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

Monday, January 30, 2006

MOD accused of hiding real cost of Iraq war

scotsman: The Ministry of Defence has admitted that it issued misleading figures for the number of British soldiers injured in Iraq after a Scotsman investigation found that they were wildly inaccurate.

John Reid, the Defence Secretary, last week claimed that about 230 UK personnel had been wounded in action in Iraq since the start of the war in March 2003. The new figure was substantially smaller than previous estimates and would mean British troops had a ratio of deaths to injuries of roughly 1:3, compared with the US ratio of 1:7.

The MoD admitted yesterday that hundreds more may have been injured in combat and that it was unlikely that injuries sustained by soldiers during the war itself had been included in the total. It is now reviewing the information and has promised to issue more figures in the next couple of weeks.

A spokesman said: "At the moment this is the only figure we have got. We simply can't tell you how many people have been injured in Iraq. We have been absolutely clear about this - it is never going to be precise. There will be many, many more injuries that would not require admission to a hospital."

The spokesman said there were problems in defining when a soldier had been injured in combat and he said that during the war itself, staff were too busy to record how many soldiers were treated and in what circumstances. Read more

Paul Craig Roberts: The Coming War on Iran

Fox News Fans the Hysteria

counterpunch: In keeping with its established role as purveyor of disinformation, Fox "News" talking head Brit Hume misreported Fox's own poll. On "Special Report" (January 26) Hume said that 51% of Americans "would now support" air strikes on Iran. What the poll found is that if diplomacy fails, 51% would support air strikes.

Can we be optimistic and assume that diplomatic failure does not include orchestrated failure by the Bush administration? Alas, we cannot expect too much from the American people as even the corrected report indicates a majority of the population in thrall to disinformation.

The only "evidence" that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons is mere assertion by members of the Bush administration and the neoconsevative press. Iran says it is not pursuing nuclear weapons, and the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors say there is no evidence of a weapons program.

Iran is a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Under the treaty, signatories have the right to develop nuclear energy. All they are required to do is to make reports to the IAEA and keep their facilities open to inspection. Iran complies with these requirements.

There is no Iranian "defiance." When news media report "defiance," they purvey disinformation. The "seals" on Iranian facilities were placed there voluntarily by the Iranians while they attempted to resolve the false charges brought by the Bush administration. The "Iran crisis" is entirely the product of the Bush administration's determination to deprive Iran of its rights as a signatory of the non-proliferation treaty. It is just another demonstration of President Bush's opinion that his word overrules fact, law and international treaties.

Despite the clear and unambiguous facts, the Fox/Opinion Dynamics poll reports that 60% of Republicans, 41% of Independents, and 36% of Democrats support using air strikes and ground troops against Iran in order to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. This poll indicates an appalling extent of ignorance and misinformation among the American public. The Bush administration will take advantage of this ignorance to initiate another war in the Middle East. Read more

Rice says Afghanistan a 'wonderful success story'

southasianews/M&C: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Monday called the political and economic development of Afghanistan a 'wonderful success story' and promised to promote private sector investment in the conflict-torn country.

Speaking at a news conference in London ahead of an international conference on Afghanistan, Rice said the US was keen to see 'sustained economic development' in Afghanistan.

For that purpose, her government was interested in 'marrying government assistance with efforts in the private sector.'

Rice was flanked at the news conference by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, to whom she referred as a 'warrior' in the fight against terrorism. Read more

Al-Zawahiri: Bush the 'butcher of Washington'

This is a translated text of the speech from Ayman al-Zawahiri who appeared on video today [text via CNN]

"The American airplanes, in collaboration with their agent of the Jews and the Crusaders, Musharraf, launched an airstrike on Damadola near Peshawar around the Eid al-Adha holiday, during which 18 Muslims -- men, women and children -- died in their fight against Islam, which they call terrorism. Their claim was to target this poor man and four of my brothers. The whole world discovered the lies as the Americans fight Islam and the Muslims. Before I discuss this incident, I have some messages to send out.

"My first message is to the butcher of Washington, Bush: You are not just defeated and lying about it, but you are, with God's help, a loser. You are bad luck to your people. You brought them disasters and catastrophes, and you will bring them even more disasters.

"Bush, you failed crusader, know that we are the nation of monotheism, which believes that no one is greater than God. He sent us a prophet and a book that was never edited like the other books before it. A unique book that defies anyone to come up with anything like it.

"I will meet my death when God wishes. But if my time hasn't come, you and all the Earth's forces can't change it, not even by a second.

"Bush, do you know where I am? I am among the Muslim masses enjoying their care with God's blessings and sharing with them their holy war against you until we defeat you, God willing.

"My second message is to the American people who are drowning in illusions. I tell you that Bush and his gangs are shedding your blood and wasting your money in frustrated adventures. The lion of Islam, Sheikh Osama bin Laden, offered you a decent exit from your dilemma, but your leaders, who are keen to accumulate wealth, insist on throwing you in battles and killing your souls in Iraq and Afghanistan and, God willing, on your own land.

"Your leaders responded that they do not negotiate with terrorists and that they are winning in their war on terrorism. I tell them, O' liars and greedy war merchants, who is pulling out of Iraq and Afghanistan, you or us? Whose soldiers are committing suicide out of desperation, you or us?

"To the American mother I say, if the defense ministry called you to tell you your son is coming back home in a coffin, remember Bush.

"To the British wife I say, if you got a call telling you your husband is coming back home with his body paralyzed, amputated or charred, remember Blair." Link

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Afghanistan: John Reid sells 'the benefits'

telegraph: Afghanistan benefits underrated, claims Reid

The positive benefits of deploying 3,300 British troops to Southern Afghanistan will "far outweigh the dangers", John Reid has said.

The Defence Secretary defended the deployment to the Taliban stronghold of the Helmand province after a senior officer claimed the move would provide "plenty more targets for insurgents".

Lt Col Henry Worsley, a senior officer in the advance party, said: "You talk about stirring up a hornets' nest and that probably will happen. We're going to move in many more forces here than they've had before. You'll have plenty more targets in the province."

But Mr Reid said: "The good that we will do there will far outweigh the dangers.

"We are going in to help civilian aid, economic development and President Karzai to reconstruct Afghanistan.

... He said there had been "less than 10" soldiers' lives lost in Afghanistan since 2001, adding: "It is getting riskier. As we go through the phases to the south we will then find that there is a greater propensity for terrorists to attack as they retreat into the last bastions." Read more

Jean Charles de Menezes: Police cover up

independent: Police 'faked Tube death log'

Extraordinary allegations that Special Branch officers deliberately falsified vital evidence to hide mistakes which led to the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes at a south London Underground station were made last night.

According to claims in the News of the World, police altered the contents of a logbook, which detailed the Brazilian electrician's final movements, in a bid to cover up their blunders.

The 27-year-old was shot dead at Stockwell Tube station, in the wake of the London bombings, by police exercising a shoot-to-kill policy.

Specific words were understood to have been changed to cover up the fact that surveillance officers had wrongly identified Mr de Menezes as terror suspect Hussein Osman.

Alterations were hastily made to amend the wording of the official log once the shocking truth emerged that the dead man was not, in fact, the extremist wanted in connection with the failed 21 July Tube bombings.

This was in a bid to pass the blame for the shooting on to the firearms officers who actually shot the electrician and on to senior officers at Scotland Yard who were in charge of the operation.

These revelations are reportedly contained in the report of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). Last night, despite calls to the Metropolitan Police, the Home Office and the IPCC, The Independent on Sunday was unable to corroborate or substantiate the claims.

The family of the dead man said the revelations were "shocking" and demanded an immediate public inquiry. Asad Rehman, the family's spokesman, said these latest reports reinforced their belief that there had been a deliberate cover-up over Mr de Menezes death. Read more

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Real Afghan war is now beginning

thebusiness: The bloodiest wars often start with the least political fanfare. The Crimean war was agreed in a Cabinet meeting while three members were asleep. And last week, just 13 Labour MPs listened to the Commons statement about Afghanistan.

The voice of John Reid, the Defence Secretary, echoed to the lack of listeners in the chamber as he announced the 1 billion pound deployment of 6,000 troops. The contrast to the hubris before the Iraq war could hardly be starker. Yet the Afghanistan mission could - for British troops - bring a higher death toll than Iraq. The risks are higher, the stakes lower and the goals would be considered laughable if so many lives were not at stake. Read more

Afghanistan: Does Karzai smoke opium?

scotsman: Afghanistan 'moving towards peace'

Afghanistan's president has insisted the country was moving towards peace, as 3,300 British soldiers prepare to fly out.

