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

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Afghanistan: Nato kills civilians best

U.S.-led coalition airstrikes in southern Afghanistan left at least 30 people, including women and children, killed or wounded, an official said Saturday.

Taliban fighters tried to ambush a joint U.S.-Afghan military convoy in Helmand province's Gereshk district late Friday before fleeing into a nearby village for cover, said Mohammad Hussein, the provincial police chief.

Air strikes targeted the militants in the village of Hyderabad, said Dur Ali Shah, the mayor of Gereshk.

Shah said 30 to 35 people were killed or wounded but he could not provide an exact breakdown. Villagers reported casualty tolls far higher than 30 but those figures were not immediately corroborated by officials. Six houses also were destroyed during the clash, he said.

''Right now we do not know the number of Taliban casualties,'' Shah said. Link

db: Militants fled to a village and coalition forces appear to have, naturally, bombed and strafed it, disregarding the risk to innocent civilians who are regarded as sub-human by racist commanders and politicians.

Turkey prepared to invade northern Iraq

Turkey has prepared a blueprint for the invasion of northern Iraq and will take action if US or Iraqi forces fail to dislodge the guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) from their mountain strongholds across the border, Turkey's foreign minister Abdullah Gul has warned.

"The military plans have been worked out in the finest detail. The government knows these plans and agrees with them," Mr Gul told Turkey's Radikal newspaper. "If neither the Iraqi government nor the US occupying forces can do this [crush the PKK], we will take our own decision and implement it," Mr Gul said. The foreign minister's uncharacteristically hawkish remarks were seen as a response to pressure from Turkey's generals, who have deployed some 20,000-30,000 troops along the borders with Iraq, and who are itching to move against the rebels they say are slipping across the border to stage attacks inside Turkey. Link

US Killing civilians in Afghanistan

US soldiers killed four civilian members of the same family during a raid on Friday in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar, an Afghan rights body said.

The soldiers also arrested 15 civilians during the pre-dawn raid in Khogiani district which lies in the foothills of the provincial capital Jalalabad, Lal Gul, the head of Afghanistan’s Human Rights Group said. Those killed in the raid were an 85-year-old man, Mohammada Jan, two of his sons and a grandson, Gul told Reuters. “The American soldiers blew up the gate of Mohammada Jan’s house and then martyred him along with his three family members,” he said.

“From there they went to several other houses, broke into them and arrested 15 civilians,” he added. Link

US Killing civilians in Sadr City

American-led forces say they have killed 26 militants in a series of raids in the Sadr City area of Baghdad.

Troops had also detained 17 militants in the pre-dawn raid on the area, a Shia stronghold, the US military said.

But Iraqi hospital and police officials put the death toll at eight and said civilians were killed in their homes, the Associated Press (AP) reports.

The raids are the latest in a series of US offensives against militants accused of smuggling weapons from Iran.

'Significant' resistance

"It is believed that the suspected terrorists have close ties to Iranian terror networks," a statement from the US military said.

... One resident said US attack helicopters had launched missiles at targets in the densely-populated district, home to more than two million people, Reuters reports.

"At about 0400, a big American convoy with tanks came and began to open fire on houses - bombing them," Basheer Ahmed, who lives in Sadr City's Habibiya area, was quoted by AP as saying.

"What did we do? We didn't even retaliate - there was no resistance." Link

Brown has good terror scare

The Guardian said the initial signs are that Mr Brown, seen as a powerful intellect but socially awkward, has so far fared better than his predecessor Tony Blair who left office on Wednesday after 10 years in power.

"The big risk was that (Brown) would succumb to the temptation to win spurs as a warrior against terrorism by overreacting,'' the left-leaning daily wrote in an editorial.

"That is what Tony Blair did soon after the 2005 London bombings, when ... he stood up and announced the 'rules of the game have changed' and committed himself to eye-catching, draconian measures,'' it added.

Such an impulsive approach, it said, failed to make Britain more secure and set his government up for defeat in parliament when it tried to have terrorist suspects held for 90 days without trial or charge. Link

Friday, June 29, 2007

Car bomb in London

Explosive experts defused a car bomb packed with petrol, gas and nails on Friday which could have caused huge loss of life in London's busy theatre district and raised fears of a terrorist attack, police said.

The bomb was found in a green Mercedes car parked outside a night club shortly after 1 a.m. (midnight GMT) when several hundred people were still in the area, about half-a-mile (one km) from the prime minister's Downing Street residence.

The police, who were alerted by ambulance workers who noticed smoke inside the car, said they did not know who left the bomb but launched a counter-terrorism investigation. Link

db: 1/2 a mile from PMs residence - irrelevant. Also not far from Buckingham Palace etc etc. There are several possible culprits - certainly not limited to demented British male AQ wannabes. Whilst the 'car bomb' was 1/2 mile from Gordon's place, it was around a hundred yards from the Admiral Duncan pub which was bombed in 1976 by a neo-nazi.

Whoever is responsible, and regardless of how many bombs there may be [reports coming in that another car bomb has been found in Park Lane] we must reject knee jerk Blair-like assaults on our liberty. The possibility of locking up suspects for 90 days without trial or charge will become an issue again, stand by.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Brown Cabinet Gets Some Iraq Critics

New Prime Minister Gordon Brown appointed some critics of the Iraq war to his youthful circle of senior Cabinet ministers Thursday, underlining his ambition to heal rifts over the conflict and win back the support of disenchanted.

Brown has pledged to examine Britain's role in Iraq - a subtle shift in language from his predecessor and perhaps his first diplomatic challenge in his relationship with the Bush administration, which considered Tony Blair its closest ally.

David Miliband, who at times criticized Blair's Middle East policy, was named foreign secretary - an eye-catching appointment by the new prime minister.

"The opportunities and challenges of the modern world requires, in my view, a diplomacy that is patient as well as purposeful - which listens as well as leads," said Miliband, a rising star in the Labour Party who at age 41 is the youngest British foreign secretary in three decades.

Both he and Jack Straw, who was appointed justice secretary and lord chancellor, criticized Blair for not insisting on an immediate cease-fire when Israel went to war last summer with the Islamic militants of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Miliband, the son of leftist Jewish academics who is married to an American violinist, voted to support British participation in the Iraq war, but he has voiced concerns about the conflict.

Brown also gave posts to John Denham, a former minister who quit the government in 2003 to protest the Iraq invasion, and Mark Malloch-Brown, a former deputy U.N. secretary-general who clashed with American neo-conservatives.

Malloch-Brown, now a lord, had fierce spats at the U.N. with then U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, who accused the Briton of discrediting the world body with his criticisms of the White House.

