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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Fantastic News from Richard Perle re situation in Iraq

Look sorry, this isn't a very long story because I only caught the end of an interview with Richard Perle that took place just a moment ago on BBC Worldservice radio - Newshour. But the news from Perle concerning Iraq is SO GOOD I feel compelled to post it anyway:

"It's not as bad as Rwanda"

Anti-War Graffiti by Bansky in Westminster, London

A man walks past recently added anti-war graffiti art by British artist Banksy on Parliament Square, in Westminster in London February 28, 2006.

Iraqi president criticises PM for Turkey visit

Iraq's President Jalal Talabani criticised interim Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari for making a solo visit to Turkey on Tuesday without consulting other members of the government.

Talabani, who is a Kurd from the north, presides over Iraq's fractious political system, which includes a parliament riven by religious and ethnic divisions. Kurds in Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria long for an independent state of their own and consider Turkish treatment of Kurds to be oppressive.

"The Iraqi government is not committed to any agreement which may be reached between the prime minister and the Turkish government," Talabani said in a statement. Read more

db: The Kurdish Talabani places little premium on the notion of 'unity' it appears

72% of U.S. Troops Want Out of Iraq Within One Year

thinkprogress: Bush says pulling out of Iraq would undermine our troops morale:
"It is also important for every American to understand the consequences of pulling out of Iraq before our work is done.... We would undermine the morale of our troops by betraying the cause for which they have sacrificed." [12/18/05]

U.S. troops say they want out of Iraq within a year:
A new poll to be released today shows that U.S. soldiers overwhelmingly want out of Iraq - and soon. The poll is the first of U.S. troops currently serving in Iraq, according to John Zogby, the pollster. Conducted by Zogby International and LeMoyne College, it asked 944 service members, "How long should U.S. troops stay in Iraq?" Only 23 percent backed Mr. Bush's position that they should stay as long as necessary. In contrast, 72 percent said that U.S. troops should be pulled out within one year. Of those, 29 percent said they should withdraw "immediately." [NYT, 2/28/06] Link

Via Logical Voice

Bush admits 'bin Laden' helped him win election

reuters: U.S. President George W. Bush said his 2004 re-election victory over Sen. John Kerry was inadvertently aided by Osama bin Laden, who issued a taped diatribe against him the Friday before Americans went to the polls, The Examiner newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Bush said there were "enormous amounts of discussion" inside his campaign about the 15-minute tape, which he called "an interesting entry by our enemy" into the presidential race.

Bush's comments in the Washington newspaper were excerpts from the new book "Strategery" by Bill Sammon, a long-time White House correspondent.

"What does it mean? Is it going to help? Is it going to hurt?" Bush told Sammon of the bin Laden tapes. "Anything that drops in at the end of a campaign that is not already decided creates all kinds of anxieties, because you're not sure of the effect.

"I thought it was going to help," Bush said. "I thought it would help remind people that if bin Laden doesn't want Bush to be the president, something must be right with Bush." Read more

db: Yes America - duped again

Two British soldiers are killed in Iraqi blast

scotsman: Two British soldiers have been killed and another injured in a roadside bomb attack in southern Iraq.

Their patrol came under attack in Amarah, where British soldiers were allegedly filmed beating up Iraqi prisoners.

The latest casualties bring the number of British troops killed during operations in Iraq to 103.

The soldiers were killed as at least 31 people died and many were injured by three bomb attacks in Baghdad, just a day after a curfew imposed following violence was lifted.

A spokesman for the MoD confirmed the deaths and said another soldier suffered "non-life threatening injuries".

No details of the dead soldier's regiments were being released until relatives had been informed.

However, sources said neither the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards - who are known to be in the area - nor the Royal Scots were involved.

Earlier this year, Edinburgh-born Cpl Gordon Pritchard, of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, became the 100th UK serviceman to die in Iraq when he was killed in a roadside bomb attack in Umm Qasr.

Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said today: "Sadly, once again, we are aware of the deaths of two British soldiers.

"As I understand it, there's been an incident in Al Amarah this morning when two soldiers were killed. A third soldier sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

"Next of kin are being informed and we cannot give further details until this process is complete and the incident has been thoroughly investigated."

Witnesses said the latest attack involved a car bomb that targeted the patrol as it drove through Amarah, 180 miles south-east of Baghdad. Helicopters were later seen taking away casualties. Read more

db: What were they driving? Was it one of those useless Landrovers with composite fibre glass protection?

A local witness said a car bomb was used to target British soldiers patrolling in Land Rovers in Al Amarah. The casualties were evacuated by helicopter.

Following the attack, local people hurled rocks at British soldiers at the scene.Link

'1,300 dead' in Iraq violence since wednesday

guardian: As many as 1,300 people could have died in the wave of sectarian violence that swept Iraq following the bombing of a gold-domed shrine in Samarra, it was reported today.

The Washington Post said officials at Baghdad's main morgue had logged more than 1,300 deaths since the attack on the al-Askari shrine - one of the holiest sites in Shia Iraq - on Wednesday.

Most of the dead had been shot, knifed or garroted, often with their hands tied execution-style behind their backs, the report said.

It added that the blood-caked bodies of hundreds of men lay unclaimed outside the morgue as distraught families searched for missing relatives yesterday.

Figures from the Iraqi police statistics department put the nationwide toll of violent deaths at 1,020 since the Samarra bombing, with the majority killed after being abducted by armed men. Read more

db: And the despicable Bush calls this a 'moment of choosing' for Iraqis.

Gunfire heard from Afghan prison

reuters: Gunfire was heard on Tuesday from a prison on the outskirts of Kabul taken over by hundreds of inmates at the weekend, and officials said prisoners had reneged on a deal to resolve the standoff.

"They wanted to attack us; we opened fire," a police officer told Reuters by telephone from inside the Pul-i-Charkhi prison. He gave no further information and it was unclear if there had been any casualties, among the prisoners, who officials say have been led by Taliban commanders and a kidnap gang leader.

Reuters reporters heard several bursts of gunfire and saw four United Nations vehicles driving out of the jail about two minutes after the shooting. U.N. officials have been assisting mediation efforts.

"They have backed away from the agreement," Sibghatullah Mojadidi, a former president who has headed talks with the prisoners, told Reuters.

"If the talks don't give a result, then force will ultimately be used and we sent a team to pass on that message to them."

If was unclear if this had provoked the fresh unrest.

Earlier, in an agreement with authorities, inmates handed over the bodies of four prisoners killed after rioting broke out at the prison on Saturday, as well as 17 of 30 who were hurt, Deputy Justice Minister Mohammad Qasim Hashimzai said.

As part of the agreement, Hashimzai said preparations were underway to transfer more than 1,300 prisoners from two cell blocks damaged in the riot to a temporary block while repairs were carried out. Read more

Iraq: Making martyrs of dead British soldiers

telegarph: British soldier killed on active duty in Iraq last week has been hailed as a martyr by the people he fought to protect.

Men, women and children in the town where 22-year-old L/Cpl Allan Douglas was murdered on Monday have declared that the soldier should be honoured as a martyr because of the sacrifice he made.

It is understood to be the first time that any member of the coalition forces who has died during the war in Iraq has been hailed as a martyr.

L/Cpl Douglas, who was serving with the 1st Bn The Highlanders, was patrolling through Al Amarah, in Maysan province, when he was shot dead by a sniper outside the town's police station.

Moments after the attack, Major Gen Abu Maythem, the province's police chief, declared that L/Cpl Douglas should be declared a martyr.

"This soldier died as a martyr trying to make Al Amarah safe for all Iraqis of all religions," he said. "We are all deeply shocked and sad." Read more

db: Bring them home - Iraq has enough martyrs of their own. Ask a Brit in Iraq if he is prepared to be a martyr and my guess is he might tell you to fuck off - and give you a 'smack'.

Iraq: 41 Killed In 'a moment of choosing'

"This is a moment of choosing for the Iraqi people" - Bush

ap/wral: Five explosions - including three car bombs, a suicide attacker wearing an explosives belt and a blast near the National Theater - rocked Baghdad Tuesday, killing 41 people and wounding scores, police said.

The suicide attacker joined a line of people waiting to buy kerosene before detonating the explosives strapped to his body, witnesses said in the eastern New Baghdad neighborhood. The blast killed 23 people and injured 51, said Interior Ministry official Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi.

A car bomb targeting a police patrol in the same neighborhood killed nine people and injured 17 - all civilians - said police Lt. Alu Abbas and medic Rahim al-Waedi.

Another car bomb exploded near a Shiite mosque in the crowded southeastern Karada neighborhood, killing four people and injuring 16, said al-Mohammedawi.

