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

Sunday, April 30, 2006

76% think Labour gave peerages for cash

Tony Blair's government is "sleazy and incompetent" and on its last legs, much as John Major's government was in the mid-1990s, according to a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times today.

... The police are conducting an investigation into whether the
Labour Party gave peerages and other honours in return for loans and gifts
Do you think...

Labour probably did give honours in return for loans and donations 76%
Labour probably did not 9% %
Don't know 15%

Which of the following best sums up your attitude to the issues of loans,
donations and honours?

The present arrangements are corrupt 65%
The present arrangements don't trouble me 15%
Neither 9%
Don't know 10%

Which of the following best describes your attitude to Tony Blair on political funding?

He is sleazy 53%
He is not sleazy 23%
Don't know 24%

Read more

Bush claims authority to disobey over 750 laws

IHT: President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, "whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty "to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to "execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

Former administration officials contend that just because Bush reserves the right to disobey a law does not mean he is not enforcing it: In many cases, he is simply asserting his belief that a certain requirement encroaches on presidential power.

But with the disclosure of Bush's domestic spying program, in which he ignored a law requiring warrants to tap the phones of Americans, many legal specialists say Bush is hardly reluctant to bypass laws he believes he has the constitutional authority to override.

Far more than any predecessor, Bush has been aggressive about declaring his right to ignore vast swaths of laws -- many of which he says infringe on power he believes the Constitution assigns to him alone as the head of the executive branch or the commander in chief of the military.

Many legal scholars say they believe that Bush's theory about his own powers goes too far and that he is seizing for himself some of the law-making role of Congress and the Constitution-interpreting role of the courts.

Phillip Cooper, a Portland State University law professor who has studied the executive power claims Bush made during his first term, said Bush and his legal team have spent the past five years quietly working to concentrate ever more governmental power into the White House.

"There is no question that this administration has been involved in a very carefully thought-out, systematic process of expanding presidential power at the expense of the other branches of government," Cooper said. "This is really big, very expansive, and very significant."

For the first five years of Bush's presidency, his legal claims attracted little attention in Congress or the media. Then, twice in recent months, Bush drew scrutiny after challenging new laws: a torture ban and a requirement that he give detailed reports to Congress about how he is using the Patriot Act.

Bush administration spokesmen declined to make White House or Justice Department attorneys available to discuss any of Bush's challenges to the laws he has signed.

Instead, they referred a Globe reporter to their response to questions about Bush's position that he could ignore provisions of the Patriot Act. They said at the time that Bush was following a practice that has "been used for several administrations" and that "the president will faithfully execute the law in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution."

But the words "in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution" are the catch, legal scholars say, because Bush is according himself the ultimate interpretation of the Constitution. And he is quietly exercising that authority to a degree that is unprecedented in US history.

Bush is the first president in modern history who has never vetoed a bill, giving Congress no chance to override his judgments. Instead, he has signed every bill that reached his desk, often inviting the legislation's sponsors to signing ceremonies at which he lavishes praise upon their work.

Then, after the media and the lawmakers have left the White House, Bush quietly files "signing statements" -- official documents in which a president lays out his legal interpretation of a bill for the federal bureaucracy to follow when implementing the new law. The statements are recorded in the federal register.

In his signing statements, Bush has repeatedly asserted that the Constitution gives him the right to ignore numerous sections of the bills -- sometimes including provisions that were the subject of negotiations with Congress in order to get lawmakers to pass the bill. He has appended such statements to more than one of every 10 bills he has signed.

"He agrees to a compromise with members of Congress, and all of them are there for a public bill-signing ceremony, but then he takes back those compromises -- and more often than not, without the Congress or the press or the public knowing what has happened," said Christopher Kelley, a Miami University of Ohio political science professor who studies executive power.

Military link Many of the laws Bush said he can bypass -- including the torture ban -- involve the military.

The Constitution grants Congress the power to create armies, to declare war, to make rules for captured enemies, and "to make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces." But, citing his role as commander in chief, Bush says he can ignore any act of Congress that seeks to regulate the military.

On at least four occasions while Bush has been president, Congress has passed laws forbidding US troops from engaging in combat in Colombia, where the US military is advising the government in its struggle against narcotics-funded Marxist rebels.

After signing each bill, Bush declared in his signing statement that he did not have to obey any of the Colombia restrictions because he is commander in chief.

Bush has also said he can bypass laws requiring him to tell Congress before diverting money from an authorized program in order to start a secret operation, such as the "black sites" where suspected terrorists are secretly imprisoned.

Congress has also twice passed laws forbidding the military from using intelligence that was not "lawfully collected," including any information on Americans that was gathered in violation of the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches.

Congress first passed this provision in August 2004, when Bush's warrantless domestic spying program was still a secret, and passed it again after the program's existence was disclosed in December 2005.

On both occasions, Bush declared in signing statements that only he, as commander in chief, could decide whether such intelligence can be used by the military.

In October 2004, five months after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal in Iraq came to light, Congress passed a series of new rules and regulations for military prisons. Bush signed the provisions into law, then said he could ignore them all. One provision made clear that military lawyers can give their commanders independent advice on such issues as what would constitute torture. But Bush declared that military lawyers could not contradict his administration's lawyers.

Other provisions required the Pentagon to retrain military prison guards on the requirements for humane treatment of detainees under the Geneva Conventions, to perform background checks on civilian contractors in Iraq, and to ban such contractors from performing "security, intelligence, law enforcement, and criminal justice functions." Bush reserved the right to ignore any of the requirements. Read more

New oil shock ahead as $100 spike looms

observer: The growing international crisis over Iran's nuclear programme could trigger a catastrophic oil price spike, sending crude prices over $100 a barrel, senior Wall Street analysts are warning.

With prices already at around $72 a barrel, such an increase could mean drivers facing prices of 110p a litre on forecourts, according the the Petrol Retailers Association. Last week Lord Browne, chief executive of BP, warned that prices could rise to £1 as he unveiled bumper $5.27bn profits for the first quarter.

Shell is also expected to announce close to record numbers next week, with analysts expecting profits around $5.57bn, driven largely by the oil price. Read more

...In a report, Sieminski argues that with the world consuming some 85 million barrels of oil a day, a supply disruption of 2 million barrels a day (60 per cent of Iran's exports) 'can only be rebalanced through an extraordinary rise in prices.' Read more

db: If the region of concern wasn't Iran it would be somewhere else. Supply jitters are here to stay.

Matthew R. Simmons - What a difference 20 years make in crude oil prices
Gwynne Dyer - The oil party is finally over

Chinese envoy: Iran resolution under Chapter 7 "dangerous"

chinaview: The Chinese ambassador to the United Nations, Wang Guangya, repeated Saturday his warning against introducing a resolution on the Iranian nuclear issue under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter, saying that could be "dangerous."

Speaking to reporters after a speech at a symposium in the University of Chicago, Ambassador Wang recalled that the United States, Russia, China and the EU trio -- Britian, Germany and France -- agreed at a January ministerial meeting in London to report Iran's nuclear issue to the Security Council.

But the meeting also decided that the council's mandate is to reinforce the authority of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said Wang, whose country holds the council presidency for April.

"If you adopt a resolution not to reinforce the IAEA's authority but to replace its authority, that is dangerous," he warned.

Wang reiterated that introducing a Chapter 7 resolution would complicate the situation. "The Iranians have already said that if this issue is being discussed under Chapter 7, they will withdraw from the NPT (nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty) ... Once they withdraw, they won't take any international legal obligations, so we don't want them to withdraw," he said.

Wang insisted that the IAEA should be allowed to continue playing a leading role in seeking a solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis.

As shown by the IAEA's latest report, Wang said, "this is, in a sense, a technical issue and I don't think the Security Council as a political organization would be capable of doing this job."

In its report presented to the council on Friday, the IAEA concluded that Iran had not met the Security Council's demands, including freezing all enrichment activities.

Britain, France and the United States have said they would push the UN Security Council to adopt a resolution invoking Chapter 7, under which coercive measures, such as economic sanctions, could be used to force Iran to comply with the council demands. Link

Neo-Labour ridicule and incompetence

Tony Blair last night admitted that he may be forced to sack his Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, as rebel Labour MPs issued the Prime Minister with an ultimatum to declare an early departure date or face a humiliating leadership contest.

