Tuesday, July 31, 2007

One Week in July: Israel’s Human Rights Violations

Dissident Voice

By Sonja Karkar / July 31st, 2007

One could be excused for thinking that Israel’s human rights violations against the Palestinians stopped since the Palestinian factions began fighting each other. Just about every report and article written in the Western media these past weeks have focused on the rift between Fatah and Hamas and US overtures to broker a peace deal that may finally allow the Palestinians a state of sorts. Any mention of Israel is in the light of urbane diplomatic discussions between it and the other main players minus, of course, Hamas with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert showing a most remarkable willingness to agree to a peace settlement that would see the Palestinians getting back around 90 per cent of the West Bank. If only there was reason to believe that the leopard has changed its spots.

The truth of the matter is that nothing has changed on the ground for the Palestinians. Israel is rolling into the occupied Palestinian territories with its tanks and armoured vehicles and using its war planes to fire rockets on an already severely beleaguered people in Gaza. Only in this past week, there were at least twenty-nine such military incursions that ended up with four Palestinian resistance fighters being executed by Israeli soldiers while a fifth Palestinian ended up dying from tank shell wounds. Palestinian civilians always bear the brunt of such incursions and eleven people were seriously wounded including five children and an elderly woman. The daily arrest of civilians has been routine for decades, but certainly the seventy-two civilians arrested this week make a mockery of the 250 prisoners just released as Israel’s goodwill gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Full article

Guillotining Gaza

Information Clearing House, July 30, 2007

By Noam Chomsky

THE death of a nation is a rare and somber event. But the vision of a unified, independent Palestine threatens to be another casualty of a Hamas-Fatah civil war, stoked by Israel and its enabling ally the United States.

Last month’s chaos may mark the beginning of the end of the Palestinian Authority. That might not be an altogether unfortunate development for Palestinians, given US-Israeli programmes of rendering it nothing more than a quisling regime to oversee these allies’ utter rejection of an independent state.

The events in Gaza took place in a developing context. In January 2006, Palestinians voted in a carefully monitored election, pronounced to be free and fair by international observers, despite US-Israeli efforts to swing the election towards their favourite, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party. But Hamas won a surprising victory.

The punishment of Palestinians for the crime of voting the wrong way was severe. With US backing, Israel stepped up its violence in Gaza, withheld funds it was legally obligated to transmit to the Palestinian Authority, tightened its siege and even cut off the flow of water to the arid Gaza Strip.

The United States and Israel made sure that Hamas would not have a chance to govern. They rejected Hamas’s call for a long-term cease-fire to allow for negotiations on a two-state settlement, along the lines of an international consensus that Israel and United States have opposed, in virtual isolation, for more than 30 years, with rare and temporary departures.

Meanwhile, Israel stepped up its programmes of annexation, dismemberment and imprisonment of the shrinking Palestinian cantons in the West Bank, always with US backing despite occasional minor complaints, accompanied by the wink of an eye and munificent funding.

Powers-that-be have a standard operating procedure for overthrowing an unwanted government: Arm the military to prepare for a coup. Israel and its US ally helped arm and train Fatah to win by force what it lost at the ballot box. The United States also encouraged Abbas to amass power in his own hands, appropriate behaviour in the eyes of Bush administration advocates of presidential dictatorship.

The strategy backfired. Despite the military aid, Fatah forces in Gaza were defeated last month in a vicious conflict, which many close observers describe as a pre-emptive strike targeting primarily the security forces of the brutal Fatah strongman Mohammed Dahlan. Israel and the United States quickly moved to turn the outcome to their benefit. They now have a pretext for tightening the stranglehold on the people of Gaza.

‘To persist with such an approach under present circumstances is indeed genocidal, and risks destroying an entire Palestinian community that is an integral part of an ethnic whole,’ writes international law scholar Richard Falk.

This worst-case scenario may unfold unless Hamas meets the three conditions imposed by the ‘international community’ — a technical term referring to the US government and whoever goes along with it. For Palestinians to be permitted to peek out of the walls of their Gaza dungeon, Hamas must recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept past agreements, in particular, the Road Map of the Quartet (the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations).

The hypocrisy is stunning. Obviously, the United States and Israel do not recognise Palestine or renounce violence. Nor do they accept past agreements. While Israel formally accepted the Road Map, it attached 14 reservations that eviscerate it. To take just the first, Israel demanded that for the process to commence and continue, the Palestinians must ensure full quiet, education for peace, cessation of incitement, dismantling of Hamas and other organisations, and other conditions; and even if they were to satisfy this virtually impossible demand, the Israeli cabinet proclaimed that ‘the Roadmap will not state that Israel must cease violence and incitement against the Palestinians.’

Israel’s rejection of the Road Map, with US support, is unacceptable to the Western self-image, so it has been suppressed. The facts finally broke into the mainstream with Jimmy Carter’s book, ‘Palestine: Peace not Apartheid,’ which elicited a torrent of abuse and desperate efforts to discredit it.

While now in a position to crush Gaza, Israel can also proceed, with US backing, to implement its plans in the West Bank, expecting to have the tacit cooperation of Fatah leaders who will be rewarded for their capitulation. Among other steps, Israel began to release the funds — estimated at $600 million — that it had illegally frozen in reaction to the January 2006 election.

Ex-prime minister Tony Blair is now to ride to the rescue. To Lebanese political analyst Rami Khouri, ‘appointing Tony Blair as special envoy for Arab-Israeli peace is something like appointing the Emperor Nero to be the chief fireman of Rome.’ Blair is the Quartet’s envoy only in name. The Bush administration made it clear at once that he is Washington’s envoy, with a very limited mandate. Secretary of State Rice (and President Bush) retain unilateral control over the important issues, while Blair would be permitted to deal only with problems of institution-building.

As for the short-term future, the best case would be a two-state settlement, per the international consensus. That is still by no means impossible. It is supported by virtually the entire world, including the majority of the US population. It has come rather close, once, during the last month of Bill Clinton’s presidency — the sole meaningful US departure from extreme rejectionism during the past 30 years. In January 2001, the United States lent its support to the negotiations in Taba, Egypt, that nearly achieved such a settlement before they were called off by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

In their final Press conference, the Taba negotiators expressed hope that if they had been permitted to continue their joint work, a settlement could have been reached. The years since have seen many horrors, but the possibility remains. As for the likeliest scenario, it looks unpleasantly close to the worst case, but human affairs are not predictable: Too much depends on will and choice.

Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the author, most recently, of Hegemony or Survival Americas Quest for Global Dominance.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Washington's war spreads to Pakistan

Workers World

Published Jul 26, 2007

Pressures from the Bush administration on the regime of Gen. Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan are pushing that country into an acute social crisis.

Pakistan-USA Freedom Forum meeting in
Brooklyn, N.Y., calls for end to Musharraf
WW photo: Deirdre Griswold

Frustrated in their efforts to conquer Iraq or even poverty-stricken Afghanistan, yet reluctant to deploy their own frazzled troops in even more combat zones, the U.S. imperialist leaders have been leaning heavily on Musharraf to attack Afghan insurgents and any Pakistanis in the border region who might be sympathetic to them.

A Reuters story filed from Miranshah, Pakistan, on July 25 reported that “Several thousand villagers fled a Pakistani tribal region on Wednesday, where an army offensive was expected any day following pressure on Pakistan from the United States to act against al Qaeda cells.”

With antiwar sentiment in the U.S. shaking up the political scene and George W. Bush’s popularity still in the cellar, the U.S. president is desperately playing the Qaeda card in all his public pronouncements, using the “fear factor” generated by 9/11 to justify his continued colonial occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.

