Monday, December 31, 2007

Who knows?

“Benazir Bhutto was so fearful for her life that she tried to hire British and American security experts to protect her,” The Sunday Telegraph reveals. Her entourage even approached Blackwater. They might have been able to protect her life but they would have destroyed her image. She was even directly receiving confidential U.S. intelligence about militant threats to her life. The intelligence was clearly inadequate.

Whenever a dramatic and unexpected event occurs, some journalists try and find out what happened, how it happened, and why it happened. Many more pick up the phone and hunt down some well-respected “expert” who’s only too happy to pump some certainty into a mighty void. Bruce Riedel, a former defense and intelligence official and currently senior fellow at the Brookings Institute is just such a person. The day Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, Riedel was quick to assert that this “was almost certainly the work of al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda’s Pakistani allies.” How did he know? He didn’t, but how many news editors would find fault in quoting the opinion of a Brookings sage? Three days later, many of the fast-talking experts are now starting to sound a bit foolish — Riedel’s own certainty quickly backed off into a “hunch” — so the only expertise still worth noting is that which underlines the uncertainty rather than makes the pretense of knowledge. Only now are the papers finding column space for a more considered and circumspect analysis. From an assassination which supposedly had “al Qaeda” written all over it, the signature is now acknowledged as being quite hard to decipher. As the Los Angeles Times notes:

Several analysts said the use of a handgun in addition to explosives is a departure for militant groups in Pakistan. “This is not by any means a signature killing by Al Qaeda,” security analyst Nasim Zehra said. “A targeted shooting, even in combination with a familiar suicide bombing, makes it look more like a political killing than one by some militant group.”

While facts remain hard to come by, a number of possibly useful observations can be made. Western politicians want to characterize Bhutto’s death in symbolic terms — this was an attack on democracy, an attack on the freedom and power of Muslim women, or some such pernicious act. But to see that as the effect is not to discern the intent. Much more likely this was first and foremost a successful attempt to prevent Bhutto becoming prime minister. This was indeed a political assassination and suspicion should fall first on those whose power is threatened rather than on those whose ambitions are expanding.

The jihadist signature was that the attackers gave up their lives, but it now seems unclear that that was the intent of the gunman. The fact that he wore dark glasses at least suggests that he might have entertained the hope that he was going to make a getaway. What his handlers hadn’t told him was that as soon as he completed his mission, a jihadist foot soldier — unknown to the gunman — was going to make sure that the assassin would never tell his tale.

As for what we can now say about the Bhutto family, the perpetuation of the dynasty and of the Benazir legend are upper most in their minds. The mystery surrounding her death provides yet more grist to their political mill.

Will we ever know the identity of the gunman in shades? Was he driven by dreams of an Islamic state or did he perhaps see himself as a latter day Carlos the Jackal?

My heart bleeds for Pakistan. It deserves better than this grotesque feudal charade

The Independent, December 31, 2007

By Tariq Ali, Pakistan-born writer, boradcaster and commentator

Six hours before she was executed, Mary, Queen of Scots wrote to her brother-in-law, Henry III of France: “…As for my son, I commend him to you in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for him.” The year was 1587.

On 30 December 2007, a conclave of feudal potentates gathered in the home of the slain Benazir Bhutto to hear her last will and testament being read out and its contents subsequently announced to the world media. Where Mary was tentative, her modern-day equivalent left no room for doubt. She could certainly answer for her son.

A triumvirate consisting of her husband, Asif Zardari (one of the most venal and discredited politicians in the country and still facing corruption charges in three European courts) and two ciphers will run the party till Benazir’s 19-year-old son, Bilawal, comes of age. He will then become chairperson-for-life and, no doubt, pass it on to his children. The fact that this is now official does not make it any less grotesque. The Pakistan People’s Party is being treated as a family heirloom, a property to be disposed of at the will of its leader.

Nothing more, nothing less. Poor Pakistan. Poor People’s Party supporters. Both deserve better than this disgusting, medieval charade.

Keep reading . . .

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Pakistan may not make it

The country's future now depends on a power struggle between the army and Bhutto's son

Peter Galbraith
Monday December 31, 2007
The Guardian

With the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan's survival depends on the outcome of a struggle between the army and Bhutto's Pakistan People's party, now headed by her 19-year-old son Bilawal. The protagonists are mismatched and the odds are that Pakistan will not make it.

For all its flaws, the PPP is Pakistan's only true national institution. As well as overwhelming support in the Bhutto family's home province of Sindh, it has substantial support in Punjab and North-West Frontier Province. Like many south Asian political parties, it is a family affair, but it has an enduring platform: opposition to military rule.

Keep reading . . .

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bhutto's son Bilawal crowned head of political party and dynasty

From Times online, December 30, 2007

Newly-appointed chairperson of the PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari speaks during a press conference as his father Asif Ali Zardari looks on

(Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty)

Bilawal Bhutto, right, at the Pakistan People Party press conference where his appointment as chairman of the party, with his father, left, was officially announced (Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty)

He walked into the room as Bilawal Zardari, a fresh-faced 19-year-old history student who recently finished his first term at Oxford University.

He walked out as Bilawal "Bhutto" Zardari, the newly crowned head of the political party - and the dynasty - that his mother, Benazir Bhutto, led until her assassination on Thursday.

After an emotional four-hour meeting in the Bhuttos' ancestral home, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) announced that Bilawal, Ms Bhutto's eldest child and only son, would succeed her as official chairman of the party. But he would return to Britain to continue his studies at Christ Church, Oxford, and his father and Ms Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, would run the party as co-chairman until he graduated in three years' time, the PPP said.

The PPP also declared that it would participate in parliamentary elections' scheduled for January 8, despite the chaos the has engulfed Pakistan since Ms Bhutto was killed in a suicide and gun attack at an election rally near the capital, Islamabad.

Continued . . .

Pak TV station shows Bhutto shooter, contradicts govt

Khaleej Times online, 30 December 2007

ISLAMABAD - A Pakistani television station released footage early Sunday claiming that opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was shot dead by an assassin before an accomplice detonated a suicide bomb, contrary to official government claims.

The new, exclusive images from the Pakistani-based DawnNews TV show a young gunman, wearing sunglasses and dressed in a light-brown sports jacket, firing at Bhutto as she stood atop the sunroof of her white security Range Rover following an election campaign rally in the city of Rawalpindi on Thursday.

The footage clearly shows Bhutto collapsing into her vehicle before the suicide blast, contradicting official government claims that she recoiled only after the blast and cracked her skull on the sunroof.

