Saturday, February 27, 2010

Israel/Gaza: General Assembly Presses for War Justice

Most EU States Support Call for Israeli, Palestinian War Crimes Investigations; US and Canada Opposed

Human Rights Watch, February 26, 2010

“The UN resolution sends a strong message that Israel and Hamas need to conduct genuine investigations into the allegations of wartime abuses and punish those responsible. Governments are refusing to exempt the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from demands for justice made for other conflicts around the world.”

Steve Crawshaw, UN advocacy director at Human Rights Watch

(New York) – Today’s United Nations General Assembly resolution calling for impartial Gaza war crimes investigations is an important step toward justice for all civilian victims of last year’s conflict, Human Rights Watch said. A majority of UN members, including most European Union (EU) states, voted for the resolution, increasing pressure on Israel and Hamas to conduct credible investigations into the allegations of war crimes by their forces.

A November 2009 General Assembly resolution calling for credible domestic investigations by all parties to the conflict garnered support from only 5 EU member states.

“The UN resolution sends a strong message that Israel and Hamas need to conduct genuine investigations into the allegations of wartime abuses and punish those responsible,” said Steve Crawshaw, UN advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Governments are refusing to exempt the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from demands for justice made for other conflicts around the world.”

By a vote of 98 to 7, with 31 abstentions, the General Assembly called on Israel and Hamas to conduct thorough and impartial investigations into the serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law documented by the UN Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (the Goldstone report). Fifty-six countries did not vote. The resolution requires Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report back to the General Assembly within five months on the progress both parties have made.

The Goldstone report concluded that both Israel and Hamas had committed war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Sixteen EU members voted for the resolution, including permanent Security Council members France and the United Kingdom.

The countries voting against were Canada, Israel, Macedonia, Micronesia, Nauru, Panama, and the United States.

“Washington’s objection to this resolution reveals a blatant double standard when it comes to international justice,” Crawshaw said. “Why should the victims of war crimes in Gaza not benefit from the same US demands for accountability as victims in Congo and Darfur?”

In its resolution on November 5, 2009, the General Assembly called on Israel and Hamas to conduct credible investigations within three months. In late January 2010, Israel and Hamas delivered their reports on domestic investigations to the UN. Based on those reports, Secretary-General Ban told the General Assembly on February 4 that, because the domestic processes were ongoing, “no determination can be made on the implementation of the resolution by the parties concerned.” He repeated his call on all parties “to carry out credible domestic investigations into the conduct of the Gaza conflict.”

Human Rights Watch has strongly criticized both Israel and Hamas for failing to conduct thorough and impartial investigations into the many alleged violations by their forces during the Gaza conflict.

To date, Israel has not prosecuted any soldier or commander for unlawful killings or other serious laws-of-war violations during the Gaza conflict. Nor has it conducted credible investigations into military policies that may have contravened the laws of war or facilitated war crimes. These include the targeting of Hamas political institutions and Gaza police; the use of heavy artillery and white phosphorus munitions in populated areas; and the rules of engagement for aerial drone operators and ground forces.

Hamas has not disciplined or prosecuted anyone for ordering or carrying out thousands of deliberate or indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli population centers before, during, and after the fighting in December 2008 and January 2009. Killings and other serious abuses by Hamas security forces against suspected collaborators and political rivals in Gaza have also gone unpunished.

“The United States, Canada, and other governments that voted against the Gaza resolution missed an opportunity to help break the cycle of violence and impunity that poses a major obstacle to the peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Crawshaw said.

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The Rationale for Keeping U.S. Forces in Iraq

by Jeremy R. Hammond, Foreign Policy Journal, February 25, 2010

With the deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq at the end of next year creeping nearer, the U.S. has to find some way to convince the Iraqi government to allow a continued military presence, which is the likely outcome despite the U.S.-Iraq status of forces agreement containing the deadline.

One means by which this will be accomplished, relabeling “combat forces” something else, perhaps remaining as “military advisers” or something to that effect, has already been discussed. Thomas E. Ricks outlines another rationale for maintaining a military occupation of Iraq in the New York Times, offering up a variation on a theme that has been familiar throughout the war that is likely to become a mainstay in the political discourse.

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Acclaimed Indian artist awarded Qatari citizenship

Middle East Online, First Published 2010-02-25

Hindu extremists offered a 11.5-million-dollar reward for his death

M.F. Husain ‘honoured by Qatar nationality’ as he lives in exile after Hindu death threats.

NEW DELHI – Acclaimed Indian artist M.F. Husain, who went into voluntary exile after getting death threats from Hindu extremist, was granted Qatari citizenship this week, a report said Thursday.

The 94-year-old Muslim painter was bestowed nationality by the emirate’s royal family without applying for it, The Hindu newspaper reported.

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Malaysia – Caning the messenger?

Photo from EPA

The managing editor of a leading Malaysian newspaper has received a threatenig letter from the government over an an editorial his newspaper published criticing the decision to cane three women for adultery.

The government of Malaysia has sent a threatening legal letter to The Star newspaper, after its managing editor, P Gunasegaram, spoke out against the decision to cane three women for adultery.

In an editorial titled “Persuasion, not compulsion”, Gunasegaram questioned whether the sentence imposed on the women was approriate to their offence, and expressed concern about the situation in Malaysia if the interpretation of shariah law in the country approaches the situation in other nations.

We don’t want public flogging, we don’t want arms chopped off, we don’t want people to be stoned to death, and we don’t want people to be burned at the stake.

