Monday, January 31, 2011

Pakistan: six months after the floods

The Independent, Januaary 31, 2011

Six months ago Pakistan experienced some of the worst flooding on record. Seventy-year-old Langkhan was among the millions of people forced to flee their homes. Department for International Development/Victoria Francis
Six months ago Pakistan experienced some of the worst flooding on record. Seventy-year-old Langkhan was among the millions of people forced to flee their homes.

It has been six months since devastating floods first hit Pakistan, killing nearly two thousand people, destroying some 10,000 schools, two million homes, and hundreds of bridges, roads, electricity pylons. More than two million hectares of crops were destroyed or damaged. In total some 14 million people were displaced, forced to abandon their homes.  
The floods are the worst the world has ever recorded, with parts of southern Pakistan still under several feet of water. However, the vast majority of people forced to flee from the floods have now returned to what's left of their homes, and started to try and rebuild their lives.

The UK government was one of the first to respond and has helped millions of people like those pictured here, by providing shelter, food, seeds, blankets, safe drinking water, toilets, medical care, hygiene kit, and more.

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Mubarak’s dictatorship must end now

It is in the interest of autocratic Arab nations to note the mood in Egypt and effect change 

Observer, January 30, 2011

Days of rage in Egypt signify the end of days for Hosni Mubarak’s repressive and bankrupt regime. For 30 years, the president has held his country down through fear, secret police, emergency laws, American cash subsidies and a lamentable absence of vision and imagination. His crude, Gaullist message: without me, chaos. Now the chaos has come anyway. And Mubarak must go.

Five days of rage on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and dozens of other cities have transformed the way Egypt sees itself. For years, they said it was impossible. The regime was too powerful, the masses too apathetic, the security apparatus too ubiquitous. Like eastern Europeans trapped in the Soviet Union’s cold, pre-1991 embrace, they struggled in the dark, without help, without hope. Movements for change, such as Kefaya (Enough!), were brutally suppressed. Courageous dissidents such as Ayman Nour were harassed, beaten and imprisoned.

Yet all the time, pressure for reform was rising. Every day, higher prices, economic stagnation, poverty and unemployment, political stasis, official corruption and a stifled, censored public space became less and less tolerable. Every day, impatience with the regime’s insulting insouciance bred more enemies. Hatred seeped like poison through the veins of the people. Until, at last, in five days of rage, as if as one, they cried: “Enough!” And now, Mubarak must go.

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US Cynicism Explodes in Egypt

By Jeff Cohen, Consortium News, January 29, 2011

Editor’s Note: As a popular uprising challenges the pro-U.S. dictatorship in Egypt, Washington’s cynical strategy of talking about democracy while relying on repressive Arab regimes to maintain order is entering a dangerous moment.
The course of this history could have been quite different, as Jeff Cohen notes in this guest essay:

In the last year of his life, Martin Luther King Jr. questioned U.S. military interventions against progressive movements in the Third World by invoking a JFK quote: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

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Were he alive to have witnessed the last three decades of U.S. foreign policy, King might update that quote by noting: “Those who make secular revolution impossible will make extreme Islamist revolution inevitable.”

For decades beginning during the Cold War, U.S. policy in the Islamic world has been aimed at suppressing secular reformist and leftist movements.
Beginning with the CIA-engineered coup against a secular democratic reform government in Iran in 1953 (it was about oil), Washington has propped up dictators, coaching these regimes in the black arts of torture and mayhem against secular liberals and the Left.

In these dictatorships, often the only places where people had freedom to meet and organize were mosques — and out of these mosques sometimes grew extreme Islamist movements. The Shah’s torture state in Iran was brilliant at cleansing and murdering the Left – a process that helped the rise of the Khomeini movement and ultimately Iran’s Islamic Republic.

Growing out of what M.L. King called Washington’s “irrational, obsessive anti-communism,” U.S. foreign policy also backed extreme Islamists over secular movements or government that were either Soviet-allied or feared to be.

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Robert Fisk: A people defies its dictator, and a nation’s future is in the balance

A brutal regime is fighting, bloodily, for its life. Robert Fisk reports from the streets of Cairo

The Independent, January 29, 2011

Egyptian demonstrators brave police water cannons and tear gas during the widespread running battles in Cairo
Reuters: Egyptian demonstrators brave police water cannons and tear gas during the widespread running battles in Cairo 
It might be the end. It is certainly the beginning of the end. Across Egypt, tens of thousands of Arabs braved tear gas, water cannons, stun grenades and live fire yesterday to demand the removal of Hosni Mubarak after more than 30 years of dictatorship.
And as Cairo lay drenched under clouds of tear gas from thousands of canisters fired into dense crowds by riot police, it looked as if his rule was nearing its finish. None of us on the streets of Cairo yesterday even knew where Mubarak – who would later appear on television to dismiss his cabinet – was. And I didn’t find anyone who cared.

They were brave, largely peaceful, these tens of thousands, but the shocking behaviour of Mubarak’s plainclothes battagi – the word does literally mean “thugs” in Arabic – who beat, bashed and assaulted demonstrators while the cops watched and did nothing, was a disgrace. These men, many of them ex-policemen who are drug addicts, were last night the front line of the Egyptian state. The true representatives of Hosni Mubarak as uniformed cops showered gas on to the crowds.

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Life improved for Pakyarani’s family when the war ended, but then the floods came and washed away their hopes.  
Al Jazeera,  29 Jan 2011
Pakyarani and her four children have returned to their flood-damaged home in a remote village, but with their crops destroyed they have no way of affording food or repaying their debts
Recent flooding in eastern Sri Lanka destroyed thousands of homes, devastated the rice crop and drowned thousands of livestock. A million people, 40 per cent of them children, are at risk of serious hunger as a result. Some of the worst-affected areas were only just recovering from decades of conflict and the tsunami when the floods hit, and the people who live there are facing their third humanitarian emergency in less than 10 years.

Among those at risk of the impending food crisis is Pakyarani, a 32-year-old farmer’s wife and mother of four. She lives with her family in a remote village in Batticaloa, one of the districts most affected by the floods. She tells her story:

“I live with my husband, Ravicandran, and my four children: Ravikumar is 13, Nivedika is eight, Rujanika is six and Mohana is two.

