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, October 31, 2007

Gwynne Dyer: Hezbollah, PKK and American Hypocrisy

Fifteen months ago, the armed wing of Lebanon’s Hezbollah party, listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and most other Western countries, attacked Israel’s northern border, capturing two Israeli soldiers and killing eight more. Israel replied with a month of massive air attacks all across Lebanon that destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure, leveled a good deal of south Beirut, and killed around a thousand Lebanese civilians.

Washington, London, Ottawa and some other Western capitals insisted that this was a reasonable and proportionate response, and shielded Israel from intense diplomatic pressure to stop the attacks even when Israel launched a land invasion of southern Lebanon in early August, 2006. The operation only ended when Israeli casualties on the ground mounted rapidly and the Israeli government pulled its troops back.

So what would be a reasonable and proportionate Turkish response to the recent attacks by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by the United States and most other Western countries, from northern Iraq into southeastern Turkey? More than forty Turkish civilians and soldiers have been killed in these attacks over the past two weeks, and a further eight Turkish soldiers were captured.

Well, it would be unreasonable for Turkey to bomb Iraq, where the PKK’s bases are, for any more than one month. It would be quite disproportionate for the Turkish Air Force to level more than a small part of Baghdad — say, 15,000 homes. Ideally, it should leave Baghdad alone and restrict itself to destroying some Kurdish-populated city in northern Iraq near Turkey’s own border. Moreover, when the Turks do invade Iraq on the ground, they should restrict themselves to the northern border strip where the PKK’s bases are.

What’s that? Washington is asking Turkey to show restraint and not attack Iraq at all? Even after the Kurdish terrorists killed or kidnapped all those Turkish people? Could it be that Turkish lives are worth less than Israeli lives?

Never mind. At least the United States officially classes the PKK as a terrorist organization and refuses to let its officials have any contact with it. But what’s this? There is a parallel terrorist organization called the Party for Free Life in Kurdistan (PJAK), essentially a branch office of the PKK, also based in northern Iraq, which carries out attacks into the adjacent Kurdish-populated region of Iran, and the United States does not condemn the PJAK? It even sends its officials to have friendly chats with the PJAK terrorists? How odd!

The PJAK’s leader, Rahman Haj-Ahmadi, paid an unofficial visit to Washington last summer. One of his close associates, Biryar Gabar, claims to have “normal dialogue” with US officials, according to a report last Tuesday in the New York Times — and the American military spokesman in Baghdad, Cmdr. Scott Rye, issued a carefully structured nondenial saying that “The consensus is that US forces are not working with or advising the PJAK.”

Biryar Gabar also said that PJAK fighters have killed at least 150 Iranian soldiers and officials in the past three months. That’s a lot more people than the PKK have killed in Turkey in the same time, and yet neither Washington nor any other Western country has expressed sympathy for Iran. Could it be that Iranian lives are worth even less than Turkish lives?

And here’s something even more peculiar. Iran, like Turkey, is already shelling Kurdish villages on the Iraqi side of the frontier that it suspects of sheltering or supplying the PKK/PJAK. How come President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney simply ignore these actions, when they have been working hard for the past year to build a case for attacking Iran? As Pat Buchanan noted on MSNBC’s “Hardball” last week: “Cheney and Bush are laying down markers for themselves which they’re going to have to meet. I don’t see how.”

The US military “assets” for an attack on Iran are all in place, so it can’t be that. Maybe the delay means that Bush and Cheney are having difficulty in persuading the military professionals to go along with this hare-brained scheme. Most senior American military officers see an attack on Iran as leading to inevitable failure and humiliation for the United States, and the last thing the White House wants is a rash of US generals resigning in protest when it orders the attack.

On the other hand, Bush is still the commander-in-chief, and how many American generals resigned when he committed the somewhat lesser folly of invading Iraq? Only one, and he did it very quietly. Link

Euro could replace Dollar as a reserve currency

In the interview published in Stern magazine, Alan Greenspan (former FED Chief) said it was “absolutely conceivable that the euro will replace the dollar as reserve currency, or will be traded as an equally important reserve currency.”

If the former chairman’s words prove true, the dollar’s present downward slide will continue. Greenspan noted that at the end of 2006, two thirds of all currency reserves were held in dollars, as opposed to 25 percent for the euro. If central banks continue to increase euro proportions at the expense of the dollar, demand for the dollar will fall and excess dollar supplies could start flooding the market.

In fact, this trend is already under way, as evidenced by the recent breakdown in the dollar’s value. Iran's central bank governor has said that the country has completed the process of diversifying its external reserves away from the dollar. Iran's move to diversify away from the dollar has been partly motivated by political tensions with the US and partly due to the weakness of the dollar in the past two years.

In recent months, the dollar has hit all-time lows against the euro and multi-decade lows against many other currencies. The dollar has also reached new lows against oil and wheat, and a 28-year low against gold.

On an average, Dollar has depreciated around 10% against major curriences from year to date and this is expected to continue. Greenspan also stated that although more countries still use the dollar as a reserve currency, the greenback doesn’t actually have “all that much of an advantage” over the euro any longer.