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Palestinians Excluded From Bulk of West Bank

By Mel Frykberg, Inter Press Service

IDNA, Occupied West Bank, Feb 27, 2010 (IPS) – Israel’s illegal occupation and continued expropriation of Palestinian land in the West Bank has left 2.5 million Palestinians living there with effectively less than 40 percent of the territory.

Muhammad Al Bedan, 55, a vegetable farmer with 14 children, struggles to support his family on just over 600 US dollars a month.

“We can only afford to eat chicken twice a month and red meat is out of the question. I can’t afford to buy my children new clothing. They rely on hand-me-downs. Three of my children have had to leave school without completing their education so that they can help to support the family,” Al Bedan told IPS.

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Friday, February 26, 2010

The Iraq Withdrawal: Obama vs. the Pentagon

by Raed Jarrar,, Feb 25, 2010

This Monday, Army Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, asked officials in DC to approve contingency plans to delay the withdrawal of US combat forces. The next day, the New York times published an op-ed asking president Obama to delay the US withdrawal and keep some tens of thousands of troops in Iraq indefinitely. Both the Pentagon and NY times article argue that prolonging the occupation is for Iraq’s own good. According to these latest attempts to prolong the occupation, if the US were to leave Iraqis alone the sky would fall, a genocidal civil war will erupt, and Iran will takeover their nation and rip it apart.

Excuses to prolong the military intervention in Iraq have been changing since 1990. Whether is was liberating Kuwait, protecting the region from Iraq, protecting the world from Iraq’s WMDs, punishing Iraq for its role in the 9/11 attacks, finding Saddam Hussien and his sons, fighting the Baathists and Al-Qaeda, or the other dozens of stories the U.S. government never ran out of reasons to justify a continuous intervention in Iraq. Under President Bush, the withdrawal plan was linked to conditions on the ground, and had no fixed deadlines. Bush only promise what that “as Iraqis stand up, we will stand down”. But Iraqis never managed to stand up, and the US never had to stand down.

Obama came with a completely different doctrine that thankfully makes prolonging the occupation harder than just making up a new lame excuse. He has promised on the campaign trail to withdraw all combat troops by August 31st of this year bringing the total number of US troops down to less than 50,000. Obama has also announced repeatedly that he will abide by the binding bi-lateral agreement between the two governments that requires all the US troops and contractors to leave Iraq by the end of 2011 without leaving any military bases behind. Both these promises are time-based, and not linked to the conditions on the ground. In addition, President Obama announced last week his intention to call an end to Operation Iraqi Freedom by August 31st, and to start the new non-combat mission as of September 1st this. The new mission, renamed “Operation New Dawn”, should end by December 31st 2011 with the last US soldier and contractor out of Iraq.

Conditions on the ground in Iraq are horrible. After seven years under the US occupation, Iraqis are still without water, electricity, education, or health care. Iran’s intervention and control of the Iraqi government stays at unprecedented levels. Iraq’s armed forces are still infiltrated by the militias and controlled by political parties. But so far, the Obama administration has not attempted to use any of these facts as a reason to change the combat forces withdrawal plan, or to ask the Iraqi government to renegotiate the bi-lateral security agreement. This week’s calls to prolong the occupation are surprising because they expose a conflict between the Pentagon on the one hand and the White House and Congress on the other hand. In fact, the executive and legislative branches in both the US and Iraq seem to be in agreement about implementing the time-based withdrawal, but the Pentagon is disagreeing with them all.

Obama should not forget that he is the Commander-in-Chief, and should stand up to the Pentagon. Iraq is broken, but the US military occupation is not a part of the solution. We cannot fix what the military occupation has damaged by prolonging it, neither can we help Iraqis build a democratic system by occupying them. We cannot protect Iraqis from other interventions by continuing our own. The first step in helping Iraqis work for a better future is sticking to the time-based withdrawal plan that Obama has promised and the two governments have agreed upon. President Obama should send a clear message to the Iraqi people to confirm that he is going to fulfill his promises and abide by the binding security agreement with Iraq, and this message must also be clear to the American people in this pivotal elections year.

Raed Jarrar is an Iraqi-born political analyst, and a Senior Fellow with Peace Action based in Washington, DC.

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Prosecuting Bush for War Crimes

Charlotte Dennett and Vincent Bugliosi Want Bush in the Dock

By Russell Mokhiber,, Feb 25, 2010

In 2008, Charlotte Dennett ran for Attorney General in Vermont.

Dennett’s key campaign pledge – if elected, she would appoint Vincent Bugliosi as a special prosecutor to seek a murder indictment against George W. Bush for the deaths of U.S. soldiers in Iraq.

Bugliosi was the author of The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder (Perseus Books, 2008)

He also had an enviable track record as an assistant district attorney in Los Angeles – 105 out of 106 successful felony jury convictions and 21 murder convictions without a loss.

Bugliosi is best known for his 1974 classic Helter Skelter – which documents his successful prosecution of Charles Manson and several other members of the Manson family for the 1969 murders of Hollywood actress Sharon Tate and six others.

Manson was not present at the murder scene.

When Dennett announced her candidacy for Attorney General of Vermont in September 2008, Bugliosi was at her side.

Now, Dennett has written a book – The People v. Bush: One Lawyer’s Campaign to Bring the President to Justice and the National Grassroots Movement She Encounters Along the Way (Chelsea Green, 2010).

