Sunday, August 31, 2008

Where are pro-freedom Kashmiri leaders?

August 31, 2008 by sudhan

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Geelani’s Son-In-Law Seeks ICRC’s Intervention

JAVAID MALIK | Greater Kashmir, August 31, 2008

Srinagar, Aug 30: The continuous detention of pro-freedom leaders in Kashmir has left their families and general public worried as they want to know their fate.

Even their families have been denied access to meet them.

At least 100 pro-freedom leaders including chairmen of both the Hurriyat factions, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front Muhammad Yasin Malik, senior Hurriyat leader Shabir Ahmed Shah, chairperson of Dukhtarn-e-Millat, Asiya Andrabi and others have been arrested since Sunday, a day before scheduled Lal Chowk chalo march.
Altaf Ahmed Shah, son in law of ailing Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani told Greater Kashmir, “We’ve not been allowed to meet him since the day he was arrested. There were rumors about Geelani sahib not feeling well and he being admitted in SKIMS. There were even rumors about he was shifted to New Delhi for treatment.”

Shah said that after these rumors they approached the concerned Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Budgam and asked him to provide the whereabouts of the ailing leader. “He avoided us and refused to divulge the details,” he said.

Shah said that Syed Ali Geelani 78, is suffering from more than one serious ailments including cardiac problem, have only three fourth of kidney function and is asthmatic. He needs thorough medical check up on daily basis. “The criminal silence maintained by the authorities about his whereabouts and health has caused lots of worries to the family members and his party rank and file,” Shah said.
He said that he has filed a petition with head of the delegation of International Community of the Red Cross (ICRC) and has sought his intervention.

The secretary to Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Shahid-ul-Islam said that since Mirwaiz’s arrest authorities have not provided his whereabouts. “We’ve been running from pillar to post for knowing where he has been lodged but till now officials have not responded,” he said.

Islam said that authorities’ remaining tightlipped on Mirwaiz’s whereabouts is making party cadres and family members apprehensive about his safety. “All of us including people want to know where is Mirwaiz and how is he fearing,” Islam said.

Residents of Rajouri Kadal and other areas of Shehar-e-Khaas too seemed worried about the fate of Mirwaiz. “ What have they done to him?” asked Farooq Ahmed of Rajouri Kadal. “ If whereabouts of Mirwiaz, Geelani sahib and other leaders are not provided we will defy the curfew and take to the roads.”

Sister of the JKLF chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik said that after Malik was arrested policemen from Maisuma Police Station approached them and asked for his medicines. “We asked them where has he been lodged, but they didn’t divulge any details.” “He is very much safe and sound. Don’t worry about him,” Malik’s sister quoted policemen as saying.

Residents of Maisuma expressed concern over authorities not providing the whereabouts of Malik and other pro-freedom leaders. “Why is Government maintaining silence?,” a group residents asked.

Wife of senior Hurriyat leader Shabir Ahmed Shah said, “ After he was arrested cops came here and told us to hand over his clothes and medicines.”

She said that policemen told her that they cannot disclose his whereabouts. “We’ve got directions from New Delhi not to disclose where he has been lodged,” she said, adding, “I hope he is fine. He is suffering from various ailments.”

However, daughter of Hurriyat (G) spokesman Ayaz Akbar said that they were allowed to meet him and he has been lodged in Sumbal Police Station. “We asked the policemen under which section has he been booked, but they refused to divulge the details.”

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August 31, 2008 by sudhan

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GK NEWS NETWORK | Greater Kashmir, August 31, 2008


Not only were many a Kashmiri leader who had led peaceful public rallies over a week earlier were arrested in an overnight crack down but announcement piercing the deathly silence of the night proclaiming curfew in all the 10 districts of the valley were made from megaphone fitted police vans. There is nothing new in the imposition of restriction on public movement in the state. In fact, Kashmir and curfews for indiscriminate use of the later have become synonymous. In the 60-year history, there has hardly been a year when there have not been restrictions on the assembly of people or section 144 has not been in force or when curfew has not been imposed in one or another town.

The curfew in force all over Kashmir for the past seven days is unprecedented. Terming the caging of 60 lakh men, women, children, young, old, toddlers and infants and denying them food and medicine, as curfew can be a misnomer. It will be too mild to call it even an emergency. The Peoples Democratic Party president, Mehbooba Mufti, very aptly described it as the martial law. Martial law in no way is different than the situation that has been prevailing in Kashmir during the past week.

Humanity was torn to shreds when hundreds of patients suffering from serious ailments could not be shifted to hospitals. Stories instilling awe and fear about many pregnant women gasping for breaths on roadsides and even breathing their last have been galore. Reports about men in uniform beating doctors have disturbed the entire medical fraternity. It was for the first time that restrictions had been imposed even on the movement of hospital ambulances. There are reports about the paramilitary forces firing on ambulances which were not contradicted. It is not an overstatement but a hard reality that because of scarcity of baby food in the valley and restrictions imposed by the government many crying infants were lulled to sleep by their mothers’ empty stomach. Many chronic patients depending on daily medication had to go without medicines during the unparalleled curfew.
Kashmir, particularly during past two decades, has seen many a grave situations when not only the law enforcing agencies but the entire state as such had gone out of gear.

But during those tough times too, newspapers continued their publications. In recent history, it was for the first time when no newspaper was published because of strict restrictions on the movement of newsmen and other newspaper staff. It was nothing but muzzling the media when the government, besides banning private news and current affairs cable channels, very tactfully prevented publication of newspapers. The situation as has been obtaining in Kashmir since Sunday mid-night is reminiscent of the 1976 Emergency in India.

The question arises what prompted the government to create a situation which reminds one of primitive times when human values were almost irrelevant. Ostensibly, there was no reason for placing entire Kashmir under an undeclared emergency. The All Parties Hurriyat Conferences and other allied organization were holding absolutely peaceful rallies in support of their known political demands. True, the APHC rallies attracted hundreds of thousands of people and about a million had responded to the call of conglomerate at Eidgah but these rallies were so disciplined and orderly that not a brickbat was thrown on the security forces at any place. This has been acknowledged even by the known critics of Kashmiris. There was no law and order breakdown anywhere in the valley. Instead, if one looks dispassionately at the law and order situation in Kashmir in the backdrop of the months gone by, it was much more peaceful. Instead of reacting harshly with strong arm methods to the violence-free political scenario, the government should have capitalized over it and given peace a chance to strike deeper roots. It is high time for New Delhi to reassess the Kashmir situation and find out ways and means for a lasting solution to the nagging problem which cost the Indian nation no less.

