Sunday, October 31, 2010

Will Obama help Kashmiri struggle against Indian rule?

Response to Shahid Siddiqi’s analysis of India’s occupation of Kashmir

By Nasir Khan, Axis of Logic, Oct 30, 201

Mr Siddiqi, I am sure you know what Obama stands for. Please let me add a bit on this score. The whole world knows him as a staunch defender of the policies of Israel who is flanked by and pushed around by Zionists. He has also earned himself the distinction of being a true successor to George W. Bush since stepping in the White House because he has not only followed the war policies of Bush but also extended the war of aggression in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is responsible for the almost daily killings of the Pakistanis by drone missile attacks. Let us keep in view the fact that his hands are sullied with the blood of hundreds of innocent Pakistanis and there is no end in sight to such savagery. Obama does not stand for: kill first and explain later. He has a freehand in killing by his advanced technological devices and as far as he is concerned that is the end of the matter. Why? Because he represents the power of American imperialism, military-industrial complex and the corporate interests. That also means there is no inhibition or restraint on what he does. The determining factor in all this is the global military power and influence of the United States.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Robert Fisk: WikiLeaks proved the US lied

Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Lateline,

Broadcast: 28/10/2010

Reporter: Tony Jones

Middle East correspondent and author Robert Fisk joins Lateline to discuss WikiLeaks’ recent release of secret military files from the Iraq war.

: Tonight’s guest is veteran Middle-East correspondent and author Robert Fisk.

Following the release by WikiLeaks of nearly 400,000 classified US military documents, Mr Fisk wrote an angry piece headlined “The Shaming of America” in his newspaper The Independent.

He claimed the Pentagon’s anger over the leaks was not because their secrecy had been breached, but because they’d been caught out telling lies, and he joined us just a short time ago from Beirut.

Robert Fisk, thanks for being there.

: You’re welcome.

: Now, what’s the significance of the close-to-400,000 secret US military documents that have been posted by WikiLeaks, as far as you’re concerned?

: Well I think there are several very important elements to this story.

First of all, the individual items like, you know, there are witnesses, American witnesses to torture, they didn’t do anything, that the Iraqis – security authorities were torturing Iraqis, that American air strikes were killing many civilians.

We knew about this, but it was always denied by the Americans. I was doing stories years ago about Iraqis torturing Iraqis and the stories were coming from American officers who were leaking them to me.

But of course every time I wrote them in the paper, the Americans denied that it was true. I went to the scenes of US air strikes. They were obviously limbs, hands, arms of children, babies, women, civilians, as well sometimes as armed men, and we wrote about this. . . .

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When will the conspiracy of silence end?

Intifada Palestine, Oct 24, 2010

By Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban

Seconds passed like an eternity for a heart beating for freedom, a soul which fought against occupation and its humiliation and a body shrinking into itself trying to avoid 21st century brutality in a prison cell without door or windows. The body is thin and delicate, the head is scarved and the eyes are blindfolded in absolute absence of human conscience; while the monsters of the Western age in the land of Jesus Christ dance around their victim. Are these monsters dancing in celebration of kidnapping an Arab girl whose only sin is that she has fought for her and her people’s freedom? Or are they dancing in celebration of the death of world conscience which drawls human rights and freedom while turning its back on the most sacred cause of freedom in the 21st century – the freedom of the Palestinian people and its fight for salvation from Israeli terrorism perpetrated through Western support for over sixty years.

Released prisoner, Ihsan Dababseh (24), tells the story of the video in which Israeli soldier Avi Yakobov, who abused her by performing a belly-dance and rubbing against her bound and blind-folded body in December, 2007 at the Gush Etzion military base. She says, “Another soldier brought a bottle of wine and asked me to drink”. Minutes later, soldiers attacked her like frenzied wolves with gun butts. “One soldier kept hitting my head against an iron bar until I blacked out”.

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International aid agency Oxfam warned that three months into Pakistan’s unprecedented flood crisis funds were drying up.

World Bulletin, Friday, 29 October 2010

International aid agency Oxfam warned that three months into Pakistan’s unprecedented flood crisis funds were drying up, putting millions at risk with swathes of farmland still under water.

The United Nations issued a record two-billion-dollar appeal for funds to cope with Pakistan’s worst humanitarian disaster, which ravaged an area roughly the size of England and affected 21 million people.

“Funds for the UN flood appeal are drying up and threatening the aid and reconstruction effort,” Oxfam on Friday said in a statement marking the third month since heavy monsoon rains began falling in northwestern Pakistan.

“The crisis is far from over,” said Oxfam’s director in Pakistan, Neva Khan.

“Fund issue”

A United Nations appeal for $1.9 billion for Pakistan is only 39 percent funded, spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said.

“We still have a long way to go. The food security, health and camp management sectors are really under-funded,” she said.

“Cases of disease are increasing and large areas remain under water in southern Sindh province,” said Oxfam. “As winter approaches, seven million people are still without adequate shelter.”

UN officials say 10 million people are in need of immediate food assistance and health authorities have reported 99 confirmed cases of cholera.

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UN rights chiefs lead new assault on US

Washington under fire over ‘war on terror’, Iraq-Afghan conflicts, Wikileaks revelations.

Middle East Online, Oct 27, 2010

Investigate all allegations in the Wikileak documents

UNITED NATIONS – UN human rights chiefs and experts launched a new offensive on the US conduct of its “war on terror” and conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The leaking of 400,000 documents on the Iraq war and war crimes charges against a former Al-Qaeda child soldier at the Guantanamo prison camp has opened the door to new criticism despite President Barack Obama’s efforts to improve the US image.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Tuesday urged Iraq and the United States to investigate allegations of torture and unlawful killings in the Iraq conflict revealed in documents released by Wikileaks.

A UN investigator on torture called for an investigation into all US practices since the September 11, 2001 attacks. Another UN expert called the US military hearing against a young Al-Qaeda operative at Guantanamo “a disgrace.”

A US official expressed surprise at the new criticism but, speaking on condition of anonymity, said “even the UN knows that the situation has changed since the president (Obama) came to office” in January 2009.

Pillay, based in Geneva, said the United States and Iraq should investigate all allegations in the Wikileak documents and “bring to justice those responsible for unlawful killings, summary executions, torture and other serious human rights abuses.”

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Victor Stenger: Why Religion Should Be Confronted

Victor Stenger, The Huffington Post, Oct 28, 2010

Based on opening remarks presented in the debate “Science and Religion: Confrontation or Accommodation” on October 7, 2010, at The 30th Anniversary Conference of Free Inquiry and the Council for Secular Humanism,” Los Angeles.

Belief in ancient myths joins with other negative forces in our society to keep most of the world from advancing scientifically, economically, and socially at a time when a rapid advancement in these areas is absolutely essential for the survival of humanity. We are now probably only about a generation or two away from the catastrophic problems that are anticipated from global warming, pollution, and overpopulation. We can expect flooded coastal areas, severe climatic changes, epidemics caused by overcrowding, and starvation for much of humanity. Such disasters are predicted to generate worldwide conflict on a scale that could exceed that of the great twentieth-century wars, possibly with nuclear weapons in the hands of unstable nations and terrorist groups.

This is a time, if there ever was one, when science is needed to lead the way. It won’t do so by sitting back and letting irrationality rule the day. And make no mistake about it; the irrationality we see on today’s political scene, as exemplified by the Tea Party, is fueled by the irrationality of religion.

It’s time for secularists to stop sucking up to Christians — and Muslims and Jews and Hindus and any others who claim they have some sacred right to decide what kind of society the rest of us must live in–what a human being can do with her own body. The good news is that young people are joining the rising atheist movement in increasing numbers. I have not met one yet who is an accommodationist. I have great hope that in perhaps another generation America will have joined Europe and the rest of the developed world in shucking off the rusty chains of ancient superstition.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

US missile strikes in 24 hours kill 14 in Pakistan

Officials: 3 suspected US missile strikes in 24 hours kill 14 people in NW Pakistan

RASOOL DAWAR, Antiwar Newswire, Oct 28, 2010
Source: AP News

American unmanned planes fired two missiles at a house in a Pakistani tribal region close to the Afghan border on Thursday, killing seven alleged militants, the latest in a barrage of such attacks, intelligence officials said.