It remains a fact, however, that the aggressive thrust of the U.S. military into this oil- and gas-rich area of the world has outraged the peoples who live there and is what has inspired many to fight against the foreign invaders. Those fitting this description are not al Qaeda but the U.S. and its partner Britain, the former colonial master in much of the Middle East and South Asia.

In Pakistan, the opposition to Musharraf comes not only from militant Islamic groups—like the Lal Masjid mosque in Islamabad that was brutally attacked by the Pakistan Army on July 10 on orders from Washington, causing hundreds of casualties—but from secular, democratic forces and also from the Marxist left, which in the past was often the main target of government oppression.

Musharraf came to power in 1999 through a military coup but then managed to get himself named president. This year, according to Pakistan’s constitution, he must be reelected or stand down. He precipitated a constitutional crisis when, in March, he dismissed Chief Justice Muhammad Chaudhry. Huge demonstrations supporting Chaudhry erupted all over the country.

On July 20 the Pakistan Supreme Court reinstated the chief justice, ruling that Musharraf’s dismissal of Chaudhry had been illegal. Pakistanis at home and in the diaspora joyfully celebrated this rebuke to the regime.

However, Musharraf has the army and the backing of Washington. He has 80,000 troops in the northwest areas of Pakistan, where opposition to his rule has been most militant. And, should he falter in carrying out Washington’s wishes, the U.S. has already threatened to bomb Pakistan “back to the Stone Age,” according to Musharraf himself in an interview with “60 Minutes” last Sept. 24.

One way or the other, the war for empire begun in Iraq is surely coming to Pakistan. This rapidly deteriorating situation is just another reason why all who struggle for peace and justice should be preparing now to make the Sept. 22-29 anti-war actions in Washington a powerful effort to pull back the imperialists as they throw more troops and money into a war for global domination that even Bush admits is “endless.”

Articles copyright 1995-2007 Workers World. Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without royalty provided this notice is preserved.

All Hail the King: President George W. Bush


God's Appointed Leader for America, Speaks and Acts for God

Hail the King: President George W. Bush, God's Appointed Leader for America, Speaks & Acts for God
Image © Austin Cline, Licensed to About; Original Poster:

All Hail the King: President George W. Bush, God's Appointed Leader for America, Speaks and Acts for God

America is supposed to be a democratic nation founded by "we the people" and based upon the will of the people. This conception of government contrasted sharply with European traditions that rulers were essentially chosen by God and thus the decisions of rulers were effectively divine mandates. Unfortunately, more than 200 years of democratic tradition have failed to extinguish the religious impulse to attribute divine agency to democratically elected leaders. There are many who believe God is responsible for George W. Bush being president -- including, it seems, George W. Bush himself.

There are reports of President Bush claiming that he was chosen by God to be president during this time in history. There are also reports of Bush claiming that he speaks to God, with God giving him instructions on foreign policy -- including the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. If Bush were alone in this it might simply be dismissed as egotistical delusions, but many of Bush's Christian supporters completely agree. They believe that Bush was placed in office by God, that Bush's authority is derived from this divine mandate, and that Bush's policies are all the Will of God.

If people believe their leader is placed in charge by gods, they are less likely to question, challenge, or oppose his decisions. This is what makes such beliefs popular with authoritarian, totalitarian, theocratic, and fascist rulers; it's also what makes such beliefs inimical to democratic systems. If God, not the people, is the sovereign power responsible for Bush being president, then it means Bush is ultimately responsible to God rather than to the people. Democracy requires the principle that citizens, not gods, choose their leaders and that the government is founded on human reason rather than divine agency.

This is fertile ground for Christian Nationalism and Christian Fascism because it allows for the excision of democracy, democratic elections, the separation of powers, constitutionally protected rights, and everything else which makes America a secular and free nation. People who say that Bush was placed in office by God are denying that Bush's authority and office derive from the will of the people. People who say that Bush is doing the Will of God are denying that the American people have any right to challenge or stop Bush. All of this is unequivocally anti-democratic.

This image is based on a World War II recruitment poster for America's Army Air Corps.

Iraq: One in seven joins human tide spilling into neighbouring countries

The Independent, July 30, 2007

Patrick Cockburn in Sulaymaniyah

Published: 30 July 2007

Two thousand Iraqis are fleeing their homes every day. It is the greatest mass exodus of people ever in the Middle East and dwarfs anything seen in Europe since the Second World War. Four million people, one in seven Iraqis, have run away, because if they do not they will be killed. Two million have left Iraq, mainly for Syria and Jordan, and the same number have fled within the country.

Yet, while the US and Britain express sympathy for the plight of refugees in Africa, they are ignoring - or playing down- a far greater tragedy which is largely of their own making.

The US and Britain may not want to dwell on the disasters that have befallen Iraq during their occupation but the shanty towns crammed with refugees springing up in Iraq and neighbouring countries are becoming impossible to ignore.

Full article

Bush Administration Utterly Callous Toward Iraqi Refugees

The Progressive
By Amitabh Pal

New definition of chutzpah: You send a country to hell, and then you refuse to assist the millions of people you have caused to suffer.

The Bush Administration is showing the utmost callousness toward the more than two million Iraqis rendered nationless due to its misadventure. A recent conference in Amman, Jordan, to deal with the situation only highlights the crisis. An estimated 1.5 million Iraqi refugees live in Syria, and 750,000 in Jordan. (An additional two million are internal refugees-out of a population of twenty-eight million-making this a catastrophe of truly staggering proportions.)

Iraq’s neighbors, economically ill-equipped to cope with the massive population flows, are having to bear the brunt. The fact that Syria is hosting, by far, the most refugees is made even more interesting by the fact that it is on the official enemies list and has been repeatedly accused by the Bush Administration of having a negative role to play in the war. Now, the refugees have often not been treated well in these countries, but at least they have managed to find asylum there.

In contrast, what has been the sum total of Bush Administration’s efforts to alleviate the distress it has helped create? Almost zero. Since the start of the war, in four long years, the United States has allowed in just 701 refugees. The grand number of 202 Iraqi refugees were admitted to the United States in 2006, while in the first half of this year, the State Department let in sixty-eight. You read those figures right. A single town (Sodertalje: population 60,000) in Sweden (a country not exactly responsible for creating the crisis) took in last year twice as many Iraqi refugees as did the whole of the United States (population 300 million). The situation would be laughable if the effects of the Bush Administration’s pitilessness weren’t so heartrending.

In fact, the Bush Administration has limited itself almost completely to aiding the entry into the United States of Iraqis working directly with the U.S. forces in that country. This lame endeavor has also been embroiled in snafus and security checks, with even (hold your hats!) Administration officials admitting “that there remained a gap between words and action on the issue,” The New York Times states.

The consequences of inaction are grave, as a recent Amnesty International report notes.

“This is threatening to create an humanitarian crisis that could engulf the region unless concerted international action is taken now,” says Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

The numbers are so staggering that the individual stories get lost in the thicket. Nir Rosen (a contributor, I must add, to The Progressive) has a superb recent cover feature in The New York Times Magazine that lays bare many of these tales. He encounters fighters who have ironically been forced out of their country due to the violence. He tells of an Iraqi doctor named Lujai, who fled to Syria along with her family after Shiite militias killed her husband. He encounters in Cairo Muhammad Abu Rawan, who has found refuge there from the endless civil strife in Iraq. And he comes across hundreds of Iraqi Palestinians who are stranded in tents in no man’s land on the Iraqi-Syrian border.

Juxtaposed with these accounts are the heartless words of John Bolton, former ambassador to the United Nations, who is unwilling to admit even the tiniest iota of U.S. responsibility for the situation.