The government’s official version, which included only partial footage of the attack, has been met with widespread derision. Bhutto’s senior aides inside the vehicle are adamant that she was shot.

On Saturday night, Pakistan Interior Ministry officials again had insisted that Bhutto died after cracking her skull off a lever of the vehicle’s sunroof following a recoil from the bomb blast.

Teenage son to take on Benazir Bhutto's legacy

December 30, 2007

The son of slain former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, Bilawal, centre, daughters Bakhtawar, right, Asifa, second right, and her younger sister Sanam Bhutto, third left, pray at her graveside at the Bhutto mausoleum in Ghari Khuda Baksh (Aamir Qureshi/AFP)
BENAZIR BHUTTO’S 19-year-old son Bilawal will be thrust into a dangerous spotlight today as Pakistan’s most powerful political dynasty prepares to pass the baton to the next generation.

Bilawal, a first-year undergraduate at Oxford University, is the heir to a blood-soaked legacy. He lost his mother to an assassin on Thursday; his uncles both died in suspicious circumstances; and his grandfather, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged in 1979 after being deposed from power.

Last night Britain’s foreign office confirmed that Benazir Bhutto met David Miliband, the foreign secretary, shortly before she returned to Pakistan from exile in October and warned him of a plot against her life. Bhutto and Miliband had spoken regularly on the telephone since that meeting and her concerns about her safety were passed on to the Pakistani authorities.

At 3pm today Pakistan time Bilawal will read out his dead mother’s political testament to leaders of the Pakistan People’s party (PPP), which his grandfather founded and the family has always controlled.

“They have to show his face to reassure the party that there will be another Bhutto leader in the future,” a diplomat said.

Keep reading . . .

Yes, Extremists Killed Benazir Bhutto. But Which Extremists?

War In Iraq, December 29, 2007

Winter Patriot

Whenever there's a public death in one family or the other, the parallels between the Bhuttos in Pakistan and the Kennedys in America seem even more striking.

Start with wealth, power, public service at the national level, and violent death in the course of same. Add dashing men and gorgeous women; inspiring leadership and the most amazing cruelty; brilliance and incompetence; valor and corruption; and now, another violent public death.

But let's not overdo it. Benazir Bhutto's tale was her own, and it came to a sudden end on December 27 in Rawalpindi. Reports from Pakistan said she was leaving a rally in which she had appeared before thousands of people when she was shot twice from very close range, apparently by a suicide bomber who then detonated, killing himself as well as Benazir and another 20 or so.

Security had been described as very tight and multi-layered, so it's difficult to imagine how the attacker could have come so close to his target. Due to the nature of the attack, such questions may never be answered. It's the sort of murder that drives conspiracy theorists crazy.

The shooting-bombing has been universally ascribed to "extremists"; this scribe is too cold to argue. Nobody but an extremist would blow himself up to accomplish a political assassination. But what the press accounts universally fail to point out is that there are extremists on more than one side — indeed, in this case, there are extremists on all sides.

Continued . . .

There Hasn't Been a Day in My Life When I Haven't Learned Something

Counterpunch, Weekend Edition, December 29 / 30, 2007

Address to the Cuban National Assembly, 12/28/2007


Comrades of the National Assembly:

You have no easy task on your hands. On January 1st, 1959, surrounded by the accumulated and deepening grievances that our society inherited from its neo-colonial past under U.S. domination, many of us dreamed of creating a fully independent nation where justice prevailed. In the arduous and uneven struggle, there came the moment when we were left completely alone.

Nearly 50 years since the triumph of the Revolution, we can justifiably feel proud of ourselves, as we have held our ground, for almost half a century, in the struggle against the most powerful empire ever to exist in history. In the Proclamation I signed on July 31, 2006, none of you saw any signs of nepotism or an attempt to usurp parliamentary powers. That year, at once difficult and promising for the Revolution, the unity of the people, the Party and State were essential to continue moving forward and to face the declared threat of a military action by the United States.

Continued . . .

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Pakistan government skips autopsy, shifts story on how Bhutto died

  • Posted on Friday, December 28, 2007
Protesters burn tires in Rawalpindi

Anjum Naveed / AP

Protesters burn tires in Rawalpindi. Benazir Bhutto's supporters rampaged through cities Friday, ransacking banks and setting train stations ablaze. | View larger image

LARKANA, Pakistan — Violence and recriminations grew Friday over the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, as Pakistan's government changed its account of how she died while her supporters charged that the government withheld personal protection she'd requested.

As deadly protests continued to rage on Pakistan's streets, the country's Interior Ministry said that Bhutto — buried Friday without an autopsy — had died after she was thrown against the lever of her car's sunroof, fracturing her skull.

Initially, the government had said that flying shrapnel killed Bhutto, 54, after a shooting and suicide bombing as she left a political rally in the city of Rawalpindi.

The new version of events fueled ever-present conspiracy theories in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation that's on the front lines of President Bush's war on terrorism and risks sliding further into political chaos.

Continued . . .

Nawaz Sharif also at risk: Pak govt

Times of India, December 29, 2007

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's interior ministry said on Friday that opposition leader Nawaz Sharif is one of several politicians under threat of attack following the assassination of Benazir.

"There are other people who are under threat and whenever we receive information we pass it on to the concerned people," ministry spokesman Brigadier Javed Cheema said.

Asked to give examples, he named Sharif as well as Islamist leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman and former ministers Sheikh Rashid and Aftab Sherpao.

Nepal's god king loses his power, prestige and palace

King Gyanendra of Nepal was stripped of his powers last night after the country's provisional parliament voted to abolish the 239-year-old monarchy

He will remain in his palace until early next year, when the decision will be rubber-stamped by a newly elected assembly that will establish Nepal as a democratic federal republic.

After that the King will be forced to move to his private residence to live as a private citizen — the culmination of six years of self-destruction by the Nepalese monarchy.

“If the King creates serious hurdles in the elections he can be removed by a two-third majority of the interim parliament before the polls,” the parliamentary resolution states.

Keep reading . . .

Robert Fisk: They don't blame al-Qa'ida. They blame Musharraf

The Independent, December 29, 2007

Weird, isn't it, how swiftly the narrative is laid down for us. Benazir Bhutto, the courageous leader of the Pakistan People's Party, is assassinated in Rawalpindi – attached to the very capital of Islamabad wherein ex-General Pervez Musharraf lives – and we are told by George Bush that her murderers were "extremists" and "terrorists". Well, you can't dispute that.

But the implication of the Bush comment was that Islamists were behind the assassination. It was the Taliban madmen again, the al-Qa'ida spider who struck at this lone and brave woman who had dared to call for democracy in her country.