In terms of cross-border trade, the dollar accounts for 43 percent, while the euro is used in 39 percent of such transactions. Loss of the dollar’s reserve currency status would be a huge blow to the United States. It would drastically undermine the dollar’s value and cause Americans to lose many unique economic blessings that they have become used to. Economic conditions in the U.S. may be about to radically change. Link

Water-boarding Torture

IN 1957, the French journalist Henri Alleg was tortured by the French in Algeria. In The Question, the famous book that he wrote about his experiences, he described the following ordeal. He was laid out over a wooden plank, his head wrapped in a rag and positioned beneath a tap, which was then turned on.
"The rag was soaked rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. But for a while I could still breathe in some small gulps of air. I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs for as long as I could. But I couldn't hold on for more than a few moments. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me."
What Alleg is describing here is the practice known as "water-boarding", sometimes also called "simulated drowning". These euphemisms conceal a disgraceful reality, one powerfully exposed by Alleg's anguished testimony.
On any measure, "water-boarding" constitutes torture. One could be forgiven for thinking that such an odious practice could never be used by civilised societies. It's time to think again. Read more

Immunity offer to Blackwater security guards causes outrage

The Bush administration faced intense criticism yesterday after it emerged that the state department had offered immunity to Blackwater security guards allegedly involved in a shooting spree in Baghdad that left 17 dead.

The immunity offer was made by state department investigators in return for information about the September 16 killings. The offer does not mean a trial cannot be mounted but it would compromise any prosecution case and practically ensure there would be no convictions. Link

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

London Mayor: Saudi Royals source of terrorism

London Mayor Ken Livingstone -- who has previously said he would like to see Saudi royals "swinging from the lampposts" -- criticised government ministers for "bending over backwards" to keep the Saudis happy in order to secure further lucrative defence deals.

The notion that the Saudi royals had tackled terrorism was "a bit rich -- they have been one of its principal sources through the funding of Wahhabism over the last five decades," he said. Link

Mubarak gets US support for nuclear plans

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the United States would not object to Egypt's program as long as Cairo adhered to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines. Link

db: How are 'we' to prevent them from acquiring the knowledge to build a nuclear weapon, which is Bush's [newest] stated aim regarding Iran? Oh, but Egypt is on our side, you say. Problem: Egypt has been ruled by Hosni Mubarak under 'state of emergency' conditions since 1961; and it's quite likely that after him, for a while at least, will be ruled by Gamal Mubarak - the younger of two sons. Democracy does not exist in Egypt, and since Hamas won a "fair and democratic mandate" from Palestinians the US has backed off from pressuring Mubarak for reform, preferring 'stability' over risky elections that might see considerable success for the Muslim Brotherhood. Unfortunately the kind of stability we currently see in Egypt is similar to that which existed in Iran under the Shah, who was overthrown by Khomeini in 1979 [and, ironically is buried in Egypt]. It was also the Shah's dream to go nuclear.

No Evidence Iran Building Nuclear Weapons:Mohamed ElBaradei

The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog said Sunday he had no evidence Iran was working actively to build nuclear weapons and expressed concern that escalating rhetoric from the U.S. could bring disaster.

"We have information that there has been maybe some studies about possible weaponization," said Mohamed ElBaradei, who leads the International Atomic Energy Agency. "That's why we have said that we cannot give Iran a pass right now, because there is still a lot of question marks."

"But have we seen Iran having the nuclear material that can readily be used into a weapon? No. Have we seen an active weaponization program? No." U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Iran this month of "lying" about the aim of its nuclear program. She said there is no doubt Tehran wants the capability to produce nuclear weapons and has deceived the IAEA about its intentions.

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney has raised the prospect of "serious consequences" if Iran were found to be working toward developing a nuclear weapon. Last week, the Bush administration announced harsh penalties against the Iranian military and state-owned banking systems in hopes of raising pressure on the world financial system to cut ties with Tehran.

ElBaradei said he was worried about the growing rhetoric from the U.S., which he noted focused on Iran's alleged intentions to build a nuclear weapon rather than evidence the country was actively doing so. If there is actual evidence, ElBaradei said he would welcome seeing it.

"I'm very much concerned about confrontation, building confrontation, because that would lead absolutely to a disaster. I see no military solution. The only durable solution is through negotiation and inspection," he said.

"My fear is that if we continue to escalate from both sides that we will end up into a precipice, we will end up into an abyss. As I said, the Middle East is in a total mess, to say the least. And we cannot add fuel to the fire," ElBaradei added. Link

Fisk: King Abdullah flies in to lecture us on terrorism

In what world do these people live? True, there'll be no public executions outside Buckingham Palace when His Royal Highness rides in stately formation down The Mall. We gave up capital punishment about half a century ago. There won't even be a backhander – or will there? – which is the Saudi way of doing business. But for King Abdullah to tell the world, as he did in a BBC interview yesterday, that Britain is not doing enough to counter "terrorism", and that most countries are not taking it as seriously as his country is, is really pushing it. Weren't most of the 11 September 2001 hijackers from – er – Saudi Arabia? Is this the land that is really going to teach us lessons?