As deputy to U.N. chief Kofi Annan, Malloch-Brown derided President Bush for what he called "megaphone diplomacy" on Darfur by trying to persuade Sudan's government to accept a U.N. peacekeeping in Darfur, but refusing to defend the organization to Americans.

Malloch-Brown's appointment to a junior role as minister for Africa, Asia and the United Nations could be an attempt by Brown to distance Britain from the Bush administration, said analyst Alex Bingham at the Foreign Policy Center think tank.

Denham, the war critic, also got a relatively minor post, secretary for innovation, universities and skills.

Brown wants to win back the trust of voters who bitterly opposed the Iraq war, and invited families of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan as he made his first leadership speech Wednesday. He also plans to reverse restrictions on Iraq war protests around Parliament.

Brown said in a statement that one of three British soldiers killed Thursday in a roadside bombing in Iraq was from the Scottish constituency he represents.

"My thoughts and prayers are with the families of all the fallen soldiers, who died bravely serving their country," he said. Link

db: Brown was a senior member of the Neo-Labour cabinet that took us into a disastrous and illegal Iraq war, hanging off the coat tails of the torture president and his neoconservative criminal friends. However some of the choices above are indeed impressive in terms of signaling 'a change of direction' that might be more than rhetoric. Ten years ago we felt kind of positive about Blair too, dimwits that we were. Brown needs to work very hard.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A grim lesson from Ulster

Americans can learn a lot from what the British did in Northern Ireland. Not all of it is good.

After a gap of nearly five years, the elected government in Northern Ireland resumed its duties last month when a power-sharing arrangement between Protestants and Catholics was finally successfully negotiated.

This is good news - the ability of opposing sides to profit from peace and work within democratic processes for the good of the province.

But the long-negotiated path to peace in the province was hampered - not helped - by the ugly history of British counterterrorism policies, including sweeping detentions, forced confessions, secret courts, prisoner abuse and undercover collusion with paramilitary groups. These counterproductive policies increased sectarian division and certainly delayed the tentative political peace now in place.

So, as America looks to the example of Britain, its rare ally in Iraq, let's hope U.S. leadership still has time to learn the right lessons of history - not the exact wrong ones - in the so-called war on terror.

Pressure to convict

The Troubles that began in the 1960s in Northern Ireland came about when Catholics, long victims of discrimination in education, employment, housing and voting, agitated for civil rights and met firm resistance from elements in the Protestant establishment. Violence erupted on both sides.

Of course the conflict had deep roots. Ireland was partitioned in 1921, when the southern 26 counties gained independence from Britain and the six other counties remained part of the United Kingdom. Fifty-three percent of the population in the north is still Protestant, descendants of the English and Scottish settlement begun in the 16th century. Most consider themselves British and want to remain a part of the United Kingdom. Most of the Catholic population consider themselves Irish and would prefer reunification with the Republic of Ireland.

When British troops went to Northern Ireland to quell sectarian fighting in 1969, they were soon seen by most Catholics as siding with the Protestants, in much the same way that U.S. troops in Iraq favored Shiites over the Sunnis they feared were still loyal Baathists. In both instances, sectarian tensions were aggravated.

After Bloody Sunday in 1972, when the British army shot and killed 14 civil rights marchers and wounded another 13, the Irish Republican Army stepped up violent resistance to British rule.

In 1974, in the aftermath of the IRA's Guilford and Birmingham pub bombings in England, which resulted in 19 deaths and 236 injuries, Parliament hastily passed the Prevention of Terrorism Act, allowing detention for up to one week without charge. At the time, a British army spokesperson declared the IRA "virtually defeated."

But pressure to obtain convictions in those pub bombings resulted in innocent people being sentenced to jail. Prisoners were interrogated for a week and some signed confessions. The most infamous case concerns the Guilford Four, depicted in the Irish film In the Name of the Father. Gerry Conlon and others were freed after 14 years when their lawyer finally unearthed their evidence confirming their alibi for the night of the bombings in government files. An attached note read, "Not to be shown to the defense." The Birmingham Six, accused in the other pub bombing, won an appeal after serving 17 years. These cases were tried publicly, with juries. Jonathan Bardon points out in The History of Ulster that these wrongful verdicts became "a propaganda coup" for the IRA.

Suspects held in secret

New antiterrorist legislation in Britain allows for detaining suspects for 28 days, a policy Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has advocated for the United States. These long detentions without charge can increase the likelihood the innocent will confess while the guilty go free. Of course those termed "enemy combatants" by the United States can be detained indefinitely.

Another policy, lengthy internment without trial, also heightened tensions in Northern Ireland. From 1971-75, nearly 1, 981 were interned; all but 107 were Catholic. At the time a Royal Marine officer said, "It has, in fact, increased terrorist activity, polarized further the Catholic and Protestant communities, and reduced the ranks of the much needed Catholic moderates." Twenty years later, Kevin McNamara, former Northern Ireland spokesman for the British Labor Party, called internment, "a constant reminder of the greatest political error made by any government in the handling of an emergency."

The United States has also made internment a cornerstone of security policy since 9/11. First, more than 5, 000 people, most of them Muslim men, were detained in the United States. Not one of them has been convicted of terrorism.

An unknown number of suspects have also been detained by the CIA at secret locations. The detainees in Guantanamo, like prisoners in Northern Ireland, have used hunger strikes to protest their detention, though the United States instituted forced feeding early on.

Britain has also used tribunals much like those at Guantanamo. Thousands of terrorist suspects in Northern Ireland were tried in these Diplock courts, named for Lord Diplock who recommended their creation in 1973. Like the U.S. military tribunals, they allowed for no jury or civilian review, indefinite detention and the admission of secret evidence. But there was no death penalty.

Four years after Diplock courts were introduced, the Sunday Times of London reported that 94 percent of these cases resulted in convictions, most by admissions of guilt made during interrogations. Thirty lawyers who routinely defended in the Diplock courts signed a letter stating that "the ill-treatment of suspects by police officers with the object of obtaining confessions is now common practice."

Extrajudicial killings

In the early 1970s, British security forces developed the so-called "five techniques" for use in Northern Ireland: hooding, wall-standing, subjection to loud noise, withholding of food and drink, and deprivation of sleep. These techniques have also been used by the United States, though the U.S. military prefers loud rock music to white noise. However, the guidelines developed by the U.S. Justice Department in 2002, which allowed for near-deadly force such as waterboarding, went far beyond anything written by the British.

