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

Friday, March 31, 2006

Suicide attack "natural response to Israeli crimes"

The Islamist group Hamas defended on Friday a suicide bombing that killed four Israelis as "resistance" against Israeli "crimes", putting it at odds with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who condemned the attack.

Hours after the attack Israeli warplanes and artillery struck the Gaza Strip, though no casualties were reported.

A car explosion in Gaza later killed a top commander of the Popular Resistance Committees, a group behind many rocket attacks against Israel, Palestinian security sources said.

The group identified the commander as Khalil al-Quqa and accused Israel of being behind the explosion which killed him. The Israeli army had no immediate comment.

The conflicting statements of Hamas and Abbas on the West Bank suicide bombing were the first since the president swore in the Palestinian Authority's first Hamas government on Wednesday.

Abbas has said he could overrule the group, which is sworn to Israel's destruction, if it continues to block peacemaking.

The suicide bombing, claimed by al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, occurred days after Israeli leader Ehud Olmert's Kadima party won elections on a platform of setting Israel's borders in the occupied West Bank unilaterally in the absence of peace talks.

Palestinians say such a move would annex land and deny them the viable state they seek in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israeli officials said the bomber, whose group is part of Abbas's Fatah faction, was disguised as a religious Jewish hitchhiker and blew himself up when Israelis in a car picked him up near a settlement late on Thursday.

A spokesman for Abbas told official Palestinian media that the president condemned the bombing and that he asked all factions to abide by a truce declared last year.

Hamas described the attack as a "natural response to Israeli crimes". Information Minister Youssef Rizqa said: "Resistance is a legitimate right for people under occupation." Read more

db: It's too much of a stretch to agree that killing civilians can ever be 'legitimate'. But for a fully legitimate response to the Israeli occupation and its own acts of 'terror' the Palestinians should be supplied with some tanks and stuff. Maybe F16s, some Apaches. Then we can start getting used to Hamas targeted strikes against 'known' Israeli terrorists. Starting with the guy in a coma. If per chance a few civilians happen to be in the vicinity - maybe some kids - that is regrettable - but it's not terrorism. Is it?

Given that it is unlikely the Israelis will condemn the killing of innocent Palestinian children through its 'targeted' assassinations, or via the 'legitimate' use of lethal force in response to stone throwing children, I see little hope that Hamas will condemn attacks like these.

Arms embargos? Children play!

The British government has been embarrassed by a group of high school students who managed to exploit loopholes in Britain's arms controls to import torture equipment and arrange a series of arms deals with countries under embargo.

The teenagers, from Lord William's School in Oxfordshire, imported equipment including thumb cuffs from Taiwan, wall restraints from Poland and a Chinese "sting stick" -- a metal bar covered with spikes - using nothing more than a letterhead, an email address, a cell phone and a small amount of money. They also managed to arrange deals to export arms to countries covered by British or other national arms embargos, including the sale of Pakistani grenade launchers to Syria, Turkish guns to Mali, and South African rifles to Israel.

The ease with which the students managed to evade Britain's restrictions on small arms and torture equipment is exposed in a Channel Four documentary entitled After School Arms Club, to be broadcast Monday. Malcolm Wicks, the government minister responsible for export controls, has asked the group for a report on how they were able to import the torture equipment, after they presented him with the Chinese sting stick outside the Houses of Parliament. Read more

Saturday, March 25, 2006

db has had a few 'infrastructure problems' - which is the reason why we have not done much here for a few days. Over the coming week posts will be sparse. We want to get things close to 'normal' soon.

def brain

Friday, March 17, 2006

Bush Affirms Policy of "Preemptive" Attack

informedcomment: Bush reaffirmed Thursday his policy of willingness to strike first against states he considers enemies.

There is a real problem of definition here. If Bush means that he will strike at terrorists whom he has good reason to suspect of imminently carrying out an attack on the US, then that is in accord with the United Nations Charter. States can always engage in self-defense from imminent threat.

But if he means he can go around invading other countries because he doesn't like the looks of them--which is what he actually does seem to mean-- then that is a war crime both in US law and in international law.

You wonder if the Bushes will be able to vacation in Europe when he goes out of office, or if Pinochet's fate awaits George. Read more

db: Nobody is safe. Bush and friends are quite capable of cobbling together a story that would justify an attack on just about any country. The only [relatively] secure states are going to be, sadly, those with nukes.

Iraq: Permanent US Colony

By Dahr Jamail

truthout: Why does the Bush Administration refuse to discuss withdrawing occupation forces from Iraq? Why is Halliburton, who landed the no-bid contracts to construct and maintain US military bases in Iraq, posting higher profits than ever before in its 86-year history?
Why do these bases in Iraq resemble self-contained cities as much as military outposts?
Why are we hearing such ludicrous and outrageous statements from the highest ranking military general in the United States, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace, who when asked how things were going in Iraq on March 5th in an interview on "Meet the Press" said, "I'd say they're going well. I wouldn't put a great big smiley face on it, but I would say they're going very, very well from everything you look at."
I wonder if there is a training school, or at least talking point memos for these Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, because Pace's predecessor, Gen. Richard Myers, told Senator John McCain last September that "In a sense, things are going well [in Iraq]."
General Pace also praised the Iraqi military, saying, "Now there are over 100 [Iraqi] battalions in the field."
Wow! General Pace must have waved his magic wand and materialized all these 99 new Iraqi battalions that are diligently keeping things safe and secure in occupied Iraq. Because according to the top US general in Iraq, General George Casey, not long ago there was only one Iraqi battalion (about 500-600 soldiers) capable of fighting on its own in Iraq.
During a late-September 2005 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Casey acknowledged that the Pentagon estimate of three Iraqi battalions last June had shrunk to one in September. That is less than six months ago.
I thought it would be a good idea to find someone who is qualified to discuss how feasible it would be to train 99 Iraqi battalions in less than six months, as Pace now claims has occurred.
I decided that someone who was in the US Army for 26 years and who worked in eight conflict areas, starting in Vietnam and ending with Haiti, would be qualified. If he had served in two parachute infantry units, three Ranger units, two Special Forces Groups and in Delta Force that would be helpful as well. And just to make sure, if he taught tactics at the Jungle Operations Training Center in Panama and Military Science at the United States Military Academy at West Point, thus knowing a thing or two about training soldiers, that would be a bonus.
That person is Stan Goff.
"This is utter bullshit," was Goff's remark about the Pace claim of having 100 Iraqi battalions when I asked him to comment, "He must be counting the resistance among his forces."
Goff adds, "That dip-shit [Pace] is saying he has 60,000 trained and disciplined people under arms ... 65,000 with all the staffs ... and almost 100,000 with the support units they would require. To train and oversee them would require thousands of American advisors. It must suck for a career Marine to be used so blatantly as a PR flak."
Goff mentioned that Pace "and everyone else" knows that the Iraqi forces, "however many there are," are heavily cross-infiltrated.
"He [Pace] is saying that the Bush administration is going to empower a pro-Iranian government with 100 ready battalions, when this administration was handed this particular government as the booby prize in exchange for Sistani pulling their cookies out of the fire during the joint rebellions in Najaf and Fallujah," added Goff.
Further discrediting the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Goff said, "To train 99 [battalions] since last September is a claim only the average American might swallow. The right question to ask is, where are they? Where are they headquartered, and where are they in operation? Claiming operations security doesn't count, unless they believe they can hide 100 units of 600 people each in Iraq ... from other Iraqis ... who are often related to them." Read more

db: Ladies and gentleman, I give you........Operation Swarmer:

informed comment:The US military command in Iraq, perhaps despairing of inaction in Washington, does not seem to have sought the authorization of President Bush for this operation. It does make you wonder what Bush thinks he is doing. After the Samarra shrine bombing, which many Iraqis blamed on the US one way or another, Bush should have been going on Iraqi television and addressing them directly as to what would be done about it. Instead, he kept trying to tell the Americans that things were actually just wonderful in Iraq.

This Samarra operation is probably mainly a political act. The US generals are attempting to demonstrate to their Shiite allies that they take seriously the terror attack on the Askari Shrine on Feb. 22. Presumably they are also attempting to ensure that if the shrine is rebuilt, it won't just be blown up again. Short of pulling a Fallujah on Samarra, however-- which would involve emptying the city and then destroying it-- it is difficult to see how the US/ Iraqi government forces can prevail. Even then, they would just face sullen suicide bombers thereafter, as has happened in Fallujah, where 2/3s of the buildings were damaged and a large part of the population permanently dispossessed.