The strike in North Waziristan was the third attack there in the past 24 hours.

The region is home to hundreds of Pakistan and foreign Islamist militants, many belonging to or allied with al-Qaida and the Taliban. It is also the base of a powerful insurgent group that U.S. officials say is behind many of the attacks just across the border in Afghanistan.

Thursday’s strike in the Datta Khel area killed five unidentified “foreign” and two local militants, three intelligence officials said. They did not give their names in line with the policy of the agency they work for.

It is all but impossible to independently verify the accounts of intelligence officials. The region is too dangerous for outsiders to visit the scene of the attacks and U.S. officials do not acknowledge firing the missiles, much less discuss who they are targeting.

Two other attacks Wednesday killed seven suspected militants.

There have now been at least 20 suspected U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan this month, many of them in North Waziristan. There were 21 such attacks in September, nearly double the previous monthly record.

Washington is under pressure to beat back the insurgency in Afghanistan and bring its troops there back home.

Many of the missile strikes are reported to hit at militants focused on fighting in Afghanistan and using North Waziristan as a safe haven. The Pakistan army has so far resisted U.S. pressure to launch an offensive in the region, as it has in other border areas.

Pakistani officials often publicly criticize the strikes, but the surge over the last two months has not led to increased protests, suggesting the army does not object to them. The silence over the drones contrast with the outcry over incursions into Pakistani territory by NATO helicopters earlier this month that led to Islamabad blocking a key supply route for U.S. and allied force.

The army is widely believed to provide intelligence information for the drone attacks and even allows drones to take off from a base inside Pakistan. Human rights groups have raised concerns of civilian casualties and questioned the legality of what they sometimes term “extrajudicial killings.”

Ira Chernus: US Can Put the Squeeze on Israel

By Ira Chernus, The Huffington Post, Oct 28, 2010

Israel can do whatever it damn pleases, and the Obama administration will never say no — or so the common wisdom goes. But it ain’t so. Obama has backed down far too often, but there’s also a long history of Israel giving in to U.S. pressure in the last 18 months. Here are just some of the highlights:

On June 4, 2009, Obama went to Cairo and called on the Israelis to agree to an independent Palestinian state. That same day Netanyahu met with his cabinet. “Ministers split over Obama’s Cairo speech,” one Israeli headline declared.

Just ten days later, Netanyahu spoke words that he’d never said publicly before: “Two states for two people.” Had Obama not made his own speech, it’s doubtful anyone would ever have heard those words from Netanyahu.

Later that summer, “a senior source in Jerusalem” told an Israeli reporter that American envoy George Mitchell had asked Netanyahu to promise a one-year freeze on settlement construction. “Netanyahu and Barak did not reject the request”; they merely “disagreed over some of the details.” The Israelis agreed to ten months, which “came about as a result of extensive bilateral discussions” between Israel and the U.S., according to the Washington Post.

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America has sown chaos across the globe, says President Assad

Syria spurns U.S. bid to mend ties

Haaretz, Oct 26, 2010

By The Associated Press

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Photo by: AP

Syria’s president has accused the United States of sowing chaos overseas, snubbing Washington’s efforts to improve ties with Damascus.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Bashar Assad told Al-Hayat newspaper in an interview published Tuesday that the U.S. created chaos in every place it entered.

“Is Afghanistan stable? Is Somalia stable? Did they bring stability to Lebanon in 1983?” Assad asked, referring to U.S. intervention in Lebanon’s 15-year civil war that ended in 1990.

In Washington, the State Department issued a strong rebuttal. Spokesman P.J. Crowley charged that Syria is destabilizing Lebanon by supplying arms to militants and issuing arrest warrants for Lebanese officials.

“These activities by Syria directly undermine Lebanon’s sovereignty and directly undermine Syria’s stated commitments to Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence,” Crowley said. We believe we’re playing a constructive role in the region, and we believe that Syria is not.

The tough retort appeared to run counter to U.S. efforts to improve ties with Syria.

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What Are They Hiding? Obama Administration Defending Black Site Prison at Bagram Airbase

By Dave Lindorff, This Can’t Be Happening, Oct 26, 2010

Torture USAParwan Prison at Bagram Airbase, Afghanistan: Torture USA

A victory for the government in a federal court in New York City Monday marks another slide deeper into Dick Cheney’s “dark side” for the Obama Administration.

In a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been seeking to force the Pentagon to provide information about all captives it is holding at its huge prison facility at Bagram Airbase outside Kabul in Afghanistan, Federal District Judge Barbara Jones of the Southern District of New York has issued a summary judgement saying that the government may keep that information secret.

The lingering question is: Why does the US government so adamantly want to hide information about where captives were first taken into military custody, their citizenship, the length of their captivity, and the circumstances under which they were captured?

Says Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU’s National Security Project, “The military says that they can’t release the information because it would be a threat to national security, but they provided that information for the prisoners at Guantanamo.”

And of course, as our leaders informed us repeatedly, those captives at Guantanamo, who hailed from all over the globe, including Afghanistan, were allegedly “the worst of the worst”–at least until it turned out that many of them were wholly innocent of anything. had been framed and turned in for a bounty, or were mere children when picked up, like Omar Khadr, the 24-year old Canadian man who just copped a guilty plea to avoid a sham tribunal before 7 officers and potential life imprisonment, after being captured at 15, tortured at Bagram, and held for nine years at Guantanamo (on a charge of killing an American soldier in battle).

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Arundhati Roy: Kashmir Interview

By Arundhati Roy, ZNet, Oct 28, 2010
Source: DN!

AMY GOODMAN: We turn to the award-winning Indian author Arundhati Roy, facing possible arrest in Indian on sedition charges after recent comments she made about Kashmir.

Earlier today, an Indian politician from the right-wing BJP party filed a written complaint against Roy after she publicly advocated for Kashmir independence and challenged India’s claim that Kashmir is a, quote, “integral part of India.” The area of Kashmir has been at the center of a decades-long dispute between India and Pakistan. Arundhati Roy made the comment at a conference organized to call on India to formally admit that Kashmir is an internationally recognized dispute. If charged and convicted of sedition, Arundhati Roy could face up to life in prison.

On Tuesday, she defended her statements made at the conference. She wrote, quote, “I said what millions of people here say every day…I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world.”

Roy went on to write, quote, “Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free.”

Well, last month, I had a chance to interview the author of The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy, about Kashmir. We spoke in London. She began by describing how Kashmir is the unfinished business of the partition of India in 1947.

ARUNDHATI ROY: Since the 1990s, which is when—you know, at the same time that the war in Afghanistan, the American one, its jihad in Afghanistan, and India realigned itself and became, you know, what it is now, sort of completely aligned with the US. And, you know, the whole problem in Kashmir, the militant armed struggle for independence—I mean, there was always a struggle for independence. It’s not independence. It’s not ever been really a part of India, which is why it’s ridiculous for the Indian government to keep saying it’s an integral part of India. But that armed struggle claimed the lives of 68,000 people, because India today has 500,000 troops manning that little valley. It’s the highest, most militarized zone in the world.

India has done everything wrong there. Apart from a military occupation, it has completely rigged elections. It has changed that valley into a little sort of puddle, a little pool of spies and informers and intelligence networks and torture chambers. And today, you know, it’s come to a stage where people have just had enough. Now you don’t even know who the rulers are—I mean, who the leaders of the uprising are, because it’s just people who cannot take it anymore. But the government still is quite busy trying to manage the crisis. You know, there’s are all sorts of shady things going on. Cleaning mobs are setting business—buildings on fire, when it does look very much as though the intelligence agencies are doing that themselves in order to, you know, paint—once again paint this uprising in a different light.

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Iraq war logs: These crimes were not secret, they were tolerated

Why did we not investigate allegations of murder and torture in Iraq at the time, when it was well known what was going on?