...His admission came as Mr Blair's deputy, John Prescott, faced embarrassing new revelations over his long-running affair with a civil servant.

...The Sunday Telegraph has learned that rebel Labour MPs are preparing to launch a direct and highly damaging challenge to the Prime Minister if, as is widely predicted, the party suffers heavy reverses in Thursday's local elections. Read more

db: Clarke and Prescott are finished. Of Tony Blair Alistair Campbell said a moment ago on Radio 4 "With all this going on around him he just keeps on going with the agenda of taking the country forward". Fantastic. We are grateful. Blair will be gone next year.

Iain Macwhirter writes in the Sunday Herald "Once the spell of government is broken - that mysterious quality of legitimacy - ministers lose the plot and things go wrong. The toxic combination of ridicule and incompetence did for Major, and it is doing much the same for Blair."

Leftover mine kills two Afghan children A child herding cows detonated a leftover anti-tank mine south of the Afghan capital, killing two children and wounding two others, police said Saturday.

The explosion happened in the Khogyani district of the southern Ghazni province on Friday, said deputy provincial police chief Ali Ahmad.

Two children were killed instantly; two others suffered minor wounds and were in a stable condition, Ahmad said.

Afghanistan is littered with landmines left over from almost three decades of conflict. Link

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Turkish Armed Forces Strike PKK Camps in N. Iraq

The Turkish armed forces have launched their first military operation along the Iraqi border where Turkish troops have concentrated for days.

The Northern Iraqi cities of Amedi and Zaho, sheltering Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) militants, were hit with mortar attacks in "Operation Crescent."

First reports say that locations where militants were lodged in the regions of Geliye, Pisaxa, Pirbela, Sheshdara, Sheranish and Elanish were demolished.

The "Burgundy Beret" units performed a recognizance mission in the area a while ago as part of the Special Forces Command.

Troop deployment to the region from different parts of the country continues. Read more

Iran Shrugs off US Terror Report

zaman: Iran, pointed at by the United States as being the leading country supporting terror, termed the US Department of State's international terror report "good for nothing."

Tehran finds the report "good for nothing and unimportant," Iran Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi told IRNA news agency.

"The United States blames the countries objecting their politics and Israel politics for terrorism."

"The US is the biggest supporter of the Zionist regime," Asefi alleges the States is responsible for crimes the Zionist regime committed, and called the US an unreliable reference. Link

db: It is the US who are refusing to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state. Might that not be termed 'terror' [or 'nuts' as Jack Straw stated]

Britain: I'm beginning to live in fear of the state

telegraph: For some years now, my first conscious thought on waking has been: is that bloody Blair out of office yet? How I ache to see his fallen head in the back of the armoured limo for the very last time. Haloed by a thousand flashbulbs. Farewelled by a single headline: TONY OUT.

It really is time he upped and went, isn't it? Politicians are meant to be here-today-gone-tomorrow kinds of creatures, not lifelong, Caesaro-papal, totalitarian autocrats grinning Trust me! and making it pretty damn clear that they don't trust us.

I want him out because he is changing my (free) country from a place I placidly love, admire and am grateful to have been born in, to a state I am beginning to fear. I don't really care what Tony does or doesn't do to the blessed schools 'n' hospitals any more. Don't even care about his difficulties with ermine or ministerial fly-buttons.

What I care about is that he is taking away my freedom to be who I am. The ID card lunacy alone should have the free citizens of Britain pouring into the streets a la poll tax riots. The state database is only one of Tony's assaults on freedom, but it's the biggest, the stupidest and the most illiberal.

He - Tony - will never, ever be stopped by some snotty youth 10 days out of Hendon Police College and asked to "identify himself to the authorities". You and I will. Read more

Prescott's "Home Pride" election leaflet

yorkshirepost: Fresh embarrassment was heaped on John Prescott yesterday after leaflets dropped through letterboxes in Hull showing him and his wife smiling broadly - under the headline "Home Pride".
The glossy newsletters, showing the Deputy Prime Minister's wife placing a supportive hand on her husband's shoulder, arrived just as revelations about his two-year affair with Civil Service secretary Tracey Temple were breaking.
The image of relaxed togetherness portrayed on the leaflet, which went out to 5,000 homes in the east of Hull, including Sutton, where he lives, was light years away from revelations of infidelity, which left Mrs Prescott "devastated".
And it comes as a blow to Labour locally. The party faces a knife-edge battle in next Thursday's local elections in the city.
Labour councillor Phil Webster said a copy dropped through his letterbox, alongside the election leaflet of his colleague Peter Clark, who is standing for election in the Ings ward next week.
He said: "My exact words were unprintable - I think it's an ill-timed leaflet and I think a lot of people will say 'hypocritical' and bin it." Read more

Iraq vice president warns Americans against striking Iran

reuters: An Iraqi vice president warned the United States on Friday against attacking Iran.

Adel Abdul Mahdi, the Shi'ite member of the three-man Presidency Council, was asked about speculation U.S. forces might strike to prevent Iran developing nuclear technology:

"We will not allow anyone to attack anyone," he said after a meeting in the holy city of Najaf with Grand Ayatollah Ali al- Sistani, Iraq's senior Shi'ite cleric. "We think that the use of force is not appropriate for solving any problem."

The leaders of Iraq's Shi'ite majority, including Mahdi's SCIRI party, have close ties to their fellow Shi'ite Islamists ruling neighbouring Iran, where many of them sought refuge from the Sunni-dominated administration of Saddam Hussein.

Another leading Iraqi Shi'ite politician, cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr, recently pledged the support of his Mehdi Army fighters to Iran if U.S. forces attacked.

On a visit to Baghdad this week, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declined to be drawn on whether American troops occupying Iraq might be deployed against Iran. Read more

IAEA Finds no Proof of Iranian Nuclear Weapons Program

informed comment:

The IAEA found no smoking gun.

Here is its conclusion, which others will not quote for you at such length:
33. All the nuclear material declared by Iran to the Agency is accounted for. Apart from the small quantities previously reported to the Board, the Agency has found no other undeclared nuclear material in Iran. However, gaps remain in the Agency's knowledge with respect to the scope and content of Iran's centrifuge programme. Because of this, and other gaps in the Agency's knowledge, including the role of the military in Iran's nuclear programme, the Agency is unable to make progress in its efforts to provide assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran.

34. After more than three years of Agency efforts to seek clarity about all aspects of Iran's nuclear programme, the existing gaps in knowledge continue to be a matter of concern.
This ambiguity is being twisted by the Bush administration to make it seem as though Iran has done something illegal. The report can be read to say that there is no evidence that Iran is doing anything illegal.

In fact, under the NPT, countries do have the right to do the sort of experiments Iran is doing. Read more

Raids ordered in hunt to save Clarke

guardian: More arrests of wrongly-released foreign prisoners are expected as attempts to deport 79 serious offenders continue.

Deportation action has commenced in 63 cases and six people were already in custody pending deportation, with more arrests expected soon, Home Secretary Charles Clarke said on Friday.

The Home Office said 200 police officers were supporting immigration officers in further raids overnight and into the weekend. Read more

al-Zawahiri accuses US of aiding India's nuke plans

hindustantimes: Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri has lashed out at US President George W Bush accusing him of giving a "strong impetus" to India's nuclear programme while "doling out orders" to Pakistan.

In a video released on a Jihadist website, Zawahiri pointed to a visit by Bush in March to New Delhi during which he signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with India.

"He gives a strong impetus to the Indian nuclear programme, while doling out orders to Pakistan," the Al-Qaeda leader said on Friday. Read more

Police find CANNABIS stash in John Reid's house

bbcnews: A small quantity of Cannabis resin has been found at the Scotland home of Defence Secretary John Reid, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

It is understood Strathclyde Police discovered the drugs during a standard sweep at Mr Reid's property.

A spokesman for the minister said he had no idea where the drugs came from. Read more

db: We can hazard a guess - Reid's stash no doubt came from Afghanistan - where we are told it is obtainable very cheaply and is 'an absolute blast'.

This explains a lot regarding his confused policies in the region. Is his latest adventure a mission to protect [virtually non-existent] reconstruction, or is it a mission to root out the Taliban? His indecision is famous, his lack of judgment a legend. His short-term memory loss a threat to national security.