We own a paddy field and that is the main source of income for our family. My husband also works as a brick-maker and sometimes as a daily labourer. For many years our village was caught up in the war and we often had to run from shelling and hide in the ditch for safety. Once, during the shelling, my husband fell and broke his leg. We were not able to get proper treatment and he has not been able to work properly since.

After the war ended, things got better for us. We were able to start growing crops and we bought two cows. Although some people in our village moved into brick houses, we didn’t. We stayed in our two-roomed clay hut until earlier this month, when the floods came.

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Why the Fuss? The Call to Arms against UN Rapporteur Richard Falk for Alluding to Gaps in the 9/11 Official Story

By Elizabeth Woodworth, World Policy Journal, January 28, 2011
A former Princeton international law professor has been condemned by the UN Secretary General and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations for alluding to “an apparent cover-up” of the events of September 11th, 2001.

On January 11, 2011, UN Special Envoy to Palestine Richard Falk posted on his personal blog an article entitled “Interrogating the Arizona Killings from a Safe Distance.”[1]
Dr. Falk made a tangential point in his blog-post that governments too often abuse their authority by treating “awkward knowledge as a matter of state secrets”.

Richard Falk
To illustrate the point, he referred to gaps and contradictions in the official account of the 9/11 attacks, which have been documented in the scholarly works of Dr. David Ray Griffin, a professor emeritus of philosophy of religion and theology.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dead-Enders on the Potomac

From the Editors, January 29, 2011

Every US administration has its mouthpiece in Washington’s think tank world, its courtier that will slavishly praise its every utterance. For the blessedly bygone Bush administration, that echo chamber was the American Enterprise Institute and the neo-conservative broadsheets in its orbit. For the Obama administration, it is the National Security Network, an operation founded in 2006 to bring “strategic focus to the progressive national security community.”

With one US-backed Arab despot dislodged and dodging Interpol, and another facing an intifada of historic proportions, many eyes looked to Washington, hopeful that President Barack Obama might reprise his ballyhooed Cairo speech of June 2009, showing the restive Arab masses that he felt and, perhaps, really understood their pain. Instead, Arab populations have heard a variation on Washington’s long-standing theme: “The Obama administration seeks to encourage political reforms without destabilizing the region.” That sentence, taken from the National Security Network’s January 27 press release, says it all: Democracy is great in theory, but if it will cause any disruption to business as usual, Washington prefers dictatorship.

And so it was no surprise, though a deep and indelible blot upon Obama and his “progressive” entourage, when the president took a White House lectern on the evening of January 28 — Egypt’s “Friday of Rage” — and announced his continued backing for the indefensible regime of President Husni Mubarak. In so doing, he ensured that the Arab fury of the winter of 2011 would be directed increasingly toward the United States as well as its regional vassals.

January 28 in Egypt was a rollercoaster of a day. The mass demonstrations following up on the January 25 Police Day uprising turned out to be larger and more vehement than even optimistic observers expected. Police stations and ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) headquarters burned to the ground in the middle-class Cairo neighborhoods of al-Azbakiyya and Sayyida Zaynab, as well as in poorer quarters, in Alexandria, Suez, Port Said, Damietta and Damanhour as well as in Upper Egypt and the Sinai. The NDP’s home base in Cairo’s main Tahrir Square itself went up in flames. Alexandria, Egypt’s second city, was overrun by protesters who had overwhelmed the riot police. Tanks rolled in to the cities; a curfew was declared; but the crowds ignored it and the army (for the most part) did not shoot at them.

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Protesters back on Egypt streets

Crowds mass in major cities calling for President Mubarak to step down, as death toll from protests crosses 50.    
Al Jazeera,  29 Jan 2011
Protesters in Egypt are calling for “regime change, not cabinet change”, our correspondent said [GALLO/GETTY]
Protesters are returning to the streets of Egypt, following violent overnight demonstrations across the country staged in defiance of a curfew.

Demonstrators gathered in Tahrir Square in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, on Saturday morning, shouting “Go away, go away!”, the Reuters news agency said.

Similar crowds were gathering in the cities of Alexandria and Suez, Al Jazeera’s correspondents reported.

In Alexandria, our correspondent Rawya Rageh reported that dozens of marchers were calling on Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to step down.

“They are calling for regime change, not cabinet change,” Rageh said.

In Suez, Al Jazeera’s Jamal ElShayyal reported that protesters were gathering, and that the military was not confronting them.

ElShayyal quoted a military officer as saying that troops would “not fire a single bullet on Egyptians”, regardless of where the orders to do so come from.

The latest protests reflected popular discontent with Mubarak’s midnight address, where he announced that he was dismissing his government but remaining in power.

In pictures: ‘Day of Anger’

Update: Egypt protests

Unrest in social media

Debate: First Tunisia, now Egypt?

Can Egyptians revolt?

Egypt’s protests on Twitter

Pictures: Anger in Egypt
The several hundred protesters in Tahrir Square demonstrated in full view of the army, which had been deployed in the city to quell the popular unrest sweeping the Middle East’s most populous Muslim country since January 25.

They also repeatedly shouted that their intentions were peaceful.

Reuters reported that the police “fired shots” on the protesters in Cairo. An independent confirmation of that report is awaited.

The road leading from Tahrir Square to the parliament and cabinet buildings has been blocked by the military, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Al Jazeera’s Jane Dutton, reporting from Cairo, said the normally bustling city looked more like a warzone early on Saturday morning.
Tanks have been patrolling the streets of the capital since early in the morning.

Rising death toll
Cities across Egypt witnessed unprecedented protests on Friday, with tens of thousands of protesters taking to the streets after noon prayers calling for an end to Mubarak’s 30-year rule.

The number of people killed in protests is reported to be in the scores, with at least 23 deaths confirmed in Alexandria, and at least 15 confirmed in Suez, with a further 15 deaths in Cairo.
Al Jazeera’s Rageh in Alexandria said that the bodies of 23 protesters had been received at the local morgue, some of them brutally disfigured.

ElShayyal, our correspondent in Suez confirmed 15 bodies were received at the morgue in Suez, while Dan Nolan, our correspondent in Cairo, confirmed that 15 bodies were present at a morgue in Cairo.

More than 1,000 were also wounded in Friday’s violent protests, which occurred in Cairo and Suez, in addition to Alexandria.