Police said the vehicle was parked next to a small market opposite the Timimi mosque, which was closed for repairs. But witnesses said the vehicle was driven by a suicide attacker.

Distraught residents rushed to the scene, as fire fighters fought back flames from burning cars.

A roadside bomb targeting the convoy of a defense ministry adviser killed five soldiers and injured seven others, ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said. The adviser, Lt. Gen. Daham Radhi al-Assal, escaped without harm, he said.

A fifth blast took place in an open area near the downtown national theater, al-Mohammedawi said. Initial police reports indicated a mortar blast. There were no reports of casualties. Link

Iraq Violence Puts Troop Cuts in Doubt

latimes: The recent explosion of violence in Iraq is forcing a debate inside the Pentagon about whether the U.S. military can proceed with plans to cut the number of troops in Iraq, Defense officials said Monday.

The violence came at a crucial time for the U.S. military: Top generals must decide within weeks whether to carry out a long-anticipated reduction in American troops this summer. Threats of civil war in the country have raised questions about the wisdom of a troop drawdown in the next few months.

"One perspective certainly is that with so much turmoil, how can you possibly think about drawing down at this point?" said a senior Defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity. Read more

db: It would be a mistake to assume that al Qaeda wants the US to leave Iraq. It would be a bigger mistake to think that the US has any intention of doing so - now or ever.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Next President of Mexico unlikely to be a US puppet

knightridder: Front-runner signals he'll return Mexico to tradition foreign policy

Tens of thousands of Mexicans filled an ancient square in this capital Sunday to hear leftist presidential front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador pledge to distance himself from U.S. policies.

While not naming the United States or the Bush administration, Lopez Obrador, a fiery former mayor of Mexico City, made it clear that he would return Mexico to its traditional foreign policy of non-intervention in the affairs of its neighbors.

Conservative President Vicente Fox broke that tradition after taking office in 2000 when he joined the United States in condemning the lack of fundamental liberties in Cuba and elsewhere. Like U.S. foreign policy, Mexico's under Fox sought to promote human rights and civil liberties abroad. [db: Is Knight Ridder having a laugh, because that sure is funny]

That'll change, Lopez Obrador signaled to a crowd estimated between 70,000 and 120,000. Having led public opinion polls for two years, Lopez Obrador is on track to become Mexico's first president elected from a left-wing party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

"We're not going to meddle in the internal life of other peoples and other governments, because we don't want them meddling in ours," Lopez Obrador told a sea of supporters in the Zocalo, the city square that Spanish conquistadors built atop Aztec ruins.

That was a slap at the close relations between Fox and President Bush, and Lopez Obrador added that "the next president of Mexico is not going to be the puppet of any foreign government." Read more

Bolivia's water wars coming to end under Morales

knightridder: Living on the barren outskirts of the fastest growing city in Latin America, Hilda Tintachipana doesn't expect many modern comforts.

Raising and selling rabbits pays the bills for the 27-year-old woman and her young family. They live in a dank, two-room house with spotty electricity, but that's just a fact of life, she said.

But Tintachipana draws the line at water.

It's a disgrace, she said, that she must tap the muddy spring outside her house or collect rain to feed and bathe her young children. She blames the foreign company that promised her water years ago, but never delivered.

"We've been waiting for service in this part of town for a long time," she said. "We even have the pipe running down the middle of the road, but it's dry. Without water, there is no possibility of life."

Such complaints can be heard throughout Latin America in countries that privatized water and other resources during the 1990s, only to see whole populations react with outrage.

The reaction was strongest in Bolivia, where opposition to foreign control of water and natural gas set off an explosion of civil unrest that brought down presidents Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada and Carlos Mesa.

Peasant leader Evo Morales rode that wave of protest to assume the presidency last month. One of his first proposals was to kick out the last foreign company delivering water to the impoverished, 9 million-person country - the French firm Suez, which serves the capital of La Paz and the adjacent city of El Alto. Read more

"A lawyer with his briefcase can steal more than a hundred men with guns."

Afghan forces encircle riot-torn prison

IHT: Security forces with tanks and heavy guns surrounded Kabul's main prison Monday as the authorities sought to resume negotiations with rioting prisoners but warned that they could use force.

Gunfire continued to ring out Monday morning from the Policharki jail on the outskirts of the Afghan capital, where officials say Al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners incited a riot by hundreds of inmates late Saturday and took control of much of the prison.

Hamidullah, a prison medic, said inmates had written in notes thrown to him from cell windows that five inmates had been killed and 30 wounded in two cellblocks in firing by police guards. Officials said they had no confirmation of any casualties.

Mohammed Qasim Hashimzai, the deputy justice minister, said prisoners had told negotiators Sunday that more than 20 inmates had been injured, but did not report any deaths. He said he could confirm only four wounded. It was not immediately possible to reconcile the different accounts.

Hashimzai said he wanted to end the standoff peacefully, but warned that the government could use force.

"We can take all these prisoners in one hour," he said as he traveled to the prison to attempt a resumption of negotiations. "But to prevent bloodshed, we are trying to negotiate."

The prison authorities had cut off water, electricity and food for the rioters, said Abdul Salaam Bakshi, chief of prisons in Afghanistan.

The unrest broke out late Saturday in Block 2, which houses about 1,300 of the prison's 2,000 inmates, including 350 Al Qaeda and Taliban members, after prisoners refused to put on new uniforms, delivered in response to a breakout last month by seven Taliban prisoners who had disguised themselves as visitors. Read more

db: It's not just Afghan forces surrounding the jail. How long will the trigger-happy Americans put up with this?

Neo Labour lectures Libdems about 'taking responsibility'

scotsman: Darling fires new broadside at Lib Dems

Alistair Darling yesterday stepped up Labour's attack on the Liberal Democrats, accusing them of "running away from hard decisions".

The Scottish Secretary used the closing speech of the party's spring conference to reinforce a concerted attack on their coalition partners in the Executive.

On Friday Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, led the way in turning on the Lib Dems, who defeated Labour in the Dunfermline West by-election earlier this month.

And Mr Darling, who was in charge of Labour's failed by-election campaign, added his weight to the attack yesterday.

He said: "We are in government at Westminster and Holyrood, and when things go wrong we will take the blame.

"That is what happens to governments. And when we get it wrong, we take responsibility too.

"And everyone in government - no matter what political party - needs to take responsibility for their actions," added Mr Darling. Read more

db: That's funny coming from a government that has yet to accept responsibility, along with the Americans, for destabilising the world and screwing up the lives of millions of Iraqis - killing tens of thousands of them - via an illegal and incompetent war of aggression. Resign you buggers.

New Labour in Berlusconi sleeze investigation

scotsman: Jowell faces inquiry into husband's 350,000 pounds

Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, is facing an investigation into whether she has breached the ministerial code of conduct in relation to her husband's business deals in Italy.

It emerged yesterday that the minister signed a document allowing her husband, David Mills, to bring money from an alleged bribe into the UK.

Now Theresa May, the Conservative shadow leader of the House of Commons, has written to the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Gus O'Donnell, asking him to rule on the matter.

Mr Mills is a lawyer who has worked with Silvio Berlusconi, the billionaire Italian prime minister. Mr Mills is under investigation by Italian magistrates amid allegations that he took a 350,000 pounds bribe from Mr Berlusconi to give false testimony in a corruption case. Mr Mills says the money was a gift from another Italian associate. Read more

EU expected to continue with Palestinian aid

iol: European Union foreign ministers are expected to continue providing millions of euros in aid for much-needed funds to the Palestinian caretaker government today.

The EU ministers' meeting in Brussels is not expected to decide on what the 25-nation bloc will do once the Hamas-led government takes control of the Palestinian Authority.

Options for the EU include offering 27m pounds (39.6m euros) in new aid to help run utilities such as power supply an waste collection, and authorising the World Bank to unblock around 34m pounds (50m euros) to pay the salaries of Palestinian Authority employees. Aid is urgently needed after Israel's decision to withhold 28m pounds (41m euros) a month in tax funds following Hamas' election victory. Read more

db: The US/European neocons won't like it. Neither will those states hoping that the world was going to follow the myopic US/Israeli lead - which would have enabled them to step in with alternative finance and expand their own influence - which may have been counter to 'western' interests.

A revived caliphate: bogeyman, scapegoat and pinata

startelegram: At a time of growing political tension between the Muslim world and the West, a new bad idea is creeping into the discourse of European and North American political leaders and is being used to justify an intensification of Western political and military intervention in the Muslim world.