One of the most damaging techniques of counterterrorism used in Northern Ireland involved undercover operatives working with paramilitary groups. Brian Nelson, an army operative, worked closely with the Protestant paramilitary group the Ulster Defense Association, and 29 people on his list were shot and killed, though even British police investigators now say most were not terrorists. In another case, Freddie Scappaticci, an IRA man who was reputedly involved in the killing of 40 to 50 suspected informants, is now believed to have been on the payroll of the British for decades.

This history of extrajudicial killing has implications for current U.S. policy. Seymour Hersh reported in 2004 in the New Yorker that the United States was proposing what one Pentagon informant called "pre-emptive man hunting" in Iraq, much like the counterinsurgency operation called the Phoenix Program during the Vietnam War, when thousands of Vietnamese were assassinated. It looks like such a policy is already in effect in Iraq. Recently the New York Times reported on nightly raids performed by Special Operations to kill or capture leaders of the Sunni insurgency, Shiite militias, or al-Qaida of Mesopotamia, though Richard Shultz, a terrorism expert at Tufts University, was quoted as saying, "My own view is that they still have to solve the intelligence problem."

In counterterrorism, Britain and the United States share a history. These are the tactics of totalitarian regimes, not liberal democracies. Such policies do much to foster real terrorist threats and undermine human rights around the world. Link

The writer, Kathleen Ochshorn, teaches Irish literature at the University of Tampa.

Blair - Not bombing Muslims anymore

Tony Blair will tomorrow quit as an MP as well as stepping down as prime minister.

... Mr Blair's local party will be gathered to hear his plan to quit politics to pursue his interests in Middle East peacemaking and inter-faith reconciliation. Link

db: Blair will make peace with his 'authentic Muslim voices'. The remaining Muslims will be killed by Bush and/or proxy forces.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

From New Tory to New Labour

Gordon Brown has claimed his first scalp as Labour leader - with the defection of senior Tory Quentin Davies on the eve of the Chancellor becoming Prime Minister.

Mr Davies, a former shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, delivered a withering verdict on Conservative leader David Cameron as he quit the party.

The Grantham and Stamford MP wrote in his resignation letter: "Under your leadership the Conservative Party appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything, or to stand for anything. It has no bedrock. It exists on shifting sands. A sense of mission has been replaced by a PR agenda." Link

db: As we've said before - merge them. There is not a fag paper's difference between Neo-Labour and the New-Tories. It's a pantomime. expletive deleted only the media give a damn.

A peace envoy whom we can do without

... If there is an award for the combined negative credibility of an institution and an individual, the Quartet and Blair should be its first recipients. Neither of them has much to stand on in terms of a track record of accomplishments in Arab-Israeli peacemaking, and both are tainted by a legacy of high aims, nice rhetoric, and meager results.

Blair's negatives in the Middle East are well known, and are not counter-balanced by his many successes at home or in Europe. His main problem is not only that he has been hypocritical or partial to Israel and the United States rather than truly even-handed; it is also that his policies have contributed directly and abundantly to the Arab-Israeli conflict and associated tensions in the Middle East that he is now going to try and resolve. Appointing Tony Blair as special envoy for Arab-Israeli peace is like appointing the Emperor Nero to be the chief fireman of Rome.

Blair has spoken for years about pushing for peace and two states in Palestine and Israel, yet he has repeatedly come down on the side of the Israelis in demanding that Israel's security should be guaranteed before any progress can occur. Last summer he declined many opportunities to condemn Israel's attacks against Lebanon, and instead went along with the US-driven policy of endorsing them. His speedy support of the Israeli-American boycott of Hamas after its election victory last year was impressive only for its unthinking haste.

His enthusiastic war-making in Iraq on the basis of lies and mistaken assumptions has caused immense suffering and waste in the Middle East, and has badly expanded the cycle of terror and brutal counter-violence in the name of fighting terror. Read more

Sunday, June 24, 2007

MoD still killing troops in Snatch Landrovers

A British soldier has died following an explosion in southern Afghanistan, the Ministry of Defence has said.

Four others were also injured in the blast in the Babaji area near Lashkar Gah in Helmand province.

The soldier, from 1st Battalion The Worcestershire and Sherwood Foresters, was taken to a military hospital but was pronounced dead on arrival.

All the soldiers' families have been informed of the incident, which happened on Sunday morning.

The explosion happened as the group travelled in an armoured Snatch Land Rover with a military team to survey the site for a new road project linking several villages in the Babaji area. Link

Feb 10th 2007 - Iraq: Troops still die in 'Snatch' Land Rover Death Trap
db posts on the infamous "Snatch" Link

Blair's ready, Pope not so

Tony Blair yesterday used his last official foreign engagement before leaving office to tell Pope Benedict he wanted to become a Roman Catholic, a Vatican source said last night.

But, in talks lasting more than half an hour, the outgoing Prime Minister was left in no doubt that the Pope took a dim view of his record in office. A statement issued afterwards by the Vatican said there had been a 'frank exchange of views'.

This is highly unusual language for the Vatican, which habitually describes meetings between the pontiff and other heads of state and government as 'cordial'. 'Frank' is code for unstinting criticism.

Vatican sources said the Pope remained unmoved in his view that Blair had been wrong over Iraq. To an even greater extent than his predecessor, Benedict feels that Catholic politicians cannot separate their public lives from their private. Link

Six Algerian Islamists killed

Algerian soldiers have shot and killed six armed Islamists near Algiers,while two guards died in homemade bomb blasts at a gas pipeline southeast of the capital, security sources and media reported Sunday.

... Since Islamist groups took up arms in 1992 in Algeria the pipeline has been the target of at least eight sabotage attempts, according to local newspapers. Link

db: "Since Islamist groups took up arms in 1992 ..." The author doesn't point out that a year earlier the Islamists won an election which was then cancelled - much like the Hamas experience:

Wikipedia: In December 1991, the Islamic Salvation Front won the first round of the country's first multi-party elections. Following pressure from western governemnts, the military then intervened and cancelled the second round, forced then-president Bendjedid to resign, and banned the Islamic Salvation Front. It then became a question of "the ballot or the bullet" and the ensuing conflict engulfed Algeria in the violent Algerian Civil War.

Using CW against Iran was not so bad

A cousin of the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has been sentenced to death by an Iraqi court for the mass murder of Kurds in 1988. Ali Hassan al-Majid, known as "Chemical Ali" for using poison gas in the Anfal campaign, was convicted of genocide. Link

db: Killing Kurds with chemical weapons was a crime against humanity. Killing Iranians with chemical weapons was in US eyes not so bad:
When asked [1984] whether the U.S.'s conclusion that Iraq had used chemical weapons [against Iran] would have "any effect on U.S. recent initiatives to expand commercial relationships with Iraq across a broad range, and also a willingness to open diplomatic relations," the department's spokesperson said "No. I'm not aware of any change in our position. We're interested in being involved in a closer dialogue with Iraq" [Document 52].