Hamid Karzai was adamant his government was in charge of the whole of the country.

And he said the British deployment was not an expansion of troops, but would maintain current levels.

"We don't need more troops, you are continuing the level of troops. As a matter of fact the United States is withdrawing some troops from Afghanistan.

"You don't need more troops to keep the peace, the peace is all right, it's moving forward, it's good. It is just an expansion or role by the UK in Afghanistan."

Mr Karzai told BBC Radio 4's Today programme Afghanistan was "bothered" by al Qaida terrorism. But he said the whole world was affected by the group.

The president denied terror groups were getting stronger in Afghanistan, but he said they were changing their tactics and killing innocent people including children.

Asked if his government was in control of the whole of the country he said: "Yes sir, fully." Read more

db: ...yes, quite clearly he does

Iran: 57% of Americans need their head examined

msnbc: Despite persistent disillusionment with the war in Iraq, a majority of Americans supports taking military action against Iran if that country continues to produce material that can be used to develop nuclear weapons, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found.

The poll, conducted Sunday through Wednesday, found that 57% of Americans favor military intervention if Iran's Islamic government pursues a program that could enable it to build nuclear arms.

Support for military action against Tehran has increased over the last year, the poll found, even though public sentiment is running against the war in neighboring Iraq: 53% said they believe the situation there was not worth going to war.

The poll results suggest that the difficulties the United States has encountered in Iraq have not turned the public against the possibility of military actions elsewhere in the Middle East. Link
[db emphasis]

Friday, January 27, 2006

Why Did Hamas Win?

ramallahonline: If Ariel Sharon had not been in a deep coma, he would have jumped out of his bed for joy. The Hamas victory fulfils his most ardent hopes.

For a whole year now, he did everything possible to undermine Mahmoud Abbas. His logic was quite obvious: The Americans wanted him to negotiate with Abbas. Such negotiations would inevitably have lead to a situation that would have compelled him to give up almost all of the West Bank. Sharon had no intention of doing so. He wanted to annex about half of the territory. So he had to get rid of Abbas and his moderate image.

During the last year, the situation of the Palestinians got worse from day to day. The actions of the occupation made normal life and commerce impossible. The West Bank settlements were continuously enlarging. The Wall which cuts off about 10% of the West Bank was nearing completion. No important prisoners were released. The aim was to impress on the Palestinians that Abbas is weak ("a chicken without feathers", as Sharon put it), that he cannot achieve anything, that offering peace and observing a cease-fire leads nowhere.

The message to the Palestinians was clear: "Israel understands only the language of force."

Now the Palestinians have put in power a party that speaks this language.

Why did Hamas win?

Palestinian elections, like German ones, consist of two parts. Half the members of parliament are elected on straight party lists (like in Israel), the other half are elected individually in their districts. This gave Hamas a huge advantage.

In the party lists elections, Hamas won with only a slight majority. This would suggest that as far as the general political line is concerned, the majority is not far from Fatah - two states, peace with Israel.

Many of the votes given to Hamas had nothing to do with peace, religion and fundamentalism, but with protest. The Palestinian administration, run almost exclusively by Fatah, is tainted with corruption. The "man in the street" felt that the people on top don't care about him. Fatah was also blamed for the terrible situation created by the occupation.

Also, the glory of the martyrs and the indomitable fight against the immensely superior Israeli army added to the popularity of Hamas. Read more

Barghouthi: Israel no longer only democracy in Middle East

ramallahonline: The first press conference given by Independent Palestine head, Mustafa Barghouthi, in Ramallah today, focused on the results of Wednesday's legislative elections and their implications for the future of Palestine, and for the region as a whole.

Dr. Barghouthi, who gained a seat in the new legislative council along with fellow candidate, Rawia Al-Shawa, began by thanking all those who had supported, and voted for the Coalition, and said that he was proud to form part of the new Palestinian parliament.

He hailed the elections as a great day in the history of Palestine, and praised the Palestinian people for their determination in ensuring that elections were free and fair, and that they passed off without incident despite the many obstacles facing them, including the ongoing Israeli occupation, manifested partly through movement restrictions and limitations on campaigning and voting in East Jerusalem, as well as acute poverty and unemployment, and the threat of internal disorder.

Dr. Barghouthi stated that legislative elections were the culmination of a democratic revolution that had begun with last year's presidential and local council elections, and that Israel could not longer claim to be the only 'democracy' in the Middle East. He added that this revolution would have profound implications for the development of the democratic process in the rest of the Arab world.

He called on all Palestinians and the international community as a whole to respect election results as the will of the Palestinian people, but went on to stress that the surprisingly high number of votes gained by Hamas were in many cases opposition votes against the twelve years of corruption, mismanagement and political patronage that had been institutionalised under the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority (PA). He added that many Palestinians had sought the sharpest possible expression of opposition in voting for Hamas.

He suggested that election results were also a signal of protest towards the international community for its utter lack of will in compelling Israel to abide by international agreements and resolutions.

In terms of Independent Palestine's future in the Palestinian parliament, Dr. Barghouthi confirmed that the Coalition would cooperate with those who share its commitment to freedom, democracy, just peace, and profound internal reform.

He stressed the critical importance of consolidating the democratic process and of establishing a government of national unity. He emphasised that the Palestinian people do not simply want to move from a one party system dominated by Fatah, to another one party system dominated by Hamas, and that all forms of political patronage and nepotism must be stopped.

Dr. Barghouthi ended the conference by once more thanking coalition supporters, and by declaring a weekly open day at PNI offices for all Palestinians wishing to discuss their needs and viewpoints with him. Link

db: Great headline

John Reid's head

Afghan warlords parade the severed head of
British Defence Secretary John Reid ?
Unfortunately not. Link

Blair hails 'brilliant victory' over Taleban - 2001

bbcnews: ... "There has been a brilliant victory over Taleban... and that of course has been a welcome liberation.

"But we know that is only the start of enabling Afghanistan to cease being a failed state and become a responsible partner in the region."

Troops as targets

Doubts were raised over British involvement in the force by Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith.

The Tory leader voiced his "misgivings", which included fears the British troops could become targets for the remaining Taleban fighters and other opponents to the interim settlement.

That was a particular danger when other UK troops were involved in "search and destroy" missions elsewhere in Afghanistan.

Mr Duncan Smith also pressed for an "exit strategy" for any troop deployment and argued there should be a time limit to the mission.

Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy asked about how robust the rules of engagement would be for British troops.

Mr Blair said the rules had yet to be finalised but everything possible would be done to protect UK soldiers.

The prime minister's official spokesman earlier dismissed reports that the UK could send as many as 6,000 troops. Link

db: Not too sure if we have an exit strategy even now. Maybe when the Afghans are growing cotton instead of opium.... or when all the Taleban are dead ... or when we 'liberate' the UK from Blair and his neocon friends.

Afghanistan: "Brit deployment not a counter terrorism mission" - discuss

yahoo/reuters: Roadside bomb kills two police in Afghanistan

Two policemen were killed and two wounded in Afghanistan when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb on Friday in a restive southern province where British troops will soon be based, police said.The attack happened on a main road in Helmand province. District police chief Haji Zaman blamed Taliban guerrillas.

"This was the work of Afghanistan's enemies," Zaman said, referring to the Taliban who have ben battling U.S. and government forces since they were ousted in late 2001.

Britain announced on Thursday 3,300 new troops for Afghanistan, saying that would bring its total there to 5,700 after it takes over command of a NATO peacekeeping mission in May.

The new troops include a so-called Provincial Reconstruction Team, which aims to establish security for development, in Helmand, one of the areas of the south and east plagued by violence.

Dozens of people, most of them civilians, have been killed in a wave of attacks across Afghanistan's south and east in recent months, including 13 suicide bombings. Read more

db: Yesterday Reid told a supportive parliament that the Brit deployment "is not a 'counter terrorism' mission". We are still trying to work that one out. He also talks of a three year mission. See Afghanistan likely to need foreign troops for five to ten years: Karzai

The AMS: We Are Now Waging Two Battles: Against 'the Occupation' and Against 'the Terrorists'

Sunni Clans Take the Initiative of Launching a Campaign to Expel Zarqawi's Followers and 'Foreigners and Intruders'

There are still more consequences to the wave of assassinations targeting Sunni political and religious figures participating in the political process, and the killing of 42 police recruits in Ramadi by extremist Islamist followers of Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of "al-Qaeda's Organization in the Land of the Two Rivers." A new escalation took the form of additional Arab Sunni tribal clans joining the campaign aimed at liquidating this organization.