Peter Beaumont, The Guardian, Oct 25, 2010

Iraqi soldiers guard a blindfolded detainee during an operation outside Baquba, north of Baghdad. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

The most shocking of the revelations in the current batch of leaked Iraq war logs is that most of the acts of torture and murder were committed in the open. They weren’t secret. They were tolerated, sanitised – justified, even. Take the Wolf Brigade, the 2nd battalion of the interior ministry’s special commandos. Everybody knew about them. You would see them in their pick-up trucks wearing balaclavas. When there was a sectarian murder people would talk about the wolves, until they became a shorthand to describe a certain kind of cruel violence. The wolf commandos became killers in the uniform of the Iraqi police.

I recall speaking to UN human rights investigators, western police advisers, diplomats and army officers about what was going on. In 2005 an Iraqi government official confirmed a list of places where she believed torture and murder were taking place. A British police mentor described entering the office of a notorious figure at the interior ministry and found a man with a bag over his head standing in the corner of the office.

Some of us who covered Iraq wrote about what we found. In summer 2005, I described the operation of the torture squads. Human rights organisations prepared their own reports. But nothing very much happened, except excuses.

When the bodies started turning up in western Baghdad in 2004, the official line was that it was former Ba’athists who were being killed. Like the looting that occurred in the aftermath of the fall of Iraq, it was “understood.” The victims probably deserved it, was the unspoken intimation. Officials, British and American, were really not that bothered.

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Pack Assange off to Guantanamo, US conservatives tell Obama

By David Usborne in New York, The Independent, Oct 27, 2010

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, has been described in the US media as a ‘threat to national security’

The White House and the Pentagon have failed to confront and contain the threat to national security posed by WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange who should be arrested as an “enemy combatant”, voices on the US conservative right insisted yesterday.

Frustration with the failure of President Barack Obama to combat WikiLeaks has grown since the release of almost 400,000 secret documents that exposed the extent of abuse of prisoners in Iraq by US and Iraqi personnel.

One Fox commentator went so far as to call for the WikiLeaks figurehead to be treated as a prisoner of war. Christian Whiton,a former State Department official, demanded that America seize Mr Assange and deal with him and other WikiLeaks staff as “enemy combatants”. Calling for “non-judicial action” against them, he implied that they should be in Guantanamo Bay with Taliban inmates.

Nor was Whiton alone in his stance. “The government also should be waging war on the WikiLeaks web presence,” an editorial in the conservative Washington Times railed this week. Other infuriated conservative commentators made similar demands on websites of such august institutions as the neoconservative thinktank the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

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UN General Assembly Calls for End to US Embargo on Cuba, Oct 27, 2010
Agence-France Presse

UNITED NATIONS — The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly voted Tuesday for a resolution calling on the United States to end its five-decade old embargo of Cuba.
[The 19th straight annual condemnation of the embargo was supported by 187 countries, with only the United States and Israel against and three smaller US allies abstaining.]The 19th straight annual condemnation of the embargo was supported by 187 countries, with only the United States and Israel against and three smaller US allies abstaining.

The 19th straight annual condemnation of the embargo was supported by 187 countries, with only the United States and Israel against and three smaller US allies abstaining.The embargo was first partially imposed in 1960, just after Fidel Castro staged his revolution, turned into law in 1962 and is now the biggest remaining hangover from the Cold War. The United States bans trade with and most travel to Cuba.

US President Barack Obama last year called for a “new beginning” with communist Cuba. But the island’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told the UN assembly the blockade has been “tightened” this year and that the US government did not want to end the measures.

“There is not even a sign showing that its government is willing to dismantle the most irrational aspects of what is already the most comprehensive and long-lasting set of sanctions and coercive measures ever applied against any country,” he added.

“Its everyday impact continues to be visible in all aspects of Cuban life,” the minister said, listing medicines that Cuban children get no access to, which Havana claims is due to the sanctions.

Rodriguez estimated that the blockade had cost Cuba more than 750 billion dollars at current values. He called the blockade “an act of economic warfare and genocide.”

Washington wants “a pro-Yankee government but that is not going to happen.”

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Israeli flotilla probe ‘a sham’

By Sherine Tadros, AlJazeera, Oct 26, 2010

For the past few days I’ve had the delightful task of hanging around the Yitzhak Rabin Guest House in West Jerusalem. I was covering the latest round of questioning by (Israeli) judges, appointed by the (Israeli) government to examine the legality of their deadly raid on the Gaza-bound aid ship last May. The inquiry is called the Turkel Commission, named after retired Justice Turkel – the big chief.

Now, I could tell you how, at various points, I saw every member of the panel fall asleep during the testimonies.

Or, I could describe the humiliating and condescending way in which the panelists spoke to the Arab-Israeli passengers who came to testify (compared to the respect they showed whilst interviewing Opposition leader Tzipi Livni and military chief Gabi Ashkenazi).

I could even explain how for 45 minutes I watched the panelists argue with the Arab passenger about how being that “he seemed like a reasonable man” he could breach Israeli law (as an Israeli citizen) and decide to get on a ship to Gaza. Indeed – a Palestinian going to a Palestinian territory seemed more absurd to these judges than the actual policy that stops him getting there (and by extension anyone getting out).

Every step of the way it was obvious that this commission, which was tasked with determining whether Israel is in breach of international law in blockading Gaza, had made up their minds long before they stepped into the Rabin Guest House.

But put all that aside, here are five simple reasons why this Commission is a sham.

1) The average age of the five original panelists is 84. They have all spent their careers defending the state of Israel and between them have very little expertise in international law…

2) …Except for one of the panelists – Proff Rosenne – but sadly he died a few weeks ago. He was 93-years-old and he was not replaced, so the panel has now gone down to four.

3) The panelists were all hand picked by Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Ehud Barak, the defence minister. The two token international observers on the panel are also widely known as sympathetic to Israel.

4) The coverage of the Turkel Commission in the Israeli papers is virtually non existent. Apart from a local TV channel, Al Jazeera English was the only channel broadcasting from outside the proceedings the last two days.

5) Turkel said two weeks ago, during proceedings, that “the people of Gaza have brought this hardship on themselves”. Another panelist stated, despite the mass of data provided to the Commission by Israeli human rights groups on the situation in Gaza, “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza”.

Case closed.

Age of permanent war?

Morning Star Online, October 27, 2010
By Steven Schofield

The defence spending review represents a total victory for the military-industrial complex and its campaign of fear.

Raising the terror alert to “severe,” the “secret” briefings that air force cuts would leave the country totally vulnerable, the lobbying by the great and the good on why Britain needs a blue-water navy to maintain its status as a world power and finally the US demand that Britain continues to play its full role within Nato, have had the desired effect.

After all the leaks and speculation that the MoD faced meltdown from savage Treasury-led cuts, the outcome is a very modest 8 per cent reduction.

As a result, the overall investment of the armed forces will be smaller, there will be fewer surface vessels and fighter aircraft ordered and delays to some contracts – all quite traditional methods of dealing with a spending squeeze.

But the really significant outcome was the continuation of every major procurement programme, notably Trident, conventional nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers.

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Replacing One Set of Thugs With Another

by Abby Zimet,, Oct 25, 2010

A stunningly cogent editorial from the Guardian on Wikileaks’ Iraq War Logs, the brutality they exposed and the legal and moral obligation to investigate U.S. forces’ complicity in it. How appalling that no U.S. official – or mainstream paper – has yet to make such a demand.

Every time WikiLeaks puts facts into the public domain, first about the war in Afghanistan and now about Iraq, it is accused of partisanship and irresponsibility. The US defence secretary, Robert Gates, said on 29 July that the release of 90,000 classified documents about the war in Afghanistan endangered Afghan lives. Little more than two weeks later, Gates admitted in a letter to Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate armed services committee, that the disclosures did not reveal any significant national intelligence secrets. The Pentagon’s review had not to date “revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by this disclosure”. This does not stop the same charge being made now about the release of almost 400,000 US documents on Iraq.