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Mossad ‘regularly’ faked Australian passports

Middle East Online, First Published 2010-02-26

Alleged Australian passport Photo released by Dubai police

Ex-Mossad agent: Israel uses ‘false flag’ in most operations to avoid suspicion in Arab states.

SYDNEY – Israel’s Mossad has regularly faked Australian passports for its spies, an ex-agent said on Thursday, as anger grew over the use of foreign travel documents for an alleged assassination.

Former Mossad case officer Victor Ostrovsky told ABC public radio that the spy agency had used Australian passports for previous operations before last month’s assassination of a top Hamas commander in Dubai that has been blamed on Israel.

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Pentagon chief condemns European “pacifism”

By Bill Van Auken,, Feb 26, 2010

Amid growing fears in Washington that European powers may withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, just as the US escalates the war there, Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivered a speech blasting Europe for insufficient militarization and warning of a deepening crisis in the NATO alliance.

Gates gave the speech February 23 at Washington’s National Defense University, a training center for mid-level and senior US officers. His audience was a forum on the reworking of the “strategic concept”—essentially the mission statement—of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

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Civilians pay price of Marjah assault

Morning Star Online, Thursday 25 February 2010

by Tom Mellen
WAR OF TERROR: An Afghan man recuperates  from his injuries at an  Italian charitable hospital in Lashkar Gah,  Helmand province, on  Wednesday

The human cost of Nato’s massive assault on the Afghan town of Marjah began to emerge on Thursday as Red Cross officials reported that at least 40,000 people trapped by the fighting have little or no access to medical care.

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Helmand province Bernard Metraux said that taxi drivers have been ferrying scores of injured to a makeshift hospital in Lashkar Gah, 20 miles north-east of Marjah.

Mr Metraux said that the “taxi-ambulance transport strategy” took several rounds of painstaking negotiations with Nato commanders and guerillas, who have helped navigate the wounded through minefields to get them to medical care.

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

U.S.: CIA Briefed Congress on Renditions

Willim Fisher,,

NEW YORK, Feb 23 (IPS) – The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) briefed members of Congress from both political parties numerous times about the agency’s interrogation and detention programmes, several prominent human rights groups said Monday.

The groups – Amnesty International USA, the Centre for Constitutional Rights and the Centre for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU School of Law – filed a lawsuit in 2007 based on their requests for information about the programme under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The FOIA requests, dating back to 2004, sought records about rendition, secret detention, and “enhanced” interrogation.

The rights groups announced receipt of several new documents in response to their FOIA litigation.

Among other new information, the documents show that while Vice President Dick Cheney’s role in authorising waterboarding and other so-called enhanced interrogation techniques has been public, a newly obtained Feb. 4, 2003, CIA memo documents the role of Counsel for the Office of the Vice President (OVP) in analysing and approving the CIA techniques.

David Addington was counsel to the vice president until he succeeded Lewis “Scooter” Libby, who was convicted of perjury in the “outing” of CIA agent Valerie Plame. Libby’s prison sentence was commuted by then President George W. Bush.

The rights groups said that, according to CIA meeting records and the Feb. 4, 2003 memo, it seems that in one of his first acts as chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas “discontinued efforts by previous chair,” Democratic Senator Bob Graham of Florida, to implement greater oversight of these programmes, “thus abdicating the role of Congress in overseeing the CIA rendition, secret detention, and torture programmes.”

They said there are “significant questions about how clear the CIA was with Congress” – including in then-CIA Director Michael Hayden’s previously classified briefing on Apr. 12, 2007 to the Senate Intelligence Committee – about the timing, nature and results of the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, particularly prior to the Aug. 1, 2002 memo prepared by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).

It is known that Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding 83 times in 2002. OLC lawyers at the time, John Yoo and Jay Bybee, were the principal drafters of that memo, which has come to be known as “the torture memo”.

Chip Pitts, president of the Bill of Rights Defence Committee and former chair of Amnesty International USA, told IPS, “In order to finally achieve the transparency and accountability that is so indispensable to learning lessons and avoiding calamitous policy failures like the prior administration’s recourse to torture, the need is clearer than ever for a broad and impartial criminal investigation of all the facts surrounding the torture programme.”

He added, “No lawyer or other official, high or low, should be immune from the investigation and prosecution required by our national interest, domestic law, and the international treaty obligations the country has undertaken under the Convention Against Torture.”

Gitanjali Gutierrez, an attorney at the Centre for Constitutional Rights, said, “Members of Congress must come clean about whether they encouraged or objected to torture during these many secret meetings with CIA officials and we need a complete accounting of Cheney’s counsel, David Addington’s, role in the creation of the torture programme.”

“These new documents show that the CIA may have lied to Congress about the role of interrogation techniques in detainee deaths and key members of Congress abdicated their oversight role. This new information points even more strongly to the need for a full criminal investigation of the torture programme, up the entire chain of command,” Gutierrez said.

In a related development, after years of stonewalling, an official Polish government agency has admitted that airspace and landing facilities in that country were used by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to detain, house and transport terrorism suspects.

It was the first time Polish authorities have admitted that their country houses one of the CIA’s so-called “black sites” – part of the agency’s network of secret prisons.

The CIA kidnapped suspected al Qaeda members and transported them to the black site prisons, where they were subjected to so-called “enhanced interrogation” techniques as part of the C.I.A.’s programme of “extraordinary rendition.”

Prosecutors in Poland are now investigating the country’s participation in the programme.

The admission from the Polish Air Navigation Services Agency (PANSA) came in response to charges by two rights groups, the Open Society Justice Initiative and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights.