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The Dark Side Of The “Free World”

August 31, 2008 by sudhan

By Rob Gowland | Information Clearing House

27/08/08 “The Guardian” — - The book, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, published in mid-July, is written by US journalist Jane Mayer, whose specialty is writing about counter-­terrorism for The New Yorker.

The book has particularly peeved the CIA and its boss in the White House for, apparently, Ms Mayer has had access to a secret report by the International Committee of the Red Cross issued last year labelling the CIA’s interrogation methods for “high-level Qaeda prisoners” as “categorically” torture. In consequence, the Bush administration officials who approved these methods would be guilty of war crimes.

The book says the Red Cross report was shared with the CIA, President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

It would not be the first time of course that US authorities (civil, intelligence or military) have indulged in or turned a blind eye to torture or other forms of horrifying brutality.

One thinks of their blood-soaked activities to thwart the former Communist Resistance leaders from gaining political power in Western Europe after WW2, or their even more bloody destruction of democracy in Guatemala or Chile, El Salvador and pre-Castro Cuba.

The many atrocities by US forces in Korea and Vietnam were far too numerous to be the work of “rotten apples”; they were clearly the result of US government and military policy, just like the actions of the US military in charge of the Abu Graib prison in Iraq.

A society that bases itself on force and brutality, on state terrorism, while simultaneously indulging in the most hypocritical lip-service to the ideals of humaneness and justice, cannot but find excuses for torture.

Only last year or the year before, Amnesty International — an organisation not noted for being hostile to the USA — stated that the procedures in many US civilian jails amounted to torture. Military prisons operated by the US in other countries must surely be hell on earth.

Red Cross representatives were only permitted to interview high-level “terrorist” detainees in late 2006, after they were moved to the military detention centre in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Until then, while the prisoners were being “interrogated” in the CIA’s secret prisons, the Red Cross was not given access to them.

It is now well known that these secret prisons are located in US client states, some in Eastern Europe where anti-Communist regimes are all too willing to co-operate with their US backers, and some in states like Egypt that are equally dependent on US support. Significantly, they all practice torture.

We have all seen the images from Guantánamo Bay of prisoners, shackled and manacled, stumbling along with a guard on either side. But all the time, the particularly frightening threat hangs over them of being taken from there and returned to one of the secret prisons away from any prying eyes.

In testimony to the Red Cross, Abu Zubaydah, the first major Al Qaeda figure the United States captured, told how he was confined in a box “so small he said he had to double up his limbs in the foetal position” and was one of several prisoners to be “slammed against the walls”.

The CIA has admitted that Abu Zubaydah and two other prisoners were water-boarded, a form of torture in which water is poured in the nose and mouth of the victim to simulate the sensation of suffocation and drowning.

The Pentagon and the CIA have both defended water-boarding on the same grounds: “because it works”, the torturer’s classic justification. Jane Mayer’s book says Abu Zubaydah told the Red Cross that he had been water-boarded at least ten times in a single week and as many as three times in a day.

The Red Cross report says that another high level prisoner, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged chief planner of the attacks of September 11, 2001, told them that he had been kept naked for more than a month and claimed that he had been “kept alternately in suffocating heat and in a painfully cold room”.

A New York Times article on the report says the prisoners considered the “most excruciating” of the methods was being shackled to the ceiling and being forced to stand for as long as eight hours. This is a well-known torture technique that has severe physical effects on the victim’s body.

According to The New York Times article, eleven of the 14 prisoners reported to the Red Cross that they had suffered prolonged sleep deprivation, including “bright lights and eardrum-shattering sounds 24 hours a day”.

The New York Times reported that a CIA spokesman had confirmed that Red Cross workers had been “granted access to the detained terrorists at Guantánamo and heard their claims”.

The same CIA spokesman said the agency’s interrogations were based on “detailed legal guidance from the Department of Justice” and had “produced solid information that has contributed directly to the disruption of terrorist activities”. There’s that justification of torture again.

Bernard Barrett of the International Committee of the Red Cross declined to comment on the book when asked by The New York Times. He did not deny any of the book’s claims, but regretted “that any information has been attributed to us” because, it seems, the International Committee of the Red Cross “believes its work is more effective when confidential”!

He went on to say: “We have an ongoing confidential dialogue with members of the US intelligence community, and we would share any observations or recommendations with them.”

So that’s OK then.

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Stars, Stripes, War and Shame

August 31, 2008 by sudhan

By MISSY COMLEY BEATTIE | Counterpunch, August 30 / 31, 2008

The Pentagon says “only” five civilians were killed Friday, a week ago, by US aerial bombardment. According to Afghan officials and a United Nations report, 90 Afghan civilians died, 60 of whom were children.

Just days after this carnage, the Democrats, so many dressed in red, white, and blue, opened their convention in Denver. In the wake of the barbarity in Afghanistan and the continued suicide bombings in Iraq, the revelry and flag waving in Colorado seemed inappropriate. Sure, I understand that hope was and is in the air, but I reached for the remote and powered off.

Thursday night, I tuned in to hear a sweet, young voice, pledging allegiance to the flag of the United States of American. “With freedom and justice for all.”

Freedom and justice are concepts we can no longer take for granted. They aren’t guaranteed by stars, stripes, and platitudes. The truth is that George and Dick have sucked the life out of our Constitution, aided by Congressional Republicans and Democrats as well as too many among the electorate who are guilty by reason of fear or complacency.

The events of 9/11 sent masses rushing to either purchase or dust off their Bibles and reference scripture for guidance and to to justify “an eye for an eye.” Never mind that we leveled a country with no link to those who used our commercial airplanes as weapons. The attack on our soil provided the neocons the excuse they needed to implement their plan for domination of Earth’s bounties. Add to this the groupies convinced that George Bush was chosen by God to be president at this particular time of crisis. That Bush himself believed this should have been a red-flag warming that the path he demanded we follow would lead us, not to an Eden of security and prosperity but, to a miasma of endless conflict and contempt from most of the world.

The warmongers forgot the song learned in childhood:

“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

The lyrics crawl through my consciousness as war rages on and candidates for the highest office in our land spar in their own war of words for the power prize, which is the authority to declare war. To John Bomb Bomb McCain, war is something about which to joke, promote, and accelerate. He reminds us repeatedly of his years as a tortured prisoner of war. Yet he never mentions the targets whose eyes he didn’t see–all those Vietnamese peasants, men, women, and children, whose bodies he melted. For Barack Obama who opposed the invasion of Iraq but, without fail, has voted to fund it, the prudent foreign policy strategy is to send more troops to the “right” hotspot, Afghanistan. Russia must love this.

