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

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Chavez and the Two Americas

alarab: The Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, still stands an obstacle in front of the advancement of the American interests in Latin America. Since he came to power, he has been like that; this man harbours great hatred for the US policies on the American continent. The American Administration counters that with even stronger hatred.

Chavez, the foremost anti-American inciter, stands behind all developments that do not, of course, please the USA. One of these is the recent nationalisation of the Bolivian gas and oil industries; in fact, it could be claimed that the accusations directed to Chavez with regard to this very issue are greater than those directed to the Bolivian President, the actual responsible person for the nationalisation of his country's oil and gas.

Chavez represents a model of new presidents in Latin America. In one act, he managed to get closer to the native people, and thus distance himself away from the USA. In this respect, this man gave land contracts to many indigenous groups on the occasion of the anniversary of America's discovery. 3,000 people benefited from this presidential distribution of land. At the same time, Hugo Chavez issued an expulsion order against the American Anglican missionaries, whom he viewed as intruders wanting to establish an imperialist culture.

In fact, it was not the first time that the Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, had distributed land to the native people of the American continent; he had recognised the ownership of 127,000 acres of land for six indigenous groups from the east of Venezuela. "We try to establish justice", commented Chavez on that occasion. According to him, defending 300,000 Venezuelan people is a priority, and he said that only now can we say that they have a homeland.

Hence, the conflict has been running for a long time without managing to initiate a dialogue that could bring the two nations closer. Since then, the USA has been trying hard to get rid of Chavez, while he tries to get rid of the American influence on the whole Latin American continent. Almost everyday, each side makes statements or takes measures. The latest of these is the American decision prohibiting the exportation of arms to Venezuela; on the other hand, in a press conference with London's Mayor, Ken Livingston, the Venezuelan President accused George Bush of committing genocide crimes, and he asked the International Criminal Court to imprison him.

Chavez had earlier accused Bush's Administration of seeking to take possession of the world's energy, which is according to him the true reason behind waging the war alleged to be anti-terrorism. It is in fact an attempt to dominate countries that have oil and other natural wealth. Link

[If you are a Firefox user note that Alarab online needs you to switch to IE - get IE View and this can be done via 'right click']

Blair,Bush: Ayoon Wa Azan (The Ongoing Countdown)

daral-hayat: Italian television broadcasted a documentary** last November charging the US forces with using white phosphorus rounds, a chemical weapon, in the Fallujah battle. The 30-mn film triggered then a huge controversy.

The opening shots of the documentary showed Vietnamese children who had been burnt by US napalm shells in 1972. These shots recurred to me when I heard about the US probe into the massacre of Haditha, where 24 Iraqi civilians, including women and six children, were shot dead by US Marines. Many newspapers in the US have compared the Iraqi massacre this time with Vietnam's My Lai massacre (there is no room here to review the latest civilian killings in Afghanistan).

The US forces used white phosphorus rounds in November 2004 and in the Haditha massacre in November 2005; They may be planning for a new massacre next November to coincide with the midterm elections in the US.

The Americans have officially denied using phosphorus rounds and dismissed the Italian film as erroneous. However, 'bloggers' were able to provide, as proof, a US military journal citing US officers, soldiers and British Col. Tim Collins, leaving no room for authorities to stick to their denial.

The official US version of the Haditha crime, as outlined by a US army sergeant, was that the Iraqi civilians were killed in an explosion and that the troops had entered the houses in search of militants who had shot at them. However, a probe by the Criminal Investigation Service showed that the Marines had avenged the death of one of their colleagues in a roadside bomb by killing Iraqi civilians in a five-hour operation that was more than just random shooting. There are eyewitnesses of the crime who have very painful versions of what happened. Their testimonies are available at more credible US sources.

Transatlantic media has given the massacre as much attention as it had given a joint press conference of President George Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, where tens of news items and comments were written at the time; but the story of the massacre soon eclipsed the joint conference.

US and British press have criticized what Bush and Blair said, and there is a point which I consider the basis of the whole issue. The two allies admitted they have made mistakes in Iraq. Bush listed among his mistakes his "tough talk" to the insurgents and his "wanted dead or alive" taunt to Osama bin Laden. Meanwhile, Blair conceded that dismantling the army and barring members of the Ba'ath Party from the Iraqi government were major mistakes. The media 'swallowed' the speeches of Bush and Blair as it was their first joint news conference in which they admitted making mistakes in Iraq.

Had they really made 'mistakes' there would not have been any crime committed, as we all make mistakes sometimes. But they have lied about their reasons for going to war, which is a major crime. Assuming that Bush is ignorant, uninformed and unable to be taught, we cannot make the same assumption about Blair who is very intelligent and cannot claim to have been cheated. The war was based on fake reasons that were sexed up or entirely fabricated. According to Britain's Lancet Medical Journal, 100,000 Iraqis have been killed in this war.

Almost every month, a report is leaked or a former official comes up with evidence that the war on Iraq was fabricated and that traditional intelligence agencies failed to provide evidence that Iraq possessed any weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Accordingly, the cabal had to establish alternative agencies and fake evidence relying on false reports that Saddam Hussein had been trying to acquire uranium from Niger. Furthermore, fearing failure, the US and Britain did not refer the issue to the Security Council to issue a resolution that would authorize going to war. They insisted that previous resolutions were sufficient enough. At the time, we also heard that some lawyers had made up legal pretexts and others were forced to say that the war was legitimate.

It is not enough for Bush and Blair to admit their mistakes and, definitely, neither is their apology, which has not been issued yet. It will not bring back victims, alleviate the ordeal of their families or reconstruct the country.

The information we have is enough to refer Bush and Blair to the International War Crimes Tribunal to decide whether they had lied or merely erred. I have heard that British MP George Galloway has recently called for such a trial. I then thought of changing my mind because Galloway is too extreme in his views for me to agree with him. He was definitely wrong when he said that killing Blair was justified, as nothing justifies killing.

Bush now has two years and a few months left in his term of office. He may prefer to return to his Texas ranch to practice fishing, as he has said that his best moment since taking office was when he caught a big fish there. Meanwhile, Blair, who is smarter, as I have mentioned, has chosen to use his speech at Georgetown University as an opportunity to talk about reforming the UN, the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). His comments were seen by many observers as indicating that he may be aspiring for the UN presidency. Before Blair, Paul Wolfowitz was appointed President of the WB as a reward for leading the cabal of the war on Iraq. Some members of the gang went unpunished, while others moved to different posts. For example, John Bolton ended up becoming an ambassador to the UN despite the Senate. Only Lewis Libby has been indicted by a jury.

The whole cabal must stand trial, especially Vice President Dick Cheney, who may be betrayed by Libby, his former office manager, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Again, I cite one of their officials: Gen. John Batiste, who had served in Iraq, accused Rumsfeld of causing "unnecessary deaths" among US soldiers by committing "strategic blunders of enormous magnitude".

I hope they will all be tried. Even if a qualified court acquits any of them before trial, voters in the two countries have already realized that they were deceived. I know, however, that Bush and Blair's political careers have come to an end. Recent public opinion surveys have shown the deterioration of either's popularity at home. Voters say they have indeed lost all confidence in them, which means that whatever their reaction, it would be considered another lie or trick. The countdown for their departure is ongoing. Link

db: **This article references the video 'Hidden Massacre' - you can watch it here

Iraq: US kills two women, by 'mistake'

reuters: A joint Iraqi-U.S. security body said on Wednesday U.S. forces had killed "by mistake" two women who were en route to a maternity hospital north of Baghdad.

News of the deaths came a day after Iraq's prime minister told Reuters his patience was wearing thin with "excuses" from U.S. troops that they kill civilians by "mistake".

The U.S. military is also under pressure over revelations that U.S. Marines may have killed 24 civilians in the town of Haditha during an unprovoked attack last November.

An incident report by the joint body of the Iraqi army and U.S. forces in Salahaddin province said the two women were shot and killed in the small town of al-Mutasim on Tuesday.

A brief statement from the Joint Coordination Centre named them as Saleha Mohammed, 55, and Nabiha Nasif, 35.

"U.S. forces killed two women by mistake ... when they were heading to a maternity hospital in a taxi," it said, without specifying if either of the women was pregnant. Read more

Countless My Lai Massacres in Iraq

Dahr Jamail

The media feeding frenzy around what has been referred to as "Iraq's My Lai" has become frenetic. Focus on US Marines slaughtering at least 20 civilians in Haditha last November is reminiscent of the media spasm around the "scandal" of Abu Ghraib during April and May 2004.

Yet just like Abu Ghraib, while the media spotlight shines squarely on the Haditha massacre, countless atrocities continue daily, conveniently out of the awareness of the general public. Torture did not stop simply because the media finally decided, albeit in horribly belated fashion, to cover the story, and the daily slaughter of Iraqi civilians by US forces and US-backed Iraqi "security" forces has not stopped either.