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 82

Friday, June 22, 2007

Blair to bring Pope ideas for spreading harmony

Mr Blair wants to speak to the Pope about his ideas for spreading harmony among the so-called "Abrahamic faiths" of Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Link

Step 1: Give Salman Rushdie a knighthood

Blair uncertainty, teenage angst

Tony Blair tells The Times today that the issue of his faith is "unresolved" as he prepares to meet the Pope for the final time as Prime Minister.

In an interview with today's Times Magazine, he hints that the widely reported conversion to Roman Catholicism is more complicated than many assume.

“I’m slightly nervous talking about it because I won’t have met him [the Pope] by the time this is published.”

Asked if he would convert to Catholicism, he says: "I don’t want to talk about it. It's difficult with some of these things. Things aren't always as resolved as they might be.” Link

English Tomatoes vanish from Tescos

Group sales, including VAT, increased by 16.7% to £43.1 billion (2005 – £37.0 billion). At constant exchange rates, sales grew by 15.0%. Group profit before tax increased by 18% to £2,235 million (2005 – £1,894 million). Underlying profit before tax (excluding IAS 32 and IAS 39 and the non–cash elements of IAS 19, which are replaced by the normal cash contributions) increased to £2,277 million, up by 18.3%. Underlying diluted earnings per share grew by 15.1% to 20.30p and diluted earnings per share increased by 15.1% to 19.92p.

A final dividend of 6.10p per ordinary share (2005 – 5.27p) is proposed. Together with the interim dividend of 2.53p (2005 – 2.29p) already paid, this brings the full year dividend to 8.63p (2005 – 7.56p) an increase of 14.2% on last year.

British Tomatoes don't give Tescos sufficient margin to justify them stocking them and selling them to us eager punters. Instead, at my local store, there is a mountain of toms from Poland. Sorry Polish friends but for once I am prepared to venture into rabid nationalism: English Toms are best.

Tescos, you bastards - where are they?

Update: It has been pointed out to me that in fact at Tescos you can still buy English toms - but alas it is only via the rip-off Tescos "finest" range. Given that they charge eight quid for four, my tomato sauce, which I make in huge quantities, would end up costing me more than a 2 week 5* holiday in Naples - with money over.

Blair up for job as Bush's courier

Tony Blair could soon find himself on a diplomatic hot seat that has burned other high-profile players if the Bush administration pushes him to become Middle East envoy. Link

db: Same old ... representing the interests of America.

Afghanistan: NATO leads in killing civilians

According to the Associated Press news agency, the latest deaths - if confirmed - will bring the number of civilians killed in NATO or US-led military operations this year to 177. Among these were seven children who died in a US air strike on Sunday.

A total of 169 civilians have been killed in militant attacks this year, including a recent series of suicide bombings. Link

Afghanistan: 9 women, 3 babies die in US air strike

A US air strike in southern Afghanistan has killed up to 25 civilians, a local police chief said today.

The victims included women, children and a cleric as well as 20 suspected Taliban militants, according to Mohammad Hussein Andiwal, the Helmand province police chief.

The air strike - which happened late yesterday - was launched in response to an attack on police posts near the town of Gereshk by militants.

It killed 25 civilians including nine women, three babies and the mullah of a local mosque, Mr Andiwal said. Link

18-6-07 US-Led Airstrike Kills 7 Afghan Children

Fatah gunmen on rampage in West Bank

Fatah 'moderates' on rampage

For much of the last week, Fatah gunmen in black masks have ruled the streets here, abducting rivals, looting or burning their property, and intimidating elected officials inside the Hamas-run City Hall.

Demoralized by Hamas' military defeat of their comrades in the Gaza Strip, the gunmen are sowing retribution across the West Bank. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, of Fatah, said Wednesday that the lawlessness was the most pressing problem facing the emergency government he appointed Sunday in the West Bank.

"We have seen chaos here before, but this is different. The police have lost control," said Hafez Shaheen, a Hamas municipal legislator who has abandoned his City Hall office in Nablus, the largest West Bank city and epicenter of the violence. "People are afraid for their lives."

U.S. and Israeli officials, stung by the Islamic movement's takeover in Gaza, have begun to treat the two Palestinian territories as separate entities. They are squeezing Gaza, and have pledged to spend money and diplomatic effort on the West Bank, in hope of turning it into a model new Palestine that can make peace with Israel.

The violence here reflects a complex reality posing more troublesome scenarios.

Most of the attacks have been carried out by the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a decentralized Fatah militia that is nominally loyal to Abbas but acts beyond his control. Like Hamas, it is branded by Israel and the U.S. State Department as a terrorist organization.

The victims of the rampage apparently are unarmed Hamas sympathizers or members of the Islamist group, which enjoys wide popular support in the largely secular West Bank as an alternative to the corrupt rule of the secular Fatah.

Hamas won the mayoral race in Nablus and at least a share of municipal power in five other West Bank cities in elections in 2004 and 2005. Link

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Iraq: Buying time

Gen. Peter Pace, outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the current U.S.-led offensive was "exactly what needs to be done." He said it "buys time for the Iraqi government....This is the right thing to do." Link

db: The reinforcements [that's "the surge" oh brainwashed ones] are intended to prop up the occupation in its current form just long enough for Bush to exit whilst he is still relatively 'on top' .... in teletubbyland.

Iran: New Arms Claim Reveals Cheney-Military Rift

In a development that underlines the tensions between the anti-Iran agenda of the George W. Bush administration and the preoccupation of its military command in Afghanistan with militant Sunni activism, a State Department official publicly accused Iran for the first time of arming the Taliban forces last week, but the U.S. commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan rejected that charge for the second time in less than two weeks.

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns declared in Paris Jun. 12 that Iran was "transferring arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan", putting it in the context of a larger alleged Iranian role of funding "extremists" in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Iraq. The following day he asserted that there was "irrefutable evidence" of such Iranian arms supply to the Taliban.

The use of the phrase "irrefutable evidence" suggested that the Burns statement was scripted by the office of Vice President Dick Cheney. The same phrase had been used by Cheney himself on Sep. 20, 2002, in referring to the administration's accusation that Saddam Hussein had a programme to enrich uranium as the basis for a nuclear weapon.

But the NATO commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Dan McNeill, pointed to other possible explanations, particularly the link between drug smuggling and weapons smuggling between Iran and Afghanistan.