Frankly, the Samarra "Operation Swarm" is probably also meant to give the impression of progress or at least of activity in Iraq, where the political process is stalled and the guerrillas seem to strike at will, with increasing political success.Link

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Saddam - not head of state but not always wrong

seattlepi: Excerpts from the exchanges in court Wednesday between Saddam Hussein and chief judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman, as translated from Arabic by The Associated Press.
Saddam (reading from a written speech): What pains me most is what I heard recently about something that aims to harm our people. My conscience tells me that the great people of Iraq have nothing to do with these strange and horrid acts, the bombing of the shrine of Imam Ali al-Hadi and Hassan al-Askari ... which led to the burning of mosques in Baghdad, which are the houses of God, and the burning of other mosques in other cities of Iraq ...
Abdel-Rahman: Listen, what does this speech have to do with our case? We asked you to give your testimony on the subject of Dujail and your role as the head of state of the time.
Saddam: I am the head of state.
Abdel-Rahman: You used to be the head of state. Now you are a defendant in a court. ... You stand before a court, not on a political platform.
Saddam: I stand before the Iraqi people.
Abdel-Rahman: As a judge, I don't deal with you on political issues. I'm asking you legally. You gave testimony before the investigating judges about your role in the Dujail issue. You have to explain that case.
Saddam (resumes reading): The bloodshed that they (the Americans) have caused to the Iraqi people only made them more intent and strong to evict the foreigners from their land and liberate their country. ... Let the people resist the invaders and their supporters rather than kill each other. ... Oh Iraqis, men and women, ... those who blew up the shrine are shameful criminals -
Abdel-Rahman (shouting): You have to address the subject of this case. Give your testimony.
Saddam (reading): Oh Iraqis, in your resistance to the invasion by the Americans and Zionists and their allies, you were great. You were great in my eyes and you remain so.
Abdel-Rahman: Listen, you're accused in a criminal case. Defend yourself. The time for this is over. ... No more political speeches. We are a criminal court, a judicial court, we don't have anything to do with political issues or anything like this. Testify.
Saddam: Political issues are what brought you and me here. (Continues reading. Sound cuts in and out as Abdel-Rahman shuts off his microphone) ... But now, the criminals who came on the excuse of weapons of mass destruction, with their tanks to rule the Iraqi people under the slogan of democracy -
Abdel-Rahman (interrupting): You are before a court. This is your own personal issue between you and the Americans ... You are before an Iraqi court about an Iraqi issue, concerning the killing of innocent people. Answer that charge. Your conflict with the Americans has no bearing on this case.
(Prosecutor tries to address Saddam, sparking a new shouting match that other defense lawyers join. Abdel-Rahman's banging gavel silences them.)
Saddam: This is a court?
Abdel-Rahman (shouting): Yes, a court! ... Respect yourself.
Saddam: You respect yourself.
Abdel-Rahman: I respect myself. I am a judge -
Saddam: Whoever shows respect gets respect.
Abdel-Rahman: What is this style of yours? You are a defendant in a major criminal case, concerning the killing of innocents. You have to respond to this charge.
Saddam: What about those who are dying in Baghdad? Are they not innocents? Are they not Iraqis? ... I am addressing the Iraqi people. (Resumes reading but sound goes out.)
Abdel-Rahman: The court has decided to turn this into a secret and closed session. Link

db: BBC Worldservice radio yesterday reported that it was the Americans who ordered the news feeds to be cut. Later in the day this interesting fact was dropped. We rang them and asked why they had done so. They agreed that it was an important part of the story and would include the information in later news bulletins. They didn't. We still support them though - they are relatively good [as long as - in the UK - you have a digital receiver]

United States of Torture fails to stop new UN rights body

theage: The United Nations has voted overwhelmingly to establish a new body to promote human rights, despite strong opposition from the US.
Australia was one of the 170 countries that supported the new body, the Human Rights Council, to replace the discredited Human Rights Commission.
The council will meet regularly through the year, including special sessions to deal with a crisis. The old commission met only a few weeks a year.
The council, one of the more important reforms of the UN that Secretary-General Kofi Annan has been calling for, came out of the summit of world leaders last September.
Mr Annan had condemned the old Human Rights Commission, saying it had been discredited by human rights abusers joining it in order to protect themselves from criticism or in order to criticise another country.
Countries such as Sudan and Burma were able to be elected because of a system of bloc or regional voting. The new body will be elected by the entire General Assembly.
The US, one of four countries to oppose the new body, demanded that each country's vote be recorded. Israel, the Marshall Islands and Palau also voted against it.
US ambassador John Bolton said the council did not represent sufficient improvement on the old commission. He railed against compromises agreed to in order to get majority support for the council.
"We must not let history remember us as the architects of a council that was a compromise and merely the best we could do," Mr Bolton said.
But the president of the General Assembly, Sweden's Jan Eliasson, refused to reopen negotiations, fearing that would open a Pandora's box.
Countries such as Russia, Cuba, Pakistan and some Arab states were reported to have been ready to try to impose their own ideas on the council if it had been reopened for negotiation.
Mr Bolton said the United States objected to the dropping of a proposal to require two-thirds of the countries in the General Assembly to support a country in order for it to be elected to the council. Council members will instead be elected by a simple majority.
Countries subject to sanctions for human rights abuses or for supporting terrorism should be barred, he said, and there should not be a two-term limit on council membership. Read more

db: We know the US supports terror and human rights abuses - they would be leading contenders to be barred.

Jericho raid gives Olmert pre-election boost-polls

reuters: Israel's seizure of a radical Palestinian leader in a prison raid boosted interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in opinion polls published on Thursday ahead of a March 28 election they predict he will win.
In fresh violence in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli soldier involved in a raid in which the army said five militants were captured in the city of Jenin. Gunmen elsewhere in the West Bank wounded two Israeli motorists.
Pointing to a "Jericho effect", a survey on Army Radio gave Olmert's front-running Kadima party 43 seats in the 120-member parliament, a six-seat jump which the poll attributed to public support for Tuesday's operation in the West Bank city. Read more

New Labour Sleaze: No 10 needs to learn 'respect'

timesonline: Tony Blair tried to defuse the growing cash-for-peerages row today by proposing reforms of the honours system that would remove the Prime Minister's right to nominate new member of the House of Lords.

With a characteristic mixture of contrition and defiance, Mr Blair accepted that Jack Dromey, the Labour treasurer who has accused Downing Street of bypassing party institutions, should "of course" have known about seven-figure loans made to Labour by businessmen later nominated for peerages.

But he dismissed as "complete rubbish" the allegation that Labour was running secret parallel accounts and added: "I am completely satisfied that there has been no breach of any of the rules in relation to Labour Party nominations."

Mr Dromey, deputy leader of the TGWU, shook the party last night by charging that three controversial loans had been accepted behind the back of elected party officials. "The Labour Party, its institutions, its democracy, needs to be respected by No 10," Mr Dromey said. Read more

db: We like Dromey - he is traditional [relatively honest] Labour.

It is not torture it is [white]washing

FORCING a prisoner's head under water until they believe they are drowning does not necessarily constitute torture or abusive treatment, the Foreign Office has said.

The equivocal statement has fuelled suspicions that Britain is turning a blind eye to practices by its allies that many international lawyers believe are illegal.

Holding mock executions is banned in international law, yet simulated drowning is specifically intended to persuade subjects that they are about to die.

Known as "waterboarding," forms of simulated drowning have been used to torment prisoners since the Middle Ages. Victims experience an automatic gag reflex and acute terror, quickly and inevitably pleading for the ordeal to end.

In a written parliamentary exchange, the Foreign Office was asked whether "the infliction of simulated drowning falls within the definition of torture or cruel and inhumane treatment used by the government for the purposes of international law."

Replying, Ian Pearson, a junior Foreign Office minister, gave what some saw as a vague answer. "Whether the conduct described constitutes torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment for the purposes of the UN Convention Against Torture would depend on all the circumstances of the case," Mr Pearson wrote. Read more

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Blair can't say 'I didn't know.'

Senior British diplomatic and military staff gave Tony Blair explicit warnings three years ago that the US was disastrously mishandling the occupation of Iraq, according to leaked memos.John Sawers, Mr Blair's envoy in Baghdad in the aftermath of the invasion, sent a series of confidential memos to Downing Street in May and June 2003 cataloguing US failures. With unusual frankness, he described the US postwar administration, led by the retired general Jay Garner, as "an unbelievable mess" and said "Garner and his top team of 60-year-old retired generals" were "well-meaning but out of their depth".

That assessment is reinforced by Major General Albert Whitley, the most senior British officer with the US land forces. Gen Whitley, in another memo later that summer, expressed alarm that the US-British coalition was in danger of losing the peace. "We may have been seduced into something we might be inclined to regret. Is strategic failure a possibility? The answer has to be 'yes'," he concluded.

The memos were obtained by Michael Gordon, author, along with General Bernard Trainor, of Cobra II: the Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq, published to coincide with the third anniversary of the invasion.

The British memos identified a series of US failures that contained the seeds of the present insurgency and anarchy. Read more

Israeli Terror in Jericho

reuters: Israeli soldiers guard Palestinian prisoners as the Palestinian jail compound is stormed by Israeli troops in the West Bank town of Jericho. Israeli troops backed by tanks and helicopters stormed a prison compound in the West Bank town of Jericho to seize militants held over the assassination of an Israeli minister.(AFP/Pedro Ugarte)

db: And what will this cause more of children?