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WikiLeaks Cables Detail Egyptian Repression, Torture

Obama Administration Fully Aware, Reluctant to Press Mubarak

by Jason Ditz,,  January 28, 2011
With the eyes of the world already on Egypt, WikiLeaks released a massive collection of cables related to Egypt today, detailing broad-based repression of political dissident and indeed even those officials conceivably could see as undermining their rule.

Egyptian officials moved against journalists, novelists, bloggers, even amateur poets, for criticism of the government and detailing the levels of police brutality around the world.

But the Obama Administration didn’t need those outlets detailing the level of brutality in the Mubarak regime, cables show that they were fully aware of it from the start. NGOs described torture as “endemic” and said hundreds of cases of torture against petty criminals, political dissidents, even random bystanders, were occurring daily in Cairo alone.

The Obama Administration continues to insist they have been pushing for “reforms” but the cables reveal that it isn’t the case, and that even broaching the subject of police brutality was considered a touchy issue for many, and led to harsh rebukes by Egypt that the US would be supporting “Communists.” The official US response was to increase funding for the police in hopes that more money and better training would lead them to torture less. Even then, officials confirmed Egypt “has not begun serious work on trying to transform the police and security service.”

One US Corporation’s Role in Egypt’s Brutal Crackdown

Timothy Karr, The Huffington Post, Jan 28, 2011

The open Internet’s role in popular uprising is now undisputed. Look no further than Egypt, where the Mubarak regime today reportedly shut down Internet and cell phone communications — a troubling predictor of the fierce crackdown that has followed.
What’s even more troubling is news that one American company is aiding Egypt’s harsh response through sales of technology that makes this repression possible.

The power of open networks is clear. The Internet’s favorite offspring — Twitter, Facebook and YouTube — are now heralded on CNN, BBC and Fox News as flag-bearers for a new era of citizen journalism and activism. (More and more these same news organizations have abandoned their own, more traditional means of newsgathering to troll social media for breaking information.)

But the open Internet’s power cuts both ways: The tools that connect, organize and empower protesters can also be used to hunt them down.

Telecom Egypt, the nation’s dominant phone and Internet service provider, is a state-run enterprise, which made it easy on Friday morning for authorities to pull the plug and plunge much of the nation into digital darkness.

Moreover, Egypt also has the ability to spy on Internet and cell phone users, by opening their communication packets and reading their contents. Iran used similar methods during the 2009 unrest to track, imprison and in some cases, “disappear” truckloads of cyber-dissidents.

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Egypt, Tunisia, and the fight against US imperialism

Bill Van Auken,, Jan 28, 2011

Two weeks after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Arab leaders that their region’s “foundations are sinking into the sand”, the growing revolutionary upsurge of the masses has revealed that the pillars of Washington’s own policy in the Middle East are rotten and crumbling.

The mass uprising that toppled the 23-year rule of Tunisian dictator Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali has now been followed by tens of thousands of young demonstrators in Egypt taking to the streets, defying security forces, and in increasing numbers giving their lives, to demand the downfall of Hosni Mubarak and his nearly three-decade-old regime. Thousands more demonstrated Thursday in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, calling for the ouster of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled the country for more than 30 years.

In every case, masses of youth and workers have risen up against regimes that are synonymous with social inequality, corruption, political repression and torture and which have been firmly aligned with and largely financed by US imperialism. They have been driven to act by the same conditions of unemployment, rising prices and government abuse that led the young Tunisian Mohamed Bouazizi to set himself ablaze in protest, inspiring the demonstrations that swept his homeland.

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Imran Khan in Davos Criticizes War in Afghanistan

By Amy Kellogg,, January 27, 2011

Former cricket star turned Pakistani politician Imran Khan. 
AFP  Former cricket star turned Pakistani politician Imran Khan.

DAVOS, Switzerland — Former cricket star turned Pakistani politician Imran Khan has been working the corridors of the World Economic Forum in Davos, with a message about the war in Afghanistan, which has spilled over into Pakistan.

“This war on terror is a disaster for the people of the U.S. It’s a bigger disaster for the people of Pakistan. It is causing more radicalization, more polarization in the society. The war is perceived by the vast majority as a war against Islam and because it is perceived as a war against Islam there is no shortage of people willing to die for it.”

Khan is the leader of the Tehreek-e-Insaf party in Pakistan, which is trying to make inroads on the political scene, and eventually take power. Pessimistic about the prospects for the war in Afghanistan to succeed, he says the situation in his own country has become worse in the past few years. He points to the recent assassination of provincial Governor Salman Taseer, who was shot by a bodyguard opposed to his relatively liberal views.

Taseer had called for leniency in the case of a Christian mother sentenced to death und
er the blasphemy ban. He was outspoken against the blasphemy law. In the wake of his assassination, people have come out and staged protests in support of his confessed killer.

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Friday, January 28, 2011

Cow Most Sacred: Why Military Spending Remains Untouchable

By Andrew J. Bacevich,, Jan 27, 2011

In defense circles, “cutting” the Pentagon budget has once again become a topic of conversation.  Americans should not confuse that talk with reality.  Any cuts exacted will at most reduce the rate of growth.  The essential facts remain: U.S. military outlays today equal that of every other nation on the planet combined, a situation without precedent in modern history.

The Pentagon presently spends more in constant dollars than it did at any time during the Cold War — this despite the absence of anything remotely approximating what national security experts like to call a “peer competitor.”  Evil Empire?  It exists only in the fevered imaginations of those who quiver at the prospect of China adding a rust-bucket Russian aircraft carrier to its fleet or who take seriously the ravings of radical Islamists promising from deep inside their caves to unite the Umma in a new caliphate.

What are Americans getting for their money?  Sadly, not much.  Despite extraordinary expenditures (not to mention exertions and sacrifices by U.S. forces), the return on investment is, to be generous, unimpressive.  The chief lesson to emerge from the battlefields of the post-9/11 era is this: the Pentagon possesses next to no ability to translate “military supremacy” into meaningful victory.

Washington knows how to start wars and how to prolong them, but is clueless when it comes to ending them.  Iraq, the latest addition to the roster of America’s forgotten wars, stands as exhibit A.  Each bomb that blows up in Baghdad or some other Iraqi city, splattering blood all over the streets, testifies to the manifest absurdity of judging “the surge” as the epic feat of arms celebrated by the Petraeus lobby.