Gen. McNeill repeated in an interview with U.S. News and World Report last week a previous statement to Reuters that he did not agree with the charge. McNeill minimised the scope of the arms coming from Iran, saying: "What we've found so far hasn't been militarily significant on the battlefield." Link

Netanyahu: Egypt, Jordan key to weakening Hamas

Netanyahu lauded Abbas for calling Hamas "murderous terrorists" in a televised address to the Palestinian people on Wednesday night, but lamented that he should have done so in the past when the group waged terror attacks against Israeli civilians.

He added that while Abbas might have genuine intentions to fight terror and resume peace talks with Israel, he lacked the means to provide security in the Palestinian territories where Iran and Syria were trying to sow strife.

"The third thing is to try to bolster the moderates, the Palestinian moderates primarily by providing security and I would like to see Jordan nearby come in and provide help with security because evidently the Palestinian leadership of Abbas may mean well but it doesn't have the power to handle that type of security," Netanyahu said. Link

db: Political Islam is the biggest Israeli/US fear. Likewise Egypt and Jordan, Saudi Arabia etc. Terrorism can be managed, political Islam cannot. Why else did the US/Israel/EU fail to nurture the Hamas move towards the ballet box and away from the gun? Killing 'terrorists' is easy. Killing Islamists who have renounced violence is more difficult. The 'international community' lead by George Bush appear to have placed Hamas firmly back in the box marked 'terrorist'. And in return we can expect what exactly?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tanks enter Gaza, Abbas attacks Hamas

Israel sent tanks on a foray into Gaza on Wednesday, killing
four Palestinians

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in his first speech since Islamist Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, said on Wednesday there could be no reconciliation with a group he described as "traitors". Link

Illegitimate governments support Abbas

Both Egypt and Jordan have expressed strong support for Abbas, calling him the legitimate Palestinian leader. Link

US kills innocent Iraqis on the cheap

What's an Iraqi life worth? How about an Iraqi car?

For the U.S. military in Iraq, it may be roughly the same.

A report released late last month by the Government Accountability Office examines the practices and rules guiding condolence payments that the U.S. military can distribute to families of Iraqi civilians killed "as a result of U.S. and coalition forces' actions during combat." These voluntary payments - known as "solatia" payments - can also cover injuries and loss or damage to property. They constitute "expressions of sympathy or remorse based on local culture and customs, but not an admission of legal liability or fault," according to the report.

The Pentagon has set $2,500 as the highest individual sum that can be paid. Most death payments remain at that level, with a rough sliding scale of $1,000 for serious injury and $500 for property damage. Link

Jimmy Carter: US/EU/Israel's criminal actions

During his speech to Ireland's annual Forum on Human Rights, the 83-year-old former president said monitors from his Carter Center observed the 2006 election that Hamas won. He said the vote was "orderly and fair" and Hamas triumphed, in part, because it was "shrewd in selecting candidates," whereas a divided, corrupt Fatah ran multiple candidates for single seats.

Far from encouraging Hamas' move into parliamentary politics, Carter said the U.S. and Israel, with European Union acquiescence, sought to subvert the outcome by shunning Hamas and helping Abbas to keep the reins of political and military power.

"That action was criminal," he said in a news conference after his speech.

"The United States and Israel decided to punish all the people in Palestine and did everything they could to deter a compromise between Hamas and Fatah," he said.

Carter said the U.S. and others supplied the Fatah-controlled security forces in Gaza with vastly superior weaponry in hopes they would "conquer Hamas in Gaza"- but Hamas routed Fatah in the fighting last week because of its "superior skills and discipline." Link

Monday, June 18, 2007

Afghanistan: Not burning schools - bombing them

Seven children were killed during an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition that targeted a religious compound thought to be a sanctuary of Al Qaeda in remote eastern Afghanistan, the coalition reported Monday. Link

Bush Ranch
Crawford, Texas

21 May 2007

NATO Sec. Gen. Jaap de Hoop Scheffer:

... NATO forces and coalition forces will try to avoid civilian casualties. We'll do that and we'll look very seriously into that -- the military commanders, us, we, as politicians, as leaders. But let me tell you one thing, we are not in the same moral category as our opponents, as the Taliban in Afghanistan. We don't behead people. We don't burn schools.Link
We do bomb schools

Supporting "some" Palestinians

Condoleezza Rice: "It is the duty of the international community to support those Palestinians who wish to build a better life, and a future of peace," Link

db: This is the law. We must support the 'new government' of the 'good' Palestinians - because Israel, the EU and, most importantly, the US do. We support only those who, as Condi says, want to build a "better life" of peace. For those that seek a "worse life" dominated by war - such as those living in Gaza -
the US/EU/Israel will offer them war, famine, and death. It's not all bad news because Israel says that the 'new government' is a "genuine partner". That's a genuine unelected partner. All the best Middle East partners are unelected.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Baghdad? West Bank

... despite the Palestinian Authority’s show of force, Israel remains the real power in the West Bank. Link

Friday, June 15, 2007

Abbas trashes democracy with 'western' support

Members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' security forces arrest Saleh Frehat, an Islamic court judge affiliated with Hamas, at his family house in the West Bank village of Al-Yamoon near Jenin, June 15, 2007. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

The United States and European Union as well as the United Nations and Russia -- the Quartet of Middle East mediators -- offered a "clear message of support" to Mahmoud Abbas, the secular president who named a new prime minister after firing the Hamas-led government and declaring a state of emergency. Link

db: Israeli support was overlooked:

Following the events in Gaza, Mr Olmert said: "I call on my friend Abu Mazen (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas) to take the opportunity, now that almost the entire world understands the viciousness, the brutality of Hamas, to exercise his authority as the leader of the Palestinian people." Link

Thursday, June 14, 2007

UK cover-up won't help BAE - the yanks are coming

The US department of justice is preparing to open a corruption investigation into the arms company BAE, the Guardian has learned. It would cover the alleged £1bn arms deal payments to Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia.
Washington sources familiar with the thinking of senior officials at the justice department said yesterday it was "99% certain" that a criminal inquiry would be opened under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Such an investigation would have potentially seismic consequences for BAE, which is trying to take over US arms companies and make the Pentagon its biggest customer. Link

With Israeli Approval, Egypt Sent Arms to Abbas's Fatah

Washington Post Dec 29th 2006

With Israel's blessing, Egypt has delivered a large shipment of arms to forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli officials said Thursday, in the latest Israeli attempt to boost the embattled leader in his conflict with the radical Hamas organization.