Monday is the beginning of the Republican version of Denver. When McCain, who seems to have a “thing” for beauty queens, speaks, we’ll probably hear about that trip he’s going to take to the “gates of hell.” Also, he’ll offer the usual “we’re fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here,” and “if we leave too soon, they’ll follow us home,” and that we “must achieve victory.”

But no one is defining victory, so allow me: Victory is pledging allegiance to peace.

Imagine if we had a candidate who said:

So much of the history of our country has been sanitized. The truth is that we have battled unnecessarily, illegally, immorally. We have sent our sons and daughters to die, to return maimed, to sustain traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder while destroying the lives of those we call the enemy, the other. We have invaded for resources that we call our “interests” and for superior positioning. Just to show we can. Just to show our might. Not to defend ourselves. I say no more. Not on my watch. As your president, I pledge allegiance to the people. I pledge allegiance to peace.

Actually, we do have aspirants who have said as much. Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney certainly are transformational choices. Bob Barr, the Libertarian, gets it, too, when he says that war “should be the last rather than the first resort.” But our corporate media give them little credibility and even less airtime.

So, we wait. Some wave their flags and hope while others feel despair and shame at what continues to be done in our names.

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at:

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Extraordinary rendition, extraordinary mistake

August 31, 2008 by sudhan

Sangitha McKenzie Millar | Foreign Policy In Focus, August 29, 2008

Mamdouh Habib, an Australian citizen, was living in Sydney with his wife and four children when he took a trip alone to Pakistan to find a home for his family. When Habib boarded a bus for the Islamabad airport to return home, Pakistani police seized him and took him to a police station, where he was subjected to various crude torture techniques, including electric shocks and beating. At one point, he was forced to hang by the arms above a drum-like mechanism that administered an electric shock when touched. Pakistani police asked him repeatedly if he was with al-Qaeda, and if he trained in Afghanistan. Habib responded “No” over and over until he passed out.

After 15 days in the Pakistani prison, Habib was transferred to U.S. agents who flew him to Cairo. When he arrived, Omar Solaimon, chief of Egyptian security, informed him that Egypt receives $10 million for every confessed terrorist they hand over to the United States. Habib stated that during his five months in Egypt, “there was no interrogation, only torture.” His skin was burned with cigarettes and he was threatened with dogs, beaten, and repeatedly shocked with a stun gun. During this time, he heard American voices in the prison, but Egyptians were in charge of the torture. In Michael Otterman’s book American Torture: From the Cold War to Abu Ghraib and Beyond (Pluto Press 2007), Habib said he was drugged and began to hallucinate: “I feel like a dead person. I was gone. I become crazy.” He remembers admitting things to interrogators, anything they asked: “I didn’t care … at this point I was ready to die.”

He was transferred back to the custody of U.S. agents in May 2002. They flew him first to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and then to Kandahar. After several weeks, American agents sent Habib to Guantánamo Bay. Three British detainees who have since been released from the prison described Habib as being in a “catastrophic state” when he arrived. Most of his fingernails were missing and he regularly bled from the nose, mouth, and ears while he slept.

Habib was held at Guantánamo Bay until late 2004, when he was charged with training 9/11 hijackers in martial arts, attending an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, and transporting chemical weapons. A Chicago human rights lawyer took his case and detailed all of Habib’s allegations of torture in court documents. After the case garnered national attention through a front page story in The Washington Post, Habib became a liability for the U.S. government. Rather than have his testimony on the torture he suffered in Egypt become a matter of public record, U.S. officials decided to send him back to Sydney in January 2005 – over three years after seizing him in Pakistan.

Unfortunately, Habib’s case isn’t unusual. There’s substantial evidence that the United States routinely and knowingly “outsources” the application of torture by transferring terrorism suspects to countries that frequently violate international human rights norms. As details of the extraordinary rendition program have emerged, politicians, journalists, academics, legal experts, and policymakers have raised serious objections to the policy. It has captured the attention of U.S. legislators, and both the House and Senate Committees on Foreign Relations as well as the House Committee on the Judiciary have held hearings to analyze the policy and examine related cases. Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the Democratic vice presidential nominee, expressed concern that “rendition, as currently practiced, is undermining our moral credibility and standing abroad and weakening the coalitions with foreign governments that we need to effectively combat international terrorism.” As the public continues to learn more about the program, calls to end extraordinary rendition have increased, and the next presidential administration will likely be forced to take a stand one way or another on the issue.

Continued . . .

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Posted in Afghanistan, Commentary, Human rights, Pakistan, US policy

The Forgotten Millions

August 31, 2008 by sudhan

As Pakistan’s political leaders wrangle over the small print, the welfare of the country’s people has dropped off the agenda

Last November, I lost a long-standing bet with a friend when General Pervez Musharraf finally relinquished his military role and then embarked on a new term as Pakistan’s civilian president. Up to that point, the idea that he might give up his army uniform had always seemed ludicrous – thus leading me to enter into the bet so confidently.

The end of Benazir Bhutto’s self-imposed exile from Pakistan last October was the turning point in the country’s political rat race. The response by thousands of PPP supporters to her arrival was enough to drive Musharraf to impose a state of emergency.

August 18 this year, however, saw the end of Musharraf’s regime. His haphazard constitutional changes, some of which include the suspension of the judiciary (which is still in turmoil today) and other actions such as the military operation against Red Mosque fundamentalists and the curtailing of high-profile media channels, ended up backfiring.

The ineffectual methods used to quell the uproar after Bhutto’s assassination last December, when the authorities failed to solve the case, contributed to a further fall from grace in the public eye. Towards the end of his regime, the discontent reached its height, turning into an almost unanimous anti-Musharraf campaign in the national media, and exacerbating the civil war raging in the tribal areas.

What of Pakistan’s future now? Since Asif Zardari, Bhutto’s husband and co-chairperson of the Pakistan People’s party (PPP), currently the largest party, has nominated himself for the presidential seat, a new debate has been sparked, with the opposition in uproar. Last Monday, Pakistan Muslim League-N leader Nawaz Sharif parted ways with the PPP, leading to the collapse of the five-month-old coalition government, on the grounds that Zardari had not kept his word regarding the restoration of the judiciary or democracy. An agreement signed on August 7 by the two leaders was also exposed to the public. It clearly stated the executive restoration of the judges would occur one day after the impeachment or resignation of President Musharraf. Zardari, however, employed every delaying tactic at hand to prevent this policy from going through. The accord also stated that once Musharraf was out of the picture, both leaders would put forward nonpartisan candidates for presidency. Asif Zardari went ahead and declared himself a candidate for president without informing or consulting Nawaz Sharif, and announced that the elections would take place on September 6.