PANSA confirmed that it provided the flight logs showing six flights in 2003 by two aircraft. Five of the flights reportedly originated in Kabul and one in Rabat, Morocco. They landed about 100 miles north of Warsaw, at a small airport in a town called Szymany.

It is widely known that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the self-styled mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was interrogated there in 2003, but neither PANSA nor the CIA would confirm this.

Approximately 100 prisoners were detained in the black site prisons between the program’s inception in 2002 and the transfer of the remaining 14 prisoners to Guantánamo Bay in Cuba in 2006.

Maciej Rodak, vice president of PANSA confirmed to The New York Times that the agency had sent the records to the human-rights groups. He said the agency confirmed information on flight origins, planned destinations and call signs but could not provide passenger lists, which the groups also requested.

“The thing that is quite shocking is that the European investigations requested these specific flight records some four years ago,” said Darian Pavli, an attorney with the Open Society Justice Initiative, a nonprofit human-rights group in New York. “The Poles all these years said they could not locate them, the flights didn’t exist.”

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UN Report: 346 Afghan Children Killed in 2009, Mostly by NATO

Largest Portion of Killings Came in Air Strikes

by Jason Ditz,, February 24, 2010

When the record 2009 civilian death toll began to emerge, NATO was quick to brag that they had actually killed fewer civilians than the Taliban. This appears to be the case still, though UN reports suggested the difference wasn’t nearly as dramatic as NATO initially claimed. There is one thing the Taliban can’t compete with NATO on, however, and that’s the killing of children.

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Five Questions For The Afghan Surge

By Juan Cole, ZNet, Feb 24, 2010


Juan Cole’s ZSpace Page

Gen. David Petraeus, a straight shooter, admitted on Meet the Press Sunday that the Afghanistan War will take years and incur high casualties. His implicit defense of President Obama from Dick Cheney on the issues of torture and closing Guantanamo will make bigger headlines, but sooner or later the American public will notice the admission. The country is now evenly divided between those who think the US can and should restore a modicum of stability before getting out, and those who want a quick withdrawal. The Marjah Campaign, the centerpiece of the new counter-insurgency strategy, is over a week old, and some assessment of this new, visible push by the US military in violent Helmand Province is in order.

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This tide of anti-Muslim hatred is a threat to us all

The attempt to drive Islamists and young Asian activists out of the political mainstream is a dangerous folly

Seumas Milne, The Guardian/UK, Feb 25, 2010

If young British Muslims had any doubts that they are singled out for special treatment in the land of their birth, the punishments being meted out to those who took part in last year’s London demonstrations against Israel’s war on Gaza will have dispelled them. The protests near the Israeli ­embassy at the height of the onslaught were angry: bottles and stones were thrown, a ­Starbucks was trashed and the police employed unusually violent tactics, even by the standards of other recent confrontations, such as the G20 protests.

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Who’s Really In Control of the White House? Maybe Not Obama

Going rogue by people like General McCrystal undermines the chain of command and challenges the constitution., February 23, 2010

“I am in control here in the White House.” — Secretary of State Alexander Haig, 1981

Ah, the good old days when even a big shot like Gen. Al Haig, who died early Saturday, could get in trouble for such mavericky declarations that defy basic constitutional precedents.

In the 21st century, that’s ancient history. We’ve so idealized cowboy-style rebellion in matters of war and law enforcement that “going Haig” is today honored as “going rogue.” Defiance, irreverence, contempt — these are the moment’s most venerated postures, no matter how destructive or lawless.

The Bush administration’s illegal wiretapping and torture sessions were the most obvious examples of the rogue sensibility on steroids. But then came McCain-Palin, a presidential ticket predicated almost singularly on the rogue brand. And now, even in the Obama era, that brand pervades.

It began reemerging in September with Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s Afghan escalation plan. McChrystal didn’t just ask President Obama for more troops — protocol-wise, that would have been completely appropriate. No, McChrystal went rogue, preemptively leaking his request to the media, then delivering a public address telling Obama to immediately follow his orders.

Incredibly, few politicians or pundits raised objections to McChrystal’s behavior. Worse, rather than firing McChrystal, Obama meekly agreed to his demands, letting Americans know that when it comes to foreign policy, the rogue general — not the popularly elected president — is in control in the White House.

Of course, while McChrystal’s insubordination was extra-constitutional in spirit, he at least made the effort to obtain the commander-in-chief’s rubber-stamp approval. The same cannot be said for the rogues inside Obama’s Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

Recall that one year ago, Obama instructed the DEA to follow his campaign pledge and respect local statutes legalizing medicinal marijuana. When the DEA kept raiding pot dispensaries in states that had passed such laws, Attorney General Eric Holder reiterated the cease and desist decree, stating that “What (Obama) said during the campaign is now American policy.”

As even more raids nonetheless continued, the Justice Department then issued an explicit memo ordering federal agents to refrain from prosecuting those who are in “compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”

And yet the DEA has recently intensified its crackdown. Here in Colorado — where voters enshrined medical marijuana’s legality in our state constitution — the feds not only raided two dispensaries, but did so in a way that deliberately humiliated their superiors.

In January, the DEA stormed a company that performs cannabis quality tests. The firm’s alleged infraction? Following protocol and formally applying for a federal equipment license. DEA rogues responded to the request not with thanks or — heaven forbid — approval, but instead with the gestapo.