The sheer implausibility of the claim that Saudi intelligence could have prevented the ondon bombings if only the British Government had taken it seriously, seems to have passed the Saudi monarch by. "We have sent information to Great Britain before the terrorist attacks in Britain but unfortunately no action was taken. And it may have been able to maybe avert the tragedy," he told the BBC. This claim is frankly incredible.

The sad, awful truth is that we fete these people, we fawn on them, we supply them with fighter jets, whisky and whores. No, of course, there will be no visas for this reporter because Saudi Arabia is no democracy. Yet how many times have we been encouraged to think otherwise about a state that will not even allow its women to drive? Kim Howells, the Foreign Office minister, was telling us again yesterday that we should work more closely with the Saudis, because we "share values" with them. And what values precisely would they be, I might ask?

Saudi Arabia is a state which bankrolled – a definite no-no this for discussion today – Saddam's legions as they invaded Iran in 1980 (with our Western encouragement, let it be added). And which said nothing – a total and natural silence – when Saddam swamped the Iranians with gas. The Iraqi war communiqué made no bones about it. "The waves of insects are attacking the eastern gates of the Arab nation. But we have the pesticides to wipe them out."

Did the Saudi royal family protest? Was there any sympathy for those upon whom the pesticides would be used? No. The then Keeper of the Two Holy Places was perfectly happy to allow gas to be used because he was paying for it – components were supplied, of course, by the US – while the Iranians died in hell. And we Brits are supposed to be not keeping up with our Saudi friends when they are "cracking down on terrorism".

Like the Saudis were so brilliant in cracking down on terror in 1979 when hundreds of gunmen poured into the Great Mosque at Mecca, an event so mishandled by a certain commander of the Saudi National Guard called Prince Abdullah that they had to call in toughs from a French intervention force. And it was a former National Guard officer who led the siege.

Saudi Arabia's role in the 9/11 attacks has still not been fully explored. Senior members of the royal family expressed the shock and horror expected of them, but no attempt was made to examine the nature of Wahhabism, the state religion, and its inherent contempt for all representation of human activity or death. It was Saudi Muslim legal iconoclasm which led directly to the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban, Saudi Arabia's friends. And only weeks after Kamal Salibi, a Lebanese history professor, suggested in the late 1990s that once-Jewish villages in what is now Saudi Arabia might have been locations in the Bible, the Saudis sent bulldozers to destroy the ancient buildings there.

In the name of Islam, Saudi organisations have destroyed hundreds of historic structures in Mecca and Medina and UN officials have condemned the destruction of Ottoman buildings in Bosnia by a Saudi aid agency, which decided they were "idolatrous". Were the twin towers in New York another piece of architecture which Wahhabis wanted to destroy?

Nine years ago a Saudi student at Harvard produced a remarkable thesis which argued that US forces had suffered casualties in bombing attacks in Saudi Arabia because American intelligence did not understand Wahhabism and had underestimated the extent of hostility to the US presence in the kingdom. Nawaf Obaid even quoted a Saudi National Guard officer as saying "the more visible the Americans became, the darker I saw the future of the country". The problem is that Wahhabi puritanism meant that Saudi Arabia would always throw up men who believe they had been chosen to "cleanse" their society from corruption, yet Abdul Wahhab also preached that royal rulers should not be overthrown. Thus the Saudis were unable to confront the duality, that protection-and-threat that Wahhabism represented for them.

Prince Bandar, formerly Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Washington, once characterised his country's religion as part of a "timeless culture" while a former British ambassador advised Westerners in Saudi Arabia to "adapt" and "to act with the grain of Saudi traditions and culture".

Amnesty International has appealed for hundreds of men – and occasionally women – to be spared the Saudi executioner's blade. They have all been beheaded, often after torture and grossly unfair trials. Women are shot.

The ritual of chopping off heads was graphically described by an Irish witness to a triple execution in Jeddah in 1997. "Standing to the left of the first prisoner, and a little behind him, the executioner focused on his quarry ... I watched as the sword was being drawn back with the right hand. A one-handed back swing of a golf club came to mind ... the down-swing begins ... the blade met the neck and cut through it like ... a heavy cleaver cutting through a melon ... a crisp moist smack. The head fell and rolled a little. The torso slumped neatly. I see now why they tied wrists to feet ... the brain had no time to tell the heart to stop, and the final beat bumped a gush of blood out of the headless torso on to the plinth."

And you can bet they won't be talking about this at Buckingham Palace today Link

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Afghanistan: US kills 'about eighty'

U.S.-led coalition and Afghan troops killed about 80 Taliban fighters in a six-hour battle following an ambush in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said on Sunday.

Taliban fighters opened fire on Saturday with machineguns and rocket-propelled grenades on the joint coalition and Afghan army patrol from a trench system near Musa Qala in Helmand province, the most important town held by insurgents.

"The combined patrol immediately returned fire, maneuvered, and employed close air support resulting in almost seven dozen Taliban fighters killed during a six hour engagement," the U.S. military statement said. Link

db: How many civilians? Usually takes a day or two for news to filter through.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Who is the cult?