“Our obligation,” he tells Rosen from his air-conditioned office at the American Enterprise Institute, “was to give them new institutions and provide security. We have fulfilled that obligation. I don’t think we have an obligation to compensate for the hardships of war.”

Bolton doesn’t think that the Bush Administration should even give aid to the refugees. “Helping [them] flies in the face of received logic,” says one of the architects of the Iraq War. “You don’t want to encourage the refugees to stay. You want them to go home.”

His ex-colleagues still in the current Administration share his notions, even if they can’t afford to be as blunt as he is. “The problem is one caused by the repressive regime” of Saddam Hussein, Ellen Sauerbrey, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration, informs Rosen.

The complete lack of a moral center in this crowd is incredible.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Abbas and West Bank government drop right of resistance from platform

Global Research, July 29, 2007
Palestinian Information Center - 2007-07-28

The prime minister of the unconstitutional PA government appointed by PA chief Mahmoud Abbas and headed by Salam Fayyad has dropped the right of the Palestinian people to resist the Israeli occupation out of its political platform.

In spite of the continued IOF troops’ killing, wounding, and arresting of Palestinian citizens in Gaza Strip and the West Bank, member of that illegitimate government Ashraf Al-Ajrami has affirmed that the armed resistance option was deleted from Fayyad's government’s program.

"Program of the [unconstitutional] government was very clear in ending the armed resistance because it is not related to establishing the Palestinian statehood", Ajrami alleged.

Abbas had earlier issued a number of edicts outlawing the Palestinian resistance and ordering the dissolution of all armed wings of the Palestinian resistance factions, which the armed wings rejected, and drew wide popular condemnation in the Palestinian street.

But Fayyad found a supporter for his “harmful” step in the person of Nemr Hammad, Abbas’s political advisor, who blessed the step, alleging, “The Palestinian resistance symbolizes an armed mess, and its is about time to stop that mess”.

Fayyad's step came at a time the IOF troops were killing and wounding tens of Palestinian citizens on daily basis and refusing to end its occupation of the Palestinian land.

Immediately after it was promulgated, Fayyad's step was widely welcomed by the Israeli occupation government that described it as “a positive step in the right direction” and harmonizes with the intensive diplomatic efforts to nudge the peace process forward.

Meri Eisen, the spokeswoman of Israeli premier Ehud Olmert, opined, “We can feel new atmosphere on the ground from both sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians, but we still have a lot to do”.

“We have to resume peace talks with the new PA government under Fayyad, especially regarding sensitive issues pertaining to the final status," said Israeli minister and one of Olmert’s close associates Haim Ramon. He was apparently wishing to exploit the presence of Fayyad's government to gain more concessions as far as the Palestinian legal rights are concerned.

Top military brass of the IOF command and Israeli intelligence departments expressed satisfaction with Fayyad's government’s action against the Palestinian resistance in the West Bank that, according to them, the IOF troops weren’t able to do for many years.

Well-informed Palestinian sources affirmed that security coordination between the PA security apparatuses in the West Bank and Israel reached its peak after Hamas’s takeover of Gaza Strip in mid June.

According to the sources, the security coordination between the PA preventive security apparatus and Israeli intelligence departments botched at least three planned armed attacks by the Islamic Jihad and Fatah fighters inside the Hebrew state.

Sources close to the Quds Brigades, the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, also affirmed that prior to their defeat in Gaza Strip; the PA security apparatuses foiled a plan of the Brigades to capture two IOF servicemen at the Kissufim crossing point, east of Gaza Strip, more than two months ago.

Russia’s Gorbachev Says US is Sowing World Disorder

by Guy Faulconbridge

Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev criticized the United States, and current President George W. Bush in particular, on Friday for sowing disorder across the world by seeking to build an empire.

Gorbachev, who presided over the break-up of the Soviet Union, said Washington had sought to build an empire after the Cold War ended but had failed to understand the changing world.0727 04

"The Americans then gave birth to the idea of a new empire, world leadership by a single power, and what followed?” Gorbachev asked reporters at a news conference in Moscow.

“What has followed are unilateral actions, what has followed are wars, what has followed is ignoring the U.N. Security Council, ignoring international law and ignoring the will of the people, even the American people.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Bush say they are friends but ties have been strained by U.S. plans for a missile defense shield in Europe, disagreements over Kosovo and the war in Iraq, and competition for allies in the former Soviet Union.

Many Russians view the United States as a rival and enemy.

Gorbachev, 76, who left politics after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, is deeply unpopular in Russia. Though feted abroad, he is blamed in Russia for sinking the Soviet empire and plunging millions into poverty.

“When I look at today’s world I have a worrying feeling about the growth of world disorder,” he said.

“I don’t think the current president of the United States and his administration will be able to change the situation as it is developing now — it is very dangerous,” he said.

Gorbachev said Russia’s hopes of building stronger ties with Washington had waned in the face of a series of U.S. administrations interested in building an empire.

“It is a massive strategic mistake: no single centre can command the entire world, no one,” he said. “Current America has made so many mistakes.”

He said the U.S. administration was apparently unable to adapt to a swiftly changing world and had ignored — or was unable to see — the rise of Brazil, Russia, India and China as economic heavyweights.

Treaties limiting the number of nuclear weapons should be observed, he said, adding that officials in Washington should be wary of sparking a new arms race.

Gorbachev, who became Soviet leader in 1985, battled against the conservative wing of the Communist Party to push through reforms that dismantled the one-party system, freed the press and ended restrictions on religion.

The father of “glasnost” (openness) said he supported Putin’s policies but that the pro-Kremlin United Russia party had eroded democratic rights.

He said Putin’s “seriousness” as a leader would be assured if he left office according to the constitution. Putin says he will leave office in 2008 after two terms in office.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Terrible conditions in Iraqi prisons

War In Iraq,

Thousands held in horrific conditions in Iraqi prisons

By: James Cogan on: 27.07.2007
Article image

The Los Angeles Times on July 21 revealed some of the abuses taking place inside US-monitored, Iraqi government prisons. The article documented the plight of prisoners in a Baghdad facility, which has the Orwellian name of Forward Operating Base Justice.

The prison in the suburb of Kadhimiyah was intended to house just 300 detainees, but is currently holding close to 900. Journalists touring the facility saw as many as 500 men being held in a single hall. No attempt was being made to separate prisoners according to their alleged crime or age. Some were as young as 15. To sleep, prisoners were provided with only foam mattresses or cardboard boxes. The urinals and toilets were blocked. Prisoners were forced to defecate in a solitary shower and basin, and attempt to wash themselves under a broken water pipe.

According to US military policeman Colonel Daniel Britt, these conditions were “appalling,” but conformed to “international standards”. American personnel, who visit the prison nearly every day to advise the Iraqi jailors, turn a blind eye to systematic human right violations. An Iraqi police official told the Los Angeles Times that most of the prisoners were held for at least two months before being brought before a judge and formally charged. Under Iraqi law, they must appear before a judge with 72 hours.

Full article

What Bush wants in the occupied Palestine


Bush’s international peace conference: A conspiracy against the Palestinian people

By Jean Shaoul

President Bush’s July 16 announcement that he will relaunch the Middle East peace process with an international conference in New York is an attempt to use the puppet regime of Mahmoud Abbas to rubber-stamp an agreement that leaves the Palestinian masses with nothing.

Washington calculates that the Arab regimes will not only endorse a settlement that traps the Palestinian people in militarised and impoverished ghettos in parts of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, but will join Egypt and Jordan in finally recognising Israel.