Of course, given the childish coverage of this appalling tragedy – and however corrupt Ms Bhutto may have been, let us be under no illusions that this brave lady is indeed a true martyr – it's not surprising that the "good-versus-evil" donkey can be trotted out to explain the carnage in Rawalpindi.

Continued . . .

Friday, December 28, 2007

Will Bush Provoke Iran?

By Marjorie Cohn, AlterNet. Posted December 27, 2007.

No amount of intelligence is likely to get Bush to back off.

The unanimous conclusion of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran ceased pursuing a program of nuclear weapons in 2003, has dealt a severe blow to the Bush-Cheney agenda of forcible regime change in Iran. For several months, the rhetoric emerging from the White House escalated to the point that many observers predicted Bush would attack Iran before he leaves office.

But although the new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) makes it more difficult to carry out his agenda in Iran, Bush is trying to publicly undermine its conclusions. “I have said Iran is dangerous,” he declared, “and the NIE estimate doesn’t do anything to change my opinion about the danger Iran poses to the world — quite the contrary.” Will Bush provoke an incident with Iran and then respond in “self-defense”?

Keep reading . . .

Vote to abolish Nepal's monarchy

BBC News, December 28, 2007

Gyanendra at ceremony
Gyanendra has only months left as king
Parliament in Nepal has voted to abolish the monarchy, as part of a peace deal with former Maoist rebels.

The Maoists left the government in September, vowing not to return unless the monarchy was scrapped. They ended a decade-long insurgency last year.

Nepal will be declared a republic after elections in April next year.

King Gyanendra, whose dynasty dates back to 1769, lost popular support when he sacked the government in 2005 and assumed absolute power.

Today's vote has made sure the king will be removed immediately after elections
Krishna Prasad Situala
Nepal home minister

The decision to make Nepal a "federal democratic republican state" was taken by an overwhelming majority - 270 MPs out of 371 voted to abolish the monarchy, with only three against.

The main political parties had originally agreed to leave the question of whether Nepal should become a republic to the constituent assembly being elected in April.

But the Maoists wanted the decision taken at once - hence the agreement reached by the main political parties earlier this week. It will allow the Maoists to re-join the administration.

Continued . . .

U.S. Brokered Bhutto's Return to Pakistan

White House Would Back Her as Prime Minister While Musharraf Held Presidency

By Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, December 28, 2007

For Benazir Bhutto, the decision to return to Pakistan was sealed during a telephone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice just a week before Bhutto flew home in October. The call culminated more than a year of secret diplomacy -- and came only when it became clear that the heir to Pakistan's most powerful political dynasty was the only one who could bail out Washington's key ally in the battle against terrorism.

It was a stunning turnaround for Bhutto, a former prime minister who was forced from power in 1996 amid corruption charges. She was suddenly visiting with top State Department officials, dining with U.N. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and conferring with members of the National Security Council. As President Pervez Musharraf's political future began to unravel this year, Bhutto became the only politician who might help keep him in power.

"The U.S. came to understand that Bhutto was not a threat to stability, but was instead the only possible way that we could guarantee stability and keep the presidency of Musharraf intact," said Mark Siegel, who lobbied for Bhutto in Washington and witnessed much of the behind-the-scenes diplomacy.

Keep reading . . .

Paul: Israel Demanding U.S. Invade Iran

Press TV
December 25, 2007

Maverick Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul says the leaders of Israel are impelling the White House to wage war on Iran.

“The government of Israel encourages Americans to go into Iran,” Paul said Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press.

The 10-term Texas lawmaker added that neoconservatives have also been pushing the administration into ‘bombing Iran’.

When asked what he would do as the US president ‘if Iran invaded Israel’, Paul said the illusion of the Islamic Republic’s attack on Israel is like saying, “Iran is about to invade Mars.”

The 72-year-old politician made the remarks as Israeli officials are stepping up their war rhetoric against Tehran, over its nuclear program despite the recent reports confirming the peaceful nature of the country’s activities.

Ron Paul also made it clear that he would cut the ‘billions of dollars’ in annual aid Washington provides for Israel if elected President.

Sphere: Related Content

Israeli strikes in the Gaza Strip kill six

Reuters, December 27, 2007

GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli air strikes killed at least six militants in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, including a senior member of the Islamic Jihad, medics and officials from the militant group said.

The officials identified the man killed as Mohammad Abu Murshud, head of Islamic Jihad's armed wing in the central Gaza Strip. An additional militant had been wounded in the attack, the officials said.

An Israeli army spokesman confirmed there had been an air strike in the central Gaza Strip, but did not say who had been targeted in the attack.

At least five other militants were killed earlier and nine were wounded in Israeli air and ground attacks in the central Gaza Strip and near the southern town of Khan Younis, medical staff in the Hamas-controlled territory said.

An official for the Islamic Jihad said that two of its members had been killed and another was wounded. Three bystanders were also wounded.

The Israeli army spokesman said the strikes targeted both a vehicle carrying explosives and militants traveling to "execute a terror attack", and a group of gunmen who had launched a rocket propelled grenade at a military vehicle.

Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in June when it routed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's forces, said two of the dead were Hamas militants, the third was identified as belonging to Islamic Jihad.

Abu Ahmed, a spokesman for the Islamic Jihad armed wing said they "received the message (the enemy) sent us. It was a message of blood and our message will also get to the enemy and it will also be a message of blood."

The Jewish state carries out frequent air strikes and raids in the Gaza Strip to try to stop militants from firing rockets at southern Israeli towns.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi, Writing by Ori Lewis and Avida Landau

A tragedy born of military despotism and anarchy

The Guardian | Friday December 28, 2007

Tariq Ali

Even those of us sharply critical of Benazir Bhutto's behaviour and policies - both while she was in office and more recently - are stunned and angered by her death. Indignation and fear stalk the country once again.

An odd coexistence of military despotism and anarchy created the conditions leading to her assassination in Rawalpindi yesterday. In the past, military rule was designed to preserve order - and did so for a few years. No longer. Today it creates disorder and promotes lawlessness. How else can one explain the sacking of the chief justice and eight other judges of the country's supreme court for attempting to hold the government's intelligence agencies and the police accountable to courts of law? Their replacements lack the backbone to do anything, let alone conduct a proper inquest into the misdeeds of the agencies to uncover the truth behind the carefully organised killing of a major political leader.

How can Pakistan today be anything but a conflagration of despair? It is assumed that the killers were jihadi fanatics. This may well be true, but were they acting on their own?

Keep reading . . .