The "Popular Clan Committees" launched a large campaign chasing Zarqawi's group in Ramadi "in order to expel them to Syria beyond Iraqi borders." Sheikh Osama al-Jedaan, the head of the al-Karabila clan in Qa'im, on the Syrian border, said that the "Clan Committees" have started a military campaign against the "terrorists," asserting that security formations composed of Ramadi inhabitants are searching for people wanted by the Iraqi government and by their own "government." He emphasized that this operation aims at expelling from Iraqi borders "foreigners and intruders" coming from other states of the region. Six armed groups belonging to "the Iraqi resistance" recently declared war on Zarqawi's "terrorist" organization.

A Sunni religious figure from the province of al-Anbar told Al-Hayat that the groups that destroyed the Sunni provinces belong to the "terrorists and takfiris" [a label attached to the most fanatical Islamic fundamentalists]. He added that the best measure to be taken in order to stabilize the situation is that the inhabitants of the province (the clans) expel these groups. He expressed his regret that some Sunni families gave refuge to "the terrorist elements" although they constitute no more than 50 per cent [certainly a typographic error for a much lesser percentage] of the armed men, attributing this to several reasons among which are "wrong understanding, material need, fear from them, or the desire to take revenge on foreign troops." He asserted that this support and the silence kept with regard to terrorist groups have ended after Sunni families suffered from "the assassinations targeting Sunni figures and the killing of police recruits, the responsibility of which was claimed by al-Qaeda's organization." He said that the resistance fractions acting within the "popular committees" to cleanse Ramadi have ceased their operations against US troops (a truce), but that this does not mean that they trust the Americans or disregard the necessity that they get out of Iraq.

This Sunni sheikh asserted that the mediation of the Ramadi notables between the resistance and US troops "have succeeded in convincing the resistance elements of the necessity of expelling the terrorists, and anyone who excommunicates [takfir] a Muslim Iraqi and kills Shias on the basis of their religious identity, but they did not succeed in increasing their confidence in US authorities." Read more

Fatah gunmen protest Hamas victory in Gaza

alertnet: Hundreds of gunmen from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement, angry at a legislative election victory by Hamas Islamists, marched in Gaza City on Friday and called on party officials to resign.

About 500 gunmen from al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which is part of Fatah, fired rifles in the air as they passed near the house that Abbas stays in when he visits Gaza. Abbas is currently in the West Bank.

"These elections do not represent the Palestinian people," shouted a party activist through a loudspeaker. "We hold Mahmoud Abbas fully responsible for what happened."

Hamas ordered its members to evacuate the streets to try to avoid clashing with the militants, a source within the armed group said.

Hamas, which is sworn to Israel's destruction, won 76 out of 132 parliamentary seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council to Fatah's 43. This gives the militant group the power to shape the next Palestinian government. Read more

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Afghanistan: Blair's new opium War

The Americans have lost interest in Afghanistan and seek to off-load more responsibility to NATO. As always, Blair has stepped in where other more prudent European leaders fear to tread and accordingly John Reid has today announced a further British military commitment to take up the slack. The new contingent will bring Brit forces up to a peak of around 5700 troops with 3,300 of those operating in the south, in the province of Helmand - an area increasingly prey to insurgent attacks and suicide bombers. It is also the centre of the Afghan poppy trade - which accounts for around 80% of the country's income.

Reid has said that it is not a 'counter terrorism' mission - which I guess is supposed to make us feel more comfortable with the decision. How he is defining 'terrorism' is anybody's guess - for the purposes of this exercise he is probably using the narrow definition of al Qaida. The Brits are likely to be facing the Taliban, miscellaneous war lords, drug traffickers and anybody else with a grudge. Interestingly the Lib Dems, Tories and neolabour are all in support of this action - which is a worry in itself.

In January this year Simon Jenkins wrote the following for the Guardian:

The extraordinary folly of Britain's new opium war

In the next few weeks, an army of 3,400 British troops expects to be deployed to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. This is nearly half the number deployed in Iraq. Everything I have heard and read about this expedition suggests that it makes no sense. British soldiers are being sent to a poor and dangerous place whose sole economic resource is opium. They will sit there as targets for probably the most intractable concentration of insurgents, Taliban, drug traffickers and suicide bombers in the world - until some minister has the guts to withdraw them.

Even the context of this expedition is obscure. The Afghan war was supposedly won and the Taliban defeated in 2001. It is fashionable, even in circles opposed to the Iraq war, to claim Afghanistan as a triumph. The Americans and British bombed the hell out of whatever was left of Kabul by the Russians, and the Afghans themselves. A ramshackle army of warlords and mercenaries was helped back into power and the status quo ante the Taliban was restored. That would have been the best time to leave.

As it was, neoimperialists in Washington and London couldn't resist attempting that Everest of nation-building, a new Afghanistan. Their engaging puppet, Hamid Karzai, rules an increasingly insecure landscape, wholly dependent on western aid and a booming narco economy. Outside Kabul, the country appears to be in the hands of a disparate federation of local rulers, tribal warlords and Taliban commanders, all afloat on a sea of opium - the basis of half Afghanistan's domestic output and virtually all its export and personal wealth.

The Americans are wisely treating this country as history. They are reducing their troops to some 10,000 based at Bagram, dedicated to pursuing George Bush's Scarlet Pimpernel, Osama bin Laden. The rest is being handed over to role-hungry Nato. But Nato has no clue what to do. The French, Germans and Spaniards want no part in the madcap venture. The Canadians and Dutch are nervous, so much so that the Dutch may pull out. That leaves the British, mostly with the turbulent province of Helmand, which is sliding under the control of drug warlords in alliance with a resurgent Taliban.

The defence secretary, John Reid, said last month that the expedition's mission is to promote security, which is "absolutely interlinked to countering narcotics". This is to be achieved "by helping growers with an alternative economic livelihood". This cannot make sense. There is no way 3,000 British troops can handle the Taliban now reinforced by drug profits. As for countering those profits, opium is to Helmand what oil is to Kuwait. Read more

Google: It's about the money

news24: Kowtowing to Chinese censors while defying US lawyers is part of a money-making strategy by internet search powerhouse Google, analysts said on Wednesday.

Silicon Valley-based Google is tailoring tactics to legal rules in the United States and China, the top two internet markets on the planet, according to industry experts.

"Google isn't totally on the side of good," Rebecca Jeschke of the Electric Frontier Foundation told AFP. "It's about money, always."

"There is a ton of money to be made in China and the rules are a little different when there is that much money to be made."

Google agreed to censor websites and content in its search service launched on Wednesday in China while at the same time challenging the US government's request for web search data.

Google's move followed similar actions by rivals Microsoft and Yahoo in co-operating with Chinese censorship.

Republican congressman Chris Smith slammed Google's decision and announced he would lead a February 16 hearing into procedures of US internet companies in China.

"It is astounding that Google, whose corporate philosophy is 'Don't be Evil,' would enable evil by co-operating with China's censorship policies just to make a buck," said Smith, chairperson of a subcommittee on human rights.

"Many Chinese have suffered imprisonment and torture in the service of truth - and now Google is collaborating with their persecutors." Link

db: Profit the primary goal? Shocker. Don't hold your breath for a shareholder rebellion.

See How China Controls the Internet

Clumsy British spies are better than crafty ones, says Putin

guardian: The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, yesterday said that four British diplomats accused of espionage in Moscow should not be expelled, as their replacements might be cleverer than they were and harder to catch. The former KGB agent, who served in east Germany, said he wanted the Russian security services and the foreign ministry to suggest a line of approach to the Kremlin, but questioned the wisdom of expelling the four men. Link

Now that hurts

US army 'is too stretched to defeat Iraq rebels'

telegraph: The United States army has become a "thin green line" stretched so taut that it cannot defeat the Iraqi insurgency, a Pentagon-funded study said yesterday.

The document strikes at the heart of the Bush administration's military strategy, and will give ammunition to critics who say that America has too few men under arms.

Donald Rumsfeld defended the army saying it was 'battle hardened'

The report's author, retired Lt Col Andrew Krepinevich, a Vietnam veteran and former adviser to three defence secretaries, says the decision to reduce troop numbers in Iraq was an admission that the military was overstretched.

If the 500,000 strong force does not win its "race against time", leaders "risk breaking the force in the form of a catastrophic decline" in recruitment and re-enlistment. Read more

Hamas says it has won parliamentary majority

reuters: A Hamas leader said on Thursday an initial count of votes showed the militant Islamist group had won a majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament, putting it in a position to shape a new government.

"Hamas has won more than 70 seats in Gaza and the West Bank, which gives it more than 50 percent of the vote," said Ismail Haniyeh, who headed Hamas's list in Wednesday's elections.