The heaviest price for any agreement will be paid in Gaza, where the Hamas government deposed by Abbas’s Fatah in a Western-backed constitutional coup is targeted for destruction.

Full article

Friday, July 27, 2007

U.S. Soldiers Have Become Murderers


Accustomed to Their Own Atrocities in Iraq, U.S. Soldiers Have Become Murderers

By Chris Hedges, Adbusters.

Posted July 27, 2007

After four years of war, American Marines and soldiers have become socialized to atrocity. The war in Iraq is now primarily about murder. There is very little killing.

All troops, when they occupy and battle insurgent forces, as in Iraq, or Gaza or Vietnam, are placed in “atrocity producing situations.”In this environment, surrounded by a hostile population, simple acts such as going to a store to buy a can of Coke means you can be killed. This constant fear and stress pushes troops to view everyone around them as the enemy. This hostility is compounded when the enemy, as in Iraq, is elusive, shadowy and hard to find.

The rage soldiers feel after a roadside bomb explodes, killing or maiming their comrades, is one that is easily directed over time to innocent civilians who are seen to support the insurgents. It is a short psychological leap, but a massive moral leap. It is a leap from killing — the shooting of someone who has the capacity to do you harm — to murder — the deadly assault against someone who cannot harm you. The war in Iraq is now primarily about murder. There is very little killing.

Full article

Dozens of Afghan civilians killed in air strikes

Reuters, July 27, 2007

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Dozens of civilians, including women and children, have been killed in two air strikes by foreign troops in southern Afghanistan, residents and a member of parliament from the region said on Friday.

One of the raids by NATO hit houses in the Girishk district of Helmand province on Thursday evening, killing up to 50 civilians, a group of some 20 residents reported to journalists in Kandahar, the main city in the south.

Wali Jan Sabri, a parliamentarian from Helmand, said he had credible information that between 50 to 60 civilians had been killed in a battle between the Taliban and NATO forces in Girishk.

He said most of the victims were killed in air strikes.

“Yes, there was a battle … and most of those killed were from NATO bombardment,” he told Reuters.

District chief of Girishk, Manaf Khan, said more than 20 civilians were killed in NATO bombing when they were trying to flee the battle.

“The fighting was fierce between Taliban and NATO,” he told Reuters. “Civilians began to flee and 27 or 28 of them were killed while fleeing NATO bombing. I do not have information about the wounded,” he said.

A spokesman for British forces in Helmand said there was an on going operation in the province, but denied there had been any civilian casualties around Girishk.

“We have no reports of any such incidents in Girishk yesterday at all. There have been no people taken to the hospital … in relation to anything around Girishk,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Charlie Mayo.

“Because the Taliban don’t wear uniforms like us, as soon as they are killed, they are called civilians, the key is are they male or female and if they are male, what age are they?”

Due to the remoteness of the region it was not immediately possible to verify the information.

Some 2,000 British and Afghan army forces have been conducting an operation in the Upper Girishk valley this week to clear Taliban insurgents from the area.

The second attack hit two houses in the Char Cheno district of neighboring Uruzgan late on Thursday afternoon and killed 15 civilians there, several villagers from the area told reporters by telephone.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Antiwar MP George Galloway suspended from parliament

World Socialist Web Site
By Chris Marsden and Julie Hyland
26 July 2007

The ejection and suspension of George Galloway MP from the House of Commons on July 23 is the result of a witch-hunt aimed at intimidating and silencing all opponents of the Iraq war.

Galloway’s sole crime was to defend himself against allegations assembled by the Parliamentary Committee on Standards and Privileges, first launched in 2003, which rehash previous failed attempts to prove that the antiwar MP was in the pay of Saddam Hussein.

For more than an hour Galloway attempted to refute the committee’s charges against him, but was prevented from doing so as a result of 17 interjections by the Speaker of the House who ruled out any questioning of the political motives and legitimacy of the parliamentary equivalent of a kangaroo court.

Full article

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Arrest Of Two Leading Reformers In Saudi Arabia

Human Rights News

Authorities Should Release Activists and Peaceful Protesters

(New York, July 24, 2007) – The Saudi domestic intelligence forces arrested two of the country’s most prominent reformers, casting doubt on the government’s promises of reform, Human Rights Watch said today. Dr. Abdullah al-Hamid, a lawyer, and his brother `Isa al-Hamid, were arrested on July 19, 2007, as were a group of five women who had been peacefully demonstrating for the speedy trial of their relatives, one of them a client of al-Hamid.

" It’s deeply disturbing that Saudi intelligence forces feel free to arrest a lawyer for defending his client’s rights. The security forces should be protecting people’s rights to peaceful protest, not whisking them off to jail. "
Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director

Saudi intelligence forces (mabahith) arrested Rima al-Juraish at her home in Buraida, capital of Qasim province, for having participated in a July 16 demonstration in front of the intelligence prison, where she and other women demanded that their relatives be brought to trial. The mabahith has held her husband, Muhammad al-Hamili, without charge or trial for between two and three years. When al-Hamili’s lawyer, Abdullah al-Hamid, demanded to see an arrest warrant, the mabahith also arrested him and his brother `Isa. They also arrested four other women who had demonstrated with al-Juraish: Manal al-`Umairini, Badriya al-`Umairini, Afrah al-Fuhaid, and Ashwaq al-Fuhaid.

“It’s deeply disturbing that Saudi intelligence forces feel free to arrest a lawyer for defending his client’s rights,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch’s Middle East director. “The security forces should be protecting people’s rights to peaceful protest, not whisking them off to jail.”

Human Rights Watch has documented cases of detainees in mabahith detention without charge or trial in excess of three years, even though Saudi law stipulates that detainees must be brought to trial or released within six months of their arrest.

Saudi Arabia prohibits public demonstrations, although there is no explicit legal basis for such a prohibition. In August and September 2006, the mabahith twice detained Wajeha al-Huwaider for staging a one-woman demonstration for women’s rights. In October 2004, Saudi security forces detained hundreds of peaceful protestors in Riyadh, Jeddah and other cities, who demanded reform.

“Rima al-Juraish and her fellow protesters have the right to demonstrate peacefully,” Whitson said. “And their relatives in jail have the right to be charged with an offense and tried or be released.”

Abdullah al-Hamid spent 17 months in prison after he and two other reformers were arrested in March 2004 for writing a petition to then-Crown Prince Abdullah that called on the government to enact reforms with constitutionally guaranteed human rights.

A court sentenced him to seven years in prison, but Abdullah pardoned the three reformers upon acceding to the throne in August 2005. The government had also arrested their lawyer, `Abd al-Rahman al-Lahim, and supporters of the three detained reformers, including `Isa al-Hamid and Muhanna al-Falih, without charge but freed them eventually. In February 2007, Human Rights Watch wrote a letter to King Abdullah urging him to lift the arbitrary bans on foreign travel that the Ministry of Interior imposed on these peaceful reformers and their supporters after their release.

Prior to the latest arrests, the government had also imprisoned others demanding fair trials and an end to arbitrary arrests in Saudi Arabia. On February 2, the Saudi mabahith arrested another group of political and rights reformers in Jeddah, including former Judge Sulaiman al-Rashudi, who intended to sue the Ministry of Interior over its failure to charge and speedily try detainees in mabahith prisons. The government has not charged al-Rashudi and his fellow detainees who remain in mabahith detention, a relative told Human Rights Watch. Under Saudi law, it has until July 29, 2007 to do so, before it must legally release them.