Many attempts were made to justify the invasion of Iraq, but one of the most frequently and cynically used was that, irrespective of the absence of weapons of mass destruction, putting an end to the barbarities of Saddam Hussein’s regime was a moral imperative. Well, now there is chapter and verse, from ringside seats, on the systematic use of torture by the Iraqi government that the US installed in Saddam’s place. The worst practices of Saddam’s regime did not apparently die with him, and whereas numerous logs show members of the coalition making genuine attempts to stop torture in Iraqi custody, it is clear their efforts were both patchy and half-hearted. In the worst incidents, one can only reasonably conclude that one set of torturers and thugs has been replaced by another.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

J.R. Hammond: The Myth of the U.N. Creation of Israel

By Jeremy R. Hammond, Foreign Policy Journal, Oct 26, 2010

The U.N. General Assembly, November 29, 1947

There is a widely accepted belief that United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 “created” Israel, based upon an understanding that this resolution partitioned Palestine or otherwise conferred legal authority or legitimacy to the declaration of the existence of the state of Israel. However, despite its popularity, this belief has no basis in fact, as a review of the resolution’s history and examination of legal principles demonstrates incontrovertibly.

Great Britain had occupied Palestine during the First World War, and in July 1922, the League of Nations issued its mandate for Palestine, which recognized the British government as the occupying power and effectively conferred to it the color of legal authority to temporarily administrate the territory.[1] On April 2, 1947, seeking to extract itself from the conflict that had arisen in Palestine between Jews and Arabs as a result of the Zionist movement to establish in Palestine a “national home for the Jewish people”,[2] the United Kingdom submitted a letter to the U.N. requesting the Secretary General “to place the question of Palestine on the Agenda of the General Assembly at its next regular Annual Session”, and requesting the Assembly “to make recommendations, under Article 10 of the Charter, concerning the future government of Palestine.”[3] To that end, on May 15, the General Assembly adopted Resolution 106, which established the U.N. Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) to investigate “the question of Palestine”, to “prepare a report to the General Assembly” based upon its findings, and to “submit such proposals as it may consider appropriate for the solution of the problem of Palestine”.[4]

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Indian human rights champion Arundhati Roy faces arrest over Kashmir remark

Booker prize-winner says claim about territory not being an integral part of India was a call for justice in the disputed region

Gethin Chamberlain in Panaji, The Guardian, Oct 26, 2010

The Booker prize-winning novelist and human rights campaigner Arundhati Roy is facing the threat of arrest after claiming that the disputed territory of Kashmir is not an integral part of India.

India’s home ministry is reported to have told police in Delhi that a case of sedition may be registered against Roy and the Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani for remarks they made at the weekend.

Under Section 124A of the Indian penal code, those convicted of sedition face punishments ranging from a fine to life imprisonment.

Roy – who won the Booker in 1997 for The God of Small Things – is a controversial figure in India for her championing of politically sensitive causes. She has divided opinion by speaking out in support of the Naxalite insurgency and for casting doubt on Pakistan’s involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

But in a statement the 48-year-old author, who is currently in Srinigar, Kashmir, refused to backtrack. “I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators, have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice.

“I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world; for Kashmiri Pandits who live out the tragedy of having been driven out of their homeland; for Dalit soldiers killed in Kashmir whose graves I visited on garbage heaps in their villages in Cuddalore; for the Indian poor who pay the price of this occupation in material ways and who are now learning to live in the terror of what is becoming a police state.”

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Palestinians Have Right to Resist Occupation by Any Means, Even Non-violent Ones

The Violence Debate

by Agustín Velloso, Dissident Voice, October 26th, 2010

As a Western supporter (non Muslim/Arab) of the Palestinian cause, I have always find it rather difficult to talk (let alone to advocate) about how best Palestinians can resist occupation, especially when this occupation is usually extremely violent and genocidal at times.

Ramzy Baroud’s restrained criticism of Western and some other willing peace teachers, has prompted me to introduce a different point of view, which probably is much more common amongst Westerners than the Palestinians themselves would believe, although the mainstream media, as it happens with many other issues, have successfully managed to keep under a lid.

War in Iraq and Afghanistan are just two outstanding examples. It does not matter how many Westerners speak out and demonstrate against Western intervention (read aggression) in those countries. It does not matter that international law (let alone pure and humble common sense and humanity) prohibits wars of aggression and occupation. The fact is that Western presidents and parliaments “democratically” invade and withdraw as they see fit, “democratically” they are not held accountable in court for these crimes, and their victims are either dead of left to their own devices, also “democratically”.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

INDIA: Kashmir: A “No-Peace” Political Initiative

By Prof. Angana Chatterji, AHRC, October 25, 2010

The 8-point Plan, New Delhis political initiative to address the crises in Kashmir, attests to the parallel and incommensurate realities of the sovereign and the subjugated, the Indian state and the Kashmiris.

The 8-point Plan renders obvious New Delhi’s limited comfort zone. The Plan is not an overture to healing the reality of suffering and outrage inside Kashmir. Rethinking militarization and military governance is not the priority. The ambition is to manage Kashmiris and to keep the disarray concealed from the international gaze.

New Delhi announced its 8-point Plan on September 25, 2010, following the visit to India-ruled Kashmir of a 39-member All Party Delegation from New Delhi led by Union Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, and parallel to the 65th Session of the United Nations General Assembly meetings in New York City. That Defence Minister Arackaparambil Kurian Antony did not accompany the All Party Delegation was indicative of New Delhis mood.

On the part of New Delhi, the will to mend the rupture between India and Kashmir will require a non-deceptive gaze into power and history. India evidences how powerful states are unable and unwilling to act with humility. There is no admission of culpability on the part of the Indian state — no acknowledgement of the violence of militarization, authoritarian government, and crimes against humanity perpetrated on Kashmir since the 1990s.

On the part of New Delhi, there is no cognition of the actual grievances voiced by the people of Kashmir. There is no recognition of the shifts in the peoples struggle for self-determination within Kashmir, or of how the shift from violence to nonviolence within the Kashmir resistance movement offers a rich space for critical engagement and principled dialogue toward resolution.

The 8-Point Plan

The provisions of the 8-point Plan stated that interlocutors from India would be appointed to dialogue with civil society and political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir, even as the terms for dialogue were not defined. The Plan committed to releasing youth who were detained and arrested on charges of stone pelting this summer. This is imperative and urgent. The number of such youth was listed at 245, while various human rights defenders and journalists in Kashmir state the figure to be higher.

The Plan made no commitment to review the conditions in which the youth were detained or arrested, to freeing political prisoners, or to endorsing the right to civil disobedience. The Plan made no mention of holding the perpetrators accountable. Neither did New Delhi intend to negate the Government of Indias tactic of violence used to govern and domesticate Kashmiris.

Continues >>

Officials: Afghan Peace Talks ‘Mostly Hype’

Claims of Talks a ‘Misinformation Campaign’

by Jason Ditz,, October 24, 2010

The combination of official reports downplaying the Afghanistan peace talks and other official reports, often from the exact same sources, lauding them as making great progress has been quite confusing over the past weeks. Reports in the Guardian appear to explain this however, citing officials saying the claims are being intentionally hyped as “part of a misinformation campaign aimed at the Taliban leadership.”

Which would put a whole new light on Richard Holbrooke’s claims today that a number of new “high-level” Taliban are seeking the talks because “of the growing pressure they’re under from General Petraeus.”

It would also explain the actual Taliban’s surprise at the claims that such talks are ongoing, and the public rejection of those claims. A number of previous talks over the past several years seemed to amount to the same thing, with the reports centered around convincing low ranking Taliban that a deal was imminent and that they should accept offers from the Karzai government.

And even if the “misinformation” is aimed at the Taliban it also has a side-effect of becoming another part of the growing collection of false claims of “progress” by the administration ahead of key conferences on the war. With many of the public comments directed at Western audiences the question of how much of this is really a military strategy and how much is just overt lying remains an open question.

How Paul Wolfowitz Authorized Human Experimentation at Guantánamo

Andy Worthington, October 24, 2010

Last week, Truthout published an important article by Jason Leopold, Truthout’s Deputy Managing Editor, and psychologist and blogger Jeffrey Kaye, revealing, for the first time, a secret memorandum dated March 25, 2002, approved by deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz, which authorized human experimentation on detainees in the “War on Terror.” The release of the memo followed some little-noticed maneuvering in Congress in December 2001, when the requirement of “informed consent” in any experimentation by the Defense Department (introduced in 1972) was quietly dropped.