The electoral commission had no immediate comment and was expected to issue results later on Thursday. On Wednesday, exit polls showed Hamas had won at least 53 seats and that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement had got 58. Link

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

US Orders Syria to Do the Impossible

antiwar: Is there a person anywhere in the world who still thinks there is an ounce of sanity in the Bush administration? If so, let that person read John Bolton's orders to Syria in the Jan. 24 online edition of the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz.

Bolton is Bush's unconfirmed ambassador to the United Nations. Bolton, a neoconservative warmonger, has managed to get the UN Security Council on Jan. 23 to instruct Syria to disband and disarm the Lebanese militias. Bolton says, "I hope in Damascus they read it very carefully and then comply."

How is Syria to meet this demand?

Last year, Syria complied with U.S. demands to withdraw its troops from Lebanon. As Syria has no military presence in Lebanon, it could not disarm a local police force, much less the Shia militias that defeated the Israeli army, drove it out of Lebanon, and have representatives in the Lebanese parliament.

After three years and unimaginable expense, the superpower American military has proved that it cannot disarm the recently formed Iraqi militias. Yet the idiot Bolton thinks puny Syria can disarm the Lebanese militias that defeated the brutal Israeli army! Read more

Dilip Hiro: The Rise of Political Islam

The Rise of Political Islam: The Palestinian Election and Democracy in the Middle East

Opinion polls in the Palestinian Territories show Hamas - the Arabic acronym which stands for Movement of Islamic Resistance - running neck and neck with the ruling Fatah group in this week's parliamentary election. This is so even though Fatah strategists have plastered the territories with posters of Marwan Barghouti, the popular younger leader who is serving five life sentences for murder in an Israeli jail.

This is but the latest manifestation of the rise of political Islam in the electoral politics of the Middle East, a development that - despite the Bush administration's endless promotion of democratic reform in the region - is causing deep worry among top policy makers in Washington.

Last year began with Islamist candidates winning most of the seats in the first very limited municipal polls in Saudi Arabia and ended with the Iraqi religious parties - both Shiite and Sunni- performing handsomely in the December parliamentary elections. The official Iraqi results, announced on January 21, showed the Shiite United Iraqi Alliance winning almost 80% of the seats that should go to the majority Shiite community. Likewise the Islamic Iraq Party won 80% of the places to which the Sunni minority is entitled.

In between these polls, in a general election held last summer, Hizbollah emerged as the preeminent representative of Lebanese Shiites, the country's largest sectarian group (which is grossly underrepresented in parliament). And in the first election for the legislative assembly not flagrantly rigged by Hosni Mubarak's regime in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood registered a nearly 60% success rate by winning 88 out of the 150 seats it contested. The Brotherhood certainly could have won many more, but its leadership deliberately decided to contest only a minority of seats in order not to provoke the regime of Egypt's pro-American president and so create a situation in which he might be likely to strike out indiscriminately against the opposition.

Put all of this together and you have what looks like a single phenomenon sweeping the region. However, focus on these developments one by one and what you see is that the reasons for Islamist advances are not only different in each case but particular to each country. Read more including Tom Engelhardt's preface.

db: You could argue that it is just this 'political Islam' which the west should embrace, and seek to influence [as opposed to coerce] - instead of clinging to gangsters such as Hosni Mubarak in what might be a vain attempt at holding back an historical inevitability. Whilst the west sides with these low lifes, the ground remains fertile for groups such as al Qaida.

Proposal on expulsion of British agents needed - Putin

RIA Novosti: Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Foreign Ministry should make a joint proposal on the possible expulsion of the alleged British agents at the center of an espionage scandal.

"As for expulsion, it has been the practice to expel intelligence officers working under diplomatic cover from the country in recent decades," Putin said. "The Foreign Ministry and the FSB should make a joint proposal in this regard." Read more

Stockwell shooting: Police arrest reporter for exposing blunders

mathaba/guardian: ITN journalist arrested over leak from Stockwell shooting inquiry

A television journalist who revealed police blunders leading up to the shooting dead of Jean Charles de Menezes, has been arrested on suspicion of theft by detectives investigating the leaking of statements from the official inquiry to the broadcaster, the Guardian has learned.

ITV News revealed in August that Mr de Menezes, who was killed after being mistaken for a terrorist, was being held down when shot by firearms officers after it was passed documents from the Independent Police Complaints Commission's investigation into the shooting.

Copies of documents are believed to have been obtained by the journalist, who is a news producer. Read more

Setting the Record Straight about Iran's Nuclear Program

Neither the New York Times -- newspaper of record -- or Washington Post or any other newspaper in this [US] country or abroad has even published excerpts from this November 2005 official report to the UN disarmament commission, much less the entire document. As best Gordon Prather can tell, in contrast with virtually every US official statement on the subject, there are no errors of fact and no misleading statements -- much less "damnable lies" -- contained in the Iranian report. However, at least some representatives of our 'free press' might want to check out pertinent sections of the Iranian report for themselves and -- heaven forbid -- contrast and compare it with US official government statements.


An Unnecessary Crisis - Setting the Record Straight about Iran's Nuclear Program

In a region already suffering from upheaval and uncertainty, a crisis is being manufactured in which there will be no winners. Worse yet, the hysteria about the dangers of an alleged Iran nuclear weapon program rest solely and intentionally on misperceptions and outright lies. In the avalanche of anti-Iran media commentaries, conspicuously absent is any reference to important facts, coupled with a twisted representation of the developments over the past 25 years. Before the international community is lead to another "crisis of choice", it is imperative that the public knows all the facts and is empowered to make an informed and sober decision about an impending catastrophe. Read the document

*hat tip to bojanbb

Make it 'Minger' Campbell

Def Brain Backs Sir Menzies Campbell -
for no good reason.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Evo Morales and the Roots of Revolution

berkeleydaily: The inauguration of Evo Morales as the first president of Bolivia of indigenous origins marks a watershed in the history of the Americas. The "caras," whites and mestizos who have dominated Bolivia for centuries, are being replaced by an Indian who represents the country's true majority.

But will Morales be able to truly empower Bolivia's Indians to improve their social and economic lot? In countries like Peru, Ecuador and Mexico, history is replete with betrayal by national leaders with Indian blood, as well as by presidents placed in office by Indian movements.

Morales' inauguration, however, appears to mark a dramatic change. Read more

Iran: Terrorists hit Ahvaz again

tehrantimes: On Tuesday, at least nine people were killed and 45 injured in two blasts in Ahvaz, the Mehr News Agency correspondent in the capital of Khuzestan Province reported. Separatist elements are the main suspects in the terrorist attacks.

One bomb exploded on Kianpars Street inside the private Saman Bank, which martyred at least nine people and wounded 15 others. The second explosion happened on Golestan Road next to the Natural Resources Department, causing injuries but no deaths.

The Mehr correspondent said the explosions occurred at about 10 a.m. local time in the city's commercial center in the busy downtown area. Most of the victims were bank customers and staff.

Even though the people feel great animosity toward the perpetrators of the cowardly acts, the city is calm and life has returned to normal, he added.

President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and his cabinet were scheduled to visit Khuzestan Province on Tuesday but the trip was canceled on Monday due to bad weather.

"The blasts in Ahvaz are always perpetrated by counter-revolutionary elements, those who engage in activities against Iran from beyond our borders and Britain," BBC quoted MP Nezam Molla-Hoveyzeh as telling reporters in the Majlis.

"A satellite network has been provoking ethnic and nationalistic issues recently; and some networks outside the country have been actively encouraging separatism in Khuzestan," Molla-Hoveyzeh added.

Interior Minister Mostafa Purmohammadi told reporters that the explosions in Ahvaz were the continuation of blind moves directed from outside the country's borders. Read more

Saddam's new judge is native of massacred Kurd town

timesonline: The court trying Saddam Hussein has replaced its chief judge a day before the former dictator returns to the dock.

The Iraqi Special Tribunal yesterday named Raouf Rasheed Abdel-Rahman, a Kurd from Halabja, where 5,000 died in a gas attack during an offensive by Saddam's forces, to succeed Rizgar Amin. Read more

db: ... that's an astonishing coincidence

Bush - 'no beef' with Iranian people

reuters: Bush says sees risk of Iranian nuclear blackmail

U.S. President George W. Bush said on Monday he was concerned a future nuclear-armed Iran could blackmail the world.

But in a setback for U.S.-European Union efforts to crack down on Iran over its disputed nuclear program, the U.N. nuclear watchdog chief ruled out advancing a wide-ranging report on the issue in time for a February 2 crisis meeting of his agency.

In remarks at Kansas State University, Bush cited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's expressed wish for Israel to be wiped off the map as a sign that Iran sought a nuclear arsenal.