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto assassinated

Pakistan Bomb Blast: Kills ex-PM Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi

'Pakistan Times' Federal Bureau | December 27, 2007

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s ex-Prime MinPakistan's ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto waves to her supporters at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi Thursday, Dec. 27, 2007.ister Ms Benazir Bhutto was killed after succumbing to her injuries in an apparent suicide attack at the Pakistan Peoples Party rally in Rawalpindi Thursday.

Initial reports say that Ms Benazir Bhutto and PPP information Secretary Ms Sherry Rehman were severely injured at a blast soon after she finished her address to a public rally at Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi.

The attacker struck while Ms Bhutto was leaving the venue and the blast severely damaged her vehicle, Interior ministry Spokesman Brig (Retd) Cheema has been quoted as saying.

Ms Benazir Bhutto breathed her last Thursday after being seriously injured in a bomb blast in Liaqat Bagh after addressing a public rally, hospital and interior ministry sources said.

Several people were also killed in an apparent suicide attack at the public rally by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto at Liaqat Bagh, police said. The blast occurred soon after the rally ended and Ms Bhutto had left the venue.

Continued . . .

Israel says strikes on Gaza will be ongoing


By Jean Shaoul
| 24 December 2007

Use this version to print | Send this link by email | Email the author

Israeli military incursions into Gaza and targeted assassinations of militants have become an almost daily occurrence since last month’s Annapolis summit. Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in such attacks.

Attended by representatives of 40 nations, including 16 Arab states, Annapolis was billed as a restart to negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians that would resolve all the core issues involved in the long-running conflict by the end of 2008. But it was little more than a crude attempt by President Bush to provide a cover for the Arab regimes’ support for Washington’s preparations for an assault on Iran.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah president of the Palestinian Authority, was told in no uncertain terms that his task was to ensure the “security of Israel” by crushing all resistance to the occupation and regaining control of Gaza from Hamas. Any future Palestinian state was dependent on whether the United States determined that he had carried out this assignment. Implicit in this ultimatum was the threat that if he was not up to the job, Israel would intervene against Hamas.

Keep reading . . .

Turkey praises US help as jets bomb northern Iraq

AFP - Thursday, December 27, 2007

ANKARA (AFP) - - Turkey praised the United States on Wednesday for providing intelligence in support of attacks against Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq, as it confirmed its third such air strike in 10 days.

"Things are going on well at the moment. Intelligence is being shared" between the two NATO allies, Anatolia news agency quoted President Abdullah Gul as saying.

US support "befits our alliance," Gul said, adding: "Both of us are satisfied. This is how it should be. We could have come to this point earlier."

But the White House expressed concern to Ankara over the possible escalation of Turkey's attacks inside Iraq, especially "anything that could lead to ... civilian casualties," spokesman Scott Stanzel said.

Wednesday's air strike was the third against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) targets in northern Iraq that the military has confirmed since December 16, in addition to a cross-border ground operation.

Continued . . .

No bravery

Source: Information Clearing House

In case you missed it

No Bravery

4 Minute Video

A nation blind to their disgrace. Click to view

CIA Torture and other War Crimes

The Huffington Post
Posted December 26, 2007


Personal accountability has all but disappeared from the American political system. Bill Clinton lied to his entire cabinet about Monica Lewinsky and not a single cabinet member resigned in protest after he was forced to recant. When Alberto Gonzales lied repeatedly during testimony before Congress everyone knew exactly what he was doing but no leading Democrat was willing to impeach him. The hopelessly incompetent Michael Brown was able to resign from FEMA without sanction to "avoid further distraction from the ongoing mission" and later even blamed everyone else for his shortcomings. Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Tommy Franks, George Tenet, and Paul Bremer were all rewarded for their incompetence, some with medals and some with promotions. Recent resignations from the Bush administration stemming from the massive policy failures of the past seven years have frequently been couched in terms of "wanting to spend more time with my family" though sometimes a bit of candor creeps in a la Trent Lott, who believes it is time to step down and follow the money as a lobbyist. Public Diplomacy Tsarina Karen Hughes arguably plans to do both, returning to Texas to rejoin her family while also cashing in through lucrative speaking engagements. During her two and a half years of Texas-style soccer mom diplomacy at State Department and in spite of a large budget, Hughes only succeeded in increasing the number of foreigners who actively dislike the United States. Never is a resignation from government service framed in terms of "Hey, I screwed up."

Keep reading . . .

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The torture tape fingering Bush as a war criminal

December 23, 2007

Almost all of the time, the Washington I know and live in is utterly unrelated to the Washington you see in the movies. The government is far more incompetent and amateur than the masterminds of Hollywood darkness.

There are no rogue CIA agents engaging in illegal black ops and destroying evidence to protect their political bosses. The kinds of scenario cooked up in Matt Damon’s riveting Bourne series are fantasy compared with the mundane, bureaucratic torpor of the Brussels on the Potomac.

And then you read about the case of Abu Zubaydah. He is a seriously bad guy – someone we should all be glad is in custody. A man deeply involved in Al-Qaeda, he was captured in a raid in Pakistan in March 2002 and whisked off to a secret interrogation, allegedly in Thailand.

President George Bush claimed Zubaydah was critical in identifying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind behind 9/11. The president also conceded that at some point the CIA, believing Zubaydah was withholding information, “used an alternative set of procedures”, which were “safe and lawful and necessary”.

Zubaydah was waterboarded. That much we know - it was confirmed recently by a former CIA agent, John Kiriakou, who even used the plain English word “torture” to describe what was done. But we know little else for sure. We do know there was deep division within the American government about Zubaydah’s interrogation, and considerable debate about his reliability.

Ron Suskind’s masterful 2006 book The One Percent Doctrine recorded FBI sources as saying that Zubaydah was in fact mentally unstable and tangential to Al-Qaeda’s plots, and that he gave reams of unfounded information under torture - information that led law-enforcement bodies in the US to raise terror alert levels, rushing marshals and police to shopping malls, bridges and other alleged targets as Zubaydah tried to get the torture to stop. No one disputes that Zubaydah wrote a diary - and that it was written in the words of three personalities, none of them his own.

A former FBI agent who was involved in the interrogation, Daniel Coleman, said last week that the CIA knew Al-Qaeda’s leaders all believed Zubaydah “was crazy, and they knew he was always on the damn phone. You think they’re going to tell him anything?” Even though preliminary, legal interrogation gave the US good – though not unique – information, the CIA still asked for and received permission to torture him in pursuit of more data and leads.

Keep reading . . .

Fidel Castro on the mend, brother says

Havana — Fidel Castro remains on the mend, gaining weight, exercising twice a day and continuing to help make the Cuban government's top decisions, his brother Raul Castro says.