Earlier this month, I received a news release from Iraq, which read, "On Saturday, May 13th, 2006, at 10:00 p.m., US Forces accompanied by the Iraqi National Guard attacked the houses of Iraqi people in the Al-Latifya district south of Baghdad by an intensive helicopter shelling. This led the families to flee to the Al-Mazar and water canals to protect themselves from the fierce shelling. Then seven helicopters landed to pursue the families who fled ... and killed them. The number of victims amounted to more than 25 martyrs. US forces detained another six persons including two women named Israa Ahmed Hasan and Widad Ahmed Hasan, and a child named Huda Hitham Mohammed Hasan, whose father was killed during the shelling."

The report from the Iraqi NGO called The Monitoring Net of Human Rights in Iraq (MHRI) continued, "The forces didn't stop at this limit. They held an attack on May 15th, 2006, supported also by the Iraqi National Guards. They also attacked the families' houses, and arrested a number of them while others fled. US snipers then used the homes to target more Iraqis. The reason for this crime was due to the downing of a helicopter in an area close to where the forces held their attack."

The US military preferred to report the incident as an offensive where they killed 41 "insurgents," a line effectively parroted by much of the media. Read more

State of emergency in Basra, no word from Tuscany

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki declared Wednesday a month-long state of emergency in the southern city of Basra, vowing to confront troublemakers in the oil-rich city with "an iron fist."

Al-Maliki is visiting the southern Iraqi city, which had been relatively calm since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

However, violence blamed on sectarian tensions and fighting over control of the city's oil resources has erupted in recent weeks.

"We are hearing of security breaches which we fear may escalate and worsen," the prime minister said, according to a translation from the Associated Press.

"We shall hit with an iron fist the heads of the gangs or those who threaten security. And we shall request all security departments to draw an effective and quick plan to achieve security to a standard which would give citizens the feel of security." Link

db: Curfew in Kabul, State of Emergency in Basra, no comment from Blair who is currently on a 'working' [so he can get expenses] holiday. Weather in Tuscany is currently sunny, with a fifty per cent chance of rain.

Afghanistan: Americans used weapons against 'the mob' after crash

Ronald Neumann, the US ambassador in Kabul, was interviewed on BBC worldservice radio 'Newshour' program this lunchtime. He was not able to confirm or deny reports that US forces had fired into the crowd after a truck in their convoy ploughed into cars in Kabul two days ago - killing five people. He denied unsubstantiated reports that some of the US servicemen had appeared to be 'intoxicated' and blamed the accident on brake failure.

He also claimed that the media had overstated the anti-American nature of the subsequent protests. The cries of 'death to America' 'US out now' etc were 'not pervasive'. Regarding a motion in the Afghan Parliament for the Americans responsible for the deaths to be handed over to Afghan authorities he said that he 'doubts' that will happen.

Coalition spokesman Tom Collins has recently stated that 'the mob' "became increasingly hostile, throwing rocks and threatening US forces",

"There are indications that coalition soldiers did in fact use their weapons in self-defence," he said.

"Our initial investigations show that fire came from the crowd and our soldiers used their weapons to defend themselves," Collins repeated, adding it was not clear who had fired first.

He said it was too early to tell if the soldiers had shot into the crowd as well as above it. Witnesses said they saw gunfire from US soldiers kill four people.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Iraq: Insecurity update as of Tuesday 2150 GMT

Security = Freedom from risk or danger; safety.
Security = Freedom from doubt, anxiety, or fear; confidence.
Security = Something that gives or assures safety

Following are 'security' developments in Iraq as of Monday 30th May 21.44 GMT:

BAGHDAD - A soldier was killed by a bomb southeast of the Iraqi capital on Tuesday evening, a U.S. military spokesman said.

BAGHDAD - A car bomb killed at least 25 people and wounded 65 in the northern Baghdad district of Husaniya, police said.

HILLA - A suicide bomber in a car killed at least 12 people and wounded 36 near a car dealership, police said.

BAGHDAD - A bomb killed nine people and wounded 10 others in a bakery in eastern Baghdad, police sources said.

BAGHDAD - The bodies of two marines who went missing after their helicopter crashed on Saturday in western Iraq have been recovered, the U.S. military said on Tuesday.

MOSUL - A U.S. soldier was killed by small arms fire on Monday in the northern city of Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said on Tuesday.

BAGHDAD - Two women employees of the Ministry of Interior were killed and four policemen were wounded by a rocket which landed near the ministry, police said.

BAGHDAD - The bodies of three people were found in different districts of the capital, police said.

BAGHDAD - A police commando was killed and three were wounded when a roadside bomb went off near their patrol in southern Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - The Iraqi army arrested 31 suspects on Monday from the cities of Mosul and Tal Afar, north of Baghdad. They arrested three insurgents in Baghdad, the army said on Tuesday.

BAGHDAD - The Iraqi army said it arrested an insurgent who opened fire at guards at the Ministry of Transport, the army said.

SUWAYRA - The police killed three people with suspected links to al-Qaeda in Iraq on Monday near Suwayra, south of Baghdad, police said on Tuesday.

AZIZIYA - Two people from the Mehdi Army militia run by fiery Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr were wounded on Monday night during clashes with members from the Iraqi Accordance Front, a Sunni Arab Umbrella Group, in Aziziya, a small town between Baghdad and Kut, 170 km (105 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - Gunmen killed the preacher of a Sunni Mosque in the Shula district of the capital, police said.

SAMARRA - Gunmen killed two brothers on Monday night while they were walking in the street in the city of Samarra, 100 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, the Joint Coordination Centre run by the U.S. and Iraqi military, said.

TIKRIT - The U.S. forces arrested a former major general in Saddam Hussein's army along with his three sons in Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, the Joint Coordination Centre said.

BALAD - Gunmen kidnapped an employee of the Oil Protection Facility in Balad, 90 km (55 miles) north of Baghdad, the Joint Coordination Centre said.

TIKRIT - Gunmen wounded an Egyptian national while he was driving in his car in Tikrit, the Joint Coordination Centre said. [Reuters]

McGuinness 'million per cent certain' he is no spy

'Total and absolute rubbish - and hooey of the worst kind': Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness has rubbished claims that he worked as a British spy - insisting he was a 'million per cent certain' that no evidence could be produced to support the allegations. See Video @ C4 News [for limited time]

'Martin Ingram'will need to come up with some evidence soon. And if he does, British Security Forces will have a lot of explaining to do.

Also see UTV: No evidence for spy story: McGuinness

Cryptome: Martin McGuinness Again Called a British Spy

Numbers re competent Iraqi battalions now secret


..The mandatory quarterly report to Congress on Iraq depicted progress in forming U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces. But two officials who briefed reporters on the report refused to say how many Iraqi battalions could operate without U.S. help, beyond saying it was no longer zero.

..Lt. Gen. Gene Renuart, director for strategic plans and policy for the military's Joint Staff, said 71 Iraqi battalions could either take the lead in security operations with U.S. forces helping or operate and sustain themselves independently from U.S. forces.

Asked for specific numbers on how many could function independently, Renuart and Peter Rodman, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said that information was classified.

Reminded that he told reporters in February that the number was zero, Renuart said, "We have increased it substantially." Read more

db: Let's do the math ... substantial increase, say, 500% x zero [exisitng] = erm, zero.

Iraq: PM's patience wearing thin with US excuses for civilain deaths

reuters: Iraq's prime minister said on Tuesday his patience was wearing thin with excuses from U.S. troops that they kill civilians by "mistake" and said he would launch an investigation into killings at Haditha last year.

"There is a limit to the acceptable excuses. Yes a mistake may happen but there is an acceptable limit to mistakes," Nuri al-Maliki told Reuters when asked about a U.S. investigation into the deaths of 24 Iraqis in the western town last November.

"We are worried about the increase in 'mistakes'. I am not saying that they are intentional. But it is worrying for us," he said in an interview in his offices in Baghdad.

Newly confirmed as leader of Iraq's first full-term government since U.S. forces overthrew Saddam Hussein, Maliki has talked up the prospect of foreign troops leaving Iraq.

He said a timetable of 18 months he mentioned last week for Iraqi forces having overall control of the whole country could even be shorter if U.S.-led forces were serious about giving support and training to the new Iraqi army.

Their U.N. mandate expires in December and the government will have to negotiate the terms on which they stay. Maliki, a Shi'ite, seems keen to speak up for the concerns felt especially among minority Sunnis over U.S. tactics in their areas.

... Many Iraqis believe unjustified killings by U.S. troops are common, though few have been confirmed by investigations. The most common complaint is that troops open fire too hastily at checkpoints or when Iraqis approach their convoys too closely.

Maliki said his own government would probe not just Haditha but other cases: "We will ask for answers not only about Haditha but about any operation ... in which killing happened by mistake and we will hold those who did it responsible."

Noting a probe into the deaths of people in a U.S.-Iraqi raid on a Baghdad mosque in March, he added: "We will use our authority since we are responsible for protecting the Iraqi people, and we are elected by people ... Those who kill intentionally or through negligence should be tried."