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Afghanistan: War Without End In A World Without Conscience

The largest foreign military force ever deployed in Afghanistan is now well into the tenth year of the longest and what has become the deadliest war of the 21st century.
Some 154,000 occupation troops, almost two-thirds American and the rest from fifty other nations, are waging an armed conflict that has become more lethal with each succeeding year.

At the beginning of this month Agence France-Presse calculated that over 10,000 people had been killed in Afghanistan in 2010. Based on official Afghan government figures and those from the icasualties website, record-level fatalities were documented in every category:

The U.S., its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies and assorted NATO partnership nations lost 711 soldiers, a substantial increase from the preceding year when the death toll was 521. The remaining 9,370 killed were Afghans. According to AFP they were:

810 government troops, 1,292 police, 2,043 civilians and 5,225 people referred to as “militants.” It is uncertain how many dead in the last category properly belong in the one preceding it. The United Nations, for example, said 2,412 civilians were killed and 3,803 wounded in the first ten months of last year, a 20 percent increase over 2009.

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PA stonewalled the Goldstone vote

PA, with US encouragement, delayed a UN vote on the Goldstone Report into war crimes committed during Israel’s Gaza war.   
S. Farhan Mustafa, Al Jazeera , 26 Jan 2011
The Palestine Papers reveal the conversations between US and PA officials in the days before the vote [EPA]
On October 2, 2009, the UN Human Rights Council was widely expected to pass a resolution supporting the Goldstone Report, the UN’s probe of war crimes committed during Israel’s war in Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009.

The Council instead agreed to delay a vote on the report until March 2010, following major reservations expressed by the Palestinian Authority, the United States and Israel.

A UNHRC endorsement of the report would have brought Israeli officials one step closer to prosecution before a war crimes tribunal, an event many Palestinians were anxious to see.

But, as The Palestine Papers reveal, the Palestinian Authority apparently sacrificed a potential victory for Palestinian victims in exchange for favorable assurances on negotiations from the United States and, they hoped, from Israel.

Quid pro quo

The Goldstone Report, formally known as the Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, was released in mid-September 2009 amid calls for a review of Israel’s wartime practices. The probe was led by Richard Goldstone, a former South African judge; it identified war crimes committed overwhelmingly by Israeli forces, but also by Hamas, during Israel’s war on Gaza.

“Bad faith”

Both the United States and Israel were outspoken in their criticism of the report, claiming that any UN endorsement would endanger the peace process and future Palestinian-Israeli negotiations.

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has already admitted that the PA asked for the postponement; he said at the time it was to secure more international support before the vote.
“Since we felt we would not be able to gather enough support we asked for the postponement,” Abbas said in October 2009. “We wanted to reach mechanisms that would ensure the implementation of the decision and punish the perpetrators of crimes against our people.”

What The Palestine Papers demonstrate is that, in the weeks preceding the vote, the United States apparently urged the PA to stall the report as a means of restarting negotiations with Israel.

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Hosni Mubarak, our man in Cairo: Egypt’s protesters have grown impatient with U.S. realism

By Eric Trager, NY Daily News, Thursday, January 27th 2011

Obama meets with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the White House in August, 2009.
Obama meets with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak at the White House in August, 2009.
CAIRO – Last night, as the second day of popular demonstrations that have gripped huge chunks of downtown Cairo and beyond continued past dusk, a hundreds-strong crowd outside the Lawyers Syndicate suddenly swapped slogans.

After hours of chanting, “usqut, usqut ya Mubarak!” – “Fall, fall Mubarak!” – they turned their tongues toward another target: “Mubarak ‘ameel American!” – “Mubarak is an American agent!”

It remains unclear where these demonstrations are heading and what their long-term implications will be. But there remains one long-term certainty: Someday, President Hosni Mubarak will either retire or die. And when this happens, he will leave behind approximately 80 million constituents, many of whom will blame the United States for backing his brutal rule even in its most unsympathetic moments.

And the blame game is already starting.

This is not to say that the United States tops the demonstrators’ grievance list – the regime, which has ruled the country for 29 years, does, along with the many facets of its domestic repression. But in conversations, demonstrators routinely express their disapproval of the United States’ longtime financial support for the very security forces that stand in the way of their freedom. They call the U.S. “arrogant,” “disrespectful” and “hypocritical.”

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Egyptian anti-government protests – in pictures

Pakistan flood crisis as bad as African famines, UN says

Unicef survey shows almost a quarter of people malnourished in Sindh province six months after floods 

Declan Walsh in Islamabad, The Guardian, Jan 27, 2011

Pakistanis wave to an army helicopter dropping food aid to a village in Sindh after the floods
Pakistanis wave to an army helicopter dropping food aid to a village in Sindh after the floods. A survey found 6% of people in the province are severely underfed. Photograph: Declan Walsh for the Guardian

A “humanitarian crisis of epic proportions” is unfolding in flood-hit areas of southern Pakistan where malnutrition rates rival those of African countries affected by famine, according to the United Nations.

In Sindh province, where some villages are still under water six months after the floods, almost one quarter of people are malnourished while 6% are severely underfed, a Unicef survey has found.

“I haven’t seen malnutrition this bad since the worst of the famine in Ethiopia, Darfur and Chad. It’s shockingly bad,” said Karen Allen, deputy head of Unicef in Pakistan.
The survey reflects the continuing impact of the massive August floods, which affected 20 million people across an area the size of England, sweeping away 2.2m hectares of farmland.

The figures were alarming, Neva Khan, of Oxfam, said.

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American drone attacks provoke fury in Pakistan

By James Cogan,, January 26, 2011

Thousands of people rallied on Sunday in Mir Ali, a town in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal agency, and in Peshawar, the capital of the country’s north-west Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, in furious protest against a wave of US Predator missile strikes on homes and vehicles inside Pakistan.Hundreds of Pashtun tribesmen spontaneously assembled for the Mir Ali demonstration. Just hours before, a Predator had stalked a car allegedly carrying four anti-US militants and incinerated it with Hellfire missiles when it parked in the village of Doga Madakhel. All the occupants were killed. 
Two other Predator strikes followed. A motorcycle rider and two others were killed not far from Doga Madakhel, then at least six people were killed by another missile strike on a house near Miranshah, the largest town in North Waziristan.

