its 34-day conflict with Hizbollah guerrillas. A U.N.-backed truce took effect this week.

"With refugees streaming home, we're already seeing people falling victim to these dangerous duds," Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. "A failure to act swiftly will lead to many more avoidable casualties. Read more

White House:Terrorists encouraged by unpolularity of crap policy

Press Briefing by Tony Snow


Q ...The U.S.'s closest ally in its Middle-East policy is Britain. The man who's filling in for Tony Blair while he's on vacation, the Deputy Prime Minister there, may have said in a meeting -- used an expletive to describe the President's work on the Middle East road map, and called him a cowboy in a Stetson hat who's not just doing the job. Any reaction to those comments? And also, more broadly, how concerned is the President that in Britain there is plummeting public support for the U.S. position and Blair's alliance with Bush on Mideast policy?

MR. SNOW: Well, the President talks regularly with Prime Minister Blair, who is the Prime Minister, so I will restrict my comments to Prime Minister Blair. And Prime Minister Blair understands, just as the President does, wars create anxiety. And he understands that that is an unpopular thing. People don't like to be anxious, they don't like to worry about it. On the other hand, we've just come through a week where the British people were reminded, along with the Americans and Pakistanis, that terrorists are simply not going to stand down because there's anxiety. As a matter of fact, they seem to take some encouragement for plummeting popularity, thinking that maybe the United States and the Brits and others are going to let down their guard.

Russian General: Israel wanted an excuse to start hostilities

RIA Novosti

I asked General Makhmut Gareyev, president of the Military Sciences Academy, for an interview to hear his view on the tactics and operational skills of the two sides in the recent Israeli-Lebanese conflict.

But at the very beginning of our conversation, he said that he would prefer to start with the political aspects of the recent war.

"War cannot be separated from politics," he said. "That would not be a serious discussion. Tactics and operational skills come second to the political tasks facing the troops."

This is what the general said about the causes of the war: "The capture of two Israeli soldiers by Hizbollah at the Lebanese border was merely an excuse to start hostilities. The Israeli Mossad intelligence service, which is universally acknowledged as number one, has rescued its citizens from captivity even in Africa. It would have had no problem finding them in Lebanon. But this was not the goal. They just wanted an excuse. Israel was obviously conspiring together with the United States. No doubt the goal was to provoke Syria and Iran and drag them into the war. The U.S. and Israel would then have had a real opportunity to strike at 'obstinate' Damascus and Tehran, at the uranium-enrichment plants in Iran. Preventing the implementation of this scenario was a major victory for the world community.

"True, Israel's situation is understandable. Being next to unruly Hizbollah, which is ready to fire missiles at its territory and kill its people**, creates a problem, and Israel's concern is well grounded. But I think that Israel should fight Hizbollah with precision strikes, proper intelligence and troop landings. Nobody will ever be able to justify massive bombings and the deaths of old people, children and civilians in general.

"On the other hand, if we accept Israeli logic and try to justify its actions (which cannot be fully justified), it means that we should have bombed Iraq when our diplomats were seized in Baghdad. This would have been the easiest thing to do - bomb Baghdad, destroy oil fields and bridges... Or take London, which gives shelter to Zakayev and other Chechen militants. Should London be bombed because of that? If this logic were followed, the world would turn upside down. Decision-making should be more appropriate to the situation. Read more

db: **Hizbollah forces hadn't killed any Israeli civilians for more than a decade prior to the latest conflict. Neither were Hizbollah the first to do so in this war.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Every airport traveller to be 'fingerprinted or iris scanned'


Biometric testing is set to be introduced at European airports under plans for stringent new security measures revealed yesterday in the wake of last week's alleged terror plot.

Passengers would have their fingerprint or iris scanned under the measures proposed by EU interior ministers, which would also use passenger profiling to try to identify potential terrorists.

The move to beef up relaxed security procedures in Europe came as John Reid, the Home Secretary, warned that human rights would have to be balanced against the threat from terrorism and that the current terror threat was Europe-wide and needed to be tackled on an international level.

The EU minister in charge of justice, Franco Frattini, said ministers were looking at the "positive profiling" of passengers, carried out well in advance of their flights, based on "biometric identifiers" such as iris scans or fingerprints. Read more

Hollywood v 'The Terrorists'

"We need to support democratic societies and stop terrorism"
.... So lets bomb them

Nicole Kidman and 83 Hollywood heavyweights are using the power of the press to speak out against terrorism.