The article — which involved over a year of research, as Leopold and Kaye persuaded former officials to open up to them — not only adds to Leopold’s important work and to Kaye’s formidable track record as a chronicler of the development of human experimentation in the Bush administration’s “War on Terror” torture program (which he has also revealed as part of an obsession with human experimentation reaching back to the 1950s), but also confirms the existence of an important new front in the struggle to raise awareness of the horrors of torture, and the requirement that those who authorized it be held accountable for their crimes.

Leopold and Kaye delivered a presentation about their article the day after its publication, as part of “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week, and their work on human experimentation added to a compelling catalog of the many reasons why the acceptance of torture must continue to be opposed, which I developed during the week: namely, that it is not only illegal, morally corrosive, counterproductive and unnecessary, but also that, at its heart, the Bush-era torture program continued work in the field of human experimentation that the US took over from the Nazis, and also involved treasonous lies on the part of senior officials, who pretended that the program was designed to prevent future terrorist attacks, when, from the very beginning (in late November 2001, according to Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff), it was actually being used to extract false confessions about connections between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein that could be used in an attempt to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

Continues >>

Simon Jenkins: What on Earth Are America’s Friends to Say?

Simon Jenkins
Writer for the Guardian and the London Sunday Times, The Huffington Post, Oct 25, 2010

A small band of Brits still try to defend America’s current foreign policy to a sceptical world. When US forces abroad do something cruel or counter-productive, like bombing another wedding party or fighting the wrong country, we point to their nobler values and to past defences of freedom. Surely they at least meant well. The Wikileaks revelations now gleefully headlined across Europe have left us floundering.

The brutality and apparent collapse of front-line discipline is charted in thousands of meticulously filed US government reports, proving only one thing, that any war “among the people” that goes on too long degrades its participants and degenerates into senseless cruelty. Our friends become our victims and our enemies triumphant.

The fact that the leaks are irresponsible and helpful to the enemy is by now immaterial. The enemy, mostly Iran, is riding high on the sheer incompetence of coalition and NATO operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and increasingly Pakistan. Hilary Clinton’s objection to them, that they are leaks, hardly meets the case. These are true records from the side that claims “higher values”, of helicopters shooting innocent individuals in cold blood, of the massacring of 600 civilian drivers, women and children among them, at checkpoints, of the killing of people trying to surrender, of a litany of prisoner torture and maltreatment that shows Abu Ghraib was no exception. The idea that the American invasion liberated Iraqis from kidnap, torture, rape and summary execution is shown to be a sick untruth. Indeed a shocking feature of the leaks is that few Iraqis appeared surprised.

Continues >>

Monday, October 25, 2010

Bishops condemn Israeli occupation

Morning Star Online, Sunday 24 October 2010

A conference of Middle East Catholic bishops in Rome demanded at the weekend that Israel accepts UN resolutions calling for an end to its occupation of Arab lands.

The bishops also warned Israel that it shouldn’t use the Bible to justify injustices against the Palestinians.

The bishops issued the statement at the close of a two-week meeting, called by Pope Benedict XVI to discuss the plight of Christians in the Middle East.

The Catholic church has long been a minority in the largely Muslim region but its presence is shrinking further as a result of war, conflict, discrimination and economic problems.

During the meeting several bishops blamed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for spurring the flight – a position echoed in their final statement.

While the bishops condemned terrorism and anti-Semitism, they laid much of the blame for the conflict squarely on Israel.

They listed the occupation of Palestinian lands, Israel’s separation barrier with the West Bank, its military checkpoints, political prisoners, demolition of homes and disturbance of Palestinians’ socio-economic lives as factors that have made life increasingly difficult for Palestinians.

They said they had reflected on the suffering and insecurity in which Israelis live and on the status of Jerusalem – a city holy to Christians, Jews and Muslims.

“We are anxious about the unilateral initiatives that threaten its composition and risk to change its demographic balance,” they said.

They called on the international community to apply UN security council resolutions adopted in 1967, which called on Israel to withdraw from Arab land conquered in the six day war that year.

“The Palestinian people will thus have an independent and sovereign homeland where they can live with dignity and security,” they said.

Robert Fisk: The shaming of America

Our writer delivers a searing dispatch after the WikiLeaks revelations that expose in detail the brutality of the war in Iraq – and the astonishing, disgraceful deceit of the US

The Independent, Oct 24, 2010

As usual, the Arabs knew. They knew all about the mass torture, the promiscuous shooting of civilians, the outrageous use of air power against family homes, the vicious American and British mercenaries, the cemeteries of the innocent dead. All of Iraq knew. Because they were the victims.

Only we could pretend we did not know. Only we in the West could counter every claim, every allegation against the Americans or British with some worthy general – the ghastly US military spokesman Mark Kimmitt and the awful chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Peter Pace, come to mind – to ring-fence us with lies. Find a man who’d been tortured and you’d be told it was terrorist propaganda; discover a house full of children killed by an American air strike and that, too, would be terrorist propaganda, or “collateral damage”, or a simple phrase: “We have nothing on that.”

Of course, we all knew they always did have something. And yesterday’s ocean of military memos proves it yet again. Al-Jazeera has gone to extraordinary lengths to track down the actual Iraqi families whose men and women are recorded as being wasted at US checkpoints – I’ve identified one because I reported it in 2004, the bullet-smashed car, the two dead journalists, even the name of the local US captain – and it was The Independent on Sunday that first alerted the world to the hordes of indisciplined gunmen being flown to Baghdad to protect diplomats and generals. These mercenaries, who murdered their way around the cities of Iraq, abused me when I told them I was writing about them way back in 2003.

Continues >>

Iraq war logs: Apache crew killed insurgents who tried to surrender

US military legal adviser told helicopter crew that Iraqi men were valid targets as they could not surrender to aircraft

David Leigh,, Friday 22 October 2010

A US military Apache helicopter releases an anti missile decoy flair as it files over Baghdad, Iraq. Photograph: Marko Drobnjakovic/AP

A US gunship crew was cleared to attack two insurgents on the ground even though the pilots had reported that the men were trying to surrender, the leaked Iraq war logs reveal.

The Apache helicopter pilots killed both Iraqi men after being advised by a US military lawyer that they could not surrender to an aircraft and therefore remained valid targets. A leading military law expert consulted by the Guardian has questioned this legal advice.

The Guardian can also reveal that the helicopter involved in the incident in 2007 had the same call sign – Crazyhorse 18 – as the Apache whose crew later mistakenly killed two Reuters journalists and injured two children in a notorious shooting in urban Baghdad. The killings drew worldwide condemnation in April this year when WikiLeaks obtained video footage taken from the helicopter’s gun camera and released it on the internet.

It has not been possible to establish whether the same personnel were involved in both attacks.

According to the account of the earlier incident in the leaked logs, the insurgents had jumped out of their truck after it came under fire from the Apache. “They came out wanting to surrender,” Crazyhorse 18 signalled.

Clearance to kill came back from an unnamed lawyer at the nearby Taji airbase. “Lawyer states they can not surrender to aircraft and are still valid targets,” the log entry says.

Continues >>

Seven million without shelter months after Pakistan floods

By Sampath Perera ,, October 23, 2010

Seven of the 21 million Pakistanis affected by this summer’s floods are still without shelter, the United Nation’s Pakistan Office reported this week. And an estimated 14 million continue to need urgent humanitarian assistance.

These figures are an indictment of the Pakistan ruling elite’s incompetently organized and poorly funded flood relief effort.

They also are an indictment of the imperialist powers. Under conditions where Pakistan has faced what the UN has repeatedly described as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis in decades, the agency has repeatedly had to plead for the “international community” to come to assist Pakistan.

The western-dominated IMF and World Bank have tied flood aid to their demand for Pakistan to implement market reforms. Washington, meanwhile, has intensified its pressure on Pakistan to expand its counter-insurgency war against Taliban-aligned groups in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Pakistan’s floods began with heavy rains in the country’s north-east in late July and continued as the water travelled the length of the Indus Valley over the next two months. More people were displaced in Sindh, the country’s southern-most province, than anywhere else, although authorities had weeks of warning about the impending floods. The vast majority of those now lacking shelter are from Sindh.