Iran: Here we go again

asiatimes: Security Council presidential statements are non-binding. But despite the toothless nature of the one under consideration at United Nations headquarters this week, it's a slippery slope. The current US administration has a record of seeing a mandate where no one else can, and the gnomic comments of its members, refusing to exclude any possibilities and hinting at unilateral action if the UN fails to satisfy, should send chills down anyone's spine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov put his finger on it last week when he talked about a sense of deja vu, referring to his time as ambassador when the US was trying to push the other members of the Security Council into authorizing an attack on Iraq for allegedly having weapons of mass destruction. Now the UN is being invited to another Snark hunt, this time to authorize action against the future possibility of nuclear weapons, since not even the US Central Intelligence Agency has been elbow-twisted into manufacturing evidence of a proximate threat. There is no doubt that the United States is trying to enlist the world into a crusade of sorts against Iran, which is all the more worrying since the outcome of this diplomatic campaign is so vague. Both the US and Israel are hinting at military strikes, and then burst into indignation when an Iranian delegate of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) threatened "harm and pain" if they try. Read more

Britain to Cut Iraq Troops by 10 Percent

guardian: Britain announced cuts in its forces in Iraq on Monday by 10 percent and has begun handing over their duties to Iraqi security forces, despite spasms of violence in recent weeks that have pushed the country closer to civil war.
Defense Secretary John Reid told the House of Commons that the reduction of 800 soldiers was possible because Iraqi security forces are becoming more capable of handling security in Iraq's southern Basra region.
"This is a significant reduction which is based largely on the ability of the Iraqis themselves to participate and defend themselves against terrorism,'' Reid said. "But there is a long, long way to go."
The move was announced despite growing doubts about the reliability of Iraqi security forces in the Basra area, especially the police, which British officials believe have been heavily infiltrated by Shiite militiamen. Read more

db: The militias are in control - we are hated - and the UK is commited to deploy in Afghanistan. Hence it is time to GTFO. Hapless Iraqi forces notwithstanding.

Israel storms prison to seize Palestinian militant

Reuters: Israeli forces blasted their way into a West Bank prison on Tuesday to try to seize a top Palestinian militant accused of killing an Israeli minister, storming in after U.S. and British monitors withdrew.

A guard and a prisoner were killed in clashes at Jericho prison, housing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) leader Ahmed Saadat and five other senior militants held under foreign supervision for four years.

Khaled Meshaal, leader-in-exile of the militant Hamas group that will form the next Palestinian government, urged Palestinians to rally around the jail and warned Israel against harming Saadat.

Protests surged across Palestinian territories, with most anger directed at Britain and the United States. Militants set ablaze the British cultural centre and stormed the EU-compound in Gaza, threatening to kidnap and kill foreigners.

Israel's highest profile raid for months came two weeks ahead of a general election and added to tension as Hamas Islamic militants tried to put together a government. Hamas accused the Israeli government of a pre-election stunt. Read more

db: Israeli elections coming - it's time for some UK/US sanctioned terror. BBC Worldservice reports truck loads of Palestinians stripped of clothing and loaded onto trucks. Sounds like....

Monday, March 13, 2006

Tony Blair: Let God judge me, not ICC!

The fundamental principle of a secular society is to keep religion out of politics; a cardinal 'sin' according to the secular clerics. Surprisingly, like Bush, Blair has now come out of the closet and claimed that God inspired him to go to war, and he will be judged by the Almighty on that issue.

Therefore, the unprovoked aggression against Iraq, the consequential murder of thousands of innocent civilians and destruction of the entire country was sanctioned by the divine - and this is supposed to be an example of God's guidance for the rest of humanity. Also, as Blair professes to be a Christian, the Iraq war is also supposed to be in compliance with the fundamental Christian notion of: turning the other cheek! If that is so, then I am sure even the most fanatical atheists will be saying: Halleluiah, it is a miracle! Blair and Bush do sound like a pair of medieval crusaders; Pope Bush standing with his Cardinal Bishop Blair.

The obvious implication of claiming divine intervention is that we should not hold Mr Blair accountable; he is merely a soldier of God - how convenient, in fact he is a real Bliar! Also note, since neither Blair nor Bush is a follower of Islam they are not qualified to earn the title of religious fanatics or extremists or similar terms; even though they hear voices of God telling them attack countries with invisible WMDs but visible oil. read more

* ICC stands for International Criminal Court

db: The same wish was just fulfilled to Milosevic.

Al-Sadr preaches restraint - blames occupiers for bombing Muqtada al-Sadr has said he will not order his militia to strike al-Qaida fighters after Sunday's bombing of his stronghold in Baghdad because that would mean civil war.
"I could order the Mahdi Army to root out the terrorists and fundamentalists but this would lead us into civil war and we don't want that," the Shia cleric told a news conference in the city of Najaf on Monday.
Returning to a theme that has previously been common ground with Sunni fighters and appeared to give his followers some protection from them, al-Sadr renewed his criticism of the US forces, against which al-Mahdi Army rose up twice in 2004. "I hold the occupiers responsible for this tragedy," al-Sadr said. "I consider them the ones who ordered it." Read more

db: Why not blame them? One way or the other.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Iran: Logic out the window at the White House - Gwynne Dyer

tehrantimes: The biggest pitfall in predicting the behavior of radical groups like the inner circle of the Bush administration is that you keep telling yourself that they would never actually do whatever it is they're talking about. Surely they must realize that acting like that would cause a disaster. Then they go right ahead and do it.

"(The Iranians) must know everything is on the table and they must understand what that means," U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told a group of visiting British politicians last week. "We can hit different points along the line. You only have to take out one part of their nuclear operation to take the whole thing down." In other words, he was calmly proposing an illegal attack on a sovereign state, possibly involving nuclear weapons.

Bolton knew his words would be leaked, so maybe it was just deliberate posturing to raise the pressure on Iran. But on Sunday, addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, Bolton repeated the threat: "The longer we wait to confront the threat Iran poses, the harder and more intractable it will become to solve. We must be prepared to rely on comprehensive solutions and use all the tools at our disposal to stop the threat" He may really mean it -- and no one in the White House has told him to shut up.

With the U.S. army already mired in Iraq, the Bush administration lacks the ground strength to invade Iran, a far larger country. The National Security Strategy statement of September 2002 declared a new doctrine of "preemptive" wars in which the U.S. would launch unprovoked attacks against countries that it feared might hurt it in the future, and in January 2003 that doctrine was elaborated into the military strategy of "full spectrum global strike."

The "full spectrum" referred specifically to the use of nuclear weapons to destroy hardened targets that ordinary weapons cannot reach. Earth-penetrating "mini-nukes" were an integral part of Conplan 8022-02, a presidential directive signed by Bush at the same time that covered attacks on countries allegedly posing an "imminent" nuclear threat in which no American ground troops would be used. Indeed, the responsibility for carrying out Conplan 8022 was given to Strategic Command (Stratcom) in Omaha, a military command that had previously dealt only with nuclear weapons.

Last May, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued an "Interim Global Strike Alert Order" putting Stratcom on high military readiness 24 hours a day. Logic says there is no "imminent" danger of Iranian nuclear weapons: last year's U.S. National Intelligence Estimate put the time needed for Iran to develop such weapons at ten years. But experience says that this administration can talk itself into a "preemptive" attack on a country that really does not pose any threat at all.

So what happens if they talk themselves into unleashing Conplan 8022 on Iran? Thousands of people would die, of course, and the surviving 70 million Iranians would be very cross, but how could they strike back at the United States? Iran has no nuclear weapons, no weapons of any sort that could reach America. Given the huge American technological lead, it can't even do much damage to U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region. But it does have two powerful weapons: its Shia faith, and oil.

Iran is currently playing a long game in Iraq, encouraging the Shia religious parties to cooperate with the American political project so that a Shia-dominated government in Baghdad will turn Iraq into a reliable ally of Iran once the Americans go home. But if Tehran encouraged the Shia militias to attack American troops in Iraq, U.S. casualties would soar. The whole American position there could become untenable in months.

Iran would probably not try to close the Strait of Hormuz, the choke-point through which most of the Persian Gulf's oil exports pass, for U.S. forces could easily dominate or even seize the sparsely populated Iranian coast on the north side. But it would certainly halt its own oil exports, currently close to 4 million barrels a day, and in today's tight oil market that would likely drive the oil price up to $130-$150 a barrel. Moreover, Tehran could keep the exports turned off for months, since recent oil prices, already high by historical standards, have enabled it to build up a large cash reserve. (Iran earned $45 billion from oil exports last year, twice the average in 2001-03.)

So a "preemptive" American attack on Iran would ignite a general insurrection against the American presence in Shia-dominated areas of Iraq and trigger a global economic crisis. The use of nuclear weapons would cross a firebreak that the world has maintained ever since 1945, and convince most other great powers that the United States is a rogue state that must be contained. All this to deal with a threat that is no more real or "imminent" than the one posed by Iraq in 2003.