The current stalemate between the former allies and the fractured coalition seem to loom larger in politics than the survival of Pakistanis who are unable to cope with massive food and fuel inflation. While the judges and the constitutional bills are lofty policy matters of grave significance, the politicians in the country seem to have lost sight of what image they are portraying both at home and abroad.

With nuclear neighbour India already licking its chops and the US circling, eager to launch an inevitable counter-terrorism campaign in Pakistan, it appears that the country stands closer to decline than ever before, democracy or no democracy. But there are those who dare to hope yet. Hope, even, that there might be a reformation on the horizon, or that after the resolution of conflicts, the country will return to the path of peaceful development. Hope that no foreign conflict lies ahead, and that the dire energy crisis will be resolved within the five to six-year timeline given, or even that there will not still be forces at loggerheads on policy technicalities, skirting the issue of the welfare of the nation. I, for one, am not willing to wager very much on that these hopes will be realised. Are you?

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The Crisis of Zionism and a Perspective for Palestinian Approach

August 30, 2008 by sudhan

Campo Antiimperialista, August 29, 2008

by Yoav Bar *

This paper is written as a contribution to the discussion in the Anti Imperialist Camp about perspectives for work within the imperialist countries. The situation in Palestine is very different from that of Europe or the US. Since the beginning of the Zionist colonization of Palestine, some 130 years ago, Jews in Palestine were a small enclave of settler population in the midst of the Arab homeland. Colonialism is not external expansionism of some imaginary “western-capitalist Israel”, but the essence of Israel’s existence. Palestine is an occupied colonized country, where the real center of political life is the struggle against the occupation. Any progressive struggle within the Jewish community in Palestine should be part of the perspective of Palestinian liberation.

From many aspects, the democratic struggle in Israel, as a remote outpost of imperialism, may differ from the general perspective for revolutionary struggle in the imperialist centers. Anyway, I tried to keep my analysis strictly committed to the facts on the Palestinian ground, and let the audience treat it critically to decide what lessons may be drawn for other fronts.

Part 1: How the Zionist system works

Zionism and Imperialism

A lot was written about the evils of Zionism as a colonialist movement and Israel as a racist regime, but the role of Zionism in the Imperialist Hegemony over the Arab East is much less known and understood. Still the main role of Zionism is not the exploitation of the Palestinian people, of which they prefer to get rid by continuing ethnic cleansing, neither the building of a Jewish society in Palestine (and the subsequent exploitation of the Jewish working class). The main role of Israel is as an advanced military outpost in the middle of the Arab East to prevent Arab independence, Arab unity and the building of a national economy and democratic society.

The military character of the Israeli project is enshrined in many strategic agreements between Israel and the imperialist powers, guaranteeing the “strategic superiority” of Israel in the region.

The current imperialist hysteria against Iran’s nuclear program has only one meaning – imperialist determination to keep Israel as the only power with nuclear weapon in the area, so as to enable it to use it on need. In many recent writings by Zionist leaders they tell openly how close they were to using nuclear weapons in some of their past conflicts…

For their role in keeping imperialist hegemony over this strategically important region, the Zionist military-capitalist elites receive a wide range of economic and political privileges, which are a small fraction of the imperialists’ profits from the subjection of the Arab nation and the robbery of its natural and human resources.

Colonialism and Class

In order to be able to expel and oppress the Palestinian people, and in order to be able to militarily terrorize the whole region, the Zionists need the best of all imperialist weaponry, but they also need soldiers to fight their wars. The state of Israel uses those Jewish masses it succeeded to tempt to come to Palestine as its base of support and as the foot soldiers for its colonization, oppression and aggressive wars. It needs this immigrant community to be satisfied, to prevent it from re-immigrating to safer places, and to keep its loyalty as a fighting force.

Fear is one major force behind the intense control of Zionism over the Jews in Palestine. In this sense, Zionism is the main beneficiary of anti-Semitism and it shares its conviction that Jews can’t assimilate in the societies where they live. It also benefits, to some degree, from terrifying Jews in Palestine from the possible consequences in case Israel will loose it military dominance.

In order to provide replacement to the expelled Palestinians, the Zionist movement is bringing in Jews from all over the world. At a process of internal colonization, Jews from Arab and other third world countries are deprived of their culture and social structure, which are declared by the state as “inferior”, and their society is crashed to provide defenseless “human raw material” for the Zionist manipulation and exploitation.

But the main mean used by Israel to keep the loyalty of the Jewish masses is to make their daily way of living depend of a complex system of privileges as against the native Palestinians. This system of privileges includes every aspect of daily lives in Israel: Health and Education, Housing, Welfare, Acceptance and promotion at work, just everything. Much effort is done to involve as many Jews (from all classes) as possible in actively expropriating Arab land, in the ’48 occupied territories as well as in the West Bank and the Syrian Golan heights.

This system allows only one way for effective struggle for sections of the Jewish masses that aspire to improve their daily lives: To struggle to enhance their privileges and distance themselves from the much more oppressed and exploited Arab masses. It is not a coincidence that the most successful struggle of Oriental Jews in the last years was a campaign for more equal distribution of expropriated Arab land, waged under the slogan “this land is also mine”.

Continued . . .

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Posted in Commentary, Palestine, Zionist Israel

Kashmiri leader warns of ‘bigger rebellion’ in Kashmir

August 30, 2008 by sudhan
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Cautions PM against unilateral decision on land row