Continues >>

US opposes immediate Afghan ban on private contractors

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Clinton telephoned Karzai “to offer ideas” on his decision to ban all private security contractors from December.

World Bulletin, Sunday, 24 October 2010

The United States and Afghanistan should develop a joint plan to replace private security guards gradually rather than enforce a ban, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Saturday.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Clinton telephoned Afghan President Hamid Karzai “to offer ideas” on his decision to ban all private security contractors from December.

Clinton “suggested building a joint plan to steadily replace contractors while managing the impact on existing operations,” Crowley said in a message on Twitter.

“Clinton pledged to work cooperatively to support a smooth transition to full Afghan security responsibility,” Crowley said.

U.S. media reports have said the proposed security guard ban could imperil about $1.5 billion in reconstruction work, including projects key to NATO’s counterinsurgency strategy in the Afghan war.

The private security firms have become a point of friction because some have been involved in high-profile shootings and other incidents.

A U.S. Senate inquiry into private security contracting in Afghanistan concluded this month that funds had sometimes been funneled to warlords.

Karzai issued a decree in August banning all private security contractors in Afghanistan within four months.

Thousands of private security contractors guard everything from U.S. military bases to embassies.

Karzai modified his decree last week, agreeing to permit private security guards to protect embassies, military bases and depots, diplomatic residences and the transport of diplomatic personnel.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Maidhc Ó Cathail: The United States fights and pays for Israel’s wars

By Kourosh Ziabari, Foreign Policy Journal, Oct 21, 2010

The U.S. recently agreed to sell Israel 20 F-35 jet fighters. (AP)The U.S. recently agreed to sell Israel 20 F-35 jet fighters. (AP)

Maidhc Ó Cathail is a widely published Irish author and journalist. He has been living in Japan since 1999. Ó Cathail’s articles and commentaries have appeared on a number of media outlets and newspapers including, Arab News, Foreign Policy Journal, Khaleej Times, Information Clearing House, Palestine Chronicle, Tehran Times and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

Maidhc joined me in an exclusive interview and responded to my questions about the 9/11 attacks, the influence of the Israeli lobby over the U.S. administration, the prospect of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the prolonged controversy over Iran’s nuclear program, and the freedom of press in the United States.

Kourosh Ziabari: The Iranian President’s recent proposal for the establishment of a fact-finding group to probe into the 9/11 attacks stirred up widespread controversy in the United States. American politicians reacted to Mr. Ahmadinejad’s plan with frustration. Is it because they are aware of some evidence which suggests that Israel was behind the attacks?

Maidhc Ó Cathail: I would say that most American politicians are totally unaware of the Israeli “art students,” the so-called “dancing Israelis,” the Odigo warnings and other facts that point to Israeli involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Therefore, they probably considered Ahmadinejad’s questioning of the official 9/11 narrative to be yet another unwarranted provocation of the United States by the Iranian leader.

Continues >>

Violence against women and attacks on religious minorities on the rise in Pakistan

by Jibran Khan,, Oct 14, 2010

The families of the victims are often afraid to use the courts for fear of reprisals. The proposals of the Justice and Peace Commission to combat the phenomenon.

Islamabad (AsiaNews) – The cases of rape, and attacks on religious minorities in Pakistan are dramatically increasing, and 70% are in Punjab, according to Kashif Mazhar, vice-president of “Life for All”. A phenomenon that has recently seen examples of great cruelty, in which the families of the victims are afraid to seek justice. A 13 year old Christian girl, Kiran Nayyaz, was raped last year and had a child. Her father, Nayyaz Masih told AsiaNews: “I’m poor, working as a janitor at the school in Chak Jhumra. My daughter worked as a waitress, and I had complained before of being harassed. She was raped by a driver, Muahammad Yahweh, who then fled”.

Joseph Francis, National Director of CLAAS (Center for Legal Aid Assistance) told AsiaNews, “Nayiaz Masih and his family came to us, in shock, they were even afraid to talk about this incident. We gave them refuge. Kiran had a baby, and together with the Justice and Peace Commission we are working to see they get justice. “

Continues >>

‘US drone strikes violate international law’, Oct 22, 2010

LONDON: The US programme of drone strikes targeting militants in Pakistan, Yemen and other countries violates international law and should be halted, a legal expert warned on Thursday.

Mary Ellen O’Connell, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame, told a debate at a leading London think tank that the pursuit of al Qaeda and Taliban extremists should be a law enforcement issue, not a military one.

“The strongest conclusion is that there is no legal right to resort to drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere where the US is not involved in armed conflict,” she told the respected Chatham House centre. She was particularly critical of strikes by the US Central Intelligence Agency in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan which border Afghanistan and are a haven for militants who use it as a base to attack NATO and Pakistani forces.

“The use of drones is causing really serious anger in Pakistan, I really seriously question the necessity for what we are doing,” she said.

O’Connell said they could not be justified because there was no open consent from Pakistan and the strikes could not be taken as an act of war because they did not happen on Afghan soil, where US troops operate.

Michael Schmitt, an international law professor at Britain’s Durham University who spent 20 years in the US Air Force, told the debate that the strikes were completely within the law of self-defence.

He argued that the drone strikes were a valid measure against a new transnational form of combatant, and that they could also be justified if the country where they are based either refused or was unable to act against militants.

The US officials said that drone strikes were highly effective in the war against al Qaeda and its allies, but their legality remains shadowy and Washington had never publicly acknowledged the existence of the programme, Pakistan has condemned the strikes as a breach of national sovereignty.

New Video Appears to Show Abuse of Prisoners by Pakistani Soldiers

By THE NEW YORK TIMES, Oct 1, 2010

Graphic video posted on YouTube in May appears to show Pakistani soldiers beating prisoners in the country’s Swat Valley region.

Days after a Web video apparently showing members of Pakistan’s military executing prisoners came to light, another video has been discovered that appears to show soldiers beating suspected militants in Pakistan’s Swat Valley.

As my colleague Jane Perlez reported on Wednesday, the execution video had already raised concerns among American officials worried about how Pakistan’s military has been conducting its battle against militants, with the financial support of the United States.

While American officials said that video appeared to be genuine, a spokesman for the Pakistani Army, Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, initially told The Times that it had to be fake, since, “No Pakistan Army soldier or officer has been involved in activity of this sort.” But two retired Pakistani senior army officers said they believed that the video was credible.

The next day, pressed by American officials, Pakistan’s military acknowledged that the execution video was genuine, but portrayed the killings as an isolated episode.

On Friday, a person from the Swat Valley, who wanted to remain anonymous for safety concerns, told The Times that the newly discovered video of the prisoners being beaten, which was uploaded to YouTube in May, seemed to have been shot in Khawazakhela, north of the town of Mingora.

Continues >>

Friday, October 22, 2010

Zionism and Peace Are Incompatible

By Alan Hart, Dissident Voice, October 21st, 2010

At last somebody has said it in the most explicit way possible. The somebody also said: “The problem is Zionism and the solution is dismantling the Zionist framework and instituting a secular democracy that does not discriminate between Israelis and Palestinians.”

The somebody was Miko Peled, a Jewish peace activist who was born in Israel and lives in America.

He is the son of an Israeli war hero, Matti Peled, who was a young officer in the war of 1948 and a general in the war of 1967. After that war, General Peled signalled his own commitment to truth by rubbishing Zionism’s version of events. He did so with the statement that there was not a threat to Israel’s existence and that it was a war of Israeli choice (i.e. aggression not self-defense). General Peled was also one of a number of prominent Jews who called soon after the 1967 war for the immediate establishment of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In his latest article from which my headline for this piece was extracted, Miko says that the two-state solution was clearly viable 40 years ago, but today…? He writes (my emphasis added):
“Now the West Bank is riddled with towns and malls and highways built on Palestinian land for Jews only and Israeli cabinet members openly discuss population transfers, or rather transfer of its non-Jewish population. The level of oppression and the intensity of the violence against Palestinians has reached new heights… Discussing the two-state solution now under these conditions shows an acute inability to accept reality… There is an illusion that a liberal, forward thinking government can rise in Israel and then everything will be just as liberal Zionists wish it to be. They will pick up where Rabin and Arafat left off and we will have the pie in sky Jewish democracy liberal Jews want so much to see in Israel. This illusion is shared by American Jews, liberal Zionists in Israel and around the world and in the West where guilt of two millennia of persecuting Jews still haunts the conscience of many. If only there were better leaders and if only this and if only that… But alas, reality continues to slap everyone in the face: Zionism and peace are incompatible. I will say it again, Zionism and peace are incompatible.”