Human Rights Watch called on the Saudi government to immediately release the men and women arrested in Buraida on July 19 and to release or formally charge those arrested on February 2. Furthermore, the government should ensure that law enforcement officers do not arrest persons for exercising their fundamental rights to peacefully demonstrate or express their opinion. It should also guarantee that lawyers for mabahith detainees have the opportunity to effectively challenge the lawfulness of their clients’ detention in a court of law.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Is the US Preparing To Attack Pakistan?


The Bush Administration may be preparing to lash out at old ally Pakistan, which Washington now blames for its humiliating failures to crush al-Qaida, capture its elusive leaders, or defeat Taliban resistance forces in Afghanistan.

One is immediately reminded of the Vietnam War when the Pentagon, unable to defeat North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong forces, urged invasion of Cambodia.

Sources in Washington say the Pentagon is drawing up plans to attack Pakistan’s "autonomous" tribal region bordering Afghanistan. Limited "hot pursuit" ground incursions by US forces based in Afghanistan, intensive air attacks, and special forces raids into Pakistan’s autonomous tribal region are being evaluated.

This weekend, the US national intelligence chief and other intelligence spokesmen confirmed that strikes against "terrorist targets" in Pakistan’s tribal belt are increasingly possible. These warnings were designed to both further pressure Pakistan’s beleaguered strongman, President Pervez Musharraf into sending more troops to the tribal areas to fight his own people, and to prepare US public opinion for a possible widening of the Afghanistan war into Pakistan.

Pakistan’s 27,200 sq km tribal belt, officially known as the Federal Autonomous Tribal Area, or FATA, is home to 3.3 million Pashtun tribesmen. It has become a safe haven for al-Qaida, Taliban, other Afghan resistance groups, and a hotbed of anti-American activity, thanks mostly to the US-led occupation of Afghanistan which drove many militants across the border into Pakistan. Osama bin Laden is very likely sheltered in this region, as US intelligence claims.

I spent a remarkable time in this wild, medieval region during the 1980’s and 90’s, traveling alone where even Pakistani government officials dared not go, visiting the tribes of Waziristan, Orakzai, Khyber, Chitral, and Kurram, and meeting their chiefs, called "maliks."

These tribal belts are always referred to as "lawless." Pashtun tribesmen could shoot you if they didn’t like your looks. Rudyard Kipling warned British Imperial soldiers over a century ago, when fighting cruel, ferocious Pashtun warriors of the Afridi clan, if they fell wounded, "save your last bullet for yourself."

But there is law: the traditional Pashtun tribal code, Pashtunwali, that strictly governs behavior and personal honor. Protecting guests was sacred. I was captivated by this majestic mountain region and wrote of it extensively in my book, "War at the Top of the World."

The 40 million Pashtun – called "Pathan" by the British – are the world’s largest tribal group. Imperial Britain divided them by an artificial border, the Durand Line, which went on to become, like so many other British colonial boundaries, today’s Afghanistan-Pakistan border. When Pakistan was created in 1947, the Pashtun were split between that new nation and Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s Pashtun number 28–30 million, plus an additional 2.5 million refugees from Afghanistan. Pashtuns, one of the British Indian Army’s famed "martial races," occupy many senior positions in Pakistan’s military, intelligence service and bureaucracy, and naturally have much sympathy for their embattled tribal cousins in Afghanistan. The 15 million Pashtun of Afghanistan form that nation’s largest ethnic group and just under half the population.

The tribal agency’s Pashtun reluctantly joined newly-created Pakistan in 1947 under express constitutional guarantee of total autonomy and a ban on Pakistani troops ever entering there.

But under intense US pressure, President Pervez Musharraf violated Pakistan’s constitution by sending 80,000 federal troops to fight the region’s tribes, killing 3,000 of them. In best British imperial tradition, Washington pays Musharraf $100 million monthly to rent his sepoys (native soldiers) to fight Pashtun tribesmen. As a result, Pakistan is fast edging towards civil war, as the bloody siege of Islamabad’s Red Mosque and a current wave of bombings across the nation show.

The anti-Communist Taliban movement is part of the Pashtun people. Taliban fighters move across the artificial Pakistan-Afghanistan border, to borrow a Maoism, like fish through the sea. Osama bin Laden is a hero in the region, and likely shelters there.

The US just increased its reward for bin Laden to $50 million and plans to shower $750 million on the tribal region in an effort to buy loyalty. Bush/Cheney & Co. do not understand that while they can rent President Musharraf’s government in Islamabad, many Pashtun value personal honor far more than money, and cannot be bought. That is likely why bin Laden has not yet been betrayed.

Any US attack on Pakistan would be a catastrophic mistake. First, air and ground assaults will succeed only in widening the anti-US war and merging it with Afghanistan’s resistance to western occupation. US forces are already too over-stretched to get involved in yet another little war.

Second, Pakistan’s army officers who refuse to be bought may resist a US attack on their homeland, and overthrow the man who allowed it, Gen. Musharraf. A US attack would sharply raise the threat of anti-US extremists seizing control of strategic Pakistan and marginalize those seeking return to democratic government.

Third, a US attack on the tribal areas could re-ignite the old irredentist movement to reunite Pashtun parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan into an independent state, "Pashtunistan." That could begin unraveling fragile Pakistan, leaving its nuclear arsenal up for grabs, and India tempted to intervene.

The US military has grown used to attacking small, weak nations like Grenada, Panama, and Iraq. Pakistan, with 163 million people, and a poorly equipped but very tough 550,000-man army, will offer no easy victories. Those Bush Administration officials who foolishly advocate attacking Pakistan are playing with fire.

July 24, 2007

Eric Margolis [send him mail], contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada, is the author of War at the Top of the World. See his website.

Copyright © 2007 Eric Margolis

A Trap for Fools

Counterpunch, July 23, 2007

Bush's Latest, Ludicrous Doomed Plan for Israel and Palestine


In a classic American western, the difference is as glaring as the midday sun in Colorado: there are Good Guys and Bad Guys. The good ones are the settlers, who are making the prairie bloom. The bad ones are the Indians, who are blood-thirsty savages. The ultimate hero is the cowboy, tough, humane, with a big revolver or two, ready to defend himself at all times.

George Bush, who grew up on this myth, sticks to it even now, when he is the leader of the world's only superpower. This week he presented the world with an up-to-date western.

In this western--or, rather, middle eastern--there are also Good Guys and Bad Guys. The good ones are the "moderates", who are the allies of the US in the Middle East--Israel, Mahmoud Abbas and the pro-American Arab regimes. The bad ones are Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran, Syria and al-Qaeda.
It is a simple script. So simple, indeed, that an 8-year-old can understand it. The conclusions are also simple: the good guys have to be supported, the bad guys have to bite the dust. At the end, the hero--George himself--will ride off into the sunset on his noble steed, while the music reaches a crescendo.

Full article

Monday, July 23, 2007

Statement on Executive Order Interpreting Geneva Conventions Common Article 3 as Applied to the CIA

Human Rights First, July 20, 2007

The Order contains fine sounding rhetoric that changes little and leaves dubious claims in place

More About Ending Torture

The following statement can be attributed to Elisa Massimino, Washington Director, Human Rights First:

Torture and cruel treatment by U.S. personnel happened, in the first place, because the administration applied such a flexible interpretation of the laws and standards against abuse that they became practically meaningless. That is how the United States got to Abu Ghraib.

The administration fought to get Congress to pass a law equating Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions with the prohibition against cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005. Congress refused, because it feared that the administration would again interpret the legal bans in a way that would endanger the United States' military personnel, now and in future wars.

Congress has reiterated, twice in the last two years, that the law absolutely prohibits torture and other forms of official cruelty. The interrogation techniques that have been authorized for the CIA program — the so-called "alternative set of techniques" — are prohibited under current law. Nothing in today's Executive Order changes that.