No American policy-maker in his right mind would contemplate unleashing such a disaster for so little reason. Unfortunately, that does not guarantee that it won't happen. Link

US military stations assassination teams at embassies

IHT: Elite U.S. troops given bigger intelligence role

The U.S. military is placing small teams of Special Operations troops in a growing number of U.S. embassies to gather intelligence on terrorists in unstable parts of the world and to prepare for potential missions to disrupt, capture or kill them.

Senior Pentagon officials and military officers say the effort is part of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's two-year drive to give the military a more active intelligence role in the campaign against terrorism. But it has drawn opposition from traditional intelligence agencies like the CIA, where some officials have viewed it as a provocative expansion into what has historically been their turf. Read more

A neo-conservative policy of Middle East 'devide and rule'

asiatimes: Blaming the victims as Iraq disintegrates

The sectarian violence which has swept across Iraq following last month's terrorist bombing of the Shi'ite Golden Mosque in Samarra is yet another example of the tragic consequences of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. Until the 2003 US invasion and occupation, Iraq had maintained a longstanding history of secularism and a strong national identity among its Arab population despite its sectarian differences.

Not only has the United States failed to bring a functional democracy to Iraq, neither US forces nor the US-backed Iraqi government in Baghdad have been able to provide the Iraqi people with basic security. This has led many ordinary citizens to turn to extremist sectarian groups for protection, further undermining the Bush administration's insistence that US forces must remain in Iraq in order to prevent a civil war.

Top analysts in the Central Intelligence Agency and State Department, as well as large numbers of Middle East experts, warned that a US invasion of Iraq could result in a violent ethnic and sectarian conflict. Even some of the war's intellectual architects acknowledged as much: in a 1997 paper, prior to becoming major figures in the Bush foreign policy team, David Wurmser, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith predicted that a post-Saddam Iraq would likely be "ripped apart" by sectarianism and other cleavages but called on the US to "expedite" such a collapse anyway.

As a result, the tendency in the US to blame "sectarian conflict" and "long-simmering hatreds" for the Sunni-Shiite violence in Iraq is, in effect, blaming the victim.

Fostering fragmentation
One of the longstanding goals of such neo-conservative intellectuals has been to see the Middle East broken up into smaller ethnic or sectarian mini-states, which would include not only large stateless nationalities like the Kurds, but Maronite Christians, Druze, Arab Shi'ites and others.

Such a policy comes not out of respect for the right of self-determination - indeed, the neo-cons have been steadfast opponents of the Palestinians' desire for statehood, even alongside a secure Israel - but out of an imperial quest for divide-and-rule.

The division of the Middle East has long been seen as a means of countering the threat of pan-Arab nationalism and, more recently, pan-Islamist movements. Given the mosaic of ethnicities and sects in the Middle East, with various groupings having mixed together within both urban and rural settings for many generations, the establishment of such ethnic or sectarian mini-states would almost certainly result in forced population transfers, ethnic cleansing and other human suffering. Read more

Iran: 'Harsh' statements all round

bbcnews: Iran refuses to stop nuclear work

Iran will continue its controversial nuclear research programme no matter what action the UN takes against it, one of its top officials has said.

The United States is pushing the UN to warn Iran it could "face consequences" for refusing to stop the programme.

In a harsh statement, Iran said the US was "susceptible to harm and pain. So if that is the path that the US wishes to choose, let the ball roll." Read more

db: Harsh? John Bolton stated the day before yesterday that Iran faced "tangible and painful consequences" if it did not agree to Washington's demands that it shut down its nuclear programme. Worse still he stated that a failure on the part of the UN to act would "do lasting damage to the credibility of the council". He emphasised that the US was not solely reliant on the UN and could take other measures against Iran. Sound familiar?

Iraq: Dozens seized from security company - Update

BBC Worldservice report Iraqi officials have confirmed that men in police uniforms overwhelmed three [yes three] guards at a private security company in East Baghdad and took away 50 employees - including the head of the company.

Bush undermines five decades of Nuclear NPT

counterpunch: Dr. Strangelove is Our President

Is this a bad dream? Please wake me up! Is Dr. Strangelove really our President?

But, it is not a dream. George W. Bush has decided that the world needs another nuclear arms race and has done so by going to India and signing an agreement to undermine the five decade success of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty which India has refused to sign.

As a result, India will be able to build increasing numbers of nuclear weapons with US approval and supplies, so they can gain an upper hand on our other "ally" in the region who the Indians love to hate, Pakistan, who also has nuclear weapons.

For nearly fifty years the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has served us well. But India has always been a rogue nation to that treaty and has refused to become a part of the larger nuclear weapons club of England, France, China, Russia and the US.

India and Pakistan, Israel and North Korea have also developed nuclear weapons but have had a hard time making them in any large numbers due to a lack of weapons grade nuclear fuel.

Throughout the 1970s, the world lived in fear of an accelerated program of nuclear weapons development and use in Central Asia when India and Pakistan repeatedly use a nuclear threat toward each other. Apparently, Bush was in too much of a fog with his drinking in that period to remember all that. So now he not only went to India encouraging them to acquire more American jobs through outsourcing but also paved the way for India to initiate a nuclear arms race with Pakistan and maybe even China, by agreeing to the US sale of nuclear fuel and reactor parts to a country that has refused to allow even inspection of their nuclear program or sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Yes, India is the world's largest democracy but that does not make them immediately trustworthy on the gravest of all issues. After all, they are a country that has done testing of nuclear weapons against nearly all world opinion, dousing the world with large levels of radiation just to flex their muscles against their arch enemy neighbor, Pakistan.

Of course, Pakistan will expect us to give them similar treatment even though they are probably harboring the arch enemy we seem so frightened about, Bin Laden.

And if we are going to strike such a deal with India, just where is our moral high ground in telling Iran they cannot have nukes of their own. Don't they claim that their nuclear program is only peaceful? Read more

Iraq: Dozens seized from security company

BBC Worldservice radio is reporting that 'dozens' of people have been seized from a security company in Baghdad.

That would be more media exaggeration no doubt. So don't worry. Things are going very, very well.


Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Britons burned to death in car after Basra gun battle with police

scotsman: Two British men were burned to death in their car after a shoot-out with police in Iraq yesterday. A third person in the car, also believed to be British, was wounded and rushed away from the scene, in the southern city of Basra. Police Captain Mushtaq Kadhim said Iraqi policemen and two other civilians were also wounded in the shooting.

A Foreign Office spokesman said he was aware of unsubstantiated reports of an incident involving non-Arabs. The Ministry of Defence said it was aware of reports of an incident in Basra and was making inquiries.

A ministry spokesman said no British military personnel had been involved in any incident or injured yesterday.

According to Mr Kadhim, the attack occurred about 9pm local time after a police patrol chased two suspicious cars and forced them to stop in the Jazaer neighbourhood of central Basra. Link

An amazing lack of media coverage around this story.
Remember these boys? See British undercover operatives in Iraq

Cheney: Iran Faces 'Meaningful Consequences' if It Doesn't Curb Nuclear Program

washingtonpost: Vice President Cheney threatened Iran today with "meaningful consequences" if it fails to cooperate with international efforts to curb its nuclear program.

"For our part, the United States is keeping all options on the table in addressing the irresponsible conduct of the regime," Cheney said in a speech to the pro-Israel lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

"And we join other nations in sending that regime a clear message: We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."

Cheney's comments came as Russia appeared to close ranks with the United States over the Iranian nuclear issue. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said after a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Washington that the Russians had no "new proposal" for the Iranians.

In Vienna, where the International Atomic Energy Commission is meeting on the issue, diplomats earlier had talked about a Russian proposal to let Iran carry out small-scale uranium enrichment for research, news services reported.

"The United States has been very clear that enrichment and reprocessing on Iranian soil is not acceptable because of the proliferation risk," Rice said at a joint State Department news conference with Lavrov. Rice and Lavrov, who also held a dinner meeting last night, then went to the White House to meet with President Bush. Read more

db: The Bush deal with India has already blasted a bomb-size loophole through the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty

Gwynne Dyer: Civil war at last?

newvision: "We must cooperate and work together against this danger...of civil war," said Iraq's President Jalal Talabani, but others think that the civil war has already arrived. At least 130 people, almost all of them Sunnis, were murdered in reprisal killings, and over a hundred Sunni mosques attacked, in the 24 hours after the destruction of the al-Askariya shrine in Samarra, sacred to the Shias, on February 22. But it is not yet time to say Iraq has slid irrevocably into civil war.
The casualties of the sectarian violence in Iraq are already comparable to those in the Lebanese civil war -- a couple of dozen killed on slow days, a hundred or so on the worst days -- but Iraq has about eight times as many people as Lebanon, so there is still some distance to go. Iraq may never go the full distance, because it is hard to hold a proper civil war unless the different ethnic or religious groups hold separate territories.
The Kurds do, of course, and it is unlikely that the fighting will ever spread to the north of what now is Iraq, for Kurdistan is already effectively a separate country with its own army. The Kurds are currently allied with the Shia Arab religious parties of southern Iraq who control politics in the Arabic-speaking 80% of Iraq, but even if that alliance broke the Shias could not take back the north. The worst that might happen is ethnic cleansing around Kirkuk and its oilfields, where Saddam Hussein encouraged Arab settlement to erode Kurdish dominance of the area.
Southern Iraq is already controlled by the militias of the Shia religious parties, and has only a small minority of Sunnis. Baghdad and the "Sunni Triangle" in central Iraq are the only potential battlegrounds of an Iraqi civil war, but even there it is hard to have a real civil war, because only one side has an army.
The old, predominantly Sunni Arab army of Iraq was disbanded by proconsul Paul Bremer soon after the American occupation of Iraq. The new army and police force being trained by the US forces are almost entirely Shia (except in Kurdistan, where they are entirely Kurdish). Indeed, many of Iraq's soldiers are members of existing Shia and Kurdish militias who have been shifted onto the payroll of the state.
So how can you have a civil war? Read more

UK 'is not close to Afghan exit'

bbcnews: Britain is not close to an exit strategy in Afghanistan, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram has told MPs.