Donald Rumsfeld wheeled this bad idea out at a conference on global security in Munich, Germany. George W. Bush alluded to it in his 2006 State of the Union address in January. Tony Blair and his Home Office minister, Charles Clarke, have both spoken of it in the past six months. Dick Cheney has bandied it about for even longer. The rhetoric of the new German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggests that she, too, has signed up.

The new bad idea is this: The "free West," having defeated German Nazism and Soviet Communism, now faces a new strategic challenge from the ambition of Muslim radicals to re-establish an Islamic caliphate and impose Islamic law on half the world.

As the U.S. defense secretary put it at the Munich conference, Islamic radicals "seek to take over governments from North Africa to Southeast Asia and to re-establish a caliphate they hope, one day, will include every continent. They have designed and distributed a map where national borders are erased and replaced by a global extremist Islamic empire."

Ouch! A map without borders! Is this the new WMD?

It is true that many Islamist groups, including terrorist groups like al Qaeda, say they would like to see the reunification of the Muslim world under one political leadership. They also frame this in terms of the re-establishment of the political institution that unified the Muslim world in the first few centuries of Islam: the caliphate.

But does this make it sensible, wise or proportionate for the leaders of the most formidable military alliance in the history of the world to base their strategic posture for the early 21st century on the invocation of an al Qaeda- or Iranian-run "terrorist caliphate" stretching half way around the globe?

No, it does not, and here's why.

First, the evidence that al Qaeda or any similar organization is in a position to re-create and control a caliphate is nonexistent. The only country where al Qaeda was able to gain any kind of territorial foothold was in parts of Afghanistan. Even there it was dependent on the good will of local leaders, the Taliban, who had only come to power after Afghanistan had been reduced to ground zero by the combined policies of the Soviet Union and the West during the Cold War and subsequent international neglect.

In Iraq, where the U.S. military invasion and occupation has created another opportunity for al Qaeda, Bush's claim that al Qaeda would take over the country in the event of a U.S. military withdrawal is nonsense. Al Qaeda has the same chance of imposing its political authority in Iraq as the United States does: nil.

As for Iran, in the 25 years since the Islamic revolution, Tehran has been unable to export its Shiite version of Islamist rule to any other Muslim state, in part because most other Muslim states are dominated by Sunnis. In fact, revolutionary Iran long ago gave up efforts to export its ideology to the wider Muslim world and has concentrated on cultivating influence among Shiite sectarian groups in Iraq, Lebanon and elsewhere.

The second reason why raising the specter of a resurgent caliphate is foolish is that it plays into the hands of groups like al Qaeda that claim the "war on terror" is an assault on Islam itself. Read more

I won't scare off Tories - Simon Hughes

Oh yes you will.....

Simon Hughes says his camp aign is still alive

Liberal Democrat leadership hopeful Simon Hughes has said he will not scare off former Conservative voters.

Mr Hughes is seen as the most left-wing of the contenders but insisted he could appeal to ex-Tory and Labour voters - and people who had not voted at all.

He began as frontrunner, but is now behind Chris Huhne and Sir Menzies Campbell in the bookmakers' odds. Read more

db: Are the Tories ready to vote for a 'traditional' liberal? Probably not. It will be either the accountant or the old fella. Our preference is the old fella [who on a bad day can resemble Albert Steptoe ]

Sunday, February 26, 2006

UK may cancel $8.5m US jet order - and buy French

For anybody a little nervous regarding the dangerous, myopic, criminal nature of US foreign policy this may be good news. There is a risk that it is merely a negotiating strategy - but the issues are real enough. Read the items below and make your own mind up. First today's Reuters/Scotsman article - short and sweet - followed by an excerpt from a Times item dated 9th Feb - worth reading in full.
The government may consider buying up to 150 French fighter jets worth 5 billion pounds ($8.7 billion) for two new-generation aircraft carriers, at the expense of existing U.S. contracts, The Mail on Sunday said.

The unexpected verbal offer to buy the Rafale Marine jets, built by French defence group Dassault Aviation , came on January 24 when Defence Secretary John Reid met his opposite number, Michele Alliot-Marie, in London, the paper said, citing unidentified defence sources in Paris.

If the government went ahead with the deal, it would mean cancelling existing U.S. contracts to supply aircraft for the carriers, scheduled to go into service with the Royal Navy in 2010, the paper said. Lockheed Martin holds the existing contracts.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence said the report was speculative.

The report followed well publicised difficulties between Britain and the U.S. on the Joint Strike Fighter project, which has been dogged by a row over sharing technology. Link

The Times: Blair's clock is ticking on fight for US deal with Rolls-Royce

... When a Memorandum of Understanding is published in December between the nine countries involved in the project, Britain wants a "US-UK eyes-only annexe" which allows it access to the stealth technology in the fighter. Without it, UK commanders say that they would have to request help from US Lockheed Martin specialists after each sortie, undermining any remaining operational independence. Lockheed Martin has balked at such a transfer of technology to the UK, claiming that it would allow competitor firms on the other side of the Atlantic to view its most precious commercial secrets. The UK points out that the JSF is already benefiting from British technical know-how on vertical take-off and landing.

Henry Hyde, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives International Relations Committee, has made it plain that the US should give the UK nothing. Along with other American security hawks, his distrust of Britain dates back to the 1950s, when Guy Burgess and Kim Philby gave away secrets to the Soviets. British diplomats are counting the days before Hyde retires from politics in November...

...There is already pressure on the Ministry of Defence to engage in more collaborative procurement projects with the European Union instead of the US. Ministers say that the special relationship appears to "count for nothing" when it comes to the powerful military-industrial lobby in Congress. One former British Defence Secretary said: "Their attitude is one of just pure, brutal global capitalism."
Read more

Dennis Healey: Blair is losing it - go now!

thisislondon: One of Labour's most respected elder statesmen has called on Tony Blair to stand down immediately as Prime Minister and hand over power to Gordon Brown.

Former Chancellor Lord Healey said that Mr Blair had been "losing his grip" over the past two years, and the sooner he moved on the better it would be.

His comments came as a newspaper poll suggested that Mr Brown enjoys a commanding lead over Conservative leader David Cameron as voters' preferred successor to Mr Blair at 10 Downing Street.

Lord Healey - who was Defence Secretary and Chancellor as Denis Healey and narrowly missed out on the Labour leadership in 1980 - has been a long-term critic of Mr Blair's decision to go to war in Iraq.

He also cited the imposition of university tuition fees and the establishment of foundation hospitals as fundamental errors made by the Prime Minister.

Asked on BBC1's Sunday AM when he thought Mr Blair should step down, Lord Healey responded: "I think it is time now. Over the last two years, with the intervention in Iraq, then university entrance fees and foundation hospitals, I think Tony's showing he is losing his grip, and the sooner Gordon takes over the better." Read more

db: Frankly I'd rather not see any current cabinet members leading Labour - but this is FUN!

Robert Fisk: Defeat is victory. Death is life

independent/globalecho: Everyone in the Middle East rewrites history, but never before have we had a US administration so wilfully, dishonestly and ruthlessly reinterpreting tragedy as success, defeat as victory, death as life - helped, I have to add, by the compliant American press. I'm reminded not so much of Vietnam as of the British and French commanders of the First World War who repeatedly lied about military victory over the Kaiser as they pushed hundreds of thousands of their men through the butchers' shops of the Somme, Verdun and Gallipoli. The only difference now is that we are pushing hundreds of thousands of Arabs though the butchers' shops - and don't even care. Read more

In Iraq, fear replaces trust

Wary Baghdad residents suspect informants of making false charges to settle scores - with deadly consequences

Fear of informants turning in neighbors to police or militia groups has deeply undermined community trust in many parts of Baghdad.

Ahmed Ali, a 34-year-old barber in the ethnically mixed and violent Baghdad neighborhood of Dora, walked away from his business last month because he worried that his chitchat with customers would lead neighbors to suspect that he was informing on them to police - or militias, or whoever - and that he'd be marked for a retaliatory killing.

That's been happening a lot in Dora.

A word to the police can result in uniformed security officers or even private soldiers in fake uniforms dragging residents from their homes in the middle of the night - without legitimate cause, the victims complain. Angry and confused, their families suspect that neighborhood informants are feeding lies to the security forces to settle personal scores. The raids also have sowed doubts that government security forces can protect the people.

Much of the suspicion is breaking down along ethnic lines, with Sunni and Shiite Muslims blaming each other. The progressive erosion of trust is one reason for the violent response to Wednesday's mosque bombing in Samarra, after which private militias roamed the streets. It underscores the failure so far to build public institutions that earn confidence and that could stand in the way of open civil war.

"The Shiites are afraid of threats and assassinations, while Sunnis are afraid of raids (by uniformed security). The kidnappings or assassinations take place during the daylight hours and the raids happen at night," Ali said. "Dora has become hell for both Shiite and Sunni residents."