"The world cannot be put in a position where we can be blackmailed by a nuclear weapon," he said.

He also had a message for the Iranian people, saying "we have no beef with you," and expressing hope that Iraq's fledgling democracy could serve as an example for nearby Iran. Read more

db: The world's greatest blackmailer - Mr with-us-or-against-us - 'has no beef' with the people of Iran? Sounds familiar ...

"... it's important to remember we are not going to be running roughshod over this country; we're liberating it. We have no beef with the Iraqi people, just their regime." Rear Admiral Charles R. Kubic - March '03

Having 'no beef' with a people definetely presents no barrier to killing them en masse, as history shows.

Millions of workers in China aren't getting paid

knightridder: Tang Jianliang, a 34-year-old migrant worker, stood forlornly on a sidewalk outside the construction site where he works in this booming southern city. Cement dust coated his old clothing.

"I haven't been paid in four months," Tang said.

He's not alone. China estimates that millions of migrant workers are owed more than $12 billion in back wages. Simply put, their bosses are cheating them.

A recent survey ordered by the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislative body, found that 7.8 percent of the workers at the 2,000 companies surveyed were owed back pay averaging 2,184 yuan ($273) per person, or more than 3 months' wages. Read more

db: China - a capitalist's wet dream

Iraq: 34,000 insurgent attacks in 2005 - up 30%

alertnet: Insurgents in Iraq mounted more than 34,000 attacks last year on U.S. and other foreign troops, Iraqi security forces and Iraqi civilians, a nearly 30 percent jump from 2004, the U.S. military said on Monday.

U.S. officials cautioned that the figure should not be seen as evidence that insurgents are gaining ground because the effectiveness of their attacks declined and the Iraqis achieved numerous political milestones despite the ongoing violence.

"We are succeeding, and the Iraqis are succeeding," said Marine Corps Maj. Tim Keefe, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

But defense analyst Daniel Goure of the Lexington Institute think tank said, "It's a little hard on the face of it to claim we are being successful when the number of attacks increases by 30 percent.

"Given the fact that the total number of attacks are up and Iraqi casualties are rising, it is real hard to say we have seen any light in this tunnel," Goure added. Read more

CIA report highlights European complicity

swissinfo: A Swiss investigator says that European governments probably knew about CIA abductions and the transfer of detainees through European airspace.

But Dick Marty, who is investigating the affair for the Council of Europe, said in an interim report he had no concrete proof of CIA detention centres in eastern Europe or elsewhere

It is highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware of the "rendition" of more than 100 detainees, Marty said on Tuesday.

Marty's interim report on CIA prisons and flights for the Council of Europe, the continent's human rights watchdog, was made public in a memorandum.

Citing statements made by American officials and others, Marty said there was "a great deal of coherent, convergent evidence pointing to the existence of a system of 'relocation' or 'outsourcing' of torture".

He added: "It has been proved - and in fact never denied - that individuals have been abducted, deprived of their liberty and transported ... in Europe, to be handed over to countries in which they have suffered... torture." Read more

Read Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights report here

European report raps US over rendition flights

FT: An international investigation into alleged CIA prisons in Europe said on Tuesday that the US had broken the law but failed to provide hard evidence that European governments had hosted illegal detention centres on their soil.

Dick Marty, a Swiss parliamentarian heading a Council of Europe investigation into the claims, said in an interim report that US activities had been both illegal and counter productive. Read more

Monday, January 23, 2006

Foreign Office rejects espionage claims against British diplomats

RIA Novosti: The British Foreign Office has rejected allegations made in a Russian television program that its diplomats were engaged in espionage in the Russia.

Reacting to a program shown on the Rossiya television channel on Sunday night, the Foreign Office said it was "concerned and surprised" by the allegations that individuals had gained access to classified data by using a high-tech piece of equipment disguised as a rock.

The Special Correspondent program on the state television channel featured interviews with people who claimed to be representatives of Russia's domestic security agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB). In echoes of the Cold War, they said that British agents had planted a transmitter in an imitation rock on a Moscow street to record classified computer data, which was later downloaded by British embassy officials. The allegations in the program were made based on a recording made by a FSB hidden camera.

The program also alleged that Marc Doe, a first secretary, had been authorizing regular payments to Russian non-governmental organizations. Several documents signed by him were shown as evidence of cash payments to NGOs operating in Moscow, including 23,000 pounds (about $40,000) to the Moscow Helsinki Group, and 5,719 pounds ($9,700) to one more organization, the Eurasia Foundation. Another document signed by Doe, a 27-year-old graduate of Durham University, contained information on cash payments under an obscure project for establishing schools of public inspectors in remote areas of Siberia and Russia's Far East.

Apart from Doe, the program said embassy officials Christopher Pirt, 30, and Paul Cronton, were also involved in espionage, as was 32-year-old researcher Andre Fleming.

FSB spokesperson Diana Shemyakina said thousands of NGOs were currently working in Russia, of which only 92 are officially registered by the Justice Ministry. Most of them were founded and provided with funds by the U.S. government and public organizations, and by its NATO allies, she added.

The role of NGOS has been under the microscope in Russia since "revolutions" in other former Soviet republics brought new authorities to power amid allegations of external funding and interference. A controversial new law was passed at the end of last year placing certain restrictions on foreign organizations.

The Foreign Office said that some well-publicized payments had been made to human rights activist in a bid to help a "healthy" civil society develop. "We reject any allegations of improper conduct in our dealing with Russian NGOs," it said.

The Russian political elite has been seeking to establish a civil society in Russia and the television program coincided with the election Sunday of top officials to the Public Chamber, a watchdog set up by the president to act as a bridge between the legislative and executive branches and the public. Link

db: We checked with legal - it's apparently not a crime to name diplomats

Bolivia leader forms socialist, indigenous cabinet

reuters: Bolivia's first indigenous president, Evo Morales, turned to fellow socialists, Indians, grass-roots activists and women to form his Cabinet on Monday and ordered them to root out corruption and adopt a new leftist economic model.

The 12 men and four women were sworn in by Morales, some pledging allegiance with a raised left fist, others with a hand on their heart, and a few with both gestures. This was Morales' first official act after his inauguration on Sunday.

"I want zero corruption, zero bureaucracy, no more 'come back tomorrow'. People are tired of this," said Morales, wearing the striped sweater that has come to symbolize his informal style.

Morales excluded the technocrats that have traditionally served in the governments of the ruling elite, preferring instead to choose ministers close to grassroots movements.

He chose an Aymara Indian intellectual as his foreign minister, a grass-roots leader to be in charge of water and an energy analyst and journalist to over see the hydrocarbonindustry.

"You must comply with the people's mandate, to democratically change the neo-liberal economic model and resolve structural and social problems," Morales said.

Morales and his Movement to Socialism party won 54 percent of the vote in the December 18 election, the biggest margin of victory since Bolivia's return to democracy in 1982. Read more

ID cards - another defeat for lame duck PM

bloomberg:U.K. Lords Defeat Government Plan to Make ID Cards Compulsory

Britain's House of Lords rejected government plans to make a system of national identity cards compulsory, dealing a second blow to Prime Minister Tony Blair's flagship proposal for fighting fraud in just over a week.

The upper chamber of Parliament voted 186-142 for an amendment that would make registration voluntary. On Jan. 16, the Lords backed an amendment that would force the government to provide an audited estimate of the costs of introducing the cards.

"Unless there is compulsion, you won't get the benefits of an ID card system,'' Lord Chancellor Charles Falconer said in a British Broadcasting Corp. interview ahead of the vote. "I think it will become inevitable that you need reliable means of identification, both to stop people stealing your identity, and also making it much easier for you to deal with the state." Read more

Google: lame duck PM [without quotes] and you get:

Tony Blair - Biography Outside Number 10 on the day after his victory, the PM said that 'respect' would play a big part in his third term agenda .... [not from his MP's]

Tories support Blair, naturally

independent: Tories embarrass Blair by backing his school reforms

Three Conservative MPs will try to embarrass Tony Blair today by backing his radical reforms to schools in a minority report to the Labour-dominated Commons Select Committee on Education.

Mr Blair, who will defend his plans at his monthly press conference in Downing Street today, knows his authority will be destroyed if he has to rely on Conservative support to get the reforms through the Commons.

Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, signalled a partial retreat yesterday by saying ministers wanted to open "a dialogue" with their critics.