This was topped last week when DEA agents arrested a medical marijuana grower who dared discuss his business with a local news outlet. Sensing a P.R. opportunity, DEA agent Jeffrey Sweetin used the spectacle to insist that he will not listen to stand-down directives from his bosses.

“The time is coming when we go into a dispensary, we find out what their profit is, we seize the building and we arrest everybody,” Sweetin menacingly intoned.
Once again, a rogue going wild and once again, tacit acceptance. Rather than personnel changes reining in the out-of-control agency, the president has nominated the acting Bush-appointed DEA administrator, Michele Leonhart, to a full term.

The message, then, should be clear: If you’re looking for who is “in control” of our military and police forces, don’t look to the established chain of command and don’t look to constitutional provisions that mandate civilian authority over the government bayonet. Look to the most reckless rogues — it’s a good bet they’re the ones running the show.

David Sirota is the author of the best-selling books Hostile Takeover and The Uprising. He hosts the morning show on AM760 in Colorado and blogs at E-mail him at or follow him on Twitter @davidsirota.

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How Palestinian Authority helps Israel occupy

Ramallah’s political establishment is now more interested in retaining western support than resolving national division

Jesse Rosenfeld, The Guardian/UK, Feb 23, 2010

Since the Palestinian Authority’s initial diplomatic disaster over the Goldstone report, it has switched into reverse gear, issuing a barrage of condemnation of Israeli occupation and rhetorical flourishes for Palestinian justice. However, suspected links between PA security forces and the assassination of Hamas’s Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, together with strengthening cooperation between PA security and the Israeli military in the West Bank, reflect a far different reality for Palestinians living under occupation.

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The Murder of Iraq: It Never Happened

By Paul Street, ZNet,Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Paul Street’s ZSpace Page

“We Do Not Subjugate Others”

The doctrinal assumption that “we” (the United States) are inherently benevolent, noble, well-intentioned, helpful, and democratic in our foreign policies is ubiquitous in U.S. dominant media and indeed across the spectrum of respectable opinion in “mainstream” American political and intellectual culture.

“The United States is good,” Bill Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeline Albright explained in 1999. “We try to do our best everywhere.”

Three years before, Clinton explained that the U.S. was “the world’s greatest force for peace and freedom, for democracy and security and prosperity.”[1]

“More than any other nation,” Barack Obama said at West Point last December 1st, “the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades. Unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We are still heirs to a moral struggle for freedom.”[2]

“We do not use our power to subjugate others,” Obama added in a nationally narcissistic Newsweek essay (deceptively titled “Why Haiti Matters”) last month: “we use it to lift them up.”[3]

These are core (and preposterous [4]) suppositions that American “mainstream” journalists and pundits who wish to keep their jobs know not to challenge in any fundamental way. Efforts to move media personnel off the premise of American “goodness” are generally futile, consistent with Upton Sinclair’s observation that “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

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Reprieve: Tell us the truth about torture

Morning Star Online, February 23, 2010

by Paddy McGuffin
The legal charity will launch a court  bid to uncover  interrogation guidance

The legal charity will launch a court bid to uncover interrogation guidance

Human rights group Reprieve has launched a legal challenge aimed at forcing the government to publish its guidance to MI5 and MI6 agents on interrogation practices.

Reprieve and Leigh Day & Co solicitors announced they are seeking a judicial review of the code of practice used by British intelligence services at a press conference in London.

The application states that there is “compelling evidence” demonstrating that, since at least 2002, “UK intelligence personnel have been engaged in activities amounting to complicity in torture” and that “the inevitable inference is that such activities have been in conformity with unlawful promulgated policies and guidance.”

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

US Death Toll Reaches 1,000 in Afghanistan

Aol News, Feb 22, 2010

(Feb. 22) — The number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan reached 1,000 Monday, nearly nine and a half years after an invasion was launched to overthrow the Taliban government and disrupt al-Qaida training operations.

According to figures compiled by, a nonprofit group that tracks war casualties, the bulk of the deaths have occurred in two southern Afghan provinces, Kandahar and Helmand, where the U.S. Marines launched a major offensive last week.

Overall, with 319 soldiers killed, 2009 proved the most deadly year for U.S. forces, as President Obama shifted thousands of troops into the Afghan theater from Iraq. So far, 54 American soldiers have been killed in 2010.

A US Marine pays his respects during a memorial service.
Julie Jacobson, AP
A U.S. Marine pays his respects to Lance Cpl. Joshua Bernard, a fellow Marine who was mortally wounded during a Taliban ambush in Afghanistan last year.

By comparison to the U.S. toll, 264 coalition troops from the United Kingdom have died since 2001, and 140 Canadian soldiers have died in the fighting.

The 1,000th U.S. soldier to die in combat in Afghanistan was Cpl. Gregory S. Stultz of Brazil, Ind., the Department of Defense said. He was killed in Helmand province “while supporting combat operations.”

Filed under: Nation, World

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Marjah Madness

by Jeff Huber,, February 23, 2010

As journalist Gareth Porter said in a recent interview with Real News, Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s offensive in Marjah, Afghanistan, is “more of an effort to shape public opinion in the United States than to shape the politics of the future of Afghanistan.” Like so much of what we’ve seen in our woeful war on terrorism, the Marjah effort is short on substance and long on Newspeak, Doublethink, and other Orwellian deceptions.

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Mossad’s Murderous Reach: The Larger Political Issues

by James Petras, Dissident Voice, February 22nd, 2010

On January 19 Israel’s international secret police, the Mossad, sent an eighteen member death squad to Dubai using European passports, supposedly ‘stolen’ from Israeli dual citizens and altered with fake photos and signatures, in order to assassinate the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud al Mabhouh.