Maliki said last week he believed Iraqi forces could be in overall control of its entire territory within 18 months, although U.S. and other troops are expected to remain to provide emergency firepower for some considerable time beyond that.

Maliki said on Tuesday that the 18-month timeframe could be even shorter, however: "We may not need it ... because the structure is there. But what we need is seriousness is supporting the building of forces," he said.

"If the multinational forces made an effort to support and develop our forces, I think the timetable will be shorter." Link

Blair set to blow millions on military IT interoperability with US?

Whilst British troops in Iraq patrol in useless Land Rover 'snatch' vehicles

Accompanying the recent announcement from the US - which was made during Blair's latest mission to Washington - of an agreement in principle that "the United Kingdom will have the ability to operate, upgrade, employ and maintain the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter 'such that the U.K. retains operational sovereignty over the aircraft,' " was the following:
"The two leaders are pleased to announce that the United States and United Kingdom recently signed an agreement that allows appropriately cleared British and U.S. personnel to use the same computer network to access military and intelligence information and other planning tools to support joint military operations in the defense of freedom"
Whilst there may well be some champagne corks popping on account of the above apparent cave-in on the part of the US in relation to the sharing of JSF technology - the paragraph referring to an agreement to 'use the same computer network' to access information relating to joint military operations 'in the defence of freedom' seems to potentially give up more in terms of independence than we have gained in relation to one fighter aircraft.

It would be nice if Blair saw fit to make parliament aware of more details concerning this sharing of military and intelligence information relating to 'the defence of freedom' - with perhaps a clearer definition - 'the defence of freedom' is childlike bushspeak. Also, will this mean that millions more pounds are going to be spent on US computer systems 'and other planning tools' in the name of that famous scam 'interoperability'? Whilst British troops continue to patrol Basra in Land Rover 'snatch' vehicles?

We are told that you can buy 80 odd armoured Pinzgauers from the Austrian manufacturer for around 30 million quid. What will be the cost of sharing our data relating to the so-called 'defence of freedom'?

Noam Chomsky: Why it's over for America


An inability to protect its citizens. The belief that it is above the law. A lack of democracy. Three defining characteristics of the 'failed state'. And that, says Noam Chomsky, is exactly what the US is becoming. In an exclusive extract from his
devastating new book, America's leading thinker explains how his country lost its way

The selection of issues that should rank high on the agenda of concern for human welfare and rights is, naturally, a subjective matter. But there are a few choices that seem unavoidable, because they bear so directly on the prospects for decent survival. Among them are at least these three: nuclear war, environmental disaster, and the fact that the government of the world's leading power is acting in ways that increase the likelihood of these catastrophes. It is important to stress the government, because the population, not surprisingly, does not agree.

That brings up a fourth issue that should deeply concern Americans, and the world: the sharp divide between public opinion and public policy, one of the reasons for the fear, which cannot casually be put aside, that, as Gar Alperowitz puts it in America Beyond Capitalism, "the American 'system' as a whole is in real trouble - that it is heading in a direction that spells the end of its historic values [of] equality, liberty, and meaningful democracy".

The "system" is coming to have some of the features of failed states, to adopt a currently fashionable notion that is conventionally applied to states regarded as potential threats to our security (like Iraq) or as needing our intervention to rescue the population from severe internal threats (like Haiti). Though the concept is recognised to be, according to the journal Foreign Affairs, "frustratingly imprecise", some of the primary characteristics of failed states can be identified. One is their inability or unwillingness to protect their citizens from violence and perhaps even destruction. Another is their tendency to regard themselves as beyond the reach of domestic or international law, and hence free to carry out aggression and violence. And if they have democratic forms, they suffer from a serious "democratic deficit" that deprives their formal democratic institutions of real substance.

Among the hardest tasks that anyone can undertake, and one of the most important, is to look honestly in the mirror. If we allow ourselves to do so, we should have little difficulty in finding the characteristics of "failed states" right at home.

No one familiar with history should be surprised that the growing democratic deficit in the United States is accompanied by declaration of messianic missions to bring democracy to a suffering world. Declarations of noble intent by systems of power are rarely complete fabrication, and the same is true in this case. Under some conditions, forms of democracy are indeed acceptable. Abroad, as the leading scholar-advocate of "democracy promotion" concludes, we find a "strong line of continuity": democracy is acceptable if and only if it is consistent with strategic and economic interests (Thomas Carothers). In modified form, the doctrine holds at home as well.

The basic dilemma facing policymakers is sometimes candidly recognised at the dovish liberal extreme of the spectrum, for example, by Robert Pastor, President Carter's national security adviser for Latin America. He explained why the administration had to support the murderous and corrupt Somoza regime in Nicaragua, and, when that proved impossible, to try at least to maintain the US-trained National Guard even as it was massacring the population "with a brutality a nation usually reserves for its enemy", killing some 40,000 people. The reason was the familiar one: "The United States did not want to control Nicaragua or the other nations of the region, but it also did not want developments to get out of control. It wanted Nicaraguans to act independently, except when doing so would affect US interests adversely."

Similar dilemmas faced Bush administration planners after their invasion of Iraq. They want Iraqis "to act independently, except when doing so would affect US interests adversely". Iraq must therefore be sovereign and democratic, but within limits. It must somehow be constructed as an obedient client state, much in the manner of the traditional order in Central America. At a general level, the pattern is familiar, reaching to the opposite extreme of institutional structures. The Kremlin was able to maintain satellites that were run by domestic political and military forces, with the iron fist poised. Germany was able to do much the same in occupied Europe even while it was at war, as did fascist Japan in Man-churia (its Manchukuo). Fascist Italy achieved similar results in North Africa while carrying out virtual genocide that in no way harmed its favourable image in the West and possibly inspired Hitler. Traditional imperial and neocolonial systems illustrate many variations on similar themes.

To achieve the traditional goals in Iraq has proven to be surprisingly difficult, despite unusually favourable circumstances. The dilemma of combining a measure of independence with firm control arose in a stark form not long after the invasion, as mass non-violent resistance compelled the invaders to accept far more Iraqi initiative than they had anticipated. The outcome even evoked the nightmarish prospect of a more or less democratic and sovereign Iraq taking its place in a loose Shiite alliance comprising Iran, Shiite Iraq, and possibly the nearby Shiite-dominated regions of Saudi Arabia, controlling most of the world's oil and independent of Washington.

The situation could get worse. Iran might give up on hopes that Europe could become independent of the United States, and turn eastward. Highly relevant background is discussed by Selig Harrison, a leading specialist on these topics. "The nuclear negotiations between Iran and the European Union were based on a bargain that the EU, held back by the US, has failed to honour," Harrison observes.

"The bargain was that Iran would suspend uranium enrichment, and the EU would undertake security guarantees. The language of the joint declaration was "unambiguous. 'A mutually acceptable agreement,' it said, would not only provide 'objective guarantees' that Iran's nuclear programme is 'exclusively for peaceful purposes' but would 'equally provide firm commitments on security issues.'"

The phrase "security issues" is a thinly veiled reference to the threats by the United States and Israel to bomb Iran, and preparations to do so. The model regularly adduced is Israel's bombing of Iraq's Osirak reactor in 1981, which appears to have initiated Saddam's nuclear weapons programs, another demonstration that violence tends to elicit violence. Any attempt to execute similar plans against Iran could lead to immediate violence, as is surely understood in Washington. During a visit to Tehran, the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr warned that his militia would defend Iran in the case of any attack, "one of the strongest signs yet", the Washington Post reported, "that Iraq could become a battleground in any Western conflict with Iran, raising the spectre of Iraqi Shiite militias - or perhaps even the US-trained Shiite-dominated military - taking on American troops here in sympathy with Iran." The Sadrist bloc, which registered substantial gains in the December 2005 elections, may soon become the most powerful single political force in Iraq. It is consciously pursuing the model of other successful Islamist groups, such as Hamas in Palestine, combining strong resistance to military occupation with grassroots social organising and service to the poor.

Washington's unwillingness to allow regional security issues to be considered is nothing new. It has also arisen repeatedly in the confrontation with Iraq. In the background is the matter of Israeli nuclear weapons, a topic that Washington bars from international consideration. Beyond that lurks what Harrison rightly describes as "the central problem facing the global non-proliferation regime": the failure of the nuclear states to live up to their nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) obligation "to phase out their own nuclear weapons" - and, in Washington's case, formal rejection of the obligation.

Unlike Europe, China refuses to be intimidated by Washington, a primary reason for the growing fear of China on the part of US planners. Much of Iran's oil already goes to China, and China is providing Iran with weapons, presumably considered a deterrent to US threats. Still more uncomfortable for Washington is the fact that, according to the Financial Times, "the Sino-Saudi relationship has developed dramatically", including Chinese military aid to Saudi Arabia and gas exploration rights for China. By 2005, Saudi Arabia provided about 17 per cent of China's oil imports. Chinese and Saudi oil companies have signed deals for drilling and construction of a huge refinery (with Exxon Mobil as a partner). A January 2006 visit by Saudi king Abdullah to Beijing was expected to lead to a Sino-Saudi memorandum of understanding calling for "increased cooperation and investment between the two countries in oil, natural gas, and minerals".