The leader of the church-of-the-syphilitic-king calls atheism a cult. Dawkins gets mauled by dead sheep:
The Archbishop of Canterbury launched a fierce attack yesterday on the modern cult of atheism and singled out the eminent scientist Richard Dawkins. Link

Monday, October 22, 2007

Afghanistan: Killing human shields

... Afghan and Western officials accused the Taliban of using Afghan civilians as human shields during a battle with U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan that left 20 Taliban and three civilians dead. Link
db: Do your wife and kids count as human shields if you live with them? Bet they do.

War of Terror: U.S. strikes Sadr City, kills kids

U.S. air strikes in a Shi'ite stronghold of Baghdad on Sunday killed at least two toddlers, Reuters television footage showed.

Police said a total of 13 people were killed in the strikes and more than 50 were wounded.

In the morgue of Imam Ali hospital in the district of Sadr city the bodies of two toddlers, one wearing a nappy, lay on blankets while doctors tended to wounded men and boys, the video footage showed.

In the house where one of the toddlers lived, a man who said he was a cousin, pointed to bloodstained mattresses and blood-splattered pillows, choking back tears as he held up a photo showing one of the dead children.

"We were waking in the morning and all of a sudden rockets landed in the house and the children were screaming," said a woman outside the house.

The U.S. military confirmed it had conducted early morning operations in Sadr city "targeting criminals believed to be responsible for the kidnapping of coalition soldiers in November 2006 and May 2007". Link

db Thanks to Tony for providing a link to this story. It appears that the toddlers killed by US air power earlier were part of a "Special Group" of infants trained, funded and supplied by Iran through the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. So fair play.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

We can attack Iran, says US commander

America's top military officer said the country does have the resources to attack Iran, despite the strain of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Adm Michael Mullen, who took over as chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff three weeks ago, said diplomacy remained the priority in dealing with Iran's suspected plans to develop a nuclear weapon and its support for anti-US insurgents in Iraq.

But at a press conference he said: "there is more than enough reserve to respond (militarily) if that, in fact, is what the national leadership wanted to do". Link

db: They can attack, can they? What about consequences? Have you seen the price of fuel lately? That would rocket if the US were crazy enough to attack Iran. Also worth remembering that Iran is not Iraq - they have the capacity to hit back. Not only that, it's a certainty that such an attack would see the current leadership in Iran gain a significant boost in popularity.

In fact a US or Israeli attack on Iran carries with it consequences for the world that might fundamentally change all our lives. But still we have seen little, zero, evidence of an Iranian program to develop nuclear weapons. Lately Bush has been declaring that Iran must be stopped from acquiring the knowledge to build a bomb. Much like Iraq the justifications shift, but the apparent intention - Oil grab - remains fixed.

Clinton rakes in cash from the US weapons industry

The US arms industry is backing Hillary Clinton for President and has all but abandoned its traditional allies in the Republican party. Mrs Clinton has also emerged as Wall Street's favourite. Investment bankers have opened their wallets in unprecedented numbers for the New York senator over the past three months and, in the process, dumped their earlier favourite, Barack Obama.

Mrs Clinton's wooing of the defence industry is all the more remarkable given the frosty relations between Bill Clinton and the military during his presidency. An analysis of campaign contributions shows senior defence industry employees are pouring money into her war chest in the belief that their generosity will be repaid many times over with future defence contracts. Link

Friday, October 19, 2007

Blair War Pimp

Cowardly and ambitious British MP's failed to tame the dangerous Blair, right up to the end. When Labour MP's finally decided to ease him out of office due only to their desire for re-election he received a standing ovation in the House. Thanks to these British MP's he is still on the loose, ready for war and utterly convinced of his righteousness. Excerpt below of latest Blair revelations. Hot on the heals of Bush's WWIII scare

... At a prestigious charity dinner in New York, the former Prime Minister said that public figures who blamed the rise of fundamentalism on the policies of the West were "mistaken".

He told the audience, which included New York governor Eliot Spitzer and mayor Michael Bloomberg, that Iran was the biggest exporter of the ideology, and that the Islamic republic was prepared to "back and finance terror" to support it.

“Out there in the Middle East, we’ve seen... the ideology driving this extremism and terror is not exhausted. On the contrary it believes it can and will exhaust us first," he said.

“Analogies with the past are never properly accurate, and analogies especially with the rising fascism can be easily misleading but, in pure chronology, I sometimes wonder if we’re not in the 1920s or 1930s again.

“This ideology now has a state, Iran, that is prepared to back and finance terror in the pursuit of destabilising countries whose people wish to live in peace.”

“They have made their choice and leave us with only one to make - to be forced into retreat or to exhibit even greater determination and belief in standing up for our values than they do in standing up for their’s.”

...“I said straight after the attack of September 2001 that this was not an attack on America but on all of us. That Britain’s duty was to be shoulder to shoulder with you in confronting it. I meant it then and I mean it now.”

He added: “America and Europe should not be divided, we should stand up together.

“The values we share are as vital and true and, above all, needed today as they have been at any time in the last 100 years.”

Mr Blair received three standing ovations during the evening. Link

No evidence Iran arming Taliban: Afghan foreign minister

Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta said Friday there was no evidence that Iran was supplying weapons to Taliban militants waging a violent insurgency.