But the Order fails to make clear whether interrogation techniques that had been authorized for use in the CIA program are still permitted. If the Order is interpreted by the CIA as authorization to use techniques such as waterboarding, stress positions, hypothermia, sensory deprivation, sleep deprivation and isolation, it sends a powerful — and dangerous — message to the United States' current and future enemies: that this country believes these techniques can lawfully be used against our own troops without violating Common Article 3. This is the reason why more than 50 retired generals and admirals, including several former Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, urged Congress to reject the administration's attempt to redefine the Geneva Conventions standard in this way. If the CIA uses this Executive Order as authorization for what Congress refused to permit, then Congress will have to act again. As Senator John McCain, one of the sponsors of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 cautioned when the Act was passed, "In interpreting the conventions in this manner, the President is bounded by the conventions themselves. Nothing in this bill gives the President the authority to modify the conventions or our obligations under those treaties. That understanding is at the core of this legislation."


Human Rights First and Physicians for Human Rights' forthcoming report on the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" examines the medical consequences of those techniques and concludes that they are prohibited under existing law. For copies of the executive summary of the report contact Krista Minteer (minteerk@humanrightsfirst.org).

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Human Rights and the illegal US/UK Attack on Iraq


July 15, 2005


Johan Galtung, TFF Associate and Transcend

July 15, 2005

This is Galtung's speech to the World Tribunal on Iraq, Istanbul Final Session, June 24-26 2005.

Distinguished Members of the Jury of Conscience, Fellow Advocate, Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends!

The testimonies have brought the reality of an Iraq tortured by the US/UK (and a coalition of willing clients) illegal attack, and illegal occupation, into our minds and hearts. With a sense of deep anger at the continued aggression and deep compassion with the victims we have witnessed the reality of crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including nuclear war through the use of depleted, radioactive uranium, on top of the genocidal economic sanctions, and the general "softening up" of Iraq for a quick, decisive war and remolding to the taste of the aggressors.

Members of the Jury!

What we are witnessing is the geo-fascist state terrorism of US imperialism, following the defunct British Empire, soon to follow it into the graveyard of empires. In my research-based opinion at the latest by 2020, but, past experience being a guide, there is more to come. By some counts the attack on Iraq is US aggression no. 239 after the Thomas Jefferson start in the early 19th century and no. 69 after the Second world war; with between 12 and 16 million killed in that period alone. All of it is in flagrant contradiction of the most basic human rights, like the "right to life, liberty and security of persons" (Universal Declaration, UD:3) and the condemnation of the "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" (UD:5). In a Pentagon Planner's chilling words: "The de facto role of the United States Armed Forces will be to keep the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing". (1) And in my drier words: "Imperialism is a transborder structure for the synergy of killing, repression, exploitation and brain- washing."

I hold up against this organized atrocity - - whether attempted legitimized through packs of lies about weapons of mass destruction and links to Al Qaeda, or by invoking a divine mandate or a mandate to export democracy and human rights through dictatorship and world crimes - - a slip of paper, Article 28 of the Universal Declaration:

Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized. (UD:28)

This admirable formulation provides an excellent linkage between various levels of social organization, from the individual level at which these rights are implemented or violated, to the structure of the social and world spaces. It indicates the spaces in which these conditions may be identified. The basic needs served by human rights are located inside the individual, but the conditions for their satisfaction are social and/or international, generally speaking. UD:28 is a meta-right, a right about rights, with nothing short of revolutionary implications.

US imperialism in general, and its articulation in Iraq in particular, invokes the whole International Bill of Rights, but the focus is on the UD:3 right to life, in the context of Article 29:

Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible. (UD:29)

There are no rights without duties, and right-holder and duty- bearer may also be the same actor. The word "community" rather than, but not excluding, "country" is used. This is very realistic as human beings developed personalities long before there were countries run by states and peopled by nations in our sense. But "communities" are as old as humankind itself. To a growing part of humanity the most important are non-territorial, like the NGOs.


Haneef frame-up: Why 'terror‘ laws should be repealed

Green Left online

By Dale Mills & Tony Iltis
21 July 2007

The decision by immigration minister Kevin Andrews to throw 27-year-old Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef into immigration detention — despite a Queensland court granting Haneef bail on charges of “recklessly” (meaning not deliberately) supporting terrorism — has further exposed the Howard government’s utter disregard for civil rights and the judicial system, and the dangers inherent in its “anti-terror” laws.

Haneef, an Indian citizen working as a medical registrar at the Gold Coast Hospital, was arrested at Brisbane Airport on July 2 and detained without charge. On July 14 he was finally charged with “recklessly providing support to a terrorist organisation” in Britain.

On July 16, bail was granted to Haneef on the basis that he provide a $10,000 surety and report to police three times a week. While there is a presumption against bail under the “anti-terror” laws unless exceptional circumstances can be shown, magistrate Jacqui Payne decided that there were indeed exceptional circumstances — an extremely weak prosecution case.

The only “evidence” known to link Haneef to any alleged crime was that his cousin, Sabeel Ahmed, has been charged in Britain with withholding information that could have prevented a terrorist act and that Haneef gave Ahmed a mobile phone SIM card last September — because the card had unused credit — before Haneef left Britain to work in Australia.

Full article

Asma Jahangir, Paksitan's Human Rights Fighter

The Guardian, July 21. 2007

The Guardian, July 21, 2007

Blood and Guts

By Declan Walsh

Lunchtime yesterday, and a gaggle of lawyers in black suits crammed into a small room in the sweaty bowels of Pakistan’s Supreme Court. Balancing cigarettes and cups of tea, they savored the moment. An epic struggle was nearing its climax. The court was about to deliver its verdict on a battle that has captivated Pakistan since March, between the President, General Pervez Musharraf, and the chief justice, Muhammad Iftikhar Chaudhry. The country had never seen it before: a civilian openly challenging a military leader. After months of raucous protest, the lawyers smelled victory. But one was not sure.

0721 08Asma Jahangir, an eagle-eyed lawyer on the frontline of the chief justice’s campaign, was apprehensive. “I don’t know, I just don’t know,” she says, her voice trailing away. “I could be surprised, but it looks like there’s going to be a compromise.” We sat down to lunch, a few discs of unleavened bread and a scoop of dhal.

At five feet tall, Jahangir, 55, is not an imposing figure, but for almost four decades she has towered over Pakistan’s human rights war. She has championed battered wives, rescued teenagers from death row, defended people accused of blasphemy, and sought justice for the victims of honor killings. These battles have won her admirers and enemies in great number. But she doesn’t care, mocking the mullahs and poking a finger in the face of the barrel-chested generals. In conversations with friends, one word constantly recurs: guts. “Asma is the gutsiest woman that Pakistan has,” says Abbas Nasir, editor of Dawn newspaper and a friend. “Whatever she believes in, she has the conviction to say it publicly in a sea of complete intolerance and ignorance. In a country like this, that is fantastic.”

Full article

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Bush Executive Order: Criminalizing the Antiwar Movement

Global Research, July 20, 2007

The Executive Order entitled "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq" provides the President with the authority to confiscate the assets of whoever opposes the US led war.

A presidential Executive Order issued on July 17th, repeals with the stroke of a pen the right to dissent and to oppose the Pentagon's military agenda in Iraq.

The Executive Order entitled "Blocking Property of Certain Persons Who Threaten Stabilization Efforts in Iraq" provides the President with the authority to confiscate the assets of "certain persons" who oppose the US led war in Iraq:

"I have issued an Executive Order blocking property of persons determined to have committed, or to pose a significant risk of committing, an act or acts of violence that have the purpose or effect of threatening the peace or stability of Iraq or the Government of Iraq or undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction and political reform in Iraq or to provide humanitarian assistance to the Iraqi people."