Indian analyst Aijaz Ahmad observes that Iran could "emerge as the virtual linchpin in the making, over the next decade or so, of what China and Russia have come to regard as an absolutely indispensable Asian Energy Security Grid, for breaking Western control of the world's energy supplies and securing the great industrial revolution of Asia". South Korea and southeast Asian countries are likely to join, possibly Japan as well. A crucial question is how India will react. It rejected US pressures to withdraw from an oil pipeline deal with Iran. On the other hand, India joined the United States and the EU in voting for an anti-Iranian resolution at the IAEA, joining also in their hypocrisy, since India rejects the NPT regime to which Iran, so far, appears to be largely conforming. Ahmad reports that India may have secretly reversed its stand under Iranian threats to terminate a $20bn gas deal. Washington later warned India that its "nuclear deal with the US could be ditched" if India did not go along with US demands, eliciting a sharp rejoinder from the Indian foreign ministry and an evasive tempering of the warning by the US embassy.

The prospect that Europe and Asia might move toward greater independence has seriously troubled US planners since World War II, and concerns have significantly increased as the tripolar order has continued to evolve, along with new south-south interactions and rapidly growing EU engagement with China.

US intelligence has projected that the United States, while controlling Middle East oil for the traditional reasons, will itself rely mainly on more stable Atlantic Basin resources (West Africa, western hemisphere). Control of Middle East oil is now far from a sure thing, and these expectations are also threatened by developments in the western hemisphere, accelerated by Bush administration policies that have left the United States remarkably isolated in the global arena. The Bush administration has even succeeded in alienating Canada, an impressive feat. Read more

My Lai...Haditha...and America's whitewashers

alarab: It was thirty-eight years ago that a platoon from Charlie Company (11th Brigade, Americal Division) commanded by a young Army lieutenant murdered hundreds of old men, women, and children in a small Vietnam village, presumably with the tacit approval of military higher-ups. A memorial later erected there by the Vietnamese lists 504 names as victims of the massacre, ranging in ages from 1 to 82.

My Lai had its victims, a gruesome display at par with the worst incidents that have come to light in the last century. It also had its gang of perpetrators; soldiers under the command of Lt. William Calley. And it even had four heroes; three from a helicopter crew (Thompson, Colburn and Andreotta) who saved the lives of a few villagers; and a man in Calley's platoon whose conscience would not permit him to take part in the massacre (Bernhardt). But beyond heroes and villains, for the next few years My Lai would also have a never-ending series of whitewashers, who in good conscience must also be considered choice or by default.

The whitewashers came in all ranks of importance, from the anticipated ever-present military brass, that initiated and maintained the cover-up, to a host of politicians and people in leadership, all the way to the Commander-in-Chief, President Nixon in this case. The incredible bottom line to this holocaust was, however, that the only person found guilty for this carnage was Lt. Calley, who ended up serving 3 ½ years of "house arrest" in his quarters at Fort Benning, Georgia. The entire sordid affair became not just a national disgrace for which the country could do penance, but a monumental whitewash that to date Americans prefer not to talk about.

In a way, the enablers to the entire whitewash were the American public. Not only were the villains and whitewashers de facto exonerated, but the four heroes in the plot became their military comrades, and also to much of the population. Read more**

** If you use firefox you may need to revert to IE to get at this page - alarab is one of the few sites around that simply will not work with ff.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Is the Bush regime a sponsor of state terrorism?

Paul Craig Roberts - Counterpunch

The Evil Within

Is the Bush regime a sponsor of state terrorism?

A powerful case can be made that it is.

In the past three years the Bush Regime has murdered tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and an unknown number of Afghan ones.

US Marines, our finest and proudest military force, are under criminal investigation for breaking into Iraqi homes and murdering entire families. In an unprecedented event, General Michael Hagee, the Marine Corps commandant, has found it necessary to fly to Iraq to tell our best trained troops to stop murdering civilians.

General Hagee found it necessary to tell the U.S. Marines: "We do not employ force just for the sake of employing force. We use lethal force only when justified, proportional, and most importantly, lawful."

The war criminals in the Bush Regime have dismissed the murders as "collateral damage," but they are in fact murders. Otherwise, there would be no criminal investigations, and the Marine commandant would not be burdened with the embarrassment of having to fly to Iraq to lecture US Marines on the lawful use of force.

The criminal Bush Regime has now murdered more Iraqis than Saddam Hussen. The Bush Regime is also responsible for 20,000 US casualties (dead, maimed for life, and wounded).

Bush damns the "axis of evil." But who has the "axis of evil" attacked? Iran has attacked no one. North Korea has attacked no country for more than a half century. Iraq attacked Kuiwait a decade and a half ago, apparently after securing permission from the US ambassador.

Isn't the real axis of evil Bush-Blair-Olmert? Bush and Blair have attacked two countries, slaughtering their citizens. Olmert is urging them on to attack a third country--Iran.

Where does the danger to the world reside? In Iran, a small religious country where the family is intact and the government is constrained by religious authority and ancient traditions, or in the US where propaganda rules and the powerful executive branch has removed itself from accountability by breaking the constitutional restraints on its power?

Why is the US superpower orchestrating fear of puny Iran? Read more

Basra in "grave danger"

azzaman: Security conditions in Basra are deteriorating with the new government losing power over much of the country.

Basra was relatively quiet as it had its police and security forces in place earlier than other cities in the south.

But the local security forces have become inept in the face of the growing influence of militias.

Analysts believe that conditions are now as worse in Basra as any other city within the so-called Sunni Triangle, the stronghold of anti-U.S. resistance.

The analysts say the situation is worsening in much of the south but Basra is the key to the stability of the region and the country at large.

Iraq's most prolific oil wells are situated within the provincial borders. These wells currently produce most of Iraq's oil output and make the bulk of its oil exports.

Iraq's wrangling factions, aware of Basra's strategic position as the country's principal oil producer, have built up strong militia forces and infiltrated government and police ranks in the city.

The region of Basra sits on more than 60% of the country's proven oil reserves estimated to be the second largest in the world after those of Saudi Arabia.

British forces in the area exercise almost no influence with both the militias and the local government.

Residents say the Brits prefer to stay in their barracks and those venturing out fear for their safety amid rising popular anger at their presence there.

The various militia groups of the Shiite political factions are said to have divided the region into separate spheres of influence.

Some factions are so strong that they can bring the area's oil industry to a halt, analysts say.

"The situation is volatile in Basra," declared President Jalal Talabani.

He also cited Baghdad, Diyala to the east and Anbar to the west as major flash points.

But the analysts say conditions fare no better in the northern oil rich cities of Kirkuk and Mosul.

Following a fact-finding mission to Basra, Adel Abdulmahdi, a vice-president, said: "The administrative, political and security aspects there (Basra) are in grave danger."

He said the government has drawn up what he called "political, administrative and security solutions" to deal with the situation in Basra.

But analysts say with the British forces avoiding as much as possible contact with the militias and the population at large, it will be almost impossible for the government to restore some semblance of normalcy. Link

Afghanistan: Karzai blames 'agitators'

forbes: Afghan President Hamid Karzai appealed for calm, branding rioters "agitators" and saying in a national address that Afghans must stand against those who loot and destroy property.

"We will recognize as the enemy of Afghanistan these people who do these things," he said in the televised speech. "Again, you should stand up against these agitators and not let them destroy our country again."

...The unrest started after three U.S. Humvee vehicles coming into the city from the outskirts rammed into a rush-hour traffic jam, hitting several civilian cars [db:and killing Afghans], witnesses said.

...Afghans often complain about what they call the aggressive driving tactics of the U.S. military. Convoys often pass through crowded areas at high speed and sometimes disregard road rules. The U.S. military says such tactics are necessary to protect the troops from attack. Read more

db: Karzai knows which side his bread is buttered. Protect property NOW!

In Iraq few calls heard for justice after 24 killed

Knight Ridder

Disillusionment, fear behind silence

As a U.S. politician charged Sunday that U.S. Marines had killed 24 Iraqi civilians last fall and news reports seemed to support the claim, the story has not generated outrage in Iraq.

It didn't come up when Iraq's parliament met Sunday. The talking heads on Iraqi television issued no new calls for a U.S. troop withdrawal, as often happens after U.S. forces are seen to have made big mistakes. Local papers ran no stories about possible murder charges against some Marines allegedly involved in the Nov. 19 shootings.

Killings -- whether at the hands of U.S. soldiers, criminal gangs or militias -- have become everyday occurrences in Iraq, some residents explained. And the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, in which low-ranking U.S. troops suffered consequences, convinced many Iraqis that when it comes to U.S. military justice, top leaders can get away with crimes they orchestrate.

"I will not excuse murder, and that's what's happened," Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., said on ABC's "This Week" about the civilian killings, which occurred in the often-violent Sunni-dominated town of Haditha.