Spanta's comments came after the top US commander in Afghanistan, General Dan McNeill, said Thursday a convoy of explosives intercepted last month had arrived from Iran and probably with the knowledge of the Iranian military.

"Our government has no evidence to show Iran is giving weapons to the Taliban and we have never stated this," Spanta told reporters after meeting with his Iranian counterpart Manouchehr Mottaki in the western city of Herat. Link

Hain: Nail the hoodwinkers

Peter Hain was on the radio tonight expressing his hope that those at ITV/BBC responsible for hoodwinking the public with scam phone-ins and the like be called to account and "nailed". I couldn't help thinking the obvious; let's nail those responsible for the Iraq invasion Peter, then let's look at collusion in the north of Ireland and nail a few there [and here], and after that we could nail a few at BAE for years of corruption and whilst we are at it we could nail Saudi Arabia too. Let's not stop there; Blair must be nailed for more than the Iraq war - he should be nailed for opposing an early ceasefire in the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, and let's nail Gordon Brown for staying silent throughout. Let's nail the whole fucking Neo-Labour project who sucked the US Neocons and betrayed the British public. How are we for nails?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Putin agrees with Alan Greenspan: It's War for Oil

President Vladimir Putin, in his latest jab at Washington, suggested Thursday that the U.S. military campaign in Iraq was a "pointless" battle against the Iraqi people, aimed in part at seizing the country's oil reserves.

The Russian leader was responding to one of dozens of questions from the public in an annual televised Q&A session, his sixth since taking office in 2000. The event broadcast live on state-controlled TV channels and radio stations consisted largely of people from around the country quizzing Mr. Putin mainly on such bread-and-butter issues as pensions, public workers' salaries and school funding. Link

db: I'd guess that quite a high percentage of Europeans would concur with Putin and Greenspan. It's an accepted fact that this was the prime driver of the Iraq invasion. Isn't it?

Watch out Iran.

Bush: War on knowledge

On Wednesday, President Bush warned that a nuclear Iran could ignite a world war.

"I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon," Bush said. Link

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Afghanistan: It's not a surge

The Slovak government had approved a plan to almost double its contribution to the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan next year, the defense minister said Wednesday.

Slovakia currently has 57 military engineers as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

"In 2008, we'll have 111 troops in this mission," Defense Minister Frantisek Kasicky said. The plan still has needs parliamentary approval. Link

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Militants warn Poland of Iraq swamp danger

Two Shi'ite militant groups have claimed responsibility for deadly bomb attacks on Polish targets in Iraq, saying they were in response to the alleged torture of Iraqi detainees by troops from Poland.

In a video obtained by Reuters Television on Sunday, the hitherto-unknown Imam Hussein Brigades and Imam Moussa al-Kadhim Brigades said Poland, part of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, had allied with the "devil" America to kill Iraqis.

Four masked men, all armed and with one holding a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, were seen standing in front of black flags bearing the names of their groups in Arabic script. One read from a prepared statement.

"The attacks are a clear message to Poland -- Leave Iraq before you drown in its swamp as Britain did," he said, referring to Britain's recently announced decision to halve its force in southern Iraq by next spring.

"We want to tell Poland that all its interests in Iraq will be targeted by our resistance, including the diplomats, companies and troops. We only exclude journalists," he said. Link

Video: Life on the Turkey-Iraq border, Sep 16

Saturday, October 13, 2007

De Menezes officer knew he wasn't bomber

The Metropolitan Police commander who ordered the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes knew the Brazilian was not one of the wanted July 21 bombers some time before he was killed, the Old Bailey heard yesterday.

Surveillance officers following the 27-year-old formally identified him as not being Hussain Osman, who they were hunting over the failed suicide attempts on London's transport network the day before.

Commander Cressida Dick, who oversaw Operation Theseus, ordered the surveillance Grey Team to stop Mr de Menezes and question him about the area in which he lived.

He had been spotted in Scotia Road in Tulse Hill, south London, which was linked to 28-year-old Osman after the terrorist's gym card was found bearing the same address.

But despite being negatively identified "in minutes", Mr de Menezes was followed from his home, onto a bus and into Stockwell Tube station where he was killed on July 22, 2005. Link

US wants to help build 'Russian' institutions

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Russian human rights activists on Saturday she wanted to help them build institutions to protect people from the 'arbitrary power of the state'.

... "I am quite confident that your goal is to build institutions that are indigenous to Russia -- that are Russian institutions -- but that are also respectful of what we all know to be universal [db: aka US] values," said Rice. Link
Brit Infantry - WWI

Sanchez: US power struggle prolongs Iraq 'nightmare'

A former commander of coalition forces in Iraq issued a harsh assessment of U.S. management of the war, saying that American political leaders cost American lives on the battlefield with their "lust for power."

Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, coalition commander in 2003 and 2004, called the Iraq war "a nightmare with no end in sight," for which he said the Bush administration, the State Department and Congress all share blame.

... Sanchez, who retired in 2006, said it was his duty to obey orders and not object publicly when he was on active duty, but now that he is retired he has an obligation to speak out.

"While the politicians espouse a rhetoric designed to preserve their reputations and their political power, our soldiers die," he said.