She has joined 84 other high-profile Hollywood stars, directors, studio bosses and media moguls, including News Corporation chairman Rupert Murdoch, has taken out a powerfully-worded full page advertisement in today's Los Angeles Times newspaper.

It specifically targets "terrorist organisations" such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine. Read more

db: I read it three times and there is definitely no mention of "terrorist states" - an aberration that no doubt will be corrected in due course.

The 33 Day War - From Mania to Depression


by Uri Avnery

Thirty three days of war. The longest of our wars since 1949.

On the Israeli side: 154 dead--117 of them soldiers. 3970 rockets launched against us, 37 civilians dead, more than 422 civilians wounded.

On the Lebanese side: about a thousand dead civilians, thousands wounded. An unknown number of Hizbullah fighters dead and wounded.

More than a million refugees on both sides.

So what has been achieved for this terrible price?

"GLOOMY, HUMBLE, despondent," was how the journalist Yossef Werter described Ehud Olmert, a few hours after the cease-fire had come into effect.

Olmert? Humble? Is this the same Olmert we know? The same Olmert who thumped the table and shouted: "No more!" Who said: "After the war, the situation will be completely different than before!" Who promised a "New Middle East" as a result of the war?

* * *
THE RESULTS of the war are obvious:

* The prisoners, who served as casus belli (or pretext) for the war, have not been released. They will come back only as a result of an exchange of prisoners, exactly as Hassan Nasrallah proposed before the war.

* Hizbullah has remained as it was. It has not been destroyed, nor disarmed, nor even removed from where it was. Its fighters have proved themselves in battle and have even garnered compliments from Israeli soldiers. Its command and communication stucture has continued to function to the end. Its TV station is still broadcasting.

* Hassan Nasrallah is alive and kicking. Persistent attempts to kill him failed. His prestige is sky-high. Everywhere in the Arab world, from Morocco to Iraq, songs are being composed in his honor and his picture adorns the walls.

* The Lebanese army will be deployed along the border, side by side with a large international force. That is the only material change that has been achieved.
This will not replace Hizbullah. Hizbullah will remain in the area, in every village and town. The Israeli army has not succeeded in removing it from one single village. That was simply impossible without permanently removing the population to which it belongs.

The Lebanese army and the international force cannot and will not confront Hizbullah. Their very presence there depends on Hizbullah's consent. In practice, a kind of co-existence of the three forces will come into being, each one knowing that it has to come to terms with the other two. Read more

Mass murder in the skies: was the plot feasible?

The Register

Let's whip up some TATP and find out Read more

Chinese UN ambassador tells US to "shut up"

[...] Pentagon planners are concerned about developments, and US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said much of China's arms spending is being concealed.

Ambassador Sha responded strongly to the allegations. "It's better for the US to shut up," he said. "Keep quiet. It's much, much better." Read more

Olmert may not survive this disastrous war

Tehran Times

by Gwynne Dyer

The ceasefire in southern Lebanon will not hold. Israel will probably lose more soldiers killed in combat in the next month than in the past month (119). Ehud Olmert will probably no longer be prime minister of Israel by the end of this year. And it is all too likely that Binyamin Netanyahu will take his place.

The UN-sponsored ceasefire will not hold because Hezbollah has not been defeated. Despite a month of pounding by Israeli bombs and artillery, it still holds at least 80 percent of the territory south of the Litani river: in most places, Israeli forces have advanced no more than a few miles (kilometers) from the frontier. In the last few days before the ceasefire, Hezbollah was launching twice as many rockets into northern Israel as its daily average in the first week of the war.

So why would it now agree to be disarmed and removed from all of southern Lebanon, the home of its own Shia supporters? Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's leader, was quite frank: "As long as there is Israeli military movement, Israeli field aggression and Israeli soldiers occupying our is our natural right to confront them, fight them, and defend our land, our homes and ourselves." Besides, the Israelis have now offered him an irresistibly tempting target.

Israel's assault on Hezbollah was as much a "war of choice" as the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Seymour Hersh claims in this week's "New Yorker" that the Bush administration approved it in order to deprive Iran of a means of retaliation after U.S. air strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities, and the San Francisco Chronicle reports that a senior Israeli army officer made Power-Point presentations on the planned operation to selected Western audiences over a year ago.