Buchanan: Of imperial presidents and congressional cowards

WND: Now that Congress is back from spring break and looking ahead to Memorial Day, July 4th, the August recess and adjournment early in October for elections, perhaps it can take up this question.

Does President Bush have, or not have, the authority to take us to war with Iran? Because Bush and the War Party are surely behaving as though this were an executive decision alone.

No sooner had President Ahmadinejad declared that his country had enriched a speck of uranium than the war drums began again.

Bush has said of Iran that even "a process which would enable Iran to develop a nuclear weapon is unacceptable." John McCain has said too many times to count, "The military option is on the table." The 2006 National Security Strategy re-endorses preventive war and elevates Iran to the No. 1 threat to the United States.

This is not enough for the Weekly Standard, which equates our situation with that of France in 1936, when Paris sat immobile while Hitler marched three lightly armed battalions back into the German Rhineland, which had been demilitarized by the Versailles Treaty.

"To Bomb or Not to Bomb, That Is the Iran Question," is the title of an extended piece in the Standard, whose editorial calls for "urgent operational planning for bombing strikes." As that would likely ignite Shia and Revolutionary Guard terror attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, the Standard wants Bush to send more troops.

In an editorial "Iran Now," National Review is already into target acquisition. It calls for plans for a massive bombing campaign "coupled with an aggressive and persistent efforts to topple the regime from within." Ideally, U.S. bombs "should hit not just the nuclear facilities, but also the symbols of state oppression: the intelligence ministry, the headquarters of the Revolutionary Guard, the guard towers of the notorious Evin Prison."

In the Washington Post, Mark Helprin, who is identified as having "served in the Israeli army and air force," says "the obvious option is an aerial campaign to divest Iran of its nuclear potential: i.e., clear the Persian Gulf of Iranian naval forces, scrub anti-ship missiles from the shore and lay open antiaircraft-free corridors to each target ... Were the targets effectively hidden or buried, Iran could be shut down, coerced and perhaps revolutionized by the simple and rapid destruction of its oil production and transport."

Since Muslims may not like what we are up to, Helprin cautions, we should prepare "for a land route from the Mediterranean across Israel and Jordan to the Tigris and Euphrates," and, presumably, from there the final push on to Tehran.

In all this hawk talk, something is missing. We are not told how many innocent Iranians we will have to kill as we go about smashing their nuclear program and defenses. Nor are we told how many more soldiers we will need for the neocons' new war, nor how long they will have to fight, nor how many more wings we should plan for at Walter Reed, nor when it will be over – if ever.

Moreover, where does Bush get the authority to launch a war on a nation that has not attacked us? As few believe Iran is close to a nuclear weapon, while four neighbors - Russia, India, Pakistan and Israel, not to mention the United States - already have the bomb, what is America's justification for war?

If we sat by while Stalin got the bomb, and Mao got the bomb, and Kim Jong-Il got the bomb, why is an Iranian bomb a threat to the United States, which possesses thousands?

There is a reason the Founding Fathers separated the power to conduct war from the power to declare it. The reason is just such a ruler as George W. Bush, a man possessed of an ideology and sense of mission that are not necessarily coterminous with what is best for his country. Under our Constitution, it is Congress, not the president, who decides on war.

Many Democrats now concede they failed the nation when they took Bush at his word that Iraq was an intolerable threat that could be dealt with only by an invasion. Now, Bush and the War Party are telling us the same thing about Iran. And the Congress is conducting itself in the same contemptible and cowardly way.

It is time for Congress to tell President Bush directly that he has no authority to go to war on Iran and to launch such a war would be an impeachable offense. Or, if they so conclude, Congress should share full responsibility by granting him that authority after it has held hearings and told the people why we have no other choice than another Mideast war, with a nation four times as large as Iraq.

If Congress lacks the courage to do its constitutional duty, it should stop whining about imperial presidents. Because, like the Roman Senate of Caesar's time, it will have invited them and it will deserve them. Link

Scheuer: US policy is bin Laden's 'indispensable ally'

afp: The former head of the CIA unit hunting Osama bin Laden unit said Wednesday that US policy in the Middle East has given a boost to Al-Qaeda and its leader.

"Today, bin Laden, Al-Qaeda and their allies have only one indispensable ally: the US foreign policy towards the Islamic world," said Michael Scheuer, who led the bin Laden unit from 1996-1999.

"Time is not on America's side. We're clearly losing," Scheuer told a government security conference in Washington.

"We're at a point where Al-Qaeda and bin Laden are changing into Al-Qaedism and bin Ladenism - a philosophy and a movement rather than a man and an organization," the former CIA analyst said.

"More than any other factor, the US invasion of Iraq and the prolonged occupation of this country has produced this transformation."

Scheuer said bin Laden has focused on US policies in the Islamic world, such as the US military presence of Iraq and Afghanistan, its economic and military support to Israel and its "decades old support for apostate and tyrannical government across the Islamic world."

"The cumulative impact of several events over the past two years have gone a good ways towards increasing Muslim hatred for Americans simply because they are Americans," he said, pointing to the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, the treatment of detainees at the Guantanamo prison camp and caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed printed in European and US newspapers.

"Each of these events are unfortunate but not terribly serious for the Western minds. But from the Muslim perspective they are deliberate and vicious attacks against the things that guide their lives and their faiths," he said.

Scheuer, who resigned from the CIA in November 2004, is the author of "Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror," which was published with the approval of the CIA despite its damning conclusion that US actions are inflaming a global Muslim insurgency. Link

db: In terms of the 'Muslim perspective', how do you think Bush's threat to use nuclear weapons against Iran is going down? If I was an American I would have some concerns. Being American [in this scenario] my primary area of concern would not be for the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iranians that are likely to perish - 'cos you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs - the thing that would worry me most [as an American] would be the exponential increase in the likelihood of a terrorist crossing the porous borders of the US with a nuclear weapon in his briefcase and giving us some of our own medicine - I mean, committing a heinous terrorist act against humanity [humanity = Americans and allies only].

Iran: Neocrazies, Britain - fooling us again

"If you can do one centrifuge, you can do 164,If you can do 164, you probably can do many more. That means you have the potential to do full-scale enrichment. If you can do enrichment up to 7%, you can do 80%. If you can do 80%, you can produce a bomb." Emyr Jones Parry - Britain's diplomatic voice of reason
reuters: Western powers want to introduce a U.N. Security Council resolution next week that would demand Tehran curb its nuclear ambitions, despite China's objections, U.S. and British diplomats said on Friday.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton and British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry were responding to a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency that said Iran had ignored a March council statement demanding it suspend uranium enrichment, a process used in making bombs as well as electric power.

"The point is to enhance international pressure on Iran, to show just how isolated they are," Bolton said. "There is still time for Iran to reverse the policy it is pursuing."

Jones Parry said his delegation would introduce a draft resolution on the IAEA report by the middle of next week. But the initial resolution will not threaten sanctions or hint at military force.

Instead it will put directives by the 35-member IAEA board of governors and the March council statement into a U.N. resolution under Chapter 7** of the U.N. Charter, which makes it legally binding. It would also call Iran's nuclear program a threat to "international peace and security," Bolton said.

Iran will be given a "short time" to comply, after which Western powers would consider targeted sanctions against individuals and possible restrictions on trade, Bolton said.

"They have to comply or the Security Council is prepared to take other steps," he said.

If that fails, Bolton said action could be taken "within or without the Security Council."

The Bush administration has raised the prospect of organizing a coalition that could impose sanctions, although some Europeans are reluctant to do so without U.N. agreement.

Chapter 7 makes council resolutions mandatory under international law. It allows for sanctions or even war, but a separate resolution would be required to specify either step. Read more
db: We have been here before: Wikipedia: John Negroponte, and the UK ambassador Jeremy Greenstock, in promoting Resolution 1441, had given assurances that it provided no "automaticity," no "hidden triggers," no step to invasion [of Iraq] without consultation of the Security Council . Such consultation was forestalled by the US and UK's abandonment of the Security Council procedure and their invasion of Iraq.


Friday, April 28, 2006

Russia hopes IAEA report will unite UN on Iran

iranmania: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday he hoped a crunch IAEA report will help the international community agree a common position to defuse the Iran nuclear crisis, said AFP.