Murthada Abdel Rashid, 29, a Baghdad sandwich vendor, was beyond caring, however.

"I am not surprised by what happened in Haditha because Americans are terrorists and killers. And this is the way of life now," he said. "I don't care if they punish the American soldiers because they cannot bring back the lives of the dead."

Others called the parliament's silence a sign of the new Shi'ite-dominated government's indifference to civilian deaths, especially when the victims are Sunnis.

"The Iraqi politicians have failed in every way. The Shi'ite politicians have shown that they work for their own interests and their parties. The same thing is true for the Sunnis and Kurds. They do not think about the country," said Ali al Rubaie, a fabric storeowner in Baghdad. Read more

Haditha:"We do not know why we did not know" - Gen. Pace

Charges will be brought against U.S. Marines if an investigation into the alleged killing of unarmed Iraqi civilians uncovers wrongdoing, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff said on Monday.

Marine Gen. Peter Pace also told CNN that he still did not know why it had taken nearly three months for the Pentagon to find out about the Nov. 19 incident in the Iraqi town of Haditha, in which up to 24 civilians were killed.

"If the allegations as they are being portrayed in the newspapers turn out to be valid, then of course there'll be charges," Pace, the highest ranking U.S. military officer and primary military advisor to the president and defense secretary, said.

Pace said the Pentagon had not found out about the incident until Feb 10.

"We do not know yet why we did not know," he said. Read more

Iraq: In Haditha, Memories of a Massacre

Iraq: Insecurity update as of Monday 1230 GMT

Security = Freedom from risk or danger; safety.
Security = Freedom from doubt, anxiety, or fear; confidence.
Security = Something that gives or assures safety

Following are 'security' developments in Iraq as of Monday 29th May 1230 GMT:

BAGHDAD - At least eight people were killed and nine were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in the Shi'ite Kadhimiya district of northwestern Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - Twelve people were killed and 24 were wounded when a car bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol detonated in Adhamiya district, northern Baghdad, police said. Most of the victims were students from a nearby university.

BAGHDAD - A car bomb exploded near the Abu Hanifa Sunni mosque in Adhamiya, northern Baghdad, killing five people and wounding seven, police said. Following the attack, clashes erupted between insurgents and the Iraqi army in the area.

BAGHDAD - A car bomb targeting a police patrol exploded in Karrada district, central Baghdad, killing one person and wounding four people, police said.

BAGHDAD - Gunmen shot at a police patrol in the Yarmouk district, west-central Baghdad, killing three policemen, a police source said.

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb exploded in the central Karrada district of the capital, killing one person and wounding two others.

KHALIS - Eleven people were killed and 16 were wounded when a bomb planted inside a bus exploded in the small town of Khalis, 80 km (60 miles) north of Baghdad, police said. Khalis is near the city of Baquba.

BAGHDAD - One person was killed and two others wounded when a roadside bomb went off near a minibus in southwestern Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD - One policeman was killed and two others were wounded when a roadside bomb went off near their patrol in central Baghdad, police said.

NEAR DUJAIL - Gunmen opened fire at an army checkpoint on Saturday, killing one soldier and wounding two others near the town of Dujail, 90 km north of Baghdad, the U.S/Iraqi Joint Coordination Centre said on Sunday.

BASRA - Two British soldiers have been killed in a suspected road side bomb attack in Basra, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence in London said on Monday. The incident occurred on Sunday evening. [Reuters]

Iraq: Sixty attacks a month on Brits as 1,000 soldiers go Awol

independent: British forces in Iraq have been attacked by insurgents nearly 60 times a month since the start of the year. The new figure, covering the first four months of 2006, is a 26 per cent increase on 2005.

The sharp increase is expected to prompt more calls for the troops to be pulled out quickly rather than staying on in the hope that the violence can be controlled.

The revelation coincides with a report, denied by the Ministry of Defence, of a sharp increase in the number of British soldiers who have been absent without leave for more than a month and who may have deserted to escape the long running Iraq conflict. The BBC reported that more than 1,000 soldiers have gone awol for more than 30 days since Iraq was invaded in 2003, and that about 900 have not been found. In 2005, 377 went Awol and are still missing. Read more

db: AWIL - At War Illegally Led

Iraq: More British troops die in useless Landrovers

timesonline: Two British soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq last night, the Ministry of Defence said today.

The men, members of the Queen's Dragoon Guards, were on a routine patrol in the north-west of Basra when their armoured Land Rover was hit by the homemade device at 9.30pm local time (1830 BST).

Two other British troops were injured in the blast which is the latest in an upsurge of violence against British forces in the port city. Their deaths bring the number of British personnel killed in the area to nine this month, and 113 since the invasion of March 2003. Read more

db: 'Armoured Landrover'? See Iraq: More Brit soldiers die in Land Rover - scroll to bottom of page for details of what real armoured vehicles look like. Soldiers die in Iraq because the UK sends them on patrol in 'snatch vehicles' - offering composite glass fibre 'protection'.

If this is not the case - if the Land Rovers have been upgraded since we first started banging on about these vehicles - then please tell us MoD [regular visitors] and we will post - or email in confidence - see sidebar.... and whilst you are at it you may like to comment on this: Iraq: Australians reject inferior British body armour

[Of course we won't hear anything].

Afghanistan: U.S. Fires into crowd - picture - UPDATE

This is not our description but, incredibly, AP's - WHO HAD PEOPLE AT THE SCENE - see full ap description below:

A U.S. Hummer, in the background, opens fire into the crowd of protesters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, May 29, 2006 in this image made from televisi[sic]

A U.S. Hummer, in the background, opens fire into the crowd of protesters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, May 29, 2006 in this image made from television. A deadly traffic accident involving U.S. troops sparked a riot in the capital Monday, with gunfire heard near the U.S. Embassy. At least three people died in the accident and a fourth person was reportedly killed by gunfire, police said. (AP Photo/APTN) Height (pixels): 384 Width (pixels): 512 Series ID
db: It will come as no surprise if certain descriptions and pictures disappear from the internet soon
13.45 Updated with image zoom on U.S. fire

Afghanistan: Body of man in Kabul killed by U.S. - Picture

Not our description - AP's - WHO HAD PEOPLE ON THE SCENE - see full description below:
Afghan protesters look at the body of a man killed by U.S. military forces in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, May 29, 2006. A deadly traffic accident i [sic]

Afghan protesters look at the body of a man killed by U.S. military forces in Kabul, Afghanistan, Monday, May 29, 2006. A deadly traffic accident involving U.S. troops sparked a riot in the capital Monday, with gunfire heard near the U.S. Embassy. At least three people died in the accident and a fourth person was reportedly killed by gunfire, police said. (AP Photo/Fraidoon Pooyaa) Height (pixels): 332 Width (pixels): 512 Series ID: Photo ID: Asset Type: Previous Photo ID:

Pay Attention to Afghanistan

zaman: Afghanistan is experiencing the most violent and bloodiest clashes in recent years since the fall of the Taliban regime in late 2001.

At least 300 people have been killed in clashes between the Taliban forces and the US-led coalition forces, especially in the southern provinces of the country since May 16. In the meantime, about 3,000 Afghans fleeing the battle zones have taken refuge in Kandahar.

The Taliban militia forces who launched a series of attacks with the coming of spring have suffered more casualties in the country, however, Afghan civilians caught in the crossfire are also dying or being wounded. The ISAF-NATO coalition forces are suffering losses as well. For instance, four members of the French Special Forces were killed in fighting last week. By the way; today there are about 200 French Special Forces in Afghanistan fighting alongside US forces and French warplanes also give support to the Americans.

According to certain sources, these bloody developments, which outnumber the clashes and death toll in Iraq within the corresponding time period and demonstrate the strength and courage of the Taliban in Afghanistan, have made the US Command in Afghanistan, which used to underestimate the Taliban and tried to portray it as unimportant, very worried. Consequently, the spokesman of the command, Colonel Tim Collins, had to admit in his recent statement that the Taliban has become more powerful and has won over the population in Kandahar, Helmand and Uruzgan provinces, adding, "That's the reason we are after them."

The Taliban has increased its attacks in the southern provinces in past month as Collins admitted and is implementing new tactics in these attacks.

Within this framework, the Taliban forces are conducting frontline operations in groups of 100-200 men rather than hit-and-run attacks with small groups. That's the very reason the Afghan police and army, in particular, are suffering heavy losses. In short, Taliban forces are carrying out their attacks more professionally with more men and with sophisticated tactics, they are obtaining certain results and are even drawing battle lines.

Needless to say this is a new and efficient method of fighting, however, the Taliban forces are very vulnerable to air strikes while doing this. Taking advantage of this, the US does not hesitate carrying out heavy air bombardments in areas where Taliban forces are dominant. Read more

db: How many Brits have the faintest idea of what faces UK troops in Afghanistan?