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Slandering Muslims is increasingly acceptable in Western media

Foreign Policy Journal, February 22, 2010

by Barnabe Geisweiller

In July of last year, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group, organized a mass wedding celebration for hundreds of couples in the Gaza Strip. The happy adult grooms, immaculately dressed in black suits and colourful ties, received $500 each from Hamas, no small sum in the besieged territory.

It might have been a joyous event if not for the fact that the brides were “pre-pubescent girls, dressed in white gowns and adorned with garish make-up,” according to the article written by author and journalist Paul L. Williams, and republished by rightwing pundit David Horowitz’s Frontpage Magazine, who regularly appears on mainstream news networks such as Fox and CNN.

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Monday, February 22, 2010

Sources: Israeli PM approved Mossad murder

Middle East Online, First Published 2010-02-21

Netanyahu to murderers: ‘The people of Israel trust you’

Report: Hardline Netanyahu wished assassins ‘good luck’ before they murdered Hamas man.

LONDON – Hardline Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met members of an assassination squad at Mossad headquarters shortly before they went to Dubai to murder a Hamas commander, Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper reported.

Netanyahu was welcomed to Mossad by its chief Meir Dagan and briefed on plans to murder Mahmud al-Mabhuh, a top commander of the democratically elected Palestinian movement, the paper said, quoting unnamed sources with knowledge of Mossad.

The prime minister reportedly authorised the mission, which was not seen as complicated or risky.

“Typically on such occasions, the prime minister intones: ‘The people of Israel trust you. Good luck,’” the paper added.

It also quoted a source saying burns from a stun gun were found on the body of Mabhuh, a founder of Hamas’s armed wing who was killed on a visit to Dubai, and that there were traces of a nose bleed, possibly from being smothered.

The high-profile killing has caused diplomatic tensions between Israel and four European countries — Britain, Ireland, France and Germany — whose fake passports were linked to the hit.

Interpol has issued arrest notices for 11 suspects, while Israel has shrugged off calls for Dagan to be arrested over the January 20 killing.

Dubai police chief Dahi Khalfan Tamim has said it was “most likely” Mossad was behind the crime and wants Dagan to bear responsibility if it was.

“The Dubai police have provided no incriminating proof,” a senior Israeli official said Friday, asking not to be identified.

Mossad has used agents with fake passports for operations in the past. Experts say it is highly unlikely that those who carried out the killing will ever be caught.

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Nato raid kills at least 33 Afghan civilians

Al Jazeera, Feb 22, 2010

Uruzgan is policed by Dutch soldiers whose imminent
departure poses a challenge to Nato [AFP]

Aghanistan government officials say at least 33 civilians have been killed by a Nato air attack on a convoy of vehicles in Uruzgan, a province in the country’s south.

Nato confirmed that it fired on Sunday on a group of vehicles that it believed contained fighters, only to discover later that women and children were in the cars.

Isaf, Nato’s force in Afghanistan, did not provide a figure of how many died.

Earlier, Amanullah Hothaki, the head of the provincial council for Uruzgan, said 19 people were killed in the attack, which hit three minibuses as they drove down a main road.

A 15,000-strong joint force of Afghan, Nato and US troops is battling the Taliban in Marjah, a town in neighbouring Helmand province, where the fighters have been in control for years.

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The United States, Iran, and the Nuclear Hypocrisy

by Marco Rosaire Rossi,, Feb 22, 2010

On Sunday, February 14th, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton-speaking at the US-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar-lambasted Iran for its continual development of its nuclear power program. Clinton accused Iran of “consistently (failing) to live up to its responsibilities.” According to Clinton “It has refused to demonstrate to the international community that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful.” The evidence sighted by Clinton of Iran’s callousness toward international laws and the United Nations system is Iran’s own action. The only reason Iran would establish a nuclear energy program, it is claimed, is to eventually use it to develop weapons and attack other nations. Therefore, any development of nuclear energy is ipso de facto a threat to security and assault on world peace.

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Ghulam Nabi Gilkar and Kashmir Freedom Movement

By Zahir-ud-Din,, Oct. 8, 2009

 Photo of Gilkar

After Saad-ud-Din Shawl, Gilkar was the first Kashmiri to strive for the rights of his people. It started with the launch of All Kashmir Muslim Uplift Association in 1925. Two years later, Gilkar was once again out on the streets to protest issue of illegal state subject certificates. This time Gilkar founded the State Subject Protection Committee. According to Muhammad Din Fouq, Gilkar acted as the vice-president of this committee. Gilkar was only a student when he founded these associations. On May 8, 1930 when Munshi Naseer-ud-Din and Moulvi Bashir Ahmad Vakil hosted the rasam-e-qul of a lady at Kachgari Mohalla to formally launch the freedom struggle, Gilkar achieved the distinction of being the first person to join the duo. Gilkar became instrumental in persuading Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah to join the freedom movement. And in 1947 when veteran leaders refused to announce Azad Kashmir government, Gilkar once again proved his mettle. He became the first president of Azad Kashmir on October 4, 1947.