Srinagar, Aug 29: Former chief minister and patron of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mufti Muhammad Sayeed on Friday warned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of a “bigger rebellion” in the Kashmir Valley if any unilateral decision was taken on land row. He also asked New Delhi to review its Kashmir policy to prevent further alienation of Kashmiris.
According to the PDP insiders, Sayeed who is presently camping in New Delhi was invited over lunch by the Prime Minister this afternoon. “If any unilateral decision about handing over the land back to Amarnath Shrine Board is taken it will have far reaching consequences,” sources quoted Mufti as telling the Prime Minister.
Mufti is understood to have told the PM that Coordination Committee (CC), an amalgam of separatist parties, lawyers, traders, transporters and members of the civil society, should be taken into confidence before taking any decision on land row. “If CC is ignored and land is transferred back to the board, it can lead to bigger rebellion in the Kashmir Valley,” Mufti told Dr Singh.
Mufti, according to the sources, stressed on the Prime Minister to review the Kashmir policy and resolve the Kashmir issue without wasting time. “Time has come to implement the recommendations of the Working Groups which include opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road for trade and hold dialogue with the separatist leaders,” Mufti is understood to have told Dr Singh.
Sources said that during the meeting Mufti told Dr Singh that people of Kashmir have been suppressed since 1990 and it has not borne any fruits. “If New Delhi continues to suppress the people of Kashmir it will lead to their further alienation. Curfew and restrictions on press and media are not going to help,” sources quoted Mufti as saying.
Sources said that Prime Minister assured Mufti that New Delhi will take all the steps to diffuse the crisis in Jammu and Kashmir. “We’ve to take the aspirations of both regions into consideration before coming to a conclusion. I am very much concerned about the situation in Jammu as well as Kashmir,” Dr Singh is understood to have told Mufti.
When contacted the PDP patron said, “I met the Prime Minister today and apprised him about the present situation in Kashmir. I also put forward my point of view and the apprehensions we have.”
Agitation over transfer of 800 kanals of land to Amarnath Shrine Board at Baltal rocked Kashmir Valley in month of June. The land transfer row led to PDP pulling out from the Congress led coalition government. The then chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad revoked the controversial land diversion order, but only after the Governor N N Vohra who is also the chairman of the Board gave up the Board’s claim on the land in the event of the State Government taking the responsibility of providing various facilities to the pilgrims.
However, the revocation of the order sparked of an agitation in Jammu region spearheaded by Amarntah Yatra Sangharsh Samiti, an amalgam of various rightwing parties and organizations. Samiti activists blocked the Srinagar-Jammu highway, only road connecting Kashmir Valley with rest of the world, causing acute shortage of essential commodities and medicines in the Valley, and also obstructing the export of largely perishable fruit to the markets across India. The agitation led to complete polarization of the state on the basis of religion.
To counter the economic blockade, Coordination Committee led by both Hurriyat factions was formed. The major demands of the Committee are opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Road for trade, revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which provides impunity to the soldiers operating in the state, release of detainees languishing in various jails and withdrawal of troops.
On August 11, tens of thousands of people on CC’s call marched towards Muzaffarabad. Police and troopers opened fire on the marchers near Sheeri in north Kashmir’s Varmul district killing eight persons including senior Hurriyat leader Shiekh Abdul Aziz. Since August 11 at least 40 persons have been killed in police and CRPF firing in different protests across the Valley.
Following massive public rallies organized by CC at Pampore, Tourist Reception Centre grounds and Eidgah, authorities imposed indefinite curfew in all ten districts of the Valley on August 24 and arrested many pro freedom leaders including chairmen of both Hurriyat factions, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, JKLF chairman Muhammad Yasin Malik, chairperson of Dukhtarn-e-Millat, Asiya Andrabi, Shabir Ahmed Shah and others.

A good will letter for General Musharraf

No one will write to the General

August 30, 2008 by sudhan

Khushwant Singh | Hindustan Times, August 29, 2008

May God be your protector Mr Musharraf. Your almost nine-year autocratic rule has come to an inglorious end. It was wise of you to step down before they impeached you. Impeachment would have been neither in your nor your country’s interest.

At the end of your political career, you have more well-wishers in India than in your own country.

It was a minor miracle as you started off with an attempt to grab Kargil from us by force that almost brought our countries to the brink of a war. Several hundred lives, Pakistani and Indian, were lost in your misadventure. You were quick to realise that taking on India was no child’s play and being on good terms with us would be more profitable.

And so it was. Road, rail and air travel between us showed noticeable increase. So did trade, commerce and goodwill.

Relations between our countries had never been friendlier than in your latter years in power. We were not aware of the resentment building up against you in your own country because we did not have to suffer your authoritative rule. You should have known the adage: power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Granted you did not make money or promote your relations to privileged positions as most politicians do in our countries.

But you did rob your people off their rights and freedoms. You sacked the Chief Justice and 60 other judges. You ordered their arbitrary arrests. And you suspended the Constitution. You should have known you would have to pay a heavy price for doing so.

Your people turned against you. You tried to win support of your foreign allies. At the prodding of the Chinese, you ordered the storming of the Lal Masjid that had become the hot-bed of Taliban bigotry and attacked Chinese run beauty and massage parlours in Islamabad. Lal Masjid was a bloody affair in which many men and women were killed. At the prodding of the Americans you tried to recover areas in the north-west extending from Swat to Baluchistan. Many more lives including Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti’s were lost. That eroded the little support you had.

In the elections you reluctantly held, your party got a drubbing. Now we have Messrs Zardari, Sharif and Gilani — all three tainted with charges of corruption — at the helm of affairs of Pakistan. In actual fact, the one thing that holds the country together is the army. We are back to square one, but without your calling the shots. What are friends of Pakistan in India to make of this aborted attempt to become a democracy ?

Having said all that, we still invoke the mercy of Allah to protect you from harm. Many attempts were made on your life when you were in power. No doubt those very people will be dying to settle scores with you. Hence the prayer, Allah Hafiz!

Idle thoughts

What preoccupies the minds of men past their middle age after they have done their day’s work and have nothing to do? Based on introspection, I have come to the conclusion that they think of three things whose proportions vary with age but are concerned with basic needs of survival, procreation, reflections of their past years and uncertainty of the future.

If they are still working, they first think of how their work is progressing and what remains to be accomplished. They are concerned with their bread and butter, the instinct of survival. Then they think of sexual affairs they had or wanted to have. That is basically the instinct to procreate. And finally, they go over their past: friends they had, misunderstandings or deaths that ended their relationships and what the future holds for them. Mohammed Rafi Sauda (1713-1781), poet laureate of the Mughal Court, thought along the same lines:

Fikr-e-maash, ishq-e-butaan, yaad-e-raftgaan

Is zindagi mein ab koi kya kya karey

(Concern for livelihood, love for women, memories of the past

What else is there to left to man in his life?)

Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib (1797-1869) had much the same thing to say, except that he was obsessed with impending death.

He craved for fursat (a break from the all-consuming business of making a living to indulge his mind on other things):

Jee dhoondta hai phir vahi fursat ke raat din

Baithey rahen tassavur-e-jaanaam kiye hue

In later life, a man spends less time thinking of his livelihood. Recollections of affairs with women recede into the background as do memories of departed friends. He begins to worry more of his unknown future.

Musharraf’s last message

Mujhe aur kuch nahi chahiye; mujhe mere haal pe rehne do

I don’t need anything except to be left to my fate.

There is a deep conspiracy to kick me out at any rate.

All along I worked honestly but a man at times makes a mistake;

Pardon me and don’t try to exaggerate.

For me Pakistan is everything: I leave it in the hands of the gods,

God: bless it and guard it against all odds.

After consulting legal luminaries, friends and foes

In the interest of Pakistan I resign;

It is only to safeguard the interests of

Pakistan and not mine.