Israel has been trying to reinforce Abbas's standing among his people. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Abbas is a partner for negotiations -- unlike Hamas, which rejects the existence of Israel and refuses to renounce violence. Hamas took over the Palestinian government after winning parliamentary elections last January. Link

db: Funny old world when Israel tries to "reinforce Abbas's standing amongst his people" by supporting an arms shipment to be utilised against a government democratically elected by his people as a means of ousting the corrupt and useless party - Fatah - that he leads.

Abbas aide denies Fatah received arms from Egypt

Everybody wants to see the violence end?

The United States blamed Hamas Wednesday for the latest round of fighting in the Gaza Strip, accusing the radical Palestinian group of trying to undermine the peace process with Israel.

U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the attacks by Hamas against the Palestinian security forces seek to destabilize the Palestinian government and thwart negotiations with Israel.

"Everybody wants to see the violence end. But let's be clear about who triggered this latest wave of violence," McCormack said, referring to Hamas.

"There are those who are irreconcilable to any political process that would result in negotiations with Israel to resolve the Israeli- Palestinian conflict," McCormack added.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Wednesday the Palestinians "are going to have to sort out their politics and figure out which pathway they want to pursue, the pathway towards two states living peaceably side by side or whether this sort of chaos is going to become a problem." Link

db: One thing I'm sure of - 'everybody' does not want to see the violence end. Many would like to see Hamas destroyed, at any cost to the civilian population. Much like those same parties wanted to see the destruction of Hezbollah via Israeli bombs last year. The plight of civilians matters little when there is a chance of eliminating Islamist opposition to 'western backed' entities.

The US and the EU have undermined both the political wing of Hamas and the very concept of democracy by their failure to engage with the elected government - predictably giving more power to those who would rather use violence to further their aims.

Hamas fighters celebrate

Palestinian militants from Hamas drink energy drinks as they
celebrate their capture of the Preventive Security headquarters
during fighting with Fatah loyalist security forces in Gaza City,
Thursday, June 14, 2007. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

Hamas storms major Fatah compound in Gaza

Hamas fighters on Thursday raised the green flags of the Islamist movement over one of the last Gaza City bastions of forces loyal to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, witnesses said.

Some of the defenders fled the heavily fortified Preventive Security headquarters while others surrendered, promised "safe passage home" in an announcement on Hamas radio.
Gunfire still sounded from nearby rooftops where other Fatah men were shooting at Hamas attackers, witnesses said. Medical workers said at least 10 people were wounded in the battle.

Fatah denied the headquarters had fallen, but green Hamas flags fluttered from its rooftop -- a powerful symbol to Gazans that Hamas had largely taken charge after five days of bloodshed in the territory in which more than 80 people have been killed.
"It's a war zone. Since yesterday we have been living the most horrible time of our life," one neighbor, Sadi, said by telephone as he tried to calm his weeping children. Link

Former U.N. Envoy Chides U.S., Israel For Hamas Efforts

The United Nations' former top Middle East envoy has sharply criticized U.S. and Israeli efforts to isolate the Hamas-led Palestinian government, saying the policy has further radicalized Palestinian opinion and undercut long-term efforts to establish a viable Palestinian state.

The broadside by Alvaro de Soto was contained in a confidential 52-page report [pdf] he filed before resigning from the United Nations last month, ending a 25-year U.N. career. It was an unusually candid assessment by the Peruvian diplomat, who has overseen U.N. peace efforts in El Salvador, Cyprus, Western Sahara and other trouble spots. Link

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Lords' ruling sparks calls for Iraq prisoner abuse inquiry

The government was facing fresh demands for an Iraq prisoner abuse inquiry today after the House of Lords ruled UK human rights laws apply to detainees.

The Lords upheld part of an appeal by relatives of hotel worker Baha Mousa, 26, who died while he was in British Army custody in 2003.

He is alleged to have died after he was tortured over a period of 36 hours while detained by British troops.

Courts martial cleared the soldiers in his case, but the ruling that he was covered by the European Convention on Human Rights could now force a public inquiry.

The Lords also ruled that five other Iraqi civilians killed in different incidents in Basra, who were not being detained, were not covered by human rights law.

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti said she expected a full independent inquiry to examine the legal advice given to the military about how they could treat prisoners and the training and resources given to military personnel.

She said: "There could now never be a British Guantanamo.

"The British will never be able to build a prison anywhere in the world and say it is a legal black hole. Link

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Downing Street caved in to corrupt prince's threats

A Saudi prince, who is alleged to have received £1 billion in payments in the BAE Systems arms deal, personally lobbied Downing Street to get it to drop a criminal inquiry into the contract, claim senior Whitehall officials, writes David Leppard.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan, head of Saudi Arabia’s national security council, met Tony Blair last July at the height of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) inquiry into claims that BAE had illegally paid huge sums to members of the Saudi royal family.

Bandar is said by a second senior government official to have told Jonathan Powell, Blair’s chief of staff, that the Saudis would pull out of the arms deal, which involved the sale of 72 Typhoon jets, unless the investigation was stopped. He also said intelligence ties in the war on terror would be cut. Link

Saturday, June 09, 2007

G8 fails 4.8 million Aids sufferers

Mrs Merkel said: "We are moving forward and making
great efforts and Bono has never denied this," she said. Link

The Bandar cover-up: who knew what, and when?

The government was last night fighting to contain the fallout over £1bn in payments to a Saudi prince as the attorney general came under renewed pressure to explain how much he knew about the affair.

While in public the government was issuing partial denials about its role in the controversy, in private there were desperate efforts to secure a new BAE £20bn arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

And any hopes that the furore could be halted were dashed last night when the Guardian learned that the world's anti-corruption organisation, the OECD, was poised to resume its own inquiry into why the British government suddenly abandoned its investigations into the £43bn al-Yamamah arms deal. Link

Friday, June 08, 2007

US disturbed by BAE corruption case

The United States has kept a close watch on developments in the BAE case, concerned, according to American officials, that cancellation of the Serious Fraud Office’s inquiry contradicts an antibribery convention overseen by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Jaclyn Lesch, a Justice Department spokeswoman, would neither confirm nor deny whether the department had opened its own investigation. The Justice Department would become involved if it were determined there was a possible violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids companies from making payments to foreign officials to win contracts.

“There would have to be some kind of U.S. nexus for us to bring charges,” Ms. Lesch said. BAE is a British company but has an American subsidiary. David Foley, a State Department spokesman on Middle East issues, referred all questions to the British government. Link

Blair advocates governance against corruption - Africa only!