In substance, under this executive order, opposing the war becomes an illegal act.

The Executive Order criminalizes the antiwar movement. It is intended to "blocking property" of US citizens and organizations actively involved in the peace movement. It allows the Department of Defense to interfere in financial affairs and instruct the Treasury to "block the property" and/or confiscate/ freeze the assets of "Certain Persons" involved in antiwar activities. It targets those "Certain Persons" in America, including civil society organizatioins, who oppose the Bush Administration's "peace and stability" program in Iraq, characterized, in plain English, by an illegal occupation and the continued killing of innocent civilians.

The Executive Order also targets those "Certain Persons" who are "undermining efforts to promote economic reconstruction", or who, again in plain English, are opposed to the confiscation and privatization of Iraq's oil resources, on behalf of the Anglo-American oil giants.

The order is also intended for anybody who opposes Bush's program of "political reform in Iraq", in other words, who questions the legitimacy of an Iraqi "government" installed by the occupation forces.

Full article

Bush alters rules for CIA interrogations

Source: news.yahoo.com

By KATHERINE SHRADER, Associated Press Writer Fri Jul 20,

WASHINGTON - President Bush breathed new life into the CIA's terror interrogation program Friday in an executive order that would allow harsh questioning of suspects, limited in public only by a vaguely worded ban on cruel and inhuman treatment.

The order bars some practices such as sexual abuse, part of an effort to quell international criticism of some of the CIA's most sensitive and debated work. It does not say what practices would be allowed.

The executive order is the White House's first public effort to reach into the CIA's five-year-old terror detention program, which has been in limbo since a Supreme Court decision last year called its legal foundation into question.

Officials would not provide any details on specific interrogation techniques that the CIA may use under the new order. In the past, its methods are believed to have included sleep deprivation and disorientation, exposing prisoners to uncomfortable cold or heat for long periods, stress positions and — most controversially — the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding.

The Bush administration has portrayed the interrogation operation as one of one of its most successful tools in the war on terror, while opponents have said the agency's techniques have left a black mark on the United States' reputation around the world.

Bush's order requires that CIA detainees "receive the basic necessities of life, including adequate food and water, shelter from the elements, necessary clothing, protection from extremes of heat and cold, and essential medical care."

A senior intelligence official would not comment directly when asked if waterboarding would be allowed under the new order and under related — but classified — legal documents drafted by the Justice Department.

However, the official said, "It would be wrong to assume the program of the past transfers to the future."

A second senior administration official acknowledged sleep is not among the basic necessities outlined in the order.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the order more freely.

Skeptical human rights groups did not embrace Bush's effort.

Tom Malinowski, Washington director for Human Rights Watch, said the broad outlines in the public order don't matter. The key is in the still-classified guidance distributed to CIA officers.

As a result, the executive order requires the public to trust the president to provide adequate protection to detainees. "Given the experience of the last few years, they have to be naive if they think that is going to reassure too many people," he said.

The order specifically refers to captured al-Qaida suspects who may have information on attack plans or the whereabouts of the group's senior leaders. White House press secretary Tony Snow said the CIA's program has saved lives and must continue on a sound legal footing.

"The president has insisted on clear legal standards so that CIA officers involved in this essential work are not placed in jeopardy for doing their job — and keeping America safe from attacks," he said.

The five-page order reiterated many protections already granted under U.S. and international law. It said that any conditions of confinement and interrogation cannot include:

• Torture or other acts of violence serious enough to be considered comparable to murder, torture, mutilation or cruel or inhuman treatment.

• Willful or outrageous acts of personal abuse done to humiliate or degrade someone in a way so serious that any reasonable person would "deem the acts to be beyond the bounds of human decency." That includes sexually indecent acts.

• Acts intended to denigrate the religion of an individual.

The order does not permit detainees to contact family members or have access to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In a decision last year aimed at the military's tribunal system, the Supreme Court required the U.S. government to apply Geneva Convention protections to the conflict with al-Qaida, shaking the legal footing of the CIA's program.

Last fall, Congress instructed the White House to draft an executive order as part of the Military Commissions Act, which outlined the rules for trying terrorism suspects. The bill barred torture, rape and other war crimes that clearly would have violated the Geneva Conventions, but allowed Bush to determine — through executive order — whether less harsh interrogation methods can be used.

The administration and the CIA have maintained that the agency's program has been lawful all along.

In a message to CIA employees on Friday, Director Michael Hayden tried to stress the importance and narrow scope of the program. He noted that fewer than half of the less than 100 detainees have experienced the agency's "enhanced interrogation measures."

"Simply put, the information developed by our program has been irreplaceable," he said. "If the CIA, with all its expertise in counterterrorism, had not stepped forward to hold and interrogate people like (senior al-Qaida operatives) Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the American people would be right to ask why."

For decades, the United States had two paths for questioning suspects: the U.S. justice system and the military's Army Field Manual.

However, after the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration decided more needed to be done. With Zubaydah's capture in 2002, the CIA program was quietly created.

Since then, 97 terror suspects are believed to have been held by the agency at locations around the world, often referred to as "black sites."

The program sparked international controversy as details slowly emerged, with human rights groups saying the agency's work was a violation of international law, including the Third Geneva Convention's Common Article 3 protections, which set a baseline standard for the treatment of prisoners of war.

In September, Bush announced the U.S. had transferred the last 14 high-value CIA detainees to the military's detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they would stand trial. The CIA has held one detainee since then — an Iraqi who the U.S. considered one of al-Qaida's most senior operatives. He was also eventually transferred to Guantanamo.


Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann and Lara Jakes Jordan contributed to this report.

Big firms get rich as Iraq war escalates

Workers World

Published July19, 2007

The debate over the war in Iraq has finally made it onto the agenda of the Senate! But not at a time when funding for the war is up for a vote. A majority of Congress, including most Democrats, already voted to approve those hundreds of billions of dollars.

The current debate is over an amendment, put forward by Democratic Senators Carl Levin of Michigan and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, to a new appropriations bill. The amendment would begin to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 180 days (six months) of enactment and complete a reduction of troop strength—but not a total withdrawal—by April 30, 2008.

This debate is finally happening after the electorate has in many, many ways expressed its utter disgust with the war, the occupation and both political parties for letting the carnage drag on despite the immense pain and suffering it has meant for the Iraqi people and many in the U.S. Especially hit here is the working class, which pays for wars in blood and taxes while the rich generally do quite well as war spending oozes through the upper layers of the economy.

The senators also must know that calls are heard more and more frequently to impeach George W. Bush and Dick Cheney because these two lied to the world about Iraq’s mythical weapons of mass destruction. Every online discussion having to do with the war or the White House—except those on bizarrely ultra-right Web sites—rings with colorful denunciations of these political figures.

Full article

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Whole Nation in Prison

Source: Press TV, July 19, 2007

By John Pilger

The Zionist Regime of Israel is destroying any notion of a state of Palestine and is being allowed to imprison an entire nation. That is clear from the latest attacks on Gaza, whose suffering has become a metaphor for the tragedy imposed on the peoples of the Middle East and beyond.

These attacks, reported on Britain's Channel 4 News, were "targeting key militants of Hamas" and the "Hamas infrastructure". The BBC described a "clash" between the same militants and Israeli F-16 aircraft.

Consider one such clash. The militants' car was blown to pieces by a missile from a fighter-bomber. Who were these militants? In my experience, all the people of Gaza are militant in their resistance to their jailer and tormentor.