Some shop owners say they try not to ask customers questions that they once considered innocuous. Behind closed doors, residents suspect their own relatives of bringing raids to their home.

Working-class neighborhoods that are still ethnically mixed - many others have segregated - are the most vulnerable, said Ihsan Mohammed al-Hassan, a sociologist at Baghdad University.

"These people are taken away, and no one knows why," Hassan said. "When other people see that one person's life has been destroyed by a report, the whole community is in fear. They can't trust the police, and they can't trust their neighbor." Read more

Extremists "thank god" for IED's

ap: Elizabeth Phelps protests Saturday, Feb 25, 2006, across the street from the funeral for Army 1st Lt. Garrison Avery in Lincoln, Neb. Avery and two other soldiers were killed in Baghdad when a roadside bomb exploded near their Humvee on Feb. 1. Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, led by Rev. Fred Phelps, picket funerals and memorial services for fallen soldiers, contending that American troops are being killed in Iraq as vengeance from God because the United States abides homosexuals. (AP Photo/Dave Weaver)
db: Where are the S.W.A.T teams, pepper spray, plastic handcuffs, dogs, choppers and all the other paraphernalia of the police state?

Russia, Iran agree to set up enrichment venture - vice president

novosti: Russia and Iran have agreed to set up a joint uranium enrichment venture in Russia, the Iranian vice president said Sunday. "We held talks with the Russian side on Russia's proposal yesterday and today. The talks saw good progress. Both sides are pleased with the talks," Gholamreza Agazadeh said after a meeting with Russia's nuclear chief Sergei Kiriyenko.

"Therefore, we decided to continue the talks in Moscow soon," he added.

Kiriyenko said work to create the joint venture was underway. "I think there remain no organizational, technical or financial problems on the joint venture establishment," he said.

However, Kiriyenko said, Russia's proposal was only part of a complex of security issues' resolution.

He also said any country had the right to use peaceful nuclear energy, but "the international community must have guarantees of security and preservation of the nonproliferation regime."

The mooted deal between Iran and Russia, which is currently building an $800-million plant near the port city of Bushehr in the south of the country, is seen as a potential compromise in the crisis around the nuclear programs of the Islamic Republic, which some countries suspect of pursuing a covert weapons program. Although Tehran has consistently said it only wants nuclear power for peaceful purposes, the United States and other nations have concerns, as enriched uranium is a vital component for an atomic bomb. Link

db: Anything signed yet? Headline may be optimistic

An anomaly in the South Atlantic that needs to be dealt with

Spotted at Logical Voice:

scotsman: Falkland fear as Argentina steps up show of strength

An increasingly anxious UK government is closely monitoring a build-up of Argentinean military strength and a series of confrontations with the RAF close to the Falkland Islands, Scotland on Sunday can reveal.

The activity has led Tony Blair's most senior advisers to demand he issues a "hands-off" warning to Buenos Aires.

Downing Street is facing growing fears for the future of the islands - which were seized back from Argentinian control in a bloody and symbolic campaign ordered by Margaret Thatcher almost a quarter of a century ago.

High-ranking officials in both the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office have confessed to concerns that the changing political situation in Argentina and Latin America, as well as Britain's growing military commitments around the world, are conspiring to undermine the security of the Falklands. Read more

db: The Falklands [Las Malvinas] are trouble. They don't even have oil. This must be MoD bullshit and probably has something to do with: Chavez: Blair should return Las Malvinas to Argentina.

I wouldn't spill one more drop of blood for the Island or its sheep. And the people? Move to England, somewhere else, or stay put - what's wrong with Wales? Isle of Sheppey? We are not short of barron wasteland closer to "home".

Rumsfeld Zeros in on the Internet

Rumsfeld Mission Statement: "To use every means of communication to intimidate and break the collective will of frightened people"

ICH: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was warmly greeted at the recent meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations. The CFR is the hand-picked assemblage of western elites from big-energy, corporate media, high-finance and the weapons industry. These are the 4,000 or so members of the American ruling class who determine the shape of policy and ensure that the management of the global economic system remains in the hands of U.S. bluebloods.

As the Pentagon's chief-coordinator, Rumsfeld enjoys a prominent place among American mandarins. He is the caretaker of their most prized possession; the high-tech, taxpayer-funded, laser-guided war machine. The US Military is the crown-jewel of the American empire; a fully-operational security apparatus for the protection of pilfered resources and the ongoing subjugation of the developing world.

Rumsfeld's speech alerted his audience to the threats facing America in the new century.

He opined: "We meet today in the 6th year in what promises to be a long struggle against an enemy that in many ways is unlike any our country has ever faced. And, in this war, some of the most critical battles may not be in the mountains in Afghanistan or in the streets of Iraq, but in newsrooms-in places like New York, London, Cairo, and elsewhere."

"New York"?

"Our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but for the most part our country has not".

Huh? Does Rummy mean those grainy, poorly-produced videos of Bin Laden and co.?

"Consider that the violent extremists have established 'media relations committees'-and have proven to be highly-successful at manipulating opinion-elites. They plan to design their headline-grabbing attacks using every means of communications to intimidate and break the collective will of free people". Read more

Iraq's death squads: On the brink of civil war

independent: Hundreds of Iraqis are being tortured to death or summarily executed every month in Baghdad alone by death squads working from the Ministry of the Interior, the United Nations' outgoing human rights chief in Iraq has revealed.

John Pace, who left Baghdad two weeks ago, told The Independent on Sunday that up to three-quarters of the corpses stacked in the city's mortuary show evidence of gunshot wounds to the head or injuries caused by drill-bits or burning cigarettes. Much of the killing, he said, was carried out by Shia Muslim groups under the control of the Ministry of the Interior.

Much of the statistical information provided to Mr Pace and his team comes from the Baghdad Medico-Legal Institute, which is located next to the city's mortuary. He said figures show that last July the morgue alone received 1,100 bodies, about 900 of which bore evidence of torture or summary execution. The pattern prevailed throughout the year until December, when the number dropped to 780 bodies, about 400 of which had gunshot or torture wounds.

"It's being done by anyone who wishes to wipe out anybody else for various reasons," said Mr Pace, who worked for the UN for more than 40 years in countries ranging from Liberia to Chile. "But the bulk are attributed to the agents of the Ministry of the Interior." Read more

Iraq Feb 26th 1991: 'Shooting fish in a barrel'

...U.S. planes trapped the long convoys by disabling vehicles in the front, and at the rear, and then pounded the resulting traffic jams for hours. "It was like shooting fish in a barrel," said one U.S. pilot. The horror is still there to see.

On the inland highway to Basra is mile after mile of burned, smashed, shattered vehicles of every description - tanks, armored cars, trucks, autos, fire trucks, according to the March 18, 1991, Time magazine. On the sixty miles of coastal highway, Iraqi military units sit in gruesome repose, scorched skeletons of vehicles and men alike, black and awful under the sun, says the Los Angeles Times of March 11, 1991. While 450 people survived the inland road bombing to surrender, this was not the case with the 60 miles of the coastal road. There for 60 miles every vehicle was strafed or bombed, every windshield is shattered, every tank is burned, every truck is riddled with shell fragments. No survivors are known or likely. The cabs of trucks were bombed so much that they were pushed into the ground, and it's impossible to see if they contain drivers or not. Windshields were melted away, and huge tanks were reduced to shrapnel.

"Even in Vietnam I didn't see anything like this. It's pathetic," said Major Bob Nugent, an Army intelligence officer. This one-sided carnage, this racist mass murder of Arab people, occurred while White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater promised that the U.S. and its coalition partners would not attack Iraqi forces leaving Kuwait. This is surely one of the most heinous war crimes in contemporary history. More

Excerpt from Joyce Chediac [a Lebanese-American journalist] report at the New York Commission hearing, May 11, 1991.

Bolton: UN hobbled by bad sex etc.

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Saturday that the world body is hobbled "by bad management, by sex and corruption" and a lack of confidence in its ability to carry out missions.

John Bolton also criticized the U.N.'s budget, noting that two-thirds of members pay only 20 percent of the cost.

"We find an organization that is deeply troubled by bad management, by sex and corruption and by a growing lack of confidence in its ability to carry out missions that are given to them," Read more

db: Bolton gets on with what's really important - discrediting the UN

Anti-Arabism only form of racism permitted in the US

asiatimes: In Dubyous battle

The row in the United States over Dubai World Ports' US$6.8 billion takeover of P&O, which would give the United Arab Emirates company control of operations at six US ports, is a perfect example of a storm in a teacup that American politicians can raise, but which can splash way beyond the saucer.