Mr Ingram told the Commons defence committee that security capacity had to be built up in any country of conflict before there could be an exit strategy.

The Taleban would not necessarily return to power if British and other troops left Afghanistan, he said.

But "bad elements" could emerge, setting up terrorist training grounds, and developing the narcotics trade.

They could grow "the capability to attack us", he warned. Read more

db: Unfortunately the only exit strategy the Brits will have in Afghanistan will be via the use of those fucking useless Landrovers

Mr. Bush's Asian road trip - three wheels on his wagon

NYT: There is a lot of good a president can do on a visit to another country: negotiate treaties that enhance American security, shore up a shaky alliance, generate good will in important parts of the world. Unfortunately, President Bush didn't do any of those good things on his just-completed visit to Pakistan and India and may have done some real harm.

The spectacularly misconceived trip may have inflicted serious damage to American goals in two vital areas, namely, mobilizing international diplomacy against the spread of nuclear weapons and encouraging Pakistan to take more effective action against the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters operating from its territory.

The nuclear deal that Mr. Bush concluded with India threatens to blast a bomb-size loophole through the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It would have been bad enough on its own, and disastrously ill timed, because it undercuts some of the most powerful arguments Washington can make to try to galvanize international opposition to Iran's nuclear adventurism.

But the most immediate damage was done on Mr. Bush's next stop, Pakistan. Washington is trying to persuade Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani military dictator, to defy nationalist and Islamic objections and move more aggressively against Pakistani-based terrorists. This is no small issue because both Osama bin Laden and the Taliban's leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, are now believed to operate from Pakistani soil.

But sticking Mr. Musharraf with the unwelcome task of explaining to Pakistanis why his friend and ally, Mr. Bush, had granted favorable nuclear terms to Pakistan's archrival, India, while withholding them from Pakistan left him less likely to do Washington any special, and politically unpopular, favors on the terrorism front.

It's just baffling why Mr. Bush traveled halfway around the world to stand right next to one of his most important allies against terrorists - and embarrass him. India and Pakistan are military rivals that have fought each other repeatedly. They have both developed nuclear weapons outside the nonproliferation treaty, which both refuse to sign. When India exploded its first acknowledged nuclear weapons eight years ago, Pakistan felt obliged to follow suit within weeks.

So when Mr. Bush agreed to carve out an exception to global nonproliferation rules for India, it should have been obvious that Pakistani opinion would demand the same privileged treatment, and that Mr. Musharraf would be embarrassed by Mr. Bush's explicit refusal to provide it.

Mr. Bush was right to say no to Pakistan. It would be an unthinkably bad idea to grant a loophole to a country whose top nuclear scientist helped transfer nuclear technology to leading rogue states. Granting India a loophole that damages a vital treaty and lets New Delhi accelerate production of nuclear bombs makes no sense either.

Mr. Bush should have just stayed home.Link [needs registration/bugmenot]

db: Musharraf will find dealing with China less problematical. Nice work George.

Link from daily revolution

Iraq: Rumsfeld blames media "exaggerations"

yahoo/reuters: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on Tuesday there has always been a risk Iraq could slip into a civil war but he accused the news media of exaggerating the severity of the current situation.

"I do not believe they're in a civil war today," Rumsfeld told a
Pentagon briefing. "There's always been a potential for a civil war. That country was held together through a repressive regime that put hundreds of thousands of human beings into mass graves."

"It was held together not by a constitution, not by a piece of paper, not by respect for your fellow citizens of different religious faiths. But it was held together through force and viciousness," Rumsfeld added.

[Seymour Hersh differs on this point: "Sunnis and Shi'ites, despite the fact that the Sunnis as a minority have always effectively ruled Iraq, have never had this sectarian instinct. It's not a sectarian society, it's a tribal society. People are intermarried.

You know, I was at the funeral of a Sunni and asked his brother, you know, he'd been murdered - probably by Shi'ites, I think - I asked his brother if there was going to be a civil war and he said look, I'm married to a Shi'ite. You want me to kill my wife? Why do you westerners always want civil war?

The first people to mention civil war were the occupation authorities. The Iraqis were not."]

Reuters item continues:
..."From what I've seen thus far, much of the reporting in the U.S. and abroad has exaggerated the situation," Rumsfeld said.

"Interestingly, all of the exaggerations seem to be on one side. It isn't as though there simply have been a series of random errors on both sides of issues. On the contrary, the steady stream of errors all seem to be of the nature to inflame the situation and to give heart to the terrorists and to discourage those who hope for success in Iraq."

Asked whether he believed these "exaggerations" by the news media were intentional, "Oh, I can't go into people's minds." Read more

South Dakota Slaps Up Its Women

Another state you should never visit passes an appalling abortion ban, because they hate you

sfgate: Attention all funky sexy single intelligent women of South Dakota (assuming there are any left):

It is time. Pack it up. Strip the bed, box up the cat, load the U-Haul, call your hip friends over in Minneapolis, move out West, or East, or anywhere with a mind-set not stuck like a bloody nail in the moral coffin of 1845. Let this be your clarion call. Get the hell out, right now.

Here is why: Your state hates you. Your state, apparently run by pallid sexless demagogic men who think they know something of God and morality but know only ignominy and the smell of sulfur and death in their nightmares, thinks you are irresponsible dumb-ass meat, unable to handle your own decisions, your own body, your sex. Your state's leaders and your Republican governor, Mike Rounds, wish to treat you like meaningless, voiceless chattel. Get out now. You already know why. Read more

Link from daily revolution

Monday, March 06, 2006

Iraq: 311 teachers and 64 pupils killed in four months

azzaman: Some 311 teachers plus 64 pupils below 12 years have been killed in the past four months, according to the latest tally from the Ministry of Education.

In a statement obtained by the newspaper, the ministry said attacks on schools and other educational facilities have increased recently and many parents have already stopped sending their children to school.

It added that more than 400 schools have been attacked in the same period and many have already put down their shutters.

Meanwhile, the second term of the current academic year (2005-2006) started a few days ago but educational authorities in the country say they are worried the latest upsurge in violence will adversely impact attendance.

At Baghdad University, only a few students reported to classes prompting the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research to put off the start of the term for a week.

Many professors were reported to have stayed away fearing the strife on the streets of Baghdad will find its way to the campus.

"Violence is not only present on the streets of Baghdad. It is steadily moving to the campuses," said Ahmad Bahaa, a ministry official.

"We have almost forgotten about teaching and learning. We only think of political squabbling and useless dialogue over sectarian, political and religious issues," he said.

Abdulamir Hayder from Baghdad University said the conditions were the worst one could imagine.

"The students and their professors are in a very bad psychological situation. The only aim is how to flee to a foreign country to escape assassination or threats," he said.

Karim Ali, from Mustansiriya University in Baghdad, said Iraqi universities have lost status as science institutions.

"There is no more scientific significance left for our universities. Nobody cares about education. The campuses have turned into arenas of factional struggle," he said.

Despite the gloomy picture, the ministry said it would set up two new universities, one in each of the southern cities of Amara and Samawa. Link

Iraq: No big smiley face on it

yahoo/ap: Congressman Questions Iraq Assessment

The Pentagon's top general acknowledged Sunday that "anything can happen" in Iraq, but he said things aren't as bad as some say. "I wouldn't put a great big smiley face on it, but I would say they're going very, very well from everything you look at."

The comments drew criticism that Gen. Peter Pace is glossing over problems in the three-year-old U.S. campaign.

"Why would I believe him?" asked Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a major critic of the Bush administration's handling of the war. "This administration, including the president, (has) mischaracterized this war for the last two years."

Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, cited political progress such as holding elections and writing a constitution as well as military progress like training Iraqi security forces.

"No matter where you look - at their military, their police, their society - things are much better this year than they were last," Pace said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Murtha, responding to Pace in an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation," said that Iraq has 60 percent unemployment, oil production below prewar levels, and water service to only 30 percent of the population.