As for the "Hamas infrastructure", this was the headquarters of the party that won last year's democratic elections in Palestine. To report that would give the wrong impression. It would suggest that the people in the car and all the others over the years, the babies and the elderly who have also "clashed" with fighter-bombers, were victims of a monstrous injustice. It would suggest the truth.

"Some say," said the Channel 4 reporter, that "Hamas has courted this [attack] . . ." Perhaps he was referring to the rockets fired at Israel from within the prison of Gaza which killed no one.

Under international law an occupied people has the right to use arms against the occupier's forces. This right is never reported. The Channel 4 reporter referred to an "endless war", suggesting equivalents.

There is no war. There is resistance among the poorest, most vulnerable people on earth to an enduring, illegal occupation imposed by the world's fourth largest military power, whose weapons of mass destruction range from cluster bombs to thermonuclear devices, bankrolled by the superpower.

In the past six years alone, wrote the historian Ilan Papp, "Israeli forces have killed more than 4,000 Palestinians, half of them children".
Consider how this power works.

According to documents obtained by United Press International, the Israelis once secretly funded Hamas as "a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO [Palestine Liberation Organisation] by using a competing religious alternative", in the words of a former CIA official.

Today, Israel and the US have reversed this ploy and openly back Hamas' rival, Fatah. Israel recently secretly allowed 500 Fatah fighters to cross into Gaza from Egypt, where they had been trained by another American client, the Cairo dictatorship.

The Israelis' aim is to undermine the elected Palestinian government and ignite a civil war. They have not quite succeeded. In response, the Palestinians forged a government of national unity, of both Hamas and Fatah. The latest attacks are aimed at destroying this.

With Gaza secured in chaos and the West Bank walled in, the Israeli plan, wrote the Palestinian academic Karma Nabulsi, is "a Hobbesian vision of an anarchic society: truncated, violent, powerless, destroyed, cowed, ruled by disparate militias, gangs, religious ideologues and extremists, broken up into ethnic and religious tribalism and co-opted collaborationists.

Look to the Iraq of today . . . On 19 May, the Guardian received this letter from Omar Jabary al-Sarafeh, a Ramallah resident: "Land, water and air are under constant sight of a sophisticated military surveillance system that makes Gaza like The Truman Show," he wrote. "In this film every Gazan actor has a predefined role and the [Israeli] army behaves as a director . . . The Gaza strip needs to be shown as what it is . . . an Israeli laboratory backed by the international community where human beings are used as rabbits to test the most dramatic and perverse practices of economic suffocation and starvation."

The remarkable Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has described the starvation sweeping Gaza's more than a million and a quarter inhabitants and the "thousands of wounded, disabled and shell-shocked people unable to receive any treatment . . . The shadows of human beings roam the ruins . . . They only know the [Israeli army] will return and they know what this will mean for them: more imprisonment in their homes for weeks, more death and destruction in monstrous proportions".
Whenever I have been in Gaza, I have been consumed by this melancholia, as if I were a trespasser in a secret place of mourning. Skeins of smoke from wood fires hang over the same Mediterranean Sea that free peoples know, but not here.

Along beaches that tourists would regard as picturesque trudge the incarcerated of Gaza; lines of sepia figures become silhouettes, marching at the water's edge, through lapping sewage. The water and power are cut off, yet again, when the generators are bombed, yet again. Iconic murals on walls pockmarked by bullets commemorate the dead, such as the family of 18 men, women and children who "clashed" with a 500lb American/Israeli bomb, dropped on their block of flats as they slept. Presumably, they were militants.

More than 40 per cent of the population of Gaza is children under the age of 15. Reporting on a four-year field study in occupied Palestine for the British Medical Journal, Dr Derek Summerfield wrote that "two-thirds of the 621 children killed at checkpoints, in the street, on the way to school, in their homes, died from small arms fire, directed in over half of cases to the head, neck and chest - the sniper's wound". A friend of mine with the United Nations calls them "children of the dust". Their wonderful childishness, their rowdiness and giggles and charm, belie their nightmare.

I met Dr Khalid Dahlan, a psychiatrist who heads one of several children's community health projects in Gaza. He told me about his latest survey. "The statistic I personally find unbearable," he said, "is that 99.4 per cent of the children we studied suffer trauma. Once you look at the rates of exposure to trauma, you see why: 99.2 per cent of the study group's homes were bombarded; 97.5 per cent were exposed to tear gas; 96.6 per cent witnessed shootings; 95.8 per cent witnessed bombardment and funerals; almost a quarter saw family members injured or killed."

He said children as young as three faced the dichotomy caused by having to cope with these conditions. They dreamt about becoming doctors and nurses, and then this was overtaken by an apocalyptic vision of themselves as the next generation of suicide bombers. They experienced this invariably after an attack by the Israelis. For some boys, their heroes were no longer football players, but a confusion of Palestinian "martyrs" and even the enemy, "because Israeli soldiers are the strongest and have Apache gunship".
Shortly before he died, Edward Said bitterly reproached foreign journalists for what he called their destructive role in "stripping the context of Palestinian violence, the response of a desperate and horribly oppressed people, and the terrible suffering from which it arises".

Just as the invasion of Iraq was a "war by media", so the same can be said of the grotesquely one-sided "conflict" in Palestine. As the pioneering work of the Glasgow University Media Group shows, television viewers are rarely told that the Palestinians are victims of an illegal military occupation; the term "occupied territories" is seldom explained.

Only 9 per cent of young people interviewed in the UK know that the Israelis are the occupying force and that the illegal settlers are Jewish; many believe them to be Palestinian. The selective use of language by broadcasters is crucial in maintaining this confusion and ignorance. Words such as "terrorism", "murder" and "savage, cold-blooded killing" describe the deaths of Israelis, almost never Palestinians.

There are honorable exceptions. The kidnapped BBC reporter Alan Johnston is one of them. Yet, amidst the avalanche of coverage of his abduction, no mention is made of the thousands of Palestinians abducted by Israel, many of whom will not see their families for years. There are no appeals for them.

In Al-Quds, the Foreign Press Association documents the shooting and intimidation of its members by Israeli soldiers. In an eight-month period, many journalists, including the CNN bureau chief in al-Quds, were wounded by the Israelis, some of them seriously. In each case, the FPA complained. In each case, there was no satisfactory reply.

A censorship by omission runs deep in western journalism on Israel, especially in the US. Hamas is dismissed as a "terrorist group sworn to Israel's destruction" and one that "refuses to recognize Israel and wants to fight not talk".

This theme suppresses the truth: that Israel is bent on Palestine's destruction. Moreover, Hamas' long-standing proposals for a ten-year ceasefire are ignored, along with a recent, hopeful ideological shift within Hamas itself that amounts to a historic acceptance of the sovereignty of Israel. "The [Hamas] charter is not the Quran," said a senior Hamas official, Mohammed Ghazal. "Historically, we believe all Palestine belongs to Palestinians, but we're talking now about reality, about political solutions . . . If Israel reached a stage where it was able to talk to Hamas, I don't think there would be a problem of negotiating with the Israelis [for a solution]."

When I last saw Gaza, driving towards the Israeli checkpoint and the razor wire, I was rewarded with a spectacle of Palestinian flags fluttering from inside the walled compounds. Children were responsible for this, I was told.

They make flagpoles out of sticks tied together and one or two will climb on to a wall and hold the flag between them, silently. They do it when there are foreigners around and they believe they can tell the world.

John Pilger's latest book, "Freedom Next Time", is published in the US by Nation Books and His film, "The War on Democracy", was released in the UK on 15 June.