Mr Blair told reporters: "The important thing about what we have agreed is that we have recommitted ourselves to all the commitments we made a couple of years ago at Gleneagles. The important thing is we have set out how we are going to do them.

"There is a 60 billion dollar (£30 billion) commitment for help on HIV/Aids, there's a major initiative on education and funding for that, and support for peacekeeping, support for Africa's ability to trade its goods, support also for proper governance because this is a partnership.

"It's a deal between Africa and the developed world and just as we have recommitted ourselves to substantial increases in support and help, so Africa has recommitted itself to its responsibilities as part of a partnership - proper governance against corruption, proper democracy and so on." Link

Blair government cancels British Aerospace-Saudi arms inquiry

Prime Minister Tony Blair accepted “full responsibility” for dropping the inquiry. Link

Thursday, June 07, 2007

BAE did not bribe to win this business

British government "approved" BAE Saudi corruption

Confronted with fresh allegations of impropriety in a major British arms deal with Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday again defended his decision to cancel an official inquiry into the multibillion-dollar agreement.

Blair was speaking at the Group of 8 summit meeting in northern Germany after British news organizations said BAE Systems, the leading British defense contractor, paid more than $2 billion clandestinely into bank accounts in Washington that acted as conduits to Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who for 22 years was the Saudi ambassador to the United States before stepping down in 2005.

BAE denied breaking British laws in the so-called Al Yamamah deal, negotiated in 1985 and then worth £43 billion, $86 billion at today's exchange rate. The deal supplied the Saudis with warplanes and other military equipment. BAE insisted, too, that all payments made under the agreement had government approval.

"The Al Yamamah program is a government-to-government agreement, and all such payments made under those agreements were made with the express approval of both the Saudi and U.K. governments," BAE said in a statement. "We deny all allegations of wrongdoing in relation to this important and strategic program, and we will abide by the duty of confidentiality imposed on us by the government." Link

db: The story is in the headline. This is why the SFO investigation was dropped. Blair's spin that he abandoned the case for jobs and the so-called war on terror just isn't credible.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

US killing 50 Iraqi civilians a month with bombs

The rate of such reported civilian deaths appeared to climb steadily through 2006, the group reports, averaging just a few a month in early 2006, hitting some 40 a month by year's end, and averaging more than 50 a month so far this year. Link

thanks Tony - the inauthentic voices must die

US military controls third of Baghdad

The [military] report says U.S. and Iraqi forces are able to protect citizens and maintain influence over 146 of Baghdad's 457 neighborhoods. In other neighborhoods, The U.S. and Iraqi troops are still rooting out enemy fighters, or trying to disrupt insurgent operations before clearing can begin.

U.S. military officials say the report is an internal assessment tool and is not meant as a review of the effectiveness of the security operation. Link

db: The report states that the US military is unable to control two thirds of Baghdad, so be it, however it is clear that this statistic does not tell the whole story. An assessment like this is utilised by those overseeing the execution of the 'surge' [reinforcements] plan as a simple snapshot representative of a moment in time and as such fails to provide a 20:20 picture which may have an upside that is not quantifiable in a sense that would be understood by the media or the public.

Buy that? Me neither - they're losing.

Sanchez: US can forget about winning in Iraq

The man who led coalition forces in Iraq during the first year of the occupation says the United States can forget about winning the war.

"I think if we do the right things politically and economically with the right Iraqi leadership we could still salvage at least a stalemate, if you will -- not a stalemate but at least stave off defeat," retired Army Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez said in an interview.

"I am absolutely convinced that America has a crisis in leadership at this time," Sanchez said after a recent speech in San Antonio, Texas. Link

db: It's called losing.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Bush: I call him Vladimir

"My message will be: 'Vladimir - I call him Vladimir - you shouldn't fear a missile defence system. As a matter of fact, why don’t you co-operate with us on a missile defence system? Why don’t you participate with the United States?' " Link

db: Vlad [I call him vlad] and george participating together, as equal partners, in a trillion dollar project to protect their respective nations from, erm, Iran?

Neo-Labour's Levy and Turner bailed

The cash-for-honours investigation continued to overshadow Tony Blair's final days in office today as it emerged that Labour's chief fundraiser, Lord Levy, and Downing Street aide Ruth Turner have been re-bailed in connection with the inquiry.

Scotland Yard confirmed the pair - identified by police only as "Man B" and a "female" - had "returned bail" today and were subsequently re-bailed.

Evidence gathered by detectives during a 13-month inquiry into the "cash-for-honours" affair was handed to the Crown Prosecution Service in April. Link

Guantanamo 'parallel justice' failure

The dismissal by military judges of two cases before military commissions should persuade the Bush administration to end its failed judicial experiment at Guantanamo Bay, Human Rights Watch said today. On June 4, 2007 the judges dismissed charges against Omar Khadr, who was only 15 when he was apprehended in Afghanistan, and Salim Ahmed Hamdan, who was allegedly Osama bin Laden's driver, saying the government had failed to establish jurisdiction over the cases. The military commissions, established by Congress last year, are empowered to try "unlawful enemy combatants," but Khadr and Hamdan - and almost 400 other detainees at Guantanamo - have been classified only as "enemy combatants."

"If the Bush administration had any sense, this ruling would signal the death of the military commissions," said Jennifer Daskal, US advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. "Today's decisions show that Washington's effort to create a parallel justice system in Guantanamo has failed."

Since late 2001, when the Bush administration first announced military commissions to try the detainees at Guantanamo, only one person has been prosecuted by a commission. David Hicks who pleaded guilty in March 2007 to one count of providing material support to terrorism has since returned home to Australia to serve a nine-month sentence. "In the five years it has taken the military commissions to prosecute one person, the federal courts have successfully prosecuted hundreds of terrorism cases, including dozens of international terrorism cases," said Daskal. "It's time to move these cases to a tried and true system that works." Link

Blair: Authentic Islam

Meaningless Neo-labour slogan

As part of his series of farewells, Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday addressed a government-organized conference on Islam and declared that the "authentic voices" of the religion should be given a stage ... Link

db: And the inauthentic voices? We will strafe them ... and there friends, and their families.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Israeli tanks and Cats raid southern Gaza

Israeli bulldozer in Rafah

Some Israeli occupation troops' vehicles advanced deep into sofa area, east of Rafah city, south Gaza strip and bulldozed swaths of arable lands under an aerial cover and heavy firing meanwhile in the West Bank house-house raid has been carried out in several cities and towns in which several were arrested.

South [of] the Strip, a column of Israeli convoys advanced deep in Sofa area, east Rafah city and razed Palestinians lands. Security sources said that the Israeli troops thrust in one Km deep into PNA territories and occupied two houses took up positions and vandalized the houses furniture.