He was speaking as the UN watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) prepared to release a report at the end of a 30-day deadline for Tehran to comply with UN demands to suspend uranium enrichment.

"We hope that will facilitate a common position to be adopted by the international community which will enable us together to prevent any threat of proliferation," he said after talks with his NATO counterparts in Sofia.

Such an agreement should also ensure "that the rights of all honest members of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) are observed and rights to the peaceful use of atomic energy are also respected," he said. Read more

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Neo-Labour offered peerage to protect 'safe' seat

bbcnews: Independent MP and AM Peter Law was offered a peerage not to stand against Labour in Blaenau Gwent at the last general election, his widow alleges.

Labour says her claim is "categorically not true" but Trish Law told BBC Wales that her husband "could not be bought".

The ex-Labour politician, who died this week, was asked not to stand by a senior Labour figure, Mrs Law said.

Mr Law overturned a 19,000 majority to win Blaenau Gwent, Labour's safest Welsh seat at Westminster, last May.

... Responding to Mrs Law's comments, a Labour spokesman said: "It's categorically not true. It did not happen." Read more

db: That's a tough one - who do you believe - anonymous Blairite or Trish Law?

Iraq: Stone thrower becomes dead 'unlawful combatant'

Is a stone thrower an 'unlawful combatant'? Can British troops murder stone throwers with impunity? Looks like it...

Sergeant Steven Roberts was shot dead at Az Zubayr, Iraq on 24 March 2003. This was a case of so-called 'friendly fire' - the soldiers had been aiming their weapons at rock-throwing civilian Mr Zaher Zaher. The media unsuprisingly have focused on issues around the killing of Sergeant Roberts. The dead Mr Zaher has received comparatively little attention. The Guardian's coverage here is typical. To get an account of the circumstances surrounding the shooting dead of the already wounded and unarmed Iraqi we had to turn to the Crown Prosecution's own website - which details a clear breach of the Geneva Convention - although the CPS do not quite see it like that because they claim it could be argued that when Mr Zaher started [foolishly/bravely] chucking rocks at the heavily armed British troops and tanks he became.... an 'unlawful combatant' - putting the unfortunate rock-thrower into the same category as al Qaeda and the Taliban:
Findlaw - According to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, the Taliban and al Qaeda fighters currently being held captive at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are not prisoners of war, but "unlawful combatants." What's the difference?

The short answer is that a prisoner of war is entitled to the protections set forth in the 1949 Geneva Convention. In contrast, an unlawful combatant is a fighter who does not play by the accepted rules of war, and therefore does not qualify for the Convention's protections.Link

Wikipedia - An unlawful combatant (also unlawful enemy combatant or unprivileged combatant/belligerent) is a person who is accorded neither the rights a soldier would normally have under the laws of war, nor the civil rights a common criminal would normally have.

Unlawful combatants do retain rights under the Fourth Geneva Convention so that they must be "treated with humanity" Link

It is clear that lethal force was used against a 'rock'[stone]thrower. Not satisfied with seriously wounding him, the troops chose to finish him off because they 'perceived that Mr Zaher still posed a threat'.

Below we have posted the CPS account of events relating to the death of Mr Zaher. Read the item in full via the link below - including the premise that he became an unlawful combatant upon picking up a few rocks/stones.

...The Attorney General asked the CPS to review the case in September 2004 and this was carried out by an experienced senior lawyer at the CPS. On the evidence then available to him it appeared that British soldiers had shot an unarmed Iraqi civilian, Mr Zaher, a number of times, even after he had already been severely injured and in no position to pose a threat to anyone.

...On Sunday 24 March 2003, a troop of three Challenger battle tanks, part of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, were involved in a road block on the outskirts of Az Zubayr, Iraq, to stop and search vehicles for weapons.

Shortly after 6.00 am, Mr Zaher approached the tanks throwing rocks, firstly at the tanks and then at Sergeant Roberts who was standing alone outside his tank. Sergeant Roberts put out his hand, apparently as a signal for Mr Zaher to stop, but he did not do so. Sergeant Roberts drew his pistol and aimed it at Mr Zaher but although it appears that he fired one shot, the pistol malfunctioned and Mr Zaher continued to approach him, throwing more rocks. Sergeant Roberts apparently tried to clear the jam as Mr Zaher advanced.

...A soldier in one of the tanks opened fire, apparently as warning shots, but Mr Zaher did not stop. Soldiers from two of the tanks then fired a number of shots at Mr Zaher. One of those weapons was set to fire at targets a considerable distance away and was not accurate at close range. Although Mr Zaher was hit and severely injured in the arm two of the bullets struck Sergeant Roberts in the torso and he fell to the floor, fatally wounded.

As soldiers dismounted from the tanks to give assistance to Sergeant Roberts, Mr Zaher got up holding a rock and started towards him again. One soldier, who had gone to assist Sergeant Roberts, said he feared that Mr Zaher was about to attack again so he fired his pistol several times and Mr Zaher again fell to the floor. According to some of the soldiers, despite his injuries, Mr Zaher again got up to advance on Sergeant Roberts, and holding a rock. The soldier who was attending to Sergeant Roberts, perceived that Mr Zaher still posed a threat and directed another soldier to shoot Mr Zaher. On this occasion he did not get up. British medical staff attended and Sergeant Roberts and Mr Zaher were declared dead at the scene. Read in Full

Iran: US mulls nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia

reuters: The United States is discussing the possibility of a civilian nuclear energy agreement with Russia that could help wean Moscow away from cooperation with Iran, according to U.S. officials.

The move comes as Western powers are increasingly alarmed about what they say is Iran's determination to produce nuclear weapons.

Diplomatic efforts to persuade Tehran to reverse course so far have been frustrated, in part because of U.S. and allied differences with Russia, the only major power still engaging in lucrative nuclear cooperation with the Islamic republic.

In recent interviews, several U.S. officials said a possible nuclear energy accord with Moscow is under review. They spoke anonymously because the issue is sensitive and no final decision has been made.

Such an agreement would be a significant change in U.S. policy, which now prohibits most nuclear cooperation with Russia because of Moscow's pivotal role in building Iran's $800 million nuclear power plant at Bushehr.

A cooperation agreement is "something that we're actively evaluating" and have discussed with the Russians over the past two months, one official told Reuters.

"It would provide a foundation for greater (U.S.-Russia) cooperation but doesn't commit the sides to any particular project and could be a way of demonstrating to the Russians how much larger our market is than what exists in Iran," he added. Read more

Neo-Labour Meltdown

reuters: Prime Minister Tony Blair faced the challenge on Thursday of restoring his government's authority after it was engulfed in scandal and crisis a week ahead of crucial local elections.

The man once dubbed "Teflon** Tony" for his ability to shrug off political dirt, woke up to a slew of headlines which screamed of a "triple whammy" for "a government in meltdown".

Newspapers cleared their pages to detail the three crises which blew up a week before elections seen as a test of Blair's leadership, where a bad showing could hasten calls for him to hand over to Chancellor Gordon Brown. Read more

db: The 'triple whammy' excludes the 'loans-for-peerages' fandango. Teflon** is great up to the point when it begins to peel away and you have to throw the pan in the trash. Much better to season a non-Teflon pan correctly upon purchase.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Hamas says it could adopt Arab peace plan

afp: The Palestinian Hamas-led government said it was debating adopting a 2002 Arab peace plan which calls for the recognition of Israel in return for a restoration of pre-1967 borders.

The guarded statement by deputy prime minister Nasseridin al-Shaer posted on Hamas's website said the radical Islamic group was willing to end the Middle East conflict and considered the Arab League plan, adopted at its 2002 Beirut summit, a viable option.

"We are not afraid to pay a political price for it (peace), but this must be done in coordination collectively with all Arab countries and on a legal basis," Shaer said.

"The point of departure is perhaps the decisions of the Arab summit, in particular the summit in Beirut, but these scenarios must be debated internally," he said, stressing "nothing had been decided yet." Read more

U.S. aggression against Iran would have global repercussions: Leader

tehrantimes: Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei warned on Wednesday that any U.S. aggression against Iran would inflict damage on the interests of the United States in every possible part of the world.

"The Iranian nation will not launch an offensive against anyone, but it will respond to any strike with double the force," he told a gathering of workers in Tehran.

The Leader stated that Iran pursues peace and calm and is making progress with confidence.