Miko adds that serious study of the history of modern Israel shows that “the emergence of Netanyahu and Lieberman was perfectly predictable.”

I agree and offer this summary explanation of why.

Continues >>

US: The dishonest broker

By Avi Shlaim, The Corner Report, October 19th, 2010

Despite high expectation for Barack Obama, the US president has not convinced Israel to cease settlement construction.

Despite meek calls for ‘restraint’, Israeli settlement construction continues on Palestinian land [REUTERS]

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been both a major concern of American diplomacy since 1967 and the arena of persistent failure.

There are many reasons for America’s failure to broker a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians but the most fundamental one is that it is a dishonest broker. As a result of its palpable partiality towards Israel, America has lost all credibility in the eyes not only of the Palestinians but of the wider Arab and Muslim worlds.

The so-called peace process has been all process and no peace. Peace talks that go nowhere slowly provide Israel with just the cover it needs to pursue its expansionist agenda on the West Bank.

The asymmetry of power between Israel and the Palestinians is so great that only a third party can bridge the gap. In plain language, this means leaning on Israel to end the occupation and to permit the emergence of an independent Palestinian state on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

In theory America is committed to a two-state solution to the conflict but in practise it has done very little to push Israel into such a settlement. It is not that America lacks the means to bring pressure to bear on Israel. On the contrary, Israel is crucially, and almost exclusively, dependent on America for military, diplomatic, and financial support.

Continues >>

Iraq War: Death and body bags

Al-Ahram Weekly Online, 21 – 27 October, 2010

A new US estimate of the number of Iraqis killed seven years after the US-led invasion serves as a reminder that civilians are dying on a daily basis in Iraq, writes Salah Hemeid

Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright’s famous quotation apparently justifying the deaths of half a million Iraqi children as a result of the Washington- backed and UN-imposed sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s has often been remembered as a cold-blooded assertion of US policy objectives.

The aphorism came to mind again last week when US media reported that the United States had finally released its first official compilation of data on Iraqi casualties, more than seven years after its invasion of the country.

The report, posted on the US Central Command website in July, drew little notice until last Thursday, when media outlets published details showing that 63,185 civilians and 13,754 members of the Iraqi security forces had been killed from early 2004 to August 2008.

It is not clear why the figures did not include casualties from the immediate aftermath of the US-led invasion in 2003, or from the period after August 2008. It is not clear either how the data were compiled and using what methodology.

The figures seem to represent a “policy engineered” anti-climax as the Obama administration, facing a mid- term election challenge, tries to bring an end to America’s misadventure in Iraq.

The number of Iraqis killed during the US-led invasion and its aftermath has long been hotly debated, estimates ranging from fewer than 100,000 to more than a million.

Continues >>

Joya Rejects the NATO Coalition, Harper and the Excuses for War

by Malalai Joya,, Oct 2010

In the United States, many looked to the ballot box and hoped for real change when Barack Obama was elected President in 2008.

To be honest, I never expected that he would be any different for Afghanistan than President George W. Bush. The truth is that Obama’s war policies have turned out to be even more of a nightmare than most people expected. Obama talked a lot about hope and change, but for Afghanistan the only change has been for the worse.

After almost two years of Obama, the number of U.S. troops occupying Afghanistan has more than doubled. And the number of drone attacks in Pakistan has increased. Obama’s so-called surge of troops has resulted in increased Afghan civilian deaths.

The documents released by Wikileaks prove what we have been saying about war in Afghanistan. There are more massacres by NATO forces than they wanted us to believe. Now the whole world should know this war is a disaster.

All this is why, for our people, Obama is a warmonger, like another Bush. These are the reasons that throughout Afghanistan more and more people are taking to the streets to protest the U.S. occupation.

And Obama’s surge of the war has also put more U.S. soldiers at risk. And more Canadian troops have died. Why are Obama and Harper wasting so much money on this war when they cannot give jobs or even houses to their own poor people? There are many homeless in Vancouver, but instead Harper spends billions of dollars and new weapons of war…

Continues >>

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lecture at the Istanbul Conference on Freedom of Speech

By Noam Chomsky, ZNet, Oct 20, 2010

The title of one of our earlier sessions was Cogito, “I think.” That may serve as a useful reminder that even more fundamental than the right of free expression is the right to think. And that has not gone unchallenged. Right here for example. I suppose the most famous case is that of Ismail Besikci, who has endured many years in prison on the charge of having committed “thought crimes.” And even worse, for having dared to put his thoughts into words, in his documentation of crimes against the Kurds in Syria, Iran, Iraq — and finally Turkey, the unpardonable offense.

I am sure you know the facts better than I do, so I will not review them. If this brave and honorable man had been suffering this ordeal in Russia, or Iran after the overthrow of the Shah, or some other enemy state, he would be internationally known and honored, and outrage about the savagery of his tormentors would know no bounds. But not in this case. One reason is that among his crimes is to have refused a $10,000 prize by the U.S. Fund for Free Expression in protest against Washington’s support for Turkish repression. Respectable people understand that this is a topic that “it wouldn’t do” to mention, to borrow from Orwell’s unpublished introduction to Animal Farm, which I mentioned yesterday...

Continues >>

Rachel Corrie case: Israeli soldier to testify anonymously

Family criticises decision to allow soldier who drove bulldozer that killed daughter to give evidence from behind screen

Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem, The Guardian, Oct 20, 2010
American peace activist Rachel Corrie being interviewed in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza Strip a few days before she was killed by a bulldozer. Photograph: Getty Images

The Israeli soldier at the controls of a bulldozer that crushed to death 23-year-old Rachel Corrie in Gaza in March 2003 is due to give evidence tomorrow in the civil lawsuit brought by the American activist’s family.

However the judge hearing the case in Haifa has ruled that, for security reasons, the soldier can testify anonymously from behind a screen, denying Cindy and Craig Corrie the opportunity to face the man who directly caused their daughter’s death.

Israel‘s supreme court refused to hear an appeal by the family challenging the judge’s ruling. However, the unit commander in charge that day will testify in full view of the court as his identity is already known.

Continues >>

Leading rabbi encourages IDF soldiers to use Palestinian human shields

‘Your life is more important than that of the enemy’, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira tells students, adding that a soldier should never put himself in danger even for the sake of a civilian.

By Haaretz Service, Oct 21, 2010

A leading rabbi in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar has encouraged Israel Defense Forces soldiers to make use of the outlawed “neighbor procedure” while operating in Palestinian areas.

“Anything you do to keep the war tough is permissible, and obligatory according to the torah,” Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, headmaster of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva, wrote in fliers distributed to his students.
Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira in court on January 20, 2010. Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira in court on January 20, 2010.
Photo by: Olivier Fitoussi

“According to true Jewish values, your lives come before those of the enemy, whether he is a soldier or a civilian under protection. Therefore, you are forbidden from endangering your own life for the sake of the enemy, not even for a civilian,” Shapira declared.

Shapira was arrested over the summer for encouraging Jews to kill Gentiles in his book “The King’s Torah.” The preface of the book, which was published in November, states that it is forbidden to kill non-Jews – but the book then apparently describes the context in which it is permitted to do so.

The rabbi’s decree came less than a month after the southern command military court convicted two IDF soldiers of using human shields during Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip, in the winter of 2008-2009.

The soldiers were convicted of offenses including inappropriate behavior and overstepping authority for ordering an 11-year-old Palestinian to search bags suspected to have been booby trapped.