For days, legislators on both sides of Congress have united to attack that unlikely defender of Arab rights, President George W Bush, for allowing Dubai to purchase, along with P&O's other assets, six marine terminals on the east coast of the US - NewYork, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans and Miami.

On Thursday, the Dubai company offered to delay the part of the deal related to the US to give the Bush administration more time to convince lawmakers the deal posed no security risks.

The fuss was wholeheartedly embraced by Democrat legislators, who, if not as all-around xenophobic as the Republicans, do not usually have to be pushed hard to grandstand on an anti-Arab platform.

While most of their voters, for example, considered the Iraq war a disastrous mistake even before it was started, both New York Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton have yet to withdraw their support for it. And they led the charge against Dubai, almost the only ally the US has in the region. For a New York politico, the only good Arab is a pilloried one. Read more

Jack Straw to host partner in crime

telegraph: Jack Straw plays host to Condi Rice - in Blackburn

Condoleezza Rice is to be personally guided around the North West by her British counterpart, Jack Straw, who wants to show her a part of modern Britain that is multi-racial and equipped with a strong local economy during a three-day visit by the American Secretary of State.

...The centrepiece of Ms Rice's British trip is expected to be a speech and question-and-answer session in Blackburn with an invited audience, organised by the Chatham House foreign policy think- tank and the BBC's Today programme. Read more

db: Let's hope they get the welcome they deserve from the folks in Blackburn. Don't expect fireworks at the 'invited audience only' Q&A.

Israel welcomes Hamas leader's move on recognition

reuters: Israel on Sunday cautiously welcomed a statement by the Palestinian prime minister-designate that Hamas was ready to recognize it if Palestinians were given full rights and a state in occupied lands.

Hamas chose Ismail Haniyeh, a 43-year-old Gazan viewed by many Palestinians as a pragmatist, as the new prime minister after its election victory on January 25. The group hopes to complete forming a Palestinian government within two weeks.

"If Israel declares that it will give the Palestinian people a state and give them back all their rights, then we are ready to recognize them," Haniyeh told the Washington Post in an interview posted on its Web site.

Haniyeh said Hamas, whose charter calls to destroy Israel, was ready to consider talks if the Jewish state withdrew from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and recognised the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees who fled, or were forced to leave, in the 1948 war and their descendants.

In response, Israeli cabinet minister Meir Sheetrit told Israel's Army Radio: "I wish they would change their positions...They (Hamas) may be starting to speak another language."

If Hamas were to accept Israel's conditions to recognize Israel and renounce violence, "we won't have any trouble speaking to Hamas, and to reach a settlement," Sheetrit said.

Hamas has rejected talks with the Jewish state but has signaled a readiness to accept interim peace deals with Israel, after U.S.-led threats to withhold critical funding to the Palestinians unless Hamas changes its stance.

"Let Israel say it will recognize a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, release the prisoners and recognize the rights of the refugees to return to Israel. Hamas will have a position if this occurs," Haniyeh said. Read more

Hamas - The West's hypocrisy on democracy

U.S. President George W. Bush has called on Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist, but he refuses to call on Israel to renounce state terrorism and the illegal occupation of Palestine.

tehrantimes: Last month, in the freest and fairest election ever held in the Arab world, the Palestinian people passed their verdict in favor of the Islamic Resistance Movement, better known by its Arabic acronym Hamas, which contested the elections as the Movement for Change and Reform. They delivered Hamas a phenomenal mandate of 74 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council against the Western-backed Al-Fatah's 46.

All hell broke loose in Western capitals after the Hamas victory. Out of utter confusion, frustration, and panic, every foolish reason was proposed to explain the incredible victory.

Hamas's 'unexpected' success sent seismic tremors across the Atlantic Ocean. The U.S. president reacted by saying, "I have made it very clear, however, that a political party that articulates the destruction of Israel as part of a platform is a party with which we will not deal".

And his junior partner in Europe, Tony Blair, commented, "Of course, we recognize electoral mandates, but equally, people have to be clear that we only do business with those who renounce terrorism. That is a clear distinction: do people support terrorism or do they not?" Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi lamented, "It is a very, very, very bad result". German Chancellor Angela Merkel showed the stance she plans to take when she refused to meet with Hamas representatives during a visit to the region.

Through the sheer manipulative power of the Zionist lobby, Hamas was declared a terrorist organization by the European Union and the United States after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Out of 1.3 million eligible voters, 77.7 percent thronged the polling stations in Hebron, Nablus, North Gaza, Tulkarm, Jenin, Gaza City, Bethlehem, and throughout the occupied territories to express their opinion, creating scenes which are not often seen in the so-called democracies of the West. This shows that Palestine has the region's most vibrant civil society.

However, instead of appreciating such a spectacle of democracy, in which the Palestinians have shown a superb sense of political consciousness and foresight by ousting Fatah from government offices that were riddled with ineptness, nepotism, cronyism, and corruption and bringing honest and clean Hamas to power, the West tried to undermine the Islamic movement's glorious triumph. Biased Western media outlets have made efforts to sully the reputation of the Islamist organization, using the bigoted language of the Israelis to portray a false image of Hamas members.

Hamas fielded qualified candidates like doctors, engineers, pharmacists, academics, and teachers and new, moderate leaders such as Ghazi Hamad, the editor in chief of Al-Resalah newspaper, and Christian candidates like Hussam Al-Taweel. The Palestinians, who were sick and tired of seeing top Fatah officials building lavish homes for themselves, driving luxury cars, giving jobs to relatives and friends, and unfairly awarding building permits, embraced the new political force, not only in Muslim areas but also in Christian areas like Bethlehem, where Hamas won two of the four legislative seats. Read more

John Reid: 'Evil' terrorists want to destroy all non-Muslims

manorama: Britain is facing a war against "evil" Islamist extremists, Defence Secretary John Reid has said. Reid warned that modern terrorists wielded dangerous weaponry and would stop at nothing to destroy every non-Muslim. He also highlighted the dangers confronting British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, where remnants of Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda terror network are lingering.

"This is a war against evil, make no mistake," the Scot told the British tabloid Daily Express. "Evil is the same, whether it is dressed in Nazi uniforms, the supposed socialists of the Red Brigades and so on or the IRA (Irish Republican Army) in Northern Ireland. Link

db: "Modern terrorists will stop at nothing to destroy every non-Muslim"? We missed this last week. It's not good when your defence sec waffles on about 'evil'. He also stated that the "Islamic extremists" are more "evil" than the Nazis were [surely it is a crime to say this - Reid must be suspended]. I guess what Reid is saying is that terrorists are uniquely "evil" so it's OK for British troops to thrash young boys in Iraq to within an inch of their lives.

Al-Qaeda pledges war on Saudi oil plants

timesonline: Al-Qaeda has threatened to launch further strikes to force "infidels" out of the Arabian peninsula after admitting responsibility for a suicide bomb attack on the world's largest crude oil processing plant.

A local branch of Al-Qaeda said yesterday it had carried out the raid on the complex at Abqaiq, in the east of Saudi Arabia, which processes 5m-7m barrels of oil a day - up to 8% of the world's consumption.

The bombing, named Operation Bin Laden Conquest, was part of efforts to prevent the "theft" of Muslims" wealth by "crusaders and Jews", according to a statement signed "Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula" - the name of the terrorist network's Saudi affiliate.

"There are more like them who are racing toward martyrdom and eager to fight the enemies of God, the Jews, the crusaders and their stooges, the renegade rulers" of Arab countries, the statement said. "You will see things that will make you happy, God willing." Read more

db: "A local branch of Al-Qaeda said yesterday...." - that would be the one between KFC and Spud-U-Like. The Times doesn't bother with qualifying this statement - was it from a website 'normally used by terrorists' or an ad' in the local paper? In reality nobody really knows for sure who authored it or what it's worth if anything. Let's suck it up anyway.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Sadrists and Sunnis make peace - call for US withdrawal

From L-R: Shiite cleric Hazem al-Aaraji, Essam Kazem al-Rawi, a Sunni member of Muslim Scholars Association, Abdel al-Salam al-Kubaissi, spokesman of the MSA, and senior officials of the Shiite firebrand Moqtada Sadr movement Fadel al-Shara, Abdel Hadi al-Daraji and Salah al-Obeidi attend a joint press conference at Sunni Abu Hanifa mosque in Baghdad.(AFP/Amar Karim)

turkishpress: The movement of firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, alleged to have played a role in the anti-Sunni violence over the last few days, publicly made peace with political and religious Sunni leaders on Saturday.

Four sheikhs from the Sadr movement made a "pact of honor" with the conservative Sunni Muslim Scholars Association, calling for an end to attacks on places of worship, the shedding of blood and condemning any act leading to sedition.