American troops are doing everything they can militarily but "are caught in a civil war," said Murtha, a former Marine who has called on the administration to bring U.S. troops home.

"There's two participants fighting for survival and fighting for supremacy inside that country," he said of ethnic divisions. "And that's my definition of a civil war."

Murtha added: "The rhetoric is so frustrating - when they keep making statements which are very optimistic, and then it turns out to be the opposite... And the public has caught on to that, and they're very pessimistic about the outcome." Read more

Two Children Among Dead in Israeli Strike

chron: Israeli aircraft on Monday blew up a truck carrying Islamic Jihad militants, killing two of them and three bystanders, including two children, Palestinian doctors said.

Seven people were wounded, doctors said.

The Israeli military confirmed it attacked the truck, saying the target was one of the dead men, Islamic Jihad operative Moner Sukar, who had carried out rocket attacks against Israel.

An Islamic Jihad spokesman, who gave his name as Abu Dajana, vowed revenge.

"God willing we are going to get revenge for the honorable blood shed today," Abu Dajana told reporters outside a morgue at the Shifa hospital in Gaza.

Two passengers killed in the car were Islamic Jihad members, Abu Dajana said. He had originally said that three of those killed were group members.

Palestinian doctors said three bystanders, including two boys, 8 and 15, were also killed in the strike.

Witnesses said that Sukar was traveling in an ice cream truck, which Islamic Jihad said he took from his work in an ice cream production plant and used as cover to hide from Israel.

One lightly injured person, Amin Sarsour, said he was crossing the road when a missile struck the truck.

"Suddenly a missile hit a car traveling in front of us and a huge explosion went off and the car went up in flames," said Sarsour, a resident of the area.

An angry mob gathered outside the morgue, shooting in the air and shouting "Death to Israel."

The car was traveling when the explosion went off, witnesses said. Link

db: The difference between this and the work of a 'suicide bomber'? The perpetrator of this atrocity didn't give up his life and will be available for fresh crimes in the morning. We say 'no' to suicide bombers and 'no' to cowardly and reckless acts like these.

Middle East Democracy and the Hamas Factor

ramallahonline: There is a degree of surrealism in all of this. Hamas has presented its choice of Prime Minister to President Mahmoud Abbas, as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine says it has agreed in principle to join a Hamas-led government.

In the Arab world, such political transformation (that of Islamists and Socialists working together to create a transparent and democratic Parliament) is only possible in political satire, not as an attainable and healthy political process. But Palestinians - as the Hamas Parliamentary victory sweep and the smooth transition of power have shown - are proving to be quite exceptional in this regard.

It goes without saying that Palestinians, and those who have genuinely supported their democratic insurgency have many reasons to be proud. Evidently, those who used democracy as a decoy to justify their grievous foreign policies or to defend their unwarranted military occupation are now being forced into an unpleasant era of 'soul searching' - as proposed by the Financial Times.

Hamas, not knowingly, perhaps, has abruptly deprived Washington of its last card in a Middle East foreign policy game, which was already in tatters. Delivering democracy was - until Hamas' political rise - Washington's strongest, albeit murkiest pretext to justify its military presence in the Middle East. Other pretexts also proved to be a sham; weapons of mass destruction and all. Even the war on terror logic was turned upside-down, as post-Saddam Iraq became a terror magnet, a term liberally used by US policy makers.

Nothing was left but the good old democracy pretence, which worked well, until Palestinians cast their vote on that critical day late January. The majority voted for Hamas, not because of its Islamic agenda, but because of its uncompromising anti-corruption platform, its stance on Palestinian rights and the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza. Those who understand the intricacies of the Arab-Israeli conflict must have also decoded the vote as a strong rejection of the US government's dubious role in the conflict and in abetting Israel's defiance of international law. According to the deliberately ambiguous terminology of pro-Israeli fan clubs in Washington, the Palestinian vote reflected an emphatically "anti-American," stance, a most dishonest title indeed.

Chances are, US foreign policy pundits will carry on with their democracy media parade. However, as we have already seen, the democracy rhetoric will begin to erode, losing its tangible associations and relegating almost exclusively to rosy and indefinable assertions. In short: 'Think Again: Middle East Democracy', as an article title in Foreign Policy sums it up. The authors suggested, and rightly so, that the "US wants democracy in the Middle East -- to a point." However, it seems that Palestinians have somehow taken democracy a little too far. Read more

Chirac backs Hamas on sanctions The French president has endorsed Hamas's view that sanctions against the Palestinian Authority will serve only to hurt ordinary people.

Speaking on Monday in Saudi Arabia, Jacques Chirac said he was against any international sanctions on the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is now lead by the resistance group Hamas.

"I know well that there are some who envisage sanctions," he said

"For my part, I am hostile to sanctions in general and in this case in particular ... basically the Palestinian people would bear the brunt of it." Read more

Hamas shrugs off al-Qaida support

Hamas officials shrugged off the support offered by al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, saying Sunday the Palestinian militant group has a different ideology than the terror network and won election through a moderate approach to Islam.

In a video aired Saturday by Al-Jazeera, Ayman al-Zawahri called for jihad, or holy war, to reclaim Palestinian lands and implied al-Qaida's support for Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel despite international pressure since the militant Islamic group swept parliamentary elections in January.

A Hamas official in Gaza said: "Hamas believes that Islam is completely different to the ideology of Mr. al-Zawahri." Link

New Rules for Nukes

"Bush Dog Go Home"

As Bush pens a nuclear deal with India, Pakistan's Musharraf is keeping his 'strategic options open.'

newsweek: George W. Bush doesn't seem to have many friends in Pakistan. To greet him on his visit last week, Islamic and secular political parties came to an unprecedented agreement to paralyze the country with a strike. Thousands of people rallied at what Urdu newspapers called "Bush Dog Go Home" protests, and a suicide bombing killed a U.S. diplomat in Karachi. Pakistani authorities virtually locked down Islamabad in order to protect the president, emptying the streets and detaining some 4,000 people.

Bush still has a devoted ally in Pervez Musharraf, who hung banners along the vacant motorcade route showing the two leaders smiling side by side. But even the Pakistani president's loyalties may soon be divided. The day before Bush flew to Islamabad in the dead of night, with his wing lights off and the window shades down, Musharraf delivered an address in his native Urdu to Pakistan's National Defense College. He had just returned from a trip to China, Pakistan's old cold-war arms supplier. "America has signed a civil nuclear agreement with India on the basis of what it sees to be its interests," Musharraf said. "My recent trip to China was part of my effort to keep Pakistan's strategic options open."

Bush still has a devoted ally in Pervez Musharraf, who hung banners along the vacant motorcade route showing the two leaders smiling side by side. But even the Pakistani president's loyalties may soon be divided. The day before Bush flew to Islamabad in the dead of night, with his wing lights off and the window shades down, Musharraf delivered an address in his native Urdu to Pakistan's National Defense College. He had just returned from a trip to China, Pakistan's old cold-war arms supplier. "America has signed a civil nuclear agreement with India on the basis of what it sees to be its interests," Musharraf said. "My recent trip to China was part of my effort to keep Pakistan's strategic options open."

What Musharraf gets from China could help determine whether Bush's new diplomatic accord with India is a triumph - or the trigger for a new era of proliferation. Both India and Pakistan have been subject to U.S. sanctions since the archrivals tested nuclear weapons in the late ' 90s. But under the terms of the U.S. deal, which was eight months in the making, India alone would be brought back from official outcast status. New Delhi agreed to subject 14 of its reactors to international inspection by 2014. But it reserves the right to produce unlimited fissile material, to keep its eight military reactors from any scrutiny and to build as many more as it wants. In return India will receive U.S. investment and equipment directed toward expanding its civilian nuclear program. Read more

"All of this is under our control if we're not willing to observe passively and obediently - take democracy seriously." [Noam Chomsky - World in Peril]

Sunday, March 05, 2006

New Labour sleaze: Jowell's Iran sanctions busting connection

sundayherald:.. It is understood that, late on Friday, Downing Street was made aware that Michael Ancram, the former shadow foreign secretary, had tabled a Treasury question for Chancellor Gordon Brown asking if the government had carried out any investigation over the past three years into "the dealings of Mr David Mills in connection with the sale of aviation spare parts and equipment to Iran in contravention of the United Nations and European Union trade sanctions".

Jowell was last week under pressure to explain the extent of her knowledge, or lack of knowledge, of her husband's business dealings; the expected focus being the payment in 1999 of 350,000 pounds placed for Mills in an offshore hedge fund and on the subsequent re-mortgage (lodged in both Mills's and Jowell's names) in September 2000 which enabled the 350,000 pounds to be brought on-shore a month later.

Ancram's inquiry centres on Mills's work for a company called Saint James Capital and an Iranian lawyer, Shahan Shirkhani. Mills was also involved with a firm that dealt in exports to Iran which, in 2003, had tried to buy passenger aircraft, a deal in conflict with US law because the aircraft was fitted with US-made engines. Read more

db: She will be gone, no doubt - this story has got it all: Berlusconi corruption/ bribery/live criminal investigation, money laundering, Italian mafia, and now illegal dealings with the 'Axis of Evil'. How could she stay?