"By 2004, the military campaign scheduled to last about three weeks that we're seeing now had already been blocked out," Professor Gerald Steinberg of Bar Ilan University told the Chronicle, "and in the last year or two it's been simulated and rehearsed across the board."

Ehud Olmert was seduced by the plan because, lacking military experience himself, he needed the credibility that comes in Israel only from having led a successful military operation. Otherwise, he would lack support for his plan to impose unilateral borders in the occupied West Bank that would keep the major settlement blocks within Israel, while handing the rest to the Palestinians. So he seized on the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers and the killing of three others by Hezbollah on 12 July, the latest in an endless string of back-and-forth attacks along the northern border, as the pretext for an all-out onslaught on the organization.

Olmert's lack of military experience also led him to trust the promises of General Dan Halutz, Israel's chief of staff, that Hezbollah's destruction could be accomplished mainly from the air, with Israeli ground troops only going in at the end to mop up. But Rule Number One for aspiring national leaders is: never believe air force promises.

Olmert launched his war, bombed lavishly all across Lebanon, pounded the south -- and a month later Hezbollah still controlled almost all the territory and was launching several hundred missiles a day at Israel. Time for a ceasefire -- but if he had no more than that to show for his war, he would be out of power very fast. So AFTER the UN resolution was passed on Friday, but BEFORE the ceasefire that formally took effect Monday morning, he launched an airborne invasion that scattered packets of Israeli troops all over southern Lebanon right up to the Litani.

Israel has not smashed the Hezbollah's strong-points in southern Lebanon and driven its fighters out. It has deposited its own troops among them checkerboard-fashion, in some cases without any ground line of supply, in order to claim that it now controls the region. And it is counting on the UN resolution decreeing the disarming and withdrawal of Hezbollah, and an eventual hand-over by Israel to the Lebanese army and foreign peacekeepers, to protect its soldiers from severe embarrassment. This is probably Olmert's last mistake.

It is hard to imagine that Hezbollah will resist the temptation to attack all the easy targets that Olmert has now given it in southern Lebanon. It is inconceivable that either the Lebanese army (itself mostly Shia) or the French and Italians (the core of the proposed peacekeeping force) will try to fight their way into southern Lebanon on Israel's behalf. There is the potential here for Israel's first serious operational defeat since the 1948 war.

That might be a blessing in disguise for Israel, if it persuaded enough Israeli voters that exclusive reliance on military force to smash and subdue their Arab neighbors is a political dead-end. There is little chance of that. The likeliest beneficiary of this mess is Israel's archetypal hard-liner, Binyamin Netanyahu, who flamboyantly quit the Likud Party last year in protest at former prime minister Ariel Sharon's policy of pulling out of the occupied Gaza Strip.

That split Likud and forced Sharon to launch a new party, Kadima, which now dominates the centre-right of Israeli politics and is the nucleus of Olmert's coalition government. But Kadima may not survive this disastrous war, and the heir apparent, at the head of a resurgent Likud, is Netanyahu. The last opinion poll in Israel gave him an approval rating of 58 percent. Link

Sustaining Fear

Prescott gets something right

John Prescott has given vent to his private feelings about the
Bush presidency, summing up George Bush's administration
in a single word: crap Link

Fisk: Lebanon's pain grows by the hour as death toll hits 1,300


They are digging them up by the hour, the swelling death toll of the Lebanon conflict. The American poet Carl Sandburg spoke of the dead in other wars and imagined that he was the grass under which they would be buried. "Shovel them under and let me work," he said of the dead of Ypres and Verdun. But across Lebanon, they are systematically lifting the tons of rubble of old roofs and apartment blocks and finding families below, their arms wrapped around each other in the moment of death as their homes were beaten down upon them by the Israeli air force. By last night, they had found 61 more bodies, taking the Lebanese dead of the 33-day war to almost 1,300.

In Srifa, south of the Litani river, they found 26 bodies beneath ruins which I myself stood on just three days ago. At Ainata, there were eight more bodies of civilians. A corpse was discovered beneath a collapsed four-storey house north of Tyre and, near by, the remains of a 16-year old girl, along with three children and an adult. In Khiam in eastern Lebanon, besieged by the Israelis for more than a month, the elderly village "mukhtar" was found dead in the ruins of his home.