Sunday’s demonstration in Peshawar highlighted the growing fury in Pakistan over the US operations inside the country—which are gross violations of Pakistani sovereignty and war crimes under the Geneva Convention, which bans extrajudicial assassinations and the targeting of civilian housing and vehicles.

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Tens of thousands march in Egypt against Mubarak regime

By Johannes Stern and Stefan Steinberg ,, 26 January 2011
Police charge demonstrators
The thirty-year-old US-backed dictatorship of President Hosni Mubarak was shaken by an unprecedented wave of mass demonstrations Tuesday demanding an end to the regime. An estimated 20,000 protesters, largely youth and young workers, defied a huge deployment of riot police and paramilitary troops in the center of Cairo, and thousands more rallied in cities across the country.

The demonstrators hailed the mass protests that ousted long-time Tunisian strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali on January 14 and demanded that Mubarak follow Ben Ali’s example and resign. Police attacked the rallies in Cairo and other cities, firing tear gas and water cannon and wielding clubs. Two protesters were reported killed in Suez, east of Cairo.
The day in Cairo began with a massive buildup of police and paramilitary units in the city center. Central Security Forces trucks were deployed in front of the High Court in downtown Cairo and police moved in to cordon off large sections of the city center.

Demonstrators in Cairo advanced in star formation from the city’s suburbs to assemble in the centre. At midday, reports emerged of hundreds protesting in Dar El-Salam, south of Cairo, chanting “bread and freedom.” The protest was quickly broken up by the police.
Marchers demonstrated in front of the ruling National Democratic Party headquarters in Cairo chanting, “We want a free government” and “Down with Mubarak.” Later, crowds advanced to Tahrir Square and attempted to storm the Egyptian parliament. They were met by waves of police and security forces who used water cannon, tear gas and clubs to repulse them.

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Tunisia’s Worrying Precedent: Arab Rulers Fear Spread of Democracy Fever

By Clemens Höges, Bernhard Zand and Helene Zuber,

Spiegel Online,  Jan 25, 2011

A man attempts to set himself on fire in Cairo: The self-immolation that set off the protests that toppled Tunisia's leader has inspired copycats in other North African states.
A man attempts to set himself on fire in Cairo: The self-immolation that set off the protests that toppled Tunisia’s leader has inspired copycats in other North African states.

In the wake of Tunisia’s mostly peaceful revolution, Arab leaders are worried that their young, frustrated populations might follow suit. While the West sits back and watches, regimes stress stability over genuine democracy and hope to calm simmering discontent with cash.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom don’t have all that much in common, but they do share one thing: Neither thinks much of the revolution in Tunisia.

“I fear that we now stand before a new and very critical phase in the Arab world,” Shalom, who was himself born in Tunisia in 1958, said in an interview aired on Israeli radio on Jan. 14. Israel and the majority of its Arab neighbors now agree on the importance of fighting Islamic fundamentalism, Shalom said. His concern lies with what might happen if Arab states start becoming democratic. He fears Tunisia might “set a precedent that could be repeated in other countries, possibly affecting directly the stability of our system.” If democratic governments take over Israel’s neighboring states, the vice prime minister said, the days of the Arab-Israeli security alliance will be over.

Gadhafi also complained that he was “very pained” to see his friend Zine El Abidine Ben Ali’s regime collapse and Tunisia descend into fear and insecurity. “What is this for?” he asked. “To change Zine El Abidine? Hasn’t he told you he would step down after three years? Be patient for three years and your son stays alive.”

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US threat to Palestinians: change leadership and we cut funds

Obama administration told Palestinian Authority its leaders must remain in office if it wants to retain US financial backing
Seumas Milne and Ian Black, The Guardian, Jan 24, 2011

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas with US president Barack Obama 
The government of Barack Obama (right) ‘expects to see the same Palestinian faces’, such as President Mahmoud Abbas (left), if it is to continue funding the Palestinian Authority. Photograph: Rex FeaturesThe Obama administration has privately made clear that it will not allow any change of Palestinian leadership in the West Bank, the leaked papers reveal, let alone any repetition of the Hamas election victory that briefly gave the Islamists control of the Palestinian Authority five years ago.
That is despite the fact that the democratic legitimacy of both the Palestinian president and Fatah leader, Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and prime minister, Salam Fayyad, is strongly contested among Palestinians, and there are no plans for new elections in either the West Bank or Gaza.

“The new US administration expects to see the same Palestinian faces (Abu Mazen and Salam Fayyad) if it is to continue funding the Palestinian Authority,” the then assistant secretary of state David Welch is recorded as telling Fayyad in November 2008. Most of the PA’s funding comes from the US and European Union.

Almost a year later, the secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, reacted angrily to news that Abbas had threatened to resign and call for new presidential elections. She told Palestinian negotiators: “Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] not running in the election is not an option – there is no alternative to him.” The threat was withdrawn and no election was held.

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Robert Fisk: A new truth dawns on the Arab world

Leaked Palestinian files have put a region in revolutionary mood 

The Independent, January 26, 2011

Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority's chief negotiator, during a rally yesterday  
Reuters: Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian Authority’s chief negotiator, during a rally yesterday
The Palestine Papers are as damning as the Balfour Declaration. The Palestinian “Authority” – one has to put this word in quotation marks – was prepared, and is prepared to give up the “right of return” of perhaps seven million refugees to what is now Israel for a “state” that may be only 10 per cent (at most) of British mandate Palestine.And as these dreadful papers are revealed, the Egyptian people are calling for the downfall of President Mubarak, and the Lebanese are appointing a prime minister who will supply the Hezbollah. Rarely has the Arab world seen anything like this.
To start with the Palestine Papers, it is clear that the representatives of the Palestinian people were ready to destroy any hope of the refugees going home.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Indian Hindu Nationalists March to Kashmir

World Bulletin, January  25, 2011
Thousands of Indian Hindu-nationalist opposition supporters massed on a bridge to the disputed Muslim Kashmir region on Tuesday as officials sought to stop a flag-raising ceremony that could spark violence.

Police faced off with flag-waving Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers as authorities sealed routes into Kashmir to thwart the planned raising of the national flag in the Muslim state that majority opposes to Indian rule.

Police forced about 7,000 marchers on to buses and drove them away, police sources said, while the remaining 2,500 protesters attempting to cross the border from the Jammu region into Kashmir faced arrest or detention.