I am hoping that Blair continues to back her. Because when she ultimately goes it will hurt him that much more. [Life is cruel].

Robin Cook's ex wife sees hand of Cambell in Jowell 'separation'

scotsman:The honourable path would be resignation

Whatever stark truth may be behind the split between Tessa Jowell and her husband, people will believe the worst. And the worst in parliamentary orbits can be very murky indeed. We got some insight into the reality behind the brave smiles when David Mills careened his car into a reporter's vehicle last week while trying to escape the press.

Has Mills been a gallant knight, reinforcing his lady's protestations of innocence by distancing himself and his convoluted finances from the threat to her Cabinet career? Believe that if you will. To me, whose marriage ended equally brutally in 1997 when my then husband (Foreign Secretary Robin Cook) took a phone call from Alastair Campbell, advising "clarity in news reporting", it is tempting to speculate whether the hand of history has been meddling here too. Read more

Bush divides his allies in the war against terror

independent: Seeking to bolster America's main ally in the "war on terror", President George Bush made his first visit to Pakistan under intense security yesterday. But Pakistani discomfort was visible at the new strategic alliance the US is seeking with India, its historic rival.

In an effort to prevent mass protests against Mr Bush's visit, the Pakistan authorities went so far as to place the former cricket star, Imran Khan, who is now a political opposition leader and was planning to lead a protest march, under house arrest.

But the President was due to spend barely 24 hours in Pakistan, after a visit to India that was nearly three times as long. There was no televised address to the nation, as there had been in India, and Mr Bush came with no offer to match the civilian nuclear technology sharing deal agreed with India last week - a deal seen in the region as acceptance of the country as a member of the "nuclear club".

Instead, there was a press conference at which Mr Bush said bluntly that part of the reason for his trip was to ensure that President Pervez Musharraf remained committed to the "war on terror".

"Part of my mission today was to determine whether or not the President is as committed as he has been in the past to bringing these terrorists to justice," said Mr Bush, adding almost as an afterthought: "And he is." Mr Musharraf was at pains to stress his country's alliance with the US, repeating the phrase "strategic partnership" several times. "We have today laid the foundations of a very firm, very strong and long-term relationship between the US and Pakistan," he said.

This was a leader trying to reinforce a carefully nurtured, special relationship with the US that he sees slipping away to his rival India. It is a far cry from 2003, when President Bush designated Pakistan a "major non-Nato ally" for its part in the "war on terror". Read more

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Iran: The logic of John Bolton

tmc/kyodo: "The report issued by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei late last month shows clearly the extent to which the Iranians have been attempting to develop nuclear weapons capability, although the report itself does not draw that conclusion". Read more

db: That's because the conclusion Bolton prefers is a neo-conservative lie. Bolton also stated recently that "nuclear powers India and Pakistan attained that status in a 'legitimate' fashion because neither country signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty". Which is clear insanity - does he mean that Hamas would be within its rights to develop Nukes - providing it stays well away from the NPT? Cuba? [Oh no, Cuba shot itself in the foot and signed up - duh!]

Hamas Praises Russian Mediation Efforts

washingtonpost: Hamas' political chief said Saturday during a controversial visit to Moscow that Russia can be a significant force in promoting stability in the Middle East, although he did not back off from his earlier vow not to recognize Israel.

Khaled Mashaal met with the head of Russia's Council of Muftis, Ravil Gainutdin, on the second day of his three-day visit at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin.

Khaled Mashaal, third right, Hamas political chief, and members of the delegation Moussa Abu Marzouk, second right, and Said Siyam, fourth right, pray in Moscow's main mosque, Saturday, March 4, 2006. Hamas' leader ruled out any softening of the militant Palestinian group's hostility to Israel after high-profile talks in Moscow at which Russia called on it recognize the Jewish state and abandon violence.
Khaled Mashaal, third right, Hamas political chief, and members of the delegation Moussa Abu Marzouk, second right, and Said Siyam, fourth right, pray in Moscow's main mosque, Saturday, March 4, 2006. Hamas' leader ruled out any softening of the militant Palestinian group's hostility to Israel after high-profile talks in Moscow at which Russia called on it recognize the Jewish state and abandon violence. That invitation to a group considered a terrorist organization by the United States, European Union and Israel angered the Jewish state and surprised Russia's partners in the so-called Quartet of Mideast negotiators.

They had agreed to withhold international recognition from Hamas, which won Palestinian parliamentary elections in January, until it moderated its vehement opposition to Israel.

"Russia, which occupies a territory spanning Europe and Asia, is best positioned to sponsor a dialogue between civilizations and to ensure a balance of forces in the world," the Interfax news agency reported.

Mashaal and the rest of the Hamas delegation then were to meet with Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Alexy II and the head of the Russian parliament's foreign relations committee.

In an apparent attempt to avoid further damage to relations with Israel, Putin will not meet the Palestinian delegation. The visitors will instead only take a sightseeing tour of the Kremlin on Sunday.

On Friday, the Hamas delegation met with Russian officials, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. A Foreign Ministry statement said Russia urged Hamas to reject violence "as a means of obtaining political goals," to endorse existing Israeli-Palestinian agreements and to recognize Israel's right to exist.

But Mashaal struck an uncompromising stance, saying on arrival that Hamas would not consider recognizing Israel. Read more

db: Was there a Hamas manifesto commitment to recognise Israel? Why would Hamas do this so soon? It is unlikely that recognition of Israel is high on the list of Palestinian concerns. Recognition of Israel will surely come as a product of a some sort of meaningful quid pro quo - not as a result of threats and hypocrisy.

Strike, protests as Bush aims to showcase U.S.-Pakistan ties

seattletimes: Pakistanis shut down their country Friday with a nationwide strike and protests over President Bush's visit here for talks with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

In a sign of the tense security situation, the president's plane, Air Force One, had its window shades down and its running lights turned off Friday night as it flew in from India, the second stop on his tour of South Asia, and landed at an air base in Rawalpindi.

Thousands marched in Peshawar, Multan and Karachi to condemn Bush and the United States - and Musharraf for allying with them.

The protests, plus Thursday's bombing in Karachi that killed an American consulate official, have overshadowed the White House's goal for the trip: to depict a friendly and broad U.S.-Pakistani relationship that reaches beyond simple joint defense in the "global war on terrorism."

Pakistani police also detained political and religious leaders including Imran Khan, best known for leading Pakistan's cricket team to a 1992 World Cup victory but also a critic of Musharraf and the U.S., ahead of a protest planned by his small opposition party, according to Khan's spokesman.

Pakistan's alliance of Islamic political parties, the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, called a general strike Friday that left bazaars silent and shuttered, and streets empty in Islamabad and other cities. In Multan, in southern Punjab province, the alliance leader, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, rallied an estimated 10,000 people and criticized Musharraf for inviting an American leader he said had abused Muslims. Read more

Pakistan: Imran Khan arrested - detentions mount

reuters: Pakistani authorities held leading opposition politicians, including hundreds of Islamists, in detention on Saturday to stop them protesting against U.S. President George W. Bush's visit to the country.

The leader of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) Islamist alliance, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, was detained at his home in Labore a few days ago, the second time he has been detained within two weeks.

On Saturday police detained up to 350 of the Islamist parties' local-level leaders in towns dotted around the country to prevent them organising rallies, Liaqat Baluch, an MMA member of the National Assembly, told Reuters.

Baluch said he expected a protest in the eastern city of Lahore to go ahead despite the detentions.

Police also detained former cricket hero turned politician Imran Khan at his residence to stop him leading a demonstration in Rawalpindi, the garrison town next to the capital, Islamabad.

Khan, who retains a high profile despite his Tehrik-i-Insaaf party's meagre support, says U.S. support for Musharraf, who came to power in a military coup in 1999, is delaying the restoration of democracy in Pakistan.

A Pashtun himself, Khan is also highly critical of the conduct of the war on terrorism by Pakistani and U.S. forces in the Pashtun tribal lands straddling the Pakistan-Afghan border.

"We were at a dinner late last night, and when we came out we were arrested," said Khan's political secretary, Saifullah Niazi. "They took him to his house, and he's still under arrest."

Officials in Khan's party said up to 150 of their colleagues had been picked up by police. Link

db: That's a tennis ball Bush is bravely facing - some would have preferred to bowl him a small explosive device [obviously not anyone at db]

India, Pak. nukes legitimate: Bolton

thehindu/ap: Nuclear powers India and Pakistan attained that status in a "legitimate" fashion because neither country signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, US Ambassador John Bolton has said.

By contrast, Iran, under international scrutiny for what some see as its drive to obtain nuclear weapons, has no right to do so as it signed the NPT in 1970, Bolton said yesterday.

"In the context of the NPT, India and Pakistan had never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty and therefore they weren't in violation of it by having nuclear programmes, in contrast with Iran that is a state party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and that's violating its obligations," Bolton said.