The island's acting president gave the first clues about his brother's health in weeks, saying during a Monday speech that he has a “healthier mentality, full use of his mental faculties with some small physical limitations.”

At 76, Raul is five years younger than his ailing brother, who has not been seen in public since announcing he had undergone emergency intestinal surgery and was stepping down in favour of a provisional government in July 2006.

But the younger Castro said his brother remains a key voice in government and that Communist Party leaders support his re-election to Cuba's parliament, the National Assembly — a move that could allow Fidel Castro to keep his post as president of the Council of State.

Keep reading . . .

Pakistan: End Persecution of Lawyers and Judges

Free and Fair Elections Impossible With Dismantled Judiciary

Audio CommentaryPhoto Essay

Source: Human Rights News

(New York, December 19, 2007) – Scores of lawyers, judges and other government critics remain detained in Pakistan despite the lifting of the state of emergency on December 15, Human Rights Watch said today in a new report. President Pervez Musharraf’s dismantling of an independent judiciary and the crackdown on the vocal lawyers’ movement mean free and fair elections, scheduled for January 8, 2008, will be impossible.
"The lawyers’ movement had done more in eight months to challenge the pillars of military rule than the political opposition had done in eight years. "
Ali Dayan Hasan, South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch

Related Material

Destroying Legality: Pakistan’s Crackdown on Lawyers and Judges
Report, December 19, 2007

Destroying Legality: Audio Commentary
Audio Clip, December 19, 2007

Destroying Legality: Photo Essay
Image, December 19, 2007

More Information on Pakistan
Country Page

The 84-page report, “Destroying Legality: Pakistan’s Crackdown on Lawyers and Judges,” presents eyewitness accounts of police violence, arbitrary arrests, and mistreatment of detained lawyers across Pakistan since November 3, 2007. The report details police beatings of lawyers peacefully protesting government policies from within the grounds of Pakistan’s high courts. It is the most detailed account to date of the November crackdown, showing how Musharraf used the emergency as an excuse to disempower the judiciary, the legal profession and civil society in the name of fighting terrorism and Islamic extremists.

Keep reading . . .

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

'It is Madness'.

Global Research, December 22, 2007

If the scale of the unimaginable tragedy the British have wrought in Basra was not of the historical enormity which it is and for which the UK will never be forgotten and likely, never forgiven, world wide (only second to the Americans, of whose accountability for unspeakable atrocities, words temporarily fail) with Prime Minister Gordon Brown again trying to dress up defeat as victory, as the British 'left' the city last week, it would be laughable. The British actually slunk off from their illegally inhabited palace in central Basra in September, to cower in a base well outside the town, spent, redundant and now with the loss of one hundred and seventy four tragically wasted lives, for UK government lies.

Ironically, Iraqi women were photographed throwing sweets at the Iraq forces on December 16th's Sunday 'handover' of the Iraqi city to Iraqis. The sweets and flowers promised by the CIA backed, convicted embezzler, Ahmed Chalabi and the Iraq National Accord's Iyad Allawi to the invaders, transpired, absolutely predictably, to be rocket propelled and hand grenades, improvised explosive devices and ambush by varied imaginative booby traps and weaponry.

Keep reading . . .

Israeli army: use of cluster bombs during Lebanon war legal

China View, December 25, 2007

JERUSALEM, Dec. 24 (Xinhua) -- Israel's use of cluster bombs during the Second Lebanon War was in accordance with international law, Israeli army's Advocate General Avichai Mendelblit said in a ruling published on Monday.

Accordingly, army officers who ordered the use of the cluster bombs will not face disciplinary or legal action, local Ha'aretz reported on its website.

Israeli artillery corps reportedly fired some 2,400 cluster bombs at Lebanon during the fighting with Hezbollah gunmen. Several months after the war, Israeli army launched an investigation aimed at examining whether cluster bombs were used against procedure.

In a statement, the army said that its chief investigator Maj. Gen. Gershon HaCohen determined it was clear that the majority of the cluster munitions were fired at open and uninhabited areas, where Hezbollah forces operated and no civilians were present.

It also said that cluster bombs were fired at residential areas only as an immediate defense response to rocket attacks by Hezbollah and that Israeli troops did everything possible to minimize civilian casualties.

The conclusions were passed on to Mendelblit, who accepted the recommendation and decided not to press charges.

A cluster bomb is a bomb that ejects a number of smaller bomblets during explosion. Theses bomblets usually go off shortly after the launch.

The United Nations and human rights groups accused Israel of dropping about four million cluster bomblets during the war. Up to one million failed to explode and now endanger civilians in the area.

More than 30 people have been killed by cluster bomb and landmine explosions in Lebanon since the summer war of 2006 between Hezbollah and Israel, the report said.

Israel moves to expand settlements; Rice says 'she understands', December 24, 2007

Saed Bannoura - IMEMC

Days after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice criticized Israel for approving the expansion of settlements on stolen Palestinian land in the West Bank, she abruptly changed her position when Israel refused to back down. Now, as Israeli authorities announce further expansion of settlements than what was originally criticized, Rice compliantly responded that 'she understands' Israel's position now, adding that Israeli officials have shown her that they are serious about their responsibilities in the so-called 'peace process'.

The Israeli government has approved the proposed Housing Ministry's budget for the year 2008, which includes 500 new units in the 'Har Homa' settlement built on Palestinian land near Bethlehem, and 240 new units in the 'Ma'ale Adumim' settlement east of Jerusalem.

Israeli forces have occupied all Palestinian land since 1967, and have transferred over 500,000 civilians to live in that land, in direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory.

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What Happens at a CIA 'Black Site'

By Amy Goodman, King Features Syndicate. Posted December 19, 2007.

One victim shares his experience with the CIA's torture tactics.

The kidnap and torture program of the Bush administration, with its secret CIA "black site" prisons and "torture taxi" flights on private jets, saw a little light of day this week. I spoke to Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah in his first broadcast interview. Bashmilah was a victim of the CIA's so-called extraordinary rendition program, in which people are grabbed from their homes, out of airports, off the streets, and are whisked away, far from the prying eyes of the U.S. Congress, the press, far from the reach of the courts, to countries where cruelty and torture are routine.

Bashmilah is being represented by the American Civil Liberties Union and by the New York University School of Law International Human Rights Clinic in a lawsuit with four other victims of CIA rendition. They are suing not the U.S. government, not the CIA, but a company called Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing Corp. A former Jeppesen employee, Sean Belcher, entered an affidavit in support of Bashmilah, reporting that Jeppesen executive Bob Overby bragged, "We do all of the extraordinary rendition flights," further explaining to staff that he was speaking of "the torture flights," and that they paid very well.