Witnesses said that an IOF patrol troop searched several residents' houses, left such houses in shambles and questioned some households before arresting some of them. Then afterward the Israeli troops used megaphones to order residents at age 16-45 year to gather in the main courtyard.

Eight residents were rounded up by the Israeli troops today morning in Jenin, Tulkarem and Rammallagh cities, Israeli military sources said in broadcast remarks. Link

Israeli Catterpiller bulldozers in action:

Bush in Prague for "defence" shield talks

President George W. Bush arrived in Prague on Monday for talks about locating part of the proposed US missile defence shield in central Europe.

But Mr Bush’s most immediate concern was seeking protection from the latest in a series of rhetorical bombs lobbed by Vladimir Putin, the Russian president

Mr Putin warned on Sunday that Moscow would take “retaliatory steps”, including the possible retargeting of Russian missiles against Europe, if Washington pushed ahead with plans to place radars and interceptors in the Czech Republic and Poland.

Washington insists the system is designed to protect the US and its allies against states, such as Iran, that could one day acquire nuclear weapons.

But Moscow fears the technology could be used to neutralise Russian missile capabilities and accuses the US of upsetting the balance of power in a region that once fell firmly within the Kremlin’s sphere of influence.

Mr Putin’s comments were the starkest sign yet that Russia had chosen the proposed missile shield as an issue on which to make a stand after 15 years of – in Moscow’s view – being pushed around by the west.

Moscow believes it has been forced to swallow a series of western foreign policy actions against its will since the Soviet Union collapsed, including expansion of Nato into former Soviet satellite states, Nato intervention in Kosovo, and agreement to open US military bases in Romania and Bulgaria.

But with its economy enjoying an oil-fuelled recovery and Mr Putin set on returning Russia to its former position as a global power, it has decided to draw a line in the sand.

“Russia is saying that to agree to disagree is not enough any more,” said Ivan Safranchuk, defence analyst at the World Security Institute in Moscow. Link

Missile 'defense' system launches new arms race

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that Moscow would take "retaliatory steps" if Washington proceeds with building a missile defense system for Europe, in an interview released Monday.

Speaking to foreign reporters days before he heads to Germany for the annual summit with U.S. President George Bush and the other Group of Eight leaders, Putin assailed the White House plan to place a radar system in the Czech Republic and interceptor missiles in neighboring Poland. Washington says the system is needed to counter a potential threat from Iran.

Putin said neither Iran nor another pariah state, North Korea, have the rockets that the system is intended to shoot down, suggesting the system would be used instead against Russia.

"We are being told the anti-missile defense system is targeted against something that does not exist. Doesn't it seem funny to you, to say the least?" an irritated Putin said.

He added that the planned missile shield would cover Russia's territory up to the Ural Mountains.

"It would be funny if it wasn't so sad," he said.

Putin lamented that the planned system would be "an integral part of the U.S. nuclear arsenal" in Europe - an unprecedented step. "It simply changes the entire configuration of international security."

He said he hoped that U.S. officials would change their minds regarding the missile plan, warning that Moscow was preparing a tit-for-tat response.

"If this doesn't happen, then we disclaim responsibility for our retaliatory steps, because it is not we who are the initiators of the new arms race, which is undoubtedly brewing in Europe," Putin said.

"The strategic balance in the world is being upset and in order to restore this balance without creating an anti-missile defense on our territory we will be creating a system of countering that anti-missile system, which is what we are doing now," Putin said. Link

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Iran fear up

Juan Cole

... Polling shows that the percentage of Americans who view Iran as the number one threat to the United States has risen to 27 percent now. I think it was only 20 percent in December 2006. First of all, how in the world can a developing country with about a fourth of the population of the US, about a $2000 per capita income (in real terms, not local purchasing power), with no intercontinental ballistic missiles, with no weapons of mass destruction (and no proof positive it is trying to get them), with a small army and a small military budget-- how is such a country a "threat" to the United States of America? Iranian leaders don't like the US, and they talk dirty about the US, and they do attempt to thwart US interests. The same is true of Venezuela under Chavez. But Tehran is a minor player on the world stage, and trying to build it up to replace the Soviet Union is just the worst sort of fear-mongering, and it is being done on behalf of the US military industrial complex, which wants to do to Iran what it did to Iraq. It is propaganda, and significant numbers of Americans (a 7 percent increase would be like 21 million people!) are buying it. Link

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Eyeballing the US Embassy in Baghdad

A portion of the new U.S. embassy under construction is seen from across the Tigris
river in Baghdad, Saturday, May 19, 2007. The new $592 million embassy occupies
a chunk of prime Baghdad real estate two-thirds the size of Washington's National Mall,
with desk space for about 1,000 people behind high, blast-resistant walls. The compound
is a symbol both of how much the United States has invested in Iraq and how the
circumstances of U.S. involvement are changing. (AP Photo)

Eyeballing US Embassy in Baghdad

ElBaradei: "new crazies" want Iran War

The United Nations nuclear watchdog chief warned on Friday against the "new crazies" advocating military action to halt Iran's nuclear programme and said he did not want to see another war like that in Iraq. "I wake every morning and see 100 Iraqis, innocent civilians, are dying," International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director Mohamed ElBaradei said in an interview for BBC Radio. "I have no brief other than to make sure we don't go into another war or that we go crazy into killing each other. You do not want to give additional argument to new crazies who say "let's go and bomb Iran'," he said in a documentary, excerpts from which were published on the BBC's Web site in advance.

... Asked who the "new crazies" were he replied: "Those who have extreme views and say the only solution is to impose your will by force." Link

Friday, June 01, 2007

But why do they hate us Mommy?

Each time the old woman breathed out you could hear a small groan of pain as she sat, her head in one hand, her other shoulder shattered by shrapnel and fixed in a coarse plaster.

Her son Mohammad and his wife Khwara sat next to her - they were mourning the death of their 18-year-old son and her brother.

Both were among 57 killed - almost half of them women and children - when American forces bombed their village in Shindand, western Afghanistan, and destroyed 100 homes.

"The bombardments were going on day and night," said Mohammad Zarif Achakzai, who had to flee their mud house in the Zerkoh Valley.

"Those who tried to get out somewhere safe were being bombed. They didn't care if it was women, children or old men."

Khwara explained how it started: "Americans came to the village without consulting any elders," she said.

"They just came into to the women's part of the house, so we women went to the elders, and we told them if you don't stop this, we women will stand against them."

Remembering what happened she began to get angry: "Death to America," she shouted. "Death to the America that killed my son." Read more