(Courtesy: Lachhmandass, Janakpuri, Delhi)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mehbboba: It is martial law in Kashmir

Tough time for Kashmiris: Omar

Srinagar, Aug 28: Aghast over the prevailing situation in Kashmir, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference on Thursday demanded lifting of curfew and curbs on media forthwith. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti described the present situation as “martial law,” while National Conference President Omar Abdullah said it was a “very tough time” for Kashmiris.

” It seems as if martial law has been imposed in the Valley,” the PDP President Mehbooba Mufti told Greater Kashmir. “People have been restricted within the four walls of their homes. News channels have gone off the air and no newspapers are being published. Such things don’t happen in a democratic set up. It is obviously martial law,” Mehbooba added.

Warning New Delhi of dire consequences if it continues to suppress the voice of people, Mehbooba said, “New Delhi has failed to suppress the people of Kashmir by subjugating them for past 20 years. If New Delhi feels that by resorting to oppression they can suppress the people of Kashmir then they are living in a fool’s paradise.” Mehbooba said that it’s unfortunate that old mindset of New Delhi is coming to fore again and the section people there who wanted Kashmir issue to be resolved peacefully have become weak. “Hardliners are once again ruling the roost and if they continue with the same policy it can have far reaching consequences,” she said. The PDP president said that the present movement is different from nineties. “Today it’s a people’s movement and there are no guns. New Delhi needs to understand it. If it continues to use force and hold people of the Valley as hostages within their homes situation will worsen and it will add to further alienation.” Mehbooba accused New Delhi of once again trying to deceive the people of Kashmir. “Instead of resolving the issue, New Delhi is once again trying to suppress the present mass uprising by using force,” she said, adding, “Some people with vested interests once again want to handle Kashmir situation with an iron hand.” Mehbooba demanded that curfew and restrictions on local news channels and press be lifted forthwith.

President of National Conference Omar Abdullah described the present situation as a very strict situation. “People told me that it’s for the first time that such a curfew has been imposed,” Omar said, adding, “It’s unfortunate that troopers are barging into the houses of people and are resorting to hooliganism. They should learn to respect people.” However, the NC president stopped short of saying that it’s a “martial law” like situation. “It’s a strict situation but it’s not military rule yet.” Accusing government of adopting double standards, the NC President said, “It’s strange that curfew is enforced strictly in Kashmir and in Jammu it is vice-versa. This is sheer discrimination.” Terming the imposition of curfew as surprising, Omar said, “Authorities should have clamped the curfew on August 11 to prevent the situation from taking an ugly turn. Had they done so many people would not have died and things could have been better.” Omar said that authorities should hold dialogue with the separatist leaders rather than imposing curfew. “Dialogue only can resolve the present crisis.” Terming restrictions on media as unfortunate, Omar said, “It should not have happened. Restrictions should be revoked and curfew should be lifted

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PM Putin: US orchestrated conflict in Georgia

Putin: US orchestrated Georgia conflict, suggests motive was to affect US president election

STEVE GUTTERMAN | AP News Aug 28, 2008 19:36 EST

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the United States on Thursday of instigating the fighting in Georgia and said he suspects a connection to the U.S. presidential campaign — a contention the White House dismissed as “patently false.”

In a decision he said was unrelated to unraveling Russia-U.S. ties, Putin also ordered that 19 American poultry producers be barred from selling their products to Russia. He said the unnamed companies ignored demands that they correct alleged deficiencies.

Putin, the former president and architect of an assertive foreign policy that has stoked East-West tension, suggested in an interview with CNN that there was an American presence amid the combat with a potential domestic U.S. political motive.

“We have serious grounds to think that there were U.S. citizens right in the combat zone” during Russia’s war with the U.S.-allied ex-Soviet republic, he said the interview broadcast on state-run Russian television. “And if that’s so, if that is confirmed, it’s very bad. It’s very dangerous.”

Putin’s acid attack on the United States came as Moscow’s bid to redraw Georgia’s borders hit an obstacle among its Asian allies who refused to recognize the two Russian-backed breakaway regions of Georgia. France, meanwhile, said the European Union is considering sanctions against Russia for its conduct in the Caucasus.

Putin said that Russia had hoped the U.S. would restrain Georgia, which Moscow accuses of starting the war by attacking South Ossetia on Aug. 7. Instead, he suggested the U.S. encouraged the nation’s leadership to try to rein in the separatist region by force.

“The American side in fact armed and trained the Georgian army,” Putin said. “Why hold years of difficult talks and seek complex compromise solutions in interethnic conflicts? It’s easier to arm one side and push it into the murder of the other side, and it’s over.

“It seems like an easy solution. In reality it turns out that it’s not always so,” he said.

The United States has close ties with the Georgian government and has trained Georgian units. The Pentagon has said that the U.S. had about 130 trainers in Georgia when the fighting erupted earlier this month, including a few dozen civilians who were all working to prepare the Georgian forces for deployment to Iraq.

But Russian officials have made statements aimed to convey the idea that Americans may have directly supported Georgia’s offensive.

At a briefing Tuesday, the deputy chief of Russian military general staff, Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, showed off a color copy of what he said was a U.S. passport found in a basement in a village in South Ossetia among items that belonged to Georgian forces.

“We found a passport for Michael Lee White,” Nogovitsyn said. “He’s a Texan.”

The U.S. Embassy in Georgia said it had no information on the matter.

In an interview with France 24 to be aired Friday, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said there were no American “commanders or even advisers” in the conflict zone. He said the conflict had nothing to do with the U.S., but “the aggression of the Russians.”

Putin appeared to link claims of an American presence amid the combat with a potential domestic U.S. political motive.

“If my guesses are confirmed, then that raises the suspicion that somebody in the United States purposefully created this conflict with the aim of aggravating the situation and creating an advantage … for one of the candidates in the battle for the post of U.S. president.”

Putin did not name a party or candidate. Some pro-Kremlin Russian politicians have claimed U.S. Republicans hoped the war would help keep Democrat Barack Obama out of the White House by fomenting concern among voters over security, which some of the Russians consider to be a strong-suit of Republican candidate John McCain, a strong Kremlin critic.

White House press secretary Dana Perino called Putin’s contentions “patently false.” She said “it also sounds like his defense officials who said they believe this to be true are giving him really bad advice.”

She added: “To suggest that the United States orchestrated this on behalf of a political candidate just sounds not rational.”

Perino said Russia is facing the consequences of a diminished global reputation and that “there will be other” consequences as well. She refused to say what they would be and said there is no timetable.