Tories on the committee will urge Mr Blair not to surrender. They support freedom from town hall interference for the independent trust schools and expansion of popular schools, as Mr Blair has proposed. Mr Blair's allies believe this is a crucial argument that he must win. Read more

The Iran-U.S. Dispute and Military Action

lewrockwell: Iran and the U.S. are at odds. They have been greatly at odds since 1979 when the Shah of Iran fell from power and the Islamic Republic of Iran began. But the U.S. participation in the coup that overthrew Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953 shows that the U.S. has long sought substantial influence over Iran's rulers. What are the roots of the antagonism between these two states, and how might it end up? Read more

Turkey feels Iran chill

asiatimes: Iran's supply of natural gas to Turkey was inexplicably slashed by 70% last Friday, in one of the coldest months of the year. On the same day, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul raised the tension between the two countries by calling for greater Iranian "transparency" over Tehran's nuclear program.

"There should not be an armament race in the region," he said. "We follow a policy to clean the entire Middle East [of] WMD [weapons of mass destruction]."

While ordinary Turks braced for shortages and chilly weeks ahead, analysts speculated that the cut was a calculated move by Tehran aimed at warning Ankara not to become involved in its escalating row with the West. Read more

Speaking out against torture

newsday: England's former ambassador to Uzbekistan and a former general in charge of the Abu Ghraib prison during the 2004 abuse scandal there were among legal scholars and activists speaking out against the Bush administration's handling of the war on terror yesterday at Manhattan's Riverside Church.

Craig Murray, ousted as Britain's ambassador to Uzbekistan after he criticized the use of intelligence gained through torture, said Uzbek security forces supplying interrogation findings to the CIA used torture "on an industrial scale."

"I would rather die than to have [innocent people] tortured to save my life," Murray said, drawing applause from the crowd of more than 500 people.

His appearance followed a Friday radio interview in which he said, "We're not talking about marginal definitions of torture. The U.S. knew this was happening and encouraged it by being prepared to accept and give credence to the results of it."

Murray said in its quest to secure increasingly scarce oil and gas supplies, the Bush administration is fanning anti-American sentiments in the Islamic world. "They are making America a much more dangerous place," he said. Read more

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Westminster 'misled' over CIA torture flights

independent: Pressure over the use of British airports for secret CIA torture flights increased dramatically yesterday after it emerged that a Foreign Office minister misled Parliament over a meeting between the UN and UK civil servants about the issue.

The Independent on Sunday has learnt that Lord Triesman, the Foreign Office minister, misled peers when he told the House of Lords that no such meeting had ever occurred.

But Martin Scheinin, the UN Human Rights Commission's special rapporteur, travelled to London to hold meetings with Home Office and Foreign Office officials between 21 and 22 November last year. He raised concerns about the issue of "extraordinary rendition" - the policy of moving terror suspects to countries that use torture - and is so concerned following the lack of disclosure that he is writing to ministers.

In his recent parliamentary reply to Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, the senior Liberal Democrat MP Lord Triesman said: "As far as we are aware, Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials have not held meetings with United Nations officials since 1 November on extraordinary rendition."

The Foreign Office admitted yesterday that the answer was incorrect and that one of its civil servants had been at a Home Office meeting with Dr Scheinin, where rendition was discussed, eight weeks ago. Read more

Iran and Israel: The Ambiguous Nuclear Weapons

palestinechronicle: Over the last 50 years, Israel has been directly and indirectly aided and funded in its development of weapons of mass destruction by the United States, France, Norway, Britain and Germany. These powerful nations have neither been forthright nor accountable in their roles in giving one small country in the Middle East enough clout to wipe out most of their neighbors via nuclear holocaust. Such a stance is not only controversial and hypocritical to non-proliferation; it is intrinsically detrimental to all other diplomacy and hopes concerning peace in the future of the Middle East.

Iran's rather defiant and overt intentions re: producing and maintaining nuclear energy, calls for a closer scrutiny and study of defiant nuclear ambitions in the Middle East. Israel's long-standing ambiguity about its nuclear weapons, gives Iran and the world, pause and speculation as to why some governments, especially the US government and including some EU governments, chose to either subvert emphasis on non proliferation, or simply did not have the adequate intelligence to discern what historians and journalists are now only beginning to piece together as history, concerning Israel's illegal acquisitions of heavy water and uranium.

Either ponderance brings with it a profound sense of unease and mistrust of any governments or political leaders who also remain silent about past, present and future Zionist "Manifest Destiny" that makes excuses for ethnic cleansing and massive group punishments of a people suffering decades of brutal Occupation; a people still having land stolen from them.

Further more, to object to Iran's nuclear future without pressuring and bringing Israel into open and honest negotiation about its arsenal including forthright inspections, seems either absurd or outrageously insulting not only to the Arab world but also to the world in general.

The United States and most of Europe, now rumbling and grumbling and on edge over Iran still avoids even discussion let alone confrontation over Israel's proliferation, and thus presents this rather poor standard for diplomacy. A foreign policy that favors and entitles one country with rogue weapons while condemning another, perpetuates an uneasy clime and double standard wherein peaceful negotiation is doomed before it ever begins. Read more

Former aides to confront Saddam when trial resumes

alertnet: Saddam Hussein may be confronted from the witness stand by former associates when his trial resumes this week but defence counsel will call for a halt after the chief judge resigned complaining of government interference.

"There will be former regime members" among witnesses appearing on several days of hearings starting on Tuesday and lasting up to three weeks, a Western diplomat closely involved in the U.S.-sponsored trial told reporters on Sunday.

The first trial could wind up by late May, he said, but with at least half a dozen others lined up, including an impending one on the genocide of Kurds, the process may last years.

Saddam's defence team will move for hearings to be halted, however, after presiding judge Rizgar Amin quit; he protested at political pressure on him to stop Saddam's courtroom speeches and push ahead with the trial, raising new questions about the court's independence amid ethnic and sectarian conflict.

"It's unthinkable they would press forward," said former U.S. attorney general Ramsey Clark as he left neighbouring Jordan for Baghdad with the team of Iraqi and foreign lawyers.

"We expect greater intimidation and pressures. That's what the message from the pressures put on judge Amin say. 'Run this railroad, get going, move and run over anyone who gets in your way'," Clark told Reuters in Amman. Read more

Bolivia:"We, the poor, also have the right to govern"

reuters: Bolivia makes history with first Indian president

Bolivia will swear in leftist Evo Morales as its first indigenous president on Sunday in a festive climate as the poor Indian majority celebrates the long-awaited rise to power of one of its own.

Morales takes office after winning 54 percent of the vote on December 18 in the biggest landslide since the country's return to democracy in 1982.

Bolivians rich and poor hope the historic handover will bring stability to their nation, South America's poorest, where the two previous presidents were toppled by street protests.

In an unprecedented show of international support for the landlocked country, 12 heads of state will be in the world's highest capital to watch the Aymara Indian and coca growers' leader don the presidential sash in Congress.

Many of those presidents are fellow Latin American leftists, a reflection of the region's shift leftward as voters reject free-market economic policies that did little to bring down high poverty rates.

"We, the poor, also have the right to govern and in Bolivia, the poor indigenous have the right to be presidents," Morales told his followers on Saturday as an indigenous ritual at the sacred pre-Inca ruins of Tiwanaku.

Morales, 46, was born in a hardscrabble highland village, herded llamas as a boy and saw four of his six siblings die as babies. A bachelor of modest means, he eschews the Western coat and tie in favor of a striped pullover and has cut his presidential salary in half to $1,700 a month.

"For the first time an Indian sits in the presidency and he has gone on a tour of many countries. It inspires pride in peasants like me," said Simon Alanoca, an Aymara who left the countryside to work in the indigenous city of El Alto. Read more

Iraqi minister advices exiles abroad not to return

azzaman: Many Iraqis living abroad opted to return home in the aftermath of the fall of former leader Saddam Hussein.

But most of them are now taking the opposite journey, returning once again to the foreign countries which sheltered form Saddam's oppression.

Meantime, Minister of Replacement and Migration Suhayla Abd-Jaafar has said conditions in the country were not safe for Iraqi refugees abroad to return.

Iraqi expatriates are disappointed with the course of events since the 2003-U.S.-led invasion.

They cite violence, insecurity, instability and unemployment as the main reasons for their decision to return to exile once again.

Some said they were targets of attacks by armed groups battling the U.S. occupation and the government.

Many members of these armed organizations were affiliated to Saddam's Baath party and they see the expatriates as enemies.

"I escaped the country 25 years ago fearing for our lives as we were communists. I decided to return when the former regime fell. But I had to return to exile because it was impossible for me to live in the country," said Qassem Khalifa.

Saddam Hussein was friendly to Iraqi communists in the early years of his Baathist rule. But he turned against them when he felt his position was secure.