Afghanistan: U.S. shoots civilians after crashing through their cars

BBC Worldservice radio is reporting that 'riots' are spreading through the Afghan Capital in the response to the events reported below.
guardian:A deadly traffic accident involving U.S. troops sparked a riot in the Afghan capital on Monday, with U.S. and Afghan security forces firing on protesters, police and witnesses said. At least four people were killed.

Hundreds of protesters marched on palace of U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai in the city center after the incident, shouting "Death to Karzai! Death to America!"

Gunfire was also heard near the U.S. Embassy. The staff was moved to a secure location within the heavily fortified compound, said Chris Harris, an embassy spokesman.

Rioters broke into shops and stole household items [db: stole household items?? - that's terrible] , and an AP reporter said he saw several demonstrators pull a foreign man from a vehicle and beat him. The man escaped and ran to a line of police, who fired shots over the heads of the demonstrators.

Afghan troops deployed around Kabul, and two tanks of NATO peacekeepers drove at high speed through the city center. Rioters smashed police guard boxes and set fire to police cars.

Witnesses said the incident began when a convoy of at least three U.S. Humvees came into the city from the outskirts and hit several civilian cars in rush-hour traffic jam.

"The American convoy hit all the vehicles which were in their way. They didn't care about the civilians at all," said Mohammad Wali, 21, a shopkeeper.

Three people were killed and 16 wounded in the crash, said Sher Shah Usafi, a Kabul police chief. U.S. forces then fired on the crowd, killing one person and wounding two, he said.

A commander with the city's traffic police who was at the scene said he also saw U.S. forces firing on protesters. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

A U.S. military spokesman, Lt. Col. Paul Fitzpatrick, confirmed U.S. troops were involved in the accident but said the military had "no indication that U.S. forces fired any shots." He said an investigation was continuing.

State television cut transmission of a live broadcast of parliament when one angry lawmaker interrupted the proceedings to protest the incident.

.... "I have seen the incident.... I come from that area and I have to tell you," Taj Mohammed Mujahid shouted before the house speaker ruled him out of order and the screen went black. Read more
And something similar from timesonline:
Timesonline: At least five Afghans were killed and another 20 injured when a United States military convoy crashed in Kabul, sparking violent anti-American street protests.

Reports suggest that three Humvee and three military lorries were involved in a road accident on the outskirts of the city during the morning rush hour.

A photographer for the Associated Press (AP) news agency at the scene said that the driver of one of the US trucks lost control, apparently suffering faulty brakes, and smashed into waiting traffic.

At least one person was killed in the fatal crash which brought demonstrators out on to the streets. They began pelting the US convoy with stones. American troops opened fire, killing at least four people, the photographer said.

The protest erupted into a riot in the tense capital, with police firing live rounds above the stone-throwing crowd as the US troops withdrew.

Shops were looted, two police cars burned and a reporter from AP described watching a civilian being dragged from his car and beaten.

At least one person died as gunfire was exchanged between protesters and police.

Around 2,000 people are said to have marched on the fortified palace of US-backed President Hamid Karzai shouting "Death to Karzai! Death to America!"

Bursts of automatic gunfire were also heard outside the US Embassy and officials were moved to secure bunkers within the embassy compound.

One of the protesters told AP: "These cowards opened fire into the crowd and killed them like sheep. First they drove into the people's cars, destroyed them and then fired onto the people who were only throwing stones at them.

"They think Afghanistan is a playground where they can practise shooting." Read more
db: 'Humanitarian intervention' is a bloody business, no? Most shocking of all was that Guardian report of the theft of 'household items'. More to doubt..on this latest US 'crime'/'error'/'accident'/'tragedy'/'twist of fate' [choose one].

Alastair Crooke: Talking to Hamas

"Hamas is a central element in Palestinian society - it is well organized and highly motivated, and has put in motion an effective machine of education, health, and social welfare. The strength of Hamas's popularity within Palestinian society is even greater than the percentages indicate, and no resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can come about without Hamas being part of the solution. This is not the official view in Israel." - Efraim Halevy [EH served as head of the Mossad from 1998 to 2002 and head of Israel's National Security Council from 2002 to 2003].

Alastair Crooke: Talking to Hamas

Almost no one believes that putting Palestinians on a "diet" will make them more moderate or help to restart a political process with Israel. The diet - a term coined by Ariel Sharon's chief of staff, Dov Weisglass - refers to the US and EU policy of trying to cut off the Hamas government politically and financially so that it cannot pay the salaries of civil servants or function as a government.

The pressure is designed to give the new government no option but to accede to three US and EU demands: recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence, and acceptance of all earlier agreements dating back to the Oslo accords signed by the late Yasser Arafat, leader of Hamas's rival Fatah movement.

Privately, most EU officials doubt the policy will work. But they feel trapped into adopting a position from which they lack the leadership or energy to escape, and the paralysis caused by the European divisions over Iraq still haunts Brussels in any area that risks a breach with the US.

Some very senior US officials, however, are more than ready to make plain that the US is not interested so much in Hamas's transformation to non-violence as in the failure and collapse of the Hamas-led government. US diplomats have told their European counterparts that "the Palestinians must suffer for their choice" (in electing Hamas). They would like to see Fatah return to power, albeit led by someone like the westernised Salaam Fayad, a former Palestinian finance minister and World Bank official.

To this end, the US is seeking to build a militia of 3,500 men around the office of the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, to enlarge the presidency staff and to channel as much of the expenditure and work of the government as possible through the presidency. The US aims to create a shadow government centred around the president and his Fatah party as a counterpoint to a financially starved Hamas-led government - which will, US officials hope, prove ineffective and wither. Officials associated with Vice-President Cheney's office talk openly with Fatah visitors about the desirability of mounting a "soft coup" that will restore the more pliant Fatah to power on the back of a humanitarian crisis.

In Beirut in early May, I spoke to Osama Hamdan, Hamas's chief representative in Lebanon and a senior member of the Hamas political committee, about the situation facing the organisation: "Before the US or Europe had time to judge us by our actions, US pressure for building a siege had begun.." he said. Read more

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Nir Rosen: Iraq Is the Republic of Fear

washingtonpost: Every morning the streets of Baghdad are littered with dozens of bodies, bruised, torn, mutilated, executed only because they are Sunni or because they are Shiite. Power drills are an especially popular torture device.

I have spent nearly two of the three years since Baghdad fell in Iraq. On my last trip, a few weeks back, I flew out of the city overcome with fatalism. Over the course of six weeks, I worked with three different drivers; at various times each had to take a day off because a neighbor or relative had been killed. One morning 14 bodies were found, all with ID cards in their front pockets, all called Omar. Omar is a Sunni name. In Baghdad these days, nobody is more insecure than men called Omar. On another day a group of bodies was found with hands folded on their abdomens, right hand over left, the way Sunnis pray. It was a message. These days many Sunnis are obtaining false papers with neutral names. Sunni militias are retaliating, stopping buses and demanding the jinsiya , or ID cards, of all passengers. Individuals belonging to Shiite tribes are executed.

Under the reign of Saddam Hussein, dissidents called Iraq "the republic of fear" and hoped it would end when Hussein was toppled. But the war, it turns out, has spread the fear democratically. Now the terror is not merely from the regime, or from U.S. troops, but from everybody, everywhere.

At first, the dominant presence of the U.S. military -- with its towering vehicles rumbling through Baghdad's streets and its soldiers like giants with their vests and helmets and weapons -- seemed overwhelming. The Occupation could be felt at all times. Now in Baghdad, you can go days without seeing American soldiers. Instead, it feels as if Iraqis are occupying Iraq, their masked militiamen blasting through traffic in anonymous security vehicles, shooting into the air, angrily shouting orders on loudspeakers, pointing their Kalashnikovs at passersby.

Today, the Americans are just one more militia lost in the anarchy. They, too, are killing Iraqis. Read more

Iran: U.S. Will Fail to Spark Unrest

'click' map to enlarge
washingtonpost: Iran's supreme leader said Sunday the United States would fail to provoke ethnic strife in the Islamic republic after several days of protests over a cartoon that insulted the country's largest minority.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also said in a speech broadcast by state-run television that "trying to provoke ethnic and religious unrest is the last desperate shot by enemies."

He referred to a Bush administration request to Congress for $75 million to promote democracy in Iran, saying: "Enemies of the Iranian nation have earlier announced that they have allocated some money for this purpose."

Earlier, hundreds of Azeris demonstrated in front of the Iranian parliament to protest the cartoon, which was published by a state-owned newspaper two weeks ago.

"Coward legislators, support the Azeris!" chanted the protesters, who urged parliament to punish those who published the cartoon and release people detained in previous protests over the issue.

On Wednesday, the government closed the newspaper and detained its chief editor and cartoonist for publishing the drawing, which showed a cockroach speaking Azeri. Read more

Bush: "This is only the beginning"

Speaking before U.S. Westpoint Military Academy graduates Bush compared his moment in presidential history to that of President Harry S. Truman.

"As President Truman put it towards the end of his presidency, 'When history says that my term of office saw the beginning of the Cold War, it will also say that in those eight years we set the course that can win it'

Ominously Bush stated "This is only the beginning."