"Since the victory of the Islamic Revolution, the great nation of Iran has proven its abilities in various fields, achieving progress, honor, and experience, and this is what has enraged and baffled the enemy," he said.

Over the past 27 years, the U.S. has been continuously threatening Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei pointed out.

"The language of U.S. officials is the language of threats and intimidation, but the aware and determined nation of Iran as well as the government, which relies on popular support, will pay no heed to these threats," he stressed.

The Leader stated that making efforts to help develop the country is the best and most important way to resist the enemies.

He said that the enemies have lost hope about the possibility of using a military option against Iran and now plan to create discord among the people.

"Anyone working anywhere in the vast nation of Iran should try to perform his/her duties with greater vigilance, seriousness, order, and faith in order to frustrate the hopes of the enemy," he advised. Link

Iraq: US military says...Officials say...US statement said

ap: The military says a rebel safe house is in rubble and 12 militants are dead after a U-S raid in Iraq. A statement says U-S-led forces hit the suspected safe house near where an American helicopter went down April First. Officials think it was shot down.

The military didn't say if any of the people killed at the safe house are suspected in the helicopter crash.

The military says intelligence led soldiers to the site, where they came under fire. The statement says U-S forces fought back with air support.

Officials say five militants, including one with a shoulder-fired rocket, were killed outside the house. Officials say the bodies of another seven heavily armed militants and an unidentified woman were in the wreckage of the home.

The military says troops also found explosives vests used by suicide bombers, hand grenades and ammunition. Read more

db: My hunch is this: whatever happened it didn't happen as reported by US military sources.

Iraq: A government of militias

azzaman: It seems the official statements about putting the militias under government control and integrating them into the armed forces are made for public consumption only.

The reality of the situation is that it is the militias and not the government who are in control. And it does not matter which time of the day these militias prefer to take the law into their hands.

Undoubtedly, the previous government backed the militias in a manner unprecedented in the history of a state that respects itself.

Therefore, there are real suspicions whether the authorities in charge of the new government will take the matter of dissolving the militias seriously.

Iraqis hope the new government will take a decisive stand vis-a-vis the militias even if those leading it have links to them.

Once part of the new government, the officials must bear in mind that their loyalty should be to the country and not the militias or factions they belong to.

When part of the government, the officials must think differently. Their duties differ and they will need to act in a responsible and independent manner.

It is indeed strange to hear Iraqi officials saying that militias are part of the Iraqi reality.

The government says there are 11 militia armies in Iraq. That figure is disputable. In the current chaotic conditions there may be many more such armies. It all depends on how you define the word 'militia'.

Perhaps we have officials who would think of creating a new cabinet post for these militias in the new government. They believe their armed groups are as important as electricity, fuel, education, health and public works.

This is why some of these officials are keen to have their militias included in the armed forces register.

What kind of army we will have if all the militias are brought into its umbrella?

As we enter into the fourth post-U.S. invasion year, we have seen militia leaders assuming ministerial jobs and other high-ranking posts.

Militia-linked violence has encouraged the various Iraqi groups and even tribes to put their members under arms.

There are currently more militia groups in Iraq than one could imagine.What will happen if all these groups asked for their armed men to be 'integrated' into the armed forces?

It is a weird situation the like of which the country has never seen. It ushers the age of 'armed democracy' in Iraq. Link

Afghanistan: Harrier jets remain to support 'reconstruction aim'

bbcnews: Six RAF Harrier GR7 jets are to stay longer in Afghanistan to support UK troops and their allies on the ground.

The planes had been due to end their deployment in June but will continue until the end of March next year after calls from Nato and coalition chiefs.

As he visited UK troops in Afghanistan, Defence Secretary John Reid said the Harriers were "an essential tool" Read more

db: John Reid - unessential tool.

Will the British troops in Afghanistan be wearing those dreary British uniforms...or the exciting American ones? Will it be more pathetic Land Rover 'snatch' vehicles ..... or US Humvees? See British troops wearing American uniforms in Iraq!

Greece: Rice Go Home Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, has won no public pledge of support from Greece for punitive sanctions against Tehran, amid protests by thousands on the streets of Athens against her visit.

Rice met Costas Karamanlis, the Greek prime minister, and Dora Bakoyanni, her Greek counterpart, on Tuesday as part of a five-day trip to Europe that includes Turkey and Bulgaria.

Bakoyanni was noncommittal on Greece's stance, as a non-voting Security Council member, in a possible vote on sanctions against Iran.

"We believe there must be co-ordination within the European Union, and decisions will be taken within the framework of the Security Council," Bakoyanni said.

"We are in the middle of a diplomatic effort, which still has tools at its disposal that allow it to be effective."

As anti-American riots raged near her ministry, Bakoyannis said Iran had to provide "sufficient assurances" that it would not pursue a military nuclear programme. Read more

db: The US government is seriously contemplating using nuclear weapons against the non-nuclear Iran. Isn't it time European governments sought some "assurances" from the neocrazies in Washington?

Over 1000 CIA 'Torture Shuttle' flights crossed Europe

deutshewelle: The CIA has carried out more than 1,000 secret flights in Europe since 2001 without governments raising questions, an EU lawmaker trying to shed light on alleged kidnappings claimed Wednesday.

Despite evidence from the Eurocontrol air traffic body showing "more than 1,000 CIA flights" had gone through European airports and airspace, governments had shown "incriminating inertia," said Claudio Fava, who is leading a European Parliament inquiry into allegations that the Central Intelligence Agency secretly transported prisoners through EU territory in what have become know as extraordinary renditions.

"We think that after Sept.11, extraordinary renditions were not rare, but a practice that was very well known and wide-spread geographically," said Fava, an Italian Socialist.

European parliamentarians decided to set up a special committee to look into the allegations in January in parallel to a separate probe by the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe.

Washington has come under intense fire in the last few months after reports about hundreds of CIA flights, suspected of carrying undeclared prisoners across European airspace, since the Sept.11, 2001 terror attacks.

Because they do not have the authority to require individuals to appear before the committee, the EU lawmakers are relying on voluntary hearings and publicly available information.

Fava said that such voluntary hearings had confirmed that the CIA was "clearly responsible for the abduction and the detention of terrorists on the member states' territory." Read more

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Iraq Terror Chief [mastermind] Dismisses New Government

Read first: washingtonpost: Military Plays Up Role of Zarqawi

ap: Terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi revealed his face for the first time Tuesday in a dramatic video in which he dismissed Iraq's new government as an American "stooge" and called it a "poisoned dagger" in the heart of the Muslim world.

The video, in which he also warned of more attacks to come, was posted on the Internet only days after a breakthrough in Iraq's political process allowing its Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders to start assembling a government.

It also followed a high-profile audiotape from Osama bin Laden and seemed a deliberate attempt by al-Zarqawi to claim the spotlight again following months of taking a lower profile amid criticism of bombings against civilians. It was his first message since an audiotape in January.

A U.S. counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity in compliance with office policy, said analysts believe al-Zarqawi is showing his face to demonstrate that he is still engaged as a leader of jihad, or holy war. Read more

db: This Zarqawi-terror-chief-mastermind 'news' needs salt

Afghanistan: Is John Reid a liar?

independent: Colonel admits British may have aggressive role in Afghanistan

A senior commander has acknowledged that British soldiers may carry out offensive operations in Afghanistan, despite government denials.

British commanders said they had been given permission to carry out aggressive operations including pre-emptive strikes in their areas of deployment in the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.

This gives British forces a power to take offensive action which is almost on par with that of the Americans, and far more than what is allowed by other Nato countries with troops in Afghanistan.

Colonel Stuart Douglas, the deputy commander of the British forces in Afghanistan, said yesterday: "[The operations] could be carried out anywhere. The enemy will be those who resist the rule of law, whether they are the Taliban or ordinary criminals."

The deployment of almost 6,000 troops into Afghanistan at a cost of £1bn has been accompanied by repeated assertions from ministers that British soldiers will not take part in warfare and counter-insurgency operations.

The Defence Secretary, John Reid, who has been visiting Afghanistan, said in the Commons last week that British troops were not going to the country "to wage war or carry out seek and destroy" operations, but to engage in stabilisation and reconstruction.