The agreement was made in the particularly symbolic setting of Baghdad's premier Sunni mosque Abu Hanifa where the Shiite sheikhs prayed under the guidance of prominent Sunni imam Abdel Salam al-Qubaissi.

The meeting was broadcast on television and the religious leaders all "condemned the blowing up of the Shiite mausoleum of Samarra as much as the acts of sabotage against the houses of God as well as the assassinations and terrorization of Muslims".

The statement made reference to the key concerns of both communities with the violent aftermath to the attack on the Samarra mausoleum which saw more than 119 people die.

The sheikhs also condemned "those who excommunicate Muslims" a reference to the "takfireen" or Islamist extremists like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who justify killing fellow Muslims by declaring them non-Muslims.

"It is not permitted to spill the Iraqi blood and to touch the houses of God," said the statement, adding that any mosques taken over by another community should be returned.

The meeting also announced the formation of a commission to "determine the reasons for the crisis with a view to solving it", while also calling for a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops. Read more

Saudi Arabia Is on High Alert After Oil Plant Attack

bloomberg: Saudi Arabian security forces are on "high alert" for further attacks following an attempt yesterday by militants to blow up the Abqaiq oil center, which handles two-thirds of supply from the world's largest producer.

"Security in the whole eastern province is being extra vigilant at checkpoints," Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour Al-Turki said by phone today. Two suicide car bombs aimed at destroying the Abqaiq oil facility in the Saudi eastern province were intercepted in a gun battle yesterday.
"We have confidence that we're already taking adequate steps and stopping yesterday's attack proves that," Al-Turki said. Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attack. Forensic DNA tests were being done to determined the identity of the assailants, Al-Turki said.

Crude oil for April delivery jumped $2.37, or 3.9 percent, to $62.91 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, the highest close since Feb. 7 following the attack yesterday on concerns of further attempts to disrupt the country's oil production.

'Immense Significance'

"After a 13-month hiatus in attacks in the kingdom, it's of immense significance as it's the first concerted effort by al-Qaeda to target one of Saudi's most strategic oil facilities," said Meg Williams, vice president of the Olive Group, an international security and risk consultant, in a phone interview today. Read more

Bombay opinion snapshot

Indian Shiite Muslims hold placards against U.S. President
George W. Bush during a protest against the U.S. in Bombay,
India, Saturday, Feb. 25, 2006. The Shiite Muslims were
protesting against the bombing of the major Shiite Askariya
Shrine in the Iraqi northern town of Samarra.
(AP Photo/Rajesh Nirgude)

Fact: Bush and Blair are indeed responsible - either directly or indirectly - for the current horrors in Iraq including the Askariya Shrine bombing. As my old Grandad said of them recently "They should be shot" [a WWII vet and not afraid of the law**].

** We are and do not condone these remarks

The Hamas landslide

lemonde: Hamas' landslide win at the Palestinian elections on 25 January has been greeted with indignant warnings and commentaries from the United States and the European Union, including France. We need to put this event in context.

Though the election was held under foreign occupation, more than three-quarters of registered voters cast their vote. It was a victory for democracy and proof that Palestinians care about it. Some 900 international observers reported the election to have been free and fair.

Voters expressed their rejection of the policies of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Fatah on at least two levels. They condemned their inability to create sound institutions, eliminate corruption or improve daily life. Everyone in Palestine is aware of the permanent constraints of an occupation that has been in place for nearly 40 years but, even taking that into account, the PA's record is poor. It is equally poor in regard to negotiations with Israel since the 1993 Oslo accords.

Mahmoud Abbas' whole gamble since he was elected president in January 2005 was that a moderate position would kickstart the peace process. That didn't happen. Ariel Sharon, having said for so long that Yasser Arafat was an obstacle to peace, offered nothing to his successor. With the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza came further expansion of settlements and faster building of the separation wall, regardless of condemnation by the international court at The Hague. That was the whole point of the withdrawal. The checkpoints and restrictions have continued to make daily life impossible for Palestinians, the number of political prisoners increased to several thousand and so on.

It is therefore strange to hear US and European leaders pondering how to "continue the peace process". But no process existed before the elections: it had stopped with Sharon's election. Read more

US ports deal madness A Dubai company's offer to delay taking control of terminal operations at six U.S. ports, combined with aggressive White House lobbying, has tempered a rush by congressional GOP leaders for quick action next week to block the $6.8 billion transaction that has triggered a political furor.

Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., is set to meet Tuesday with House GOP leaders to discuss the chamber's next move, while aides to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said he will wait to be briefed by the company before taking a stand.

Hastert and Frist both had issued strong statements of concern about national security in the wake of Dubai Ports World's acquisition of the London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. and its terminal operations at six major U.S. ports in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami and New Orleans. Read more

db: Of course it should go without saying that we are delighted to observe this latest problem unfold for Bush ... but really, it is utter bollocks isn't it? The American psychosis is getting worse - when does the boycott of US based Arab businesses commence? And Kristallnacht? Blame it on the prez.

Dirty Shell to appeal against $1.5bn judgement

finfacts: A Nigerian court has ordered oil giant Shell to pay $1.5bn to the Ijaw people of the oil rich Niger Delta region.

Shell facilities have been subject to attacks by armed Nigerian rebels in recent days and have reduced oil shipments. Ijaw militants are holding seven foreign oil workers hostage.

The Ijaw have been fighting since 2000 for compensation for environmental degradation in the oil-rich region.

The court case was taken after Shell refused to make the payment ordered by Nigeria's parliament.

Shell plans to appeal against the judgement.

Shell's lawyers claimed in the federal court in Port Harcourt that the joint committee of the National Assembly that made the order in 2000 did not have the power to compel the oil company to make the payment. Read more

Many killed in Iraq attacks Thirteen members of a Shia family have been killed in Diyala province and at least five people were killed in a car bomb blast in Karbala amid heightened tensions in Iraq.

The attack on the Shia family happened in Buhriz, about 60km north of Baghdad, provincial police said.

Buhriz, near Baquba town, has seen repeated sectarian strife.

Saturday's attack came despite an extraordinary daytime curfew in Diyala province and three other flashpoint areas.

The curfew was intended to curb a wave of sectarian violence that has killed more than 140 people since the bombing of a revered Shia shrine in Samarra on Wednesday. Read more

Morrissey quizzed by FBI - right to let him go?

mirror:Rock star Morrissey has revealed he was quizzed by the FBI and Special Branch over his criticism of the US and Britain.

Morrissey, 46, has previously branded George Bush a terrorist and blasted the Iraq war.

The ex-Smiths singer, who lives in Los Angeles, said: "The FBI and Special Branch have investigated me and I've been interviewed and taped.

"They were trying to determine if I was a threat to the government and similarly in England.

"It didn't take them long to realise I'm not."

The star, who said he did not belong to any political group, claimed it showed neither the UK nor America was truly democratic.

He added: "You can't really speak your mind and if you do, you're investigated."

In 2004, Morrissey claimed Mr Bush had made America the world's most "neurotic and terrorobsessed country".

Earlier that year, he told a Dublin gig he wished Mr Bush had died instead of Ronald Reagan. Read more

exobrain - " Saw him live in Margate - thought he looked like a terrorist - he threw fresh flowers into the audience at the end of the gig which was suspicious."

Iraq Now Has No Units Able to Stand Alone

latimes: The number of Iraqi army battalions judged capable of fighting the insurgency without U.S. help has slipped from one to zero since September, Pentagon officials said Friday.

But the number of Iraqi battalions capable of leading the battle, with U.S. troops in a support role, has grown by nearly 50%, from 36 to 53, Air Force Lt. Gen. Gene Renuart said, and the number engaged in combat has increased 11%, from 88 to 98.

Renuart said he didn't know exactly why the one battalion previously rated as independent had been downgraded, but he cited the general inadequacy of the Iraqis' ability to provide their own transport and other logistical support. Read more

82nd Airborne : 7 Charged With Having Gay Sex on Video

yahoo/ap: The Army has charged seven paratroopers from the celebrated** 82nd Airborne Division with engaging in sex acts in video shown on a Web site, authorities said Friday.

Three of the soldiers face courts-martial on charges of sodomy, pandering and engaging in sex acts for money, according to a statement released by the military. Read more

db: **The 82nd have also been caught up in more trivial allegations recently: Leadership Failure: Firsthand Accounts of Torture of Iraqi Detainees by the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division

Want the video? Watch it here

Iraqi Religious Leaders Call for Peace

yahoo/ap: Appeals from religious leaders and an unusual daytime curfew Friday curbed violence that claimed more than 140 lives across Iraq after the bombing of a Shiite shrine. ."

... Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari reached out to Sunnis and Shiites, promising to rebuild the Shiites' Askariya shrine in Samarra and Sunni mosques damaged in two days of reprisal attacks.

The daytime curfew kept most vehicles and pedestrians off the streets of Baghdad, preventing many people from reaching mosques for the main Muslim prayer service of the week but also blunting protests and preventing attacks.

People were allowed to walk to neighborhood mosques, many of which were guarded by heavily armed Iraqi police and soldiers. Preachers at several leading mosques urged their followers to maintain calm for the sake of the nation.

But sectarian anger remained high following Wednesday's destruction of a famed Shiite shrine, as did the threat of more violence.

The Iraqi government announced another daytime curfew for Saturday in Baghdad and the surrounding provinces of Salaheddin, Babil and Diyala. And the U.S. military said it would carry out additional security patrols for another 48 hours. Read more

Iraq: "Let's not blow this out of proportion"

FT:....In Washington, the State Department insisted that US policy in Iraq was succeeding and denied that political negotiations had collapsed, only that they had paused for a day. "Come on, let's not blow this out of proportion," said spokesman Adam Ereli, who denied reports of widespread violence. "Rather than see a collapse or a setback, I think in some ways, you can see an affirmation that the approach we've been taking has worked." Link

US marines look at another 'violent fragmentation' option - for Iran

FT: US marines probe tensions among Iran's ethnic minorities

The intelligence wing of the US marines has launched a probe into Iran's ethnic minorities at a time of heightened tensions along the border with Iraq and friction between capitals.

Iranian activists involved in a classified research project for the marines told the FT the Pentagon was examining the depth and nature of grievances against the central Islamic government, and appeared to be studying whether Iran would be prone to a violent fragmentation along the same kind of fault lines that are splitting Iraq.[db emphasis]

The research effort comes at a critical moment between Iran and the US. Last week the Bush administration asked Congress for $75m to promote democratic change within Iran, having already mustered diplomatic support at the United Nations to counter Iran's alleged nuclear weapons programme.

At the same time, Iran demanded that the UK withdraw its troops from the southern Iraqi city of Basra, which lies close to its border. Iran has repeatedly accused both the US and UK of inciting explosions and sabotage in oil-rich frontier regions where Arab and Kurdish minorities predominate. The US and UK accuse Iran of meddling in Iraq and supplying weapons to insurgents.

US intelligence experts suggested the marines' effort could be evidence of early stages of contingency plans for a ground assault on Iran. Or it could be an attempt to evaluate the implications of the unrest in Iranian border regions for marines stationed in Iraq, as well as Iranian infiltration. Read more

US psychosis no match for F16 orders

asiatimes: Why Bush is stuck on the port deal

The United Arab Emirates (UAE), the center of a growing controversy over its proposed management of US port terminals, is one of the world's most prolific arms buyers and a multi-billion-dollar military market both for the United States and Western Europe.

The energy-rich Persian Gulf nation is currently taking delivery of about US$8.4 billion worth of military equipment, mostly state-of-the-art fighter aircraft, ordered from the US ($6.4 billion) and France ($2 billion) over the past five years. The delivery of 80 US-built F-16 E/F fighter planes - described as one of the biggest single arms packages to a Middle Eastern nation and finalized in March 2000 - is to be completed in 2007. Read more

Friday, February 24, 2006

Bush and Blair have brilliantly done Bin Laden's work for him

by Simon Jenkins

America asks the world to believe itself so threatened as to require the kidnappings of foreign citizens in foreign parts, detention without legal process, the curbing of free speech and derogation from all international law. It asks the world to believe that it must disregard the Geneva conventions and employ foreign dictators to help it to torture at random. It uses the same justification for occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. The world simply refuses to agree. Only cringeing Britain appeases such actions and calls them merely "anomalous".

thetimes: Is Osama Bin Laden winning after all? Until recently I would have derided such a thought. How could a tinpot fanatic who is either dead or shut in some mountain hideout hold the world to ransom for five years? It would stretch the imagination of an Ian Fleming.

Now I am beginning to wonder. Not a day passes without some new sign of Bin Laden's mesmeric grip on the governments of Britain and America. His deeds lie behind half the world's headlines. British policy seems obsessed with one word: terrorism. The West is equivocating, writhing, slithering in precisely the direction most desired by its enemy. He must be roaring with delight.

On any objective measure, terrorism in the West is a trivial crime. True, New York and London saw outrages in 2001 and 2005 respectively. Both were the outcome of sloppy intelligence. Neither has been repeated, though of course they may be. Policing has improved and probably averted other attacks. But incidents genuinely attributable to Al-Qaeda rather than domestic grievances are comparable to the IRA and pro-Palestinian campaigns. Vigilance is important but only those with money in security have an interest in presenting Bin Laden as a cosmic threat.

Indeed if ever there were a case for collective restraint it is in response to terrorism. The word refers to a technique, usually a bomb, not an ideology. A bombing is an anarchic gesture calling for police and medical services. It becomes a political weapon only if publicised and answered with hysteria. A killing is so staged as to cause over-reaction, violent response, mass arrests and a decay of civilised values. Bin Laden's intention in 2001 was to portray the West as scared, emotionally vulnerable, over-reactive, decadent and careless of liberal values. The West has done its damnedest to prove him right. Read more

MI6 pay out less than 10K pounds for LSD mind-fuck

bbcnews: MI6 payouts over secret LSD tests

Three UK ex-servicemen have been given compensation after they were given LSD without their consent in the 1950s.

The men volunteered to be "guinea pigs" at the government research base Porton Down after being told scientists wanted to find a cure for the common cold.

But they were given the hallucinogen in mind control tests, and some volunteers had terrifying hallucinations.

The Foreign Office said the secret intelligence body MI6 had made the settlements after legal advice.

The out-of-court settlements are thought to be under 10,000 pounds for each of the men. Read more

"Most spectacular" Saudi oil target attacked

Reuters: Suicide bombers attack Saudi oil facility

At least two cars exploded at the gates of Saudi Arabia's huge Abqaiq oil facility on Friday when security forces fired on suicide bombers trying to storm the world's biggest oil processing plant, Saudi officials said.

Saudi state television said oil output was unaffected. Oil prices had jumped $2 (1.14 pounds) a barrel on news of the attacks against the world's largest oil exporter and a key U.S. ally.

"Security forces foiled an attempted suicide attack at the Abqaiq refinery using at least two cars," an official said.

It was the first direct militant strike against crude oil facilities since Al Qaeda militants launched a campaign of suicide bombings aimed at toppling the kingdom's pro-Western leaders in May 2003. It came a year after Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden urged supporters to hit oil targets in the Gulf.

"The damage was only limited to a fire, which was brought under control immediately. Production operations were not affected," Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry said.

The prospect of an Al Qaeda attack on Saudi Arabia has been a doomsday scenario for oil consumer nations heavily reliant on Saudi oil. The kingdom accounts for around a sixth of the world's oil exports, supplying 7.5 million barrels a day. Read more

Current crude oil: 62.50 +1.96 [-30mins]

The United States needs to lose the war in Iraq as soon as possible

The United States needs to lose the war in Iraq as soon as possible. Even more urgently, the whole world needs the United States to lose the war in Iraq. It would be nice if Iraq doesn't lose too, but that is a lesser consideration. What is at stake now is the way we run the world for the next generation or more, and really bad things will happen if we get it wrong.

The temptation to take charge of the world was bound to be great when the United States emerged from the Cold War as the only superpower, for it seemed like a goal within easy reach. It was nevertheless resisted, by Republican and Democratic administrations alike, for almost a decade. Then a random event - for 9/11 might easily not have happened - unleashed forces in Washington that were itching to make a takeover bid, and now we live in the middle of a train wreck.

The idea that the United States can remain 'the world's sole military superpower until the end of time' is comically overambitious, but there it is, embedded in a 34-page document submitted to Congress in September 2002 entitled The National Security Strategy of the United States. 'The United States will not hesitate to strike preemptively against its enemies, and will never again allow its military supremacy to be challenged.'

As it becomes clear what the project to turn the United States into the world's policeman (or, more precisely, its judge, jury, and executioner) will cost in American lives and in higher taxes, American voters themselves will pull the plug on it sooner or later. Or maybe the world will pull the plug on the project first, by refusing to go on holding dollars as the gradual collapse in the value of the US currency deepens.

The risk is that it will all take too long. If an American defeat in Iraq takes another four or five years, huge and maybe irreparable damage will have been done to the international institutions that are our fragile first line of defence against a return to the great-power wars that could destroy us all. We need the United States back as a leading architect of global order, not a hyperactive vigilante, and we need it back now.