Not all the dead were civilians. At Kfar Shuba, dumper-truck drivers found the bodies of four Hizbollah members. At Roueiss, however, all 13 bodies found in the wreckage of eight 10-storey buildings were civilians. They included seven children and a pregnant woman. Ten more bodies were disentangled from the rubble of the southern suburbs of Beirut - where local people claimed they could still hear the screams of neighbours trapped far below the bomb-smashed apartment blocks. The Lebanese civil defence organisation - almost as brave as the Lebanese Red Cross in trying to save lives under fire - believe at least three families may be trapped in basements deep below the wreckage.

Ignoring the dangers of unexploded ordnance, several Lebanese Shia Muslims returned to their destroyed homes to retrieve personal belongings - including family snapshots and albums that contain the narrative of their lives - only to fall between gaps in the broken apartment blocks and plunge dozens of feet into the darkness beneath. Among the last to die only minutes before the UN ceasefire came into effect was a child who was found in her dead mother's arms in Beirut.

How many of these dead would have survived if George Bush and Tony Blair had demanded an immediate ceasefire weeks ago will never be known. But many would have had the chance of life had Western governments not regarded this dirty war as an "opportunity" to create a "new" Middle East by humbling Iran and Syria. Link

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Reid '98: We do not condone cowardice

In his position as armed forces minister in 1998, John Reid was among the ministers who rejected calls to pardon soldiers executed in the first world war.

Mr Reid argued that the armed forces were responsible for protecting Britain, and military betrayals could never be tolerated.

"Let me make it plain that we cannot and do not condone cowardice, desertion, mutiny or assisting the enemy - then or now," he told MPs in a debate in July 1998.

"They are all absolutely inimical to the very foundation of our armed forces. Without military discipline, the country could not be defended, and that is never more important than in times of war."

Ministry of Defence (MoD) lawyers last year advised Mr Reid, then defence secretary, that no soldier killed in world war one should be pardoned, because there would never be enough evidence.

However, the defence secretary [Des Browne]last night called for the armed forces bill to be amended, allowing for a group pardon. Link

db: Interesting that in the quote above Reid equates the thing they call 'cowardice' with mutiny or assisting the enemy. Anyway, is Reid some sort of war hero? I mean, in terms of fighting them himself rather than sending others to do his dirty work? No? I thought not. Tough guy.

Homeless Lebanese Register for Hizbullah Compensation


Hundreds of people went from one room to another at a makeshift registration center in a high school Wednesday, reporting damage to their homes from Israeli bombing to Hizbullah agents with pen and notebooks. The officials promised to help them rebuild.

Tens of thousands of people have returned to their shattered villages in eastern and southern Lebanon as well as Beirut's southern suburbs, or Dahiyeh, to find their homes either damaged or totally destroyed in a month of fighting between Israel and Hizbullah.

Hours after a cease-fire went into effect Monday, Hizbullah leader, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, appeared on television and promised to help Lebanese rebuild, pledging money for civilians to pay rent and buy furniture.

Nasrallah did not say where the money would come from, but Iran historically has been the group's primary source of finance and weapons. The Iranians were widely believed to have opened their treasury for the rebuilding program.

Hizbullah already has used charity work and social welfare programs financed by Iran to win wide support throughout Lebanon's Shiite community.

Nasrallah said 15,000 housing units were hit during the war, and his group's bid to play a central role in reconstruction could further boost its standing after it declared victory over Israel. Read more

Olmert's War, and the Next One

Anti War

by Pat Buchanan

When Israel answered the Hezbollah raid that captured two soldiers with air strikes on Lebanon's airport, runways, gas stations, lighthouses, bridges, buses, apartment houses, and power plants, we who questioned the wisdom and morality of what Israel was doing were denounced as anti-Israel or anti-Semitic.

Turns out we were right. In private, even Israeli army generals were raging that Israel was fighting a stupid, losing war.

Ehud Olmert, who gave Chief of Staff Dan Halutz the green light to launch the shock-and-awe air campaign, cannot survive the moral, political, and strategic disaster his country has suffered.