However, British military planners are said to have already targeted three Taliban strongholds, one in the mountainous southern border with Pakistan, another in the steep valleys in north-east Helmand and a third in a concentrated area of poppy pastures. Read more

db: Probably

U.S. cautious on Iraqi militias joining army - 'individuals only'

reuters: The United States believes that members of Iraqi militias should be allowed to join the U.S.-trained Iraqi army only on an individual basis rather than in groups, a senior U.S. official said on Monday.

Iraq's new Prime Minister-designate Jawad al-Maliki said last weekend that powerful sectarian militias should be disbanded and merged with Iraq's military. Such a move would be highly sensitive since the militias are each tied to different ethnic groups and political parties.

"It's a good proposal in principle but the devil is always in the details," the official said. "How you integrate them is important. It must be focused on individuals and not units." Read more

db: Another winning strategy - individuals only - that will fool them.


Why you should renew your passport.

Renew For Freedom: The Identity Cards Act 2006 turns your passport into a one-way ticket to control of your identity by the government. It means lifelong surveillance, and untold bureaucracy. This website, produced by the NO2ID campaign, is about how you can renew your passport and avoid being forced to register on the ID scheme database.

Please renew your passport in May. Read more

Think ID cards are a good idea? Read this: Britain - Freedom Dies Quietly

And if after reading that you are still a supporter, then it means you not only trust this current Neo-Labour government in the face of overwhelming evidence that trust in Neo-Labour is a bad, bad idea - but you, clever chap, trust all future governments. Good luck with that.

British troops wearing American uniforms in Iraq!

telegraph [MoD?]: British paratroopers secretly operating in support of the SAS in Iraq are using American uniforms, weapons and vehicles as part of their cover, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

...The SFSG was formed mainly because it was found that small groups of highly trained SAS troopers did not have enough firepower to take on large groups of Iraqi and Afghan terrorists. The unit has already seen a substantial amount of action in Baghdad.

Whenever the SAS goes on raids to apprehend terrorists in highly dangerous areas of Baghdad, the Paras are used to provide perimeter security.

Arriving in US Humvees, dressed in American army fatigues and armed with C7 Diemaco guns - a Canadian made version of the M16, the men have fought several battles with insurgents while protecting SAS colleagues.

..."They wear US uniforms so they can blend in in Baghdad where a British paratrooper would stick out and draw unwanted attention," an intelligence source said. Read more

db: I've heard it all now. British troops wearing American uniforms! Was that Blair's idea? I guess when you join an illegal US neocon war in support of an American vision for an 'American century' you may as well wear an American uniform.

In order to be really convincing do the British have to shoot-up civilians? Torture them?

The tone of the Telegraph story is gleefully 'boy's own' in style and fails to look critically at what seems to be a disturbing precedent. Did the MoD write the item, or just dictate it?

Neo-Labour support on the slide - now 32%

politics: Labour's support among the public has slumped to its lowest level since the 1987 general election, according to a new poll.

An ICM survey for The Guardian finds the party has fallen to just 32 per cent - five points less than a month ago and two points less than the Conservative party. Read more

db: It's likely that Neo-Labour's approval rating will continue to drop as the cash-for-peerages fandango warms up and the NHS's problems remain seemingly unfathomable. The latest Charles Clarke blunder won't help either.

The longer Blair holds on to his job the worse it will get - he is no asset - Gordon Brown may have a chance of turning their fortunes around, but Blair's vanity stands in his way.

Monday, April 24, 2006

'No place on this good Earth' for Moussaoui

M&C: Zacarias Moussaoui has 'no place on this good Earth' and should die for his complicity in nearly 3,000 deaths in the September 11 attacks on the US, a prosecutor argued Monday.

Wrapping up the US government's case before the jury begins deliberations, prosecutor David Raskin sought the death penalty claiming Moussaoui had 'a role in the plot to kill Americans' even though he took no part in the attacks.

A defence lawyer urged the jury to spare Moussaoui and send him to prison for life, saying the confessed al-Qaeda member wanted to die as a martyr and the jury should not give him that satisfaction.

Moussaoui, 37, a Frenchman of Moroccan descent, is the only person to go on trial in the US for the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. He pleaded guilty last year to six charge of conspiracy related to the attacks.

'Let me be blunt, ladies and gentlemen, there is no place on this good Earth for Zacarias Moussaoui,' Bloomberg News quoted Raskin as saying. Read more

db: No place on this good Earth? A country that sends more of its people to jail than any other nation on the planet must have something to offer him.

Labour awards KCMG to neocon Richard Armitage

KCMG - The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George

[Kindly Call Me God]

Usually awards made to non-British citizens are not made public. But due to a question in the House of Commons by Liberal democrat MP Norman Baker the Foreign Office has released a list. Amongst the foreign tycoons and tax dodgers awarded with honors by the Labour government is the balding figure of six foot former power lifter - Oliver North's co-conspirirator in the Iran-Contra scandal - and Deputy Secretary of State 2001-2004 Richard Lee Armitage. Armitage was one of the group of neocons who signed the Project for a New American Century [that's American century - not British century] letter that was sent to Clinton in 1998 and advocated military action to overthrow Saddam Hussein - due to all that WMD he was sitting on - a recommendation which was later, as we all know, incorporated into US foreign policy by Bush Jr and damningly, into UK foreign policy by the British neocon Tony Blair. See below:
... Given the magnitude of the threat, the current policy, which depends for its success upon the steadfastness of our coalition partners and upon the cooperation of Saddam Hussein, is dangerously inadequate. The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction. In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy.
Not just a neocon
In an item published in The Guardian in 2001 titled Return of the Reaganites Martin Kettle wrote the following:
"President George Bush is rapidly putting his own stamp on the US presidency, but his recent lower-level appointments show that the substance of the new team in Washington is overwhelmingly from of the era of his father and Ronald Reagan.

The return of the Reaganites is particularly evident in the areas of foreign and defence policy, where Mr Bush has just appointed Richard Armitage deputy secretary of state under Colin Powell. Mr Armitage is a Pentagon veteran of the Reagan and Bush Sr era, during which he played a key role as a Middle East policy expert.

His role in the Iran-contra arms smuggling scandal was sufficiently important to force George Bush Sr to withdraw his the nomination as army secretary in 1989.

Mr Armitage worked closely with Colonel Oliver North in the secret Reagan White House effort to trade arms to Iran and syphon some of the profits to Nicaraguan contra rebels in defiance of an arms ban.
So far so bad, but the allegations concerning Richard Armitage KCMG get even more stinky with an AP item that appeared in 2001 alleging his links to drug trafficking between 1965 and at least 1979:
A drug warlord in Burma accuses Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard L. Armitage and others of drug trafficking to fund anti-communist operations, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported Thursday.

The AP story then stated, "In a three-hour videotape interview smuggled out of Southeast Asia within the past week, Khun Sa said high-ranking American officials were involved in drug trafficking between 1965 and at least 1979."

This three-hour videotape was made by retired Army Green Beret Lt. Colonel James "Bo" Gritz and then smuggled out of Burma.Link
Frankly, we cannot vouch for the veracity of the drug dealing allegations - Armitage has certainly not been found guilty in a court of law. However for Blair to give this guy an award given what we know about his PNAC connections and his Iran-Contra scandal involvement is another indicator of just what sort of man our PM is - the sooner he is interviewed by the corruption police - hopefully under caution - the better. With luck that might be the beginning of the end for him - and he can gracefully retire [in ignominy].

Saddam not the only destroyer of Iraqi farms

bbcnews: Prosecutors at Saddam Hussein's trial have played a recording said to be of a phone call in which Saddam discussed a crackdown on Shia with a co-defendant.

During the call, the ousted leader allegedly discussed the destruction of farmland in Dujail with former Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan Read more

db: Well that's a barbarian act is it not? Destroying farms - and with it the livelihoods of the families that rely on the income they generate. Saddam is a BAD MAN......

But wait a minute....lets zoom that jpg a little

Saddam, like the USA, destroyed farms in Iraq to punish

Transparency International Dossier lists cash-for-peerages 'crimes'

telegraph: More than seven separate criminal offences - including bribery and conspiracy to defraud - may have been committed by the leading players in the "cash-for-peerages" affair.

The world's leading anti-corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI), has sent a detailed dossier to John Yates, Scotland Yard's Deputy Assistant Commissioner, who is heading the inquiry into the funding of the Labour and Conservative parties.