"Who will demand accountability for the failure of our national political leadership involved in the management of this war," he said. "They have unquestionably been derelict in in the performance of their duty. In my profession, these types of leaders would be immediately relieved or court-martialed."

Sanchez was pessimistic about the chances of victory in Iraq unless there is a major change in commitment.

"Continued manipulations and adjustments to our military strategy will not achieve victory," he said. "The best we can do with this flawed approach is stave off defeat."

"There is no question America is living a nightmare with no end in sight," he said.

The nightmare will not end, he said, until the partisan struggle for power in Washington ends. More

db: But when the power struggle ends we may see an attack on Iran if the wrong side comes out the winner. And if you think Iraq is a nightmare now stick around.

Blair angry ignorant and back home

Despite his low profile, Mr Blair has had to learn fast since starting work in July. The outward silence shrouds a learning curve that has been steep and shocking since the envoy began work in July.

Him Angry

"Blair was really astonished and angry," says the UN official who gave him a presentation on the devastating effects of Israel's "security barrier", settlements, checkpoints, and closures on the lives of Palestinians in the occupied territories. "He asked very smart questions, though I did think that someone who was prime minister for so long should already have known these facts." Link

db: We went over to our favourite kebab place tonight - Ranoush Juice in Edgware Road. We parked up round by Connaght Square - home to the war criminal and former PM Anthony Blair. Apparently Blair was in, given the number of Heckler & Koch wielding filth in the area. I wouldn't want my kids growing up round there.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Turkey plans incursion, PKK says ready to attack

Kurdish separatist rebels said on Friday they were crossing back into Turkey to target politicians and police after Ankara said it was preparing to attack them in the mountains of northern Iraq.

As regional tensions rose, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan cautioned that relations between Ankara and Washington were in danger over a U.S. congressional resolution branding as genocide massacres of Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915.

Washington harbors growing concerns about the possibility of a major Turkish military incursion to crush Kurdish rebels seeking a homeland in eastern Turkey. U.S. officials fear such an action could destabilize a relatively peaceful area of Iraq.

Ankara recalled its ambassador from the United States for consultations after the U.S. vote, which was strongly condemned in predominantly Muslim but secular Turkey.

"We don't need anyone's advice on northern Iraq and the operation to be carried out there," Erdogan told a cheering crowd in Istanbul, after saying that the United States "came tens of thousands of kilometers and attacked Iraq without asking anyone's permission".

Referring to relations with the United States and the Armenian resolution, Erdogan, using a Turkish idiom usually employed to describe relations, said: "Where the rope is worn thin, may it break off." He did not elaborate.

"All prospects look bad ... and relations with the U.S. have already gone down the drain," Semih Idiz, a veteran Turkish commentator, told Reuters. Link

Iraqis' claims against US usually rejected

On a dusty street in Samarra, a bustling city north of Baghdad, two brothers, 10 and 12, are carrying plastic bags of groceries home from the market. Approaching an intersection guarded by U.S. troops, they strip off their white undershirts and wave them in the air as they cautiously venture across. Suddenly, shots.

Down goes the 10-year old, his stomach ripped by bullets. Down goes the 12-year-old with his stomach shot away.

... American troops are exhaustively trained to avoid harming innocent civilians, and they operate under strict rules that govern when lethal force can be used.

... the dead boys' father came to the 101st Airborne Division asking for compensation. His sons waved their white shirts as a "symbol of peace," he explained.

Asking for $6,000 compensation, he offered death certificates, witness accounts and legal opinions. It was not enough. An Army lawyer denied the claim citing "the Foreign Claims Act, 10 U.S.C. 2734, as implemented by Army Regulation 27-20."

The father -- his name and all others on the released documents were blacked out by Army censors -- ran afoul of the law's fine print, which requires proof that American soldiers were negligent. On the form handed back to him, an Army lawyer had circled one of five reasons for denial, explaining that there was "not enough evidence to prove your claim."

Claimants also must establish that they are "friendly to the United States." And any deaths that occurred during combat operations are ineligible for payments, a criterion that could exempt nearly every claim. More

US air raid kills 15 Iraqi civilians

Iraqi civilians bore the brunt Friday of a bloody start to Eid al-Fitr as a US air raid killed 15 women and children and a sinister suicide attack on a playground shocked a northern town.

"Nineteen suspected insurgents and 15 women and children were killed in an operation Thursday in the Lake Tharthar region" northwest of Baghdad, a US military spokesman told AFP in a rare admission of civilian deaths.

The military said it regretted the deaths of the nine children and six women and that an inquiry had been launched into the killings.

Further north in Tuz, near the oil city of Kirkuk, a suicide bomber on Friday exploded a cart of sweets in a crowded playground, killing a child, a father and wounding 20 children, officials said.

Police captain Hiwa Abdullah said the father, who had come to the playground with his children for the Eid al-Fitr festival, said he had tried to prevent the suicide bomber from setting off his explosives but failed.

The attacker survived but one of his legs was torn off in the blast and he was taken to hospital in Kirkuk. Link

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Jimmy Carter: US tortures people

Former US President Jimmy Carter has alleged that the Bush administration tortures prisoners in violation of international law.

President George W Bush recently defended his administration's techniques used to interrogate terror suspects, insisting that "this government does not torture people".