Keep reading . . .


American Free Press

By Mark Glenn

Some 200 Christian Zionist leaders, representing churches spread throughout America, Europe, Africa and Asia, gathered in Israelís Knesset to “beg forgiveness” for 2,000 years of “Christian persecution” of Jews.

The well publicized ceremony took place under the auspices of the “Knesset Christian Allies Caucus,” just one of a growing number of partnerships springing up in recent years between organized Jewish and Christian Zionist groups for the purpose of funneling Christian money and political support toward Israel. Part of the statement reads as follows:

Continued . . .

"The Directives to Torture come from the Top": What Is Probably in the Missing Tapes

Global Research, December 23, 2007
Huffington Post - 2007-12-13
To judge from firsthand documents obtained by the ACLU through a FOIA lawsuit, we can guess what is probably on the missing CIA interrogation tapes -- as well as understand why those implicated are spinning so hard to pretend the tapes do not document a series of evident crimes. According to the little-noticed but extraordinarily important book Administration of Torture: A Documentary Record from Washington to Abu Ghraib and Beyond (Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh, Columbia University Press, New York 2007), which presents dozens of original formerly secret documents - FBI emails and memos, letters and interrogator "wish lists," raw proof of the systemic illegal torture of detainees in various US-held prisons -- the typical "harsh interrogation" of a suspect in US custody reads like an account of abuses in archives at Yad Vashem.

More is still being hidden as of this writing -- as those in Congress now considering whether a special prosecutor is needed in this case should be urgently aware: "Through the FOIA lawsuit," write the authors, "we learned of the existence of multiple records relating to prisoner abuse that still have not been released by the administration; credible media reports identify others. As this book goes to print, the Bush administration is still withholding, among many other records, a September 2001 presidential directive authorizing the CIA to set up secret detention centers overseas; an August 2002 Justice Department memorandum advising the CIA about the lawfulness of waterboarding [Italics mine; nota bene, Mr. Mukasey] and other aggressive interrogation methods; documents describing interrogation methods used by special operations forces in Iraq and Afghanistan; investigative files concerning the deaths of prisoners in U.S. custody; and numerous photographs depicting the abuse of prisoners at detention facilities other than Abu Ghraib.'

Keep reading . . .

Afghanistan and the future of NATO

War In Iraq, December 25, 2007


Things aren’t going well in Afghanistan. Sometime at the turn of 2001-2002, the Bush administration concluded that the stabilization and reconstruction of Afghanistan was no longer its top priority and decided to bet instead on military-led regime change in Iraq.

Afghanistan can thus rightly be seen as the first victim of the administration’s misguided strategy. But the Bush administration is not the sole culprit for the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. It was NATO’s job to ensure the country’s stability and security, and thus NATO’s weak general secretary and the European allies, especially Germany and France, share the responsibility for the worsening situation. Yet, despite all the difficulties, the situation in Afghanistan, unlike that in Iraq, is not hopeless. There was a good reason for going to war in Afghanistan in the first place, because the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, originated there.

Keep reading . . .

Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem (Revisited)

The Palestine Chronicle, December 24, 2007

Monday, December 24, 2007

Season's Greetings

To all our readers, peace activists and defenders of human rights
Season's Greetings, Eid Mubarak
and a Merry Christmas.

Khalilzad and the Gangs of Afghanistan

War In Iraq, December 19, 2007

by Bahlol Lohdi

Hamid Karzai is the grandson of Khair Mohammed of the village of Karz, not far from Kandahar. He was an indigent member of the Popalzai tribe with a large family who migrated to Kandahar seeking a better life. Normally, when a Pashtun is of noble stock he's known by a patronym, but more humble tribal members do not have that privilege. Therefore, perforce they resort to descriptive names like Karzai, Pashto for "born in Karz."

Not finding adequate employment opportunities in Kandahar, Khair Mohammed moved his family to Kabul. There he prospered because Kabul lacked hotels, so the nobility of Kandahar visiting Kabul were invited to stay at Khair Mohammed's modest home. They provided him with money to buy provisions for their stay with him, and Karzai's grandmother cooked their food and took care of their laundry.

Soon, Khair Mohammed came to the attention of the government as an ideal source of intelligence about the situation in Kandahar, garnered from the conversations of his paying Kandahari guests. His loyal service to the government resulted in his being given a deputy-head post in one of the government departments. He became known as "Mueen Khairo Jan," a term of contempt, for the Kandaharis had realized the extent of his perfidy.

Karzai's father, Ahad Karzai, benefited from Mueen Khairo Jan's connections and was admitted to the lower social circles of the Afghan royal family. He became one of the numerous court jesters. However, Ahad was dimwitted and insolent enough once to crack a joke at the expense of a minor royal family member. He was rewarded by being crowned with a crystal ashtray and, bleeding profusely, dismissed – obviously Ahad Karzai did not appreciate the fact that a royal appointment to the Afghan parliament didn't raise him to the status of someone who could poke fun at even minor royalty. His son, the British-ennobled Sir Hamid Karzai, seems to suffer from the same predilection to the folie de grandeur that afflicts parvenus and predisposes them to inappropriate behavior and comments. His public clash with U.S. President George Bush regarding Iran is just one of the more well-known examples of Hamid "Jan" Karzai's public faux pas.

During the Soviet occupation, Ahad Karzai joined "the usual suspects" in Peshawar. Where there was money to be made, the Karzais were bound to congregate.

Keep reading . . .

Former CIA analyst says evidence abounds for impeachment

Foster's Daily Democrat (New Hampshire),


Article Date: Friday, December 21, 2007


Veteran CIA analyst and daily presidential briefer Ray McGovern discusses "Inside INTELLIGENCE: Behind the headlines on the Iran 'Threat', our Constitutional Crisis, Prisoner Treatment and September 11th" Monday night at the Portsmouth Public Library.
(Aaron Leclerc/Staff photographer)

PORTSMOUTH — The evidence for impeachment of the president and vice president is overwhelming, former CIA analyst and daily presidential briefer Ray McGovern told a room full of people at the Portsmouth Public Library Monday night.

McGovern, who provided daily briefings for former presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush as well as other high ranking officials during his 27 year CIA career, said he has witnessed a "prostitution of his profession" as the Bush administration lied to the American people about the evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"Don't let anyone tell you the President was deceived by false intelligence ... they knew," McGovern said.

For the next 40 minutes, he relayed a series of events leading up to 9/11 which illustrate the President's desire to go to war with Iraq well before 9-11, that reliable CIA evidence showed that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction and was presented to the administration and the "facts were fixed" in order to legitimize the invasion.