Gilkar became an active member of the reading room Party which was launched during the above mentioned meeting at Kachgari Mohalla. The activities of this party gave sleepless nights to the Maharaja. To curb the activities of the newly launched party, the government pasted a notice on the door of the Jamia Masjid, Srinagar. The notice prescribed punishment for using places of worship for political purposes. The Reading Room Party discussed the notice with Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah in chair. The meeting decided to ignore the notice. The meeting also decided to remove the notice from the door of Jamia Masjid. The participants expected Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah to volunteer for the act, but he did not raise his head. Finally, Gilkar offered himself for the job. He removed the notice and crushed it under his feet.

On April 19, 1931, the Holy Quran was desecrated at Jammu on the occasion of Eid. Gilkar and his associates registered protest and pasted thousands of posters in the city of Srinagar. Soon after, a huge rally was organized in the Jamia Masjid where Sheikh Abdullah delivered a fiery speech. Incidentally, it was his first political speech. Later, Gilkar organized a series of processions forcing the government to order an enquiry into the desecration.

After the incident of July 13, 1931, G N Gilkar, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Chowdhury Abbas, Mistri Yaqoub and Gowher Rehman were detained at Kohi Maran (Hariparbat) Fort. Sheikh Abdullah was reluctant to enter the dark room. Gilkar, again, took the lead and went inside. “If death awaits us in the dark room, let me die first,” he said. After his release from Kohi Maran (Hariparbat) Fort, Gilkar addressed a mammoth gathering. He said, “If I die or get killed, bury me at a place which will serve as a thoroughfare for Mujahideen after liberation of Kashmir. My soul will get the much needed solace by their plod.” (Kashmir Ka Siyasi Inqilab, Vol 4, page 329).

When the Muslim Conference was converted into National Conference, Moulvi Abdullah Vakil, Sheikh Ahmad Din of Banihal, Ghulam Ahmad Ganaie of Bhaderwah opposed it. Gilkar, Moulvi Abdul Rahim and Muhammad Yusuf Qureshi mustered support from the masses against the conversion. Later, Gilkar played a significant role in the revival of Muslim Conference along with Muhammad Yusuf Qureshi. Gilkar contested two elections for a berth in the Praja Sabha on Muslim Conference ticket and got elected on both the occasions. Later, the year when the Government of India ousted the Nawab of Junagarh, the Government of Pakistan approached Mirza Bashir-ud-Din Ahmad of Qadiyan and authorized him to take appropriate measures with regard to Kashmir. Mirza called Gilkar to Lahore. Several rallies were held at Rattan Bagh, Lahore. Besides Gilkar the rallies were attended by Mufti Zia-ud-Din Poonchi, Chowdhury Rahim Dad advocate, Master Mir Alam Kotli, Ammanullah Khan of Khor Pattan, Professor Muhammad Ishaq Qureshi, Syed Muhammad Abdullah Qadri. Suggestions put forth by the concerned persons were discussed threadbare and a plan of action was chalked out. It was during these meetings that the issue of forming an ad hoc Azad Kashmir government was discussed. Mufti Zia-ud-Din Poonchi was told to announce the government but he refused. Syed Muhammad Abdullah Qadri also refused. Finally, Gilkar came forward and declared the government. In his first presidential address, Gilkar said, “With the end of the British rule, the Maharaja Hari Singh’s claim to rule the state (by virtue of the Sale Deed of Amritsar) has also come to an end.” Kashmir was sold to Hari Singh’s grandfather Gulab Singh for 7.5 million Rupees.

Now the people have formed an ad hoc government with its headquarters at Tradkhel. From October 4, if Hari Singh or any other person claims to govern the state, he shall be punished in accordance with the laws framed by the ad hoc government. The people should follow the laws made by the ad hoc government from now onwards.” This speech was reported by all the Pakistani newspapers on October 5, 1947.

On October 6, 1947 Gilkar came to Kashmir and discussed the issue with Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah in an exclusive meeting which lasted three hours. It was decided in the meeting that Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah would meet Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. But, as ill luck would have it, Gilkar was arrested. After 13 months of detention he was released on January 13, 1949 and pushed back into Pakistan in exchange for Brigadier Gansara Singh.

Immediately, after reaching Pakistan, Gilkar launched a newspaper ‘Hamara Kashmir’ and highlighted the problems of the Kashmiri Muhajireen. He also became a strong advocate of the independent Kashmir.

He contested presidential elections against K H Khurshid but lost. For his straight forwardness, Gilkar was imprisoned several times for criticizing the Kashmir policy of the Government of Pakistan, but he continued his struggle. Gilkar lived from hand to mouth in his worn-out Rawalpindi house. In this house Gilkar authored a master plan for beautification of Srinagar in 1970. It was published in an issue of ‘Aayeena’ in the same year.
Gilkar was straightforward and blunt. He criticized Pakistan for its Kashmir policy. Even though he lived from hand to mouth in Pakistan, he did not compromise his political-stand and his honour. He was invited to grace a function held to celebrate the Independence Day of Pakistan on August 14, 1968 at Mirpur. In his address, Gilkar said, “August 14 and 15 are auspicious days for the people of Pakistan and India, but for Kashmiris these days are most inauspicious. Our slavery started from here.” Syed Rasool of Rainawari, also present at the function, saw many a brow rise.

According to Syed, Gilkar one day told his wife to cook Saag (a Kashmiri vegetable) on that day he desperately wanted to talk to a Kashmiri in his mother tongue. Gilkar breathed his last next morning (July 18, 1973) at Rawalpindi. Kashmiris heard about the tragic news from Radio Pakistan. Next day Ghayibana Namaz-e-Jinaza (funeral prayer in absentia) was offered at Pathar Masjid. Thousands of people participated in the Namaz-e-Jinaza (funeral prayer), which was led by Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. On July 20, a condolence meeting was held in Gilkar’s ancestral house at Fateh Kadal, Srinagar. Representatives of all the political organizations participated in the condolence meeting and paid glowing tributes to his memory.