While the Israeli air force was hammering Lebanon, Hezbollah rained down 3,000 rockets on Israel and fought off pinprick raids. When the Israeli army, after a month, moved in force against the real enemy, Hezbollah, Israel had already suffered irreparable damage to its reputation as a fighting nation and a moral country.

As the war began, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Bahrain all condemned Hezbollah, as did the Beirut government, for inciting the war. But with Hezbollah's defiant resistance, as Israel smashed up Lebanon, the Arab street rallied to Nasrallah. Arab regimes followed.

The losers?

Lebanon, which suffered 800 dead, thousands injured, and 1 million made refugees, saw its infrastructure destroyed and nation set back 20 years. If the government falls or Lebanon becomes a failed state, it will be an even greater calamity for the Lebanese, and for Israel and the Middle East. For the mightiest political and military force in Lebanon, and likely heir apparent to power slipping away from Prime Minister Siniora, is now Hezbollah and Hassan Nasrallah.

Says Walid Jumblatt, savage critic of Hezbollah and its Syrian alliance, "Hassan Nasrallah has won militarily and politically, and has become a new leader like Nasser."

Another loser is Israel, and Olmert, who seized on the border skirmish to launch his Lebanon war. Writes Ari Shavit of Ha'aretz:

"Chutzpah has its limits. You cannot lead an entire nation to war promising victory, produce humiliating defeats, and remain in power. You cannot bury 120 Israelis in cemeteries, keep a million Israelis in shelters for a month, wear down deterrent power, bring the next war very close, and then say, oops, I made a mistake."

Olmert and Halutz are history. The Kadima Party regime will fall. Left and Right are already tearing at its flanks.

What does this mean? The Sharon-Olmert policy of unilateral withdrawal from the territories is dead. The Hamas-led Palestinian authority, the creation of the freest and fairest elections ever held in Palestine, is on a death watch, after Israel's starvation blockade and ravaging of the Gaza Strip, which has left 150 Palestinians dead.

A new Israeli regime will not withdraw from any more land, nor shut down any more settlements, nor vacate any part of Jerusalem, nor negotiate with a Palestinian Authority led by Hamas, or by a PLO that is unable to disarm Hamas. We are at a dead end, as George W. Bush will not push the Israelis to do anything, nor will Congress.

America is another loser.

The United States knew in advance Israel planned to attack and, if possible, destroy Hezbollah. And America approved.

But when Olmert launched an air war on Lebanon, instead, Bush cheered him on, refused to rein in attacks on civilian targets, sent smart bombs and used U.S. influence at the United Nations to block an early cease-fire. Bush-Cheney are thus morally and politically culpable for what was done to Lebanon and the democratic government there that was born of a "Cedar Revolution" George Bush himself had championed.

Congress poodled along with Bush, so Bush will not be called to account, as he would be were any other nation but Israel involved. From Morocco to the Gulf, there is probably not a country today that would welcome Bush, or where he would be safe on a state visit.

Where does this leave us? With Israel's failure to achieve its strategic objectives in Lebanon and America having failed to attain its strategic objectives in Iraq, Nasrallah emerges triumphant, and Syria and Iran emerge unscathed and gloating.

What comes next? That is obvious.

With our War Party discredited by the failed policies it cheered on in Lebanon and Iraq, there will come a clamor that Bush must "go to the source" of all our difficulty - Iran. Only thus can the War Party redeem itself for having pushed us and Israel into two unnecessary and ruinous wars. And the drumbeat for war on Iran has already begun.

"[T]he dangers continue to mount abroad," wails The Weekly Standard in its lead editorial. "How Bush deals with Ahmadinejad's terror-supporting and nuclear-weapons pursuing Iran will be the test" of his administration. Yes, the supreme test.

Bush is on notice from the neocons and War Party that have all but destroyed his presidency: Either you take down Iran, Mr. Bush, or you are a failed president.

If the president is still listening to these people, Lord help the Republic. Link

Iraq: 3,438 civilian deaths in July

July appears to have been the deadliest month of the war for Iraqi civilians, according to figures from the Health Ministry and the Baghdad morgue, reinforcing criticism that the Baghdad security plan started in June by the new Iraqi government has failed.