“I left the country 20 years ago to protect my son from persecution. We lived in America for the whole period and decided to return home when Saddam was overthrown. But there was no security and we could not stay,” said Majeed Saadoun.

Mohammed Saleh, a dentist, left Canada for home after 18 years of exile.

"But I had to go back. True exile is hard but what can I do? I only returned to my exile when I felt that there was no hope at the end of the tunnel," said Saleh.

Human rights activists say Iraqis abroad were shocked and disappointed on their return home.

"The main reason compelling Iraqi expatriates to go into exile again is lack of security," said Mohammed al-Mawsawi, the head of Iraqi human rights organization, a non-governmental group.

Abd-Jaafar, the migration minister, said she would not encourage Iraqi refugees to return. Rather "I would advise the countries hosting them to grant them residency."

However, she said, her ministry has plans to help those returning home to get "reintegrated in the society". Link

Rescuers say Thames whale's death may save others

reuters: Marine experts who failed to rescue a whale stranded in London's Thames River said on Sunday they hoped worldwide public interest in its fate would promote conservation of the endangered species.

Rescue teams had tried to return the adolescent 18-foot (six meter) northern bottle-nosed whale to the open seas but it died on Saturday evening after its health took a turn for the worse.

"It was always a race against time," Tony Woodley of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue group, which coordinated the rescue attempt, told Reuters.

Paul Jepson, head of the UK Marine Mammals Strandings Programme, said he hoped international coverage of the animal's fate would have a positive impact.

"There are probably many children who may remember seeing this bottle-nosed whale in London and in the future I hope that they may become marine mammal enthusiasts and conservationists." Read more

Torture worldwide and the CIA When UW-Madison professor Alfred McCoy first saw the photograph of a hooded Iraqi prisoner from the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, he remembers feeling a sickening shock of recognition.

Hooded, arms outspread, tethered to fake electrical wires, the prisoner was balancing on a small, upended box.

What McCoy saw when he looked at the image was a classic demonstration of torture techniques pioneered and taught by the Central Intelligence Agency - something McCoy has run across several times around the world during his research on subjects ranging from drugs to revolution.

Thus began a trip back in time for McCoy, 60, a sojourn into a dark subject that has surfaced previously in his research and about which he has written, though not in great detail. The subject had so depressed him that he left it behind some years ago.

But after Abu Ghraib, McCoy began his own methodical investigation into the connections between the CIA and torture. The result is a book released this month called "A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, From the Cold War to the War on Terror."

In it, McCoy draws on more than 30 years of research and sometimes dangerous fieldwork to put the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib into a 50- year historical context. His work implicates the CIA in the use and propagation of psychological torture techniques worldwide. Read more

Osama bin Laden 'book club' boosts US author

reuters: US author's sales jump after Osama mentions book

An unexpected endorsement from al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden has resulted in a huge jump in sales for a book by a critic of U.S. foreign policy.

William Blum's "Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower" was ranked 209,000 on's sales list before bin Laden mentioned it in an audiotape released on Thursday. By Friday, the book was No. 30 on the list.

Bin Laden said al Qaeda group was preparing more attacks in the United States but also told Americans, "It is useful for you to read the book 'The Rogue State.'"

"I was quite surprised and even shocked and amused when I found out what he'd said," Blum said on Friday in an interview with Reuters Television in his Washington apartment.

"I was glad. I knew it would help the book's sales and I was not bothered by who it was coming from.

"If he shares with me a deep dislike for the certain aspects of U.S. foreign policy, then I'm not going to spurn any endorsement of the book by him. I think it's good that he shares those views and I'm not turned off by that. Read more

db: See excerpts of Rogue State here [but not because OBL told you to]

CIA stole Bolivian missiles: Chavez

thepeninsula: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Thursday accused the CIA of masterminding the theft of Bolivian surface-to-air missiles last year to prevent them from falling into the hands of leftist President-elect Evo Morales.

Chavez, who often accuses Washington and the CIA of plots against his self-proclaimed socialist revolution, gave no evidence of his claim. Yet his allegations have moved the missile crisis to the center stage of growing suspicion among South America's resurgent left of Washington's intentions in the region.

At the height of election campaigning, Morales, a former coca leaf farmer who is to take office on Sunday, denounced the destruction in October of up to 30 Chinese-made Bolivian surface-to-air missiles in the United States.

"The head of the Bolivian army handed over some missiles to the American ambassador in Bolivia when they noticed Evo was going to win," Chavez said on the sidelines of a summit of heads of state from Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil.

"The United States stole missiles from Bolivia, they are international thieves," he said after meeting Argentina's Nestor Kirchner and Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Read more

Blair is losing it

sundayherald: Blair's empire crumbles as Kinnock plays Brutus to the Labour Party rebels

ET tu, Kinnock. Last week, the former Labour leader, Lord Kinnock, added his voice to the rebellion against Tony Blair's education white paper. It was the deepest cut. The Prime Minister's power is draining fast and next week's expected reshuffle may be his last.

Neil Kinnock is not just a failed Labour leader; he remains a powerful moral force in the Labour Party. He keeps his own counsel. I spoke with him in Edinburgh last August and he made clear there were a number of Labour policies with which he disagreed, but he assured me he would never "ever" speak out publicly against an elected leader on a key issue of confidence. Well, times change.

Neil Kinnock has legitimised the most serious rebellion since Blair came to office. It is now open season on government legislation.

As this column noted last year, there is almost an alternative government on the Labour backbenches, and in Kinnock it has an alternative elder statesman. Nobody is afraid any more. Labour MPs go on television to explain, more in sorrow than in anger, why the latest piece of their own legislation - on schools, hospitals, nuclear power, ID cards, terrorism - is just not acceptable.

It is all very intoxicating. Suddenly a party that have made a fetish of discipline, leadership and collective responsibility are all over the place. Tony Blair chairs the Cabinet and goes to meet the Queen, but increasingly he is becoming a dignified rather than an efficient Prime Minister. Second among equals, in office but not in power, a lame duck - choose your metaphor. Blair is simply losing it. Read more

Blair's Britain: Cash for making the sick work

telegraph: Benefit rewards for doctors

John Hutton, the Pensions Secretary, is considering a scheme under which doctors receive financial bonuses for signing fewer people off as long-term sick.

Mr Hutton, who publishes the Government's long-awaited green paper on welfare reform this week, confirmed that the measure might form part of a package to cut the numbers claiming incapacity benefit.

"It has been mooted and I think, again, this is something we would like to talk to the GPs about," he said. Read more

db: Tony Blair - more Thatcherite than Thatcher

Bloke called Chris Huhne has a Lib Dem dream ...

independent: Lib Dems' 'threat to Labour'

The Liberal Democrats have suffered from "poverty of ambition" and must raise their expectations of achieving power, Chris Huhne, one of the contenders for the party leadership, has warned.

Mr Huhne, whose odds to become leader narrowed sharply last week after the withdrawal of Mark Oaten from the race, said the Liberal Democrats have not "raised our sights high enough" and urged the party to be optimistic and "raise our ambitions" for the next election.

The MP, who is seen as the outsider in the race to become leader, said he was confident the party could gain dozens of seats from Labour at the next election. Read more

db: Is it possible that this interview took place before the 'rent boy' story broke? Anyway, who the hell is Chris Huhne [ed: former MEP/now LD leadership candidate] and why the hell does he think neolabour should give two shits about him or his party?

Jean Charles de Menezes - 'Grounds for criminal charges against 10 officers'

independent: New inquiry into 'police failings' that led to killing of Brazilian

Scotland Yard is facing a fresh inquiry into its controversial shoot-to-kill policy after the killing of the innocent Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes last July.

The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA), the independent watchdog for the force, prompted by the shooting, is to investigate communications failures between police chiefs and firearms officers.

The 27-year-old was shot deadat Stockwell Tube station, south London, in the wake of the London bombings, by police exercising a shoot-to-kill policy.

A report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) handed to prosecutors last week is understood to blame the killing on failings in the Met's command and control procedures.

The MPA review is expected to recommend radical changes in the type of orders given to police, even the words that commanders use when issuing instructions.

A copy of the MPA's report on police firearms procedures is likely to be handed to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which is considering the IPCC's findings. It is understood that the CPS has suggested that there are grounds for criminal charges to be brought against at least 10 officers involved in the shooting of Mr de Menezes. Read more

David Irving: Hitler? He was good in parts

observer: As darkness descends upon the thick walls of Vienna's ancient Josefstadt courthouse, the adjacent prison compound comes to life. Shouts and cries echo across the inner courtyard as the inmates talk to each other in a plethora of languages. The elderly Englishman in Block C looks up briefly from the stack of papers that is lying on the small wooden table in front of him and listens before he resumes his writing.