Officials in Kashmir fear that the symbolic show of Indian cental control over the disputed region could trigger protests in which more than 100 people were killed by police fire last year.
“There is no justification whatsoever to push a political agenda that will certainly affect peace and law and order in the state of Jammu and Kashmir,” Home Minister P. Chidamabaram said in a statement.

“It would be most unfortunate if the BJP leaders defy the restrictions placed by the state government or deliberately cause a breach of the peace.”

The state government, backed by the ruling Congress party, sealed all road links into the state, media reported, a day after BJP leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley were detained at the airport in the main Kashmiri city of Srinagar and sent back out.

Senior BJP officials have said raising the national flag in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir, to celebrate India’s Republic Day on Wednesday, was a “patriotic right”, and have vowed to push on with their march to the city.

“We have started march towards J&K … We are marching in a group of 500 people holding tricolour (flag)… Huge police presence on the other side of the bridge,” Swaraj, the BJP leader in the lower house of parliament, posted on Twitter.

In 1948, the United Nations adopted a resolution calling for a referendum for Kashmir to determine whether the Himalayan region should be part of India and Pakistan. But India has rejected to hold referendum in Kashmiri territory.


Hindutva: A Story of Hate and Terror

Promising Hindu superiority, Hindutva has been turned into a vicious doctrine that promotes ultra-nationalism, religious fundamentalism and intolerance

Shahid R. Siddiqi, Foreign Policy Journal, January 25, 2011

Muslims are a suspect community in India and, in some states more than others, are increasingly becoming targets of scorn and terrorism at the hands of radical and fundamentalist Hindu outfits. What lies at the root of this is a fundamental change in the outlook of a segment of Hindus towards non-Hindus and minorities.
They call this doctrine of hate and terror, ‘Hindutva’.

In an election related petition before the Bombay High Court the appellants contended that an appeal to vote for Hindutva amounted to an appeal to vote on grounds of religion and therefore is a corrupt practice under the law. The respondents argued that ‘Dharma’ or ‘Hindutva’ or ‘Hinduism’ are all synonymous terms and appeal to vote for Hindutva was not for religion, but for culture. The Bombay High Court agreed that Hindutva or Hinduism was culture falling within Article 29 of the Constitution.

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Aafia Siddiqui’s Lawyer: “She was Detained for Five Years in a Black Site” and “Forced to Create Documents to Incriminate Herself”

Andy Worthington,, January 25, 2011


My thanks to an eagle-eyed supporter for pointing out that, on January 11, the Voice of the Cape radio station in South Africa interviewed Elaine Whitfield Sharp, the lawyer for Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani neuroscientist whose 86-year sentence in a New York courtroom last September — for allegedly trying and failing to shoot at her US captors in Afghanistan, and her imprisonment in Carswell, a notorious psychiatric facility in Texas — have seemed to her supporters to crown, in a typically lawless, brutal and overblown manner, the long story of her presumed detention in a US-run “black site” for five years and four months before her alleged reappearance in Afghanistan, the encounter with US soldiers that prompted her rendition to justice in the US, and her trial last year in which all mention of her missing years was suppressed.
I have written at length about Dr. Siddiqui’s case before, and encourage anyone interested in her story to check out my archive of articles, and also to visit the website of the Justice for Aafia Coalition, and I’m delighted to add Elaine Whitfield Sharp’s interview with Voice of the Cape radio (cross-posted below, with minor corrections), because of her open declaration that Dr. Siddiqui was not a terrorist, and that, after her capture in Karachi in March 2003, by Pakistani forces and the CIA, she was “taken to some off-site country — a third-world nation, possibly Jordan or Afghanistan — where she was detained for five years in a black site or secret prison. Here she was forced to create documents to incriminate herself to support what we see in this war on terror. She was then dumped in Afghanistan with a bag that conveniently had incriminating documents.”
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‘Palestinians agreed to cede nearly all Jewish areas of East Jerusalem’

Newly leaked documents reveal series of concessions made to Israel by PA negotiators; East Jerusalem offer was rejected as it didn’t include settlements deeper in West Bank.
Barak Ravid, Haaretz, January 24, 2011

Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to concede almost all Jewish areas of East Jerusalem to Israel, the Guardian newspaper and Al-Jazeera TV reported on Saturday. As many as 1,600 Palestinian documents on peace talks with Israel, obtained by Al Jazeera TV and given to the Guardian, covering more than a decade of exchanges, provide a unique look into the breakdown of the peace process.

The biggest leak of confidential documents in the history of the conflict has revealed that Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to accept Israel’s annexation of all but one of the neighborhoods, Har Homa, built in East Jerusalem.

This was one in a series of concessions made to Israel by Palestinian negotiators in an effort to move closer to independent statehood. The documents give the impression of a weakened Palestinian Authority and growing desperation among its leaders because of impasses in talks and the growing strength of Hamas.

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The Palestine Papers and What They Reveal About the US-Israeli Agenda

By KATHLEEN CHRISTISON, Counterpunch, January 25, 2011 

Many people told them so — told them, meaning told the United States and Israel and even the overeager Palestinian leadership, that the Oslo agreement in1993 wasn’t fair, that it made too many demands of the Palestinians and virtually no enforceable demands of Israel; that the United States, no honest broker or neutral mediator, was looking out only for Israel’s interests and cared nothing for Palestinian concerns; that the peace process breakdown at Camp David in 2000 was not the fault of the Palestinians but was the responsibility of President Clinton and his “Israeli lawyer” advisers for representing only Israel’s needs; that while Clinton demanded Palestinian concessions, he was winking at Israel’s steady expansion of settlements and land grabs in Palestinian territory; that Clinton’s two successors did the same.

Many analysts told them that hopes for a genuine two-state solution died in the 1990s — indeed, were never realistic — because Israel, with U.S. knowledge and support, was swallowing Palestine, eating the pizza they were supposed to be negotiating over, as many Palestinians have said.  But no one in power in the United States or the international community or in the media listened.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Craig Murray: Afghanistan is the reason why EU ignores atrocities

Over a million children are taken out of school every year to pick cotton in dreadful – often fatal – conditions
The Independent, Jan 24, 2011

Today the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, will host an official visit by the Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov.This may seem a peculiar thing for the European Union to do. Karimov is infamous for the massacre of over 700 demonstrators at Andijan in 2005, for the boiling alive of dissident Muzaffar Avazov in 2002, for some 10,000 political prisoners held in ex-Soviet gulags, for banning all Western media organisations and reporters, for the imprisonment in lunatic asylums of dissident journalists including his own nephew, for the jailing of HIV campaigners for corrupting public morals… 

That list could go on and on without my having to stop and think.