The Russian leader maintained that the poultry decision was unrelated to the Georgia issue. He said that the 19 producers ignored the demands to correct the problems following inspections. He said another 29 producers would receive warnings.

“We try and keep our industry out of politics and into marketing opportunities, but sometimes it’s very difficult to separate the two,” said Jim Sumner, president of the U.S.A. Poultry & Egg Export Council. He said Russia is a major market for American producers.

U.S. producers supply nearly 75 percent of the total poultry import quota set by Russia, which stands at 1.2 million tons. Russia represented the largest export market for chicken broilers made by U.S. producers in the first half of this year, Sumner said.

Sumner said he expected the alleged plant deficiencies to be corrected within weeks or a few months and said the stoppage would not have a major impact on U.S. producers.

Russia is an important market for many poultry producers, including the nation’s largest chicken producer, Pilgrim’s Pride Inc., as well as Sanderson Farms Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc., the world’s largest meat company.

Shares of many meat producers, including top hog producer Smithfield Foods Inc., tumbled Thursday on worries about potential cuts by Russia.

“At this point if Russia were to walk back from certain agreements they have made, it would clearly delay any future aspirations they have of joining the World Trade Organization,” said Sean Spicer, spokesman for U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

In Tajikistan, China and four Central Asian nations criticized the West, but wary of separatists at home, they stopped short of heeding Russia’s call to recognize the breakaway Georgia regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Moscow had appealed to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization — whose members are Russia, China, and four Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — for unanimous support of Moscow’s response to Georgia’s “aggression.”

Alexei Malashenko, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said the summit highlighted Russia’s isolation.

“The Soviet Union was not so alone even in 1968,” he said on Ekho Moskvy radio, referring to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Western leaders have added condemnation of Russian recognition to their accusations that Moscow used disproportionate force in its Georgia offensive and has fallen far short of its withdrawal commitments under an EU cease-fire deal.

The EU is “trying to draw up a strong text signifying our unwillingness to accept” Russia’s stance, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Thursday. “Sanctions are being considered … and many other means as well,” Kouchner said.

The Foreign Ministry said later that France was not behind a sanctions proposal.


Associated Press Writers Peter Leonard and Olga Tutubalina in Dushanbe, Tajikistan; Jim Heintz and Misha Dzhindzhikhashvili in Tbilisi, Georgia; and Catrina Stewart, Nataliya Vasilyeva, David Nowak, Doug Birch and Mansur Mirovalev in Moscow, Natasha Metzler in Washington and business writer Emily Fredrix in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

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Dick Cheney’s guy in Georgia before the war

By James Gerstenzang | Los Angeles Times, August 27, 2008

Cheney aide was in Georgia before war began. What was a top national security aide to Vice President Dick Cheney doing in Georgia shortly before Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s troops engaged in what became a disastrous fight with South Ossetian rebels — and then Russian troops?

Not, according to the vice president’s office, what you might think — if your thinking takes you into the realm of Cheney giving his blessing to the Georgian’s military operation.

To be sure, Cheney has been a leader of the hardliners in the administration when it comes to standing up to Russia — to the point that the man who ran the Pentagon as the Cold War came to an end during the administration of the first President Bush has been seen as ready to renew that face-off with Moscow.

It was Cheney who visited the Georgian embassy in Washington last week to sign a remembrance book as a demonstration of the administration’s support.

And yes, Joseph R. Wood, Cheney’s deputy assistant for national security affairs, was in Georgia shortly before the war began.

But, the vice president’s office says, he was there as part of a team setting up the vice president’s just-announced visit to Georgia. (It is common for the White House to send security, policy, communications and press aides to each site the president and vice president will visit ahead of the trip, to begin making arrangements and planning the agenda.)

The White House disclosed on Monday that Cheney would hurry over to Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Italy next week, almost immediately after addressing the Republican National Convention on Labor Day.

And so it was that a team from the vice president’s office, U.S. security officials and others were in Georgia several days before the war began.

It had nothing to do, the vice president’s office said, with a military operation that some have said suggests a renewal of the Cold War.

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Kashmiris appeal against Indian oppression in Kashmir

A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Kashmir, the disputed region partitioned by India and Pakistan. Dozens of unarmed Kashmiri protesters have been killed and hundreds injured by Indian security forces in the last few weeks.

The vicious crackdown is part of its attempt to stamp out mass demonstrations that have shaken the valley. These demonstrations may have been sparked by the Amarnath land transfer controversy, but have snowballed into a province-wide uprising against the ongoing Indian military occupation.

Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are taking to the streets, day after day, demanding “azadi” (freedom) and their right to self-determination. In response, the Indian government has imposed a round-the-clock curfew in all of Kashmir, creating the conditions for a humanitarian disaster.

Protesters demanding "azadi" confront riot police on the streets of Jammu in KashmirProtesters demanding “azadi” confront riot police on the streets of Jammu in Kashmir

IN VIEW of the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the media blackout of the events in Kashmir, we call upon the international humanitarian agencies, particularly the UN bodies and world press, to intervene immediately to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Kashmir.

Owing to the strict curfew, hundreds of the injured lying in various hospitals of Kashmir, are not able to get critical medicines and the attendants are without food.

Due to the aggressive enforcement of the curfew, the sick and injured (by the Indian armed forces) are not able to reach hospitals, resulting in deaths. Attendants of dozens of dead in various hospitals in Kashmir are awaiting their transportation to their homes for the final rites. Two pregnant women died since yesterday when the ambulances carrying them were prevented by the Indian armed forces to reach maternity hospitals. Beating up the drivers of the ambulances and their inability to reach hospitals has compounded the situation. Medical personnel of various hospitals in Kashmir are not able to attend their duties, as identity cards and curfew passes are not being honored by the hostile troops deployed on the streets.

There is a serious dearth of medicines, baby milk, foodstuffs, milk and other essential commodities in the market due to the curfew and the blockade of the only road link to Kashmir. In view of the four days of stringent restrictions on people’s movement and heavy clampdown by the state forces across the 10 districts of Kashmir, including Srinagar city, we appeal to the international community to ask the government of India to immediately ease curfew restrictions so that people are able to access basic essentials. Children going without milk and the sick without medicines are matters of serious concern.

We condemn the use of heavy force to thwart peaceful protests, resulting in killings of 50 civilians in Kashmir. We also condemn the violent attack allegedly by militants in Jammu on Wednesday, which has resulted in the death of three innocent civilians.