However, Carter disagreed with Bush in an interview with CNN. Link

Iraq: Two killed at US 'Camp Victory' base

A series of rockets or mortar rounds struck Camp Victory, killing two members of the U.S.-led coalition and wounding 40 other people on the sprawling headquarters for U.S. forces in Iraq, the military said Thursday. Link

Religions threaten "survival of world"

The "survival of the world" is at stake if Muslims and Christians do not make peace with each other, leaders of the Muslim world will warn the Pope and other Christian leaders today.

In an unprecedented open letter signed by 138 leading scholars from every sect of Islam, the Muslims plead with Christian leaders "to come together with us on the common essentials of our two religions" and spell out the similarities between passages of the Bible and the Koran.

The scholars state: "As Muslims, we say to Christians that we are not against them and that Islam is not against them - so long as they do not wage war against Muslims on account of their religion, oppress them and drive them out of their homes." Link

Turkey escalates action near Iraq border

Turkish warplanes and helicopter gunships attacked suspected positions of Kurdish rebels near Iraq on Wednesday, a possible prelude to a cross-border operation that would likely raise tensions with Washington.

The military offensive also reportedly included shelling of Turkish Kurd guerrilla hideouts in northern Iraq, which is predominantly Kurdish. U.S. officials are already preoccupied with efforts to stabilize other areas of Iraq and oppose Turkish intervention in the relatively peaceful north. Link

db: 'Near Iraq border' means, erm, Turkey.

Turkey knows how to play 'hardball'

A top Turkish official warned Thursday that consequences "won't be pleasant" if the U.S. House of Representatives approves calling the killings of Armenians in Turkey during World War I "genocide."

The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed the measure 27-21 on Wednesday evening, even though President Bush and key administration figures lobbied hard against it. The full House is expected to vote on it, possibly Friday.

"Yesterday some in Congress wanted to play hardball," said Egemen Bagis, foreign policy adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "I can assure you Turkey knows how to play hardball." Link

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

No Armenian genocide due to War of Terror

U.S. President Bush lobbied Wednesday against the Armenian Genocide Resolution as a U.S. House committee prepared to vote on it.

The administration fears that the symbolic resolution would hurt U.S. relations with Turkey, a critical partner in the Middle East and especially in the war in Iraq.

“We all deeply regret the tragic suffering of the Armenian people that began in 1915,” Bush said. “This resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings, and its passage would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in NATO and in the global war on terror.” Link

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Robert Gates fights US Neocon desire for Iran war

Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, has taken charge of the forces in the American government opposed to a US military attack on Iran, writes Tim Shipman.

Pentagon and State Department officials say Mr Gates has set himself up as chief rival to Dick Cheney in a bid to thwart the vice president's desire to bomb the Islamic state.

Those familiar with internal battles in the Bush administration say Mr Gates has eclipsed Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, as the chief opponent of air strikes and is the main reason President George W.Bush has yet to resort to military action.

Pentagon sources say Mr Gates is waging a subtle campaign to undermine the Cheney camp by encouraging the army's senior officers to speak frankly about the overstretch of forces, and the difficulty of fighting another war.

Bruce Reidel, a former CIA Middle East officer, said: "Cheney's people know they can beat Condi. They have been doing it for six years. Bob Gates is a different kettle of fish. He doesn't owe the President anything. He is urging his officers to be completely honest, knowing what that means." Link

Afghanistan: 15 prisoners executed

Ending a three-year moratorium on the death penalty, Afghanistan executed 15 prisoners by gunfire, including a man convicted of killing three foreign journalists during the U.S.-led invasion, the prisons chief announced Monday.

The United Nations protested the executions, which could complicate the missions of some NATO nations here.

The mass execution took place Sunday evening according to Afghan law, which calls for condemned prisoners to be shot to death, said Abdul Salam Ismat, who oversees Afghanistan's prisons.

On Tuesday, Humayun Hamidzada, a presidential spokesman, said Afghanistan will continue with executions of inmates on death row, saying they will be a lesson "for those who are committing such crimes, as murder, kidnapping, adultery and rapes."

The crimes committed by those executed Sunday included murder, kidnapping and armed robbery, but officials said no Taliban or al-Qaida fighters were among the prisoners.

Until it was ousted in late 2001, Afghanistan's hard-line Taliban regime carried out executions in public, many of them at the Kabul stadium. The new government pledged to the international community it would halt executions, and had carried out only one previously, in 2004.

The 15 deaths could complicate relationships between the government and some NATO countries with military forces here. Foreign troops often hand over captured militants to the Afghan government, raising the question of whether countries that do not use the death penalty might stop surrendering prisoners. Link

db: Our chaps are out there defending the puppet government's right to execute adulterers?

Saturday, October 06, 2007

London city capital of dirty money

We may associate the word corruption with Russian oligarchs and African republics run by venal government officials, yet according to the watchdog, Transparency International, the world capital of dirty money is not Moscow or Mogadishu. It is London. Link

Friday, October 05, 2007

We have come by a few thousand World War 1 photographs. Sadly we cannot provide much by way of background on most of them, but we will be posting more over the coming weeks. Maybe the lack of information beyond the images themselves helps to get more from them in some curious way..