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Secret papers reveal slow death of Middle East peace process

Massive new leak lifts lid on negotiations
• PLO offered up key settlements in East Jerusalem
• Concessions made on refugees and Holy sites

• Israel spurned offer of ‘biggest Jerusalem in history’
• Palestinian leaders weak – and increasingly desperate
• The story behind the Palestine papers
Palestine papers reveal concessions by peace negotiators on areas like Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount 
The Palestine papers reveal the offer of concessions by Palestinian peace negotiators on areas such as the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount holy sites in Jerusalem. Photograph: Awad Awad/AFP/Getty Images
The biggest leak of confidential documents in the history of the Middle East conflict has revealed that Palestinian negotiators secretly agreed to accept Israel‘s annexation of all but one of the settlements built illegally in occupied East Jerusalem. This unprecedented proposal was one of a string of concessions that will cause shockwaves among Palestinians and in the wider Arab world. 
A cache of thousands of pages of confidential Palestinian records covering more than a decade of negotiations with Israel and the US has been obtained by al-Jazeera TV and shared exclusively with the Guardian. The papers provide an extraordinary and vivid insight into the disintegration of the 20-year peace process, which is now regarded as all but dead.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Atomvåpenmotstander Ole Kopreitan er død

Dagsavisen, 24. januar, 2011
Slik kjenner mange Ole Kopreitan: med sitt fredsbudskap og sin vogn i Oslos gater.
Slik kjenner mange Ole Kopreitan: med sitt fredsbudskap og sin vogn i Oslos gater. Foto: Scanpix

Norges mest kjente atomvåpenmotstander, Ole Andreas Kopreitan, døde søndag. Han ble 73 år gammel.

ntb i dag
Svært mange har møtt Kopreitan med sin ombygde barnevogn på Karl Johan. Han hadde et brennende fredsengasjement, og solgte buttons og plakater med klare budskap. Ikke minst i kampen mot atomvåpen.

Kopreitan var en av de første som satte kampen mot apartheid på den politiske agendaen. I 1964 stormet han, sammen med 50 ungdommer, tennisbanen på Madserud for å stoppe tennislandskampen mellom Norge og Sør-Afrika. Han ble senere dømt for sivil ulydighet, men aksjonen skapte internasjonal oppmerksomhet. En demonstrasjon mot Vietnam-krigen på Eidsvoll på selveste 17. mai skapte også oppmerksomhet.


På 60-tallet var han leder for Sosialistisk Ungdomsforbund (SUF), og senere ble han partisekretær for moderorganisasjonen Sosialistisk Folkeparti.
På slutten av 60-tallet oppsto det en splittelse der maoistene i ungdomspartiet sto mot moderpartiet. Kopreitan prøvde å lage et tredje alternativ, men trakk det korteste strået, og forsvant dermed ut av partipolitikken.
Etter bruddet med Sosialistisk Folkeparti ble han aktiv i Folkebevegelsen mot norsk medlemskap i Fellesmarkedet (EEC). Han fikk æren for å ha bygget opp organisasjonen til en omfattende folkebevegelse.

Nei til atomvåpen

Ole Kopreitan vil likevel først og fremst bli husket for sin innsats som leder for organisasjonen Nei til Atomvåpen. Han har vært aktiv i organisasjonen fra stiftelsen og fram til nå.

Han har vært organisasjonens ansikt utad og organisatorisk leder innad, og var sist på jobb i Nei til Atomvåpens lokaler torsdag. Kopreitan deltok også i internasjonale fora for atomnedrustning og var de frivillige organisasjonenes representant i FNs nedrustningsprogram.

I 2002 ble aktivisten tilkjent 60.000 kroner i erstatning og oppreisning fordi han var blitt utsatt for ulovlig overvåking. Innsynsutvalget konkluderte med at den ulovlige overvåkingen hadde funnet sted i 22 år.

Samme år fikk han Zola-prisen, utdelt av Foreningen til fremme av sivilt mot.
Ole Kopreitan ble født 19. september 1937 i Stavanger. Han vokste opp på Hitra og utdannet seg til lærer ved Sagene lærerskole, men praktiserte aldri som lærer.

Blair must face trial

 Morning Star Online,   January 21, 2011

No-one should ever be amazed at the grotesque pretexts dreamed up by Tony Blair to justify the unjustifiable.

Blair suggested to the Chilcot inquiry that he had disregarded attorney general Lord Goldsmith’s initial legal advice on the planned invasion of Iraq because it was “provisional.”

However, the then prime minister didn’t simply ignore the advice given. He stood it on its head.

Blair stood up in Parliament giving a position diametrically opposed to what Goldsmith had told him. He justifies that now by saying that he was convinced that the attorney general would come round to his view once he knew the full facts.

Both Blair and Goldsmith are at fault for their refusal to take international law seriously.
Blair was hell-bent on backing George W Bush’s invasion plan, irrespective of international law, while Goldsmith allowed himself to be browbeaten into changing his advice and is only now blowing the gaff on Blair’s criminal behaviour.

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Israel’s public relations policy: never apologise, always confuse

Jesse Rosenfeld and Joseph Dana,The National, Jan 12, 2011

Never believe the Israeli army killed an unarmed civilian until it’s officially denied. This paraphrasing of Mark Twain’s “never believe anything until it has officially been denied,” should become a mantra for journalists operating in the Middle East.

It is a point reinforced recently by the death of a West Bank Palestinian resident, Jawaher abu Rahmah, who died from tear gas exposure during the recent demonstration against Israel’s separation wall and land annexation in the village of Bil’in.

It has become an almost predictable pattern: a Palestinian civilian is killed during a demonstration or Israeli military incursion and the evidence and witness testimony clearly demonstrates Israeli culpability. Then, military sources give farfetched and contradictory statements that become the central focus in Israeli and American media reports.