The eight-page document, compiled by the British branch of TI, signals that the police investigation could be wider and have far more serious consequences than has so far been suggested.

The possible criminal offences that TI UK suggests may have been committed - after a detailed legal analysis of the reported facts of the affair - are bribery, two separate counts of obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception, false accounting, conspiracy to defraud, fraudulent trading, and offences under the Competition and Enterprise Act.

Up to now, police had been expected to concentrate their inquiries on whether the 1925 Honours Act or the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 had been broken.

TI UK's submission also presents 51 questions that it believes should be asked by police - covering everything from the terms of the loans taken out by Labour and the Tories, to nominations for peerages, the awarding of Government contracts, and planning decisions.

The questions also seek to discover which senior politicians knew about secret loans - totalling £14 million for Labour and £20 million for the Conservatives.

Neill Stansbury, project director for TI UK, a non-government organisation that gets £1 million a year funding from the Department for International Development, said: "The UK has a very chequered record of law enforcement on bribery and corruption.

"The government tends to talk big at international conferences, such as the G8, on the need to tackle worldwide corruption, but it does nothing." Read more

db: Time to harry, hassle and hound Blair out of Britain:
...The prime minister has accused some MPs of all parties of being out of touch with voters on law and order.

Tony Blair told the Observer he wanted to "harry, hassle and hound" criminals into giving up - or leaving Britain. Link

Tycoons tell Labour: pay us back now

times: Two businessmen have demanded immediate repayment of their secret loans to Labour, threatening financial crisis for the party.

The formal demands, for a sum totalling at least £1.5m, will necessitate a fire sale of the party's London headquarters to pay the debts.

The "loans-for-honours" scandal now threatens to derail the party's campaign for next month's local elections. Labour has a slender lead in the latest poll, with support at 35%, ahead of the Conservatives at 33% and the Lib Dems at 17%.

This weekend, speaking from his home in Monaco, Gordon Crawford, a computing tycoon whose wealth is estimated at £95m, said he had formally notified the Labour party that his £500,000 loan must now be repaid with interest. The interest, charged at 6.5%, is thought to add a further £32,500 to Labour's debt. "The money was a commercial loan and it has already reached the end of its term," he said. "Last month, I notified the party that it will be repaid. We are now in the period where it is due."

The identity of the second man demanding repayment is not known. However, it is thought to be Nigel Morris, the American-based founder of the Capital One financial services group, who lent the party £1m. He was unavailable for comment last week.

A further two of the 12 businessmen who lent Labour a total of almost £14m are also expected to demand that their money is repaid later in the year, although the party has yet to be formally notified. In total, Labour will therefore have to find at least £3.5m by October.

Sir Christopher Evans, the biotech tycoon, said this weekend that he would be demanding the repayment of his £1m loan "this summer". Rod Aldridge, the outgoing chairman of Capita, an outsourcing company, said he is to ask for his £1m loan, plus interest, to be repaid in October.

Labour is also expecting to repay a £2m loan to Lord Sainsbury, the science minister, in July. However, sources said he was preparing to make a sizable donation to compensate for the loan repayment.

Since the start of the year, the party has struggled to attract donations from wealthy individuals. It is thought to have landed only one six-figure donation, of £250,000 in January. The Tories, by contrast, raised £6.2m from backers between January and March.

The repayment demands have shocked Labour, which initially assumed that most of the money would be written off. One Labour source told The Sunday Times last month: "The clear intention with the loans was that they should not be paid back - at least not until Blair was no longer leader."

However, yesterday a source said: "It is now clear most of them [the lenders] are going to have their money back. They are already calling the loans in." The only lenders said to have indicated to the party that they will extend the terms of their loans are the four men put forward for peerages - Sir David Garrard, Sir Gulam Noon, Barry Townsley and Chai Patel. Their nominations were blocked by the House of Lords Appointments Commission which vets potential peers.

On Friday, Lord Heseltine, the Tory former deputy prime minister, described the loans-for-honours scandal as "one of the most corrupt situations" he had seen in his political lifetime. Transparency International, an anti-corruption watchdog, has sent a dossier to Scotland Yard claiming that more than seven separate offences, including bribery and conspiracy to defraud, may have been committed by party officials in the scandal. Read more

Transcript: Bin Laden accuses West

Like most of Bin Laden's messages the latest is not completely free of reason. This is not a mad man. Taking 5000 of Bush's words it is unlikely that a visitor from another galaxy would see much more of what could be termed plausible than in 5000 of Bin Laden's. Maybe less. Both men are extremists. They both claim a God given right to kill civilians [although only Bush currently appears to be seriously contemplating using nuclear weapons]

One difference however; my guess is that at some point in the past Bin Laden might have been a reasonable human being. Bush on the other hand was born bad. They deserve each other. It's a pity we can't let them fight it out privately, somewhere a long way away.

Transcript from Al

Sunday, April 23, 2006

"US officials said" - "US authorities believe"

Yes alright you've read this already - oh, the shame of posting a month old article. We missed it way, way back in March - and it is so 'good' we will post it, regardless of consequences.
[Mail me and I will refund your subscription].

Robert Fisk: The farcical end of the American dream

The US press is supposed to be challenging the lies of this war

It is a bright winter morning and I am sipping my first coffee of the day in Los Angeles. My eye moves like a radar beam over the front page of the Los Angeles Times for the word that dominates the minds of all Middle East correspondents: Iraq. In post-invasion, post-Judith Miller mode, the American press is supposed to be challenging the lies of this war. So the story beneath the headline "In a Battle of Wits, Iraq's Insurgency Mastermind Stays a Step Ahead of US" deserves to be read. Or does it?

Datelined Washington - an odd city in which to learn about Iraq, you might think - its opening paragraph reads: "Despite the recent arrest of one of his would-be suicide bombers in Jordan and some top aides in Iraq, insurgency mastermind Abu Musab Zarqawi has eluded capture, US authorities say, because his network has a much better intelligence-gathering operation than they do."

Now quite apart from the fact that many Iraqis - along, I have to admit, with myself - have grave doubts about whether Zarqawi exists, and that al-Qai'da's Zarqawi, if he does exist, does not merit the title of "insurgency mastermind", the words that caught my eye were "US authorities say". And as I read through the report, I note how the Los Angeles Times sources this extraordinary tale. I thought American reporters no longer trusted the US administration, not after the mythical weapons of mass destruction and the equally mythical connections between Saddam and the international crimes against humanity of 11 September 2001. Of course, I was wrong.

Here are the sources - on pages one and 10 for the yarn spun by reporters Josh Meyer and Mark Mazzetti: "US officials said", "said one US Justice Department counter-terrorism official", "Officials ... said", "those officials said", "the officials confirmed", "American officials complained", "the US officials stressed", "US authorities believe", "said one senior US intelligence official", "US officials said", "Jordanian officials ... said" - here, at least is some light relief - "several US officials said", "the US officials said", "American officials said", "officials say", "say US officials", "US officials said", "one US counter-terrorism official said".

I do truly treasure this story. It proves my point that the Los Angeles Times - along with the big east coast dailies - should all be called US OFFICIALS SAY. But it's not just this fawning on political power that makes me despair. Let's move to a more recent example of what I can only call institutionalised racism in American reporting of Iraq. I have to thank reader Andrew Gorman for this gem, a January Associated Press report about the killing of an Iraqi prisoner under interrogation by US Chief Warrant Officer Lewis Welshofer Jnr.

Mr Welshofer, it transpired in court, had stuffed the Iraqi General Abed Hamed Mowhoush head-first into a sleeping bag and sat on his chest, an action which - not surprisingly - caused the general to expire. The military jury ordered - reader, hold your breath - a reprimand for Mr Welshofer, the forfeiting of $6,000 of his salary and confinement to barracks for 60 days. But what caught my eye was the sympathetic detail. Welshofer's wife's Barbara, the AP told us, "testified that she was worried about providing for their three children if her husband was sentenced to prison. 'I love him more for fighting this,' she said, tears welling up in her eyes. 'He's always said that you need to do the right thing, and sometimes the right thing is the hardest thing to do'".

Yes, I guess torture is tough on the torturer. But try this from the same report: "Earlier in the day ... Mr Welshofer fought back tears. 'I deeply apologise if my actions tarnish the soldiers serving in Iraq,' he said."