'The French plan, which would somehow transfer sovereignty to an unelected group of people, just isn't workable.' Condoleezza Rice, US National Security Adviser, September 2003

In September 2003, when French President Jacques Chirac urged a high-speed handover of power to Iraqis as the best way of clearing up the huge mess created by the illegal American invasion of Iraq, the US Government rejected the idea out of hand. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) that ran the occupation regime under pro-consul Paul Bremer would stay in power as long as necessary to ensure the creation of an Iraqi constitution and the election of an Iraqi government that was (a) democratic and (b) pro-American.

Coming up with an Iraqi government that matched both of those criteria was a very tall order, given US closeness to Israel and Washington's determination to open the entire Iraqi economy up to foreign companies. In fact, Bremer's predecessor, retired general Jay Garner, had been
fired in April 2003 after only a month in the job because he had publicly called for early elections in Iraq; his superiors wanted to privatise the Iraqi economy first, in accordance with a plan that had been drawn up in late 2001. It was a crucial opportunity squandered, but it didn't seem urgent to the new rulers of Iraq at the time.

There had been scattered outbreaks of guerilla resistance ever since the war officially ended in May. Nobody in Washington panicked, and Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, ever the unconscious ironist, declared: 'I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq.'

By mid-November 2003, the Iraqi resistance had grown from small beginnings - 'Bring 'em on,' President Bush had confidently said when its attacks began to build up in July - to the point where it was killing an average of three American soldiers a day.

Bremer was hastily summoned back to Washington and the policy switched to high-speed 'Iraqisation:' getting Iraqi soldiers and policemen out front as sandbags to protect American troops, which in turn required coming up with a more or less credible Iraqi Government that they would be willing to die for.

So all of a sudden, handing over 'sovereignty' to an unelected group of people stopped being a problem: Washington announced that sovereignty would be handed over to just such a group on June 30, 2004.

They could have been an elected group, of course. Six months was ample time to organise elections in Iraq. But democracy is a messy and unpredictable business. An Iraqi government with a genuine popular mandate would be an unmanageable entity: it certainly would be no friend of Israel, it would probably reverse the privatisation process, and it might just order US troops to leave. So it would have to be an appointed government, at least until after the US election in November 2004 was safely past.

At the end of 2003, the game plan still seemed plausible if you lived in Washington, not in Baghdad, for the first crisis of the occupation was past. The pace of the attacks on American troops and on Iraqis who worked for the occupation regime had dropped off after the capture of Saddam Hussein in December, and both the Pentagon and the local occupation authorities in Iraq insisted that they were only the work of scattered Baath Party 'dead-enders' and 'foreign terrorists' who had infiltrated into the country.

Then, in April 2004, Iraq exploded again.

There were two triggers, and they were both pulled by Bremer. The first was his complicity in the US military's decision to besiege the city of Fallujah, whose 300,000 inhabitants were the most defiant supporters of the resistance in the whole of the 'Sunni triangle' west and north of Baghdad.

On 31 March, four US 'contractors' (paramilitary security personnel) were killed in their car by members of the resistance in Fallujah. Their bodies were then burned and hung above the stream of traffic crossing the Euphrates bridge and left there for hours. It was a ghastly display, but the reaction of the US forces in Iraq was foolish beyond belief. They besieged Fallujah, and announced that they would seize and occupy it unless the residents handed over those guilty of the atrocity against the contractors.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, a career diplomat who served as British envoy to the CPA for a time in early 2004 before resigning in despair, said that Paul Bremer should have had a sign on his desk that read: 'Security and jobs, stupid.' The US military in Iraq should have had one that read: 'Hearts and minds, stupid,' but instead they gave the resistance more than it could ever have hoped for: a full-scale military siege of an Iraqi city full of young men who were eager to fight, and of old people, women, and children who would inevitably do most of the dying.

It was never imaginable that the Iraqi militants would hand over the people who had abused the Americans' bodies (if they were even in Fallujah any more), so the US forces were
effectively committed to the street-by-street conquest of a middle-sized Iraqi city. That would involve significant American casualties, and a huge toll of deaths and injuries among the civilian population.

Moqtada al-Sadr

The other trigger Bremer pulled was his decision to close a small-circulation weekly newspaper (less than 10,000 copies) that supported radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and to issue a warrant for his arrest. The paper inveighed against the American occupation and printed truth, rumours, and flat lies with a fine lack of discrimination, but in that it differed little from dozens of other weekly party papers that had sprung up in post-Saddam Baghdad.

Sheikh Moqtada al-Sadr himself was a more serious proposition: young, radical, and relatively poorly educated in Islamic law, but able to trade on his renown as the son of a revered grand ayatollah who had been murdered by Saddam Hussein - and in charge of a private militia called the al-Mahdi army that drew its recruits from the overwhelmingly Shia slums of eastern Baghdad. Faced with the threat of disappearing into Abu Ghraib or some other part of the US prison system, he mobilised his militia and took over the Shia holy cities of Najaf and Karbala south of Baghdad. If the United States wanted to arrest him, it would have to fight its way into those cities and violate the holy shrines.

American firepower meant that it was possible to capture both Fallujah and the rebel Shia cities without suffering large US casualties, but it could not be done without inflicting huge Iraqi casualties . For a week or so, the offensive against Fallujah was pursued vigorously on the ground, killing at least 600 residents, most of them civilians. But a large proportion of the local men joined the active resistance, and it became clear even to the US planners that the full subjugation of the city would involve killing thousands of Iraqis and losing a considerable number of their own soldiers.

In Najaf and Karbala, US troops never tried to penetrate to the centre of the holy cities for fear of damaging the sacred mosques and completely alienating the Shias of Iraq, who had hitherto been less active in the resistance. Even so, the images being disseminated across the Muslim world were disastrously bad for the United States, as they were almost identical to the images of Israeli troops suppressing resistance in occupied Palestinian towns and cities.

Eventually, Washington realised that it would have to back away from both confrontations, and negotiations began to allow it a face-saving way out.

Even worse images began to appear in late April, as the photographs of Iraqis under torture taken by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison began to leak out to the media and the public.

In the midst of these events, various Iraqi resistance groups began to employ the new tactic of kidnapping and killing civilian foreigners, tens of thousands of whom had arrived in Iraq to work for the many foreign companies that had been granted contracts for the 'reconstruction' of the country. This led to a general exodus of foreign 'carpetbaggers' (to borrow the phrase used during America's own episode of Reconstruction after the Civil War).

The events of April were as much a psychological turning point in the Iraq War as the Tet Off ensive of 1968 had been in the Vietnam War. By mid-May, when the worst of the uprisings had abated, the inability of the United States to control the situation by force had become clear to Iraqis and to the world. The US Marines besieging Fallujah were withdrawn and the city was handed over to the nominal control of a Saddam-era Iraqi general who recruited a 'Fallujah Brigade' of troops locally, mostly from among the men who had been fighting the Marines - and the city effectively became a no-go zone for foreign forces.

Farther south, Najaf and Karbala also became American-free cities apart from a couple of negotiated patrol routes. Not only had US forces failed to kill or capture Moqtada al-Sadr, but the radical young cleric had gained enormously in prestige and become a serious rival to the more moderate Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

A CPA opinion poll conducted in May revealed the full extent of the damage: only 2 per cent of Arab Iraqis still saw the Americans as liberators, while 92 per cent saw them as occupiers. A year previously, Iraqi opinion had been almost evenly divided.

The Stakes

If American troops are home from Iraq a year from now and the idea of American global hegemony has lost favour in Washington, then we get the world of the late 1990s back relatively undamaged, and we can pick up from where we left off with the job of building the multilateral institutions that we need to see us through the international storms that are sure to come.

If, however, the United States stays in Iraq, then sooner or later most of the other great powers will give up on the United Nations and the rule of law in favour of getting together to counterbalance the weight of the rogue superpower - especially if the United States really is pursuing a coherent strategy of redefining the world in terms of a perpetual, global 'war on terror' with itself as leader.

The stakes are much higher than they seem. The foundations of the World War I were laid by decisions that were made ten to twenty years before 1914, and after that it was very hard for anyone to turn back. There is a strong case for saying that we have arrived at a similar decision point now; what happens in the next year or so matters a lot, so we need some answers fast.

Is the terrorist threat really worth worrying about? Is there a serious bipartisan project for restoring American global hegemony, or is it merely a bunch of neo-conservatives dreaming of lost glories - or is it just the usual cock-up on an unusually large scale?

This is an extract from Gwynne Dyer's:
Future: Tense - The Coming World Order [UK]
Future: Tense - The Coming World Order [US]