Jawaher, the 36-year-old sister of Bassem abu Rahmah – who was killed in 2009 from a high-velocity Israeli tear-gas canister fired directly at his chest – was seen by demonstrators, family members and the ambulance driver that took her to hospital, experiencing asphyxiation from a large amount of tear gas. Immediately following her death on January 1, quotes from unnamed Israeli military personnel began saturating the pro-Israel blogosphere. Statements ranging from claims that she was not at the protests and had cancer, to her being released from the hospital and later dying at home moved seamlessly from unvetted blogs to the headlines of Israeli dailies, and then into the main focus of news coverage in the American press.

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ElBaradei: Egyptians should copy Tunisian revolt

Ex-IAEA chief urges Mubarak not to seek another term in office when his mandate expires in September.
  Middle East Online, January 23, 2011

ElBaradei hopes the protests “will not degenerate
BERLIN – Opponents of Egypt’s long-running regime should be able to follow the lead set by the toppling of Tunisia’s veteran president, leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei said in comments released Saturday.

“If the Tunisians have done it, Egyptians should get there too,” the former UN nuclear watchdog chief told Der Spiegel for an interview to be published Monday.
Protests in Tunisia against president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali led to his ouster last week after 23 years in power.

There is much debate in the region as to how contagious the Tunisian “Jasmine Revolution” will prove to be.

While Egypt is suffering social problems and has seen a number of people set themselves on fire in an echo of the protest which sparked the Tunisia unrest, ElBaradei pointed to major differences between the two north African nations.

Tony Blair calls for Britain and US to launch new attack on Iran

by Tom McTague, Daily Mirror, January 22, 2011

Tony Blair yesterday called for Britain and the US to launch a new attack on Iran.
He said the West must be prepared to face down the “looming challenge” of dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He also accused the country of funding terror in the Middle East and doing everything it could to stop the region from ­developing peacefully.

He said Europe and the US needed to drop its “wretched posture of apology” and get on the front foot.

“I am out in the region the whole time, I see the impact and influence of Iran everywhere,” he said.

“This is not because we have done ­something. At some point the West has got to get out of this wretched posture of apology for believing that we are ­responsible for what the Iranians are doing. We are not.

“They will carry on doing it unless they are met by the requisite determination and, if necessary, force.”

Mr Blair also said Iraq might now be engaged in an arms race with Iran if Britain and the US had chosen to step back from war in March 2003.

‘Prince of Mercenaries’ who wreaked havoc in Iraq turns up in Somalia

Blackwater founder sets up new force to tackle piracy 

By Guy Adams in Los Angeles, The Independent, Jan 22, 2011

Blackwater employee on patrol in Baghdad  
AFP/Getty:Blackwater employee on patrol in Baghdad 
Erik Prince, the American founder of the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide, has cropped up at the centre of a controversial scheme to establish a new mercenary force to crack down on piracy and terrorism in the war-torn East African country of Somalia.
The project, which emerged yesterday when an intelligence report was leaked to media in the United States, requires Mr Prince to help train a private army of 2,000 Somali troops that will be loyal to the country’s United Nations-backed government. Several neighbouring states, including the United Arab Emirates, will pay the bills.

Mr Prince is working in Somalia alongside Saracen International, a murky South African firm which is run by a former officer from the Civil Co-operation Bureau, an apartheid-era force notorious for killing opponents of the white minority government.

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WSWS statement on Tunisia now available in Arabic

Editorial Board,, 22 January 2011
The uprising in Tunisia represents a new stage in world political development. A new, international orientation for the working class in Tunisia and the Arab masses requires assimilating the most important political experiences of the 20th century, in particular the significance of the theory of permanent revolution. We are publishing here the Arabic translation of the WSWS editorial board statement, “The mass uprising in Tunisia and the perspective of permanent revolution” to encourage the broadest political debate on these issues. We encourage our readers and supporters to circulate this statement as widely as possible.

Click here for the pdf version of the statement in Arabic.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Blair at the Chilcot inquiry: Untangling the truth

The potential lessons for good governance at home and for relations overseas are urgent

The Guardian, January 21, 2011

History is written by the victors, and – victors or not – Tony Blair and George W Bush lost no time in picking up their pens. If not quite mission accomplished, the mantra of their memoirs is mission justified. The world dimly recalls that the facts were fixed, the intelligence spun and the law bent into line. But these sins dripped out so slowly that they lost all power to shock, political trust going the way of the frog who was slow-boiled by rising degrees. With regimes long since changed in both Washington and London, the second appearance of Mr Blair at the Chilcot inquiry could pass off with all the excitement of a historical debating society.

That would be a catastrophe. The potential lessons for good governance at home and – with a crisis over Iran in prospect – for relations overseas are urgent. Only this week we have learned that the attorney general was cut out of decision-making for several months, until the point where he came round to a more helpful understanding of the law. We learned, too, that Mr Blair sought to block his “personal dialogue” with the president being properly recorded. The assurances the prime minister gave to the president are “central” to the work of the inquiry. Sir John Chilcot himself argued as much while trying and failing to get the cabinet secretary to clear publication of those passages of the official record which provide “important, and often unique, insights into Mr Blair’s thinking and the commitments he made”.

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How the Power of Myth Keeps Us Mired in War

Why Are We Still in Afghanistan?

by Ira Chernus,, January 20, 2011

When I try to figure out why we are still in Afghanistan, though every ounce of logic says we ought to get out, an unexpected conversation I had last year haunts me. Doing neighborhood political canvassing, I knocked on the door of a cheerful man who was just about to tune in to his favorite radio show: Rush Limbaugh.  He was kind enough to let me stay and we talked.

Conservatives are often the nicest people — that’s what I told him — the ones you’d like to have as neighbors. Then I said: I bet you’re always willing to help your neighbors when they need it.  Absolutely, he replied.

So why, I asked, don’t you to want to help out people across town who have the same needs, even if they’re strangers? His answer came instantly:  Because I know my neighbors work hard and do all they can to take care of themselves. I don’t know about those people across town.

He didn’t have to say more (though he did). I knew the rest of the story: Why should I give my hard-earned money to the government so they can hand it out to strangers who, for all I know, are good-for-nothing loafers and mooches? I want to be free to decide what to do with my dough and I’ll give it to responsible people who believe in taking care of themselves and their families, just like me. I’ll give my money to the government only to protect us from strangers in distant lands who don’t believe in the sacred rights of the individual and aim to take my freedom and money away.

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