Keep reading . . .

Palestine: Money Does Not Suffice to Make Peace , December 18, 2007

By Pierre Haski

At a different time, we could have considered the results of the Conference of Paris on Palestine as excellent news. Over $7 billion was committed to the Palestinians, when less than $6 billion was expected. So the international community has pledged itself to action to allow this Palestinian state - the name of which is pronounced before it has even emerged - to be born.

And yet, this international consensus is dictated less by optimism than by fear. The fear of seeing the Middle East sink inexorably into crisis once again and of seeing despair push Palestinians into the arms of the most extremist movements. If money donors meeting in Paris needed a booster shot, the photos of Gaza Saturday, where more than 300,000 Palestinians demonstrated to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the birth of the Islamist movement Hamas, should have sufficed.

This show of force by Hamas haunted the minds of those attending the Conference of Paris: it is the symbol of the failure over the last fifteen years to find a peaceful negotiated arrangement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. The belated reawakening of diplomacy, and particularly that of a United States stuck in its war in Iraq, finds a changed Middle East.

Yesterday, Paris celebrated President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. But last summer, the PA was driven out of the Gaza strip manu militari by Hamas's men, and about a third of the Palestinian population today escapes its control and is not ready to come back to it either. So there we see the limitations on the aid promised in Paris yesterday.

Three weeks ago, in Annapolis in the United States, Palestinians and Israelis committed to negotiate the modalities of the birth of a Palestinian state before the end of 2008. But for that to happen, interlocutors able to implement the decisions taken are required. That point is valid for the Israeli side, where Ehud Olmert's fragile government must show itself capable of evacuating the Jewish settlements on the West Bank and of lifting the hundreds of military road blocks that thwart a viable state.

And, in spite of the significant sums announced yesterday, it's true on the Palestinian side. The goal of the international community's money is to strengthen the stature of a Palestinian Authority largely discredited at home. And the PA will have to demonstrate its ability to act more effectively than in the past. But even that will not suffice to change the context in the Gaza Strip, where one and a half million inhabitants are sunk in poverty and imprisonment under the impact of the Israeli blockade - and of a war that threatens to flare up at any moment.

It's a vicious circle: no development without peace and no peace without a political agreement. The Conference of Paris billions may help, but they are not sufficient in themselves to guarantee a positive outcome in this last-chance salvage effort.

Poll victory for Hindu firebrand is blow to government election plans

The Independent, UK, December 24, 2007

Gujarat state Chief Minister Narendra Modi is garlanded by party workers in Ahmadabad, India

To fans he is the “Lion of Gujarat”, saviour of Hindus and the brains behind one of India’s richest states. To critics he is a “merchant of death” with the blood of thousands of Muslims on his hands.

But love or hate Narendra Modi, the Hindu nationalist and Chief Minister of the western state of Gujarat has now staked his claim to leadership of his party - and perhaps his country.

His Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won 117 out of 182 seats in a local assembly election yesterday that became a barometer for the looming national elections. Congress won just 59 seats in the state poll that was spread over two weeks and which revived claims that Mr Modi had encouraged the slaughter of at least 2,000 Muslims in rioting in Gujarat in 2002.

“This is a victory of the 55 million people of Gujarat,” Mr Modi, who denies responsibility for the riots but won a state election a few months later on a virulently antiMuslim platform, said. “This historical verdict of people of Gujarat will bring qualitative change in the prevailing Indian politics.”

The result – although expected – was a blow to Congress, which leads the coalition federal Government and had hoped that a surprise victory would allow it to call a general election next year, instead of in 2009. It was particularly disappointing for Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born Congress leader, and her 37-year-old son and presumed heir, Rahul, who jointly led the campaign in Gujarat.

Keep reading . . .

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Israel Lobby Revisited

Foreign Policy In Focus

Stephen Zunes | December 20, 2007

It has been 21 months since John Mearsheimer and Steve Walt published their article “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” in The London Review of Books and four months since their publication of a book by the same name. Their main arguments are that unconditional U.S. support for the Israeli government has harmed U.S. interests in the Middle East and that American organizations allied with the Israeli government have been the primary influence regarding the orientation of U.S. Middle East policy. As a political scientist and international relations scholar specializing in the United States role in the Middle East, I certainly had no disagreements with their first contention. I took strong exception to their second, however.

There is no denying that the Israel Lobby can be quite influential, particularly on Capitol Hill and in its role in limiting the broader public debate. However, I found it incredibly naïve to assume that U.S. policy in the Middle East would be significantly different without AIPAC and like-minded pro-Zionist organizations. In response to what I saw as a rather simplistic and reductionist understanding of U.S. foreign policy by these prominent center-right international relations scholars, I wrote the article The Israel Lobby: How Powerful is It Really?

While most the criticisms of Mearsheimer and Walt’s article came from right-wing apologists of the Israeli government, many long-time critics of U.S. support for Israeli occupation, repression, colonization and related policies against their neighbors raised concerns as well. My article became one of the more widely-circulated and detailed critiques from the left.

My analysis drew profoundly negative reaction from those who insisted that it was not oil interests, military contractors, ideological imperialists, and related powerful sectors of America’s ruling class who were responsible for the U.S. invasion of Iraq and other tragic manifestations of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, but was instead the responsibility of a rich cabal of Jews who manipulated the Bush administration to engage in policies it would not have otherwise supported. I was denounced for propagating left-wing “lies” and “myths” by examining some of the broader structural, ideological, economic and institutional inherencies in U.S. foreign policy instead of acknowledging that it was all the fault of the Jews.

Just as the hysterical reaction from right-wing Zionist circles seemed to some to vindicate Mearsheimer and Walt’s arguments that an all-powerful Israel Lobby stifles legitimate debate about U.S. policy toward Israel and the broader Middle East, the reaction to my critique seemed to some to vindicate the notion that those who put the blame on the Israel Lobby are prone to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Mearsheimer and Walt’s book certainly does not fall into the anti-Semitic rants of many of their supporters. Like their original article, however, the book is still fundamentally flawed.

Continued . . .

Bush's Class Warfare

The Huffington Post

Peter Dreier | Posted December 21, 2007

Just a week before Christmas, President Bush gave corporate America two big presents. On Tuesday, his Federal Communications Commission changed the rules to allow the nation's giant conglomerates to further consolidate their grip on the media by permitting them to purchase TV and radio stations in the same local markets where they already own daily newspapers. As a gift to the country's automobile industry, Bush's Environmental Protection Agency ruled Wednesday, over the objections of the agency's staff, that California, the nation's largest and most polluted state, and 16 other states, can't impose regulations to limit greenhouse gases from cars and trucks that are stronger than the federal government's own weak standards.