If Bush is looking to model himself on Truman then it appears we are all in deep yoghurt. Likening the war on 'radicals' [the way he habitually uses this word as an alternative to 'terrorist' is Orwellian] to the 'cold war' is patently fanciful, but given that the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan in 1945 are widely considered to be the first blows of that 'war' shouldn't our alarm bells be ringing?. It is well known that the Americans are developing more 'usable' nukes, and they have made a point of not removing the nuclear option from 'the table' in the current confrontation with Iran. Bush's apparent identification with Truman might be further cause for concern.

Excerpted from the book 'Lying for Empire'[1]:
P. M. S. Blackett, a British Nobel Prize-winning physicist, concluded that:
... the dropping of the atomic bomb was not so much the last military act of the Second World War as the first major operation of the cold diplomatic war with Russia. But using civilians from a third country as a warning of America's new, highly destructive weapon has to rank as one of the greatest crimes against humanity. To sacrifice two cities and about 150,000 people to inform your post-war adversary that they may be next is unadulterated insanity.
In an interview with the Guardian [2] in 2001 Gore Vidal spoke of Truman's decision to use the A bomb[s]:
The brains behind Truman belonged to Dean Acheson, who was a brilliant man, very witty and very imperial. "If anyone disobeys the United States, we must destroy them." He was a throwback to an earlier time, but he was the one who helped Truman militarise the economy, create Nato and the CIA, interfere with elections and get rid of the Bill of Rights. I don't say he sat down and did everything in order, but that was the result.

So on the one hand you have the pressure of the military, who had developed these extraordinary weapons, which they wanted to test; and on the other palm, Truman vacillated, seeing that it was going to change the nature of warfare and knowing perfectly well the Japanese were defeated. So we made a big deal over "unconditional surrender". As it turned out, Japan completely collapsed after two bombs, but it was interesting the extent to which Eisenhower denounced it publicly. Admiral Nimitz, the great figure in the Pacific, denounced it. Curtis LeMay, who as a war-lover liked to blow up everything, denounced it. They all said the same thing: we didn't need it. And why use it twice? They were going to surrender.

I don't think there was one single general officer in that war who approved of it, and they all went public very quickly to denounce their Commander-in-Chief Truman, who had dropped it for one reason: to intimidate Stalin, keep him out of the Pacific war, let him have no share of the peace that we were going to impose on Japan, and just keep him nervous. And it worked. Then a year or two later we divided Germany, taking the best part for ourselves, and made Stalin the world's enemy to justify our military build-up, which then started all over again and continues to this day.

Blair bids farewell to USA

Afghanistan: U.S. Military Virtual Reality

Afghan village of Hajiyan provides case study in US manipulation of public opinion. Read this new analysis [pdf download with photos] by Marc Herold.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Iraq: Government Mafias

azzaman: There are mafias almost all over the world. But those operating in Iraq are unique because they owe their existence and activities to the authorities who are supposed to be fighting them.

All over the world - excluding Iraq - mafia leaders and members are branded outlaws. They use their contraband trade in narcotics, jewels, weapons and even humans as a means to establish a foothold in organs implementing the law.

Mafia groups usually have access to massive wealth which they normally deploy to bribe security or judiciary officials to facilitate their operations.

No matter their power, mafia organizations are deemed illegal whether in countries with weak governments such those in Latin America or in states with powerful economies and police forces like Western Europe and North America.

But not in the new Iraq which came into being following the overthrow of dictatorship and the assumption of power by our 'patriotic factions'.

We are now face to face with a new form of mafia, of which there is no parallel the world over.

Our mafia's specialization and only trade is how to sell the country and smuggle its riches to neighboring or Gulf states.

As a result, and with the government's blessing, many Iraqi officials now own property and companies in the United Arab Emirates.

Some of these assets are so valuable that even U.A.E. nationals cannot afford.

The same can be said about other countries, particularly in Europe where access to lavish sums of money or the power to start new businesses is a key to citizenship or residence.

Iraqi mafias have two special characteristics which distinguish them from those operating in other parts of the world.

First, Iraqi mafias take the law into their own hands. In fact they are the ones who issue the laws and have contributed to the drafting of our constitution.

This means that our mafias have the country's judiciary, legislative and executive powers in their pockets.

Our mafias, therefore, are legal and operate according to the law, unlike foreign counterparts.

Second, our mafias are democratically elected and have come into being in the light of the new democratic regime which the U.S. has introduced in the country.

This means that our mafias have international legitimacy and are backed by the international community.

No political system in the world, whether assuming power through bullet or the ballot, is as privileged as our elected government of mafias.

Local and international media, focused on the daily cheap killings and the tragedy of death as it unfolds in Baghdad and many other cities, have had very little to say about Iraqi government mafias.

The media are busy reporting the escalating violence in the capital and west, east and north of it.

But these mafias are very active, not only in Baghdad. They are particularly vibrant in the south where through the new democracy they have seen their control spreading to all aspects of life. Link

Iraq: In Haditha, Memories of a Massacre

Witnesses to the slaying of 24 Iraqi civilians by U.S. Marines in the western town of Haditha say the Americans shot men, women and children at close range in retaliation for the death of a Marine lance corporal in a roadside bombing.

Aws Fahmi, a Haditha resident who said he watched and listened from his home as Marines went from house to house killing members of three families, recalled hearing his neighbor across the street, Younis Salim Khafif, plead in English for his life and the lives of his family members. "I heard Younis speaking to the Americans, saying: 'I am a friend. I am good,' " Fahmi said. "But they killed him, and his wife and daughters."

The 24 Iraqi civilians killed on Nov. 19 included children and the women who were trying to shield them, witnesses told a Washington Post special correspondent in Haditha this week and U.S. investigators said in Washington. The girls killed inside Khafif's house were ages 14, 10, 5, 3 and 1, according to death certificates. Read more

Friday, May 26, 2006

Egypt police accused of torture

One of two men detained by Egyptian security officers at an anti-government demonstration has been beaten beyond recognition and sexually abused, his lawyer has said. Mohammed el-Sharkawi, 24, and a member of Egypt's anti-government Kefaya movement, was dragged out of his vehicle as he tried to leave the demonstration on Thursday.

He was detained on charges which included insulting Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president,.

"I saw him before he was taken away, then in the evening. His appearance was completely different. His skin was covered in bruises and sores. Both his eyes were swollen red and blue," said his lawyer, Gamal Eid.

"His lips were bruised and split, and his chest was covered in bruises ... They had stripped his clothes off and sodomised him," Eid added, having spoken to Sharkawi on Thursday night.

He said his client was sodomised "using a rolled up piece of cardboard for nearly 15 minutes".

Eid said he saw his client while he and the other Kefaya detainee were being sentenced at the state security prosecution to 15 days' detention. Read more

US Marines slaughtered women, children

US Marines wantonly killed unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, and then tried to cover up the slayings in the insurgent stronghold of Haditha, military investigations have found.

latimes: US Marines wantonly killed unarmed Iraqi civilians, including women and children, and then tried to cover up the slayings in the insurgent stronghold of Haditha, military investigations have found.

Officials who have seen the findings of the investigations said the filing of criminal charges, including some murder counts, was expected, which would make the November 19, 2005, incident the most serious case of alleged US war crimes in Iraq.

An administrative inquiry overseen by army Major General Eldon Bargewell found that several marines fatally shot up to 24 Iraqis and that other marines either failed to stop them or filed misleading or blatantly false reports.

The Bargewell report concludes that a dozen marines acted improperly after a roadside bomb blast killed a fellow marine, Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas.

Looking for insurgents, the marines entered several homes and began firing their weapons, according to the report.

In its initial statement to the media, the Marine Corps said the Iraqi civilians were killed either by an insurgent bomb or by crossfire between marines and insurgents.

But after Time magazine obtained pictures showing dead women and children and quoted Iraqis who said the attack was unprovoked, the Marine Corps backtracked and called for a probe.

The marines, many of whom were on their third deployment to Iraq, are part of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Regiment of the 1st Marine Division.

The battalion commander and two company commanders were relieved of duty last month because, a spokesman said, Major General Richard Natonski, commanding general of the division, had lost confidence in their leadership. The Naval Criminal Investigative Service, which conducted a separate investigation, is expected to call for criminal charges including murder, negligent homicide, dereliction of duty and filing a false report.

After the roadside bomb killed Terrazas, the marines conducted a sweep of the area. But instead of following the Geneva Convention rules about identifying combatants, the marines killed Iraqis in homes and five sitting in a vehicle.

Compensation has already been paid to families of some of the slain Iraqis.

Marine officials have also confirmed that an investigation had been opened into an April 26 incident in which troops allegedly killed a civilian in the town of Hamandiya, west of Baghdad.

Marine Commandant General Michael Hagee flew to Iraq Thursday to talk to marines and remind them of long-standing orders to protect Iraqi civilians and follow the Geneva Convention.

Hagee is emphasizing "the importance of our core values" and reminding troops about the laws of war, said a Marine Corps statement.