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UN Security Council: Better Shelter, Security Needed for Haiti Victims

Urgent Action Still Needed on Safe Camp Sites for Those Made Homeless by Quake

Human Rights Watch, February 19, 2010

A woman sits in front of her tent in a makeshift camp in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

© 2010 Reuters

Despite all the relief efforts, hundreds of thousands of Haitians remain in desperate need. The Haitian government urgently needs to do all it can lawfully to make sites available for camps for displaced and homeless persons.

Anna Neistat, senior emergencies researcher

(New York) – The United Nations Security Council should make improving the quality and security of camps for displaced victims of Haiti’s devastating earthquake a top priority, Human Rights Watch said today in an open letter to the Council’s member states. The Security Council is being briefed today on the humanitarian situation in Haiti by the UN emergency relief coordinator, John Holmes, and the head of the Peacekeeping Department, Alain Le Roy.

Human Rights Watch completed a field investigation in Haiti on February 12, 2010, and drew the attention of Security Council members to areas it believes deserve urgent action. The team visited 15 of the largest camps for displaced persons in Port-au-Prince and Jacmel (housing 5,000 to 35,000 people each), and interviewed over 150 camp residents, local officials, and staff of international relief agencies and UN bodies, as well as local activists and representatives of non-governmental organizations.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Behind Clinton’s tough talk on Iran

The goal of Hillary Clinton’s rhetoric seems to be to promote conflict and convince Americans Iran is a threat to their security

Mark Weisbrot, The Guardian/UK, Feb 18, 2020

In a visit to Qatar and Saudi Arabia this week, Hillary Clinton said that Iran “is moving toward a military dictatorship,” and continued the Administration’s campaign for tougher sanctions against that country.

What could America’s top diplomat hope to accomplish with this kind of inflammatory rhetoric? It seems unlikely that the goal was to support human rights in Iran. Because of the United States’ history in Iran and in the region, it tends to give legitimacy to repression. The more that any opposition can be linked to the United States’ actions, words, or support, the harder time they will have.

Second, it is tough for anyone – especially in the region – to believe that the United States is really concerned about human rights abuses. In addition to supporting Israel’s collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza, Washington has been remarkably quiet as the most important opposition leaders in Egypt were arrested as part of the government’s preparations for October elections. Amnesty International stated that the arrestees were “prisoners of conscience, detained solely for their peaceful political activities.”

So what is the purpose of a speech like this? The most obvious conclusion is that it is to promote conflict, and to convince Americans that Iran is an actual threat to their security. Americans generally have to be prepared and persuaded for years if they are to accept that they must go to war. The groundwork for the Iraq war was laid during the Clinton presidency. President Clinton imposed sanctions on the country that devastated the civilian population, carried out bombings, and publicly declared that Washington’s intention was to overthrow the government. Although, as we now know, Iraq never posed any significant security threat to the United States, President Clinton spent years trying to convince Americans that it did.

President Bush picked up where President Clinton left off; and President Clinton publicly supported his campaign for the war. So did Hillary, and she defended her decision in 2008 even as it looked like it might cost her the Presidency.

President Obama is unlikely to start a war with Iran – which would likely begin as an air war, not a ground war – not least because he already has two wars to deal with. But, as in the case of the Iraq war, his Secretary of State is preparing the ground for the next president that may have a stronger desire or better opportunity to do so. There is a strong faction of our foreign policy establishment that believes it has the right and obligation to bomb Iran in order to curtail its nuclear program, and they have a long-term strategy.

The public relations campaign is working. A new Gallup poll finds that 61 percent of Americans see Iran as “as a critical threat to U.S. vital interests,” with an additional 29 percent believing that it is “an important threat.” It is not clear why anyone would believe this; even if Iran did obtain a nuclear weapon, which is still a ways off, they would not have the capacity to deliver it as far as the United States. Nor is it likely that they would want to commit national suicide, any more than a number of other countries that currently have nuclear weapons.

The Obama team’s messaging is not nearly so successful with regard to the issues that the vast majority of the electorate will base their votes on in this years elections: the most recent ABC News/Washington Post Poll (Feb. 4-8) finds that 53 percent disapprove of his handling of the economy.

For the immediate future, foreign policy concerns will likely rank low, far behind the economy, for the electorate. But the Obama team’s foreign policy will hurt Democrats in the future. If I believed what Hillary Clinton and the Democratic leadership are telling me, I would have to consider voting Republican. If it’s really true that all these people just want to kill us for no reason; that it has nothing to do with our foreign policy or wars; that we can effectively reduce terrorism by bombing and occupying Muslim countries; and that terrorism is the country’s most urgent security threat – then why not vote for the party that looks tougher? This will inevitably come back to haunt the Democratic Party, as it did in the 2002 and 2004 elections.

Meanwhile, U.S. military spending — by the Congressional Budget Office’s relatively narrow definition of the Department of Defense budget – reached 5.6 percent of GDP in 2009. Just before September 11, 2001, the Congressional Budget Office projected this spending for 2009 at 2.4 percent of GDP.

The difference, over 10 years, is more than four times the ten-year cost of proposed health care reform.

This column was published by The Guardian Unlimited on February 18, 2010.

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