So far, no major politicians or editorial writers have labeled these actions "class warfare," although this is precisely what Bush is engaged in -- helping the already rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else. Class warfare is, in fact, the very essence of Bush's tenure in the White House. In thousands of ways, big and small, Bush has promoted the interests of the very rich and the largest corporations. Corporate lobbyists have the run of the White House. Their agenda - tax cuts for the rich and big business, attacks on labor unions, and the weakening of laws protecting consumers, workers and the environment from corporate abuse - is Bush's agenda.

Keep reading . . .

The end of Israel?

The Electronic Intifada, 19 December 2007

Hannah Mermelstein,

Israeli border police run to to stop a demonstration of Palestinians upset by the controversial and ongoing Israeli excavations near the al-Aqsa mosque. (Anne Paq/MaanImages)

I am feeling optimistic about Palestine.

I know it sounds crazy. How can I use "optimistic" and "Palestine" in the same sentence when conditions on the ground only seem to get worse? Israeli settlements continue to expand on a daily basis, the checkpoints and segregated road system are becoming more and more institutionalized, more than 10,000 Palestinian political prisoners are being held in Israeli jails, Gaza is under heavy attack and the borders are entirely controlled by Israel, preventing people from getting their most basic human needs met.

We can never forget these things and the daily suffering of the people, and yet I dare to say that I am optimistic. Why? Ehud Olmert. Let me clarify. Better yet, let's let him clarify:

"The day will come when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights. As soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished."

That's right, the Prime Minister of Israel is currently trying to negotiate a "two-state solution" specifically because he realizes that if he doesn't, Palestinians might begin to demand, en masse, equal rights to Israelis. Furthermore, he worries, the world might begin to see Israel as an apartheid state. In actuality, most of the world already sees Israel this way, but Olmert is worried that even Israel's most ardent supporters will begin to catch up with the rest of the world.

"The Jewish organizations, which were our power base in America, will be the first to come out against us," he told Haaretz, "because they will say they cannot support a state that does not support democracy and equal voting rights for all its residents."

Perhaps Olmert is giving American Jews too much credit here, but he does expose a basic contradiction in the minds of most American people, Jewish and not: most of us -- at least in theory -- support equal rights for all residents of a country. Most of us do not support rights given on the basis of ethnicity and religion, especially when the ethnicity/religion being prioritized is one that excludes the vast majority of the country's indigenous population. We cannot, of course, forget the history of ethnic cleansing of indigenous people on the American continent. But we must not use the existence of past atrocities to justify present ones.

I am optimistic not because I think the process of ethnic cleansing and apartheid in Israel/Palestine is going to end tomorrow, but because I can feel the ideology behind these policies beginning to collapse. For years the true meaning of political Zionism has been as ignored as its effects on Palestinian daily life. And suddenly it is beginning to break open. Olmert's comments last week are reminiscent of those of early Zionist leaders who talked openly of transfer and ethnic cleansing in order to create an artificial Jewish majority in historic Palestine.

Keep reading . . .

Intelligence Failures, Battlefield Myths and Unaccountable Prisons in Afghanistan

Counterpunch, Weekend Edition, December 22 / 23, 2007

By Andy Worthington

In the last week, while the media's attention has focused on the release of two Sudanese humanitarian aid workers from Guantánamo, the 13 Afghans who were flown to Kabul at the same time have barely been mentioned. The reasons for this oversight are clear: firstly, because one of the Sudanese ex-detainees, Adel Hamad, a hospital administrator, had become something of a celebrity after his enterprising lawyers posted a video about his case on YouTube, which prompted a group of campaigners to establish a website devoted to his plight; and secondly, because Hamad and his compatriot, Salim Adem, were released on their return, and various reporters were able to meet them.

No such luxuries were reserved for the Afghans. Few of their stories are known at all, and on their return to Afghanistan they were promptly imprisoned in a wing of Pol-i-Charki, Kabul's main prison, which was recently refurbished by the US authorities. The oversight is disturbing because, for the most part, the stories of the Afghans demonstrate colossal ineptitude on the part of the US military and Special Forces in Afghanistan, at least equivalent to the failures of intelligence that led to the capture of Adel Hamad and Salim Adem. In addition, the imprisonment of these men in a prison wing refurbished by the US authorities raises uncomfortable questions about the role of the US military in Afghanistan, over six years after the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001.

Keep reading . . .

CIA ‘impeded 9/11 panel’s inquiry’, December 22, 2007

The CIA has purposely impeded the Sep. 11 Commission’s inquiry by withholding interrogation videos, say the two chairmen of the panel.

The CIA ‘clearly obstructed’ the Commission’s investigation, said Lee H. Hamilton.

“I don’t know whether that’s illegal or not, but it’s certainly wrong,” said Thomas H. Kean, other Chairman of the Commission.

A CIA spokesman has claimed that the commission staff members never specifically asked for the videos.

A seven-page memorandum prepared by Philip D. Zelicow, the panel’s former executive director, recounts a meeting on December 2003 between Hamilton and George Tenet, then the director of the agency.

In the meeting, Hamilton told Tenet that the CIA should provide all relevant documents even if the Commission had not specifically asked for them.

According to the memorandum, Tenet in response to Hamilton made no mention of the videotapes of interrogations.

The memorandum reiterates that federal law penalizes anyone who knowingly and willfully withholds or covers up a material fact from a federal inquiry or makes any false statement to investigators.


The torture tape fingering Bush as a war criminal

London Times, December 23, 2007

Almost all of the time, the Washington I know and live in is utterly unrelated to the Washington you see in the movies. The government is far more incompetent and amateur than the masterminds of Hollywood darkness.

There are no rogue CIA agents engaging in illegal black ops and destroying evidence to protect their political bosses. The kinds of scenario cooked up in Matt Damon’s riveting Bourne series are fantasy compared with the mundane, bureaucratic torpor of the Brussels on the Potomac.

And then you read about the case of Abu Zubaydah. He is a seriously bad guy – someone we should all be glad is in custody. A man deeply involved in Al-Qaeda, he was captured in a raid in Pakistan in March 2002 and whisked off to a secret interrogation, allegedly in Thailand.

President George Bush claimed Zubaydah was critical in identifying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind behind 9/11. The president also conceded that at some point the CIA, believing Zubaydah was withholding information, “used an alternative set of procedures”, which were “safe and lawful and necessary”.

Keep reading . . .