Archbishop of Canterbury: Attack on Iran/Syria would be "murderous folly"

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has launched a renewed attack on the war in Iraq and called for "urgent attention" to stabilise the country.

Dr Williams, speaking after a visit to Syria last week, said the "terrible damage" wreaked on the region by the war in Iraq was far worse than had so far been acknowledged.

Dr Williams' comments, in an interview with the BBC, came after he met Iraqi refugees in Syria, many of them still in fear for their lives. Only last month, a new survey claimed that up to 1.2m people might have died because of the conflict.

Dr Williams said any military action against Syria or Iran that would further destabilise the region would be "criminal, ignorant... and potentially murderous folly." Read more

Afghanistan: US airstrikes and anthropology kill

I don't know if the world of anthropology (from Greek: ἀνθρωπος, anthropos, "human being"; and λόγος, logos, "knowledge" - Wiki) benefits from getting hooked up with US military anti-human forces.

It's a nice propaganda piece from NYT: Army Enlists Anthropology in War Zones

... The anthropology team here also played a major role in what the military called Operation Khyber. That was a 15-day drive late this summer in which 500 Afghan and 500 American soldiers tried to clear [db: 'clear' in this anthropological sense means slaughter] an estimated 200 to 250 Taliban [db: humans I think] insurgents out of much of Paktia Province, secure southeastern Afghanistan’s most important road and halt a string of suicide attacks on American troops and local governors.

In one of the first districts the team entered, Tracy identified an unusually high concentration of widows in one village [db: Guess who killed their husbands], Colonel Woods said. Their lack of income created financial pressure on their sons to provide for their families, she determined, a burden that could drive the young men to join well-paid insurgents. Citing Tracy’s advice, American officers developed a job training program for the widows. Link

Iraq: Double US air strike on village kills civilians

A double US air strike on an Iraqi village killed around 25 suspected Iranian-linked insurgents on Friday, the military said, with Iraqi officials claiming women and children were among the dead.

The strikes on Jayzani Al-Imam, 30 miles (50 kilometres) north of the capital, came after a ground operation ran into trouble against insurgents firing rocket-propelled grenades, the US military said.

The operation was launched to capture an insurgent commander linked to Iranian intelligence agents and believed to be smuggling weapons from Iran, accused by the US of fuelling sectarian conflict in Iraq, it said.

"There were two air strikes; one helicopter, one fixed-wing. There was continued fighting between the two air strikes," US Major Winfield Danielson later told AFP.

Iraqi police spokesman Khudhayir al-Timimi said women and children were among the dead and wounded in the raid, but the Americans said they had no knowledge of civilian casualties.

"Twenty-five people were killed and 40 others wounded, including women and children in the US air strike that targeted Al-Jayzani," Timimi told AFP. Link

USA Torture

The secret CIA overseas detention program first exposed by the Washington Post remains active, according to a senior US counter-terrorism official who went on the record in Thursday's New York Times.

Little attention has been paid to the revelation, aside from a Reuters story late Thursday.

The Central Intelligence Agency, through a spokesman, refused to comment on the report. Link

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Power of Belief

In this 14-minute introduction to skepticism, Dr. Michael Shermer (Executive Director of the Skeptics Society) discusses why people believe weird things and elaborates on the power of belief systems. This lecture was delivered at the 2006 TED conference (Technology, Entertainment, Design) in Monterey, California. For additional TED talks go to

20 'Taliban' killed by NATO

Afghan and NATO forces killed 20 Taliban attackers overnight while authorities separately retook a remote district captured by rebels a day earlier, police said Thursday.

Afghan officials also said that Taliban militants involved in a growing insurgency fired rockets at the airport in the western city of Herat, causing no damage, and separately blew up a police vehicle, killing a policeman.

The deaths happened in the southern province of Kandahar late Wednesday when troops responded to an attack by rebel fighters, provincial police chief Sayed Aqa Saqib told AFP.

"Twenty Taliban were killed by the joint forces. The militants left three of their bodies at the battlefield," Saqib said. Afghan and NATO forces escaped the hour-long battle with no casualties, he said. Link

db: Just twenty ... hardly worth the cut and paste. I don't usually get out of bed for less than forty.

NATO sure can kill, no denying. Do those referred to as 'Taliban' have families? Kids?

Tories close gap in phoney war

Gordon Brown is tonight facing a test of his political nerve as David Cameron pulled off a significant comeback in the opinion polls ahead of a possible election announcement next week. Link

db: I'm not saying that they know it, but these boys are on the same side. Not a fag paper between them policy wise. It's all shite. Think Democrat vs Republican; it's come to that.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

CIA funded Finnish Social Democrats

The US viewed the SDP as the only significant force capable of keeping communism in check in Finland Link

Monday, October 01, 2007

War Made Easy

How presidents and pundits keep spinning us to death:

De Menezes: Met police "invited disaster"

"The fact that the police ended up pointing a gun at another policeman and mistaking a terrorised train driver for a terrorist gives you a clue as to just how far wrong the operation had gone." link

db: Shoot to kill - operation Kratos. It's still out there. So are the gunmen.