At present, 187 nations have signed the NPT - which first opened for signatures in 1968. The treaty allows for five states - the United States, Britain, China, Russia and France - to possess nuclear weapons.

Bolton had on Wednesday referred to Iran's "nuclear weapons programme" when making the case for the council to examine the subject.

"This is a test of the Security Council," Bolton said. "If the Iranians insist, as they have for years now, that they want an indigenous uranium enrichment capability, that's something we can't accept."

Iranian officials have been in Moscow this week, negotiating Russia's offer to enrich uranium for Iran to be used for energy, with the spent fuel being returned to Russia, easing fears that Iran could use it for weapons. Link

db: Nice logic. Stay outside the NPT and get tooled up legitimatly.

Labour sleaze twist: Tessa Jowell splits from husband

bbcnews: Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and husband David Mills are to separate, it has been revealed.

Mr Mills' lawyer said their marriage had been put under "strain" by the controversy over their finances.

Ms Jowell was recently cleared of breaching the ministers' code of conduct - because her husband did not tell her about a 344,000 pound gift.

Lawyer Mr Mills, 60, has denied taking the money as a bribe from Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Read more

db: Does this mean that her story is now credible? Those New Labour careerists would sell their own grandmother to hang on to their place in cabinet.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Any word from God on Guantanamo Mr Blair?

chron: The newly elected leader of the Liberal Democrats, Britain's third-largest political party, began his first full day in the post Friday by criticizing the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay.

Menzies Campbell was elected leader by his party Thursday on a platform to tackle government secrecy and defend personal liberty.

"I am determined to continue to demand from (Prime Minister) Tony Blair clear answers to some serious questions: What steps has he taken to close down the camp, and what representations has he made to secure the release of detainees? Both Parliament and the public need to know," Campbell told The Associated Press. Read more

db: Apparently G.O.D doesn't give a monkey's - so neither does our PM

Blair: God told me to do it

bbcnews: Prime Minister Tony Blair says he prayed to God when deciding whether or not to send UK troops to Iraq.

Mr Blair answered "yes" when asked on ITV1 chat show Parkinson if he had sought holy intervention on the issue.

"Of course, you struggle with your own conscience about it... and its one of these situations that, I suppose, very few people ever find themselves in."

The interview, Michael Parkinson's first on his chat show with a serving PM, will be shown on Saturday.

"In the end, there is a judgement that, I think if you have faith about these things, you realise that judgement is made by other people... and if you believe in God, it's made by God as well," Mr Blair said. Read More

db: What happened to ''We don't do God'? Guilt - that's what happened.

AC-130 Gunships Returning to Iraq

ap: The U.S. Air Force has begun moving heavily armed AC-130 airplanes - the lethal "flying gunships" of the Vietnam War - to a base in Iraq as commanders search for new tools to counter the Iraqi resistance, The Associated Press has learned.

An AP reporter saw the first of the turboprop-driven aircraft after it landed at the airfield this week. Four are expected.

The Iraq-based special forces command controlling the AC-130s, the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, said it would have no comment on the deployment. But the plan's general outline was confirmed by other Air Force officers, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the subject.

Military officials warned that disclosing the location of the aircraft's new base would violate security provisions of rules governing media access to U.S. installations.

The four-engine gunships, whose home base is Hurlburt Field in Florida, have operated over Iraq before, flying from airfields elsewhere in the region. In November 2004, air-to-ground fire from AC-130s supported the U.S. attack that took the western city of Fallujah from insurgents. Basing the planes inside Iraq will cut hours off their transit time to reach suspected targets. Read more

Killing 'by the buckets' - at night only

"The AC-130 - what a great platform," says one Army officer in Iraq. "When it's flying, the insurgents are killed by the buckets. However, they will not fly during the day ... in Fallujah, we had a better time during periods of darkness, and in the day [we] experienced difficulties because of the absence of the AC-130." Link

New Labour: Nice and sleazy does it

guardian: Blair expresses confidence in Jowell but questions continue

Tony Blair yesterday reprieved his beleaguered culture secretary, Tessa Jowell, when he accepted her assurance that she was not told for four years by her husband, David Mills, that he had received a 350,000 pound gift with which he had paid off a joint mortgage on their home.[db emphasis]

Ms Jowell acknowledged the gift should have been disclosed to civil servants under the code to avoid any conflict of interest. She added that her husband, a corporate lawyer, should have informed her of the gift.

Her plea of ignorance stretched the credulity of some angry Labour backbenchers, and one senior London Labour MP feared the mud would stick in the London local elections. One Tory backbencher, Nigel Evans, condemned the report as "staggering and a whitewash". He said he would be raising a complaint on her failure to register her other interests in the register of MPs' interests, including her interest in the Centurion hedge fund.

Critics are expected to seize on a number of peculiarities in her statement, notably how she appeared to be unaware of the injection of 350,000 pounds into the household finances for four years despite having made a subsequent joint mortgage application on the same property 18 months later. Read more

db: This won't go away. Please.

Iraq: The Neocon Temptation

Iraq is in flames and the choice is stark: Bush can retire to his ranch a failed prez - responsible for one of the greatest foreign policy blunders of modern times - or he can escalate - which is the neo-conservative preference - and has grave implications for us all.
The Neocon Teptation
By Pat Buchanan

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed ..."

There may be a better description of what is happening in Iraq than the words of Yeats'. It does not come to mind.

Before President Bush ordered Gen. Tommy Franks to invade, four forces held Iraq together: Saddam's regime, the Baath Party, the secret police and the army. The conquering Americans, as has been their way from Sherman to LeMay, smashed them all.

The center that held Iraq together, repulsive as it was, is gone. But, the comment of Yuval Diskin, head of the Israeli security agency Shin Bet, may yet prove incisive: "I'm not sure we won't come to miss Saddam."

The Shi'ites have been the principle beneficiaries of our intervention. Liberated from Saddam's rule, under U.S. rules of one-man, one-vote they were, with 60 percent of the population, the certain inheritors of the estate. Yet, Shi'ite conduct calls to mind the remark of the Austrian prime minister after Tsar Nicholas I intervened to save the Hapsburgs from revolution in 1848: "We shall astonish the world with our ingratitude."

America has made many blunders in this war. The greatest was to invade Iraq on the pretext it was a threat to the United States and inflame 300 million Arabs and a billion Muslims against us.

But that decision, endorsed by a Democratic Senate that gave Bush a blank check, cannot be revisited or reversed. As Dean Rusk used to say, "We are there, and we are committed."

What should we do? And what will Bush do?

In surveys, 63 percent of Americans believe Iraq was a mistake, 70 percent have lost confidence in Bush as war leader and 72 percent of U.S. forces in Iraq believe we should be out by year's end. Bush's base is slipping away, and 2006 is the make-or-break year.

So, where do we stand on this third anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom to bring democracy to Mesopotamia?

The dynamiting of the Golden Mosque in Samarra has brought reprisals against Sunni mosques and imams, and pulled Iraq close to the brink of sectarian and civil war. To understand what could happen to the Shi'ites north and west of Baghdad and to Sunnis in the south, one might reread what became of the Greeks in Smyrna when the Turks arrived in 1922, or to the Hindu and Muslim peoples when India and Pakistan tore apart at independence in 1947.

The new Iraqi government, army and security forces are too weak and divided to prevent civil war without the U.S. presence, the indispensable pillar of the state.

Our fate, it seems, is to be that of Prometheus, who stole fire from the gods and gave it to man. As punishment, he was chained to a rock, as vultures ate at his liver. And so, too, are we chained by our own responsibility for what is about to happen -- to the rock of Iraq.

If Bush should reduce our forces to 100,000 by year's end as planned, he risks the civil war that will destroy all we have accomplished and wash down a sewer everything for which 2,300 Americans died and 16,000 have been wounded. That sectarian war could spread across the Islamic world.

It is impossible to see how Bush, who must know a pullout could bring chaos and civil war and convert into a historic defeat and debacle a war he launched, is going to do this. A stubborn man who yet believes in the cause, Bush seems certain to soldier on in the hope it will all turn out well, as it did for Lincoln.

But while we retain the forces in Iraq to prevent a collapse, we do not have the forces to defeat the enemy. And as our allies depart, it is unlikely Americans will support more U.S. troops or many more billions to rebuild the country.

Were this a financial investment, Iraq would have been written off and our losses cut a long time ago. But for Bush to write it off is to write himself off as a failed president who committed the greatest strategic blunder in U.S. history.

And so the president is now being offered a way out by his neocon counselors: escalate. Take the war to the enemy, as we should have from the beginning. Use U.S. air power to wipe Iran's nuclear facilities off the map. Go all-out for victory. Emulate Lincoln, Churchill, FDR, Truman.

With his poll ratings in the pits, and his party facing almost certain and heavy losses in the fall, Bush may yet yield to the neocon temptation. For unlike LBJ in 1968, he does not seem reconciled to going back to his ranch as a failed president. Link