Note how the American killer's remorse is directed not towards his helpless and dead victim but to the honour of his fellow soldiers, even though an earlier hearing had revealed that some of his colleagues watched Welshofer stuffing the general into the sleeping bag and did nothing to stop him. An earlier AP report stated that "officials" - here we go again - "believed Mowhoush had information that would 'break the back of the insurgency'." Wow. The general knew all about 40,000 Iraqi insurgents. So what a good idea to stuff him upside down inside a sleeping bag and sit on his chest.

But the real scandal about these reports is we're not told anything about the general's family. Didn't he have a wife? I imagine the tears were "welling up in her eyes" when she was told her husband had been done to death. Didn't the general have children? Or parents? Or any loved ones who "fought back tears" when told of this vile deed? Not in the AP report he didn't. General Mowhoush comes across as an object, a dehumanised creature who wouldn't let the Americans "break the back" of the insurgency after being stuffed headfirst into a sleeping bag. Read more

US in Iraq: They're Staying

lewrockwell: The message is clear. Indeed, it's gigantic for all Iraqi's, for the entire world to see. A 100-acre compound - ten times the size of the typical U.S. embassy, the size of 80 football fields, six times larger than the UN, the size of Vatican City. The US Embassy Compound, in the middle of Baghdad - the center for US domination of the Middle East and its resources.

The compound towers above the Tigris River like a modern fortress. It will have its own sources of power and water and sit in the heart of Baghdad. If there is any thought that the US is planning on leaving Iraq, the new embassy should make it clear "We're staying!"

The growing skyline of the US embassy in Baghdad is only the most recent indication that the US has no intention of leaving. President Bush has already told us we're there until the end of his tenure. More important than words, building "permanent" military bases in Iraq re-enforces the message of the huge embassy. Read more

Attacks continue after new Iraqi PM appointed

Rocket attacks, blasts and the discovery of several bodies, apparently executed, around Iraq on Sunday underscored the challenges facing the prime minister-designate as he tries to form a government.

A rocket attack on a Baghdad parking lot killed at least seven people, the Ministry of Defence said.

Earlier, officials had described that as a mortar attack near the ministry, in the fortified Green Zone where Shi'ite leader Jawad al-Maliki was asked in parliament on Saturday to form the country's first full-term postwar government.

A roadside bomb killed three U.S. soldiers northwest of Baghdad and the bodies of sixth youths, with bullet wounds to the head, were found in a Sunni area of the capital.

Maliki has a month to form a cabinet sharing power among Shi'ites, Sunni Arabs and Kurds and his choices for key posts, such as interior minister, are seen as critical to uniting Iraqis, winning their trust and ending sectarian bloodshed.

But on the streets, Iraqis say choosing a prime minister and government is just the first step on a long road to peace and the reaction to the elevation of Maliki, a Shi'ite, appeared often split along sectarian lines. Read more

db: It will be interesting to see what the new US/UK rationale will be to explain the lack of progress in Iraq after the new government of 'national unity' has bedded down in the green zone.

Reid attempts to defend Blair's Afghan deployment

"I can tell you that stories that I have received a request for 600 additional troops from British commanders are absolutely and completely untrue and just in case there had been a request from any quarter which I had not yet received I clarified the position this morning with the commander of British forces here."

He said the role of the British forces in Helmand was fundamentally different to that of the US forces elsewhere in Afghanistan.

He said: "We are in the south to help and protect the Afghan people construct their own democracy.

"We would be perfectly happy to leave in three years and without firing one shot because our job is to protect the reconstruction."

The American mission was to "go and chase and kill the terrorists who did so much to destroy the Twin Towers in that terrible attack," he said. Read more

db: 'We will be happy if we leave in three years' [a realistic number?] 'without firing a single bullet'. When the Taliban, war lords, AQ et al. hear this news from Reid they will no doubt recognise the humanitarian nature of the British deployment and call off the suicide bombers, dig up the IED's, and invite the Brits into their homes for a cuppa tea and some nan bread.

Reid 'denied the number [of troops being sent] was not enough and said the task was to "help and protect" the Afghan people's reconstruction aim'. His logic seems to be that due to the nature of the mission - NOT chasing down the 'Twin Tower attackers' [!] - like the trigger happy yanks - but supporting the Afghan aim of reconstruction - we don't need the sort of numbers and equipment that a more aggresive type of mission would call for - as if 'the enemy' are going to be playing by the rules of cricket.

And a few words on that aim of reconstruction that the Brits are there to protect - from spiegel:
The situation in the country's south and southeast is already alarming. Despite the almost five-year-long, US-led campaign against the Taliban, the organization once again controls large portions of Pashtun provinces Nimruz, Oruzgan, Helmand, Kandahar and Paktika. There is virtually no sign of reconstruction in these areas, which still lack electricity and running water, paved roads, schools and hospitals. Aid organizations hardly ever venture into the region anymore.

"Where are the new roads, the irrigation systems and the jobs you promised us?" complains an elderly man wearing a large, white turban in a village near Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital of Helmand, a region that leads the world in opium production. He has a low opinion of Karzai and the West, and most in the village share his views. Disappointment with the status quo makes them all the more receptive to militant groups.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), $55 million have been invested in programs intended to shift farmers away from opium production in Helmand. But other than a couple projects which employ Afghans to perform manual labor in infrastructure development projects -- cleaning sewage canals for example -- the programs have been virtually ineffective. For many farmers, switching crops doesn't make financial sense. Others are forced by the Taliban to continue growing poppies.

The Taliban has forged an alliance with the drug mafia that could quickly jeopardize the West's reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. To ensure that farmers are able to continue cultivating their poppy fields, the Taliban has hired warlords and drug dealers to serve as a sort of security service against foreign military personnel. The income generated from opium production helps the Taliban and al-Qaida pay for weapons and vehicles, and drug dollars are apparently even being used to compensate the families of suicide bombers.Read more

The UK deployment to Afghanistan
- House of Commons Defence Committee Report April '06
Where's the Afghan plan?

Afghanistan: "Hiding the truth" to protect Blair

sundaytimes: Army pleads for more troops after Afghanistan firefight

Military commanders have demanded an extra 600 British troops for Afghanistan after a series of suicide bombings and a firefight against hundreds of Taliban.

Officers have also warned that unless restrictions are relaxed on when soldiers can open fire the Taliban may inflict major losses.

Commanders complain that John Reid, the defence secretary, has tried to prevent news of attacks coming out and that they cannot make even the most minor military decision without referring it to his office for approval. So far, actions in southern Afghanistan have left at least five soldiers wounded, two seriously.

"The government is hiding the truth from the public," one senior officer said last week. "I am sure they believe that if Afghanistan turns sour it will bring down the prime minister.

"If they don't send more troops than the single battle-group that is going now, and allow them to do their job properly by giving them robust rules of engagement, then I can pretty much guarantee it will turn sour." Read more

Foreign Office lawyers: Bush Iran attack would be illegal

sundayherald: Foreign Office lawyers have formally advised Jack Straw that it would be illegal under international law for Britain to support any US-led military action against Iran.

The advice given to the Foreign Secretary in the last few weeks is thought to have prompted his open criticism last week of Tony Blair's backing for President George Bush, who has refused to rule out military action against the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

In the run-up to the Iraq invasion in 2003, Straw received similar private advice from senior Foreign Office lawyers who had also advised the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, on the illegality of an invasion without the express authority of the United Nations Security Council.

The Foreign Office's deputy legal adviser, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, later resigned when the attorney general reversed his initial view on the war's legality.

Sources within the Foreign Office say there is an express desire that this time their legal advice is heard and acted upon.

A source close to Straw told the Sunday Herald: "There is now a clear paper trail of legal advice."

Straw last week passed on the legal advice to some of his cabinet colleagues after Blair effectively backed the White House view that military action could not be ruled out.

Although the Prime Minister claimed any other option would be a "message of weakness", Straw said it would be "inconceivable" that Britain would support a military strike against Tehran.

The Foreign Office's lawyers have gone further than merely advising on the legality of military assistance. It is thought their advice stretched to the use of British military advisers, UK airspace and even the dangers of Tony Blair expressing support which could be taken as legitimising a US-led attack without the express authority of the United Nations. Read more