Continues >>

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The US needs an exit plan for Afghanistan

There seems to be no end in sight to Washington’s campaign in the troubled land

* Gulf New Editorial, October 18, 2010

The United States is not only losing ground in its offensive against the militants in Afghanistan but also in the battle to win the hearts and minds of the common people in that war-ravaged country. The approach of the world’s only superpower could at best be described as desensitised and high-handed.

The gravity of the situation could be gauged from the court martial findings of five soldiers who have been accused of murdering Afghan civilians in Kandahar for sport. The fact that this particular military unit was beset with rampant drug abuse and failed to be under the direct control of commanders, as they launched a trigger-happy approach, gives the impression that this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of human rights violations.

Thousands of innocent civilians have been losing their lives ever since General David Petraeus decided to unleash exceptional quantities of firepower on the Taliban to prop up his policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Operating forces are functioning at a higher tempo in their quest to kill and capture militants but, in their haste, they have often failed to differentiate between innocent people and terrorists.

Petraeus’s strategy is still unfolding and has yet to validate itself as a viable scheme for the US-led Nato forces and for the civilians for whom there has been absolutely no respite from dual atrocities at the hands of the Taliban and their so-called liberators.

Perhaps there is nothing more lamentable than the fact that despite the bragging about lofty ideals and strategic thinking a group of rogue soldiers operated on the ground, under the limited supervision of commanders of the world’s most advanced military unit, taking drugs and massacring innocent people for thrills.

The US insists that the endgame has begun in Afghanistan, but there seems to be no plausible end in sight.

Human rights activists face persecution in China

Amnesty International USA, 18 October 2010

Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Peace Prize award has put the international spotlight on his persecution by the Chinese authorities, who sentenced him to 11 years in jail for â??inciting subversion of state powerâ?? after an unfair trial.

But Liu is just one of many Chinese human rights activists who currently languish in detention in the country. They are prisoners of conscience, jailed solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

The human rights defence movement in China is growing, but those who attempt to report on human rights violations or challenge politically sensitive government policies face serious risk of abuse. The authorities make frequent use of vaguely-worded charges to silence and imprison peaceful activists, such as â??endangering state securityâ??, â??subversion of state powerâ?? and â??separatismâ??.

Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, became another victim of this crackdown when she was placed under house arrest after she returned home from visiting Liu in prison after he had won the Nobel prize.. Amnesty International profiles five other prominent Chinese activists who have been locked up for daring to criticise the government.

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Netanyahu Tries to Scuttle Peace Talks Again

by Ira Chernus,, October 19, 2010

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has once against scuttled a chance for progress in the stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace process. You didn’t know? Don’t feel bad. It all happened so quickly that hardly anyone noticed it – except in Ramallah, where the Palestinian Authority has its offices. There they know all too well what happened, and why.

This latest chapter in Israel’s war against peace began at the end of September, when Netanyahu’s moratorium on expansion of the West Bank settlements ended. The U.S. called for a two-month extension, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas insisted that he’d break off the talks if building in settlements began again. How could he accept less from Israel than what the U.S. demanded?

Netanyahu kept the world in suspense in early October while he figured out what he must have thought was a clever maneuver. He’d agree to the extension, he said, in return for Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.

Background: Israel has always called on its neighbors to recognize its “right to exist.” The Palestinians gave that recognition many years ago. Under Netanyahu, the Israeli government has upped the ante: demanding recognition of Israel as “a Jewish state” and “the state of the Jewish people” and dishonestly treating the new demand as equivalent to simply recognizing Israel’s “right to exist,” knowing full well that the Palestinians would find it much harder to accept this new version of the demand. In fact, Netanyahu must have hoped the Palestinians would find it impossible.

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Report Shows Drones Strikes Based on Scant Evidence

By Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct 18, 2010 (IPS) – New information on the Central Intelligence Agency’s campaign of drone strikes in northwest Pakistan directly contradicts the image the Barack Obama administration and the CIA have sought to establish in the news media of a programme based on highly accurate targeting that is effective in disrupting al Qaeda’s terrorist plots against the United States.

A new report on civilian casualties in the war in Pakistan has revealed direct evidence that a house was targeted for a drone attack merely because it had been visited by a group of Taliban soldiers.

The report came shortly after publication of the results of a survey of opinion within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan showing overwhelming popular opposition to the drone strikes and majority support for suicide attacks on U.S. forces under some circumstances.

Meanwhile, data on targeting of the drone strikes in Pakistan indicate that they have now become primarily an adjunct of the U.S. war in Afghanistan, targeting almost entirely militant groups involved in the Afghan insurgency rather than al Qaeda officials involved in plotting global terrorism.

The new report published by the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) last week offers the first glimpse of the drone strikes based on actual interviews with civilian victims of the strikes.

In an interview with a researcher for CIVIC, a civilian victim of a drone strike in North Waziristan carried out during the Obama administration recounted how his home had been visited by Taliban troops asking for lunch. He said he had agreed out of fear of refusing them.

The very next day, he recalled, the house was destroyed by a missile from a drone, killing his only son.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Johann Hari: Obama’s robot wars endanger us all

The drones have killed some jihadis. But the evidence suggests they create far more jihadis than they kill – and make an attack on me or you more likely with each bomb

The Independent, Oct 15, 2010

Imagine if, an hour from now, a robot-plane swooped over your house and blasted it to pieces. The plane has no pilot. It is controlled with a joystick from 7,000 miles away, sent by the Pakistani military to kill you. It blows up all the houses in your street, and so barbecues your family and your neighbours until there is nothing left to bury but a few charred slops. Why? They refuse to comment. They don’t even admit the robot-planes belong to them. But they tell the Pakistani newspapers back home it is because one of you was planning to attack Pakistan. How do they know? Somebody told them. Who? You don’t know, and there are no appeals against the robot.

Now imagine it doesn’t end there: these attacks are happening every week somewhere in your country. They blow up funerals and family dinners and children. The number of robot-planes in the sky is increasing every week. You discover they are named “Predators”, or “Reapers” – after the Grim Reaper. No matter how much you plead, no matter how much you make it clear you are a peaceful civilian getting on with your life, it won’t stop. What do you do? If there was a group arguing that Pakistan was an evil nation that deserved to be violently attacked, would you now start to listen?

This sounds like a sketch for the next James Cameron movie – but it is in fact an accurate description of life in much of Pakistan today, with the sides flipped. The Predators and Reapers are being sent by Barack Obama’s CIA, with the support of other Western governments, and they killed more than 700 civilians in 2009 alone – 14 times the number killed in the 7/7 attacks in London. The floods were seen as an opportunity to increase the attacks, and last month saw the largest number of robot-plane bombings ever: 22. Over the next decade, spending on drones is set to increase by 700 per cent.

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CIA paid Liverpool buyout tycoon millions…to use his jet for ‘torture’ flights

By Sharon Churcher and Chris Hastings, Daily Mail, Oct 18, 2010

Paid by the CIA: Philip Morse, above right, with ex-U.S. president George Bush Snr

A jet owned by a senior executive in the US firm which has bought Liverpool Football Club was chartered by the CIA and used in flights allegedly linked to the rendition of terror suspects.

The plane is owned by Phillip Morse, 69, the vice-chairman of New England Sports Ventures, which bought the club on Friday for £300million.

An investigation has established that between 2002 and 2005 the CIA chartered the plane from Mr Morse for millions of pounds and made extensive use of it.
Paid by the CIA: Philip Morse, above right, with ex-U.S. president George Bush SnrPaid by the CIA: Philip Morse, above right, with ex-U.S. president George Bush Snr

Inquiries by the European Parliament and human rights groups have linked the plane to alleged extraordinary rendition operations which took place during the same period.

A European Parliament report linked the jet directly to the abduction of Abu Omar, an Islamic preacher, who was snatched from a Milan street by the CIA in 2003 before being taken to Cairo.

Extraordinary rendition entails the abduction and transfer of a terrorist suspect from one country to another. People have been taken to states such as Egypt, Syria, Morocco and Uzbekistan which are suspected of practising torture in violation of a United Nations Convention.

The disclosure that such a senior figure in New England Sports Ventures (NESV) has been paid millions by the CIA is likely to alarm football fans already concerned that one of the country’s most prestigious clubs is still in American hands.

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