Hagee last week briefed key congressional leaders on the upcoming report. One of those, Representative John Murtha, a retired marine colonel, said later that marines "killed innocent civilians in cold blood."

Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House of the Representatives' Armed Services Committee, said US troops should not be judged by the action "of one squad, in one city, on one morning." The Marines have had more than 700 personnel killed in Iraq.

In his statement, Hagee said that Marines should overcome the tendency "of becoming indifferent to the loss of a human life" in dealings with civilians. Link

Blair, Bush Meat

[it's beef folks, like you probably eat]

Iraqi Foreign Minister Backs Iran on Nuclear Research

NYT: Iraq supports Iran's right to pursue nuclear research, its new foreign minister said today, taking a position at odds with that of the Bush administration.

The foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, spoke during a visit to Baghdad by Iran's foreign minister, Manoucher Mottaki, that marked the reconciliation of two countries that fought a long and bloody war two decades ago.

Mr. Mottaki also used the occasion to reiterate Tehran's decision to withdraw its request to the United States for talks on stabilizing Iran, and to warn America against using force to resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear program.

Instead of talks with the United States on bolstering Iraq, Mr. Mottaki spoke of a regional meeting with Iraq's neighbors and Egypt coming together, news services reported.

The statements by Mr. Mottaki and Mr. Zebari, a Kurd, gave the first indication of the foreign policy of Iraq's new government, and of how it might reconcile the sharply differing viewpoints of the groups that make it up. While the Shiite parties that make up the largest bloc in Parliament have long had close ties to Iran, Sunnis and Kurds are far more distrustful of their larger neighbor.

Speaking of the debate over Iran's nuclear program, Mr. Zebari said that Iraq does not want "any of our neighbors to have weapons of mass destruction," according to news services.

But he also confirmed "the right of the republic of Iran and the right of any other state to have scientific and technological abilities to research in the field of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes." Read more

Iran fears U.S. will pursue regime change, regardless

Council on Foreign Relations

Paul Kerr, a non-proliferation expert for the Arms Control Association in Washington, says any deal worked out by Western countries, Russia and China with Iran would probably have to include a pledge by the United States not to seek regime change in Iran in exchange for Iran's agreement on limiting its nuclear program.

Kerr says Iran has been reluctant to cooperate with the UN Security Council in part due to fears that, regardless of what Iran does on the nuclear question, Washington will use the Council as a vehicle to pursue regime change in Tehran. However, he says Iran is likely to try to insist on keeping its laboratory research in nuclear enrichment, and that might make it impossible for a deal to be achieved. "Iran is willing to reach some sort of agreement on its nuclear program," Kerr says. "Now the Iranians will want to keep at least a research and development centrifuge facility. That's what they've indicated publicly. They seem to be willing to deal on other parts of the program, though, for example, to accept a cap on the degree to which its uranium is enriched."

If you were going to draft the basic outline of an agreement that could be reached, what would it have to include?

Any agreement would have to include a U.S. guarantee that, in the event that
Iran is able to negotiate a satisfactory agreement regarding its nuclear
program, Washington will not attack Iran or try to overthrow its
government. Iran has been reluctant to cooperate with the UN Security
Council partly because Tehran fears that, regardless of what Iran does on
the nuclear question, Washington will use the Council as a vehicle to pursue regime change in Tehran.

Any agreement should also describe, as clearly as possible, the steps that
Iran must take to satisfy international concerns about its nuclear program.
The United States should state clearly that, if Iran complies with these
steps, Washington will definitely support whatever positive incentives are
included in the agreement.

Clearly defining the parameters of Iran's commitments will be important
because the fear that the United States is pursuing a regime-change agenda
has also contributed to Iran's reluctance to undertake commitments that go
beyond its legal requirements under the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) and the IAEA safeguards agreement. Tehran is wary of participating in a potentially open-ended process that could lead to the same sort of Security Council action (resolutions, inspections, sanctions, military actions, etc.) that was taken against Iraq. Read more

Egypt: Judges Demand Independent Judiciary

forbes: About 300 pro-reform judges staged a sit-in outside a downtown Cairo courthouse Thursday to demand the independence of Egypt's judiciary as thousands of riot police watched.

Scores of opposition activists organized separate protests in support of the judges and to mark the first anniversary of a referendum on a constitutional amendment that allowed multicandidate presidential elections for the first time.

In one of the protests, an estimated 70 activists - from various groups including the pro-reform Kifaya movement, al-Ghad party and the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood - clapped and chanted anti-government slogans outside the headquarters of the Journalists' Union.

"Release our detained brothers!" they chanted, referring to activists arrested in earlier demonstrations. Some clutched yellow stickers reading "Kifaya" or "Enough," while others plastered their clothes with green stickers reading "Long Live Justice."

"Oh, our great people. The hour of salvation is near," one banner read. Read more

Blair arrives in US to further British interests

Thursday, May 25, 2006

US Shuts Eyes to Abuses of Key Ally Egypt

The George W. Bush administration has called on the U.S. Congress to keep annual aid to Egypt of nearly $2 billion intact for the next fiscal year, despite a massive crackdown on pro-democracy activists and suppression of political dissent in the country.

On May 19 - the day after hundreds of protesters in Cairo and Alexandria were beaten and arrested by Egyptian security forces - a House of Representatives appropriations subcommittee approved the full amount sought by the administration, although not all lawmakers were happy with the move.

"When our major aid recipients engage in conduct that flies in the face of our own values, then we ourselves are tarnished," said Rep. David Obey of Wisconsin, the committee's senior Democrat, who pledged to seek a cut of $200 million from the $1.3 billion military aid package when the bill goes to full committee.

The White House, which once called on the most populous Arab nation to lead the way toward democracy and reform, has argued that U.S. strategic interests will be harmed if the aid that is used to prop up the authoritarian regime of 78-year-old Hosni Mubarak is cut.

Indeed, the government in Egypt appears to have succeeded in weaning Washington from demanding genuine reforms by offering unprecedented support for U.S. political and military ambitions in the oil-rich Middle East – in spite of their unpopularity in the region.

At a congressional hearing last week, administration officials were not shy to note that Egypt has backed U.S. interventions in the region, and generally supported Washington's pro-Israel foreign policy and efforts to open new markets for U.S. goods in the Middle East.

"Our strategic partnership with Egypt is a cornerstone of U.S. policy in this region. We share a vision of a Middle East that is at peace and free of terror," said David Welch, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. Read more

See: Bush Democracy Doctrine, 2003(?)-2006, R.I.P.

Capita boss was Labour funder, Capita just got the contracts

guardian: The following correction was printed in the Guardian's Corrections and clarifications column, Thursday May 25 2006

.... we incorrectly said that "Capita lent Blair £1 for his campaign last year after its turnover from public contracts increased in seven years from £112m to £1.4bn." In fact, Rod Aldridge, Capita's former executive chairman, who is serving as Capita's non-executive chairman until the end of July this year, made the loan to the Labour party in his own personal capacity from his own personal funds. Capita was not involved in any way at all.

db: We also previously stated that Capita was a Labour funder. It was Rod - not Capita. Make much difference? He got his cash back no doubt through Capita's improved share price.

Your government doesn't want you to read this book

The Great War For Civilisation; The Conquest Of The Middle East / Robert Fisk- Amazon link
For 30 years, Beirut-based Brit Robert Fisk has covered events in the Middle East that have shaped the terror and wars of today, and his latest monstrous volume-in size and content-is a necessary antidote to the sound-bitten simplification by which much of the West understands the region. "Governments like it that way," he states. "They want their people to see war as a drama of opposites, good and evil, 'them' and 'us', victory or defeat. But war is primarily not about victory or defeat but about death and the infliction of death. It represents the total failure of the human spirit." A journalist's job is "to challenge authority-all authority-especially so when governments and politicians take us to war, when they have decided that they will kill and others will die."

This book is not for those with weak stomachs or iron ideologies, as myths and lies from all sides are exploded, revealing many shades of grey and bloody red. Fisk travels the front lines of the Iran-Iraq war, inside occupied Palestine and Algeria's barbarous civil war, and (in 1996) to a remote Afghan cave to interview Osama bin Laden. Far more than just a reporter's memoir, Fisk's historical analysis is blended with stories of people we often know only as "collateral damage", drawing parallels between Soviet and U.S. invasions of Afghanistan, detailing U.S. war crimes in both Gulf Wars, and linking the Armenian genocide of World War I to Hitler's later horrors.

The ghosts of World War I inhabit both region and writer; Fisk details his father's refusal to execute a fellow Allied soldier at war's end, and the medal he won proclaiming it the titular "Great War for Civilisation". "At the end of my father's war, the victors divided up the lands of their former enemies...[creating] the borders of Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia and most of the Middle East. And I have spent my entire career-in Belfast and Sarajevo, in Beirut and Baghdad-watching the peoples within these borders burn." And he himself burns, too, with all the moral outrage and authority of one who has risked his life to tell what lies in this tome. Link