An average of more than 110 Iraqis were killed each day in July, according to the figures. The total number of civilian deaths that month, 3,438, is a 9 percent increase over the tally in June and nearly double the toll of January. Read more

Fisk: In the face of Bush's lies, it's left to Assad to tell the truth


In the sparse Baathist drawing rooms of Damascus, reality often seems a long way away. But it was a sign of the times that President Bashar al-Assad was able to bring the great and the good of Damascus to their feet by the simple token of telling the truth - which no other Arab leader has chosen to do these past five weeks: that the Lebanese Hizbollah guerrilla army has, in effect, won this round of their war with Israel.

There was plenty of hyperbole in the Assad speech. A conflict that has cost 1,000 Lebanese civilian lives can hardly be called a "glorious battle" but he did at least reflect more reality than his opposite number in Washington who, driven by self-delusion or his love of Israel, claimed that Hizbollah had been defeated in Lebanon.

Israel's "victory" in Lebanon presumably has to be added to our own famous "victories" in Iraq and Afghanistan. Syria and Iran, according to Mr Bush, were responsible for the "suffering" of Lebanon - which contains the seeds of truth since Hizbollah provoked this war by capturing two Israeli soldiers and killing three others on 12 July - although it wasn't the Syrian or Iranian air force that was slaughtering the convoys of innocent refugee civilians in Lebanon. So it was that President Assad must have enjoyed his little peroration in Damascus yesterday.

"This is a [American] administration that adopts the principle of pre-emptive war that is absolutely contradictory to the principle of peace," he said. "Consequently, we don't accept peace soon or in the foreseeable future." Read more

London Tooting MP won't defend rubbish foreign policy

Sadiq Khan, Labour MP for Tooting, signed the letter [db - re government's myopic Blair foreign policy] along with two of the other three Muslim MPs, Mohammed Sarwar and Shahid Malik. He said the MPs were particularly angry with comments from Mr Howells, suggesting that the signatories wanted foreign policy to be decided by fear of terrorism.

"Nobody is suggesting that foreign policy should be decided by six extremists in Dewsbury, but it is foolish to suggest or even expect us to go around defending government policy that is extremely unpopular in Muslim communities. We just would not have any credibility in trying to sort out the problems we are facing." Link

db: And here's our favorite restaurant in Tooting - I wish I was there now:

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fisk: Desert of trapped corpses testifies to Israel's failure


They made a desert and called it peace. Srifa - or what was once the village of Srifa - is a place of pancaked homes, blasted walls, rubble, starving cats and trapped corpses. But it is also a place of victory for the Hizbollah, whose fighters walked amid the destruction yesterday with the air of conquering heroes. So who is to blame for this desert? The Shia militia which provoked this war - or the Israeli air force and army which has laid waste to southern Lebanon and killed so many of its people?

There was no doubt what the village mukhtar thought. As three Hizbollah men - one wounded in the arm, the other carrying two ammunition clips and a two-way radio - passed us amid the piles of broken concrete, Hussein Kamel el-Din yelled to them: "Hallo, heroes!" Then he turned to me. "You know why they are angry? Because God didn't give them the opportunity of dying."

You have to be down here with the Hizbollah amid this terrifying destruction - way south of the Litani river, in the territory from which Israel once vowed to expel them - to realise the nature of the past month of war and of its enormous political significance to the Middle East. Israel's mighty army has already retreated from the neighbouring village of Ghandoutiya after losing 40 men in just over 36 hours of fighting. It has not even managed to penetrate the smashed town of Khiam where the Hizbollah were celebrating yesterday afternoon. In Srifa, I stood with Hizbollah men looking at the empty roads to the south and could see all the way to Israel and the settlement of Mizgav Am on the other side of the frontier. This is not the way the war was supposed to have ended for Israel.

Far from humiliating Iran and Syria - which was the Israeli-American plan - these two supposedly pariah states have been left untouched and the Hizbollah's reputation lionised across the Arab world. The "opportunity" which President George Bush and his Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, apparently saw in the Lebanon war has turned out to be an opportunity for America's enemies to show the weakness of Israel's army. Indeed, last night, scarcely any Israeli armour was to be seen inside Lebanon - just one solitary tank could be glimpsed outside Bint Jbeil and the Israelis had retreated even from the "safe" Christian town of Marjayoun. It is now clear that the 30,000-strong Israeli army reported to be racing north to the Litani river never existed. Read more