'I'm writing my memoirs - about 20 pages each day,' David Irving tells me the next morning when I visit him in the Viennese prison that has been his home since the Austrian police arrested him in November last year on charges of denying the Holocaust.

I had been sitting in a squalid little waiting room for an hour together with large families arguing with each other and teenage mothers pushing prams around. One of their relatives is behind bars for threatening to kill his wife, another has been arrested for drug offences. 'If only all the inmates were as well behaved as he is,' a prison guard sighed when I asked him about Irving. No, I think, as my number comes up and I enter the high security meeting room, you wouldn't normally expect an historian and writer among the thieves, pimps and drug dealers held here.

But there he is, sitting behind a thick pane of bulletproof glass, smartly dressed in a dark blue suit and tie, telephone in hand. 'It's nonsense to put someone in prison for his views,' he says in impeccable, accent-free German. 'It's like having a law that prohibits wearing yellow collars.'

Irving is referring to Austria's Verbotsgesetz, a constitutional law dating back to 1945 which not only bans National Socialist or neo-Nazi organisations but makes incitement to neo-Nazi activity and the glorification or praise of National Socialist ideology illegal. It also prohibits public denial, belittlement, approval, or justification of National Socialist crimes, including the Holocaust. While other countries such as Germany and Poland have anti-Nazi laws too, Austria's Verbotsgesetz is particularly strict, carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years. With an average of 25 convictions each year, it is also enforced vigorously by the judiciary. Read more

More on Irving at the Nizkor Project

Saturday, January 21, 2006

"Jallalla Evo Morales"

reuters: Morales seeks energy at sacred Andean ruins

At the sacred ruins of a powerful pre-Inca civilisation, a colourfully clad Evo Morales sought the spiritual energy and blessings of his Andean ancestors on Saturday, the eve of his inauguration as Bolivia's first indigenous president.

The 46-year-old Aymara Indian walked a path, which had been swept with coca leaves, that travelled among Tiwanaku's pyramids and temples, dating from 700 AD, in the company of spiritual leaders.

They dressed him in a red tunic like the ones used by the priests of Tiwanaku 1,000 years ago and a four-cornered cap and bestowed on him a staff of command representing the 36 nationalities of Bolivia's indigenous majority.

Amid shouts of "Jallalla Evo" (Long live Evo), the leaders performed rituals to energise the president-elect and together they made offerings to Pachamama, Mother Earth, to thank her for the victory.

Morales had gone to Tiwanaku to pray to Pachamama before the December 18 elections, in which the leftist won a surprisingly high 54 percent of the vote in Bolivia, the poorest country in South America.

Some 10,000 Bolivians from all over the country descended on the revered ruins, the cradle of the Aymara people located 40 miles (70 km) from the capital, La Paz, and 13,000 feet (4,000 metres) above sea level.

"Today begins a new era for the native peoples of the world," Morales told the crowd in Spanish, urging his followers to help "end the colonial state and the neo-liberal model." Read more

London whale dies during rescue bid

reuters: The northern bottle-nosed whale that made world headlines when it strayed into the River Thames two days ago died on Saturday as rescuers were trying to rush it to safety aboard a barge.

Rescue teams had hoped the adolescent 18-foot whale could be returned to the open seas but it died suddenly after its health took a turn for the worse.

"I am afraid it had a convulsion and died at 1900 hours," Tony Woodley of British Divers Marine Life Rescue told Reuters. Read more

Liberal Mark Oaten resigns over rent boy claim

bbcnews: Former Liberal Democrat leadership challenger Mark Oaten has stood down as the party's home affairs spokesman over an alleged affair with a rent boy.

Mr Oaten released a statement apologising for the "embarrassment" caused to his family, friends and the Liberal Democrat party. Read more

'Stressed' whale's fate in balance

scotsman: The fate of the stranded Thames whale is hanging in the balance after its health suddenly deteriorated.

Rescuers who winched it on to a barge in central London and headed down river to the sea cancelled an appeal for an ocean-going vessel to take it out to deep water.

Experts on board said they were "pessimistic" about the fate of the 15ft-long bottle-nosed whale.

A spokesman for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue Group said it was not fit enough to be transferred to a larger ship to release it off the south coast.

If it is judged fit enough to go back into the water it will now go straight in from the barge.

The spokesman said: "It has obviously been under a lot of stress having been through what it's been through.

"The word being used on the barge is 'pessimistic'. If they do go for a refloat it will be off that barge." Read more

db: One thing is certain; if this rescue operation doesn't go the way we all hope there will be a plethora of dead whale jokes doing the rounds by Monday morning. That's a British characteristic, and not a bad one.

White House cool on bin Laden tape

FT: Many Americans yesterday heard about the latest tape by Osama bin Laden - the first word from him in more than a year - before George W. Bush was informed of it. The president was delivering a speech on the economy in Virginia, and while US networks were reporting the news before his talk began, aides waited to inform him of the news until after his remarks.

The decision to wait underscores Washington's tepid reaction to Mr bin Laden's tape, which the White House yesterday portrayed as a sign of weakness from the al-Qaeda leader.

The US did not raise the terror alert in response to the tape, and John Crouch, deputy national security adviser, told CNN that the administration saw Mr bin Laden's threat as general in nature, and not particular. Read more

The Proposed Iranian Oil Bourse

Energybulletin: ... The Iranian government has finally developed the ultimate "nuclear" weapon that can swiftly destroy the financial system underpinning the American Empire. That weapon is the Iranian Oil Bourse slated to open in March 2006. It will be based on a euro-oil-trading mechanism that naturally implies payment for oil in Euro. Read more

Signing of Russia-Ukraine gas contracts postponed

itartass: A visit of the Gazprom delegation to Kiev and the signing of the Russia-Ukraine gas documents have been postponed till January 25, Lilya Klochko, press secretary of the Ukrainian ministry of fuel and energy, reported on Saturday. She gave no reasons for the postponement of the talks between the Russian delegation and Naftogaz Ukrainy, which were planned to be held in Kiev on Saturday.

All the gas contracts, mentioned in the tripartite agreement reached by Naftogaz Ukrainy, Gazprom and Rosukrenergo on January 4, were to be signed today. Link

Zurich bankers salivate over Iranian assets

cnnmoney: Swiss banks: Iran money welcome

Swiss banks would welcome asset transfers by Iran, which has begun moving financial holdings to shield them from the threat of international sanctions, a leading financial industry representative said on Friday.

"If you're talking in terms of a safe haven proposal, that's where Switzerland is very strong, stronger than Singapore or other places. We are a country that is non-judgmental," said Steve Bernard, director of the Geneva Financial Center, a lobby in Switzerland's second-largest banking city after Zurich. Read more

Assad: Israel assassinated Arafat

ynetnews: Syrian president charges Israel was behind former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's death, says world failed to intervene. Assad makes statement in wake of talks with Iran's president in which Syria voiced support in Iran's right to obtain nuclear capabilities.

Syrian President Bashar Assad accused Israel on Saturday of assassinating former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the cause of whose death 14 months ago remains a mystery.

"Of the many assassinations that Israel carried out in a methodical and organized way, the most dangerous thing that Israel did was the assassination of President Yasser Arafat," Assad told a gathering of Arab lawyers. Read more

Turkish messiah back behind bars

Zaman: Court of Appeal Squashes Release, Agca Returns to Prison After 8 Days

The Court of Appeals annulled a decree by Kartal High Criminal Court to release Mehmet Ali Agca, the would-be-assassin of Pope John Paul II and the killer of a Turkish journalist-writer Abdi Ipekci.

The Court concluded Friday Agca was released on grounds of some miscalculation when the Court officials received a written decree from the Ministry of Justice to re-arrest Agca.

The 20 years of prison that Agca served in Italy cannot be subtracted from the period he must serve in prison in Turkey, the court officials said.

In addition, Agca can only take advantage of the law adopted in 1991 as one of the three "amnesty" laws, which reduced Agca's sentence to 10 years, same officials told.

A police investigation was launched to find Agca's whereabouts immediately after the ruling. The police managed to arrest Agca in a Kartal house amid doubts that he might have fled. "I was expecting you," Agca said to police officers upon their arrival, according to reporters.

He will be sentenced to four more years in prison.

Another four-year prison sentence might be added to the other two separate crimes of usurp, pushing Agca release to 2014.

Shouting, "I am the messiah, and I declare the end of the world," Agca re-asserted his claims of being the Messiah while he entered the police station. Afterwards he was imprisoned against late at Friday night. Read more

db: Bojanbb is best placed to offer comment on this ... boj?