The flow of information has completely stopped for the first time in the history of Kashmir, and no newspaper has been able to publish in last three days, because of these indiscriminate restrictions imposed by the government. The communications blockade has been compounded by the banning of news and current affairs programs on local cable TV channels, and a ban on SMS services. This communications blockade is resulting in loss of news about the unfolding events, a blackout of significant happenings in Kashmir’s countryside–where currently, the media has no access, and which is tightly controlled by the army. We call upon the international community to call upon the government of India to lift the communications blockade without any delay.

Signed by: Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, Chamber of Commerce and Industries Kashmir, Kashmir Hotel and Resturant Owners Federation, Valley Citizen’s Council (Zareef Ahmed Zareef), Naagar Nagar Coordination Committee, Ahad Zargar Research Foundation, Himayat Trust, JK People’s Development Trust, Kashmir Thinker’s Guild, Dr. Altaf Hussain, Dr. Shaikh Showkat Hussain (Faculty of Law, University of Kashmir), Prof. N.A. Baba (Faculty of Political Science, University of Kashmir), Arjimand Hussain Talib (Columnist), Z.G. Mohammad (Columnist), Dr. Mubarik Ahmed (Social Activist), Noorul Hassan (Ex-Chief Conservator), Jamiat Hamdania, Firdous Education Trust for Orphans, Doda Peace Forum, Poonch Initiave for Peace and Justice, Ehsaas (A Developmental Organization)

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US: ‘100 Taliban killed’ in Helmand

Al Jazeera, Aug 29, 2008

Increasing volence and threats from the Taliban in Helmand has displaced hundreds [GALLO/GETTY]

US-led coalition and Afghan forces have killed more than 100 Taliban in the southern Afghan province of Helmand during three days of fighting, the US military has said in a statement.

The fighting began after patrols came under attack from small arms, rocket propelled grenades and mortars in the southwestern province, the US military said in a statement on Thursday.

The patrols returned fire and called in close-air support, it said.

“Heavy casualties were inflicted during fierce fighting between Afghan soldiers and insurgents, but the exact number of casualties is not known,” the Afghan defence ministry said.

Violence has surged in Afghanistan with more than 2,500 people, including 1,000 civilians, killed in the conflict in the first six months of this year, according to aid agencies.

Mainly British troops have been engaged in fighting with Taliban fighters in Helmand province for three years.

Opium crop

The province is home to two-thirds of Afghanistan’s opium crop, the raw ingredient of heroin, and the site of frequent clashes involving local Taliban fighters.

In the southern province of Zabul a day earlier, 12 Taliban fighters were killed and six wounded by Afghan and US-led soldiers in clashes in the district of Arghandab, the Afghan defence ministry said in a statement.

The ministry also said Afghan soldiers killed 10 Taliban fighters in Helmand’s Girishk district the same day.

One Afghan soldier was killed and another wounded during the fighting, which was part of a larger operation aimed at finding drug traffickers in the area, officials said.

One US-led coalition soldier was killed while on patrol on Wednesday in southern Afghanistan, the US military said in a statement.

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Barack Obama accepts Democratic nomination

Al Jazeera, August 29, 2008

Obama said voting for McCain would mean four more years of Bush’s policies [AFP]

Barack Obama has accepted the US Democratic presidential nomination, promising to end what he calls the “broken politics of Washington” if elected president.

The first black presidential nominee from a major political party in the US made a stinging attack on George Bush’s policies, in a speech to 84,000 supporters at a sports stadium in Denver, Colorado, on Thursday.

And he went on the attack against his Republican rival, John McCain, reiterating warnings that voting in the Arizona senator would mean four more years of the policies of the Bush administration.

“John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 per cent of the time. Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush was right more than 90 per cent of the time?

“I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a 10 per cent chance on change,” the Illinois senator said.

Amid fireworks and confetti, Obama was joined onstage afterwards by his wife, Michelle, and two daughters, along with Joe Biden, his running-mate, and his family.

But McCain immediately hit back following the speech, with his campaign issuing a statement saying Obama was not ready to become president.

“When the temple comes down, the fireworks end, and the words are over, the facts remain: Senator Obama still has no record of bipartisanship, still opposes offshore drilling, still voted to raise taxes on those making just $42,000 per year, and still voted against funds for American troops in harm’s way.”

Detailed speech

Obama paid tribute to his former rival, Hillary Clinton, and her husband, Bill Clinton, the former president, in a push for party unity early in his speech as the Democrats gear up for the battle for the White House on November 4.

In focus

In-depth coverage of the US election

Al Jazeera’s Rob Reynolds said the speech contained a level of detail that would satisfy those who have been complaining that Obama’s speeches are full of high-flown rhetoric, but lack specifics.

Obama spent a large of his speech addressing what many polls suggest is the greatest concern among voters: the economy.

He said the “economic turmoil” highlighted by soaring home foreclosures, plummeting house values and rising fuel prices was “not all of government’s making”.

“But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed presidency of George W Bush,” he said.

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said the speech was progressive by US standards.

“He made sure that he is in no way mentioned as an African-American. This was an American speaking to other Americans. Colour was not part of this event. It was nuanced,” Bishara said.

Details of change


Full text of Obama speech

Spelling out what changes he would make as president, Obama promised to “cut taxes for 95% of all working families” and “finally end our dependence on oil from the Middle East” in 10 years.”Washington has been talking about our oil addiction for the last 30 years, and by the way John McCain has been there for 26 of them.

“And in that time, he’s said no to higher fuel-efficiency standards for cars, no to investments in renewable energy, no to renewable fuels. Today, we import triple the amount of oil as the day that Senator McCain took office.

Saying he would tap the country’s “natural gas reserves, invest in clean coal technology, and find ways to safely harness nuclear power”, Obama also promised to invest $150bn over the next decade in affordable, renewable sources of energy – wind power and solar power and the next generation of biofuels.

But he also said that there needed to be “a renewed sense of responsibility from each of us … each of us must do our part to make our homes and businesses more efficient”.

On defence and security – considered by many to be McCain’s strongest policy area – Obama said he was ready to debate McCain on “who has the temperament, and judgment, to serve as the next commander-in-chief”.

“For while senator McCain was turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, I stood up and opposed this war, knowing that it would distract us from the real threats we face,” he said.

The Democratic candidate spoke in front of 84,000 supporters [GALLO/GETTY]

“And today, as my call for a time frame to remove our troops from Iraq has been echoed by the Iraqi government and even the Bush administration, even after we learnt that Iraq has a $79bn surplus while we’re wallowing in deficits, John McCain stands alone in his stubborn refusal to end a misguided war.”If John McCain wants to follow George Bush with more tough talk and bad strategy, that is his choice but it is not the change that America needs.”

Obama said he would “end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan”.

“But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons… And I will restore our moral standing so that America is once more the last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.”

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